Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SYD BIDWELL MP (1917-1997)

The Independent May 28th 1997, by Janey Buchan

The death of Sydney Bidwell brings to an end a life that was typical of the left-wing activist and organiser of his own and other times. In the days of the revolting sound-bite and whizz-kiddery which so disfigure politics now his way of thinking and working are held in no regard whatsoever by those who wouldn't know a pamphleteer and street-corner orator if they found them in their soup.

Syd started work as a van boy on the GWR and rose through the ranks there (as shunter, marshaller and goods guard) and through his union (the National Union of Railywaymen NUR). However, despite his closeness to the General Secretary, Sid Greene, he never won election to any executive thanks to the combined efforts of the right wing and the Communist Party, who resented his membership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Trotskyite wing. After 20 years, he left the railways to become a Tutor/Organiser for the National Council of Labour Colleges (NCLC) and like many people from similar backgrounds knew the width of interest of working people and helped organise appropriate courses and lectures in London and the Home Counties.

In 1964 the NCLC was taken over by the TUC, and Bidwell became the London Regional Education Officer for the TUC.

He fought parliamentary elections in 1959 in East Herts and 1964 in South Herts, and in 1966 succeeded George Pargiter as Labour MP for his native Southall, in Middlesex. Again his affection and pride in his own family was palpable as his father had been a founder - if not the founder - of Southall Labour Club.

It did not need the fact that Southall had a large Asian community to see Bidwell enter the battle against racism strongly. He, to his eternal credit, was at the forefront of the response to the dockers and meat porters who marched to the Commons in support of Enoch Powell in 1968, after his inflammatory speech on the dangers of immigration, and he played an honourable role in this whole field. Having been present at the riot in Red Lion Square in which the student Kevin Gately was killed in the 1960s, Bidwell came forward to give evidence to the Scarman Tribunal.

In 1976 he saw through Parliament a 10-minute bill exempting Sikhs from wearing crash helmets on motorbikes - this was contrary to their faith, which required them to wear a turban. Other countries followed suit. Bidwell was the only member of the Select Committee on Race Relations to serve for the whole of its existence. He visited India, the West Indies and the United States to gain a broader racial perspective, and wrote a book, Red, White and Black (1976), on the subject.

He chaired the London Committee of the Movement for Colonial Freedom and served as Chairman of the Tribune Group in the Commons but, again, parted company with others on the Left over the Common Market. He claimed that the Left's opposition offended his internationalism: we argued back that it would be the ruination of any hopes of the internationalism we all shared and tried to live our lives by.

He was deeply knowledgeable about Labour history in the widest possible sense of that term long before the Oral History Movement came into being. Again to his credit, he never attempted to rewrite the events and characters of Labour history as have some published diarists who for unfathomable reasons are always chosen to speak on it, and whose versions are accepted without question.

In 1992 there was a long-running and turbulent reselection battle which Bidwell finally lost. The NEC turned a blind eye to the irregularities he and others perceived to have been allowed to get him out. Bidwell stood as "The True Labour Candidate" in protest, and there was widespread concern in the Labour Party that he should have done so. This led to his exclusion from the party. The truth behind what happened and also the bypassing of the rules to readmit him to the party not long afterwards are for another place and another time, but since they have many parallels today the truth will emerge.

Whenever my husband, Norman Buchan (the Labour MP for Paisley South from 1983 until his death in 1990), and I urged everyone to listen to the songs and jokes generated by strikes, demonstrations and so on, but particularly at elections, Bidwell clearly thought we were at best frivolous and at worst absolutely nuts. When the Red Review group came together and enlivened the end of party conferences and the audience clearly delighted in their savaging of the Pretentious Tendency (worse than Militant any day) and sang and sang with them, we still couldn't enlist him. Never mind - even with the ruthlessly drilled and excluding team in charge at the moment there were two songs around of which audiences at either end of the country roared their approval; and the words of which I spent time faxing all over the place to lift the spirits of those whose long efforts to secure a Labour government are of long standing and were often at considerable personal loss. We shall keep the memory of people like Syd Bidwell in a true way if we refuse to be swept below the carpet or anywhere else. He loved politics and argument. He loved painting, the game of football and his wife, Daphne, and his family were the centre of his being.

