World Labour News (1960s)

World Labour News was the English paper of the International Working Mens Association (the syndicalist international). It was published circa 1960-1962.

From January 1963, World Labour News was incorporated into the Syndicalist Workers Federation paper Direct Action.

Submitted by Fozzie on February 27, 2019


4 months 1 week ago

In reply to by

Splits and Fusions has more of these here:

World Labour News vol 2 #6 (12) Nov/Dec 1961

"English Paper of the International Working Mens Association"

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

- Ghana: Economic Blitz is met by direct action

- Rootes Workers Fight for a Principle

- What about it, Mr. Foulkes?

- 'Nkrumah does no wrong' --- a discredited slogan!

- Ireland: Blind Workers Strike at Election Time

- Union sells out teachers

- Figs & Thistles

- IWMA Congress Calls for Rebel Link-Up

- The Committee of 100

- IWMA World Call

- The lonely isle

- Mahler's 50 year fight against injustice

- Canada: Inter-Union Battle Flares in Ontario

Scan5914.pdf (8.54 MB)

World Labour News vol 3 #2 (14) Mar/Apr 1962

English Paper of the International Working Mens Association

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

- French Miners occupy condemned pits

- Union threat to militant

- Rank and File Conference

- The postal work-to-rule

- Transport men must link up

- Two New Pamphlets - Strikes - 1926 and now
The British General Strike (SWF)
Strike Strategy (National Rank & File Movement)

- Swedish Syndicalists hit Franco's tourist trade

- Sicily: A Hero of the People

- New strike patterns

- Pages of Labour History: The Battle of Gardners Corner

- Ireland and the Common Market

- Death of two comrades

- Bulgaria - How the workers live

- Postbag: The Seamans Voice

- Cuban Syndicalists jailed

Scan5915.pdf (9.03 MB)

World Labour News vol 3 #3 (15) May/June 1962

English Paper of the International Working Mens Association

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

- Seamen fight on for rank and file control

- How to celebrate May day

- Peruvian peasants seize land

- Ships delegates

- Libertarian Youth Camp

- Spain - Portugal - Prague

- Sabotage and armed struggle in Bulgaria

- Supporting the Labour Party? No thanks!

- Rank and file conference

- Pages of Labour History: Fighting for the nine-hour day

- Day to day struggle in Britain

- Aaron Fruchtman

- Earl Russell's Super-state

- Bulgarian Resistance

- Kenya

Scan5916.pdf (9.07 MB)

Fighting for the nine-hour day - Tom Brown

From: World Labour News, May/June 1962.

Transcribed by Kate Sharpley Library.

Submitted by Fozzie on February 21, 2022

When I last visited my native city of Newcastle, I saw the sports shop of Stan Seymour, one-time footballer and director of a Cup-winning Newcastle United. I looked up at the heavy stone walls and recalled that the shop was a converted dwelling house, the house where my father was born, the home of my grandfather John Brown, Radical and trade unionist. Here and in a nearby dwelling he had been visited by Garibaldi. Best of all, I recalled his part in the famous Nine-Hours Strike.

Journeying along the riverside amid the clanging shipyards, I remembered the change of working hours which took place at the beginning of 1919, one stage in a long fight. Before that there had been a nine-and-a-half hour day and a 53-hour week, but unpaid meal breaks made a working day of 11 hours. Then we won the 47-hour week, after World War II the 44-hour week, then 42, but even the 53-hour, five-and-a-half day week had been a great triumph, a stage in the long climb from the depths of the Industrial Revolution. One of the best chapters of this saga is that of the “Nine Hours Strike”.

During a great part of the 19th Century, the trade union movement tried to shorten the intolerably long working day by influencing politicians to introduce “Short Hours Bills” in Parliament, as well as by some strike action. There was some limited success through Parliament, for it was sometimes possible to gain the support of Conservative politicians against the Liberals. Traditionally the Tories were “land-owning aristocrats”, the Liberals coal, ship and factory owners, believers in “Liberty”, the liberty to work men, women and little children to death without State interference.

