'Wearing Badges is Not Enough'
... but it's a start, surely!
So, to mark the exact centenary today of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Lenin to power in Russia - OK, that's just a coincidence, but a happy coincidence - I was given a wonderful box load, yes a box full, of political badges! 520 of them. When I got them home, the first thing I did was a take a long look at them all and count them.
The badge he's holding reads: 'get britain OUT of common market'. He voted 'no' in the 1975 referendum. More than that, as a student at the old Polytechnic of North London he decorated the streets of Holborn and Kentish Town to help get the message across.
The slogan, as he remembers it: 'Say NO to the Common Market, and YES to the world'. Good try - but the referendum vote went the other way.
Werrner's spell in student politics were elongated by his success in getting elected, several times, to sabbatical student union posts. His collection suggests that he accumulated badges at the rate of a couple a week for quite a few years. It's a great collection - and a real insight into the web of interlocking causes and issues which engaged the left (not the far left, as Werrner points out - the Trots regarded the Broad Left as unspeakably right wing) at a time when it still mattered.
You may be wondering what 520 political badges in a box looks like. Here you go:
There's lots of beauties - and rarities- among them ... and some real iconic images. Here are a few of my favourites:
Along with this treasure trove came a box load of Leeds Postcards - the brand leader in radical and alternative postcards. It was founded in 1979, the year of Margaret Thatcher's first general election triumph, and it's happily still going. Here's just a tiny sample:
But a century on, let's give the final word to Comrade Lenin. Among the collection is this badge of Lenin and Trotsky together, produced by the Young Socialists (not the Labour Party's Young Socialists I suspect, but the WRP's youth group with the same name). Viva!
LATER: And that phrase 'Wearing Badges is Not Enough' - it comes from a Billy Bragg song from the mid-1980s. Here are the lyrics in full:
Days Like These (U.K. Version)
The party that became so powerful by sinking foreign boats
Is dreaming up new promises because promises win votes
And being resolute in conference with the ad man's expertise
The majority by their silence shall pay for days like these
The right to build communities is back behind closed doors
'Tween government and people stands the right arm of the law
And shame upon the patriot when the mark of the Bulldog Breed
Is a family without a home and a pensioner in need
Those whose lives are ruled by dogma are waiting for a sign
The Better Dead Than Red Brigade are listening on the line
And the liberal, with a small L cries in front of the TV
And another demonstration passes on to history
Peace, bread, work, and freedom is the best we can achieve
And wearing badges is not enough in days like these
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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