STORIES OF INDUSTRIAL
GENERAL STRIKES" THAT
With the present great industrial unheaval, in our midst, it is not uninteresting to glance briefly at the great strikes that have taken place in other parts of the world, and more
particularly the "genera! strikes" that have
occurred. "General strikes" are of very
rare occurrence, and where they have oc-
curred, as, for instance, in the great upheaval in Sweden in 1909, they have utterly failed
to achieve the end in view.
THE UNITED KINGDOM.
One of the greatest strikes in the United Kingdom took place in 1880. There had been temporary strikes of seamen and firemen in the steamers in the ports of Glasgow, Leith, Aberdeen, and Dundee, for an advance of
wages at the end of May, 1888, but they grad- . ually collapsed. The trouble extended to Llv- erpool, and it was not till July that a settle- ment was reached there. On August 15 of the following [year, the] dock labourers of the port of London struck work, demanding not less than four hours' engagement, pay to be raised from 5d to 6d per hour, and the redress of other grievances. They were joined by stevedores, lightermen, and every class of riverside workers, and a week after the strike commenced there were 25,000 men out. There were negotiations on August 27 between the London and India docks' committee and the
dock labourers' strikes committee (the lead- ers of the latter being Messrs. John Burns,: Ben Tlllett, Henry Champion, and Tom Mann), but the strikers' demands were refused. On August 30 it was said that 80,000 men were out. The close of the strike was greatly due to the intervention of the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of London, Cardinal Manning, and Sir John Lubbock (now Lord Avebury), the terms ultimately agreed upon being that the pay for ordinary work was raised from 4d to 6d an hour, with 8d per hour overtime, con- tract work to be changed to piecework, and some minor concessions. Work at the docks was resumed on September 16, the strike having lasted just a month. During the strike there were many processions of la- bourers and sympathisers through the streets, and great meetings were held in Hyde Park on the Sundays. The extreme distress in the East End was relieved by public subscrip-
tions, and the Australian colonies contributed
In July, 1897, the great strike of the Amal-
gamated Society of Engineers and allied trade unions, for an eight-hour day, took place, and in October 70,000 men were out. By December the number had increased to 80,000. The em- ployers issued an ultimatum, which the men rejected on a ballot. Repeated conferences
took place, but were of no avail. On January
15, 1898, the men's demand for a 48-hours
week was withdrawn, and work was generally! resumed on January 24. '
In April of 1898 the South Wales coal dis-
pute resulted in 50,000 men being thrown into
idleness. A 10 per cent. advance in wages was sought, and refused. Great distress was ex- perienced at Cardiff. The negotiations for a settlement failed, and on August 31 the men capitulated and the masters' terms were ac- cepted.
Wo have vivid recollections of the recent great strike in London and the provinces, that be- gan with the dockers and spread to other branches of labour, and of the untold misery and suffering it entailed—a strike that necessi- tated the calling out of the military and the shedding of blood before it could be quelled. It is true some concessions were made to the men in the end, but the cost to the strikers and their families, and, indeed, the country at large, was enormous.
THE UNITED STATES.
The year 1903 was notable for the number of great strikes in America. At the end of March there were strikes among the em- ployees of the American Bridge Company, and they rapidly extended. On April 1 the great cotton mills at Lowell (Mass.) were closed. A few days later there was trouble with the miners' unions, who refused to work nine hours daily. A lockout followed at most of the collieries of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal Company, affecting 30,000 men. On May 1 30,000 labourors employed on the Rapid Transit raliway, New York, left work, and at the same time strikes among the millwrights, ironworkers, and teamsters were reported. Then, at the end of May, came the great strike of textile workers in Philadelphia for shorter hours and increased wages, this one strike alone affecting 90,000 workers. Strikes were in the air, and in June 90 per cent, of build- ing operations in New York were at a stand- still, 110,000 mechanics and labourers being unemployed, whilst the building capital un- employed was estimated at £40,000,000. In July there was a builders' lockout at Pitts- burg, affecting 25,000 men. Later on there were labour riots and outrages in Chicago and various parts of Colorado. A coal famine at Denver was threatened, and martial law was proclaimed in Colorado.
In 1904 the greatest disturbance known in the textile industry of America took place, beginning on July 25 with a strike of Massa- chusetts cotton operatives at Fall River, and causing, it was estimated, a direct loss to all interests of £1,000,000. It was ended at last by the intervention of the Governor of the State on January l8, 1905.
