Saturday, September 28, 2013

IWCE SEMINAR, Swansea: Saturday 12th October 2013 10.30 - 3.30


In conjunction with South Wales Miners' Library and Llafur: Welsh People's History Society.

Presentations will include: Richard Lewis on The Plebs League and the WEA in South Wales, Hywel Francis on South Wales Miners’ Library and the IWCE tradition, Rob Turnbull on Noah Ablett: an agitator to the end,Dave Chapple on Mark Starr and Colin Waugh.
There will be a Panel discussion and lots of participation

Lunch at 12.30.
Cost for day £6.00. Pay on the day.

Email now to confirm your place.

IWCE Network tries to
* develop a diverse range of education materials and approaches for trade union and other working class and progressive movement groups
* respect the role of the working class in making history, and in making the future.

Keith Venables, Convenor

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Woodberry Down history project

[from leaflet]


Woodberry Down Community Organisation (WDCO) is applying for funding for an oral history project – “Woodberry Down, the People’s Story” – and we would like your support and participation. We are looking for:

  • Personal histories and experiences of those who have come to live in Woodberry Down, from the 1950s to the present day.
  • Your high points and low points (if you had any!) of living here.
  • How you came to live in Woodberry Down
  • The people in the neighbourhood you remember best.

Eventually we hope to produce a book and exhibition. Right now we are looking for people who would be willing to:

  • Tell us your memories of Woodberry Down
  • Take part in the project by researching the history of the area or recording people’s memories
  • Letting the project copy any photographs you have of Woodberry Down and the people who have lived here.

If you can help or would like to be involved contact WDCO at 6 Chattenden House, Woodberry Down Estate, London, N4 2SG or e-mail:

(There is an interesting history of the estate here: - NB not connected to the WDCO)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clapton Festival event, 28 September.

"Memoirs of an East End Guttersnipe" by Brian Walker

3.00 p.m. on Saturday 28th at the Levy Centre, 18-24 Lower Clapton Road, E5

(part of the annual Clapton Festival).

Brian's personal recollections and anecdotes date back over seventy years and are documented on his website "Tales of the Old East End"  <>. Essentially this is the history of the life of a riverside community in Hackney filtered through the author's earliest memories and experiences.

Born in 1938 in the family home overlooking the River Lea, Brian still lives close to his former Lea Bridge home. His stories are told with wit, warmth and emotion and are filled with the everyday dramas which his family and their neighbours faced during the period encompassing World War II and the aftermath of war in the 1950s.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Salerno, September 1943

“The largest ever mutiny of British troops at war”
 On 20 September 1943 in a military equivalent of reading the Riot Act, 190-odd British soldiers (3 sergeants, 5 corporals, 11 lance corporals, 162 privates) in a field at Salerno in southern Italy were reminded of Section 7 of the Army Act, relating to Mutiny and Sedition: “The term ‘mutiny’ implies collective insubordination or a combination of two or more persons to resist or to induce others to resist lawful military authority.” In spite of their disbelief and shock at the threat of death or prolonged imprisonment if charged and convicted under the Act, they did not move when the order to pick up their kit, hit the road and proceed in the designated direction was given for the third time.

They considered that they had been deliberately misled, and that the order was a mistake, contravening previous instructions, with which it would be wrong to comply. In fact in the course of failed attempts to persuade them, it had already been admitted that a “cock-up” had “obviously” occurred. As an army psychiatrist put it in January 1945 after interviewing scores of the men in prison: “The absence of interest in them as individuals and the cavalier way their divisional loyalties seemed to be treated... produced a feeling of righteous indignation... “ (pp.41-42 in David – see below)

The remaining hard core of a draft brought to the transit camp from North Africa, they were nearly all veterans of the 50th Tyne-Tees and 51st Highland Divisions, several wounded or ill from the desert campaign – El Alamein, Monty and all that – who had been led to believe that they were being sent to rejoin their units, as would normally have been expected. Instead, through a series of confused signals, compounded by incompetence and bad faith, they were shipped in as reinforcements for an emergency which was over by the time they landed. Believing that the authorities would see sense, admit the error, and send them on to their own units, they found themselves back in North Africa, under arrest on a charge that could carry the death penalty or years of penal servitude.

