Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Follow-up on Newington Green radical history walk & maps

(From Past Tense)

Thanks to all those who came on Sunday's Newington Green radical history walk, organised by past tense and other friends in North London... 50 or so people came, and although the walk lasted some 3 hours, most stayed to the end! Those who came were treated to a fun ramble through local radicalism, pioneer feminism, squatting, anarchy and nakedness and al fresco sex by the New River... (not literally, that last, though there have been some requests for re-enactments on our walks).

We hope to write the walk up for others to peruse when we get a chance... And we will definitely do it again.

In the meantime, for folks that weren't able to come, we produced an A3 map for the walk, covering some of the history we talked about... We are selling it for £1, (plus £1 P&P) - after we cover our costs, proceeds will be donated to the Mary On the Green campaign, who are raising money to erect a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft, groundbreaking feminist, who once ran a school in Newington Green. Unlike many others, there is very little public commemoration of Mary, perhaps because she was a revolutionary, who linked women's equality with fundamental social change and the abolition of inherited property, who made a political decision to live unmarried with her lovers, and had a child 'out of wedlock'...

maps can be obtained from us, via our website: 

or by post, from
past tense,
56a Infoshop
56 Crampton St,
London, SE17 3AE

enclosing a cheque payable to Past Tense Publications

The Mary On the Green Campaign can be found at:




An exhibition

22 May - 29 August 2015

Islington Museum,

245 St John Street,

The Dream to Change the World exhibition is the culminating event in the George Padmore Institute's five year project to conserve and open up to the public John L Rose's personal archives.

John La Rose (1927-2006) was a poet, essayist, publisher, trade unionist, cultural and political activist. He belonged to a Caribbean tradition of radical and revolutionary activism whose input has reverberated across

The Dream to Change the World exhibition covers in particular the period since John's arrival in London in 1961 to his death in 2006, with information on many organisations and campaigns that he was connected with - New Beacon Books, the Caribbean Artists Movement, Black Education Struggles and Supplementary Schools, the Black Parents Movement, the New Cross Massacre Campaign, the International Book Fair of Radical Black and
Third World Books, the George Padmore  Institute and many international campaigns.

The exhibition includes photographs, leaflet, posters, letters, recordings and film clips, plus a reconstruction of John's kitchen table around which so much discussion and planning went on.

John La Rose was passionately committed to racial and political justice, not just in Britain but internationally. The exhibition aims to draw out the lessons of JOhn La Rose's life - his methods and principles - both to
tell visitors what he achieved but also to give them the inspiration and power to dream and achieve themselves. His truly was a dream to Change the World.

During the period of the exhibition there will be a number of public events and also workshops for schools, which will be publicised individually and closer to the time.

This exhibition is being mounted by the George Padmore Institute in association with Islington Museums and Libraries.

It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the London Borough of islington, the George Padmore Institute and New Beacon Books.


Islington Council's website link to museum opening hours etc:

Contact: info@georgepadmoreinstitute.org 

Friday, May 15, 2015

British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War

Next Monday (18 May) at 5.30 p.m., Edmund King (Open University) is giving a paper on 'British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War', part of the Open University/Institute of English Studies Book History and Bibliography Research Group seminar series at Senate House: details below. All are welcome: no registration required.

More on the series at:

18 May 2015 (Monday)

Room 104 (Senate House, Malet Street, London, first floor)
17:30 - 19:30
Edmund King (Open University)
'British Manuscript Cultures of the First World War'

Open University Book History and Bibliography Research Seminar

That the British volunteers and conscripts of the First World War made up the largest civilian army in the nation’s history is widely appreciated. What is less well known is the scale of the communications infrastructure necessary to keep these “citizen soldiers” in touch with the home front. Between 1914 and 1918, the British Postal Service’s Home Depot in London handled 2 billion letters and 114 million parcels addressed to soldiers serving overseas. Many of these soldiers were spending the first substantial period of time in their lives away from loved ones. Large numbers found themselves writing to parents and siblings for the very first time, learning the art of letter writing as they did so. Others for the first time in their lives started keeping diaries and journals of their day-to-day experiences. The war thus represented a kind of portal through which citizen soldiers, regardless of social status, were introduced to habits of self-recording through manuscript that had previously been largely the province of the upper and middle classes. Using specific examples drawn from soldiers’ letters and diaries, this paper will ask what it was that was unique about the manuscript cultures of the First World War.
For any questions about this seminar, please contact Jonathan Gibson, Lecturer in English, The Open University (jonathan.gibson@open.ac.uk

NB by the way: 15 May is Conscientious Objectors’ Day

Postscript: A correspondent reports:
<< The records of COs compiled by Cyril Pearce are now online via the Imperial War Museum:

The website is an absolute *** atrocity.

