“Her vote will go toward helping forward the time when life’s Bread, which is home, shelter and security, and the Roses of life, music, education, nature and books, shall be the heritage of every child that is born in the country, in the government of which she has a voice.”Helen Todd, 1911.
Helen Todd was a factory inspector and a suffragette. Her demand for “bread for all, and roses too” became a Marxist and feminist slogan for the struggle against voting disenfranchisement and labour exploitation. It was a rallying call for workers fighting for more than just a passive existence, but a life of agency, autonomy and dignity. The slogan gathered momentum, most notably vocalised a year later by a labour union leader (aptly) named Rose.
“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist – the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”Rose Schneiderman, 1912.
In the 21st century, the demand for bread and roses remains a very real and present struggle. The slogan itself has become more widely adopted, representing something at the very heart of the global workers’ movement. For the purposes of this website, I have embraced the slogan as a means of capturing the uncompromising character of democratic socialism. It’s not about bargaining with those who control the economy for their charity or their goodwill. It’s about taking ownership of the economy itself so that education, healthcare, food, energy, water, housing and transport can be collectively produced and enjoyed.
‘Bread and Roses’ symbolises the bitter fight for a radical redistribution of resources away from those that hoard them to the society that collectively produces them. It represents the integration of certain privately owned assets into a common fund, fuelled not by labour-exploitation but collective action. It typifies the urgent call to democratise power and ownership. And it seizes the very terms of what it means to have an equal opportunity to a worthwhile existence.
This website is driven by a legitimate and empathetic anger at everyday injustice, as well as by the humble hope that things can (and will) be different. It offers commentary on the latest political events, doing so in a way that provides philosophical solidarity to left-wing activism. I seek to make the case for democratic socialism one post at a time.