Saturday, March 10, 2018

THE BOMB SHOP (1907-1989): 66 Charing Cross Road

        by Christopher Draper

Forty years ago I discovered a tattered old copy of the “Book of Lords” by J Morrison Davidson. The book excoriated Britain’s aristocracy but even more arresting than the text was a page advert, inserted in lieu of a frontispiece, for “THE BOMB SHOP” run by a Mr Henderson. This set me wondering; who was Henderson, what did he sell in his “Bomb Shop” and how did his explosive enterprise end - with a bang or a whimper? Over the years I came across more references to this oddly named emporium and the mysterious Mr Henderson but discovered only incomplete explanations until curiosity drove me to look more deeply into this dusty corner of radical history.

Retailing Rebellion

It seems Mr Henderson sold books not bombs but not any old books, “They must be rebel. Rebel a thousand years ago, rebel yesterday, rebel since lunch: not yet rebel at all, but likely to be rebel next week: rebel in politics, rebel in sex, rebel in religion – anything anyhow or anywhere rebel, anything smelling or tasting of rebel”. Mr Henderson sponsored all sorts of radical causes by promoting, publishing and distributing incendiary literature. He supported the literary and artistic avant-garde, distributed tickets for socialist events, provided a “talking shop” for revolutionaries and even a safe-house for activists on the run. For decades Henderson’s “BOMB SHOP” encouraged rebellion whilst the notehead modestly claimed, “Booksellers to the People”.

The Shop

“Do you know The Bomb Shop?”, Hannen Swaffer inquired in the Daily Herald, “its name, painted on the front used to cause  trouble. Timorous women would hurry by, nervously fearful lest something would go off with a bang”. Reg Groves recalled, “In 1925, grimy and in working overalls, I walked into the shop for the first time…the only socialist bookshop in the West End. An open-style shop – unusual then – it had been designed and decorated in red and gold and emblazoned with the names of past rebels by socialist painter Walter Crane. Its defiant name and, red doors and window frames and display of socialist and anarchist publications incited upper-class louts and their toadies to heave an occasional brick through the full-length plate glass door.”

Swaffer noted the names of some of those “past rebels”: “Names painted on the bookshelves do honour to many fighters for human freedom – Jack Cade, John Ball, Watt Tyler, William Morris, Shelley and Tolstoy.”

Brother Henderson

Francis Riddell Henderson was a Scot, born 8 January 1860 in Leith, Edinburgh’s port. His father was a shipping clerk but Francis was more interested in literature. Initially engaged as a “Stationers Shopman”, Frank was employed by the extraordinary Newcastle builder turned publisher, Walter Scott. At Scott’s Frank discovered a world of radical ideas and émigré influence. Amongst the company’s published authors in this 1880’s period were Bernard Shaw, Ibsen and Stepniak, whilst Tolstoy’s works were churned out in “super-abundance”.

In 1884, at Morpeth, Frank married local girl Sarah Pybus (1863-1941) and the couple settled in Gateshead where their first child, Alice, was born in 1886. When Walter Scott Publishing, in 1887, asked Frank to represent the firm in London the family moved south, settling at Nunhead where two more children, James (1888-1950) and FR junior (1890-1979), were born.

By that stage Henderson had himself fully embraced Tolstoy’s anarcho-pacifist politics. Appointed manager of Scott’s London office he employed fellow enthusiast Charles William Daniel (1871-1955) who in 1900 founded the London Tolstoyan Society before in 1902 establishing his own libertarian publishing house. Meanwhile, in May 1894, Frank joined several other comrades in establishing their own Tolstoyan-influenced socialist-anarchist organisation in South London, “The Croydon Brotherhood Church”. The idea was to create a Tolstoyan Community rather than just a campaigning organisation and the group organised its own hostel, meeting rooms, shop and publishing after acquiring a former hotel at Dupas Hill (now “The Waddon Hotel”) which became “Brotherhood’s House”, effectively group HQ”.

