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tj86

Strike action during WWI

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tj86

Hi everyone,

I'm doing some research into how WWI undermined trust in the state. I was wondering if anyone knew where (online or specific books) i could get hold of figures showing the number of strikes or working days lost to strikes during and the immediate years surrounding WWI? I am specifically looking for UK figures here but figures for any of the other countries involved would be of use too. any help would be greatfully received, cheers, tom.

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jay dubaya

Welcome to the forum Tom

I seem to remember the book 'Blighty' by Gerard DeGroot gives some figures for days lost etc through strike action,

Jon

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truthergw
Hi everyone,

I'm doing some research into how WWI undermined trust in the state.

.........................................

cheers, tom.

That is a very large assumption.Is it possible that it could be wrong?

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tj86

thanks jay, that what i'm looking for, i'll check that book out.

truthergw- yea of course it is! I'm a history masters student, the question in full is; To what extent did the demands of the first world war undermine trust in the state?

SO you could say that it didnt at all, or that it even reinforced the state, of course it depends which country your talking about too, im focussing on britain, im just trying to get some evidence for either side.

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truthergw

So you are looking to see if strikes undermined trust in the state. Your question presumes a trust in the state before the war. I think that is another rather big assumption. I think that a large section of the working class assumed that the state was there to protect the interests of the bosses.The people who went on strike did so because they did not trust the state to help them.

Certainly there were left wing elements who would have welcomed any action which undermined the capitalist state of UK and helped to move it toward a socialist one. I do not believe that was the main aim.

The reports on the work that Lloyd George and other politicians did in settling strikes seem to suggest that profiteering was the main complaint of strikers. That profits and prices were skyrocketing while workers were being asked to tighten their belt for the war effort. Again, this might be interpreted to show a lack of trust, a suspicion that they were being screwed. L G and others met with union leaders to try to induce them and their members to place a trust in the government which was obviously lacking.

In mathematics we would say that the question is badly posed but I accept that you must answer the questions posed.

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MelPack

Tom

You should have a read of James Hinton The First Shop Stewards Movement. It is a detailed study of the struggle over the labour process in war time conditions and the defence of craft priveleges being transmuted into a struggle against the 'servile state' and potentially the war itself.

Mel

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truthergw

Hi Mel. I am always very wary of straying into political territory here on the forum. That includes labour questions. I have a great deal of family history which is heavily involved in those areas but I try not to get sidetracked. I do not feel that it is a military issue which is my main interest here on the forum. I confine my political reading to the higher direction of the war. My reply in the earlier post was from my reading about Lloyd George and his interest for me here on the forum is simply the part he played during the war and the period immediately before it.

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dycer

Tom,

Trying to help you out. :lol:

What's that Book? Flower of Scotland?

I'm sure it covers both the Military and Social upheaval aspects,in Scotland,in the WW1 War years.

George

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Spud Trevor

Tom,

Not specific to your question, but maybe good background.

The soldiers' strikes of 1919 - Andrew Rothstein.

Regards,

Spud

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truthergw

The nearest thing I know to a politically inspired strike was the refusal of London dockers to load munitions bound for the Polish forces fighting against the fledgling Soviet Union in 1920. The Jolly George strike inspired similar action by train drivers. Hardly great war although the revolution was certainly closely connected. As I have said, I am not uninterested in the politics of that and other times. Nor am I completely uninformed on the subject. I simply do not include it in my Great War interests. I do not believe that the majority of strikes were related to trust in the government. I do not believe such a trust existed and this was reflected in the pre war creation of the Labour party to represent the workers. They did not feel that the two existing parties represented their interests. I think that translates into a lack of trust, years before the war started. The question is a clear case of petitio principii.

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tj86

hello,

ok so first thank you everyone for your help and sugguestions, have been very useful.

some interesting points raised; first to the question, i think i'd agree that it perhaps has not been brilliantly posed but unfortunatly its what i have to work with, also though it gives you an opportunity to exploit this in your answer and challenge it and pose a few questions of your own which i fnd can often go down well.

interesting as to the extent of trust that existed before the war, definatly relevent when trying to asses how this changed during the war!

i also do not think that the majority of strikes during the war were plitically motivated, although the govt certainly had great fear in this respect and often over estimated the revolutionary nature of such things (im think clydeside 1919 esp) i think it was that blighty book someone recommended earlier which said the strikes during the war only confirmed the unrevolutionary nature of britain, which i think has some truth in it! i think the strike rates are interesting from the point that they show how much the workforce did get behind the war effort. Britian ability to keep the whole soceity behind the war helped it persevere and not go the same way as russia or germany.

tom

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Chris Martin

Tom,

Try to find David Silbey's "The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916" Published by Frank Cass, 2005. It addresses many of the questions you and others have raised. Personally its one of my favorite books on the subject, and one of the better books I have read on the war. Silbey argues that it is the concent of a nation's population that allowed countries to engage in the war. He explores the question of why British Working class men were so willing to fight given that the pre-war era appears to have provided them with little incentive to do so.

Discusses the political responce in the early days and goes in to fairly good detail about the labour party responce. He also discussed strike days in the years preceeding the war and during the first year of the war. He also discusses public responce and anti- war rallies that happened in the days leading up to the decleration of war. He looks indepth ad volunteerism and the imposition of conscription, and much much more.

In answer to your origional question, based on Silbey's work, the war did not undermine trust in the state. The mass volunteerism in the first months of the war show that the working class were committed to the war. Despite all the reasons they had to distrust the state they enlisted to fight for something outside themselves and their immediate concerns. They may not have believed or trusted everything the gov't told them.

I'm not doing his work justice here as I'm away from my notes on the book, but Silbey's work is a must read when looking at this subject.

Chris

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mo44th
Hi everyone,

I'm doing some research into how WWI undermined trust in the state. I was wondering if anyone knew where (online or specific books) i could get hold of figures showing the number of strikes or working days lost to strikes during and the immediate years surrounding WWI? I am specifically looking for UK figures here but figures for any of the other countries involved would be of use too. any help would be greatfully received, cheers, tom.

Hi Tom, I have come into this one a bit late but to add my tuppence worth, have a look at Mary Barbour and the Glasgow Rent Strikes. She started as an ordinary Mum with her husband on the Western Front who transformed the conditions of ordinary working peo-ple throughout Scotland by refusing to pay rents on very very substandard housing and eventually ended as being the Lady Provost of Glasgow. People began to wake up to the fact they were being exploited, and having to return from the front broken in health and spirit to no help either from government or locally. Mary Barbour set out to alter that situation. Happy researching.

Alison

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