Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/770/16913
Books that inspired me
Budding trade unionists and passionate Chartists
Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell
The Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell is a novel set in the turbulent times of the industrial revolution in 19th century Wales.
Set during the rise of the Chartists and the formation of trade unions in Wales, it details the trials and tribulations of the early working class whose lives resembled little more than slavery.
Impoverished men, women and children as young as three years of age, toiled through their short lives in appalling conditions in the iron ore mines and furnaces.
Beaten and starved into submission, they were held to ransom for a crust of bread and owned body and soul by the wealthy iron masters.
I first came across the book while working in the tourism department of the local authority where much of Cordell's work is set.
It immediately aided me on my journey to becoming a revolutionary socialist. It helped wake me up to the need to establish working class control of the means of production.
Recently I saw a fantastic stage adaptation of Rape of the Fair Country but was disappointed to see the class struggle turned into one of nationalism with the red flag replaced by the Welsh one and the capitalist iron masters being referred to as the English masters.
Admittedly, the book's writer Alexander Cordell was not a radical but this work most definitely is and shouldn't be robbed of its meaning.
It is an inspirational work as the reader becomes deeply involved in the working class struggle of the likeable and inspiring characters.
Unlike some novels of this ilk, the reader isn't moved to pity the characters and their predicament.
Instead you find yourself willing on the budding trade unionists and passionate Chartists in their campaign against the vile capitalists and their dreaded company shops.
This book is massively relevant to today's struggles as the union rights won by our forebears depicted in the book are now being eroded by 21st century capitalists. Also relevant is the struggle of the Chartists.
Most of Chartism's demands have now been won. But having fought for pay for MPs so that not only the wealthy could afford to go to parliament, now most working class MPs have been so absorbed by the capitalist system they are barely recognisable as workers' representatives. The struggle for workers' representatives goes on!
In my opinion this book should be required reading in schools, especially in South Wales. Every reader can't help but be inspired to go and change society for the benefit of the working class.
In The Socialist 19 June 2013:
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