The story of the price they paid for their principled stand, for months and in many cases years afterwards, is told in detail in Saul David’s 1995 book Mutiny at Salerno, which includes transcripts of the court martial proceedings among its exhaustive examination of the evidence. After imprisonment in a POW camp and a 5-day secret trial, the sentences were: the 3 sergeants to be shot, the corporals given 10 years, and privates 7 years (except one who had tried too late to recant his refusal and got 5 years). Even the assistant prosecutor saw these penalties, widely considered out of all proportion to the offence, as “harsh”. Furthermore, as he later pointed out, if their object was to stand as an awful warning to others, this completely failed due to it all being so secret.

After petitions were organised the death sentences were commuted, an agonising fortnight later, to 12 years, but it was only a chance visit to North Africa by the adjutant general and his insistence on seeing the papers, that “turned the whole case on its head”. Discovering among other things that the men had arrived in Salerno when the crisis was already over, he arranged for the suspension of all sentences .Not that the mutineers’ troubles were over. Their subsequent treatment by the army led to mass desertions by about 40% of those convicted, and consequent re-imprisonment.

From a radical historian’s point of view this is not perhaps an ‘ideal’ mutiny, far as it obviously was from being a rejection of war and militarism. Participants, by and large, were used to being perceived as, and prided themselves on being “good soldiers” – in military terms, not like Schweik. They did not take up arms, threaten officers or question the hierarchy. Their motivation was not disillusionment with army life or reluctance to go on fighting; not seeing through dominant ideology but rather having too much faith in it, taking it too literally. It was only when they found that their trust in the authorities to do the decent thing by them was fatally misplaced - the valued esprit de corps was not the supreme good and did not work like magic when it came to the crunch - that bitterness drove so many to get out at all costs and reclaim their lives as far as possible.

Still they deserve to be heard. In spite of several campaigns, and successive bouts of media interest (notably in the early 1980s and after the publication of David’s book), the episode with its aftermath remains one of the many stories largely hidden from mainstream history, especially the types which perpetuate the several myths of the Second World War. 

It was a spontaneous reaction from men who felt they had been messed about enough … no ringleaders and no conspiracy …      [Court martial] simply could not accept that such a large body of men could have acted spontaneously…

-  from Sir Ludovic Kennedy, Foreword to Saul David, Mutiny at Salerno.
“I didn’t think what we had done was mutiny... All we did was stand still.”
“We had never been treated in this way before and we weren’t going to put up with it.”
“Each man in that lot was capable of making up his own mind.”  

Saul David, Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed. London, Brassey’s, 1995. A thorough exposé of the “trail of official incompetence, deceit, injustice and insensitivity” (p.viii) making a convincing case for the mutineers.

Article from The Times 3 December 1999, "When we did not fight on the beaches". Reproduced by a grandson of one of those involved, at

3BM Television, A Very British Mutiny - shown in December 1999 on BBC2, according to Theaker, above; availability not known. (BBC Radio and TV programmes on the subject were broadcast in 1981 and 1982, and there was an article in The Listener.)

Parliamentary debate 22 Mar 2000 : Column 242WH. Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, providing an extended summary of the events and the case for the mutineers on behalf of a constituent. The fobbing-off response shows how unrepentant official intransigence continued  in the teeth of the evidence.

 (Featuring the constituent referred to by Begg, above, and also quoted extensively by David.)

And a non-source:

Max Arthur, ed. Forgotten Voices of the Second World War. London, Ebury Press, 2004; 486pp.  Look up Salerno, pp. 236-245 and you find some ‘personal accounts of American troops’ about the fighting, useful only in confirming that it preceded the arrival of the mutineers’ draft, not a word on the mutiny (or on any other – the term does not feature in the index) . Evidently from the viewpoint of orthodox history, some voices are best forgotten.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reform Riots remembered: Nottingham walk

On the 10th October at 6 p.m.
 Look out for the Loaf On A Stick!

