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Now, the accepted 'left' convention about the final Sankey report is that it retreated from its original support for public ownership with workers' control and thus the working class were not only defeated, but defeated by the trickery of false promises about accepting the "spirit" of the report. In fact the spirit of the final report was perfectly consistent with the interim report.

What in fact permitted the Government (indeed forced the Government) not to nationalise the mines and institute schemes of local administration was the complete absence of political pressure (both Parliamentary and extra-Parliamentary) by the working class. The miners' withdrawn strike notices were not again tendered as a clear indication to the Government that all the techniques of "peaceful persuasion" in pursuit of "just demands" would be used by the working class.

The Commission's final reports were presented on June 20th to Parliament. Chairman Sankey's conclusions were supported by the six MFGB representatives who however issued in addition their own report sticking to the MFGB position in full. Sankey recommended that the principle of state ownership be accepted and that there should be a scheme of local administration of the mines, with the miners having one third of the representatives. Duckham issued a highly eccentric blueprint plan for solving the economic problems of the industry without addressing himself to the political issue, while the other two 'independent men' did nothing. The coal owners came out against nationalisation in any form and conceded only consultative pit committees with no power (Arnot, a CPGB member who lived through it, says: 

"Their (the coal owners) views were perhaps best expressed [not? - PB] in their own words (the report), but in those of one of the coal owners, Lord Gainford, who, speaking as a witness, said: 'I am authorised to say on behalf of the Mining Association that if owners are not to be left complete executive control, they will decline to accept the responsibility of carrying on the industry, and, though they regard nationalisation as disastrous to the country, they feel they would in such an event be driven to the only alternative - nationalisation on fair terms'." p.208).    

It is here, however, that the political representatives of the working class refused to take their case any further. Having succeeded in forcing the nation, "public opinion" and Parliament to listen, argue out and come to terms with the working class's case, they stopped. The MFGB Conference in mid-July agreed "reluctantly" (G.D.H. Cole, History of the Labour Party 1914-1949) to Sankey and ... did nothing to make sure it was implemented.

Now it is quite wrong to say that the MFGB leaders did not understand that extra- Parliamentary pressure would not only be needed right up to the point when the Bill was enacted, but if anything would need to be intensified during this time. The Miners had had long experience of conducting campaigns for Parliamentary action on regulating their working conditions and hours and understood very well just how pledges are extracted from MPs and governments and how "peaceful persuasion" is used. The answer must lie in the MFGB Executive's decision (l) to separate the nationalisation demand from the wages/hours one, (2) their inability to get their members' backing for the threat of strike action if nationalisation was not enacted, (3) their inability to organise a political campaign of the working class as a whole for Sankey (on the lines of the bourgeoisie's brilliantly successful "The Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill" in 1831). Precisely because (2) and (3) were absent was (l) a fatal mistake. It should be restated here that this inability is not the MFGB leaders alone - it is true of the whole of the leaders of the working class. Those in the "Labour Movement" who understood the necessity for such change (the Fabians) did not tackle the question of explaining this to the working class or their leaders. The ILP continued to talk about principle.

Faced with the working class's refusal to support the public opinion for nationalisation with substance, i.e. with their power as a class, the bourgeoisie set about to try to change public opinion. It should be noted that they only did so after the working class had stopped insisting on its case (like the landed aristocracy in 1831 it accepted that to try to argue its case and organise social force in support would inflame the situation and provoke a more organised reaction from the working class). Before the end of June many coalition MPs had announced publicly that they would fight against Sankey and vote against the Government if it supported Sankey. Meetings were organised and the counter case to Sankey put for the first time.

Not surprisingly, the Government reacted to this pressure, in the absence of any pressure from the working class, by beginning to renege on the "spirit" of Sankey. Or rather it is more accurate to say that the spirit of Sankey began to change; since it was neither more nor less than what the politics of the nation decided it was to be (this explains the conventional 'left' view of final Sankey being milksop after interim Sankey. The actual face value of the final report is forgotten as the working class did not enforce it).

In mid-August the Government proposed a variant of Duckham's report. The MFGB decided against holding a strike after consultations with the Triple Alliance, and instead went to the TUC supported by the Alliance. The TUC supported the MFGB in full; but, not surprisingly in view of the MFGB's own decision not to strike and the absence of political pressure, decided (in December at its special Congress - no sense of tactical urgency was felt so pure democracy was observed to its letter) on a Mines for the Nation propaganda campaign "to which all sections of the labour movement were invited to give the fullest support. This campaign was designed to educate public opinion,which had been found to be somewhat apathetic about the nationalisation issue." (Cole, p.95)

In May 1919 public opinion had been compelled by the working class to examine the mining industry, to put its capitalist foundations in question. And on the terms of that public opinion (i.e. the consciousness of each class and the political force used by each class) the status quo had been proved indefensible on June 20 1919. It had been proved on the basis of practicality that the coalowners had not administered the mining industry in the interests of the nation, and that the miners would do it better. 

By December 1919, public opinion "had become" apathetic. Arnot states, "At this critical stage (after June 1919) they (the MFGB) made the tactical error which they tried to correct later, of simply awaiting the decision of the Government." (my emphasis)

It cannot be overemphasised that these seasoned veterans of Parliamentary campaigns simply do not make "tactical errors"; they were far too experienced to make a random mistake and far too successful at winning concessions to misread Government and Parliamentary behaviour. Unless we accept the "class traitor" theory which explains every defeat by treachery at the top, we must conclude that the campaign for nationalisation was not continued and won because the leaders did not understand the necessity for doing so, in the same way that they did indeed understand the necessity for winning a wage/hours demand, or enforcement of safety at work or defence of trade union rights. The understanding of this necessity could not come from the working class itself (Communist consciousness after all is not mechanically created in reaction to events). It would have to come from an understanding of the working class's tasks in the development of socialism as a system of production to replace capitalism. And that understanding is precisely what the Fabians, the ILP and the CPGB had not given either the working class or its leaders.

The Government rejected the nationalisation in the Sankey Report only when it was clear that it was the verdict of the nation that they should. It did not act before it was very sure just precisely what that verdict was. The Government's proposal to adopt Duckham's report was accepted by Parliament in December 1919.