WHAT HAPPENED IN PHILADELPHIA.
Since then there have been other great upheavals in the United States, the most notable being the Philadelphia car strike in February, 1910. It did not last very long, but it was remarkable for its many violent scenes. Some 5000 men were taken from their cars, a considerable area of the city was filled with violence and disorder, nearly a thousand cars wore damaged more or less seriously (some of them being burned), several persons were killed, and hundreds in- jured. On the first day of the strike a courageous volunteer motorman, driving his car full-speed through the crowd with one hand on tho controller and the other holding a revolver, was dragged from the platform when the car had been wrecked by a spiked switch, and killed. The police proved hope- lessly unable, or unwilling, to quell the dis- turbances, and the State Constabulary ar- rived on the scene. Less than 200 troops did what 3000 policemen had failed to do. The union had previously struck for higher wages and easier hours, and had won, the victory being due to what was described as "tbe poli- tical machine." The February riots, how- ever, were brought about by the formation of a second union (engineered, it was alleged, by officials of the company), and the promo- tion and giving of preference generally to those who joined the new union. The crisis came when the company discharged 173 men in two days. In a moment the city was
plunged into industrial chaos.
But the union was not strong enough to make the fight with any hope of success. It was beaten as soon as the little troop of State mounted police began to patrol the streets. The only thing that could have helped the strikers' cause was a general strike among the Philadelphia trades. It was attempted, indeed, but it failed. The conditions in Philadelphia, as in all the American cities, are far different from what they are in Australia—workers in the Ameri- can cities are made up of many different nationalities, speaklng many different lan- guages, and are far less plastic material for the labour agitations to work on than is the case in this country.
There is a point of similarity between the Philadelphia car strike and that in Brisbane. The Philadelphia crisis was precipitated by the coming into existence of a second union; the trouble in Brisbane seems to have been due in part to the existence of two separate organisations, and to the desire of the union men affiliated with the Trades Hall to bring
the others into line.
THE STRIKE IN SWEDEN.
One of the biggest general strikes recorded was that in Sweden in 1909, embracing the whole country, and lasting for practically two months. It began at Gottenburg, the porce- lain and the pit-props works being the flrst to feel it. The workmen had up to the time of the strike been paid so much per ton for the work they turned out. But on [account] of the introduction of special labour saving machines, it was found that they were now putting out many more tons than formerly, and were getting an abnormally high wage. The more efficient the labour-saving machines were, the more money the men made. The employers desired to alter the system of payment, but the men would not agree. It was pointed out on the one hand that the market prices did not justify the high wages; on the other hand, it was stated that the increased production justified the wages, and that, moreover, the machines called for a
greater intensity of work, and that, whilst
production had enormously increased, the
number of workmen had not. The increased cost of living was also used us an argument by the employees. There was an attempt at arbitration, but it failed. Lockouts follow- ed—at Stockholm, Gottenburg, and other centres throughout the country—80,000 work- men being affected. That was on August 2. Two days later the Swedish Labour Federa- tion proclaimed a general strike, and it came Into full operation immediately. The work- men on strike numbered 250,000 of whom 30,000 were In Stockholm. Railway communi- cation was cut off; food supplies were serious-
What has been done in Brisbane was done in Sweden—all places where strong drink was served were ordered to be closed wher- ever it was considered necessary. Not only was railway communication blocked, the trams also stopped running. The issue of newspapers ceased, except in the curious form of small pamphlets. Military were held in readiness, but were not needed. The great strike in Sweden was remarkable for the or- derly behavour of the workers. But as a general strike it was a failure. The men had not the funds to stand the strain. The Masters' Federation was too powerful. Con- tributions were sent to the strikers from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, England, the United States, France, Belgium,
and other countries, including even Rhodesia and Panama, but they were mostly small amounts. In September the Government step-
ped in, and appointed a committee of arbi- tration, but once again arbitration failed, and in the end the men had to resume work on the conditions laid down by the masters.
' "RED RUSSIA."
