Williams `enjoyed’ one of the shortest periods of membership of the Communist Party but his collecting of a range of significant positions in a very short period makes it significant that his relationship with the Party be recorded.
Born in 1881, the son of a dock labourer, Williams himself also started out as a port labourer and coal trimmer in
Williams became the first full-time Secretary of the National Transport Workers Federation in 1912, an institution that united most transport workers’ unions and led, ten years later, to the formation of the Transport & General Workers Union.
Williams welcomed the Russian revolution and opposed British military intervention in
In 1920 he was part of a deputation of British trade unionists who travelled to
Williams was expelled in 1921 from the Communist Party on failing to support the miners’ strike during the infamous `Black Friday’, when the executives of the British transport federation and the main railway union announced a decision on Friday 15th April 1921, not to take strike action in support of the miners. The epithet `Black Friday’ at the time conveyed the intensity of feeling about the betrayal and the Communist Party made no hesitation in holding Williams to account.
This event had effectively ended the Triple
But, from 1922, Williams was ousted from full-time employment as a union functionary due to the creation of the TGWU and the winding up of the British Transport Workers Federation in favour entirely of the International Transport Workers Federation. Williams had the honorary consolation prize of ITF President to console him but, from here on, his main full time employment was as General Manager of the Daily Herald, strings being pulled for him so that he had a soft berth. When the TUC ceased to be sole proprietor in 1930 he lost even this position.
He was chair of the Labour Party conference in 1926, during which he condemned direct action. Williams role at the top of the union movement now took a downwards leap. By 1931, he was writing in support of National Government and he made a precarious living as a freelance journalist from 1931 with there being little record of his activities.
He committed suicide in early February 1936, being found dead in a gas-filled room. A few days before, bizarrely, he had appealed to police for protection following anonymous telephone threats to “`Bump him off’, `Beat him up’, or `Kidnap him’.
Sources include: ITF, NZ Evening Post 3rd February 1936, mIscellaneous
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