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US
Kshama Sawant responds to Trump inauguration speech

23/01/2017: Socialist council member speaks

  US

China
New US President’s approach to China

21/01/2017: Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

  China

Russian Revolution Centenary
New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution

20/01/2017: 1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

  History

Kazakhstan
Regime increases repression

20/01/2017: Citizens forced to register with police at all times

  Kazakhstan

US
Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration

20/01/2017: CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

  US

Portugal
Purge in the Left Bloc

20/01/2017: 6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

  Portugal

Ireland North
Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly

17/01/2017: Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

  Ireland North

Spain
What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?

17/01/2017: Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

  Spain

India
Struggle against land grab in Pune

16/01/2017: Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

  India

Book Reviews
Trotsky and February 1917

16/01/2017: Preparing for revolution

  Russian Revolution

US
Seattle activists win $29 million for house building

13/01/2017: Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

  US

Palestine/Israel
Everyday life under occupation

12/01/2017: Discussion at Socialism conference in Tel Aviv

  Israel / Palestine

Mexico
Mass movement against “gasolinazo”

10/01/2017: Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

  Mexico

US
Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party

10/01/2017: Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

  US

Ireland South
Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness

09/01/2017: Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

  Ireland Republic

Book Review
‘A Very British Ending’

07/01/2017: Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

  Britain

Ireland North
'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive

06/01/2017: Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

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Chile
The state is murdering Machi Francisca Linconao

05/01/2017: Solidarity appeal for messages of protest

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US
Trump prepares vicious attacks

05/01/2017: Mass resistance needed!

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Hong Kong
CY Leung forced out!

04/01/2017: Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

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Sri Lanka
Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'

03/01/2017: Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

  Sri Lanka

Russian Revolution centenary

02/01/2017: Defending the legacy in a new era

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2017
Upheaval and fightback will continue

01/01/2017: Everything to play for in 2017

  CWI Comment And Analysis

Iranian “election”

30/12/2016: Crisis continues; infighting escalates

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Review
The Iron Heel

26/12/2016: Jack London’s timeless classic

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Britain
Labour's nuclear conflict

24/12/2016: During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

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Germany
Berlin Christmas market tragedy

23/12/2016: Commiserations must not be exploited for racism

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US
Inaugurate the resistance

23/12/2016: Inauguration protests can serve as a launching pad for a massive grassroots resistance to Donald Trump’s new administration

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Austria
Victory & defeat for everyone & noone

23/12/2016: Presidential elections

  Austria

 Yemen
Three employees found killed, as workers demand unpaid wages

22/12/2016: Solidarity with workers and their families! Justice for the slain employees!

  Solidarity

Britain's shifting political contours

22/12/2016: Capitalist establishment in disarray

  Britain

Romania
New government, old policies

20/12/2016: The need for a socialist alternative

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Fifth anniversary of Zhanaozen massacre

19/12/2016: Letters to embassies worldwide demanding end to dictatorshi

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Solidarity
Global days of protest to #ResistTrump

19/12/2016: Protest around the world on Trump’s inauguration, January 20 and 21

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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

US: Kshama Sawant responds to Trump inauguration speech
23/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Socialist council member speaks

Russian Revolution Centenary: New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

Kazakhstan: Regime increases repression
20/01/2017, Andrei Prigor from Campaign Kazakhstan:
Citizens forced to register with police at all times

US: Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

Portugal: Purge in the Left Bloc
20/01/2017, Ysmail, Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal):
6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

India: Struggle against land grab in Pune
16/01/2017, Venkatesh Harale, New Socialist Alternative (CWI in India):
Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

Book Reviews: Trotsky and February 1917
16/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, from the February 2017 issue of Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
Preparing for revolution

Tunisia: Six years after the fall of Ben Ali, demands of revolution still to be realised
14/01/2017, Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki, CWI in Tunisia:
New revolts brewing

US: Seattle activists win $29 million for house building
13/01/2017, Adam Ziemkowski, Socialist Alternative:
Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

Palestine/Israel: Everyday life under occupation
12/01/2017, Per-Åke Westerlund of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden) :
Discussion at Socialism conference in Tel Aviv

Mexico: Mass movement against “gasolinazo”
10/01/2017, David Lopez, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Mexico:
Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

US: Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party
10/01/2017, Calvin Priest, Socialist Alternative:
Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

Ireland South: Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness
09/01/2017, Councillor Michael O’Brien, Anti-Austerity Alliance and Socialist Party member:
Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

Book Review: ‘A Very British Ending’
07/01/2017, Review by Tony Saunois :
Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

Ireland North: 'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive
06/01/2017, Dave Carr from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

Chile: The state is murdering Machi Francisca Linconao
05/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Solidarity appeal for messages of protest

