On this day on 20th October

On this day in 1632 Christopher Wren was born. On 2nd September, 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed a large area of the city. Charles II had to appoint someone to take charge of rebuilding London. After much thought the king gave the job to his childhood friend, Christopher Wren. This included the task of building over fifty new churches in London. Wren was also commissioned to design and build St. Paul's Cathedral. St. Paul's took thirty-five years to build. The most dramatic aspect of St. Paul's was its great dome. It was the second largest dome ever built (the largest was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome). Both domes were based on the one in the Pantheon built by the ancient Romans. Wren was sixty-six years old when he finished St. Paul's. Other buildings designed by Wren included the Royal Exchange, College of Physicians, Chelsea Hospital, the Royal Naval College, Custom House and the Drury Lane Theatre. When Christopher Wren died in 1723 he became the first person to be buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Christopher Wren
Christopher Wren

On this day in 1858 John Burns, English union leader and politician, was born. In 1879 Burns joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and found employment with the United Africa Company. Horrified by the way the Africans were treated, Burns became convinced that only socialism would remove the inequalities between races and classes. He returned to England in 1881 and soon afterwards formed the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). One of the first people to join was another young engineer, Tom Mann.

When the London Dock Strike started in August 1889, Ben Tillett asked John Burns to help win the dispute. Burns, a passionate orator, helped to rally the dockers when they were considering the possibility of returning to work. He was also involved in raising money and gaining support from other trade unionists. During the dispute Burns emerged with Tillett and Tom Mann as one of the three main leaders of the strike.

The employers hoped to starve the dockers back to work but other trade union activists such as Will Thorne, Eleanor Marx, James Keir Hardie and Henry Hyde Champion, gave valuable support to the 10,000 men now out on strike. Organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Labour Church raised money for the strikers and their families. Trade Unions in Australia sent over £30,000 to help the dockers to continue the struggle. After five weeks the employers accepted defeat and granted all the dockers' main demands.

John Burns (c. 1890)
John Burns (c. 1890)

On this day in 1859, John Dewey, American psychologist and philosopher was born. In his books Dewey outlined his views on how education could improve society. The founder of what became known as the progressive education movement, Dewey argued that it was the job of education to encourage individuals to develop their full potential as human beings. He was especially critical of the rote learning of facts in schools and argued that children should learn by experience. In this way students would not just gain knowledge but would also develop skills, habits and attitudes necessary for them to solve a wide variety of problems. Dewey wrote several books on education and philosophy including Moral Principles in Education (1909), Interest and Effort in Education (1913) and Democracy and Education (1916).

John Dewey
John Dewey

On this day in 1900 Wayne Morse, American politician was born. A member of the Republican Party, Morse was elected to the Senate in 1944. On the left of the party, Morse's liberal views made him a target of Joseph McCarthy. However, Mansfield was extremely popular in Oregon and he was able to survive McCarthy's claims that he was a Communist sympathizer. Although an anti-Communist, Morse continued to support the civil liberties of members of the Communist Party. He also signed the Declaration of Conscience, a document that attacked the abuses of McCarthyism. Morse was an advocate of Afro-American civil rights and fought for the desegregation of the District of Columbia and upset senators from the Deep South by inviting black leaders to meetings in the Senate. A strong opponent of the Vietnam War, Morse was one of only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964. Morse was defeated for re-election in 1968. Wayne Morse died in Portland, Oregon, on 22nd July, 1974.

Wayne Morse
Wayne Morse

On this day in 1926 Eugene V. Debs died. Debs left school at the age of 14 and found work as a painter in a railroad yards. He became a railroad fireman in 1870 and soon afterwards became active in the trade union movement. Debs was elected national secretary of Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman in 1880. In 1893 Debs was elected the first president of the American Railway Union (ARU). In 1894 George Pullman, the president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, decided to reduced the wages of his workers. When the company refused arbitration, the ARU called a strike. The attorney-general, Richard Olney, sought an injunction under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act against the Pullman Strike. As a result, of Olney's action, Debs was arrested and despite being defended by Clarence Darrow, was imprisoned. The case came before the Supreme Court in 1895. David Brewer spoke for the court on 27th May, explaining why he refused the American Railway Union's appeal. This decision was a great set-back for the trade union movement.

While serving his time in Woodstock Prison he read the works of Karl Marx. By the time he left prison in 1895 Debs became a socialist and believed that capitalism should be replaced by a new cooperative system. Although he advocated radical reform, Debs was opposed to the revolutionary violence supported by some left-wing political groups.

In the 1904 Presidential Election Eugene Debs was the Socialist Party of America candidate. His running-mate was Benjamin Hanford. Debs finished third to Theodore Roosevelt with 402,810 votes. This was an impressive performance and in the 1908 Presidential Election he managed to increase his vote to 420,793.

Between 1901 and 1912 membership of the Socialist Party of America grew from 13,000 to 118,000 and its journal Appeal to Reason was selling 500,000 copies a week. This provided a great platform for Debs and his running-mate, Emil Seidel, in the 1912 Presidential Election. During the campaign Debs explained why people should vote for him: "You must either vote for or against your own material interests as a wealth producer; there is no political purgatory in this nation of ours, despite the desperate efforts of so-called Progressive capitalists politicians to establish one. Socialism alone represents the material heaven of plenty for those who toil and the Socialist Party alone offers the political means for attaining that heaven of economic plenty which the toil of the workers of the world provides in unceasing and measureless flow. Capitalism represents the material hell of want and pinching poverty of degradation and prostitution for those who toil and in which you now exist, and each and every political party, other than the Socialist Party, stands for the perpetuation of the economic hell of capitalism. For the first time in all history you who toil possess the power to peacefully better your own condition. The little slip of paper which you hold in your hand on election day is more potent than all the armies of all the kings of earth."