In 1896 Frank and Sarah agreed to take over the management of “Brotherhood House”. Unfortunately Croydon’s increasingly urban character on the fringe of an ever expanding metropolis limited the group’s ability to realise an effective Tolstoyan community so they searched for land further from London. Over the following five years they’d seeded three Tolstoyan colonies in Essex – at Purleigh, Wickford (actually Downham) and Ashingdon and further afield, and most successfully of all, at “Whiteway” in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Back to the Land?

Francis and his family opted for Wickford as it had convenient rail access to London. In July 1898 thirty-three like-minded pioneers gathered opposite Downham Hall, just south of the Parish Church, to view 29 acres of land and three existing cottages on offer for £700. “The land was visited in the afternoon and general satisfaction was expressed as to its suitability to the purposes of the group.” Henry Power, like Frank, a former member of the Croydon Brotherhood and founder member of the Wickford settlement explained that the colonists aimed, “to cultivate a more helpful and brotherly feeling towards each other…They feel it is useless waiting for the millennium…At least they hope it will be found practicable to show their children the possibilities of a more social, helpful and truthful life than most of us have had the opportunity of realising.”

Less communist than other Tolstoyan settlements, Wickford’s suitability for “colonists” intent on maintaining paid employment caused it to be sometimes derided as, “The Colony for City Men”. Frank remained a Tolstoyan at heart but unlike Sarah who described herself in census returns as a “small farmer”, he had ink in his blood and never abandoned publishing for a life on the land.

Peace and War

During his Croydon years Frank continued managing Walter Scott’s London operation alongside his work for the Brotherhood movement. In 1894 he combined both interests in publishing “From Bondage to Brotherhood” by John Coleman Kenworthy under a joint “Brotherhood Publishing Company – Walter Scott Company” Imprint but it wasn’t long before Tolstoyan publishing became a battlefield.

Trouble erupted in 1897 with the arrival of two Tolstoyan zealots from Russia, Aylmer Maude (1858 – 1938) a millionaire Director of the Anglo-Russian Carpet Company and Vladimir Chertkov (1854-1936), Tolstoy’s aristocratic confidante. Both came with a declared commitment to channel Tolstoy’s publishing royalties into financing the repatriation of the Doukabors, a pacifist Russian minority outlawed by the Czar for refusal to serve in the military. This resulted in five competing parties claiming rights to print Tolstoy’s works. Frank resigned from Scott’s when the Company declined to publish Tolstoy’s latest novel without an assurance of sole printing rights. Kenwood insisted that Tolstoy had granted him sole rights whilst Chertkov established his own dedicated and well-resourced “New Age” printing operation at Christchurch, Bournemouth. In 1899, Frank published cheap popular editions of Tolstoy’s “Resurrection” leaving Maude furiously threatening his erstwhile comrades with legal action. The ferocity of this wrangling drove Kenwood into a lunatic asylum and Frank into a court of law. Kenworthy never recovered but Henderson survived Maude’s suit and was awarded costs.

Publish and Be Damned

The year 1899 was a bit of a watershed for Frank. No longer formally tied to Scott’s or the Croydon Brotherhood he lived at Downham, Essex in loose community with Tostoyan-minded comrades and concentrated on establishing his own “Francis Riddell Henderson” independent publishing house at 26 Paternoster Square, London EC. He continued to write for and publish the movement’s journal, “The New Order” but now under his own FRH impress and an 1899 edition included his spirited defence of the “Whiteway Colony”.

Frank wasn’t a polemicist or street corner agitator but was an iconoclast, happy to go out on limb in support of anyone who had anything to say that challenged orthodox opinion. As he got older he widened out rather than abandoned his early Tolstoyan approach.

Apart from Tolstoy’s “Resurrection”, the first title Frank published under his own imprint was, “Sprays of Sweet Briar” a collection of country rambles described by Harry Lowerison a teacher sacked by Hackney School board for political activitism. Environmental awareness was key to Lowerison’s political and educational philosophy and the heart of the successful libertarian “Ruskin School” that he founded following his dismissal. Harry Lowerison was just the sort of rebel that Frank celebrated along with more established Tolstoyan’s like Ernest Crosby whose, “Plain Talk in Psalms and Parables” Henderson published in 1901.

