Friday, May 05, 2006


by Caroline Colebrook

NEXT month marks the 135th anniversary of the Paris Commune, when the working class of Paris seized power in their own city and established the world’s first workers’ government. It did not last long and it was drowned in blood by armed forces of the French government.
But it sent a message of liberation and hope to workers throughout the world and a message of fear to capitalists and landowners. Many lessons were learnt from its mistakes and from its successes. Without it, the great socialist revolutions of the 20th century would not have been possible.
THE PARIS of the 1860s and 1870 had been rebuilt by architect Baron Haussmann at the request of Napoleon III, with wide, well-planned boulevards and fine houses.
It was a time of industrialisation and a growing middle class (the original use of the term “bourgeoisie”) with plenty of wealth. But the resulting inflation in prices and rents left Parisian workers desperately hard up – and angry about it.
Paris has a strong revolutionary tradition from the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848. The strong feelings against royalty, wealth and privilege remained – as did the proclaimed revolutionary virtues of Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood).
The Parisian workers were also angry when the Emperor Louis Napoleon engaged in an unnecessary war with the Prussians. The French army was undermanned, under-equipped and badly led. On Friday 2nd September it was defeated at the battle of Sedan on the Belgian border. The Emperor was taken prisoner and immediately abdicated.
When the news arrived in Paris a crowd gathered outside the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). There was a power vacuum and a new republic was declared by Léon Gambetta. A temporary government of National Defence was declared, which included the sitting National Assembly deputies for Paris – since, with the Prussians marching on Paris, there was no time for new elections. This government had no pre-agreed political programme. The Empress Eugénie fled to England.
There were further defeats for the French army as the people of Paris prepared to repel the Prussians, including repairing the old city walls. The National Guard, founded in 1789, still existed and was rapidly expanded by volunteers to 350,000-strong – bigger than the regular French army defending Paris at the time. But it was a very mixed bunch of people from many different backgrounds.
Many workers who had been thrown out of their jobs by the war joined for the pay of 1.50 francs-a-day plus 75 centimes for a wife. Women also joined the National Guard as – cantinières – officially carrying food and drink to the fighters but actually doing a lot of fighting as well. When a guardsman fighting the Prussians fell, often a cantinière would take up his rifle and carry on the fight.
Paris prepared for a siege by bringing in huge quantities of food, including livestock. Commentators at the time remarked at the public parks full of sheep. But even while the people of Paris were preparing to put up a bitter struggle, the temporary government was seeking a peace deal with the Prussians.
Once the siege took hold, there was a news blackout inside Paris. People tried communicating with the outside using carrier pigeons carrying microfilm – a new development then – but only 59 out of 392 got through.
Manned balloons were a little more successful. They presented a huge target but only five out of 65 were shot down. But they were not easy to control and easily blown off course. They landed as far away as Holland, Bavaria and even Norway.
Outside of Paris the war with the Prussians was still going badly for the French, with another major defeat at Metz.
In spite of the all food that had been stored in preparation for the siege it soon brought great hardship. There was no rationing at first so the poor suffered disproportionately as food prices rocketed.
Strange things started to appear on menus, including animals from the zoo. During the siege records show that 65,000 horses, 5,000 cats, 1,200 dogs and an uncounted number of rats were eaten. By January 1871 they introduced bread rationing.
Fuel was also in short supply so people cut down trees and burnt them and their furniture.
Throughout the siege the Prussian bombarded the city with their huge guns, killing 97 but hunger and illness killed many more. In December 1870 the total death toll was 11,865 and in January 1871 it was 19,233.
The people were angry with the temporary French government for not striking back at the Prussians. There were no plans for a strike by the National Guard.
On 18th January the Prussian declared their empire at Versailles. In Paris there was talk of throwing out the government and setting up a commune. On 28th January the French government negotiated an armistice with the Prussians.
Paris felt utterly betrayed. The terms of the armistice allowed the Prussians to enter Paris for two days to celebrate their victory. The people of Paris turned their backs, shut their doors and dressed in mourning. After the Prussians departed they cleaned the streets.
The new National Assembly was pro-royalist and opposed to the republicanism of Paris.
Adolphe Thiers was elected head of the new government and he drew up a peace treaty with Prussians.
He then stopped pay for the National Guard and ordered Parisians to pay back commercial debts and rent arrears they had run up during the siege.
