Britain's Socialist Heritage

ONE hundred and ten years ago, in 1907, if Nigel Farage had been alive and walking through parts of East London he would have undoubtedly whined about the lack of English being spoken.

He would have heard Russian, German, Yiddish, Latvian, Lithuanian and many other tongues in the streets, cafes and pubs. A glance at the newspapers — just as right-wing and inaccurate as our media is these days — would have explained what this band of dastardly foreigners were up to.

Screaming headlines declared them to be not just revolutionaries, communists, anarchists, terrorists, even nihilists; but also arsonists, bombers and murderers.

Just as today their actions were described as terrorist outrages. But again as today these labels were more insult and abuse rather than accurate political analysis and the instant solution called for was to send all foreigners home.

Yet many of these visitors would become important and well known people in the progressive history of the world. Their inheritance lives on wherever working people of all lands still struggle for peace, freedom and social justice.

Living in 19th century Britain put Marx in the best possible position to observe and expose the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production.

Marx as student
Marx as a student

IF HE had not spent the second half of his life in Britain, Marx would not have been able to produce his magnum opus.

Marx arrived in London in August 1849 and remained there until his death. British capitalism was at its zenith during this period and Britain was the world’s leading industrial nation.

Marx was thus in the best possible position to observe and expose the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production. If, as he said, “the country which is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future,” then his view from Britain could be said to be truly global.

It was in Britain too that Marx found the theoretical tools with which to construct his analysis of the origins, present state, and future demise of capitalism. In his native Germany, he started out as a philosopher and the influence of Hegel never left him.

Emigrating to France, he was impressed by French socialist political theory.

But his materialist conception of history demanded an economic basis and it was in British economic theory that he found the material to compose Das Kapital.

Marx is mostly remembered as a revolutionary thinker, but, as Professor MARY DAVIS explains, his theory was rooted in a lifetime of political activity.

KARL MARX lived permanently in London from 1849 until his death.

London, and to a lesser extent Brussels, was the place of refuge for radicals fleeing repression after the European revolutions of 1830 and 1848. The city thus became the hub of revolutionary émigré activity.

Britain did not experience similar uprisings to those in Europe at the time. However, this did not indicate the absence of mass struggle.

Between the mid 1830s-1850s, Britain, the first industrial nation, witnessed the development of its most significant workers’ movement of the 19th century, Chartism.

As part of the Morning Star daily socialist newspaper's series of educational events, Scotland's Fife held a well-attended event on May 1st on the impact of the Russian Revolution on the Britain, and the demand for real democracy.

Tam Kirby, leading People's Assembly activist and member of the Communist Party leadership, unfolds the most amazing story of ordinary working people being empowered and organised - and the ruling class's war on that burgeoning grassroots democratic progress.

Councils of Action were formed local across the nation, powerful and effective local organisations combining trade unions working together hand-in-glove with local communities - championing easily understood messages which encapsulated the concerns of the community.

This is a thrilling exploration of a high point of positive & creative militancy in Britain. This is in no way a walk down some kind of memory lane - it is a call to learn the best of our movement's successful history, to learn from mistakes, to take off our blinkers and look at the reality that multitudes of ordinary people face daily, and get together with an easily understood message and defeat the establishment and it's peddling of austerity politics.


Rob Griffith Communist Party General Secretary's eulogy at the funeral of Derek Robinson in Stourbridge, West Midlands, on Wednesday (November 22):

red robboWhat drove workers in their hundreds and thousands - many with family and financial responsibilities - to down tools and leave their benches, desks and assembly lines? Not once, but 523 times, at least according to the BBC ...

Not the power of one man, not even if that man was Derek Robinson, labelled 'Red Robbo' by the hostile mass media - a badge, incidentally, that he wore with pride.
No, it was the deep human desire for dignity, respect, recognition and reward, in the face of what Karl Marx called the 'alien and dominating force' of the machine.
Derek Robinson led those workers because he had earned their loyalty. He had inspired them to fight for decent pay and working conditions.
And when he was sacked for putting forward an alternative to a misnamed 'Rescue Plan' that would sink another 25,000 jobs at British Leyland, 30,000 car workers walked out or barricaded themselves inside the factories.
That's not mentioned in Derek's obituary on the BBC website.