Frank produced more than twenty titles in his first five years of independent publishing with John Morrison Davidson his most prolific author. Davidson’s “The Wisdom of Winstanley the Digger” (1904) received glowing press reviews. “This threepenny booklet is marvellously keen and logical in every one of its forty odd pages…What Winstanley’s writing remind us of is the fact – overlooked by all Cromwell’s biographers – that the English revolution did little or nothing to improve the economic condition of the people.” 

An Explosion of Anarchy

In the autumn of 1907 Frank strengthened his publishing enterprise with the opening of a central London retail outlet, “The BOMB SHOP” at 66 Charing Cross Road. The name was a deliberate provocation, an ironic title for a Tolstoyan but guaranteed to excite publicity.

Political factions such as the “Socialist League” had previously operated both their own shops and publishing facilities but Henderson’s utterly unsectarian approach was novel and elicited previously unheard voices. Rebels of every variety gathered at the Bomb Shop and controversy was Henderson’s bread and butter but this was no vanity project for Frank didn’t publish his own opinions but channelled his energy and enthusiasm into encouraging others.  

As soon as he opened the shop Frank cooperated with the radical journalist William Bellinger Northrop in publishing and distributing “The Deadly Parallel” a monthly magazine that kicks “Class War” into a cocked hat. Right from the first October 1907 edition it graphically exposed, ridiculed and reviled the vast gulf that lay (and still lies) between the living conditions of the rich and the poor. “The Unemployed East” were depicted on the cover’s left-hand column marching in rags along Embankment whilst on the right were shown, “The Unemployed West” promenading in their finery in Hyde Park. Readers learned, “A millionaire this year gave a dinner at a London Hotel. It was called the “Gondola Dinner”. There were just twenty-four guests at this feast. It cost £2,500. This was £104 3s 4d. per guest.”  

Shelter from a Storm

On 25 October 1912 Hugh Arthur Franklin (1889-1962) set fire to a railway carriage at Harrow in support of women’s suffrage. Whilst avoiding arrest, Henderson sheltered him for two months at the BOMB SHOP before in February 1913 Franklin was apprehended, imprisoned and force-fed 114 times. To avoid the embarrassment of imprisoning a corpse the authorities “temporarily” released him under the terms of their newly devised “Cat and Mouse Act” – the first person to be so released.

Victor’s Tale

Without the BOMB SHOP there’d have been no “Left-Book Club” for in 1914 its initiator, Victor Gollancz, was an unknown master at Repton School. His progressive approach was at odds with the disciplinarian headmaster Dr Fisher but the pair rubbed along together and Victor was even allowed to organise a school magazine for the boys. After Gollancz got Frank to publish his school mag and distribute it through the BOMB SHOP, Fisher was incensed and gave Victor his marching orders. Unemployed, Gollancz decided to start his own publishing enterprise and the rest is history.

Oh What a Lovely War

In 1915 Parliament objected to the BOMB SHOP, not because of its incendiary influence rather M.P.’s feared “Peace Propagandists” lodged at “66 Charing Cross Road”. The Attorney-General reassured everyone that, “the activities of the group of persons referred to are under consideration”. Invoking the “Defence of the Realm Act” the following year the authorities raided the BOMB SHOP and confiscated all remaining copies of “Two Plays” by disillusioned soldier turned playwright-pacifist Miles Malleson.

In the summer of 1917, Siegfried Sassoon’s war experiences caused him, like Malleson, to oppose further fighting. The authorities attempted to silence Sassoon by threatening to incarcerate him in a lunatic asylum but again, like Malleson he first contacted Frank and sent his infamous “Statement of Defianceto the BOMB SHOP and it was subsequently published in “The Times”.

Amongst the pacifist gems Henderson published during the war years was, “The Tyranny of the Super-State” by Edward G Smith. Commended at the time by “Freedom”, a century later it’s a useful reminder to deluded libertarian advocates of the European Union that, “The international super-state may seem an imposing specific to the automatic thinker: to the humanist it suggests intolerable tyranny”.
 Avant Garde

After the war the BOMB SHOP played a key role in stimulating a literary and artistic revival. According to Robert Ross, “many young poets felt that during the war established English literary journals had fallen too exclusively to the control of conservative editors”, on May Day 1919 the BOMB SHOP published an antidote. Coterie was a refreshingly original illustrated literary magazine that, “never baulked at presenting dissenting approaches and aesthetics”.  Aldous Huxley, T S Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Modigliani, Nina Hamnett and Walter Sickert were just a few amongst the many radicals featured in subsequent issues.

