Clarion History 18

31 January 2019

The ‘Clarion Scheme’ or NIGFTLU (Part 2 )

I finished the last episode with the ‘new unions’ helping to produce a revival of working-class – and working-class oriented – politics which resulted in – among other things – the launching of the Clarion in December 1891 and in 1893 the foundation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP)

In previous episodes we have seen how Blatchford’s attempts in, especially, the second half of the 1890s to encourage the two main socialist parties, the SDF and the ILP to unite came to nothing. We need to bear this in mind as part of the background to the Clarion scheme which was being promoted at more or less the same time

Another part of the background vital for understanding the nature of the attempt to promote a radical form of trade unionism is the nature of Clarion politics during these years.   We have seen in earlier episodes that – in, arguably, an over-simplistic way – Blatchford and Co had been very opposed to anything that might lead to bureaucracy or the professionalisation of socialist politics. This in turn led to the advocacy – especially in the pamphlets written by A M Thompson (or ‘Dangle’) – of direct democracy in the form of the referendum and initiative. Blatchford was even critical of the Cycling Club for using a delegate system rather than holding referendums to make decisions.

After the dodgy plebiscite of 2016 it is, quite understandably, even harder than it usually is to make the case for referendums – which as we shall see played a major role in NIGFLTU (aka the ‘Clarion scheme’.   But there are a few things we should bear in mind. At a time when at something between a quarter and a third of men and all women were denied national voting rights, whatever criticisms can be made of their partiuclarl proposals, the intentions of the Clarion were definitely to promote democracy.   Secondly, the ‘initiative’ -the right of an agreed number of electors to call a referendum – was always what was intended   rather than plebiscites arranged by the government. If the UK intends to go down the direct democracy route maybe we should have some public enquiries into the experience of Switzerland and those US states where people regularly vote on ‘propositions’ resulting from what the Clarion (and others) called ‘initiatives’?

But back to the trade union scene in the 1890s. The upsurge of ‘New Unions’ is far less well remembered than what followed, which is what has become known a ‘the employers’ counter-offensive’ In the earlier part of the decade even the unions representing the well-established ‘coal and cotton’ trades came under attack with, to name just a few examples. a mining lock-out in 1893, and a bitterly fought Lancashire Cotton-Spinners’ struggle the same year as well as a dock strike in Hull.

Meanwhile, among more radical trade unionists – especially those with socialist convictions – discontent grew with the TUC. Critics were stronger in local trades councils which were represented at the annual congress than on the Parliamentary Committee which looked after – inadequately the rebels said – union interests for the rest of the year.

In 1895 the TUC leadership carried out what was seen as a ‘coup.’ It came up with a new procedure which included the block vote, proposed the exclusion of the trades councils from Congress representation and then used the new system to get this through – which many saw as sharp practice. All this encouraged the   belief that something more -and more representative of the grassroots and more radical – than the TUC was needed if the employers’ counter-offensive was to be resisted and union demands for the eight hour day and other improvements in working conditions were to be advanced.

Things came to a head in the summer of 1897 when a near-national lockout by the Engineering employer’s co-ordinated by a Col Dyer began against the ASE – seen since the 1850s as the most powerful and secure trade union. This lasted into 1898. In the Clarion Blatchford described it as ‘the Engineers’ Sedan’ a reference not the famous chair but to the decisive defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War which among other consequences brought the Second Empire crashing down. Was the same fate about to happen to the British trade union movement?

Not surprisingly with concerns about the success of the counter-offensive rising even before this thoughts began to turn to some form of allianceor trade union federation that could do more to resist this than the TUC seemed able or willing to do. Various schemes were suggested including the one that came to be known as the ‘Clarion scheme.’ It’s author, P J King seems to have turned up at the paper’s office early in 1896, persuaded Blatchford and Thompson to back his radical scheme which was then promoted on a virtually weekly basis sometimes under Blatchford’s own non de guerre of ‘Nunquam.’

Next time we will see what was the nature of this scheme and what became of it

Ian

 

 

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The next ride: Sunday 27th January – Hassocks to Shoreham

18 January 2019

via Henfield, Partridge Green, Ashurst, Steyning.

Please remember that sunset is at 16:43 so make sure that you have working cycle lights for the return from Shoreham.

From Hassocks station we will make our way through Hurstpierpoint to Washbrook Farm for a quick coffee and loo stop.

Leave your bike outside the entrance, they charge to go round the farm but not to just use the cafe.

