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The fact that 1926 was an open confrontation outside Parliament between the working class and the bourgeoisie was determined by the fact that the working class refused to take socialism seriously.

The miners' demand which precipitated the Lock-Out at the beginning of May 1926 was that there should be no reduction in wages (even though the market had turned against coal producers and coal prices were falling) and that the coal owner & should negotiate with the miners as a National Union and not by district, and that there should be no increase in hours.

The miners had supported demands by their Union for higher pay and lower hours since the end of World War I. While the market conditions favoured coal and while the Government continued to "control" the coal industry (through the Coal Controller, a system arrived at because of the need for centralised organisation and the demands of the working class) and operated a pooling scheme whereby the more profitable districts subsidised the less profitable ones, there could be higher pay, lower hours and national standardisation of wages.

In 1919, the coalition Government faced probably the most serious threat from the working class that it would ever encounter. The Miners Federation of Great Britain (MFGB, the miners' union) made a demand for higher wages, shorter hours, and the nationalisation of the coalmining industry. (Because the mines were still controlled by the Government, the demand was put to the state and not to the coal owners who could wield no power except their political power - they had no economic power).

What is more, the MFGB made that demand after a full membership ballot which gave the Executive the power to call a strike if the demands were not met in full. Far from negotiating and conciliating, this amounted to the MFGB making a demand and expecting that demand to be met.

The Government replied by appointing the Sankey Commission to examine whether the MFGB demands were practical, i.e. what basis there was in the society for granting the demands. It replied very swiftly indeed because it understood that the miners were in dead earnest. The MFGB agreed to give evidence only on the condition that it was allowed to nominate one half of the Commission's members.

The Sankey Commission had 12 members. 4 were the direct representatives of the MFGB, openly and formally acknowledged as such by all involved (they included the President, Vice-President and Secretary of the MFGB); two were formally nominated by the Government but agreed between it and the MFGB as 'independent men' supporting the miners (Sidney Webb and R.H.Tawney); three were direct Government nominees who were 'independent men' representing 'stability' and 'technical expertise'; and three were the direct representatives of the employers organisation of the coalowners. (The technical expert was Sir Arthur Duckham)

The Sankey Commission had been created by an Act of Parliament (not executive or bureaucratic fiat or machinery) and had to report back to Parliament so that Parliament could decide about what to do about its findings. The MFGB leaders had declared that the decision on wages and hours must be put before the union with no delays i.e. they separated the demand for nationalisation from the wage claim and judged the wage claim to be the more urgent.

Accordingly a fortnight after its creation, the Commission reported after taking evidence and cross-questioning witnesses before the nation. Its proceedings were not only front page news in every paper, the conclusions to be drawn from the witnesses' evidence were the subject of consideration and polemic everywhere. The Commission was unable to issue a unanimous report. The six MFGB representatives issued a report which accorded the wage and hours claim in full and supported nationalisation in principle: 

"We find justified the miners' claim for a more efficient organisation of their industry - the individual ownership of collieries being officially declared to be 'wasteful and extravagant'[...] and in view of the impossibility of tolerating any unification of all the mines in the hands of a capitalist trust we think that, in the interest of the consumers as much as in that of the miners, nationalisation ought to be, in principle, at once determined on." 

The Chairman, Lord Sankey (a Tory judge who made the 13th of the Commission) and the three Government 'independent men' issued a report which granted the hours claim in full and went more than half way towards the wage claim. It said: 

"Even upon the evidence already given, the present system of ownership and working in the coal industry stands condemned, and some other system must be substituted for it, either nationalisation or a method of unification by national purchase and/or joint control." 

The coalowners report said nothing about nationalisation (did not put a case for private ownership to Parliament) and granted the hours demand without the wages demand.

The Coalition Government accepted the independent report "in spirit and in letter" (Bonar Law for the Government in the Commons, quoted in Page Arnot: The Miners, Vol.2, p.201. The Commission quotes are also from Arnot). The MFGB agreed to put the interim recommendations to a ballot. The ballot paper not only detailed the wages and hours offer but also added: 

"In view of the statement in the report of the Chairman of the Commission that the 'present system of ownership stands condemned' and that 'the colliery worker shall in future have an effective voice in the direction of the mine', the Government have decided that the Commission must report on the question of nationalisation of the mining industry on May 20, 1919." (quoted in Arnot, p.202) 

The ballot showed overwhelming acceptance for the Sankey terms and the strike notices were withdrawn.

The Sankey Commission continued to take evidence for all the nation to hear and consider. Indeed the interim report had said: 

"We are not prepared to report one way or the other upon evidence which is at present insufficient [...] nor are we prepared to give now a momentous decision upon a point which affects every citizen in this country [...] We are prepared, however, to report now that it is in the interests of the country that the colliery workers shall in the future have an effective voice in the direction of the mine. For a generation the colliery worker has been educated socially and technically. The result is a great national asset. Why not use it?" (Arnot, pp.203-4) 

The MFGB view of nationalisation (which the Miners' MPs had already drawn up as a draft parliamentary bill) was put before the Commission: "It was based on vesting all powers in a National Mining Council, ten appointed by the Government and ten by the Miners' Federation." (Arnot, p.205). There were to be District Councils, and Pit Councils with powers delegated from the Mining Council and on which half the members were to be working miners. The MFGB counsel presenting the scheme said: 

"Any administration of the mines under nationalisation must not leave the mineworkers in the position of a mere wage earner whose whole energies are directed by the will of another. He must have a share in the management of  the industry in which he is engaged, and understand all about the purpose and destination of the product he is producing; he must know both the productive and the commercial side of the industry. He must feel that the industry is being run by him in order to produce coal for the use of the community, instead of profit for a few people. [...] This ideal cannot be reached all at once owing to the way in which private ownership has deliberately kept the worker in ignorance regarding the industry [...] The mere granting of the 30% (wage demand) and the shorter hours demanded, will not prevent unrest, neither will nationalisation with bureaucratic administration." (Arnot, p.206) 

The coal owners representatives did not question the MFGB counsel on the principle of the appropriation of private property but whether in fact the workers could organise and administer the mines.