The same year the BOMB SHOP also published Osbert Sitwell’s demolition of Winston Churchill in three short illustrated satires, “The Winstonburg Line”. Parodying Churchill’s casual disregard for the deaths of others and his rampant enthusiasm for intervention against the Soviet revolution…

“As I said in a great speech
After the last great war,
I begin to fear
That the nation’s heroic mood
Is over.

Only three years ago
I was allowed to waste
A million lives in Gallipoli,
But now
They object
To my gambling
With a few thousand men
In Russia!

It does seem a shame.
I shall burn my Daily Herald.”

In 1919 the enterprising Mr Henderson also published the now much sought-after collection of six vorticist inspired lithographs of the “Russian Ballet” (above) by renegade artist David Bomberg (1890-1957), expelled from the Slade in 1913.

The View from Above

By the late 1920’s Henderson’s bookshop was such a familiar feature of Charing Cross Road that even reporters from “Society” magazines felt brave enough to drop in. In April 1927 it was the turn of Sketch feature writer Beverley Nichols to enter. “The Bomb Shop which is supposed to be a nest of anarchy though it strikes me as merely a clean amusing place kept by a highly intelligent man whose red tie makes a pleasant splash of colour against his grey beard”. Beverley was in search of light holiday reading for his forthcoming weekend in Le Touquet. “I bought in this shop some of the papers and magazines which aim at the total destruction, extermination and general blowing-up of anybody who has anything to spare…among it was a crimson song-book entitled Sixteen Songs for Sixpence and it was well worth the money for it convinced me that as long as the Labour Party sing such dreary nonsense there will be little danger of violent upheavals in this country.”

Less amusing than Beverley’s gentle ribbing were the antics of his “Hooray-Henry” associates who regular smashed “The BOMB SHOP”’s windows as a jolly “anti-red” jape.

Introducing the Krondstadt Killer

Some said Mr Henderson looked a lot like Lenin but ironically Reg Groves credits Frank with introducing him to Trotsky. Although Groves was already disillusioned with the Communist Party when he dropped into the BOMB SHOP “one bright cold Spring morning in 1931” Reg hadn’t yet discovered “that there were organised groups in Europe and America supporting the Left Opposition and Trotsky”. Once Frank put him in the picture he abandoned Stalin and embraced the man who massacred thousands of Kronstadt comrades for daring to demand free speech. Reg returned to Balham and led his erstwhile communist comrades out of the frying pan into another frying pan.

Lotta Continua

Francis Riddell Henderson died on 21 May 1931 at Redhill Hospital, Edgware leaving an estate valued at just £75. The Daily Herald declared, “Thousands of reformers of every kind will regret F R Henderson’s passing” and recalled, “F R Henderson knew advanced thinkers by the hundred and although stupid people looked rather shocked at the sign over the door, the bookseller was really the kindest of men. He was a friend, not only of the writers and the speakers but of hundreds of the rank-and-file who would call in and talk by the hour”. The family kept the business going for three years until going bust in 1934 when the BOMB SHOP was bought for £617 by wealthy Quaker communist Eva Collet Reckitt who described it as, “the haunt of advanced poets and elderly anarchists”. Nothing much changed and for Eva and manager Olive Parsons, “It was a very exciting time politically and we used to go on anti-fascist demonstrations. The shop was a debating forum and lots of people from the shop went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.”