Leaving the cafe we will turn right and follow the B2117 across the A23 down to the Ginger Fox where we turn right onto the Brighton Road for a short distance before going left onto the back roads to Henfield.

We cycle through Henfield and take the downslink north to Partridge Green and our lunch stop at the Partridge at 12:30.

After lunch we will take the Horsham Road south to Steyning and follow Clays Hill to the roundabout at Bramber and onto the downslink to Shoreham.

Length: mostly on road 23 miles and free of Major undulations. Two sections of downslink .
Duration: 5 hours including stops
Pace: We will need to maintain a good pace on this ride to keep to timing.
Meet: at Brighton station to catch the 10:09 train to Hassocks
Start: We will start the ride at 10:20 at Hassocks station (West side) for anyone arriving by car.
Return: from Shoreham Station from about 3:30pm(Frequent trains)

To help me book lunch please email me at clarionistas@gmail.com if you are coming.

Graham


The Last Ride: Sunday 13th January 2019 –  Balcombe to Wivelsfield

14 January 2019

January 13, 2019: Balcombe to Wivelsfield

Jim, Sally, Wendy, Sikka, Angela, Mic and Nick caught the early train (9.08!) to Balcombe. The weather was good – fresh and bright and in the afternoon wintry sunshine bathed the countryside in beauty. Now and then we were treated to the scent of woodsmoke as we cycled among the wooded hillsides. Views opened up between the trunks of trees whose discarded leaves lay dry and brown below and after reaching the summit of each undulation we were treated to far-reaching panoramas.

January 13, 2019: Balcombe to Wivelsfield

We came across a few interesting curiosities on our journey, offering momentary respite from the rigours of cycling. First, an essential pause to admire the magnificent Balcombe Viaduct, next in a set of diversified farm buildings, the offer of counselling, foot health and trichology at the Hair Sanctuary. Lindfield was noted to have a number of attractive Georgian homes and taking a short cut along a bridleway we stopped to admire a smallholding and envied the smallholder her cup of tea! She told us about her hens, pygmy goats, rabbits and fighting cockerels.

January 13, 2019: Balcombe to Wivelsfield

We were joined in The Farmers at Scaynes Hill for lunch by Graham, Prudence and Chris who had taken a later train. The menu catered for various diets and Wendy was able to enjoy the rare treat of a totally vegan nut roast meal – while sitting under the head of a magnificent hunted stag. Over the meal Angela proposed a toast to one of our members on account of his promotion to Compost Monitor in his neighbourhood. Much discussion ensued about compost and the compost monitor and Mic asked ‘was the compost monitor ‘compos mentos?’

January 13, 2019: Balcombe to Wivelsfield

In the afternoon we all cycled back to Wivelsfield station together and landed safely back in Brighton just as dusk was falling.

Thank you Jim for a very enjoyable ride.

Report put together by Sikka from various contributions over lunch!

Addendum

The need for speed (Graham)

After plugging Jim’s excellent ride instructions into Ridewithgps and despite the extreme undulations revealed i thought it possible to do a fast ride starting an hour later and catch up with the advance group before lunch. So it was that Graham, Chris and Prudence set off from Balcombe station at 10:45 following Jim’s route. We caught up after 9.5 miles and an hours hard cycling free of chickens, roadkill and viaduct photos while approaching the Sloop Inn with 2 miles to go to lunch. The run was helped by enabling live tracking on WhatsApp so that Nick, Wendy and I could look at each others progress. Later there were murmerings of no signal and we would have cycled faster if we knew you were catching up. So could we!

Thanks to Jim for organising the ride and an excellent lunch stop.


News

14 January 2019

Dear All

Jim was was hoping to take on 27 January but what he’d wished to do turned out not to be possible. So, at the moment there is no ‘Next Ride’. But if anyone can send me in details of a ride for 27, I’ll circulated it separately immediately. Otherwise we are looking for offers for 10 February.’

Easter Meet and National AGM
You should have already received details about the Easter Meet in York – at least once if not twice! If you haven’t please let me know.

https://clarioncc.org/events/clarion-easter-meet-2019/

I’ve had no suggestions for motions or nominations to date. You’ll see that we – and the other sections – have until 19 February to send them in.

With the newsletter I’m sending a separate document featuring the provisional motions which the national committee is proposing. I’ve had a quick look through and haven’t spotted anything contentious – but please check yourself and let me know if I’ve overlooked anything.

Motion (No 3) about changes in the method of paying subs is something we need the advice of Jim and Julian about. If we want to carry on with the old methods (see below) much depends on how the word ‘should’ in the committee’s proposed rule change is going to be interpreted.

