Labour’s Voice in Europe, by James Darby, Project Archivist

I have just finished cataloguing four archive collections relating to the Labour Party in Europe. These include the papers of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and the personal papers of David Candler, Ron Leighton and Colin Beever; three politicians linked with the pro and anti Common Market wings of the party during the 1970s and 80s.

Labour Movement for Europe report

Funding for the cataloguing of these collections has been gratefully received from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, a grant scheme made available by several funding trusts and administered by The National Archives. The project began in April 2016 and involved the box listing of 109 boxes from the EPLP collection, 18 from the Candler collection, 16 from Colin Beevor and 9 from Ron Leighton.

EPLP boxes

EPLP boxes in strongroom

Once box listed the collection had to be placed into suitable series and following this the rather long and arduous task of reboxing all the material in the correct order.

These collections include correspondence and reports of the British Labour Group in Europe and material relating to pro and anti-EEC organisations such as the Labour Movement for Europe and Common Market Safeguards Campaign. Researchers can view the catalogues on the museum’s website and use the collections by booking an appointment in the archive reading room.

Thomas Wodehouse’s A Grammar of Socialism

A guest blog by Kayley Davies, Alexandra Gunn, Ben Littlejohns, James Lansdale and Julia Smith from the University of Manchester about Thomas Wodehouse’s 1884 pamphlet A Grammar of Socialism.  The students visited the Labour History Archive & Study Centre as part of their Archival Project for ‘Christianity, Culture and Society 1750-2000’.

The Source and Author                

A Grammar of SocialismA Grammar of Socialism is a pamphlet by Thomas Wodehouse, the curate of the Savoy, and published in 1884. The source is written in a question and answer style and was sold for a tuppence. The text addresses the population as a whole and transcends class barriers. It is likely to have been used to educate people of the ideas and definition of Christian Socialism, including questions such as, ‘what is Socialism, and what is its aim?’ Through the question and answer structure, the pamphlet is able to put forward the basic and also more elaborate ideas of Socialism. These main ideas focus on right and wrong and the three maxims that all should work, consume only what they need and distribution their remaining wealth. It is important to remember that as the author is writing to promote Christian Socialism, he is writing with an element of bias.

The Context of the Time

The end of the 19th century was no less tumultuous than the start. Although working men had been granted partial suffrage under the Reform Act of 1867, the impact of the Charter Movement continued to be felt. The increasing awareness of the need for change is most obvious in the establishment of the Socialist Democratic Federation in 1881, and the subsequent split with the Socialist League in December 1884. Upon its foundation, it ran on a very progressive platform, calling for a 48 hour work week, an end to child labour, and equality for women. Though it is somewhat outdated, Torben Christensen’s Origin and History of Christian Socialism, 1848-1854 provides an excellent introduction to the context in which Christian Socialism emerged.

Religion at the Time of Production    

By detailing the need for money to alleviate the problems the poor faced, the demand for support from the upper classes is important to Christian Socialists.

By assisting the poor with their monetary concerns, Christian Socialists seek to rid the issue of poverty within the working classes of their society. As the movement acted on behalf of the poor, it can show the lack of interaction the working class had within religious institutions. The pamphlets desire to distribute large sums of money amongst orphanages could be linked to the Sunday School movement that arose throughout the 19th Century, striving to provide a basic literary education to children through a biblical context.

Why Study the Work?

This pamphlet is emblematic of certain Christian socialist ideals and therefore is a particularly interesting and useful text to highlight. Christian socialism emerged in response to the widespread poverty that was afflicting the working classes in late Victorian London. The text reveals their core belief that Christians should be active in society on a practical level. The insistence on the redistribution of wealth shows us that although spiritual and moral reform was a concern, it never constituted a focus for the Christian socialists. Instead, they believed that those in poverty must first be alleviated from their situation before they could be reformed spiritually. The pamphlet’s emphasis on the physical conditions and suffering of the working class represents the contrasting position the Christian Socialists had to the evangelicals in this period, who were distinctly concerned with moral regeneration and ‘soul-saving’.

