Tuesday, 21 June 2016

EU Referendum: What would E.P. Thompson do?


Keith Flett suggests E.P. Thompson  would probably be for #Lexit - which might mean he would possibly be heading up a #HistoriansforLexit campaign...

Friday, 10 June 2016

Seminar - Kevin Davey on J B Priestley

New Anarchist Research Group

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?

Kevin Davey

Author, 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?

Kevin 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).

Thursday, 2 June 2016

SHS meeting on Walter Rodney - socialist historian

Walter Rodney - Socialist (Activist) Historian

Socialist History Society Public Meeting

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

To book a ticket see the eventbrite page here

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Highlights for socialist historians at Marxism 2016

Marxism 2016 - Ideas for revolution runs from 30 June to 4 July in central London - it is roughly the same sort of time as the Radical Histories conference, but nonetheless includes highlights for radical and socialist historians including:

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

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Barnsley Festival of Labour History - October 2016

Barnsley Festival of Labour History - Friday 14th-Sunday 16th October 2016

The Civic, Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ

Talks, discussion, music film - weekend ticket £10
Organised by Barnsley Trades Council to celebrate the 125th anniversary of our founding
Sponsored by the Society for the Study of Labour History

Highlights include

Friday 14 October - opening with gig by David Rovics (£5 entry) at The Old No. 7 Market Hill Barnsley

Saturday 15 October - Sunday 16 October

Speakers include Malcolm Chase, Dave Burland, Jill Liddington, Keith Laybourn, Louise Raw, John Newsinger, Donny Gluckstein, John Field, Anandi Ramamurthy, Ralph Darlington

On Saturday night there will be a screening of Ken Loach's film The Price of Coal.

Tickets / more info from Barnsley Trades Council c/o 33 Western Street, Barnsley, S70 2BT
Cheques payable to Barnsley Trades Council.  Tel 07594857960 for more info.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Revisiting the 1926 General Strike

1926 General Strike at 90: some outstanding issues - cross posted from Keith Flett's blog  
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.

Keith Flett
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

Edited to add: Ian Birchall's paper from the conference - how 1926 was seen by the French Left - is now online here 

Comment: History Workshop at 40

[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.

Contributions and criticisms are welcome

Keith Flett

Registration is now open for the Radical Histories Histories of Radicalism conference from 30-June-3 July in London

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.