Britain has encountered a number of events that have dramatically affected its society and the UK international fraternity. Industrial revolution, agrarian revolution, invention of railways, Gordon riots, the suffragists, Indian mutiny, colonialism, Irish rebellion, the chartists, Thatcher, trade, and the expansion of empires, amongst other events, are part of the British history.
More importantly, all these events attract the attention of the international community making Britain’s presence in the international arena more pronounced. However, in this paper, the writer considers colonialism and the 1926 general strike as two crucial events that have had enormous effects on the British society, as well as its international presence. In its simplest terms, colonization refers to the population of one or more species in a certain area.
Colonialism, on the other hand, refers to “Western European countries’ colonization of lands mainly in America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania” (Marcy & James, 2003, p.5) Britain, Portugal, Spain, and Netherlands, to name a few, were some of the European nations that involved themselves actively in colonization endeavours. On the other hand, the 1926 general strike stands out as essential for consideration while business managers make vital decisions regarding the way they handle their workforce.
In fact, one can perhaps benchmark the repercussions of inappropriate handling of worker’s issues with the aftermaths of 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom. As the paper unveils, colonialism and the 1926 general strike constitute two crucial events in Britain that have immensely affected the British society with the consequences of fostering the UK’s presence on the international floor.
The 1926 General Strike
Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 1926 called for a general strike in the UK. This strike went on for nine days consecutively. Though unsuccessful in attaining its aim, the strike attempted to “force British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening working conditions faced by coal mines workers” (Renshaw 1975, p.158).
The modern day businesses face dynamics of changing business productivity, which perhaps must prompt the managers to take interventions in an attempt to save an organization from dying. Such interventions would take a valid number of options.
During the First World War, Britain saw an immense reduction in the coal output per worker. As Peter notes, “productivity was at its lowest ebb. Output per man had fallen to just 199 tonnes, in 1920 to 1924 from 247 tonnes” (2001, p.449). Amid the reduced in production, the prices of coal were also immensely dropping.
As part of war repatriation strategies, Germany had resorted to exportation of free coal to Italy and France hence affecting the Britain’s coal market impeccably. Additionally, “The reintroduction of the gold standard in 1925 by Winston Churchill made the British pound too strong for effective exporting to take place from Britain, as well as the economic processes involved in maintaining a strong currency) raised interest rates hurting all businesses” (Robertson 1926, p.376).
Evidently, this formed a business scenario that called for action to save the coal industry from collapsing. However, first to occur in the UK, search scenarios repeat themselves in almost every business organization across the globe.
More often than not, businesses would want to make sure that their profits are normal even in times of economic crises. The mines owners knew this fact exceptionally well. As David (1988) reckons, “Mine owners wanted to normalise profits even during times of economic instability, which often took the form of wage reductions for miners.
Coupled with the prospect of longer working, the industry was thrown into disarray” (p.105). The mine owners officially announced that they would reduce the wages of their workers. Was this a solution to be welcomed warmly? The repercussions of this decision perhaps help the entire world shape their approaches to human resource issues especially with the existence of workers unions.
Any attempt to touch on workers’ wages, as an intervention to save a business organization, borrowing from aftermaths of the 1926 general strike in the UK perhaps calls a manager and business leaders to reconsider the strategy. In fact, this brings the repercussions of Britain’s coalmines owners’ decision into picture.
TUC reacted to calls to reduce the wages of coalmines workers by promising to support them in their dispute with the coalmines owners. Voicing the imminent likely dispute, the government intervened to offer subsidies that would maintain the workers’ wages as norm. Unfortunately, these subsidies were temporary.
As Peter notes, “The Samuel commission published a report on March 10, 1926 recommending that in the future, national agreements, the nationalism of royalties and sweeping reorganisation and improvement should be considered for the mining industry” (2001, p.449). This report recommended that the wages of the coalmines workers be reduced by 13.5 % upon withdraw of the government subsidies. The workday was also to be lengthened. A repercussion of this decision was the general strike.
During the nine days of the strike, the transportation came to a standstill amid other consequences including work boycotts. This had the effect of affecting the production output of their coalmines. With time, some workers perhaps due to their economic challenges decided to go back to work and work according to the new terms and conditions.
Symons (1957) notes, “The miners maintained resistance for a few months before being forced by their own economic needs to return to the mines…By the end of November, most miners were back to work” (p.158). A good number of those who refused to accept the new terms hence opting to remain out of the coalmines remained unemployed for a long time.
On the other hand, “Those that were employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages, and district wage agreements” (Goodhart 1927, p.471). Consequently, people who participated in the strike emerged as having not achieved anything.
The paper here does not advocate for enforcement of such decisions that impairs the economic wellness of the workers in an organization but rather attempts to argue that the employer dominance in reinforcing certain rule and regulation are not a new thing. In other parts of the world, the aftermaths of the 1926 general strike approaches have perhaps significantly affected industrial management.
