Big Up the Spirit Of The Tolpuddle Martyrs

Tolpuddle 1I am a proud trade unionist and passionate about the importance and purpose of this worthwhile movement. While our movement may not be anywhere near perfect we must realise that it took our ancestors an awful lot of struggle and sacrifice to be able to collectively bargain for our rights to good working terms and conditions. The blood sweat and tears that have been shed over the years should be celebrated.

Growing up under the New Labour regime, I have not personally experienced the massive battering that our older members endured under Thatcher in the 1980s. I feel that older trade unionists still bear the scares of their defeats, which I consider a burden on the fight back against current government policies but we must learn from them.

I strongly feel that some senior trade unionists are leading us in a direction that I personally think will only give us small concessions at best and not a strong fightback against the weak ConDem government that we desperately need. I feel Tolpuddle 2that we are currently experiencing a lull in the movement. We need to change course to continue in the direction that we were heading in last year. We need the spirit of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and other heroic ancestors in our fight against austerity.

We must put into practice what we have learned from past confrontations with elitist governments. We must capitalise on an entire generation that have been angered by cuts, job losses, tuition fees, NHS reforms, privatisation, low pay, unaffordable housing and other injustices inflicted upon it by the current government. I believe that today’s youth want to fight and we must provide them with credible leadership.

All over the world people are rising up to governments and austerity packages that make ordinary people pay drastically for a crisis they did not create. We have seen that without credible trade union organisation the Occupy movement, revolutions in the Middle East, the Spanish Indignant movement and the rage in Athens vanish without achieving all of their aims. I do not believe that we should wait for politicians like Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to say what they may or may not do for us if they regain power while working people continue to pay for the mistakes made in the banking sector. I believe that we need to build our own coalition of like-minded people who are willing to stand up to this government regardless of who they are or where they come from.

I believe that one practical thing we can do as CWU Youth is to push further the motion that got carried at annual conference which we took from Youth Conference that specifically calls the Tolpuddle 3TUC to hold a national demonstration against youth unemployment and highlight the mass injustice that comes with the horrendous nonsense that the current government is inflicting upon us. We on the youth committee will be pursuing this as our priority in the coming months.

Another practical step we will be taking on the committee is to encourage as many young people as possible to come with us for a weekend away at the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival from the 13th-15th July. A similar event will be taking place for our northern members at the Durham Miners’ Gala on the same date.

Tolpuddle is a weekend festival celebrating the spirit of the six farm labourers that were arrested on a charge illegal oath ceremony. The real offence was that they dared to form a trade union in order to defend their livelihoods. For this they were sentenced to seven years transportation to the penal colonies of Australia. The sentences provoked an intense outcry leading to the first great trade union protest. The campaign won free pardons and the Martyrs returned to England. This was a historic victory for trade union rights in Great Britain.

At this festival there will be live music, lots of cider, workshops, camping, barbecues, meetings and fun in the spirit of the Martyrs. I believe this tradition ought to be strengthened with greater participation, especially from today’s younger generation.

I will be encouraging our committee to get back on track in the left direction by taking part in these practical steps that could be very important to our movement going forward. If you are encouraged by this, I hope that you keep involved in the CWU Youth, get organised, keep knowledgeable, come to Tollpuddle and keep the tradition alive so that we can take down this vile government of millionaires together.

David Chivers, Southdowns Amal SE NO1

If you are interested in attending please contact CWU’s South West Regional Secretary – Kevin Beazer via email at