HONLEY SOCIALIST CLUB c. 1890-1922
Honley's long tradition of Radical politics stems from the years around 1800 as handloom weavers, croppers and other artisans resisted the economic and social changes forced on them by industrialisation and an undemocratic political system that safeguarded the interests of the rising class of wealthy manufacturers. In these struggles a dynamic popular culture of resistance was created with alternative ideals, values ,aspirations and forms of organisation.
There are strong hints of republican "Jacobin" activity in the township during the period of the French revolution when Corresponding Societies and the more militant United Englishmen certainly had a presence in Almondbury and Huddersfield. In 1812 although several Luddite attacks were carried out no local croppers were prosecuted, but, in 1817, following the attempted Radical uprising, a number of Honley croppers and weavers were charged and one prominent leader George Taylor, 'the Honley huntsman's son' went on the run. Honley was one of the first townships after Almondbury to establish a radical Political Union for parliamentary reform in the 1830s and there was support for the Republican politics of Richard Carlile. Struggles for the free press, for factory reform and against the New Poor Law all had local adherents whose efforts culminated in the formation of a Chartist Northern Union in 1838.
This same year Owenite Socialists rented their own meeting room in a cottage cellar at Berry Croft. Constituted as Class 19 they were a satellite of the No.6 Branch of the Association of All Classes of All Nations in Huddersfield which, in 1839, built a palatial Hall of Science in the town. The New Moral World, the Socialists' journal, reported of Honley in 1844 'The cause of rationalism is progressing very well in this locality' - but, in reality, the cause was past its zenith. The heirs of the Owenite tradition of philosophical materialism, the Secularists, still had some support up to 1861 and Joseph Jaggar of Honley Moor Bottom was a prominent figure in the movement in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
There no doubt remained individual enthusiasts for these ideas as well as a folk
memory, expressed in oral tradition and the reminisces of veteran campaigners, which kept
alive the memory of popular struggle. This is reflected in the 1880s by a certain
curiosity, if not nostalgia, for the early days of industrialisation, in the local
press. A romance 'Beaumont's Lad', serialised in the Huddersfield Examiner,
in 1883.' painted a picture of Honley earlier in the century and described this
alternative radical culture in terms which could apply to its Socialist Club successor.
There was in Honley many years ago and still is, a room which was known to the inhabitants as "Th' Garrit"...a Cave of Abdullam, where gathered the originals of the district, whether cobblers, given then as now somewhat to freethinking in matters religious, or radicals, admirers of Robert Owen, who found the atmosphere of the National Schools too close and stuffy, or, on occassion, lads and lasses who wanted to dance and romp at Christmas time,but could not, as their betters, meet at each others' houses for this not very dreadful purpose...The phrase "He goes to th'Garrit" thus became one of reproach in the mouths of good Church-going villagers who could not write their own names and did not want to, but one of a certain half mischievous and impish commendation in those of men who cared little for the opinions of "the stick-in-the-muds", and a great deal for the education of their children and the "Rights of Man"...Weavers, farmers, dyers, all who were not quite agreed that the world as it ran was the best world that could be, met to devise improvements and point out where and what remedies might be made
The revival of Socialism in the 1890's set about the recreation of this culture of
resistance, but in a different context. Now the vision of the future was based not
on the rejection of industrialism but on its subjection to the needs of workers.
Although the local growth of Socialism was part of a national and even an
international, movement the radical tradition of Honley undoubtedly contributed to its
popular appeal, expressed in the vibrant life of the Socialist Club.1
WORKERS CONDITIONS IN HONLEY.
By 1891 the population of Honley township was 5,466 - less than it had been in 1851.
This decline accompanied the demise of handloom weaving and the emigration of people from
the villages and hamlets of the Holme Valley to the towns, or abroad. The population
continued to fall to 5,138 in 1901 and even in 1915 the birth rate was described as
"remarkably low for some years." There were about 1,200 houses in the
area, many of those in the centre of the village being old and sub-standard and relying on
the wells for their water supply. 2
Wool and worsted textiles were the main industry and in 1889 trade in Honley was said to be very busy. Following a general strike of weavers in the Huddersfield area in 1883 a pay scale had been agreed with the employers - but this was often ignored. The introduction of Dobcross fast looms after that year gave employers the excuse to put weavers on a lower scale or to supplant men by women who were paid on a lower scale anyway. Similarly in finishing and spinning there was a trend towards replacing men by lads. One weaver told a meeting of the West Yorkshire Power Loom Weavers' Association at Honley in 1889 that he was only receiving 14s.3d for a piece which should have paid 20s.2d. according to the 1883 scale. In 1895 it was said that Honley weavers did not average 18s a week at a time when 26s was considered a living wage. 3.
There was a strike at Deanhouse Mill in 1894 when half the looms were speeded up and wages for the fast loom weavers reduced while the slow loom weavers were kept idle waiting for warps. At Eastwood Bros. of Thirstin Mill there was a dispute the following year over a wage reduction and again in 1902. Weavers at Reins Mill also struck in 1902 over the scale. At Queen's Square Mills Josiah France's weavers had grievances in 1898, 1902 (when they secured an advance) and in 1906. In this year 100 pick per minute looms were being introduced and the Union came to a general agreement with the employers concerning a new scale at the end of 1907. Nevertheless France's weavers were still unhappy until in 1908 they won a rate of 6d. an hour . 4.
The General Union of Weavers and Textile Workers, as the Weavers Association had become, argued in 1912 that there was no overall wage increase since 1883 and that a 15% rise was needed to compensate for the increase in the cost of living - a claim strenuously denied by the employers. A 55 hour week was also sought since weavers were working 59 to 70 hours. 5.
In fact real wages in the textile industry at this time are difficult to calculate since workers in different departments working on different goods had widely varying rates. Also the fluctuating state of trade affected real wages. In the 1890s local textiles were slightly depressed, recovering up to 1907, followed by a slump in 1908 before reviving steadily up to the World War, which meant a boom for firms involved in military contracts.
Workers in Honley therefore did not suffer the extreme poverty or widespread employment
experienced in some other areas. Their Socialism was not motivated by acute material
distress. But their need to constantly defend working conditions made struggle on
the trade union's industrial front an important element in their concept of
THE BIRTH OF HONLEY LABOUR CLUB 1891-1892.
In July 1891 the Colne Valley Labour Union (CVLU) was founded by a group of textile workers and craftsmen at Slaithwaite. Although the leaders of the Weavers' Association were present and the main objective was to win representation for labour on the local or national governing bodies, some, like George Cotton of Marsden, were already Socialists. A Fabian Society existed in Huddersfield and a Social Democratic Club in Slaithwaite itself. The CVLU members immediately began extending their organisation throughout the Colne Valley constituency. 6.
In September it was decided to send a delegate to Honley to meet two Liberals, France Littlewood, owner of a cloth-finishing firm at Grove Mill and the Rev. Briggs, chairman of the rate-payers Association. At a meeting at Meltham the following month, Briggs made clear his opposition to the formation of a Labour Party, but contact with Fran France Littlewood.html ce Littlewood bore fruit. He undertook the organisation of a meeting at the Wesleyan Schoolroom on 28 November. 7.
G.W.Haigh, secretary of the CVLU and George Garside, its president, were present although the main speaker, Alfred Settle of Salford 'missed his way' and was late. Littlewood moved the resolution: 'That the time is now opportune to form a branch of the Labour Union for this district.' A number of membership cards were taken by Littlewood and Ben Orcherton, an active member of the weavers' Association, to begin the enrollment of members. 8.
