Liverpool 1911: a city on the edge
Steve Higginson, Tony Wailey and Ian Morris
supported by Unison North West region
Ever since Nerve documented Liverpool's struggles of 1911 I have been
looking for a madcap alternative account. I had just given up when this
pamphlet was launched at an impressively large meeting at the Casa on
Let us credit the authors with some intelligence. Their agenda is to
give all the credit to the USA-based Industrial Workers of the World.
Let no facts get in the way of that good story.
And so, we read, the Liverpool dispute was all about time. The word 'time'
appears 17 times in just 11 pages. In 1911 there was a groundbreaking
study of time and motion in the USA. In Liverpool, the consequence was
that 'the natural tide and motion of the dock was replaced by the time
and motion of the clock'. Indeed, here's a picture of the Liver Building
clock that from 1911 dominated the skyline.
Apparently the entire 1911 dispute was about time. Indeed, it all kicked
off with an overtime dispute in Southampton. 'Within hours news had reached
the North end of the Liverpool docks. A guaranteed hourly rate of work
plus overtime payments for 'waiting time' became central tenets of their
demands'. Really, this is embarrassing. Seamen were paid by the month
and were content to remain so. A national strike had been on the cards
since January. The seamens’ union issued a detailed 8-point manifesto
that made not one reference to new technology. The strike when it came
was nationwide: it was later events that made Liverpool distinctive.
Next we read of Jim Larkin, a great friend of the IWW you know, he was
a pallbearer for Joe Hill. Alas, Larkin did not set foot in Liverpool
in 1911. He’d been the city's best dockers' organiser, but had fallen
out badly with Sexton and was now in Ireland. He didn't as much as address
a public meeting here during the strikes.
The real casualty of this nonsense is the Liverpool trade union movement.
The Liverpool seamen asked Tom Mann to lead their strike and he stayed
until it all finished in late August. "I have a problem with Tom
Mann," quoth Steve, the problem apparently being that Tom Mann was
formerly an organiser of white South African labour and therefore must
have been an incurable racist. Even if the charge were true - where by
the way is the evidence? - You do not rewrite history just because you
don't like one of the characters.
There are several pages on the cultural ferment of those years: the narrative
hops from topic to topic with no real sense of direction but with frequent
references to 'time'. We end with, no surprise really, a fulsome tribute
to Joe Hill.
You have to hand it to the authors for their devotion to their cause.
The only surprise is that Unison have put their name on such a wilfully
sectarian publication. I can only think that they did not have the, er,
'time' to read it.
Comment left by Tony Lane on 9th June, 2011 at 11:06
Joe Hill was of his time but despite the words of the song, he did die and so did his time.
I know one of the author's of this book. He's a lovely bloke, incurably romantic and a bit prone, though not deliberately, to writing history as he would have liked it to be. Sorry Tony, but you would expect me to be with the reviewer. And I am.
Comment left by Dave McCall on 9th June, 2011 at 18:53
Seems like a perfectly reasonable review - and couldn'r resist saying quick hello to Tony Lane. Radical Route is likely to be doing a "special" in August to coincide with Bloody Sunday but won't be mentioning "time" even once, I hope
Comment left by Tony Wailey on 13th June, 2011 at 9:14
With reference to Jeremy Hawthorn who attended the Casa for the Rhythms’ That Carry, event on the 20th May, I’m sorry that he didn’t find the presentation to his liking or the accompanying pamphlet and sought to criticize myself, Ian Morris and Steve Higginson for its production.
Firstly, myself and Steve did not give “all the credit” to the Wobblies. We simply made the point using documented evidence (Board of Trade Labour Gazette) that in the year prior to 1911, almost 170,000 seafarers’ shipped out of Liverpool, thousands of these to New York and the United States and that many of these were unionized and influenced by the activities of the International Workers of the World.
We did not say 1911 “was all about time” we focused upon the importance of Time as a concept in the speed up of capitalism concerning the industrial and commercial life of Liverpool men and women in 1911; in particular with relation to the maritime trades and how this was most felt amongst the ‘unskilled.’
Jeremy states that: “Seamen were paid by the month and were content to remain so.” Really – ask the Short Sea traders. Anyone who has studied the settlements along the waterside in 1911 would find ‘Time’ to be of central importance. Evidence shows clauses across all the agreements concerning dockers, seafarers, railway men and carters which include: work time, waiting time, travelling time, book through time, call out time, docking time, meal times, (this would require a whole book) overtime am and pm, overtime rates, Sunday overtime, time in lieu, medical examination time, negotiation time limits, arbitration time limits, etc. etc.
Behind every official strike demand there is always a welter of injustices and issues bubbling away beneath. Time was as important to the seamen in 1911 as it was in the ‘official ‘strike of 1966. The comparison we made was between 1911 and the present. That year secured a new raft of payments for working time. In 2011, The TUC reports that the level of unpaid time, basically working for nothing, have a monetary value to employers of £38 billion. These are the rhythms that carry.
Jeremy takes exception that “The word time appears 17 times in just 11 pages” this comment we find both irrelevant and unhelpful. If we were to produce a pamphlet on Communism would this term not occur in a similar sized document?
With regards James Larkin, Jeremy declares that, ‘‘Alas, Larkin did not set foot in Liverpool in 1911….He didn't as much as address a public meeting here during the strikes.’’ Neither in our presentation nor in our pamphlet did we once suggest Larkin as a strike leader. What we suggested was the influence of Larkin everywhere both in industrial and increasingly cultural matters. And actually, Jeremy, Larkin was in Liverpool, three times in 1911, one of which was for his mother’s funeral which was attended by many members of the NUDL. Why should Larkin’s influence not be felt, Liverpool was the city of his birth and where he and his siblings learned their socialism and political beliefs.
Jeremy informs us that: ‘‘The real casualty of this nonsense is the Liverpool trade union movement. The Liverpool seamen asked Tom Mann to lead their strike and he stayed until it all finished in late August.’’ The Liverpool Seamen did not ask Tom Mann to lead their strike; this was mediation on the part of the International and National Transport Workers Federation. Havelock Wilson (always distrusted as a Seamen’s leader, particularly in Liverpool since 1892) was to bite the bullet of this compromise. His correspondence with Tom Mann cited in Eric Taplin’s book Near to Revolution (1994) illustrates this, as it does with Sir Thomas Royden ten years later. We did not suggest that Tom Mann was not the leader of the strike. Our point was to emphasise that there were challenges to the leadership at every turn as events unfolded throughout the dispute.
As for Jeremy’s view “that the real casualty of this nonsense is the Liverpool trade union movement,” the 150 of those in attendance that night were a mix of community activists, historians, engaged citizens, the unemployed, ,trade union members and officials from the CWU, Unison, GMB, Unite, PCS, UCU, NUT plus TUC tutors and TUC staff from Congress House. None of these voiced any comments of criticism; on the contrary those speaking afterwards accepted and added to the contribution.
Throughout his criticism Jeremy uses emotive and subjective terms: such as our work being “a madcap alternative account”, “Let no facts get in the way of that good story”, “Really this is embarrassing”, “Nonsense” and finally charges Unison with being duped into supporting “a willfully sectarian publication”.
We neither accept the above nor that the pamphlet is sectarian in any shape or form. Jeremy makes a statement like this and provides absolutely no evidence as to which side of this sectarianism either myself, Steve or Ian supposedly support. Our objective was to take a fresh look at Liverpool 1911 and include within that, a presentation and publication of how art and culture in the city impacted on radical politics/trade unionism and vice versa.
We do not know Jeremy and accept he’s entitled to his opinion. What we find interesting is that when working class people choose to interpret their own history there is always a Jeremy waiting in the wings. As my good mate Ronnie Noon quotes, ‘the problem with words is that you never know in whose mouth they may have been.’
Comment left by Tony Wailey on 13th June, 2011 at 9:31
I have known Tony Lane for more than thirty years. In all of that time I have known him as a colleague, comrade and general good skin.
I am a bit confused though with Tony’s reference to me as, ‘incurably romantic and a bit prone to writing history as he would have like it to be.’ The subtext seems to be that my research skills are somehow wanting or deficient.
Following my degree, Tony was my supervisor for the seven years whilst I completed my doctorate on the Liverpool Seamen. This level of academic research seems hard to square with Tony’s previous comments.
Perhaps Tony is getting mixed up with my incurable optimism with regards seafaring, the city of Liverpool, its working class history and all the world wide connections that have made this place the cosmopolitan, edgy place it is.
