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latest news

 Video
Revolution and counter-revolution in the world today

01/09/2014: Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales) speaking at recent summer camp

  Video

France
Economic stagnation and political instability

29/08/2014: Hollande removes ‘lefts’ from government

  France

Turkey
Erdoğan sworn in as country’s President

29/08/2014: Significant poll gains for the left coalition HDP

  Turkey

 Solidarity
Iranian mine workers on strike

26/08/2014: Demand the release of the arrested workers!

  Iran, Solidarity

Nigeria
Fees victory at Lagos State University!

26/08/2014: Vigilance required from LASU students and workers to ensure that victory is permanent

  Nigeria

ISIS
Capitalist slaughter in Iraq and Syria

25/08/2014: As ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Shams) crossed the border between Syria and Iraq, it proclaimed this to be the “annihilation of the disgrace of Sykes-Picot” and the formation of an ‘Islamic state’ (IS).

  Iraq, Syria

US
Indict Michael Brown’s killer and spread the protests! The whole system is guilty!

22/08/2014: Text of a leaflet handed out by Socialist Alternative members in Ferguson and St. Louis

  US

 Women in World War One

20/08/2014: Protests, strikes and equality

  Women, World War 1

Pakistan
Not a “revolution” but an effort by power-hungry politicians to grab power

19/08/2014: Working class will bring the real revolution and change

  Pakistan

USA
Ferguson erupts in rage after police kill Michael Brown

18/08/2014: Spread the protests – unite against racism and inequality

  US

Iraq
Only united action can stop sectarian war

16/08/2014: Iraqis and Kurds must not trust imperialist ‘helpers’

  Iraq

Socialism and national rights

15/08/2014: Ukraine, Israel/Palestine and other countries

  Israel / Palestine, Ukraine

US
Jess Spear Primary result

14/08/2014: “We’ve only just gotten started”

  US

Scotland
Socialist policies are needed to answer Project Fear

13/08/2014: September 18 will see an unprecedented mobilisation to the polls for the referendum on Scottish independence

  Scotland

Indonesian Election

12/08/2014: New face; same problems

  Indonesia

Gaza
Kshama Sawant calls on Seattle city council to condemn Israeli onslaught

11/08/2014: Socialist councillor denounces Israeli state terror

  Israel / Palestine

Ukraine
Crisis deepens

09/08/2014: Military conflict escalates

  Ukraine

 CWI School
Latin America

08/08/2014: Beginning to feel full effects of world crisis

  CWI, Latin America

 CWI School
World capitalism fails working people

07/08/2014: System offers economic crisis, insecurity, poverty and wars

  CWI

Scotland
Countdown to independence referendum

07/08/2014: For an independent socialist Scotland

  Scotland

 Video
Paul Murphy speaks at Dublin Gaza protest

04/08/2014: Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) Former MEP and parliamentary bye-election candidate speaks to thousands protesting against Israeli state terrorism

  Israel / Palestine, Video

 CWI Summer School
European capitalism fails to recover

02/08/2014: Working class must organise for future struggles

  CWI, Europe

Argentina
Another debt default

01/08/2014: Only socialist policies can end extortion of vulture markets

  Argentina

Gaza in crisis

29/07/2014: Mass action needed to stop bloodshed

  Israel / Palestine

Sri Lanka
United Socialist Party issues press statement

28/07/2014: CWI calls for protests and financial assistance

  Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka
Racist Buddhist mob ambushes United Socialist Party march

26/07/2014: CWI condemns attack and requests solidarity

  Sri Lanka

China
The great slowdown

24/07/2014: Signs the mammoth property bubble is finally bursting belie Beijing’s upbeat GDP data

  China

Trotsky
The first year of war

23/07/2014: Article by LEON TROTSKY translated into English for first time

  Trotsky

WW1
The Bolsheviks and the war

21/07/2014: The horrors of the first world war, and the economic and social turmoil it created, led to mass upheaval. In Russia alone did this lead to a successful revolution…

  World War 1

1914
The capitulation of the Second International

19/07/2014: Before 1914, the Second International resolved to act to prevent war…

  World War 1

South Africa
Metal workers’ strike

19/07/2014: Industrial action must take forward call for a new workers’ party

  Africa, South Africa

Britain
Abuse scandals reveal abusive system

18/07/2014: An Establishment cover-up?

