E.P Thompson on internationalism and refugees
From the 1790s the left and working-class movement has had a tradition of internationalism, of sympathy and solidarity with those fighting oppression elsewhere in the world and a welcome for those who had to flee and make their way to Britain.
In the nineteenth century Britain had an uncomplicated tradition of welcoming refugees which is why Marx and Engels, for example, ended up here.
E.P. Thompson in the Making of the English Working Class sums up the tradition well. He wrote:
The French Revolution of 1830 had a profound impact upon the people, electrifying not only the London Radicals but working-class reformers in distant villages. The struggle for Polish independence was followed anxiously in the working-class press; while Julian Hibbert , in the Rotunda, carried a vote of sympathy with the Lyons weavers in their ill-fated insurrection, likening them to the weavers of Spitalfields.
Of course the predecessors of the Daily Mail were around at this time too. The Gordon Riots in London in 1780 raised the cry of No Popery, they were against religious toleration and sought to attack both the houses and persons of religious minorities- numbers of whom were also in the UK avoiding persecution elsewhere.
The Daily Mail may always sing from the same hymn sheet but rioters did not.
The Gordon Rioters decided that another target of their hatred was bankers and marched to the Bank of England. At that point the Government which had been relaxed about ‘No Popery’ called out the army.
Keith Flett is the Editor of The History of Riots (CSP 2015)