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'Socialist Opposition to the First World War' exhibition launching at the Marx Memorial Library

The Marx Memorial Library and Workers' School is pleased to announce the launch of our Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition Socialist Opposition to the First World War at 11.00 am. The launch will commence at Marx Memorial Library on Sunday 8th November 2015 where it will remain for six weeks. Thereafter it will  move to other locations inside and outside London. It will run until the end of March 2016.

Our exhibition documents the hidden history of the First World War; the rise of the shop stewards' movement, opposition to militarisation, the splits within the Suffragettes over war and patriotism, and the influence of socialist politics on the anti-war movement.

Britain was not united over the merits of the war effort, and we seek to show how opposition to the war was an integral part of daily life for many working class men and women. We want to challenge any narrative around the war that ignores the deep and lasting divisions in society over the so-called Great War.

We are launching the exhibition on Remembrance Sunday to encourage and ensure that our memories of the war recall that opposition to war and militarism is a longstanding and proud part of British history and society.


For further information about the exhibition please contact:

Professor Mary Davis

Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DU

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Phone: #44(0) 207 253 1485


We have recently developed new website, launched twice weekly guided tours and have new education programme – these developments form part of our outreach programme.

We want to build on these foundations and welcome new people into our building with

·         A new sign on the outside of the building so people know who we are (£300)

·         Two 'welcome' panels introducing visitors to the MML and its collections (£1000)

·         Specific panels and plaques on significant individuals and aspects of our collections (e.g. Claudia Jones, Bob Crow £700)

·         Display case for temporary exhibitions in our Main Hall (£800)

Total = £2,800

This will

-          Help us to make our unique archive and museum collections available and accessible

-          Help us in our mission to open up to new audiences and welcome people into Marx House

-          Commemorate and pay tribute to leading figures in labour history



Published in collaboration with Manifesto Press with support from the International Brigade Memorial Trust and UNITE the Union.

Bob Cooney (1907-1984) was a prominent anti-fascist and communist in Aberdeen who joined the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Published for the first time, “Proud Journey” is his memoir of those turbulent times. It takes us from street clashes with Blackshirts to the battlefields of Spain and the heroism and sacrifice of Cooney and his comrades facing the forces of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. Written in 1944 and with the Second World War as a backdrop, this is a rousing personal account of one man’s part in the long and bloody fight against fascism that helped define this key period of twentieth century history. Cooney paints an action-packed and politically-charged picture of struggle, solidarity, comradeship – and hope.






We're currently developing a wide range of resources associated with the exhibition and project which can be downloaded and used here. If you'd like more information or would like to arrange a visit to your school/college then don't hesitate to get in touch

MML Google account Folder id=0B-JqJtw8blaldW54WWNKeEhIT0E&usp

Tom Mann recounts the events surrounding the publication of the Don't Shoot Leaflet in his autobiography Home Again. Extract courtesy of the Marxist Internet Archive.

The opening of the year 1912 found the syndicalists exceptionally active. Our little monthly sheet had given place to a monthly paper called The Syndicalist. I was much occupied in platform work advocating militant trade unionism, and constantly urging the workers to cease relying upon parliament and to resort to direct action. Six months before this there had appeared an Open Letter to British Soldiers. This had been printed in The Irish Worker. It was not signed, but had been written by a comrade in the building trade in Liverpool. In the January number (the first) of The Syndicalist the letter was reprinted without comment.

The preview of the Socialist Opposition to the First World War exhibition was held at Marx House as part of London Open House on 20th September 2015.

More details.....

Helen Crawfurd had been an enthusiastic member of the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), but had broken with that organisation in 1914 when its leadership abandoned the fight for the vote and enthusiastically supported the war effort – Helen was shocked at this volte face and hence together with her friend Agnes Dollen formed the Women’s Peace Crusade. This body campaigned throughout Scotland to end war and to oppose conscription when it was introduced in 1916. Crawfurd was also active in opposing the rent increases introduced early in the war especially for munitions workers. Together with Mary Barbour and others, they, supported by the Clyde Workers’ Committee, organised rent strikes. These strikes were so successful that the government was forced to intervene and, in 1915, passed the Rent Restriction Act. Mary Barbour was an active member of the ILP and was later adopted by that organisation as a candidate and duly elected for the Fairfield ward. She was later elected onto Glasgow City Council and became a Baillie and a Magistrate.(One of the very few women of her era to achieve such positions. She never forgot working class women and continued to campaign on their behalf.

By this time it was clear that Helen Crawfurd was moving to the left politically. She joined the Independent Labour Party in 1920, but after attending the Congress of the 3rd International she decided that the ILP was reformist and she left it to join the Communist Party.

Under Mary Macarthur's leadership, the NFWW supported World War 1 and the industrial truce called by the TUC. Sylvia Pankhurst labelled Mary Macarthur’s work in the Central Committee for the Employment of Women (CCEW) as a ‘gross betrayal’ given that the rates paid fell below those set by the first Trade Boards.

However Mary Macarthur was a strong supporter of equal pay for women  and her work during the war is testimony to this. She discovered that although the TUC had supported equal pay in policy terms since 1888, very little was done to fight for the policy in any meaningful way. Job titles were changed and adjustments made, usually of a simple type, so that the women’s work could never be declared to be the same as that of men and thus not eligible for equal pay. Hence the demand was changed by Mary and the women themselves from ‘equal pay for equal work’ to ‘equal wages to workers of equal value’. This clearly presaged the 20th century equal value demand given the disappointment of the Equal Pay legislation.

In 1920 the NFWW voted to merge with the National Union of General Workers. Mary strongly supported this, but had no inkling that her union would, eventually  be totally submerged within the men’s organisation. She did not live to see this unfortunate outcome. She died five months after the merger.

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  • Opening Times
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Opening Times

We're open from Monday-Thursday 12 noon-4pm. Get in touch for room bookings and guided tours

Underground & Bus

Farringdon station on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.


Farringdon Station - Thameslink services for connections to London Bridge, St Pancreas, Brighton, East Croydon

Contact Us

If you want more information then contact us by phone on #44(0) 207 253 1485 or visit the contact us page