Stoke Newington Suffragettes

I’m very grateful to the History of Stokey twitter feed for posting these two images. (I’ll even let them off calling it “Stokey”).

First of all an amazing poster for a meeting in 1906:

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The space the meeting was held in is still used by the Library for exhibitions and events.

Millicent (or Mrs Henry) Fawcett and her husband have been mentioned in a previous post about Hackney Suffragettes and the 1866 petition.

Also an image of Suffragettes outside Stoke Newington station in 1899:

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Any further pointers or information about the women’s suffrage movement in Hackney, Stoke Newington or Shoreditch would be gratefully received.

Reprinted: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900

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This inspiring pamphlet was originally published by Centerprise in the 1980s but has just been reissued in a lovely facsimile edition. It’s available in Pages of Hackney and Stoke Newington Bookshop, direct from the authors on Amazon and presumably other places (let me know?).

Five quid gets you an eminently readable and well researched look into the radical working class culture of the era.

Pages are also organising an event with both the authors – here is the blurb from their site:

Working Class Club Life and Politics in
Hackney 1870 – 1900
Tuesday 17th November, 7pm
Pages of Hackney
70 Lower Clapton Road
E5 0RN
Tickets £TBA

In the heady days of late Victorian London, Hackney was regarded as the most radical – even revolutionary – district of London with a large number of liberal reform and socialist clubs and organisations across the borough. These clubs organised lectures, demonstrations, musical concerts, outings, and education classes, and famous radicals such as William Morris were regular speakers.

Barry Burke and Ken Worpole recreate the world of radical Hackney, to mark the publication a new edition of their original 1980 study.

worpole.net

The Real World War 1

Some friends and comrades have started work on an initiative to put forward a radical history of the first world war.

There is (inevitably) a blog http://therealww1.wordpress.com/ including a very good “about” page and reading list.

Other activities are planned…

If I get time I will try to put something together on the war and Hackney – any suggestions or contributions would be welcome.

 

Standing up to corporal punishment, 1904

An article by Dora B Montefiore, which appeared in the journal New Age in February 1904.

There were 28 Board Schools in Hackney at that time – it’s not clear from the article where this small bit of resistance took place. (See below for some notes on Board Schools)

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Women’s Interests
Corporal punishment

Humanitarians, among whom I trust are many women, owe a debt of gratitude to Arthur Hall, aged 13, who on January 13 at the Board school, Hackney, vindicated by passive resistance his right as a human being to refuse willingly to submit to the indignity of corporal punishment.

If mothers held in the State the position which is their right, it is scarcely believable that these degrading exhibitions of violence inflicted on those still too weak to resist physically could continue. If a boy or girl of thirteen has the moral courage to offer the example of moral resistance to the terror of violence, which hypnotises for the time being his or her companions, that child, properly treated, has the makings of a Hampden, a Josephine Butler, or a Wilberforce.

According to the report in the Morning Leader, the North London magistrate, Mr. Fordham, “compared the boy to a jibbing horse, and said most people would hold that it was not cruelty to thrash a jibbing horse into submission.” As far as I have seen, no one has protested in print against the insolence of this magisterial pronouncement. Putting aside the very doubtfully effective cure in the case of horses (the most highly nervous and sensitive amongst animals) of brutal and senseless thrashings to induce them to submit to the will of man, I would ask Mr. Fordham by what right he dares, in his magisterial capacity, to compare the children entrusted by their parents to the teachers in the Board schools for physical, mental, and moral training to jibbing dumb animals, and advises and approves of their being treated as such?

I would remind him that Board school teachers and magistrates are paid servants of the people, and that they are entrusted with their offices in order that they may train, educate, and influence the children of the people in the highest ideals of good citizenship, and of morality based on the sanctions of what is best in socialised action, not that they may degrade and brutalise those children through the terrors of corporal punishment.

The Facts of the Case

As presented to the public in the newspaper reports, the facts of the case are as follows:- The Chief Technical Instructor at the Board school blew a whistle for the boys to fall into line, “but at that moment another boy had struck at Hall with a knotted rope, and missed; Hall laughed, and the instructor ordered him to stand out for two ‘handers.’.” It was then that Hall, feeling he had done nothing to deserve punishment of that sort refused to submit to the indignity, and the head master, who was then called, must have felt more or less in sympathy with the boy’s attitude, for the report says he advised the boy to submit.