For instance, Taylor incredibly believed that organizations existed for the sake of the employees. Arguably, such a way of reasoning means that, the workers have to be flexible enough to adjust to policies made to ensure the continued presence of an organization even if it meant complying with the policies that affected their economic status.
The modern function of human resource in an organization follows the guidance of the experiences encountered in the UK 1926 general strike. Britain today accords value-free expression of work related grievances. Again, in Britain, the human resource serves to ensure that the workers discontentment secures an ardent attention to ensure more motivation, which results to the maximum productivity of the workers.
The 1926 general strike event perhaps has vastly reshaped the Britain’s society especially in their approaches of handling workers to recognize that by mere forcing workers work does not mean increased organizational output. This has the repercussion of the emergence of current globally existing calls for incorporation of a separate department within an organization to handle the workers affairs.
The extent to which the aftermaths of the 1926 general strike affected international community is conspicuous. Rothberg (2011) claims, “the sheer fact that the idea of a general strike is being discussed shows how far our political discourse has come…”(Para.1). Attempts to protect the organizations workers’ rights in Britain and the international floor perhaps reminiscences the 1926 general strike.
New strategies designed to improve working conditions emanates from recognition of some existence of some non-conducive and oppressive working conditions. Moreover, bargaining for better policies in work places is a credit of the existence of poor policies that are oppressive in nature. The UK general strike was largely instigated by such struggles. Consequently, any existence of such non-conducive working conditions and poor work policies bring the UK general strike into picture.
Britain was among the nations that established empires in their colonies that perhaps lasted for longer periods than other European countries. Broadly speaking, the colonialism of Britain comprised of two types: settler colonialism, indirect colonialism, hybrid colonialism and direct colonialism (Leys 1996, p.11). Britain encompassed one of the nations that had gone through the process of industrialization, which had begun in the same nation before spreading to other regions of the world including America.
Demands to increase outputs of cottage industries required more inputs in term of law materials and hence Britain to seek additional Raw materials by establishing colonies. Arguably, colonialism had the capacity to create more employment opportunities to the British people since increased outputs of the industries directly implied the requirement of more labour (Rodney 1982, p.34).
If one approaches colonization from the settler colonialism point of view, he/she may argue that it fostered the Britain’s international presence. Hau, Mahoney, and Lange (2006) argue that the most widespread form of British colonialism was “settler colonialism, where permanent residents transplanted broad ranges of institutions arrangements” (p.1427).
Settlers dispersed within the colonies, where they engaged themselves in economic activities aimed at producing raw material for their home based industries. For instance, in East Africa, they engaged in vast growing of coffee, tea and cotton among other products that acted as raw materials (Fage 2002, p.31). In the vast colonies, the British people interacted with local communities who ought to provide the hefty cheap labour for the settler’s farms.
Communication was a substantial drawback and hence the British administrators had to learn local languages to breach the gap. In this context, British society experienced a fair deal of influence since colonization had an effect of initiation and subsequent campaigns for concepts of multiculturalism in the modern world. Multiculturalism concerns not only bother the global focused British society of today but also the entire elite global population.
Whether, direct, indirect, settler, or hybrid colonialism, Britain had one objective: increase the economic wellbeing of its citizens in the colonies and back at home. For instance, Sir Fredrick Lugard, the then high priest and imperialism representative for Britain in the west and east Africa lamented that “ European brains, capital and energy have not been, and will never be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy” (Chiriyankandath, 2007, p.7).
Ideally, this means that Britain was not in the colonies to implicitly spread their technologies and industrial knowhow to better the lives of the native owners of the lands they colonized. Through this comment, Lugard laid out, with no doubt, the intentions and the purposes of British society interests in the West and East Africa. According Maxon and Ndege, the British society was largely impacted by colonialism since “metropolitan and local investors leaped economic benefits from the colonies” (1995, p.67).
All the various policies engineered and implemented at various periods of the colonization era had the British society benefits at their heart. They focused on the construction of transport and communication networks, reorientation of colony wealth and factors of production including land to favour the economic development of the British natives in the colonies (Ferguson 2002, p.112).
The proceeds of the implementation of these policies all helped improve the living standards of the British society. Additionally, there was the implementation of policies, inclined towards the British society, in many parts of the world where British had established colonies. Such nations included Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, New Zealand, Ghana Pakistan, Lesotho, Hong Kong and many more other states that Britain had established colonies.
Given the wide spread of Britain colonies, while not negating the fact that even America was colonized by Britain, its influence on the colonies’ systems of administration after colonization was over cannot be over looked. Behind the roots of every system of administration of a nation that was under the British colony is Britain’s name ingrained in it.
Acemoglu et al. (2001) posits, “As a generalization, the territories with relatively high levels of development before colonialism declined during and after the colonial period whereas those with lower levels of pre-colonial development improved their relative position (p.1372).
