Guest blog: Kevin Matthews on the importance of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists 100 years after the death of its author Robert Tressell
Robert Tressell was the creative mastermind behind one of the most influential books of the 20th Century - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.
The Irish-born unemployed painter and decorator took up the pen to keep from the workhouse, but unable to make ends meet he decided to try his chances in Canada. He got as far as Liverpool, where his health failed and he died on February 3, 1911 at the age of just 40.
It wasn't until three years after his death that his daughter was successful in getting the 1,600 page manuscript for The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists published.
The story about the hard done by painters and decorators in the fictional town of Mugsborough has gone on to inspire, ignite debate and outrage since its publication, with some leading politicians (usually left-wingers) heralding it as one of the most important novels ever written.
In fact there is no coincidence that the novel was published right at the start of the Labour movement.
It is fitting that Tressell's final resting place is in a city which has arguably been most inspired by his work.
Socialism and the working movement is ingrained in the heart of Liverpool where justice is at the core of the political ideology.
And 100 year's after the author's death to the day, the novel is now more relevant than ever. A time when we are seeing the two old political parties joining together to impose one of the greatest right wing attacks on ordinary, working people.
It is no coincidence that North West councils, like Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton, have had hundreds of millions of pounds cut from their government grants and are therefore having to make thousands of people unemployed. Meanwhile Conservative run authorities like Dorset have seen percentage increases in their grants.
But don't be fooled into thinking that this is another example of the North/South divide, it's not geographic, it's social. It's the same divide that Robert Tressell wrote about in the early 20th century.
The divide is the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.
In this age of fat cats and bankers' bonuses, the message behind The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists rings loud and clear. Read chapter 21, The Great Money Trick, for a novel yet painfully accurate description of the workings of capitalism - or just listen to the extract below.
It's just a shame that after 100 years after the great man's death, we're still falling for the same old trick.
Kevin Matthews was formerly head of web for the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, now he works for the Labour party and Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson. He blogs HERE.
For a list of events being held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tressell's death click HERE.