Monday, 21 December 2015

Socialist History Society lectures

Saturday 23 January 2016

Willie Thompson speaks on The Forces that Shaped our History. Willie will discuss themes covered in his latest book, Work, Sex and Power: The Forces that Shaped Our History
Saturday 2.00 pm. Venue: Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green. London EC1R 0DU. Free admission, retiring collection

Saturday 19 March 2016, 2pm

Sylvia Pankhurst, the Easter Rising and Women's Dreadnought 
Professor John Newsinger
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green. London EC1R 0DU. Free admission, retiring collection
Free to attend

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

LSHG Seminars 2016

London Socialist Historians seminars Spring Term 2016

Newly published research in socialist history

Mon January 25th The Life of Angela Gradwell Tuckett -  Rosie MacGregor

Mon February 8th The Politics of Public Space in Nineteenth Century England - Katrina Navickas

Mon February 22nd Paris at War, 1939-1944 - David Drake

Mon March 7th Clara Zetkin, Letters & Writings -  Ben Lewis

All seminars are at 5.30pm in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research. All welcome.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

LSHG Roundtable - 90 years since the 1926 General Strike

90 years since the 1926 General Strike: History roundtable Monday 7th December

Socialist History Roundtable. Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London, WC1. Monday 7th December 5.30pm Room 304 (third floor)

The aim of the roundtable is quite specifically to look at new research and potential areas of interest in the events of 1926. There is a job of work to be done in making sure younger generations in particular have heard of the General Strike and understand what the struggle was about but the LSHG focuses specifically on new research areas and angles. There is one new book in the area, on the General Strike in fiction, which is reviewed by Ian Birchall in the forthcoming issue of the LSHG newsletter. Other areas which I think are worth more exploration include the miners lockout from 12th May to November 1926, the role of the coal owners and who they were and the same for the ‘volunteers’ who broke the strike. I will be talking on these areas on 7th December. The aim is to see if there are enough new research leads and angles on the 90th anniversary to warrant running a formal event at the IHR during 2016, as well as of course to revisit the strike and lockout with some of the concerns of the present day in mind. We might ask for example why there has been no further General Strike of a similar or greater magnitude when the form remains very common around the world today.

Daryl Leeworthy will be talking on some new research he has done, which he summarises here:

Quiet Flows the Taff: the General Strike in South Wales

This paper, drawing on on-going research into the labour movement in South Wales in the early part of the twentieth century, seeks to show the connections between the 1926 strike and lockout and the earlier waves of strikes and lockouts in the same region. From the anthracite strike of 1925 to the 1921 lockout, the strikes that shook the central coalfield between 1919 and 1920, and the earlier Cambrian Combine and Powell Duffryn disputes of 1910-1911, the labour movement, the employers, and above all the people of South Wales, all learnt how to organise and respond to large-scale industrial action. The paper uses contemporary materials and oral history to shed light on one of the key battlegrounds of the strike.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Professor Sally Alexander to give the Raphael Samuel Memorial Lecture 2015

The Raphael Samuel Memorial Lecture 2015
Raphael Samuel (1934-1996)
 Thursday 10 December 2015, 6.30
                                                               wine reception to follow
 Professor Sally Alexander
(Emeritus Professor of Modern History, Goldsmiths University of London; founding editor,History Workshop Journal)
 ‘Social democracy’s super-ego? 
The politics of motherhood in mid-20thc Britain’

Clore Lecture Theatre
Birkbeck, University of London 
Torrington Square London WC1E 7JL


For more information email

Sunday, 15 November 2015

LSHG Seminar - Sue Jones on pirates

Dear Comrade

On Monday 23 November, the next seminar in the autumn term LSHG seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research (5.30pm, Room 304, 3rd floor) is Sue Jones on the long awaited subject of pirates:

'My longing desire to go to sea': wanderlust and wayward youth in early modern England'

Some advance notice. On Saturday 30th April 2016 at the IHR the LSHG will be running an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising


Keith Flett

Thursday, 12 November 2015

John Newsinger on the class struggle in Britain

Them and Us : Fighting the class war 1910-1939
Wednesday 18 Nov 6.30pm, Bookmarks Bookshop, London
With John Newsinger
The period from 1910 to 1939 was one of the most explosive in British working class history. Them and Us looks at how the class struggle—embracing the struggles of women workers, immigrant workers, the unemployed and the fight against fascism—was fought in these years.
The Labour Party and trade union leaderships were key players in the conflict, but their actions were often intended to undermine working class struggle. The ruling class had much to thank them for.
Today when the working class is under a sustained and unprecedented attack from the Tories, Them and Us is an essential reminder of how past struggles were fought, of the unscrupulous nature of our enemy and of the need for militancy and solidarity to defeat them. John Newsinger draws on the words and actions of working class activists—and of their enemies—to bring to life key episodes in the struggle.
Admission £2.00 Payable on door
Reserve your place - call 020 7637 1848

Friday, 6 November 2015

Marxism and Historical Practice

Marxism and Historical Practice
Interpretive Essays on Class Formation and Class Struggle. In 2 Volumes.
Bryan D. Palmer, Trent University
The two volumes of Marxism and Historical Practice bring together essays written by one of the major Marxist historians of the last fifty years. The pieces collected in Volume I, Interpretive Essays on Class Formation and Class Struggle, offer a stimulating, empirically grounded survey of North American collective behaviour, popular mobilizations, and social struggles, ranging from a rich discussion of ritualistic protest like the charivari through the rise of the Knights of Labor in the 1880s to campaigns against neoliberal labour reform in British Columbia in the early 1980s. What emerges is Palmer's sustained reflection on long-standing interpretive historical problems of class formation, the dynamics of social change, and how popular social movements arise and relate to law, the state, and existing cultural contexts.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Why Labour History Still Matters

Why Labour history still matters 

 Marx Memorial Library, London, United Kingdom

 Labour history was central to many constructions of radical history in Britain in the twentieth century. Since the 1980s, however, the decline in the strength of the British trade union movement alongside intellectual trends away from the centrality of class have coincided with an apparent 'crisis' of labour history. Yet trade unions still have 6 million members in this country, work is still a central experience of everyday life, and antagonism at the point of production must still have a role in radical politics. But what place does recounting the experience of labour in the past have to play in this process? This session will bring together people who have engaged with the history of labour and trade unions from a variety of approaches to engage with this question.

Speakers: Sarah Boston (Film maker and author of Women Workers and the Trade Unions Mary Davis (Professor of Labour History) Owen Gower (director of Still the Enemy Within) Jeff Howarth (TUC Library Collections, Librarian)

 Tuesday, 1 December 2015 from 18:30 to 20:00 

 Marx Memorial Library - 37A Clerkenwell Green London EC1R 0DU GB

 Book here:

Monday, 2 November 2015

New issue of Revolutionary History: Clara Zetkin

Revolutionary History 

Clara Zetkin: Letters and Writings 

Launch Meeting: Wednesday, 11 November 2015
at 6.30pm Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE

Clara Zetkin played a prominent role within the left wing of the German Social-Democratic Party and subsequently within the Communist Party of Germany and the Communist International, with a strong interest in the rights of working-class women. The latest edition of Revolutionary History, edited by Mike Jones and Ben Lewis, brings together articles and letters by Zetkin on such subjects as revisionism within the SPD, women’s rights and feminism, the fight against fascism, and the bureaucratisation of the Communist International, together with scholarly articles focusing upon specific aspects of Zetkin’s political life. This edition of Revolutionary History will bring the life and work of Clara Zetkin to the notice of today’s left-wing activists and historians, and help to restore her name to its rightful position within the pantheon of twentieth-century revolutionary Marxists. Articles by Clara Zetkin
 The Servant Girls’ Movement
 Against the Theory and Tactics of Social Democracy
 Guidelines for the Communist Women’s Movement
 Letters to Lenin
 The Struggle Against Fascism
 The Bourgeois Women’s Movement
 Letter to the Politbureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU
 Speech to the ECCI
 Letters to Fanny Jezierska
 Letter to Wilhelm Pieck
 Opening Speech of the Reichstag as its Oldest Member, 30 August 1932 Articles about Clara Zetkin
 Gisela Notz, Clara Zetkin and the International Socialist Women’s Movement
 Ottokar Luban, Clara Zetkin’s Influence on the Spartacus Group, 1918-1919
 Günter Wernicke, Clara Zetkin’s Opposition to Sidelining of Comrades in the Comintern and KPD in the Mid-1920s
 Horst Helas, Clara Zetkin’s ‘Filthy Letter’

Friday, 30 October 2015

LSHG Seminar: Chris Jury on Politics, Theatre and History

Dear Comrade

the next seminar in the autumn term 2015 series is on Monday November 9th at 5.30pm in Room 304, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1.

Chris Jury will speak on politics, theatre and history. Chris is a well known actor and director (including over 40 episodes of Eastenders..)

You may also be interested to know that the two most recent LSHG seminars are now available as podcasts here:


Keith Flett

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

SHS: Campaigns for Decent Housing Past and Present

Socialist History Society Meeting
Campaigns for Decent Housing Past and Present
Speaker Duncan Bowie

2pm, 21st November 2015

Venue Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green

Duncan Bowie will give a talk on radical and socialist campaigns for decent housing, land nationalisation and town planning in the 19th century and seek to relate them to the current housing crisis and contemporary struggles.

Duncan's book, The Radical and Socialist Tradition in British Planning: From Puritan Colonies to Garden Cities is to be published by Ashgate later this year.

Duncan is a member of the Socialist History Society committee and of the committee of the London Labour Housing Group. He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster. He is the author of SHS OP No 34, Roots of the British Socialist Movement.

Monday, 19 October 2015

LSHG seminar: John Newsinger on British Counter-Insurgency

Dear Comrade

a reminder about the next London Socialist Historians seminar.  Please note the room and start time.  

On Monday 26th October at 5.30pm in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, WC1. Room 304 (third floor)

British Counter Insurgency. A history
John Newsinger
John, a noted authority in this area, will speak on new research he has done.

I hope to see you there


keith Flett

Sunday, 11 October 2015

New LSHG Newsletter now online

The Autumn 2015 issue of the LSHG Newsletter is now online, featuring book reviews, discussions of Keir Hardie and Jeremy Corbyn and an obituary of Bel Druce.  Letters, articles, criticisms and contributions to ndebate are most welcome.

The deadline for the next issue is 1 December 2015 - please contact Keith Flett at the usual address.  A reminder of our upcoming seminars below:

London Socialist Historians Seminar Autumn 2015

All seminars start at 5.30pm in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1. Free without ticket

12th Oct: Merilyn Moos: 'Generations: the impact of the personal and political on children born in Britain to refugees from Nazism'

26th Oct: John Newsinger: 'British Counter Insurgency. A history'

9th Nov: Chris Jury: 'Politics, theatre and history'

23rd Nov:  Sue Jones: 'My longing desire to go to sea': wanderlust and wayward youth in early modern England​

7th Dec: Roundtable, Keith Flett & others:  'How to remember the 1926 General Strike, 90 years on'


Keir Hardie, 100 years on

From LSHG Newsletter #56 (Autumn 2015)

Keir Hardie, 100 years on

Before the current Labour leader the last one with a beard was Keir Hardie, who led the Party from 1906-8. He died 100 years ago on September 26 1915. The centenary has been marked by at least one academic conference pondering Hardie’s political impact and a Radio 4 programme by Gordon Brown who is a Scottish labour historian by profession.

