About the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School

A. The Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School is a unique resource on Communist Party history and Marxist education. We were founded in 1933 by a Marx Commemoration Committee – which included prominent founding members of the Communist Party including Ralph Fox and Tom Mann – 50 years after the death of Karl Marx. In response to the rise of fascism in Europe a library and workers school was founded in the heart of London’s radical Clerkenwell.

Our historic building is home to the office where Lenin worked while he was in exile for thirteen months in London 1902-3. The Social Democratic Federation’s press was based here, at 37a Clerkenwell Green, printing and distributing early translations of Marx and Engels work at the turn of the century.

For decades we have accumulated a world class library and archive on the history of socialism and the working-class movement. We are home to a library of 60,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals and major archives including the collection of James Klugmann – Communist Party historian – and our Spanish Collection –, of Wal Hannington communist & founder of the National Unemployed Workers Movement and the archives of the International Brigade volunteers who went to fight fascism in Spain. We provide access to these unique research resources through exhibitions, school workshops, an enquiry service and in our reading room. Our library and archive can be searched here https://marx.soutron.net/Portal/Default/en-GB/Search/SimpleSearch

Our own archives – including syllabuses on anti-imperialism, political economy, Marxism and the environment and much more – are testament to our proud history of working-class political education. Our Workers’ School has been revitalised in recent years; we now hold regular classes, lectures, online events and conferences, in addition to welcoming study groups and school students to Marx House.

Members of the library help support our work and get a free subscription to our annual journal Theory & Struggle, in addition to other benefits. Join for just £15/25 per year https://www.marx-memorial-library.org.uk/support

This online display gives you a taste of some of the treasures in our collection. Unfortunately, our contribution is necessarily limited as vital building work on-site has limited our access to certain major collections.

B. We hold a complete run of the Daily Worker/Morning Star newspaper, in addition to its press photo library. These evocative images are drawn from our CPGB file.

C. Our newspaper and periodical collection include the Young Communist League publication Challenge

D. Over the years many prominent figures in the communist party have donated their papers to the MML. This signed photo and membership card were owned by Shapuri Saklatvala (1874-1936) was elected Communist MP for North Battersea 1922.

E. Trade Unionist and Communist Tom Mann (1856-1941) gave the inaugural Marx Memorial Lecture at MML in 1934. We hold some of his papers including this pamphlet with his signature and a flyer celebrating twenty years since the 1917 October revolution listing Mann as a speaker. His portrait hangs in pride of place in our main hall.

F. We hold a selection of early Communist Party ephemera including 1922 Rules & Statutes, this pamphlet on Communist Leadership and membership application forms.

G. This postcards commemorates the ‘Great Communist Trial’ of 1925 when 8 members of the CPGB were arrested for ‘unlawfully conspiring together to utter and publish seditious libels and to incite divers persons to commit breaches of the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797’. Gallagher, Inkpin, Hannington and Pollitt were all imprisoned for 12 months.

H. Our Spanish Collection comprises over 150 boxes of material documenting the British response to the Spanish Civil War. These include the papers of many communists who risked everything to fight fascism in a foreign land. These photographs document the contents of Wally Togwell’s wallet. An international brigader and member of the Young Communist League. This banner is one of six Aid Spain banners in our collection. Created by artist Laurence Bradshaw, later responsible for the Marx Bust at Highgate Cemetery, it pays tribute to the volunteers from Hammersmith who had lost their lives.

I. Our object collection also includes a wide range of badges. Here is an example of a Tom Mann Award for Socialism badge, and one celebrating solidarity with Chile.

J. Our pamphlet collection documents Communist Party policy on a wide range of issues including many which resonate today. These examples date back to the first referendum in Europe in 1975.

About the Working Class Movement in Salford

The Working Class Movement Library exists to tell the story of people’s fight for a better world. It’s a place of ideas, of questions and of demands. The collection covers everything from working life to political life, to union life, to sporting life. It’s full of stuff to inspire you to investigate, and to spur you on to participate. 

The Library started life in the 1950s as the personal collection of Edmund and Ruth Frow. They were passionate about the working class having access to, and being able to learn from, their own history not just that of the establishment. Eddie had joined the Communist Party in 1924 aged 17, remaining a member until the day he died; Ruth joined the Party in 1945 and subsequently served in many positions of responsibility.  The two first met in 1953 at a Communist Party day school on labour history where they discovered that they shared a love of labour movement books and documents. 

By the 1980s their house was at bursting point and so Salford Council agreed to house the magnificent library in a Victorian building called Jubilee House on the Crescent in Salford. The collection has been here ever since.  It covers a vast range of radical topics – the Chartist movement, the Spanish Civil War, the growth of Trade Unionism, the Co-operative movement, peace organisations and other political organisations from the Labour Party and the CPGB through to the ILP etc etc. 

The Library is free for everyone to use, and while it is working on its re-opening planning it is also emphasising what it can offer remotely to people – seewww.wcml.org.uk/explorefromhome for a range of resources you can browse from home.  Its enforced closure since mid-March has of course led to a major drop in income, and any one-off donations would be hugely welcome here.  Even better would be if you felt able to sign up to regular giving, by becoming a Friend and giving a monthly or annual sum, to help us in our mission to ‘explore the past, change the future’.