1926 The British General Strike [Thalheimer]
Source: The Communist International, No. 22 (1926)
In trying to throw some light on the recent General Strike by using the utterances of Marx and Engels on the British Labour movement and its leaders, it has seemed to me expedient to enlarge on the subject somewhat in the sense which the title of this article indicates. Marx and Engels’ statements with respect to the British Labour movement cover the period from the forties to the ’nineties of last century. During this period the character and form of the proletarian class struggle in Great Britain underwent fundamental changes, hence the judgments of Marx and Engels can only be taken historically and in this sense utilised for a correct interpretation of the present. I will, therefore, endeavour in the light of their judgments to give a sketch of the most important stages of the proletarian class struggle, and thereby supply the historical background for the recent general strike. The latter is certainly an event of paramount importance, of great portent for the further trend of events. Like every other similar culminating point in the struggle, this one also is the resume of a long past which gives it its real setting. On the other hand it also throws a new and more searching light on the various stages of the struggle which preceded it. This article, of course, can only pretend to give a bird’s-eye view.
The movement lends itself easily to a division into four parts.
Class Struggles during the Development of Big Industry — Chartism
Reference to the general strike of August, 1842 has already been made elsewhere. Incredible as it may sound, this event of more than 8o years ago is the only one, which can be compared with the recent General Strike as the form of struggle is concerned. With respect to magnitude that general strike was inferior to the recent strike, it lacked uniform organisational leadership, but perhaps, the spirit which animated it was more revolutionary than the spirit of the recent strike. Although the British working class did not then attempt armed struggle, in view of the large number of troops called up by the Government, it raised immediately after this struggle the question of the next revolutionary step, the question of armed rising, of “physical violence”—the term used in the debates of that time. However, the political and social character of the general strike of 1842, the degree of the development of the various classes, their correlation and finally the degree of capitalist development in Great. Britain were utterly different from what they are to day. There is only an outward similarity between August, 1842 and May, 1926. One must be perfectly clear on this point if a correct estimate is to be made of the present as well as of the past.
One of the chief differences between the two is emphasised by Engels in a letter to Sorge (dated December 3rd, 1892) in which he says:
“Also here in Great Britain the class struggles were more virulent during the period of the development of big industry and died down during the period of Great Britain’s undisputed industrial world domination …. It is precisely the revolutionisation of time-honoured conditions through the development of industry which also revolutionises peoples’ brains.” The entire period of the proletarian class struggle in Great Britain up to 1842—the final collapse of the Chartist mass movement, is an attendant phenomenon of this development-stage of big industry which gives it its social character.
However, the main feature of the political character of the proletarian class struggle lay in the fact that the industrial bourgeoisie together with the working class was itself still struggling for full political power in the State. The Reform Act of 1842 had not granted full powers to the industrial bourgeoisie. Electoral rights were based on a property qualification, even more exclusive in the country than in the towns. The number of electors in the country was increased from nearly 247,000 to 270,000, and in the towns (including many small country boroughs) from 188,000 to 286,000. The Reform Act, therefore, still left strong positions in the possession of the landowning aristocracy and “moneyed interests.” In view of this the big industrialists tolerated the struggle of the workers for the extension of democracy—until the revolutionary class demands of the workers made them say, “thus far and no further!” Then came the breach, the bourgeoisie turned on the working class with full force. The general strike of August, 1842, marked this culmination, which was at the same time a turning point. Not the French February Revolution of 1848, as Engels indicated, but already August of 1842 was the turning point in the career of Chartism, in the first stage of the proletarian class struggle on British soil. The unsuccessful Chartist mass petition of April, 1848, merely showed that Chartism had already come to an end.
