Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Ringing out the old, ringing in the new – our new blog

Posted by wcmlibrary on May 12, 2015

Our new Web site allows us at last to bring our blog closer to home – our new blog features on the site at

We will not be adding any more blog postings at this address therefore.  But we will leave the existing postings here to be browsed through.

If you’d like to become a library blogger, reviewing new books for us or helping us highlight in other ways aspects of our amazing collections, let us know – enquiries @

Thanks for your interest and support, Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager

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Badges of honour – mementoes of campaigns gone by, and causes still being fought today

Posted by wcmlibrary on March 17, 2015

Badge display

We had a visit the other week from Roy Jones, former Morning Star reporter.  Roy, also known to his colleagues as Arthur Roy, served as the paper’s industrial reporter from 1982 to 1995, so covered the miners’ strike as well as many other major struggles of the ’80s and ’90s.  The Industrial Reporters’ Group of the National Union of Journalists presented him with this display case of badges on his retirement – and he in turn has presented it to us.  How many of these do you recognise from your own collection?


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The Ninth of March 1945

Posted by wcmlibrary on March 9, 2015

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the firebombing of Tokyo. On the evening of March 9th 1945 over 1600 bombs were dropped on Tokyo in what was then the single largest number of casualties in one night in human history. Whilst estimates of those who died are difficult to verify, the range of those killed is generally taken to be between 75,000 and 125,000.

What marked that night was the first large scale use of napalm, a product which when combined with white phosphor would ‘penetrate deep into the musculature, where it would continue to burn, day after day’ (1).  In order to perfect the technique of bombing with such a new technological approach a replica of a Japanese village was built in Utah in order to understand the nature of the challenge. In the raid of March 9th and 10th the bombers were deployed in patterns which had previously been organised to maximise levels of destruction.

Tokyo, 1945

Public Domain Photograph: Chou City Peaceful Prayer Virtual Museum. Accessed 05/03/2015

Strong winds on the evening and night of March 9th & 10th intensified the impact of the bombing. A report from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that ‘the chief characteristic of the conflagration … was the presence of a fire front, an extended wall of fire extending moving to leeward preceded by a mass of pre heated, turbid, burning vapours. An extended fire swept over 15 square miles in 6 hours. The area of the fire was nearly 100 per cent burned …. no structure or its contents escaped damage.’

The report concluded that ‘probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6 hour period than at any time in the history of man. The largest numbers of victims were the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly’ (2).

In the next ten days, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe were bombed in a similar manner to Tokyo to the extent that in that period ‘nearly half of the destruction that the whole bombing war had caused in Germany was visited on Japan’ (3).

There was then a pause in the bombing on account of a lack of napalm.

But bombing resumed in April 1945 and by the end of the firebombing campaign 67 Japanese cities had been attacked.Some cities had large percentages of destruction: Yokohama, Toyama, Kobe and Fukuyama all greater than 60% of their surface areas. Even as late as August 1st 1945 there were raids on the Japanese cities of Toyama, Hachioji, Mito and Nagaoka. Of all the cities on the American list which had not been bombed by that date only four had been ‘saved’, most notably Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Yuki Tanaka, a researcher at the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University noted that “the U.S. government has never expressed any sorrow or apology for the firebombings they conducted on Japanese cites. This is quite natural. It is because if they apologize for firebombings, they would have to apologize for the atomic bombings as well” (4).

It might be argued that the firebombing of Japanese cities should not be seen in isolation from other activities of war. The Japanese destruction of Nanking in China is marked by the Chinese people as an event of unparalleled violence. Rightly, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki need to be marked with particular reverence. In the official announcement of Hiroshima, President Truman described Hiroshima ‘as an important Japanese army base’ and that the action was designed to ‘avoid, as much as possible, the killing of civilians’ (5).

The firebombing campaign, which began seventy years ago today, was on such a scale that it must not be overlooked by contemporary historians, and the victims – ‘the most vulnerable’ in the official phrase – need to afforded particular respect.


(1) (2) (5) A History of Bombing. Sven Lindqvist. Granta: 2012.

(3) Reproduced in other forms in a number of works.



Little official recognition of the Tokyo Firebombing has taken place. The Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage opened in 2002 through private donations and has recently expanded the range of available material. The English language site can be visited at

The centre exists to promote better public understanding of the firebombing campaign and operates with “a firm determination to never allow the repetition of such tragic events and a refusal to allow the suffering of civilians to have been in vain, it is the center’s earnest desire to pass knowledge on to future generations and stimulate the interaction of peace-loving individuals.”

The Working Class Movement Library has a broad range of books, pamphlets and archive materials relating to British and International Peace movements, including the No More War Movement, the Friends Peace Committee, the Women’s Peace Movement, the Peace Pledge Union and C.N.D.