Hong Kong: CY Leung forced out!
04/01/2017, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) statement
:
Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

Sri Lanka: Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'
03/01/2017, By Clare Doyle, carried on Tamil Solidarity Campaign web-site, November, 2016 :
Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

Iranian “election”
30/12/2016, P. Daryaban:
Crisis continues; infighting escalates

Review: The Iron Heel
26/12/2016, Jon Dale, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales)<br />
:
Jack London’s timeless classic

Britain: Labour's nuclear conflict
24/12/2016, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) :
During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

Germany: Berlin Christmas market tragedy
23/12/2016, by Michael Koschitzki, SAV (CWI in Germany) Berlin, initial reaction published on December 20, 2016 :
Commiserations must not be exploited for racism

US: Inaugurate the resistance
23/12/2016, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative, US :
Inauguration protests can serve as a launching pad for a massive grassroots resistance to Donald Trump’s new administration

Austria: Victory & defeat for everyone & noone
23/12/2016, Tilman M. Ruster, SLP (CWI in Austria):
Presidential elections

Yemen: Three employees found killed, as workers demand unpaid wages
22/12/2016, Socialistworld.net :
Solidarity with workers and their families! Justice for the slain employees!

Romania: New government, old policies
20/12/2016, Vladimir Bortun, Mana de Lucru (CWI supporters in Romania):
The need for a socialist alternative

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

China: New US President’s approach to China
21/01/2017, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info :
Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

Ireland North: Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly
17/01/2017, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast :
Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

Spain: What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?
17/01/2017, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Spanish state, editorial :
Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

US: Trump prepares vicious attacks
05/01/2017, Philip Locker and Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative (US):
Mass resistance needed!

Russian Revolution centenary
02/01/2017, Editorial from Socialism Today, Dec/Jan 2017 edition:
Defending the legacy in a new era

2017:Upheaval and fightback will continue
01/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary :
Everything to play for in 2017

Britain's shifting political contours
22/12/2016, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) from Socialism Today Dec/Jan 2017 edition :
Capitalist establishment in disarray

CWI International Executive Committee: European capitalism “battered by events”
16/12/2016, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Report of discussion on Europe at CWI IEC meeting in November

CWI International Executive Committee: World shaken by seismic political events
14/12/2016, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Report of first session of the CWI International Executive Committee, discussing World Relations

World capitalism in deep crisis
08/12/2016, CWI :
Perspectives documents agreed by November CWI international meeting

Sudan: Three day nationwide strike shuts down the country, in unique defiance of Al-Bashir’s rule
30/11/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Escalation of the struggle needed to overthrow repressive regime

US: Trump prepares attacks on working people,immigrants and women
27/11/2016, Tom Crean and Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative (USA):
We must prepare massive resistance!

Cuba: Fidel Castro, leader of 1959 revolution, dies at 90
26/11/2016, Tony Saunois, CWI :
Castro's life and the Cuban Revolution

China: New stage in power struggle
24/11/2016, chinaworker.info reporters:
Xi Jinping becomes “core leader”

Hong Kong: Government purges Legislative Council
17/11/2016, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) :
“Nothing short of a coup”

Ireland: The Jobstown trial and the threat to democratic rights<br />

12/11/2016, Eddie McCabe, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Biggest political trial in decades, as Socialist Party & Anti Austerity Alliance MP and councillors face threat of lengthy prison sentences

History: Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
November 7th anniversary of workers’ taking power

Capitalist system “on the edge of the volcano”
03/11/2016, International Secretariat of the CWI:
Draft documents for November CWI international meeting

Spain: PSOE leadership hands power to the PP
03/11/2016, Izquierda Revolucionaria editorial :
A new phase in the class struggle

Hungary: The political revolution of sixty years ago
23/10/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
When workers fought arms in hand to end Stalinist dictatorship

Britain: The fight for real democracy in the Labour Party
20/10/2016, Editorial of the Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Defend Corbyn and transform Labour into a party acting for working class

Crisis of social democracy in Britain
19/10/2016, Peter Taaffe, from next issue of Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England and Wales) :
Which way forward for the Left?

US: The disastrous failure of ‘lesser evilism’
18/10/2016, Patrick Ayers and Ty Moore, Socialist Alternative (originally published at CounterPunch.org) :
Change through mass struggle  - a new party should act as an organizing and for solidarity

Spain: Crisis in social democracy
17/10/2016, Juan Ignacio Ramos, Izquierda Revolucionaria general secretary, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England and Wales) :
PSOE and the class struggle

Britain: Tories whip up division over Brexit
17/10/2016, Editorial from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
Fight for a socialist, internationalist exit