Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. 6

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Acknowledgements

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p. 7

The idea of a study of Purcell was first suggested to me by Edmund and Ruth Frow. The friendship and encouragement of the Frows are greatly missed, and the early chapters here make extensive use of the Furnishing Trades’ materials held by the Working Class Movement Library which they founded. ...

Abbreviations

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pp. 8-9

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Introduction: around a life

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pp. 10-22

In March 1926, the communist-edited Sunday Worker ran a poll to identify the labour movement leaders most popular with its readers. Topping the list with nearly 4500 votes was the unofficial leader of the Labour left, George Lansbury. Also making the readers’ top ten, as the coal crisis loomed, were three militant miners’ officials, ...

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1. Syndicalism, internationalism and the furnishing trades

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pp. 23-63

In the spring of 1924, Alf Purcell was entering into the period of his fame and notoriety. The previous December, aged fifty-one, he had been returned to parliament in the election that produced the first Labour government. When Ramsay MacDonald included the trade unionist Margaret Bondfield in his administration, ...

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2. Roads to freedom in the 1920s

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pp. 64-105

By 1921, the combative spirit on which syndicalism had thrived was weakening. ‘Black Friday’ – the collapse that April of the triple industrial alliance of miners, railwaymen and dockers – proved the signal for a general industrial retreat. As Purcell wrote to Mann a few weeks afterwards, ‘I am up to my eyes in the vile business of urging the giving of ground in the shape of reduced wages ...

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3. Labour’s Russian delegations

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pp. 106-155

A communist correspondent provides a snapshot of British delegates at an international socialist gathering in Frankfurt in February 1922. The trade unionists were the best of them, and Purcell even had a ‘real revolutionary temper’. None, however, was a match for the ‘intellectual Socialists of the continental type’; ...

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4. ‘Swimming against a flood’: Emma Goldman in London

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pp. 156-195

Adler knew from the start that there was no chance of a Labour Party edition of his brochure.1 The ILP even declined to guarantee assistance with distribution as requested by its likeliest commercial publisher, Allen & Unwin.2 Labour’s international secretary William Gillies was privately sympathetic to Adler’s point of view. ...

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5. The other future?

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pp. 196-232

In 1906 H.G. Wells concluded his book of travel impressions, The Future in America, by reflecting on the wider circulation of this type of literature. Uplifted by America’s ‘morning-time hopefulness’, Wells viewed the recording of such encounters as the means of the world attaining to greater self-awareness, ...

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6. The General Strike

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pp. 233-280

More than any other event it was the nine-day General Strike of May 1926 that destroyed Purcell as a partisan figurehead. Even as the strike was getting underway, Beatrice Webb described it as the death gasp of direct action and moment of reckoning for ‘windbag revolutionary Trade Unionism’.1 ...

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7. Internationalist swansong

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pp. 281-304

By the time that he addressed the IFTU delegates in Paris, Purcell appeared to the communists to have ‘completely disappeared’.1 In the Commons too he hardly spoke, and except in his union journal it is henceforth difficult to find much record of his views. Paris was the exception and an occasion designed to bring out his combative instincts. ...

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Epilogue: a claim-making performer

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pp. 305-309

Purcell died at his home in Crumpsall, Manchester on 24 December 1935. His final years had marked a return to local campaigning themes, as if his moment in the spotlight had never happened. From the ‘massacre on the roads’ and case against high flats, to the threat to civil liberties and the ‘stunt’ of family allowances, ...

Bibliography

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pp. 310-325

Timeline

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pp. 326-334

Index

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pp. 335-348

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Bolshevism and the British left: concluding thoughts

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pp. 349-354

The studies comprising Bolshevism and the British Left have offered an exploration and reflection on the British labour movement’s reception of Bolshevik ideas and material influences in the period between the two world wars. This was the period of the Labour Party’s emergence in its modern form as the main institutional focus of the British left, ...