A card token which harks back to one of the more noble chapters in British radicalism. During the Spanish Civil War, supporters of the Republican side raised money to help ease the hardship faced by civilians living in areas largely under siege from Franco’s forces.

‘Milk for Spain, 6d’ is the main legend on this cardboard disc, about 4 cms diameter. Overprinted more haphazardly is ‘London Co-operative / Islington Group / 165, Upper Street’.

The Wikipedia article on the ‘Milk for Spain’ movement recounts: In November 1937 a Milk for Spain fund was opened after an appeal to the various co-operative societies and Labour Party branches around the country. The response was overwhelming. The London Co-op raised £877 alone. In addition to large contributions from societies, anybody who shopped at a Co-op store was able to buy milk tokens; the proceeds of which would go to the Republican civilians. In particular, the milk was directed at children of under four years old and invalids. As the rate of donations from the societies gradually subsided, the selling of six-penny and three-penny tokens in shops assumed growing importance.

Alexander Baron, in his Islington novel Rosie Hogarth, wrote of the generisity of local support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War as ‘one of those blind and beautiful upsurges of human solidarity that sweep their class from time to time’. This is a wonderfully evocative emblem of that time, place and movement.

Andrew Whitehead

Do you live with, or have access to, a “radical object” – an object with links to an oppositional history? Send us a photo and tell us its story. Contributions to: marybeth@historyworkshop.org.uk.

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