Educational History: Gramsci and Independent Working Class Education by Colin Waugh

The 1909 ‘strike’ (actually a boycott of specific lectures) by trade union-sponsored students at Ruskin College, in Oxford but not part of the university, is, to my knowledge, unique. As I tried to show in my 2009 pamphlet ‘Plebs’: The Lost Legacy of Independent Working-Class Education, these students, mainly mineworkers and railway-workers – in short, core members of the working class – took on the ruling class, in the shape of an alliance between the Oxford University Extension Delegacy and the Workers’ Educational Association, over the nature of adult education.
Was it to be, as these organisations hoped, a means for producing a compliant layer amongst working-class activists, and thereby for blunting the edge of class struggle? Or was it to be a means by which workers could pursue that struggle more effectively? In the lead-up to the ‘strike’, the students, with former students, organised the League of the ‘Plebs’, and began to put in place a national structure of ‘labour colleges’ (ie part time classes in working-class heartlands), while after it they set up the Central Labour College (in effect an institution for training tutors for those classes) and a publications structure. Read more…

12th Aug 2014: ‘Plebs’; The Ruskin College ‘Strike’ of 1909 by Colin Waugh


Come along to The Central Library  (George Washington Browne Conference Room which is one floor down from the front entrance) for 5pm to listen to Colin’s talk. There will be some food provided and an opportunity to talk…


Name of Speaker:

Colin Waugh (Independent Working-Class Education Network)

Subject of Talk:

‘Plebs’: the Ruskin College ‘strike’ of 1909
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Rediscovering Independent Working Class Education by Colin Waugh

The meeting at Ruskin College on 27th March is essentially about how independent working class education (IWCE) could be developed within trade union education.

The impulse for this stems partly from the pamphlet ‘Plebs’: the Lost Legacy of Independent Working-Class Education, produced last year by PSE to mark the centenary of the 1909 Ruskin College ‘strike’. What happened in and around that ‘strike’ is important now because it is the main example available to us of working-class people setting up on their own initiative a system of adult education -the Labour College movement – that was independent of the employing class and its state. Read more…