Anger was rising in Paris and on Saturday 18th March Thiers sent General Lecomte with orders for the army to take over the National Guards’ cannon position in Montmartre, overlooking the city. The National Guardsmen were overpowered and locked up.
But the army had forgotten to bring horses to transport the guns out of Paris so they had to wait until the next morning. Very early the next morning a young socialist, Louise Michel, came to deliver a message to the National Guard. She noticed the army had taken over the gun emplacement and raised the alarm throughout Paris.
Later she wrote: “I went down, my rifle under my coat, crying ‘Treason’. A column was forming… Montmartre was waking. The call to arms was sounding out. I was returning indeed, but with the others, to the attack on the heights of Montmartre: we ran up at the double, knowing that at the top there was an army in battle formation. We expected to die for liberty. It was as if we were lifted from the earth.”
Crowds gathered around the soldiers. The people of Paris had paid for those cannons to fight Prussians. They were not going to let the army use them against the city. The people appealed to the soldiers. An officer ordered them to fire on the crowd but the soldiers refused. They turned their rifles upside down.
General Lecompte was arrested, along with General Clément Thomas, an ex-commander of the National Guard.
The cannons fired three blank shots to tell the people of Paris that the guns were still theirs. They began to build barricades. Regular troops retreated to their barracks and the Red Flag replaced the Tricoleur on the Bastille Column.
Confusion reigned – nothing had been planned and no one was in charge.
A crowd stormed the house where the two captive generals were being held and shot them. Thiers realised he had lost control of Paris. He went to the Hôtel de Ville and ordered the government to withdraw to Versailles. They were swift to comply, jumping out of windows, dashing through underground tunnels and clambering into their carriages in their haste to get away. By evening the Red Flag was flying over the Hôtel de Ville.
After they left a new mood of freedom s wept across Paris. Although still no one was formally in charge, streets were swept, cafés stayed open. There was no looting and less crime than normal. The National Guard was paid regularly and public relief was handed out to the poor. Many wealthy people fled, saying they did not like “the control of workmen”. As in previous revolutions, people addressed each other as “citizen”.
Outside Paris, the government waited in Versailles for chaos and collapse.
On 26th March elections were held and two days later the Commune was proclaimed. Red sashes and red flags abounded throughout the city.
A member of the Commune, Jules Vallés, wrote in his newspaper Le Cri du Peuple: “Today is the festive wedding day of the Idea and the Revolution. Soldier-citizens, the Commune we have acclaimed and married today must tomorrow bear fruit; we must take our place once more, still proud and now free, in the workshop and at the counter. After the poetry of triumph, the prose of work.”
Thirty out of the 90 Commune members were working class – a high proportion for that time. There were no formal political parties in the Commune – they were all socialists but aligned in loose groupings: Jacobins, Blanquists and communists. They were all communards.
The Commune gave working people enormous confidence to do things they had never done before or been allowed to do Many other French cities followed suit and set up their own communes, including: Lyons, Marseilles, Toulouse, Narbonne, St Etienne, Le Creusot and Limoges. But they were all quickly crushed by the Versailles government.
Thiers imposed news barrier so that once again people inside Paris were cut off from news from the outside and vice versa. The outside world was told only Thiers’ version of events. He portrayed the Communards as monsters.
The Communards failed to confront the Thiers government or to seize the banks. If they had, they would have been in a stronger position to resist. They were busy planning social reforms but failed to plan to defend the Commune militarily.
The Commune did have arms and men – which Thiers did not have at first. But the Prussians, alarmed at the prospect of working class revolution, allowed Thiers to recruit and train a new army. He had no doubts that this was a civil war.
The Commune had three military leaders: Lullier, Cluseret and Rossell. They were professional soldiers but they were frustrated by a lack of clear military policy. They were impatient with the new democratic procedures and unable to convey the urgent need to organise the defence of Paris. After seven weeks, they quit.
The Commune did launch one attack against Versailles on 3rd to 4th April. Three National Guard column set off proudly and jauntily but they were outmanoeuvred by the Versailles troops and limped back tired, wounded and dirty. Many were killed and 1,200 taken prisoner while Versailles lost only 25 dead and 125 wounded.
The Versailles government and the wealthy who had fled Paris treated the prisoners shamefully – cursing them, beating them and spitting on them.
