1 October 1935 – 24 November 1935
Main themes: Liverpool University student politics – United Front activity on Merseyside
October 1 1935 Tuesday: I called on Edge in the afternoon and the two of us gave out handbills at the Playhouse for the SCR meeting tomorrow [Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR -Ed.]. Then we went up to 1 Canning St and saw Scholfield who had been to a grand “middle-strata” conference in London over the week-end. He said Dick Freeman spoke well and John Cornford against him. The two have had many disagreements, and this has now crystallised out. Now Edge, as becomes a Cambridge man, swears by Cornford – even though he did send him a stupid romantic letter before Sheffield – but also recognises there are points where Freeman may know better. Later we went to Ebbages, and then back to Edge’s for tea, then to my place to play chess, one to each of us.
October 2 Wednesday: I went to the SCR meeting, calling for George Wright on the way. I forgot to say what I did between leaving Edge’s and seeing him again – that is between 9 pm. and 10.3O pm. I went to see Phyllis Mercer and sold Andrew Adams an SCR ticket. Iver Mercer and Guthrie were there and I amused myself by making Guthrie embarrassed, introducing him into the conversation when I knew he had nothing to say. He blushed from time to time. Phyllis Mercer was very sorry for him and Iver was furious. As for Andrew he roared laughing. Anyway tonight Iver Mercer came to the SCR. At the door we had Scholfield, Ivor Jones, Tickell, and Hodge. Sawen and Miss Fitton were stewards. Among others present were Molly Marshall, Beth Carr, Mrs Paul, Barsley and many others. Finally Hilda Browning came and I had a chat with her, and Leila Jaffe brought Armstrong – and Sawen asked him for a ticket! Hilda Jaffe was there as well. Edge brought Jackson, and Cowan also came – in all many hundreds.
We went back to James Street, with Tickell, Ivor Jones and Hodge. Tickell explained how well my tactics for soothing his people had worked, and I advised him to pop the final question tomorrow evening. Then Tickell and Ivor Jones went away, the latter thinking of joining the party because he had met White at Aberystwyth. Hodge and I went to Edge’s for supper.
October 3 Thursday: Edge returned to Cambridge. I met Ivor Jones in the Union. He had regressed from last night’s position. He no longer says he can “do better work outside” the party, but rather he can do it better half in half out. I went a walk to Gayton with Hodge in the evening. He said of Ivor Jones that right or wrong he always stated his views in so truculent a way that you felt bound to contradict him. Also he spoke to show off like Halliday. But Halliday has his uses. He told me today that it was possible to enrol as a “General student” for a quite modest fee. So I think I will go over to Arts and do of all things Geography. Tickell called in my absence.
Barsley was a friend of Scholfield. He wrote a book about left-handedness years later. I think like Scholfield he had plenty of money. Armstrong was director of the Playhouse. The White that Ivor Jones met at Aberystwyth was the most fantastically sectish individual imaginable, a menace. I had a brush with him later at a student meeting. He overbore people and to the best of my recollection apart from Cornford, I was the only one willing to cross swords with him. Regarding Geography, of course my general aim was to stay at the university another year; that is what Education had been for, but I couldn’t stand it.
October 4 Friday: It was raining again with the glass at 28.80. It has rained a part of every day since I left Southsea. At 6 pm. Whelan called. He is a little intolerant of Ivor Jones. He said that before he had spoken to him he thought, “There is a fellow who always knows a bit more than anybody else.” Indeed when he arrived at 7.30 it was clear that he had even mentioned him to him. We listened to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
October 5 Saturday: I saw Jim and Nora Jeffery in the evening. Tickell called to say that he is now reinstated and intends to join the party. It was raining as usual.
October 6 Sunday: In the morning Tickell called and took his card. The university group now consists of myself, Riddell, Whittenbury, Scholfield and Tickell, with Ivor Jones half-in, half-out. In the evening Iver Mercer did not arrive and I subsequently learned he was playing bridge at Marian Cholmondeley’s, which I thought odd. I met George Wright who is in constant touch with Price-Williams. When the rain stopped for a time I saw Andrew Adams, the unemployed classics graduate.
