|THE GENERAL STRIKE IN LONDON
Some events, local organisation and conditions…
Bear in mind this is patchy and inadequate – a start towards a detailed account of the capital in the Nine Days. It’s also worth noting that most of these notes are compiled from the reports of local Trades Councils and Councils of Action to the TUC. So they emphasise the local union involvement and activities of the Trades Councils. To some extent they play up the strength of the strike, in that they focus mostly on the workers in unions.
Also clear are the attempts of the Strike Committees to “maintain order” ie control the Strike, prevent working class crowds from controlling the streets, restrict the extension of events. Clearly more oral histories, accounts of working class involvement on the ground are needed…
Maybe collective research could be done and this account could be turned into a full-blown account of the Strike in London.
The strength of the Strike varied greatly in London. Working class areas, mainly in the inner boroughs, and industrial areas, especially round the Docks in East and South East London, were mostly solid. Further out and in middle class areas things were obviously very different.
All in all it’s fair to say there was no great breakdown in authority, although there was fierce fighting in certain areas.
At the start of the Strike the tubes were shut down, trains were going nowhere, trams and buses were virtually non-existent and the streets were blocked with cars. Car drivers (mostly middle class) trying to get to work were often stopped by crowds and forced to walk or told to go home!
(Many people were jailed during and after the strike for intimidation of scab drivers and attacks on buses and private cars.)
On May 5th however the London Omnibus Company had 86 buses going, driven by middle class volunteers (they had none out the day before).
The Ministry of Health issued guidelines to ban local Boards of Guardians, who were in charge of giving relief (dole) to the poor and needy, from giving anything to strikers; this was aimed at Labour-dominated boards like Poplar in the East End. This must have had an effect at the end of the Strike, making it harder for people to stay out.
By Thursday 6th, trams and buses were starting to run more frequently in some areas. But this was not achieved without resistance: 47 buses were damaged by crowds by the 7th of May. By the end of this week the TUC General Council had started to panic; not only was it trying to negotiate with the Government in secret, but it was stamping down on the limited autonomy of the Councils of Action, trying to prevent them from issuing permits to travel, ordering them instead to pass it to the National Transport Committee in London.
The Government’s move to break the strikers’ stranglehold on the Docks on May 8th was crucial: food supplies in London were running low, there was said to be only 2 days supply of flour and bread in the capital. They laid their plans with care: troops and armoured cars had been gathered in Hyde Park. At 4am, 20 armoured cars left to escort 150 lorries to the Docks. Volunteers had been ferried into the Docks by ship to beat picket lines. The lorries were loaded by posh scabs while Grenadier Guards took charge of the Docks. Pickets watched but could do little in the face of this show of strength. The lorries were then escorted west, a show of strength which seems to have overawed the East End strikers. By the next day convoys of food were running freely in and out of the Docks with little resistance.
According to some reports in many areas there was an air of resignation by the 10th, many people clearly believing they wouldn’t win this one. This needs investigating and obviously things varied greatly.
By Tuesday 11th tubes were being reopened by scab labour – Bakerloo, City and South London (now Northern Line) running to most stations.
When the General Council announced the ending of the Strike on May 12th, not only were the ‘second wave’ starting to come out, but other workers not called out had started to strike… The GC’s lying bullshit about a settlement being imminent for the miners led to many Strike Committee’s initially claiming victory. When the scale of the surrender became clear there was widespread anger and disbelief.
It is widely quoted that there more workers on strike on the 14th May, after the end of the Strike, than the 13th. However, it has to be said that the numbers are not so significant next to the fact that strikers could not see how to take the struggle further, and within days most had given up. There has to be some consciousness of what direction to go in, a desire to take things onward. In the face of government control of the streets through use of troops, and a union stranglehold on activity, the desire and direction weren’t there.
