Frank Allaun (27 February 1903 - 26 November 2002) was a Manchester Grammar School boy who served Salford as a Labour MP for 28 years, campaigned strenuously for the cause of peace, and for more than 40 years served as the Working Class Movement Library's first and only president.
A more detailed appreciation of his life and work can be obtained from our online bookshop.
Born into a prosperous Jewish household, Allaun trained at his father's insistence as an accountant, though his true wish was to become a journalist. But at the age of 22, he handed in his notice and instead became manager of Collett's bookshop in Manchester, where he was exposed to left-wing ideas and to the many socialists, trade unionists and intellectuals who used it as a meeting place.
Collett's was owned by the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz, and together he and Allaun founded Manchester's Left Book Club. Allaun also became a lecturer for the Workers Educational Association, and paid several visits to the Soviet Union, eventually joining the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).
It was through Colletts and his CPGB membership that Allaun met Eddie Frow, an activist Communist and later founder of the WCML. Despite later political differences, the two would remain lifelong friends.
Allaun's disillusionment with the Soviet Union began with the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s, but reached a head at the outbreak of the second world war when Stalin's non-aggression pact with Hitler saw Germany and the Soviet Union collaborate in the carving up of Eastern Europe.
Allaun did not leave the Communist Party until 1944, but in the meantime he joined an engineering training scheme, and worked throughout the war at Vickers-Armstrong, making parts for Bofors guns and editing the Vickers-Armstrong Factory Journal.
After the war, Allaun's dreams of career in journalism came to fruition as he progressed through the editorship of Labour's Voice to the staff of the Manchester Evening News and eventually to the Daily Herald.
Allaun's first foray into parliamentary politics came in 1951 when he contested but failed to win the Moss Side seat. Switching to Salford East at the 1955 general election, he was elected and began more than a quarter of a century of service to the constituency, serving as MP until 1983.
During that time, the face of the constituency changed beyond recognition, with extensive building schemes rehousing thousands of people. Allaun was a powerful advocate for better housing, but also warned early on of the dangers posed by the loss of community in new developments.
His insight into the links between housing and health was recognised by the Association of Public Health Inspectors, who elected him their vice president. Allaun also remained a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and the Union of Distributive and Allied Workers.
Outside Parliament, Allaun was one of the organisers of the first Aldermaston March in April 1958, walking in the front row through appalling weather conditions for four days and covering 53 miles.
Allaun's only taste of government office was as parliamentary private secretary to Tony Greenwood, who became secretary of state for the colonies after the 1964 election. He resigned just a few months later in protest at the government's position in support of the Vietnam War.
Allaun remained a stalwart of the Labour Left in Parliament, and in 1978/79 served as chairman of the Labour Party just as it was being driven from office. Allaun had long been concerned at the party leadership's drift away from the grassroots, becoming a founder of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in 1973, and arguing after the general election defeat of 1979 that the party needed to rebuild the relationship between ordinary members and their elected representatives.
In retirement after leaving the House of Commons in 1983, Allaun's political activities were channelled into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which he was vice-president, and Labour Action for Peace, of which he was president. He also remained active in Bury South Labour Party.
Resources by Frank Allaun in the Library
The cost of Suez (1956) - Shelfmark: AG Union of Democratic Control Box 1
Heartbreak housing (1968) - Shelfmark: H01
Labour answers Tory tricks (no date) - Shelfmark: AG Salford Box 1
No place like home: Britain's housing tragedy (from the victim's view) and how to overcome it (1972) - Shelfmark: A22
Speech by Mr. F. Allaun (no date) - Shelfmark: AG Labour Party Box 25
Spreading the news: a guide to media reform - Shelfmark: J01
The struggle for peace: a personal account of 60 years campaigning inside and outside Parliament [ca. 1991] - Shelfmark: Q26D
The wasted £30,000,000,000 spent on false security (1975) - Shelfmark: P35 Peace Box 1
A word to you from Frank Allaun the Labour candidate (1955) - Shelfmark: AG Election Addresses (Salford)
A word to you from Frank Allaun, Labour - Salford East: for eleven years your M.P. (1966) - Shelfmark: AG Election Addresses (Salford)
Lecture by Frank Allaun about the influence of the press (no date) - Shelfmark: TAPE/137
Frank Allaun on nuclear war and disarmament (no date) - Shelfmark: TAPE/328A