Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Kennington Chartist Project

The Kennington Chartist Project
Next year [2018] is the 170th anniversary of the Chartist rally on Kennington Common, now Kennington Park. A group of local residents, supported by the Friends of Kennington Park, are planning a project to raise awareness of this historical event and its impact, and to generate ideas for future events or memorials in the park. The aim is to represent a wide range of perspectives and to give as many people as possible the chance to contribute ideas. This survey is to see how much people already know about the history, and to ask which kind of activities people might be most interested in. Please share widely, many thanks,
The Kennington Chartist Project Steering Group

Please fill in the form below:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe-fSVRu5JUnFHug79aQPQ4oFpVI0voxStp_n20tEF8C6fRcQ/viewform

Monday, 9 October 2017

LSHG Newsletter 62 (Autumn 2017) now online


The latest newsletter of the London Socialist Historians Group is now online, with commentary on Marx's Capital at 150 years, and book reviews by Ian Birchall of Tom O' Lincoln's memoir, Keith Flett on Michael Rosen's memoir and Merilyn Moos on A Political Family by John Green. A reminder too of our upcoming seminar programme:

LSHG SEMINARS Autumn 2017

All seminars take place in Room 304 (third floor) at 5.30pm in the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU and entry is free although donations are welcome.


Monday 16 October John Rees 'The Leveller Revolution'

Monday 30 October Merilyn Moos 'Neglected Histories of the Diverse Victims of Nazism'

Monday 13 November Christian Høgsbjerg  '‘Every Cook can Govern’: C.L.R. James and the Russian Revolution'

Monday 27 November John Newsinger 'From Revolution to Labourism? Orwell and the Left'

Monday  11 December Dave Hill 'A History of London’s Housing Crisis'

The Newsletter
 Letters, articles, criticisms and contributions to debate are most welcome. Deadline for the next issue is 1 December 2017. For more information on the group and how to join please contact Keith Flett on the email address above.

Michael Rosen and History Workshop

From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 62 (Autumn 2017)
Image result for so they call you pisher michael rosen

 So They Call You Pisher!
A Memoir
ISBN 978-1786633965
2017 Verso 320pp

Michael Rosen is known as a poet, author, broadcaster and of course socialist activist. He also has a beard and supports Arsenal.
 His new memoir, So they call you Pisher!, is out from Verso and is of fascinating reading. At the London launch Rosen noted that much material had been edited out before publication and it  would indeed be interesting to see the author’s cut of the book as it were.
 One thing that Rosen is perhaps not particularly associated with is socialist history. However the book contains a fascinating vignette of the early period of History Workshop in Oxford, where Rosen was at college.
 Rosen was clearly far from happy with the stultified air and archaic content of some of the lectures he attended at Oxford but found History Workshop to be an exciting new development in the months before the May events in Paris in 1968. Rosen notes that some felt senior figures broadly associated with the movement such as E P Thompson, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm were ‘infected’ by Stalinism, although this was not his view but that of Raphael Samuel, who ran the Workshop at Ruskin, had a base of working-class, trade union focused, students who were doing interesting research.
 Rosen writes that ‘conferences were packed with hundreds of people, crowded into the halls and corridors, listening, talking, arguing and writing.. this I thought was one of the most exciting things happening, and I wanted to be part of it’.
 
Keith Flett

Book Review - A Political Family

From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 62 (Autumn 2017)

A Political Family: The Kuczynskis, Fascism, Espionage and The Cold War (Paperback) book cover

A Political family
The Kuczynskis, Fascism, Espionage and the Cold War
By John Green ISBN 978-1138232327 
Routledge 2017 370pp

Most people, even socialists, when they think of exiles from Nazism, usually think of the thousands fleeing anti-Semitism (and the millions who did not manage to flee). But this happily is a book about a family who politically resisted the Nazis in their different ways and who all managed to escape to the UK. As John Green, the author says, the book isn’t about the victims; instead ‘all members of the family …rejected roles as passive extras on the stage of history and decided instead to become protagonists’.

The Kuczynskis were an extraordinary bourgeois assimilated Jewish German family. Robert, the paterfamilias was a famous statistician and demographer in both Germany and later, in the UK, and a renowned campaigner for social justice in pre 1933 Germany. Of his 6 children, five became Communists. 

Jürgen, his second child, who is one of the focuses of the book, and who joined the KPD in 1930, somehow managed to stay in Germany up till 1936, though the impression is that his forte was more in contacting the great and the good, rather than building an underground opposition.  Robert and family were wise enough to head to Britain. Why this was is not discussed.  

This is not where political refugees usually headed, certainly not in the first years from 1933 when the KPD leadership believed: ‘After them, us’ and wanted their comrades within easy reach of Germany: in Saarbrücken, Prague and Paris.  But then only about 1000 Communist exiles ever were accepted into Britain, a tiny number, given the tens of thousands of Communists who were hunted by the Gestapo or managed to get out.

We forget that the Nazis’ first targets were the Communists. Unlike some German refugees, the family all seem to have settled here successfully, four of the ‘children’ permanently. 

Jürgen became the coordinator for the German KPD exile group. But there is almost nothing in the book about the group itself. Special pleading here: my biography of my father, Siegi Moos, included a substantial section on the exile group, which Moos (my father) led till he either jumped or was pushed by Jürgen in 1937 (who had been instructed to take over).

Although the book emphasises the hostility of MI5 towards the Communist exiles as well as the British state’s prohibition of all political activity, I’d have liked to see more on the sense of isolation and fear of most of the exiled comrades who lived of their nerves and their temporary visas.

