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General strike. The British general strike of 4 - 12 May 1926 was provoked by the mine-owners who, faced with an adverse market for coal, demanded a cut in wages and an increase in working hours from the mineworkers. The Miners’ Federation, led by A.J. Cook and others, asked the TUC to bring out all the major industries, in line with a resolution supporting the miners carried at the 1925 Congress. The Conservative government, with Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister, had prepared for the strike by recruiting special constables and setting up the strikebreaking Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. During the strike millions of workers came out in support of the miners. The government monopolised the means of propaganda, however, and the BBC suppressed news that might have embarrassed the government. Director General of the BBC, John Reith (knighted for his services the following year), wrote in his diary after the strike:

They want to be able to say that they did not commandeer us, but they know that they can trust us not to be really impartial.’ (Quoted in On Television, by Stuart Hood, 1997.)

After nine days the General Council of the TUC called off the general strike, betraying every resolution upon which the strike call was issued and without a single concession being gained. The miners were left alone to fight the mine-owners backed by the government with the tacit approval of the TUC and the Parliamentary Labour Party led by Ramsey MacDonald. The miners stayed out until August before being forced by starvation to accept the mine-owners’ terms of reduced wages (below 1914 level) and an increase in the working day by one hour.

The General Strike cannot be used to get socialism. To get socialism requires a class conscious working class democratically capturing state power to prevent that power being used against them. In 1926, the very facts that the government were in power, that millions of workers had supported them and other capitalist political parties (including the Labour Party) less than two years before at the general election, showed that socialism was not on the political agenda. Workers who would not vote for socialism will not strike for it. (See also STRIKES; SYNDICALISM.)


Chronology of general strikes:

Anne Perkins, A Very British Strike, 2006


Globalization. The claim is often made that global capitalism of the past few decades is in a qualitatively new stage in the historical development of capitalism, that integration of national economies into the international economy is an inevitable process to which national governments are largely powerless.

Hirst, Thompson and Bromley, using detailed evidence, disagree and argue for the following conclusions. The present highly internationalised economy is not unprecedented. In some respects, the current globalized economy has only recently become as open and integrated as the regime that prevailed from 1870 to 1914. Genuinely transnational companies are relatively rare. Most companies are based nationally and trade regionally or multinationally on the strength of a major national location. There is no major trend towards the growth of truly global companies. Foreign direct investment is still highly concentrated among the advanced industrial economies, and the Third World remains marginal in both investment and trade. The emergence of India and particularly China has disrupted this picture, though it has not significantly shifted the centre of gravity from the already advanced countries. Investment, trade and financial flows are concentrated in the Triad of Europe, Japan/East Asia and North America, and this dominance seems set to continue. Supranational regionalization (e.g. European Union, North American Free Trade Agreement, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) is a trend that is possibly stronger than that of globalization. The major economic powers, centred on the G8 with China and India, have the capacity, especially if they coordinate policy, to exert powerful governance pressures over financial markets and other economic tendencies. Global markets are therefore by no means beyond regulation and control, though this will be limited by the divergent interests of states and their ruling elites.

However, the authors do not explain that it is the competitive accumulation of profits which is the driving force of capitalism’s inherent tendency towards globalization.


Hirst P., Thompson G. and Bromley S., Globalization in Question, 2009

Sarkar B. & Buick A., Marxian Economics and Globalization, 2009

Tony Smith, Globalization: A Systematic Marxian Account, 2009


Government. The government of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole capitalist class. Socialism will be a system of society without government but with democratic administration by the whole community. (See also STATE.)


Gradualism. Reformist political action which, according to those who advocate it, will gradually transform capitalism into ‘socialism’, without the need for class conscious workers’ political action. In Britain the leading gradualist thinkers were in the Fabian Society, formed in 1884; but nowadays there are numerous left-wing organisations fulfilling a similar role. Gradualism was adopted by the Labour Party and its ideology has always been explicitly anti-Marxist, though it is doubtful whether New Labour would still claim to be gradualist. (See also FABIAN SOCIETY; REFORMISM.)


George Lichtheim, A Short History of Socialism, 1983


Gramsci, Antonio (1891-1937). Born in Sardinia, Gramsci won a scholarship in 1911 to the University of Turin. In 1913 he joined the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and, under the influence of the writings of Georges Sorel, became a syndicalist. Bowled over by the Russian revolution, Gramsci helped to found the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in 1921 and became its general secretary (and a Member of Parliament) in 1924. He was arrested in 1926 and remained a prisoner of the fascists until his death in 1937. But while a prisoner he set out his theories in the Prison Notebooks, published posthumously. For Gramsci, ‘organic intellectuals’ had a key role to play in social transformation. They would arise from within the working class and had an organisational function, articulating the cultural politics that would allow the working class to establish its hegemony. In Gramsci’s version of Leninism, the ‘war of movement’ typified by the Russian revolution was appropriate for similarly underdeveloped countries; but in the more advanced capitalist societies a ‘war of position’ would allow the revolutionary party, via its intellectuals and alternative hegemony, to lead the working class to ‘socialism’.

Gramsci’s theories are very popular with modern leftists, since they appear to put some distance between Leninism and Stalinism. But Gramsci himself never repudiated Stalinism in practice. (See also LENINISM.)


Gramsci's writings:

Steven Jones, Antomio Gramsci, 2006


Greens. In Britain the Green Party (formerly the Ecology Party) explains the cause of the environmental crisis, varyingly, on technology, ‘overpopulation’, human greed and consumerism. Some Greens even blame capitalism. The Greens are a ‘broad church’ and so lack a coherent and consistent political thought. But they generally see the solution to the environmental crisis in the election of a Green government committed to reforming the present growth-orientated industrial economy into a decentralised, democratically-run and ecologically-sustainable economy. While awaiting the election of such a government the Green Party concentrates, like Greenpeace and other conservationist organisations, on advocating reform measures to try to protect nature and the environment.

We are up against a well-entrenched economic and social system based on class and property and governed by coercive economic laws. Reforms, however well meaning or determined, can never solve the environmental crisis - the most they can do is to palliate some aspect of it on a precarious temporary basis. They can certainly never turn capitalism into a democratic, ecological society. (See also ECOLOGY; OVERPOPULATION; REFORMISM.)


Green Party:

David Pepper, Eco-socialism, 1993