The 1925 British Revolution was a largely successful Syndicalist revolution that engulfed the United Kingdom in 1925 and sent shockwaves through the British Empire. It resulted in the creation of the Union of Britain, the Dominion of India and its subsequent collapse into civil war, the Caribbean Federation, and the loss of most other British imperial possessions.
British politics became dominated by the Conservative Party after the Liberal's "Wartime Coalition" failed to win the war, although both the Labour Party and the far-right National Party grew steadily as well. In May of 1923, ailing Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law offered his seat to the Marquess Curzon. Under attack from the left for the breach of democratic protocol and the right for their laissez-faire policies amidst a slumping economy, the Tories called an election less than a year later to win a mandate. The result was a disaster, costing the party their majority and forcing them to coalition with the Nationals.
The Conservatives had promised a set of mild "Imperial Tariffs" on German goods to stimulate the economy, but the National Party forced them to implement much more strident ones. While manufacturing initially benefited, Germany soon began exporting via neutral countries, and raised its own tariffs. Consumer goods prices and unemployment soared. The coal industry was the worst hit, with German and American coal forcing it off the market. Responding to demands for direct action from every corner of Britain, on the 28th of February, 1925, the Trades Union Congress voted unanimously to call a general strike.
The General Strike and Revolution
The strike began on March 6th to condemnation from the government and mealy-mouthed hopes for compromise from Labour. All hope of peace vanished on March 11th, when a confrontation between the miners of the Tarenni Colliery and the Territorial Army unit sent to take over its operations turned into a bloodbath. The exact cause of the violence is disputed, but a rumor that the Army had been ordered to put down the strike by force was printed and spread by the TUC's official paper, The Daily Herald. Sporadic violence began to break out in other high tension locations across the country, each amplifying the others and creating a feedback loop that destroyed all sense of order in Britain.
On the 15th, Scottish Socialist John Maclean addressed a massive crowd in Glasgow's George Square, beginning with a denouncement of the Tarenni massacre, before escalating into an angry tirade against the crimes of the British government against the working class, past and present, and climaxing in a call for outright revolution. The Daily Herald carried it to the rest of Britain the next day, and the revolutionary spirit spread into the Territorials, who began to stand down and often join the forces of the TUC. The Labour Party's left-wing finally spoke out in favor of the revolution on the 18th, calling for the immediate resignation of the Curzon cabinet before being ejected from the House of Commons.
Entire cities began to fall to the control of the General Strike. Of particular note was the Conservative stronghold Birmingham, whose delivery was credited to the oratory skills of former Tory and nobleman Sir Oswald Mosley. When the news broke on the 20th that London had been effectively encircled by revolutionary militia and Territorials, Prime Minister Curzon suffered a fatal bladder hemorrhage. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Stanley Baldwin became the de facto Prime Minister, but the situation allowed for no formal declaration. Two days later, Baldwin ordered Parliament and the remaining loyal military forces evacuated to Canada, where the Royal Family had been "visiting" since the beginning of the crisis.
The following two months were a whirlwind of chaos as the remaining royalist forces in Britain were hunted down and the Trades Union Congress established itself as the new regime. On the 3rd of June, 1925, the last Members of Parliament in the country gathered in Westminster and passed the final act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain:
- Both Houses of Parliament were dissolved.
- All political authority was invested in the Trades Union Congress.
- All British adults were made members of the TUC.
- The new government was named "The Union of Britain".
The Dominion of Newfoundland remained loyal to the Empire and after a successful referendum in 1926 it was incorporated into Canada with 62% in favor of confederation. The results however were contested and the Royal Family was accused of meddling with the outcome, calling it an "an unholy union between the Royalists and Ottawa", but the accusations were quickly rebuked.
In the 1925 general elections Sir Mackenzie King's Liberals hold on to power with the help of Progressive Robert Forke, despite the Conservatives, led by Sir Arthur Meighen, winning more seats. A political crisis ensued as a flood of British political refugees poured into Canada, together with George V and the Royal Family. The Progressives, painted with the brush of Syndicalism, were then viciously attacked by the Conservatives in the media and some street fighting had been reported between members of the Right and Left wings. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police restored order and Prime Minister King declared a national emergency and invoked the War Measures Act. The Royal Navy re-established itself in Canada as the Union of Britain consolidated its control of the Home Isles.
The declaration of a national emergency played into King’s hands as he was able to stifle accusations of corruption and patronage within his government, that actually turned out to have much validity, and the more centrist of the Progressives jumped ship to the Liberal party which wrapped itself in the flag to weather the crisis. With a stronger Liberal party and an emasculated Progressive party, the Conservatives bid their time, constantly criticizing King’s failure to secure more of the Empire, though realistically, the tiny Canadian army was only able to send a token force to the Caribbean. King, realizing that the Empire was lost but that the admission of such a fact was political suicide, embarked upon a new imperial policy as the most powerful British state left standing. The presence of a British government in exile was a threat to Canadian unity and King’s power, and under the provisions of the War Measures Act and martial law, King promulgated a legislative union act, merging the two governments into one under his control. He was then able to outmaneuver and replace all British leaders who could conceivably try to become Prime Minister of Canada in the highly charged emotional mindset of the fall of Britain. After asserting his control over the Cabinet and parliament and making sure that only British MP’s who would follow his line and get elected in their own right in Canadian ridings, King moved on to the armed forces. Seeing the Royal Navy as the only common institution of the Empire still intact, the Fleet was ordered to divide up and deploy squadrons to Karachi, Australasia and South Africa. This did much to reassure the Australasians and South Africans, though it wasn't meant to be permanent.
When the Imperial metropole revolted, India was thrown into confusion. Desperate to stop the chaos from spreading, the exiled Parliament fast-tracked the Anglo-Indian Treaty, making India a Dominion with Maharaja Ganga Singh as its Premier in October of 1925. However it was too little, too late for the Indian National Congress, who formed their own socialist government in Calcutta. Civil war followed, with the new Bharatiya Commune taking control of the east, the Dominion holding on to the northwest around Delhi while losing parts of the frontier to Afghanistan, and the new Princely Federation coalescing in the south around the Nizam of Hyderabad. Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma all became independent, the last falling into utter chaos for many years.
The Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand merged to form the Australasian Confederation in 1924. This was to help maintain order in that part of the Empire. However, without the protection of the Royal Navy, which remained in the Atlantic to protect the Royal Family, and with unrest and rioting throughout Australasia, nothing could be done to prevent the German occupation of many remaining British colonies in the Pacific.
The Royal Navy, acting mostly of its own initiative, was able to largely maintain control of the Atlantic and its colonies. In the interests of security and restoring the Empire the British Caribbean and South American colonies continued to recognize the sovereignty of the British Monarch in Canada, but chose to form a Confederation in order to maintain independence. Thus, the Caribbean Federation was created.
The German Empire seized most of the strategic naval stations of the British Empire, allegedly to prevent a world crisis, but it soon became clear as most of the Empire plunged into rebellion and civil war that the British could not insure order and the German presence became a permanent occupation. The African colonies that the Germans took over were later incorporated into Mittelafrika. However, South Africa managed to occupy and annex the Bechuanaland Protectorate as well as Basutoland and Swaziland. Gibraltar was seized by Spain.