Friday, January 29, 2016


Radical History Network (RaHN)


Notes of meeting

There were 11 adults and two infants in attendance. We started with a brief discussion at the beginning about the suitability of the venue (the meeting room had a notice on the door saying that children were not allowed!) and time of the meeting (perhaps a Sunday afternoon would be better for people with kids?).

After a brief introduction to RaHN, the first speaker was Gail Chester:

Gail Chester – “The struggle for council and community nurseries
in Hackney from the 1970s onwards”
The focus of Gail's talk was on institutional struggles (defending childcare provision by the state, workplaces etc.) but she noted that there also exists a parallel history of alternative childcare provision – for example non-traditional crèches.

Hackney has a long tradition of radicalism and feminism stretching back [at least?] to the 18th Century. It has been an ethnically diverse borough for a long time with various ups and downs with the local council. Central government always saw Hackney as a laboratory to try out new ideas, including a disastrous attempt to outsource housing benefit via a company called IT-net [which resulted in huge backlogs – see Provision for children under five years old has always been subject to local and national political whims.

Gail's son started at nursery in 1992. Shortly after this the council's right wing and male dominated Labour leadership threatened to close a number of nurseries across the borough. A campaign to resist the closures began, which resulted in nursery staff being told off by the council bigwigs because they didn't believe that parents were capable of self-organisation! The campaign was lots of people's first experience of direct action, including invading the council chamber with kids.

Gail also noticed that community nurseries were addressing council meetings with their grievances – indicating that there is a need for unity.

Council nurseries were funded by Hackney Council, under social services. Community nurseries were set up activists (some as part of radical squatting movements in the 1970s). Some of these became registered charities and more official in the 1980s – the illusion of independence remained, but ultimately they also relied on the council for funding.

In the eighties the Greater London Council had a policy of funding childcare, which lead to Turkish and Orthodox Jewish nurseries being founded. Hackney also had a policy on private nurseries. In the 1990s the borough had one of the best ratios of childcare in the country (still not brilliant though!).

Community campaigns:

Hackney Under Fives started in the 1970s, demanding 1,000 more nursery places.

Hackney Community Nurseries Association – campaigned to get the same pay and conditions as council nursery workers.

Both of these got submerged by bureaucracy/funding issues and did not survive the 1980s.

Hackney Flashers (an 80s feminist photography collective – see ) campaigned around childcare and documented the women and children at the Market Nursery near Broadway Market, which was originally set up in a derelict house. Broadway Market was a very deprived area in the early 80s! (The first women's refuges were also set up in squatted houses). The group's “Who's Holding The Baby” exhibition included quotes from Market Nursery users and highlighted the general lack of childcare provision.

The Market Nursery eventually received a short term licence from Hackney, but was run by the community, under parents' control. The nursery still exists today but is funded by the Learning Trust and the wealthy parents who have moved to the area recently. Despite the huge increase in wealth in the area, the nursery staff have had no pay rise for 11 years.

Other community nurseries:

The 136 Nursery started in Centerprise, a radical bookshop/centre.

Beatty Nursery, Beatty Road N16

Rainbow nursery still exists, as does a Turkish nursery.

Hackney Council's direct childcare provision

The council ran its own nursery and various nurseries were available to school staff.

1992-2002 was the heyday of Friends of Hackney Nurseries

There were demos on the town hall steps. Orthodox Jewish nursery staff got dispensations from Rabbis to join in a picket of Whitehall.

In 2001 Atherden Nursery was threatened with closure by the council, so local parents occupied it for several months until the decision was reversed. The council lied to get the occupiers out and then closed the nursery. The building was then reoccupied for 3 months as a community centre before being evicted and sold off.

Fountayne Nursery was also occupied and remained open.

But ultimately many of the victories were short lived – only surviving until the next round of funding cuts.

The early noughties saw the closure of a few community nurseries and new council structures (including the Learning Trust – another Hackney pilot experiment in outsourcing) meaning that there was less scope for community control.

In mainstream politics the noughties has seen a shift away from universal childcare towards a “safety net” for the worse off, or emphasis on getting parents back to work. The focus for kids is now on learning rather than play.