Many workers did not go straight back to work: for 2 mains reasons. Firstly some angrily tried to carry on the Strike. Secondly, some were told not to return by their unions until terms had been agreed for a return with their employers – for many workers this meant accepting worse conditions, no strike agreements, lower pay and working with scabs who had shat on them. Many firms took advantage of the defeat of the Strike to screw more out of their wage slaves, refuse to hire militants, etc. Quite a few Strike activists were not rehired and blacklisted, in London as elsewhere.
The following accounts mostly relate to London Boroughs as they existed in 1926. Many have now been amalgamated into larger Boroughs.
(then a Borough including Camden, Kentish Town etc)
St Pancras had a very militant strike committee, operating from the Labour party HQ at 67 Camden rd, and issued a vocal and provocative Strike Bulletin. Their HQ was raided on 10 May, a typewriter and roneo duplicator seized, to prevent the bulletin being issued. The Secretary J Smith was nicked. Said to be caused by a report in the Bulleting about an “incident in Harmood St”.
Later St Pancras Strike Committee officials were kicked out by the TUC over items in the Strike Bulletin; the TUC had ordered bulletins should not contain anything but central publicity but the Strike Committee issued other statements and news.
St Pancras set up a Workers Defence Corps… to maintain ‘order’. The area was solid to the end of the Strike.
In Camden Town, on the night of Saturday May 8th, there was fighting between cops and pickets. Then on 9th, strikers attacked a bus, so cops attacked them hospitalising 40 strikers. Again on May 12th, there was a confrontation here, 2 people were nicked for “interfering with traffic.”
The area had a militant Strike Committee, reflecting area’s long communist and left tradition. Trades Council based at 295 Upper St.
According to the Islington daily strike bulletin no 7 (12 May) everything was favourable there still, the position unchanged. Mass meetings were held in Finsbury Park.
At Gillespie Rd School, the children had Sir John Simon’s attack on the Strike read to them instead of the usual scripture lesson!
Holloway Tram Depot, Pemberton Gardens, had a very militant and active workforce in the General Strike. They had their own strike bulletin, Live Rail.
The myth of the posh scab: City gents volunteered to shovel coal to keep the Gas Works going.
8 May: 4 trams were taken out of the depot by OMS, several specials on each…
Hendon Joint Strike Committee… issued bulletins…
One or two trams taken out on the 7th. 4 tramwaymen and 2 railworkers were arrested in the process, so there must have been some resistance.
Tottenham Trades Council Emergency Committee, at 7 Bruce Grove, issued a Daily Bulletin.
WOOD GREEN & SOUTHGATE
The Wood Green & Southgate Trades Council reported the position on the 5th “one of solidarity. Entertainments committee formed and other means adopted to get the man out of the streets.” (?!?)
Still “position of solidarity” on the 7th.
Enfield Trades Council and Labour Party formed a Council of Action. Two committees were set up to co-ordinate the activities of the Trade Unions and other bodies within the area; also to keep in touch with neighbouring Trades Councils or Councils of Action. One met at LP HQ at 66 Silver St, Enfield, the other oat Herewood House (?), in continuous session all day.
Open air meetings were held all over the area.
All men said to be out solid.
Wealdstone Joint Strike Committee, from their Co-operative hall, HQ, sent greetings on behalf of the NUR, RCA, URS, ETU, AEU, Transport Workers, Building Labourers Federation, Printers, National Society of painters, to the Secretary of the TUC, to congratulate them on “the able way in which you are conducting the present situation…” No joke.
They must have been terminal optimists though, as when the strike was called off, they felt, despite the confusion as to what was going on, they stated that “whatever the condition, it means that justice has triumphed.”
Willesden: The Strike Committee formed a 200-strong ‘Maintenance of Order Corps”, there was no fighting here. Possibly to prevent things getting out of their control.
Hammersmith: 6th May: The TUC HQ sent a panicked letter after receiving reports of a “bad riot at Hammersmith outside OMS HQ. it is said stones were thrown and police used batons.” It seems “buses were stopped near the station, and various parts removed by the strikers. When some of the buses returned at 8.30 pm some of the occupants began to jeer at the crowd some of which became angry and boarded some buses roughly handling the drivers and conductors one of whom was badly injured” (shame). “Local fascists began to throw stones from a building near by. Later the police made a charge using their batons, and arrested forty three people only one of which was a trade unionist and he was released owing to a mistake being made.”