Comment left by Steve Higginson on 13th June, 2011 at 11:35
Surely Dave McCall is aware of the industrial problems created by "time and work discipline",across a variety of Merseyside industries.
Comment left by Steve Higginson on 13th June, 2011 at 12:03
CONT:Writing from Ruskin College in 1911,John Newlove described the unrest of 1911 as being "a reaction to the increased speed up and presssure in a number of industries and the effects of piece,task,and bonus working upon speeding up."
Comment left by Paul Symm on 14th June, 2011 at 11:06
I have just read Jeremeys review on Rythms that Carry and im quite concerned that i can only find 16 refrences to Time in the pamphlet could he please list the pages which the word Time appears as i dont have the time to do it myself and its doing my head in
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 15th June, 2011 at 6:22
I was Rhythms that Carry last friday at West Everton Community Centre.I listened to the presentation.I checked my Eric Taplin book .He says ,p16,'Discipline was fearsome and men were driven unnmercifully'.P24 ,'The Union prepared for a national strike.....the men in a number of ports walked out,and Wilson hastily declared the strike official'.Whats all the fuss about?
Comment left by Teresa Fitzgerald on 15th June, 2011 at 12:51
I was at West Everton Community Centre last week.I thought it was a great night.Steve,Tony and Ian need to be congratulated for putting it together.It was so informative.I come from a family of dockers and seamen, and it reminded me why Liverpool is different and i now know why I have always felt at home in port cities.
Comment left by Steve Kenny on 15th June, 2011 at 14:44
Rhythms that Carry is a very well put together booklet.It is informative and imaginative as was the night itself.I am researching my family history and links to Joe Kenny who was one of the strike leaders,.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 16th June, 2011 at 0:43
Steve if you do not already have the picture of the early Strike Committee (where 'D J Kenny' appears in the middle row), Nerve have it, together with a letter written on 18th August 1911 that includes:
"yesterday I went to the funeral of one of our committeemen, David Kenny the Sailors sec, the man who first wrote me from Liverpool about my being requested to act down here, he underwent an operation and died and the funeral march was three miles long each way, he was a municipal counrillor and a great man with the Catholics and ceremonies were on a big scale." The letter was written by Tom Mann to his wife. Apologies if you already have all this.
Comment left by Steve Kenny on 21st June, 2011 at 12:45
Thanks for the offer Jeremy.Much appreciated but I do have the material.In my research ,two things are bafffling. Why did the Strike Committee leave no records?Surely if it was a National Official Strike, there would have been a record of Strike Committee minutes, agendas, policy votes etc.Trade Union people ,experienced in these matters, advise me that usually no srike committee records normally denote an unoffivcial dispute where leaders are trying to catch up with the rank and file. .Also I have a photo copy of a letter sent to Tom Mann by Havelock Wilson after first week of dispute and Wilson asks Tom Mann to pass on info to DJ Kenny.I would love to know what the respose from Mann and Kenny to the fact that Wilson was supplying a " scab crew" in Goole in effect to break his own strike!!.Wilson also comments on the fact that "the men wont obey their leaders".It is all bizarre.
Comment left by Tom Doolan on 21st June, 2011 at 20:15
I have just recieved a copy, sent to me, of Rhythms That Carry.Reading it and now seeing the discussion on this site reminded me of my Trade Union Studies in Sheffield.So i wouldlike to interject an Irish /International element to a very Liverpool-centric debate.A very good book called The Shipping Federation-A History of 1st 60 years, by LH Powell,added a new dimesnionto the events of 1911.It ws the International Committee of Seafaring Unions, that had created a European set of demands and had agreed a strike in early June.This was repulsed,but Havelock Wilson then still tried to get an agreement frm the Federation but had dropped all the demands except one for a Conciliation board.This created the rift with Liverpool officials of NSFu who asked Tom Mann to intercede.The important orginal demand for increased manning on all ships was to alleviate over work, increased freigt and speed of shipping and hence increased speed of work process.It is good to see the pic of James Connolly in the booklet.He sat on the Strike committee, as a representative of Irish Transport Workers , who were in dispute from June onwards over hours, pay and the cessation of speed-up.Connolly,having returned from USA, was appointed by James Larkin as the Belfast organiser of seafarers and dockers.James Connolly had been the New York waterfront organiser for the Wobblies. In 1905, James Connolly was co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World.When I was studying the period and the industrial unrest across docks,shipping, mines and railways,I was made aware of the increasing numbers of deaths and injuries in these industries due to piece/ bonus work.By 1911 ,Employers/Media were raising questions about abolishing wage rates and replacing them with "bonus/piece rates" only .Therefore maybe it is best to view that in 1911, particular sections of the British working class through their own,(to use EP Thompson's beautiful description) ' agency and self-activity', finally said " Enough is Enough".
Comment left by Paul Sheehan on 23rd June, 2011 at 10:51
If it is the same Steve Higginson whom I used to come across intermittently in the late 1970s,he was part of a grouping of bright and articulate shop stewards within the Post Office union I am sure he can answer himself the points Jeremy Hawthorn has raised in regards to Tom Mann.I also would like to comment on th issue.
The ASE , which was the union of Tom Mann , had offices in every country of the British Empire.the South African Branch of the ASE was all white and excluded "Asiatic/Colured Labour".
The evidence ? 1.Elaine Katz and her work -A Trade Union Aristocracy:A history of White Workers in the Traansvaal..2.The groundbreaking work by Jon Hyslop that was published in the Journal of Historical Sociology,12,4,December 1999, entitled "The Imperial Working Class Makes Itself White.
Also the desription of working class mobilisation in favour of 1905 Alien Act, in Immigrants and the Class Struggle by Joe Buckman,and the trade union leaders who helped mobilise the xenephobia makes for uncomfortable reading.There has alwys been a serious gap in our understanding of the strands of British Imperialism/chauvinism prevalent with the Monarchy loving,Flag Saluting,Foreigner hating sections of the English Working Class.
A possible final addition for Jeremy's summer reading list, especially to acquaint him with the importance attached to " time" , within the working class-Das Capital, by Karl Marx.; to paraphase Marx the theory of exploitation/surplus value i s based upon Capitalism extracting from the worker maximum output, for the least payment for their working time
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 3rd July, 2011 at 20:05
We could go on and not get very far. But a factual point or two would not come amiss for anyone who'a made it this far:
1. James Connolly on the strike committee as a rep of Irish labour? Alas, no. The excitement may arise from the 'team photo' of the final Strike Committee where the captions include the name of one Jas Connolly. But look at the picture and you will see it was not the great man.
2. No Strike Committee records: I certainly don't know of any surviving. I'd hesitate to draw too many conclusions as we all know how easy it is for paperwork to get lost. What we do know is that a) the Strike Committee were geared up to doing individual deals with individual shipping and then railway firms; b) The White Book agreement took quite a lot of work to prepare and argue out; c) when the Strike Committee welcomed the dockers on board, it was by quite a lengthy resolution that was released to the press; d) it was never suggested that the Strike Committee didn't know what they were doing.
3. Havelock Wilson is not an icon for the left. But he hated the Shipping Federation as much as they hated him and he clearly thought that summer 1911 was his and the union's big chance. There was public talk of a strike as early as January. There were international efforts too,including a three-day neeting in London on 4 June. It is true that HW wrote the Shipping Federation on 12 June asking them to agree to a Conciliation Board system. But there he is in Southampton the next day setting out an 8-point manifesto.
4. The Havelock Wilson letter to Tom Mann makes interesting reading(For anyone else,it's reproduced on pp 87-88 of Eric Taplin's Near to revolution book). You can read it in a number of ways. He expresses worry about where the strike isn't (apparently) going very well and he would clearly like it all wrapped up within another few days. But there is no instruction to stop.
5. The comments about racism within the trade union movement deserve proper respect and the problem has been there over many years. My point remains that if you are going to make a big thing of blaming an individual you need some evidence against that individual; and then, even if you make that case, that is no reason for airbrushing that individual out of history. The Rhythms pamphlet is guilty of doing just that.