The 2012 cuts put many of the gains achieved by Friends of Hackney Nurseries in jeopardy, but also saw a brief resurgence of the group. An election hustings was invaded at the North London Muslim Centre and protestors were assured that there would be no cuts to nurseries before the election. And indeed many of the nurseries who challenged the cuts did manage to retain their grants. A successful campaign but with less community involvement – it was quite middle class.

Ivor Kallin – “When Islington nursery workers shared a platform with the miners”
Ivor has been a nursery worker since 1979 – based in Islington from the eighties and most of the nineties. He was involved with a four month strike in 1984 and still has his “Islington Workers Bite Back” t-shirt from that era.
The strike was interesting as it wasn't about pay, but the ratio of staff to children. The workers were fighting for better protection for children and their families. In the pre-internet era, one of the strikers would cycle down to Fleet Street with hand-typed press releases about the campaign.
Nursery workers were some of the poorest paid workers in Islington. They were mainly women (from diverse ethnic backgrounds). The workers were up against Margaret Hodge (who went on to become Minister for Children for the New Labour government in 2003 – she allegedly employed a nanny for her own children at the time of the strike) and the champagne socialist Labour council. The workers also had to lobby NALGO (National Association of Local Government Officers) to get strike pay. On the plus side they had good support from council workers including sympathetic strike action.
The strikers were demanding a minimum ratio of 1 staff member to 4 kids. They were initially offered 1:5. After a series of strikes, pickets, occupations and good coverage in the local press they achieved a ratio of 1 staff member to 4.3 kids.
The nursery workers strike took place at the same time as the Miners' Strike. Nursery workers marched through Islington with striking miners and representatives of both groups spoke at the town hall. Joint collections were organised to raise funds and a delegation from Islington was sent to a pit village in South Wales.
This was a long strike against a supposedly “radical” council. (Islington Town Hall had a bust of Lenin on display at the time!). For most participants this was their first experience of industrial action. Another strike followed on a similar theme in 1989.
Subsequent legislation has made the issue of staff/child ratios less subject to negotiation at a local level. In 2015 you can see ratios of as low as 1:8!
Ivor's focus has always been on working with families as well as individual children.
Andrea Francke who was due to talk on “the History of nursery campaigns at the Royal College of Art and London College of Communication” but wasn't able to attend. She sent a message to the meeting stressing how quickly knowledge of past struggles disappears – and how important it is to remember successes.


·         One participant noted that we still do not have 24 hour free childcare.

·         A question was asked about current alternatives to state run childcare. An example was given of parent run crèches, where parents each worked one day a week alongside a paid worker. The example of radical community nurseries was also raised (such as 123 Dartmouth Park Hill and one in Greenwood Road in Dalston). These were originally set up on women's lib principles. “We had it relatively easy then – there were empty properties to squat and it was possible to live on low wages or the dole.” - Gail.

·         One attendee had tried to set up a free/collective feminist nursery six years ago, but found it hard to get people to commit to involvement. Perhaps childcare is not seen as a community responsibility – rather as a private/personal one? The various legal/bureaucratic difficulties in setting up alternative childcare in the current climate were noted – CRB checks, insurance, not being able to use the facility for your own kids, etc.

·         General agreement that being a parent can radicalise you. Even taking a child to a meeting can make people feel excluded from feminist events (at which crèches are still the exception rather than the rule). This creates problems of who can actually attend political meetings – issues of class privilege?

·         A couple of years ago the London Radical Childcare Collective was active – setting up family friendly blocs on demos and other events. But it eventually wound up as there was a feeling that the collective was just being called in to do kids’ spaces – parents consuming their services rather than working collectively.

·         The development of the kids’ space at the London Anarchist Bookfair was also discussed. One participant felt that the old system of stallholders volunteering to do slots looking after children was extremely problematic (he had ended up doing this without any experience of skills in childcare and found it mildly terrifying). The professionalisation of the kids’ spaces at the bookfair should now mean that they are safer and more fun for the children – which means that parents can be more confident about attending the event.

