Tuesday, 28 January 2020
|Not the greatest of views|
Help needed to find the writer of a biography on one of the
Black Country’s heroines, Emma Sproson
Known as ‘Red Emma’, Sproson, born 1867, began work in Biltson as a home help when she was aged nine. When she moved to Lancashire and attended a public meeting a politician refused to answer her question because as a women she did not have a vote.
Back in Wolverhampton in 1895 Emma helped organise meetings across the Black Country at which Emmeline Pankhurst spoke.
In 1907 Emma was twice sent to prison after she joined protests organised at the Houses of Parliament by the Women’s Social and Political Union. Married to local Labour Party secretary, Frank Sproson, the mother-of-three was frequently abused for her political beliefs but never abandoned them.
She was poplar enough to become the first woman to be elected to Wolverhampton Council in 1921, representing the Labour Party in the Dunstall ward until 1927. She campaigned for low rents, for minimum pay rates for the lowest paid and for keeping council officials pay at reasonable levels.
Now, Unite the union and the Townswomen’s Guild (TG) are aiming, with the support of the Sproson family, to publish an Emma biography booklet this year. They are especially keen to locate Susan Pauline Walters, a student at Nene College, University of Leicester whose 1993 dissertation was on Emma Sproson (1867 - 1936): A Black Country Suffragette.
If you are able to assist then please make contact with either Sara Trayers at the TG on 07521 502846 and firstname.lastname@example.org or Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561 and email@example.com
Mark is the author of a biography on another local suffragette and trade unionist, Julia Varley, and you can download this for free at:- https://markwritecouk.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/6328-julia-varley-booklet.pdf
Monday, 27 January 2020
Mark Metcalf (@markmetcalf07) Tweeted:
#HolocaustRemembranceDay – the first large event in Britain was held in Manchester Town Hall on 27 January 2001. 500 heard anti-fascist, trades unionist and reps of Jewish and anti-racist groups speak. Here is the speech by delivered by anti-fascist GA. https://t.co/SaBQZjzrID
Holocaust Memorial Meeting
Manchester Town Hall 27 January 2001
1. Thanks to organisers
2. Today is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Red Army in 1945 and this event, perhaps more than any other, symbolises the commemoration of the Holocaust.
3. The Holocaust was not, of course, the first 20th century genocide. The Turks murdered an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War. Hitler was familiar with this genocide, and once, pondering his plans for the Jews, even asked the question: “Who will remember the Armenians?”
4. If we are properly to remember the Holocaust, it is very important that we understand its specific motives: the implementation of racial theories, which proclaimed the inferiority of non-Germanic, non-Nordic peoples, in particular the Jews, the Roma and Sinti, the Poles and other Slavic peoples.
5. At Auschwitz and other death camps and in the killing fields of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, these people were murdered in their millions: an estimated 6 million Jews, an estimated 20 million Slavs and as many as half a million Roma and Sinti. In these same locations, others…political opponents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically handicapped… were also done to death, irrespective of their alleged race.
6. What made these vile acts of brutality and murder absolutely unique was that their Nazi perpetrators used the most modern industrial techniques of production and accounting for the barbaric purpose of the destruction of human life.
7. It does no honour whatsoever to those slaughtered by the Nazi hordes to portray them merely as hapless victims because, horrific though the scale of fascist crimes was, they did not go ahead without resistance.
8. Indeed, having perceived the brutality of the Nazi dictatorship, those who grasped its intentions fought Hitler and his cohorts with appropriate ferocity under the most adverse conditions imaginable.
9. It would be less than fitting, then, if at least some of those courageous resistance fighters were not mentioned here today:
• the Baum Group, composed of Jewish and non-Jewish factory workers who organised sabotage and inspired active wartime opposition in Berlin, the very heart of Hitler’s Reich
• the fighters in the Warsaw ghetto and the Jewish partisan formations, in cities like Vilnius, who delivered armed resistance to the SS and Wehrmacht.
• other partisan groups, frequently composed of both Jews and non-Jews and mainly led by communists, who organised similar armed resistance… it should be noted here that, for the Nazis, these resistance fighters were termed “Jewish-Bolshevik” and were to be “liquidated” wherever they were found.
