Welsh text on a strike card

Strikes and riots

Last updated: 13 October 2009

Historian John Davies looks at the strike action and riots at the beginning of the 20th century in Wales.

The early years of the 20th century were a period of widespread strike action. The century opened with one of the longest disputes in British history - the three year strike at the Penrhyn quarry in Bethesda.

Following the Tonypandy riots of 1910, the Rhondda experienced virtual military occupation. In 1911 a riot in Llanelli led to six deaths. Syndicalism, the belief that working-class liberation could be achieved through industrial action, received considerable support.

'There is no traitor in this house'
This printed card reads 'Nid oes Bradwr yn y ty hwn' ('There is no traitor in this house'). These were displayed by striking quarrymen during the Penrhyn Quarry Strike of 1900-03.

During World War One the South Wales coalfield, where a major miners' strike took place in 1915, proved to be the most militant part of Britain.

Following the war, hopes for the fulfilment of working class aspirations and even of social revolution ran high, but they were dashed by the failure of the General Strike and the miners' lockout of 1926.

Thereafter, rampant unemployment deprived the working class of its bargaining power, although the colliers did succeed in the 1930s in ridding the coalfield of unions controlled by employers.

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