He practised what he preached; a bit more of that nowadays would not go amiss. Sydney James Bidwell, trades unionist and politician:

Sydney James Bidwell born Southall, Middlesex 14 January 1917;
Member, Southall Borough Council 1951-55;
Member of Parliament for Southall 1966-74, for Ealing, Southall 1974-92;
Married 1941 Daphne Peart (one son, one daughter);
Died Hillingdon, Middlesex 25 May 1997.
British Racialism

By Sid Bidwell MP (Southall)
Labour Monthly - August 1969

In a sense, colour discrimination and other less seen forms of racialism in this country transcend normal concepts of class barrier and class exploitation. In another sense it is easy to see all the deficiencies of capitalist 'civilisation' at work making full use of racialism: hence Powellism.

In the black-brown-white conflict here, there is no new language code which does not remind us of Nazi-Mosley anti-Jew propaganda and activity. Read the fascist race literature now! Substitute Jew for coloured and it is the same half lie and blatant lie.

Those who peddle a supreme lie: alleging skin pigment and ethnic origin as a major factor determining some sub-standard behaviour have to falsify further. All racialists are habitual liars. Hear them describe occasions when there has been a fracas. Two or three coloured people become hordes.

In parliament some Tory MPs are better on this than a lot of Labour MPs. On the other hand there is no Labour MP who makes a fetish of hostile race and immigration questions.

It is no accident that Powell and his cohorts are reactionary on all other matters: economics, rents and housing, trade union shackles and so on. If Powell is more realistic on east of Suez military presence than Heath, it is certainly not because he is less 'Blimpish'. Today Heath has less working-class support than Powell. He stimulates the 'lumps' and backward elements. It is easier to stir them in a period of mass disappointment with a Labour Government.

Division is needed and easy to create.

The Rt. Hon. Enoch Powell, former front bench Tory, to all fascist-racialists in odd comers is the best bet as a leading name. Although they badly need him, there is little sign that he needs them or that he goes beyond receiving their congratulations. But he does not seem embarrassed by their attention.

The National Front (an amalgamation of the old British National Party and the League of Empire Loyalists) has shown signs of organised disruption leading to violence at meetings. Happily they show all habitual signs of splitting.

The fine work of students, trade unionists, real Christians and socialist-communists on friendship councils or community-relations helps enormously. Not least important is leadership of immigrant workers and their preparedness to encourage full participation in all working-class political activity. Already many coloured workers are winning spurs as shop-stewards. When such comrades are able to lead all types of workers we are sailing, and weak Powellism can be snuffed out at birth.

However, in the present political climate calling for maximum socialist unity, the need for vigilant determination to smash fascism is as important as in the days when I 'cut my teeth'in struggle against the Mosley blackshirts in the East End of London who were chanting 'The Yids! We've got to get rid of the Yids!' That seems only yesterday. -

The Factory Wall Newspaper WW2

By George Hill

Organising for Offensive Action
February 1943

A PROBLEM constantly before the Communist Party group in our factory, in the fight for increased production and national unity for victory over Fascism,, is how effectively to reach out to the majority of the workers and make them aware of our policy for victory.

We have found that the use of a wall-newspaper on the job is an excellent method of really getting close to the. people to whom we wish to speak. After the decision to produce the paper the first step to take is to approach the management .and ask for their co-operation and support in the production of the paper, explaining that its main policy will be "National Unity to Smash Fascism."

The job of the editor of the paper is to get around among the workers and ask them to write articles, and take personal responsibility for various jobs connected with the paper. These could include short articles giving, suggestions on how to increase production in their own department, responsibility for collecting cartoons and illustrations and cuttings, illustrations of articles, turning out a rhyme, and so on.