There is much scope for discussion and debate about Hardie and hopefully the centenary will provide some all too rare reflections on British labour history in the crucial period around the formation of the Labour Party in 1900. My thoughts here touch, and only briefly, on a few enduring aspects of Hardie’s political legacy.

Hardie’s original base, from the late 1870s, was amongst first the Lanarkshire and then the Ayrshire miners in Scotland. He was a trade unionist, a full time organiser, with a Lib-Lab (that is a trade unionist within the Liberal Party) perspective on the world that focused strongly on issues of respectability such as temperance and religious observance.

Hardie stood as an independent labour candidate election in Lanark in April 1888 and in August of the same year he became the first secretary of the new Scottish Labour Party. A career in Scottish politics surely beckoned. Except that it didn’t because that wasn’t quite how Hardie saw the world.

In 1892 he travelled to the East End of London, another centre of a newly organising working class, to stand, without Liberal opposition, as a small ‘l’ labour candidate for Westminster. Hardie won and in August 1892 took his seat as an MP.

Questions were asked about where Hardie’s campaign funds came from. While Hardie presented himself as moving beyond his trade union background, as Caroline Benn’s definitive biography underlines, unemployment was even more of an issue in West Ham than it was in Ayrshire. The Scottish miners understood the link well enough and certainly gave some of the money for Hardie’s election. The following year he was one of those who formed the Independent Labour Party.

When it came to the 1900 General Election Hardie, in era when it was possible to stand in more than one seat, was nominated in both Preston and Merthyr in South Wales. Preston was never likely at this point, on a still restricted franchise, to return a labour MP. Hardie’s chances in Merthyr weren’t thought to be too good either. After all he was a Scot who had held a seat in London’s East End and was largely unknown in the area.

Hardie however had two things going for him. Firstly he had been a miner and a miner’s union official. Merthyr was a mining seat, but one which remained firmly Lib-Lab. This however was the period when the new Trades Councils were being formed in the area, and they were often a bedrock of support for independent labour politics.

In a two-member seat Hardie was elected MP and in the 1906 General Election was re-elected with an increased majority. During his period as MP for West Ham and Merthyr when not representing his constituents in London, Hardie continued to live in Cumnock in Scotland where he had been based as a union official.

Hardie’s politics remained as they had developed from his background. A pacifist, he opposed war, and the First World War on that basis, not that of anti-imperialism. He was a determined advocate of an independent labour politics (although one that did deals early on with the Liberals) and a supporter of women’s suffrage which at that time placed him on the left of the labour movement. On the left, but certainly no revolutionary as Victor Grayson the MP for the Colne Valley was.

The central historical point is that Hardie’s trajectory as a union and labour activist demonstrates that while issues of national independence are important ones, class politics transcends boundaries.

The spectre of united working class internationalism that Hardie, and his beard, in a way personified, continues to not only haunt the right but be of great relevance for the labour movement.

Keith Flett

Obituary: Bel Druce

From LSHG Newsletter #56 (Autumn 2015)

Obituary: BEL DRUCE (1940-2015)

Those who attend seminars at the IHR may well Bel Druce who until recently was a regular presence. She sadly died over the summer and this piece by Ian Birchall serves to remind us of the life of an activist

My friend Bel Druce, who died in August as a result of a heart attack and cancer, had been a regular participant in LSHG seminars for the last few years. Like many LSHG members she was not a professional historian by training, but brought to the group insights derived from her own experience and commitments.

Bel was born in 1940. Her father was a Scottish traindriver and, quite naturally at that time, a trade unionist. Her mother was Swiss. I don’t know the exact circumstances, but just after the end of the War her mother took her to live in Switzerland, for a year, perhaps longer. She returned to England and continued her schooling. She enjoyed learning, and even studied ancient Greek for a year. She would have liked to stay on at school and go on to higher education, but her mother was opposed to this.