The book also does not focus on the change from the ‘Third Period’ (that’s the catastrophic ‘Social Democrats are social fascists’ and ‘no better than the Nazis’ line) to the ‘Popular Front’ in late 1934/1935 whose implications – to build and work within a broad progressive anti-Nazi alliance - split exile groups especially in France and Spain and redirected the political activity of the exiles here. Indeed, the book regrets the Third Period line in passing but does not highlight the implications in Germany of its lethal sectarianism.

The two main characters in the book: Jürgen and Ursula, could both be understood as spies, Jürgen for the USSR, Ursula (‘Sonya’) as a Communist agent in China and then for the USSR.

And herein lies one of the limitations of the book: if you are looking for a story of grass-roots resistance or working–class anti-Nazi activity, this is not your book.

One of its main themes is about spying and when is a spy a spy. Today we are not faced with such political niceties but here we find an argument that if one provides information for a country, the USSR, in which on believes and which is moreover an ally in the Allied fight to defeat Nazism, then the term ‘spy’ is inappropriate.

Rather it is a matter of ‘cooperation’. The book indeed does succeed in bringing out why a very few Communist exiles did ‘cooperate’ with the USSR in the 1930s and 1940s and how it was that many of the Communist exiles, including Jürgen and Ursula, returned to E. Germany and lived there during the Cold War, if not always happily. 

Jürgen, a professional economist, became a ‘loyal dissident’ in East Germany where he thankfully failed to become the finance minister but did advise the East German leadership and became their ‘most celebrated’ intellectual’ (and indeed influenced the resurgent West German left in the 1960s). (My understanding is that Jürgen was uneasy about 1956 and 1968!)

While Green is careful not to sound too pro East Germany, those of us who still essentially support a state capitalist position, may find his basic line: that bad socialism is better than good capitalism, interesting but irritating.

The penultimate chapter looks at what happened to the children of Jürgen and his five sisters: the second generation, and confirms that like so many refugees in Britain, even Communist ones, the parents did not talk that much to their children about their past experiences and beliefs, though the pattern for the children born in the GDR was more political. But all the children grew up knowing that their families had been active antifascists and that gave them a sense of identity and courage.

This book may not be everybody’s cup of tea but it tells the story of a remarkable family and through them, charts the political and personal upheavals of the twentieth century.

Merilyn Moos

Book Review - The Highway is for Gamblers

From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 62 (Autumn 2017)

The Politics of Patience
Image result for the highway is for gamblers - o lincoln


The Highway is for Gamblers
By Tom O’Lincoln
Interventions Inc,
(Carlton South, Vic., Australia),
2017 ISBN 9780994537829

Tom O’Lincoln will be known to many for his historical writings; his books on class struggle in Australia, and on the Second World War in the Pacific have been reviewed here: see Australia’s Pacific War, LSHG Newsletter No. 43 here , Years of Rage, LSHG Newsletter No. 51 - here and The Expropriators are Expropriated, LSHG Newsletter No. 59 here.

But Tom is also a lifelong political activist. Now, turning seventy  and facing health problems, he has written an autobiography. For some on the left, an autobiography is an opportunity for self-justification, for settling old scores. Tom’s account is self-critical and generous to comrades who have chosen a different path from his.

Born in the USA, Tom first became involved with politics during the famous Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Faced with the political ferment in US society produced by the Vietnam war, he found himself “sampling the political smorgasbord on offer in Berkeley” in 1968-69. Eventually he joined the International Socialists. Like so many of us around the world he was impressed by Hal Draper’s pamphlet The Two Souls of Socialism  with its advocacy of “socialism from below”.

After some travel in Europe, he moved to Australia, where he has spent the rest of his life. He has lived through a stormy half-century, and has been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most exciting locations. Portugal in 1975 was one of those brief moments when, in Orwell’s phrase “the working class was in the saddle”. He recalls: “The factory occupations were of course an attraction for us.  We international activists had the striking experience of chatting with insurgent Portuguese workers in board rooms.”   

Nicaragua in 1985,  after the fall of Somoza, offered a more problematic prospect. As Tom noted: “The government was in line with Western-style parliamentarism.  Unlike the 1917 Soviet regime, there were no workers’ councils through which the proletariat exercised power. This parliamentary system represented a huge step forward for people previously oppressed by a dictator. But it had no specifically socialist character.”  This is not gloating or boasting a superior analysis, simply observing processes which, sadly, ended in defeat.

Tom is not one of those – all too common on the English-speaking left – who says: “I am an intransigent internationalist, but I can’t be bothered getting this silly foreigner’s name right.” He is a remarkably gifted linguist and translator. In 1993 he was well past the age when the acquisition of languages is easy, but he observed that “things were happening politically” in Indonesia and decided to learn the language, using a regular tram journey for his initial practice. Eventually he was sufficiently proficient to be involved in launching “the first-ever Marxist website in the Indonesian language”.

But though he was able to observe some of the revolutionary high spots of his lifetime, Tom spent most of his time on the more mundane task of building a revolutionary organisation in Australia. With a handful of comrades Tom helped to set up the self-deprecatingly named Socialist Workers’ Action Group – SWAG, which grew into the Australian International Socialists.

By 1976 the organisation was big enough to play a significant role in the campaign to defend the Medibank health insurance scheme. When the union machine merely called for a four-hour strike, the IS “demanded a twenty-four hour stoppage , and called for weekly stoppages in every State as a move towards generalised national strike action.” 

