Thursday, 14 July 2011

Remembering a century of revolt in Liverpool

This year is the centenary of the Liverpool general transport strike of 1911. There have already been a number of events commemorating this fact - most notably Rhythms That Carry by Steve Higginson, Tony Wailey, and Ian Morris - but there are more to come. As August represents one of the most pivotal periods in that year, there are two events worth noting.

First, on Saturday 13th August, is the commemoration of Bloody Sunday. On the same date 100 years ago, thousands of workers and their families gathered outside St George’s Hall for a public meeting. At 4pm, police baton-charged the demonstration and injured dozens. There followed running battles in the street for several days, culminating in two workers being shot dead by soldiers after an attack on a prison van carrying arrested strikers.

To commemorate the event, Liverpool Trades Council have called a demonstration on the steps of St George's Hall. The form of the demo isn't yet known, but this is our anniversary, and our heritage, and on the centenary it should be the rank-and-file of the working class who take up that space.

The week after, in the Black-E, Liverpool Solidarity Federation are hosting Liverpool in Revolt: 1911 - 2011. Local historian Frank Carlyle will be giving a talk on working class radicalism in the city, and speakers from the Solidarity Federation will be talking about the relevance of the 1911 strike today and on how anarcho-syndicalism ties into that. Anarcho-syndicalism has a long and significant history on Merseyside, as documented in Building the Union: Studies on the growth of the workers' movement: Merseyside, 1756-1967.

The history of 1911 is the history of rank-and-file workers standing up in solidarity and demonstrating the immense power that we hold. The government ultimately called in national union leaders to negotiate an end to the strike, but the dispute occurred entirely beyond their control. That is something to celebrate in its own right, but there are also important lessons to draw for the fight we face today.