The political content of this stage of struggle is condensed in the “Charter”—the list of the political demands of the movement. This content is universal suffrage and the only proletarian feature in connection with this is the demand for yearly parliaments. But what was the social slogan? “A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.” In the general strike of August, 1842, the workers demanded the Charter, namely universal franchise, and the wages of 1839. The other demands included the 10-hour day, labour protection, security of position in industrial enterprises, repeal of the new poor law (workhouses). Not one of these social slogans directly exceeded the capitalist limits, only “security of position” exceeded these limits indirectly, for free disposal of labour power of the industrial “reserve army,” to quote Marx, is a vital condition of capitalism. Nevertheless, with unerring class instinct, the British bourgeoisie scented behind the vagueness and ambiguity of these slogans the proletarian revolution. Once it had embarked on an independent revolutionary movement, the proletariat was bound to go beyond its point of issue and burst through the bourgeois framework. With exactly the same sure class instinct the French bourgeoisie turned against the working class in 1848—a working class which “only” demanded work for the unemployed—and crushed it. It is a notable fact that most of the demands of 1842 were subsequently acceded to gradually by the British bourgeoisie: the 10-hour day, labour protection, the franchise. But only when they were no longer indefinite revolutionary demands capable of development, but definitely stated reform demands which the working class advocated in the wake of the bourgeoisie. The same sure instinct we witness now in the British bourgeoisie, in a situation when the working class did not bring forward a single directly revolutionary demand, but when the progress of the movement which had been initiated was bound to bring revolutionary consequences.
The impetus for the general strike of 1842—just as today—was a proposed reduction of wages in some branches of industry. The year 1842 was one of industrial crisis, but the market situation was already taking a turn for the better when there came the lockout of the workers in a factory in Stalybridge, because they refused to accept the wage reduction. The lockout resulted in the workers downing tools in many factories, this was encouraged by the manufacturers because of the franchise struggle and the agitation against the Corn Laws. The workers vacillated between the two aims—universal franchise and wage demands. As the movement grew in volume the bourgeoisie took fright. Like one man, it turned towards the government, and took up arms against the workers.
“The bourgeoisie reverted to their former law and order attitude and sided with the government against the workers, whom it itself had at first incited and subsequently forced to rise. Members of the bourgeoisie and their faithful servants were sworn in as special constables—the German merchants in Manchester, too, participated in this and aimlessly paraded the streets of Manchester with their big sticks, smoking cigars. In Preston, the bourgeoisie gave the order to open fire on the people, and thus the unintentional popular rising had to contend not only with the military forces of the government, but also with the entire propertied class. The workers, who had really no aim to fight for, gradually dispersed and the insurrection came to an end without any bad consequences.”
This is how the young Friederich Engels described the affair in his “The Position of the Working Class in England in 1844,” which was published in the summer of 1845. This description is as characteristic of the stage of development of the young Engels as of the British Labour movement. In the German-French Year Book, Engels made the following statement in his review of Carlyle’s work, “Past and Present”: “This was precisely the misfortune of the workers in the summer insurrection in 1842, that they did not know against whom they should fight.”
The fact that the class consciousness of the British workers of those days was so little developed, that they did not even know against whom they were to fight was, of course, due to the undeveloped state of British capitalism. The latter was only entering on its career, on the eve of a rapid and powerful upward development which gave a quietus for decades to come to the revolutionary wave, and even lulled to sleep the independent political movement of the working class.
Even to-day Engel’s characteristic of the British working class of the ’40’s of the last century is of great interest. It shows at least that the traits of conservatism, narrow-mindedness, self-sufficiency, the lack of sense for generalisations, for theory, all of which are generally put down as the natural racial peculiarities of the British workers, are nothing of the kind, but are the result of historical circumstances, of the epoch of British industrial monopoly, which are bound to disappear with the latter. The British workers of the ’40’s are of a quite different type. They are free from national prejudice. They are “more humane,” irreligious, “more easy-going, less dominated by stable conceptions,” than the bourgeoisie. “The British worker,” says Engels, “is no longer a Britisher”; he praises the “stubborn invincible courage” of the British worker:
“It is precisely this calm perseverance, this stable determination which is put to the test a hundred times every day, which constitutes that side of the character of the British worker which demands respect.” This trait we perceive even to-day among the struggling masses.
“The British worker,” says Engels in another place of his work of 1845, “has no respect either for the Lords or the Queen. Politically he is a republican, but he is more than a mere republican .. . his democracy is not of a purely political kind.”
Thus one can see that loyalty to the Crown and the Constitution, which is a characteristic of the present British Labour leaders and which until quite recently was a prejudice more or less firmly embedded among British workers has not always been there and will not be there for ever.
And as to the mentality of the British workers of the ’forties, Engels declares that the “epoch-making events of the new philosophical political and poetical literature were read almost only by workers.” In this connection Engels mentions D.R. Strauss, the critic of the New Testament, Proudhon, the French materialist, the British poets Shelley and Byron.