Subsequently “the IS rushed out leaflets overnight to the doorsteps of key shop stewards – a network we had established through our ‘workers’ paper’ project. Partly because of this agitation, telephone calls began to pour into union offices. By the time the stoppage took place on 16 June, the left union leaders had recognised that they risked being outbid by the tiny forces of the revolutionary left. They made an abrupt left turn.”

But as elsewhere, the left soon had to face up to a “downturn” in struggle; by 1983 there was a “historic collapse of industrial militancy”. For the International Socialists the result, almost inevitably, was factional disputes and a split. The minutiae of the evolution of the Australian far left will be of interest only to a limited audience, but Tom has some interesting thoughts on what he calls the “politics of impatience”, which may have parallels in other countries.

Tom’s comrade Rick Kuhn summarised Tom’s analysis: “As the levels of social struggle declined, a majority of the leadership of the IS had become impatient with the group’s membership and the world outside. The result was voluntarism; attempts to substitute the organisation’s determination for the inadequacies of the real world: intolerance of internal disagreement and anything less than the very high level of activity expected of members, a sectarian attitude to serious movements and others involved in them; and a predilection for self-generated campaigns that drew in very few other people.” 

Tom sums up the paradox of impatience: “On the one hand, all of us need a healthy dose of it – we need to grasp the moment and do what we can, with whatever resources we have, to make the most of any opportunity. On the other hand, there is always a temptation to bridge by force of will the gap between the meagre forces of the revolutionary left and the ultimate end we desire.” 

Eventually Tom left the International Socialist Organisation and joined Socialist Alternative, of which he remains an active member. This beautifully produced book (described by editor Janey Stone as “a scrapbook – a collection of stories, vignettes, anecdotes, jottings, photos, ephemera”) is illustrated with photographs, leaflets and press cuttings, and is full of information and insights that will be rewarding even to those of us who know relatively little about Australia. This is not just the portrait of a remarkably interesting individual, it is the portrait of an age so many of us have lived through.

Ian Birchall


150 years of Capital

From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 62 (Autumn 2017)

Image result for marx capital

150 years of Capital 

It is 150 years since the publication of Marx’s Capital Volume 1, the only part to appear in his lifetime.

It did not appear in English but initially in German and then French, so its initial impact on the British labour movement in 1867 was apparently insignificant. Against that we might balance the reality that the impact of its author and his ideas in this period on the same audience was far from negligible.

Capital is of course a book about how capitalism works, or does not actually work. It also contains, and indeed the theory is underwritten by, a good deal of history, much of it relating to examples from contemporary British working-class activity that Marx reviewed in the British Museum and through his links in particular with the London labour movement.

Most of the discussion on the 150th anniversary has focused on the economic structure of the book and how valid it remains. The historical framework however remains important.

There is little existing work (that I’m aware of - the literature on Capital is vast and worldwide) that looks at the interplay between Marx’s daily life in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the political situation and the structure of Capital.

Roman Rosdolsky’s The Making of Marx’s Capital ponders in detail the structure of Volume 1 and why it was changed, but offers little specifically on how the changes related to wider economic and political contexts  beyond, importantly, suggesting changes in Marx’s thinking.

More to the area and contexts I’m looking at is in Marcello Musto’s collection Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, in particular Musto’s own chapter on Marx’s life at the time of the Grundrisse in 1857-8. The Grundrisse was the precursor of Capital so Marcello Musto’s analysis still has relevance for it although a period of 10 years elapsed between the two.

Musto identifies several factors that influenced Marx’s writing. Illness which certainly persisted in the 1860s often interrupted Marx’s writing as did, perhaps to a lesser extent, the need to make sure that he had enough money to actually live on while writing. Marx wrote regular journalism in the late 1850s and that certainly informed how he both saw and analysed the world.

In a letter to Engels on 15 March 1862 Marx noted that while he was still writing articles for the New York Tribune he didn’t expect this to continue. He had however been unable to work on Critique of Political Economy as ‘work is often checked, i.e. suspended, for weeks on end by domestic disturbances. Little Jenny is still by no means as well as she should be’

Certainly Marx lived from the mid-1850s to 1864 at the same address, 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town, then on the periphery of central London.

Not long after this period Marx stopped writing Capital altogether for a period to write Herr Vogt, exposing a long-time opponent. Whether this was a good idea has been debated but it underlines the importance Marx gave to contemporary political matters.

While few if any in the British working-class movement were aware of the detail of Capital in the 1860s, Wages, Price and Profit, which was given as a speech to the First International in 1865, offered an important insight into Marx’s thinking and in particular the points he felt were important to get across to key trade unionists and socialists. It was primarily an answer to the arguments of Owenite socialist Weston.

We might argue that it was Marx’s political practice, informed by the research that went into Capital Volume 1, that had the key impact on the British labour movement. But that in itself raises many questions, not least what exactly that impact was.

Keith Flett

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Socialist History Society publication on 1917

1917 - The Russian Revolution, Reactions and Impact
New publication
Socialist History Society, Occasional Publication 41, price £6.00.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 changed the world forever. For once, it appeared that the oppressed workers were within grasp of the levers of state power and for a while the prospect of permanently ending exploitation seemed a real possibility. The revolutionary mood swept across continents and its impact was felt far beyond the parties of the left and the organised labour movement. The revolution inspired writers, poets, intellectuals and philosophers as much as it did workers and activists. With this special Occasional Publication the Socialist History Society commemorates these momentous events of one hundred years ago with a series of specially written articles that examine the reactions to the revolution and its impact in different areas.

