Saturday, 25 June 2016 2.00pm to 4.30 pm at the MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH - The nearest tube station is St Paul's, but there are
others close by.
J B PRIESTLEY: A Good Companion in our times?
broadcaster and cofounder of CND, J B Priestley was a loose cannon on
the left for most of the twentieth century. Are his ethical socialism,
antipathy to the big state and focus on community still relevant today?
Davey is a libertarian socialist, formerly editor of New Times and
chair of the Socialist Society, author of English Imaginaries (1999) and
co-author with Paul Anderson of Moscow Gold: the Soviet Union and the
British Left (2014).
Walter Rodney, the prominent Guyanese historian, political activist and scholar, was assassinated in Guyana on 13th June 1980. At long last, the report of the Commission of Inquiry into his murder has been handed to the Parliament of Guyana. It is therefore a good time to revisit the legacy of the author of A History of the Guyanese Working People and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
Rodney was also founder of the Working People's Alliance, a political movement in Guyana dedicated to social transformation and unity of the Indian and African workers. He made a great contribution to revolutionary thought by establishing new thinking on questions of fighting racism and racial domination, the humanisation of the planet and the self emancipation of working peoples. He was murdered for uniting this political theory with practical, militant activity.
Speakers: Cecil Gutzmore & Leland De Cambra
MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY - 37a Clerkenwell Green nearest tube Farringdon, EC1R 0DU - View Map
Kate Evans on her graphic biography of Red Rosa - an illustrated talk about Rosa Luxemburg
Book Launch - A Rebel's Guide to James Connolly with Sean Mitchell
Ian Birchall, Tony Phillips and John Rose debate the German Revolution, 1918-1923
Book Launch - Kieran Allen on 1916: Ireland's Revolutionary Tradition
Sheila Coleman on Hillsborough and the fight for justice
Book Launch - John Newsinger on The Revolutionary Journalism of Big Bill Haywood
Ralph Darlington on how the anti-union laws were broken in the 1970s
Book Launch - Simon Hall on 1956 - the world in revolt
Sean Sayers on Marx and progress
Book Launch - Roddy Slorach on A Very Capitalist Condition - the history and politics of disability
'Get Up, Stand Up!' Roger Huddle and Rick Blackman on the 40th anniversary of Rock Against Racism
Book Launch - A Rebel's Guide to Malcolm X with Anthony Hamilton
Alan Gibbons on Nina Simone: artist and revolutionary
Book Launch - Brian Richardson on Bob Marley: Roots, Reggae and Revolution
Hassan Mahamdallie on Five hundred years since Thomas More's Utopia
Book Launch - School's Out! The Hidden History of Britain's School Student Strike by Michael Lavalette
Ann Field, Mike Simons and Ian Taylor on Thatcher, Murdoch and Wapping - the conspiracy that broke the printers' union.
David Johnson on South African working class struggles in the 1920s
Candy Udwin on Tom Mann and the Great Unrest
Yuri Prasad on how Asians transformed the working class in Britain
Plus meetings on the Chartists, 'Karl Marx - a revolutionary for today', Eleanor Marx and the New Unionism, the history of the Labour Party, Ninety years since the 1926 General Strike, Frantz Fanon, Forty Years since the Soweto Uprising, the Russian Revolution, 1936 and the Spanish Civil War, What Marx learned from Hegel, How to Read Capital, the Black Panthers, Engels and the origins of women's oppression, the battle of the Somme, the history of Queer theory and politics, Antonio Gramsci, George Lukacs, etc etc
Plus other highlights including Tariq Ali on the American Empire and its discontents, and other speakers including Moazzam Begg, Matt Wrack, Judith Orr, Michael Roberts, Alex Callinicos, Ian Hodson, Weyman Bennett, Kevin Doogan, Anne Alexander, Natalie Bennett, Shahrar Ali, Stathis Kouvelakis, Ilan Pappe, Jack Shenker, Brid Smith, Dave Ward, Mark Perryman, etc etc
Plus cultural events relating to soul and the Civil Rights movement, the Easter Rising, George Bernard Shaw, the Black Panthers, the Miners's Strike,
For more information and to see the full timetable and to book see here
The 1926 General Strike took place from 4-13th May 1926. The miners lock-out which it was meant to be the central act of went on for much longer until the end of November 1926.
The British Worker, the TUC paper during the dispute did not stop publishing until May 17th 1926
It was not the only General Strike in UK history by any means. There was one in 1842 sometimes called condescendingly the ‘plug plot’ and from the 1970s onwards there have been a number of, in effect, one day national strikes on a range of issues. Given the size of the modern workforce numbers involved in these have often been equal to or larger than those who took action in 1926.
It might be questioned whether after 90 years there is much new to say about the General Strike and the general parameters of events over the 9 days are well known enough.
