The link between the Tolpuddle Martyrs & Jeremy Corbyn

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2017 by kmflett

From the Tolpuddle Martyrs to Jeremy Corbyn: how they are linked

You may think it unlikely that there is a link between the Tolpuddle Martyrs and Jeremy Corbyn, but there is.

The Martyrs, at least in the depictions we have of them, did not have beards, so that rules out an obvious possibility.

The 1834 Tolpuddle trial and transportation was about the right to form a trade union to combat low wages. It was to take another 40 years or so, to 1873/4 until an agricultural labourer’s union was able to organise in anything like an effective way.

That Union’s leader Joseph Arch realised that on its own such a union probably would make at best limited progress. Support from craft unions in big cities was forthcoming in terms of solidarity, and that helped but it wasn’t a winning strategy.

Arch thought that the vote and Parliamentary action could help. He was one of those pushing for the 1884 Reform Act that did give numbers of agricultural labourers the vote. Arch was not apparently a great Parliamentary performer, he sat with the Liberals.

Yet the vote meant that Parliament had to pay some attention to the ‘Land Question’ an issue in British radical politics going back to Thomas Spence and then the Chartist Land Plan. These were plans to opt out of industrial capitalism and go back to the then only recently past days of agricultural work for those who were now factory workers.

This was not how the issue of the land in the 1880s was seen though. Forming an agricultural workers union was not about opting out of capitalism but of doing battle with it.

The demand for land began to focus on the allotment, sometimes known as ‘three acres and a cow’, although suggests quite a large allotment by modern standards.

The idea was that an allotment would provide a way of keeping going when workers had taken strike action and had no wages. Just as the union provided independence from the boss, so an allotment could underwrite that.

The link by now to Jeremy Corbyn is hopefully clear.

The Labour leader is a long-term allotment holder. He doesn’t, I think, have it for quite the same reason as an agricultural worker would have done. Were he to lose is seat in Parliament he probably would not need to rely on his allotment to get by.

Yet as Corbyn told the Editor of the Morning Star Ben Chacko last weekend, he was of course brought up in Wiltshire in an agricultural environment and has always taken a keen interest in rural struggles. No doubt the link between the Martyrs and himself is not lost on Corbyn


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