Chapter 10 – Solomon’s journey to Jewish trade unionism

by Jason Lever

Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 17:16:55 GMT

A socialist path

In his shift from cabinet maker to trades union leader in baking (and later political leadership), he epitomised Henry Mayhew’s characterisation that ‘the artisans are almost to a man red-hot politicians’ (‘London Labour and the London Poor', vol III, 1861) (ref: Mayhew).

Solomon’s shift from cabinet making to union officialdom may also have been related to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The relative youthfulness of the Jewish population meant that some 14 per cent of British Jews served in the armed forces compared with 11.5 per cent of the British population generally.

Solomon was not conscripted into active service though. In common with many East End furniture makers, his skills were used in aircraft manufacture – as wood was the basic material for aircraft of the time – serving in the Royal Flying Corps (ref: Black G; Kirkham).

We have already seen in earlier sections on the origins of the London Jewish Bakers Union some of the challenges to the development of trades unionism among predominantly Jewish trades, particularly tailoring and baking.

Solomon Lever’s path in unionism – and later as a prominent Labour Party councillor and Mayor of Hackney – was likely influenced by socialists providing the early leadership of Jewish trade unionism. The 19th century Jewish immigrants brought with them the socialism of the Pale of Settlement and can be said to have more or less introduced trades unionism – and Zionism – to British Jewry (ref: Alderman, 1983).

A Hebrew Socialist Union was formed in 1876, which ‘acted first as an educative force to train future political leaders, and secondly as an economic force to bring about Trade Union consciousness’. Eight years later came a Society of Jewish Socialists, which spawned an International Workers’ Educational Club (Fishman, 1981; Alderman, 1983).

Yet, by the onset of the First World War there could be little point in ‘speaking of a Jewish socialist movement in England independent of Jewish trade unionism’ (Gartner). For Jewish immigrants, socialism was largely taken up in Britain ‘through an industrial [ie trade union] rather than an ideological [ie revolutionary] medium’ (Alderman, 1983).

Cabinet-Making Jewish-Unions Jewish-Socialist-Movement Trades-Union-Leader Zionist

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Chapter 1 - Introducing Solomon Lever and his l...Chapter 2 - The Jewish East EndChapter 3 - A family history of Solomon LeverChapter 4 - A Jewish East End education for Sol...Chapter 5 - Joining East End cultural and commu...Chapter 6 - Solomon as a cabinet makerChapter 7 – From cabinet maker to trade union g...Chapter 8 – Rise of the London Jewish Bakers UnionChapter 9 – Dealing with the challenges of a de...Chapter 10 – Solomon’s journey to Jewish trade ...Chapter 11 – Interlude of anarchism’s appeal to...Chapter 12 – Solomon Lever finds his home in th...Chapter 13 – The Liberal and Conservative partiesChapter 14 – The Labour Party consolidates its ...Chapter 15 – The appeal of East End councils’ s...Chapter 16 – The rise and fall of communist sup...Chapter 17 – Surging Labourism after the warChapter 18 – The Labour Party’s support for Zio...Chapter 19 – Short-lived Labour-Zionist honeymoonChapter 20 – Solomon Lever’s 1947 broadcast spe...Chapter 21 – Solomon Lever’s 1948 speech from t...Chapter 22 – Solomon Lever’s 1954 speech from t...Chapter 23 – Solomon Lever’s final TUC speech i...Chapter 24 – His Worshipful The Mayor and Mayor...Chapter 25 – Family connections in the Mayor’s ...Chapter 26 – Important social issues raised wit...Chapter 27 – The adbuction of Solomon LeverChapter 28 – Discovery of Solomon’s bodyChapter 29 – InquestChapter 30 – The death of Solomon LeverChapter 31 – Solomon’s funeral and obituaryChapter 32 – The death knell of the London Jewi...Chapter 33 – An appraisalChapter 34 – Bibliography