Author Archive for Francis King



03
Jun
16

Walter Rodney Socialist Historian & Political Activist

Walter Rodney
Socialist Historian & Political Activist

Socialist History Society Public Meeting – 7:00 pm, Thursday 23rd June 2016
MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY
37a Clerkenwell Green EC1R 0DU nearest tube Farringdon
Free to attend, but you need to register

Speakers: Cecil Gutzmore & Leland De Cambra
download a leaflet…

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.

50 years after Guyana’s independence, it is time to assess his relevance to Continental Africa and Guyana today

rodney
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03
Feb
16

Conference: “Before ’68: the left, activism and social movements in the long 1960s”

Saturday February 13, 2016 and Sunday February 14, 2016

Hosted by the School of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, and organised in conjuction with Socialist History journal and the Institute of Working-Class History, Chicago.

Venue: 2.02, Norwich Medical School Building (MED), University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Registration is now open. Speakers include: Toby Abse – The Origins of the Italian New Left • Irene Andersson and Roger Johansson – Experiences from the 60s – activism for Peace Education in the 80s • Ian Birchall – Peace Is Not Enough. Algeria and Vietnam and their impact on the French and British lefts • Geoff Brown – Before ’68 in Greater Manchester, a worm’s eye view • Pau Casanellas – The road to violence. Radicalization under Franco regime in the 1960s • Matthew Caygill – The Left and the Counterculture: ‘The Dialectics of Liberation’ Congress (1967) and the Moment of Libidinal Politics • Madeleine Davis – Activist intellectuals: the British New Left as a social movement • Jared Donnelly – Learning to Protest: Anti-War Protests in West Germany in the Late 1950s • Radha D’Souza – Two Registers, Two Trajectories: The Sixties and the Left in the First and Third Worlds • Axel Fair-Schulz – Robert Havemann: From Party Loyalist to East Germany’s Most Famous Marxist Dissident in the 1960s • Jack Fawbert – Blacklisted! A history of rank-and-file class struggle on construction sites • Wladek Flakin – German Trotskyism in the runup to 1968 • Sharif Gemie – Racism, Orientalism and Anti-Colonialism on the Hippy Trail, 1957-78 • Nicolas Helm-Grovas – Early Wollen: Cultural politics in New Left Review, 1963-1968 • Mark Hobbs – The Enemy on Stage: Battles for Trafalgar Square. Fascism and Anti-Fascism • Beáta Hock – Feminist intersectionality and equality claims-making in the global 60s • Christian Hogsbjerg – C.L.R. James and the British New Left in the long 1960s • Alan Hooper- The Long 1960s: challenges, consequences and (dis) continuities • Rozena Maart – Pavement Politics, Protests and the Mechanisms of the Mind: the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania in South Africa • David Morgan – The 1960s: A Decade of Anarchy; A Decade of ‘Anarchy’? • João Arsénio Nunes – On the course to victory? The Portuguese Communist Party before the Carnation Revolution of 1974 • William A Pelz – The View from across the Great Pond: US Intelligence on the European Left, 1945-1968 • Pritam Singh – The Maoist/Naxalite movement in India • Bart van der Steen and Ron Blom – Trotskyist youth in the Netherlands, 1950s and 1960s • Giulia Strippoli – The PCI before ’68: operaismo, intellectuals and other troubles • Ernest Tate and Phil Hearse – Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s • Tom Unterrainer – Ken Coates and ‘The Week’ • Derek Weber – The Austrian Left, pre 1968 • Benjamin Wynes – ‘Djilasism’ and ‘New Leftist’ Dissidence in Sixties Yugoslavia.

For further information or to register to attend, please contact f.king@uea.ac.uk. Attendance is free of charge but registration is necessary.

03
Feb
16

Call for Papers: British Communism and Commitment

Day-school, 9th June 2016. Manchester

‘I am not ready to join the party’, wrote the novelist Harold Heslop to leading CPGB party theoretician, Rajani Palme Dutt in 1936, recognising the forbidding level of activism expected.  The mandatory Communist hyper-commitment repelled potential recruits and actual members alike, especially in the early years.  But others who joined the party then and later found through Communist commitment a meaningful way of life and a framework for understanding the world.
Bringing together academics from a wide range of disciplines and former party activists, this day-school analyses the complexities of commitment in the British Communist Party over its seventy-year history (1920-1991).  Papers (20 minutes) might cover, but aren’t restricted to:
•    The motivations and trajectories of party ‘hardliners’ who dutifully observed party discipline and the party line, regardless of misgivings;
•    Communism as a way of life;
•    Expulsion and the fear of it;
•    Autobiographies written by former Communists;
•    Figures who struggled to reconcile vocational, professional or artistic commitments with their Communism;
•    ‘Loyal dissidents’ who remained fundamentally committed to the party while often challenging and seeking to enlarge its assumptions, procedures and priorities;
•    Those who challenged what they saw as dominant party perceptions that ‘race’, gender and sexuality were secondary to class as sites of oppression;
•    Activists who considered their ultimate commitment as being to Communist principles from which they believed the party to have deviated, and who challenged the party on those grounds;
•    Those who transferred their abiding Marxist commitments to different currents or organisations—Trotskyist, New Left, Maoist—and the complex relations with the CPGB that followed.
Part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Wars of Position: Communism and Civil Society’, the day-school will be held in the Reading Room of the Labour History Archive and Study Centre in the People’s History Museum, Manchester, and will include a tour of the CPGB archive holdings.  It will mark the opening to researchers of a new tranche of significant CP archive material relating primarily to the 1950-91 period (the papers of John Attfield, Monty Johnstone and Paul Olive).  The event will conclude with a round-table discussion about Communism, commitment and the archive chaired by Professor Kevin Morgan and featuring Francis King (historian, former CP activist and archivist, editor of Socialist History), and John Attfield (historian and former secretary of the Communist Party History Group).
Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be e-mailed to Ben Harker (ben.harker@manchester.ac.uk) by 1/4/16

13
Oct
15

forthcoming book: “Radiant Illusion”, ed. Nicholas Deakin

“Radiant Illusion: Middle-class recruits to Communism in the 1930s”, edited by Nicholas Deakin, with contributions from Geoff Andrews, Jane Bernal, Norma Cohen, Philip Cohen, Elizabeth Dolan, Roderick Floud, Hamish MacGibbon and Kevin Morgan, is published on 20 October by Eve Editions. Further details are available on http://www.radiantillusion.co.uk/

 

 

radiant-illusion-edited-deakin

02
May
15

First MQC publication: Northern ReSisters by Bernadette Hyland

22
May
14

Africa Liberation Day event, Goldsmiths, London 24 May 2014

Africa Liberation Day event, Saturday, 24th May 2014, 2.00 pm – 8.30 pm. Stalls, speakers, music etc.
Goldsmith University, Whitehead Building, Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Laurie Grove New Cross, SE14 6NW.
Supported by Caribbean Labour Solidarity and other groups.
Fur further details, see http://www.africanliberationday.net/node/772

04
May
14

May Days in Moscow, 2014 – two demonstrations

Since I had a free day in Moscow on 1 May, it seemed appropriate to check out the May Day events. These days in Moscow, there are several parades, demonstrations and public events on May Day – not all of them political, and certainly not all of them of the left. This year there were three large enough to have streets closed off for them. I decided to take a look at two of them. I did not bother with the largest one, which culminated in a rally in and around Red Square. It was organised by the main (pro-government) trade unions together with the Edinaya Rossiya party, as a show of support for Vladimir Putin and his domestic and foreign policies. The press reports would suggest that it was slick, well-resourced, and largely lacking in spontaneity.

The first demonstration I went to was organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Compared to the Putin jamboree, its style and (some of) its messages are more easily recognisable to those of us familiar with May Day rallies in Western cities. Unfortunately, some other messages – see the pictures below – seem rather remote from the ideas of internationalist working-class solidarity that are supposed to lie at the heart of the May Day celebrations.

Some of Russia’s neo-Nazi ultra-right also held a march, later that day – a so-called “Russian May Day” – to disturb the peace of an otherwise quiet and pleasant suburb of north-west Moscow. Given the prominence of such characters in the Ukrainian events of the last few months, I was interested to see how many their Russian equivalents could mobilise. Happily, it was possible to observe that demostration without having to mix with it.

The KPRF-organised march numbered in the low thousands. It mainly consisted of KPRF members and associated organisations, but there were also small contingents from other groups. A (very) noticeable absence was the organised wider labour movement – apart from one contingent of Sheremetyevo Airport workers engaged in an industrial dispute there were no banners representing any trade union organisations.

KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov (in the white cap) waits to lead the march off.

KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov (in the white cap) waits to lead the march off.

The Nizhniy Novgorod Komsomol was one of the best turn-out contingents

The Nizhniy Novgorod Komsomol was one of the best turned-out contingents

Some of the more exotic groups on the march provided some different colour. The “Course of Truth and Unity” – whose programme combines religious, moral, social-justice and nostalgic themes with a somewhat eccentric economic theory – had a banner thanking Stalin for their happy childhoods, while a small contingent of supporters of the late Libyan leader Qadhafi, aided by the Red Youth Vanguard, held up the banner of Green Book socialism.

"Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood! From pensioners born in the USSR"

“Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood! From pensioners born in the USSR”

"Peace to Libya!"

“Peace to Libya!”

Other marchers took the opportunity to get particular issues off their chests, such as the dangers of feminism:

“Down with media propaganda of feminism and degeneration!”

“Down with media propaganda of feminism and degeneration!”

The proper internationalist spirit of May Day was represented by contingents, mainly of women, from Latin America, including Venezuela, and from Mozambique.

The international women’s contingent.

The international women’s contingent.

“Mozambican women against poverty, domestic violence, violation and sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking, HIV-AIDS and other scourges which afflict Mozambican society.”

