Thursday, 30 April 2015

Wakefield Socialist History Group


Manningham Mills dominated Bradford's skyline in the late 19th century.  It employed 5000 low paid non-unionised works. Many were women. In 1890 an 8% dividend had been issued to shareholders.  But on 9 December 1890 Samuel Lister, the millionaire owner, posted a notice outlining reductions in pay of between 15 and 33% for weavers, pickers, spoolers and winders.  Some 1,1000 workers in all would be hit (Dominguez 2013).

Company director Jose Reixach justified the move, saying that the workers concerned had been being paid "unnaturally high" wages. There was outrage on the factor floor. Though few were in a union at this stage they called in officials from the Weavers' Textile Workers' Association.  By the end of March 1891 some 5000 were out on strike.

The strikers faced hostility from Liberal and Tory councillors, from the courts, the press and the police.  But they also rallied massive public support -one mass protest meeting on 19 April attracted up to 90,000 people.
The dispute lasted four months in all.  And although the strikers were finally starved into submission it changed politics forever.  The strike leaders saw the need for the workers' to have their own political party.
The Bradford Labour Union was formed, followed by the Bradford ILP.  And then in January 1893 120 delegates met in Bradford to set up the ILP (Independent Labour Party) as a national party.
Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group
p.s. the next meeting of the Wakefield Socialist History Group is on Saturday 9 May 2015, 1-4pm at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1.  The topic is THE STORY OF THE ILP -AND LESSONS FOR TODAY.  The speakers are Iain Dalton (Socialist Party) and Barry Winter (Independent Labour Publications).  The chair is Kitty Rees. Admission is free and there will be a free light buffet.

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