After this morale in the Commune fell and divisions began to appear. The Commune was also getting a very bad press internationally. The London Times reported: “The men of the Commune do not intend to be disappointed. They have promised themselves to annihilate Paris, its fortunes, its commerce, its population – and they keep their word.
“Never was the work of destruction carried on with a more wicked and brutal perseverance.”
Communards were called “the mob, red insurgents, bandits, anarchists, convicts, scum, moral gangrene, socialists”.
Inside Paris news was communicated by newssheets posted on to walls and by readings at political clubs – often located in churches. Readings were followed by discussion on all manner of topics – including religion, women’s equality, the abolition of marriage and how to win the civil war.
Women played a very active role in all this. One woman speaker told a club meeting: “Yes, you women are oppressed. But just have a little more patience, for the day that will bring justice and satisfaction for our demands is rapidly approaching.
“Tomorrow you will belong to yourselves and not to exploiters. The factories in which you are crowded together will belong to you; the tools placed in your hands will belong to you; the profit that results from your labour, your care, the loss of your health, will be shared among you.”
There were around 90 trade unions active in the city. Workers’ cooperatives were set up – supported by the Commune. The Commune allowed workers employed in factories and workshops that had been abandoned as the owners fled the city to take them over as cooperatives.
Church control of education was abolished. People were given three years to pay off debts run up during the siege. All public officials were elected; there was a cap of 6,000 francs on top salaries and the Commune paid out to redeem all household goods like bedding and clothing that had been pawned. There was free clothing, food and school materials for children.
The famous artist Courbet was a Commune member. He wrote: “I’m enchanted. Paris is a veritable paradise; no police, no outrages, no quarrels, no exactions of any kind. Paris is moving under its own steam as smoothly as you could wish. We must try and always be like this.”
But in the background, the guns of Versailles continued to bombard Paris. The Prussian army, nearly forgotten, was still there. The Prussians supported the Versailles government against the Commune. They were terrified it would inspire socialism in Germany. On 21st May the Versailles army attacked.
The people of Paris put up barricades to defend themselves but though these delayed the advance of the government troops, they did not halt them.
There followed what was called The Week of Blood as the people of Paris fought a bitter but losing battle to defend the freedom of their city.
The troops entered on 21st May Versailles by the Saint-Cloud gate. When news reached the Communards in the Hôtel de Ville the final Commune session ended as members left for the barricades. No one was left behind to direct the fight except Delescluze, the civilian delegate for war.
He sent the following message to the barricades: “Enough of militarism, no more staff officers with gold embroidered uniforms! Make way for the people, the bare-armed fighters! The hour of revolutionary war has struck. The people know nothing of elaborate manoeuvres, but when they have a rifle in their hands and cobblestones under their feet, they have no fear of the strategists of monarchist school.”
It did no good. It left the people of Paris to fight, every man and women for themselves, with no strategic planning or coordination. There were many heroic stands at the barricades, including the Women’s Battalion defence of Place Blanche but the government troops took the city, with utmost brutality.
They shot men, women and children out of hand wherever they took them. Thiers had promised no retaliation but 20,000 Parisians were killed in one week.
The London Times, which had opposed the commune, protested about “the inhuman laws of revenge under which the Versailles troops have been shooting, bayoneting, ripping up prisoners, women and children during the last six days.”
Retreating Communards torched many large public buildings and after this a scare story was put about that women Communards – dubbed Pétroleuses – were starting fires everywhere. This led to many women being shot on sight on suspicion of being incendiaries.
Two hundred Communards made a last stand against a wall in the top corner of Pere Lachaise cemetery. The next day 147 prisoners were taken to the same spot and shot.
The killing continued after the Communards had all been killed or taken prisoner; 34,722 prisoners were put on trial and many executed. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 25,000 were killed one way or another.
The new government erected a new church, Sacré Coeur, on the heights of Montmartre as a religious gesture of atonement for the audacity and sacrilege of the Commune. Now a famous Paris landmark, this church remains unpopular with left-wing Parisians. Theirs was made President of the 3rd Republic in August 1871.
The Paris Commune failed but its lessons echo through history. After it fell Marx and Engels wrote of the necessity for a dictatorship of the proletariat to be established immediately after any socialist revolution to consolidate it and defend it against counter revolution.
Without the lessons of the Commune, the socialist advances of the following century would have been impossible.