Comment left by Sam Davies on 5th July, 2011 at 16:15
There have been so many different issues raised in this discussion, it's hard to know where to start. But a few nit-picking points to begin with:
1) Rhythms that Carry and the leaflet for the meeting at the Casa gives a quotation attributed to Churchill - "You need not attach any very great importance etc...". This quote is in fact the words of the Head Constable of Liverpool, in a telegram TO Churchill sent at 11.15 am on August 15th, 1911. (Reproduced in House of Commons paper 323, "Employment of Military during Railway Strike etc.", page 7). Churchill may have quoted this himself subsequently, but they are not his words. I am no defender of Churchill, but it serves us no good to attribute quotes to the wrong people.
2) On Connolly, the guy pictured on the Strike Committee in 1911 is definitely NOT James Connolly, the Irish socialist and trade unionist. Connolly was appointed as ITGWU organiser for Belfast and the north in the summer of 1911 - there was absolutely no reason why he should have had anything to do with a Liverpool strike committee at this time. If you compare photos of Connolly with the guy in the picture, he is clearly not the same person. Eric Taplin in his Near to Revolution suggests that the man in the picture may be mis-named, and may in fact be a Sailors Union rep. called J. Connor.
3) On Larkin, I don't know if, as Tony Wailey says, Larkin was in Liverpool three times in 1911 - but I doubt that his mother was buried in 1911, although many sources, erroneously in my view, give her date of death as 1911. There WAS a Mary Ann Larkin buried in Ford Cemetery in 1911, but if you consult the Liverpool Catholic death records you will see that she was a one-year old child, not Jim Larkin's mother. A Mary Ann Larkin of the same age as Larkin's mother in fact died and was buried in Ford cemetery in 1907, which tallies with the fact that she was not recorded in the Census of April 1911.
In general terms, I don't want to labour the point, but I do think that it is the duty of us all, and not just of 'bourgeois historians', to try to be accurate about history, even if we cannot guarantee absolute truth and/or objectivity.
On a more substantive issue, Steve Higginson's obsessive antipathy to Tom Mann and his attempt to write him out of the history of 1911 needs addressing. This is not just expressed in Rhythms that Carry, but also in a Morning Star meeting on 1911 at the Casa that Steve addressed earlier this year, in which he condemned Mann as an out-and-out racist. As Jeremy Hawthorn said in his most recent contribution to this discussion, "the comments about racism within the trade union movement deserve proper respect", and others have made valid and significant contributions in this discussion on the issue – but sweeping statements and wild accusations based on little evidence do not help the debate. The question of race, and “whiteness”, in the British labour movement, is a complex one, and needs careful and detailed analysis, not simplistic and ahistorical moralising. Others have been quick to recommend further reading on this and other issues, but I would also recommend two other books that do address the complexity of the issue. One is: “We Ask for British Justice”: Workers and Racial Difference in Late Imperial Britain, by Laura Tabili (Cornell University Press, 1994). The other is: Comrades and Cousins: Globalization, Workers and Labour Movements in Britain, the USA and Australia from the 1880s to 1914 (Merlin Press, 2003), by Neville Kirk, especially Chapter 3, The Rule of Class and The Power of Race: Socialist Attitudes to Class, Race and Empire during the era of “New Imperialism, 1899-1910. Both these books take head-on the problem of racism within the socialist and labour and trade union movement, and consider the complex relationship between race and class that real socialists and trade-unionists confronted, sometimes well and sometimes badly, every day in “imperial” Britain.
This issue is too big to deal with adequately here – perhaps in Ron Noon’s proposed “Casaversity” we can take it up in more depth in future – but to return to Tom Mann, I want to make one point. Mann, in his work with white trade unionists in Australia and South Africa, and for that matter in the USA and Britain, can be criticised when and if he failed to challenge racist ideas and practices in the movements he collaborated with – but you could say that about almost any British socialist and trade union leader or activist in that period. In the article by Jon Hyslop recommended by Paul Sheehan, for instance, Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, Arthur Henderson, the TUC president J.A. Seddon, and even more radical figures on the left like Bob Smillie and the “legendary revolutionary activist” John MacLean, are name-checked for their supposed acquiescence to “white” trade unionism. In fact, the one big name missing from the roll-call is Tom Mann himself!
Finally, two quotes from Mann himself. He was invited to the annual conference of South Africa’s first union of black and “coloured” workers, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union, in January 1923, where he stated: “White and black are going to shake hands … We have begun to climb the mountain and had to start at the bottom … they were living in a new world since 1914 and [blacks] were just as good as the white men, and he appealed to the black men to organise.” (quoted in Joe White, Tom Mann, Manchester, 1991, p. 205). Second, he wrote in All Power, in March 1923:
“At present the South African native is literally the Beast of Burden, carrying the white man and his family, doing all the drudgery, all the heavy and dirty work, and paid only a wretched pittance by white persons, men and women, many of whom would indignantly denounce any such conditions in any part of the world for whites, yet here, they have no compunction in imposing unbelievable tasks upon the blacks, who go about their work without a murmur, and slave away and see good food in great variety and enormous quantities near them, but they do not share it, they must keep their position of dog-like readiness to obey the high and mighty ‘baas’ or Mrs., or children; and may not go into a public hall with whites, may not participate in many of the recreations, or frequent areas and space which they, the natives, have made and kept in order. I declare my heart has ached and my mind has been made sore at the behaviour meted out by whites to blacks. It is therefore a source of real joy to me to find the natives taking action. The union is ambitious enough to undertake the organisation of agricultural workers, the natives at the mines, and domestic workers of both sexes.” (quoted in T. Tsuzuki, Tom Mann, 1856–1941: The Challenges of Labour, Oxford, 1991, p. 212.)
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 5th July, 2011 at 22:46
Just a couple of points on the comments that Jeremy has raised.I think the debate on the site has raised some very good points especially how the history of 1911 has been dealt with.
My librarian recommended me to read the first historical research on 1911 by a person called Harold Hikins.It was written in 1961 and published in -Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Transactions,113.It is a wonderful read backed up by oral testimony of dockers who were involved in 1911.
The dispute starts in Liverpool when" 500 firemen refused to sign on for the CPR boat Empress of Ireland and White Stars Teutonic and Baltic.....There was still no announcement from the unions, or from the Strike Committee.....Tom Mann went at once to Bankhall and hurriedly convened a dockside meeting that declared the stike had begun".(p 172,173).
Harold Hikins further describes the events of June 28th,when dockers walked off,followed by seaman of all categories,scalers,coal heavers etc.
"Their decision all but took the union leaders and the Strike Committee by surprise"(p176).
On pages 179 and 180, we find the Strike Committee recommendations being "turned over" and the Strike Committee striving to regain control.
These are stories I was unaware of before.They are important stories because it shows there was far more to 1911 than the appearance of Tom Mann.Also one of the books on the reading list in the pamphlet is one by Asquith who was the governmental troubleshooter dealing with the disputes of 1911.On page 177 , he states " In almost every port the movement started with unorganised men,generally young men........The labour leaders were taken by surprise".
So Rhythms that Carry has managed to "open up" a debate rather than close it down.The conventional historical neat and tidy story of 1911 concludes it with the end of the railway dispute in August.
Yet that was not the case.Dockers and Seafarers and Railwaymen over the following years were in constant revolt over the terms of the agreements.The period up to the 1st World War of course was when Tom Mann and his great friend Ben Tillett were both jingoistically beating the drum in favour of WW1.
So where does this leave us?I suppose we can see the debate as primarily on the one side, the historians ,Jeremy , and others and their historical methods of "Big Men History" and others including myself ,who have always believed that the history of working people is far more richer than " leaders and the led".
Comment left by Sam Davies on 6th July, 2011 at 10:53
History is the most democratic of all subjects – we are all historians, whether we like it or not. So it’s a pity when people artificially polarise what could be an interesting discussion - on the one side, according to Martin Balmer, we have the ‘historians’, with their ‘big men history’, and on the other, those ‘who have always believed that the history of working people is far more richer than " leaders and the led".’ As I presume I am supposed to be in the ‘historians’ camp, Martin may be surprised to know that I believe the 1911 strike is a clear example of where working-class rank and file militancy led the way, with ‘leaders’ desperately trying to keep up with, and at times restrain, the rank and file. I could not agree more with Martin that ‘there was far more to 1911 than the appearance of Tom Mann.’ People might be interested to read the pamphlet ‘1911 and the Liverpool General Transport Strike’ produced for the NWTUC by two ‘historians’, Ron Noon and myself, which is being launched today, and which is about as far from ‘big men history’ as it can be (even if we do mention the part Tom Mann played as leader of the Strike Committee).
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 7th July, 2011 at 1:55
Ten minutes on the internet will make it clear enough that Tom Mann was against WW1. That's a detail, though.