The following August the CVLU agreed that members in Honley begin preparations for a
large meeting on 10 December addressed by Tom Mann. From that meeting Honley Labour Club
was born. On the frontspiece of the new membership book dated 31 December 1892, its
first secretary, Walker Swallow, wrote a brief epigram:
'May success crown its efforts and leave the world a little better than they found it.' By the following April it already had 74 members. 9.
France Littlewood France Littlewood.html
Having played a prime role in the creation of the Club, France Littlewood was prominent in its subsequent activities, his stocky red-bearded figure was familiar at Socialist events throughout the area for twenty years. As well as being the first president of the Club he was vice-president of the CVLU in 1892 and treasurer of its election fund (to which he contributed £5 of his own money) in 1893. He was the CVLU representative at the founding conference of the of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893 and later sat on the ILP's National Administrative Council as treasurer. When Honley Mutual Improvement Society, of which he was a member, held a mock election in 1893 the 'Liberal candidate,' Rev Briggs criticised the Labour Party for ignoring the existing machinery to achieve its demands. Representing the Socialists, Littlewood replied that they must create a new machine for their own use and 'he would be prepared to support all measures which had for their object the alleviation of poverty and the amelioration of the condition of the masses of the people.' He was also involved in more parochial issues as a member of Honley Local Board, such as a controversy over improving the water supply to the hamlet at Hall Ing. He was also involved with the Cooperative Society and his many interests opened him to charges of faddism on at least one occasion. His relations with his Socialist comrades was not always harmonious, as we shall see. 10.
TOM MANN AND TRADE UNIONISM 1892-1894.
CVLU's outlook is reflected in the choice of its candidate to fight the 1895 election. Tom Mann, an engineer, was a former member of the marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF), a leading advocate of the eight hour day and one of the organisers of the London dockers' strike of 1889. His politics were a blend of marxist economics and christian preaching. From 1891 he regularly toured the constituency, speaking at Honley Labour Club meeting at Moorbottom Chapel in December 1892. The next year he addressed a crowd of an estimated thousand people at an open air meeting in a field belonging to the Cooperative Society on Cooperation, Sham and Real. 11.
The emphasis of Mann and hence of the CVLU during this campaign was more on trade union organisation than Socialist propaganda. In 1893 he produced a pamphlet Appeal to the Yorkshire Textile Workers of which the CVLU ordered 2,000 copies for distribution. Few mills were entirely unionised - some workers not bothering to join until they were faced with a dispute and activists were in danger of being blacklisted. But trade union solidarity was not entirely absent. When Mytholmbridge weavers struck in 1890 against the reduction of payscales for fast loom weavers, £8.15s. was collected for their support by workers at nearby Rock Mill. Rock Mill, Reins Mill, Thirstin Mill and Queen's Square Mill were unionised by the early 1900s. 12.
An attempt was made to boost local unionism in 1893 by a meeting of members of the gasworkers', dyers', railway servants' and weavers' unions at Moorbottom Chapel. The Labour Club also contributed towards promoting trade unionism. A visiting speaker, Fred Hammil, at a meeting in the Coop field urged them to combine trade unionism and Socialism by fighting for 'all the results of their labour'. J.Fletcher of Huddersfield Trades Council spoke in November on The History of Trade Unions and in April 1894 Mrs Marland of the London based Womens' Trade Union League spoke on Trade Unionism and Cooperation. Ben Orcherton, co-founder of the Labour Club, was Honley delegate to the Weavers' Association meeting in Huddersfield in 1890. T. Winterbottom, mentioned chairing a WA meeting at Honley in 1895, may have been the Club member Tom Winterbottom, and William H.Sykes of Dyson Hill, also a Club member, was the weavers union dues collector in 1908. The Club was certainly not parochial in its trade union views since in 1893 the members raised 8s. for the striking Hull dockers.13.
In 1893 the Independent Labour Party was founded at Bradford and, after some
hesitation, the CVLU affiliated, its constituent clubs like Honley contributing towards
the capitation fee. Two shillings was recorded in March 1894. From that year Tom
Mann was not only candidate for the Colne Valley but also secretary of the ILP. He
was anti-sectarian and called on all Socialists to work together, considering the
aims of the ILP and the marxist SDF to be compatible. In the pamphlet What the ILP
is Driving At he outlined his views
'...the objective of the two organisations is identical. It is the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, to be controlled by a democratic state in the interests of the community and the complete emancipation of labour from the domination of capitalism and landlordism and social and economic equality between the sexes.' 14.
Tom Mann was made a honorary member of the Labour Club and his election campaign was energetically supported. It was fought on the basis of the ILP programme - 8 hour day, relief work for the unemployed, state pensions for all over 50, payment of MPs etc. He collected over 1200 votes, about 13% of the poll, coming third place. Although this was a respectable result for the first Labour candidate in a strong Liberal seat it must have come as an anti-climax to many of Mann's supporters.
In 1895 Honley Club membership stood at 118. By the following year it had fallen to 111 and there were 26 resignations. Only 79 members were entered in 1897 - little over the 1893 level. This was symptomatic of the trend in the ILP both locally and nationally where overall membership fell by about a third. Activity still continued however, and in 1897 the leading Socialist, John Bruce Glasier, visited Honley. 15.
CVLU became increasingly concerned about the decline of the member branches and in February 1898 the secretary was instructed to write to Honley asking for an explanation of their absence from executive meetings. Honley was still causing concern in May and at the December executive meeting it was resolved; 'That Honley, Netherton and Delph be written to asking for a statement of their position in connection with the Labour Union.' That year there were 19 resignations from the Honley Club leaving only 56 members in 1899 and 39 the following year. When on 3 March a meeting was called at Honley to reorganise Honley, Netherton and Meltham, only Honley delegates turned up. It is not suprising that there was a feeling in the CVLU that 'something should be done to place the movement on a better footing'. In June a new constitution was adopted and the name changed to the Colne Valley Labour League (CVLL). 16.
Arthur Curnock, of Bird-in-the-Hand, Honley, was on the new executive committee of the CVLL. The reorganisation did not lead to the immediate revival of the Honley Labour Club. Entries in the membership book cease at the end of July 1900 and only resume in July 1906. Only about 15 members kept the embers of Socialism glowing, encouraged by a further visit from Glasier in 1903. 17.
As well as the election set-back, the close of the nineteenth century in a blaze of nationalism was not a very congenial climate for Socialists. In 1887 there was Victoria's jubilee followed by her death in 1901 and an upsurge of patriotism resulting from the Boer War. All these provided the loyalists of Honley as elsewhere with the excuse for jingoistic ceremonies. Even Tom Mann left the country, becoming a trade union organiser in Australia.
THE REVIVAL 1906-1907.
Mainly as a consequence of the legal assault on trade unions marked by the Taff Vale judgement (which made unions liable for losses incurred by an employer during a strike) the Labour Representation Committee was formed in 1900. Its purpose was to organise trade unions, cooperative and socialist bodies to return candidates which would look after their interests in parliament. Twenty nine such MPs were elected in 1906 on a Labour ticket, but in some areas this had meant coming to an agreement with the Liberals. This 'Lib-Lab pact' continued in parliament with the Labour Party as it was now known, being careful not to antagonise the Liberals.
The "Labour Party "at this time was therefore only the same as today's Parliamentary Labour Party. In the country it did not exist as a single organisation, but drew its support from a coalition of trade unions co-operative and socialist bodies - particularly the ILP. This distinction between the Labour Party's parliamentary liberalism and the aspirations of the grass roots socialists was to be a source of conflict within the CVLL and consequently the ILP as a whole.