• the dockers and factory workers of Rotterdam, who organised and general strike to oppose the deportation of the Dutch Jews, and the immigrant MOI movement in Paris, led by Armenians – whose nation had experienced genocide – who assassinated Nazi officers and heavily sabotaged German military transport
• and, finally, the biggest battalions of all: the Red Army, which turned the tide at Stalingrad and which, throughout the whole military conflict, never engaged less than 75% of the entire German armed forces.
To these must be added, of course, the Western allied forces whose invasion of Europe in June 1944 spelled final doom for the Nazis.
10. Could the Holocaust have been avoided?
We do not know but had the other European powers challenged Hitler’s march into the Rhineland in 1936 or not actively hindered the fight of the International Brigades against Franco fascism in Spain, Hitler might not have felt so confident to launch his aggression and the mass exterminations which followed.
11. It would also be less than honest on this important anniversary, however, if no reference was made to the failure of the United States and the European powers to provide anything like an adequate refuge for Jews fleeing from fascism.
Those who today like to bandy about figures about immigrants and asylum seekers and publicly congratulate themselves today for their “tough policies” might do well to remember the tragedy that ensued from the tough policies displayed by their governmental forerunners in the 1930s.
12. If we cannot change the past we are, surely, at least obliged to learn from it and perhaps the biggest lesson of all – at a time when in some European countries, fascism has broken out of its postwar marginalisation – is that fascism has to be opposed and destroyed, root and branch, as soon as it appears…a lesson that was well understood by Hitler himself.
13. Thus, the crimes of fascism must not be abstracted from the need to struggle against it. The crimes are the very reason to struggle against it.
14. And, if we draw these conclusions and have the will to act on them, what confidence does it inspire for the future when one learns, according to recent revelations, that an SS mass killer was able to escape prosecution in the UK because he was working as an informer for the security services? What confidence does it inspire when a murderer like the Chilean fascist Pinochet – one of whose role models was Hitler – is able to leave the country without being brought to justice?
And…what are we to make of the fact that in the early days after the war, at the same time as life was being made difficult by our own authorities for survivors of the Holocaust both in Britain and Palestine, an entire division of the murderous Waffen SS was given refuge in this country by the British government?
15. If we are genuinely to remember the torment suffered by millions at the hands of the Nazis, it is incumbent upon us to recognise the evils of racism and antisemitism on which those sufferings were founded and actively to combat those evils without fear and without favour.
16. Those who failed to act or looked the other way in the 1930s could genuinely claim that they had not known what the results would be.
We, on the other hand, do know what happened and, therefore, do not have that luxury or excuse today.
Wednesday, 22 January 2020
‘OLD STUFF WILL OUTLAST THE NEW’
THREKELD QUARRY AND MINING MUSEUM, THREKELD
“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. (photographed) “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.”
Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies five miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200-strong membership chairman is quarry owner Ian Hartland, which closed in 1982.
“It was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre-war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ”
Having bought other quarries, Hartland, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it means we can mend things.”
A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It’s one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed,” he said.
In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors.
Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co- ordinator Jane Dickins.
Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “
Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self- supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term.
This is the unedited article on the Museum.
“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.”
Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies 5 miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The granite quarry was opened in the 1860s to supply railway ballast to the Penrith-Keswick line and its stone was later used for the Thirlmere 96 mile-long water works aqueduct scheme that still supplies water to the Manchester area.
Fuelled by demands for concrete flagstones, used in many Northern towns, road stone and kerbing saw production rise to 80,000 tons annually by 1894 and following which more quarry faces were opened. At the start of the twentieth century around 200 men, including some from Aberdeen and the Midlands, specially imported to improve local people’s skills in an area best known for slate, worked on site. Some stayed in specially constructed primitive houses and a local shop, pub and reading room were opened.
As granite is massive, hard, and tough then digging it out is a problem. “The quarrymen used a long metal pole which was driven into the rock and the subsequent hole was then filled with a mixture of fertiliser and oil to make a powerful explosive. Accidents would have been common,” explained Martin Sams, a local volunteer from Keswick.
