Sunday, 26 June 2011

Was This Bob Crow's Grandfather?

A guest post from Edward Spalton

Acting as executor in tidying up a house, I came across a copy of the Daily Sketch of May 4 1945. Among the news of collapsing German armies and imminent victory was this item.


There is a possibility that by the end of today London's Underground services will be involved in the unofficial strike of 6.750 trolley bus and tramway workers. Meetings are being held today by the Underground drivers to decide whether they shall come out in sympathy with the others.

Mr Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, is keeping a close watch on developments. It is possible that he may intervene if there is a risk of all of London being brought to a standstill. A great many workers yesterday had to thumb lifts to work and home - or walk.

All day negotiations took place between the men's selected strike representatives and officials of the Transport and General Workers' Union but by evening little progress had been made.

The official view is that little can be done, except to withdraw the summer schedules, the cause of the strike, and then, when the men have returned to work, to review the whole question whether the schedule shall be operated.

Tramwaymen last night passed a resolution stating: " This joint Divisional Committee, being of the opinion that the dispute cannot be settled until there is a resumption of work, recommends those in the dispute to resume work immediately, in order that negotiations with the Board may be resumed".

This recommendation will be taken back to the branches for decision. It is unlikely that a full resumption of work would be arranged before tomorrow morning. Representatives of the Central Bus Committee attended several meetings of the busmen last night and urged them to return to work but the busmen declined to go back until the tramworkers returned.

Amazing to think that this sort of throttling of economic activity with its stately dance of "unofficial" strike committees acting "in sympathy" with each other and the intervention of "official" trade union representatives with government ministers dancing attendance was allowed to continue to hold the public to ransom from 1945  until Mrs. Thatcher did something about it. The accumulation of destroyed jobs and economic prospects over thirty five years must have been colossal, accounting for a great deal of national decline over that period.

I was at a meeting of independently minded peers and MPs the other day when it was mentioned that the transport workers' leader Bob Crow would be a speaker on a cross-party platform at a rally for a referendum on EU membership in October. "But he's the most hated man in London" said one noble lord. "At least the tube will run on that day" said another.


Brian said...

You might find this interesting. And this.
Food, clothing, coal and many other items were rationed, buses and trains were crowded, streets were dark with black out precautions, queues were endemic, long overtime compulsory, holidays unknown. High income tax. There was the constant threat of being bombed, rendered homeless and of relatives being killed. Kenneth Horne described the Blitz Spirit as "cold, half-starved and scared to death." And of course, those who made the thingummybobs in the factories and kept the war going never had a Victory Parade.

Nikostratos said...


5 July 1945 General Election

Labour 393 seats

Conservatives 197 seats

The British people made their feeling known(after winning the war) and it was to say to you and people like you.
'The times that are a changing'

and to be hones with your political views you would of felt more at home in Germany during the War

hector said...

the e.u.has been one of the factors that have helped keep the peace in europe.lads and lasses from britain germany or where ever else in europe have not had sacrifice their youths or lives to maintain 'economic freedoms'for others in this small continent of ours.

Edward Spalton said...


I can remember the period of austerity after the war through listening to parents, their friends and relations talking about it at the time. Of course, we children knew nothing different.

Price controls for businesses were very strict in wartime and tax rates very high. Doubtless there were people who turned a dishonest profit out of the situation. Just as there were trade unionists who demanded all sorts of extra payments and concessions (some justified, some entirely opportunistic).
Until Germany attacked Russia, the communist-controlled shop stewards' movement was certainly bent on sabotaging the means to fight Britain's "imperialist war" against Germany - whilst the Soviet Union was hosting the Kriegsmarine in Murmansk to help it in the battle of the Atlantic and swapping notes with the SS and Gestapo on the most effective means of mass execution and interrogation.

There were even strikes in aircraft factories during the Battle of Britain.
Although they were illegal it was Ministry of Labour policy not to use the Defence Regulations but to try to appease this sort of behaviour which, of course, improved considerably once Germany attacked the Soviet Union. I am lost in admiration at the courage and resistance of the Russian people in defeating the Nazi invasion of their country, an experience made incomparably more lethal and terrible by the policies and mistakes of their appalling government.

