Sunday, December 25, 2011

H. M. Hyndman Pioneering Socialist and First Class Cricketer

Henry Myers Hyndman (1842-1921)

H. M. Hyndman was born 7 March 1842 in number 7 Hyde Park Square, London. Hyndman was the son of a wealthy barrister who had devoted £150,000 to building and endowing churches in the East End of London, he was also the Grandson of a wealthy Guyanana slave plantation owner. The family originally from South West Scotland.

Hyndman after being educated at home, entered Trinity College, Cambridge. Hyndman later recalled:

"I had the ordinary education of a well-to-do boy and young man. I read mathematics hard until I went to Cambridge, where I ought, of course, to have read them harder, and then I gave them up altogether and devoted myself to amusement and general literature.... Trinity or, for that matter, any other college, is practically a hot-bed of reaction from the social point of view. The young men regard all who are not technically 'gentlemen' as 'cads,' just as the Athenians counted all who were not Greeks as barbarians"

"I was a thorough-going Radical and Repu
blican in those days — theoretically... with a great admiration for John Stuart Mill, and later, I remember, I regarded John Mosley as the coming man."

After achieving his degree in 1861 he studied Law before deciding to opt for a career in journalist at The Pall Mall Gazette.

As a first-class cricketer, he represented Cambridge University, and aged 21 played for Sussex in thirteen matches as a right-handed batsman between 1864 and 1865. It is also reported he played for the MCC.

Hyndman while on holiday in America in 1880 decided to read Karl Marx's "Capital" and although he had doubts about some of Marx's ideas, he was greatly impressed by his analysis of capitalism and became an avowed Marxist.

Hyndman now decided to establish Britain's first socialist political party. the Democratic Federation on 7th June 1881 (some less formal meetings were held at the Rose street Club in March 1881) and from 4th August 1884 known as the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). He threw himself with immense activity into agitation of the succeeding years, being arrested for his involvement in demonstrations in support of the Unemployed.

The journal of the Social Democratic Federation was "Justice" founded by Hyndman and Edward Carpenter in January 1884

Hyndman opposed the Boer War, but lost much influence in the Labour movement due to his supported the first war with Germany in the World War One

He stood in a number of parliamentary contests in 1895, 1906 and twice in 1910 for Burnley (a seat later won by his colleague Dan Irving)

Hyndman opposed the Boer War, but lost much influence in the Labour movement due to his supported the first war with Germany in the World War One.

He stood in a number of parliamentary contests in 1895, 1906 and twice in 1910 for Burnley (a seat later won by his colleague Dan Irving)

The Labour Movement historian John Gorman stated of Hyndman in Images of Labour

"Hyndman and the SDF carried the message of socialism, unflinching in the face of considerable hostility to every part of the land. It gave leadership where none had existed and became a platform for a generation of socialists whose names are immortalised as pioneers of the labour Movement, attracting working men as well as middle class intellectuals in a momentous struggle against social injustice"

Bruce Glasier said of Hyndman

"Hyndman, striking in appearance, with his long flowing beard, his keen, restless, searching eyes, and full intellectual brow, dressed in the city-best, frock-coat suit of the day, wit full display of white li

nen - his whole manner alert, pushful, and shall I say, domineering - looked the very embodiment of middle-class respectability and capitalist ideology; a man of the world, a Pall mall politician from top to toe"

As for his lecturing, "brilliant and convincing it undoubtedly was-dealing almost wholly with the economic and political male-factions of the capitalist system-racy, argumentative, declamatory, and bristling with topical allusions and seething raillery, it was a hustings masterpiece. But it was almost wholly critical and destructive. The affirmative and regenerative aims of Socialism hardly emerged in it.... There was in fact, very little Socialism in the lecture at all: it was an anti-Capitalist ejaculation".

Tom Mann the great trade unionist and socialist said of Hyndman

"Hyndman's essential bourgeois appearance attracted much attention. The tall hat, the frock coat, and the long beard often drew the curious-minded who would not have spent time listening to one in workman's attire. At almost every meeting he addressed, Hyndman would cynically thank the audience for so "generously supporting my class". Hyndman, like many strong

personalities, had very pronounced likes and dislikes. To myself, he was ever kind and courteous. I am quite sure he did much valuable work at the particular time when that special work was needed."

In October 1921 he visited Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland and spoke in support of the newly elected MP a SDF member Tom Kennedy who had been elected that year.

On 9th November 1921 a "raw and foggy night" Hyndman attended and spoke at a meeting in a school hall in Enfield, North London. Hyndman speaking on Britain's industrial decline compared to the recovery in Germany after the War.

On 22nd November 1921, newspapers reported, the announcement that morning of the death of... . "Mr H. M. Hyndman aged 79 founder of the Social Democratic Federation had been ill for about ten days with pneumonia, and was getting better, when heart trouble supervened".

Hyndman died of pneumonia on 22nd November 1921 (some reports say 20th November) at his home at 13 Well Walk, Hampsted, London NW3 (blue plaque)

The funeral was held at Golders Green Crematorium, a band of the Musicians Union headed the procession to the cemetery. At the funeral the Marseillaise, England Arise and the Red Flag.

In 1922 the Hyndman memorial committee decided to commemorate the death of Hyndman by the commission (by Edward Hill Lacey) of a bust for presentation to the National Portrait Gallery and the endowment of an annual memorial lecture.

Furnishings from Hyndman's house after his death went to the Hyndman Club and institute at 54 Colebroke Row, Islington, North London.