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latest news

 Video
Socialist MP condemns Troika/Irish government’s bullying of Greek voters

01/07/2015: Paul Murphy TD (Irish MP) attacks Irish prime minister’s collusion with Brussels big business agenda and voices solidarity with Greek workers

  Video

Is China’s stock market bubble bursting?

01/07/2015: Billions wiped off share values in June – only the Greek stock market is more volatile

  China

Greece
Troika threatens Greeks ahead of referendum

30/06/2015: Vote ‘No’! For a mass working class campaign to oppose Troika and for socialist policies!

  Greece

South Africa
The Marikana Report – a whitewash

30/06/2015: Not a stone has been left unturned on the political landscape

  South Africa

Tunisia
Terrorist atrocity in Sousse

29/06/2015: For a renewed mass movement against poverty and terror

  Tunisia

Greece
“NO”

27/06/2015: On Sunday 5 July, we say “no” to the gang of the lenders!

  Greece

Britain’s class battle-lines are drawn

26/06/2015: A quarter-of-a-million people protested through London and Glasgow raising the need for trade union-led struggle

  Britain

Germany
Indefinite strike for more staff at Charité hospital

26/06/2015: Berlin industrial dispute of national importance

  Germany

Greece
Where are mass solidarity protests with Syriza?

26/06/2015: Troika must be defied – No more cuts! Don’t pay the debt! Socialist policies would win huge backing from Greek workers

  Greece

Egypt
Counter-revolution continues

25/06/2015: Recent strikes show workers will resist

  Egypt

Greece
Tsipras retreats before Troika threats

24/06/2015: What should the SYRIZA Left do next?

  Greece

Scotland
1,000s rally against austerity

24/06/2015: Ferry workers’ strike over jobs, pay, pensions and privatisation

  Scotland

 Video
Socialist MP condemns Troika’s blackmail of Greece

24/06/2015: "Minister Noonan lined up with Schauble, he said tighten the noose, he stabbed the Greek people in the chest and the Irish people in the back"

  Greece, Ireland Republic, Video

Greece
“Despite spin, Syriza proposals terrible for pensioners and workers”

23/06/2015: SYRIZA Left must vote against cave-in deal with Troika and act in interests of workers!

  Greece

Britain
100,000s protest against austerity

23/06/2015: Socialist Party says: "Organise! Strike! Resist! Build for a 24-hour general strike!"

  Britain

Greece
No surrender to‘Gang of Lenders’

22/06/2015: Plan an anti-austerity fight-back, with socialist policies!

  Greece

 Brazil
No to sackings and political persecution in Sabesp

22/06/2015: Reinstate Marzeni now – Solidarity needed!

  Brazil, Solidarity

Ireland North
20,000 protesters demand LGBT rights

21/06/2015: To end oppression we need to fight to end this system, uniting working people, fighting for equality

  Ireland North, Ireland Republic, LGBT

Britain
Can Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge help to develop the socialist left?

20/06/2015: Left candidate in Labour Party leadership contest

  Britain

Hong Kong
Fake democracy roundly rejected in legislative vote

19/06/2015: Government proposals end in fiasco as Beijing loyalists misjudge voting rules

  Hong Kong

Ireland
Socialist MPs’ Employment Equality Bill passed

18/06/2015: Bill would end the right of religiously run schools, hospitals and other workplaces to discriminate against LGBTQ workers

  Ireland Republic

China
Life sentence for former security boss

16/06/2015: Secret trial of Zhou Yongkang

  China

Italy
Regional elections

13/06/2015: Myth of Prime Minister’s invincibility exposed

  Italy

Iraq/Syria
US imperialist strategy in tatters

12/06/2015: A year after ISIS captured Mosul, the jihadist group controls about half of Syria and a third of Iraq – more territory than ever before

  Iraq, Syria

 Greece
Solidarity needed with Vodafone strike

12/06/2015: Appeal for international solidarity action on 25 June

  Greece, Solidarity

Iceland
Strike wave produces results

11/06/2015: Workers win thirty percent wage increase over three years

  Iceland

Greece
Crunch-time for Syriza?

10/06/2015: Workers and poor cannot take more calamitous austerity

  Greece

Germany
Multiple strikes mark changed situation

09/06/2015: Strikes in numerous sectors as workers fail to benefit from “recovery”

  Germany

Pakistan
Protest song by Jawad Ahmed

08/06/2015: Response to anti-worker measures in Pakistani budget

  Pakistan

Britain
European Union referendum:

06/06/2015: No to a capitalist EU, Yes to a socialist Europe!

