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US
Most contentious Democratic Convention since 1968

29/07/2016: We need a new party of the 99% to defeat the billionaire class

  US

 Cameroon
Free jailed Buea activists!

28/07/2016: 100 protest outside the court demanding release of the 15

  Cameroon, Solidarity

Cote d’Ivoire
Protests against electricity prices

28/07/2016: The straw that broke the camel’s back!

  Ivory Coast

US
A call to action

27/07/2016: Walk out from the Democratic National Convention!

  US

Chile
One million protest against private pension fund

26/07/2016: After student protests, working class returns to streets

  Chile

 CWI Summer School
Europe in the aftermath of the Brexit shock

26/07/2016: Continent enters new phase of political and economic crises

  CWI

Britain
Westminster renews Trident weapons of mass destruction

25/07/2016: Debate exposes Labour as two parties

  Britain

Belgium
Brutal repression against Hong Kong socialist at Brussels Airport

18/07/2016: Chinese methods against Marxists copied by Belgian authorities

  Belgium

Turkey
Attempted coup failed

16/07/2016: No to military rule, no to Erdogan’s rule! For a workers’ alternative!

  Turkey

France
In the face of terror in Nice we will not be intimidated !

16/07/2016: No to hatred, suspicion and racism : don’t let us be divided !

  France

US
Bernie Abandons 'the Revolution’

14/07/2016: Time to back Green candidate Jill Stein

  US

Spain
Disappointment for Left in re-run elections

12/07/2016: Mass mobilisation and struggle necessary for real change

  Spain

Greece
Rise in support for Grexit; fall in support for SYRIZA

11/07/2016: Highest levels recorded against Eurozone and EU membership following Brexit

  Greece

China’s economy
‘Dead panda bounce’

10/07/2016: Has China’s economy turned a corner?

  China

Egypt
Third anniversary of coming to power of military regime

09/07/2016: Rebuilding Workers’ and youth struggles

  Egypt

Britain
Chilcot's damning findings on Iraq war

08/07/2016: More piles of evidence against the blood-soaked war for oil

  Britain

Australia
Close election result - A crisis for the establishment

08/07/2016: To fight anti-working class measures, we must build a socialist alternative

  Australia

Austria
Presidential elections re-run

08/07/2016: Court order to re-run elections sends shockwaves through establishment

  Austria

Netherlands
After Brexit, are we heading towards ‘Nexit’?

07/07/2016: Right populist Geert Wilders promises: “Our turn is next”

  Netherlands

History
1936 - Spain’s revolutionary promise

06/07/2016: Working class and peasants rose up against capitalist exploitation, poverty and fascism

  Spain

Britain
Stand firm and organise against the Blairite coup

06/07/2016: No compromise possible in Labour’s civil war

  Britain

 Video
#KeepCorbyn solidarity from Irish parliament

06/07/2016: Socialist MPs - Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy - speak in support of Jeremy Corbyn against Blairite coup in Irish parliament

  Britain, Video

Turkey
Terrorist attack at İstanbul Atatürk Airport kills dozens

01/07/2016: No to war and terror! Yes to workers’ unity and solidarity!

  Turkey

Iran
Gold Miners Lashed, jailed workers on hunger strike

01/07/2016: Iranian workers need solidarity

  Iran

US
Beyond Bernie

01/07/2016: Still not with her

  US

 Video
Defend Jeremy Corbyn

30/06/2016: Fight the Blairite coup

  Britain, Video

Britain
Blairite coup against Jeremy Corbyn

29/06/2016: Defend anti-austerity struggle

  Britain

Mexico
Teachers continue strike despite extreme repression

28/06/2016: Working people in Mexico need fighting unions, an independent left party, and socialism

  Mexico

Britain
Referendum revolt

27/06/2016: Capitalist establishment shattered

  Britain

Scotland
After Brexit, SNP government threaten second Indy referendum

27/06/2016: Leave vote higher than average in many working class areas

  Scotland

Britain
After the referendum

24/06/2016: Tories Out! General election now! Fight for a 24 hour general strike

  Britain, Europe

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: Most contentious Democratic Convention since 1968
29/07/2016, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative (US):
We need a new party of the 99% to defeat the billionaire class

Cameroon: Free jailed Buea activists!
28/07/2016, CWI reporters:
100 protest outside the court demanding release of the 15

Cote d’Ivoire: Protests against electricity prices
28/07/2016, CWI in Cote d’Ivoire:
The straw that broke the camel’s back!

