Ernest Jones speech at Kennington Common 2 April 1848

An account of the Chartists preparations for the mass gathering on 10 April 1848, when they intended, arms in hand, to march on parliament with a petition from the people to demand the implementation of their Charter for greater democracy.

At the event held on 2 April to garner some last minute signatures, two speakers  Mr John Fussell and Mr Ernest Jones regaled the assembled people.

The below account is based on the account published in the Morning Star 8 Apr. 1848.

Continue reading Ernest Jones speech at Kennington Common 2 April 1848

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax

As this book was being prepared for publishing, Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to a decisive electoral victory on 12 December 2019. This defeat sent demoralising shock waves across the left. The spectre of a never-ending Tory government, headed by a narcissistic liar and born to rule populist demagogue, left many in despair.

Continue reading Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax

Smaller trade unions impact on Labour’s vote

When I was interviewed on R4 about the LP conference they had some vox pops from ex miners in Yorkshire saying they are going to vote Tory. The point was to terrify the left – oh my god, ex miners are voting for Johnson! But what does it mean to be an ‘ex-miner’? Many of them are older men  who probably aren’t in unionised workplaces and have decided sticking it to the EU is the best way forward for them and their communities. They have no real organisation or perspective to challenge that. The old culture of ‘brothers’ and the union meeting hall are long gone in some places.

This fits in with a wider collapse in socialist conciousness since the 1980s – in Britain the twin defeats of the union movement and the collapse of “actually existing socialism” all made a huge impression on people. It culminated in the ‘there is no alternative’ thesis of Thatcher and Blair. The end of history, liberal democracy had won.

Now we can see that this was not the case, there is a global rivival of far right, authoritarian and fascistic views taking place, sadly we are not quite seeing the resurgence of socialist conciousness yet.

What does this mean for Britain? The problem is that for generations Labour relied on the implantation of trade unions in a lot of these communities to turn out the vote for the party. With the massive rolling back of unions and the closure of industries that used to be well organised, these people have no living, day to day connection with the organised working class. The union meetings, the banners the organisers, the union socials and regular contact with various communists and socialists from that movement means that people are left to their own devices, this means they are increasingly prey to the bourgeois media and its anti working class agenda.

What trade unions we have in this country are based largely in the public sector. The private sector has trade unions but they lack density and face vicious anti union managment culture who have the full weight of the law behind them to stop strikes and other independent actions by workers.

You might look at the 2017 election vote and say – “well it doesn’t really matter because we can still get 40% of the vote if we need to anyway.” Fair point. But I am talking about building a solid, working class movement which can not just a deliver a stable vote when the time comes but identifies with the goals and socialist aspirations of the movement. In other words an organised working class.

It goes without saying of course that I believe that the building of such a movement comes first, the votes are a by product of the fight to establish strong unions, co-operatives in struggle against capitalism.

This is why I also think abolishing the anti union laws is the most important startegic gain that could be made under a Labour government, it frees up our class to organise, to fight, to build up its own strength again.


Why do the oppressed suffer?

“When one amongst you suffers injustice, when, in his passage through this world, the oppressor overthrows him, and plants his foot upon him: if he complains there is none to hear him.

The cry of the poor ascends up to God, but it reaches not to the ear of man.

And I inquired of myself, Whence cometh, this evil? Is it that he who has created the poor as well as the rich, the weak as well as the strong, would wish to take from some all fear in their iniquities, from the others all hope in their misery?

And I beheld that this was a horrible thought, a blasphemy against God;
Beacuse each amongst you loves only himself, because he separates himself from his brtheren, because he is alone, and wills to be alone, therefore his cry is not heard.”
Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais

Shelley: Men of England! (1819)

A Song: “Men of England”

Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?
Wherefore feed and clothe and save
From the cradle to the grave
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat—nay, drink your blood?
Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?
Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?
The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.
Sow seed—but let no tyrant reap:
Find wealth—let no imposter heap:
Weave robes—let not the idle wear:
Forge arms—in your defence to bear.
Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells—
In hall ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.
With plough and spade and hoe and loom
Trace your grave and build your tomb
And weave your winding-sheet—till fair
England be your Sepulchre.