Contents
Evaluating the lessons of October, including their British resonance
by Willie Thompson
Against ‘vacillation, lies and rottenness’: the Russian revolution and the rift in world socialism
by Francis King
1917’s Several Lenins
by Mike Makin-Waite
‘What they can do in Russia, so can we’: the impact of the Russian Revolutions of 1917 in Germany by Helen Boak
Italy and the Russian Revolution of 1917
by Tobias Abse
Clara Zetkin on the Soviet Experiment, 1917-1934
by John S Partington
Secular Ecstasies and the Revolutionary Women Poets in 1917
by Greta Sykes
Psychoanalysis and Revolution: Sigmund Freud and his circle from fin-de-siècle Vienna to revolutionary Russia
by David Morgan

Edited by David Morgan
Available from the SHS
http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/

Book Launch -
On Saturday 21st October
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R,
Start time 2.00pm.
Free to attend, all welcome.
Speakers will include
Tobias Abse, Willie Thompson, David Morgan, Greta Sykes, Francis King and John Partington

Monday, 25 September 2017

Essex Conference on Labour History

Essex Conference on Labour History

The sixteenth Essex Conference on Labour History will take place at The Labour Hall, Collingwood Road, Witham, CM8 2EE, (adjacent to Witham Railway Station), from 10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, 28th October, 2017.
The topics to be discussed include the traditional aims of the Labour Party, the centenary of the Russian Revolution and the Co-operative Party, and James Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party.
The conference is completely open and friends, relatives and acquaintances are welcome, whatever their political allegiances. Questions and other contributions will be invited from the floor, lunch will be provided by the Essex Labour Campaign Forum, with the cost included in the registration fee.
To register, please write, with the registration fee of £10 per person, to The Leys, 18 Park Hill, Harlow, Essex, CM17 (cheques payable to the Essex County Labour Party). Anyone not previously registered can pay at the door, but pre-booking is advisable to ensure enough food is provided.
Francis Beckett – ‘The Labour Party’s Traditional Objectives’
Francis King – ‘ Reflections on the 1917 Russian Revolution’
Stan Newens –  ‘ The Centenary of the Co-operative Party’
Barbara Humphries – ‘James Keir Hardie'

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Celebrating 1917

1917 conference image

Celebrating 1917
Saturday 4 November 2017 • Central London • 10:30am-5:30pm
A one-day conference to debate and discuss the legacy of 1917 on the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Meetings:

Why Celebrate 1917?


  • Dave Sherry, author of Russia 1917: Workers' Revolution and Festival of the Oppressed

  • John Molyneux, author of Lenin for Today

  • Sally Campbell, editor of Socialist Review



  • The Bolsheviks and 1917


    • Kevin Corr and Gareth Jenkins, contributors to International Socialism


    • Culture and Revolution


      • Cathy Porter, author of Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography

      • Roger Huddle, editor of Reminiscences of RAR



      • The Festival of the Oppressed


      • Judith Orr, author of Marxism and Women's Liberation


      • How the Revolution was Lost


        • Esme Choonara, author of A Rebel's Guide to Trotsky


        • The Revolution and its Relevance Today


          • Steve Smith, author of Russia in Revolution

          • Alex Callinicos, author of Imperialism and Global Political Economy

          • Amy Leather, national secretary of the SWP


          • Tickets are £10/£5 concessions.

            To book your place at this conference phone 020 7840 5600 or see the link here

            There are many other events and conferences taking place across the UK (and obviously also internationally) to mark the centenary obviously - for example in Preston on 13-15 October, in London on 21 October, in Glasgow on 28 October, and again in London from 9-12 November.


            Tuesday, 12 September 2017

            GROUP DISCOUNT OFFER For LSHG and friends : Philosophy Football's 1917 Centenary Night Out

            From Mark at Philosophy Football...

            Our 1917 centenary show at Rich Mix ‘Art out of Revolution’ is on Saturday 21st October, we've put a lot of thought into it and come up with something truly special. And there's a special tickets deal too, 5 for the price of 4, or 10 for price of 7 for LSHG, friends and SWP comrades to take up.  Hope so!  
            The evening is presented by self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ aka Philosophy Football. In association with the trade union RMT supported by Brigadista Ale and RnR magazine
            We open and close with Liz Wheatley’s 'Funk the Revolution’ vinyl only DJ set.  Liz is plays jazz funk, soul and rare grooves with a weekly show on Urban Jazz radio. And then we premier a film version Tim Sanders’ graphic novel of the Russian Revolution 1917: Russia’s Red Year  with voiceover by Michael Rosen
            We’ve commissioned music on the theme of ‘revolution’  by Calum Baird a singer-songwriter based in Edinburgh, Calum’s 2017 shows have included the Rivas-Vaciamadrid festival commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama and Berlin’s Festival Musik und Politik. And poetry too from Barbican Young Poet Eleanor Penny. 
            On ’the revolution is dead, long live the Revolution!’  we have Richard Seymour author of Corbyn : The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. And on the art of revolution  Owen Hatherley  author of Landscapes of Communism : A History Through Buildings with Eldina Begic who founded the fashion label Comradettes and is currently completing a PhD at the University of the Arts London on ‘ How To Wear Utopia : A Dress Manual for the Socialist Future’, Pete Ayrton the editor of Revolution! Writing from Russia 1917 and Hugh Tisdale, a graphic artist and co-founder of Philosophy Football
            Opening the second half Des Kapital :  Neve Mind the Cossacks featuring the music of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Robbie Williams and more to explain 1917 (yes really, with audience singalongs!) and was one of the comedy hits at this year's Edinburgh and Brighton festivals fringes. Rosy Carrick has recently completed editing a brand new publication of Mayakovsky’s epic poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin will be performing an entirely original interpretation of the poem accompanied by film and music. And to headline, the Trans-Siberian March Band, Balkan brass party-starters who provide a flamboyantly colourful mix of  high octane live performances and musical miscellany combining up tempo Russian drinking songs, Klezmer, Turkish  and Gypsy tunes with a hint of Latin and hiphop for good tuneful measure. For one night only, a special Shostakovich inspired TSMB set! 