7 May, buses wrecked, strikers fought a pitched battle with cops and fascists. 47 nicked.
Fulham Trades Council said to be “functioning very satisfactorily” on May 12th… Their premises (poss in Dawes Road) were raided by the police the night before, all members present at the meeting had their names taken, none nicked though.
A deputation of shop stewards from the power Station (South of Townmead rd?) went to Fulham’s Emergency Committee and asked to turn off power to 54 firms doing non-essential work: FBC refused, 4 days later the Power Station workers came out. But volunteers and naval ratings kept it going.
“Brothers Stirling and Calfe, of the Electrical Trades Union, employed by Fulham Electricity Undertaking, have been arrested this morning” (May 8th) so there was maybe trouble over this.
Two buses were stopped on the bridge on May 6th and sabotaged… this led to “fights between local ruffs (?) and fascists, otherwise quiet. No trade unionists took part in fights.” Yeah right.
Feltham Repair Depot: Very active pickets here, had strike bulletin, Feltham Tatler.
The Feltham National Union of Railwaymen (from their HQ at the Railway Tavern, Bedfont Lane) reported on May 6th that the position was “simply splendid, all members of all branches full of spirits. We have also had splendid reports from surrounding districts.
Meetings for women and open meetings have been arranged, also concerts and games. The response of the few ‘nons’ here on Monday was great… Nothing whatever moved from Feltham. 17 reported for duty on Tuesday out of 650 employed. …”
Ealing Joint Strike Committee reported in their Daily Bulletin on May 8th: “The RCA position is very strong, all members standing “four square”. More ‘nons’ (non-union members) are joining up and all steps are being taken to get more members out. The Strike Committee is issuing a special appeal to women in this district, also they look to you to see that your wife and friends get on.
The NUR position is grand. All members still in fighting form. There are still a few ‘nons’ but these are being got in.
The T&GWU have inquired if they shall recognize OMS permits of delivery of coal. Instructions have been given in this matter… The report from the Building Trades is to the effect that their members are responding splendidly to the call…
Members are reminded of the mass demonstration to be held on Ealing Common tomorrow 8th may, at 3.00pm. A contingent will leave here at 2.30pm…
... issuing this daily report we would urge all members not be stampeded into panic by the provocative utterances of the Home Secretary. The inference contained in his broadcast appeal for special constables on Wednesday evening to the effect that the Trade Union movement were violating law and order is quite unjustifiable… The strikers are standing firm and they intend to conduct themselves in a quiet and orderly manner.”
Hanwell Council of Action operated from the Viaduct Inn.
They reported the position solid on May 8th. However on 7th several lorries of police and special constables and OMS’ers had taken 80 buses out of Hanwell to the Chiswick garage. “Slight trouble was experienced with some onlookers, a number of buses getting their windows smashed. Every effort was made to prevent any violent demonstration, but the trouble was mainly caused by outsiders.” Of course it was. It always is! 3 arrested over stonings, some people beaten up by police.
AEC factory, off Windmill Lane (north of canal), built by London General Omnibus, big stoppage here in Strike.
The Borough Labour Party were involved in area’s Central Strike Committee. The situation reported to be solid and quiet on May 6th.
A large demo to Wormwood Scrubs on May 6th was rammed en route by a LNW railway van, which knocked down a striker and injured his legs. The van turned out to be filled with members of the British Fascisti (hiding under a tarpaulin) plus loads of barbed wire. Angry demonstrators kicked off, but were brought under control by Labour stewards! (So the fash were not lynched sadly).
Goods other than food turned out to be being moved from Paddington Station, some of it labeled food… as a result the Committee stopped all work and double the pickets to block everything.
Blacklegs were also moving coal and coke from the local gas works
Mass picketing stopped the single pirate bus company operating here by the 6th.
