1970s >> 1971 >> no-801-may-1971

50 Years Ago: “Black Friday”

When in 1914, the Miners joined up with the Railwaymen and the Transport Workers in a loose federation called the Triple Alliance, for the purpose of defence against just such an action as that now being taken by the mine owners (Notice of big pay reductions), it was hailed by all as the ‘Direct Activists’ and ‘economic power’ phrasemongers as the greatest step forward the workers had ever taken. Although each of the constituent bodies forming the Alliance have, at different times, been engaged in hard fights with the masters some excuse has always been forthcoming to explain why the Alliance should not use its power to assist such a body. Now it was going to show this power. After several meetings it was decided on the 8th April that, unless negotiations were re-opened between the Miners and the Mine-owners, the Railway and Transport workers would be called out at midnight of the 12th April. Having reached this decision Messrs. Thomas, Cramp, Abraham. Bevin, Gosling, Sexton and R. Williams were formed into a deputation to carry on negotiations between the government and the Miners Executive.

Late on Saturday night, April 9th, the latter agreed to issue a notice calling upon their members not to interfere with volunteers working the pumps and engines, and upon this condition a meeting between the miners and owners was fixed for the Monday morning. On this arrangement the strike was called off.

The meeting was a failure. No agreement was reached and the miners, faced with essentially the same situation as before, left the conference.

Then the Executive of the Triple Alliance called another strike on Friday 15th April at 10 p.m.

This was to be ‘the thing’. No more dallying, no more shuffling or waste of time, but a strong and determined blow against aggression.

The blow came alright, but to the utter amazement and confusion of the rank and file it was a blow by the Executive of the NUR and the Transport Workers against the miners. They had decided to cancel the strike.

Seldom has such treachery been exposed in the industrial field. It was a complete betrayal of the miners by their own associates . . .

The Labour Leader (ILP) and the official organ of the several times united Communist Party joined in putting the bulk of the blame upon J. H. Thomas, but this condemnation proceeds from a desire to make him a scapegoat for the actions of members of the ILP like Sexton and of the Communist Party, like R. Williams, who were not one whit less guilty than Thomas.

(From an unsigned editorial ‘The Betrayal of the Miners’ Socialist Standard, May 1921).