Bedroom Tax? Bedroom Tax? People don't know they're born! Back in the 1840s, around here, working class people were squashed into tiny cellars, sleeping with their partners, kids and a lodger in the same bed – if they were lucky!
NHS cuts? NHS cuts? Luxury! No-one had a proper doctor in those days if they were poor. They just gave their kids a swig of Godfrey's Cordial, with added opium, to shut them up. And then, a bit later, they usually died.
Friedrich Engels went amongst the poor and exposed all this horror in his bombshell book The Condition of the Working Class in England. Let us quote…
"Often more than one family lived in a single damp cellar, in whose pestilent atmosphere twelve to sixteen persons were crowded together…many families, who had but one room for themselves, receive boarders and lodgers in it, that such lodgers of both sexes by no means rarely sleep in the same bed as the married couple…
"When one remembers under what conditions the working people live, when one thinks how crowded their dwellings are, how every nook and corner swarms with human beings, how sick and well sleep in the same room, in the same bed, the only wonder is that a contagious disease does not spread yet further…
"And when one reflects how little medical assistance the sick have at their command...the mortality seems actually small…"
Hmmm. The ConDem Government wants to take everybody back there. Well now you can, courtesy of Red Flag Walks, which will take you on a tour of the actual sites, near Oxford Station, that Engels was writing about.
See it! Feel it! Experience your Victorian future under the `progressive' policies of our wonderful ConDem Government!
Of course, Fred Engels didn't just write his Conditions of the Working Class book, he came up with some rather drastic solutions with his mate Karl Marx, who used to visit him in Manchester and Salford at least once a year. Over a pint or ten, at places like The Grapes in Eccles and The Crescent pub, they came up with pamphlets and books including The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, which advocated a worldwide working class revolution and the overthrow of capitalism.
While Fred Engels worked at his family's mill in Salford and kept up a façade of a respectable bourgeoisie, he lived under false names in a million places in Manchester to avoid the police, together with his partner Mary Burns.
The Red Flag Walk, led by respected historian Michael Herbert, from Salford's Working Class Movement Library, will take you around the haunts and habitats of Engels' secret life.
As well as `Little Ireland' near Oxford Road Station, the walk will include the Owenite Hall of Science, the Royal Exchange and Chethams Library. But more than this, Michael Herbert will bring it all back to life – if you're not beginning to live it already!
Read the book! The Conditions of the Working Class in England (Oxford University Press)
Then see the sites…
Dr Marx and Mr Engels
Friday 31st May 10:45am
Oxford Rd Station, Manchester £6/£5
Advance booking recommended: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information: http://redflagwalks.wordpress.com
For Fred Engels Salford Star Special – click here and follow the links
For Salford Star latter day poverty feature - click here
Also by Red Flag Walks…
Sunday 26th May, 2pm £6/£5
Meeting point: Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall
This walk will explore a number of episodes in Ashton-under-Lyne's radical history, including the political career of socialist and suffragette Hannah Mitchell, the Chartist Rising of 1848, the Bread Riot of 1863, the Anti-Irish Riot of 1868 and the formation of the Co-operative movement.
Engels graphic by Matt Carroll of Central Station Design