Russia has had many great strikes. At the end of 1905. there were great riots at Kleff and Nlkolaioff. Fighting took place between troops and workmen, and there were many casualties. At the same time the postal and telegraph employees struck work as a protest against an order forbidding them to form a union, and telegraphic communication with Russia was almost entirely closed. The Government rejected the demands of the strikers. In December of 1905 there was a general strike in Moscow, and 125,000 men went out on strike in St. Petersburg, whilst the labour troubles in Odessa were so serious that martial law was proclaimed in the dis- trict. There was an organised strlke on all the railways, and it was estimated that
1,000,000 men were out. Oil wells were set on fire, trains were wrecked, bombs were thrown, and other violent outrages took
The year was one of great unrest in Russia. From end to end of the land there were scenes of violent disorder and bloodshed. There has
been nothing like it in any other part of the world. It gained for the country the name of "Red Russia." There was such a massacre of people by the troops one Sunday in St. Petersburg that the day is known as "Bloody Sunday." Father Gapon, a priest prominent in organising the strike movement, marched at the head of the strikers on January 22, and sent a message to the Minister of the Interior
urging that the Czar should meet his people in front of the Winter Palace. The Czar did not do so. The strikers, unarmed, moved to the palace square to present a petition, and
were confronted by troops, who fired upon the people. Cossacks charged the crowd. Large numbers, including women and children, were killed and wounded. The killed and wounded are stated to have numbered 4600.
There were fierce fights after that, in St.
Petersburg, in Moscow, at Lodz, and many other centres, but nothing to equal that day,
or even to approach It.
CONFLICTS IN FRANCE.
It Is estimated that the great strike at Marseilles in 1904, which lasted 40 days, cost the city no less a sum than £3,200,000. No fewer than 176 vessels, with an aggregate burden of 450,000 tons, were laid idle. The strike spread to other ports, but it ended in a victory for the masters.
In April, 1905, a conflict took place between troops and strikers at the Haviland porce-. lain works, Limoges. In April of the follow-
ing year the coal-miners on strike at Lierin
besieged the gendarmerie barracks, stoned the police and troops, pillaged the stalls in the market-place, and sacked the house of tho director of the mines. This was followed by dynamite outrages. There were disturb- ances in Paris and other centres.
In 1907 came the great wine-producers' agi- tation, and a demonstration, attended by 500,000 people, took place at Montpellier. There were widespread disturbances, result- ing in frequent conflicts between the police and troops. Other big strikes that followed were those of the postmen and telegraphists
in Paris and the provinces (in 1909), and the
railway men, in the district between Nice and the Rhine (1910).
Only a couple of years ago there was an attempt at a "general strike" in Paris, but it failed. The compositors on the papers left their cases and machines, and the citizen was without his daily journal. The compositors were not alone—a monster demonstration had been organised, an enthusiastic meeting held, and it was announced that the move- ment was to be regarded as a preparatory skirmish to a general engagement between workers and capitalists. At one centre a bar- ricade was erected, from which and the ad-
jacent houses a brisk fusillade was poured
upon the troops. The casualties, however, were small, only three being killed, and some 20 injured. On the following Monday the other trades were to be called out. But what happened? Monday came, the order was given, every man was called out; but they did not come. Most of the trades-unlons failed to respond to the appeal, and the day passed quietly. The "general strike" proved a fiasco! The defeat was complete, demor- alisation set in, and there were general de- nunciations of the "general strike."
REIGN OF TERROR IN ITALY.
In September, 1904, a, general strike was at- tempted throughout Italy, and serious riots occurred at Venice, Turin, and Milan. Early in the month the miners at [Bologna] went out to the number of 2500, in consequence of a dispute respecting the hours of labour. Troops were called out and conflicts took place, resulting in a number of soldiers and miners being killed and others Injured. Dur- ing the month there were general strlke riots, due chiefly to the instigation of the socialist party, and a general strike was attempted. Troops were called out at Genoa, and in other centres great disturbances took place. There was a reign of terror in Milan, and tho Lab- our Exchange there prevented the issue of all newspapers except its own. A reaction, how- ever, quickly set in against the socialists, and before the end of the month work generally was resumed. The attempts to throw the whole country into a state of chaos failed.
IN OTHER COUNTRIES.
In 1905 there was a great strike of German coal-miners In Westphalia, and only a year or two ago the Hamburg dockers went on strike, and the shipping trade of the port was paralysed for a time. There has been other big strikes In Germany from time to time, but rarely anything in the nature of a general strike.
Great railway and dock strikes took place In Amsterdam in 1903, but they only lasted a week, and they resulted in the passing of anti-strike bills, aiming at the settlement of disputes by peaceful means.
In 1904 70,000 men on the Hungarian State railways went on strike for higher wages, and Hungary was isolated from railway com- munication [with] the rest of Europe. The strike was, however, of short duration.