October 7 Monday: I went to see Professor Roxby and enrolled as a general student of Geography. I met Whelan and Ivor Jones later. It rained all day, and I had a feeling I was catching cold. I called on Piggott. Halliday was there and Drennan, who has got rid of most of his Belfast accent and become less shy, though shy enough. He offered me £1 for my weights and I accepted, as I had entertained no hope of selling them at all, still less getting £1 for them. Halliday is a gentleman of leisure these days. He has twice paid £40 before sitting the BSc exam, but has now found out that he has no need to pay a farthing. He can sit it as frequently and as perpetually as he likes without further charge. This he finds out two years later.
October 8 Tuesday: In the morning I saw Ivor Jones and Richardson, whom I took to Scholfield‘s only to find that Tickell, Scholfield and Whittenbury had mistaken the time of the meeting and left at 12.30. So we held a rump meeting after which Scholfield arrived with Barsley, who Hodge says is “no damn good”, and I believe it. They had with them a rather unprepossessing lady, probably from Colwyn Bay. I spoke at a Men’s Guild meeting in the South End in the evening. The subject was Abyssinia. But I got caught in an exceptionally heavy shower of rain and developed a sore throat.
October 9 Wednesday: I attended the first lecture in geography today and talked with Patterson from Newcastle, who is interested in agriculture and nearly did botany as a subsidiary. He is a socialist. We had another meeting in the afternoon but this time without Richardson. I have a severe cold.
October 10 Thursday: Today was the wettest I have seen for a long time, torrents all day. Ivor Jones, our competent secretary, forgot to notify the committee members of the meeting so only the party people were there. Ruth Berry is no more than an ornament, but Whelan and Miss Disley were missed. Ivor Jones is rather bad. He is always ruffling his feathers to show his intellectual plumage, and irritates intellectuals who are not also intellectual snobs. In the evening I just went home as I felt unwell, though I managed to fit in a Labour League of Youth meeting on the way.
October 11 Friday: I got up late. J. Roose Williams wrote inviting me to Bangor tomorrow but I don’t feel up to it. I had a talk with Herman, and wrote to Whittenbury for Monday. Whittenbury did a fine poster and billed it up. He also duplicated some leaflets for Beth Carr. In the evening I spoke to a meeting of Central Birkenhead Cooperative “Comrades Circle” and then got myself some whiskey. John Cornford wrote asking me to organise a northern FSS conference, and Edge sent 5/- he owed me.
October 12 Saturday: The group met in the morning, with Riddell, Scholfield, Whittenbury, Tickell and Ivor Jones. Richardson has joined and attended. Later Whittenbury and Tickell came to 124 Mount Road. Tickell remained late. Richardson is quiet but very competent I would say. Also he knows Bo. I talked to Miss Ellsby today about an anti-war society and she is very attracted by the notion. All the signs are set for a favourable term. The trouble is Ivor Jones and his endless showing off. I think I will try making fun of it.
Richardson was a radical student whose parents were well-off Tories, his father one-time manager of Booths. The Bo. would therefore not very likely be the YCLer Bowman
October 13 Sunday: In the evening Iver Mercer came and we played chess. Later I went to Jim Jeffery who said that Mercer had so vehemently attacked the government in a debate [at Birkenhead Institute – Ed.] that E. Wynne Hughes (bad luck to him) [the Headmaster] had suspended the debate and kept them all waiting as he countered Mercer’s points one by one. Then another teacher WE Williams must do the same, though when the debate resumed Jim Jeffery presented the rebel case more moderately. The headmaster then declared to Jeffery that Iver Mercer had “diarrhoea of words and constipation of thought”, but denied a suggestion that he was a communist.
October 14 Monday: I attended a lecture in the morning and in the afternoon we held the first meeting of the New Labour Club, at which Whittenbury spoke, but not well. There were not more than 25 people there, among them Tickell, Ivor Jones, Whelan, Richardson and Miss Disley.
October 15 Tuesday: I found out that Scholfield went to the cinema instead of attending the meeting. I think he is proving a demoralising influence. He didn’t miss much. Tickell had brought over architects to hear about Abyssinia and they complained that it was “all about Russia”. I called on Molly Marshall and got a list of doctors believed to be interested in investigating malnutrition. When I returned I found that Darlington had left a note.