Despite Communist control the shop never abandoned its iconoclasm and stocked the anarchists’ FREEDOM newspaper when anarchists refused to sell the DAILY WORKER at their Aldgate shop. It’s a tragic irony that after eighty-two rebellious years THE BOMB SHOP was destroyed by a bomb! At 3.30am on 6 July 1989 in an act of terror-protest against Salman Rushdie’s “”Satanic Verses” THE BOMB SHOP was gutted by home-made explosives and never reopened by Collets. Now it’s “Everwell Chinese Medical Centre” and the spirit of Francis Riddell Henderson cries out to London comrades to commemorate its radical history with the erection of a red plaque.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

For International Women's Day: Paris 1870-71

Extracts from La Commune: Histoire et Souvenirs, by Louise Michel, edited and translated.
(Louise Michel herself was of course the best-known Femme de la Commune.)
"Women active in the Commune"
from The Paris Commune, by Mary Kennedy (Collins 1979)

(Vol.1 in Petite Collection Maspero:-)
Section 2. The Republic of September 4 (1870). #9 The women of '70 pp.118-121

Among those who struggled most resolutely to combat the [Prussian] invasion and defend the Republic as the dawning of freedom, there were many women.

All the women's groupings rallied round the Society to Aid Victims of the War, in which bourgeois women, wives of members of the Committee for National Defence who did so little defending, were heroic.

If anyone in the Aid Committee had spoken of surrender, he would have been thrown out as forcibly as in the clubs of Belleville and Montmartre (working class districts). We were the women of Paris, just as in the (working class) suburbs.

... I was imprisoned after 31-10 - not for taking part in a demonstration but for saying I was only there to share in the women's dangers, not recognising the government...

 So many things were attempted by the women of '71! Everything and everywhere!

Women did not ask whether something was possible, but whether it was useful, in which case they would manage to do it.
One day we decided Montmartre didn't have enough first-aid posts (ambulances) so we resolved to set one up. There was no cash but we (LM, Jeanne A) had an idea for fund-raising.
We took along a tall, impressive member of the National Guard, who marched in front with fixed bayonet. We were wearing red sashes and holding specially made purses. The three of us set off, looking solemn, to where we'd find the rich. We began with the churches, the National Guardsman walking up the aisle tapping his rifle on the paving; we took a side each, asking the priests at the altar first.
By turns the devout, pale with fright, poured money into our collecting bags, all the clergy contributing, some with a good grace. Then it was the turn of certain Jewish or Christian financiers, then respectable folk (braves gens); a pharmacist from the Butte provided supplies. The first-aid post was set up.
At Montmartre town hall (mairie) we had a good laugh over that expedition which no-one would have encouraged if  we had told them about it in advance.
Decree abolishing conscription and consolidating the National Guard in Paris,
from The Paris Commune, by Mary Kennedy (back cover)
 p.121 I remember the day three ladies came to find me in class (LM was a teacher) to see about starting the women's vigilance committee. They simply told me 'You have to come with us' and I answered 'I'll go.'
At that point there were nearly 200 pupils in my classes, girls aged 6-12 whom my deputy and I taught, and small children aged 3-6, boys and girls my mother took charge of (and spoiled). One or two of the older pupils in my class helped her.
The little ones, whose parents were country folk seeking refuge in Paris, had been sent by Clemenceau. The town hall took care of feeding them: they got milk, horsemeat, vegetables and often a few treats (friandises).
There has been a lot of talk about rivalries between different bodies; I didn't experience those. Before the war we operated a teaching exchange, with my neighbour Mlle. Potin giving drawing lessons at my place and me giving music lessons at hers; we would take our senior pupils to courses in rue Hauteville. During the siege she took my class, when I was in prison.
Paris May 1871, showing fortifications
From Frank Jellinek, The Paris Commune of 1871 (Gollancz, Left \Book Club, 1937) 

(Vol.II in Maspero edition:-)
Section 3. The Days of the Commune, continued

#10 The Army of the Commune;
Women of the Commune.

 p.7 The Commune army was a mere handful compared with that of Versailles.

 p.10 Among the Commune's forces were women: providing canteen and first-aid services and as soldiers, they appear along with the others.

A few of them are known by name (- 18 listed in various capacities including teachers).

pp.173-180 Manifesto as published by proscribed Communard exiles in London, June 1874. Defining themselves as Atheists, communists, revolutionaries in ends and means, and putting their case in some detail in those terms.  Signed by 31, not including LM, who was exiled to New Caledonia before establishing herself in London.

p.181-190 Report of LM's trial hearing of 16-12-1871 from Gazette des tribuneaux, hostile but giving some idea of her views, with long quotations, and background.

