First name/s: George
Last name: Harvey
Known names / nicknames: Geordie
Date of birth: 07/08/1885
Year of birth: 1885
Life before Ruskin
Date and place of birth
7th Aug 1885
Eden Row, Beamish, Co Durham
Born in a typical Co Durham pit family of the period
Starting underground as a hand putter then ‘gallowa’ (pony) putter and graduating to putter-Hewer and fully fledged coal Hewer at Handon Hold Busty pit, Birtley.
Politics/Trade union activity
In his formative years he was an early member of the ILP, and Forward Movement an industrial fraction of the party’s militant wing.
Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin)
Life at Ruskin
Dates at Ruskin 1907-8
Harvey started with the Ruskin correspondence course late in 1905 / beginning of 1906. He was deemed one of the most promising students on the correspondence course, and was offered a full time position at the college. He started to attend in the academic year of 1907-8 on a scholarship.
Source of funding
Private’ Scholarship provided by the College (this is how he described it).
A founder member of the (IWW) Industrial Union of Britain, and the Industrial Unionist Group (IWW) Oxford in 1908.
Although formally finished with the college by the time of the Ruskin College strike (1909) it is clear he stayed on for its duration and was active in the strike and the campaign for a new Labour College. He and the leaders of the strike were also members of the Plebs League. This process led to the founding of the National Labour College of which George was an advocate and probably an agent.
Subjects studied at Ruskin
Economics and Politics
Life after Ruskin
Work After leaving Ruskin he becomes a northern organiser for the SLP based in Gateshead, prior to 1909 after which time it is based in Newcastle.
George arrives at Follonsby (Wardley) Colliery nr Gateshead in 1913 where he is the elected the Checkweighman, at the age of 28. He was already the former editor of the Socialist, the regular mining and international mining correspondent, and the author of several Industrial Unionist mining pamphlets.
Politics/trade union activity
George goes on to write the first pamphlet on Industrial Unionism published in Britain “Industrial Unionism in the Mining Industry” in 1911, and although had been closely linked to the authors of The Miners Next Step who had been fellow Ruskin strikers and Plebs supporters, as an active member of the Socialist Labour Party and editor of its official organ The Socialist between 1911 and 1912, he and they opposed the notion of anarcho-syndicalism in favour of De Leon’s brand of Industrial Unionism.
Other pamphlets include Capitalism in the Northern Coalfield, and Capitalism in the South Wales Coalfield and The Mighty Coal Kings of North-eastern England and How Are We to Meet Them. In 1913 he publishes a bitter attack on Durham Miners Association General Secretary John Wilson, ‘Does John Wilson MP Serve the interests of the working class?’ in the pages of The Socialist. On 7th November he is prosecuted with a legal action by Wilson at the Newcastle Assizes. This is responded to by his comrade Will Lawther who produces the offending article as a separate pamphlet and circulates thousands of them across the coal field. He becomes the Lodge Secretary in 1916.
He joins the ‘unity’ wing within the SLP fighting for a single unified Communist Party on the Leninist model linked to the Comintern, and as such becomes a founder member of the CPGB. This though at the time when the Labour Party was a loose labour platform which allowed the CPGB to affiliate. As such George is a successful local (Felling) councillor whilst a Special Correspondent for The Communist. In 1919 he had become Chairman of the Jarrow Labour Party and narrowly lost the selection as Jarrow MP to Ellen Wilkinson. Ellen had likewise been a fellow member of the CPGB until it was proscribed (by the LP) in 1924 when she left it.
In 1920 George had become a member of the Durham Miners Association Executive Committee. Then regional secretary of the National Minority Movement. He ran as General Secretary of the DMA following the death of Peter Lee in June 1935, he was defeated by Sam Watson then the secretary of the Boldon Lodge.
Place & date of death
He died in 1949 but when exactly and where he is buried or was cremated remains unknown.
Date of death:
Year of death: 1949
Achievements / Publications
Material in archives or already published articles
David Douglass wrote the first fill length piece in 1972 in Pit Life in Co Durham, published by the History Workshop Oxford. This was greatly added to in the publication produced to mark the restoration of the radical ‘Harvey’ Follonsby Lodge Banner of 1928 and 1938 in 2011 “The Follonsby (Wardley) Lodge, Durham Miners Association Banner : George Harvey, Pitman Bolshevik” By the Follonsby (Wardley) Miners Lodge Banner, Community Heritage Association.
See also Geoff Walker ‘George Harvey; The Conflict between the Ideology of Industrial Unionism and its Practice and Principles in the Durham Coalfield. (Ruskin College Diploma Thesis 1982)*
* ed’s note it is likely that this dissertation was destroyed in Ruskin in 2012
Ray Challinor ‘Jack Parks, memories of a Militant’ (Compiled on interview tapes made on 13 march – 9th April 1975) and presented in Bulletin of the North East Group for the Study of Labour History 9, 1975.
Geoff Walker, Bulletin of the North East Group for The study of Labour History, 17, 1983,
There is also a forthcoming book by Dr Lewis Mates, on the Challenge of syndicalism in the North East Coalfield which greatly features Harvey and updates all preceding works.
Notes on Image/s
Comment of contributor/s and sources
David John Douglass