The aim must be to build up a staff of regular contributors, who alone can become the backbone of the paper.
Prominent among these should be such leading figures as the convenor of shop stewards and the secretary of the Production Committee, who should take responsibility for writing their respective " reviews."

The Production Committee should also advise the editor and his helpers of those men and women who have made outstanding efforts in production, so that perhaps a photograph and a description of their achievement can be included.
Other suggestions for contents include letters from the workers dealing with issues of general interest in the factory and on political questions of the day, jokes and illustrations which prevent the newspaper from being heavy, and " flashes " which are the witticisms and gossip on the job. Competitions and puzzles and the introduction of a " quiz " all help to make a well-balanced paper.

The work of the editor and his assistants is to determine the main slogan for each issue, and to go carefully through all the material handed in so that each
issue is built around some main theme. The paper should be issued regularly, say fortnightly, and it is a useful idea to place boxes for contributions beneath it. Now for the technical production. This is extremely important.

Remember that the paper is read standing lip and the reader often has only a few moments to spend. It is necessary to get an attractive appearance,with well arranged material, and the use of colour to break up the articles and make it easier to read.
The articles should be typed, and the possibility of duplicating or similar methods should be explored. For example, in many engineering firms the management has an apparatus for producing blue-prints by the photostat method, which is ideal for the production of a wall newspaper. It is essential, following the production of the paper, that there should be a discussion with workers on the job, getting suggestions and comments from them on ways of improving the paper in the next issue.

The accompanying illustration will give an indication of the appearance of our own wall-newspaper which we produce regularly on the above lines.
Now for the technical production. This is extremely important. Remember that the paper is read standing lip and the reader often has only a few moments to spend. It is necessary to get an attractive appearance, with well arranged material, and the use of colour to break up the articles and make it easier to read.

The articles should be typed, and the possibility of duplicating or similar methods should be explored. For example, in many engineering firms the management has an apparatus for producing blue-prints by the photostat method, which is ideal for the production of a wall newspaper.
It is essential, following the production of the paper, that there should be a discussion with workers on the job, getting suggestions and comments from them on ways of improving the paper in the next issue.

The accompanying illustration Chiswick Wall Newspaper News (above) for December 1942 will give an indication of the appearance of our own wall newspaper which we produce regularly on the above lines.

Abridged from Inprecor, the bulletin of the Communist International, February 1925

They had their origin on the revolutionary soil of the Soviet Union in the form of wall newspapers.

The factory newspapers of other countries including Great Britain, did not know until quite recently how to make use of this form of agitation in the factory newspapers.

The idea prevailed that ordinary Party newspapers deal with political questions, hence it is not necessary for factory newspapers to deal with them, and all our attention should be concentrated on the economic questions-within the factory by which means the interest of the masses in the newspaper should be aroused.

In some places one went even so far as merely to register factory events (this was done for instance in the first British factory newspaper) without showing the slightest intention to explain these events from a Communist viewpoint. This tendency exists to a certain extent. For instance in the Nine Elms Spark. The so-called factory nucleus newspapers of Germany, as for instance the Leder-Prolet are also to a certain extent tainted with this tendency.

The Communist International Organisation Conference condemned both tendencies and made it incumbent on factory newspapers to deal with all questions in a simple and concise manner:

• to illustrate questions in a way to allow workers to draw from, them political conclusions quite simply and naturally,

• to avoid abstract subjects, to deal with everything in a concrete manner,

• to describe conflicts between workers and employers, and incidents from the life of the working class,

• to avoid a stereotyped style in the factory newspapers.

Factory newspapers are to appeal to the indifferent masses who have frequently a very perverted notion about Communists and who never or hardly ever read a Communist newspaper. The task of factory newspapers is to win the masses for the Communist Party, for the struggle of the working class.

Therefore one should not allow the small everyday questions of the factory to be the widest perspectives of Communism.

