The Singing Strikers of 1928–29: Cultural Contestation, Community and Communists

Weinbren, Daniel (2020). The Singing Strikers of 1928–29: Cultural Contestation, Community and Communists. Family & Community History, 23(3) pp. 200–221.



Composed as events unfolded, the songs in a 1929 Communist Party strike songs booklet capture the sorrows, desires, complaints and worries of the striking clothing workers involved in two disputes led by Communist Sam Elsbury. The lyrics and simple musical scales of a bricolage of jazz, mass-market, folk and hymn-inspired parodies and homages aimed to facilitate audience attention and participation, and to raise support, gain sympathy for the workers and boost morale. The songs indicate the grievances of the workers, many of whom were young, Jewish, women who lived in east London. The songs attempt to nurture a community dedicated to supporting a ‘Revolutionary Workers’ Government’ (the Communist Party’s aim from February 1928). They illuminate the political strategies, leadership assumptions, dreams and visions of the Party during its ultra-leftist ‘Third Period’. They also indicate how struggles over modernity and the development of jazz and secular Judaism were expressed and connected

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