The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 was a massive historical moment in the North of England. Working class people from all over Greater Manchester came together in their tens of thousands in protest for reforms.
The French revolution was still fresh in mind for the British ruling class. Fearing these events could trigger a repeat on English grounds, they sent soldiers into the North to keep things in control. The soldiers ended up massacring dozens and injuring hundreds of working class people. The sacrifices of the Mancunian working class led, indirectly, to great democratic reforms resulting in greater representation for the British working class.
The historical impact of the massacre is immeasurable, yet our school and the media treat it as a mere footnote of history, with little attention paid to it, if any at all. This conspiracy of silence is no accident. It is in the interests of the ruling class to keep the working class ignorant of England’s revolutionary past. The fear is that this truth, that England was ever on the brink of revolution, might encourage the people to take a stand against the oppression of the ruling class again.
The tactic of ignoring progressive movements is not one the bourgeoisie is new to. It is not only Peterloo but numerous important events which are ignored by education and the media. The Chartists, who learnt important lessons from Peterloo, are similarly forgotten. In education, there is barely a mention of the Chartist movement which was the first working class party in the world, showing the way to every important reform we have seen since.
The ruling class do not only ignore historical events for this reason, but current events too. Currently around the world there are protests and strikes happening at every turn which the media rarely reports on, and if they do, coverage is extremely limited as a deliberate attempt to hide the scale and impact of the events. Currently in India 250 million people are taking part in the farmers strike, but media coverage is lackluster to say the least. They have omitted the reasons for this protest, the Modi regime, the scale of this protest, the largest in history, and the repeated nature of protests linked to this movement.
The ruling classes time and time again are silent on our revolutionary potential because it suggests a revolutionary future!, The ruling class don’t want us to know that we can put an end to the oppression capitalism puts on us, to organise our society collectively in the interests of the people. We must understand that we are the ones with power and, contrary to what the ruling class will have us believe, only we have the ability to take control of our lives. The tactic of silence is losing its effect as more and more workers learn the history of proletarian revolutionary action. Our communities or towns are not dependent on the running of the ruling class, we are able to do this ourselves. In the words of the late Ted Grant “Not a wheel turns, not a phone rings, not a light bulb shines without the kind permission of the Working Class. Once this enormous power is mobilised no power on Earth can stop it!”
By Dan Carolan