Friday, November 1, 2013


Summary Report, edited from organiser’s Interim Report

Past tense, Bristol Radical History Group, and a couple of other folk organised a Radical History Area at this year's London Anarchist bookfair, and we think it went well!  We will probably do it again next year.

We have put together some brief reports on the day's meetings:

1. Solidarity: Martial Law - Capitalism in Poland, 1980-89.

About 12 people attended this talk, which was very early in the day. Marcin talked about how Solidarity in Poland arose, the background of revolts in Poland over several decades, and how Solidarity's struggles against the Polish CP/state took grassroots forms, almost anarcho-syndicalist; only to face repression and mass detentions in 1983.
The arrests of many of its radical elements allowed a 'moderate' front to come to the fore, which later effected a deal with elements of the 'Communist' elite to steer Poland into the world capitalist economy - mainly by selling off Polish industry at catastrophically low rates to western firms. thus did some people get very rich. Lech Walesa's past as a police agent and moderating force through the 1970s were also discussed...

2. Running Down Whitehall with a Black Flag

Di Parkin spoke about her memories of being an anarchist in the 60s and beyond.
Highlights included:
* Being part of the hundred or so protestors that broke away from the CND Aldermaston march to picket a government nuclear bunker exposed by 'Spies for Peace'.
* Anarchists at big London demos in the 60s (hence the title of the talk
"running down Whitehall with a black flag - although as Di said, it should have been a black and red one!). This also included an account of being kettled before the term existed.
* Membership of the British section of the International Workers Association (IWA) and links with Spanish exiles.  

The questions and discussions were interesting and good natured, on:
* Di's social/cultural life as a 60s anarchist
* Her brief deviation into Trotskyism!
* Being a woman in a largely male milieu (this wasn't really an issue: "I never made the tea").

A video of a previous version of the talk is now available on the Bristol Radical History website:

3. “Anarchist Visual Art, Then and Now"

This meeting featured Gee Vaucher, legendary anarcho-punk graphic artist with Crass and with exitstencil press, active since the early eighties, and Kevin Caplicki, a member of Justseeds Artist Cooperative and DIY archivist at Interference Archive,  Brooklyn, which explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements.

This meeting was packed out. Some were turned away at the door!
Gee and Kevin mainly responded to audience questions about their work.
For a longer report on this meeting, see the file.

Gee said afterwards: "Big trouble for me is that it wasn't enough, as usual, just
when people are beginning to get their confidence to ask a question it all
dissolves and time’s up... "

4. Occupying is Good for your Health? - Hospital occupations in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, UK.

Rosanne spoke about the South London Women's Hospital occupation, 1984-5, and then Myk talked about the University College Hospital occupations of 1992-4. This was followed by Jill from the Save Lewisham, Hospital Campaign, who linked current struggles to research she has done on the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital work-in of 1976-9 (which set the tone for many later work-ins and occupations in hospitals in the 1970s and 80s).
A short but interesting discussion followed about current state of the NHS and workers’ and users’ horizons within it. There were some interesting self-criticisms of the UCH occupiers' expectations and analysis, "a very honest summary of the failings of their actions" and some brief thoughts about how vital worker involvement from the hospital is vital.
There was a sense that the NHS is in a greater crisis now even than the previous eras of crisis, and that occupations could maybe be a tactic in developing and upcoming struggles.

A dossier on some UK hospital occupations, including accounts of UCH and the S London Women's hospital, and several more, is available from past Tense for Ł5, (shameless plug). But we are collecting more accounts and will hopefully produce a larger work in time.

5. British Armed Forces Strikes and Mutinies: a radical history project
for the anniversary of WW1

Roger, from Bristol Radical History Group, spoke about mutinies in the British Armed forces at the end of World War 1, and Neil, from the Transpontine Blog (and past tense), talked about struggles against the War on the Home Front, using the example of Luton. Both stressed that there is much more research to be done, to find out the hidden undercurrents of resistance and discontent, both in the military and in society in general; research that they encouraged those present to begin taking on. Given the huger propaganda onslaught and Ł50 million worth of government funding coming to present an official line on WW1 history, a growing network are preparing to both research and draw attention to those that opposed the war, resisted militarisation and subverted the war effort.

(One of the sources mentioned by speakers:)

... A well attended meeting with some really good discussion. There was a positive sense that we could link counter-historical activity with resistance to the increased glorification of war/the pedestalisation of armed forces etc in current times. Since there is so much history that undermines the official myth of sacrifice and national unity that has been created around WW1, establishment attempts to glorify it all might easily fall on their face... if we get busy...

There's an email discussion list for people interested in organising/talking/planning counter-WW1 histories. To subscribe to the list, you send an mail to:
then reply to the email it sends to you.

The exhibitions:

Gee Vaucher's striking montages and JustSeeds’ excellent People's History posters adorned the walls of the meeting room and the Anarchist Time Travellers' sharp collages (comparing the utterances of the ruling classes in the current assault on welfare and during the 1834 New Poor Law introduction) were on display on the Second Floor landing.

No comments:

Post a Comment