Debs and Seidel won 901,551 votes (6.0%). This was the most impressive showing of any socialist candidate in the history of the United States. In some states the vote was much higher: Oklahoma (16.6), Nevada (16.5), Montana (13.6), Washington (12.9), California (12.2) and Idaho (11.5).

Eugene V. Debs <empty>
Lewis Mumford

On this day in 1935 Arthur Henderson died. In 1908 he replaced Kier Hardie as leader of the Labour Party. In May 1915, Henderson became the first member of the Labour Party to hold a Cabinet post when Herbert Asquith invited him to join his coalition government. Henderson disagreed with those politicians who believed Germany should be harshly treated after the First World War, and as a result of the nationalist fervour of the 1918 General Election, he lost his seat. He returned at a by-election at Burnley in February 1924 and joined the government headed by Ramsay MacDonald as Home Secretary.

After the 1929 General Election victory, MacDonald appointed Henderson as his Foreign Secretary. In this post Henderson attempted to reduce political tensions in Europe. Diplomatic relations were re-established with the Soviet Union and Henderson gave his full support to the League of Nations by arguing for international arbitration, de-militarization and collective security. However, he resigned in 1931 when McDonald formed a National Government in order to cut public spending.

Henderson became leader of the Labour Party and ver the next few years Henderson worked tirelessly for world peace. Between 1932 and 1935 he chaired the Geneva Disarmament Conference and in 1934 his work was recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Arthur Henderson (c. 1890)
Arthur Henderson (c. 1890)

On this day in 1935 the Long March, undertaken by the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party comes to an end. On 12th March 1925, Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Kuomintang died. He was replaced by Chaing Kai-Shek who now carried out a purge that eliminated the communists from the organization. Those communists who survived managed to established the Jiangxi Soviet.

The nationalists now imposed a blockade and Mao Zedong decided to evacuate the area and establish a new stronghold in the north-west of China. In October 1934 Mao, Zhou Enlai, Lin Biao, Zhu De, and some 100,000 men and their dependents headed west through mountainous areas. The marchers experienced terrible hardships. The most notable passages included the crossing of the suspension bridge over a deep gorge at Luting (May, 1935), travelling over the Tahsueh Shan mountains (August, 1935) and the swampland of Sikang (September, 1935). The marchers covered about fifty miles a day and reached Shensi on 20th October 1935. Only around 30,000 survived the 8,000-mile march.

Long March poster
Long March poster

On this day in 1947 the House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry. Victor Navasky, the author of Naming Names (1982) has been pointed out that ten of the nineteen originally named members of the American Communist Party were Jews (Gordon Kahn, Lewis Milestone, Richard Collins, Albert Maltz, Robert Rossen, Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole) and two others had been involved in the recent film, Crossfire (1947), that was an attack on anti-Semitism (Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk).

Arthur Szyk, Self-Portait (1945)
Arthur Szyk, He is Under Investigation, His Blood is Red and His Heart is Left of Center (1949)

On this day in 1964 Herbert Hoover died. Hoover was elected as president in 1928. A position he held during the Wall Street Crash. Within a short time, 100,000 American companies were forced to close and consequently many workers became unemployed. As there was no national system of unemployment benefit, the purchasing power of the American people fell dramatically. This in turn led to even more unemployment. Yip Harburg pointed out that before the Wall Street Crash, the American citizen thought: "We were the prosperous nation, and nothing could stop us now.... There was a feeling of continuity. If you made it, it was there forever. Suddenly the big dream exploded. The impact was unbelievable."

Franklin D. Roosevelt was selected as the Democratic Party candidate for the 1932 Presidential Election. There was a general agreement that Hoover ran a very bad campaign. Several leading Republican politicians, on the left of the party, including Robert LaFollette Jr of Wisconsin, Hiram Johnson of California, George Norris of Nebraska, Bronson Cutting of New Mexico and Smith Wildman Brookhart of Iowa, supported Roosevelt. Jonathan Bourne of Oregon stated: "I think Hoover is the most pitiful failure we have ever had in the White House."

The turnout, almost 40 million, was the largest in American history. Roosevelt received 22,825,016 votes to Hoover's 15,758,397. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six. Hoover received 6 million fewer votes than he had in 1928. The Democrats gained ninety seats in the House of Representatives to give them a large majority (310-117) and won control of the Senate (60-36). Only one previous Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, had done as badly as Hoover.

Franklin D. Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover: "Just leave them Herb. I'll do it all after March 4th." Cliff Berryman, Washington Evening Star (1932)
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover: "Just leave them Herb. I'll do it
all after March 4th." Cliff Berryman, Washington Evening Star (December, 1932)

On this day in 1973 President Richard Nixon fired U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to remove special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson had appointed Cox to investigate the alleged Watergate cover-up and illegal activity in the 1972 presidential campaign. Eventually, Robert Bork, the Solicitor-General, fired Cox.

An estimated 450,000 telegrams went sent to Richard Nixon protesting against his decision to remove Cox. The heads of 17 law colleges now called for Nixon's impeachment. Nixon was unable to resist the pressure and on 23rd October he agreed to comply with the subpoena and began releasing some of the tapes. The following month a gap of over 18 minutes was discovered on the tape of the conversation between Nixon and H. R. Haldeman on June 20, 1972. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, denied deliberately erasing the tape. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment. On 9th August, 1974, Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office.

Richard Nixon with Archibald Cox
Archibald Cox