Over the last century the novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ has been credited with having more influence on the growth of the labour & trade union movement than Marx & Engels. Yet for a long time little was known about the author, a house-painter called ‘Robert Tressell.’ Ian Hernon has traced his life from Victorian Ireland & South Africa to Edwardian Hastings &, ultimately, Liverpool. It is the story of how arguably the greatest novel about the English working class sprang to life from Tressell’s bitter experience & first-hand observations. It is also the personal story of a workmate & single parent who was much-loved in life & venerated after his premature death before his masterpiece was published.

That masterpiece has particular resonance in today’s political climate of austerity and division. With a preface by Len McCluskey, General … More

Born OTD in 1873, Rudolf Rocker. Historically one of the most prominent forms of social anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism is a school of thought that views labour unions as a potential force for revolutionary social change, capable of replacing capitalism and the State with a new society democratically self-managed by the workers.

The basic idea behind anarcho-syndicalism is to create an industrial workers’ union movement based on anarchist ideas, aiming eventually to … More

OTD in 1834, six farm labourers from the Dorset hamlet of Tolpuddle fell foul of draconian Victorian laws prohibiting assembly . Today the names of George Loveless & his brother James, Thomas Standfield & his son John, James Brine & James Hammett, who made up the Tolpuddle Martyrs, stand high on the roll of British men who have been victimised for their beliefs but stood steadfast in the face of persecution. They refused to be persuaded to betray their principles either by the promise of release or by transportation to Australia.

The Tolpuddle men fought to win their freedom sustained by their passionate conviction that their sacrifices would not be in … More

A graphic biography of socialist labor legend Eugene V. Debs. Debs led the Socialist Party in the early 20th-century to federal and state office across the country, helped to pioneer a fighting union politics that organized all workers, & became the beloved figurehead of American radicalism. Imprisoned for speaking out against World War I, Debs ran for president from prison, receiving over 1 million votes. Debs’s story is the story of labor battles in industrializing America, of a socialist politics grown directly out of the American Midwest heartland, and of a distinctly American vision of socialism.

With the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the rise of mass movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter, and the Wall … More

Born OTD in 1855, American socialist, political activist, trade unionist, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States, Eugene Victor Debs.

After his work with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the American Railway Union, Debs’ next major work in organizing … More

“I am a socialist, & have been fighting and will fight for an absolute reconstruction of society for the benefit of all. I am proud of my conduct. I have squared my conduct with my intellect, and if everyone had done so this war would not have taken place. I act square and clean for my principles. I have nothing to retract. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Your class position is against my class position. There are two classes of morality. There is the working class morality and there is the capitalist class morality…”

There is this antagonism as there is the antagonism between Germany and Britain. A victory for Germany is a defeat … More

In February 1900 a group of men representing trade unionists, socialists, Fabians & Marxists gathered in London to make another attempt at establishing an organisation capable of getting working-class men elected to Parliament. The body they set up was the Labour Representation Committee; 6 years later when 29 of its candidates were elected to the House of Commons it changed its name to the Labour Party. No women took part in that first meeting, but several watched from the public gallery.

Throughout Labour’s history, even in its earliest years, women were present in the room, but they were not always recorded … More

Unrestrained by convention, lion-hearted and free, Eleanor Marx (1855-98) was an exceptional woman. She pioneered the theatre of Henrik Ibsen. She was the first woman to lead the British dock workers’ and gas workers’ trades unions. For years she worked tirelessly for her father, Karl Marx, as personal secretary and researcher. Later she edited many of his key political works, and laid the foundations for his biography.

But foremost among her achievements was her pioneering feminism. For her, sexual equality was a necessary precondition for a just … More