Author Archive for




Saturday 1st November 2014

Venue: Conway Hall

11am to 4.00pm Admission free


‘Class cohesion and spurious patriotism: trade

union internationalism in the First World War’

Professor Kevin Morgan

Kevin is a historian of British Communism and the left whose latest book is ‘Bolshevism,

syndicalism and the general strike: The lost internationalist world of A.A. Purcell.

(Lawrence & Wishart 2013)

‘Imperialist Rivalries and the Origins of the First World War’

Stan Newens

Stan, a former MP and MEP, is President of the Socialist History Society and a keen

historian who recently published his autobiography, In Quest of a Fairer Society.

‘So Bloody Much to Oppose – grassroots opposition to World

War One’

Keith Flett

Convener of the London Socialist Historians Group, Keith is a prolific letter writer and

author of Chartism After 1848: The Working Class and the Politics of Radical Education

(Merlin 2005).

German Women and the First World War

Dr Helen L Boak

‘Down with the war! We don’t want to starve any longer’: German working-class women

and the First World War

Dr Boak will discuss working-class woman’s perspectives on the war covering attitudes to

the outbreak of war, their experiences during the war and the ramifications of the war

for women in the early 1920s. Author of Women in the Weimar Republic.



The SHS has joined with Conway hall for a seven-session lecture series “Stop the First World War” on Oppositions to the Great War which starts Tuesday 30th September with Professor Martin Ceadel on “Norman Angell – Liberal, Radical, Socialist, Pacifist or Patriot?”

Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL. Starting at 7pm.

Further information:


Ukraine and its neighbours: a fractured history? 2pm, Saturday 4 October 2014

SHS public meeting:

2pm, Saturday 4 October 2014

Ukraine and its neighbours: a fractured history?

Speakers: Francis King on Russia and Ukraine: one history, two stories?;

Frank Lee on Ukraine Astride the Geopolitical Faultlines.

Venue: Marx House, 37 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1


the levellers – shs meeting 5th july

SHS public meeting 5th July

Stan Newens
(SHS president, former MP and MEP)
speaks on The Levellers – Britain’s First Democrats.

Talk followed by discussion. Venue: Marx House, 37A Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU. Time: 2.00 pm. Admission free, retiring collection.


NOT OUR WAR – book review

Book review –
Not Our War: Writings against the First World War
Edited by AW Zurbrugg (Merlin Press, 2014)

Among the plethora of publications and opinions issued by all and sundry in the run up to the anniversary of the First World War, this book must be one of the more outstanding to appear so far. It consists of a comprehensive anthology of voices against war, the famous and the obscure, from Britain and around the world; the more famous being James Connolly, Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Keir Hardie, Alexandra Kollontai, Lenin and Malatesta to name but a few.
Were it simply a collection of anti-war speeches and writings from leading political opponents of the ‘imperialist war’ the book would make a handy volume; but it is much more than this. It contains contributions from workers and rank-and-file activists as well as extracts from newspapers, diaries and letters of men and women who were opposed to the war as political radicals, trade unionists, socialists, anarchists, feminists, disenchanted soldiers and pacifists.
The book recovers these various dissident voices who courageously spoke out against the rising mood of patriotic fervour that marked the onset of the war in 1914. Their passionate arguments and urgent warnings against militarism, imperialism and needless carnage are still ignored to this day as contemporary politicians and historians rush to embellish the truth of what happened a century ago in order to claim the “Great” war as part of the nation’s heritage of supposed glory and unalloyed heroism.
The hundreds of short extracts that make up the volume have been painstakingly selected by editor Tony Zurbrugg and are linked together by an informed commentary that gives the context for writings that have been chosen to illustrate the diversity of opposition to the war and the richness of the anti-war arguments.
Not Our War is a powerful antidote to the incessant jingoism and nationalistic rewriting of history that characterises much of the official discussion of this horrific episode in the breakdown of modern civilisation. An essential read as we approach the official anniversary jamboree.
David Morgan



A series of talks on opposition the outbreak of war in 1914
The talks are organised by Conway Hall coordinated by SHS committee member Deborah Lavin and supported by the Socialist History Society.
Discounts are available to SHS members who book online
First talk – 7pm, 30th September
Norman Angell – liberal, radical, socialist, pacifist or patriot?
Speaker: Martin Ceadel is a Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College where he has taught since 1979
7pm, 7th October
From Ivory Tower to Activist:
Persistent Dissent: Bertrand Russell’s response to the War and Conscription
Speaker: Chris Bratcher, former Chair of Conway Hall Ethical Society
Ramsay MacDonald and World War One
Speaker: John Grigg, Treasurer of Labour Heritage and a researcher into local Labour History in West London and one time Labour Leader of Hounslow Council.
7pm, 14th October
British Labour Movement and the Outbreak of the First World War
Speaker: Prof Willie Thompson, former editor of Socialist History and prolific author
A Movement Divided, The Labour Movement and the Great War
A Case Study The West Riding of Yorkshire
Speaker: Prof Keith Laybourn, leading labour historian and author.

