The Councils of Action 1920 and the British Labour Movement's Defence of Soviet Russia

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The Councils of Action 1920 and the British Labour Movement's Defence of Soviet Russia

By John Foster (Manifesto Press, London: 2017)

John Foster examines the creation of the Councils of Action against the background of a rising militancy and in the political context of a government divided over how to restore Britain's power, the ideological challenges to right-wing Labour arising from the Irish nationalist movement and Soviet power, and the formation of the Communist Party.

On 7 August 1920, the Councils of Action were convened by representatives of the British Labour movement to prevent the government from participating in war against Soviet Russia and sending troops to assist with the invasion. Over 300 local Councils of Action were called as the basis for organising a general strike. Two days after these councils were formed, the government abandoned its plan, choosing to support Soviet proposals for a peace treaty with Poland. John Foster writes that this was the first occasion where the British Labour movement leadership formally used industrial action to pressure a sitting government to drastically change a policy, thereby setting a precedent for the 1926 General Strike. This extended pamphlet draws from the MML’s archives, analysing the way in which the British Labour movement organised and created the Councils of Action, and then dealt with the subsequent reactions from the government of the time. 

30 pages

John Foster
Number of Pages: 
MML / Manifesto Press
Publish Date: 
Sunday, 1 January 2017