Archive for April, 2010


Nazir Khan remembers George Barnsby

Radical Historian George Barnsby, 1919-2010

Dr George Barnsby, who died on April 11 at the age of 91 in Wolverhampton, was a leading radical activist and historian of the working class movement in the Black Country. Born in London in a working class family, his father died when he was only three years old. Now his mother had the sole responsibility to take care of her two infant sons in dire circumstances. The vicissitudes of his early life made George aware that the ‘station in life’ of many people was determined by their social and economic status. He certainly was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

He left school at 15 and did some ordinary jobs. He showed little interest in politics at that time. However, around the age of eighteen he became a reader of Daily Worker. It was the period when Nazism had emerged as the dominant voice of militarism and in many countries in Europe and the United States fascist parties emerged. Their model was the German Nazi party and their hero Adolf Hitler. When the Second World War started the young George was called up in 1939. At that time, he was 20 years old. When he went to fight for his ‘king and country’ his worldly possessions were two suits and a bicycle. He recalls in his ‘Subversive – One Third of the Autobiography of a Communist’ that for obvious reasons some people had more interest in ‘our country’ than he did!

He was sent to Burma. He experienced there inhumanity of the war and destruction caused by the Japanese. His contact with India and Indians subject to the imperial Raj gave him a broad political insight and awareness of the role of colonialism and imperialism. The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 occurred under the British rule. It is estimated that around 3 million Indians died from starvation and malnutrition. The Bengal government reacted to the disaster with little efficiency, and refused to stop the flow of rice from Bengal. George was an eye-witness to the apathy of the British rulers towards their subjects. There was no shortage of food in the British quarters either. There are still some hard questions about the role and knowledge of the British Prime Minster Winston Churchill into the affair. For instance, when the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Lord Wavell requested him an urgent release of food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, ‘why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.’

The end of the Second World War saw the defeat of fascism and militarism in Germany and Japan. But no such harm came to the Spanish fascism under Franco. The Soviet Union and its Red Army in the Great Patriotic War had borne the brunt of the war on the Eastern Front. With the Allied victory, the army conscripts returned to their homes. In 1946, George was demobbed, receiving a gratuity of about £100. This sum he used to get further education. First, he matriculated from Regent Street Polytechnic before he went to the London School of Economics where he obtained a B.Sc. Honours degree there. From Birmingham University he gained an M.A. degree by writing ‘Social Conditions in the Black Country’ and then from the same university he earned a Ph.D. degree on his thesis ‘Working Class Movement in the Black Country 1750 to 1868′. His studies and committment to revolutionary Socialism that wanted to serve the interests of the working class had taken the central stage in his life. He was to struggle for these objectives for the rest of his life.

When he came to Wolverhampton in 1954, he became the secretary of the local Communist Party. This was the period when the Cold war was in full swing and in the United States anti-Communist crusade of McCarthyism had become the new credo of the Cold War allies in the West. In Britain, Communists were looked upon as traitors; they were spied upon and their telephones tapped. Obviously, George like other Communists was also regarded as subversive and he had to confront what came his way.

The range of his social, academic and political activities in the Black Country extends over vast areas. He wrote a number of histories and pamphlets on Socialism, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Housing and the Radicals in the Black Country.

One major area of communal activity was around Bilston College of Further Education. Some teachers of the College and governors realised that many working-class people were excluded from formal institutional education who formed unqualified work force with little basic skills. Among the excluded were a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority communities, mainly Afro-Caribbean and Asian. George was an active educator and a leading voice in the new approach to uplifting the working class people and providing them with education that met their needs. This progressive approach in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society was to counterbalance the legacy of Enoch Powell and his followers.

When American President George W. Bush and his close ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, started their genocidal war of aggression against Iraq and the subsequent destruction of Iraq and Iraqis, George steadfastly opposed the imperial war. For him, the Anglo-American war in Iraq was a crime against humanity, a genocide, and its central figures the war criminals who need to be brought to justice. He focused on Bush and Blair and their allies, writing extensively on their policies on his website and informed the populace of the realities of the cover-up of their crimes and their incessant lies.

George Barnsby is survived by his wife Esme and two sons, William and Robert.

Edited to add: See also The George Barnsby website Condolences to family and friends.