·         The example of Hackney Independent's Kids' Cinema was given as an example of a small way that community politics can help with childcare issues. Hackney Independent were active in the noughties in Haggerston and Hoxton. During most half term holidays they would organise a cinema show for kids in estate community centres. These were usually well attended. “For me it was a crucial way of demonstrating that we were serious about community empowerment in working class areas. For a couple of hours parents could have a bit of breathing space, whilst their kids got to hang around with people their own age and maybe make new friends. To do this over a few years showed that we were about more than sticking a newsletter through people's doors and saying the right things. I think people were more likely to listen to what we had to say because of it.” - John

·         Christine Pratt's book on the history of midwives in Haringey was recommended.

·         It was suggested that mutual aid does still take place in families (and to some extent in communities) but we need to build up strong communities to make this happen on a wider scale. Dave noted the huge support he had had during the McLibel case. A group from Nottingham set up a rota for 18 months to help him out, including childcare.

·         Claimants’ Unions in the 1970s organised camps for kids in the countryside. The Big Green Gathering and Earth First camps are quite good for kids too.

·         When a lot of park playground equipment fell into disrepair in the 1980s, community organised Friends Groups worked to get it repaired or replaced.

·         A brief discussion of blue/pink gender stereotypes for kids – counteracted by the “Let Toys Be Toys” and “Pink Stinks” campaigns. And the Barbie Liberation Organisation who exchanged the voice boxes in Barbie and GI Joe dolls to amusing subversive effect.

This stereotyping is all seen in recent media coverage of neuroscience that argues there is a “male brain” and a “female brain” - debunked by the book “Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine.

·         Childcare workers are still underpaid and undervalued. 24 hour free childcare sounds like a crazy demand, but we have already won 24 hour healthcare funded by the tax payer (although this needs defending!).

·         Perhaps 24 hour free childcare isn't possible whilst the idea of the sanctity of motherhood is still prevalent. Mothers are supposed to be self-sacrificing.

·         Tax credits – are they an example of the state atomising people? Individual families given rebates to spend as consumers in the market of childcare... The focus now is on “getting women back to work”.

·         “In And Against The State” recommended. (A book from 1979 discussing the experience of working class people, mostly socialists, in working within the public sector in the late 1970s, or relying upon it as service provider; and the contradictions that reveals.)

·         Lordship Rec regeneration – now includes Polish Mums' group, drop-ins for parents.

·         Where can you fit 10 mothers with prams? Corporate spaces unwelcoming.

·         Does internet culture mean that we are closer to people around the world but less likely to interact with people across the street? Is it harder these days to feel safe when meeting strangers? A split between activist groups and community groups was noted. The latter are much more likely to publicise members' home addresses. It wasn't always like this – radical newsletters and bookshops in the 70s/80s often included home addresses for groups, contacts.

Children of the 1970s:
not in a nursery and not in London.
(These three were all right really.)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Spring Ahead: Listings Update

Stop Trident Rally in London – this Friday

Help make this the biggest mobilisation of people against Trident for a generation. If you’re in London, come to the rally at Friends House at Euston, this Friday, 19th February.
 Join us and speakers: Tariq Ali • Kate Hudson CND general secretary • Richard Norton Taylor The Guardian • Lindsey German Stop the War • Brian Eno • Bruce Kent CND vice president • Amelia Womack Green Party deputy leader • Shelly Asquith NUS

