Sunday, October 21, 2012


Alan's funeral will be on Thursday 8th November. Due to restricted places this is by invitation or for those close to Alan. Immediately afterwards will be an open commemoration/celebration of Alan's life from 3.30pm - 6.30pm at St John Vianney Hall, 386 West Green Road, N15 3QL. All welcome.
A Tribute & Celebration of Alan's Life (pdf document given out at commemorative event)


The Tottenham working class activist/campaigner Alan Woodward passed away on Saturday 20th October.

Alan had a stroke and fall on Tuesday 16th October and was admitted to the North Middlesex Hospital the following day. His close family* had rallied round during his hospital stay and were with him when he died peacefully.

Alan Woodward was a lifelong trade union activist and working class revolutionary immersed in support for workplace struggles and other anti-capitalist movements.

In 1961 he joined the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party). For three decades he ran courses for shop stewards. He was very active in the Haringey Trades Union Council. In recent years he gravitated towards independent libertarian politics, including the Haringey Solidarity Group – his view was it was necessary for workers to take direct control of all workplaces and through workers coordination councils create a new economy and society without capitalism or governments. In his writings he explained he was drawing on what he saw as the best traditions of revolutionary socialism and anarchism.

He actively supported and tried to attend every local workers’ picket line in Haringey, either as the organiser for the Trades Council or as part of local campaigns. In the last few years this included strikes by postal workers, local bakery workers, public sector pension disputes, railworkers picket lines and anti-cuts campaigning. When the Visteon Ford Car Parts factory in Enfield was due to be closed he joined in the workers week-long occupation of the site and later wrote a pamphlet on the experience.

At the same time he helped set up the Radical History Network of NE London** and as the RaHN Convenor he organised and wrote up summaries of dozens of local talks and meetings on a whole range of past disputes and struggles to ensure that the voices of those who took part in them would continue to reverberate and help us all in our struggles and movements today. He took RaHN stalls to many local and national events.

He produced a huge body of agitational, campaigning and radical literature, leaflets, strike bulletins, newsletters, historical snapshots, pamphlets and recently an autobiography***. Yet he  underplayed his own role as he preferred to promote the collective self-activity of those involved in industrial strikes, disputes and working class movements.

He is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed****, but his influence will remain with us all as the struggle for a new society continues unabated.

Dave Morris (Tottenham, 21.10.2012)

*      The contact for the family is: Peter Woodward -   
**    Alan’s autobiography ‘Poor Boy’s Tale’ (Vol 1 – ‘the first 60 years’) is available from Housmans Bookshop – as are some of his pamphlets on Workers Councils, Shop Stewards movements, NHS history, Visteon Factory Occupation, and on other London working class activists like Joe Jacobs and Joe Thomas. All were self-published by Alan under the name of Gorter Press. Many can be found, summarised or reviewed on the RAHN site (see below). 
***  Radical History of NE London -
**** Details of his funeral and any commemorative events or publications will be circulated. See the above site.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bad News for Radical (and other) Researchers

In a ‘Statement on status of destruction of archival material Ruskin college’ dated 15 October 2012 historian Dr Hilda Kean tells the sorry tale of how ‘Archive material dating back to the first decades of the twentieth century of the internationally renowned labour movement college, Ruskin College, Oxford has been destroyed and material constituting its radical history has been dispersed. The integrity of the material in the college as an archive of working class history no longer exists. Sadly, this process of destruction and dispersal has not finished.’
In summary (from her pdf, further summarised here) the destruction involved:
·         Unique student files from c.1900 to c.2000 containing application forms, details of union sponsorship, progress within the college, in some instances press cuttings on future activity. Contents destroyed with only some bare-bones material digitised.
·         Records of the Ruskin Student Union. (Thrown away).
·         Duplicates of rare labour movement pamphlets. (Shredded rather than given to another library).
·         Former student dissertations. (Many destroyed at the behest of the ‘Principal’ – [on the evidence ‘Dictator’ would be more apt. - LW]).
·         Historic labour movement collections listed on the National Register of Archives. (Dispersed to other collections).
·         Artefacts reflecting the radical history of the college. (Gone to other institutions or individuals).
Although Bishopsgate Institute in London advised the college management that it could take unwanted material in July, the college management did not take up that offer.
College management has not said that it will save the remaining student records despite worldwide petitioning and emails and letters.
Background to how this came about, and the implications:
What digitisation does and doesn’t mean: (blog) (By the College Librarian 1972-2004)

Whose archive, whose history?
(Comment by L.W.)
There are parallels, obviously, with things happening in other institutions and organisations where mindless authoritarian management rides roughshod over the welfare of people working in them, the needs of those they were intended to serve, and, often, the principles which led to their being set up in the first place. The breath-taking arrogance and ignorance of the Principal’s quoted comments beg the question of how anyone like that was allowed to get into a position to wield such power unchecked, in such a context, but will be horribly not unfamiliar to many who have found themselves working within an admin-heavy hierarchical set-up where corporate newspeak mentality and unquestioning subservience to government policy rule.
On a brighter note, Volunteer students working in the archive instructed to shred labour movement pamphlets acted with the imagination and integrity one expects of the best of the Ruskin tradition. Other material such as pamphlets or ephemera has been squirreled away by staff keen to preserve the past.. .’ Grass-roots spontaneous action has thus achieved some damage limitation at least. Copy that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Events at Anarchist Book Fair 2012, Saturday 27 October

2012 Anarchist Bookfair, SATURDAY 27th OCTOBER from 10a.m. to 7p.m.
at Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS.              

The following meetings may be of particular interest from a radical history point of view:

Room 3.22   3rd Floor
11am – 12 noon
The Path Not Taken - welfare history and the libertarian perspective
To know where you're going, you need to know where you came from. One piece of hidden history is the way working class people, in face of the most ruthless capitalism ever, erected a system of welfare services, based on mutual aid "friendly societies". Health, education, housing, benefits, etc, were all included as the new book tells.  We can't resurrect the friendly societies but we can work for modern collective libertarian welfare services, as well as defending the compromise welfare state. 
Books available.
Organised by:  Socialist Libertarian Group

[This meeting was restructured as a tribute to Alan Woodward; his booklet on the subject is available as a pdf - here]
Room 3.18   3rd Floor
12 noon – 1pm
1839: The Chartist Insurrection
The Chartists were the original political movement of the working class, and 1839 was the year a National Convention assembled in London, and revolution seemed a real possibility. The year ended with an armed uprising in London, followed by the trial of its leaders for treason. Our speaker, David Black, is co-author (with Chris Ford) of a new book on the events of 1839.
Organised by: Hobgoblin

Room 3.22   3rd Floor
2pm – 3pm
Strikes, Nukes & Overdue Subscription Fees – Anarchist organisation in original documents (1944-64)
This presentation showcases some of the recent work of the Sparrows' Nest anarchist library, using unique documents relating to Anarcho-Syndicalism in Britain and around the world. Focusing on the overlooked period in the history of radical politics between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the iconic events of the late 1960s we hope to give an insight into some of the political and organisational issues faced by the movement, and suggest further opportunities for research into anarchist history and practice.
Organised by: The Sparrow’s Nest (

Full listing and other details available at