  Britain, Europe

Australia
‘Beating the big end of town’ book launched

05/06/2015: How a community defeated the East-West toll road

  Australia

Greece
Syriza voters want austerity ended, not another ’compromise’ Troika deal

04/06/2015: Break with the austerity - adopt a socialist programme!

  Greece

China
Is China heading for a new Tiananmen?

04/06/2015: 26th anniversary of the Beijing massacre on June 4, 1989, is also a warning of revolutionary shocks ahead

  China

review

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.

www.socialistworld.net, 16/09/2003
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

ON A bright June day in Liverpool in 1977, hundreds of trade unionists and socialists took part in a march to rally at the final resting place of Robert Noonan - known more popularly as Robert Tressell, author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Roy Farrar

In a rough, weed-choked field opposite Walton Jail we gathered to unveil a marble plaque to mark the grave. This wasteland held the bones of over 1,000 ’paupers’, their bodies wrapped in canvas bags, stitched up by former inmates of the jail, and cast into mass graves.

Local activists had located the grave of Robert Noonan, plus the names of the 12 others interned with him, and all had been etched into the black stone. In a Liverpool workhouse (after 1949 a hospital) Robert had died of tuberculosis at the age of 40 in 1911.

Why this homage to Robert Noonan? He was a member of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation, but as far as we know he did not lead any mass campaign or strike. He wrote only one book, a novel about working-class life prior to the First World War.

Shortly after I joined the Young Socialists a worn copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was pressed into my hand with the recommendation that I may find it a good read. An understatement if ever there was.

Turning the pages one was drawn into the tale, of a year in the life of an Edwardian town in southern England. The book revealed how the capitalist system rules and exploits workers.

It’s an accurate historical account of the lives of working people, and more, a condemnation of the horrors of capitalism, a comprehensive explanation of how the system works, and the need for a socialist alternative.

Robert Tressell speaks through the ’hero’ Owen, a building worker, describing incidents and characters that any worker could relate to today. The "Philanthropists" are the workers willing to work for the "good cause" of giving their unpaid labour to the "masters" - the bosses’ profits.

Casualisation, bullying bosses, low pay, poor housing, debt, unemployment, and the regular humiliations endured by working people throughout their lives, are all graphically depicted by Robert. The overwhelming impression is of a book written by, not just a well-placed observer, but as Noonan puts it "the story of twelve months in Hell told by one of the damned".

"Damnably subversive"

ROBERT WROTE his novel between 1905 and 1908 but despaired of having it printed as publisher after publisher rejected the manuscript. After Robert’s death his daughter Kathleen managed to sell the manuscript, for £25, to its first publisher, Grant Richards, who described it thus: "The book was damnably subversive but it was extremely real".

Unfortunately the first edition, 1914, and in subsequent editions, the novel was much hacked about and shortened, and given a depressing ending with Owen contemplating the killing of his family and his own suicide!

Fred C. Ball, Noonan’s biographer, tracked down the original manuscript and eventually, in 1955, the first unabridged edition came off the presses and with Robert’s uplifting final chapter restored.

Throughout the novel are various episodes where Owen explains the real workings of capitalism to his workmates and argues the need for socialism. These explanations are not ’forced’ for the writer’s skills for dramatic effect make these scenes feel natural and as parts of a seamless whole.

The Money Trick, Chapter 21, gives a lucid and as straightforward an introduction to Marxist economics as any. It is made memorable by its humorous treatment and the realistic portrayal of the behaviour of the characters involved.

One charge sometimes laid against the book is of being biased to men and their workplaces, that the women receive a lesser treatment. But as early as Chapter 3 Tressell shows Ruth Easton as being more able than her husband in managing the household budget - a greater insight of the economics of capitalism which enables them to survive.

In Chapter 6 it is Nora Owen, in conversation with her young son, who from a socialist perspective describes capitalism and the problems to be overcome in changing it.

The "Philanthropists" lack feelings of class solidarity and the novel is hazy about how they may attain class consciousness to forward the struggle for socialism. Occasionally the idea of the impoverished masses driven by their wretched conditions to overthrow the capitalists in a bloody uprising is proffered, at others an appeal to "reason", to vote for Revolutionary Socialists.

Owen’s ’lectures’ of course mirror the socialism of his day, a convincing analysis of capitalism coupled to the drawing of a wonderful vision of a socialist future, but somewhat vague as regards the transition between.

Only months after Robert Noonan’s death Liverpool was in the grip of a general strike. 80,000 workers fought police and soldiers in the August demonstration known as "Bloody Sunday". To the journalist Gibbs - the strike was "...as near to revolution as anything seen in England."