Socialism in the Colne Valley was promoted by the publication of the Worker in Huddersfield in 1905, to support labour candidates in local and parliamentary elections, as well as 'to direct our fellow-citizens to the Rising Sun of Socialism.' This it did admirably until 1922. Arthur Curnock took out shares in it in 1907 and Honley sent delegates to the shareholders' meetings. A tea and garden party was held at the Club in 1912 to raise funds for the paper. 18.
CVLL was not ready to fight the 1906 election but it participated in the wave of enthusiasm. Honley Club increased rapidly from 13 members in 1905 to 79 in July 1906, when entries resume in the membership book. By the following year there were 185.
CVLL's choice of Victor Grayson as parliamentary candidate, despite his failure to
secure the endorsement by the National Administrative Council of the ILP, set the
valleys afire with Socialist fervour. The Coop Hall at Honley was packed in February
1907 when he spoke on Socialism and the Classes ,
...the time is now here,' he concluded,' not when an election comes, not when the enthusiasm is in the air, but now, here, let us consecrate ourselves anew tonight to the cause of Socialism which is the cause of humanity.'
The evangelical tenor of his speeches was reinforced by support from socialist clergymen such as the Rev. W.B.Graham of Thongsbridge, who spoke alongside Victor in Honley Market Place in July. He explained that he supported a socialist candidate because socialists were the only party 'making an effort to carry out the moral teachings of Jesus Christ.' At this meeting Victor made a pledge which he later came to fulfill. 'I would rather be a street corner agitator than a Member of Parliament on false pretences.' It was this sincerity, this clarity of purpose, his appeal to the higher things in life that endowed socialism with the quality of a religious crusade, winning him the deep affection of the thinking workers of Honley. Their votes, in Grayson's estimation, were for 'pure, revolutionary Socialism.' 19.
Honley was 'painted red' to greet Victor on his victory tour of the constituency. The role of the village was acknowledged in the Worker.
'Of all the recent stirring scenes in the Colne Valley, Honley has been the centre and stronghold'. 20.
NEW PREMISES AT NEW STREET
Honley Labour Club's membership was now so large that a new home was needed. Formerly they had met in a room near Honley Bridge where the council offices now stand. On 31 August 1907 a new club was opened at New Street in an old handloom weavers type house. As celebrations play an important part in the Socialist movement of this time it is worth describing the opening of the club premises in some detail as ceremonies typical of similar events or Mayday parades.
At 2.30 in the afternoon the procession left the tram terminus at Honley Bridge, headed by about 40 Clarion cyclists followed by Honley Brass Band and then 300 children wearing red rosettes and ribbons and the girls with red sashes over their white frocks. The landau carrying Philip Snowden MP and his wife, Victor Grayson MP and Mrs France Littlewood lead the rest of the demonstration composed of Socialists from all over the Colne Valley. Proceedings were delayed a while as the Khyber Pass, the alley leading to New Street, was blocked by the throng.
At the door of the Club Philip Snowden, a gaunt sickly figure but a poetically powerful
speaker, recollected that he had been at Honley before when 'the gathering, to put it
mildly, was hardly compared to this.' He commended the members for having a temperance
rule since, 'he deplored the introduction of drink into a club as he had seen no good come
of it. He hoped that the Club would be the centre of educational work in political
and social questions.'
Victor also outlined what he thought the role of the Club should be,
'You can make this club a matter of historic importance if you like. You can make it a place where men and women are developed to carry our religion into all parts. You can make it a home of fellowship based on nothing artificial but on a joint conviction of faith...The war which they as Socialists were carrying on was against the ghastly forms of social evils and disease.'
After a joke from France Littlewood about being unable to afford a gold key having spent all the 'brass' on electing Victor, Snowden opened the door to a hearty singing of the Red Flag. Tea at 10d. a ticket was provided for about 1450 adults in the National School. Festivities continued into the evening when another meeting was held and again closed by a rendition of the Red Flag. This was to be the beginning of annual Socialist demonstrations in Honley which, along with Mayday, was a highpoint of the local Socialist calendar. 21.
CULTURE AND COMMUNITY
What was the impact of the Club and what role did it fulfill in the village? Although Mrs Jaggar's History of Honley describes the members of the Club as "very enthusiastic in their cause" the reader is left with no indication of the Socialists' influence. But, at its height in 1908 the Club had over 200 male members. Approximately, along with the female members and children this must have totalled around 500 people. Therefore (although some lived over the township boundary) around ten percent of Honley's population was regularly involved in the activities of the Club. In addition there were those Socialists who were not members. Sympathisers also must have been numbered in hundreds while meetings and events on occasions attracted thousands. The Club was consequently an integral part of the community. 22.
For members the Club was the focus of their social, cultural and educational life. It was never merely the headquarters of a political party, for it provided all the shared experiences of ceremonies as well as shared beliefs and values, that bind people together in a community. The Club building played the same role as the meeting house of a religious community - a community whose religion was Socialism. It offered a protective togetherness to those who rejected the established ideas of capitalist society. Its strength lay in the ability to involve all sections of the working class community in a wide range of political and social activities.
Only men are recorded in the surviving membership book of the Club but in 1911 the Worker
referred to 70 women members, or "women comrades" as they are referred to in
another report. What rights they had as voting members is not known, but these were
probably restricted. Women's activities were mainly in a separate sphere and they
had their own secretary. Despite this their role was vital and the Club could not
have been built without their fund raising efforts and organisational abilities. A sewing
club was formed to make goods for bazaars for the election fund (1893) or the building
fund (1911). Teas and socials with singing, dancing and recitations also raised
money. One such event was held for the piano fund in 1907. As well as
catering at such functions women also had to provide meals for hundreds of people at the
annual demonstration. This auxiliary role did not mean that women took no
interest in political issues. Such questions as votes for women they could hardly
It was not reported how many women were present to listen to Mrs Mitchell of Ashton who spoke to the Club in 1906 on women's suffrage. It was male members who moved the vote of sympathy 'for the women in the fight they were making for political freedom.' In reply to a question at his Honley pre-election meeting Victor affirmed that ' If woman was made an outlaw she had a right to rebel' and he acknowledged the contribution of women to the campaign during his victory speech. His statement that Socialists wanted equality of the sexes, 'abolition of the sex ties', was interpteted in the hostile press as advocation of free love ! 24.
At the Honley Socialist demonstration the following year, France Littlewood made a
point of referring to the number of women present and congratulated women in general for
the recent London suffrage demonstration. The speaker, W.C. Anderson, elaborated on
'Socialism brought a message for women as well as men. Every Socialist question was a woman's question, as well as a man's.'
This theme was repeated by Victor in Honley in 1909. 'They [women] are fighting not only for the vote...they are fighting for the freedom of the children, the freedom of the men, the freedom of their own class.' 25.
Considering the strength of Victorian family values it is hardly suprising this found a reflection amongst Socialists. One problem discussed by the CVLU and put to the ILP conference in 1893 was the prevention of married women working in factories. Partly this was to prevent them undercutting wages, but there was also a strong element of the belief that married women belonged in the home, not winning bread. This concept of the sexual division of labour was carried on in the role ascribed to the women in the Socialists Club. Morevoer it was sometimes to women as mothers that Socialism made its appeal. Mrs Bridges Adams, speaking at Honley on Social Parentage in 1909 said 'no home could live to itself and for the sake of their own children, mothers should do everything possible to secure the well being of all children.' 26.
Children were involved in the life of the Club in a way which made them feel that Socialism could be fun. The Socialist Rev. F.R.Swan reported his visit to Honley in 1907, when he was called upon to entertain 120 boys and girls crushed into the upstairs billiard room of the Club in New Street. The Red Flag was sung with gusto and the Socialist Sunday School ten commandments recited several times in an effort to keep them quiet. Asked for an example of courage, one of the boys shouted ' A Socialist' and a girl 'A Suffragette'. 27.