We also note that at that time, in 1845, Engels was already referring to America as a dangerous rival for Great Britain, as the future monopolist of the world market. It is an easy matter to ridicule this in the face of the development of the succeeding couple of decades. But what foresight—nothing short of genius—is this prophecy! The result of this first stage of the proletarian class struggle in Great Britain seems to come to nothing. But it only seems so. The reforms of the following decades, the extension of the franchise, the 10 hour day, the labour protection legislation are none the less the real fruit of the revolutionary storm and stress of the ’thirties and ’forties, even if they were not its immediate fruit. The British working class in the subsequent stage of the struggle had become tame and Liberal. It was able to reap this fruit because the impetuous generation of workers who preceded it had fought for it in a revolutionary manner. These reforms cannot be separated from the revolutionary elan which preceded them. In other words: no scientific Socialism, no Marxism, without the British class struggles of the ’thirties and ’forties. Their mental condensation, their scientific generalisation are to be found in the Marxist theory. In this metamorphosed form the British experiences of that epoch enrich the entire development of the Labour movement, particularly that of Europe.
Finally, the repeal of the Corn Laws (1846) and the initiation of the British Free Trade era (the basis of British domination of the world market) is also the fruit of the revolutionary elan of the working class, which was garnered by British industrial and trading capital.
Monopoly of the World Market and the British Working Class
An utterly different aspect is presented by the British Labour movement during the tempestuous development of British industry and British world trade, between 1850 and 1870, the years of the incontestable industrial and world trade monopoly of Great Britain. This epoch saw the development of those traits of the British Labour movement which have been for such a long time the delight of the bourgeoisie of all countries (whilst in the countries of “industrial development in its initial stages” the Labour movement repeated the stormy traits of the British Labour movement of the thirties and forties in a more pronounced form). National narrow-mindedness, conservatism, craft separatism of the labour aristocracy who would have nothing to do with the unskilled workers, rejection of Socialism, permeation with the ideas of Liberalism, respect for bourgeois morality and the public opinion of the bourgeoisie, loyalty to King and constitution and religion, careerism and venality of leaders, the shunning of theoretical generalisations. The economic and social description of this period is to be found primarily in the first volume of Marx’s “Capital.” The correspondence between Marx and Engels dating from that period contains a drastic characteristic of the then British Labour movement and its leaders. For instance, the term “bourgeois proletariat.” Engel’s letter to Marx on October 7th, 1858 (No.461 of the Marx-Engels Correspondence) contains the following statement:
“The Jones affair is very disgusting. He held a meeting here (in Manchester A. Th.) and the tone of his speech was quite in the spirit of the new alliance (with the Liberals). After this affair one could almost believe that the British proletarian movement in its traditional-Chartist form is doomed to perish before it can again develop in a new form possessing vitality. And yet it is difficult to say what this new form will be like. Moreover, it seems to me that, in connection with the former, and more or less successful attempts at such an alliance, Jones’ new move has something to do with the fact that the British proletariat is becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations seems to be intent on having a bourgeois labour aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat side by side with the bourgeoisie. In a nation which exploits the whole world this has, of course, a certain amount of justification. In such a case only a couple of downright bad years would be a help, but since the gold discoveries, this is not a likely proposition.”
Five years later, Marx wrote to Engels somewhat in the same strain:
“We must wait and see how soon British workers will emancipate themselves from their seeming bourgeois-infection.” (No.706, April 4, 1863.)
In the following year, the International Workingmen’s Association was founded with Marx at its head. The British joined it first and foremost in order to put a stop to the unfair competition of the Continental workers, to make secure the threatened right to combine and to secure an extension of the franchise. The International put its whole energy into the struggle for these aims. The British bourgeoisie countered the movement by extending in 1867 the franchise so as to include the labour aristocracy (Disraeli’s Franchise Reform) and by making some concessions with respect to the legalisation of the trade unions. These partial results damped considerably the enthusiasm of the trade union leaders for the International. Marx wrote thus to Engels (No.842, April 6, 1866):
“The fact is this that the British leaders in London, after we (the International) had made a position for them (to which must also be added the incapacity of every Britisher to do two things at the same time) have cooled down in respect of the closer precincts of our movement.”