"Her anger, which never left her, arose as soon as she set foot in Paris,
at the sight of the poverty and injustice rife in the Montmartre district where she opened a school..."

Fictionalised biography of LM, 2002


As previously posted, the March meeting of the New Anarchist Research Group is about Louise Michel.

Saturday 24th March 2018  2:00pm - 4:30pm in the MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet St., London EC4

Louise Michel in London (1890s-1905): a Political Reassessment by Constance Bantman 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hunger Strike at Detention Centre

From Medact, 28-2-18

Hunger Strike at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre
 Last week, 120 people detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre went on hunger strike in protest over the conditions of their detention and UK detention and deportation policies.
You can read the demands of the hunger strikers on the Detained Voices blog, which is also being updated regularly with statements by the strikers.
SOAS Detainee Support who are in touch with the strikers have written ‘4 actions you can take to support the Yarl’s Wood strikers’, including signing this petition calling on the Home Office to grant their demands and also sharing the strikers’ demands and testimonies on social media via Detained Voices using #HungerForFreedom.

Friday, February 23, 2018

1968-2018: A Celebration of 50 years of Resistance, Campaigning and Alternatives for A Better World

- despite 50 years of police opposition, spying and repression 

Sat 7th / Sun 8th July 2018   

Sat 7th: Anniversary Roll Call / Commemoration / Celebration in Grosvenor Square, London W1 @ 1pm - 3pm
Sun 8th: London Gathering and Exhibition

1st to 8th July  -  week of local events and activities around the UK  

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Next planning meeting for the above
Sunday 11th March, 5pm @ Housmans, 5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX

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In 1968, following demonstrations against the Vietnam War in London's Grosvenor Square, the police set up a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). Since that time, 50 years ago, over 1,000 groups campaigning in the UK for a better world have been spied on, infiltrated and targeted by political policing. Their protests and demonstrations are also subjected to ongoing police opposition and control to try to limit their effectiveness.
This targeting has included groups campaigning for equality, justice, the environment and international solidarity, for rights for women, LGBTQ, workers and for animals, for community empowerment, and those campaigning against war, racism, sexism, corporate power, legal repression and police oppression and brutality. Such groups have represented many millions of people throughout the UK who want to make the world a better, fairer and more sustainable place for everyone. Yet almost any group of any kind that stood up to make a positive difference has been or could have potentially been a target for secret political policing.We now know this because of campaigners' recent efforts to expose and challenge the SDS and other similar secret units, and their shocking and unacceptable tactics. Individuals within those campaign groups have been spied on, subjected to intrusions in their personal lives, been victims of miscarriages of justice, and many deceived into intimate and abusive relationships with secret police, ie people that who were not who they said they were. In July 2015 we succeeded in forcing Theresa May (now Prime Minister) to set up the current Undercover Policing Public Inquiry, which was tasked with getting to the truth by July 2018, and insisting on action to prevent police wrong-doing in future. Now, 3 years on, the public inquiry has achieved very little due to police obstruction. 

When the SDS was formed they stated that they would 'shut down' the movements they were spying on. But despite disgusting police tactics, movements for positive change are still here and growing, and have had many successes on the way.


This planned two-day event in London, backed up by a call for a week of actions all around the UK, is in support of those campaigning for full exposure and effective action at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, and against police attempts to delay and undermine it. We aim to encourage more groups to find out about the Inquiry and how they can get involved and support each other, and to unite the many different groups and organisations who have been victims of our police state because of their efforts to improve society. 

Backed by the Campaign to Oppose Police Surveillance [C.O.P.S.] -

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SIGN UP FOR GROUPS TO SUPPORT THIS PROPOSAL ------------------------------

YES we broadly support the proposal. Please add our name to the list of supporting organisations. 

Name of organisation ........................

Name of contact/rep ..................       Position in group ..........................