Therefore it is essential to connect the small factory questions with the big political questions confronting the Party and to explain them to the masses

For instance in Great Britain the first factory newspapers were published without indicating that they are the organs of the nuclei, without producing the impression that they are Party newspapers. This was the case with the Nine Elms Spark. This was a mistake especially over there in Great Britain where the Party is confronted with the great task of making organisational capital out of the sympathy of the masses, in order thereby to transform the small Party into a
mass Party.

Factory newspapers are a means to educate for us proletarian editors and real proletarian writers. We will have to return to this subject many a time. Today we should like to say in conclusion: pay more attention to the question of factory newspapers. (source for CI -Workers Liberty web site)

Further Notes:

West Bengal Communist Party still uses daily Wall Newspaper on all major roads in the State

The cartoon of Stalingrad "The Modern Phoenix"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Peter Leonard Niall Smith

Peter Smith was born in Brighton, Sussex 10th May 1914 educated at Canford school and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge left with M.A. with honours degree in mathematics and English literature. On leaving University he took up teaching, but subsequently joined the staff of the International Peace Campaign.

He later became a scientific worker at a local Slough firm. Peter Smith became a leading light of Slough Communist Party from the early nineteen forties culminating in him standing as the Communist parliamentary candidate at the 1950 general election. Moved to Uxbridge becoming a company sales director in an engineering company. Peter Smith helped found Hillingdon Peace Council.

He joined the Labour Party primarily as a result of events in Hungary, but some in the local Communist party accused him of careerism. Peter soon took a high profile in the local Labour Party standing for the council (he was still standing in the 1980's) and being elected chairman of Uxbridge Labour Party. He took a great interest in educational matters and was a member of London Borough of Hillingdon Education Committee and governor of Bishophalt School. Later lived in to Ickenham. Married with one son. member of the Assoc of Scientific Workers Union.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


A NEW STAGE in the development of the Communist Party in West Middlesex was reached last weekend with the establishment of a new District Committee to cover the West Middlesex and Slough area of Greater London. .-

The new District has a population of over one million people and some of the largest of the light engineering factories in Greater London. These include E.M.I, at Hayes, the factories on the Great West Road like Firestones, Gillette, Tecalemit, and McLeans; it takes in the big Chiswick works of London Transport and the A.E.C. factory at Hanwell. Slough, with its great trad-
ing estate, also becomes part of the new District. Among the rail depots are Old Oak Common and Fulwell.

The West Middlesex D.P.C. takes in fifteeen borough organisations and nearly sixty Party branches, all of which were, up till now, the responsibility of the London District Committee. The total Party membership in the District at the end of 1949 was 1,744. The Boroughs are Acton, Brentford and Chiswick, Baling and Greenford, Feltham, Hayes, Heston and Isleworth, Northwood, Ruislip, Southall, Slough, Staines, Sunbury, Twickenham, Uxbridge and Yiewsley.

The initiation District Congress took place last week-end at the East Acton Co-op. Hall. One hundred and forty-eight full delegates attended, and, in addition, there were a number of fraternal delegates and visitors.
Comrade G. C. T. Giles, well-known as a headmaster in Acton and a member of the Party B.C., was the chairman of the Congress. Comrade Peter Kerrigan made the opening political report on behalf of the Executive Committee.

Congress elected a new D.P.C. of twenty-nine members. At a short meeting held immediately after its own election, the D.P.C. appointed Comrade Abe Lazarus as its new District Secretary. Comrade Abe Lazarus was for many years District Secretary of the Party in the South Midlands. He was born in Chiswick in 1911, joined the Party in Hammersmith in 1930. He played a leading part in the 1933 strike for T.U. recognition at the 'Firestone tyre factory,

which is on the Great West Road at Brentford. A year later found him leading a successful strike for trade union recognition at the big Pressed Steel factory at Cowley, Oxford.