David Hargreaves, Library Volunteer




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RH Tawney and the intellectual development of the Labour Party – book review

Posted by wcmlibrary on February 24, 2015

A new biography of R. H. Tawney (The Life of R. H. Tawney: Socialism and History by Lawrence Goldman) might not appear to be either topical or of any major significance. He is perhaps dimly remembered as a figure on the Right of the Labour Party and as an intellectual who wrote works only relevant in the context of their times. His name also emerged when the short-lived Social Democratic Party tried to name their ‘think tank’ the Tawney Society in 1982.

Media of The Life of R. H. Tawney

However, Tawney cannot be sidelined quite as easily as he exerted an important influence upon the development of the Labour Party and had an impressive hinterland, the degree of which is explored in this biography. It is necessary also to challenge the perception of Tawney as a figure of the Right by noting that he remained in favour of both nationalisation and the retention of Clause IV. He was also very clear as to the damage that would be done to the Labour Party by figures such as Ramsay Macdonald and Philip Snowden and, indeed, their heirs and successors. His terse rejection of the offer of a peerage by Macdonald (‘What harm have I ever done to the Labour Party?’) was complemented by his assertion that Labour politicians ‘sit up, like poodles in a drawing room, wag their tails when patted, and lick their lips at the social sugarplums tossed them by their masters.’

Yet, a figure of the Right? Tawney qualified for this categorisation in that he was a quietly committed Christian who saw being a Socialist as an essentially moral act. As such he followed on from Ruskin, William Morris and Blatchford in attempting to show the need for a Socialist Commonwealth or the creation of a just society based on personal conversion to socialism. The works Equality (1931) and The Acquisitive Society (1930) were both powerful tomes but strangely lacking in real political content. The weakness of Tawney’s position lay in the fact that Capitalism had 200 years of moral condemnation and remained largely impervious. It was not shamed by the creation of unfair societies and if wounded by the moral and Christian arguments advanced by Tawney then has found plenty of clergy who will defend it by stating that Socialists have misunderstood Biblical teachings. Tawney does not grasp the contradictions of Capitalism or the degradation of both resources and people which is integral to how it operates.

Yet, many people (and not just Roy Hattersley) credit Tawney with their conversion to Socialism. It is interesting that the political range of those on the Left influenced by Tawney is quite broad. One could cite Michael Foot’s My Kind of Socialism or Tony Benn’s Arguments for Socialism as being very much in the Tawney tradition. The attraction of an Ethical Socialism or a broadly Christian approach lies in the very lack of specific or concrete analysis. Tawney was appalled at the behaviour of the 1929 Labour Government but it is not clear whether Tawney considered that Macdonald and the others betrayed the Labour Party by not being ethical enough, or that they simply had no effective means of dealing with a Capitalist crisis.

Lawrence Goldman is a good historian to explore the life and works of R H Tawney in that he is able to give equal weight to all the aspects of his life. Tawney was severely wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, shot in the act of walking steadily towards German lines. He very largely created the tutorial structure of the WEA, having undertaken important work in Rochdale and the Potteries. This formative experience was the beginning of an association with the WEA over 50 years. He was influential in arguing for the nationalisation of the mining industry on the Stanley Commission after the First World War. He had a profound influence on the development of University education. He did much to create the discipline of Economic History. He argued (in the 1920s) for the idea of the Living Wage.

He was, above all, a reasonable man who was confident that through improved working class education and through the power of democracy British society would be transformed into a socialist one. In supporting nationalisation as a strategy he posed the question that the real issue was who controlled the State rather than who controlled the industry. Tawney knew that the transition to socialism would be difficult – he had travelled to China, the Soviet Union and the United States and had an international perspective. But, in the end the extent of his theoretical input was that reasonableness would triumph and Capitalism was amenable to effective and humane management. It is worth noting that recent commentators such as Will Hutton have expanded upon this theme by putting forward the idea of a long term and responsible stakeholder capitalism. Tellingly, this modest proposal was rejected by the last Labour Government as being too ‘anti-business.’ (1)

Therefore, this biography is timely and Tawney is a figure worth studying, as are a number of those who offered ideological input into the development of the Labour movement. The contemporaries of Tawney – the Webbs, Harold Laski and G.D.H. Cole – need to be actively studied again because it is necessary to further understand the intellectual development of the Labour Party. The recent work by Peter Hain – Back to the Future of Socialism – is a new look at Anthony Crosland’s Future of Socialism which was in turn influenced by Tawney. Clearly, this long line of argument in the Labour Party – ‘How to make Capitalism humane when it doesn’t really care?’ – is an enduring theme in Labour Party history and this well-written and well-researched biography of R H Tawney is a welcome contribution to any deeper understanding of the real meaning of the 2015 General Election campaign.