Relevance to Contemporary Faith Groups

It is important to look at the work of early Christian Socialists as their work has inspired and led the way for followers of the movement today. Wodehouse’s pamphlet is relevant as it helps us understand the ideas of the early development and is easily read. The work defines socialism as one that ‘promotes the temporal welfare of the whole community.’ This is still the overall belief of Christian Socialism, further demonstrating the relevance of the piece. These 19th century ideas can also be observed through contemporary Christian faith groups and their use of foodbanks and Christian aid in order to provide for those who are without. Modern Christian Socialist, Kenneth Leech demonstrates how these ideas of Christian Socialism are still relevant as he states:

‘The only theology to which I am committed is one which is part of the current liberation.’

Further Reading

Leech, Kenneth. The Sky is Red: Discerning the Sign of the Times. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Norman, Edward R.. The Victorian Christian Socialists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

The Christian and Politics

A guest post by Manchester University’s Religious Studies course after their visit to the Labour History Archive & Study Centre

Christian Socialism began as a movement in the mid-19th century, around the year 1848. For early Victorian society, religion played a key part in their daily lives, whether it was to help navigate the seasons of the year and help with crop rotation in a rural setting or as an aspect of the daily life of an industrialist in the cities.

At its beginnings in 1848, Christian Socialism held 5 key principles:

  • Opposition to competition.
  • Christians to be active in society.
  • Duty to help men (and women) out of poverty.
  • Development of worker’s co-operatives.
  • Importance of earthly salvation.

It is interesting to note that the actual Christian Socialist Movement collapsed in 1854 as an individual institution as people went their separate ways in the search for a fulfilment of their own political and religious ideals.

The emergence of non-conformist religion such as Methodism had a lot to do with the origins of the Labour movement. Early Methodism inspired many 19th century trade unionist movements. In many ways the beginnings of the Christian Socialist movement can be seen to translate into the modern day Labour Party with its support of the political order, its opposition to strike action and its rejection of class conflict. What’s more, many of the founders of what is now the Labour party were Christian socialists, such as Keir Hardie, who had been a lay preacher as a member of the United Secession Church. Many would be surprised to learn that the origins of the left wing party were Methodist rather than Marxist. However many recent Labour leaders, notably Tony Benn, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, have been committed to Christian Socialism. Christian Socialists find inspiration through Bible passages such as: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’’ (Luke 6:20). This approach tends not to be revolutionary; rather it calls for improved conditions for the poor rather than radical societal change. Christian socialist ideology has moved popular religious movements and impacted the political landscape in Britain.

The Christian and PolticsThe Christian and Politics highlights the demand for effective Christian leadership. The opening paragraph of the booklet states that the Church has, for the past 100 years (1848-1948) been ‘urging Christians to take a more lively interest in politics and a more active part in national and international affairs.’ Many Christians of this time, the author notes, do not take into consideration their fellow men in relation to their religion, but rather between themselves and God alone. The author continues to encourage the readers; by identifying the ‘appalling apathy, indifference, ignorance and opposition amongst members of the churches’ and how ‘those who wield political power sometimes use it for selfish ends.’ In addition to this he proposes that it’s up to Christians to speak out the truth of God within the political world in order to work towards something greater.

Today the Christian Socialism movement has re-branded as Christians on the Left. It is still an active movement with around 1500 members including 40 MPs. The group today still advocates many of the same principles and actions indicated in the 1948 pamphlet. For example, they believe that in political terms they do not have the “option to opt out,” and must instead be active as Christians in the political realm by taking part in campaigning, standing for election to local, regional, national and European bodies, political theology and parliamentary events amongst other things. However, although political action is at the heart of the Christian Socialism movement, both in 1948 and today, they are still keen to establish that their “primary identity is in Christ, not a political ideology.” It is therefore in their reading of scripture that they find both the justification and structure for their political activity.