Contact details:   Email: .....................................    Phone: ..............................
We can:
___ Attend the Grosvenor Square Rally
___ Publicise the event(s)
___ Identify/loan/donate a 'historic' item for the exhibition
___ Organise a local celebration/commemoration event that week, and let you know the details when finalised
___ Help with planning the London event(s)


Affiliate to the C.O.P.S campaign yourself here: 

Donate to the C.O.P.S campaign yourself here. (you can add a note specifying its for 50 yrs events if you wish):  

Subscribe to the C.O.P.S. campaign newsletter yourself here

Solidarity and thanks from the 50yrs events planning group!

Return form to:

Confrontation of students and CRS (riot police) in the Latin Quarter, Paris, May 1968
Mass meeting in Renault factory at Billancourt
Photographs from Solidarity Vol.5, no.4, October 1968 (between pp.14 & 15)
In this connection:

Jeudi 8 mars 2018 à 19h00
Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration (Paris)

Quels rôles ont joué les étrangers en Mai 68 ? Quel est l’impact de ces  événements  sur leur engagement et leur militantisme ultérieur ? Pour y  répondre, Benjamin Stora, historien, Tewfik Allal, militant associatif,  et Ludivine Bantigny, auteure, croiseront leurs points de vue dans un  débat animé par Alexis Lacroix (L’Express). Une rencontre proposée à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire de Mai 68.
[What part was played by foreigners in May '68? What inpact did these events have on their commitment and latent militancy?]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Advance Notice of Forthcoming Conference

 [Forwarded from IWCE via Wakefield Socialist History group - highlighting added]

This is a participatory conference for change-makers (academics, trade unionists and community activists) on working-class/trade union education, politics and organising.
Critical Labour Studies is hosting a two-day conference on 7-8 July 2018 in London looking at working class and activists’ political education. It is doing so in partnership with the Ella Baker School of Transformative Organising and supported by Unite the union. By political education, we do not mean teaching people to recite political dogma, or to adopt a particular line, but rather equipping people with the ability to analyse, for themselves, the politics of any given situation that they are experiencing or seeking to change.
In the light of the political polarisation taking place across advanced industrial economies there has quite simply never been a time when literacy on political economy is more necessary for working class activists. Unfortunately, we have seen a long-term decline in that political education. Trade unions, once the ‘universities’ of the working class, have been in sharp decline for decades and few now prioritise working class education – even the ‘skills based’ training on representation and advocacy is now under threat as a result of funding cuts.
But to effectively change a system, the labour movement needs to equip people to analyse its strengths and weakness, and develop strategic initiatives designed to maximise the opportunities for success. It also needs to be able to counter those dominant narratives that demobilise people, where people believe that nothing can be done, or that poor people are feckless, or that immigrants are to blame for the ills of society.
The conference will be made up of practitioner and academic speakers and workshops and will explore what we can do, as a working-class movement, to create a new wave of radical education to genuinely equip people to become leaders in their trade unions and communities.
The combination of Britain’s largest trade union, the Ella Baker School, and the rigour of academia, as well as (we hope) numerous groups who are in the front line of change making today, means this will be no ordinary conference. It will combine a series of plenary sessions with speakers from different but complimentary backgrounds. It will involve workshops and breakout sessions and it will be an opportunity to showcase some of the new educational materials developed by the Ella Baker School, which are already becoming a popular open source resource.
A number of themes have already emerged, but we are open to further suggestions (see below):
 The rich history of independent working-class education
From the very early stirring s of the working-class movement, even before mass literacy, papers like the [Chartists'] Northern Star were focal points of organisation and consciousness raising. Formal study groups gave rise to institutions such as the Workers Education Association and Ruskin College who are still with us today, but now highly dependent on (some would say beholden to) state funding. But how did they, and others such as the Plebs League emerge, reach an audience and sustain themselves?
 Is there a working-class pedagogy (theory of learning)?
As state education of our children becomes increasingly preoccupied with rote learning and testing, the ideas of Paulo Friere, with the focus on the classroom as being a place to create knowledge rather than merely transfer it, are finding a new audience. But what is the essence of student centred and experiential learning? To what extent is Frieres vision being ritualised rather than [practised]? How do you create a culture of co-operative learning, and more importantly how can we develop programmes that can be effectively cascaded by volunteer educators? Finally, what is the relationship between classroom learning and direct experience of change making?
 Intersectionality, the missing link in working class education?
For many years Marxism was criticised for being blind to anything but class exploitation. Oppression in the form of racism, sexism, etc. was seen primarily as capitals way to divide and rule and to create opportunities for super-exploitation. With the publication of Beyond the Fragments in 1979, the idea that there might be a specifically female experience of oppression and exploitation under capitalism found a wide resonance within an emerging socialist feminist movement and complemented the many contributions of Pan-African Marxists. Intersectionality, the theory that in an oppressive and exploitative society, various elements of our given identity, such as class, race, sexual orientation, disability and gender, are complexly interwoven, and that consideration of the nature of those complex inter-relationships are essential to an understanding of our lived experience, should not be controversial. So how can we constructively engage with the insights of both Marxism and intersectionality?
 Trade unions and political education
In 1972, the Government implemented the Donovan Commissions recommendations on industrial relations reform. The Commissions stated objective was to reduce unofficial action and restrictive practices, many would argue its real objective was to rebalance power away from working-class communities. It led to the first enactment of unfair dismissal law, and, for the first time, state funding for trade union education (soon amended to a requirement that the training was skills-based rather than political). The introduction of regulatory norms reduced the necessity for militant trade unionism to protect workers from victimisation (reducing the political education that arose from direct experience) and reduced the level of political analysis taught by trade unions (traditionally the universities of the working class). This accompanied with the deindustrialisation that has occurred over the same period has weakened, objectively and subjectively, the traditional base of working-class militancy and political education.
• Political education and community-based organising
Most community-based organising includes a commitment to training, including power mapping, but given the high level of dependence on both charitable and state funding in this sector, how easy is it for them to really speak truth to power? Meanwhile, Jane McAlevey has recently argued that the reliance on the Alinsky Model (underplaying the insights of both militant trade unionism and the African American Freedom movement) and his opposition to ideologies has undermined the ability of community organising initiatives to deal effectively with power. Is she right, and if so, is there any wriggle room? And finally, what can we learn from (and indeed, what can we offer) the new wave of activist groups such as Sisters Uncut, and Black Lives Matter?
 Understanding what resources exist, exploring what is missing and how do we get to scale
Over the last 40 years, the opportunities for working class communities to engage in political education have dwindled. But the need for working-class people to develop the ability to independently analyse the world around them has never been greater. Some trade unions still run political schools, but their reach is limited. A few, often small, voluntary-led organisations do focus on working class history and politics, but are not always well-networked, which means there are probably more gaps than there is coverage. So, what does need to be done to return individual political analysis (and agency) to working-class communities? And to what extent do the numerous community organising projects develop their members political analyses?
We are inviting contributions from academics, educators and activists from trade unions and community groups
We need your help to make this event a success. We want historical analysis, current insights and specific action plans. We are therefore looking for potential contributors with suggestions for round table discussions, themed sessions and workshops.
If you would like to suggest a session, or to contribute to one of the above, then please email Jane Holgate setting out what you would like to do:
Attendance/registration details
There is a sliding scale of registration fees: if your employer is paying, or you are sponsored by your trade union or other group, then the cost is £75. If you are self-paying then the cost is £37.50. If you are unemployed or on a low income, then you can still attend, as we have reserved a number of places for those who cannot afford to pay.
The registration fee includes, tea/coffee/biscuits during both Saturday and Sunday. Lunch on Saturday, and dinner as part of an evening social on Saturday.  The conference begins on Saturday 10am-6pm and finishes at 1pm on the Sunday. You will be responsible for organising your own accommodation, but if you are unemployed, on low income we may be able to help source a room for you.
To register for the two-day conference (7-8 July 2018 at Unite the Union, Theobald’s Road, Holborn, London) visit:
Registration will be on a first come, first served basis and there is a maximum of 100 places.
Professor Jane Holgate
Professor of Work and Employment Relations
Work and Employment Relations Division
Leeds University Business School
31 Lyddon Terrace (room 2.05)
University of Leeds LS2 9JT
Mobile: 07960 798399
Yale  2010 (first edition 2001)
Tables from above book