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From: The Socialist issue 838, 7 January 2015: Bankers get bonuses... workers get the boot

Search site for keywords: Manchester - Working class - Salford - Library - Labour - Museum - Cuts - Councillors

Defending working class history in Manchester and Salford

Tony Mulhearn

The People's History Museum in Manchester has launched a campaign to plug a 200,000 funding shortfall when it loses central government funding in April. This museum charts the history of working-class battles.

Prominently displayed are the Peterloo massacre, the fight for trade unionism in early industrial Manchester, the young lives sacrificed in the Spanish Civil War, the mighty struggles of Chartism, the struggle for women's suffrage, as well as the later titanic struggle of the miners in the 1980s and the successful Militant-led defeat of Thatcher's poll tax.

The museum spans four centuries of the often blood-stained journey to democracy in Britain, and its collections are a treasure trove of working class struggle.

Funding cuts also plague the Working Class Movement Library in neighbouring Salford. The library hosts an extensive archive of texts on the development of the working class and sits near to the pub where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are said to have regularly met in the 1840s.

With the support of a few celebrity friends, the Library hosted a radical readings' fundraiser with actors Maxine Peake and Sheila Hancock and the Smiths ex-drummer Mike Joyce. The event promised to be "an afternoon of prose, poetry and drama telling the story of radicalism and revolution and the history of the original 'dirty old town'".


The exhibitions confirm the courage displayed by workers in fighting capitalist oppression and injustice. "It's one of the most important buildings in the country. It's an exceptional collection of left-wing and working-class history," Peake says.

"The event is extremely important, but it's a sorry state of affairs when this has to happen," she said. "The library is full of our history - the things that we have fought for. When I was at school I learned about the civil war - the Roundheads and the Cavaliers, but I didn't learn about the Diggers and the Levellers. I learned about them through the library."

Peake says the Conservative councillors have long opposed funding and "betray an attitude towards working people...It's the Tory way - keeping the working class down - just as it has been throughout history."

But the supreme irony, and the contrast of the present with the past, is that these cuts are being carried through with ruthless efficiency by Labour councils without a single Labour councillor voting against.

While support from celebrities is welcomed in defence of any working class facility, it throws into sharp relief the supine character of today's Labour councillors and Labour Party who are doing the bidding of the Con-Dem government without any shred of organised opposition.

What is confirmed is the incapacity of the Labour Party to even think of organising a fightback. A new party of the working class is posed as a matter of urgency.

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