Huge mass meetings being held throughout the Borough.
8 May: Strikers baton charged by cops. Then on Sun 9th, 62 strikers were nicked after mounted police charges.
Still no buses running by the 10th. All picketing said to be successful still. Another mass demo to the Scrubs held on the 10th.
Chiswick Trades Council formed a Council of Action. They reported on May 7th: “Council have received very satisfactory reports from delegates from councils, strike committees, picket captains, nearly all factories, works in this area have closed down. The non-union men and in some shops women have supported the unions solid. Everywhere splendid order is being maintained so far no trouble has arisen with police etc. mss meetings are being held locally.”
However soldiers worked side by side with volunteer drivers to get buses going, around May 5th.
Southall & District Council of Action operated from the Southall Labour Hall… On 9th May they reported: “The response has been wonderful. Morale of workers splendid. Railwaymen solid to a man. All other trades obeying instructions of council, and everything working to plan. Crowded meetings. Mass demonstrations. Men more determined as time goes on.”
The East End was very solid throughout the General Strike. It was described as “a great silent city, even quieter and more peaceful than on a Sunday.”
Hackney Council of Action was formed by the Trades Council together with local union and Labour Party officials, in March 1926, as the period for ending the government subsidy to the mines drew near.
When the strike was declared the Hackney Council of Action took over a local boxing hall, the Manor Hall in Kenmure Road, as their headquarters. Throughout the duration of the strike the Council of Action was in continuous session organising the strike locally. Reports were arriving all the time from various parts of the borough and the place took on the character of a nerve centre. Not everyone was called out on strike at once and there were others. such as local tradesmen who were exempted by the TUC. These tradesmen had to present themselves to the Council of Action, give their reasons for wanting to carry on their business, and if the Council were satisfied they were given a permit and a sticker to be put on their vans. It stated “BY PERMISSION OF THE TUC" and the strikers had great satisfaction sticking these on.
Public meetings were held all over the borough, particularly around the Mare Street area and Kingsland Road, the two main thoroughfares that cut through the borough and in Victoria Park.
Police Intimidation was always a problem for the strikers and it was in Kingsland Road that this manifested itself in an untypical but frightening confrontation on Wednesday 5th May. One eye witness recalls: "The whole area was a seething mass of frightened but nevertheless belligerent people. The roads and pavement were jammed, horse vans, lorries and 'black' transport were being manhandled; police were there in force and 1 suppose that for a time things could have been described as desperate. The crucial point came when a fresh force of police arrived on the outskirts and I heard an officer call out, 'Charge the bastards. Use everything you've got'. And they did. 1 saw men, women and even youngsters knocked over and out like ninepins. Shades of Peterloo. If they had been armed, apart from their truncheons and boots, Kingsland Road would have gone down in history as an even greater massacre."
The police carried out baton charges in other parts of Hackney on the same day and the St. John's Ambulance men set up a casualty station in Kingsland Road a day or so afterwards.
Mare Street Tram Depot, now Clapton Bus Garage: The men had all joined the strike on the first day along with other transport workers and the depot was empty. Even the canteen staff had gone home and all that was left was the picket line outside. Suddenly, under military escort, along came a crowd of 'patriotic volunteers' to start up a tram service. The picket line was not big enough to stop them entering the depot but by the time this was done, word had reached the Council of Action round the corner in Kenmure Road. Within minutes the area outside was packed with strikers. Their attitude was that the 'blacklegs' may have got in but they were not going to let them out! All day the crowd stayed outside and not a tram moved. As evening approached, the poor unfortunates trapped in the tram depot realised that their stomachs were complaining. None of them had brought food in with them and the canteen staff were not working so they just had to stay hungry. A few attempts to escape were made but were unsuccessful and about midnight, the Manor Hall received a visit from the local police superintendent He asked in the most polite way for the Council of Action to assist him in getting the 'blacklegs' out. The reply was less polite. During the early hours of Thursday morning, a few did escape from the depot but were chased all the way down Mare Street, past Well Street to the Triangle where they were finally caught. At this spot stood a horse trough full of water, so that it was a number of very bedraggled and hungry 'blacklegs' who made their way home that day. No further attempts were made to take any trams out from that particular depot!