There may be more or revised motions coming from the national committee later and of course from sections. I will circulate any such as soon as I receive them.

In the past we have considered motions for the national conference at our own AGM along with all the other business. Holding our AGM in March should enable us to consider any motions that come in from other sections as well as the ones I’m sending together with this newsletter from the national committee.

In the past our practice has been to instruct our delegates (i e whoever attends the Meet) on anything we have a definite view about but otherwise to ask them to listen to the debates and vote – or abstain – accordingly.

I’ve also had the following message from Alex of London Clarion:

‘Grateful if you also let your members know about our (London Clarion & National Clarion 1895) non-racing Easter Meet in Bradford at Easter. About 15 coming so far. Ribbons have already come! Full details here https://www.londonclarion.org.uk/clarion-easter-meet-2019.html

National Clarion Subs
(in case there’s anyone who still hasn’t rejoined for 2019)
Important If you’re paying by bank transfer please let Jim know at j.r.grozier@btinternet.com so that he knows who has paid this way.

Normally, Clarion subs for the year include two elements, the national fee and a local one.  We have suspended our local sub for the last few years and did so for 2019 at the last AGM. So the total we need to pay is £12.  This covers not only national membership but also third-party insurance without which no-one should risk going out on a bike.  At £1 a month this is a real bargain.

In recent years this has been done via a PayPal account. We have been having problems with this account.  We have also realised that PayPal charges us fees. For these reasons, we have decided this year to collect subscriptions using the old fashioned method, using our equally old fashioned Co-op bank account.

Jim has kindly volunteered to act as treasurer while Julian is recovering, so if you would like to join or renew your membership
The instructions are in the newsletter.

In due course, Jim will pass on the subscriptions received to the National Clarion and you will receive a membership card, as usual.

Ian


Clarion History 17: The ‘Clarion Scheme’ or NIGFTLU (Part 1 )

14 January 2019

The tale of the Clarion Scheme or to give it its impressive (and very long) title the National and International General Federation of Trades and Labour Unions (or NIGFTLU for comparative shortness) is not very well known even among people interested in the history of unions in this country. So this time I will try to sketch in the essential long term background and then turn to the immediate circumstances of the Clarion Scheme next time.

We must begin by recognising that NIGFTLU was not the first ambitious attempt to combining unions representing all workers into a ‘fighting’ organisation. In the early 1830s there had been the National Association of United Trades for Protection of Labour (NAUTPL) – which we might say set the precedent for long and inclusive titles as did its much larger and truly impressive Grand National Consolidated Trade Union (GNCTU) inspired by Robert Owen’s socialism. Others followed in subsequent decades
A key moment in trade union history in the UK came in 1851 when the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) was formed by – as the name suggests – the merging of smaller organisations. When Sidney and Beatrice Webb wrote their History of Trade Unions in 1894 they invented the title of ‘New Model Unions’ to describe this and similar craft unions which came into existence in the 1850s. Their analysis has been challenged several times in the last century or so but the name has stuck.

New model unions were very much concerned with organising the skilled workers in particular trades – like engineering and carpentry. They tended to be concerned not only with achieving wage increases for their members but also maintaining the pay differentials, status and privileges of the skilled craftsmen (and they were all men) who they represented. Left wingers tended to dismiss the craft unions as a ‘labour aristocracy.’

The TUC came into being in 1868. Its main function of lobbying for legislation favourable -and against legislation unfavourable – to the unions is suggested by the fact that until it changed its name to the General Council in 1921 the national committee that looked after TUC business between annual congresses was called the Parliamentary Committee. At this stage the TUC was composed mainly of ‘New Model’ craft unions.
.
All changed – or so the more simplistic versions of trade union history tell us – in the late 1880s when there was an upsurge of unionisation of – formally – unskilled workers which is general known – rather confusingly as the New Unionism. A key moment was the famous Matchgirls’ Strike of 1888 which turned out to be rather untypical in that it concerned strike action by (mostly) young women employed at the famous Bryant and May factory. They were assisted by Herbert Burrows, a key figure in the SDF, and Annie Besant who was a member of both the SDF and the Fabians. She would later become an exponent of theosophy and an important figure in the movement for Indian independence.

The following year 1889 saw the equally famous London Dock strike. Ben Tillett, one of the strike leaders became the secretary of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers Union.

