Saturday, 26 September 2015

James Kier Hardie (15/8/1856 -26/9/15) - Man of the people.

I remember today James Kier Hardie, on the 100th anniversary of his death. This giant of the socialist movement, who rose from coalminer to become the first Labour Party leader, and one of the greatest evangelists for the ideas of socialism.
His life was deep-rooted in the hard lot of the poor, for whom he fought so sturdily  and from whom he never turned away. He was born Agust 15, 1856, in a single room cottage near Newarthill, in the heart of the Lanarkshire coalfield, and was the eldest of a family of seven sons and two daughters.
He would derive from his mum, many  of his good qualities. She was a woman of marked individuality and strength of character, nothing could daunt her, or dampen her convictions.
At the age of ten, he went to work in a local mine, where through self-education he would learn the lessons of solidarity and comradeship. This would help him as he used his voice to speak of a world where woman and man were born equal. Denouncing the rich, the politicians and the establishment, all exploiters, and would see him calling for the destruction of the capitalist system. He was one of the greatest agitators of his day. ( who reminds me of another bearded teetotaller, another frugal person with their diet and advocate of passion currently spreading his message, Mr Jeremy Corbyn)
He was to help found the Independent Labour Party in 1893, and was one of the first 2 Labour M.Ps elected to the UK Parliament. He was to mark himself out as  a radical both by his dress - he wore a tweed suit and a cloth cap, whilst  most other members of Parliament wore more formal dress - and the subjects that he advocated - the nationalisation of the coalmines, for the unemployed, womens rights, republicanism and free education. Stuff that still echoes strongly today . 
For over twenty years he tirelessly addressed meeting after meeting, nearly every day and night, travelling long distances, ,to be known for his powerful oratory negating meals, and continuing to carry on  spreading ideas with comrades long into the night. Never to forget his working class roots,  these people he completely understood,  he realised their plight, never deserting them, with his untarnished devotion and faith in their cause.
his first constituency was in West Ham (London, 1892 ) and then Merthyr Tydfil, here in Wales. He would spend  the rest of his life devoted to the causes he believed in, publicy defending general strikes, syndicalism and militancy. He was one of the first  people also to call for equality between the races of South Africa, and because he was a lifelong pacifist and humanist, this led him to believe that the interests of the working classes were inseperable from peace,and when the First World War  broke out in 1914, he was to oppose it, and was to go on to address countless anti-war demonstrations up and down the country and to support conscientious objectors.
Sadly his dreams of peace were not realised , and after a series of strokes he died in Glasgow on 21 September 1915, a true man of the people, no richer when he died than when he began his political career having never surrendered his primary beliefs. Long may his deeds and words be respected.


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