  Britain

Sri Lanka
Vicious communalist attacks on Muslims

17/07/2014: USP mounts motor cycle ‘march’ to fight for united struggle against chauvinists

  Sri Lanka

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



Europe

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NEWS

Video: Revolution and counter-revolution in the world today
01/09/2014, Socialistworld.net:
Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales) speaking at recent summer camp

France: Economic stagnation and political instability
29/08/2014, Leila Massaoudi, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
Hollande removes ‘lefts’ from government

Turkey: Erdoğan sworn in as country’s President
29/08/2014, Coşku Mıhcı:
Significant poll gains for the left coalition HDP

Ireland: Greyhound lockout enters ninth week
28/08/2014, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Dublin:
A fight for all workers!

Solidarity: Iranian mine workers on strike
26/08/2014, Campaign in support of workers of Iran:
Demand the release of the arrested workers!

Nigeria: Fees victory at Lagos State University!
26/08/2014, Education Rights Campaign, Nigeria statement:
Vigilance required from LASU students and workers to ensure that victory is permanent

ISIS: Capitalist slaughter in Iraq and Syria
25/08/2014, Georg Maier, SLP (CWI in Austria):
As ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Shams) crossed the border between Syria and Iraq, it proclaimed this to be the “annihilation of the disgrace of Sykes-Picot” and the formation of an ‘Islamic state’ (IS).

US: Indict Michael Brown’s killer and spread the protests! The whole system is guilty!
22/08/2014, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US):
Text of a leaflet handed out by Socialist Alternative members in Ferguson and St. Louis

Women in World War One
20/08/2014, Jane James and Jim Horton, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Protests, strikes and equality

Pakistan: Not a “revolution” but an effort by power-hungry politicians to grab power
19/08/2014, Socialist Movement Pakistan (CWI) statement:
Working class will bring the real revolution and change

USA: Ferguson erupts in rage after police kill Michael Brown
18/08/2014, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative, Harlem, New York:
Spread the protests – unite against racism and inequality

US: Jess Spear Primary result
14/08/2014, Socialist Alternative reporters, USA:
“We’ve only just gotten started”

Scotland: Socialist policies are needed to answer Project Fear
13/08/2014, Editorial from the latest issue of the Socialist:
September 18 will see an unprecedented mobilisation to the polls for the referendum on Scottish independence

Indonesian Election
12/08/2014, Conor Flynn, Socialist Party (CWI Australia):
New face; same problems

Gaza: Kshama Sawant calls on Seattle city council to condemn Israeli onslaught
11/08/2014, socialistworld.net:
Socialist councillor denounces Israeli state terror

CWI School: Latin America
08/08/2014, Claire Laker-Mansfield, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Beginning to feel full effects of world crisis

Scotland: Countdown to independence referendum
07/08/2014, Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI in Scotland):
For an independent socialist Scotland

Video: Paul Murphy speaks at Dublin Gaza protest
04/08/2014, socialistworld.net:
Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) Former MEP and parliamentary bye-election candidate speaks to thousands protesting against Israeli state terrorism

Argentina: Another debt default
01/08/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Only socialist policies can end extortion of vulture markets

Sri Lanka: United Socialist Party issues press statement
28/07/2014, Clare Doyle (CWI Secretariat):
CWI calls for protests and financial assistance

Sri Lanka: Racist Buddhist mob ambushes United Socialist Party march
26/07/2014, socialistworld.net:
CWI condemns attack and requests solidarity

China: The great slowdown
24/07/2014, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
Signs the mammoth property bubble is finally bursting belie Beijing’s upbeat GDP data

South Africa: Metal workers’ strike
19/07/2014, By Workers and Socialist Party (WASP – South Africa) Reporters:
Industrial action must take forward call for a new workers’ party

Britain: Abuse scandals reveal abusive system
18/07/2014, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party, Deputy General Secretary:
An Establishment cover-up?