And a few months later, on the occasion of the monster demonstration of the workers in Hyde Park for the Franchise reform, when it came to violent collisions with the police:
“The thing is certain—these stubborn John Bulls, whose craniums seem to be specially manufactured for the bludgeons of the constables, will come to nothing without a downright sanguinary collision with the ruling classes.”
But just, because of the apparent consequences of such a sanguinary conflict with the workers, Disraeli’s Tory Government next year introduced the franchise reform—in the limited form above mentioned. Thereby the Government drove a wedge between the labour aristocracy and the mass of unskilled workers. In connection with the recent general strike, we see on the contrary that the government steered its course for a sanguinary collision on the correct assumption that the trade union leaders would shrink from it because of its inevitable revolutionary consequences.
With respect to the general election of 1868, Engels wrote to Marx (No.1065, November 18, 1868):
“Everywhere the proletariat is the rag tag and bobtail of the official parties, and if a party has been strengthened through the new electorate, it is the Tory Party …. But nevertheless it remains a terrible testimony of the low niveau of the British proletariat. The priesthood has given evidence of unexpected power, and so has kow-towing to respectability. Not a single Labour candidate has a ghost of a chance, but Mylord Tomnod or some parvenu snob carries off the votes of the workers with the greatest ease.”
The Paris Commune and its open advocacy by the International frightened away the British Labour leaders altogether from the International. Marx denounced at the Hague Congress (1872) most of the British Labour leaders of that period as bought by the bourgeoisie, which certainly did not make them more friendly disposed.
What is possible at a time when the working class is not yet ready for a struggle for political power is very definitely stated in a letter written by Marx to the American Party friend Bolte (Sorge Correspondence, letter dated November 23, 1871):
“Wherever the working class is not yet sufficiently organised to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the political might of the ruling classes, it must certainly be educated for it by continuous agitation against the policy of the ruling classes which is inimical to working class interests. If this is not done it will remain a plaything in their hands, as shown by the September revolution in France and to a certain extent by the game successfully carried on in Great Britain by Gladstone and Co.”
Re the desertion of the International by the British workers after 1871, Marx wrote to Sorge (April 4, 184) as follows:
“In Great Britain the International is for the time being as good as dead. The Federal Council in London exists as such only nominally, although some of its members are active in their individual capacity. The great event here is the awakening of the agricultural labourers. The failure of their first attempt does no harm, on the contrary. As to the urban workers, it is a pity that all the leaders lock, stock and barrel did not get into parliament. This is the surest way to get rid of the rabble.”
The Liberal stage in the British Labour movement coincides with the epoch of the undisputed trade and world market monopoly of Great Britain. This monopoly has left its imprint on the brains of the workers of the old trade unions, namely, the aristocratic trade unions of skilled workers. These imprints are visible even to-day, but the Labour leaders still caught in the net of Manchester-Liberal conceptions are to-day an exception. The most important premise for the termination of this epoch, namely, abolition of the British industrial and world trade monopoly was created through the termination of the bourgeois revolutions on the Continent after the Franco-German War. The struggle for industrial and trade supremacy of the new industrial powers, above all Germany, did not however, make itself felt immediately. It took the industrial opponents of Great Britain almost to the end of the eighties to be a match for that country and to be able to begin the competitive struggle in good earnest. The period of the seventies and eighties is one of relative industrial stagnation.
It is also during this period that the third franchise reform in Great Britain, that of 1885, took place through which a new electorate was created and the number of electors in rural districts was trebled. Through this reform a certain section of agricultural labourers was given the vote.
A Breach in the British Industrial Monopoly
During the next epoch, from the end of the eighties up to 1914 a breach was made in the supremacy of Great Britain in industry and on the world market, Great Britain still has the leadership in its hands, it is still the first industrial and commercial power, but it is obliged to defend this position with all its might against rapidly developing competitors. Competitive struggle for colonial countries—imperialist rivalry becomes more acute. Export of capital takes precedence of export of commodities, heavy industry takes precedence of manufactured goods. Capitalist concentration and centralisation make rapid progress, the big capitalist monopolies take the lead. On the whole this is a capitalist “storm and stress epoch.” Food prices rise, armament expenditure grows. The industrial progress of Great Britain does not keep pace with that of Germany and the U.S.A., but it manages to retain its dominating position mostly through the colossal accumulation of finance capital, through its thoroughly developed money market organisation and trade connections. In the ranks of the British bourgeoisie the old free trade Liberalism is becoming more and more disintegrated, imperialist and tariff reform ideas take possession of the bourgeois mentality.
