10.00 Doors open, Warwick Hall, Burfodrd. 10.30 Commemoration ceremony, speakers lay posies under the Levellers plaque in the church wall, dedication by Revd Prof Mark Chapman outside the churchyard gate 11.00 In the garden:
Chair’s welcome from Megan Dobney, Regional Secretary, SERTUC Dr Nick Mansfield, University of Central Lancashire: Celebrating and recording our radical history Professor Mary Davis, Aston University: How will we educate a new generation of Levellers?
John Hendy QC: The Levellers legacy and relevance to the struggles for democracy today 11.35 Questions from the audience 12.30 Assemble for procession, Church Green 12.40 Procession departs with speakers, banners, and all who’d like to join ... 13.10 Outside Warwick Hall, on return of the procession: The Sea Green Singers - the Internationale 13.30 Cry Havoc morris 14.00 In Warwick Hall garden: Rob Evans, Chipping Norton Councillor
The Chipping Norton Bliss Tweed Mill strike of 1913: The Ascott Martyrs, 1873 14.30 Workshops in Warwick Hall: Workers Educational Association (WEA): What’s happened to adult education? Ruskin College: Radical Women in history Woodcraft Folk craft workshop 16.00 Ends
Queen Mary University of London Tuesday 25th June 2013 Co sponsors: PSA Communism Specialist group and PSA Labour Movements Group
E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class is
undoubtedly one of the most widely read and cited works of British
history of the entire twentieth century. Though best known for its key
role in the development of the ‘new social history’ and ‘history from
below’ of the 1960s and 1970s, the book, perhaps more than any
comparable work of history, transcends the particularities of its
specialism both in its conception and in its subsequent influence. This
conference addresses the interdisciplinary influences and impact of the
text as a twentieth century classic, and includes contributions from
across the disciplines of history, political theory, literature and
Speakers include Bryan Palmer (Trent), Jon Lawrence (Cambridge), Mike
Kenny (QM), Kevin Morgan (Manchester) Barbara Taylor (QM), David Howell
(York), Karen Buckley (Manchester), Nick Stevenson (Nottingham), Stuart
Middleton (Cambridge), Christos Efstathiou (Birkbeck), Madeleine Davis
For more details and to register, please visit the website
Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire
A Socialist History Society Talk
Given at Bishopsgate Institute
by Katherine Connelly
Examining Sylvia Pankhurst's life of activism from her
teens as a member of the Independent Labour Party, to
her time as a leading suffragette before the First World
War, through to her socialist, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist
Katherine Connelly is the author of a new biography of Sylvia Pankhurst, Suffragette, Socialist,
Internationalist. Katherine is currently researching at Queen Mary College on 'Karl Marx and
Parisian popular culture in the 1840s'.
Talk held at the library
230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH
Wednesday 15th May 2013
020 7392 9200
Toussaint Louverture: The story of the only successful slave revolt in history; A Play in Three Acts
by C.L.R. James
Edited and introduced by Christian Høgsbjerg with a foreword by Laurent Dubois
Duke University Press 2013 240pp
How do you dramatise one of the most dramatic events in human history? The events in Saint Domingue between 1791-1804 were a lot more than a slave revolt and no less than a full blown revolution.
This is a revolution that blew apart the intellectual and economic foundations of theAtlantic slave trade/slavery,establishing the first black republic in the Western hemisphere. How do youcondense this kaleidoscope ofevents so rich in outstanding characters into 3 acts? How does one give literary life to characters that, though they really existed, seem mythical in their capacity to make history incircumstances definitely not of their choosing? This is the task CLR James set himself in writing and staging his play Toussaint Louverture in London in 1936.
James’ outstanding history of Haitian revolution, The Black Jacobins, published in 1938, is of course far better known.However, it is clear from reading this 1936 play that it helped to suffuse The Black Jacobins with the literary aroma that seems to drench whole passages in it. This play was performed by the foremost actor of his day in the lead role, Paul Robeson.
The worry is that with a plays like this is that the dialogue can be as wooden as the beams the actors walk upon as ‘making the political’ trumps drama. However, as I read the play I marvelled at just how well it manages to tell both a dramatic and touching story.
Using the dramatic medium James shows the Haitian masses at their fighting finest; cleverly inserts the actual minutes of the 1794 French convention meeting that abolished slavery; shows the genius of Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines, and others in action; and how social conflicts can seemingly look like individual conflicts and vice versa.
James’ Toussaint Louverture is not a great play on paper but is a brilliant play nevertheless. However, this is not where the brilliance of this particular book ends. For its editor, Christian Høgsbjerg, has done us all a great service by the materials he has collected that accompany the play in the book. We are given a fantastic insight into the highly compressed, explosive circumstances surrounding the creation of this play.
He explains how James arrives in England in 1932, literary accomplishments under his belt, but being confronted by the great depression, the rise of Hitler, the invasion of Ethiopia by fascist Italy, the Spanish civil war, and growing independence movements in Africa and the Caribbean. We have a sense that though this play is about the struggles of the 1790s it was itself a weapon aimed in the struggles of the 1930s.
One need only read the table of contents to see that you have much more than a play here. It includes reviews and other critical information that deepens your appreciation of the play. This is an example how a chance discovery of a lost manuscript can be turned into something that opens the door to a relevant world.
This play is a must-read for anyone who has read and loved The Black Jacobins as you can see much of the lyricism of that great work prefigured in its lines.
Tragically, it has not been performed for over 20 years. As this play will probably be restaged soon it would be good idea to read it now.
We all owe much to the expert salvage operation Christian Høgsbjerg has performed here.As long as the world wilts with oppression, is awash with crisis, and punctuated by resistance this play, its subject matter, and now this book, will have to be read, watched and pondered on over and over again.
Edited to add: Monday 24 June Roundtable discussion on 'CLR James: From Toussaint Louverture to Beyond a Boundary' with Tayo Aluko (writer, performer and producer, Call Mr Robeson), Luke Daniels (President, Caribbean Labour Solidarity), Keith Flett and Christian Høgsbjerg. Chair: Marika Sherwood (a friend of CLR James's and author of World War II: Colonies and Colonials) 6pm, Room G34 South Block, Institute of Historical Research, London, WC1. Free, all welcome. Organised by the London Socialist Historians Group and the Black and Asian Studies Association
From LSHG Newsletter 49 (May 2013) The History of Democracy:
A Marxist Interpretation by Brian S. Roper
Pluto 2013 328pp Paperback
In his new book on the history of democracy Brian Roper cites two key motivating factors in writing it.
Firstly the rhetoric of democracy used in the Bush (and Blair) period to justify the invasion of Iraq and elsewhere. The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell parodied Bush speak, as in ‘freeman moxy’.
Secondly the more recent Arab Spring which saw revolutionary upheavals in Tunisia and Eqypt overthrow corrupt and undemocratic Governments in both countries.
He might have mentioned some other frameworks. Firstly that of Churchill who noted that democracy was the worst possible way of governing a country except for all the others.
Secondly a perspective suggested by Eric Hobsbawm which echoes the first point about the Iraq War. Namely that Western liberal democracy was not particularly something uppermost in the minds of many in other parts of the world who tended to think that things like water and bread had more importance.
Roper seeks to distinguish between various kinds of democracy. The classic Athenian model, the more recent liberal one and a socialist or marxist view of democracy. In doing so he notes that liberal democracy tends to try and assimilate earlier democratic practices into its own model even though they were distinct and time specific.
Roper’s point is that Athenian democracy remains the model for popular workers democracy from below whereas Roman democracy is the one favoured by those who see democracy, in more limited and controlled form handed down from above. The 1688 Revolution in England is an example suggested.
The book is clearly divided chronologically and in this sense is an excellent text for anyone seeking to understand a socialist perspective on democracy, historically rooted, and then read on further. There are suggestions for more in depth reading at the end of each chapter.
Roper proceeds from Athens, via the transition from feudalism to capitalism on to capitalist democracy itself and concludes with two examples of socialist democracy in practice — the Paris Commune and the first years of the Russian Revolution from 1917.
The majority of the text is a well written summary of a Marxist perspective on the particular period under discussion followed by a brief and usually incisive commentary on it.
Inevitably with such a vast amount of ground to cover readers will feel that more could have been written on this or that point.
For example the experience of the Chartist movement, hardly mentioned in the book, is of importance because the Chartists were the first workers’ movement grappling with the world’s first liberal Parliamentary democracy, albeit a far from complete one, even after the1832 Reform Act. The Six Points of the People’s Charter are plebeian democratic demands but after the defeat of the 1848 Revolutions, the Chartists moved left. The 1851 Manifesto, the Charter and Something More, contained demands not just for political democracy but for economic and social democracy as well.
I broadly agree with the Marxist perspectives of Roper that underwrite the book but it should provoke discussion about currents on the left that have had different views. In that sense Roper’s occasional use of the word ‘only’ to suggest that there was no alternative to the course that was followed is overly didactic.
To conclude with but one example. Edward Thompson argued, particularly in his collection Writing By Candlelight, that given the experience of Stalinism, civil liberties and hard won democratic freedoms were not something to be dismissed as simply bourgeois but rather important safeguards for the citizen that would need to be the cornerstone of a socialist democracy not replaced by it.
Discussions on democracy and what it means to the left are timely and Roper’s book is a useful guide to the context in which they can take place.