In this context, Britain laid the foundation for the onset of the development in the underdeveloped nation which were to be continued upon independence. More importantly, most of the colonies especially the African colonies had no formal system of administration of public resources. The legal systems based themselves on forces and laws of ethics and morality, which had segregated influence within the countries.
Britain came through colonization to impose legal frame works of administration of the public resources. Upon independence, all the laws that served to govern the territories under the administration of Britain continued to act as the rules governing the colonies, even after the colonies acquired independence.
Although several amendments are currently in place, the constitution or rather the entire constitution that governed the colonies altered the elements of British laws are still evident in those constitutions. Consequently, British society and entire UK presence in the international area is felt from social contexts, economic models to legal frame works in nations that were formerly British colonies.
Many political scholars contend that colonization amounts to one of the most vital historic events of Britain that escalated its presence in the international arena. For instance, a conference that took place in 1961 in Cairo, defined neo-colonialism as “the survival of the colonial system in spite of the formal recognition of political independence in emerging countries, which become the victims of an indirect and subtle form of domination by political, economic, social, military or technical means” (Kohli 2004, p.115).
In this context, declaration of independence is an illusion to the colonies that mark the dawn of freedom. Colonies assumed political independence. Political independence implies that the British colonies received the freedom to make their own policies. However, Britain still has a tremendous say in the colonies when it comes to economic policies through regulation and setting of certain economic policies.
For instance, it sets some preconditions that the common wealth member states must satisfy before getting grants or financial aid. The fact that, through colonization, Britain was able to ship raw materials and improve the economic well being of its society by increasing it productivity, makes it have the dominance in the colonies since its colonies especially the African colonies have not yet acquired full economic independence.
The integration of the colonies in the capitalistic international economy narrows down to colonization. As La Porta et al posits, “The main force keeping economies in the global system and sustaining imperialism is the market itself. It proves a very seductive place for people with the means of paying the market, offering everything and anything” (1998, p.25).
Consequently, the elites from Africa and other undeveloped parts of the world obtained the opportunity to consume products that had gone through the process of value addition in the British industries without the Africans having to put up the factories themselves. As previously argued, the increased raw material from the colonies prompted more construction of industries in Britain.
Bearing in mind that shopping in the global market is far cheaper than putting up industries to produce the same or similar commodities, most people elsewhere in the globe prefer to shop in this global market. This has the capacity to accelerate revenues to the British based industries. In fact, this revenue goes into improvement of the public utilities in Britain and hence the British society.
Colonization perhaps also helped to shape the minds of the people whose nations were under the colony of Britain. Lange is to the opinion that “The most subversive act of colonialism was to introduce into the minds of Africans and peoples of other pre-capitalist societies the idea that material progress and prosperity were possible for the masses of people” (2003, p.302).
The onset of colonization came to change the ideologies that the natives of the colonies held. For instance, the general perception amongst the native people was that the predominant fixing of conditions in material terms. Ample harvest gave an indication that more was available to eat.
However, the natives could not look at increased harvest as an opportunity to better their living conditions. Colonization altered this mind set. Furthermore as Fage reckons that “With colonialism came the idea of progress – that humanity is capable of improving its condition of existence – today can be better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today” (2002, p.196).
As a result, any advancement of the society belonging to the colonies that were under British administration is attributable to the developments that were evident in the British society. From this context, arguably, colonization immensely fostered British society and the entire UK fraternity for that matter, increased presence in the international arena.
The UK has many historical events that have affected the British society in different ways. Some of these events have over the years served to foster Britain’s international presence. Among the many events, the paper has discussed the colonialism and the 1926 general strike as two outstanding events that have had enormous influence to the British society both at local and international arena. Colonization is particularly significant since it increased the availability of Raw materials in the Britain located industries.
Critics argue that colonization had no positive impacts in the colonies, apart from the mass draining of the colonies’ resources. However, the paper views colonization as a historic event that had multi-fold benefits to both the native British society and the colonies’ natives. These benefits encompass aspects such as reconstitution and modelling of the economic systems of the colonies to assume capitalistic economic models of Britain among others.
Making the colonies adopt Capitalistic model is particularly one of the products of colonization. Capitalism and imperialism is vital for a nation to participate in the international free markets controlled by forces of demand and supply. By treating Britain as well established industrially, and one that was seeking for more Raw materials in the colonies, colonization helped to improve the economic status of the Britons by the virtue of creating more employment through the provision of additional factors of production.
The 1926 general strike stands out as a chief event that shaped and prompted incorporation of what we now term as human resource concepts into organizations. People have further argued the evolution of this concept as being widely instigated by discontentment, historically traced from coalmines workers in Britain.
In this context, human resource: being now part and parcel of almost every industry across the globe endeavours to solve some of the concerns that transpired the 1926 general strike in the UK. To this regard, the author feels that industrial revolution and the 1926 general strike constitutes two key events in British history that dramatically affected the UK society locally also fostered its international presence.
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