7pm, 21st October
Irish labour and the First World War
Speaker: John Newsinger, professor of History at Bath Spa University and author of Rebel City: Larkin, Connolly and the Dublin Labour Movement

7pm, 28th October
The Pankhursts at War
Speaker: Katherine Connelly, author of a biography of Sylvia Pankhurst and coordinator of last year’s Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign. Katherine is currently finishing a doctoral thesis in history at Queen Mary, University of London.
Isabella Ford; a socialist and feminist peace campaigner in World War One
Speaker: June Hannam, Professor (Emerita) of Modern British History, University of the West of England.

7pm, 6th November
1914 and the Schism in International Anarchism
Speaker: Pietro Dipaola, senior lecture, University of Lincoln and author of The Knights-Errant of Anarchy: London and the Italian Anarchist Diaspora 1880-1917 (Liverpool University Press, 2013)
Not our war
Speaker: Tony Zurbrugge, publisher at the Merlin Press and editor of the recent book “Not Our War” (2014)

For further information see the Conway Hall website


benn’s legacy assessed

The Legacy of Tony Benn
By David Morgan
The death of Tony Benn in March this year robbed the left of its most outstanding and popular representative. For decades a thorn in the side of the establishment and a scourge of capitalism, militarism and imperialism, Benn famously gave up being an MP after 50 years ‘’to spend more time on politics’’.
An inspiration for generations, Benn was a rare figure in many respects; he moved to the left as he got older to become a spokesperson for all peoples in struggle for justice and a better society in Britain and all over the world.
Always a strong internationalist, Benn’s voice was raised against political injustices in apartheid South Africa, Pinochet’s Chile and the atrocities inflicted by American imperialism on Vietnam and Iraq. He was a friend of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua and supported the rights of Palestinians and Kurds.
Benn was a tireless campaigner and countless good causes could always rely on his unswerving support. Right to his last years he kept a full diary of activism, appearing on public platforms at small meetings and huge rallies of hundreds of thousands such as the demonstrations against the war in Iraq.
Admired as a superb debater with a firm grasp of the issues and for his remarkable ability to communicate complex arguments, Benn made the left’s ideas sound like common sense. For this he was intensely disliked by the establishment and regarded as a ‘’class traitor’’ in some quarters because he identified so strongly with workers, the poor and the oppressed.
While in his twilight years, the establishment sought to reclaim him as ‘’a national treasure’’, Benn resisted and remained outspoken to the end. He stood firm in his belief in the need for a fundamental shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people, in Britain and the world over.
The Socialist History Society cannot claim any unique association with Tony Benn although he did deliver an A L Morton memorial lecture for the society some years ago. But on hearing of the sad news of his death, the society felt it appropriate to organise a seminar to begin an assessment of his enduring influence.
This was the theme of the successful event held at Conway Hall on 26 April; not only was the meeting room packed to capacity, the speakers were entertaining, moving and insightful. If success can be judged in financial terms alone, it can be mentioned that the society collected £100 in donations from individuals who attended the meeting.
The event, chaired by the SHS Secretary, consisted of speeches from people who had worked closely with Benn. It opened with brief readings by Penny Dimond, Deborah Lavin and Greta Sykes of poems on themes of war, peace and struggles for social justice that reflected Benn’s various commitments.
The speakers covered Benn’s activities as a politician, campaigner, Cabinet minister and comrade in the political struggle. Their tributes were greeted enthusiastically and stimulated a lively and well informed discussion.
Stan Newens, a colleague of Benn’s when an MP, received a standing ovation for his generous assessment of Benn’s courage as a minister in implementing innovative ideas and responsiveness to the demands of workers.
He praised Benn’s successful battle to renounce his peerage and resume his career as an elected politician.
Stan however was not an entirely uncritical follower of Benn, maintaining that his decision to launch his deputy leadership campaign against incumbent Denis Healey in 1981 was badly timed and only resulted in splitting the left.
Duncan Bowie, reviews editor of Chartist magazine, looked at the influences on Benn’s political outlook tracing his radicalism back to his Nonconformist family background.
Bowie also referred to Benn’s early interest in the wartime Common Wealth Party of Richard Acland and J B Priestley and how their ideas of ethical and cooperative socialism remained influential on his outlook throughout his life.
Benn was also a rare example of a leading Labour politician who was prepared to engage seriously with the ideas of Marx, another aspect of his legacy that was worthy of note.
Keith Flett, London Socialist Historians’ Group, insisted that Benn’s activism outside Westminster politics must be seen as a key aspect of his legacy and an inspiration for future generations.
Another aspect of Benn’s legacy was his belief in the need to learn from history, a point emphasised by most of the speakers. Indeed, it should not be forgotten that Benn was an influential populariser of the ideas of the Levellers, Chartists and Suffragettes.
Keith Flett could not resist remarking on Benn’s humorous side and how he often displayed a mischievous nature seen on one occasion in 1969 when he apparently annoyed Cabinet colleagues by unexpectedly appearing at a meeting wearing a full beard!
Lindsey German, Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reflected on Benn’s courage as a peace activist citing his reaction to Gordon Brown’s attempt to ban rallies in central London during a visit by US President George Bush – Benn turned up at a rally wearing his war medals as a calculated act of defiance.
Ms German was dismissive of The Guardian’s depiction of Benn’s career after 1983 as one of political failure which, she said, was totally to misunderstand his public role as a popular exponent of socialist ideas which had a real resonance with masses of people.
Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, examined Benn’s long opposition to nuclear weapons from the petition against the H-Bomb in the 1950s to the arrival of Cruise missiles in the 1980s and the campaign against Trident today.
While a strong supporter of CND, Benn was often critical of the peace movement for being ‘’too middle class’’ and its lack of a socialist analysis, she said, drawing on evidence from his published diaries.
Ms Hudson also shared her memories of Benn’s kindliness as a person, an aspect of his character that needed to be stressed.
Prof Willie Thompson remarked on how Benn remained influential long after he was out of office. He pointed to his ability to advocate new ideas such as when Benn urged the labour movement to build bridges with environmental activists.
He said he had come to the conclusion albeit reluctantly that had Benn been able to lead the Labour party in power after a general election victory the nature of the political system in Britain would never have permitted him to implement his radical programme.
Prof Thompson summed up Benn as a politician who upheld the values of democracy, socialism and humanism in difficult circumstances and felt that his example would continue to influence people as they look for an alternative to the failed mainstream politics.
Stan Newens felt that Tony Benn’s name would live forever in the collective memory of the labour movement. The SHS is proud to have made its own small contribution to ensuring that Benn’s legacy remains alive and his ideas are more fully understood.
Two of the advertised speakers, Stefan Dickers and Jon Lansman, were unfortunately unable to take part due to illness and their contributions would surely have been insightful. Nevertheless, the seminar was able to convey a large part of Tony Benn’s unique contribution to the labour and socialist cause. Long may his memory and example endure.


