The General Strike
Martin Pugh revisits one of the most bitter disputes in history and assesses its impact on industrial relations and the wider political landscape of the twentieth century.
In 1926 Britain experienced a unique event in her history. From May 4th to 12th of that year the General Strike largely paralysed her economy and threatened to bring down her elected government. Called to defend the miners from drastic wage reductions and longer hours, the strike involved over three million workers in printing, transport, iron and steel, gas, electricity, building, engineering and shipbuilding as well as coal. Yet it has generally been seen in much less apocalyptic terms. Despite the involvement of millions of strikers, troops, police and volunteers it passed off in nine days with remarkably little violence and no deaths; the most famous incident was the football match played at Plymouth between police and strikers which appears to corroborate our picture of the strike as a very British affair. ‘Our dear old country can be well proud of itself’, wrote a relieved George V in his diary when the strike ended, ‘it shows what a wonderful people we are.’