Sheffield learning resources co-operative Principle 5 has ventured into pamphlet publishing for the first time with a re-print of Edward Carpenter’s Sheffield and Socialism, first extracted from his biography Days and Dreams by Mushroom Bookshop in 1993.
Complete with its original Preface by David Blunkett, then Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside, the extract describes Carpenter’s time in Sheffield during the mid-1880s when he helped to establish and run a propagandist and campaigning group, the Sheffield Socialist Society.
Carpenter was one of Britain’s best known early socialists, as well as being a writer, market gardener, adult education lecturer and composer of socialist anthems. As a vegetarian, a supporter of women’s rights and one of the few people of his era to live in an openly homosexual relationship, his concerns pre-figured many of those which are prominent today.
In this memoir he writes about the activities of the Sheffield Socialist Society, their struggles to inspire local people with socialist ideas and their doomed attempt to run a socialist café. He also brings to life many of the now forgotten members of the group who tried to bring socialism to the streets of Sheffield at the end of the 19th century.
“It was a most interesting time,” he writes, while admitting that “History is is a difficult horse to drive”.
According to Blunkett, Carpenter “reflected an evangelism regrettably lacking in late 20th century politics”, understanding “the way ideas can permeate society even when it would seem they are failing to gain a foothold through organised political groupings”.
“Carpenter had a dream and an ideal ‘of the common life conjoined to the free individuality’,” wrote the future Labour minister in 1993. “In essence, he recognised that our inter-dependence and the rights of the individual are not in conflict.”
Sheffield and Socialism by Edward Carpenter costs £2 from Principle 5. Tel: 0114 282 3132.
Principle 5 is the Yorkshire Co-operative Resource Centre. It describes itself as an accessible learning and information resource for all, with a lending library, an archive, talks, study groups and film screenings. It also publishes the newspaper Sheffield Co-operator.