From International Socialism 2: Transcribed by Marven James Scott. Cook was the burning flame of the seven-month long bitter and heroic struggle of the miners in He was the most vilified trade union leader in the history of Britain and by far the most popular leader the miners had had. Imbued with deep attachment to his class, Cook Cliff and aj able to touch the profound feelings and aspirations of his audience.
Arthur Horner, himself quite an effective speaker with a significant influence among South Wales miners, could write the following about Cook:. In the months Cliff and aj the strike, and during the strike, we spoke together at meetings all over the country.
We had audiences, mostly of miners, running into thousands. Usually I was put on first. I would make a good, logical speech, and the audience would listen quietly, but without any wild enthusiasm. Cliff and aj Cook would take the platform. Often he was tired, hoarse and sometimes almost inarticulate. But he would electrify the meeting. They would applaud and nod their heads in Cliff and aj when he said the most obvious things.
For a long time I was puzzled, and then one night I realised why it was. I was speaking to the meeting. Cook was speaking for the meeting. He was expressing the thoughts of his audience, I was trying to persuade them.
Cliff and aj was the burning expression of their anger at the iniquities which they were suffering. Cook always appealed to the best in the miners — to their loyalty to their mates, to their community, to their class, their readiness to sacrifice, their deep pride. These are epic days. We of this generation shall be remembered in spite of ourselves.
We are confronted with a crisis far greater than that of The triumph of coal owners will be the prelude to national ruin. One of the best things he saw and appealed to was the change in the women, their heroic sacrifice and their determination.
On 2 July The women are especially wonderful.
I think they are even greater heroes than the men. I put my faith to the women of these coalfields. I cannot Cliff and aj them too high a tribute. They are canvassing from door to door in the villages where some of the men had signed on. The police take the blacklegs to the pits, but the women bring them home. The women shame these men out of scabbing.
The women of Notts and Derby have broken the coal owners. Every worker owes them a debt of fraternal gratitude. The greatest feature of all this struggle has been the amazing loyalty and activity of the rank and file and the great work of the men and women in the local committees, the boot retiring shops, Cliff and aj the relief committees in every district Cook was loved and admired by the miners and their families.
Ellen Wilkinson, at the time a left-wing Labour MP, said in an interview: He is without a shadow of a doubt the hero of the working women. Adamson, wife of an extreme right-wing MP, went even further: The malicious attacks of the capitalist press only served to strengthen the loyalty the miners and their wives feel to him.
However, the intimacy, the closeness of Cook to the miners was flawed. Again and again, under difficult circumstances in the struggle, cleavages would appear between Cook and the rank and file he so loved. This is the essence of the tragedy of A. Working-class history is not free from tragedy. Individuals have been broken by the juggernaut of history. The real tragedy of Cook is not that he was beaten when Cliff and aj miners were brought to their knees inbut that he disintegrated, losing his way completely at the end of his life.
This Cliff and aj not only a product of objective circumstances, but of subjective conditions too, above all his syndicalism with which we deal later on.
He was sincere in his belief that he was a Marxist. He was very much a revolutionary syndicalist. Cook, born in Wookey, Somerset, on 22 Novemberspent his youth as a farm labourer in the heart of the West Country. Inbarely past his seventeenth birthday, he moved to South Wales and became a miner. Cliff and aj a number of years he was a member of the Salvation Army and active as a Baptist lay preacher.
Having been disillusioned with the Baptist failure to promote an improvement in social Cliff and aj, he was converted to socialism and in joined the ILP.
A year or so later he became an elected official of his lodge in Rhondda No.
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Between and he was to hold at different times the position of Chairman, Secretary and President. Many Rhondda syndicalists were members of the ILP: Mainwaring, George Dolling and many other prominent miner syndicalists.
At its peak it involved around 30, men. A most important feature of this strike was its unofficial character.
This arose because Cliff and aj leadership of the SWMF refused to abandon existing policies of conciliation as a means of settling disputes. It was an official strike—but overwhelmingly the result of pressure from the rank and file. The URC played a crucial role in the events of and As a matter of fact, throughout to the SWMF was the most militant section of the MFGB, and in it by far the most advanced part was the Rhondda, by a long way the largest mining district in South Wales.
Cliff and aj too was a participant in the URC from its inception. Revolutionary syndicalism differs significantly from the teachings of Marx and Lenin. There is no clear role here for political struggle and a political party.
Syndicalism was largely the inverse side of the coin of reformism. Syndicalism grew out of the feeling of revulsion for Labourism: Syndicalism was a reaction to parliamentary politics and conciliatory trade unionism.
Like the Labour Party the SDF also separated politics from the industrial struggle, and looked down on Wage militancy and strikes. However not all syndicalists were averse to political action.
They were at best not clear regarding political activity, with some completely opposed to it and some supporting it but without the slightest idea of the nature of this activity. Many syndicalists identified political activity, with parliamentary activity to the exclusion of all else.
Some syndicalists did not rule out parliamentary activity but saw it as subordinated to the extra-parliamentary industrial movement. The syndicalist movement was quite amorphous, lacking theoretical clarity and a definite organisational structure without branches or a formal membership. There was no clear line of demarcation, ideologically and organisationally, between the main syndicalist bodies and other Cliff and aj organisations.
Cliff and aj
Thus Tom Cliff and aj was a pioneer of the s and s of trade union organisation, joint leader of the dock strike, member of the SDF, subsequently National Secretary of Cliff and aj ILP, and a decade or so later a leading syndicalist. Cook and others, were at one and the same time syndicalists and members of the ILP. The Syndicalists were also involved with another organisation—the Plebs League.
Local syndicalists like Ablett, Frank Hodges, W. By the middle ofa network of about 50 Plebs League activists had been established.
In short, the political associations with which these syndicalists were connected were such a mish-mash of diverse views that they could never have acted together as a coherent political force within the industrial struggle. No wonder, then, that Cook and other syndicalists were forced to see this struggle in purely trade Cliff and aj terms — of however militant a variety.
But still syndicalism was far nearer to revolutionary socialism, to communism—as Lenin and Trotsky argued — than reformism. The organisation of the URC was very loose indeed. Included in it was a hard core of unofficial leaders in the Rhondda, and their immediate supporters in the Cambrian Combine Committee and in the Plebs League, together with a network of contacts throughout the Cliff and aj who generally sympathised with it.
Soon after its foundation, the URC acquired a mouthpiece in a monthly, shortly to become a fortnightly, the Rhondda Socialist. The contradictory, amorphous nature Cliff and aj syndicalism, and its attitude to politics, was clear from the start.
Soon after its appearance, the paper was obliged to make its editorial policies explicit. But we are, as Socialists, all united for one objective—we all desire to abolish capitalism and Cliff and aj the Socialist State Naturally, we differ as to the best means of bringing it about, and we think that it would be more than foolish for the Rhondda Socialist to ignore this honest difference of opinion and to dogmatise that there is only one way It continued to be a muddled, centrist publication, the mouthpiece of revolutionary syndicalists and reformists alike.
A great number of miners participated in drafting this pamphlet. The struggle for higher wages should not be separated from the struggle against capitalism.
The Cliff and aj of wages and conditions was envisaged as a step towards the eventual taking over of the pits by the miners. That our objective be, to build up an organisation, that will ultimately take over the mining industry, and carry it on in the interest of the workers. Trust in the power of the rank and file was associated in the pamphlet with extreme opposition to all leadership.
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