Red Pepper

A guest blog by Archivist Heather Roberts

red pepperHappy 20th birthday to Red PepperRed Pepper is a popular socialist magazine established in 1995. It followed after the demise of The Socialist, a newspaper printed by the Socialist Movement. Unlike its predecessor however, Red Pepper is without overt nods to one political party and has a strong and loyal following with a content focus on socialism, feminism and the green-left.  At the Labour History Archive & Study Centre we hold the archive of the newspaper. The collection mainly contains issues of Red Pepper and The Socialist; minutes and business plans of Red Pepper and spans the years 1991-2007.  The collection was donated in 2011 by Red Pepper’s editor Hilary Wainwright.

Find out more about how to visit the Archive to view Red Pepper and our other amazing collections

On this day: Mandela is freed

A guest post by archive volunteer Fran Devine

Labour Research Department - apartheid pamphletOn 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in South African prisons, most of them on Robben Island, where he and other African National Congress members were sentenced to hard labour. It would be another 4 years until a democratic election, open to all South African adults for the first time, resulted in him becoming president.

The Labour History Archive & Study Centre at the People’s History Museum houses many photos of the anti-apartheid movement in Britain, as well as a wide range of pamphlets from South Africa, Britain, and elsewhere, including a few in support of Britain’s economic links with apartheid South Africa. Anyone is welcome to come and look at them and much more. See our website for visiting information.

“Vampires and Rabbits and Demons, Oh My!” – James Keir Hardie Speech Notes

A guest post by volunteer Laura Earnshaw

As a volunteer at the People’s History Museum Labour History Archive & Study Centre, I have noticed some unusual imagery while cataloguing the collection of Keir Hardie’s speech notes. James Keir Hardie was born on 15 August 1856 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Illegitimate, he was the family’s sole wage-earner at age 8, and by age 11 was working in the coal mines. Having taught himself to read and write by age 17 he established a union at his colliery and in 1881 went on strike. In 1892 he stood for election in West Ham, London, as an independent labour candidate and won: on entering Parliament it became clear that he was a radical in dress as well as speech, wearing tweed instead of the usual black frock coat. In 1893, with others, Hardie formed the Independent Labour Party, becoming its Chairman and leader, and going on to form the Labour Representation Committee in 1899. In 1900 Keir Hardie became MP of Merthyr Tydfil, and when the LRC became the Labour Party in 1906 he was elected its leader in the House of Commons, a position which he resigned in 1908. A Women ’s Suffrage supporter and a Pacifist during World War I, Hardie died on 26 September 1915, in Glasgow. He gave many speeches throughout Britain during his political career, and while many of the notes held at the Archive & Study Centre deal with usual political themes; unemployment, finance, and foreign policy, for example; some unusual themes did catch my eye. Allusions to Rabbits, Vampires and Demons seemed unusual, and I am still confused as to their inclusion at points!

Keir Hardie speech note - VampireThere are various mentions of “Vampire” or “Vampires” in Hardie’s speech notes. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, and had taken hold of the collective Gothic imagination – yet what had vampires to do with politics? A reference appears in Item KHSN/4 between a mention of elections and the note “no control” – is this a connection? Perhaps a lack of control at elections was likened by Hardie to a vampire after blood? But who is out of control? Unfortunately a detailed answer doesn’t seem to be found in the speech notes available in the collection, though there are a metaphor alluding to labour’s blood being sucked by political parties!

Keir Hardie speech note - DemonAnother peculiar theme that caught my eye was the repeated mention of the demon “Moloch”. Often just a prompt, “Moloch” appears in several Series with very little explanation. In Item KHSN/21/1 however the reference is expanded to describe “Human sacrifice [offered? Opened?] to the Moloch of trade”. Some preliminary research revealed that Moloch was a child-eating demon, and this seemed to fit with the metaphor Hardie wished to employ. Though child labour laws were in force by the late nineteenth century, perhaps Hardie was thinking of his own working childhood? This (rather unsavoury) metaphor was further expanded upon in Item KHSN/54/3, when Hardie included a description of Moloch as “a cruel heartless fabled monster who demanded sacrifice of little children to appease his wrath” – this was followed by the damning pronouncement that compared “to modern industrialisation [?] he was a white robed angel of mercy.” This is perhaps explanation for inclusion alone, though I was curious as to where Hardie had heard of such a foul demon. A potential answer came in the form of additional research – the novel Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert. Published in 1862 it was a novel about Carthage, where the god Moloch was offered children as sacrifice, and from which “Moloch” entered a sort of public consciousness.

