Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eleanor Marx in Sydenham

Sydenham Town has a nice feature of this month's unveiling of a blue plaque commemorating Eleanor Marx (1855-1898) at 7 Jews Walk, Sydenham. Eleanor is best known as the daughter of Karl Marx, but was a prominent socialist in her own right - for instance she was involved in founding the Socialist League with William Morris and others. While living in Sydenham she wrote for the socialist paper Justice on the women's question and other issues.

The Sydenham Town feature includes film of the unveiling with Sydenham Society historian Steven Grindlay providing details of her time in the house from 1895 to 1898. Evidently she bought the house with money left to her by Friedrich Engels, and was partly taken by the house because of its address - she wrote to her sister that she was 'Jewishly proud of her house in Jews Walk' (she was part Jewish).
Her relationship with Edward Aveling was falling apart at this time, despite her nursing him after an illness during which she pushed him around Sydenham in a bath chair, and she apparently poisoned herself (Grindlay has even identified the location of the chemist in Kirkdale which supplied the poison). The plaque opening also featured architectural historian Gavin Stamp and The Strawberry Thieves socialist choir leading the singing of the Internationale.


Anonymous said...

Leanor Marx undoubtedly one Britain's greatest socialists.

yet not fully recognised

bob said...

That's a nice video at Sydenham Town. The News Shopper's article on this was completely dominated by sad old Stalinists, so it was good to see a more rounded version. That rendition of the Internationale, though, is appalling - even my singing would probably have sounded better! ;)

Anonymous said...

Sad Stalinists like the late great Les Stannard or Kath Duncan

People who gave their lives to the cause of the working class of Lewisham

bob said...

Not sure I get what you're saying anonymous. In the News Shopper article about Eleanor, who is one of my heroes, they gave a lot of prominence to the presence of CPB activists and the Strawberry Thieves choir featured prominently in the photo. So, it was good to see the video on Sydenham Town and realise that Eleanor's broader significance had a starring role on the day, and that her local connections were also explored.

So, I didn't mean to say anything about Les Stannard and Kath Duncan and their like. I have a lot of respect for the Communists of the 1930s, who made sacrifices to fight against fascism in Britain, to support those fighting fascism in Spain, and to fight for workers rights locally, nationally and globally. But, ultimately, the version of "socialism" they defended was not good news for the working class.

Republican Spain, whose cause both KD and LS were dedicated to, demonstrates this well. The Communist International of which they were part, and the International Brigades it controlled, and the Republican government it eventually took over, fought Franco, to be sure, but they also squashed working class revolts, and murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of working class militants from other groups, like the POUM and the anarchists. They consciously told lies about these people being in league with fascism, which is a stain on the honour of the working class movement.

While most of the CP activists in 1930s can be forgiven for this, anyone who continued to support that line after the Hitler-Stalin pact, after the Kruschev revelations, after the invasion of Hungary in 56 and Czechoslavakia in 68, after Martial Law in Poland, etc, is dangerously deluded or plain evil, and it is them to whom I am referring when I say "sad Stalinists".

More on this in my series on the Spanish Civil War and in particular here (on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) and here (on the Daily Worker's Claud Cockburn).

Anonymous said...

If it wasnt for Stalin or the Red Army we would be speaking German

As they did on the Channel Islands under the Nazi jackboot and a Quisling governmnet

Anonymous said...

The anarchists dont have the hang ups about the international Brigade as the POUM

Many people went from Lewisham to fight against Franco's fascists in the International Brigade

They should be honoured

they tried to stop Hitlers fascists while most others were still calling it a capitalist war

Yes the surpression of POUM and the CNT was wrong but that was never the fault of the rank and file Brigade member