Stanley Taggart; an ordinary man on an extraordinary day – a Unite booklet by Mark Metcalf
When the spectre of fascism came marching into Stockton in September 1933 it aroused great passion and anger. Ordinary people recognised that fascism would destroy democracy, the trade union and labour movement, create a permanent one-party state, crush individual identity and force the individual to serve the interests of the state. It would lead to genocide and the persecution of minorities and women.
The story of Stanley Taggart is a story of an ordinary man, who did something extraordinary. It’s often said that history is made by the acts of extraordinary individuals, yet it is ordinary people standing together who really make the difference as Bertolt Brecht points out in his fantastically powerful poem, A Worker Reads History – “Each page a victory, at whose expense, the victory ball? Every ten years a great man, who paid the piper?”
The story of a rank-and-file trade unionist, a member of the T&G, (predecessor union to Unite), is the story of us all. I’m sure on that far off morning in September 1933, when Stanley woke up, there must have been a slight temptation to roll back over in bed or choose to do other things that day. Many of us confronted by the choice of taking a stand against injustice, or simply going about our normal daily business, choose the latter.
Stanley Taggart alongside several thousand other local people, when asked by their grandchildren, “what did you do when the fascists came to our town?” was able to stand proud in the knowledge that he wasn’t passive, that he didn’t choose to leave it to others, but that he went out to stop them from spreading their messages of hate and division.
There are lessons for us all in Stanley’s story. It’s often said that evil succeeds when good people fail to stand up to challenge it. When we decide whether to attend that demo, to join that picket line or go to that rally, we place ourselves in history. When we are asked by our grandchildren what we did to stand up to far-right extremism, we need to have a tale or two to tell.