The Life of R.H. Tawney: Socialism and History by Lawrence Goldman was published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

(1) The Observer 22 February 2015. Left, right and the state we’re in. A review by John Kampfner of recent works by Will Hutton, Peter Hain and Geary & Pabst.

The Working Class Movement Library has a wide range of lectures and pamphlets written by Tawney, as well as material on the WEA and education policy generally. We also hold his major works – Equality, Religion & the Rise of Capitalism and The Acquisitive Society – and a number of earlier biographies and works which place Tawney in the context of the history of Socialist thought.  Search the Library catalogue here.

D W Hargreaves, Library volunteer

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Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, ‘Breaking the bonds of capitalism’

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 28, 2015

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth portrait

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth

We’ve just received from the author Roger Smalley a copy of his new book about Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, Breaking the bonds of capitalism: the political vision of a Lancashire mill girl (North West Regional Studies, Lancaster University, 2014).  We’ve written before in the blog about Ethel, the author of one of the first novels published by a British woman of working class background, and about our holdings of her books.

We also hold a decent run of The Woman Worker, the journal for which Ethel wrote after Robert Blatchford offered her a job in 1908.  This is the focus of a chapter in the new book.

In addition, we have in our collection two issues (Nos 8 and 12, Jan and May 1924) of the now very rare journal The Clear Light, published by Ethel and her husband Alfred, which is written about in detail in a further chapter in the book.    The May 1924 issue reported concerns about fascism in Britain and in October that year the Holdsworths turned The Clear Light into the organ of The National Union for Combating Fascism.

Ethel, in Roger Smalley’s words, ‘wrote poetry, novels, short stories and journalism in the cause of socialist unity, women’s rights, conscientious objection and the fight against capitalism and fascism. Much of her work was widely read, yet she died in poverty and obscurity’.  It is good to have this book in stock to bring together in detail Ethel’s many facets and remind the world of this early 20th century working class woman’s place in the tradition of British political dissent.


Come and have a read of the book, of Ethel’s novels, and of the many sources quoted in the book which we hold here in the Library.



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An exciting Manchester link to our Holloway suffragette badge

Posted by wcmlibrary on September 4, 2014

Suffragette BadgeWe have on display in our hall a suffragette badge. The badge is styled as a portcullis with the prison motto of the arrowhead mounted on the face in the suffrage campaign colours of purple, green and white. On either side of the badge are free-hanging chains representing the gate ropes. The badge was presented to imprisoned suffragettes on their release from Holloway.  Richard Pankhurst credits his mother Sylvia with designing the so-called ‘Holloway Badge’.








Until now the story of whose badge it was was lost.  We’ve just discovered however that this particular badge has a fascinating local link. It was presented to Lillian Forrester in 1913, when she was released after she had been imprisoned for damaging artworks in Manchester Art Gallery.

The Manchester Guardian of 4 April 1913 reported the event as follows:

“Just before nine ‘clock last night, when the Manchester Art Gallery was about to close and few people were about, an attendant in a room leading to the big room of the permanent collection heard crackings of glass follow each other rapidly. He immediately rushed into the big room followed by another attendant, who was nearby. They found three women [Annie Briggs, Lillian Forrester and Evelyn Manesta] making a rush around the room, cracking the glass of the biggest and most valuable paintings in the collection. They had already completed their work on the right side of the room going in, where pictures by such great artists as Watts, Leighton, Burne-Jones and Rossetti were hung, and were going around the top of the room. The outrage was quickly and neatly carried through, and when the attendants came running in the women were within reach of two more large pictures – one by Millais, the other by Watts. The attendants at once rushed to arrest them but as there were three to two of them the women escaped from the room. The attendants, however, called to the door-keeper and immediately the big doors were closed and the retreat cut off.
The women were quietly kept within closed doors while the Town Hall were informed. The Chief Constable and a superintendent at once went across and took the women to the Town Hall. There they questioned them and, after charging them, allowed them out on bail until this morning, when they will appear before the stipendiary magistrate.”

The three women arrested in the Art Gallery

The three women arrested in the Art Gallery – l to r Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta, Lillian Forrester

The women had left in the gallery a small hammer, around which was tied a ribbon declaring “Votes for Women” and “Stop Forcible Feeding”.  Lillian Forrester made a statement stating that “we broke the glass of some pictures as a protest but we did not intend to damage the pictures”.  When the case came to court she was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. The judge stated: “If the law would allow I would send you round the world in a sailing ship as the best thing for you.”