Back to 1911: I think the Hikins article is the best single thing to read, but like any other resource it is open to selective quotation. Hikins is in no doubt that the Strike Committee became 'the effective leadership of the Liverpool working class'(p 181). And so on. (The only quibble i have is that he has left out some behind-the-scenes meetings which led to seamen and dockers presenting a united front). Maybe when we read up on events like this we each have something of an agenda. So we highlight different things. A few people on this thread have clearly wanted to stress how disorganised the union leadership was. I'm not so sure. But who knows?
Provided we don't ignore or invent facts, there's plenty of room for honest disgreement.
Comment left by Steve Kenny on 7th July, 2011 at 12:13
The reply from Jeremy to my points about the letter from H. Wilson seems to have evaded the points I was making.-1.Wilson supplying a " scab" crew in Goole cannot be read in a number of ways.The intent was clear.A strike-breaking policy he used as well in the docks/dispute in Ireland 2 years later.It is a historical fact that there were no strike records left behind.No I do not accept that with the number of unions involved ,each one managed to 'lose' paperwork??
It has nothing to do with a " disorganised leadership" either.It might be more to do with the pressures of dealing with an increasingly discontented group of workers.
I have come across another interesting point.An original member of the Strike Committee,either Frank/Fred? Pearce, of Cooks and Stewards, named as a syndicalist, cleared off with the unions money during the dispute.;i wonder how members reacted to this?
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 7th July, 2011 at 20:11
1. I was evading the issue of Goole because I didn't know about it. That H Wilson letter actually says 'I am going to advise the extension of the fight in Goole'. HW does describe an incident in Purfleet (but that's in Essex) where he has tried to take up a shipowner's offer of a partial increase (half a loaf, no bread etc), only for this to be frustrated by pickets. I too wonder what Tom Mann and DJ Kenny thought of that. At least nothing of the kind seems to have happened in Liverpool.
2. I still don't see what you are driving at with this 'historical fact' that no strike records were left behind.On what basis do you say that records never existed? The Strike Committee sent and received letters.They issued permits. They haven't survived either. So what? Minutes at the time btw were not circulated they were handwritten in a minute-book. Such books can go missing all too easily.
3. Frank Pearce appeared before Liverpool Magistrates Court on 16 October 1911 charged with embezzling £277 from the Ships Cooks, Stewards and Bakers union funds during the June strikes (a time when, it was said, the union membership had risen from 4,000 to 10,000). He was said in court to have been central to the union since its formation in 1909. He is in a picture of the early Strike Committee but, maybe significantly, is not in the final 'team picture'. His union supplied to him a favourable reference, but he still received a two-month sentence. The only 'clearing-off' he did was in the direction of Walton jail. If all of that undermines the entire Strike Committee, all union officials and all persons 'named as syndicalists'(?) to your satisfaction, so be it. I'm marking it down as a personal tragedy till I'm told otherwise.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 8th July, 2011 at 7:53
I think that some of the comments posted by Sam Davies are of themselves very contradictory.Yes I can agree with his "history is the most democratic of subjects",yet the denial of the big men history dooes not seem to hold up as any seemingly historical points raised within the debate concerning Tom Mann immediatly brings forth denial and defence.
Tom Mann was from the labour aristocracy,the upper echelons of skilled labour.This was the section of the British Working Class that did very well out of the British Empire.
Scholarship and academic work out of Ireland has clarified his position and his support for the British in Ireland..He never once renounced the Empire and Imperialism pre Ist world war. He also supported compulsory military conscription the first world war.
An earlier contribution was made that James Connolly " should not have had anything to do with a Liverpool Strike Committee at this time". This is false.There is research taking place in Ireland looking at the solidarity between Liverpool,Dublin and Belfast in June and July 1911, with James Connolly being central as the ITGWU waterfront organiser.
Comment left by Paul Adams on 13th July, 2011 at 14:03
I'm not so offay as most of the other contibuters regarding 1911 in Liverpool but would appreciate some definite confirmation. As far as I can work out Mann opposed British entry into WW1 (on political as well as religious grounds) and was a supporter of the Bolshevick led revolution and its early years. Given that positions taken on war and revolution are the acid tests for revoutionaries, it would appear that Mann passes on both accounts. This or that tactical decision on a localised-if historicly important-dispute recede into the background if Mann did take those positions on WW1 and the Russian Revolution.
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 13th July, 2011 at 20:11
In reply to Sam Davies,I do not make any presumptions at all.I do not know him.The points I was making were based on the fact that one of my local history group has attended four 1911 events across Merseyside.All of them were about the influences of Tom Mann and the Strike committee.
She was unaware of the discontent that resulted in George Milligan and others being elevated on to the Strike Committee, and that in Harold Hikins p 179,180,the Strike Committee instructions were torn up and ignored.
The polarisation of the debate has come about because other stories have emerged about 1911 and obviously certain people do not seem happy that they have emerged
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 14th July, 2011 at 23:00
Martin, I agree we can get starry-eyed over the 1911 strike leadership. But equally we can get hung up on a detail or two and miss the bigger picture.
You'll find elsewhere on this site (part of issue 17) my 'Long Hot Summer' article. Here's the relevant passage: "Then the dockers, who hadn't been part of the original dispute, weighed in on the 26th with their own demands for union recognition and rates of pay. The carters, not usually supportive, backed them. These new insurgents didn't like Tom Mann's 'white list' of co-operative employers and on the first weekend in July seamen and dockers were at odds. But the Strike Committee took up the dockers' cause. Co-operative employers now were dealing with a united front. Firms that did not concede faced total shutdown." (This paragraph was shortened for the magazine version simply for reasons of space - honest!)
Much as I respect the Hikins article, he makes the Strike Committee look too heavy-handed. I don't think (specifically) that he read the Daily Post published on 3 July. That issue carried articles showing that over that crucial weekend there were extensive behind-the-scenes meetings with dockers' delegates (one lasting six hours) leading to their acceptance into a united action. Hikins doesn't even mention those meetings. That paper also reported Tom Mann's speech at the rally of the previous day, in which he said he did not complain of the dockers' actions. Looking at the bigger picture, the waterfront unions acted as one throughout the rest of the summer, up to and including solidarity with the tram workers right at the end.
Now where you put the credit/blame for all this is a matter for genuine discussion. As for polarisation of the debate, well if anyone wants their history written by the Shipping Federation or 'Lord' Askwith, or wishes to invent a place for James Connolly on the Strike Committee, then that is their look-out!
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 15th July, 2011 at 6:53
I was replying to comments made by Sam Davies.Can Jeremy enlighten us all what the six hour meeting with the Dockers was about?In terms of how we want our history written?Well I have noticed Jeremy never references or sources his work on this site.That is dangerous, because he could end up in court for plagiarism.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 15th July, 2011 at 17:10
Tom Mann's position on WW1 can be found in "Essays in Labour History,eds Biggs and Saville,p 219-224.He spoke in favour military conscription at the NTWF Annual General Council on June 8th and 9th,1916, held in Glasgow.Yes he was in favour of negotiations but ultimately Britain had to win the war.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 20th July, 2011 at 8:01
Martin, the source on that first weekend is the Daily Post of 3 July 1911. Nowhere else that I've seen. No, it doesn't say what was discussed or who took what side in whatever argument there was. I can have a guess at what was said and so can you. But it's only a guess. And no, I do not put footnotes of sources on this kind of thread, but if you really waht to know I did read the local press in the Central Library for all of 1911, then whatever secondary material I could find. I don't get that catty little joke about plagiarism in court but suspect I am not missing very much.
Comment left by Mike Legg on 20th July, 2011 at 15:54
"the real casualty of this nonsense is the Liverpool Trade Union movement".I do not know what the reviewer Of Rhythms That Carry,really means by that statement? I personally, like a lot of trade unionists in the city,do not mind trade union history being interpreted by people who have roots in the trade union movement on Merseyside.Two of the authors have a long history of representing larg e sections of Liverpools unskilled/semi skilled workforce,including involvement in many bouts of industrial action.If they are able to bring experience and knowledge in order to freshly interpret some of the events of 1911,we should welcome those interpretations.
An earlier post quoted from a book on Tom Mann by Joe White.There is a problem with this book as on page 178, describing a comment by James Sexton about the Strike Committee having to " face infuriated mobs ...........who denounced us as traitors.........because the terms did not include wildly extavagant demands .......and promises of interlopers ....."