Only those carts and goods could move freely that had permits from the strike committee. Posters and leaflets declaiming "Socialism is the answer to Capitalism" went up in the city. In the following local elections Labour representation gained a successful foothold in a city where politics had been deeply marked by religious sectarianism.

But for Noonan’s tragic and untimely death, and given his powers of observation and description, a worthy sequel to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists may have been written - depicting working people awakened by great events, realising their capability to challenge the "masters" and to change society.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI England and Wales



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NEWS

Video: Socialist MP condemns Troika/Irish government’s bullying of Greek voters
01/07/2015, :
Paul Murphy TD (Irish MP) attacks Irish prime minister’s collusion with Brussels big business agenda and voices solidarity with Greek workers

Is China’s stock market bubble bursting?
01/07/2015, Dikang, chinaworker.info:
Billions wiped off share values in June – only the Greek stock market is more volatile

South Africa: The Marikana Report – a whitewash
30/06/2015, Weizmann Hamilton, Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP):
Not a stone has been left unturned on the political landscape

Tunisia: Terrorist atrocity in Sousse
29/06/2015, Statement by Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki (Socialist Alternative, CWI in Tunisia):
For a renewed mass movement against poverty and terror

Greece: “NO”
27/06/2015, Statement by Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
On Sunday 5 July, we say “no” to the gang of the lenders!

Germany: Indefinite strike for more staff at Charité hospital
26/06/2015, Aron Amm, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Berlin industrial dispute of national importance

Greece: Where are mass solidarity protests with Syriza?
26/06/2015, Eleni Mitsou, from Xekinima (CWI Greece) website:
Troika must be defied – No more cuts! Don’t pay the debt! Socialist policies would win huge backing from Greek workers

Egypt: Counter-revolution continues
25/06/2015, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Recent strikes show workers will resist

Video: Paul Murphy appeals to Greek Left - Reject the blackmail
24/06/2015, socialistworld.net:
CWI MP speaks in Irish parliament

Scotland: 1,000s rally against austerity
24/06/2015, Matt Dobson and Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
Ferry workers’ strike over jobs, pay, pensions and privatisation

Video: Socialist MP condemns Troika’s blackmail of Greece
24/06/2015, socialistworld.net:
"Minister Noonan lined up with Schauble, he said tighten the noose, he stabbed the Greek people in the chest and the Irish people in the back"

Greece: “Despite spin, Syriza proposals terrible for pensioners and workers”
23/06/2015, Andreas Payiatsos and Niall Mulholland:
SYRIZA Left must vote against cave-in deal with Troika and act in interests of workers!

Britain: 100,000s protest against austerity
23/06/2015, From Socialist Party website (CWI England & Wales):
Socialist Party says: "Organise! Strike! Resist! Build for a 24-hour general strike!"

Brazil: No to sackings and political persecution in Sabesp
22/06/2015, André Ferrari, LSR (CWI in Brazil):
Reinstate Marzeni now – Solidarity needed!

Ireland North: 20,000 protesters demand LGBT rights
21/06/2015, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast:
To end oppression we need to fight to end this system, uniting working people, fighting for equality

Britain: Can Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge help to develop the socialist left?
20/06/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary:
Left candidate in Labour Party leadership contest

Hong Kong: Fake democracy roundly rejected in legislative vote
19/06/2015, Socialist Action reporters in Hong Kong:
Government proposals end in fiasco as Beijing loyalists misjudge voting rules

Ireland: Socialist MPs’ Employment Equality Bill passed
18/06/2015, Oisin Kelly, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Bill would end the right of religiously run schools, hospitals and other workplaces to discriminate against LGBTQ workers

China: Life sentence for former security boss
16/06/2015, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
Secret trial of Zhou Yongkang

Turkey: Historical breakthrough for the left as AKP suffers its worst defeat in 13 years
15/06/2015, Michael Gehmacher SLP (CWI in Austria) & Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey) reporters:
What future for the HDP?

Italy: Regional elections
13/06/2015, Marco Veruggio, Controcorrente (CWI in Italy):
Myth of Prime Minister’s invincibility exposed

Greece: Solidarity needed with Vodafone strike
12/06/2015, Alexandros Prandunas, Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
Appeal for international solidarity action on 25 June

Iceland: Strike wave produces results
11/06/2015, Per-Åke Westerlund (CWI Sweden):
Workers win thirty percent wage increase over three years

Greece: Crunch-time for Syriza?
10/06/2015, Niall Mulholland, from The Socialist, Issue 859, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Workers and poor cannot take more calamitous austerity

Germany: Multiple strikes mark changed situation
09/06/2015, Sascha Stanicic from Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Strikes in numerous sectors as workers fail to benefit from “recovery”

Pakistan: Protest song by Jawad Ahmed
08/06/2015, socialistworld.net:
Response to anti-worker measures in Pakistani budget

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Greece: Troika threatens Greeks ahead of referendum
30/06/2015, Andreas Payiatsos and Niall Mulholland:
Vote ‘No’! For a mass working class campaign to oppose Troika and for socialist policies!

