The spectre of Bolshevism

Bolshevism film ads

When Town Clerk William Smith began the prosecution case against alleged Peace Day rioters at Luton Borough Court on July 30th, 1919, he said the magistrates would find the outbreak was nothing more than Bolshevism, anarchy, drunkenness and criminality, and the extreme penalty for riotous demolition of buildings was penal servitude for life.

No hard evidence was given at any related court hearing that the Luton riot was Bolshevik (or any other political group) inspired, but the fear of the Bolshevik uprisings in Russia that had spread from Scandinavia to the Balkans perhaps haunted reaction to the disturbances that broke out across Britain.

The Peace Day events in Luton even produced a letter from [Estelle] Sylvia Pankhurst, Communist daughter of famed Suffragist Emmeline. The letter was published in the International Socialism journal, The Workers' Dreadnought, on July 26th, 1919, and read:

“The serious riot in Luton, which resulted in the destruction of the Town Hall, appears to have been a spontaneous outburst of indignation on the part of the people who objected to the callous treatment of the soldiers who fought and suffered in the war, and the refusal of the Corporation to allow the discharged soldiers the use of the park for a memorial service to the men who fell.

“The spontaneous uprising of Luton people causes us to say: Communists make ready, the time of great popular unrest is drawing nearer, redouble your educational propaganda in order that the workers, at last fired by divine discontent, may realise that in Communism and the control of industry by the workers lies their only hope, and that from Capitalism all their troubles arise.

“Communists make ready for the moment when the workers can and must take control. - E. Sylvia Pankhurst.”

The DS&S in Luton must have considered there was a potential ongoing threat when in the September 20th edition of its Journal it advertised a film on the evils of Bolshevism that it was promoting for showing in Luton. It also produced an advertising leaflet for the film (illustrations above).

Having been turned down by the Palace Cinema following disturbances when the film was show in London, the Picturedrome, Park Street, agreed to show the six-reel film for three nights from October 20th, 1919. The advert, below, appeared in the Luton News of October 16th, 1919.

Picturedrome ad, Bolshevik