As Ruskin students and their contacts amongst former students became aware of the drive by people in the Workers’ Educational Association and University Extension movement to take control of Ruskin, they began to organise themselves against it.
Strikes and trade union history
Achieving control of Ruskin College was central to the WEA/extension project. From the summer of 1907 onwards, its supporters threw themselves into open propaganda, behind-the-scenes lobbying and bureaucratic manoeuvring — all aimed at purging the college of whatever stood in their way.
Under the pressure of rising working-class self assertion across the country, the University extension movement accepted Albert Mansbridge’s scheme for tutorial classes and committed study (as opposed to more “popular” bigger lecture classes).
The Workers’ Educational Association was founded in the early 1900s by Albert Mansbridge.
In October 1908 students and former students at Ruskin College in Oxford founded the League of the “Plebs”. From 26 March to 6 April 1909 they took strike action in the college.
Marxists support, orient to, and give great importance to trade unions as basic organisations of the working class. But in most circumstances, in capitalist societies, trade unions are dominated by the better-off sections of the working class, and often follow a narrow sectionalist policy.
Nothing will ever efface for me the memory of my first real strike — on the Salford docks — the first time I saw my class acting as a surging, uncontrolled force breaking the banks of routine capitalist industrial life and, for a while, pitting itself against those who control our lives.
According to a recent article by Mark Smith in "Scotland on Sunday", a “controversial new history" which contains "new revelations unearthed by Stirling University historian Dr.
A discussion series on British working-class history, from the Chartists to today. Download pdf.
[A review of "They knew why they fought: unofficial struggles and leadership on the docks, 1945-1989", by Bill Hunter.]