            A 1917 centenary night out like no other, we hope you’ll agree and want to bring a party to. The 5 for price of 4, 10 for the price of 7 tickets can be booked here  https://www.philosophyfootball.com/1917-event.html

            Saturday, 26 August 2017

            LSHG Autumn term 2017 seminars

            London Socialist Historians Seminars
            Autumn 2017
            Seminars are held on alternate Mondays, 5.30pm at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London, WC1. They are free to attend without ticket.
            Monday October 16th - John Rees, 'The Leveller Revolution'
            Monday October 30th  Merilyn Moos, 'Neglected histories of the diverse victims of Nazism'.
            Monday November 13th - Christian Hogsbjerg, ''Every Cook Can Govern': C.L.R James and the Russian Revolution’
            Monday November 27th -John Newsinger, From Revolution to Labourism?: Orwell and the Left'
            Monday December 11th  - Dave Hill, A History of London’s Housing Crisis

            Monday, 14 August 2017

            Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign Picket and Vigil

            Wednesday 16th August
            5th ANNIVERSARY DEMONSTRATION
            AGAINST THE BRUTAL MARIKANA MASSACRE

            1-2pm Picket Lonmin HQ, 1-3 Mount Street, London W1K 3NB
            4.30-7pm Remembrance Vigil
            SOUTH AFRICA HOUSE, TRAFALGAR SQUARE
            Bring yellow flowers
            Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign


            On 16th August 2012, the South African Police shot dead 34 striking platinum rock drillers, while they were trying to disperse. Ten people had died before the massacre. The government set up the Farlam Inquiry which cost the working people of South Africa R153 million. Farlam failed to ask the right questions (who gave the order to issue guns to the police? who ordered them to shoot to kill?) and failed to address the issues - better working conditions and better wages, and decent housing.
            Although evidence showed clearly that it was the police who killed the miners -19 strikers were charged with murder (!) as well as with malicious damage to property. There has been no compensation for the victims’ families or for the injured mineworkers. A second 'Inquiry' found “that the National Police Commander Riah Phiyega was not 'fit for office' and should be dismissed”. Phiyega has challenged this and filed for a review.
            The ANC government called the shots on mining company Lonmin’s behalf. Elsewhere in South Africa, the struggle continues against the destruction of the environment and the health and social consequences of mining that forces people to leave their land which is the source of their livelihood. The small number of jobs it generates cannot justify the destruction it would cause. Local communities receive no benefits. There is widespread violence against those opposed to mining. Activists are attacked and arrested on trumped up charges. Sikhossiphi Rhadebe, the chair of the resistance community in Xolobeni, was murdered in front of his wife and son on 22nd March 2016. This is another example that Rhodes’ racist legacy remains.
            Lonmin (London Mining) used to be a subsidiary of Lonrho, the notorious London Rhodesia company headed by Tiny Rowland, which even a Conservative prime minister Ted Heath called ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’ because of its wanton profiteering and corruption.  Lonmin continues today as the corporate face of neo-colonial capitalism. Principal investors in Lonmin’s murderous exploitation of African mineworkers are London based asset management funds Investec, Majedie, Schroders, Standard Life and Legal & General who own 44% of the corporation. A consortium of banks including Lloyds, HSBC and RBS are Lonmin’s biggest lenders.

            Thursday, 10 August 2017

            North East Labour History Society - Fifty Years of Activism Day School

            Day School: Fifty Years of Activism

            September 16 @ 9:30 am - 4:30 pm


            Venue: University of Northumbria, Ellison Building

            9:30am to 4:30pm, Saturday 16 September 2017

            (Exact details of location at Northumbria University will be posted here soon).

            A collaboration between the Histories of Activism Group at Northumbria University, and the North East Labour History Society.

            This day school will reflect on the last fifty years in the North East, and especially the great changes that have occurred in politics, culture and society.
            The workshops will focus on specific subjects such as Labour Activism and Music and we believe it will revive the spirit of the History Workshop conferences. The backgrounds of the participants will be mixed, including academics presenting their research, as well as activists and historians working outside of a formal academic framework.

            To book your place in this Day School, please let us know on moderator@nelh.net. Attendance is free, and coffee and lunch will be provided.