In her twenties she married and gave birth to three children. As the children grew older she decided to get the education she had missed out on earlier. She enrolled at the LSE as a mature student and did a degree in anthropology. She followed this up with an MA in Librarianship at University College London. She then considered doing a PhD on the subject – “Language and perception in a multicultural society”. This was based on the principle that the language we use shapes the way in which we perceive the world we live in. Bel wanted to examine this principle in terms of the various versions of English spoken in different ethnic communities in Britain. It would have been a fascinating piece of work, but sadly it never materialised.

For much of her life Bel worked as a librarian, becoming a Senior Librarian in Barnet. She was active in her trade union, NALGO – later UNISON - where she was a popular and effective activist. She was one of the two million who marched against war in Iraq in February 2003 – though later she would worry as to whether the demonstration had achieved anything. She was fiercely anti-racist.

Retirement gave her more scope to pursue her intellectual activities. She became a volunteer worker in the anthropology section of the British Museum. She also started attending evening classes on topics such as political theory. At times she would get into heated arguments with her fellow-students, notably about the Middle East. This was the Bel Druce I met in 2010.

The two most striking things about her were her intellectual curiosity and her capacity for friendship. She had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and was constantly asking questions, never willing to accept the received orthodoxy about anything. Bel had been an active trade unionist, supported various left-wing causes and subscribed to Red Pepper. But she had never been a member of a political organisation.

Knowing her intellectual curiosity and her fondness for evening classes, I suggested going to various meetings and seminars which might interest her. We started attending meetings of the London Socialist Historians Group. Initially I think she was a bit intimidated by the atmosphere, which could on occasion be a little cliquish, but soon she began to participate in the discussions, and she loved meeting up with other participants for a drink  after the seminars. I introduced her to Keith Flett’s website, which intrigued and amused her. In the summer of 2011, after attending Marxism, she decided to join the SWP. She felt that at last, now, in her seventies, she had found her “political home”. In 2014 she joined RS21. At the same time she became involved in Left Unity in Barnet, where she took on various jobs and responsibilities. She was still working her way towards that “political home” she longed for.

For some time she had been suffering from a problem with her left knee which made it impossible for her to walk any distance. In the summer of 2014 she was outraged by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza but was unable to take part in any of the massive demonstrations in Central London. She did, however, hobble her way up from Turnpike Lane to Haringey Civic Centre on a local demonstration.

In March this year she took part in what was to be her last demonstration; very fittingly it was UN Anti-Racism Day. She wasn’t able to march the full distance, but she joined us at Piccadilly Circus to walk the last few hundred yards to Trafalgar Square. Then we went to a café. I went to get her a cup of coffee; when I returned to the table I found her, typically, deep in political discussion with an anti-nuclear campaigner who had also been on the march.

Bel’s last political involvement was with the election campaign of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition [TUSC]. She wasn’t able to do much campaigning, but she had no less than three window bills for the TUSC candidate in Tottenham, Jenny Sutton, in her front window, and, as she reported, it got her into a number of political discussions with neighbours and passers-by. The very last meeting she attended was Jenny Sutton’s final election rally.

At the beginning of June she was taken into the North Middlesex Hospital. Bel very much appreciated the high standard of care she received and she was able to spend her last weeks in dignity and relatively free from pain. It was easy to see that she was trying to make friends with those who were caring for her, but when one of the staff expressed approval of Jeremy Hunt she immediately started an argument.

Bel’s attitude to history was aptly summed up by Brecht’s poem:

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?

The books are filled with names of kings.

Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?

And Babylon, so many times destroyed.

Who built the city up each time?

Ian Birchall

For a fuller account of Bel’s life go to

Book Review: Breaking the Silence

From LSHG Newsletter #56 (Autumn 2015)
Breaking the Silence: Voices of the British Children of Refugees from Nazism

Merilyn Moos

Rowman & Littlefield 2015

358pp ISBN 978-1783482962

The author writes:

About 70-80,000 people fled Nazism to Britain, mostly because of anti-Semitism but a significant minority because of their opposition to the Nazis. My book looks at how that ‘second generation’, although born in Britain, continue to feel displaced and feel a sense of ‘otherness’. But there are differences within the British second generation as well as similarities. The children of the political refugees appear to be less likely to see themselves or their parents as victims. At the heart of the book are the stories that members of the second generation told me: ‘breaking the silence’. Although not the book’s focus, in the current period with hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers (the so-called ‘hordes’ of ‘immigrants’) desperately seeking sanctuary, the effects of exile on subsequent generations is especially pertinent.’