Strikebreaking was enthusiastically encouraged by Hackney Borough Council. Right from the start they issued a notice calling for volunteers to man essential services. An office was opened in the public library opposite the Town Hall where strikebreakers could sign on and this was kept open from 9 am to 8 pm. The Council at that time was comprised of 100% Municipal Reformers (Tories and Liberals who stood together on an anti socialist ticket). The Council met on the Thursday and set up a special sub committee to discharge any emergency functions that were needed. A squad of Special Constables were established for the protection of municipal buildings, one of these was the Mayor's son who was 'just down from Oxford' and was on duty at the Town Hall.
The Hackney Gazette, the local newspaper, did not appear in its usual format as the printers had joined the strike. Instead the editor brought out a single sheet; which makes interesting reading, especially the bulletin brought out on the second Monday of the strike (10th May). With a headline MILITARY ARRIVE AT HACKNEY, it went on to state that "Victoria Park has been closed to the public. In the early hours of Saturday morning, residents in the locality were disturbed by the rumble of heavy motor lorries and afterwards found that military tents had been pitched near the bandstand . . . We understand that detachments of the East Lancashire Fusiliers, a Guards Regiment and the Middlesex Regiment have encamped in the park . . . another body of Regulars is stationed in the vicinity of the Marshes at Hackney Wick."
Whether this was meant to frighten the strikers or not is not clear but it certainly had no effect on the numbers out on strike in the borough. Despite scares and rumours about people drifting back to work, the number of people on strike in the second week was more than had come out at the beginning on the 3rd May. All the large factories in the borough had pickets outside them Bergers Paint Factory in Hackney Wick, Polikoff Ltd., (a clothing firm at Well Street) and Zinkens Furniture manufacturers in Mare Street were three of the largest. All the public utilities were either closed or being run rather badly by amateurs. The Hackney Gazette once again reported that three boys of the Clove Club (the Hackney Downs School 'Old Boys') were driving a train between Liverpool Street and Chingford and that one of the volunteers at the Council's Dust Destructor was a parson who was busy shovelling refuse into the hoppers. That probably explains why the Council ended their meeting on the Thursday with the Lords Prayer!
The end of the Strike came suddenly on Wednesday, 12th May, with most strikers in a buoyant and confident mood. When the news came through to the Strike HQ, the first reaction was one of disbelief. Notices were put up advising strikers not to pay any attention to what they called 'BBC Bluff but when the official notice of a return to work was given to them during the afternoon, reaction was that the strike must have been successful. The Hackney Gazette reported that 'It was publicly alleged that the miners were going back to work without any reduction of wages. There were shouts of 'We've won!' and cheers, while a section of the crowd began to sing The Red Flag".
However, as soon as the truth filtered through to them the reaction according to one participant was "bloody murder". Julius Jacobs who was active in Hackney during the General Strike remembers that 'The Bastards' was the most favourable epithet applied to the General Council of the TUC. "Everybody's face dropped a mile because they had all been so enthusiastic. It was really working and victory seemed to be absolutely on the plate. "
However, the strikers were still in a militant mood unlike their leaders. That evening, a huge march took place. Several thousands of strikers took part in a march from the Manor Hall in Kenmure Road down Mare Street and Well Street to Hackney Wick and Homerton ending up in a mass meeting outside the Hackney Electricity Works at the end of Millfields Road. A drum and fife band accompanied the marchers and it was led by two men with a large banner. Before the arrival of the marchers, police were rushed up to the Works in a lorry which was driven at great speed through the crowd by one of the Special Constables and as the gates were opened for it, a number of soldiers in field uniform and wearing steel helmets were seen inside. The march was so long that after having a mass meeting by the head of the marchers, the speakers had to go to the back of the march which stretched for about a third of a mile and hold another one.