'To the Castle' - retracing the 1831 Reform Riots.

Although the Reform Riots (when rioters e.g. burned down Nottingham Castle) are often referred to, little is known about who the rioters were and what may have motivated them.

We will follow in the rioters' footsteps, taking a close look at the direct action of these so called ‘misguided rascals’ and looking into their identities, motives as well as living and working conditions in early nineteenth century Nottingham.

We hope that people who have missed the previous walks can join us this time and of course would be much delighted to see familiar faces again.

As always the event is free of charge and the route wheelchair accessible
(although there are some hills and a few cobbles along the way).

This time we will do the walk as night falls, which may add a little more atmosphere. With a 6pm start we should arrive at the Castle at the same time as the rioters did 182 years ago. Furthermore there should already be a merry crowd on site as the beer festival will be in full swing by that time.

Please spread the word!

For more details, the leaflet, a poster, the handouts etc. please see our blog:

Please see also event details on Indymedia:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Squatting History: Exhibition 9th-16th September 2013

A Week-long exhibition just started...
Check out their website for lots of interesting archive posters etc.:

Made Possible by Squatting
9th-16th September 2013
15, Dock Street, London, E1 8JN
Exhibition// Archive// Workshops

London has 72,457 empty homes.
Rent is Too High.

As the Housing Crisis deepens we see:

• government policies of Cuts to Housing Benefit
• Bedroom Tax introduced
• regeneration that equals unaffordable 'Affordable' Housing

Made Possible by Squatting presents an archive of histories and stories of how Londoners have met their needs and desires through squatting the empty buildings which fill our city.

With over 30 stories from Crossroads Women’s Centre, to Islington Housing Co-op, Ramparts, and Clifton Mansions these histories will be traced through a series of film, illustration, photos, archive posters, workshops, and more!

The exhibition itself aims to be part of this tradition - but it happens in the context of repression. With the squatting of residential buildings already outlawed last year, and the further ban on commercial squats looming on the horizon, there has never been a more necessary time to celebrate squatting histories.

<<< when Housing is a Luxury, Squatting is a Necessity
Better to Squat than let Homes Rot>>>

Opening Hours 11am-10pm (see website for workshop timetable)

Nearest Tube: Tower Hill, Aldgate, Aldgate East
Follow on:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Hidden River Festival Sunday 22nd Sept.

One date coming up in two weeks is a celebration of one of North London's finest human-made watercourses, the New River, which is 400 years old this month.

The Hidden River Festival will be held on Sunday 22nd Sept, 12-5pm, in Finsbury Park, the American Garden, the stretch near the river (down near Endymion Road and Green lanes).

Nearest tube: Manor House; Overground train; Harringay Green Lanes; Buses: 29, 141, 341.

More details at:

Past Tense have just published 'Free Like Conduit Water', an updated and
expanded version of their old pamphlet on the New River. It discusses the
moral economy of water distribution in medieval London, how the New River
altered this in the interests of embryonic capitalism, and how the River
became contested between the Company and the people who lived near its
banks, who subverted it for their own uses... It also includes a long walk
down the River's length in London, and relates it to the radical history
and present of some of the areas it passes through.

'Free Like Conduit Water' is available for £5 plus £1.50 P&P from
past tense, c/o 56a Info Shop, 56 Crampton Street, London SE17 3AE,
(cheques payable to 'past tense publications'),

or from the publications page on their website:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Anti-militarism September 1963

Don’t Be A Soldier!

After the end of National Service (the last conscripts were demobbed in 1963), the focus of anti-militarist activism changed in the direction of subverting the recruiting efforts of the state, and trying to persuade those who had already been lured in to see through the propaganda.

The letter-writer (whose name and address have been trimmed from this image) emphasises the risk involved in publishing and distributing such material. “Sedition” and “incitement to disaffection” were taken very seriously by the state.

Letter and leaflet references: RON01519, RON01520, RON01521 (Thanks to Sparrows' Nest) at: