A short biography of William Brand Parker (usually known as W.B. Parker), anarchist active in the Socialist League who later moved to the ILP and pro-war politics.
W. B. Parker was a stalwart of the Socialist League and an anarchist within it. He had been a founder of the Social Democratic Federation and appears to have joined the League in 1886. He took a regular part in SL propaganda work and was often a speaker and lecturer.
He was living in Dalston in 1885 and in Holborn in 1888. He took part in the benefit to help the Berner Street Club run by Jewish anarchists in January 1888. He again came to the help of the Club when it was attacked by the police on 16th March 1889 and three of its members arrested, speaking at the subsequent defence meeting. In 1888 he was an organiser of the Committee set up by the League to celebrate both the Chicago Anarchist Martyrs and Bloody Sunday 1887 when the police brutally attacked socialists rallying in Trafalgar Square.
. He was secretary of the Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill branch of the League and informed the Secretary of the League that he was prepared to take charge of the Kingsland Green speakers’ pitch if the League could assure him of a regular supply of lecturers.
In the same year W.B. Parker himself became Secretary of the League and appears to have carried out that role competently.
Alongside Kitz, Mowbray and Nicoll he addressed large meetings during the dockers’ strike of 1889. Again with Nicoll, Mowbray and John Turner he was involved in the “No rent! agitation of 1891. He was one of the speakers at the large Hyde Park protest meeting following the arrests of Mowbray and Nicoll in 1892. In the same year he was secretary of an anarchist group set up in Paddington.
W.B. Parker was one of the fairly considerable number of anarchists who defected to the Independent Labour Party in the 1890s in what can be described as a “loss of nerve” within the ranks of the anarchist movement. In 1906 he was chairman of Islington Trades Council.
In 1912 he still felt enough loyalty to his former comrades to speak at the large meeting held in Trafalgar Square to protest the threatened deportation of Malatesta.
He was vice-chair of the Islington Trades and Labour Party at the beginning of the First World War and indeed he adopted a pro-war stance and he was one of the ILP notables who addressed mass meetings to recruit for the armed forces. He was a Labour Poor Law Guardian for a considerable period of time. He died in the 1930s. Max Nettlau in a letter to Fred Charles in 1930 perhaps rather unkindly describes him as a “very active and plausible comrade, but..not of an elevated character at all and of no interest to history” but may have had his defection to the ILP in mind.
Oliver, H. (1983)The international anarchist movement in late Victorian London. Croom Helm.
Quail, J. (1978) The slow burning fuse. Paladin.
Weller, K (1985) Don't be a soldier! The radical anti-war movement in North London 1914-1918.