From Peterloo to Chartism: the rise of the British working class

Date: Saturday 26th October
Time: 10:30 - 12:30
Location: Student Central, Room 3D
Speaker: Josh Holroyd

The Peterloo massacre took place 200 years ago in Manchester. This brutal event marked a turning point in the development of the working class and the labour movement in Britain. In the following decades, workers established a mass movement capable of striking fear into the hearts of the ruling class: Chartism.

The Chartists were the first mass working-class political movement in the world. In the 1830s and 40s they mobilised hundreds of thousands of workers around their Charter, the main demand of which was for universal male suffrage to end the political monopoly of the capitalist class. However, the rest of their programme went even further. As Engels stated, if the Chartists' programme had been put into practice, it would have amount to the overthrow of the entire British establishment.

In this discussion, Josh Holroyd discusses why it is vital that we understand the history of the workers’ movement. Marxism is only scientific if it generalises the lessons of these real movements, most of which are airbrushed out of history by the ruling class. It is only Marxism that can preserve and build upon these lessons.

Recommended reading: Chartism - the radical history of the British working class