Congress unanimously adopted three resolutions.The main resolution endorsed the policy of the Party laid down at the 21st National Congress and as outlined, in the E.C.'s Political Letter of March 16. (1950)

Congress registered its protest at the suggested ,increase in London fares and instructed its District Secretary to appear at the hearings of the Tribunal and oppose the increase on behalf of the District Committee;

In response to the appeal for a fund of £150 with which to launch the new D.P.C., the boroughs, branches ; and industrial groups sent to Congress £103, which was handed up to the chairman.

The temporary headquarters of the West Middlesex District of the Communist party are at 85 East Avenue, Hayes. Middlesex.

World News & Views 1950

Abe Lazarus

Lazarus was born, from a Jewish background, in Chiswick in 1911 and joined the Communist Party at Hammersmith in 1930. He played a key role in the Firestone strike in 1933 at Brentford for union recognition and thus secured the nickname “Bill Firestone”. He was later central to work at the then new Pressed Steel factory in Cowley in 1934, which was successful in securing union recognition.

Union officials believed that plant, whose workforce was recruited from among local women and unemployed miners from South Wales, was un-organisable. But the Communist dominated local Hunger March Solidarity Committee, formed to greet unemployed marchers from South Wales, began to give attention to this task.

In July 1934 a dispute on the night shift over piece rate developed into a walkout. The Communist Party sent Abe Lazarus, largely because of his work at Firestones, to Oxford. He formed a rank and file strike committee and recruited the workforce into the TGWU. After six weeks, the company conceded union recognition and shop steward organisation. After the strike the TGWU 5/60 branch which covered the factory secured virtual 100 percent union membership.

Involved in the Thames Valley bus strike of 1937, Lazarus narrowly missed being elected as a Communist councillor in Cowley in 1937. He became Communist Party District Secretary in the South Midlands in 1939 and the District Secretary West Middlesex in 1950.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Acton Communist Party

Acton Communist Party Established 1920

In June 1920 J.E. Scott announced the formation of the Acton Communist Party by discontented members of the Acton and Chiswick branch of the Herald League.

The parliamentary constraints of the old parties and organisations were now hampering revolutionary propaganda, as Scott notes: "We have stood always for the Revolution and the extreme propaganda but could not carry on whilst affiliated to the National Labour Party through no fault of our own" (
The Spur, July 1920).

Another Scott prominent in the Communist party was J.R. "Joe" Scott, Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) , London organiser and Executive member of the AEU from 1942 as well as Communist Party Central Committee member from 1929 into the 1950's.

He was working at De Havillands, North London in 1926 and successfully induced the workers there to walk out before the Engineers were officially called out in the second week.

He was also a leader of the Metal Workers minority Movement

Acton Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE but later AEU) was established in 1914 with Mr G. Lees as Secretary of the Acton branch.

Mr A. Swales was AEU District Organiser for Acton in 1917
Mr A.G. Krull was Acton AEU Chairman in 1917

In March 1919 3,000 on strike in Acton at Engineering works primarily Napiers (and Rotax Motor Accessories) also Engineering factories at Kingston

large crowds gathered in Acton Vale and Warley Way.

Communists had a banner "The dawn is breaking" present

injunctions awarded against Acton and Kingston branches of the AEU secured in February did perturb the union.

Electricians on strike in Feb 1919 at Berwick's, napier's. W & G's, C.A.V, and Wilkinsons in Acton

"Napiers was the centre of the storm The "Shop" is known to contain some keen Socialist agitators" according to local Acton Gazette & Express Friday February 14th,1919

December 1922 West London branches of the Workers Union held a meeting in Acton Miss K. M ??? Women's Organiser and delegate to the Washington Peace conference was chief speaker with Mr C. Duncan MP

Mr F.W Carter District Organiser of the Hammersmith Workers Union (Local Acton Labour Party President from its inception in 1918) who stated the Workers Union now has three branches in Acton, and one each at Chiswick and Ealing

(Hayes HMV (EMI) being the other large Workers Union branch in West London)