Britain: No compromise with Labour right wing
28/07/2016, Editorial of the Socialist, newspaper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
#Keep Corbyn

Chile: One million protest against private pension fund
26/07/2016, Celso Calfullan and Patricio Guzman Socialism Revolucionario (CIT/CWI Chile):
After student protests, working class returns to streets

Britain: Westminster renews Trident weapons of mass destruction
25/07/2016, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) Reporters:
Debate exposes Labour as two parties

Belgium: Brutal repression against Hong Kong socialist at Brussels Airport
18/07/2016, CWI reporters :
Chinese methods against Marxists copied by Belgian authorities

Turkey: Attempted coup failed
16/07/2016, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey) :
No to military rule, no to Erdogan’s rule! For a workers’ alternative!

France: In the face of terror in Nice we will not be intimidated !
16/07/2016, Statement by Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France), 15.07.16 :
No to hatred, suspicion and racism : don’t let us be divided !

China: Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) verdict on South China Sea a major diplomatic blow to China
15/07/2016, From ChinaWorker.info:
Only winner from tribunal’s ruling is arms industry

Malaysia: Scandal-ridden prime minister launches crackdown on dissent
13/07/2016, Ravichandren, CWI Malaysia:
Opposition weak and divided

Spain: Disappointment for Left in re-run elections
12/07/2016, Viki Lara, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain):
Mass mobilisation and struggle necessary for real change

Greece: Rise in support for Grexit; fall in support for SYRIZA
11/07/2016, Kyriakos Halaris (translated from the Xekinima website of the Greek section of the CWI):
Highest levels recorded against Eurozone and EU membership following Brexit

China’s economy: ‘Dead panda bounce’
10/07/2016, Analysis by chinaworker.info:
Has China’s economy turned a corner?

Egypt: Third anniversary of coming to power of military regime
09/07/2016, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Rebuilding Workers’ and youth struggles

Britain: Chilcot's damning findings on Iraq war
08/07/2016, Judy Beishon, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) :
More piles of evidence against the blood-soaked war for oil

Austria: Presidential elections re-run
08/07/2016, By Sebastian Kugler, SLP (CWI in Austria):
Court order to re-run elections sends shockwaves through establishment

Netherlands: After Brexit, are we heading towards ‘Nexit’?
07/07/2016, Pieter Brans, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Netherlands), Amsterdam:
Right populist Geert Wilders promises: “Our turn is next”

Britain: Stand firm and organise against the Blairite coup
06/07/2016, Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
No compromise possible in Labour’s civil war

Video: #KeepCorbyn solidarity from Irish parliament
06/07/2016, socialistworld.net:
Socialist MPs - Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy - speak in support of Jeremy Corbyn against Blairite coup in Irish parliament

Nigeria:  Oyo State workers' indefinite strike
04/07/2016, CWI Reporters, Nigeria:
"No Pay, No Work!"

Turkey: Terrorist attack at İstanbul Atatürk Airport kills dozens
01/07/2016, Ahmet Küçük, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI Turkey):
No to war and terror! Yes to workers’ unity and solidarity!

Iran:Gold Miners Lashed, jailed workers on hunger strike
01/07/2016, Report from Campaign in Support of Iranian Workers :
Iranian workers need solidarity

Video: Defend Jeremy Corbyn
30/06/2016, Video with Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Fight the Blairite coup

Britain: Blairite coup against Jeremy Corbyn
29/06/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary:
Defend anti-austerity struggle

Mexico: Teachers continue strike despite extreme repression
28/06/2016, Adam Ziemkowski, Socialist Alternative, USA:
Working people in Mexico need fighting unions, an independent left party, and socialism

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

US: A call to action
27/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US):
Walk out from the Democratic National Convention!