Eric Hobsbawm: Historian, Teacher and Critic 

This special SHS seminar will seek to assess the late Eric Hobsbawm’s enduring contribution to the study of history.  Panel Discussion  Willie Thompson, formerly Professor of Contemporary History at Glasgow Caledonian University;  Malcolm Chase, Professor of Social History, University of Leeds;  David Parker, Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds.

 Tuesday 1st October 2013, 7.00 pm. 

At Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH. Near Liverpool Street Station/underground.   

 Space is limited – please book early to ensure your place     To book, contact the Bishopsgate Institute on 020 7392 9200 or online at  :


SHS AGM on SATURDAY 29th, 1pm


SHS AGM is to be followed by a talk
The Economics of Killing – How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World
1pm AGM; 2pm talk, Saturday, 29 June, 2013
Speaker Vijay Mehta, peace activist and author of a book on the same title as above
Venue Marchmont Centre, near Russell Square.



A Bird’s -Eye-View

By Khatchatur I. Pilikian

Whenever and wherever it happened, and alas it still happens, genocide is always premeditated, conceptualised and its execution meticulously organised at the highest governmental levels.

Significantly, implementing genocide’s execution always demanded a world turbulence characterising each historical epoch.

During centuries of colonial expansions and endemic wars, genocide and slavery were the necessary masts of the pirating strategy for land and raw material conquest. All colonial powers were engaged in it. World opinion, still in its infancy, was no more than a feeble gesture.

The epoch of Imperialism of the 20th century made a World War somehow the ‘prerequisite’ for any attempt of implementing the execution of genocide as a ‘final solution’. World opinion was starting to bite. The UN was founded and ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ had finally a name—Genocide, and an International Tribunal (Nuremberg) was set to condemn and punish its perpetrators.

But, even after World War Two, another epochal turbulence, the full-fledged Cold War epoch, ‘acted’ as a ‘shock absorbent’ for horrendous genocides…

Towards the end of the 20th century and beginning the 21st, the Cold War finally melted away in the heat of the arrogance of the epoch of Globalisation, while Genocide persists to remain on the threshold of rampant conflicts in all corners of the world.

The new world turbulence is now labelled as the Long War, the latest neo-con synonym for War on Terror.

Wars were not causes but excuses for Genocides.