The limits of this method of obtaining a shorter working day were clearly seen by 1870 and even before. Philanthropists and politicians would never agree with workmen on how far the day should be shortened. Many of the former, including Lord Shaftesbury, were opposed to trade unionism; the Bills, such as the 10-hours Bill, were obtained on the plea of the effects of the long hours on women and children – the reason why mining and textiles figure so largely in the discussions – and workers were beginning to resent gaining a shorter working day for men by pleading the case for women. As a union paper declared, “Now the veil must be lifted and the agitation carried on under its true colours. Women and children must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction of working hours for men.” Cotton Factory Times, May 26, 1873.

In 1874 the Tory Government introduced, against Liberal opposition, its shorter hours bill, entitled, “Factories (Health of Women, etc.) Bill”, relating chiefly to the cotton mills of Lancashire, the women securing a 56-and -a-half hour week. It should be remembered that there was no half-holiday on Saturday until the latter part of the 19th Century.

Increasingly workers were losing hope in political action and turning with stronger faith to direct action, especially to reduce the working day and week. During 1859-60-61, there had been strikes to this end in the London building trade, to be followed by action in many provincial towns, gaining for many building workers a shorter working day, without, of course, any reduction of the weekly wage. The building workers continued to enjoy a working week shorter than that of factory workers until recent post-war years, 50 against 53 before 1919, then 44 against 47 until 1947.

In 1866 the engineers of Tyneside debated a district strike for the nine-hour day, but a slump ended the discussion. In 1870 the demand was again put forward, but the Central District Committee of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, now the AEU, cautiously decided against it.

Then, early in 1871, the engineers and shipyard men of nearby Sunderland took up the issue, decided, prepared and acted with remarkable speed and decisiveness. All out on April 1 and no fooling. The employers, who had been very confident and had the support of the Durham County authorities, with military force to back them, soon found themselves on the losing end. After four weeks, a short strike for those days, the workers were victorious and gained the nine-hour day.

Alarmed at the emulation that must follow such inspiring action, the engineering employers of North East England met in Newcastle on April 8 to prepare a counter-attack. Headed by Sir W.G. Armstrong, of the Armstrong Whitworth Company, they obtained the support of engineering employers throughout the British Isles, who levied themselves a shilling a head for all men employed by them.

The engineers of Newcastle and Gateshead were for strike action, but trade union strength was low. There were many unions, craft unions, but even one craft might have several unions in one shop. And even these divided ranks did not contain all, or even a majority of the workers in the factories. The Webbs, with access to the well-documented records of the strike stated that “two out of three of the men in the engineering trade belonged to no Union whatsoever.”

There was the problem… a strong and wealthy foe, our side poor, divided by a multitude of unions and two-thirds of the men non-unionists. A new, even if temporary, single-purpose organisation must be created, above the exclusiveness of trade-union brotherhood, a movement founded on a class, in class conflict.

A Rank and File Movement was formed and named the Nine Hours League. The League included all crafts and unions and all men, unionist or non-unionist. It took over, temporarily, the functions of the unions, without destroying them. Its president was John Burnett, an Alnwick man, member of the ASE District Committee.

The men of Newcastle and Gateshead struck, it was a hard strike, as my grandmother often told me, for I loved to listen to her stories over a winters fire, with the wind howling down from the Cheviots, or across the angry North Sea when she later lived near the Scottish Border. I have since checked the details of these stories with the records and works of historians. It is remarkable that the tales of actual events experienced by such old people always seem to stand the test.

The national executives of the unions were lukewarm , but the local men were full of fight. “The five-month strike… was, in more than one respect, a notable event in Trade Union annals” wrote the Webbs in their dry manner. “One of the most memorable strikes on record.” said G.D.H. Cole. The strikers were mostly non-unionists and unused to organisation. “Upwards of 8,000 men had struck, whereas only 500 of them belonged to our society and very few to any other,” said the ASE Abstract Report of Council Proceedings, June 1, 1870 to December 31, 1872, page 184.

