The Great Dock Strike of 1889
|Effects of the strike|
A new union
After the successful strike, the dockers formed a new General Labourers' Union. Tillett was elected General Secretary and Tom Mann became the union's first President. In London alone, nearly 20,000 men joined this new union.
The success of the Dockers' Strike was a turning point in the history of trade unionism. Workers throughout the country, particularly the unskilled, gained a new confidence to organize themselves and carry out collective action. From 750,000 in 1888, trade union membership grew to 1.5 million by 1892 and to over 2 million by 1899.
John Burns explained the importance of the strike:
He has tasted success as the immediate fruit of combination, and he knows that the harvest he has just reaped is not the utmost he can look to gain.
Conquering himself, he has learned that he can conquer the world of capital whose generals have been the most ruthless of his oppressors.
The Red Flag
As a consequence of his union activities in Dublin Connell had earlier been blacklisted from the Irish docks. So he went to London in 1875, where he worked as a navvy and dock labourer.
He wrote The Red Flag in 1889 on the train from Charing Cross to New Cross after hearing a lecture on socialism at a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF).
Connell's song quickly became an anthem of the international labour movement. Although he wrote it to the tune of The White Cockade, it is better known when sung to the tune of the German hymn Die Tannenbaum. This latter version is still the official anthem of the British Labour Party.
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