Getting the granite off site to market was undertaken at first by horse and cart before a narrow gauge railway was constructed, running at the time down to the adjoining Threlkeld railway station, with a train hauling capacity of 22 tons a time. The 1 in 20 gradient on site railway still works today and visitors can enjoy a five to six minute half mile journey up to the quarry rock face. Extending the trip by another 550 yards will take place in 2020. On special days the train is hauled by a steam locomotive. “I love acting as a guard on those days,” smiled Sams.
When steam diggers/excavators were introduced into Threlkeld this helped raise production levels to a peak of 150,000 tons annually.
The quarry was though closed in 1937 but following WWII demand for granite rose considerably and it was re-opened in 1949 after undergoing compete modernisation.
New products included tarmac. Dumper trucks and diesel diggers were introduced and today the latter form an important part of the visiting attraction as there are eighty on site. The vast majority are working thanks to the huge efforts played by volunteers such as Motherwell’s George Chambers, who travels south each month to repair the machines. “As a boy I grew up with these magnificent machines and playing a role in bringing them back to life is a real thrill.”
The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200 strong membership chairman is Ian Hartland, who owns the quarry, which closed in 1982. “I felt it was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ”
Having bought other quarries, Hartland, whose a character, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it means we can mend things.”
A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It is one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed.” Brice is one of small number who are employed full-time.
In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors.
Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co-ordinator Jane Dickins.
Within a mile of the quarry, lead and zinc was mined between 1661 and 1928 and it was backbreaking work. A forty-five minute guided tour through a reconstructed lead/copper mine can be enjoyed.
Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt that Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “
As a worker in the Keswick tourist information service, Fox felt he could now speak fondly to anyone who asks him about Threlkeld. Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term.
CRUEL AND UNNECESSARY
Anti-hunt activists are still having to cry ‘Hounds Off’ our wildlife
Landworker magazine, Winter 2019/2020
While Scottish animal welfare campaigners are stepping up their efforts to block loopholes in fox hunting legislation their English and Welsh colleagues are reaching out to help farmers, landowners and rural residents being badly affected by hunt trespasses.
Foxhunting with dogs was outlawed by Scotland’s parliament in 2002. Hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate took place before England and Wales followed suit in 2005 when the Labour government was forced to use the Parliament Act after Tory peers in the Lords repeatedly rejected the legislation.
In 2006, legal attempts by hunters to reverse the ban on grounds that it breached human rights were dismissed by the High Court. Hunters also predicted that the law would be unenforceable and threatened defiance.
There were few early prosecutions but the figures have steadily increased each year.
Nevertheless, animal welfare campaigners have assembled overwhelming evidence that hunts are exploiting legal loopholes to still hunt in a manner which is very similar to pre- ban traditional hunting. A person will be deemed to be hunting by participating in the pursuit of a wild mammal where one or more dogs are employed in that pursuit.
Hunts across the UK can though exploit an exemption called “flushing to guns” that means letting hounds chase foxes out from cover such as woods into the open, to be shot by a marksman.
The League Against Cruel Sports (LACs) monitors hunts. According to its Scottish Field Investigator “we have filmed hounds running across open countryside in pursuit of foxes, hunts entering their dogs into cover when there is clearly no intention to shoot any foxes that may be flushed...”
The Investigator said fox hunters were organising on a need to know basis, making it difficult to collect evidence that can stand up in court. LACs field research officers have been on the sharp end of considerable harassment and intimidation by those who engaging in a cruel and unnecessary practice that has little effect on reducing fox numbers.
LACs and other Scottish animal welfare activists have organised a high profile campaign to strengthen the law. After a lengthy process led by Lord Bonomy the SNP government promised a Bill to outline steps to close loopholes in the 2002 legislation.
Time limits for prosecutions were to be extended, a code of practice introduced and independent hunt monitors were to be considered.
The SNP has now failed to keep its pledge by dropping the bill from its 2020 programme for government. A letter has since emerged from the SNP rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing to a hunt sympathiser. Ewing backs “current exemptions which have enabled pest control to be carried out using dogs.” He states there was “no intention to ban that activity.”