The Art Gallery story is told in detail by Michael Herbert at


Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager

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Then and now – two decades of growth at the Working Class Movement Library

Posted by wcmlibrary on July 15, 2014

Sorting through some old photographs recently we came across a picture of the library taken in 1990 and what was striking was the lack of greenery around the library. Visitors to the library nowadays cannot help but be struck by the garden surrounding us, with all its large shrubs and colourful flowers, but as the picture on the left shows this has only happened in the last 24 years.

Photograph of the exterior of the Working Class Movement Library in 1990

July 1990

Photograph of the exterior of the Working Class Movement Library in 2014

July 2014












And much of the change was down to Ruth Frow, one of our founders, who was a keen gardener as well as an avid bibliophile.  We were also helped by Mike Weaver, who came to the library as a garden volunteer and ended up as our library assistant, and by our (now retired) librarian Alain Kahan, who still puts in a few hours in the garden each week.  We also have had invaluable help from a volunteer, Sally Richardson, who as well as helping out in the garden, has been working on her PhD here at the library.

Other changes include the blocking off of Aldred Street where it joins The Crescent and the creation of the grassed area, with the sign that stops us recreating the 1990 photograph exactly.  Keen eyed viewers will also notice we no longer have someone standing just inside the gate and that’s because we now have a flower bed there as well.

We think the garden is a vast improvement to the library and thank everyone involved in keeping it looking so good.

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A new treasure of a donation, from someone who’s just found out about us

Posted by wcmlibrary on July 11, 2014

A lovely treasure has come our way, thanks to Sally Swift who read the recent article about us in The Observer and reckoned we sounded like we’d provide a good home for an autograph book that’s been in her family since the 1920s.   Her grandparents Melanie and William Moody were keen long-term members of the Salisbury Labour Party and Co-operative Movement, and Melanie compiled the autograph book with signatures mostly taken from letters addressed to the Moodys in relation to Labour Party matters.

The names are a veritable Who’s Who of the early 20th century Labour Party – George LansburyEllen Wilkinson, Ramsay MacDonaldMargaret Bondfield,  A.A. Purcell the subject of Kevin Morgan’s new book and recent talk at the Library, and many more.


Even Oswald Mosley makes an appearance, from the time when he was a Labour Party member and then MP.

What a wonderful addition to our collection – and what a great by-product of the Observer article (which also resulted in a highly welcome £350 in Paypal donations to the Library).

Like everything else in the Library the autograph book is now available for everyone to come and have a look at. Our opening times for drop-in visitors remain Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm.


Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager

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What links Edward Carpenter, Keir Hardie and Vic Feather?

Posted by wcmlibrary on June 25, 2014

We have been lucky enough to be given some of the books from the collection of Vic Feather, a former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, by his son, Sandy.  Among the collection is Towards Democracy – a collection of prose poetry by Edward Carpenter which includes a handwritten dedication to Joseph Whittaker and which was sent to Whittaker by Carpenter himself.  Accompanying the book is a letter from Carpenter thanking Whittaker for a copy of his book of poems In Divers Tones and commiserating with him regarding his poor health.

ImageBy a happy coincidence the library also has a copy of In Divers Tones.

The donation also included a postcard also sent to Joseph Whittaker, this time by Keir Hardie, thanking him for a copy of another of his books of poems – Far Off Fields, but unfortunately the library does not (yet) have a copy.

ImageThe donation also included a number of other books dedicated to Vic Feather by such labour movement figures as Will Lawther, Walter Citrine and Jack Jones.  Others include inscriptions from the authors thanking Vic for his help in the production of the book.

Many thanks to Sandy Feather for giving us these fascinating items.


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Rochdale Women’s Social and Political Union demand the vote. A recent acquisition tells the story in the women’s own words.

Posted by wcmlibrary on May 20, 2014

We have recently been lucky to be given the minutes of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was formed on 11 January 1907. The minute book dates from 4 May 1907 and continues until 20 November 1915. There are also some loose pages from 1933, 1934 and 1935.

Included in the minutes there is a list of nearly 50 members and women friends who attended the “monster demonstration” on 21 June 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park to further their campaign for votes for women.  Also minuted is their intention to order a banner from the National Women’s Social and Political Union.  It was to be purple with “Rochdale WSPU demand the vote” in white lettering and left in London to be collected on the day and taken on the demonstration.

Intriguingly the minutes for 22 September 1908 read simply “Mov. and sec. that we purchase 15 chains at 1/- each”. Whether the chains were ever purchased or used is unfortunately not minuted.

On 12 June 1913 a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who had laid down her life in the cause of women” and it was decided to send 3 women, along with flowers which were paid for by Mrs Whitworth.

But it was not all serious business members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much needed funds.  In fact at one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a “gentleman sympathiser”!

Many thanks are due to Bob Jones and Gina Bridgeland for donating the minute book – which gives such a fascinating insight into a local part of the national struggle for votes for women.



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