Poplarism 1919-1925



ISBN: 9780853155362 Categories: ,

Format: Paperback

Publication date: October 1, 1979

Page extent: 242

7 in stock

When Labour gained its first majority on the Poplar Council in November 1919, the Labour councillors found themselves, in a period of incrasing depression and unemployment in one of the most destitute boroughs of London, administering a rating system under which - in the words of their first mayor, George Lansbury - 'the poor had to keep the poor'. In these intolerable circumstnaces, the Poplar councillors, after tireless but fruitless efforts to convince the central authorities of their impossible situation, took direct action. They not only refused to pay the central levy of rates due to the London County Council, but put their socialist principles into practical action by insisting on a proper system of outdoor relief for the unemployed, an increased minimum wage for council workers, and equal pay for women. For such acts of outright rebellion thirty Poplar councillors were tried and sent to prison.

This history, by a highly-qualified social historian, sets down for the first time the full story of Poplarism and the outstanding men and women who made it possible. The political and legal confrontations which prceded and followed their imprisonment - and which continued well after their release - constitute an important chapter in the struggle over such basic issues as child allowances and unemploment pay, more than twenty years before such measures were accepted as official policy. They also exemplify in clear and unambiguous form the uncompromising battles which continue to be fought between central government and socialist local councils.


1. ‘Something Like a Miracle’
2. The Road to Confrontation
3. A New Form of Strike
4. Critics in Disarray
5. Prison
6. Release
7. Victory
8. The Unemployed and the Poor Law
9. ‘Guilty and Proud of It’
10. Divisions in the Labour Movement
11. Wages: The Auditor Intervenes
12. The Guardians and the Dock Strike
13. The First Labour Government
14. The Last Phase
15. In Retrospect

Appendix A Outdoor relief scales in 1922
Appendix B Biographical Notes

‘This well documented study raises several relevant questions which no government has yet answered’ – Lena Jeger in The Guardian

‘This well-researched and impressively readable account gathers all the facts to give the legend fresh and vivid life … deserves a wide readership’ – Tribune

‘No one has a better grasp of the history of the labour movement in the inter-war period than Noreen Branson and this book cannot be recommended too highly’ – Morning Star

‘At a time when direct action against a Tory government is again the order of the day, this book is a must for all activists in the labour movement’ – Labour Research

‘… an excellent narrative of the extraordinary events of the period’ – Time Out

‘Noreen Branson is an accomplished historian who has written a sympathetic yet judicious account of these celebrated events. She has produced a fine, scholarly study which can be recommended without hesitation’ – Society of Labour History Bulletin