Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University

Provider: South Wales Miners' Library

Rights: Copyrighted

Interview of Coldrick, Will by Egan, David and Lewis, Richard on 24th September 1973.
The interview forms part of Swansea University�s South Wales Miners� Library collection.

1 audio file (5 min 30 sec.)

Loading…

Transcription

Egan, David: What attitude did you and the people around you in similar positions, take towards the outbreak of the First World War? How did you see it?

Coldrick, Will: Well my attitude generally of course was that we recognised that {we'd have} to fight, we weren’t pacifists or anything of that nature. But on the other hand we believed that it was being waged by the imperialists, either the German imperialist and our imperialists, because our history was just as bad as theirs. So the attitude was we'd fight to defend, but we believed that they ought to negotiate and come to a settlement you see.

Egan, David: What form, what organisational form did these views take? Was there a definite anti-war movement, was there any kind of body {unclear} ?

Coldrick, Will: Oh yes well the I.L.P., well a lot of those were pacifists you see, and they were anti-war, but the Socialist-Labour Party with Hyndman and all those, you have heard of Hyndman I expect haven’t you. Well they weren’t pacifists, but they believed that there should be greater efforts made to settle the account you see. Because they realised that we were impoverishing ourselves and in any case the workers weren’t going to get anything out of it, so it was expressing the workers’ interests virtually as being in conflict with the other people.

Egan, David: Did you conduct campaigns though in the early year, 1914-15? Were there concerted campaigns by the anti-war movement, I mean did you hold meetings or…?

Coldrick, Will: Oh no. The only, there were movements but we weren’t generally associated with those, not those who were on the no-more war sort of attitude you see. We were sensible enough to realise that so long as you kept capitalism with each country having conflicting interests, well they were bound to fight. But we weren’t interested in their fight and therefore we very often made trouble for those who were John Bull's followers you know, Britain right or wrong, and we had to slay the last German. So it was anti-those more than anti-war.

Egan, David: But in terms of the union in 1914, there was for a while it seemed as if the union were not going to co-operate with the Admiralty in the desire there was to increase the production of coal for the Navy, and they refused to work an extra hour initially. Was there much debate within the Lodge about the rights or wrongs, about patriotism, about the war itself?

Coldrick, Will: Oh I should say generally speaking the miners were in favour of the war and you didn’t get much of a hearing if you were anti-war. But if it was a case like say, having to work extra hours or something of that nature, then there would be far more support for those who generally were anti-capitalist and so forth you see.

Egan, David: When you became first attached to the Unofficial Reform Committee, was something like this, the attitude to the war was that an important, you were saying earlier that anybody could join the Unofficial Reform Committee as long as they wanted reforms in the industry. But was something like politics implicit within joining the Unofficial Reform Committee, because Noah Ablett had a position on the war didn’t he which he was called revolutionary defeatism, where he believed, as I understand it, that it was an imperialist war as you were saying, you know the working class shouldn’t be for and against it, but should use the opportunity, the crisis of capitalism to actually capture power. Was there any debate about these kind of things within the rank and file movement?

Coldrick, Will: There weren’t so much, but there was a general intellectual ferment you see, because you had these free-thinkers, Joseph McCabe, and I’ve forgotten the name of the other fellow, they for the first time, came round a number of the valleys giving ‘anti-God’ sort of thing you see. So you get this collection of people’s thoughts which converged eventually and found general expression in the labour movement. But the labour movement has always been so amorphous that it is difficult to say that it stands only for this, or that. But the schools of education were more explicit, they didn’t believe that you could ever get within capitalism for the workers, the things that the workers were entitled to receive, and so they were anti-capitalist and any opportunity politically to strike a blow, we had to use, you see. So that whereas the ordinary supporters may have very confused views about it, most of the leaders were very clear.