October 16 Wednesday: In the morning I saw Ivor Jones, Miss Disley, Tickell and others and later telephoned Darlington who said he will come on Saturday. I met Peter Evans and others, and heard that an Indian called John Joshua wanted to see me about the New Labour Club. I saw Jackson who told me I have become a sort of legend in the Botany Dept. [where he had studied for his degree – Ed.]. It seems that Matthias asked the Professor why he would not have me for MSc and quarrelled so violently that he tendered his resignation and did not withdraw it for three weeks. During this time McLean Thompson showed Dr Knight and Matthias his latest researches and they openly described them as “trashy” in the hearing of the students, and this led to further altercations. Even now the two camps are hardly on speaking terms. But all the honours students are demonstrating and all in the upper laboratory.
The “legend” has had a good effect on Dovaston who met me in the Union and promised to join the New Labour Club. Also Joshua himself turned up. He has an immense personality, but I think with a trace of fanaticism. I am going to see him on Friday. In the evening Iver Mercer came. Later Tickell and Jump called briefly.
October 17 Thursday: I borrowed Iver Mercer’s racing bicycle and cycled to Bangor and after a short chat with J.Roose Williams went to a cafe and had tea with the notabilities of the Bangor Socialist Club, who agreed to affiliate to the FSS [Federation of Student Societies – Ed.] as well as ULF [University Labour Federation – Ed.]. The best man Roose Williams has in his group is a Scot who ran away to sea at the age of 11, and after travelling the USA and Mexico came back first to fight in the war and then to live on 1O/- a week Public Assistance. Later on I saw H.Jones at his establishment, as well as a fool who is studying the religious thought of Berkeley, Locke and Hume for an MA. The place reeks with piety and pacifism.
October 18 Friday: I talked with J.Roose Williams for a time. Miss Jones is ill and very upset with the Pauls who talk about coming to see her but never do. I had a conversation with a lorry driver at the place where I stayed. He was a normal Labour man but very much against the Trade Union leaders. He was more interested in the fact that they had allowed their workers to lose perquisites than that they had got them 4/- a week extra pay. I reached home at 8.30 pm. and after tea went to see Joshua who lived at Toc H, where Gladstone was born. He turned out to be a Christian, a Congress socialist [presumably the Indian National Congress – Ed.] steeped in non-violence. Stephen Jack was there as well. All his personality proved a surface growth because there was no inner logic. Late at night it began to rain again and blew great guns.
October 19 Saturday: I went to the Haymarket [where Liverpool CP headquarters were – Ed.], then to the Union to give Jump an article on “If I were editor”, which I have written against Pargold the fascist who has written urging Sphinx to uphold the British constitution and exclude all else.
Then I found a note from that muddler Ivor Jones to the effect that we could not have Guild Council room. So I saw the Union secretary, booked the women’s tea room and arranged for tea. Later Jones turned up saying that he had arranged for a “running buffet” before he cancelled the meeting. Tickell and I sat on him and Herman laughed at him, but he continued to display his intellectual gifts till we were all weary of them. He starts like this: ” I have just been reading some of Plonsky. It says. . . ” and then you get an account of it.
When I reached home I found the wind had blown over the side fence. I rang up Humphries. In the afternoon Darlington called and we talked. He has a girl-friend aged 28, and it has sobered him and given him a few shreds of self-respect. The affected cynicism, tantrums and posing are now infrequent though there are traces. He now hopes for a job, not as a song-writer, financier or Chinese dictator, but as a chemist at £4 a week. Later I went to take Iver Mercer’s bicycle back and invited Molly Marshall to talk to the New Labour Club next Monday.
October 20 Sunday: I read Problems of Soviet Literature in the morning. In the evening Iver Mercer came and we went for a walk and played chess. Wynne Hughes wants a talk with him, for good or ill he doesn’t know. The problem that is exercising him at the moment is how to get to the university without having to pay the fees.
October 21 Monday: I saw Ivor Jones in the morning and a more pretentious incompetent it would be hard to find. There was no advertisement of the meeting up, and he began to criticise Tickell: “These architects want gingering up! They’ve ruined it.” “If you had done your job on Thursday”, I reminded him, “they would have had more time to do the advertisements.” He was squashed but tried to turn things against Tickell. “Do you know Tickell is terrible! He told me you could not be a Christian and a Communist, and yet what right has he to say this, when it implies all those theoretical considerations he doesn’t know about.” I told him that at any rate Tickell had experienced both which was hardly true of himself, so he went away sulking. Later I saw Tickell, Richardson and Riddell. Finally Molly Marshall came to talk. There were only 9 there.