The return to work was orderly and in most cases without incident. A certain amount of victimisation of militants took place but no more than anywhere else.
Bethnal Green was a Labour-controlled borough. The Town Hall Labour rooms here were used as the Strike Committee’s HQ in the Strike. Council of Action set up a Women’s Food protection Committee to check prices of food stuffs and help those in need.
The Town Hall was crowded out on Sunday 9th (evening) for a mass meeting – 100s turned away.
The Council of Action received reports that the electricity supply was being used for manufacturing, against agreements they’d reached – they threatened to turn the supply off if this didn’t stop.
10th May: “The position in Bethnal Green is still firm and we are making arrangements for the social side of the strike. There have been no disturbances, and enthusiastic mass meetings have been held. Picketing is proceeding smoothly.”
Troops were stationed in Victoria Park.
Borough council was Labour controlled. Labour rooms in Town Hall were local G Strike HQ.
The police visited the Trades Council office on the 10th, after the power in the borough was turned off completely following disputes over what was still being powered.
A borough controlled by left wing Labour Party councillors… Eg left bigwig George Lansbury. Councillors took leading role in organising strike committee, which met at the Town Hall. The Poplar Strike Committee bulletin was known ‘Lansbury’s Bulletin’
4 May: strikers battled police in streets. Vehicles were set alight and thrown in the river. There was more fighting the next day (specials attacked and wrecked 3 pubs), and on the 6th, and 7th.
Government posters calling for volunteers were defaced en masse locally…
There was a food shortage in Poplar by May 11th – ironically convoys of lorries were carrying it out of the nearby docks to the West End. Maybe a little less peace and a bit of steaming in would have fed the locals.
By the 11th, the Committee was starting to get a bit narked with the TUC General Council: “There has been a noticeable increase in road traffic, much of this is not connected to transport or food.
Govt propaganda has been increased in the last few hours through posters and other subversive methods.
Intensified efforts have been made to get essential port servants to work under police protection.
The above factors are tending to make the rank and file affected by the strike question the correctness of the TUC publications. Local efforts to dispel these doubts are limited.
This Council therefore respectfully submits that the time has arrived when a general tightening of the Strike machinery should be put into effect by calling out all workers, essential or otherwise.”
On May 12th, the workers here remained solid. Later in the day 500 dockers meeting outside Poplar Town Hall were attacked by cops who drove through crowds in a van, then jumped out batoning people. Later the cops raided the NUR HQ in Poplar High St, batoning everyone, including the Mayor of Poplar, who was there playing billiards!
BOW AND BROMLEY
The Strike Bulletin indicates the attitude of left labour leaders: George Lansbury wrote: “ Don’t quarrel with the police. We can and will win without disorder of any kind. Policemen are of our flesh and bone of our bones, and we will co-operate with them to keep the peace.”
Could this have had an effect on the lack of attempts to prevent the convoys of food leaving the East End docks nearby? Only violent resistance to this could have stopped them, and this would have had a significant effect on the course of the Strike in London, which only had 48 hours worth of flour and bread at the time.
The Bow District Railways and Transport Strike Committee reported on May 6th: “All railwaymen of Bow solid as a rock. This committee is sitting at 141 Bow road in conjunction with the Transport workers. We are in continual session, day and night….”
Canning Town: On May 4th, there was fighting here between strikers and police, after crowds stopped cars and smashed their engines.
At Canning Town Bridge, on May 5th, strikers pulled drivers off trams, leading to a pitched battle with cops. 2-300 strikers fought police at the corner of Barking rd/Liverpool Rd, after coppers baton charged a crowd.
The docks were totally solid, from the start; there was intense picketing here. From the start submarines and lighters were moored in the Docks; apart from having troops on hand, the subs supplied electricity for refrigeration of food stored there. There seems to have been an organized attempt to try to shut this supply to the big refining plant, where carcasses were stored, by the strikers, but it must have failed. The Docks remained inactive till May 8th, when the stranglehold was broken by troops protecting scabs, who unloaded food into convoys which was then driven to the West End.
