Sunday, 25 September 2016

Now in English - Reiner Tosstorff on the Profintern

The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) 1920 - 1937 

 Reiner Tosstorff, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Translated by Ben Fowkes. 

 The 'Red International of Labour Unions' (RILU, Russian abbreviation Profintern) was a central instrument for the spreading of international communism during the inter-war period. This comprehensive and scholarly history of the organisation, based on extensive research in the former communist archives in Moscow and East Berlin, sheds significant light on the international trade union movement of the period.

Tosstorff shows how the RILU began as a revolutionary alliance of syndicalists and communists in defiance of the social democratic International Federation of Trade Unions. His text presents a full account of the organisation’s main stages: the decline of the revolutionary wave after World War One, after which many syndicalists left, and others were integrated into the communist parties; the continuation of the RILU as an international communist apparatus; and its dissolution in 1936–7 as part of communism's popular front policy.
First published in German as Profintern: Die Rote Gewerkschaftsinternationale 1920-1937 by Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, in 2004

For more info see here - now out with Brill as part of the Historical Materialism Book series. 

'Reiner Tosstorff's book gives a detailed account of the history of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU), founded in 1921 as a body associated with the Communist International. Whereas the Comintern organised the minority of workers belonging to revolutionary parties, the trade-unions were the mass-organisation of the class. Tosstorff traces the various organisational problems that attended the founding of the RILU, and the splits, alliances, manoeuvres, negotiations and compromises that characterised its early years. From 1924 onwards the RILU rapidly became no more than an appendage of the Comintern, echoing the errors and betrayals of the latter body. The book contains a wealth of historical detail that makes it the standard work on the question. It may also have contemporary relevance to the way in which Marxists relate to the post-Seattle generation of anti-capitalists.'
Ian Birchall's review of the German language original in Historical Materialism journal (2009). 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Dennis Skinner film coming soon - Nature of the Beast

New film documentary on Dennis Skinner coming soon ... Nature of the Beast

 A cinematic portrait of the committed socialist and trade unionist who has fought for the rights of the working class for over half a century – Dennis Skinner MP. A feature length documentary, Nature of The Beast will not only trace his rise to a political icon, but will reveal the man behind the Beast of Bolsover. A lover of nature, sports, music and performing, there's more to Dennis Skinner than the wit and passion seen in the House of Commons. A film about one of Britain's most prominent politicians is long overdue. Nature of The Beast will be available next year.

Friday, 19 August 2016

LSHG Seminar series Autumn 2016

London Socialist Historians Group seminar series Autumn 2016
All in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, WC1, at 5.30pm. Free without ticket - no need to book in advance. 

Monday October 10th  - Steve Cushion: 'A Working Class Heroine Is Also Something To Be: Where women workers fit into "A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution, How the Working Class Shaped the Guerrilla Victory"'

Monday October 24th  - Ian Birchall: 'Lenin’s Moscow by Alfred Rosmer(book launch)

Monday November 7th  - Simon Hall: '1956: The World in Revolt'

Monday November 21st - John Boughton (Municipal Dreams blog), 'High Hopes - Labour and the rise and fall of High Rise housing'.  
Monday December 5th - Merilyn Moos: 'Breaking the Silence. Voices of the British Children of Refugees from Nazism'
For more information please contact LSHG convenor Keith Flett on the email address above...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

CFP: Revolutionary Pasts

Revolutionary Pasts
Revolutionary Pasts: Representing the Long Nineteenth Century’s Radical Heritage’, 4 and 5 November, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne
How did activists remember, represent and reassess the revolutionary heritage of the ‘long nineteenth century’? On 4–5 November, Northumbria University’s ‘Histories of Activism’ research group will examine this question in association with the Society for the Study of Labour History (SSLH) and with the support of Durham’s Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies.

We will explore how movements, groups and organisations evoked the memory of particular events (e.g. the revolutions of 1789 and 1848, the Paris Commune, the Haymarket Affair) and how they cast or recast the legacy of particular movements (e.g. utopian socialism, Chartism, feminism). In doing so, the event explores narratives about radical and revolutionary legacies in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

We are currently accepting paper proposals for this event. Please send us a brief abstract (c. 200 words) and a biographical note or CV by 12 September. You can contact the organisers (Daniel Laqua, Charlotte Alston, Laura O’Brien) via

Members of the SSLH may wish to note that the Society’s AGM will take place during the conference. A full programme and registration details will be available in late September.


