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One reason for the General Strike failing was the British government’s ability to use propaganda to further their anti-general strike stance while making the TUC and the workers appear callous in their actions. Before the general strike had begun an article by the Daily Mail referred to the workers willing to strike as ‘Red rebels’ (Daily Mail, 1926) and went on to declare any possible strike action as ‘a revolutionary movement intended to inflict suffering upon a great of innocent persons’ (Daily Mail, 1926).
Although this was never printed due to the prints workers refusal to do so, their actions were condemned as an attack on the freedom of the press giving PM Stanley Baldwin just cause to end negotiations with the TUC meaning the strike started on the government’s terms. The language used by the government and those in the media used their position to manipulate the meaning of the strike, giving many the view that this was not the working class simply requesting better wages and working hours but a destructive communist plot bent on bringing down capitalism. Anthony Baldwin was quick to condemn the strike to other MPs in the House of Commons stating, ‘they were threatening the basis of ordered government’ (Hansard, 1926). Speeches like this were highly significant in the failure of the strike as it furthered the false pretense that the workers were looking to overthrow the government while preventing any labor or liberal MPs from supporting the strikers without being viewed as communist sympathizers. Newspaper propaganda was further utilized by both the TUC and Government to try and coerce public opinion. The British Gazette financed by the government and edited by Winston Churchill started circulating on May 5th. Although print workers were on strike and the nation faced a shortage of newsprint ‘450 tons of newsprint, enough for 13 million copies of the 4-page Gazette’ (Renshaw, 1975).
Although the publication was criticised as being badly written and full of factual inaccuracy, with one of Churchill’s colleagues declaring ‘It wasn’t much of a paper’ (Templewood, 1926), the sheer volume of papers printed made it the main source of information for many people. Other papers were available but not nearly in the same quantity as out of ‘1,870 newspapers in Britain only 40 were published in small, limited editions.’ (Taaffe, 2006). Again, the pages of the Gazette were filled with government propaganda denouncing the strike and in the 5th edition published Sir John Simon (notably a liberal MP) announcing if the General Strike was successful, ‘it would have meant the overthrow of constitutional government’ (Laybourne, 1993). This made the strike seem like a criminal act and breed fear among the middle classes helping the government to gain support and crucially volunteers. Churchill also printed false facts, announcing the strike was losing momentum when in fact it was still gaining supporters (Mowat, 1974) and on May 8th asserted the government had ‘effective strikebreaking measures’ (Taaffe, 2006). As well as the brutal attack on the opposition the government used censorship to prevent supporters of the strike from spreading their propaganda. The BBC became a mouthpiece of the government which greatly hampered the success of the strike as it was supposedly neutral. The Archbishop of Canterbury was prohibited from giving a speech calling for peace on the 7th of May while J.R MacDonald and David Lloyd George were blocked from discussing the strike action on the radio on the 11th (Laybourne, 1993). Preventing an opposing view from being published meant the majority of Britain’s received a very one-sided view of events and this fed the feeling of mistrust between the middle and working class. Newspapers and radio where the two main media outlets during the General Strike. The government’s comprehensive takeover of all media outlets and aggressive stance towards the TUC and workers strongly impeded the success of the strike. The negative portrayal of the strikers meant coming to an agreement would have been viewed negatively by the government and the ever-growing middle class.
Another reason for the General Strike failing was the government’s preparations prior to and during the strike. With around 1,750,000 (Laybourne, 1993) workers striking from a wide range of professions the governments swift actions prevented the strike from causing mass pandemonium. After the embarrassing events of Red Friday, the previous year the government began planning for a containment strategy if industrial action were to break out. Paying the miners subsidiary had weakened the government’s position so the country was divided into 10 districts each under the control of a Civil Commissioner. This was to help stimulate recruitment drives among local communities and highlight the plight of the everyday person that was being caused by the TUC. Furthermore, of these 10 districts, ?10,000 was allocated to help streamline communications and transport services (Renshaw, 1975). These plans where all made before the TC r miners had seriously considered a strike making them paramount in the worker’s defeat. During the strike, the government upheld two key initiatives to help keep everyday life as normal as possible: To maintain food supplies and vital services while the other priority was the preservation of the peace. (Martin,1926). Both were only achievable due to the swathes of volunteers who supplied the government with free labor that varied from train driving to special constables. In fact, there was too much support for the government, in London for example 114,000 men came forward but only 9,500 had been given work ( (Morris, 1973). Overall around 100,000 men came forward creating the OMS or ‘Organisation of the Maintenance of Supplies’ between Red Friday and the General Strike. Formed throughout the Autumn of 1925
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