Seabrook Dick


Dick Seabrook

Richard "Dick" Seabrook joined the Communist Party in 1931. He and his brother Alfred were both active in the Chelmsford Communist Party probably from its conception around 1933. Dick was a boot and shoe repairer with Chelmsford Co-op.

Both would later hold elevated positions in the shop workers union USDAW, Dick as a NUDAW Area Organiser from 1937 and later as the President of the enlarged and merged shop workers’ union, USDAW, and Alfred as a National Executive Committee member.

Between the wars, Chelmsford suffered terribly from high unemployment, and the Communist Party threw itself wholeheartedly into work with the local National Unemployed Workers Movement to highlight the plight of the unemployed in the town. In October 1932, an invasion of the Council chamber at Shire Hall, Chelmsford, by 500 unemployed workers was led by the brothers.

The Party supported the Tyne-side unemployed marchers when they visited the town in November 1932. Key local organisers laising with the march as it passed through town were R C  Rushden secretary of the Trades Council and Maurice Cornforth (see separate entry) for the Chelmsford Communist Party.

The Chelmsford Party reprised the sterling efforts it undertook for other unemployed marches in 1934 and 1936.

But in 1936, the Party was now highly active in turning back the tide of fascism and in particular a British Union of Fascist meeting held in Chelmsford in November that year.

During the Second World War, Dan Parish of 48 West Avenue was elected Branch Secretary of the Chelmsford Communist Party, later succeeded by David Lewis of 77 Bishop Road. Lewis was also the delegate to the 1944 Communist Party Congress.

Other key Communist families in the town included the Olives, a Jewish family, and Ken Saunders, who helped Harold Quinton (see separate entry) get elected as a Communist councillor in Braintree.

Like all Communist Party branches, the Chelmsford Party was very busy during the war building support for a People's War and for a Second Front. Communist Party General Secretary Harry Pollitt spoke to huge crowds in Chelmsford in November 1941 and October 1945.

The Chelmsford Communist Party also helped in the famous Maldon By-election of 1942 when "Left Front" and socialist/communist candidate Tom Driberg MP was elected.

Other speakers at Communist party meetings in Chelmsford during the war included Paxton Chadwick (see separate entry), Harry Self (a left-wing Labour Party from Stowmarket), and the Reverend Jack Puterill.

At the end of the war, Ernest Millington was elected for the Commonwealth Party as MP for Chelmsford and Labour won control of Chelmsford Council and Essex County Council

In 1946 The Communist Party was active in trying to secure more homes in Chelmsford families and returning soldiers and they led a campaign to highlight their plight including the squatting of local houses as part of the national squatters’ movement.

Dick was Party District Chairman and District Treasurer during the 1950s and secretary of the local Trades Council.

He was elected national President of USDAW in 1965. Re-elected in 1967, he held this role for another six years.

Michael Walker

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