The children traditionally led the Honley demonstration dressed in their best with
rosettes and sashes and bearing 'bannerettes with suitable mottos'. At the bazaar for the
building fund in 1910 a children's day was held with speeches and recitations presided
over by the childrem themselves. Declaring the bazaar open Miss Nellie Jubb said,
'Our object is a worthy one. It is to help to build a new club for our fathers and mothers and it is our duty as children to help in this business because when we grow up we shall be able to carry on the work they are doing now.' 28.
Sports and Games
Both adults' and childrens' recreational activities were organised by Club members. In addition to running, skipping races for girls and sack races for boys were popular. Whist and billiards were played by the adults either in matches against other Socialist Clubs like Netherton,(1908), or Kirkheaton (1909), or in the form of whist drives and socials to raise funds. One of these was held on Boxing day 1913 for the newly formed Clarion Ramblers group which went on long treks over the moors. There were also some Clarion cyclists in Honley who combined spreading propaganda with recreation. Nine of these went for a run over the 'Isle of Skye' in 1908 and at the opening of Netherton Socialist Club in the following week, a best decorated cycle competition was held. There were 120 members of the Huddersfield Clarion Cycling Club in 1906. 29.
As in church or chapel, no ceremony or social was complete without music and singing.
Honley, or sometimes Meltham Mills, Brass Band provided the music at several Socialist
demonstrations and on the Mayday march into Huddersfield. However at Honley Socialist
Club's New Year tea in 1909 the newly formed Milnsbridge Socialist Brass Band entertained,
giving a rousing rendition of England Arise in front of the Liberal Club and then marching
off to the Marseillaise. Honley Socialist Choir also made its first appearance
conducted by W.A.Burhouse (also a noted soloist). As well as performing at Club functions
this sang at Huddersfield ILP rooms under France Littlewood (1912) and won the choir prize
at Honley carnival (1914).
The Comrades' Song of Hope was a popular number as well as non-political pieces such as Awake Aeolian Lyre. Concerts were also provided by several Club members who were talented solo singers, violinists or pianists. Dancing often accompanied both outdoor events and Club socials. Socialists made sure that not only the devil but also that the church and chapel did not have all the best tunes. 30.
One of the main functions of the Club was education, both in the sense of propagating political ideas and also in the wider sense of 'self-improvement' and intellectual stimulation. From the revival of the Club in 1906 to the opening of the New Street premises in 1907, 80 lectures were held on many topics from The Basis of Industry, Competition versus Monopoly and Class Struggle to France Littlewood on Dust. A library was accumulated and newspapers and Socialist journals subscribed to. Socialists also supported the Adult School movement which held classes in Honley. There is no evidence for the formal eduction of children until the founding of Honley Socialist Sunday School in 1918 but according to the Rev. Swann, they certainly knew the SSS precepts in 1907. The nearest SSS was held in Lockwood. 31.
The Socialists demonstrated their concern about the daily welfare of the community by involvement in local administration. France Littlewood secured a seat on the Urban District Council in 1893 with 54 votes. He had sat as a Liberal in 1891 and some probably voted for the man rather than his principles, since his fellow Socialist, Tom Winterbottom, only got 24 votes. Standing in 1896 Littlewood failed even to get this number and with the general decline of the Club no election was contested until 1907 when Littlewood regained a seat.32.
Classes on Local Government were begun in 1908 with a talk by the UDC clerk, followed
by lectures on Rating and Assessments and The Housing Problem. In a by-election that
year a Socialist blacksmith, G.H.Barrowclough won with 107 votes, despite the fact
that his Ratepayers' Association opponent had three cars at his disposal and the
Socialists only one trap. Willie Boothroyd stood for a vacancy in 1909 and
Littlewood provoked an angry response from G.T.Oldham when he claimed that Boothroyd
had been sacked from Oldham's dyeworks because of his candidature. Oldham replied
that it was because Boothroyd's type of work had been discontinued by the firm and
Littlewood's own record as an employer was not perfect. Socialist successes in the
1909 UDC election resulted in four Socialist councillors in Honley: East Ward,
Barrowclough, 90 votes; Littlewood,82; Central Ward,Thomas Temple Hirst,warehouseman,
233; Tom Carter, mechanic,222. They were joined the next year by John
Whitehead, a warper, and in 1911, following Hirst's resignation due to marriage, by
Harry Lee, a weaver. With 5 out of 12 seats, Honley UDC had a higher proportion of
Socialists than any other neighbouring UDC. 33.
THE SPLIT FROM THE ILP 1908-1910.
Despite the apparent harmony between Grayson and Philip Snowden at the opening of the Club in 1907, relations between the new MP and the Labour Party were already strained. Victor had already declined to sign the LP constitution and accept its discipline. Snowden had initially refused to speak at the Honley opening if Victor was present, on the basis of distorted press accounts of Victor inciting strikers in Belfast to fight back against troops. They needed no inciting to resist - he only asserted their right to do so.
In parliament Victor was not impressed by the etiquette and ridiculous conventions. His patience wore thin as irrelevant subjects were discussed, while the question of the unemployed was ignored. In 1908 he embarked on a campaign of disruption to force a debate on unemployment, resulting in his suspension from the Commons. The LP refused to back him up but the CVLL commended him on his stand. The 1908 ILP conference held in Huddersfield was dominated by the dispute over why Victor had not been endorsed by the NAC of the party in the first place. Underlying this was growing disillusionment over the readiness of ILP MPs like Snowden and Macdonald to tone down their Socialism in parliament.
The CVLL was one of the largest affiliates to the ILP and the Honley Club the largest within the CVLL, with 216 male members in 1908 and 15 delegates on the CVLL executive Committee. Visiting Honley in 1908 Jim Larkin, organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, who had spoken in favour of Victor at the ILP conference, said it was an inspiration to be in the Colne Valley, 'there was nothing of the sloppy Lib-Lab about them.' To signify its dissatisfaction with the LP and all that entailed, the Council meeting of the CVLL in September 1908 decided to change the name to Colne Valley Socialist League (CVSL). Henceforth, Honley Labour Club becomes Honley Socialist Club. 34.
France Littlewood was not happy with these developments and in 1909 refused the presidency of the CVSL, but was persuaded to take the office. He resigned in December explaining by letter his position, 'I cannot allow myself to be identified with a candidature which is not in accordance with the regulations of the ILP...' as this statement by a prominent member of the CVSL was released to the press it is not suprising that Victor's vote dropped by 500 and he lost his seat in the election of January 1910. Attacked by the press and Labour leaders alike, it is more suprising that he held on to over 3,000 votes. 35.
In a letter to the Worker in 1909 Littlewood outlined some of the ideas which underlay his alliegance to the ILP. Dismissing the viability of insurrection, he described himself as a 'Political Method revolutionist, with a small r..." He explained that the physical force 'held and used by the exploiters of Labour' could only be captured by the Workers 'through legislative and administrative bodies, ' and used in their own interest. 'The "Physical Force revolution" by "Political methods" is the way to "Socialism".' 36.
In 1910 the CVSL council decided not to send any delegate to the ILP conference,
although a minority thought they should try to influence the ILP 'to return to a better
way of life.' France Littlewood wrote to the Worker in April strongly condemning
the views of those who wished to secede from the ILP. He accused the 'clean
Socialists' of 'virulent sectarianism' and ridiculed their strategy, : 'Parliament is of
no use, Socialism can only come by preaching, by shouting and making oneself a
He acknowledged that many of his opponents were friends who had worked hard in building the organisation and winning elections, concluding with a side-swipe at Grayson and the Graysonites. 'To the fond hero worshippers of the Colne Valley I have little to say. Theirs is a mental disorder which time and the hero will surely cure'. 37.