Most lads would have submitted, would have taken the two “handers,” and would thereby have lost force and independence of character. All honour to Hall that he still passively resisted, and refused to hold out his hand to receive the traditional and conventional indignity, which, be it remembered, when all the forces of the powers that be are arraigned against a luckless youngster, is so much easier to submit to than to resist. “He would not, however,” says one of the reports, “be persuaded or forced into submitting to take a punishment which he did not consider he deserved,” and six times he was forcibly held over a bench while he received in silence six blows with a stout cane.

Nine days after the thrashing severe bruises were found by the police surgeon on the boy’s body. Do mothers realise that the bodies of their children are their own flesh and blood, and, that each blow inflicted on those tender organisms is a blow struck at their own personal dignity and at their own motherhood?

The senselessness of the punishment

To take no higher ground, but arguing merely from the comparison of the jibbing horse, which appeared appropriate to the magistrate before whom the case was tried, I am prepared to maintain from experience that more horses are made confirmed jibbers by thrashing than are cured of the habit by the use of this too often senseless method.

In Australia, where horseflesh is cheaper, where colts are seldom handled till they are rising four, and where the methods of breaking are sharp, senseless, and brutal, the young animal, not understanding what is required of it, often becomes sulky and inclined to jib. The only panacea known to the ordinary bushman is thrashing, and more thrashing, and still more thrashing. Sickening scenes, that have made my blood boil, and caused me to feel ashamed for male humanity, are the result; and Australia possesses a record number of jibbers.

Just as in old convict days what were known as obstinate convicts both in Tasmania and Australia were on several occasions flogged to death, so nowadays wretched, nervous, terrified horses, flogged into stupidity, lie down and die on dusty bush roads, the victims of men in whom the germs of senseless cruelty have doubtless been sown by previous cruel treatment.

From personal experience on two occasions with young horses, pronounced confirmed jibbers, and sold for a song, I can affirm that kind and understanding training and handling can change these poor obstinate dumb beasts into affectionate willing friends, eager to respond to the slightest turn of the wrist or pressure of the muscle of the leg when being driven or ridden.

I therefore deny Mr. Fordham’s assertion that it is necessary and not cruel to thrash a jibbing horse into submission, and I protest in the name of human dignity, of advanced morality, and of scientific pedagogy against the methods of discipline advocated by that gentleman, and carried out by the head master of the Board school, Hackney.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

From: http://www.marxists.org/archive/montefiore/1904/02/corporal-punishment.htm

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Dora B Montefiore (1851-1933) was a communist and suffragette.

NOTES

Board Schools

The London School Board was created under the Elementary Education Act 1870 to set up schools in the area covered by the London County Council.

The Hackney division of the school board for London included Shoreditch and Bethnal Green and had offices at 205 Mare Street. The board was warned in 1872 that compulsory attendance could be achieved only after a building programme in the poorest districts, where absentees were “of such a low order” as to be unfit to mix with children in regular attendance.

From: ‘Hackney: Education’, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 148-165. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22718

Corporal Punishment

From Wikipedia:

In state-run schools, and also in private schools where at least part of the funding came from government, corporal punishment was outlawed by Parliament with effect from 1987.

In other private schools it was banned in 1999 (England and Wales), 2000 (Scotland) and 2003 (Northern Ireland).

(However in 1993, the European Court of Human Rights held in Costello-Roberts v. UK that giving a seven-year-old boy three ‘whacks’ with a gym shoe over his trousers was not a forbidden degrading treatment.)

A Radical History of Hackney Parks

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“The Park is called the People’s Park
And all the walks are theirs
And strolling through the flowery paths
They breathe exotic airs,
South Kensington, let it remain
Among the Upper Ten.
East London, with useful things,
Be left with working men.

The rich should ponder on the fact
Tis labour has built it up
A mountain of prodigious wealth
And filled the golden cup.
And surely workers who have toiled
Are worthy to behold
Some portion of the treasures won
And ribs of shining gold.”

