What should not have been forgotten, had been forgotten. Hundreds of socialist posters - British and Soviet - lay overlooked in a warehouse, covered by walls of boxes, plastic carrier bags and layers of dust and fallen plaster. Piles of papers, and 'vast quantities' of books and pamphlets, from the newly defunct Communist Party of Great Britain had long since spilled over from the hastily constructed mesh and metal shelving, buckling the bookcases and tumbling to the floor.
It would take two hard summers' work, in 2005-6, to clear the scene of chaos, to sift and catalogue the discarded files, and to serve notice on the crumbling storage space, bringing useful materials back to their home at the Marx Memorial Library. Chief among the finds were the posters, rolled into thick bundles, bound tightly with age-worn string or stuffed into ubiquitous 'Sainsbury's' carry-alls. A swift glance was enough to reveal that the scope of the collection far transcended - in both numbers and funds from his union to buy-in the protective sleeves required for the first stage of their conservation. Within months, selected designs would appear as GMB posters at their Congress in Plymouth and as T-shirts for Ethical Threads and the Workers' Beer Company, to be worn at the Glastonbury and Leeds Carling festivals.
Amicus was the product of a merger between the AEEU and MSF, and after only five years it merged again with the T&G to become Unite the Union. But its impact during its short period of existence was considerable. It brought together into one union a substantial percentage of Britain's skilled workers, while its focus in the private sector made its contribution unique. Early in its life, the election of Derek Simpson as General Secretary facilitated a major shift to the left within the union, and a repudiation of its 'partnership' approach. This in turn profoundly affected the balance of political forces within the trade union movement as a whole. Amicus sought to develop a new, truly internationalist form of trade unionism, able to transcend national borders with the same ease as finance capital, and therefore better able to defend its members. This is what drove its mergers, both within Britain and beyond. Change the World documents the brief but eventful story of Amicus, and its battle to defend the rights of trade unionists in the constantly shifting global environment.