However the detail of what took place during the strike covers a vast range of written and photographic material some of which has only in very recent times being made accessible digitally on the internet.
For example, the MCC issued a call for cricket matches to continue as normal during the strike but one at Lords between Middlesex and Oxford University was cancelled. No doubt the Oxford students were engaged in the, to them, alternative sport of strike breaking.
Local studies have provided more details (but far from all areas are covered) and the miners lock-out remains relatively under researched as does the aftermath of the strike and the impact that it had on unions, politics and labour relations for decades to come.
Arthur Scargill for example became active in the labour movement when memories of 1926 were still relatively fresh in the 1950s and saw the victorious 1972 miner’s strike in the context of the defeat of 1926.
The wider and partly theoretical question about why there has not been an open ended General Strike in Britain since, when such events are far from unknown across the rest of the world, is also one which merits further attention.
When one looks at the detail of the strike it is possible to see many of the tensions that still exist in the labour movement today.
For example the strike meant that newspapers were not published and the only news available was through radio news broadcasts from the BBC. Then as now these reflected official Government views.
The only exception to this, no surprise to Star readers, was the Daily Mail which published a ‘continental’ edition, printed in Paris.
The Government itself produced an official paper and this was countered by the TUC’s British Worker.
The British Worker was produced from the Daily Herald’s offices in Blackfriars Rd and edited by the Herald’s then editor.
It was still published for some days after the official end of the strike on 13th May and by that stage it had reached an impressive circulation of 700,000 copies.
However distribution across the UK was uneven and poor in Scotland.
Plans were put in place to produce regional editions of the British Worker for two reasons. Firstly to address the matter of coverage. Secondly to allow local reports of strike activities which might otherwise be missed.
The nine days of the Strike were a time of considerable, often ill-founded rumours, often spread by authorities and reactionary elements.
The concern however was that regional strike papers might go beyond the official TUC ‘line’. In addition in some areas, such as Swansea, striking print workers were against the idea.
The strike was called off before these matters of official control, solidarity and so on could be resolved but the same issues would undoubtedly appear again now.
The London Socialist Historians Group has organised an afternoon of discussion on new historical research into the 1926 General Strike on Saturday 21st May from midday in the Pollard Room (301) Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London, WC1. Admission is free for more details see here
[From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 58 (Summer 2016)]
History Workshop at 40
It is 40 years since the first publication of History Workshop Journal, in Spring 1976. A major conference is planned in London at the end of June on radical histories, although it has been a while since the magazine was at the forefront of a movement of radical historians.
Even so 40 years ago the Journal could fit into a framework of more or less annual History Workshop conferences as well numerous local Workshop events and meetings. Behind it in part was the organising zeal of Raphael Samuel who sadly died 20 years ago this coming December.
I was a mere rank and file participant in History Workshop, although to be fair to Ralph he did on occasion mention me at conferences in a friendly way. I wrote critical letters to the Journal from time to time and if you have access to the online archive you can review these in all their didactic glory.
My view was that the Journal and movement were backsliding, moving into academic positions and preparing to abandon the masthead description of explicit commitment to socialism. I was mostly right of course but that didn’t really help matters.
There is no organisation or framework of socialist and feminist historians at the moment that can mobilise the interest and numbers that those early issues of History Workshop Journal and the Workshops did. That is now itself a matter for historical investigation.
There is something to be said for thinking about whether the approach to history that is to be found in the early issues of the Journal is not something that is worth returning to. The kind of long essays that Raphael Samuel produced in the early issues such as the Workshop of the World and Comers and Goers about the Victorian market (which actually appeared in a volume on Urban History) painstakingly researched in the British Library and elsewhere (I often saw him in the old North Library at Bloomsbury with a huge piles of books) and which looked at labour and the labour process, are rarely encountered nowadays.
As I wrote in a brief appreciation of the late Asa Briggs as convenor of the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, while I find no shortage of suggestions for papers those that focus on what might be termed ‘labour history’ are few in number (but not non-existent).
It is the relationship between historians and the labour movement that was symbolised by Ruskin College (and perhaps still is) that is important here. That means, and this is still at least to some extent the case, that arguably the most interesting socialist and feminist history is written not by pure academics (though research is an essential part of useful history) but by activists who are also historians.
The two inform each other as they certainly did in the early days of History Workshop Journal. The potential is there with anticapitalist and Occupy movements for the same thing to happen again, though no doubt, as the famous William Morris quote from News from Nowhere suggests, not quite in the same way.
Edited to add: Felix Driver has edited a special virtual edition of History Workshop Journal with a collection of articles by Raphael Samuel - see here, while
for one 1981 critical reflection on the History Workshop movement by Norah Carlin, see here.