Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Report of RaHN meeting: 6th February 2013

1.  Introduction  23 people attended. The meeting was arranged in honour of Alan Woodward, convenor of the Network, who died on 20 October 2012. 200 people attended a special commemoration event after his funeral and it had been decided to re-launch the Network. Alan himself had been a lifelong supporter, writer and publisher of radical pamphleteering.
2.  The Past, Present and Future of Radical Pamphleteering
Three speakers in turn talked about different aspects of radical self-publishing.

A. (from past tense) Early pamphleteering culture: a rough overview of early pamphlets from the 14th century onwards, and their uses and significance; pamphlets’ specific attractions and value; some thoughts on whether the printed pamphlet is doomed in the age of the internet.  [This interesting, well- informed talk is described more fully in the RaHN pamphlet resulting from the meeting, available shortly.]
B. (from Haringey Solidarity Group)  Exhibiting some subversive pamphlets, and relating some of the radical publishing that had been going on in Haringey over the last thirty years.  Also referred to other forms of self-produced radical material, including leaflets (notably the famous McLibel leaflet and campaign), badges, cartoons, postcards, newsletters like Schnews, subvertising on billboards, agitational punk records and sleeves, the kind of extravagant multi-fold leaflets Reclaim the Streets used to produce, and so on. 
C. ( from Hackney) Feminist self-publishing, concentrating on the period from the 1970s till today. The women’s liberation movement excelled in the production of pamphlets and journals, which were their main way of communicating ideas in print. Also the Publication Distribution Co-operative, founded in 1976, to distribute radical books and journals, and blogs coming out of the 1990s, some of which were influenced by the ethos of the Riot Grrl movement. The resurgence of radical feminism over the last decade has been expressed partly through a revitalized print culture.

There followed an open discussion on the subject. It was generally agreed that it is not a question of either internet or paper propaganda/texts/pamphlets/ etc, - i.e. that both have a role and new technology doesn’t necessarily drive out the old.

There was also some discussion about the complex reality and myth of the ‘Arab Spring’:  internet communications have a powerful immediacy which is useful, maybe especially in war/revolutionary situations, but this is often based on existing ‘real world’ networks and connections.

It was suggested by several speakers that one of the main problems with internet activism etc is that people are suffering from information overload … The internet is also extremely vulnerable to control by the authorities. The satisfying reality of producing a pamphlet was contrasted with the transience of much info on the web.
3.  The Future of the Radical History Network of North East London
It was agreed to carry on! - as North East London rather than Haringey (but not narrowly ‘local’ in any case).

Some suggestions for possible future meetings included:

• General strikes, both in reality and theory, comparing the 1926 General Strike in Britain with more recent general strikes in Europe and elsewhere, and asking how strikes can be widened out and pushed beyond immediate demands; with questions of legality and illegality – when do you keep to the law and when break it? [Now scheduled as Next RaHN meeting, Wednesday May 8th, 7.30pm, General Strikes and Industrial Solidarity, at Wood Green Social Club.
• Defence/preservation of open green spaces, parks, etc, in North London.
Housing, housing struggles… This could also be related to squatting… (possibly following up a previous RaHN meeting.) And related to this (though maybe as a separate meeting), a suggestion of a history of spaces squatted for childcare/occupied to preserve childcare.
• A history of Broadwater Farm.
• A meeting which related more to some of the large migrant communities in the area, eg Turkish people …
It was eventually agreed to meet every three months for now rather than every month, as it was before.

A core group of volunteers was set up to co-ordinate future plans. We want to make sure that the network is run collectively and not reliant on just one or two people.

This blog is also continuing!

4.  Alan’s archive Alan Woodward left an extensive personal archive of radical reading matter behind him, which he wanted to be maintained as a local archive, open for people to use, research, read, under the administration of a libertarian group… In the long term this should be used as the basis of a local radical history library.

5.  Meeting of the core organising group
Next meeting:
  Agreed that the next RaHN meeting should be on Wednesday May 8th, on “General Strikes’… (along the terms set out at #3 above)
Venue: Wood Green Social Club.

Future publications:  Agreed to put out a proposed a pamphlet on the history of Haringey parks as a RaHN publication.  There was also an idea of producing a pamphlet based on tonight’s meeting on self-publishing [this is already in preparation].
Archives:  As a group we are interested in being involved in the administration of the archive…

Finances:  Plans to reprint some of Alan’s books and pamphlets mean more cash is needed… It was suggested we launch an appeal.

That Date for Diaries once again:
Next RaHN meetingWednesday May 8th, 7.30pm
General Strikes and Industrial Solidarity
Wood Green Social Club

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