Monday 4 February 2008

Sussex for the People

Sussex for the People 1939

Last December 1938, in the House of Commons, Lieutenant Colonel Stephenson-Clarke, Conservative member for East Grinstead, opposed a private member's bill that sought to give the public access to mountains and moorlands. He described it as an attack on the rights of property, but it is really he who has taken away our rights.

Sussex belongs to the People. It is OUR county. Its natural beauty, its rolling downs, its Weald and seashore are ours to enjoy, and not the privilege of a handful of land owners who have stolen them from us.

Its history is OUR history and the history of our forbears. It is along history—a history of heroic struggles. It was here that De Montfort defeated the king and gained for us the right to be represented in Parliament. It was here and in our neighbouring counties that Jack Cade led the peasants in arms against an unjust and plundering government. It was here that Tom Paine lived and spread his influence.

Men like Shelley, Trigger and Deryk Carver are not mere shadows of the past. They are a pattern for us and for all Sussex men. They are OUR people and their struggles are our heritage. The men of Alfriston, who met nearly 150 years ago to form the first Sussex Trade Union, the men and women who started a Co-operative movement in this county, with a history that goes back further than that of the Rochdale Pioneers, the men and women who fought in the Labourers' Revolt of 1830—these are our heroes and we honour their memory.

In the same way we/honour the men and women who in 1920 founded the Brighton Communist Party, those who fought in the Battle of Lewes Road, those who were with the unemployed when they marched to London in 1932 and again in 1934, those whose shouts and cries of anger spread along the South Coast when Mosley brought his hired thugs from London to attack the rights of our people, those who came on to the streets when the Nazi Police came to insult us in our own towns, and the Men of Sussex who fought with honour against the onslaught of fascist barbarism in Spain, some of them giving their lives. These are our people, our leaders, our brothers and sisters. The men in the past ' who struggled are our ancestors, not the long tedious succession of Saxon Kings and Norman Barons, Fuedal Lords and Chief Constables, Sheriffs, Lord Lieutenants and Mayors.

We are proud that our history is one of struggle. The struggles of the past give us courage for the greater struggles that are to come.The common people built this Sussex—this England, which others enjoy. But following in the footsteps of another great people who have built a land of Socialism over one sixth of the world we too shall strive to achieve the victory of Socialism.

I conclude with the words of a Sussex poet—Percy Shelley, whose words are a call to action for all Sussex people.

'Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
That in sleep had fallen on you.
Ye are many—they are few?

Sussex for the People
By Ernie Trory
Sussex County Committee of the Communist Party
First printed March 1939 (2,000) reprinted May 1939 (3,000)

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