Last Saturday’s event commemorated the lives of the Frows, showing how their belief in communism was about grassroots activity which included the creation of the Working Class Movement Library in the 1950s. They wanted to encourage future generations to understand the importance of working class history to political activity.
Mike Luft, communist and anti-fascist organiser, opened the event with a reminder of the importance of communism at a time when celebrations of the 1917 revolution were being airbrushed, obscuring its inspiring message of hope for making the world a more just and equitable place. He said the Frows were part of that history and had, with many other people, committed their life to communism and political activity.
Actor, Joan McGee then read Bertolt Brecht’s poem Questions From a Worker Who Reads (1935), a reminder that it is the people at the bottom who really make history.
Radical historian Michael Herbert spoke of Eddie Frow’s involvement in the National Union of Unemployed Workers and how that had spurred him on to commit his lifetime to communist politics.
Charlotte Hughes of Tameside against the Cuts made the link with today and how life for poor people had deteriorated under the weight of austerity and the attacks on benefits. But she talked about the work that she was doing in Ashton-under-Lyne and the campaign against Universal Credit.
Dorothy Winard spoke about the life of Ruth Frow who had shaken free from her stultifying background of middle class propriety by joining the WRAF in 1939, becoming a communist in 1945, and entering into 50 years of partnership with Eddie.
Hilary Jones of the IBMT then read the Leon Rosselson song “The Song of the Old Communist” a eulogy to the thousands of people who took part in communist politics in this country over the years – a message even more important in 2017.
Contributions from the floor included Royston Futter, a library Trustee, who spoke about how the WCML was brought to Salford in 1987 and Maggie Cohen, chair of the Trustees, who was friend and comrade with Ruth and Eddie for over sixty years. I spoke about the generosity of Ruth and Eddie to Irish political prisoner John O’Dowd and a message was read from Alex Ritman about the kindness of Ruth to him when he had to wait for his parents when they were at Communist party meetings.
Mike Luft spoke about how young people in a largely Jewish area of Manchester, Cheetham Hill, joined the Young Communist League and played a crucial role in local and national politics. Not just in local street politics opposing Mosley’s Blackshirts but in organisations that today have been cleansed of that communist background ie. Benny Rothman leading role in the Mass Trespass at Kinder Scout in 1932.
In 2017 one of the organisations which is encouraging young peoples’ activity is the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union and Lauren McCourt explained about how she had became involved in trade union activity at work. Lauren gave an inspiring speech about how the recent first ever strike at McDonalds in the UK had encouraged many young workers to join the union. She said it was about organising workers including migrants and supporting people across the world to take on exploitative employers. Her speech showed how the message of communism; about how liberating one person can lead to the liberation of everyone is as relevant today as in the 1930s.
Balladress Jennifer Reid and actor Joan McGee ended the day with a series of songs and poems that reflected the lives of the Frows and their many comrades locally, nationally and internationally. This included a poem called “Freedom” written by author and anti-fascist activist Ethel Carnie and “Parkside Occupation” a song about the Miners’ Wives in the 1984-5 Miners Strike.
Thanks for photos by Steve Speed contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org