SHS Meeting Bradlaugh Contra Marx 10 June 2010

Bradlaugh v Marx





at a Public Meeting organised by The Socialist History Society

Thursday 10

th June, 7pmAt the Bishopsgate Institute (opposite Liverpool Street


A New Biography of Marx

Frank Thomas Walker (1918-1996) had a lifetime interest in Karl Marx.
During his working years he would spend most of his leisure time
reading, researching and writing about Marx and he continued with this
interest after his retirement. He continued to revise and add to his
research until his death.

Living in London until 1976, Frank was a well known visitor in many
libraries including the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell where he
spent many hours. He also frequented the many second hand bookshops
throughout London including the bookstalls in Farringdon Road (now
gone) and he was able to build up a large library of books and other
materials to aid his research. He engaged the assistance of his family
to obtain access to and photocopies of additional materials from
library resources around the country and abroad, and he made effective
use of his membership of the British Library. He corresponded with
like minded individuals in Germany, France and Italy to further his

Frank appreciated that he needed to be able to read the literature not
only published in English but also that published in French, German
and Russian and, like Marx, taught himself these skills. His library
of well over 3000 items, contained books, journals, copies of letters,
and pamphlets in all these languages and formed the basis for his
research materials. His library was split up when sold after his death.

This book was written by Frank over many years and revised by him
several times. He never felt it was finished and never looked to
publish it during his lifetime. Whilst pertinent personal information
is included, the biography concentrates on Marx’s writings, his
contemporary radical thinkers and activists, and his influence on the
main political events happening in Europe during his lifetime. Some of
the information contained within should be familiar to readers already
knowledgeable about Marx, but there will also be fresh gems of
information and interpretations of events that will add to the
knowledge of Marxist scholars everywhere.

The actual manuscript was in the form of typewritten sheets with a
large number of hand written amendments and additions and it has taken
a long time for a publishable version to be prepared. At last it is
complete and all Frank’s research can now be accessed by academics and
anyone with an interest in Marx. This work will be welcomed by
everyone interested in Marx’s life, work and times and would be a
useful addition to many libraries. Published as an e-book on CD-ROM,
2009, 410 pages.


Peter Gowan Memorial Conference 12 June 2010

Peter Gowan Memorial Conference

A one-day conference to discuss the contribution and ideas of Peter
Gowan (1946-2009), author of The Global Gamble, founding editor of
Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, long-standing editor of New Left
Review, and Professor of International Relations at London
Metropolitan University.

Saturday, 12 June 2010, 10.00 to 5.30

School of Oriental and African Studies, Room G2

10.00 – 12.30
Introduction: Tariq Ali

Session 1: Eastern Europe
Speakers: Gus Fagan, Marko Bojcun, Catherine Samary

12.30 – 1.30 lunch

1.30 – 3.00
Session 2: Imperialism and American Grand Strategy
Speakers: Gilbert Achcar, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Susan Watkins

3.00 – 3.30 coffee break

3.30 – 5.00
Session 3: The Dollar-Wall St Regime
Speakers: Robin Blackburn, Robert Wade, Alex Callinicos

5.00 – 5.30
Mike Newman: Peter Gowan as an educator
Awarding of the Peter Gowan Prize

The Conference is sponsored by Debatte: Journal of Contemporary
Central and Eastern Europe and Historical Materialism.


more on Clara Zetkin

I’ve been researching Clara Zetkin’s involvement with British politics of late, and during my research trips to Germany have hunted up her former haunts. Here’s a piece relating to my travels, and the people I have met, which your readers may be interested in:


Dr John S. Partington


Chartism (1838-1858): New Perspectives

Chartism (1838-1858): New Perspectives/Le Chartisme (1838-1858): Nouvelles Perspectives.

The annual international Chartism Conference is organised by the Society of Labour History, the Chartist Study Group and the South Wales Centre for History and Interdisciplinary Research (SWCHIR). It will be held at the Sorbonne, Paris, between 2-4 July 2010. This is a two day conference on many aspects of Chartist history followed by a ‘Revolution Walk’ on 4 July.
Speakers include
Benoît Agnès (Université Paris I-PanthéonSorbonne,
Joan Allen (Newcastle University),
Fabrice Bensimon (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne,
Eugenio Biagini (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge,
Malcolm Chase (Leeds University),
Ian Haywood (Roehampton University),
Iorwerth Prothero (Manchester),
Michael Sanders (University of Manchester),
and Gregory Vargo (Columbia University, New York, USA).

Fabrice Bensimon.
Maison de la Recherche,
Université Paris 4-Sorbonne,
28 rue Serpente,
75006 Paris.