“Mozambican women against poverty, domestic violence, violation and sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking, HIV-AIDS and other scourges which afflict Mozambican society.”

However, the KPRF is a diverse organisation containing many currents, including some chauvinist ones which call themselves “national patriotic”. These were also well represented on the march, although the worst examples seemed to have been the result of individual initiative rather than central party instruction. Large flags depicted the largely Russian-speaking districts of Ukraine. On the Ukrainian and Crimean questions, there is little to distinguish the mainstream KPRF position from that of Putin. Worse still, the anti-US rhetoric of official Russia these days can easily be served in a “left”-sounding “anti-imperialist” sauce, and extended to reject all sorts of “western” ideas, including, for example, anti-racism. Barack Obama’s race seemed to be an issue for some of the demonstrators. Translations of the slogans are given in the captions. Similarly, black shirts bearing old-style script, hailing the martial qualities of the Russians as a nation, seem strangely incongruous on people carrying communist banners.

Southern and Eastern Ukrainian cities: Odessa, Kherson, Khar’kov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolaev

Southern and Eastern Ukrainian cities: Odessa, Kherson, Khar’kov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolaev

Slogan on the central placard: “The collapse of Darwin’s theory! A big-eared black monkey is trying to rule the world!” This example of Russian national-patriotic wit did not seem to be particularly controversial in the KPRF contingent which was carrying these placards.

Slogan on the central placard: “The collapse of Darwin’s theory! A big-eared black monkey is trying to rule the world!” This specimen of Russian national-patriotic wit did not seem to be particularly controversial in the KPRF contingent which was carrying these placards.

I wonder whether this person was the author of the placards – he proudly posed with two of them when I pointed my camera. The one on the left says, slightly cryptically: “Hitler did not like pork fat, Ukrainian fascists!”, while the one on the right declares: “Obama, you lie brazenly without blushing! It must be good to be a negro!” His KPRF badge completes the dispiriting spectacle.

I wonder whether this person was the author of the placards – he proudly posed with two of them when I pointed my camera. The one on the left says, slightly cryptically: “Hitler did not like pork fat, Ukrainian fascists!”, while the one on the right declares: “Obama, you lie brazenly without blushing! It must be good to be a negro!” His KPRF badge completes the dispiriting spectacle.

Black shirts with the slogan “Russians do not surrender!”, holding a KPRF banner.

Black shirts with the slogan “Russians do not surrender!”, holding a KPRF banner.

“A spoonful of tar spoils a barrelful of honey”, says the old Russian proverb. However, the ultra-right’s “Russian May Day” contained no honey at all. In fact, it had only three redeeming features:

  • It was pretty small – maybe only 500 people
  • It was very thoroughly policed, which gave them little opportunity for mayhem
  • The noted neo-Nazi band Kolovrat, which was to have caused noise pollution at the end of the march, was banned from performing
  • It is worth noting that neo-Nazism is not at all attractive to most Russian national chauvinists, given its association with a regime which regarded Russians as Untermenschen to be kicked off their land, deported, enslaved or exterminated, and which launched a war of annihilation against the USSR in pursuit of that aim. There are other Russian national chauvinist traditions which have far greater traction among the population, which would not associate with the sort of elements to be found on the “Russian May Day”. The pictures below largely speak for themselves.

    The far-right march began with some Orthodox imagery and the Imperial Russian flag...

    The far-right march began with some Orthodox imagery and the Imperial Russian flag…

    ...to be followed somewhat incongruously by a small troupe of drum majorettes

    …to be followed somewhat incongruously by a small troupe of drum majorettes…

    ...then the “Political Organisation ‘Russians’”, demanding expulsion of non-nationals...

    …then the “Political Organisation ‘Russians’”, demanding expulsion of non-nationals…

    ...and then a bunch with the slogans “Glory to the Heroes”, and “Sport, family, socialism”. What they understood by any of those words is hard to fathom.

    …and then a bunch with the slogans “Glory to the Heroes”, and “Sport, family, socialism”. What they understood by any of those words is hard to fathom.

    These were followed by a small group from the “National Union” (acronym in Russian: NS)...

    These were followed by a small group from the “National Union” (acronym in Russian: NS)…

    ...and the rear was brought up by the Russian Liberation Front “Pamyat”, with its slogan of “Faith, Race and Tradition”.

    …and the rear was brought up by the Russian Liberation Front “Pamyat”, with its slogan of “Faith, Race and Tradition”.

    It is clear that, compared to the size and influence of similar groups in Ukraine today, Russian neo-Nazism remains very marginal. There are however plenty of official channels through which entirely authentically Russian forms of authoritarian nationalism can be expressed, free from the taint of association with the foreign, and anti-Russian, ideology of Nazism. The danger in Russia is not that the open far right will get the sort of power and influence that it currently has in parts of Ukraine, but rather that authoritarian chauvinist ideas will further permeate the whole political spectrum, right, centre and left.




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