But the League organised them – meetings, processions through the city streets and to neighbouring towns, demonstrations on the Town Moor, factory pickets, organisation of relief, everyone seemed busy. Agents of the League went to distant towns and villages, sometimes walking many miles , sometimes going to Hull, Leith and London by coasters for a few shillings, for the strike funds were guarded with miserly care, “Every possible penny must go for food.”

Although the majority of workmen could not then read or write, the need of printed propaganda was understood. There was a minority who had received a rudimentary education at Church and at “Penny” schools, or who had taught themselves to read and write. From them came a team of writers, men who had learned to read the hard way and loved their diet of the “classic novels”, Shakespeare, Tales of the Border and poetry. This reading, combined with a notorious Northumberland love of narrative, now served them well.

John Brown was deputed to seek the aid of the Radical Joseph Cowan, owner of an excellent local press, the Newcastle Daily Chronicle, to the weekly edition (the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle) of which Kropotkin was a regular contributor (Kropotkin often stayed with Dr. Spence Watson at Gateshead). Gripping John Brown’s hand Cowan promised to open the pages of his papers to the strikers.

But the Chronicle had little more than a local circulation. The workers’ correspondents aimed further afield, too. The Webbs, usually lofty towards anything short of a university education, wrote: “The tactical skill and literary force with which the men’s case was presented achieved the unprecedented result of securing for their demands the support of The Times and Spectator.” – History of Trade Unionism.

Armstrong (Lord) wrote a howling protest to The Times: “We were amazed… we really felt that, if the League themselves had possessed the power of inspiring that article, they could scarcely have used words more calculated to serve their purpose than those in which it is expressed. The concurrent appearance in the Spectator of an article exhibiting the same bias adds to our surprise.” Times, 14.9.1871.

The poor man could never believe that some of the articles were written by some of his fitters.

The strike lasted for five months, during the first three of which money came in slowly, afterwards in a flood. The flood of donations from so many parts of the country heartened the men and dismayed the employers. Writers then and historians since have attributed the financial success to the skill and eloquence of the now unknown writers.

Blacklegs were brought in from the extremes of the British Isles, then hundreds were recruited from Europe. To stop the latter source of labour, the assistance of the International Workingmen’s Association was called, with some success. Then the IWMA’s Danish secretary in London, Kohn, was sent to Europe to complete the job. European members of the IWMA came to Tyneside and persuaded many blacklegs to return to their home countries.

Five months gone, the League was growing stronger, the employers capitulated and granted the nine-hour day, 54-hour week, without reduction of the weekly wage. Afterwards, instead of six days of nine hours each, it was agreed to have five of nine-and-a-half hours and one of six-and-a-half hours, finishing at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

A later struggle knocked off one hour, blowing the factory whistle at 12 o’clock for the week-end.

The victory caused the Tynesiders’ struggle to be emulated throughout England and in Scotland and Ireland, in other trades, especially building, too. On the Clyde, the shipbuilding workers were offered, instead of a 60 hour week, 54 hours and a rise in wages. The rise they refused and forced from the employers a 51 hour week at the old weekly wage, though in a later depression they were forced to accept a 53 hour week.

From then on not political action but direct action was the method used by the workers to secure a shorter working day and week – a fight that is not yet over. The strike ended, the leaders of the struggle went back to the lathe, the bench and the shipyard – with one exception. Burnett became General Secretary of the ASE. The names of the others are unknown to history. I have the word of one old lady that is how they wanted it to be.

World Labour News vol 3 #4 (16) July 1962

English Paper of the International Working Mens Association

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

- Wind of Change threaten Iberian dictators

- Cuban Syndicalist "Disappears'

- French Anarchist's hunger-strike wins reform CO law

- Sitdown at Spanish Embassy

- Postbag

- Bonus system is a three-card trick

- The gentle saboteur

- Indec takes sting out of CND

- With Algeria's refugees on the eve of independence

- Canada: Solving the bosses' problems

- Pages of Labour History: London's match girls strike a light

- Day-to-day struggle in Britain

Scan5918.pdf (9.17 MB)

World Labour News vol 3 #5 (14) Sept 1962

English Paper of the International Working Mens Association

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

It appears this issue is missing two pages.