October 22 Tuesday: I notice a certain anti-Jones feeling developing in the New Labour Club. I am doubtful now whether I was wise to make him secretary. But one thing is certain. He will not be allowed to be an obstacle. In the afternoon I joined the LNU [probably the League of Nations Union – Ed.], in the evening speaking to the Bromborough Co-op Men’s Guild on the menace of war.
October 23 Wednesday: Sheffield have written to say they are holding a Socialist Society conference at the weekend, with Manchester and Leeds and possibly Nottingham. I saw Ivor Jones and others but nothing happened. CEG [i.e. his father – Ed.] arrived home.
October 24 Thursday: In the evening there was a debate on the motion that the SDN [unclear what these initials stand for – Ed.] is merely an international debating society, and Tickell and I were against it and two “socialists”, Ruby Berry and the lawyer Bean, were for. I led for the opposition and made a very aggressive speech poking fun at the ultra-ethical Mr Bean. Nobody any good talked except a young Irishman, second year medical I think, who made an impassioned speech he had learned off beforehand I am sure. I attacked him, since he was against us, and accused him of speaking for effect. But afterwards I went over and congratulated him and he went away very pleased. His name is Donnelly, a good name. Among those present were Riddell, Richardson and Whittenbury.
In the lunch hour A.Booth, secretary of the SCM [Student Christian Movement – Ed.], approached me and invited me to attend a study circle of SCM Engineers to “supply political interest”. I was pleased at this.
October 25 Friday: I spoke to Booth’s engineers and they were agreeable to a joint demarche against the militarisation of Armistice day.
October 26 Saturday: As I am going to Sheffield tomorrow Iver Mercer, whom I met in the week, came in the afternoon. He has guessed Jim Jeffery’s political affiliations. He had accompanied Guthrie to a party discussion group on the proceedings of the 7th World Congress of the Comintern. They were impressed by Moore but not by Paul, who is a wordy old ruffian not half so profound as he sets out to appear.
October 27 Sunday: I had invited Whelan but he couldn’t come. With infinite tact I had sent Ivor Jones a card too late for him to get it in time. So only Scholfield, Miss Disley and Tickell came with me to Sheffield. Scholfield drove like a madman, tearing round roundabouts at 40 mph. He went over “The snake” at an average of 50 mph. As we approached Sheffield the car exhibited alarming symptoms of decrepitude. All but one bolt had fallen off one of the wheels and a number plate was lost. Scholfield went to have repairs done while we went to the conference. It was addressed by Emil Burns, a delightful person [1889-1972, British Marxist economist]. Ann Frankenburg and Wiseman were there from Manchester.
We left early and travelled back through blinding rain and mountain mist with Scholfield, as we thought, taking too many chances. Miss Disley pointed out mournfully that at this gully or ravine this or that motorist had met his death. We stopped at Manchester and went to a marvellous meeting at the Free Trade Hall, addressed by Tom Mann, Harry Pollitt and John Gollan. It quite enflamed Miss Disley who asked if the YCL were open to women as well as men. Scholfield missed the East Lancashire Road and brought us back through Warrington.
October 28 Monday: Ingram Knowles travelled through blinding torrents to speak to the New Labour Club on foreign affairs. Those present were Ivor Jones, Tickell, Whittenbury, Scholfield, Whelan, Miss Disley, Booth (W), Norah McGrath and Sahal. Tickell and I had a violent disagreement over whether we should offer a candidate in the mock election. He argued that the Tories had fizzled out and we might stimulate them into regrouping. I said we could afford to risk stimulating them as long as we stimulated the student body as a whole. I gave him a copy of Left Wing Communism [by VI Lenin – Ed.] suitably underlined.
October 29 Tuesday: I saw Tickell and Scholfield both of whom had doubts about the mock election, saying it was “playing at elections” and was not going to get the Labour Government back, which is true, but that is not the purpose.
October 30 Wednesday: In the morning I saw Ivor Jones who is an incompetent booby, also Miss Disley. There was to have been a committee meeting but owing to the general disorganisation only Tickell and I were there.
On receipt of a telegram I went to Lime Street to meet AEG [his mother – Ed.] who had arrived from London. In the bus we met Mrs Mercer. I introduced them and AEG says she is going to vote for her. Mrs Mercer said that Iver has gone to canvass the Dock Cottages.
October 31 Thursday: Today Phyllis [his sister – Ed.] returned from Leeds for a few days.