Blackwall Tunnel: On several days especially 4 May, crowds of strikers blocked the tunnel. Cars were stopped, smashed and burned. The police baton charged crowds on may 4 and beat up strikers, casualties were taken to Poplar Hospital.
5th May: “The combined meeting of workers of East ham stands solid.”
Naval ratings were running the East Ham Power Station.
The W Ham Trades Council and Borough Labour Party formed a strike committee at their office at 11 Pretoria rd, Canning Town; the Council of Action later ran from the ILP Hut, Cumberland Rd, Plaistow.
They reported much confusion on May 4th among municipal employees (eg dustmen) and gas and electricity workers as to whether they should strike or not; all thanks to the General Council’s ludicrous battle plan,
Position on 10th May was said to be “stronger than ever.” Port of London clerks were being targetted by the Govt to get them to return to work in the Docks, under police protection.
Specials were said to be “coming in to Plaistow Police Station in civilian dress, some arm in arm with young ladies…”
Ilford Trades Council formed a Joint Strike Committee, based at the local Labour Hall, Ilford Hill. Local unions had their own strike committees, as elsewhere, the Ilford Ctte left it to them to sort out picketing. They also ‘took charge’ (seems to have meant co-opting them into committees) of some local members of unions who refused to issue any advice or guidelines as to what to do (eg AEU)
A local Strike Bulletin was issued by people not connected to TUS – pro or anti?
Said to be “All Solid” on May 5th here. Still solid May 10th, no trams or buses at all running still. One or two odd trains per day. “Everything quiet and orderly, and there has not been the slightest disturbance” Ilford more residential not industrial.
Leyton Trades Council set up a General Strike Committee, at their offices at Grove House, 452, High Rd, Leyton.
Trades Council reported “a very pleasant relationship with the police”
Walthamstow Trades Council set up an Emergency Committee, at their office/meeting hall, at 342 Hoe St, E17.
On May 6th they reported:
“The position here is as solid as a rock, have had difficulty in keeping men at work on essential Health services. Non-unionists are flocking to our side every hour… The electricity works running under our jurisdiction, great number of factories have had juice for power purposes cut off… In the main all are remaining calm and violence is exceptionally noticeable for its absence, we are using every endeavour to maintain peace…” Possibly a bit optimistic though, this since Walthamstow saw lively scenes at some point, with Winston Churchill's coach reportedly being overturned on Walthamstow High Street.
On 10th “all men not essential are out with the strikers.” But the fact that many men were not getting their strike pay was causing “grave unrest” by the 11th.
Mass meetings held at William Morris hall, Somers Rd… outside St Johns Church, Brockscroft rd
The May 12th Walthamstow Official Strike Bulletin reported
“Messrs Baird & Tatlocks had their ‘juice’ cut off, as their output does not come within the description of essential services… It was reported that local cinemas were again using the screen for the spreading of strike ‘news’ (I guess this means anti-strike news. typist). An undertaking has now been given that the Gazette will be cut off entirely if it contains strike items. Careful watch is being kept, and if any attempt is made to get behind the agreement, the ‘juice’ will again be cut off.
STOP PRESS NEWS. THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THE RUMOUR THAT THE STRIKE IS OVER.”
But it was.
Local union and Labour party branches, some unemployed, mans and womens co-op guilds, set up a Council of Action on May 3rd (there had been no trades Council previously). (Based or secretary based at 6 Arnold Rd) It went into continuous session during the strike… It set its functions out as: to maintain order and discipline among the local workers (!), to watch local Trade movements to maintain contact by means of our established cycle and motor cycle with the neighbouring Barking Labour party, to establish a local distress fund…
On May 8th they reported to the TUC: “All solid. Local non-union firms all out and all joining unions… No distribution, everybody orderly. Meetings held on (?Lution) Institute grounds every evening… Vigorous boycott of all trades increasing… “