The author makes the comment "Was he referring to Tom Mann?
Well No ,I do not think so!It is obvious it is the rank and file Sexton is describing who would be beseiging the Strike Committee HQ, morning ,noon and night; a practice that has gone on in a lot of industrial disputes across the city.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 22nd July, 2011 at 8:22
Paul, that is a good spot to pick up on the Transport Workers conference in June 1916, but your source looks to be wrong. The Liverpool Daily Post fancied itself then as a national paper and sure enough it carries (10.6.1916) a report of that event. The conference is full of praise for the recently-deceased Lord Kitchener. A resolution is put opposing the new conscription laws. Sexton speaks against it. Tom Mann's speech is quoted as follows (apols for the length of this):"Mr Tom Mann denied that the resolution was an anti-war resolution. He revered Lord Kitchener as a soldier but he would not go by what he said on a question of this sort. The Allies were capable of getting an abundance of men and no necessity for conscription had ever been proven. Our part was mainly to provide the finance, armaments and munitions" I take that as a speech against conscription. Tillett then says he is against compulsion but doesn't want the membership to think they are anti-war. FWIW the resolution goes to a czrd vote and is lost 81,000 - 100,000. Now how union leaders behaved during WW1 is a massive topic. It's not just what they said about the war but also what they did in labour disputes. But for now, you call TM out for speaking in favour of conscription and that doesn't seem to be right. As for your Sexton quote, Mike, I would expect Sexton to come out with comments like that, particularly well after the event. But, again, look at the bigger picture. The dockers were accepted into full membership of the Strike Committee and their union membership rocketed. BTW you don't have to like the review that kicked off this thread but read the pamphlet and decide how much or little it tells you about what actually happened.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 22nd July, 2011 at 21:11
On July 7th Jeremy Hawthorn posted" Ten minutes on the internet will make it clear that Tom Mann was against WW1".
He has now quoted from part of the debate whereby Tom Mann was speaking against compulsory conscription.Tom Mann " reveres" Lord Kitchener and makes it plain that the " resolution is not anti-war" etc etc.He was not opposed to conscription only the compulsion element.Hardly the words of a revolutionary/ pacifist or of someone who opposed WW1.Which is the point I made originally.Also there some historians who have made the point that one of the reasons the Liverpool Transport Strike was brought to such an abrupt end was that a Government emissary was carrying messages to the Strike Committee leadership that any continuation of the dispute into September and beyond would jeopardise the Imperial design of Britain in terms of what came to be known as the Agadir crisis.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 24th July, 2011 at 11:33
Paul, we have some rare partial agreement. The Government was banging the patriotic drum over the 'Morocco crisis' (German gunboat in Agadir). But the Liverpool Transport strike did not come to an abrupt end. Recall: the waterfront workers got their White Book agreement at the start of August. They regarded that as a victory. The rail dispute followed and other transport workers stayed out in support. The Strike Committee assumed leadership in Liverpool as the strike was 'unofficial' with no national union support. Once the four rail unions made it official it was those unions that negotiated at national level in London. It is very likely those rail leaders were presented with, and swayed by, Agadir-type arguments. It was they who settled the rail strike and LIverpool rail workers voted to go back. The Strike Committee however kept Liverpool out until the City Council agreed to reinstate sacked tram workers. Once that promise was made (I am not saying it was kept) they treated the dispute as over. Which it was. As for Tom Mann and WW1, I repeat the recommendation to spend ten minutes on the internet. You claim to catch him calling for conscription. I locate a report of this. It is one speech towards the end of one debate (clearly trying to rescue a resolution that ends up being defeated). But it shows the opposite of what you claimed. You then squeeze it like a sponge to fit your argument. I think I would look for more material before reaching the conclusion you clearly want to reach.
Comment left by Mike Legg on 24th July, 2011 at 15:58
I have read the pamphlet and attended a Rhythms that Carry event and found it quite refreshing. The presentation I believe,was trying to give some context to 1911, not just in Liverpool, but the UK and world wide.
For instance there were industrial problems not just in Liverpool but in other ports as well.These had major ramifications for the unions involved in terms of how they reacted to the demands of their members.
Again back to the context, one cannot seperate the 1911 industrial issues from other trends in art, culture and yes even arhitecture that were prevalent at that time.
To try and do so as Jeremy seems hell-bent on doing, is an insult to the traditions of Liverpool workers whereby there has always been an interface between politics/trade unionism/culture and art.Has Jeremy never seen the artistic work celebrating the Liverpool working class in the NEWZ bar?
And as for some of "barbed" comments made earlier on this site regarding Joe Hill,obviously the individuals concerned must not be aware that it was in 1911 that Joe Hill wrote the great labour movement anthem " You'll Get Pie in the Sky When you Die".For Jeremy et al,they can find the music and words in any labour movement songbook:one more example of how culture, music and radical trade unionism intersect.
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 14th August, 2011 at 18:48
Just back from three weeks holiday on the South Coast.I spent some time looking at Southampton seamens /dockworkers strike in the summer of 1911.I came across wonderful history of Harry Orbell, who was NUDL organiser for docks and other industries.He wrote substantially about the strikes.
Is it coincidence that same group of workers,firemen,stokers,etc, start Southampton strike, ;same group start it in Liverpool and other ports as well.Harry Orbell desribes the reasons for it and the agreements for being paid while waiting for work.
Also Jeremy makes a point earlier that Havelock Wilson hated the Shipping Federation.It is very strange that from 1912 onwards the main guest speakers at NSFU Annual Dinner,were in fact the leaders of the Shipping Federation.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 16th August, 2011 at 8:30
In Liverpool over the weekend and delighted to attend an event at the Eldonian.First time there, even though I was brought up not far.The event commemorated Liverpools Bloody Sunday in 1911,where strikers were shot.
It was a very moving and congrats to everyone who put it together.Actually,my mate pointed out it was the historian off this site who gave detailed analysis of the events.It was an excellent day with a wide ranging number of speakers.As Tom Mann was not mentioned and at the end we all sang "Solidarity For Ever",written by the Wobbly Bard,Joe Hill,I wonder if the reviewer,Jeremy Horthorn,(if he was there), will write up a " smart ass" review of yesterdays events ,re Tom Mann and Joe Hill.
Comment left by Nerve on 16th August, 2011 at 12:49
Nerve welcomes comments and arguments that take in differing views to those expressed in our reviews. The debate that has been going on above has been interesting and informative. We need to maintain this high level of debate. What we don’t need are comments that denigrate the person making their views known. Nerve
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 18th August, 2011 at 1:12
Sure I was at the Eldonian meeting and no Tom Mann was not mentioned. And yes, I even joined in a song written by Joe Hill. And even as I sang, I wondered if some small-minded point would be made out of the music of the day. More seriously, I know of no reason why Tom Mann should be considered an opponent of Joe Hill or Larkin or Connolly. I'm sure these men would have said they were on the same team. That's why I have found so strange a pamphlet whose authors had such hostility to Tom Mann that they would not even mention his existence. Which led them to leave out the names of all other Liverpool protagonists. Which rather prevented them from saying what actually happened in the dispute. Which meant that the pamphlet didn't even say what the outcome of the strikes was. Who was being the smartass here? Then all too many of the contributions on this thread have amounted to desperate attempts to portray Tom Mann and the Strike Committee as either corrupt or incompetent or war-loving or all three, as if somehow that would justify not mentioning them.
As for Southampton and Harry Orbell(who worked with Ben Tillett and Tom you-know-who in the big dock strike of 1889) that probably merits a whole article somewhere. It was in Southampton that H Wilson on 13 June set out the manifesto for the coming national dispute. And it is no big surprise that the 'same group of workers' kicked off disputes in so many places after that. The call was for a national and if possible an international strike by seamen. As for the Shipping Federation being guests of NSFU after 1912, well if you say so. But by then - as a result of the 1911 actions - the Shipping Federation had at last been forced to recognise the NSFU. It would be hardly surprising if the game changed after that.