An Easter walk to Spain

by Dolly Shaer

During the Easter week-end about 70 men and women went to Perpignan in France and then over the Pyrenees to Figueres in Spain.
The walk was to commemorate and celebrate the way so many of the men and women went to defend the legally elected Spanish Republican government’s fight against the fascist Franco, who was supported by Hitler and Mussolini. They went by train and then climbed over the mountains between France and Spain.
That was 70 years ago in 1936 which was also the year the International Brigades were formed.
The commemoration walk started on Good Friday with a gathering at the National Memorial to the International Brigaders in Jubilee Gardens, London.
We travelled to Perpignan by train as the original fighters did. On Saturday we gathered at the memorial plaque to the Republican fighters at Super-las-Illas on the French side.
A wreath in the Republican colours was laid. There were speeches: one by Serge Barba of the FFREEE (Sons and daughters of Spanish Republicans and Children of the Exodus). This is an organisation of Republicans who fled Spain in 1939 and were never able to return.
After refreshments the walk began. Some walked 10 kilometres and some 15k. A few of us were taken up by mini bus to the frontier between France and Spain at Coll de Mannell.
We had three Brigaders with us: Jack Jones, 93 years old, Jack Edwards 92 and Bob Doyle 90 years old. All of them had gone over these mountains to join the fight.
At the border there is a Monument to Lluis Companys who was the Catalan President during the Republic. He went to France as a refugee and was captured by the Nazis and sent back to Spain and, on the orders of Franco, was executed in Barcelona in 1940. There were speeches and a wreath was laid. We then continued on to Figueres by coach.
On Sunday morning we went to the Castell de Sant Ferran. This is the castle where the Brigaders coming over the mountain were taken after their crossing and started their training. A commemorative plaque was unveiled and a wreath was laid. The plaque is in four languages: French, English, Spanish and Catalan. A meeting was held in the castle with speeches and songs.
At these various places throughout the visit the group was joined by local mayors, dignitaries and representatives of towns and villages and government, who made speeches and welcomed us. There were also representatives of organisations with similar aims as the International Brigades Memorial Trust, the Spanish Amigos and the German Association of the Friends of the International Brigade.
On reflection it is difficult to believe how those men managed that climb up those sheer wooded mountain sides in Alpargatas, in silence joined either by a hand on the shoulder of the man in front or a string connecting each person – in the pitch dark.
It took all night and was fraught with danger. My father had to do it twice because near the top they were fired on and so they had to go down and back up the next night.
I personally found it a very moving experience. The majority of them had never been further south than Brighton; most of them did not speak another language. They had to deal with the CID at Victoria station as they were leaving for their “week-end in Paris” and then the French police through France.
But there are many stories of the French working class showing their solidarity while their governments showed only their Non-intervention betrayal.

Spanish communists on the march!

OVER 200 delegates and observers gathered in Madrid last weekend for the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE). Communists from all parts of Spain together with some 20 observers from liberation movements and fraternal parties including the New Communist Party of Britain spoke at this congress that will chart the future of the Spanish communist movement for the next four years.
The PCPE was founded in 1984 during the struggle against the “euro-communist” revisionist trend that dominated the old Spanish Communist Party (PCE) which was legalised when the fascist dictatorship ended with the death of General Franco and the restoration of a “constitutional” monarchy in 1975.
Since then the Spanish political scene has been dominated by the reactionary People’s Party and the social-democratic Socialists, who currently hold the government with the support of the “United Left”, a PCE front.
PCPE membership has grown along with its influence in recent years through its work in the labour movement, its opposition to the proposed EU constitution and the campaign for the withdrawal of all Spanish troops from Iraq that was met when the Socialists won the general election last year. This was reflected in the discussion which focused on the current situation in the world today and the key campaigning issues that face the Spanish working class.
The first demand is for a democratic confederal socialist republic that would recognise and guarantee the rights of the Basques, Catalans and all the other peoples of Spain. Building the left alternative to the class collaborationist policies of the social-democrats and their revisionist allies is another priority, along with the need to build a militant union bloc to challenge the dominance of social democracy in the Spanish labour movement.
“We are especially pleased to be here at this important juncture in your party’s life as we are old friends going back over 20 years,” NCP general secretary Andy Brooks said in his address to the congress. “Both our parties were born from the anti-revisionist struggle within the European communist movement. In those days we were a minority. Today, in the wake of the counter-revolutions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, our view-point has won general acceptance,” the NCP leader declared. “Let us all work for a global anti-imperialist peace movement to shake the whole rotten edifice of imperialism to the ground and at the same time let us fight together to rebuild the world communist movement for socialist advance in the 21st century,” he concluded.
Many of the fraternal guests marched behind the Spanish communist banners during the massive 60,000 strong May Day march through the Spanish capital that reflected the militancy and strength of the Spanish union movement.
During the Congress Andy Brooks had talks with the PCPE leadership and discussions with a number of other communist parties represented at the congress.