Sri Lanka: Vicious communalist attacks on Muslims
17/07/2014, Siritunga Jayasura, United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka):
USP mounts motor cycle ‘march’ to fight for united struggle against chauvinists

History: Revolutionary US Teamsters
14/07/2014, Alan Jones and Ty Moore, Socialist Alternative:
Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the 1934 Minneapolis Strikes

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Iraq: Only united action can stop sectarian war
16/08/2014, Robert Bechert, CWI:
Iraqis and Kurds must not trust imperialist ‘helpers’

Socialism and national rights
15/08/2014, From Socialism Today No.181, September 2014 by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of Socialist Party (England and Wales), CWI Secretariat:
Ukraine, Israel/Palestine and other countries

Ukraine: Crisis deepens
09/08/2014, Clare Doyle, CWI Secretariat:
Military conflict escalates

CWI School: World capitalism fails working people
07/08/2014, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
System offers economic crisis, insecurity, poverty and wars

Israel/Palestine: After weeks of mass slaughter in Gaza, IDF forces ‘withdraw’
06/08/2014, Niall Mulholland, from articles in this week’s Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
What is the role of imperialism in the conflict?

CWI Summer School: European capitalism fails to recover
02/08/2014, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Working class must organise for future struggles

Gaza in crisis
29/07/2014, Shahar Benhorin, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI in Israel-Palestine):
Mass action needed to stop bloodshed

Trotsky: The first year of war
23/07/2014, Originally published in in special WWI edition of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Article by LEON TROTSKY translated into English for first time

WW1: The Bolsheviks and the war
21/07/2014, Peter Taaffe, article originally published in special WWI edition of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The horrors of the first world war, and the economic and social turmoil it created, led to mass upheaval. In Russia alone did this lead to a successful revolution…

1914: The capitulation of the Second International
19/07/2014, Robert Bechert (a longer version of an article published in the July/August 2014 issue of Socialism Today):
Before 1914, the Second International resolved to act to prevent war…

World War One: 100 years since the great slaughter
16/07/2014, Tony Saunois, article originally published in special WWI edition of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Ten million killed and more than ten million seriously injured

Israel-Palestine:World outraged by Israeli State’s ferocious bombing of Gaza
15/07/2014, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
Mass action needed to end the slaughter and blockade!

Can capitalism put all of us first?
05/07/2014, By Philip Stott:
A response to the “practical idealism” of the Common Weal

Argentina: Return to turmoil
01/07/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Debt crisis is back – the class struggle and tasks for the Left

Review: ’Capital in the Twenty-First Century’
28/06/2014, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales):
Thomas Piketty: The new Marx?

Iraq: Isis jihadists capture more territory
24/06/2014, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
Only organised, united working class can end war and social misery

Nigeria: 200 school girls abducted
18/06/2014, By Segun Sango, National Chairperson, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a party initiated by the DSM (CWI in Nigeria):
Why has Boko Haram insurgency grown?

Iraq: Oil war’s bloody legacy
17/06/2014, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Escalating sectarian conflict threatens to draw in surrounding countries

Ukraine: Hundreds killed in military clashes
13/06/2014, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
Working people fearing all-out war

Review: ’The Snowden Files’
12/06/2014, Clare Doyle, from Socialism Today (June 2014 issue), monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
Exposing the ‘architecture of oppression’

Britain: The Battle of Orgreave
11/06/2014, Ken Smith, from Socialism Today (June 2014 issue), monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
1984 state-organised riot against striking miners

Brazil: Homeless struggle and Metro strike as World Cup approaches
09/06/2014, André Ferrari, LSR (CWI in Brazil):
New stage of the class struggle

Euro polls warning
05/06/2014, Robert Bechert, CWI:
In country after country, May’s elections to the European parliament saw governments and traditional parties defeated

2014: The ’rejection election’
30/05/2014, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
Now Trade Unions must lead our fightback

Ireland: Electoral surge against austerity
28/05/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Socialist Party wins a second TD and Anti Austerity Alliance 14 councillors