Britain’s class battle-lines are drawn
26/06/2015, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) Deputy General Secretary - article from ’Socialism Today’:
A quarter-of-a-million people protested through London and Glasgow raising the need for trade union-led struggle

Greece: Tsipras retreats before Troika threats
24/06/2015, Statement by Xekinima (CWI Greece) [dated 23 June 2015]:
What should the SYRIZA Left do next?

Greece: No surrender to‘Gang of Lenders’
22/06/2015, Editorial article from Xekinima (CWI Greece) [dated 17 June 2015]:
Plan an anti-austerity fight-back, with socialist policies!

Iraq/Syria: US imperialist strategy in tatters
12/06/2015, Serge Jordan (CWI):
A year after ISIS captured Mosul, the jihadist group controls about half of Syria and a third of Iraq – more territory than ever before

Greece: Syriza voters want austerity ended, not another ’compromise’ Troika deal
04/06/2015, Editorial article from Xekinima (CWI Greece) website [dated 3 June 2015]:
Break with the austerity - adopt a socialist programme!

China: Is China heading for a new Tiananmen?
04/06/2015, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
26th anniversary of the Beijing massacre on June 4, 1989, is also a warning of revolutionary shocks ahead

Hong Kong: Endgame for Beijing’s fake democracy plan
03/06/2015, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
Government’s electoral reform proposals meet with mass opposition

Spain: Victories for Left “popular unity” lists in local elections
02/06/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Two-party system dealt a new blow in local and regional elections

Belgium: Momentum to bring down right wing government lost
01/06/2015, Els Deschoemacker and Eric Byl, LSP/PSL (Belgian section of the CWI), Brussels:
Learn from the struggle, as new opportunities open up

Ireland: Massive ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality referendum
28/05/2015, Conor Payne, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Growing opposition to conservative establishment

Britain: The struggles to come
27/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) General Secretary:
No fundamental change to be expected from the Labour Party

Canada’s ‘carbo-state’
26/05/2015, Bill Hopwood, Socialist Alternative (CWI Canada):
Only a socialist alternative can challenge the carbo-capitalists’ grip on Canadian politics

Iraq/Syria: ISIS rout national armies at Ramadi and Palmyra
23/05/2015, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
United working class movement needed to sweep away sectarian militias and reactionary politicians

Ireland North: Election marks growing rejection of sectarian status quo
21/05/2015, Daniel Waldron and Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast:
Opportunities to build new anti-sectarian political voice for working class and youth

Spain: Is Podemos in crisis?
20/05/2015, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Left and social movements in a state of flux, as key elections loom

USA: Presidential candidate declares "political revolution" against billionaires
12/05/2015, Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative, Seattle:
Campaign needs to build independent political power

Britain: Fight against "five more damned years" of Tory rule
12/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party )CWI England & Wales) General Secretary:
Labour leader’s ’responsible capitalism’ shows its bankruptcy

China: “In a hard landing now”
11/05/2015, Dikang, chinaworker.info:
Stock market frenzy and fabricated GDP figures cannot hide the reality of an economy in deep trouble

Ireland North: Socialist Party replies to leading Sinn Fein councillor’s attacks
06/05/2015, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) Statement:
How to fight cuts, sectarianism and to build workers’ unity

May Day 2015: Socialist plan or capitalist chaos
01/05/2015, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party General Secretary, (CWI England & Wales):
What sort of new society are we struggling for?

Nepal: Disaster in Nepal –amplified by capitalism
30/04/2015, TU Senan, CWI:
Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the south Asian region has been further devastated by the recent earthquake.

May Day 2015: Resisting austerity, exploitation, wars and oppression
28/04/2015, CWI:
125 years since first May Day – Build a united workers’ movement for socialism!

Latin America: A new turn?
25/04/2015, Tony Saunois, article from May issue of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, turmoil in Venezuela, and stalled reforms in Bolivia – as well as crises in Brazil – symbolise a new turn in Latin America and the Caribbean

Iran: Proposed nuclear deal reflects transformed Middle East
24/04/2015, Robert Bechert, CWI:
In aftermath of disastrous Iraq occupation, Obama administration balancing between region’s forces