If you’re not in London, take a look at the CND website to find one of the many local events happening in the run up to (and after!) the demonstration.
#StopTrident Demonstration: Saturday 27th February
Assemble 12 noon 
Marble Arch, London
 Join us to say No to government plans to buy a new system at a cost of over £100 billion. Let's get the message out loud and clear: we don't want Trident! We’ll be marching from Marble Arch to a rally in Trafalgar Square – join us!
Need transport to the demo? Book your place on one of the many coaches coming from around the UK. Find your local transport on the CND website here.
 And you can sign up to the event on Facebook if you haven’t already.
The next seminar in the London Socialist Historians spring term series is on 
Monday 22nd February, 5.30 p.m. 
Room 304(third floor) Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, WC1.
 David Drake will speak on his new book, Paris at War 1939-1944.
 David Drake was Head of French and Head of Modern Languages at Middlesex University before teaching at the Institut d’études européennes (IEE) at Paris VIII University until he retired.
He has published extensively on French intellectuals and politics and has gained an international reputation as a Sartre scholar. He was President of the UK Sartre Society, co-edited Sartre Studies International for many years and has accepted invitations to  lecture on Sartre in Britain, France, Ireland, North America and China. 
 In 2005 his contribution to the promotion of French culture was recognised by the French government when he was made a Chevalier dans l'ordre des palmes académiques.
 Paris at War is his fourth book.
Saving the Feminist Library meeting, 7 p.m. 3rd Feb.
Yet again, the Feminist Library's landlord is threatening to put up our rent hugely! We cannot afford this major increase on our current situation and the change is imminent, so we are looking for any or all potential help that we can get. If you would like to pitch in and brainstorm with us, please do come and join us on Wednesday 3rd Feb, 7pm. If you cannot join us, you can support us in various ways by going to our website and donating/joining/spreading the word here: /
Feminist Library, 5 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7XW 020 7261 0879
Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair  in Cardiff, UK on February 20th.
Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair 2016 / Ffair Lyfrau Anarchaidd Caerdydd 2016
Workshops, Stalls, Music, Food, creche, and much more. Full programme of the day comming soon.
20/02/2016 at Cathays Community Centre from 10 am until late.

May we invite you to book for
1,    The Labour Party: where's it been? where's it going?
6 February 10.30 - 3.30 Ruskin House
Croydon CR0 1BD

or 2    World to Win: 19th March Norwich

or 3.     Women Making History: 2nd April Salford/Manchester

email Keith Venables:

Bruce Castle Museum

Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 8NU. 
Nearest Tube: Seven Sisters
Buses: Lordship Lane / Wood Green
Tottenham Bus: 243 / 123
Mainline: Station: Bruce Grove

Charlie Lahr and Family: Routes and Locations of an Émigré North London Bookseller and Anarchist Wednesday 27th January 2016

7.30pm · Doors open at 7pmRefreshments available
Supported by the Friends of Bruce CastleCharlie Lahr came to London from Germany in 1905 and settled - or better unsettled - in Muswell Hill, including for a time Alexandra Palace, where he was interned. An anarchist and a book publisher, he was involved in various bohemian circles, and appears as a idiosyncratic character in many memoirs and histories of the period. His wife, Esther, a Jewish anarchist, moved from the East End cigarette factories to running the bookshop, as well as working in the large asylum Colney Hatch and giving soap box speeches.

This illustrated talk by Esther Leslie explores the lives of the Lahrs and their relations through two world wars. It draws on the recently published memoir Yealm* by Sheila Lahr (Unkant, 2015)

Poster available

*"Yealm is a memoir by Sheila Lahr, born in 1927. Dealing with her first 18 years, it tells, through the eyes of a child, as much as through the lenses of social history, of the migration of Jews from the East, Anarchist circles in East End London, imprisonment in Alexandra Palace, London bohemia, schooling in Muswell Hill, war, evacuation, the world of clericalwork and all the intricacies of everyday life that bolster and ruin us. Through all this course the destructive energies of world events. We observe the ways in which people are flung around by forces that are greater than themselves.
Yealm is both intimate and grand-scale. All the contradictions that texture lives, personal and political, are assembled here, like the bundle of straw that lends the title, in order to make sense of the nonsense of official history."
‘If you want to know not just about one set of individual lives, not just about the local history of part of North London, not just about the awfulness of education, or the intransigence of bureaucracy, or even coming of age during the war, but if you want to get a sense of what it all might actually mean, to us as readers, as inheritors, as future components of the dustbin of history, then this book that you're holding in your hands is one of the things you should read. I've just finished it and I want to read it again.’ Ian Patterson, Queens College, Cam-bridge 
Paperback: 524 pages, published by Unkant, London, 2015 ISBN-10: 0992650941/ISBN-13: 978-0992650940
"Available online and usually in stock at The London Review Bookshop and Housman’s."

