A Suggestion

The Russian Revolution of March 1917, the Convention in Leeds in June 1917 to set up Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils and the Russian Revolution of November 1917 – all these events stiffened the tremendous anti-war feeling that was openly growing in Britain. In the final year of the war the role of the shop stewards movement and a desire for peace saw much industrial unrest particularly among the engineering trades. A national strike of engineers in March 1918 was only avoided by the German offensive which followed the treaty of Brest/Litovsk. The following poem was published in Issue number 14 of “The Firth Worker”.

A SUGGESTION
(to our artists)
Paint two vast heaps of mildewed human skulls
In pyramidal shape, with top depressed,
Two islands in a blood-red lake where hulls
Of stately ships rust-anchored rest;
Beyond in middle distance withered trees,
And blasted cloisters of some abbey proud
Through which trails, ghost-like, in the hidden breeze,
Black sulphurous smoke in semblance of a shroud.
 
Upon each pyramid a monarch stand,
Garbed in imperial robes of purple hue,
Each gripping firm the other by the hand
And whispering, Cousin, we have seen it through.
In distant background let fat vultures tear
Dead flesh from bones that seem from earth to spring,
And let your masterpiece this title bear
In letters deathly black – God save the King!

 

Anti-war feeling can be seen in workers’ papers: in Solidarity, The Scottish Worker and in local trade union publications such as The Firth Worker, which was which was produced by the Firth shop steward’s committee in Sheffield, its publication started in June 1917. It was such open expressions of contempt and disgust with the war, with the Government, with society itself, and the strong current of revolutionary feeling that was fed by them, that compelled the Government to take measures against these newspapers. In the latter parts of 1918 several socialist and trade union newspapers were “suppressed”.

 

Check out this article by The Socialist History Society to find out more about the shop steward movement in Sheffield