Benson Ernie

Ernie Benson

The outstanding long-term organiser of the Communist Party in the north during the 1930s to 1950s, in particular.  Born in Leeds in 1906, in Ernie’s early days in Yorkshire, he found his first experience of political agitation when pushed to chair a public meeting and then discovering to his surprise that he was a highly effective orator. It was the sort of experience shared by many who came into the party and the labour movement before loudspeakers and microphones.

Ernie was at the Party’s National Congress held in Leeds in 1929, which was attended by the later leader of East Germany, Walter Ulbricht, representing the Comintern.

When hunger marchers from Tyneside arrived in Leeds in 1931 to demonstrate against the means test, the local Labour Party was hostile, to say the least. Ernie Benson, though first rebuffed, eventually won the support of the then Baths Committee chairman, Labour Cllr. Craig Walker, to open the baths for the marchers. Interestingly, Craig Walker later joined the Communist Party.

Ernie went on to be involved intensively in the campaigns of the unemployed, especially regarding Occupational Centres and Test Work incidents.

Source: Morning Star October 9th 1980

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