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 18th August, 2011 at 9:16
Jeremy Hawthorn has it totally wrong.The Southampton dispute, much to Havelock Wilsons horror,started on June 9th 1911.It was set off by a group of coalies,stokers and firemen,who stopped work over "waiting time" payments.My point was that it was this same grouping of workers that walked off "first" in ports across the UK, including Liverpool,before any "Official" strike had been called.Hence Tom Mann having to hurry to Bankhall to declare it official.Wilson and other NSFU officials "disowned" the Southampton strikers, and criticised them for being premature.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 18th August, 2011 at 11:31
I really don't know now whether to 'laugh or cry' in terms of the last posting from the reviewer.Having already given us proof of the fact that Tom Mann "reveres" Lord Kitchener,(posting July 22nd), he now says " i am sure these same men would have said they were on the same team".Presumably Joe Hill,Larkin,Connolly and Tom Mann.
I really do not think Larkin,Connolly and Hill would be " revering" the great cheer leader for British Imperialism ,Lord Kitchener!!!!The reviewer really does need to read up on his Irish history and also on the support for the British Empire from within the ranks of the English labour movement.These points differentiated Larkin and Connolly from Tom Mann
Comment left by Mike Legg on 19th August, 2011 at 12:33
"The waterfront workers got their White book agreement at the start of August..........and they regarded that as a victory.....".So spoke the reviewer on July 24th,as though" everyone lived happily ever after!!.Again this neat and tide ending to Liverpool 1911 is false.In fact one can argue that Liverpool 1911 ,in fact became Liverpool 1912.Why? From the signing of the agreement, its terms were resisted by the North End Dockers.This culminated in a libel case whereby James Sexton sued John Mitchell ,A North end dockworker over leaflets circulated across the docks criticising Sexton and the White Book Agreement.In particular the criticism was about lack of consultation with the rank and file and concessions made to Employers, which gave them far greater control over the " working time" of a docker.
One aspect that Dockers never forgave Sexton, was to do with the "Union promising not to interfere with the method of working cargo either on ship or quay".Why was this seen as being important to dockworkers?The speed up of shipping and the quick turnaround of the ships, was making cargo handling hazardous with all the resulting accidents occurring on the quayside.For the sake of achieving his beloved " joint conciliation board",Sexton and other removed the right of dockworkers to challenge this particular working practice.Plus the agreement negated the possibility of dockworkers taking unofficial action as no stoppage of work could take place until the Board had made its decision .
Also dockworkers complained that they had never been consulted or given the chance to even vote on the content and terms of the agreement.Hence the attacks on Sexton and his decsion to sue for libel.John Mitchell was a close friend of Peter Larkin.
One of the main problems in this debate on this site, has been the reviewer relying solely on the Internet and the Daily Post for the story of 1911.
Those of us who work within the Labour movement, rely on Trade Union Histories,TU. Executive Council Minutes etc, to give us our information.
Again the reviewer, questioned the validity of FW Taylor and Time and Motion, as playing any role within Liverpool 1911.He needs to go and study the debates within the TUC,NUDL, NSFU, from 1908 onwards.All were expressing concerns over the " importation from America ", of new working methods that were "speeding up" work and giving foreman dictatorial powers etc.
In fact, one of the NSFU demands for " a new manning scale for stoke hold and other areas " was a response to speed up Capitalism. If ships voyages were getting quicker and quicker, then the workers on board those ships,would be expected to labour in the same speed up process.Anyone who has been a trade union representative, would easily recognise that some of the agreements from 1911, were framed to mitigate the excesses of the speeding up of the labour process.
I imagine that where the reviewer and others have gone wrong as well, is in conflating the Strike Committee with the rank and file.Part of the solidarity forged in 1911, again anyone with roots in the trade union movement would recognize, that once one group of workers secure enhancements to their terms and conditions,then automatically other groups of workers will demand " we want some of that as well".Hence how the new payments secured in Southampton, were also reflected in some of the agreements secured in Liverpool.It is baffling on this site as to why there has been such a lack of discussion around the "new" terms and conditions secured by groups of workers in 1911.I think that part of the problem is more to do with a lack of understanding and very limited knowledge of those agreements and as well as a limited knowledge of the local working practices on the waterfront and at sea.No amount of referencing either the "Daily Post" or the " internet", would solve that problem.
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 20th August, 2011 at 11:34
I had a pint in the Casa last night and picked up a leaflet for some Conference on October 8th about 1911.One of the headlines is 'This history is meant for you'.Then I go online and check the line up,and it is conference of academic historians, with no docker or seafarer in sight.
On July 6th, historian responded on this site with 'History is the most democratic of subjects,we are all historians', yet a conference is hosted with possibly Bob Crow being there, and the rest are historians.How exclusionary is that.I bet as well there will be no talks about the agreements and rank and file dissent as the previous posting describes.Deffo I will not go and hope others think the same.It is a disgrace.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 22nd August, 2011 at 0:37
I fear this discussion may not be doing any of us much good, but you guys are so adamant that all the historians are hopelessly wrong that I get curious. Apologies to everyone else - if there is anyone else out there - for the length of this.
1. Martin: I still think you want a bigger argument than we need to have.
As I read the Southampton action, it was started by coalheavers - different union from the NSFU, right? - and after that dispute was settled the sailors and firemen of the Olympic pitched in with their own demands for £5-10s a month and so on. Which the employers settled dead quick so the ship could leave on 14 June as scheduled. These sailors were ahead of the national strike, you're right about that. So were the men who refused to sign on in Liverpool. But my point remains that the NSFU had been preparing for this strike for months. There were rumours as early as mid-January.My guess is that the demands were worked up over a period of time, too. You have H Wilson in Southampton on the 13th June setting out an 8-point plan, do you think he made that up overnight? You've got Tom Mann already in Liverpool on 13th June, do you think he was there by accident? The union had a plan, some workers jumped the gun. Big deal. Compare and contrast the start of the rail strike in August: there the national unions actively did not want any strike action and only after ten momentous days did they declare it official.
2. Mike, you have to ask the basic question: was it a victory to get union recognition or wasn't it? We know from the last 100 years that it wasn't the end of struggles, but that doesn't stop it being a victory at the time. Did union membership - particularly of the NUDL - then go up or down? Now I understand why you don't like newspapers and you've doubtless done a lot of research that all the other historians have missed. So tell us: what "Trade Union Histories,TU. Executive Council Minutes etc" did you find most helpful in your quest for that immediate dissent from the White Book agreement? Where do we find them? Chapter and Verse would be nice - and I hope they weren't written by union bureaucrats. Do you have a date and source for the Mitchell libel action while you're at it so we can check up on that too? We might be able to reconstruct (and get a date for) the leaflet from the reports. Btw I'm not at all surprised that Sexton would take an action like that, you'll have seen how he sued over the pamphlet that accused him of helping to imprison James Larkin. While you're at it you could explain how "some of the agreements from 1911 were framed to mitigate the excesses of the speeding up of the labour process", particularly as you dislike the White book agreement so much. Do you really think the demands outlined by Havelock Wilson on 13 June (wage increase and all) were based on what the Southampton workers had achieved bearing in mind that they didn't reach their settlement until the following day? I know that one of the Rhythms pamphlet's theses was that the Liverpool strike was a glorified sympathy action based on events in Southampton but you shouldn't be taking that too seriously. Sure I remain sceptical about this 'speeding-up capitalism' catchphrase, mainly because none of the speakers at the reported public meetings say anything whatsoever about it. And Cunard - a shipping firm with an enormous transatlantic trade - were the first firm in Liverpool to concede the strikers' demands. But you can no doubt help me on that too.
3. Paul: I can't help your emotional dilemmas but I wish you would use fewer exclamation marks. It has been a painful progression on Tom Mann. "He was a racist" - no he wasn't. "He was in favour of World War I" - no he wasn't. "Look, there he is speaking against conscription" - no he isn't. "Look, he's revering Kitchener" - well some people respect their enemies and some people don't like dancing upon the watery grave of someone who only died at sea less than a week earlier. But the speech was still trying to persuade delegates to vote against conscription. You cannot take half a sentence from one speech in one debate and build a castle out of it. Ask yourself: if Tom Mann was a raving imperialist, how come he supported the Russian Revolution (which ended the fighting on the Russian front)? Anyway, I didn't say he agreed on everything with the IWW and friends, I said I was sure they would have said they were on the same team. I can even give you an example. Nip down to the Central Library and get out the Daily Post for July 1911 (don't tell Mike!) You'll find that on the 16th Tom Mann went over to Dublin. The next morning he addressed strikers there and after that there was an exchange of correspondence. The paper prints the letters. The employers offered to meet the wage increase demanded but refused to countenance union recognition. The union response was a firm no, they wanted the same deal as had been arrived at in Liverpool (not Southampton, need I say)and no recognition means no deal. The signatures on that letter? Tom Mann, James Larkin, DJ Kenny, J McKeown. Tom Mann went off back to Liverpool while the Dublin strike continued and within a few days the employers gave in. Now before you start, let me be the first to concede that Big Jim played a part in 1911 after all (still without setting foot in Liverpool, which is what I actually said). But if Messrs Mann and Larkin were able to co-operate in July 1911, by what right do any of us try to write Tom Mann out of the picture now?