One is obliged to register to see the individuals' records. Downloading the data appears to be impossible. Searching the data is clumsy at best; search by location doesn't work if you are not searching on a name as
well. Best results are got by using the 'keywords' search at the bottom left side. >>

Here, in preparation for Sunday's Newington Green walk, are search results for COs in Stoke Newington (probably many false positives):
Further comment:
If you have a name you can view and copy a transcription of the record, after signing up (free). 

The Peace Pledge Union project on London COs now has an Exhibition up at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham. Jennifer Bell will be giving a talk on Hornsey COs there at 7.30 pm on 27th May.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Victor Serge, Anarchism and Translation

at the May Day Rooms, MDR Reading Room 1st floor, 
88 Fleet street, London, EC4Y 1DH

Conversation and Book Launch

Brooklyn-based translator Mitchell Abidor (Mitch) will prime a conversation 
 at MayDay Rooms on Friday May 15th about Victor Serge, and issues arising from the work of translation for Anarchists Never Surrender, an anthology that provides a complete picture of Serge’s relationship to anarchism.

Mitch Abidor is the principal French translator for the Marxists Internet Archive and has published two collections of his translations, The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France from the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot Gang and Communards: The Story of the Paris Commune of 1871 as Told by Those Who Fought for It.

 Anarchists Never Surrender contains writings going back to Serge’s teenage years in Brussels. At the heart of the anthology are key articles written soon after his arrival in Paris in 1909, when he became editor of the newspaper L’Anarchie. In these articles Serge develops and debates his own radical thoughts, arguing the futility of mass action and embracing “illegalism.” Serge’s involvement with the notorious French group of anarchist armed robbers, the Bonnot Gang, landed him in prison for the first time in 1912. Anarchists Never Surrender includes not only his prison correspondence with his anarchist comrade Émile Armand and articles written immediately after his release, but also material written by Serge after he had left anarchism behind and joined the Russian Bolsheviks in 1919. Here Serge analyzed anarchism and the ways in which he hoped anarchism would leaven the harshness and dictatorial tendencies of Bolshevism. Included here are writings on anarchist theory and history, Bakunin, the Spanish revolution, and the Kronstadt uprising.

 Victor Serge was born in 1890 to Russian anti-Tsarist exiles living in Brussels. As a young anarchist firebrand, he was sentenced to five years in a French penitentiary in 1912. In 1919, Serge joined the Bolsheviks. An outspoken critic of Stalin, Serge was expelled from the Party and arrested in 1929. Nonetheless, he managed to complete three novels (Men in Prison, Birth of Our Power and Conquered City) and a history (Year One of the Russian Revolution), published in Paris. Arrested again in Russia and deported to Central Asia in 1933, he was allowed to leave the USSR in 1936 after international protests by militants and prominent writers like André Gide and Romain Rolland. Hounded by Stalinist agents, Serge lived in precarious exile in Brussels, Paris, Vichy France, and Mexico City, where he died in 1947.

1978 edition of one of VS's novels
(Not the book that's being launched)

"Kronstadt 1921" from VS's writings was one of the earliest Solidarity pamphlets

Mitchell Abidor also appearing at the next in the series of:

LSHG Summer term seminars

London Socialist Historians Summer term seminars 2015
All seminars are held in Room 102, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St. WC1 and start at 5.30 p.m.

 Monday May 18th - Mitch Abidor, 'Jean Jaurès, The Last Jacobin'

Copies of Mitch Abidour's new translation of Jean Jaurès' Socialist History of the French Revolution (Pluto) will be available on the night at a substantially reduced price.

Related event At Bookmarks Bookshop on Tuesday 26 May, 6.30pm, £2

'Every revolutionary party, every oppressed people, every oppressed working class can claim Jaurès, his memory, his example, and his person, for our own' -Leon Trotsky 

Jean Jaurès was the celebrated French Socialist Party leader, assassinated in 1914 for trying to use diplomacy and industrial action to prevent the outbreak of war. Published just a few years before his death, his magisterial A Socialist History of the French Revolution, has endured for over a century as one of the most influential accounts of the French Revolution ever to be published. Mitchell Abidor’s long-overdue translation and abridgement of Jaurès’s original 6-volumes brings this exceptional work to an Anglophone audience for the first time. Written in the midst of his activities as leader of the Socialist Party and editor of its newspaper, L’Humanité, Jaurès intended the book to serve as both a guide and an inspiration to political activity; even now it can serve to do just that. Abidor’s accomplished translation, and Jaurès’s verve, originality and willingness to criticise all players in this great drama make this a truly moving addition to the shelf of great books on the French Revolution. 

About The Author
Jean Jaurès (3 September 1859 – 31 July 1914) was a French Socialist who became the leader, in 1902, of the French Socialist Party, which opposed Jules Guesde's revolutionary Socialist Party of France. The two parties merged in 1905 in the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). An antimilitarist, Jaurès was assassinated at the outbreak of World War I, and remains one of the main historical figures of the French Left.

