70 years ago, on 14th March 1944, the Tyneside Apprentices’ Guild called out its members on strike in what was to become a major episode in the class struggle during World War Two and for the British Marxists organised in the Revolutionary Communist Party. Socialist Appeal spoke with Bill Landles, a participant in the apprentices’ strike committee, and an active supporter of Socialist Appeal today.
70 years ago, on 14th March 1944, the Tyneside Apprentices’ Guild called out its members on strike in what was to become a major episode in the class struggle during World War Two and for the British Marxists organised in the Revolutionary Communist Party.
The strike was called in protest at the compulsory call up of young people to work down the mines. RCP comrades were arrested and put on trial as a consequence of their support for the dispute.
Bill Landles, a lifelong Marxist and an active comrade of Socialist Appeal and the IMT to this day, participated in the strike committee as the representative of the Reyrolle’s plant in Hebburn.
Socialist Appeal asked Bill about the lessons of the strike for young people today.
What can young people today learn from the experience of the Tyneside Apprentices?
“Today’s young people suffering the horrors of the world capitalist crisis will be forced to take action in defence of their futures. Their position in society means that they have no option.
The few that have been fortunate enough to find work will find quickly that they are being used by the employers. Hundreds of thousands are on zero hour contracts, with no guarantee of work. They are at the bottom of the heap and are exploited ruthlessly by the bosses.
In the 1940’s the Labour Minister Ernest Bevin, the government and the employers tried to conscript the apprentices into the coal mines. They no doubt imagined that the apprentices and other young people would be a pushover. However, the experience that we had learned from our own experience and that of our parents in the 1930’s had prepared us for the strike.
The experience of the last few years has transformed the outlook of many of today’s young people. The economic crisis reminds me of the 1930’s although things can get much worse. I can only remember going to school with no shoes one day, many others were not so lucky. Young people will always be at the forefront of the class struggle and within the Marxist movement.
I think that it is important for the young comrades to realize that the role that they play in explaining the ideas to their friends, and the people that they work with is very important. I remember young comrades such as Bill Davy who was the leader of the strike. He was a real leader.
I can also recall when I first met the comrades who worked in Reyrolles and what I learned from them and from Ann Keen, Heaton Lee, Roy Tearse and the other Comrades. What I learned then has stayed with me all of my life.
Our strike in 1944 and the struggles of the young people today are linked. Both illustrate the fighting spirit of young people, but they demonstrate also that in 70 years the position of young people in society hasn’t changed. Today however the working class is much stronger. The struggle for socialism is more relevant now than ever before.”
For more information about the Tyneside Apprentices’ Strike see The 1944 Apprentices’ Strike, a reflection by Bill Landles.