[Marxism] Fwd: [New post] Remembering Eddie Frow: Communist, Trade Union Activist, Historian…

Richard Sprout sproutr at upstate.edu
Sun May 14 06:25:31 MDT 2017

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> From: "lipstick socialist" <comment-reply at wordpress.com>
> Date: May 14, 2017 at 7:02:32 AM EDT
> To: "Richard Sprout" <SproutR at upstate.edu>, "lipstick socialist"
<comment+pd8wmggjm8bf7tbe36e119m at comment.wordpress.com>
> Subject: [New post] Remembering Eddie Frow: Communist, Trade Union
Activist, Historian…
> Respond to this post by replying above this line
> New post on lipstick socialist
> Remembering Eddie Frow: Communist, Trade Union Activist, Historian…
> by lipstick socialist
> Today it is twenty years since Eddie Frow died, and eight years since
his partner Ruth died. In his long life Eddie embodied the way in which
Communism shaped the life of a man who was an activist in his trade
union, a historian, a writer, a rambler, an opera lover... and so much
> I met Eddie and Ruth  for the first time in 1981. At first  they 
seemed to come from a completely different era. My political education
was  built on my parents’ mix of socialism, Catholicism  and Irish
Republicanism,   combined with my own experience of being at University
in the late 1970s and with   being a shop steward in local government in
 Thatcher’s  Britain. We should not have got on but we did, and I had
many conversations with Eddie about being a shop steward, discussing 
the problems I faced with my own union. His view was that as a trade
union activist you often  spend most of your time fighting the people
supposedly on your side.
> Ruth and Eddie never seemed “old” to me. They were happy to come with
my partner and me to watch foreign films at the Cornerhouse art cinema
and were always interested in the dynamics of present day politics. They
were generous with their time, knowledge and always ready to listen.  In
her 70s Ruth took on getting a computer and grappling with new
technology which gave her a new window into life.
> Eddie was from a rural background, born on 6  June  1906 on a farm in
Lincolnshire. His father had a chequered career,  finally settling the
family in a mining village in Wakefield whilst he worked in the local
mining office. Eddie went to the village school and was one of the top
students. But for the First World War, he probably would have gone to
the grammar school,  but instead he went to a technical school for boys
where he was prepared for  entering  an apprenticeship at 16.
> At home Eddie and his sister  Millicent played the violin and piano
and sand  hymns with family and  neighbours. At the age of 13 his father
bought him H.G.Wells’ Short History of the World, which  began his
life-long  love of reading and laid the foundations for his own
exploration of ideas and philosophy about the world.
> His worklife started  when at 16  he started his apprenticehip at an
engineering firm in Wakefield. He  joined the Communist Party in Leeds ,
recalling “There was a fantastic feeling that yes, there was going to be
a revolution in Britain and it was going to be tomorrow.”
> Through the CP  his political education began as he was guided by a
comrade, Lou Davies, and introduced to Frederick Engels’ Socialism,
Utopian and Scientific, Daniel de Leon’s Two Pages from Roman History, 
and Bogdanov’s Short Course in Economic Science.
> Eddie lived at a time of great hope for working class people with the
rise of socialism and the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was also a time
of great misery,  including mass unemployment and an economic worldwide
crisis started in  1929 by the Wall Street Crash.
> Unemployment for Eddie was a constant theme throughout his life:  he
worked in 21 engineering factories and he was blacklisted, victimised
and sacked for his militant actions.
> He was a lifelong member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and
active in the Minority Movement in the trade unions. This had been
formed in 1922 by Harry Politt and other Communists in the engineering
trade as part of the Red International of Trade Unions. Thethe speedy overthrow of capitalism and establishment of workers’ states.
> In 1930 he went to Moscow as a delegate of the British Commission of
the Communist International which was  investigating the role of the
British Communist Party. At this time the CP’s membership had declined 
as had  its influence in the wider labour movement, because it was
attacking the Labour Party as a capitalist party no different to the
> But the CP played a major role in setting up the National Union of
Unemployed Workers which fought for the rights of the unemployed. In
1931  the unemployed, including Eddie, numbered  well over two million.
Eddie  became one of the leaders of the Salford Unemployed Workers’
Movement.  Opposition to further cuts in benefits led to the notorious
Battle of Bexley Square where the SUWM march to the Town hall  was
attacked by  the police and Eddie was  sentenced to five months in
> From 1934 onwards Eddie was back in work, involved  again with trade
union activity as well as taking on the big issues of that era ,
including the rise of Fascism, the threat of war and support for  the
Spanish Republic.
