Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council (BWTUC) is to mark that, one hundred years ago, on 2nd August 1914, John Burns, Battersea’s socialist MP, resigned from the Cabinet in protest at the pending declaration of war against Germany. Two days later the UK declared war.
At 1pm on Saturday 9th August BWTUC will inaugurate a guided walk through John Burns' in Battersea. It will start at his grave at St Mary’s Cemetery, Battersea Rise, Bolingbroke Grove, SW11 1HE. At the end of the walk there will be a dedication of a John Burns Room in the Bread and Roses pub at 68 Clapham Manor Street SW4 6DZ, which is owned by BWTUC. See www.bwtuc.org.uk for copy on for the route of the walk and for information on John Burns and the BWTUC. Media are invited on the walk and to the event in the Bread and Roses at 4pm. (See attached file: BWTUC wrap Wandsworth Guardian 2014 July 23 REPLACEMENT.pdf)
In 1894, 120 years ago, John Burns set up the Battersea Trades & Labour Council, the forerunner of the BWTUC.
John Burns MP, in July 1914, wrote, “Why four great powers should fight over Serbia no fellow can understand. This I know, there is one fellow who will have nothing to do with such a criminal folly, the effects of which will be appalling to the welter of nations who will be involved. It must be averted by all the means in our power. Apart from the merits of the case it is my especial duty to dissociate myself, and the principles I hold and the trusteeship for the working classes I carry from such a universal crime as the contemplated war will be. My duty is clear and at all costs will be done.”
John Burns was born in 1858 in South Lambeth and moved to Battersea at about the age of nine. He started work aged 10. Burns was a superb public speaker at open air and indoor meetings. He played a leading role with Tom Mann in the successful London Dock Strike of 1889 and supported setting up new unions for gas and railway workers.
With the help of others he put together a Progressive Alliance in Battersea amongst trade unionists, socialists, liberals and radicals. He was elected to the London County Council at the end of 1888 and as MP for Battersea in 1892. The Progressive Alliance took control of Battersea in 1894.
The Liberal Prime Minister invited Burns to join the Cabinet in December
1905 as President of the Local Government Board. His major lasting achievement was the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909 which enabled councils to build houses for rent.
Seamus MacBride, BWTUC President, said, “Over the next week, as the media focus on the centenary of the start of the Great War on the 4th August 1914, it is important to remember that there were major political figures like our founder John Burns who saw clearly the carnage about to be unleashed and who stood against it.
The fighting in Palestine and Ukraine today is unfortunately linked to that decision to go to war in 1914. It is easier to start a war than to end conflicts.
The political tradition that John Burns stood for lives on today. BWTUC is in its 120th year. It the south west London arm of the international trade union movement that now has 168 million trades unionists in 155 countries.
BWTUC continues to stand for its founding principles of democracy, the rule of law, economic and social justice. We believe, as Burns did, that this means an end to ‘middlemen’ and a need for direct labour, full employment, fair wages, affordable public housing, and free public health services.”
Contact Carmel Pollen at BWTUC on 07946 172461 or Seamus Mac Bride 07958 308360 of for more information on the history contact Sean Creighton 07725 045550