Back in the 1970s as part of a project to record socialist and labour movement activists I was part of a small group who interviewed his daughter, Mrs Davies, who lived in Rottingdean and was a very active Labour Party campaigner – very rare in 1970s Rottingdean in those days. She had also been a participant in the women’s suffrage movement. But when one of us (hope it wasn’t me!) suggested that she might have been a member of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union – the original suffragettes – she got quite angry, denounced the Pankhursts for their lack of democracy within the WSPU organisation, and made it clear that she had belonged to the breakaway Women’s Freedom League led by Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Greig
Other important figures in the Dock Strike were Tom Mann of the ASE, John Burns and Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl who tragically committed suicide a few years later. She was also instrumental in helping Will Thorne set up another ‘new union’ the Gasworkers and General Labourers Union.’

With much help from other unions and socialists including a £30,000 donation from Australian unionists the London Dock Strike succeeded in achieving its aim of securing ‘the dockers’ tanner’ – sixpence an hour – which gives us some idea of how massive the Australian donation was.

The new union upsurge and accompanying ‘socialist revival ‘spread to other areas of the country – though not always with great success. The foundation of the Clarion in 1891 was a part of this. Which is a convenient point at which to stop for now.

Ian

Next Time The ‘Clarion Scheme’ or NIGFTLU (Part 2 )


The Next Ride

5 January 2019

Sunday 13th January 2019: Balcombe to Wivelsfield

Lindfield/Ardingly – Freshfield – Scaynes Hill – North Chailey

This is a repeat of a ride done in September 2015. As well as producing Nick’s timeless “shadows” photo (see https://brightonandhoveclarion.wordpress.com/about/) that ride also featured the discovery of a wonderful tea stop, complete with swing, train set and loads of old cars, at a place allegedly called Oakwood Farm, which I cannot find on the map but hopefully we’ll once more stumble across (or spend the rest of our lives vainly searching for, like Lionel Wallace in H G Wells’ short story The Door in the Wall).

The ride was originally conceived in celebration of the fact that Balcombe and Wivelsfield are both “semi-step-free” stations, and in the right direction for this ride, which therefore “suggested itself – in fact, it did more than that, it insisted on being brought into life”, as the rather pretentious blurb of the time declared, before going on to say “despite having its fair share of undulations …” – oh dear. Who writes all this stuff? Oh, it was me!

Balcombe Tea Rooms may offer a coffee stop at the start of the ride if open. Later, we will have to decide whether to risk the bridleway from High Beech Lane to Lindfield. The alternative is a diversion via Ardingly which will add two miles to the total distance.

From Lindfield we take Park Lane and Plummerden Lane to Freshfield and then North Chailey, crossing the river Ouse twice and also the Bluebell line twice. The Inn on the Green at Scaynes Hill, where we enjoyed a satisfactory repast last time, is now called The Farmers, and the prices still look OK for us, so we’ll return there, despite a 2 mile detour from our route. (Pub ETA 12:15)

After lunch we cross Chailey Common, then take in all the Wivelsfields – Wivelsfield Green, Wivelsfield itself, and Worlds End, which is where the station is, although it’s really a suburb of Burgess Hill these days. Hopefully on the way we’ll find that door in the wall.

Distance: 20 miles (or 22 if avoiding the bridleway)

Duration: about 5½ hours

Terrain: see above. The short sections of A275 and A272 have footpaths. There are undulations, but not many after Park Lane.

Start at: Balcombe Station, platform 1 (northbound) exit, 9:45

Getting there: Take the 9:08 Bedford train from Brighton.

Getting home: Trains leave Wivelsfield for Brighton at 31 and 59 minutes past the hour.

A return ticket to Balcombe is probably the best option, unless two singles are cheaper.

Sun sets at 4.15. We should be on the train by then.

Jim.


Clarion Annual New Year Ride

5 January 2019

Part 1.   Anne reports

Clarion annual Carats cafe ride and brunch

A goodly crowd of folk gathered at Brighton Palace Pier on a cold winter morning & photographer Fred performed the ritual snap. New arrival Wendy T. agreed to snap the all-inclusive Fred as well Photo & a long line of yellow jackets wended their way to the next rendez-vous outside Marocco’s Cafe on Hove sea-front. The numbers now soared to 20 plus we almost recruited two more on the spot, when they recognised the joy & camaraderie of Clarion Cycling Club

Since the weather was so nippy & the cycle track so busy, it was difficult to chat en route in the usual friendly way but the miles seem to fly by & we reached Carat’s Cafe well before 12pm & started to queue & to find space to seat 20. No seats out in the sunshine this year, nor tempting silvery sea for paddling. It was sometimes silvery but was too shivery too!