In the case of the Genocide of the Armenians, the crucial vicious acts were already initiated and were being executed before the Ottoman Turkey’s declaration of War,
on Nov.5th, 1914.

In a nutshell, the Armenian tragedy did not start because of the WWI in 1915 — as the Ottoman Young Turk government, then all subsequent Turkish governments were and are still keen to link the magnum historical criminal act with 1915 WWI, hence their claim of the ‘betrayel’ of the Armenians. And even, alas, our In Memoriam April 24 1915, took the date of the rounding up of Armenian intellectuals as the ‘starting’ point of our magnum tragedy, thus for sure unwittingly, albeit apparently ‘yielding’ to the criminal excuse. Here are the stages of that Man’s Inhumanity to Man before 1915.


“If we nurtured snakes in our midst in Europe, we should not repeat the same folly in AsiaticTajkastan [Turkey]. […]Thus, we must eliminate, leave behind no traces of that Armenian nation. And to accomplish this task, we are lacking in nothing; […]We can declare a religious war–waged against a nation that has no arms, no army, and no defender, whereas, in contrast, we have one of the greatest and richest states of the world as our comrade-in-arms and the guardian of our Asian world. “ Kâmil Pasha (1838-1912), the Grand Vizier or the Prime Minister of the Ottoman Empire – Sultan Abdul Hamid’s Prime Minister four times over.

During 1894-1896 at Sassun, Van, Zeitun and Diarbekir, resulting in the massacre of 300,000 Armenians, 3000 villages were burned. “It is already proven that the pillage and the massacres of Sassun is the deliberately organised act of the Sublime Porte, an act planned in advance meticulously and executed mercilessly . . .” Prof. Em. Dillon (1854-1933), the Irish linguist and journalist.


The massacres at Adana in Cilicia of April 1909 resulted in 30,000 Armenian deaths. “This massacre was more terrible than those in the days of Abdul Hamid . . . Those Armenians who had succeeded in escaping the first carnage are now destroyed. Adana has become a veritable inferno.” Helen Davenport Gibbons, an eyewitness of the Adana massacres

On July 27, 1914, the government of the Young Turks started conscripting Armenians, before the First World War broke out, to deplete the Armenian nation of its able-bodied male population who were herded into amele tabourou=labour battalions, eventually to order them to dig their own mass graves…

On August 2, 1914, the Young Turks decided to create, out of its Teshkilati makhsusa=special formation, a new structure to deal with ‘interior matters’, to start and implement their proto-Nazi party conference decisions.

On August 6, 1914, a secret agreement between Turkey and Germany promised Caucasus (including Eastern/Russian Armenia) to Turkey.

Before Ottoman Turkey’s declaration of war on the Entente powers (November 5) and until December 1914, 200,000 Armenian civilians, mostly women, the elderly and children already were uprooted and decimated, not counting the imminent tragedy, as mentioned above, prepared for the 300 thousand conscripted Armenian male population. Few thousand Armenians had managed to flee and reach Russian occupied Eastern Armenia. Many of them served in the volunteer regiments of the Tzar fighting in Western so called Turkish Armenia. An estimated 300,000 Armenians fought with the Entente powers in Europe and the Middle East including Palestine–a classic example of cannon fodder of 600,000 Armenians obliging their lives, country and all for the Imperialist appetites of both the Entente and the Central powers.

The First World War set the stage for the Final Solution.


“It is imperative that the Armenian people be completely exterminated; that not even one single Armenian be left on our soil; that the name, Armenian, be obliterated. We are now at war; there is no more auspicious occasion than this; This country must be purged of all non-Turk elements”. Nazim Bey Selanikly (1870-1926), the executive secretary of the Young Turks Central Board, early in 1915, during a Central Board meeting presided over by comrade-brother Talaat:

Starting on April 24, 1915 and until mid-May, the Armenian civic population was practically depleted of its intellectuals; 196 writers, 575 musicians, 336 doctors, 176 teachers and college professors, 160 lawyers, 62 architects, 64 actors…all arrested, deported, disappeared for good…

On June 15, 1915, twenty prominent members of the Armenian Social Democratic Henchakist Party were hanged in Bayazit square in Istanbul. The Henchakist stood in opposition to the Ittihadists. That was a mortal sin!

The culminating act of the genocidal scheme was thus set in motion; the elderly, the women and the children, nearly the entire Armenian population of Asia Minor was ordered out, southward towards the deserts of Northern Syria.

Vandalism, rape, extortion, sadistic torture, starvation, murder raids and all ad infinitum. The rest is…the scream of humanity at its most infernal.

When genocides, torture, poverty and wars are justified as “human nature” or as a historical and economic necessary evil, nay even as historical inevitability of “so called” clashing civilisations, then and there silence acquires an obscene eloquence in support of inhumanity– sheer Barbarism of Total Terror.

April 24, 2013, London

June 2023