CWI Summer School: Europe in the aftermath of the Brexit shock
26/07/2016, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Continent enters new phase of political and economic crises

US: Bernie Abandons 'the Revolution’
14/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist councillor Seattle City :
Time to back Green candidate Jill Stein

Australia: Close election result - A crisis for the establishment
08/07/2016, Socialist Party (CWI Australia) statement :
To fight anti-working class measures, we must build a socialist alternative

History: 1936 - Spain’s revolutionary promise
06/07/2016, Tony Saunois, from Socialism Today (July/August 2016):
Working class and peasants rose up against capitalist exploitation, poverty and fascism

US: Beyond Bernie
01/07/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the USA):
Still not with her

Britain: Referendum revolt
27/06/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (issue No.200, July-August 2016):
Capitalist establishment shattered

Asia: Conflict in the South China Sea
16/06/2016, This is an abridged version of an article by Vincent Kolo, originally published on chinaworker.info.:
Territorial disputes resemble pieces on a ‘geopolitical chessboard’ as the US and China struggle for hegemony in Asia

Middle East: ISIS under pressure on several fronts
15/06/2016, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
Working classes, through bitterest of experiences, will take to road of mass struggle again

EU: Left parties turning against bosses’ Europe
10/06/2016, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Progress in Portugal and Spain, confusion in Britain

Muhammad Ali: A fighter who inspired millions
09/06/2016, Hugo Pierre, Socialism Today (originally published in 2003):
Establishment forced to incorporate his legend into re-writing of history

Review: The working-class case against the EU
08/06/2016, Hannah Sell, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Review of ‘And The Weak Must Suffer What They Must?’ by Yanis Varoufakis

France: Fight against Valls/Hollande government intensifies
31/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Gauche Revolutionnaire statement underlines vital need for political alternative

Austria: Only 31,026 votes prevent far right’s Hofer becoming president
24/05/2016, Sonja Grusch, SLP (the Austrian section of the CWI):
‘Breathing space’ offers chance to build a fighting, democratic left alternative

Britain: EU referendum exposes gaping political fault-lines
24/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
New road can open up for labour movement if working class relies on its own forces

Brazil: Fall of President Dilma Rousseff unleashes offensive against working class
19/05/2016, André Ferrari, LSR (‘Freedom, Socialism and Revolution’ - CWI Brazil):
The impeachment process and historic crisis of the PT (Workers’ Party)

Ireland: ‘Jobstown trials’ to go ahead
18/05/2016, Kieran Mahon, Anti-Austerity Alliance / Socialist Party Councillor, Dublin:
Government loses battle on water charges but wages war on Left

Saudi Arabia: Gathering storms over the House of Saud
13/05/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Collapse of oil prices expose fragile foundations of oil Gulf monarchies

France: New stage in battle over labour law
12/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Hollande’s decision to over-rule parliament provokes another round of struggle

Ireland: 100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly
12/05/2016, Three articles on Connolly’s life and ideas :
Revolutionary socialist, militant workers' leader and internationalist

Belgium: Trade unions announce new plan of action
11/05/2016, LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium) Reporters:
Call for two national demonstrations, building towards general strikes

Britain: 90th anniversary of epochal general strike
05/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) general secretary:
When workers tasted power

Israel/Palestine: The Marxist left, the national conflict and the
Palestinian struggle

29/04/2016, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
The necessity of a class approach and a socialist alternative

France: One-day strike set for 28 April
26/04/2016, Alex Rouillard, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
A final stage before indefinite action against Hollande’s government?

US: The un-Democratic Primary
22/04/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative Seattle, originally published on counterpunch.org:
Why we need new party of the 99%