The General Strike (part two)

‘We are in danger. A united enemy is knocking at the gate...’

by Mal Howarth

Mal Howarth is a former branch delegate Blidworth Colliery NUM, area executive Nott’s Area NUM and vice president Nott’s NUM.

BEFORE we look at the strike in 1926, we must go back to 1925 because the key to understand it is in this year. When the first Labour government fell and the Tories took office in November 1924, the offensive against the living conditions of the working class was set for a head-on confrontation.
The miners were to take the brunt of the attack. In the Miners’ Federation AJ Cook replaced Frank Hodges. It was on the last day of June 1925 that the miners’ union received notice from the owners of the termination of the National Wages Agreement, which had been in force since 18th June 1924. The notice was to run for the month of July and terminate at midnight on Friday 31st July 1925.
They also wanted the miners to consider an extension of the seven-hour day; the owners stated that “the terms which can be offered under a seven-hour day are necessarily much less favourable than those which could be offered under an eight-hour day.” They wanted an immediate reduction in wages. But to add insult to injury they also wanted the guarantee of a minimum wage to go and in its place a guarantee of profits to take its place.
On Wednesday 29th July 1925 the Prime Minister, Baldwin, told the miners’ union definitely that “the Government would not grant any subsidy” and that “the coal industry must stand on its own economic foundations”.
On Thursday evening instructions were issued for the embargo on coal movements to be put into force. All unions were to comply with the said order and the effect was immediate.
The Prime Minister who had said “no subsidy” was now willing to offer a nine-month’s subsidy in return for which the mine owners would be willing to withdraw their notices and a full inquiry to be held.
The Government had yielded to the threat of an embargo on the movement of coal. It was a great day for the Labour Movement and it was named Red Friday.
The Baldwin government was not ready for an all-out fight with the British working class, that’s why he had offered a subsidy to hold up miners’ wages for nine months. At the time the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Winston Churchill, known for his anti-working class attitude. The capitalist class was preparing for a confrontation.
The warnings had been given from the militants in the labour movement as early as January 1925. AJ Cook’s message to the delegates at the National Minority Movement was: “We are in danger. A united enemy is knocking at the gate … my slogan is ‘be prepared’.”
The question posed at the time was: was it correct to give increased power to the General Council of the TUC that was preparing to use those powers against the interests of the working class?
Virtually no preparations were made for the impending struggle. Baldwin told delegates at the Tory party conference that action against the Communist Party was under consideration. On 12th October 12 leaders of the Communist Party, Minority Movement and Young Communist League had been arrested. This followed the Labour Party conference, whose main activity was to speed up the removal of communists from the Labour Party’s ranks.
Just before the arrests AJ Cook issued one more warning: “I warn the right-wing leaders of our movement to cease their attacks upon the left-wing. They are encouraging every effort of reaction in this country to destroy our militant fighters. If these are beaten, the path lies open for the propertied interest to smash those who call themselves moderate.”
On 25th September 1925 the newspapers announced the formation of a body called the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, known as OMS. This was to be used for organising those citizens who would be prepared to volunteer to maintain supplies and vital services in the event of a general strike.
During the General Strike many of the middle class had been thrown out of their jobs by the strike. They became Special Constables, paid at the rate of £2 6s 3d per week plus 2/6d-a-day for food. This was the pay for strike breaking. In Wales the pit labourer had been locked out because he refused to accept £1 11s 7½d-a-week. The Miners’ Federation first asked for a minimum wage in 1889 and obtained it by a strike; in 1911 the seven-hour day was won by a strike. Nationalisation of the mines was part of their programme in 1898.
The use of a general strike is to make class struggle obvious to those who deny or ignore it. Action is the one form of propaganda more effective than the press. It makes the worker as class conscious as the employer and it teaches him or her to distrust and rid him or herself of reformist socialist ideas and all trade union leaders who are not prepared for inevitable conflict. Employers who are refused the wages reductions they demand seldom go out of business; they solve their difficulties by means of improved efficiency.
The miners were called to wait for the report of the Royal Commission on the coal industry under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Samuel on 5th September 1925. There were no representatives of organised labour, as in the other inquiries it was to be known as the Samuel Commission. The three other commissioners were General Sir Herbert Lawrence, Sir William Beveridge and Kenneth Lee.