The foundation on which the British Labour movement stagnated in the preceding epoch is undermined both materially and ideologically. The masses of unskilled workers are set in motion. The new “trade unionism” comes into being. Just as the imperialist ideology seizes hold on the bourgeoisie, Socialism—as a general trend of thought—begins to permeate the foremost ranks of the British proletariat. Small Socialist Parties spring up which are, however, of a more or less sectarian character. The independent class movement of the workers becomes co-ordinated in the Labour Party. The latter is the co-ordination of trade unions for political action within the limits of Parliament. To be quite accurate, the Labour Party is not a party, but only a reservoir for party formation, the expression for the movement of the working class in the direction of Party formation. The Labour Party is a decidedly reformist and opportunist conglomeration firmly convinced of gradual and peaceful developing into Socialism, of the all-redeeming strength of bourgeois democracy, of the inacceptibility of violence in the class struggle. The Socialism of this stage is only a mixture of Socialism and Liberalism.
The beginnings of this new development were perceived by Engels already in the second part of the eighties (Marx died in 1883).
He wrote as follows on September 16th, 1886, in a letter to Sorge:
“Here the (Socialist) movement is on the one hand in the hands of adventurers and on the other hand of cranks and sentimental Socialists. The masses as yet stand aside although the beginnings of a movement are also noticeable in that direction. But it will take some time for the masses to come into motion and this is just as well, for it will give time for proper leaders to develop.”
Three years later Engels wrote to Sorge (December 7th, 1889):
“The movement is now at last in motion and as I think for good, but it is not downright Socialist …. Formally the movement is a trade union movement, but totally different from the old trade unions, the skilled labourers, the labour aristocracy.
“People proceed quite differently now, they bring much bigger masses into the struggle, they bring forward more far-reaching demands: the eight hour day, general federation of all organisations, complete solidarity ….. Moreover, the people themselves look upon their present demands in the light of provisional demands, although they do not as yet know for what ultimate aim they are working. But this vague notion has taken possession of them sufficiently to induce them to elect only bona fide Socialists as leaders. Like everyone else they must learn by their own experience and from the consequences of their own mistakes. But this will not take very long as they, contrary to the old trade unions, deride any allusion to the common interests of capital and labour.
“The most disgusting thing here is ‘respectability’ so firmly embedded in the working class. Socially society is divided into innumerable fully recognised grades, each one of which has its own pride, and also the innate respect for their ‘betters’ and ‘superiors’ is so old and so firmly established that the bourgeoisie can easily use the art of alluring and decoying. I am not at all sure for instance, if John Burns is in his inmost heart not more proud of his popularity with Cardinal Manning, the Lord Mayor and the bourgeoisie in general than of his popularity with his own class.”
It is a well-known fact that subsequently John Burns went over to the bourgeoisie, and became Minister in a Liberal Cabinet.
On the significance of the defeats in the British class struggles, Engels wrote to Sorge in the following year (February 8th, 1890):
“The Schelswig-Holsteiners and their descendants in Great Britain and America cannot be taught by lecturing, this stubborn and conceited lot must be made to feel it on their own backs …. With trade unions, etc., a beginning must be made if it is to be a mass movement, and every further step must be forced on them through a defeat.”
Concerning the Fabians (Sydney Webb, Bernard Shaw, etc.), Engels wrote in the same letter:
“…… a well meaning set of educated bourgeois who have refuted Marx with the Jevon’s rotten vulgar economics, which is so vulgar that one can make anything out of it, even Socialism. The main object is, as across the Channel, to convert the citizen to Socialism and thus introduce the thing peacefully and constitutionally.”
