Internationalism, Ipswich and the EU Referendum: Vote Remain!
Tossed by the Waves Of Hate, but Ipswich Internationalists Vote Remain.
Internationalism, Ipswich and the EU referendum: Vote Remain!
All men are Brethren. Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. Heroic citizens – the thunder-notes of your victory have sounded across the Channel, awakening the sympathies and hopes of every lover of liberty….Accept our fraternal salutations and our earnest wishes that the French Republic may triumph over its enemies and become a model for the imitation of the world. Vive La République! (1)
“A Republic for France: the Charter for England.” Rally Ipswich Corn Hill. 1848.
Ipswich is an ancient town. Sited on the estuary of the river Orwell, whose upper reaches are called the Gipping, Ipswich is Gipperswich. The remains of a Roman villa have been found in the suburbs. The settlement itself is Saxon, the street plan of the centre remains the same as laid down in the 7th century: Carr Street-Tavern Street-Cornhill-Westgate street. Kilns producing pottery, “Ipswich ware” were established.
Ipswich ware owes its origins to the Rhineland and Frisia. Dorstadt on the Lek Rhine is known to have controlled the trade routes from the Rhine and the Baltic in the eighth and ninth centuries, and Ipswich is on the shortest route from Rhine mouth. (2)
Ipswich is an old town. Walking around the centre you pass medieval churches, half-timbered buildings, like the famous Ancient House, and the pub, the Spread Eagle, and, at the head of a beautiful park, the sixteenth century Christchurch mansion, which stands on the site of the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity, founded c.1177. Just next to the entrance is St Margaret’s plain, named after a Dutch word reflecting the centuries long presence of traders from Holland. Reminders of its port and trading history ere everywhere. Near to the quayside is the old Jewish cemetery, which commentates the presence of a group of merchants who established a synagogue (no longer there) in Rope Walk.
Ipswich is working class town. The docks, for centuries the basis of the local economy, and the engineering works, may have shrunk as employers, but the majority of the people work in manual, service and ordinary clerical jobs. There is a large migrant population, Portuguese speakers, Eastern Europeans, over a thousand Kurds, and countless others, as well as longer established minority communities, principally Bangladeshi and Caribbean. Many people are mixed ethnicity. Passing by Rope Walk to the centre in the morning you can hear a dozen languages being spoken and see Polish, Chinese, Kurdish, Turkish barbers, an Indian-Bengali restaurant, a Lebanese-Moroccan restaurant…..
Ipswich is a town with a long-standing left and a labour movement. The anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson, a supporter of the early French revolution, and in my view one of the best people to have ever lived, made it his home. He is commentated in a street name. Rallies and activism against slavery attracted thousands. During the Chartist movement hey-day John Cook’s Radical Infidel Repository in Upper Orwell Street sold the Northern Star. Later in the century trade unions founded the local labour party. A newsagent’s by Grimwade Street sold Socialist publications, such as the Social Democratic Federation’s Justice. There was strong suffragette movement….
Today we have a Tory MP (following Labour ones) but Labour controls the Borough council and the Trades Council is left wing. There were large protests against the County Council’s austerity and privatisation programme.
Ipswich is a generous and warm town. During the terrible Ipswich serial killings in 2006 two young anarchist women organised a Reclaim the Night demonstration. It was attend by the left, councillors and members of every political party, the public, and the Salvation Army. Refusing stigmatisation Ipswich people and the local media declared that the victims were “Somebody’s daughter”. This love and compassion stuck deep into our hearts.
Ipswich is an internationalist town. When the refugee crisis first erupted a hastily organised rally by the Giles Statue took place. Around a hundred heard speeches from people expressing solidarity. The work of local refugee supporters continues.
The words of 1848 rally, “we are all brethren”, still echo. Ipswich is, by trade, commerce and industry, by politics, and by people, an internationalist town. Faced with the hate of those attacking migrants, foreigners, and ‘Brussels’, there is one response: unity not division. To vote for the European Union is to listen to that call, to build our ties together, to fight for a better world. Another Europe is Possible!
(1) Page 80. Chartism in Essex and Suffolk. A.F.J.Brown 1982.
(2) Page 99. The Suffolk Landscape. Norman Scarfe. Hodder & Stoughton. 1972.