That Tickell was naturally “Leftist” need not be doubted. At best he was only 18. But there is likewise no doubt that Scholfield encouraged it, probably as an excuse for his own lazinesss, and worked up confusions which Tickell fought about. Scholfield derived some of his confusions from Brian White
Phyllis Greaves was at Leeds teachers’ training college and this may have been her first year. She became editor of the College magazine.
November 1 Friday: I saw Miss Disley in the day and she told me she emigrated to Canada in 193O. Her father, a miner from Rotherham, dug roads, shovelled snow, drove trains, did everything including starving, in Winnipeg, the Chicago of Canada. She has seen CP members demonstrating and giving out illegal leaflets and the police powerless to prevent them. She has seen people shot with machine guns. She says her father would vote communist if there was a candidate. I went to talk to the engineers at 3 pm., and then went to play chess. Then I went to Mrs Mercer’s to hear the election results. Iver Mercer, Guthrie, AL Davies, Phyllis Mercer and Alan Wallace were there. He is an objectionable semi-fascist and I deliberately made him look a fool.
Wallace was of course nothing of the kind. I met him years afterwards when he was a lecturer at the Herriott-Watt (if that’s the spelling) College in Edinburgh. I think he had no strong political convictions and repeated current talk.
November 2 Saturday: It seems Mrs Mercer did get in, but only by the skin of her teeth, 155 votes, which Iver Mercer did not forget to remind her were 145 votes fewer than the 3OO Communist votes. On the whole the Labour Party did very badly.
I saw Tickell and Scholfield in the morning. They were in favour of asking Miss Disley to join the party. Scholfield has been summoned to Mold police court to answer a charge of aiding and abetting a Miss Cecily Fraser to drive his car without license or insurance. He is going home for the week-end on the strength of it.
I heard from Clive Moore that Iver Mercer had been canvassing with Jim Jeffery [one of the teachers at Birkenhead Institute – Ed.] the night before and that he shows wonderful self-control, and that though Jeffery, thrown off his guard in the school, said “Hallo”, Iver Mercer answered not a word. Now this was verified by Jeffery himself who was astonished at Mercer’s savoir-faire. Previous to seeing Jim Jeffery I called on Charles Mount who had complained to E.Wynne Hughes [Birkenhead Institute headmaster – Ed.] that Iver Mercer was canvassing instead of playing chess, though many a time the same officious gentleman had prevented people from playing chess. I told Mount about it and he apologised. He probably never expected Hughes to take it up. Now Jim Jeffery told me how Iver Mercer waylaid him conspiratorially on the stairs and told him that Guthrie was going to canvass and to keep away. Nora Jeffery was most intrigued with Mercer. The Tenants’ League is doing wonders. Hadwin has printed cards and there are 75 paying members. Cases have come in from outlying areas and gradually the work is being extended.
November 3 Sunday: Little enough happened in the morning, but late in the afternoon I went to an aggregate at the ILD where Tickell and Riddell were present and Rust spoke [leading British communist – Ed.]. Baruch made a very Bolshevik speech, and talked nonsense about students. I saw Iver Mercer at 8 pm. He told me how his mother had replaced his father as the great politician. The father suffered in vanity, but not in cash. The avenues opened by her political success took the family from Brook Street to Bidston Avenue, and finally to Prenton. He has a good position in the Co-op. The marriage cooled off. But for the two children she would have left home and stormed heaven on a paid Labour ticket. The parents quarrel all the time though he can show a queer left-handed pride in his wife’s importance which is mysteriously linked with “what he had done for his family”. Phyllis Mercer and Iver long ago formed an entente for mutual protection. It is because of the division of the powers that he enjoys such freedom of action. He said Phyllis Mercer was furious at the way I made fun of Alan Wallace. She cannot understand me. The father dislikes me and is afraid of me.
Brook Street was in a very poor congested neighbourhood nearer to Hamilton Square than Park Station. Bidston Avenue was part of the “North End”(actually NW) where Corporation houses were built, among which one is now called Mercer Road.
November 4 Monday: I heard from Miss Disley that the LNV agreed to a joint meeting on armistice day. Also a letter from Beatrice Ellsby said that the Social Science society will come in. We met the SCM representative in the afternoon, and later held a meeting of the New Labour Club, with Tickell, Whittenbury, Whelan, Miss Disley and others present. We decided to change the meeting day to Friday, to hold a Liverpool conference and to invite Hamling’s young brother on to the committee as a fresher. Whittenbury discovered one Jones who knew Barr and seems very good. So things are looking up. In the evening I gave an account of Dimitrov’s speech [Georgi Dimitrov, 1882-1949, Bulgarian communist and leading exponent of the united front policy at the Comintern Congress – Ed.] at a party meeting at Beechcroft. Guthrie and AL Davies were there, also Moore, Clive Moore and Nora Jeffery.