> In 1939 the CP were not supportive of the Second World War, because of
 Stalin’s  pact with Hitler, . and suffered a loss of membership an d
credibility.  but after June 1941 when  the Soviet Union  was invaded 
by Nazi Germany  and  joined in the “People’s War” against Fascism, 
membership of the CP trebled.  But this harmonious relationship between
the victors in  1945 did not lead to a better world. As Eddie commented;
“There was this hope of a new world. There was this hope that when the
war was over, when fascism was defeated, there would be a new set-up,
not only politically but industrially. But it was just an illusion
> Post-war Eddie became more involved in his union and the CP. This led
to the end of his marriage by which time his son, Eric,  was 16 years
old. In May 1953 Eddie  went to a CP school on labour history and met
Ruth Engels. She said; “From that moment Eddie’s life and mine became
inextricably mixed.” After the summer school Eddie went for a meal at
Ruth’s digs, noted that her books were complementary to his,  and they
made plans for her to move to Manchester to live with him. The rest, as
they say, is history.
> Eddie and Ruth did not have any children, you could say the Working
Class Movement Library  was their child. It started in 1957 when Jack
Klugman,  a CP tutor and historian, came to their house and commented on
the amount of wall space they had,  and how it could be filled with
books  as in  his house. He advised them to study labour history and
start collecting material related to it. And Ruth says; “The Library
began on its unstoppable expansion from that day.”
> Kings Road
> Their life now became an exploration of bookshops across the country, 
spending their weekends and holidays collecting valuable and rare
additions to the stock. They also used the material they collected
producing articles for journals, pamphlets  and  books.
> At the same time Ruth and Eddie were still working full-time, visiting
their family and continuing their CP branch activities with  Daily
Worker (now Morning Star) sales and leafleting.
> In 1987 the WCML,  which was  bursting  out of their house in King’s
Road, Old  Trafford, entered a new phase when Salford Labour Council
offered them premises on the Crescent opposite Salford University. The
offer, which they accepted, included a librarian, two library assistants
and a caretaker. Ruth and Eddie settled into the flat within the
> Over the years through the WCML Ruth and Eddie made the history of the
trade union and labour movement available to anyone who walked through
the door. They were enthusiasts,  and their own experience of activism
made the history come alive to individuals and groups who came through
the always open front  door. To thiin-depth knowledge of labour history,   but their compassion and
humility that they shared with all visitors.
> Eddie Frow died in 1997. He was a Communist until the day he died; he
never gave up on the idea of creating a society that would put people
first and stop the exploitation of the working classes. Tom Paine was
his hero, and the library has a unique collection of his work, but it
was Paine’s view of the world that summed up both Ruth and Eddie’s. 
“The World is my country. All men are my brothers. And to do good is
my religion.”
> Writer Mike Crowley wrote a brilliant poem about Eddie.
> Eddie Frow:  Previous Generation.
> Carried the past inside him
> Tucked it up sleeves and baggy clothes
> inside tins at the back of wardrobes,
> In rooms gone spare, in a decade gone cold.
> They must be feeling it, those
> who gave their all for the world we know,
> (or thought we did a while ago).
> Held up a vision in rain and snow.
> on street corners and shop floors,
> from the front of hope filled halls,
> going from door to door, peddling a conscience.
> For all this and more before the War.
> Before all this, a point in spotting trains
> caps and hands tossed in the air, rifles in Spain,
> and there, behind the barricades
> man again, with freedom to sacrifice.
> Few remember them now, the old times.
> in the rush to clear out,
> grab our things and flee the council house,
> something dear was left behind.
> Precious those who sweep up after us
> filtering the dust for gems
> that belong to us. Keeping in touch
> with those before us.
> Edmund Frow filled a house and more,
> with facts and stories from roof to floor.
> Left them there, for those who want to ask.
> He knew how precious we are, about the past.
> lipstick socialist | May 14, 2017 at 11:02 am | Tags: Eddie Frow, WCML
| Categories: Communism, education, human rights, labour history,
Manchester, political women, Socialism, trade unions, Uncategorized,
working class history, young people | URL: http://wp.me/p29PUk-2rC
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