We joined the queue & on finding out  that the soup was spicy vegetable I decided on that & soon reached the till & paid up & received my receipt & number. Before I’d left the counter the kitchen staff anounced that there was no more soup, so I went back & ordered the veggie brekkie, which did sound good. Another receipt was given me  but as I tried to leave again kitchen called out that there now was soup, By then I had become keen on the option of the veggie brekkie but had agreed to the soup now. Further down the queue Wendy S. was waiting with Graham & she wanted soup but agreed to order the veg breakfast if there was no longer soup.

By now earlier birds [or cyclists] had bagged tables – 1 inside & 1 in sun lounge extension so I took my soup inside where Ian, Sue B, Richard C, Prudence, Joyce & Leon, Wendy B, Fred, & Graham were seated. I would have needed another space, so when Fred got up to take some more pics, he sat himself down at a nearby table, whence Graham, then I, went to join him. Wendy had been seated in the extension with Sikka, Jim, Sally, Suzanne, Roger, Julia, Nick, Angela D. Tessa & her nephew, Rupert. There had been no more soup [again] so she’d ordered veg. breakfast, so I invited her back to room 1  to sample my soup & hopefully, share her breakfast. That worked very well as she liked the soup, though not the buttered bread, being a vegan. The breakfast had an egg on toast  which she w/couldn’t eat but I relish, though not white toast. Fred & Wendy, maybe Graham,  shared the copious mushrooms & sampled the fatty, deep-fried veg sausages & fatty hash browns & we all enjoyed the baked beans. So that worked well.

Angela D joined us & discussed cycling on to Shoreham or back to Brighton to sample /recce The Walrus, as some don’t like the food at Carat’s & had just had tea or coffee & were thus somewhat peckish still. 4 or 5 in the end went on to Shoreham from where Graham will take up the tale.

What will 2019 bring?  Can we stop Brexit & UKIP & Tories? Or are we all doomed?   Happy New Year to all our readers & riders & welcome to our new rider Wendy Tait.  A good start to the new year.

Sorry that I haven’t reported on the other tables but maybe they can add their bit too.

Anne

January 2, 2019: Clarion ride to Carats

Part 2. Graham adds:

Angela, Jim, Sally, Wendy, Prudence , Nick and myself went over the locks and as far as Shoreham. where we settled into the comfy chairs upstairs at “Toast by the coast” for coffee and snacks until about 2:30, then cycled back.

PS. Prudence left her red beret in Carats and is wondering if anyone picked it up

Graham

Part 3. Jim adds:

There were certainly a lot of us at the café, and I am sorry I didn’t get to say hello to everyone.

While waiting for everyone to lock up their bikes in Shoreham, Sally and I were approached by a gentleman on a bike who asked us where we had cycled from. He gave us a newspaper cutting about wearing cycle helmets. OK, it was from the Mail On Sunday, but I promised to pass the message on – which was that a doctor, Dr Michael Mosley, had written a full page article under the heading “Don’t all shout but I refuse to wear a cycle helmet and here are my reasons why”. Despite that headline, most of the article was about the benefits of cycling, and only the last few paragraphs were about helmets. He says he “finds it an uncomfortable inconvenience” but goes on to add that “according to University of Bath scientists, drivers are more likely to veer dangerously close to helmet-wearers due to a subconscious belief that those who wear a helmet are more serious, experienced and predictable than those without”.

It’s a familiar argument, and I wouldn’t contradict it, but I must say I was glad of my helmet when I got too near an overhanging branch on the Downs Link a few years ago! Also there are other precautions you can take, including getting a mirror to warn of approaching motorists (I wouldn’t cycle without one) and also maybe  a swing-out fluorescent arm such as Rob has.

Jim

Part 4. Fred adds:

After a trouble-free albeit nippy ride back to the Palace Pier, I was in town cycling west past the Corn Exchange when I had an encounter with a car door, my first ever. Due to unfortunate timing, a driver opened his door just as I was passing and I crashed straight into it… it was one of those time slowing down moments and could have ben a lot worse. The driver apologised, but I was too shocked to take any details. The only damage done seemed to be with my left big finger, which was numb, and my left hand brake lever. Over a coffee in the warm nearby Caffe Italiano, feeling gradually came back, much to my relief,  and I reflected on what had happened. I was obviously riding too close, to avoid the traffic to my right, and thankfully I wasn’t going fast. Moral: be eternally vigilent!