One of the targets of his attack, Tom Carter of Moorbottom, a fellow Club member and
UDC councillor, replied the following week;
'We claim that the ILP since its absorption by the Labour Party has gradually deteriorated as a fighting force...the capitalists of this country fear it less than they did the small force of Socialists who voted for our comrades Grayson and Hyndman...I can assure comrade Littlewood that, I at anyrate, will not sanction or condone the betrayal of our own class by the capitalist parties as the Labour Party has done on the question of the budget and the licensing bill, even though this may entail action on the lines which our comrade Grayson took on the unemployed question.'
It is worth noting the Tom Carter considered that as well as Grayson Hyndman, the marxist leader of the Social Democratic Federation, represented his views. Tom Carter was evidently speaking for more CVSL members than Littlewood since in a ballot in May, 481 voted for the League's secession from the ILP, as opposed to 178 against and 72 blank ballot papers. 38.
SOCIALIST UNITY 1910-1911.
Far from being guilty of 'virulent sectarianism' as Littlewood claimed, most members
wanted real unity between all genuine Socialist organisations. Councillor
T.T.Hirst of Honley speaking on the ILP platform at the Huddersfield Mayday demonstration
in 1910 expressed this desire,
'There was some sectional strife in regard to policy in their movement but, at the same time, the rank and file was growing. He as a Socialist did not look to leaders but was prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with his comrades of the working class to obtain Socialism.' 39.
CVSL's half yearly council was held at Honley Socialist Club that September and a resolution from Honley calling for a 'United Socialist Party' was adopted. It was resolved to send it to the Clarion, the most popular Socialist paper. E.J.B.Allen of the CVSL executive and member of the Club was entrusted with receiving suggestions on Socialist unity from other clubs and drafting a resolution for the Clarion. 40.
On 4 August 1911 an article by Victor appeared in the Clarion entitled, 'The British Socialist Party - Who is ready ?' As the LP had irrevocably drifted back into Liberalism there was a need for a genuine Socialist party uniting the marxist SDP and the various other Socialist groups and 'any organisation which is desirous of making Socialists '.
At the opening of Honley Socialists' new club that year this was fully endorsed by the secretary Arthur Curnock, who moved a resolution which received unanimous assent, 'That this meeting heartily approves of the proposed formation of the Unified British Socialist Party as suggested in this week's Clarion and desires that immediate steps be taken to bring about the institution of a real, national, Socialist organisation.' Honley thus played a pioneering role in the Socialist Unity movement which culminated in the foundation of the BSP in October 1911, a party which accepted the inevitability of class struggle and which was committed to the creation of a Socialist society. 41.
NEW CLUB OPENING AT ENFIELD 1911.
The controversy over secession from the ILP and the loss of Victor's seat cost the Honley Club some members, falling from 201 in 1909 to 159 in 1910, although it was still in a thriving state. Negotiations for the purchase of Enfield House on Jaggar Lane were completed in November 1910 before the expiry of the lease on the New Street premises the following April. The property, formerly the residence of Lupton Littlewood, a woollen manufacturer, was bought for £640 raised by loans and subscriptions from 100 shareholders. It comprised two cottages and gardens covering 1089 square yards.
About £200 worth of voluntary labour was expended by members to convert it to Club purposes, under the direction of a garden committee and a decoration commitee. Two gardens, a greenhouse, a summer house and a conservatory were refurbished or built. Joiners and decorators made a billiard room in the basement, a ground floor smoke room, ladies sewing room, committee room and steward's living room, bar and scullery. A reading room, a concert room, card room, box room and steward's bedroom and bathroom were provided upstairs. Electricity lit the premises and hot water was provided by gas. Members could have a bath for 2d.
On 15 April the completion of the 'flitting' from the old Club was celebrated by a members tea and, a fortnight later, an 'at home' with singing and supper was held by the female members in aid of the sewing fund. Goods made by the women were intended for sale at the Christmas bazaar, when it was hoped that much of the debt for the new Club would be paid off. £400 had been provided by members and £200 raised by functions, leaving another £200 to be found. T.T.Hirst designed a fund level indicator in the shape of a monkey climbing a tree to reach the target total of £800.
There was now no doubt about who had the best Socialist Club in the district according to the Worker. It was also an admirable example of the cooperation between the contending outlooks. France Littlewood, now Club treasurer, donated some pictures which were framed by E.J.B.Allen, while 'Socialist and Labour laid turves, repose side by side on the lawns and the members cannot tell their own, and don't want to.'
The official opening of the Club on 5 August, despite a rainy start, was well attended, with the procession led by Milnsbridge Socialist Brass Band. Tea was provided at Moorbottom School for 600 adults and 160 children. In the evening a meeting and gala was held in the field next to the Club with games such as throwing three balls for a penny at a cut-out of Lloyd George.
Socialist Unity was the theme of the inaugural meeting. Arthur Dawson, a Marxist from Huddersfield, stated, 'It was time the working class banded together into one organisation. Not by social reform but by social revolution was the only way out...' This theme was reiterated by Victor Grayson, 'That Club was not an exfoliation, but it had grown up around their own personalities. He hoped they would make it a centre of revolutionary activity.'
France Littlewood was not present at the festivities. He sent his best wishes but was holidaying at the seaside. It seems strange that he should miss such an important event for the Club and we may conclude that it was intended to disassociate himself from Victor and the brand of revolutionary Socialism expressed in the speeches.
The enthusiasm generated by the new Club boosted membership to 192 by the end of 1911 and it stood at 176 the following year (not counting the women). In May 1912 the trust deed of the Club was registered naming as trustees France Littlewood; Harry Lee, pattern weaver of Thirstin Road; John Whitehead, clothpresser, Brooke Fold; Edwin Charlesworth, twister-in, Magbridge; George Sheard, overlooker, Coop Terrace and Fred Jubb, powerloom tuner, Thirstin. The Club was to remain temperance and was intended for 'the propagation of the political and social views of the Labour and Socialist parties and for social purposes connected therewith...'
Clearly all the strands of Labour and Socialist opinions held by members at that time were considered to have an equal place in the Club. The minority views of France Littlewood have already been described, as have those of the 'Graysonites' such as Tom Carter and Arthur Curnock. Another strand remains to be outlined - that of the revolutionary syndicalists represented by E.J.B.Allen. 42.
E.J.B.ALLEN AND SYNDICALISM 1909-1912
Originally a member of the marxist SDF, being the London Woodgreen branch delegate to conference in 1904, Allen joined a faction which broke away to form the Socialist Party of Great Britain. In 1906, having failed to commit the SPGB to support for industrial struggles he joined the British Advocates of Industrial Unionism established by the Socialist Labour Party, editing the Industrial Unionist. Industrial Unionists, or syndicalists, believed that the only front of the class struggle which really counted was in industry. They aimed to organise industrial unions uniting all trades, launch a general strike and take over the mines, railways and other means of production to establish a Socialist cooperative commonwealth run by workers themselves.
In 1908 Allen and his supporters left the BAIU to form the Industrial League and in 1909, now in Huddersfield, he published a pamphlet on Revolutionary Unionism . In his capacity as national organiser of the Industrial League he conducted a series of meetings at the Market Cross, chaired by George H.Greensmith of Paddock, an anarchist syndicalist. 'Mr Allen gave an eloquent and forcible address', reported the Worker, 'He was logically plausible and such a full blooded extremist as to make a mere revolutionary Socialist feel that he was merely a weak kind of Whig. Mr Allen reminded one of Tom Mann somewhat, both by his vigour of speech and his appearance.' In this year Allen joined Honley Socialist Club, undoubtedly because he recognised fertile ground for his ideas. 43.