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Social Histories of the Russian Revolution

A year-long series of monthly discussion meetings, timed to take place during the run-up to the centenary of Russia’s revolutions of 1917.
Venue: Birkbeck, University of London
Full programme and further information:
Each discussion will be opened by historians, scholars working in academia who have spent many years studying the revolution in the Russian archives. But these are not academic seminars - they are open to all who share our interest in the history of the Russian revolution as a landmark struggle for social liberation. At each discussion there will be an opening talk of about 30 minutes, followed by open debate.
The emphasis in the discussion meetings will be on the social histories of the revolution - that is, how it was experienced by the mass of working people who participated.
By taking this approach we aim not to brush aside the role of political leaders, and their disputes and decisions, but rather to move beyond these well-known debates and reach a deeper understanding of the revolution as the active participation of millions of people in changing history.
We hope that by developing our theme over a year of meetings, we will be able collectively to engage in serious thinking and re-thinking about the revolution and its significance for our past and present.
William Dixon, Brendan McGeever, Simon Pirani (Organisers)  

Oct 27 – Steve Smith (University of Oxford): The Social History of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, 1917-1921
Nov 24 – Brendan McGeever (Birkbeck, University of London): Antisemitism and Revolutionary Politics in the Russian Revolution, 1917-1919
Dec 15 – Andy Willimott (Reading University): Living the Revolution: Urban Communes in 1920s Russia and the Invention of a Socialist Lifestyle

Jan 26 – Sarah Badcock (Nottingham University): The 1917 Revolutions at Local Level
Feb 23 – Katy Turton (Queens University, Belfast): Women in Revolt: the Female Experience of the 1917 Revolutions
March 16 – George Gilbert (Southampton University): The Radical Right and the Russian Revolution
March 30 –Dimitri Tolkatsch (University of Freiburg, Germany): The Ukrainian Peasant Insurgency in the Revolutionary Period
April 27 – Chris Read (Warwick University): The Social History of the Revolutionary Period
May 25 – Barbara Allen (La Salle University, USA): Alexander Shlyapnikov and the Russian Metalworkers in 1917
June 29 – Don Filtzer (University of East London): The Working Class and the First Five-year Plan, 1928-32
Sep 28 – Wendy Goldman (Carnegie Mellon University, USA): Taking Power: Remaking the Family, Levelling Wages, Planning the Economy
Oct 12 – Lara Cook (University of York): Local Soviets in 1917-18 and their Relations with the Central Executive Committee
Oct 26 – 1917 A Century On: A Debate (Speakers TBC, including Simon Pirani (author of The Russian Revolution in Retreat 1920-1924)
Nov 23 – Gleb Albert (University of Zurich): Early Soviet Society and World Revolution, 1917-27

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

John Blanke Plaque event

For one night only - Friday 5th August 20:15 to 21:15 - the BBC will project a plaque commemorating John Blanke - the black trumpeter to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. The BBC will be launching and projecting onto the Colonnades at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich - the site of Henry VIII's favourite residence, Greenwich Palace.   
This plaque event is part of a forthcoming BBC Two series called A Black History of Britain, presented by historian and BAFTA Award-winning broadcaster, David Olusoga.  The series explores the relationship between Britain and the continent of Africa and people of African descent.  This event will be filmed as part of the series, which features the launch of about 20 plaques in Britain and beyond. 
Music and poetry from the John Blanke Project will be played and read at the event. Children are especially welcome.

For health and safety purposes, please RSVP with numbers attending to Jyoti Mehta by noon Thursday 4th August.  

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Neil Davidson on Nation-States: Consciousness and Competition

Neil Davidson's latest work, Nation-States: Consciousness and Competition is composed of a series of extended essays dealing with themes such as the rise of national consciousness under capitalism, the validity of concepts such as "ethnicity", and the role of the state in guaranteeing accumulation and advancing the interests of national capital on the world stage through competition. Neil engages widely with both Marxist and non-Marxist theories of nationalism and capitalist development in order to advance an argument for treating both terms in the hyphenated formula "nation-state" as moments within the mediated totality of the capitalist system - in other words, the connection between the "nation" and the "state" is systemic, even necessary, rather than contingent, as has been argued both by mainstream theorists and some schools within Marxism.
Neil is doing a launch event in London on Thursday 11 August 6.30pm at Bookmarks bookshop, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. £2 entry, refreshments required.  For more info, see Facebook event page here: