This account explores the strength and distinctiveness of the socialism that emerged in nineteenth-century northern England, arguing that popular socialism today needs to reconnect with its local and regional roots.
The socialist tradition in Britain is diverse and multi-layered. In this new book – so much more than a work of history – Paul Salveson examines the socialism of the the mills, mines and railway yards of the North of England. In a complex analysis, he argues that the left needs to relocate power to the regions and that in reconnecting with local radical traditions, Labour could find valuable resources for its renewal.
Salveson discusses the rise of the Independent Labour Party, formed in Bradford in 1893; its emphasis was different to that of metropolitan-based parties, instead relying on ethical values, community and culture; decentralist and democratic rather than centralist and authoritarian. And, as the book also documents, a number of outstanding women – including Katharine Bruce Glasier, Sarah Reddish and Enid Stacy – played a central role in its campaigning.
Salveson reminds us of the role of working-class writers such as Allen Clarke, who converted thousands of his readers to socialism ‘by making them laugh’, and of the Clarion cycling clubs, which introduced a generation of working men and women to a new, fun and recreational, kind of politics. He also shows how the co-operative movement and the trade unions, helped to shape a durable and independent working-class culture.