The idea of the EU,as proposed in the Twenties by Jean Monnet and a British civil servant Arthur Salter, might just have been a help to maintaining peace in those days with something like the Coal & Steel Community.

In the post 1945 situation, the idea of the EU was entirely redundant- irrelevant - as a peacemaker. A divided Germany was in no position to wage war on anyone and France was busy,engaged in colonial wars in Indo China and later Algeria. There was simply no appetite for waging a Western European war. They were all too scared of the Red Army, set up ready to roll from its advanced positions in East Germany. That the tanks never did roll over the North German plain or through the Fulda Gap was due to NATO, backed by its nuclear deterrent to offset its relative weakness in manpower and conventional armament.

As soon as the balance between the Soviets and the West was destroyed, Germany started to wage proxy wars in Yugoslavia through its wartime allies, the Croats, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims (all of which had furnished volunteer SS Divisions). I have spent about fifteen years studying this off and on with the aid of German journalist colleagues - so I won't go into further depth here.

All Seeing Eye said...

Ha! hector the EU (in a variety of ratchet-like integrationist names has not kept any 'peace'. Pacifying forces in West Germany which turned their face eastward in defence were the initial bulwark.

If it hadn't been for the US-led NATO forces staying active then the Soviet Union would have either steamrollered civilisation by force or conquered by sedition and revolution.

The fact that the beardied weirdies (and that was just the women) who argued for unilateral disarmament couldn't succeed even with soviet funding is a tribute both to the strength of Reagan/Thatcher and the incompetence of CND. It kept us free though.

Free enough to allow the likes of Crow to agitate with only minority polled support from his members. Ironically if he had tried this in his beloved communist system he'd have been taken to a dark cellar and had electrodes attached to his dangly bits.

Much as every commuter on the Tube may dream of that happening - it's as true in 1945 as it is now that Crow is free to do these things, and I'm free to openly detest him for it.

petem130 said...

The economic pressure which eventually tamed the Soviet Union and caused it's breakup was a spectacular success for Reagan and Thatcher. Pity the same tactic are being used by extremist muslims against the USA and it looks like they may well achieve something of note albeit with the help of the USA "liberals".

The EU setup to prevent war? Maybe on paper but it's been a spectacular failure on every single front across all areas of their interference.

Thatcher reduced the power of the unions but it went too far. Then labour restored some of their powers and it's ended up in a mess.

Now the feckless Westminster mob are talking about reducing the striking capabilities of the unions once again. The truth may be somewhat different. The second coming of the plague, pestilence and poverty of an even bigger banking crash will require huge cuts. It wouldn't do if the unions in the UK tried to use the same tactics of the Greek unions now would it? Get in first and be prepared. The Westminster mob and their "advisers" are doing just that. Like they always do.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I totally disagree with this post.

It's reactionary, ideologically suspect and hypocritical.

It's based on the left-right swing of the pendulum in the stasis of time without progress.

The war today is in defence of democracy against the psychopaths of monetarism based on mythical values. Even the Crow's and the independent Lords should team up against this one.

Edward Spalton said...

Dear Crinkly & amp etc

Hypocrisy, I think, is pretending to have beliefs, virtues or standards that the speaker or writer does not really believe in. I don't think I have dissembled in any way but you are, of course, free to try to prove me guilty if you can.

I was simply struck by the incongruity of the report in the 1945 paper against the background of greater, more hopeful events. Then I recalled how frequently such strikes had recurred throughout my own working life - and how pointless they all were -just letting the foreign competition run away with the trade which was being obstructed by British workers themselves - who then later complained of being put out of work!

Now, of course, I know there was crappy management and it was largely crappy because it knew that the government (of whichever party) was crappier still and would not back any resolute action to bring some order into the situation (see my earlier comments on when the government had teeth but still would not bite). The Trade Disputes Act of 1906 placed trade unions and striking workers on a par with infants, lunatics and the Crown, as not being responsible for the consequences of their actions.

I can remember Midlands businesses in the Seventies which were closed down on a whim by "The rule of Law". Law was the name of a Transport union official who proudly proclaimed that he could do just that - by "blacking" lorries and so on - and he did.