Below is Bob Cant’s review for Scottish Review, 15 September 2015

Breaking the Silence is an exploratory research study which contextualises and analyses the experiences of people of the second generation and is primarily based around a series of testimonials by people from that group. Central to their narratives are questions about belonging. Some of the most powerful stories are from people talking about the ways they faced up to topics-which-could-notbe- discussed during their everyday lives as children.’ She [Moos] shares the concern of Judith Butler that the focus on 'trauma’ can actually demean the suffering of the survivors and can result in 're-enacting the past as the present’. She found this individualistic approach to trauma and victimhood ahistorical and disempowering; she welcomed signs of resilience in some of her informants.” The indicators of distress that she identifies among the second generation of refugees from nazism will prove invaluable for those studying and seeking to promote the wellbeing of people who have survived any of the catastrophes of our age.

LSHG Conference - The Irish Easter Rising - Saturday 30 April

LSHG Forum - Saturday 30 April  - One Hundred Years On: The Irish Easter Rising

Institute of Historical Research, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HU
 - midday

Image result for irish easter rising

A number of speakers will address the significance of the Rising
on its 100th anniversary. Here John Newsinger sets the scene.

On 24 April 1916, Easter Monday, a force of some 900 Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army members seized control of the centre of Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic. They held out against the British army until the deployment of artillery forced their unconditional surrender on the 29th. By this time 64 rebel fighters had been killed, together with 132 soldiers and police and some 250 civilians, many shot out of hand by the troops. In the context of the horrors of the First World War, this was a minor episode, the death of some 450 people at a time when hundreds of thousands were being slaughtered on the

Western Front. Indeed, there were at the time considerably more Irishmen fighting for the British in France than took part in the Rising. Nevertheless, the Rising had an impact out of all proportion to the numbers involved, the damage suffered and the casualties inflicted. It prepared the way for the triumph of Sinn Fein in 1918 and for the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed. A hundred years later, the rebels are generally celebrated as heroes but important questions remain. Did the they believe they had a realistic chance of success in the face of apparently overwhelming odds or was their rebellion a self-conscious blood sacrifice intended to keep the spirit of republicanism alive? How much popular support did the Rising have at the time? How significant was their alliance with Imperial Germany? What was the attitude of the British left, both revolutionary and reformist, to the Rising? Did Labour MPs really cheer the news of the execution of the rebel leadership in the Commons? What part did women play in the Rising? And what of James Connolly? Was his participation, indeed his leadership role, in the Rising, the fulfilment of his socialist politics or an abandonment of them? What was the significance of his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood? Did Connolly really argue that the British would not use artillery because of the damage it would cause to capitalist property? Did he tell the Citizen Army men and women to hold onto their rifles because they were out for social freedom and not just political freedom or is this just a myth invented years later? What became of Connolly’s socialism after his death? Why was the socialist presence in the War of Independence so easily contained, indeed marginalised? For Sean O’Casey, Connolly had forsaken his socialist commitment in favour of republicanism and the only genuine socialist martyr of Easter Week was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. What was the impact of Sheehy-Skeffington’s murder at the hands of British troops on opinion in Britain? How important was Catholicism to the rebel fighters? Even Connolly was reconciled with the Church before his execution and privately urged his Protestant wife to convert as a dying wish. And the only Protestant in the rebel leadership, Constance Markiewicz herself subsequently converted. There are a host of questions still to be explored and debated while at the same time honouring the memory of those who died fighting the British Empire.