Another War Declared as Soldiers Battled in France; around 200,000 Miners in the South Wales Valleys Went on Strike at the Height of World War One 100 Years Ago. Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Reports on a Radio Programme Going out This Evening and Tells How It Illuminates an Overlooked Part of Welsh History

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 19, 2015 | Go to article overview

Another War Declared as Soldiers Battled in France; around 200,000 Miners in the South Wales Valleys Went on Strike at the Height of World War One 100 Years Ago. Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Reports on a Radio Programme Going out This Evening and Tells How It Illuminates an Overlooked Part of Welsh History


OPPOSITION to the First World War in Wales was not con-fined to a relatively small number of conscientious objectors.

Contrary to the conventional view that virtually everyone signed up to a jingoistic version of patriotism, there was unrest in the coalfield over low pay.

Historian David Egan tells the final programme in the Doves and Hawks BBC Radio Wales series: "The First World War period in Wales was one of political change and political volatility.

"Certainly the response to the war was initially about strong, pro-war sentiments. There were some antiwar sentiments expressed. "In August 1914 Keir Hardie certainly raised his voice, as others did. But I think when you look at the First World War as a whole, I would characterise it as a period when there was a pro-war faction, a growing anti-war faction as the reality of the Western Front kicked in, and increasingly there was a class war aspect."

Egan said one was "a kind of nascent Marxist tradition that was very small but became associated with the British Socialist Party in particular.

"But of course there was another remarkable tradition associated with Tonypandy (where riots had broken out in 1910 in response to a lockout by mine owners), the Miners' Next Step (a radical manifesto written by a group of miners' leaders), the Unof-ficial Reform Committee, which was industrial unionist and syndicalist. It was a very diverse kind of political tradition."

One influential anti-war figure was miner WF Hay. Historian Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, says of him: "He was one of the coauthors of the syndicalist manifesto of 1912, The Miners' Next Step, a manifesto for re-organising not just the mining industry but the whole of society through a form of revolutionary trade unionism, followed by workers' control of industry.

Hay was already influenced by Marxist ideas before the outbreak of the war, therefore.

Soon after the outbreak, as the editor of a paper that didn't survive the war, The South Wales Worker, he produced a pamphlet, War and the Welsh Miner, basically saying that the war offered nothing for working class people.

It wasn't a war being fought for any genuinely just cause. It was a case of the 'robber barons' - the different Empires - falling out. Workers shouldn't fight for their own capitalist class against the workers of other countries. They should all join together and bring down their governments and overthrow their ruling classes.

He begins the pamphlet, in fact, by arguing for a general strike in Britain and Germany, to bring down the government and bring down the system, and put an end to war. …

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Another War Declared as Soldiers Battled in France; around 200,000 Miners in the South Wales Valleys Went on Strike at the Height of World War One 100 Years Ago. Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Reports on a Radio Programme Going out This Evening and Tells How It Illuminates an Overlooked Part of Welsh History
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