            Fifty Years of Activism

            9:30 – 10:00 Coffee and Registration
            10:00 – 11:00 Plenary, Keynote Speaker: Dr John Charlton

            11:00 – 11:30 Coffee
            11:30 –   1:00 Three parallel workshops:
            Culture and Music: Workshop Leader, Dr Jude Murphy
            Labour Activism: Workshop Leader, Ben Sellers
            Women and the Women’s Movement: Workshop Leader, Dr Liz O’Donnell. During this session Dr Julie Scanlon will be talking about her research into the 1976 Women’s Liberation Conference held in Ponteland.
            1:00 –   2:00 Lunch
            2:00 –   3:00 Three Parallel Workshops
            The Peace Movement: Workshop Leader, John Creaby
            Politics: Workshop Leader, Nigel Todd
            Cooperatives: Workshop Leader, Professor Tony Webster
            3:00 –   4:00 Three Parallel Workshops
            Trade Unions and the World of Work: Workshop Leader, John Stirling will begin with a brief overview of the changes in work and trade unions over the last 50 years and focus on changing ideas about ‘workers control’ to illustrate developments. He will then welcome discussion from participants about how they see the past and envisage the future.
            Growth of Ethnic Diversity in the North East: Workshop Leader, Dr Avram Taylor
            4:00 –   4:30 Concluding Remarks: Dr Matt Perry

            To book your place in this Day School, please let us know on moderator@nelh.net. Attendance is free, and coffee and lunch will be provided.

             __________________________________________

            The roots of organising in UK working class history

             From John Page:

            I am working with a broad range of trade union and community organisers
            under the working name of the 'Ella Baker School of Transformative
            Community Organising' on a project: 'the roots of organising in UK
            working class history'.

            In essence we are looking for examples of social movement building in
            the past that might provide lessons for the present. The key for us is
            the 'who, what, why, how' questions: how did these movements start, what
            were their internal practices, how did they frame their issues, and how
            did they mobilise/organise their constituency etc?

            While the list of examples is very much open, we are looking at things
            like the East London Federation of Suffragettes, the New Cross Massacre
            Action Committee, inter war anti-fascism in the east end of London, the
            upper Clyde shipbuilders work-in etc. We are particularly interested in
            migrant struggles and organising.
             

            At this stage we are not particularly looking at undertaking original research, it is more a case
            of exploring what has already been written and in particular first hand
            accounts.

            If anyone is interested or would like to contribute (either by joining a
            'reading group' or  simply by supplying a suggested reading list, then
            please register their interest here:
            https://goo.gl/forms/QL8EAVQgAQETGk2C2

            Tuesday, 25 July 2017

            SHS meeting - Thomas Spence and the Land Question

            Thomas Spence and the Land Question
            Speaker Professor Malcolm Chase
            2pm, Saturday 29th July 2017
            Venue: Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU
            Malcolm is Professor of Social History at the University of Leeds. He has written extensively on Thomas Spence, including a recent article ‘The real rights of man: Thomas Spence,Paine and Chartism’ and his first book The People’s Farm: English Radical Agrarianism, 1775-1840 (1988), of which a new edition was recently published. His other books include The Chartists: perspectives and legacies (2015) and Chartism: A New History (2007).
             He is Vice-President of the Society for the Study of Labour History and a member of the SHS.
            Admission free, retiring collection, all welcome


            http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/category/meetings/future-shs-meetings/

            Tuesday, 18 July 2017

            The Battle of Lewisham 1977 - Forty years on







            darcushowe77.png (571×396)
             Darcus Howe at the Battle of Lewisham, August 1977

             The Battle of Lewisham - Reunion - How we stopped the Nazi NF

            Fb event:  https://en-gb.facebook.com/events/133868593825540/
            • Saturday 12 August at 13:0016:30 UTC+01

            • Clifton Rise, London, SE14 6, United Kingdom
            Forty years ago this August, thousands of anti fascists and locals from South East London stopped the fascists of the National Front from marching.  The National Front hoped that by demonstrating in Lewisham – an area with a high proportion of Afro Caribbeans – they would further intimidate minorities. The fascists, however, were to receive a rude awakening. The victory was critical in beating back the rise in racism and fascism. Saturday 13th August, 1977 helped set back the fascists for a generation.
            The far right had become, pre Lewisham, mainstream in the media, in political life and often, in popular culture. In 1977, the National Front received over 100,000 votes in London elections.
            The historic day in Lewisham, itself, saw trades unionists, socialists, Labour Party members, and crucially, many people from Lewisham itself, come together to say enough is enough.
            Up to 10,000 people joined in to oppose the NF. All the fascists possible routes were continually blocked, NF banners were burned, and Bob Marley was played. The counter demo became a great example of black and white unity.
            Nazi organizations such as the NF, believed that they could build a mass movement based upon racial prejudices and racist violence. They were wrong, and they were defeated.
            Ted Parker who took part in the battle, mentions, “Thereafter the NF never again posed a serious political threat. Lewisham led directly to the formation of the Anti Nazi League (ANL) which, together with Rock Against Racism (RAR), and nowadays Love Music Hate Racism mobilised hundreds of thousands in collective expressions of solidarity between those of differing cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Organised racism was marginalised for the next quarter of a century”


            Come and march and meet with some of the key individuals, who alongside many others, helped beat back the rise in racism and the fascists who fed off such poison.
            People who played a critical role at Lewisham and some who helped form the Anti Nazi League (ANL), will recall the day the Nazis were stopped from marching and why it matters today. We'll assemble at Clifton Rise, a key location on the day.
            The united front of socialists, trades unionists, Labour members... anyone against the Nazis, that was the ANL, was inspired from Lewisham. Alongside Rock Against Racism, the ANL was crucial in undercutting the then growing NF.
            The ANL combined physically confronting the Nazis wherever they raised their ugly heads with powerful propaganda exposing the little Hitlers. It was a mass movement, that faced with the challenges posed by Le Pen, Golden Dawn and Jobbik, still reasonates. Please share this event, invite your friends, let's celebrate the victory and ensure today's fascists are defeated.