- Nicky & Neddy -- the crosswalk comedy act

- Strikers make history in Turkey

- Resistance grows in Castro's Cuba

- Postbag

- CND at the Crossroads

- Zensl Muehsam dies -- a victim of three dictators

- Review: democracy at work

- An Austrian worker writes

- Peaceful co-existence

- Fascism - a philosophy for devils

- Round the World

- National Rank & File Movement: Transport Workers Conference, Chaos in Transport

- Saskatchewan doctors 'strike' is a flop

- IW,A World Call

Scan5919.pdf (6.74 MB)

World Labour News vol 3 #6 (18) Nov 1962

English Paper of the International Working Men's Association

Submitted by syndicalist on August 20, 2016

- Fords - union bosses prepare the sell out

- War: Where We Stand

- Italian Anarchists Save Spanish Militants Life By Kidnapping Consul

- (El) Salvador proscribes Communists, prescribes 7 years for Anarchists

- Fascist 'revival' spreads to Canada

- Industrial action against the bomb

- Through the rungs of the chair!

- On both sides of the wall

- Transport Crisis 1 and 2

- Kids use direct action

- Eight...nine...OUT!

- North African labour organises -- for what?

- Round the world

- Striking Iris seamen fined under English Act

Scan5920.pdf (8.76 MB)

Newcastle fights the fascists

Mosley with his Blackshirt supporters, 1930s
Mosley with his Blackshirt supporters, 1930s

Account of the 1934 routing of fascists in Newcastle, England, by Albert Meltzer and Tom Brown.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 29, 2010

Fascism by 1934 was marching triumphantly. In Italy, Mussolini had long consolidated his power and was preparing to attack Abyssinia. Hitler, after one year of power, was tightening his hold on Germany and preparing the first of the many international adventures which were to lead to the pyre at his Berlin bunker. In England, Mosley had returned from a long visit to Germany and reorganised and re-trained his blackshirted British Union of Fascists.

At that time there seemed nothing to stop Mosley's1 military marching columns and aggressive propaganda. The Labour Party advised, “Be constitutional. leave it to the police and don't forget to vote Labour!” The Communist Party, as each big Fascist meeting was announced, called for a “counter- demonstration” and advertised, free of charge, Mosley's gatherings.2 This ensured a big crowd at any blackshirt meeting, just to hear the row, but of course it never stopped the meetings themselves. Indeed, after his return from Germany, Mosley appeared to welcome and seek out this kind of “counter-demonstration”. This successful action had been applied by Goebbels in the fairly early years of the Nazi party.

In South Northumberland and Durham the BUF began a rapid growth. It was well organised, with many ex-army officers in command, plenty of full-time workers and no shortage of money. They began making recruits in the industrial and mining areas, including many from the CP. The Blackshirts grew bold as their military-style parades grew.

Then, on May 1 1934 the ILP3 were holding a May Day meeting outside the Gateshead (Co, Durham) Labour Exchange. It was 3 o'clock when the meeting began and most men having already signed on, the queue was small when a sound of singing, which only a few identified as the Italian Fascist song, was heard. A column of Blackshirt troops marched across the trodden turf of the Windmill Hills towards the ILP meeting, chanting 'M-O-S-L-E-Y'.

A pause and the dole queue broke in an angry charge against the Fascists.4 At the first sharp clash the column broke and scattered, some escaping, others pleading for mercy. It was all over in a few minutes and police reinforcements found only an alternative meeting, a re-formed queue and same unemployed men who looked a bit pinker than usual.