An ode to Victoria Park, 1872
(from Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park)

The text below was originally published as a pamphlet, bashed out for the Radical History Network meeting on “Community Empowerment and Open Green Spaces”, July 10th 2013. (I have a couple of the pamphlets left – drop me an email if you want one.)

It’s full of holes, a work in progress. Get in touch with additions, criticisms, comments.

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1275 The area that is now London Fields was recorded as common pastureland adjoining Cambridge Heath. In 1540 the name London Field is found recorded as a separate item consisting of around 100 acres in changing ownership of land. London Field was one of the many “commonable lands” of Hackney where the commoners of the parish could graze their livestock on the fields from Lammas Day (Anglo Saxon for bread mass), August 1st, celebrating the first loaf after the crops had been harvested, to Lady Day, March 25th. This arrangement was known as Lammas Rights and was protected by law. (from here)

1700s In the Marshes towards Hackney Wick were low public houses, the haunt of highwaymen. Dick Turpin was a constant guest at the “White House” or “Tyler’s Ferry” and few police-officers were bold enough to approach the spot.

1750 onwards Clissold House (originally named Paradise House) was built, in the latter half of the 18th century, for Jonathan Hoare, a City merchant, Quaker, philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner. (His brother Samuel was one of the founders of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.). The grounds of the house went on to become Clissold Park.

1793 Big open-air demonstration on Hackney Downs, in support of the revolutionary gains in France. The tutors Richard Price, Joseph Priestley and Gilbert Wakefield organised lectures on the French Revolution at the New College, a non-conformist academy (“by-word for revolutionary opinion”) at Lower Clapton.

1840 Abney Park Cemetery opens as the first fully non-denominational burial ground in Europe (where anyone could be buried, but especially non-conformists, dissenters etc). Many anti-slavery campaigners are buried there.

1845 Victoria Park is opened following a petition by 30,000 local people to Queen Victoria. “There was no bathing pool provided and local youths were in the habit of bathing – naked! – in the adjacent Regent’s Canal.  Attempts to police such shocking behaviour were unavailing and within a few years a pool was provided in the park itself.” – Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park

1848 Chartists meet at Bonners Park (near Victoria Park) to march on Parliament.

1860s Hackney Downs open space (originally common land) preserved as parkland as a result of pressure by the Commons Preservation Society.

1866 Widespread pickets and demonstrations for universal male suffrage as advocated by the Reform League during summer. After disorder at Hyde Park the Tory government banned all protest meetings throughout London. The ban was widely ignored; a huge “illegal” rally took place in Victoria Park.

1872 180 acres in Hackney are preserved as public open space and protected from the encroachment of development. Including Clapton Common and Cockhanger Green (now boringly called Stoke Newington Common).

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In the 1880s the grounds of Clissold House and the adjacent Newington Common were threatened with development, and two prominent campaigners, Joseph Beck of The City of London and John Runtz of The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) persuaded the Board of MBW to buy the land and create a public park. (from Clissold Park User Group, as was the image above)

1885 William Morris speaks at Victoria Park:

The political culture of the day was not simply confined to the clubs and indoor meeting places. The open-air meeting, whether in the park, or on the street corner, remained the principal forum for addressing the uninitiated, convincing the unconvinced, spreading the word. William Morris was one of the mast well known public speakers for socialism of the period, and visited Hackney often. There is a fine portrait of him speaking to a crowd in Victoria Park in 1885 in Tom Mann’s Memoirs:

He was a picture on an open air platform. The day was fine, the branches of the tree under which he was speaking spread far over the speaker. Getting him well in view, the thought came, and has always recurred as I think of that first sight of Morris – “Bluff King Hal”. I did not give careful attention to what he was saying, for I was chiefly concerned to get the picture of him in my mind, and then to watch the faces of the audience to see how they were impressed…. Nine-tenths were giving careful attention, but on the fringe of the crowd were some who had just accidentally arrived, being out for a walk, and having unwittingly come upon the meeting. These stragglers were making such remarks as: ‘Oh, this is the share-and-share-alike crowd’; ‘Poverty, eh, he looks all right, don’t he?’ But the audience were not to be distracted by attempts at ribaldry: and as Morris stepped off the improvised platform, they gave a fine hearty hand-clapping which showed real appreciation.

