|Admin History||Fred Westacott was born in the South Wales mining town of Tredegar on 19 September 1916. He was the sixth of eight children of George Henry Westacott, a bricklayer, and Sarah Ann his wife (née Gunter). Westacott was educated at Dukestown County School until 1931 when he reached 14. Around this time, he became interested in politics and with some friends formed a youth socialist society in Tredegar that later became a branch of the Labour League of Youth. Unable to find work, he left Tredegar in 1936 for Bristol where he learnt his trade as a metalworker at a government training centre and joined the Bristol East Labour League of Youth. Turning down an opportunity to study at an Adult Education College in Wales, he left for Southampton under the 'Juvenile Transference Scheme' to work as a fitter and a toolmaker in the aircraft industry. After a period of being Secretary of the local branch of the Labour Party and a member of the General Council of the Winchester Labour Party, Westacott joined the Communist Party in December 1936. He became a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1937 and was soon a branch chairman and a district committee delegate.|
During the Second World War, Fred Westacott worked on Spitfire production until his factory was bombed and he was transferred in 1940 to South Wales to undertake other engineering duties. He became secretary of the Caerphilly Branch of the Communist Party and of the Welsh Committee of the Shop Stewards Movement. He was also Secretary for the East Glamorgan Sub-District of the Communist Party, and for a period, full-time organiser in the Industrial Department of the District Communist Party office. His refusal to return to industrial work led to army conscription on 1 April 1943 and he was drafted into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Old Dalby near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. While stationed at here, Westacott met Kathleen Powell, who was from Melton Mowbray. He established a branch of the Communist Party in Melton Mowbray. He was sent to Italy to join the Chemical and Metallurgical Laboratory of the Central Mediterranean Forces near Naples, continuing his interest in politics, editing the army unit's weekly paper, and qualifying as an Army Bureau of Current Affairs instructor. He was transferred to Trieste in 1945-6, but stood for election in the Tredegar Urban District Council election of April 1946 as Communist Candidate for the Sirhowy Ward.
He was demobilised with the rank of corporal in 1947 and married Kathleen in the same year. He returned to work, first for the British Shoe Machinery Company, then for Imperial Typewriters, and finally for BTH. He became a member of the East Midlands District Committee and Secretariat in 1947, becoming the first secretary of the newly formed Leicester Borough Committee of the Communist Party and in 1948, the East Midlands District Organiser. In the 1948 Leicester City Council by-election he stood as Communist candidate for the Braunstone Ward and in the 1950 General Election, stood as candidate for the North East Leicester parliamentary district.
The Westacotts moved to Nottingham in 1949, where they remained until 1958, when he became Coalfield Area Organiser of the Communist Party and moved with his family to Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He stood as Communist Party candidate for the Mansfield (Nottinghamshire) constituency on four occasions; 1966, 1970, February 1974 and November 1974. In 1971 he was made Secretary of the Party's East Midlands District, which had been formed in 1940. Westacott retired from full-time work with the Communist Party in April 1982 but remained for some time a member of the District Committee and its Secretariat.
Communism first found its national voice in Great Britain at the Communist Unity Convention (also called the First Congress) in London, 31 July-1 August 1920. The Communist Party of Great Britain first sought parliamentary representation at Caerphilly in August 1921. The party was divided into districts and within them into branches. The Nottingham branch, for example, was formed in 1928. The Communist Party of Great Britain begun to break up in 1977 over debate about the British Road to Socialism, with membership falling drastically from 1984 as different factions emerged (Euro-Communist/revisionists, 'tankies', etc.). Westacott was involved in convening the first District Congress of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), which was formed, following the 1988 National Congress, by those wanting to re-establish the Party along Marxist Leninist lines. The Communist Party of Great Britain continued with the revisionist, central leadership members, until it was finally disbanded in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The CPB continues today.
Westacott was also a member of the executive committee of the Chesterfield Trades Council, a delegate to the Derbyshire County Association of Trades Councils and the Trades Union Congress, and a member of the branch committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He was proud of his role in the establishment of Chesterfield's May Day gala, and in retirement, worked to ensure that Tony Benn was selected as Labour candidate for Chesterfield. He was also Chairperson of the Chesterfield and North-East Derbyshire Pensioners' Action Association. He died in May 2001.
|Custodial History||The publications in the Fred Westacott Printed Collection have been acquired together with the personal and political papers by the University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in July 2001. The Collection is closed, and no works will be added to it.|
|Description||The collection comprises 337 books and c.3000 pamphlets of socialist and communist literature as well as a journal, ‘Information bulletin: documents of the Communist and workers' parties, articles and speeches’, published in Prague by the Peace and Socialism International Publishers. |
There are classics of the genre by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, books by leaders of governments such as Nikita Khrushchev and Mao Zedong as well numerous publications by notable British communist and socialist activists such as Harry Pollitt. The publications authored by the Communist Party of Great Britain alone number 700 items. Topics include racism, fascism, mining, friendship with communist countries, women's rights, pensioner's rights, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Poll Tax protests, etc. However, the overall outlook of the collection is international, evidencing a deliberate interest in the struggle of the working classes worldwide, though primarily in Europe, the Soviet Union and China.
An uncatalogued accrual of a box of pamphlets belonging to Barry Johnson (see also MS 1037 Barry Johnson's papers) , one of Fred Westacott's literary executors, will be added to the collection in due course.