Industrial Unionism had been discussed at the Club the previous year when Fred Shaw of Lindley spoke on The Necessity of a Revolution followed the next week by Greensmith on How to realise the Socialist Commonwealth. Jim Larkin from Belfast, the leading exponent of industrial unionism in practice, was the speaker at the annual Honley demonstration that year. 44.
Allen did not exclude the need for political action and was expelled from the Industrial League in 1910 for assisting Grayson's election campaign. That year he was on the executive committee of the CVSL. In a letter to the Worker he explained his ability to combine different forms of action, but emphasised the basic need for syndicalism, 'The ballot, the strike, sectional or general, "sabotage" and insurrection are all political methods when used against the government and we make a fetish of none but we use any or all...Industrial unity must precede all effective action of any kind.' 45.
In May 1910, on his return from Australia, (where he had been influenced by reading Allen's Revolutionary Unionism ) Tom Mann joined the SDP, although syndicalism was still his main strategy. In July he produced the first issue of the Industrial Syndicalist which contained his manifesto Prepare for Action. He visited Honley on 1 August as part of a tour arranged by the CVSL, and spoke at a meeting at the Market Place chaired by Allen. Recalling his first experiences in the Valley eighteen years before, he went on to summarise his view that there were two main things workers lacked, 'One - Real solidarity. Two - The Class War feeling.' and invited 'the many local critics of Industrial Unionism' to question him. 46.
Allen was the speaker, along with Victor, at the Honley demonstration that year.
Referring to the CVSL split from the ILP he said there was need for a Socialist Party
which would take into consideration the class struggle. He elaborated his ideas in
an article in the Industrial Syndicalist in October entitled Working Class Socialism which
'Hurrah for the Class War!...The Industrial Unionist movement itself is a declaration of Social War - the war that shall cease only with our emancipation. For we too love peace, but not the peace of slavery.'
From September, Allen appeared in the Industrial Syndicalist list of speakers, his union being given as 'gas workers' and his address 'New Street, Honley' - presumably the Club. . Here, on 19 March 1911 in the 'large room', the fortieth anniversary of the Paris Commune was commemorated by Allen with a lecture on the tragic history of this first brief attempt to establish a a workers' state. 47.
Class war could not be ignored in the years 1910-1912 which saw an unprecedented strike
wave of miners, railway workers, dockers and others. Workers were shot in Liverpool
and Llanelli and gunboats stationed in the Mersey and Humber. Mann and others were
arrested for sedition after publishing a leaflet calling on troops not to open fire on
workers On Mayday 1912 Allen spoke at a BSP meeting at Slaithwaite alongside
Victor and Arthur Gardiner, a leading member of Huddersfield BSP, and in June, at
the opening of Greenfield Socialist Club, he stood-in for Victor, who was suffering one of
his now frequent illnesses. He declared that he wanted to see Greenfield made 'the
centre of political and social activities among the workers and that institute the
headquarters of a union movement as was the Honley Club.' Allen was obviously
pleased at his success in Honley and indeed the presence of such a notable speaker, writer
and thinker must have had an impact. His decision to resign from the Club and from
the CVSL deprived syndicalism in the Colne Valley of its leading light. 48.
WAR AND SOCIALISM 1914-1916.
CVSL voted to affiliate to the BSP in 1912. This may have been at the root of Allen's resignation from the CVSL in July since a controversy erupted between the former leaders of the SDP, like Hyndmamn, and the pro-syndicalists in the BSP. Some branches, such as Huddersfield where Fred Shaw was active, made clear their support for syndicalism, but the collapse of the strike wave and of Mann's Industrial Syndicalist Education League in 1913 contributed to the weakening of this tradition in British working class politics. The BSP also suffered, membership slumping from around 40,000 to less than 10,000. This trend is reflected in the Honley Socialist Club, which fell from 192 members in 1911 to 149 in 1913, when there were 15 resignations and 4 expulsions. In the CVSL there was an element of dissatisfaction with the BSP, particularly due to the continued influence of the old SDP leadership and an attempt was made at the half yearly council meeting in October 1913 to disaffiliate. 49.
Edwin Charlesworth was the Club delegate to the CVSL executive which in August resolved to reconsider the terms of its affiliation to the BSP, since they could not meet the financial commitments. By May 1914 they owed £9.12.6d. in affiliation fees. That year they objected to the BSP executive about a circular interfering with their arrangements for a speaking tour by Victor, who was still the CVSL's parliamentary candidate. 50.
In 1914 he spoke at Honley for the last time. He referred to his bankruptcy and
attacks on his life style, saying that 'saviours of the people' were crucified by more
subtle methods than formerly. Two leading Huddersfield BSP members, Fred Shaw and
Arthur Dawson were also present. Tom Carter, chairing the meeting, commented,
'the Labour movement was suffering from lack of suitable leaders and from too few Graysons and Larkins. It also suffered from lack of a guiding principle; and the principle it needed was the abolition of the wages system'
In a few months the movement was confronted by an even greater crisis, which not only spelt the end of Victor Grayson as a popular leader but also the complete disarray of Socialist forces all over Europe. 51.
Although on the outbreak of the world war the Hyndmanite leadership of the BSP adopted a 'social patriotic' stand, regarding the conflict to be a defensive one against Prussian militarism and actively supporting recruitment, many branches, including Huddersfield and the CVSL, did not. Honley was no exception locally. In November George Dyson of Honley Citizens' Defence League visited the Club to issue An Appeal for recruits - Your King and Country need You ! 'Questions followed', reported the Worker, 'and they followed thick and fast in which it was clearly shown the Socialists' view of militarism and warfare...Everyone was well pleased with the lecture and discussion and would be glad to hear Mr Dyson again, but on a more humane subject.' Club members were more enthusiastic about a talk the following week by H.B.Flanders, an anarchist and anti-militarist on The Power of the Workers of the World. 52.
When conscription was introduced in 1916 several Honley men went to gaol rather than compromise their Socialism by supporting militarism and war between imperialist powers. Their motives were often mixed, with christian and humanist ethics reinforcing their political opposition. Objectors to military service had first to apply to a local tribunal and then, if exemption was refused, they had the right to be heard by an appeal tribunal. If they were still denied exemption and refused to withdraw their conscientious objections and report to their regiment they were liable to arrest and imprisonment in military or civilian gaols. 53.
Four unamed conscientious objectors (COs) who appeared before the Honley tribunal were
interrogated about their beliefs, particularly how their consciences allowed them to
be employed in jobs which contributed to the war effort. One weaver replied that he even
objected to weaving khaki cloth and a yarn room assistant affirmed, 'When it is a question
of the military machine, if there were no other means of existence than by joining the
army, I should be a pauper first.' A BSP member who worked as a twister-in said his
organisation had always been opposed to warfare and he called on the clerk to the
tribunal, his former Sunday school teacher, to confirm that he had long held such beliefs.
Only his trade union had saved him from the sack for not joining up already. The last
applicant refused to answer such hypothetical questions but quoted the Socialist Sunday
School's ninth precept,
'Do not think that he who loves his own country must hate and despise other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.'
Concluding the hearing, the military representative on the tribunal described the COs as 'a great evil, hindering recruiting tremendously' In parliament the ILP MP W.C.Anderson condemned this intervention, asking if such comments were not calculated to prejudice tribunals. 54.