UPDATE: Text of talk now available (17pp. Word document as formatted) 

BOOK TALK. Anarchist Federation present:
‘Revolutionary Women’
with Nick Heath

Wednesday 3rd February, 7pm

Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase
Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 (nearest tube Kings Cross)

“[We] women must simply take our place without begging for it.” – Louise Michel

Anarchism proclaims itself against all hierarchies which would include the oppression of women. Women were to enter the anarchist movement precisely because they were attracted by these new liberating ideas of emancipation and equality. But the subordination of women was at best a peripheral concern of the anarchist movement as a whole.

Most anarchists refused to recognise the specificity of women’s subordination, and few men were willing to give up the power over women they had enjoyed for so long. Everywhere women were forced to fight against the hidebound attitudes and prejudices of their male comrades. Nevertheless they persisted. Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre, Louise Michel, and Lucy Parsons are the names that come to mind if one thinks of anarchist women but there were many others just as determined, devoted and courageous.

Nick Heath discusses the new Anarchist Federation pamphlet ‘Revolutionary Women’ (2015, £2) which makes an attempt to illuminate the lives of these lesser known women anarchists, such as Clara Gilbert Cole, Virginia Bolten,Victorine Brocher-Rouchy and Johanna Lahr, to mention just a few.

Screening of "Pride" with original LGSM Activist Mike Jackson in Bounds Green
Talkies Community Cinema is an entirely volunteer run, community pop-up cinema. Since September we have been presenting films  monthly in Bounds Green usually with a Q&A, live music or some other activity alongside the screening so, a fun night out ... and a film!
Our next screening is "Pride" on Feb 12th 7:30pm at Bounds Green Bowls and Tennis Club N11 2DD. There is information online here. It would be great if you could share this information with your networks and supporters. 
|PRIDE | Dir. Matthew Warchus | 2015 | UK |Cert 15 | 119 mins|
Talkies Bowes and Bounds brings you a chance to see this great British independent movie. 'Pride’ tells the real life inspiring tale of how a group of gay activists in London decided to fundraise for a mining community in South Wales during the miners’ strike of 1984-85.
In addition to the film, we are delighted that Mike Jackson, one of the original LGSM activists will join us for a Q&A.
Tickets £5 Book Online Tickets also on sale from La Coppia 135 Myddleton Road N22


Big Brother – Who’s Watching You? Mark Jenner meeting

February 26 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Why did undercover cop Mark Jenner infiltrate Hackney campaigns in the 1990s?

The Special Demonstration Squad’s Mark Jenner was deployed using the name Mark Cassidy.

The Undercover Research Group’s extensive profile of Jenner shows the range of issues he spied on – anti-racist campaigns, trade unions, Irish republicanism and Hackney community campaigns. He chaired meetings, wrote articles and instigated action.

Why was he there?

Graham Smith – former secretary of Hackney Community Defence Association, founding member of the Colin Roach Centre

John McDonnell MP – shadow chancellor and social justice campaigner

Female speaker from Police Spies Out of Lives who was affected by
undercover policing in Hackney

Mark Metcalf – founder member of the Colin Roach Centre, NUJ member,
editor of the Unite Rebel Road and book of the month projects

Friday 26 February
Doors open 7pm for prompt 7.30 start

Chats Palace, 42-44 Brooksby's Walk, London, E9 6DF
Phone: 0208 533 0227


Mark Metcalf wrote There Is No Way Of Knowing How Much Damage Jenner
Caused shortly after Jenner was exposed.

“Alison”, an activist who was deceived into a five year co-habiting
relationship with Jenner, gave this testimony to parliament and told her
story to Newsnight in 2014.