4. Finally, Martin, I think you are trying a little too hard to find a reason not to go to the 8 October conference. Historians come in all shapes and sizes and some of them have labour movement experience. You might add something to the discussions. Who knows, it might actually be more fun than hiding behind a keyboard and taking pot-shots at me, or 'the reviewer'as I now insist on being called!
Comment left by Sam Davies on 22nd August, 2011 at 9:09
Point of information: 'Solidarity Forever' was not written by Joe Hill - it was written by Ralph Chaplin (a Wobbly) in 1915.
Comment left by Mike Legg on 22nd August, 2011 at 19:38
"All workers ......faced pressures from employers who sought to reduce costs and raise productivity".(Page 8)
"Working people had ,therefore to rely upon their own efforts to resist the excesses of industrial capitalism"(Page 8).
"Considerable importance can be placed upon the work process".........Work Discipline was being forced upon employees with increasing rigour".(Page 10).
"The work discipline imposed by foremen was fearsome" (Page 16).
"Seafarers were subject to harsh discipline".(Page 17).
In terms of Jeremy Hawthorn being "sceptical about this speeding up capitalism catch phrase,because none of the speakers at the reported public meetings say anything whatsoever about it",
I am sure that also no one spoke about any of the above quotes that I have taken from the work of Eric Taplin either.So will Jeremy challenge Eric for describing and painting a very concise picture of working life in 1911, on the basis of no-one spoke about " the work process " at a mass meeting, so how can it be valid??
How did the NSFU lists of demand arise in the first place?.Did Wilson conjure them out of thin air".Or as is the factual case, they were "gripes" and "beefs" that emanated from rank and file seamen over the years.
To actually believe, that as shipping got quicker and quicker over the years, then the workers labouring on those ships , were unaffected is sheer nonsense.I suggest that Jeremy go away and research shipping records, and see the various labour problems occurring on Trans-Atlantic shipping due to excessive work, especially the stokers.Southampton achieved payments, reflected in waterfront agreements, for enhanced overtime rates and if there were logjams in shipping awaiting to be off loaded ,workers were to be paid for " waiting time", whereas previously there was no payment.
Nowhere have I mentioned that "I disliked" the White Book Agreement.How could I.I merely reported the fact that it was resisted by Northend dockworkers, culminating in the episode that came to be known as the "Slimy Jim" ,epsisode
And actually if he had read the Eric Taplin book, he would find( last para,page 18) the amount of friction and dissent that made NUDL EC meetings "more stormy than they had been in the past".But then again I am sure Jeremy would be sceptical of Taplins description of the aforementioned NUDL EC meetings, because obviously no mention can be found in the editions of the Daily Post.
As for other sources, well Jeremy will have to wait for my book to come out.Based on the industrial unrest around the UK from 1910 onwards, it will deal with causation linked to increased productivity and the speeding up of work methods and processes and how working people reacted.The idea to write the book came from the reading prominent labour historians and a re-reading of Eric Taplins work ;especially his descriptions about the world of work at that time,basically the quotes that I use at the beginning of this "post".
It is incredible that a reviewer of 1911 on the Nerve Website and in the magazine, who seems to think that he is the " fount " of all knowledge about 1911, does not know about the Sexton Libel case against John Mitchell in 1912.Hence he has continued to give a very narrow and limited view to Nerve and its readers.
Comment left by Martin Balmer on 23rd August, 2011 at 9:23
To Jeremy's last point,nothing can be more fun than than to follow the amount of backpeddling he has had to do on this site.As for the conference with that amount of speakers on the top table,no one will be able to get a word in edgeways.
Comment left by Paul McGowan on 23rd August, 2011 at 10:25
' And I hope they were not written by trade union bureaucrats"; so sayeth our esteemed reviewer.A reviewer who has solely relied on that esteemed journal of "left wing dissent",the Daily Post,for his sources/ and or words,speeches etc from individuals,who were nothing more than " trade union buraucrats" themselves: Wilson, Sexton,Mann etc.
Comment left by Peter Milligan on 23rd August, 2011 at 18:39
I am sure Mike Legg's book will deal substantially with issues from 1910 -1913 dealing the accelaration of work in all industries across the UK.
But to intercede, an earlier comment on this site wanted evidence on how the " speed up" was resisted on Liverpool Docks.Quite simply the resistance was " overtime " and overtime payments.Liverpool Docks was exceptional through out the UK because of resistance to bonus working.Liverpool was also one the worst paid port across the UK; in the bottom three of poor wages even after 1911.The big contradiction though was in the fact Liverpool Dockers had secured a higher hourly rate and with overtime payments could earn as much in 3 days as other workers earned in a week.The resistance to bonus payments/ systems,even though prevalent on other docks,Hull, London,Glasgow etc is one of the reasons that there 31,000 dockers for 16-20,000 jobs.One can also see in the resistance to bonus working from 1911 onwards an ingrained Liverpool sentiment of " You have no right to sell another Workers job", that prevailed in many local trade unions across the last century.
So the key to resisting the speed-up and acceleration of work was to be found in the many different payments secured as " overtime".One small point as well, Southampton rates of pay, were higher than in Liverpool.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 26th August, 2011 at 1:30
Well, Mike, I look forward to the book. I hope it won't contain any quotes or references from the bourgeois press. I asked you what your labour movement sources were and you wouldn't say. I wonder what you have which all the historians have missed. You go on about the Mitchell libel case: when was the offending leaflet circulated? June 1912. You knew that. You also knew that it arose from massive arguments about the 'clearing-house scheme' that was introduced on the docks from the start of 1912 and which the union did not resist. I've now read a report of the court evidence. I will agree that Sexton in court was asked one or two questions about the White Book agreement. But it's not what the leaflet was about. So as I asked you before, where is the evidence for widespread dissent at the time of the Agreement, as opposed to a few people being wise after the event a year later? Eric Taplin - whose views you say you agree with - describes the White Book agreement as a victory. Jim Larkin expressed some scepticism suggesting that it 'calls a halt in the march of a victorious army' - yet he had been happy to settle the dispute with the last two Dublin firms on 'the Liverpool terms'. The Irish Worker published the same kind of 'Black List' and 'Union List' of shipping firms as the Liverpool Strike Committee. On the macro-economics, carry on with 'speed-up capitalism' if you must, but as an ordinary reader I think you have to explain more clearly what you mean. I did btw ask you to explain how (in your words) "some of the agreements from 1911 were framed to mitigate the excesses of the speeding up of the labour process" and you didn't. Oh well, let's wait again for the book and I do hope Nerve gets a review copy. I'm off this thread now, I don't mind the abuse but it seems we are running out of both new topics and mutual respect.
Comment left by Peter Milligan on 28th August, 2011 at 18:13
The'Clearing House scheme' evolved out of the talks which took place between the NUDL and Employers that led to the signing of the White Book Agreement.The Scheme and the talks taking place around it,first surfaced in October 1911.
The ending of the Dublin dispute was settled on the same terms of Liverpool in respect to working time,waiting time payments and fixed daily overtime rates,plus other elements,but not a Conciliation Board.James Larkin believed the idea of Labour Unions becoming involved with the apparatus of Arbitration and Conciliation Boards,to be abhorrent.
Comment left by Mike Legg on 29th August, 2011 at 9:43
In reply to Jeremy Hawthorn,and what he and seemingly even the historians who have contributed on the site,have totally missed,and it should be embarrassing to all concerned,is that the NSFU did not issue a "manifesto" of eight policy demands:in fact it was nine.This is a major factual error on his part, and does throw into question and even confirms his very limited knowledge of 1911.
The NSFU nine points were:;1.Conciliation Board 2.A National Minimum rate of wages.3.A manning scale for stokehold,deck,galley 4.Abolition of medical examinations.......by doctors appointed by Shipping Fed 5.Abolition, of seamen engagement at Shipping Fed Offices 6.Right of seamen to portion of wages whilst in port.7.Right to a NSFU representative present whilst signing on.8.Fixing og working hours and overtime rates. 9.Improved for castle accomodation.