Arthur Shaw of Honley, a quarry foreman, appearing at the Huddersfield appeal tribunal, also protested about Bradbury. His appeal being rejected he repeated the SSS precept number nine and asserted that he had no intention of going to join the colours until the police came to fetch him. The yarn room assistant, Francis Henry Sowerby, member of the Club, the ILP the No Conscription Fellowship and the Wesleyan Reform Sunday School, on losing his appeal turned to the public gallery and stated 'I can assure everyone here that [I] will not give way even if it means death on principle.' When arrested he threw the famous Burns quote at the magistrates, 'Man's inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn'. Another SSS member, 28 year old weaver Beaumont Sykes continued to refuse to report to the colours until the police came for him. A fine of 40s. was imposed to be deducted from his military pay. He ended up in Dartmoor gaol along with fellow Club member Arthur Hirst. At his tribunal, Hirst 'denied the right of any man or set of men to say to him that he should take the life of any man.' When Fred Swallow, 32, was told he was fined 40s. to be deducted, he retorted, 'I don't intend having any military pay'. 55.
Less outright opposition to the war was also expressed. Some claimed exemption on non-conscientious grounds such as family commitments, health or essential occupation. Some, like Honley's first conscript, 20 year old Norris Goldthorpe, a teazer at Rock Mill, simply failed to report on receiving his papers. When the PC turned up at his workplace to arrest him he claimed he was under the impression that his employer had applied for his exemption. His father said he would have sought Norris' exemption on the grounds he was needed on the farm if he had realised this was not the case. This may be the same Albert Goldthorpe who joined the Club the following year. In September 1916 Honley tribunal expressed concern that 48 local men exempted from military service were not fulfilling the condition that they had to drill with the local volunteers. Clearly, there were many men in Honley with little enthusiasm for the war, if not actively opposed to it. 56.
In April 1916 the pro-war minority of the BSP split off to form the National Socialist Party. On the other hand, cooperation between anti-war Socialists was growing. CVSL passed a resolution reaffirming, 'its belief in the principles of International Socialism and in our opinion the only war with which the workers are concerned is the Class War...' However it did not decide to promote an active campaign against the war and did not even contest the elections of that year, simply issuing a manifesto practically postponing real struggle until after the war, 'when something more than mere parliamentary elections may be required to remove the evils which the capitalist system has brought upon us...' Anti-war speeches were made however, at a joint meeting of the CVSL and Huddersfield BSP and ILP branches at Slaithwaite in September and at Huddersfield in January 1917.57.
Making a stand against war fever required principle and determination. Club
membership fell from 128 in 1914 to 100 in 1915 and remained at that level throughout the
war. Some financial difficulty may have been experienced as Honley was late with its
half yearly contribution to the CVSL in 1915. A number of names appear in the
membership book underlined and with no subs recorded for the duration of the war.
Some like Arthur Hirst were conscientious objectors - others may have been conscripts
who, reluctantly or not, reported to the colours.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE COLNE VALLEY LABOUR PARTY
Despite the opposition of the CVSL when the question was raised in 1914, the BSP affiliated to the Labour Party. In late 1916 however the executive of the General Union of Textile Workers bypassed the CVSL to approach the Labour Party about forming a Colne Valley Divisional Labour Party (CVDLP). Annoyed at the 'irregular manner' of this move the CVSL nevertheless acceded to the Labour Representation Committee's request to call a conference in January 1917. Forty delegates from 11,000 members of Socialist Clubs, Coop Societies and Trades Unions agreed to set up a Divisional LP. Rules were drawn up and officers elected at a later meeting. W.C.Anderson MP spoke at the founding conference and in November visited Honley, addressing a meeting in the open air after the use of the Palladium Cinema was refused by the directors who wanted an assurance that the war would not be mentioned. 58.
What the attitude of the majority of Honley Club members to the LP at this time is not
apparent. B.A.Noble had gone as delegate to the inaugural conference but the club
continued to pay dues and sent delegates to the CVSL which was in turn affiliated to the
CVDLP. John Schofield of Netherton, a former member of the Club who had joined in
1915 and left in 1917, now treasurer of the CVDLP, caused a controversy with a series of
bitter letters in the Worker attacking Fred Shaw of the BSP. Shaw was the Yorkshire
organiser of the Central Labour College, which sought to propagate marxist education and
in the winter of 1916/17 he ran a series of classes at Honley Club on astronomy, matter
and energy, evolution and other scientific subjects. According to Schofield, Shaw
was not qualified to speak on such topics and he and other BSP members had attempted to
take over the CVDLP. A number of letters appeared in defence of Shaw and Schofield
meanwhile resigned from the executive of the CVDLP. It was rumoured that he intended
rejoining the Liberals. 59.
BETWEEN COMMUNISM AND LABOURISM 1917-1921
Many Socialists saw their vision of the future in the Russian Revolution of February 1917 rather than in the LP, bringing hope of an end to the war and the overthrow of capitalism. Even Labour leaders like Macdonald and Snowden were carried away by the enthusiasm and appeared at a conference in Leeds in June 1917, along with revolutionaries like Mann, Sylvia Pankhurst and Fred Shaw to support the Russian Revolution and set up a Workers and Soldiers' Council. The Club's secretary, Harry Lee, attended as delegate. 60.
John Whithead, the Club president, chairing a meeting of the CVDLP candidate Wilfred Whiteley at the Club 'urged that the real enemies of the worker were not Germany and her allies but the capitalists of every country of the world.' British intervention in Russia was discussed in September and the following year the Club publicised Huddersfield Trades Council's Hands Off Russia demonstration of 20 July. 61.
This revolutionary fervour was even carried into the Socialist Sunday Schools. In
May 1918 a SSS was opened at Honley Club with the superintendent of Huddersfield SSS
leading the children in reciting the Socialists Ten Commandments and Wilf Whiteley
bringing greetings from Lockwood and York SSSs, gave a talk on 'plants, seeds and the
functions of growth.' The next year Francis Sowerby organised the annual Yorkshire
area SSS demonstration at Honley, 'The sun shone and banners waved and the coloured
dresses of the girls and women gave sparkle to the scene' At the Market Place, Arthur
Gardiner, a former conscientious objector and member of the No-Conscription Fellowship,
'With the seeds of social revolution now being sown in the far east the new world was being born. It was being brought into existence amid bloodshed and pain and it was for the workers who had a historic mission to fulfill, to join in completing the transformation to bring this country into line with others. He was not an advocate of violent or bloody revolution; the revolution would take place no matter how it was performed...'
Referring to the pupils of the SSS, Wilf Whiteley went on, 'The last speaker had closed on a note of revolution. Revolution was here in front of them, the revolution in embryo.' In allusion to his election defeat he said that these future voters would not reject a man because he opposed war. 62.
The CVSL was disbanded in 1918 and early the following year discussions were still continuing about the relationship of the Club to the Labour Party. A special meeting at Honley rejected a proposal to affiliate to the CVDLP and an explanation of its position from the CVSL veteran Sam Eastwood of Slaithwaite, now secretary of the CVDLP, met with no positive response. A fortnight later Honley wrote to the BSP informing them that the Club was not affiliated to any national organisation since the disbanding of the CVSL. Many Honley members still retained their suspicion of the LP which had led them to split from the ILP in 1909. On the other hand they were not prepared to commit themselves to the BSP, preferring be free to cooperate with all Socialists. They in fact continued Socialist Unity in practice when the shock waves of the Bolshevik revolution were beginning to sharpen distinctions between left groups. 63.