LACs Scottish director, Robbie Marsland has expressed his “deep disappointment” at the SNP’s inaction. LACs will now support a fox and hare bill by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone “to close loopholes in the current legislation and really ban hunting in Scotland.”
In England and Wales the voluntary group Hounds Off (HO), established in 2010 after the then Conservative opposition leader David Cameron had promised if elected to repeal the Hunting Act, seeks to create hunt-free zones.
Cameron was unable to repeal the Act, which according to HO founder Joe Hashman, “HO seeks to complement by getting farmers, landowners and rural residents to declare their homesteads as hunt free zones. We want to unite a compassionate uprising in support of the Hunting Act and against killing for sport.
‘We have built a nationwide network, including livestock farmers, tenants and estate managers, of people who are shocked and infuriated by the arrogance and lawfulness of hunts and their followers...who are fed up with disruption caused by dogs and hunters going wherever they like as it they own the place – which often they don’t.”
The advice provided by HO has been drawn up by legal professionals. It includes getting to know your property rights, warning off the local hunt and erecting no hunting signs. The group, which also backs the work of organisations such as LACs, has helped many people prevent attacks on their animals, the killing of foxes on their land and general harassment by hunters.
JC, who lives in Kent, praised the “wonderful support and advice of Hounds Off. We repeatedly suffer from the arrogant and bullying behaviour of our local hunt. We plan to use all available means to put an end to this harassment.”
Whilst Hashman, who hopes a future Labour Government would strengthen the law on fox hunting, is “buoyed by these successes” he also wants to develop new forms of hunting that do not involve killing wild animals. He cites drag hunting and Dry Booting that involves using “a small pack of bloodhounds to hunt human runners by their scent along...... which if developed could create a whole gamut of rural recreational possibilities and business opportunities.”
Hounds Off has no regular income and so the group seeks to raise its profile message via social media and word of mouth. Hashman, who is a regular annual visitor to the Toldpuddle Martyrs Festival, would welcome trade union support. He is especially keen to see trade unionists in the railway sector speak out as “hunt trespass is a common occurrence and it’s a danger to railway workers and passengers. It needs to be stopped.”
Turkmen journalist Gaspar Matalaev (pictured) has been released after three years of wrongful imprisonment for having exposed forced labour conditions in the cotton fields of Turkmenistan, a Central Asian Republic (CAR) where trade unions are not allowed to function freely.
Turkmenistan is a former Soviet bloc country ruled by the Democratic Party (DP), which simply changed its name from the Communist Party in the 1990s. At the Presidential election in Turkmenistan in 2016, DP leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was re- elected with a claimed 98 per cent of the vote.
By shining a light on the forced labour problem in Turkmenistan, Gaspar sought to bring the practice to an end and create a momentum towards free trade unions with the right to bargain collectively.
The campaign to force his freedom resulted in over 100,000 people globally
adding their names to a petition calling on the government of Turkmenistan to release him.
Thanks to this campaign, in which the International Federation of Journalists and the International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers (IUF) were prominent, Gaspar knew he was never alone. His first message upon his release from prison on
September 6, 2019 was a big thank you to everyone who has supported him over the past three years.
Nevertheless the torture he received and the terrible prison conditions he was forced to endure have left him badly affected. Unite members who can help aid Gaspar’s recovery can donate at:- https://gaspar.funraise.org
Trapped without trade unions
Manufacturing towns in China –The Governance of Rural Migrant Workers
by Yue Gong, Palgrave Macmillan, £52.42
The numbers of Chinese rural workers migrating, for varying time periods, to work in urban areas is huge and consists of around 20 per cent of China’s 1.38bn population. Most work in manufacturing, which absorbs three in 10 of the migrants with the construction industry employing one in five.
Migrants, who to obtain work must be young, healthy and passive, enter towns and cities seeking to improve their economic circumstances but are often restricted from receiving basic local welfare services such as public housing and education.