So, yes, I reacted against that sort of thing with aversion. It destroyed more jobs permanently than the extra pay it sometimes extorted for a short time was worth. If that makes me a reactionary - well, so be it!

As for being "ideologically suspect" - well, I suspect that's another way of saying "I don't agree with him and therefore try to make sure that nobody will listen to him". It's a little bit like the other catch-all of "racism" which serves a similar purpose.

It is one of the great ironies of the post war era that it was largely British economists and trade unionists in the Allied Control Commission who laid the foundation for the far more stable, orderly system of industrial relations which formed the basis of the German Wirtschaftswunder and the continuing present great success of the German export economy. They actually still make things that people want to buy rather than dodgy financial instruments which nobody understands and which can be sold just as easily from a PC desk in Ulan Bator as in the City of London.

I think we may agree on that one!

All the best, Edward.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Edward - I reacted in much the same way against the pendulum crap.

I had nose to nose argument with Jack Jones, Todd of the AEU and some others I'm happy to have forgotten.

I was, through the auspices of the EEF, in meetings with them in Fleet Street. These meetings were surreal, there was no singularity of purpose on common cause or effect, just the power game of 'them and us' and the stupidity of it was unbelievable.

Management was paying low to get nothing done and playing into the hands of Red Robo's. Motivation or incentives were frowned on by both sides and innovation regarded as an anathema and who could trust them if we were us and vice versa.

In your riposte you mention the Wirtschaftwunder and how effective it was. But that wasn't limited to just industrial relations it carried on through to industry, banking and on to government policies. But there they had the ignominy of defeat to spur them on to radical purpose and innovation.

Britain on the other hand had a victory. The spoils of which were limited to glorious Pathe News rhetoric, pageantry and hidden bankruptcy. Perhaps if Britain had put the same truths to its people its distrusted returning heroes may not have been so impatient or rebellious? The one certainty here is the post war spin of imperialism and débutante balls didn't rise from the bottom of society but sunk from the top. And if that was conceived to generate a feel-good filter down factor it patently had the opposite effect.

I accused your post of hypocrisy because of the admiration you confessed towards the Russian people while implying the same sector of British people were lazy indolent fools lead by windbags.

Ideologically suspect due to the post applying yesterdays idiocy to that of today when the gullible dead have been transformed into the gullible consumers.

And reactionary for much the same reason. When the adversary we face needs radical strategies in order to contain and destroy it. Especially so when it has used all the idiocies of the past and its own patent failure in order to covertly advance its claim for supremacy.

So, yes on your final point we are in agreement; as I am on your position regarding the EU. But I see no profit or progress in a 'them and us' model of democracy.

Edward Spalton said...

Dear Crinkly & Amp,

It seems that our sentiments are in much more basic agreement than originally appeared.

With regard to Russia - my admiration was built on the brute fact that the Russian people faced 75% (or thereabouts) of the total Nazi war effort and managed to see them off. With regard to their regime, I rather sympathise with Churchill's view . "If Hitler were to invade Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference the Devil in the House". My view is also coloured by acquaintance with (mostly English) people who are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Incidentally, if you have satellite TV I recommend watching the news on Russia Today as an antidote to the BBC. It is a refreshing change.

I worked with Marxists for about fifteen years in the Eurosceptic movement and learned quite a bit. Unlike many would-be activists, they always did what they said they would do once they had made their minds up - an admirable characteristic in a movement reliant on volunteer effort. However, I suffered a very rude awakening which led to a political parting of the ways, although I remain on pretty good personal terms with one comrade.

If you'd like to continue the discussion off list (which I would) , Rosie will give you my email address.



Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Edward - I don't have satellite -namely because I watch very little TV and I refuse to put a penny in the pocket of Murdoch - which perhaps exposes my ignorance on the technology?

Other than that on an earlier visit this year to Aberdeen I was disappointed to find wonderful Georgian styled streets, terraces and crescents -similar to Nash but in granite - poxed beyond redemption by dishes.

There you are - now you see my reactionary nature!

I'll give SR a mail.

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