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Saturday, 4 May 2013

The General Strike

Tuesday, May 4th., Cadogan Square, London.

Today was the first day of the general strike.
Many more motors about. I walked round to Victoria, which was shut up (both stations) one small entrance guarded by policemen. I heard someone say that a train had gone somewhere during the morning.
Yet in the vast empty stations Smith's book stalls were open. So were (outside) the cafes.
The populace excited and cheery, on this first day of the strike.
No evening paper. News from the Wireless at very short intervals, half hour intervals at night up to midnight.
I should think that all theatres would soon be closed.
Already today there has been a noticeable increase in gravity in the general demeanour.

The strike was called by the Trades Union Congress (T.U.C.) in support of striking coal miners in the North of England, Scotland and Wales. The miners were making a stand against an enforced pay-cut. It was the latest in a long series of industrial disputes that had dogged the coal industry since the end of the First World War and created real hardship for mining families. 'Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay', was the miners' slogan. Although the dispute began in the mining areas, one of the trigger events took place in London, when the Daily Mail's Fleet Street printers refused to print a leading article criticising trade unions. Other print workers also downed tools. The T.U.C. activated its plans for sympathetic strike action and called out all trade union members in essential industries. From the early hours of Tuesday 3 May, some two million workers went on strike across Britain. In London, the main groups of striking workers were the dockers, printers, power station workers, railwaymen, and transport workers. The aim was to bring the capital to a halt and force the government to intervene on the side of the miners. For its part, the government brought in the army to ensure that essential services continued and food supplies got through. Army barracks were set up in Hyde Park, which was also turned into a milk and food depot. People who disapproved of the T.U.C. 'holding a pistol to the nation's head' took action themselves, volunteering to work in place of the strikers. London's buses, trams, trains and delivery vans were kept running by a skeleton staff of non-unionised workers and university students.

At the same time personal life goes on. I wrote to me old friend Frederick Marriott a few days ago to inform him of my changed circumstances. I said that he had probably heard that I had formed another affection since Marguerite departed as it is public property & accepted by everybody. Marguerite still refuses to divorce me and I rather missed my opportunity to divorce her five years ago because I couldn't bring myself to have her watched. I informed him that I am now living with Dorothy Cheston Bennett, and that we have a daughter, Virginia Mary who is 16 days old. As one of my oldest and best friends I felt it important that he should have this news direct from me, whatever he may have heard from other sources.

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