The Jones would be FM Jones, FMJ
November 5 Tuesday: In the afternoon I called on Iver Mercer and we distributed leaflets for the Labour Party in spite of the rain. In the evening I went to Wormald’s committee rooms and found Hamling [leading Labour Party figure among the university students – Ed.] there assisting him.
November 6 Wednesday: In the morning I saw Ivor Jones and Miss Disley and later Richardson. The afternoon was spent playing chess against Manchester University. I was interrupted at 5 pm. by Whittenbury who came to tell me that Tickell was taking a day off after participating in a rough house at a Randolph Churchill meeting last night. I lost a knight, but by bold play captured two pawns for it, and in a very exciting endgame I used these to isolate his bishop while I queened a third and finally won.
November 7 Thursday: At midday we were informed that A.Booth and [Name missing – Ed.] approached Guild over Armistice Day. The LN Society, Social Science Society and ourselves were to join forces. The International Society refused. But when the Guild programme was published the only society represented was this International Society, and the programme was
1. A talk from Professor Roxby (A. Booth and I went to see him and he was not anxious to do it);
2. A series of foreign students each saying in his own language what a pleasure it was to be on the platform.
I completely failed to persuade them to entertain anything else.
In the evening I went to an aggregate [a meeting of all CPGB members in the branch or district – Ed.] and saw Tickell. Jim Jeffery said that Mrs Mercer had not replied to a Tenants’ League questionnaire, and I promised to remind her. In the day I gave the architect Browning the material on the ATO which Richardson and I got from Scholfield last night.
Looking back I can understand this “International Society” which was run by a few pasty pastel-coloured youngsters and had nothing to do with internationalism, but plenty about keeping tabs on foreign students on behalf of governments. Browning was a friend of Tickell. The Architects and Technicians Organisation was an architectural “Front”, an organisation of left-wingers.
November 8 Friday: I called on Mrs Mercer and reminded her of the tenants and she promised to make a move. Both Ruby Berry and Beatrice Ellsby declined to be Labour candidate and I was going to do it myself when Bethune suggested Jump. We had a committee meeting at 4 pm. and adopted him. Professor Roxby declined to speak on Armistice Day. Frantic telegrams were sent to Lord Cecil, but he was arriving in Liverpool too late.
At 5 pm. there was a New Labour Club meeting with Sidney Spencer who spent most of the time attacking Marx. However there was quite a good attendance, with some new people. I met Phyllis Mercer who said Iver wanted to see me but he was out when I called. I also saw Moore.
November 9 Saturday: In the morning I did secretarial work and in the afternoon there was a group meeting which Richardson could not attend, comprising Riddell, Tickell, Whittenbury and Miss Disley whom we invited to come. Scholfield is in Oxford. Tickell grows better every day but Whittenbury is stupid and scared. The Architects and Technicians Organisation branch is to be set up on Monday by 11 architects, members of the New Labour Club. Frank Jones who knew Barr is to take the initiative, and he seems a very competent person to boot. In the evening I saw Moore. The Labour Party seems to be making little effort to win the election.
November 10 Sunday: In the evening Iver Mercer came and stayed till 11 pm. We went for a walk, played chess and talked. He says George Evans has greatly improved and is reading Palme Dutt.
November 11 Monday: I saw Tickell in the morning. The absurd Labour Party agreed to a truce with the National Government for Armistice Day. They were rewarded for their pains by Winston Churchill who took the biggest hall in the city and delivered a fighting political speech. I went on reading Das Kapital in the evening.
November 12 Tuesday: In the morning I called for Phyllis Mercer and went canvassing in Egerton Ward where, to her disgust, nobody had yet rattled a knocker. Now I met Pat Bream putting down chalk for a meeting to be addressed by Mrs Mercer at the Star Hall at 3 pm. Now Phyllis Mercer and I knew that at that time she was to be at the Haymarket on the same platform as McVey and Joe Rawlings. In the afternoon we went to Mersey Ward and canvassed this very Star Street, where at 3 pm. crowds were going into the hall. The local Labour secretary asked me to speak and begged me to keep the meeting going until Mrs Mercer, whom Phyllis Mercer telephoned, should arrive. Never was the United Front organised in so odd a way. In the evening I canvassed again, this time with George Wright, after which we sat and talked with Iver Mercer. However I went away early as I was tired.