But we know it happened. It was even reported in a secret telegram sent by the US embassy in London to the Department of State in Washington DC on November 23, 1979.
Of course, the Americans knew all about the collusion between BL management, right-wing trade union leaders, the Thatcher government and the Security Service, MI5, to sack Derek Robinson, to undermine the mass resistance and so send a message to shop stewards across Britain: 'If we can get rid of "Red Robbo", we can get rid of you'.
One US embassy telegram refers to Derek as a 'shrewd, calculating, determined tactician'. (I think it's important to place on record the US embassy's tribute to Derek Robinson as well).Those were indeed some of the qualities with which he served the working class.
But we know that he was much more than that.
For thousands of his fellow workers, comrades, friends and family members, he was a warm, considerate, courageous and inspirational man. His was no vain or wasted life.

Amid renewed interest in the work of George Orwell, the Morning Star heads into the archives and reprints here how Harry Pollitt reviewed The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937

Harry Pollitt

'Mr Orwell will have to try again'

Poor old Wigan! What things have been done in your name! From bad music-hall jokes to literary gents trying to hang their pegs around your name. The great thing is that we who come from Lancashire long ago learned to laugh at it all, in a way those who try to raise the laughs would never understand.

Here is George Orwell, a disillusioned little middle-class boy who, seeing through imperialism, decided to discover what socialism has to offer.

What a tragedy that a man can give up a position that the best years of his life were spent trying to fit him for, and then at a crisis in his life not see the real way to go.

Fortunately, Orwell has the sense to admit his own ignorance.

He tells us: "But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"

"When I thought of poverty, I thought of it in terms of brute starvation. Therefore my mind turned immediately towards the extreme cases, the social outcasts, tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. These people were the 'lowest of the low,' and these were the people with whom I wanted to get in contact."

"But I knew nothing about working-class conditions…"

It is perhaps natural that a late imperialist policeman should only see "the lowest of the low," as the place from which to get his new understanding of social conditions and socialism. But, of course, it was completely wrong, and must be responsible for the terribly distorted view that the author seems to have of everything connected with the working-class movement.

I suspect he knows nothing about this at all.

What a pity to travel all the way from Mandalay to disguise yourself as a tramp who can get into a Limehouse lodging-house without betraying his middle-class accent.

If ever snobbery had its hallmark placed upon it, it is by Mr Orwell.

From the Morning Star

international brigade morning star sculpture

PAUL SHAW explains why RMT Glasgow shipping branch is asking for your donations to finish a monument to the blockade runners

SOME 15 years ago, Ronnie Moran, then RMT Glasgow shipping branch secretary, was approached by renowned sculptor Frank Casey looking to honour the seafarers who formed the blockade runners to Spain during the Spanish civil war.

The branch (including its then chair and former secretary Stuart Hyslop) and the RMT Scottish regional council then formulated a plan to construct a memorial incorporating the sculpture that Casey would build to create a lasting memory to the seafarers dispatched to Spain to overthrow Francisco Franco’s fascist regime.

Casey stresses the importance of a lasting memorial, saying: “The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked.”

The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked

These small ships not only had the threat from insurgent Spanish warships to deal with but also Franco’s well-armed German and Italian allies.

In total 27 British-registered vessels were lost between 1936 and 1939 and are recognised by a plaque placed on the memorial.

Willie Gallacher was Communist MP for West Fife for many years. Our speaker Jim Whyte was Scottish Secretary of the Young Communist League and helped in Gallacher's political campaigning. Jim is in a unique position to speak from his first hand knowledge of a great leader of Red Clydeside who had it out with Lenin in Russia, but who eventually came round to Lenin's way of thinking!

Willie Gallacher was a founding member of the British Communist Party (following Lenin's advice), and grew politically and in the admiration of those around him to become the Member of Parliament for the constituency of West Fife.

This meeting was held on the 80th anniversary of Gallacher becoming a Communist MP. Jim talks us though the titanic developments in Scottish and British leftwing politics from the early 1900's up to the Cold War.

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