I posted an article from the Jacobin earlier in the week on the famous battle of Cable street in London.
There was also short qoute from someone born in York St, Garston. He explained how a Polish Jew Mr Tumarkin helped his mother out when she was desperate. The speaker was Jack Jones, the famous Trade Union leader of the 60s and 70s. After talking about his childhood in York St, then working on the docks in Garston he says;
“Day after day on the docks I tried to draw the attention of my mates to what was happening in the world. It wasn’t easy, for the order of debate was sport, sex, beer, and of course the job.”
Not much has changed in that regard.
One way things certainly have changed is the modern idea that is commonly argued that ‘foreigners’ non English people are out of place here. And there is the myth of the totally racist white working class. The first thing is that the working class in the UK is not now, nor has it ever been completely white or English. Jack Jones biography records, not only Polish Jews, but seamen from all corners of the world in Garston and of course beyond.
This is obviously to say nothing of the huge Welsh influence in Liverpool, with most of the city’s master builders emanating from Wales. Or the huge Irish influence, but beyond these most recent examples, the Angles and Saxons, the Danes, the Normans, this island has always been full of non English, partly English, not even remotely English.
Of course racism, has been and is still a part of British culture, the argument was made for decades that we were ‘civilising, bringing prosperity’ to other parts of the world. When in reality the upper class were building their stately homes on the blood and sweat of the rest of the world. This is the historic source of racism. They had to convince us to support them rather than each other.
Dockers and seamen often led the way in making links of working people throughout the world. Often but not always, some London Dockers marched behind Enoch Powell, but these were and always have been a minority.
Paul Stephenson a British born black man in 1964 was refused service in a Bristol pub, eight police officers came and arrested him for causing a disturbance- by refusing to leave. He is feted for starting the campaign that would eventually lead to the UK’s first Race Relations act in 1965 outlawing discrimination in public places.
Thankfully for Stephenson, not everyone was so easily fooled. An Irishman who had been in the pub had witnessed Stephenson’s behaviour and confirmed his account. The charges against him were dismissed and he was awarded £25 in costs.
James Clarke was born in British Guiana, now Guyana. At the age of 14, he stowed away on a ship headed for Liverpool and was adopted and looked after by an Irish family living around Scotland Road. He went on to become a great swimmer and famous for saving many kids from the canal in the north end, and while working at the docks saving a few dockers.
John Archer born in Liverpool was the first black mayor- elected mayor of Battersea in
1913. He went on to have a long career in local politics fighting for the interests of the working class black or white.
So back to Jack Jones, born in York St Garston, who worked on the docks, and volunteered to fight fascism in Spain in 1936. He later became a leading force in the UK trade union movement.
Yes the Enoch Powell’s, The National Front, and EDL’s of this world have always been there, but so has the recognition that working people of whatever sex, or colour, are in this together. Together we stand – Divided we fall- isn’t a historic slogan for nothing. As the economic disaster of Covid follows the medical disaster it is a good time to remember old lessons.
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