Samuel had extensive family connections in finance; from 1919 he ruled Palestine as British High Commissioner. Beveridge, during the war of 1914-1918, was in the Ministry of Munitions; he was also Director of the London School of Economics.
Lawrence was a partner in a well-known banking house and was also on the board in several other important companies. Lee chaired the great cotton firm, Total, Broadhurst, Lee and Company; he also chaired the District Bank. Some of the concerns on which General Lawrence and Mr Lee sat belonged to the Federation of British Industries.
It is difficult to imagine any small body of persons more completely representative of capitalist interests and more completely trained in approaching matters from the capitalist standpoint.
This report put to the miners was a proposal for reorganising the mining industry, at some future date, together with proposals for a reduction in wages, to take effect at once.
On 13th April 1926 the owners’ and miners’ representatives came together. The owners said they would meet the miners’ district representatives to consider in each case the district minimum. The miners were opposed and it was full deadlock.
The owners in most districts posted notices in the pits to end existing contracts – employment on existing terms would cease on 30th April. It was a lockout; the owners had delivered their ultimatum.
The Conference of Executives at 12.30pm on Saturday 1st May placed before it, for the first time in British working class history, a proposal for a general strike. This was to take effect at midnight on Monday. It was overwhelmingly accepted.
On Monday evening Ramsay MacDonald, leader of the Labour Party, had altered his way of thinking. He state: “As far as we can see we shall go on. I don’t like general strikes. I haven’t changed my opinion. I have said so in the House of Commons. I don’t like it but honestly, what can be done?”
The right-wing opposed preparations for the strike and when this failed they prepared the most rapid capitulation. On the following Monday morning (10th May) in the British Worker a message from the TUC General Council appeared: “All’s well”. In the second week it was: “Stand Firm. Be Loyal to instructions and trust your leaders”.
Then Sir Herbert Samuel put forward some proposals for a settlement, to be known as the Samuel Memorandum. The main points were that the General Strike should be called off; the subsidy to be renewed “for a reasonable time” while negotiations were reopened; a National Wages Board to be set up under an independent chair to seek a settlement, with no revision of wages unless there were assurances that the commission’s reorganising scheme would be adopted. The Miners’ Federation rejected this; Samuel submitted it to the General Council.
On Wednesday 12th May the noon bulletin from the BBC was: “General Strike ceases today”. What had happened to bring this about? The BBC announcer read a message from the King; the TUC General Council had decided to sue for peace and had asked the Prime Minister to meet them.
The General Council was claiming that an honourable understanding had been reached. But the Government stated that it would not compel employers to take back workers who had participated in the strike. It went on to say that dismissals of workers would be inevitable because of the loss of production and that also employers had an obligation to those who had supplied volunteer labour.
In other words blacklegs were to be looked after and trade unionists victimised. The General Council had unconditionally surrendered.
The miners had to face entirely new proposals – and it was not the Samuel proposals that the Prime Minister put forward now the General Strike was over – they were cast on one side. The lockout notices were not withdrawn; the offer of a subsidy was conditional on an immediate 10 per cent wage cut.
The lockout struggle was to last for over seven months. On Monday 29th November 1926 work was resumed in all important coalfields except South Wales, Yorkshire and Durham. The next day South Wales and Yorkshire went back. Durham had a ballot, which showed 49,217 for rejection of the terms and 40,583 in favour – a majority of 8,634 against. But in view of the two-thirds majority needed to reject the terms – which was not secured – Durham County Federation instructed the men to return to work.
We must remember that the future lies in the hands of those who are not disillusioned and our anger and venom must be directed not at individual betrayers, Prime Minister, trade union leaders and so on but against the real enemy: reformist theory and reformist ideas.
The system attracts people who are in any case of “moderate” disposition, and for those who are not, there is an immensely powerful pull towards the development of such a disposition. For those who resist it there is denunciation, often of great virulence from a multitude of sources.
We must also remember that if someone tells you they are on the side of the oppressed, that tells you next to nothing about their politics. If they tell you who they think are oppressed and how, they tell you a lot.
But Rosa Luxemburg put it in a nutshell when she stated: “I know I have to earn my epaulettes in the German movement but I intend to do it on the left-wing where the enemy is actually being engaged and not on the right where the enemy is being parleyed with.”