            Hosted by Unite Against Fascism
            http://uaf.org.uk/2017/07/the-battle-of-lewisham-1977-40-years-on-2/

            See also the commemorations being organised by Goldsmiths College - here: 
             http://sites.gold.ac.uk/battle-of-lewisham/2017/01/04/remembering-the-battle-of-lewisham-40-years-on/


            Remobilising militant pasts: Histories of Protest, Unrest and Insurrection in Politics and Culture

            Remobilising militant pasts: Histories of Protest, Unrest and Insurrection in Politics and Culture

            Kings College London - 31 August - 1 September 2017

            For programme and registration details please see here:

            https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/remobilising-militant-pasts-histories-of-protest-unrest-and-insurrection-in-politics-and-culture-tickets-36308575928

            Tuesday, 27 June 2017

            Must Britain Travel the Moscow Road? The British Left and the Russian Revolution

             As well as Marxism 2017, in central London from 6-9 July, tickets are now on sale for ‘Must Britain Travel the Moscow Road? The British Left and the Russian Revolution’, taking place on Monday 10th July at the British Library. More information, including the programme of the day is available at: https://www.bl.uk/events/must-britain-travel-the-moscow-road-the-british-left-and-the-russian-revolution

            What did H G Wells and Sylvia Pankhurst find on their visits to the first Communist state? What was it like being brought up in a Communist family in Britain following the events of 1917? Join writer and broadcaster David Aaronovitch alongside historians and archivists to uncover the effect of the Revolution on British socialists.

            The Russian Revolution and the birth of the Soviet state had a deep and enduring impact on the British Left, which continues to shape socialist politics to this day. Socialists in Britain watched the unexpected events of 1917 with amazement and confusion, and struggled to draw lessons for themselves. The Bolsheviks, meanwhile, saw the nations of the British Empire as key targets through which their revolt could spread, hoping to spark a world-wide revolution. At this packed day of talks, historians and archivists uncover stories and records of their responses at home, and visits made to witness the new state at first hand.  Writer and broadcaster David Aaronovitch concludes the day with an account of his upbringing in a loyal Communist family in Britain.

            Programme
            09.00 - Registration and coffee                 

            09.30 – 10.15  - Dr Jonathan Davis (Anglia Ruskin University) opening keynote: ‘A new star of hope has arisen over Europe’: British Labour and the Russian Revolutions

            10.15 – 11.00 - Dr Billy Kenefick (University of Dundee): The Scottish Radical Left and the impact of the Russian Revolution

            11.00 – 11.20 - Coffee/tea break

            11.20 – 13.00 - Dr John S. Partington (University of Reading): One Russia, Two Reflexions: H. G. Wells and Clara Zetkin on the Soviet Experiment, 1917-1934
            Professor Mary Davis (Visiting Professor of Labour History, Royal Holloway, University of London): Sylvia Pankhurst and the Russian Revolution; Pioneering Solidarity

            13.00- 14.15 - Lunch (not included)

            14.15 – 15.30 - Short introductions to British Left archives and resources with Ralph Gibson (Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies), Jeff Howarth (TUC Library), Meirian Jump (Marx Memorial Library) and Katya Rogatchevskaia (British Library)

            15.30 – 15.50 - Coffee/tea break 

            15.50 – 16.30 - David Aaronovitch concludes the day with an account of his upbringing in a loyal Communist family in Britain – a life filled with picket lines, militant trade unions, solidarity rallies for foreign Communists, the Red Army Choir, copies of the Daily Worker, all underpinned by a quiet love of the Soviet Union. He is the author of the recent autobiography Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists.

            A temporary display The Russian Revolution and its impact on the course and outcome of WWI will be available to view at this event. This Heritage Lottery funded exhibition on the impact of the Russian Revolution 1917-22 looks at the two revolutions of 1917, their effect on WW1, the ensuing Wars of Intervention and Labour Movement responses in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

            Tuesday, 16 May 2017

            LSHG Newsletter #61 (Summer 2017) now online

            The Summer 2017 edition of the London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter #61 is now online, and for some reason - possibly related to an upcoming general election - it has more of a distinctly anti-Tory feel to it than usual.

            It leads with Keith Flett recalling the 1997 General Election on its twentieth anniversary, and noting that a new exhibition about the election is on at People's History Museum in Manchester. Last month saw the 40th anniversary of 'The Battle of Wood Green' when anti-fascists including then local councillor Jeremy Corbyn (whatever happened to him?) mobilised against the Nazi National Front and Flett also registers this anniversary and muses on the issues arising from recording such events for the historical record - see here.

            Ian Birchall also contributes a memoir about his experiences of attending a grammar school in Bradford in light of Theresa May's love for them - see here, while also reviewing two books relating to timely and urgent themes of anti-racism, anti-fascism and French history - The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville and The Disappearances of Emile Zola by Michael Rosen. Letters, articles, criticisms and contributions to debate are most welcome - the deadline for the next issue of the LSHG Newsletter is 1 September 2017.