The next move was a big Fascist rally in Gateshead Town Hall, with more coaches bringing the troops from all over Durham and north of the Tyne. Mosley was to speak, but in fact was sick on the date, although the rally was held. The coaches arrived to head a short march, heavily guarded by police, past the police station into the Town Hall. By this time the column had reached the lock-up, singing Mussolini's favourite ditty. It looked like a spontaneous charge this time. The silent onlookers were hemmed on to the pavements, from kerb to kerb the road was occupied by Blackshirts and police. If only someone started, others might follow that was the thought in many minds.

Suddenly the column wavered in two places, a short rumpus and Tom Brown 5 was dragged by the neck into the very convenient police station. A few yards away two youths, 17 and 18 who - they said - had gone to help Brown, were arrested. They were held until the rally had ended and the Fascists were safely on their way. Next day the youths were bound over and Brown was remanded.

The hearing, a few days later, lasted for two hours and was reported in most of the national dailies. Brown had been charged with assault and the rest by the police, and with assault [on] the BUF. The first police witness told the usual story - Brown had refused to make a written confession, but had made an oral (he called it verbal) confession. In fact, Brown had refused to speak in the station, except to give his name and address. But worse was to follow. A steel shaft with a big, round flange with a sharp edge was produced in court by the police. It was deadly enough to fell a steer. 'That's a fine thing to hit anyone with,” Brown at once stuck his hands deep in his pockets.

The Blackshirt who signed the charge, standing in the witness box in full Fascist uniform and giving as his address the BUF “barracks”, said he had been struck but, and this was to his credit, certainly not by the deadly weapon displayed. Indeed he said he received no injury. The police cross-examiner looked disappointed, but the witness stuck to his defence.

The police witnesses under examination contradicted one another, the prosecution was in the place of the cook who got too many eggs in the pudding and their case became hopeless. It was dismissed “owing to conflict of evidence”.

As a result of these events and the increasing threat of the Fascist para-military organisations, a meeting was held and a temporary and special purpose organisation, the Anti-Fascist League, formed. From the start the League became the most, indeed the only successful organisation in Newcastle and district, though limited mainly to open-air meetings. About 150 men and women joined, but the League was actively supported by large crowds. Most of the members were unemployed, for the time was the great slump, the place one of England's depressed areas. Jarrow, the “town that was murdered” was Gateshead's neighbour.6 Subs were threepence a week (old currency) and everybody paid and collections at street meetings helped, though many were living near the starvation line.

Premises were secured near the old city wall of Newcastle, at a spot which had endured Scottish sieges, the hall of the old Smiths' Guild. Above the arched door were the carved stone arms of the Guild, a shield bearing the motto “By hammer and hand do all things stand”. The hall stood in a quadrangle and here the League held physical training. The people who lived about were a close-knit little community, many of them street traders and at first were aloof and suspicious, but soon warmed and adopted the League.

As to political parties and such, however, the League stood alone. The Labour Party, apart from two organisers from the T&GWU and one woman Labour councillor, would not associate. Echoing the official advice they said, “Leave it to the police and vote Labour”.

The Communist Party echoed the “Daily Worker” and called for “dignified demonstrations against the Fascists”. “We should,” said one of their speakers, “follow the advice of Hannen Swaffer in the Daily Herald7 , and ridicule the Fascists by calling after them 'Mickey Mouse.'” This was a reference to the Fascist dress, excluding the SS, which was usually a black shirt and gray flannels. This, thought Swaffer, made them look like Disney's character. One wonders how name-calling would have stopped the Nazi advance. The CP also denounced the League as “gangsters”.8

The official Jewish Community was at first interested, then the traditional Hebrew policy of non-interference in political problems prevailed. “Mosley has publicly stated that he is not anti-Semitic and does not intend to be so. We are satisfied, we believe he means it. Better leave well alone”. Remember Eichmann? It took years of the most horrible slaughter to arouse in young Jewry, such as the militant “43 group” of the immediate post-war years, the realisation that Fascism must be destroyed.9

But the League went on. The Blackshirts, beaten in propaganda were to be beaten in combat too. They were quickly driven from the working-class quarters. Almost at once the BUF were driven on the defensive. In a few months their aggressiveness had vanished and they were being pushed - hard.

