Monday, December 17, 2012

Not a Posh Boy, Knew the Price of Milk

This is Clem Edwards, the Knighton born trade unionist, journalist, barrister and politician, pictured at the age of 25 in 1894. By which time he had already:

Assisted Ben Tillett in founding the Tea Operatives and General Labourers Union.

As Assistant Secretary of the Dockers Union played a leading role in the London Dock Strike of 1889.

As General Secretary of the newly formed Federation of Carrying Trades built up a union with 130,000 members.

Organised the great Hyde Park rally of female laundry workers in 1891.

Masterminded the Progressive Party's clean sweep of the East End in the London County Council elections of 1892.

As Labour Editor of the Sun newspaper organised the fund which raised £67000 (around £3 million in modern terms) for the striking miners of Wales and the English Midlands in 1893.

Of course in later years Edwards, always a conciliator, opposed the Leninists and those who sought to use the trade union movement for their own more revolutionary ends.  Sylvia Pankhurst called him "the notorious anti-socialist."  Perhaps this is the reason his contribution to the New Unionism has been largely ignored.  Personally I would knock down the monument in New Radnor to "Radnorshire's... most distinguished son" and replace it with a statue of Clem Edwards.  Not much chance of that though, he didn't even get a mention in the recently published history of his home town.

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