Visit the website at here


Spring author events at Bookmarks


Bookmarks Bookshop is pleased to announce our Spring 2010 programme of author events. Most events are free to attend. You can have a glass of wine, listen to the authors introduce their books, and ask questions. Afterwards, you can browse our selection of radical books, DVDs, t- shits, gifts and cards. To book a place at any of the events below, email

The Imperial Controversy: Challenging the Empire Apologists
Andrew Murray (Chair of Stop the War Coalition)
Tuesday 20 April 6.30pm, Free
Andrew Murray meticulously uncovers the intimate links between the war on terror and the history of empire, between colonialism and Nazism, between the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and Britain’s bloody imperial record – and shows why the cheerleaders for today’s western military interventions now want to rehabilitate it. (Seumas Milne)

My Father Was a Freedom Fighter
Ramzy Baroud
Friday 23 April, 6.30pm, Free
Ramzy Baroud’s new book provides a deeply personal account of his family’s experiences, across three generations, of the theft and occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state. The book places Baroud’s experiences within the context of the broader political events of the conflict, in such a stark and moving way that this account evokes an understanding of what it is to be a Palestinian in a Gazan refugee camp.

The Enigma of Capital: And the Crisis of Capitalism/Companion to Capital
David Harvey
Tuesday 27 April, 6.30pm, Free NB – Now at Kings College London
Capitalism will never fall on its own. It will have to be pushed.The accumulation of capital will never cease. It will have to be stopped. The capitalist class will never willingly surrender its power. It will have to be dispossessed. David Harvey is the world’s most cited academic geographer and his course on Marx’s Capital has been downloaded by well over 250,000 people since mid-2008.

Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists
Danny Dorling
Monday 10 May , 6.30pm, Free
“Beliefs which serve privilege, elitism and inequality, infect our minds like computer viruses. But now Dorling provides the brain- cleaning software we need to begin creating a happier society. ” Richard Wilkinson author of “The Spirit Level”

Night of the Golden Butterfly
Tariq Ali
Wed 12 May, 7.30pm, £4/£2 concessions
Political campaigner, novelist and historian Tariq Ali will be talking about the fifth and concluding book in the Islam Quintet.
Bloomsbury Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, WC2H 8EP, 2 mins from Bookmarks

Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liberal World
Alex Callinicos
Tuesday 18 May , 6.30pm, Free
The crisis of 2007–9 is an event of historic importance that has affected economy, society and politics. Callinicos analyses its causes within the broader development of capitalism in recent decades. Particularly relevant is his stress on ‘financialisation’ as well as the implications he draws regarding the balance of imperial power across the world.

Bookmarks: The Socialist Bookshop
1 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3QE020 7637 1848


Gramsci conference in London

New Insights into Gramsci’s Life and Work
Friday, May 28th, 2010
Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

A one-day conference organised by Alessandro Carlucci (Royal Holloway, University of London) in association with the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (School of Advanced Studies, University of London)

Sponsored by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, and by the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Royal Holloway, University of London

The main aim of the conference is to share and disseminate the results of recent, specialised research on Gramsci. Significant novelties will be presented by leading experts with the aim of overcoming disciplinary boundaries and helping to reduce the gaps between: a) widespread, conventional understandings of Gramsci and up-to-date specialised research; and b) the work on Gramsci’s writings and biography and the use of Gramsci’s theories for understanding current social, political and cultural issues.

Confirmed contributors: Derek Boothman (SSLMIT, University of Bologna), Craig Brandist (University of Sheffield), Fabio Frosini(University of Urbino), Carl Levy (Goldsmiths, University of London), James Martin (Goldsmiths, University of London), Anne Showstack Sassoon (Birkbeck, University of London), and Peter Thomas (member of the editorial board of Historical Materialism).

Entrance: FREE

For further information please contact the organisers at or <


News From Nowhere Club events

We’ve received leaflets from the News From Nowhere Club, which describes itself as “founded in 1996, fosters fellowship and challenges the commercialisation and isolation of modern life”. Some of its meetings may well interest our readers, including:

Saturday 10 April 2010: James Bull speaks on Cornelius Cardew: a Disorderly Mode of Procedure. while on

Saturday 8 May 2010: Ellie Merton speaks on Palestine and Classical Music

Meetings take place in The Epicentre, West Street, Leytonstone, E11 4LJ, start at 7.30 with a buffet, with talk and discussion following at 8.00 p.m.

For further details see the club’s website.

April 2010