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Herbert Burrows (1845-1922) was a British socialist.


"Burrows moved to London in 1877, and by the early 1880s was active in the National Secular Society and the Social and Political Education League, for which he lectured regularly to radical and working men's clubs. He became vice-president of the Manhood Suffrage League, the most important of these clubs. In 1881 he joined H.M. Hyndman in forming the Democratic Federation, which in 1884 became the Social Democratic Federation, the first important socialist organization in Britain. He was appointed its treasurer in 1883, supported its overt commitment to socialism in 1884, and was one of its best-known propagandists. He wrote articles for its newspaper, Justice, often using the pseudonym C.V. He helped the federation to organize demonstrations against unemployment throughout the mid-1880s, and, when these climaxed in clashes with police during the riots of 1887, he represented it on the executive of the Law and Liberty League, formed to promote popular control of the police.... Throughout the 1880s Burrows complained about wage levels and working conditions for unskilled women. In July 1888 he and Annie Besant organized a successful strike of match girls at Bryant and May, which attracted much publicity and widespread sympathy. The strike led to the formation of the Union of Women Matchmakers, with Burrows as its treasurer. The union, with 800 members, was the largest women\'s trade union in England at the time. Furthermore, the success of the strike, and the emergence of the union, helped to inspire the new unionism of the 1890s. Here too Burrows was not idle; he promoted unionization among chain makers, mat makers, omnibusmen, silk weavers, and others. He remained active in the Women's Trade Union League and the Women\'s Industrial Council until 1917. Within the federation Burrows stood out for the peculiarly ethical nature of his socialism. He came from a nonconformist family, and helped found a Unitarian church in Cambridge, before drifting towards secularism. His socialism incorporated aspects of his search for a spiritual and moral basis to life. He thought the weakness of most socialism lay in its crude materialism and consequent overemphasis on social conditions. He wanted to temper this crude materialism with an ethical revolt against individualism: a revolt to inspire a genuine, social democracy characterized by the abolition of class interests, and the recognition of the duties of individuals to the social whole."

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Men of the People


 

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