BENNY ROTHMAN – a fighter for the right to roam, workers’ rights and socialism
Produced by the Unite Education Department, author Mark Metcalf.
Benny Rothman is best known for the major part he played in the historic April 1932 mass trespass over Kinder Scout. It is universally accepted that this paved the way for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and, ultimately, the “Right to Roam” Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000.
So much has been written on Kinder Scout that it might appear that Benny did little else with his life! But, as his son, Harry, explains in this new book he rarely spoke for many years about 1932. That’s because he was so busy fighting for his class.
Poverty forced Benny to find work early. His bicycle then took him into the countryside and following which he organised outdoor activities amongst local youngsters. In an era where the replacement of the Tsar in Russia by a new system based on the common ownership of the means of production appeared to offer the working class the opportunity to rule and an end to exploitation, Benny joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Benny’s release from prison following the trespass pitched him into the battle around Manchester against Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts. As secretary of the Cheetham branch of the Young Communist League he successfully organised hundreds of local youngsters, including many from the Jewish community in which he grew up, to physically oppose Mosley whenever he appeared locally.
In 1951, management victimised Benny and, although his section held eight days of supportive strike action, he found himself again unemployed. Starting work at Kearns-Richards in 1956, he stayed until retirement in 1976. He held numerous trade union posts including secretary of the area wide Broadheath Shop Stewards’ Forum.
In retirement, Benny was involved with support groups for striking workers. He backed many environmental groups. He continued rambling. Media work became important to him in finding the widest possible audience for the cause of countryside access. It was a sad day when he died in January 2002.