An Impenitent Agitator
Sir James Sexton, Agitator. The autobiography of the Dockers' M.P. (Faber and Faber. 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by JOSEPH CLAYTON Surely of all the numerous autobiographies of our British Labour leaders this life story of James Sexton of Liverpool, is ,easily the best. Not only is it a personal story of high courage and valiant service, a whole chapter of social and industrial history is recorded, a chapter not to he missed; no one can understand the necessity for the Labour Movement without knowledge of the conditions that provoked it.
What a life it is, the life led by this impenitent agitator, who at eighty insists that the alternative to agitation is stagnation. This Irish Catholic who "started work when nine years old because half-acrown a week was welcome to my mother as a substantial contribution towards the rent of our slum dwelling," and has survived without loss of faith, hope or charity more than twelve years of Parliament, the freedom of the City of Liverpool, and a knighthood; to say nothing of capitalist enmities, treacheries of the very men he was helping, and the contesting of elections that brought " moral victories" only.
A Fine Character What a fund of good stories accumulated in the course of experiences at sea, as a dock labourer, as trade union organiser and Socialist agitator, and as Labour leader. (Many of the stories at the expense of the teller.) Generous appreciations of contemporaries abroad, the love of his own people, of his mother in especial, is always breaking in; there is little room for bitterness in the heart of so fine a character. In the real 'nineties-not the 'nineties of a literary group in London but the 'nineties of the uprising Labour and Socialist movement-no man earned more honourable mention than " Citizen " of Robert Blatch
ford's old Clarion. The unquenchable faith and good humour that marked the early writings of " Citizen " Sexton are not tarnished but more skilfully displayed in this life story of Sir James. A story to be read, re-read and enjoyed.