Russian Revolution Centenary:

Marking 100 years since the October Revolution

4 November 2017

Congress House 10am-6pm

£10/£8 concessions

Examining the revolution’s

- Impact in Britain, with a focus on the labour movement

- Cultural legacy, in particular the visual arts

- Global reach, from Europe to Latin America

 

Speakers include:

Historians: Mary Davis; David Lane; Sarah Badcock

Art Historian: Christine Lindey

International perspectives from: Slava Tetekin; Aleida Guevara; Teresita Vicente de Sotolongo; Vijay Prashad; Johanna Scheringer-Wright

 

The preview of the Socialist Opposition to the First World War exhibition was held at Marx House as part of London Open House on 20th September 2015.

More details.....

Socialist Support for the War

The resolutions of the Second International, in condemning colonialism (1907 Stuttgart Congress) and calling for workers to oppose war (1910 Copenhagen Congress), were promptly forgotten in the rush to arms and the International itself collapsed.

British labour leaders maintained an anti-war stance up until the point, on August 4th 1914, that the government finally declared war on Germany. By the end of August, the Labour Party and the TUC declared an 'industrial truce' for the duration of the war and lent their support to an all-party recruitment campaign. By May 1915, there were three Labour MP's in the Coalition Government, one of them, Arthur Henderson, in the cabinet. The two Treasury Agreements signed by government and trade union representatives confirmed labour's promise to abandon strike action for the duration of the war. It also drew the unions (including the Amalgamated Society, whose members were principally affected) into agreeing to suspend 'restrictive practices' in skilled trades by agreeing to the use of unskilled or semi-skilled labour (particularly that of women) in the war industries. (This was known as 'dilution'.)

Socialist Support for the War

The resolutions of the Second International, in condemning colonialism (1907 Stuttgart Congress) and calling for workers to oppose war (1910 Copenhagen Congress), were promptly forgotten in the rush to arms and the International itself collapsed.

British labour leaders maintained an anti-war stance up until the point, on August 4th 1914, that the government finally declared war on Germany. By the end of August, the Labour Party and the TUC declared an 'industrial truce' for the duration of the war and lent their support to an all-party recruitment campaign. By May 1915, there were three Labour MP's in the Coalition Government, one of them, Arthur Henderson, in the cabinet. The two Treasury Agreements signed by government and trade union representatives confirmed labour's promise to abandon strike action for the duration of the war. It also drew the unions (including the Amalgamated Society, whose members were principally affected) into agreeing to suspend 'restrictive practices' in skilled trades by agreeing to the use of unskilled or semi-skilled labour (particularly that of women) in the war industries. (This was known as 'dilution'.)

The Anti-War Movement in Britain

The British Socialist Party (BSP) opposed the war from the outset. The Independent Labour Party also maintained an anti-war policy from the start, even though some of its leading parliamentary members did not.

In addition, there was a considerable body of political opposition to the war which generated a host of anti-war organisations like the Union of Democratic Control and the No Conscription Fellowship. As the war progressed the lack of war aims coupled with the blundering of the military commanders, made it clear that the price of victory was to be paid through mass slaughter. Conscription was introduced in 1916.

'Red' Clyde

Whether consciously anti-war or not, it was clear from 1915 that industrial workers were not going to be cowed by the legal strictures against strike action. An early example of this mood of defiance came from the strike by engineering workers in munitions factories on the Clyde in 1915. The strike was, of course, unsupported by the ASE leadership. Aided by the hastily formed Central Labour Witholding Committee, the strike spread rapidly throughout the Clyde. Signs of mass defiance were not limited to Scotland. The strikes were ultimately defeated. However, on Clydeside, the Central Labour Witholding Committee was replaced by a permanent organisation - the Clyde Workers' Committee (CWC), whose chairman, William Gallacher was a member of the British Socialist Party.

The CWC provided the model for similar organisations in other urban industrial centres. Its language was syndicalist, but its practice was not - in the sense that it sought to link the industrial struggle (based on the shop stewards) with wider community based campaigns.

Shop Steward & Workers' Committee Movement

'Red Clyde' was in the vanguard of the wartime workers' movement, but mass protests led by revolutionary socialists developed with as much force in other parts of the country. The election of shop stewards and the formation of shop stewards committees was commonplace in most large factories which had been turned over to war time production. In Sheffield a Workers' Committee under the leadership of J.T.Murphy was formed on the model of the CWC. Other industrial centres like Manchester, London and later Birmingham also had Workers' Committees, but they were less long lived than their Sheffield and Clyde counterparts.

Women Trade Unionists

Women's trade union membership increased by about 160% during the war, but apart from the National Federation of Women Workers, the Workers' Union (WU) was the only union to make a serious commitment to organising women. By 1918 the WU employed twenty women full time officials and had a female membership of over 80,000. This was more than any other general union and represented a quarter of the WU's own membership. In 1918 the Equal Pay strike was led and ultimately won by women tramway workers - starting in London and spreading to other towns.

In 1914, the Women's Social and Political Union abandoned the suffrage campaign itself and ardently supported the war effort and urged all women to do the same. Sylvia Pankhurst's organisation was one of the very few to maintain the fight for the vote until its first instalment (to women over 30) was granted in 1918. The National Council for Adult Suffrage also kept up the pressure for the vote in the war years. This organisation was established in 1916 and held its first meeting at the Daily Herald offices. It was a broad based activist adult suffrage campaigning group linking the left wing of the women's movement with the left wing of the labour movement.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter, we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest events, news and activities. Why not sign up to become a member of the MML if you aren't already.

The Library gratefully receives donations of books and archives. What we choose to keep will be in line with our acquisitions policy. Given our limited resources, we often have to advise that duplicate publications are sent elsewhere. If you would like to donate books please get in touch.

The Library relies on a community of volunteers that play a dynamic part in all aspects of Library work. Many of our volunteers come in for one or two days per week and help with a range of tasks from administrative jobs, to giving tours, and assisting in cataloguing and digitising our collections. We also offer opportunities for student placements and work experience. For more information contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can see a calender of all upcoming events at the MML here. Also check out the educational classes we provide including dates and how to register here.

Page 1 of 2
  • Opening Times
  • Transport
  • Contact Us

Opening Times

We're open from Monday-Thursday 12 noon-4pm. Get in touch for room bookings and guided tours

Underground & Bus

Farringdon station on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

Rail

Farringdon Station - Thameslink services for connections to London Bridge, St Pancreas, Brighton, East Croydon

Contact Us

If you want more information then contact us by phone on #44(0) 207 253 1485 or visit the contact us page