(From Hackney Propaganda: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900)

1887 Free speech demo in Victoria Park in March.

1889 Clissold Park was opened by the newly formed London County Council (LCC). The two ponds in the park are named the Beckmere and the Runtzmere in honour of the two principal founders.

1926 Victoria Park is the site for some enthusiastic speeches in support of the General Strike. The park is closed briefly to the public during the strike when the army is stationed there – for reasons which seem to be unclear.

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1930s Hackney Red Radio (a branch of the Workers Theatre Movement) perform agit prop and pro-working class skits and plays. The group performs in parks, streets etc, including London Fields, where they are pelted with over-ripe tomatoes by an unappreciative audience on one occasion.

“We are Red Radio,
Workers’ Red Radio,
We Show you how you’re robbed and bled;
The old world’s crashing,
Let’s help to smash it
And build a workers’ world instead.”

1936 British Union of Fascists holds regular rallies in Victoria Park including clashes with anti-fascists. Also a large anti-fascist meeting in July organised by the Trades Councils of North and East London: “A mile long procession headed by a brass band culminated in a large public meeting which declared its unalterable opposition to fascism and to the war which it would inevitably lead.” Fascists attempt to march through East London in October for another Victoria Park rally, but are prevented from doing so by anti-fascists: The Battle of Cable Street. They did not pass.

1939 Trenches are dug in Hackney Downs, Victoria Park and other open spaces at the outset of the 2nd World War.

(There is a bit of gap here! Can you help fill it? What happened between the 1930s and the 1970s?)

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1978 80,000 attend huge Anti-Nazi League concert in Victoria Park (apparently the stage was in Hackney but the audience was in Tower Hamlets!).

1980s Three GLC-organised festivals in Victoria Park. Two are themed around peace / against nuclear weapons – including one on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1983.

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1981 Funk The Wedding concert takes place in Clissold Park on the day of the marriage of Charles and Di. (from History Is Made At Night, as is the image above)

1983 Clissold Park Free Festival, August?! (mentioned here, any further info welcome)

1990s The demolition of London Fields Lido is resisted by the people of Hackney, including standing in front of the bulldozers. Local people led campaigns to reopen the Lido and cleared away vegetation. The children’s paddling pool which was closed in 1999, was reopened by local people for summer seasons. In 1998 the Lido was squatted for housing, a café and communal events. In August 1998 there was the Carnival of the Dispossessed, a benefit for Reclaim The Streets. The Lido was squatted for a second time 2002-2005. (From Past Tense)

1990 Hackney residents burn Poll Tax bills in Clissold Park.

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1991 Anti-Fascist Action sponsor Unity Carnival on Hackney Downs:

“AFA had surprised everyone by organising the biggest anti-fascist event for over a decade, drawing 10,000 people to the Unity Carnival on Hackney Downs. Supported by a wide range of organisations, from the Hackney Joint Shop Stewards Committee, to the Fire Brigade Union, the Carnival programme again drew attention to rising levels of race attacks and urged people to become pro-active: ‘We have organised today’s event to draw attention to the growing number of racist attacks especially in east London. The fact that some sections of the community virtually live under siege is unacceptable and we hope you are prepared to do more than just come to this symbolic show of unity. Support the activities on the back of this programme to get organised and do something to stop racist attacks.'”

