As 1919 began, working-class people in Britain and many other countries looked forward to leaving the Great War behind them and rebuilding their lives.
1919: Strikes, Struggles and Soviets
A slim (40 ages + cover) book telling the story of the near-revolutionary year of 1919.
Published by Workers' Liberty to mark the centenary in 2019. Available to buy here.
The ‘Great War’ was finally over. When it had begun in August 1914, the British government predicted that it would be won by Christmas, but it had dragged on for four more years, with dreadful suffering and loss of life. In 1916, Britain began conscripting its men to fight.
11 November 1918 had been merely an armistice. The war would not be officially over until peace terms had been negotiated.
The British left hailed the Russian revolution in 1917.
The stories of 1919 are historic struggles. But mostly, they failed. Even when they succeeded in heading off a particular attack or winning an advance, they did not succeed in remaking society.
This would be the year in which the capitalist state rigorously enforced the role of the police, purging them of rebels, ensuring their loyalty and cutting any link between them and the workers’ movement. The events of 1919 shaped the police force we have now: an obedient enforcer of the system’s interests.
1918 had ended with British women voting in a general election for the first time ever. But it was only those aged 30 or over and who met a property qualification who could vote.
After Britain and its Allies had won the war, proclaiming themselves champions of freedom and democracy, the people of its imperial possessions stepped up their democratic demand for some of that freedom for themselves.