Keir Hardie speech note - RabbitsA far more confusing reference, and one which remains so, is Hardie’s mention of “Rabbits”, particularly in Series KHSN/5. It is unclear whether this was a recognisable contemporary political metaphor, or if it was an original metaphor of Hardie’s. The notes that have been left to the Archive & Study Centre do not shed much light on their context or origin. Hardie does mention an essay in KHSN/5, though it is unclear whether it is his own work referenced, or something he has read that has inspired him. Indeed, the prompt “Essay on Rabbit” appears on another fragment, frustratingly with no additional information! Another note mentions “Rosebury” (most probably Lord Rosebery, Prime Minister 1894-95, and Liberal) and describes him as “nibling [sic] at the question like a rabbit”, and though the “question” is unknown, this perhaps suggests that “Rabbits” were intended to be an insulting allusion. Lists are also included of the physiology, appearance, diet and habitat of rabbits, though I am uncertain to what end!

I have noted some of the unusual references found in the Keir Hardie speech notes held at the Labour Archive & Study Centre. Who expects to find Rabbits and Demons and Vampires in amongst unemployment rates, foreign policy comparisons and taxes?! The mystery is only deepened by the lack of answers in the speech notes we have. Yet as odd as they are, I also find them endearingly earnest, though odd in the combination of melodramatic Gothic horror, religious fervour and political discussion. However: one note on the ordinary in an article on the unusual. Seven separate Items in this collection include the prompt “Stand Erect”, which one can assume to have been a personal note-to-self by Hardie. It is difficult sometimes to see the person behind the historical political leader and their words.  Notes reminding himself to stand up straight when addressing a crowd make Keir Hardie seem real, though perhaps less confusing than his notes on Rabbits and Vampires and Demons do.

People Make Their Own History

The museum is delighted to be hosting more WEA courses in the spring of 2015. You can find out more about the People Make Their Own History course, in this guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

Peterloo image from Ed Hall RMT banner exhibited at PHMHalf the population of Manchester took to the streets in August 1819. They were joined by protesters from the towns of Oldham, Middleton, Stockport and beyond. Sixty thousand people came to hear the greatest ‘orator’ in the land, Henry Hunt.

Their demands were that towns like Manchester should have a representative in parliament – and that working people should have the vote. They were brutally attacked. Peaceful protesters were cut down by the Yeomanry Guard, armed with sharpened sabres. 18 were killed and over six hundred injured. What became known across the world as the Peterloo Massacre was the first protest movement, the dawn of the working class movement. Those that marched that day ‘made their own history’.Henry Hunt jug displayed at  PHM gallery

Protesters today stand in a long tradition of struggle that started at Peterloo.

The ten week course People Make Their Own History is a learning experience from Workers’ Educational Association in association with the People’s History Museum. Actors perform as Living History characters in the PHM galleries to bring people like the Chartist William Cuffay and the Suffragette Hannah Mitchell to life.

Examine the archives at the PHM  (2)Visits to the Labour History Archive & Study Centre enable students to examine original documents and artefacts. We will cover Peterloo and the Chartists; the struggles over jobs, against Fascism, and for access the countryside in the 1930s; fighting Section 28 and for LGBT rights in the 1980s; to Stop the War, and the struggle against the Bedroom Tax today. You can find more details about the WEA course on the People’s History Museum’s website. To enrol go to the WEA website. This course runs for ten weeks, starting Thursday 15 January 2015, 1.00pm – 3.00pm.Print