A detailed characteristic of the then British Labour movement we find in Engel’s letter to Sorge of April 19, 1890, it runs:
“In a country with such an old political and Labour movement there is always a colossal amount of traditionally inherited rubbish which has to be got rid of gradually. Such are the prejudices of the skilled unions—engineers, bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, type compositors, etc.; all of which must be broken: the jealousies of the various trades which in the hands and brains of the leaders develop into open hostility and underhand manoeuvring, then there are the conflicting ambitions and intrigues of the leaders—one wants to get into Parliament, another ditto, another in the County Council or on the School Board, another again wants to found a general centralisation of all workers, another a newspaper, another a club, etc., etc. In a word, there is friction and friction. Then added to this there is the Socialist League which looks down upon everything which is not directly revolutionary (which means here in England just as with you everything which does not limit itself to empty phraseology and nothing else), and the Federation (the Socialist Federation is meant) which still behaves as though outside its ranks there are only donkeys and muddlers, although it is due to the new turn the movement has taken that it has again been able to secure a certain number of followers. In short only those who see the surface would say everything is chaos and personal animosity. But under this surface the movement goes on, it gets hold of ever-growing sections of the population and just of the hitherto stagnant lowest strata, and the day is not far distant when these strata will suddenly recognise their own power, when it will dawn upon them that they are this colossal ever-moving mass, on that day short shrift will be given to all the petty quarrels and animosities.”
In the following year Engels wrote to Sorge (December 31st, 1892):
“During the last few years Socialism has penetrated deep into the masses in the industrial districts, and I count on these masses to keep the leaders in order.”
On the general form of the Anglo-Saxon movement Engels remarks (Letter to Sorge of January 16, 1895)
“The development of the Anglo-Saxon race with its ancient Germanic love of freedom is certainly a very peculiarly slow, zig-zag development (here in Great Britain the zig-zags are small, with you they are colossal), a tacking against the wind, but nevertheless progress is being made.”
The opportunist-reformist boundaries of the movement came very drastically to light on the threshold of the world war. But the latter created conditions which compelled the British class struggle to move to a higher plane—the plane of the revolutionary struggle for power.
The Decline of British Capitalism
The new conditions created by the war are those of the decline of British capitalism. Decades before this situation arose Engels made the remark that when side by side with Great Britain, Germans and America will also have reached full industrial development the world market would be too small for them, unemployment would be colossal and continuous and the Socialist revolution would come on the order of the day. The world war has more than realised this situation. German industry has been thrown back by it, it is true, but on the other hand French industry has developed more rapidly. American industry has developed enormously and has outstripped that of Great Britain. Moreover, in a number of colonial countries new industries have sprung up. By losing its monopoly British industry has also now lost its leading position. The productive forces of Great Britain are far in excess of export and investment possibilities. Hence, mass unemployment, relative industrial over-population has become a permanent phenomenon in Great Britain. To all appearances Germany is in the same position. This decline has come very vividly to light in the British coal industry.
But declining industry, like budding industry, revolutionises “time-honoured conditions,” but no longer pre-capitalist, but the capitalist conditions themselves. The revolutionary movement of the earlier epoch has its rebirth on a higher plane. And again the movement begins first of all with mere partial aims which are seemingly not revolutionary. But the fact that the British working class demanded, as in the recent general strike, a proper standard of life in the declining industry, not to become its victim, has revolutionary consequences. Another consequence is that the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system as a whole must believe in this. That is why the British bourgeoisie takes up immediately the struggle as a struggle for political power. It mobilises the army and the navy, it passes an emergency act and prepares to defeat the workers by force of arms. It further threatens to deprive trade unions of their legal existence, to confiscate their funds, etc.
Thus the movement collides with the boundaries of bourgeois democracy. The leaders, full of traditional veneration for it, shrink from this, they break off the general strike just because the mass movement was still developing and the next stage was bound to be armed collision, open revolutionary struggle, and thereby the breaking down of democratic boundaries.
Nothing shows more distinctly the higher plane of the present stage of the Labour movement in Great Britain than a comparison with Chartism. Democracy was then still a revolutionary slogan, to-day it is a reactionary shackle on the movement, and this is brought to the consciousness of the working class through the mass experience of the general strike. Then Socialism was a far distant ideal, to-day it is a question of life or death for the British working class. Both however, the struggle for proletarian dictatorship and for Socialism, demand the existence of a revolutionary mass party. Not only the content but also the organisational forms of the movement in Great Britain must he put on a higher plane than ever before.
The general strike of August, 1842 ushered in the decline of the revolutionary Labour movement, coming as it did on the threshold of the most powerful rise of British capitalism. The general strike of May, 1926, in the midst of the decline of British capitalism, ushers in on the contrary the rise of the Labour movement for the struggle for dictatorship and Socialism.