             Some upcoming Events / Seminars

            The Annual Levellers Day will take place in Burford, Oxfordshire on Saturday 20 May. See here

            Monday May 22nd - LSHG Summer Seminar - The Making of the Russian Revolution (why Lenin should have said ‘I’m not a Leninist') - Neil Faulkner - held at the Institute of Historical Research IHR Seminar Room 304, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU All welcome - no need to book in advance - email Keith Flett at the address above for more info Time: 5.30pm

            Marxism 2017 - 6-9 July, central London - provisional programme now available to download - see here - highlights for socialist historians include plenty of meetings of interest, including lots on the legacy of the Russian Revolution on its centenary including Dave Sherry on his new book - Russia 1917: Workers’ Revolution and the Festival of the Oppressed, Sean Sayers on Marx and teleology and John Newsinger on his new book - One Big Union of All the Workers: Solidarity and the Fighting Industrial Workers of the World

            Book Review - The Disappearance of Émile Zola

            [From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter #61 Summer 2017]

            ZOLA, DREYFUS AND ENGLAND

             Image result for the disappearance of emile zola






            The Disappearance of Émile Zola 
            by Michael Rosen
            Faber & Faber, London, 2017
            £16.99, 302pp ISBN 978-0-571-31201-6


            The low points of journalism are all too familiar, the Guardian’s vile vendetta against Jeremy Corbyn being just one more instance. But political journalism has its high points too, and one of the finest examples, still remembered and cited more than a hundred years later, is Émile Zola’s J’Accuse of 1898, a passionate polemic against army corruption and anti-Semitism and in defence of the wrongfully imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus.

            Much has been written on the Dreyfus case (and this book contains a valuable bibliography) but Michael Rosen’s new book offers an interesting perspective by giving an account of the time Zola spent in England. After being found guilty of libel, Zola was advised by friends to evade prison by escaping to England where he spent ten and a half months living incognito. Rosen has reconstructed this period of exile using a range of sources, including Zola’s correspondence and accounts by his daughter and his friend and translator Ernest Vizetelly.

            In many ways Zola found his stay disconcerting; he did not think much of English food. He had to deal with a complicated family life. For many years he had been married to Alexandrine, but their union had been childless. More recently he had embarked on a relationship with Jeanne Rozerot, with whom he had two children.

            Though Zola was an enlightened and progressive thinker, he did not escape the assumptions of his time about gender, as shown by his comments on the children: as he wrote to Jeanne: “I really want my little Denise not to do much at all and that later she will be happy to be a good little wife. But I would be very sad if our Jacques was just lazy and ignorant.”

            Zola was a remarkably prolific writer and he did not allow exile to disrupt his productivity. He had a rule of writing five pages every day. During his time in England he produced some 1006 handwritten pages, which became a 751-page novel. This was Fécondité (Fertility), the first volume of his final novel cycle, entitled without undue modesty The Four Gospels. This strange and little read volume is a prolonged polemic against abortion, sterilisation, birth control and all attempts to limit population. As Rosen points out, this had clear implications of colonialism; if everyone were to turn out children at the rate Zola advocated, then the French population would have to spill over into the rest of the world. And as Rosen also notes, Zola was working in exactly the opposite direction to some of his British contemporaries like Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, who were campaigning in favour of birth control.

            Some of the most interesting fruits of Rosen’s research are quotations from the British left press of the time, showing the support given to Dreyfus by the labour movement. He quotes an article from the periodical of the Social Democratic Federation, contrasting Zola and the defenders of Dreyfus to the absence of opposition to the Boer War; Fabian News commended both Zola’s literary work and his intervention in the Dreyfus case. He has also looked at the often ephemeral Yiddish-language socialist press. Thus the Yiddisher Express analysed Zola’s role as leader of the defence of Dreyfus. And in 1902 a leaflet in Yiddish issued by the East London Jewish branch of the Social Democratic Federation urged Jews in Dublin to support James Connolly in an election; it invoked Dreyfus in support of the proposition that “The Socialists are the only ones who stand always and everywhere against every national oppression”.

            The significance of Zola’s intervention in the Dreyfus case must be understood in the context of the initial failure of the French left to take up the issue. French socialists and syndicalists were not free of anti-Semitism, and often lapsed into a crude class analysis which argued that Dreyfus did not merit support because he was a wealthy army officer. Rosen traces the rather slow evolution of leading Socialist Jean Jaurès – often treated as a near saint – who initially claimed that Dreyfus escaped the death penalty thanks to the “prodigious deployment of Jewish power”, before becoming one of Dreyfus's most persuasive supporters.

            Rosen believes the defence of Dreyfus helped to create “a new kind of politics … combining ideas that were internationalist, against poverty, against injustice and against what we now call racial discrimination”. But perhaps he is too optimistic. The formation of a broad united front in support of Dreyfus was undoubtedly positive, if somewhat belated. But support for Dreyfus did not necessarily imply a commitment to the broader struggle for social justice. Clemenceau, whom Rosen quite correctly presents as being a strong supporter of Zola and Dreyfus, became Minister of the Interior in 1906, and was responsible for sending troops who fired on winegrowers in Southern France. Zola (by then dead), who had depicted the use of soldiers against striking miners in Germinal, would scarcely have approved.

            Rosen recognises that Zola could be “egotistical” and “irritating”, but nonetheless sees him as a “hero in my eyes”. Above all Rosen’s account is written with passionate support for Zola’s opposition to anti-Semitism, and there are various references to Rosen’s own family history, including a dedication to relatives who perished in the Holocaust. For Dreyfus was only an episode – Dreyfus’s enemies suffered a temporary defeat but they took their revenge during the German Occupation in 1940-44, when they were among Hitler’s very willing helpers. And though under some mild constraints, their descendants are undoubtedly present in the ranks of Marine Le Pen’s Front National.

            Rosen’s book is a powerful account of what a principled and courageous journalist could achieve. It should be compulsory reading for staff at the Guardian.

            Ian Birchall