In 1918 the BSP paper the Call was subscribed to and the pro-war Justice belatedly cancelled. The following year another paper which had supported the war, the Clarion was discontinued in favour of the militant Glasgow ILP's Forward and the national ILP's Socialist Review. BSP literature was advertised on the Club notice board.. That this choice of reading matter also reflected opposition to the LP was evident when a recent member, Foster Lockwood, secretary of the Brockholes branch of the National Union of Railwaymen, stood in the council elections. It was moved by Lister Bintcliffe, the Club literature secretary, that the words 'Labour Party' be deleted from his manifesto and a commitment to oppose military training in schools included. The Club members had shown an interest in this subject by sending a delegate to a conference in Huddersfield on Militarism in Education in June 1918. 64.
The Club also discussed the plight of John Maclean the leading Scottish Marxist, honoured with the post of Bolshevik consul and gaoled for his opposition to the war . Following his release he was invited on an eight day speaking tour of the area by the Club, including two meetings at Honley. Huddersfield BSP was given the first choice of two other nights and he was offered to the ILP in Meltham, Slaithwaite, Milnsbridge and Holmfirth. Workers, Rally Round this Great Fighter proclaimed the advert. Maclean talked to massive meetings at Honley Market Place on 26 May and 1 June on the theme that only revolution could avert another war. According to his report in the Call a 'record' meeting was held at Honley, and attempts were being made in the Colne Valley to establish 'Workers' Committees and independent educational classes in conjunction with the Central Labour College in Yorkshire'. Another prominent Scottish Marxist, Arthur Macmanus of the Socialist Labour Party, spoke at the annual meeting in August emphasising, 'It was our duty to organise solidly, not with the purpose of running a strike, but for the purpose of revolution!' 65.
The Club, along with CVLP and Huddersfield ILP, offered support to a Trades
Council demonstration to protest at the breaking up of a BSP meeting at Greenfield
by jingoists in 1919. Delegates were also sent to a joint meeting at the
Huddersfield BSP rooms to discuss the formation of a 'Workers Committee'. Friendly
relations with the BSP are also apparent in 1920 when George Ebury (a BSP and later
Communist Party organiser who assisted the founding of Huddersfield CP ), came to speak at
the Club and the BSP even selected Honley for its regional rally, asking the Club to do
the catering. For its part the Club ordered a catalogue and a pair of 'Best Sunday
Boots, size 7D, to be purchased by Comrade Noble,' from the BSP boot factory ! 66.
Throughout 1919 and 1920 the BSP was in negotiations with other marxist organisations in an attempt to form a united Communist party and in January 1921 the Club decided to receive a delegation from Huddersfield CP, 'with the idea of forming a branch.' Three months later it was reported that a Communist group was being formed in Honley. There was still sympathy for the CP in 1923 when the Club began to subscribe to the 'Communist Review'.67.
INTO THE LABOUR PARTY 1922-1926
Ironically the BSP had been affiliated to the LP and the Communist Party sought affiliation but the Club continued to refuse overtures from the CVDLP. In July 1919 letters from it were left to 'lie on the table' although in October the CVDLP was allowed use of a Club room once a month for 1s.6d. At the same time as the Club was engaging BSP speakers however, they were writing to Labour leaders like Hodges, Macdonald and Bevin. The promotion of the Daily Herald was also supported. B.A.Noble attended a meeting in Huddersfield addressed by the editor George Lansbury in March 1922 and in May a Herald development committee meeting was held in Honley and chaired by John Whitehead. The Worker ceased publication in this year. There was no niche for a predominantly local non-sectarian Socialists' newspaper.68.
In 1922 the Club also resolved to back LP candidates in the general election, although the choice for the Colne Valley was Victor Grayson's old antagonist Philip Snowden. Following his victory an 'at home' was organised in the Primitive School rooms to welcome Mr and Mrs Snowden to Honley in January 1923. The following year the committee finally decided to recommend affiliation to the CVDLP at the Club's Annual General Meeting on the 27 January 1924 and 'After a lengthy discussion it was moved that this Club affiliate but the number to affiliate be left with the committee.' Later the number was set at 50 and W.H.Sykes elected as delegate to the CVLP. 69.
Relations between the CVLP and the LP nationally were not always harmonious. In
April the CVLP delegate to conference was mandated to vote for a resolution calling on the
name to be changed to Socialist Party and in July a representative from the LP central
office came to criticise the CVLP for bad organisation, particularly the low individual
membership. In Honley this was almost nil, most being members by virtue of the
Club's affiliation. 70.
Honley also sent delegates to the ILP conference in September but, although it received circulars from the ILP regularly, it is not clear whether the Club was affiliated. Most members were still anti-sectarian and a protest was sent to the CVDLP about a LP circular in 1925 prohibiting Communist affiliation. Huddersfield LP also ignored the directives and a Communist was still on their executive committee in 1926. 71.
Concern was shown towards the industrial situation and in 1925 Reggie Hartley was
delegate to a LP conference on mine nationalisation and a dozen pamphlets ordered on What
the Coal Commission Proposes. During the 1926 General Strike the Club gave the
railwaymen's strike committee use of a room and following the strike's collapse a
'Committee for miners' Wives and Children' was organised in the village, with delegates
being invited from religious bodies as well as trade unions. In October a letter
from Birdwell miners' Distress Fund was displayed in the Coop draper's window.
Interest in international issues is reflected in the sending of two delegates to a
conference in Huddersfield of International Class War Prisoners Aid, a body founded by the
CP.. Money was also donated to an appeal from the Youth delegation to Russia and the
letter put on the notice board. Fifty copies of a Daily Herald edition on Russia
were ordered and Labour Party pamphlets on Vienna Under Socialist Rule.72
The Club also played an active part in the CVDLP. Francis Sowerby, who was also the Textile Union Honley branch delegate to the CVLP, was sent to the LP Conference in 1925 and 1926. Miss Nellie Buckley, also from Honley was delegate to the LP's womens' conference. Honley was the venue for the CVLP annual rally in 1925 and the Club was given the dividend from goods bought at the Coop to provide refreshments. A tea was laid on in the Club followed by a whist drive and dance in the Coop Hall. 73.
Membership fluctuated throughout this period. Rising from a wartime level of 100 to 141 in 1919, coinciding with the crest of a revolutionary wave, numbers lapsed to 102 in 1921. A revival is apparent in 1923 with 136 members and in 1924, the year of the first Labour government, a new peak of 155 was reached. In the year of the general strike there were 21 resignations, leaving only 119 entries in 1927 when the first membership book closes. Veterans like Arthur Curnock, John Whithead and B.A.Noble continued to be actively involved, as well as former conscientious objectors like Fred Swallow, Francis Sowerby and Beaumont Sykes. With men such as these at the helm, the delayed affiliation to the LP is understandable. They had devoted much of their lives to fighting Labourism.
Receding hopes of revolution and the failure of the CP to make a breakthrough in
Britain, combined with the growth of the LP as a parliamentary force, persuaded many
Socialists to throw in their lot with the latter. As an organisation which revolved
around elections there was a corresponding decline in Socialist zeal. The Socialist
rank and file decreasingly felt that they were participating in the political birth of a
new society. Politics became something people periodically voted someone else in to
do for them. The TUC sabotage of the General Strike and the isolation of the miners
demoralised those whose faith lay in the ability of workers to wage the class struggle.The
Labour government's anti-working class policies in 1929 and the defection of Colne Valley
MP, Philip Snowden in 1931 led to further disillusionment. Activity moved from the
realm of community life to that of a soulless bureaucratic machine. and the Socialist
Clubs, built up painstakingly, with so much energy, time and money invested lovingly
towards the advance of humanity, declined into mainly social clubs.. A culture of
resistance and of vision was transformed into a culture of deference and acceptance of
REFERENCES AND NOTES.
First Published by Workers' History Publications (1993)