Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/147/7753

From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2000

International Women's Day: 8 March

The tireless Eleanor Marx

WILL THORNE of the Gasworkers' Union, writing in 1925 about Eleanor Marx's suicide on 31 March 1898 said: "But for this tragedy, I believe Eleanor would have still been living and would have been a greater women's leader than the greatest of contemporary women."

Katrine Williams

The life of Eleanor Marx, youngest daughter of Karl Marx and a woman brought up as a revolutionary, is inspiring. Absolutely committed to the ideas of socialism she fought for every reform and against any injustice.

Eleanor comes across as a woman you can relate to. She detested housework and also thought that the first public lecture she gave would be her last. In fact she was an excellent public speaker and in much demand.

She had a knack of adapting to her audience to raise socialist ideas in a relevant and comprehensible way. When anarchists were tried after a bomb killed a policeman Eleanor explained that the bombs needed were 'agitation, education and organisation' to be thrown amongst the masses.

Eleanor was active in the workers' movement during a key period of British working-class history. On Bloody Sunday 13 November 1887, when police attacked workers converging on Trafalgar Square, Eleanor was in the thick of it urging workers to stand firm against police charges.

1889 saw the period of New Unionism, of unskilled workers getting organised into trade unions. However hard Eleanor and her partner found it to make ends meet, writing articles and translating books, she recognised this was nothing compared to the absolute poverty of workers.

She relished the opportunity to be involved in mass working-class organisations when the new unions were taking off, rather than the small socialist groups with their dry theoretical discussions. She did not want to just talk about socialism but also to take action to build for it.

For her there was no artificial division between work for constitutional reform, such as a legal eight-hour day, or building a trade union to force employers to concede a shorter working day. The leading trade union leaders at the time paid tribute to the amount of hard graft that Eleanor put in during the dockers' strike, from public speaking to the unceasing clerical drudgery that went along with the dispute.

Eleanor was most involved with the Gasworkers' Union. In 1879, Will Thorne could only write his name. Ten years later he was the general secretary of that union. Eleanor helped him improve his reading and writing to cope with all the union paperwork.

She also helped draw up the formal rules of the Gasworkers' Union and the first half-yearly report and balance sheet for 30,000 members. She formed the first women's branch of the union whilst being involved in the three-month strike in Silvertown.

At the annual conference in May 1890 she was the only nominee to be unanimously elected to the union's executive council, a post she held until June 1895 without missing a meeting. At the second annual conference, she came top of the poll in the election for the ten-seat executive and was elected to go with Thorne to the International Congress. There she delivered the first national report to be done by a woman.

Eleanor worked tirelessly for working-class unity and internationalism. She campaigned for unity between male and female workers, fighting against the idea that male workers should be the sole breadwinners and showing that where women organised, wages and conditions improved for everyone.

Female labour made up nearly one-third of the total adult labour force in 1881 and Eleanor saw the economic independence of women as an important step in the organisation of the working class at a time when, as she said, men looked on women "as domestic animals, more or less his personal property".

She explained that the double burden women carried of work in the home and for starvation wages, made it difficult to organise women, but vital nonetheless. A resolution on equal rights for both sexes was passed at the 1891 International Congress.

But she made it clear that passing a well-intentioned motion was not enough, it had to be campaigned for as well.

Eleanor raised issues to advance women workers wherever she went. In a speech supporting Crosse & Blackwell onion skinner strikers she urged the women to check that their partners had a fully paid up trade union card or else they should show them the door.

The lack of a mass workers' press and labour party was a weakness in the British labour movement but Eleanor saw the possibility of achieving these through the New Unionism movement.

Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to see the formation of the Labour Party in which she could have played a vital role in this party as well as in the campaign for the women's vote.

In 1917, she would have seen the Marxist politics developed by her father and continued by her coming to life with the Russian revolution. It is our responsibility to ensure that Eleanor's campaigning for workers' unity and internationalism is put back on the agenda as we go into a new century.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 3 March 2000:

STOP Labour's pay as you learn con

Bannister doubles vote

Kosova: One year after NATO's war

A real test for left Unity

Mass Protest movement in Austria against right-wing

The tireless Eleanor Marx


 

Home   |   The Socialist 3 March 2000   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Eleanor Marx:

triangleThe real origins of May Day

triangleSalford Socialist Party: The inspirational life of Eleanor Marx

triangleNottingham Socialist Party: The inspirational life of Eleanor Marx

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: Eleanor Marx - a revolutionary life

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: The life of Eleanor Marx

Women:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Is equality for women possible under capitalism?

triangleShocking insight into Isis

triangleTheresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares

triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

Labour:

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

triangleThe end of the Tories?

triangleSalford Unison condemns pay cuts

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

13/10/17

Labour

The end of the Tories?

11/10/17

Tories

Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

11/10/17

Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

11/10/17

Housing

Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

11/10/17

Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

11/10/17

Them & Us

Them & Us

11/10/17

NHS

NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

11/10/17

IMF

IMF helps cause inequality it slams

4/10/17

NHS

Tories wreck our NHS

4/10/17

Workers

Monarch abdicates responsibility to workers

4/10/17

Capitalism

Capitalism and human progress

4/10/17

Trump

Bending the knee v Trump

4/10/17

Tories

The Tories must be driven out

29/9/17

Labour

Labour Party conference: Action against establishment sabotage still needed

27/9/17

Anti-austerity

Anti-austerity opposition needed to seize on Tories' weakness

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2