November 13 Wednesday: At midday I did an “election” meeting for Jump. We gained fresh contact by this means.
November 14 Thursday: I began the day by voting for Mrs Mercer. Then I went to a political meeting where Jump and Rosie Hedbrow the Conservative candidate presented their policies. It was a perfectly serious meeting. There was no rowdyism at all. I met a group of Arts students among whom Denerly asked the conservatives very good questions. At 10 pm. I repaired to Mrs Mercer’s, where Iver, Guthrie and Al Davies were discussing the events of the day. Iver Mercer regards Guthrie’s polemical skill invincible, but I caught him so neatly that Mercer seemed quite put out. Guthrie however began to treat me with a new respect and to come out of his shell and laugh.
November 15 Friday: The results for which we waited till 3 am. were very poor, and Mrs Mercer was at the bottom of the poll. Harry Pollitt increased his poll, but lost. So the stores of beer that had been laid in, though they were drunk, were of beer of consolation not of victory. In the day the university mock poll was the highest ever recorded, Jump 227, Hedbrow 4O6. The figure 227 is amazingly high for a Labour vote in the university. I saw Frank Jones who has started the ATO group. I also talked with young Hamling who is moving to the Left and believes in the United Front. At night I saw Jim Jeffery and Moore[The overall national result for the 1935 general election in Britain was: Conservatives 387, Labour 154, Liberal 33, Communist 1 – Ed.].
November 16 Saturday: I saw Tickell, Whittenbury and Richardson in the day and went to the “mock Parliament” in the evening. A crazier thing I never saw. One man had his head cut open in a fist fight, but in the end the “Government” was defeated in a vote of confidence. I walked down the hill with Denerly.
This man should not be confused with Donnelly.
November 17 Sunday: In the evening when Iver Mercer came he divulged an odd thing. Phyllis Mercer is thinking of joining the party. I shall therefore have to visit her and see what can be done about it. Even Andrew Adams is coming under socialist influence. For neither of them can find jobs, and spend many long hours discussing why that should be.
November 18 Monday: In the evening I did the study circle lecture on the United Front at which Guthrie was present. After that I called on Phyllis Mercer to see what could be done and found her very responsive. Iver Mercer was there and jubilantly followed me to the door to whisper, “I told you so.”
November 19 Tuesday: I received a letter from Alan Morton saying how good my last two poems were, and how his own would reach me in due course, also a letter from John Edge who said he hoped to get a job as an organizing secretary of the British Universities Labour Movements and the Labour National Union youth section. But he must keep dark his disreputable past.
November 20 Wednesday: In the morning I went to Leeds for a chess match. I saw Phyllis briefly and then went to see Huddleston who was very down in the mouth, but always is. I returned with Ivor Jones on the night train. He had been to the opera.
November 21 Thursday: I saw Riddell and Scholfield who had promised his room for our Northern conference and now suddenly withdrew it, and put us under the necessity of getting another at short notice and altering all the advertisements.
I was very angry with Scholfield at the time, but imagine that when the advertisements appeared some pressure was put upon him.
November 22 Friday: In the evening I saw Mrs Edge who was very dubious about Jack’s LNS job because “He will do no work until he hears one way or the other.” I saw Iver Mercer for a while.
November 23 Saturday: After a fraction meeting comprising Scholfield, Tickell, Richardson and myself, we held the first session of our conference at 38 Edge Lane. It was addressed by William Rust, and among those present were Stanton, Spatsky, Arno Rydel, all of Sheffield, Street (Nottingham), Ann Frankenburg and three others from Manchester, Booth, Luntz, Tickell, Miss Disley, Whelan, Richardson, Whittenbury, another architect, another arts man (Evans) and others I did not know.
There was also Medley from the ULF and John Cornford from the FSS. Everybody was very impressed with Rust. Then in the evening Cornford spoke at the Union, where as well as others, Ivor Jones, Peter Evans and Ruby Berry were there. Cornford came to stay the night at 124 Mount Rd., after we had left Street and Medley with Moore. Frank Jones came to both sessions and seemed very keen and expressed the opinion that the North should be entirely self-supporting, as the London leadership was no good. Edge had a very good chance of landing the LNU job which was better than a 3rd class degree which was all he seemed in the way of getting.