On one occasion, after a big Fascist rally, the Blackshirts were besieged in their headquarters in the business centre of Newcastle. For hours the police moved on a crowd that always came back. Late at night groups of Fascists slipped out, after the crowd had thinned, only to discover that the anti-Fascists were not only in front of the building.

That summer, Mosley had planned a big rally on the Town Moor on “Race Sunday”, the Tyneside's annual holiday. It was presumed that the League would hold a not-very-dignified counter-demonstration. Mosley wrote to the Home Secretary offering to call off the rally if the Home Office thought it wise to do so. The official reply passed the ball back, as did the Newcastle police. Then Mosley, without the official excuse he had hoped for, himself cancelled the rally. The BUF began to lose members. Information of counter-attacks reached the League, but they never reached fruition. One plan was a night raid on the Smiths' Guildhall. The locals volunteered to barricade the old narrow streets with carts and barrows, while a League guard kept watch, but the Fascists were to be allowed to enter the Guild first. The carts and timber were not to keep them out, but to keep them in.

When it came to “belling the cat”, however, Blackshirt heroes were few and according to the regular and corroborated information received by the League, the raid was called off because of lack of spirit.

The BUF on Tyneside dwindled rapidly. In a matter of six months, most of the members had left - few, if any, public appearances were made and the small number remaining were little other than a club, and so it remained for years. The Anti-Fascist League, poor and “un-influential” had, by its devotion and courage, proved that Fascism can be fought and defeated.


Taken from KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 2 [1991?]
Originally from World Labour News Vol. 3 no. 1, 1962 - "Pages of Labour History" series

  • 1 libcom note: fascist leader Oswald Mosley
  • 2For the opposite point of view, see Joe Jacobs “Out of the Ghetto”. Joe Jacobs broke from the CP but remained committed to Stalinism and his advocacy of these tactics he passed to libertarian circles.
  • 3 libcom note: Independent Labour Party
  • 4Lest anyone is over-critical of workers today, it is fair to say this was only a few years after the formation of the Imperial Fascist League as a strike-breaking force, and the use of upper and upper-middle class fascist scabs in the General Strike was fresh in the memory and Mosley hadn't had the chance to go from naked fascism to the craftier populist approach of Hitler.
  • 5Tom Brown, who wrote this piece, passed from the old Socialist Labour Party through the CP as a Syndicalist, and finally became an Anarcho-Syndicalist.
  • 6Jarrow was notorious in the Thirties as the shipbuilding “town that was murdered” with all its occupants made unemployed in the Great Depression. Today, in what is referred to as a minor recession, almost the whole Northeast is in that situation, not to mention elsewhere.
  • 7Hannen Swaffer, from being so trenchant a dramatic critic many theatres banned him from entering, became the Labour Party's standard-bearer in Fleet Street and claimed to be the first anti-Nazi journalist In the UK. After Labour's 1945 election victory he declined a peerage on principle but asked for restrictions on Spiritualism (his other interest) to be lifted as a reward for his services to socialism. To do so, the Government had finally to abolish the medieval Witchcraft Act!
  • 8As the CP needed fascism as an ideological excuse to justify its international policy, it advertised fascism while boasting of its anti-fascism but described people who would abolish it prematurely as “gangsters” or “adventurers”. In a similar way they called Socialist-led labour movements “social-fascist” but anarcho-syndicalist unions “criminal”, “irresponsible” or “adventurist”.
  • 9“The traditional Hebrew policy” refers to the Anglo-Jewish Establishment's policy of entering the mainstream establishment. The Chief Rabbi of the British Empire for instance, is an office created by the Crown. The “43 group” did not measure up to assumptions. It started as an under-cover CP front attracting many ex-CPers and others, not only Jews, especially in the armed Forces with fascist officers. After the war, Zionists, CPers and finally Special Branch used it until it disappeared though its ideological survivors were the Anti-Nazi League and the still extant Searchlight.