In major class struggles all social and political theories are put to the ultimate test of practice. Ideas and beliefs that persist long after they have ceased to explain the world around them are suddenly illuminated by the light of practical struggle. Those that pass such a rigorous examination are validated more surely than any words could do.
The General Strike of 1926 was one such test. In the light cast by the tremendous solidarity of millions of workers, the black treachery of the trade union leaders gave a clear-cut shadow, the weaknesses of current Marxist strategy were clearly outlined.
Yet the events of 1926 have long been encrusted in myths that obscure the real lessons, myths that serve both to shield the ruling-class attack on workers and the trade union leaders who betrayed them in the midst of the battle.
This book uses an account of the 1926 General Strike in order to re-examine key questions for Marxists today. How should socialists relate to the working class whose emancipation they seek? And in particular, to the mass struggles of the class? Where do trade unions stand in the struggle for socialism? What is the role of the trade union leaders? On all these key issues the 1926 General Strike was a textbook demonstration.