In An Age Of Illusion

If the organizers calling for a general strike on Sept. 20 in Great Britain’s disunited kingdom succeed, it will be the first total shutdown since 1926.

The strike back then was an attempt to force the government of the day to halt a series of wage cuts in major industries, with particular emphasis on coal miners’ wages which had been chopped as much as 50 per cent.

The 1926 General Strike lasted nine days. The strike being called for next week appears to be targeting a one day only shutdown to emphasize the need for stronger government action in the battle for climate change. With a new government awaiting the October blessings of the voters, it could be sometime before even the strongest of “directives” from the people will bring immediate, favourable, reaction – or any reaction at all.

Governments function today in an uneasy world, vexed by bellicose vanity in the USA and the once United Kingdom. Both are troubled “empires” with the States slipping a little more each day from its once proud position as a world leader.

The UK, alas, gave away her right to world leadership in those fateful years after WW1 when she was too busy fighting wars she couldn’t afford and losing rich markets she needed to pay her bills.

In his incredible history of the 1920-30s, The Age of Illusion author Robert Blythe describes the UK a mere eight or nine years after the war to end wars terminated. Britain was getting ready to bring one “unknown warrior” home for ceremonial re-burial. He would be “classless, nameless, rankless and ageless … the silent ambassador of the legion dead to the courts of the living.”

Of the men who did make it home, some were unharmed, but many were changed mentally. They no longer believed that blind obedience to obviously bad policy was essential. Sometimes they rebelled with cause; and sometimes without.

England was not a happy place in the 1920’s: “In France, the battlefields were being tidied up … Scarcely any of the millions of victims had been brought home, and most of them lay shallow beneath the soil. The trenches were filled in, and the grim shell-pollarded trees were leveled. At home the national economy began to shrink … and wages shriveled up accordingly. Between 1919 and 1920 there were upwards of 2,000 strikes. As the second anniversary of the war drew near a moral and material shabbiness enveloped everything.”

Important happenings slide between the words as we remember that for every one of the millions lying in shallow soil, there was a mother, wife, lover, or special friend wondering how it happened and asking why?

It is difficult to believe today that in the 1920s, stately diplomatic Britain had at least one cabinet minister noisily displaying Trump-Johnson tendencies and surviving the most outrageous racist public outbursts.

His name was Sir William Joynson-Hicks (cct) with a nickname of Jix. He held several cabinet posts before being appointed Home Secretary, which he delightedly told the world gave him more power than the prime minister. Jews were a favourite public target, and he didn’t hesitate to voice his derision upfront and personal. Invited to address the distinguished Maccabee Society, he let fly with what Blythe describes as “incredible insensitivity and insolence.”

And, like our latter-day careless babblers, he ignored all criticism, says Blythe. “He never took notice. The bubble of complacency in which his ego floated protected his nerve centres from criticism.”

Referring to a recent election, Jix said: “I could say that Jews were delightful opponents, that I am very pleased to receive the opposition of the Jewish community, and that I am, in spite of it all, your humble and obedient servant. I could say that, but it wouldn’t be true in the slightest degree. I have beaten you thoroughly and soundly, and I am no longer your servant.”

Boris and Donnie, please, take note.

(I have had my edition of The Age of Illusion for years. Still find it a pleasure to pick up, open at any chapter heading from A Great Day at Westminster Abbey to The Destruction of Neville Chamberlain and never cease to marvel. Wish I could write like that. If you can’t track a copy down locally you can try The Folio Society Ltd, 44 Eagle Street, London, WC 1R 4FS or www.foliosociety.com)

4 comments

  1. Another book I don’t have and which I must find.

    Of course readers of Churchill biographies will know about the 1926 General Strike and how he left his cabinet office to direct police attacks on the strikers, even suggesting that machine guns be employed.

    One of the few instances of irrational behaviour in an otherwise lustrous career.

  2. Hello Jim,

    We are long time T/C subscribers (40 plus years) and have followed your writings and life activities with empathy…and we still think of Candice and Nick growing up to be the young (?) man he is today.

    We now look forward to your weekly blog. Today’s, particularly pertinent to my spouse as his father served in the RN and emigrated in the mid 20’s and always said there was nothing left in England for he and his family. Although Bert was born in northern ON town of Schumacher he has alway retained a keene interest in British political and war history.

    Keep up your interesting and informative writings.

    Jean Wharton.

    >

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