Mitchell Abidor (Translator) books include anthologies of of Victor Serge, the Paris Commune, the left of the French Revolution, as well as the novella A Raskolnikov by Emmanuel Bove. He lives in Brooklyn.

Ian Birchall is a Marxist historian and translator, and author of numerous articles and books, particularly relating to the French Left and the Rebel's Guide to Lenin.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Boycott Workfare conference: 30th May

Message from Haringey Solidarity Group:
<< OK, the elections are over...but the fight continues. So, come along to the Boycott Workfare conference on 30th May at the London Welsh Centre (details here) and let's start preparing to fight the onslaught that could be coming our way. The Tories might have a majority but so did Thatcher when she introduced the Poll Tax and look what happened there. It can happen again. If we stay strong.
Boycott Workfare are asking people to sign up in advance so they know how many to cater for and allocate space.>>

List of workshops happening at the conference
Organising against workfare in your town or city: 
How groups have had a huge impact and ways to get started in your town.
It can seem a daunting prospect to start a campaign against a workfare provider or business when sometimes there is only you and a couple of mates. What can a couple of people do? How can you sustain a campaign? Who's going to take notice of you? But, this is exactly how groups like those in Edinburgh & Haringey started many years ago, and these groups now having a huge impact against Workfare and sanctions. And it’s how most groups start. Just look at the rise of Housing Action type groups around the country. Most were started by a few people who knew each other. Come and listen to groups who have just started out and others who have been going for years. The workshop is for us all to share experiences, learn from each other, help those out who are thinking of setting a group up and mutual support.
Challenging sanctions and mandation
Over half a million people were sanctioned last year, and unless we fight every sanction we now risk three years without even a subsistence income. This session explores the key facts that people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance need to challenge sanctions. We’ll look at both the formal processes and ways we can collectively put pressure to overturn sanctions as well. We hope people will go away equipped to support each other to fight every sanction!
Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements
We can use Access to Work as a stalling tactic for avoiding work placements. If disabled people need support to work, such as equipment or a support worker, or can’t use public transport, they can apply to Access to Work. Big employers have to pay themselves so may think twice about taking a workfare placement on if it’s going to start costing them.
Take part in this workshop with Andy Greene of Disabled People Against Cuts to explore ways disabled people can resist forced unpaid work placements.
Taking on Workfare
Together we have brought a flagship government policy to near “collapse”, but with all three main political parties and UKIP firmly committed to workfare and sanctions, we need to keep pushing. Take part in this workshop to share information on the shape of workfare at the moment: where it is taking place and the latest tricks of the providers. We’ll map out workfare’s weaknesses and find the places we can push together to bring it down once and for all.
Universal Credit: The time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together
Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out nationwide, Job Centre by Job Centre. People on “in work” benefits will soon face the same evil job seeking and sanctions regimes that those of us on JSA and ESA have had to endure for years. For people in low paid work, it could mean facing workfare or losing housing benefit. Could this be the present government’s “Poll Tax” moment when different groups come together to destroy a hated piece of legislation? Come and share knowledge about Universal Credit, explore ways to make sure people know what it could mean for them, and discuss how we can bring people together to put a stop to it.
Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme
A few different companies have contracts to deliver the Work Programme, the flagship two year workfare scheme. They’re all supposed to follow the same regulations. These can be used against them. There are lots of ways not to cooperate with the Work Programme.
Come to get information from groups and individuals about what Work Programme providers don’t have the power to demand, and the personal data they can’t force you to give them – and more on how to avoid and overturn benefit sanctions they inflict. We’ll hear from welfare action groups in Edinburgh and elsewhere about what can be achieved by insisting on your right to be accompanied to appointments.
This workshop is for everyone to share strategies for stalling and changing the activities that providers try to impose, and for resisting their demands about attendance, unhelpful training, and unpaid work placements.
Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: Workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people
For workfare to happen, the government needs charities and voluntary groups to take placements. But more and more voluntary organisations are standing up and saying no. Over 550 have signed Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge not to take part and the word is spreading. With most national charities now out of the schemes, we need to get the word out at a local level where charity workfare placements are still rife.
Come along to this workshop with Kevin and Penny from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to explore the key arguments to challenge the voluntary sector’s involvement, to share which tactics and approaches have been successful so far, and to plan how to take the campaign further and win!
Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms
When we work in mutual support groups, before we ever overturn a sanction or force a workfare user to pull out, we are already doing something important: sharing our experiences and offering emotional support. The reality is hard: the punitive culture at job centres, ever-present threat of sanctions, and the psycho-coercion of workfare providers take a heavy toll on people’s wellbeing. This session is an opportunity to share our experiences of working in groups dealing with these issues and discuss good ways to share support and look after ourselves and each other.