Sean Birchall – Beating The Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action (Freedom, 2010) p250

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1994 Hackney Homeless Festival, Clissold Park – 30,000 people. Clashes with police afterwards. (image by Jamie from tribe.net)

1996 Hackney Anarchy Week, a ten day festival including a punks’ picnic and 3-sided football match in Clissold Park.

2007 After much resistance and protest, the Manor Garden Allotments (near Hackney Wick, but apparently not technically in Hackney!) are demolished to make way for the Olympics. Similar struggles take place on Hackney Marshes (where football pitches are closed to make way for a coach park)

2012 A small “Occupy London” camp sets up briefly in Haggerston Park.

Sources/Acknowledgements

http://www.londonfieldsusergroup.org.uk/

http://www.clissoldpark.com/park-history/

Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park

Barry Burke and Ken Worpole – Hackney Propaganda: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900 (Centerprise, 1980) (William Morris)

Barry Burke – Rebels With A Cause: The History of Hackney Trades Council (Centerprise. 1975)

History Is Made At Night (Funk The Royal Wedding)

Past Tense (London Fields Lido)

Getting Involved

Hackney Council’s list of Park User Groups.

Further Reading: Modern

The Rise of the Friends Groups Movements, by Dave Morris

Finsbury Park: A History of Community Empowerment, by Hugh – Friends of Finsbury Park

The Community-Led Transformation of Lordship Rec, by Friends of Lordship Rec

Further Reading: Older

Down With The Fences: Battles For The Commons In South London, by Past Tense

Subversive of Public Decency: Open Space In North / North East London: radical crowds, immorality, and struggles over enclosure, by Past Tense (not online yet)

Lenin in Hackney

In 1907 the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was held in a church on the corner of Southgate Road and Balmes Road in the De Beauvoir area of Hackney.

Attendees included Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Rosa Luxemburg.

In Hackney, That Rose Red Empire, Iain Sinclair notes:

RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONISTS AFRAID OF THE CAMERA

Block headline. Daily Mirror, 1907. Southgate Road. Procession of men in bourgeois-workers’ funeral outfits, umbrellas, removed bowlers disguising beards. Iron railings. Lumpy ecclesiastical bricks. Churches like prisons. Journalists are spooks, double agents, narks. Pigment is metaphor: blood red. Not til the red fog rises. Afraid of the camera’s cyclopean eye, as they walk heads bowed towards it.

Here is Stella Rimington (former Director General of MI5)  to tell us more:

The Congress

Not sure what the provenance of this picture is - can anyone help?

Not sure what the provenance of this picture is – can anyone help?

[Image nicked from here.]

The Congress was a turning point for the RSDLP, with the revolutionary Bolshevik faction winning out against their moderate Menshevik rivals:

“the Party will henceforth pursue the strictly class policy of the socialist proletariat. The red flag of the proletariat will no longer be hauled down before the spell-binders of liberalism. A mortal blow has been struck at the vacillation characteristic of intellectuals, which is unbecoming to the proletariat.”

J.V. Stalin – Notes of a Delegate

One of the other discussions was about whether or not armed robberies were an OK way of securing funds for revolutionary activity. Somehow the Mensheviks managed to get a resolution passed which condemned that sort of thing. Weeks later a group of Bolsheviks made off with 341,000 rubles (over 2 million quid in today’s money) in the Tiflis Bank Robbery in Georgia.

There is a more detailed account of the Contress at Wikipedia, and Lenin’s collected utterances during the event are available at marxists.org.

Trotsky provides some fascinating insights into the social and financial aspects of the Congress:

“The party congress of 1907 held its meetings in a socialist church in London. It was a protracted, crowded, stormy, and chaotic congress. The second Duma was still alive in St. Petersburg.

The revolution was subsiding, but it was still arousing great interest, even in English political circles. Prominent liberals invited the better-known delegates to their houses to show them off to their guests.

The ebbing tide of the revolution was already evident in the lessening of the party funds. There was not enough money for the return journey, or even to carry the congress to its conclusion. When this sad news re-echoed under the arches of the church, cutting into the discussion on armed uprisings as it did, the delegates looked at one another in alarm and amazement.

What was to be done? We could not stay in the church, of course. But a way out was found, and in quite an unexpected form. An English liberal agreed to lend the Russian revolution three thousand pounds, as nearly as I can remember the figure. He demanded, however, that the revolutionary promissory note be signed by all the delegates at the congress, and so the Englishman received a document bearing several hundred signatures, in the characteristic signs of all the races of Russia. He had to wait a long time, however, for the payment of the note.

During the years of the reaction and the war, the party could not even dream of such huge sums. It was the Soviet government that bought back the promissory note of the London congress. Revolution carries out its obligations, although usually not without delay.”

Leon Trotsky – My Life, Chapter XVI

An article in the capitalist lapdog Evening Standard notes that:

Most participants at the congress lodged in Stepney. But not all of them. The individuals who then headed the Marxist movement – Lenin, Georgii Plekhanov and Yuli Martov – preferred to stay in bourgeois Bloomsbury.

They admired its cleanliness and orderliness. With the British Museum in the vicinity they obtained readers tickets under pseudonyms. Among the egalitarian Marxists, some were more equal than others.

The Venue

Brotherhood Church, Southgate Road, Hackney

Brotherhood Church, Southgate Road, Hackney

I can still see the bare walls of the ridiculously shabby wooden church in the suburbs of London, the lancet windows of a small narrow hall much like the classroom of a poor school. It was only from the outside that the building resembled a church. Inside there was a total absence of any religious attributes and even the low pulpit stood not in the back of the hall but squarely between the two doors.

I had never met Lenin until that year, nor even read him as much as I should have done. I was strongly drawn to him, how-ever, by what I had read of his writings, and particularly by the enthusiastic accounts of people who were personally acquainted with him. When we were introduced he gripped my hand firmly, probed me with his penetrating eyes, and said in the humorous tone of an old friend:

“I’m glad, you came. You like a fight, don’t you? Well, there’s going to be a big scrap here.”

Maxim Gorky

Attentive readers of this blog will have seen the Brotherhood Church being mentioned here before, in Hackney Propaganda: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900:

It should not be thought that all religious thinking and church movements were unanimously hostile to the ideas of socialism. There was in this period a movement of Labour Churches.

One of the more ‘utopian’  religious projects which found itself a home in Hackney was the Brotherhood Church which was established in Southgate Road in 1891. It was set up by the Reverend Bruce Wallace – whose name later appears as a speaker at the Kingsland branch of the Socialist Democratic Federation – when he took over an almost derelict church and re-opened it as a centre for a long-term religious and political project.

The following account comes from a book on English utopian experiments, Heavens Below:

“With J.C. Kenworthy he (Wallace) propagated Tolstoyan ideals. A grocery and vegetable co-operative was opened on the 20th Jan. 1894 in Nos. 1 and 5 Downham Road, Kingsland. They aimed to pay Trade Union wages and provide sickness benefits and old age pensions. Unlike other contemporary co-ops the capital subscribed by the Brotherhood to the store earned no interest and the customer’s profit was not paid to them but saved for the purpose of land for new communities. (24)”

The Brotherhood Church survived into the 20th century, preaching and advocating a mixture of Marxism and Christianity so that services would combine readings from the Bible with hymns sung from the Labour Hymn Book.

I’m hoping to write more about The Brotherhood Church soon, but I think it’s clear from the above that it wasn’t such a strange choice to host the Congress – especially as 338 delegates attended – a few more than you can fit into a room above a pub.

So, Hackney played a minor role in the build up to the Russian Revolution! Part of me is quite chuffed with that, but another part wishes that the Irish Dockers mentioned in the Youtube clip had given Stalin a much bigger beating whilst they had the chance…

Lenin in Clapton, too!

The Wikipedia entry on Clapton Square also mentions Lenin visiting his comrade Theodore Rothstein there a couple of years earlier in 1905. Rothstein was a Russian emigre, forced to leave the country of his birth in 1890 “for political reasons”.

Theodore Rothstein, Clapton Communist

Theodore Rothstein, Clapton Communist

Rothstein wrote numerous articles for the British left-wing press at the time. He was a member of various British political groups also (the Social Democratic Federation, British Socialist Party, etc) as well as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He worked as a journalist, going on to become a Russian translator for the Foreign Office and War Office (although he opposed the First World War).

He lived in England for thirty years, returning to post-revolutionary Russia in 1920, where he served as a diplomat and academic. Theodore Rothstein died in Moscow in 1953. His son, Andrew was also a life-long communist who remained in the UK until his death in 1994.

(More on Lenin in London here – including a suggestion that anarchist Peter Kropotkin may have attended the Congress)