Luntz (Augustus) was the Jewish heavyweight world boxing champion.
November 24 Sunday: I showed Cornford, Arno Rydel, Street and Medley round Liverpool, and at 1 pm. Cornford and Medley went back to Cambridge and we all went to 2 DR where after discussion we set up a North Regional Council with Arno Rydel as secretary, Ann Frankenburg as treasurer, and myself as President. The three of us plus Spatsky form an executive which will meet at Spatsky’s in Warrington at Xmas to draw up plans. After the meeting Richardson and I walked down with Frank Jones who promised to join the party and said he had intended to do so long ago but had been “bissonated” by Baruch [Bisson, who had been in charge of the YCL, was regarded as flamboyant but incompetent – Ed.]. In the evening Iver Mercer called and we talked and played chess. We decided to tackle Phyllis Mercer soon.
Frank Jones was the first moderately heavyweight recruit who made 1936 so successful. (c. 6500 words)
GREAVES JOURNAL, VOLUME 3, INDEX 1935
1 October 1935-24 November 1935
– Aesthetics and verse: 11.19
– Assessments of others: 10.2, 10.18-19, 10.27-28
– Chess: 11.6, 11.20
– Communism/socialism: 11.1
– Family relations: 10.31
– Ireland and Irish affairs: 10.7, 10.24
– Peace movement/war danger: 10.12, 10.22, 10.25, 11.7
– Political development: 10.6, 10.28-29, 11.2, 11.4, 11.12, 11.14-15, 11.22, 11.24
– Profession, professional work: 10.3, 10.7, 10.16
– Public speaking: 10.8, 10.11, 10.22, 10.25, 11.18
– Reading: 10.20, 10.28, 11.11
– Religion: 5.16, 8.11, 10.17
– Self-assessments: 10.16
– University studies: 10.3, 10.7,10.16
Organisation Names Index
Birkenhead Institute Grammar school: 10.13, 11.2
Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB): 11.4, 11.12, 11.24
Federation of Student Societies (FSS): 10.11, 10.17, 11.22
Labour Party (British): 1.5, 11.5, 11.9, 11.11-12, 11.14
Labour League of Youth (LLY): 10.1
New Labour Club: 10.6, 10.14, 10.16, 10.19, 10.22, 10.28, 11.4, 11.7-9
Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR (SCR): 10.1-2
Young Communist League (YCL): 10.27
Personal Names Index
Burns, Emil: 10.27
Cornford, John: 10.1,10.11, 11.22, 11.24
Dutt, R. Palme: 11.10
Edge, John (Jack): 10.1, 11.19, 11.22
Evans, George: 11.10
Frankenburg, Ann: 10.27, 11.22
Freeman, Richard: 10.1
Gollan, John: 10.27
Greaves, Phyllis: 10.31, 11.20
Halliday, John Alexander: 10.3, 10.7
Hamling, Wlliam (Bill), later MP: 11.4-5
Hodge, Alan Searle: 10.2
Hughes, E. Wynne: 10.13, 11.2
Jeffery, Jim and Nora: 10.13, 11.2
Jones, FM (Frank): 11.4, 11.9, 11.15, 11.22, 11.24
Jones, Ivor H.: 10.2-4, 10.6, 10.10, 10.12, 10.19, 10.21-22
Mann, Tom: 10.27
Marshall, Molly (Mrs Ingram Knowles): 10.15, 10.19
Matthias, William: 10.16
Mercer, Iver: 10.13, 10.20, 10.26, 11.2-3, 11.9, 11.18
Mercer, Mrs: 10.30, 11.3, 11.7-8, 11.12, 11.14-15
Mercer, Phyllis: 11.3, 11.17-18
Moore (Snr.): 10.26, 11.22
Morton, Alan Geoffrey: 11.19
Paul, Mr and Mrs: 10.18, 10.26
Pollitt, Harry: 10.27, 11.15
Rust, William: 11.3, 11.22
Scholfield: 10.1-2, 10.15, 11.2, 11.21
Thompson, Professor MacLean: 10.16
Tickell: 10.2, 10.5-6, 10.21, 10.24, 10.28, 10.31,11.6, 11.9
Williams, J. Roose: 10.17-18