In March 1913, Harvey won the position of Checkweighman; in his election address "To the Hewers of Follonsby Lodge" (published in the SLP’s the Socialist), he wrote:
"Fellow slaves of the slave-class society. Seeing you are in need of a checkweighman, I submit myself as a candidate for the post. I am 28 years of age, a hewer at Handon Hold Busty pit, and have worked my time in the mine with the exception of the year 1908, during which time I was in residence at Ruskin College, Oxford, holding a private Scholarship awarded to me by the College authorities.
It is little to do with checkweighing, but may I say that I am a Revolutionary Socialist and a strong believer in Industrial Unionism, believing in one big fighting union for the mining industry of the country, and this to be linked up with other big unions of transport and other workers, so that, when necessary, we can paralyse the whole show and bring capitalists to their knees. I am opposed to conciliation, arbitration and other frauds, and I am strongly opposed to the kind of men we have so long kept at Durham, and whom we, in our ignorance, believe are tin gods.
I state all this because I want no post under false pretences and I hope I have made myself plain to you. If you want a gentle Jesus, Temperance preacher, for God’s sake don’t consider me as likely to suit.
Yours for Fighting Unionism,
Harvey’s directness got him the job; although he was not a great speaker he had good organising abilities. Harvey was to become the Lodge Secretary and also a Labour member of Durham County Council from 1919-22 and was a pioneer of the Felling Trades and Labour Council.
A founding member of the Communist Party, presumably from membership of the SLP, he was the author of many political/economic booklets, among them were "Industrial Unionism and the Mining Community", "Capitalism in the North East Coalfield", "Capitalism in the S. Wales Coalfield" and "The Mighty Kings of North-East England".
During the 1926 strike Harvey organised the men to riddle the original pit heap in front of the school and chapel for small coal and duff which was sold and the money used for a soup kitchen and families in need.
The Follonsby Lodge of the Durham Miners Association, at Wardley near Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, became one of only three in the British coalfield to feature Lenin on its banner. It was also the only one to include the Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed after the Easter Rising. The other figures on it are Keir Hardie and 1920s miners’ leader, AJ Cook. George Harvey was the fourth person.
It is likely that Harvey was one of those who had seen himself as Communist-Labour and left the Communist Party in 1927, perhaps as it became more difficult not to accept the direction the labour movement was headed. At any rate, in March 1928, George Harvey was elected as Labour Councillor for the East Ward, which he represented till March 1937.
In 1935 he led a long and successful strike against victimisation. On August 2nd, Bowes and Partners had issued 14 days notice to 1300 men and offered to re-employ 400 of them on new terms and a grading system. The men struck work for 45 days, even though they were refused state or union benefits. Those that got something from the North-East Guardian’s Committee for each child under 14 years gave a third towards the relief of those who had nothing.
75 Durham Lodges gave financial support and money was raised by a women’s football team. The men eventually won the dispute but Harvey was also determined to win the 400 men the £3,300 benefit money they had been denied and travelled to London to put the men’s case before an Umpire which he won. He also demanded the £700 union money which had been withheld by the Durham Miners Association during the stoppage because they had said the men had acted against orders.
In an open letter by local Lodge officials it was alleged that the DMA agents "both ran away from the fight….. had accepted (the owners representative’s) word as gospel and that (the DMA man) actually placed the bosses case against that of Follonsby Lodge".
George Harvey was something of a hero in his community, being elected Chairman of Felling U.D.C. in 1933. In 1936 his Lodge gave much practical support to local men taking part in the Hunger March to London to protest against joblessness and the treatment of the unemployed.
The two storey Miners Welfare Hall burned down on the morning of January 5th 1938 and only the barking of Harvey’s dogs saved the lives of himself and his wife Jean. It was rebuilt the following year as a single story building but the Harvey’s were not there to see it opened. In October 1938 Follonsby Colliery closed and George Harvey and the men were out of work. The Harvey’s moved to Fatfield and he found work at Harraton Colliery. After the Second World War, when the British coal industry was nationalised, Lenin and Connolly were replaced on the banner by images of Durham Miners Association officials.
See W.A. Moyes, ‘The Banner Book’, Frank Graham, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1974 for a picture of the banner with Harvey; Thanks to Ken Keable; see also:
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