Although in recent years a number of migrant workers are able to obtain highly skilled jobs the majority remain lowly paid and must work long hours on low-skilled repetitive processes. Independent trade union organisation is not permitted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and would not be welcomed anyway by the major multinational companies that form
the backbone of the manufacturing industry in the Chinese Republic. This has not stopped workers from taking strike action and engaging in riots on certain occasions such as in 2014 when thousands of workers at the Yue Yuen shoe factory in China, which supplies brands including Nike and Adidas, stopped work over social security payments.
Outside of work the authorities are also keen to retain control of migrants. The author lived alongside migrant workers, interviewing many of them while also observing their activities as they struggled to make sense and improve their dramatically new circumstances.
There is two main forces exerting governance over migrants outside the factory. These are the government and local landowners organised within village committees. The latter has been content to build specially constructed cheap housing for migrant workers that is gated well away from the much better living
38 uniteLANDWORKER Winter 2019/2020
quarters of the indigenous population. This and other constraints physically marginalise migrants and prevent them playing a role in local affairs.
Meanwhile in their desire to recruit rural migrants, who are unable to make a living at home and who are critically required by the manufacturing companies, there is the deliberate targeting of workers as soon as they enter the main street of the manufacturing town. These become labour markets and the newcomers are persuaded to undertake work at the earliest opportunity without necessarily understanding what they’ve signed up for or even meeting more experienced workers who might be able to offer valuable advice on pay and conditions across industries.
All of this helps to keep labour as cheap as possible as each worker sees themselves as individuals rather than part of a great body of workers who need to get collectively organised if they are to enjoy some of the fruits of their hard work.
Love and Labour
Red Button Years: Volume 1
Ken Fuller’s book on London bus workers, Radical Aristocrats (*) , was published in 1985. In this he drew upon his work as a bus driver within the TGWU, who he subsequently became an officer for.
In his attempt to build on his earlier book, Ken has written the first volume in a series of novels. Love and Labour covers developments within the London and Provincial Union of Licensed Vehicle Workers (LPU), known as the red-button union, in the period from 1913-1919.
The book is very well written and is centred around two fictional characters and lovers, Mickey Rice, a working class tram driver from Reading, and Dorothy Bridgeman, a socialist from wealthy stock. Unfortunately, I was unsure why Bridgeman, like many real characters from similar backgrounds, was fascinated by socialism. Readers must make their own minds on that one.
Ken does a very good job in explaining how some of the LPU leaders such as George Sanders helped develop the trade union and political consciousness of such as Rice ensuring that they took on leadership roles within their depots and the working class generally. In doing so these industrial and political militants attracted enemies across the capitalist class, the state and public authorities, as well as those within the labour movement who were content with the status quo. LPU officials were elected by the membership. This rank and file control ensured its officials were required to understand the needs of those they represented and sought to satisfy them.
Mickey’s bravery, his graft at work alongside his workmates, allied to a willingness to watch and learn from more skilled union negotiators lies behind his increasing credibility within the LPU membership. This enables him to win workers into taking action to defend and extend their pay and conditions.
It is an interesting story.
As is the descriptions of strikes, why they took place and the organisation needed by transport workers to win when forced to oppose not only their employers, but also the Government and State that is set up to ensure that, unlike events in Russia in 1917, which are well explained in the book, there is no serious threat to the ruling class.
In conclusion this is a very decent attempt by the author to explain the class struggle as it arose during the period surrounding WWI and I’d recommend it with the proviso that it will take quite a bit of time to read as it is 220,000 words long. I feel that with some editing, cutting some of the descriptions of meetings particularly, it should have been possible to reduce the word count of as I think the more people would read it. I would also like to have had the opportunities to find out more about the characteristics, warts and all, of the bus drivers and conductors themselves. Having previously described them as Radical Aristocrats then who were these workers, what were their attitudes, where did they spring from?
- Radical Aristocrats: London Busworkers from the 1880s to the 1980s
Review of book at:- https://markwrite.co.uk/2018/10/05/radical-aristocrats-london-busworkers-from-the-1880s-to-the-1980s/
Love and Labour costs £15 and is available at:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Labour-Red-Button-Years-1/dp/1699092788/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=love+and+labour+by+ken+fuller&qid=1579689077&s=books&sr=1-1