No wonder there has been such a lack of dicussion around the terms of the agreements, when quite obviously,some people have not even understood what the NSFU claim was.
My source and main reference book for 1911, is the 'magisterial work' of Ken Coates and Tony Topham," THe Making of the Labour Movement.......The Formation of the Transport and General Workers Union".There are incisive chapters on 1910-1911-1912, and whd dockworkers were in revolt against the speeded up work process on the docks and at sea.
As for explaining 'speed-up capitalism', I now find myself sounding like a presenter off that kids TV programme from years ago,Jackanory-So one last time for Jeremy, " speeded-up work= speeded-up exploitation= speeded up profits=Speeded up Capitalism.
As for Nerve getting a review copy of my book?Doubtful, as some of the reviews appertaining to labour issues, as this site has proven, have been dreadful.
In terms of personal abuse,Jeremy Hawthorn needs to be reminded of his own review.One that was so,so arrogant in tone and manor, with the sly and sarcastic asides,that were not even funny.I am surprised Nerve published it especially when a few postings back, they interceded and warned against the use of " personal abuse" in the debate.Yet, Jeremy Hawthorn,is allowed to use abusive and discriminatory language, as in 'madcap':the inference being that the authors of Rhythms that Carry, have mental health problems?
He should not be allowed to review anything ever again.
Comment left by Nerve Magazine on 6th September, 2011 at 12:05
Nerve reviewers give their time freely to us and we value their efforts. We also value comments which add to the debate about the item being reviewed.
Nerve provides this open column as a forum for discussion. We are all for constructive criticism and comments which point out FACTUAL errors. We WILL NOT allow this space to be hijacked by purveyors of personal abuse.
If you would like to discuss the issues surrounding the events of 1911 and their relevance for today go to the conference on 8 October 2011: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/HSS/HSS_Docs/Liverpool_1911_A6_3mm_bleed.pdf
Comment left by Eddie Roberts on 7th September, 2011 at 10:46
I have just wasted a considerable amount of time reading the various contributions deriving from the recent events commemorating the hugely significant chapter in Merseyside Trade Union and Labour History. How unfortunate it seems to me is it that the bulk of the contributions confine themselves to nitpicking points of detail and laborious efforts aimed at deciphering just what was in the minds and what governed the actions of some of the proncipal characters of the time. Surely this misses the whole point that those of us who have assisted in recalling the events of 1911 were concerned with making. Some of us have collaborated with and have supported each and all of the activities that have in their different ways promoted focus and discussion about the significance of the mass class action that 1911 undoubtedly was. There has seldom been a dispute wherein aspects of its conduct have not been subject to criticisms both in the manner of their handling and of the conduct of those leading them. My interest in supporting those who set out to recall these historic times was based on a belief that the struggles of our class should be better commemorated, but more particularly, the lessons learned and the interpretation of them should constantly be transposed on the challenges and struggles facing our class today. It is inarguable that the struggles of our forefathers remain as relevant and identifiable as those faced today. The oppressors remain the same and our resistance to them should be inspired by recollections of the struggles of yesteryear. I support all that Ron Noon and Sam Davies have done to stimulate and encourage awareness of the continuing need for workers to stand and fight. I also however fully support Steve Higginson, Tony Wailey and Ian Morris who have succeeded in promoting much interest and debate with their "Rythms That Carry" presentations. And I supported the event held so appropriately on the steps of St Georges Hall, all of which have contributed to heightening popular awareness of 1911 and its relevance to us today.
I will continue to support the futher activities planned and would call upon everyone to cut out the petty carping and obsessive attention to the minutiae of detail, which I contend matters little to most of us. What does matter is that instead of dividing and weakening our collective resolve, we should concentrate here on in in uniting and fighting today's assaults on our class in a spirit of solidarity and unity, all too conspicuous by their absence to date.
United we stand, divided we fall.
Eddie Roberts 7 September 2011
Comment left by Mike Legg on 7th September, 2011 at 22:22
I think everyone who has contributed to this site,should heed the wise words of Eddie Roberts and leave it at that.Eddie knows as well as anyone that our movement has always encouraged active debate and discussion,with everyone treated with dignity and respect,irrespective of differences of opinion.I only came into this debate belatedly because Rhythms That Carry, and the trade unions and others sponsoring the events irrespective of what people thought,seemingly were being ridiculed. Eddie is also right about the past struggles remain as "relevant and identifiable as those faced today".Those unions sponsoring Rhythms That Carry, believed the fresh interpretation of 1911, was relevant in terms of how the problems of 1911,are still with us today.What is very sad, is there are persistent rumours swirling around the trade union movement and have even reached London, that the attempted " ridicule" was pre-planned.
But I am following Eddie in terms of his call for unity.The most helpful step in that direction, would be for everyone to say "enough is enough", and close this debate down.
Comment left by Sam Davies on 9th September, 2011 at 10:01
I agree with Eddie Roberts and Mike Legg's comments that enough is enough, and that this debate should be closed down now. Like Mike Clegg, I only came into this debate belatedly, on my part because I thought there were some historical inaccuracies that needed addressing. Maybe I was being pedantic - but I certainly didn't intend to stir up trouble, and thought it would be taken in the spirit of constructive debate. What I would like to make clear is that as far as I'm concerned there was absolutely no 'pre-planning' of my intervention - it was simply a response to some of the things being said. That's my final comment.
Comment left by Sam Davies on 9th September, 2011 at 10:04
PS. Profound apologies - Mike Legg, not Mike Clegg!
Comment left by Mike Legg on 9th September, 2011 at 19:20
I enjoyed Sam Davies interventions because they added to the constructive 'mix'of the debate.But the rumours are to do with the original review and other aspects, and whether the 'malicious and sly' attempt to ridicule the event, the authors,and Unison plus all the accompanying snide comments, was in fact predetermined.By inference,the original review was also an attempt to denigrate and belittle the three major unions,who sponsor "Rhythms That Carry".
I am now off to Congress and also off this site.........for good.
Comment left by Paul McGownan on 11th September, 2011 at 9:38
I offer full contrition and apologies for some of the comments that I have made here and elsewhere.I also accept the points made by Eddie Roberts.
I too welcomed the points made by Sam Davies as they contributed to the debate on this site.The labour movement has age old links with historians and long may that continue.
However any constructive debate would always be hampered due to the deliberate and deceitful manner of the review in terms of maligning an event sponsored by trade unions.
For a 'supposed ' radical magazine,to allow that abusive review to be couched in such a way is baffling.
The individual who concoted the review has done irreperable damage to Nerve.
I too am at Congress and will leave it at that.
Comment left by Jeremy Hawthorn on 13th September, 2011 at 23:56
Looks like I don't qualify for this amnesty, unlike Sam who has gone back from ivory-tower (abusive post deleted) to the decent historian he is. Never mind, I'll put up with being deceitful, malicious and so on. But honest, the review wasn't pre-planned. You can't pre-plan a review! Mind you it was predetermined, sort of. Let's cut out the middlemen: you Rhythms authors knew what you were doing. Your 'fresh interpretation' had just enough facts to look historical, but it left out all the Liverpool protagonists, it left out the course of the dispute(s) and it even left out the result. Bad call. The vague and swirling narrative combined with the illustrations was designed to leave the unsuspecting reader with the impression that Messrs Larkin, Connolly and Joe Hill were behind it all. Which they weren't. Bad call. So it was predetermined, sort of, that sooner or later you would be rumbled. I wasn't the only critic at the Casa but I asked innocently why no mention of Tom Mann. Reply: 'I have a problem with Tom Mann', as if that was a good reason for leaving him out of the narrative. So it was inevitable or predetermined that I for one would read the pamphlet with a critical eye and realise that this wasn't Hamlet without the Prince, hell no, this was Hamlet without Denmark. The review followed from that. Was it polite? No. Was it accurate? I think so. Did it damage Nerve? A flattering review would have been more damaging. Perhaps it was then equally inevitable or predetermined that your friends and disciples would then pursue a vigorous debate trying every which way to rubbish Tom Mann and the Strike Committee (I could have hid, but didn't) and then go on to trash this site's 1911 commemoration reports when they got bored. Well at least the storm appears to be over thanks to Eddie and the Nerve mods (good name for a rock group, that), so let's all hunker down together to the 8 Oct conference. And take some pride in what our team achieved 100 years ago. Remember: historians are OK!