See also
Newsnight programme: "Stephen \Lawrence and Police Corruption" (Part 2 of 3 video)


David Goodway on GDH Cole

Saturday 23 January 2016 
G.D.H. Cole: A Libertarian Trapped in the Labour Party 
David Goodway 
New venue: MayDay Rooms. 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH, 2.00 – 4.30 pm 
Meeting organised by the New Anarchist Research Group "From the 1920s until his death in 1959 Cole was the pre-eminent Labour intellectual, surpassing Harold Laski and R.H. Tawney in the proliferation of his publications and general omnipresence. The paradox is that he was an extremely restive, critical member of the Labour Party, going so far as [to] say towards the end of his life that he was ‘neither a Communist nor a Social Democrat in the ordinary sense, but something, not betwixt and between these two, but essentially different from both’. ‘I was’, he said, ‘– and I remain – a Guild Socialist.’  David Goodway taught sociology, history and Victorian studies to mainly adult students from 1969 until the University of Leeds closed its School of Continuing Education in 2005. For twenty-five years he has written principally on anarchism and libertarian socialism, publishing collections of the writings of Alex Comfort, Herbert Read, ‘Maurice Brinton’ and Nicolas Walter and of the correspondence between John Cowper Powys and Emma Goldman; Talking Anarchy with Colin Ward (2nd edition, 2014); as well as Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward (2nd edition, 2012). But his first book was London Chartism 1838-1848 (1982); and he has recently published The Real History of Chartism (2013) and an edition of George Julian Harney’s late journalism, The Chartists Were Right (2014). He was the convenor of the original Anarchist Research Group."

The next event for the Public History Discussion group, ‘Commemorating Anti-Racism: The origins of the C.L.R. James Library in Dalston, Hackney,’ with speaker Dr. Christian Hogsbjerg will be held on Saturday 13th February in room 6.12 at UCL's Institute of Archaeology.
For more information please see: and the attached leaflet.

We will be serving tea and coffee from 11:00 in room 6.09. The talk will start promptly at 11:30, lasting until lunchtime (about 13:00).

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives 

Exhibition continues: The Wapping Dispute: The Workers’ Story

Until – Thursday 11 February 2016 

The Wapping Dispute began on 24 January 1986, when Rupert Murdoch, owner of four of Britain’s leading newspapers, including The Sun and The Times, sought to move production from Fleet Street in central London to a new non-union print works in Wapping. This led to a strike by the print unions, who fought to save thousands of jobs and the basic rights of workers to organise in defence of their conditions. 

In 2011 the 25th anniversary of the year-long strike and the ruthless dismissal of 5500 workers by Rupert Murdoch was marked by an exhibition which presented the workers’ story of the dispute and provided a political context. We are pleased to be hosting the exhibition at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives from December 2015 until February 2016, to mark the 30th anniversary of the strike. The exhibition will includes dramatic accounts and photographs of the dispute, in addition to objects and items from the time, including banners, posters, badges, and press articles...
art soup: the art of the modern  Tues eves 23 Feb – 22 March, 7–8.30 p.m.
Full - £50 Concessions - £45T&Shop, 78 Green Lanes, London
New Hackney creative org, CARAVAN ARTS, presents 'art soup' -  5 week pop up courses on art, artists and ideas in interesting and quirky venues around North and East London. The courses are informal, informative and discussion based, offering a chance to meet people, discuss art and eat soup! 
The art of the modern will be held in Green Lanes cafe and supper club favourite, T&Shop  - it offers an alternative take on art of the late 19th/20th C, mapping the changes in the world through the creative explosion of the avant garde. We'll look at radical movements and styles, analysing specific works and the role of artists in times of political, social and technological change. The course will critique traditional approaches, looking through feminist, postmodern and post-colonial eyes and giving platforms to the known, obscure and brilliant artists of the modern age.
all ages and levels welcome, but places are limited!
Early bird tickets - 10% off if you book before 1 Feb
Wakefield Socialist History Group
Our meeting, THE LEVELLERS AND THE DIGGERS, is on Saturday 13 February, 1pm at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1.
The speakers are Ian Brooke, Steve Freeman and Shaun Cohen.  Kitty Rees is chairing.
The venue is near the rear entrance to Trinity Walk Shopping is about 10 minutes walk or so from Wakefield Westgate and Wakefield Kirkgate Railway Stations and five minutes walk from the bus station.
All are welcome. Admission is free and we have free snacks.   
There is also an bar which has won many CAMRA awards.
We also have a meeting on Saturday 27 February, 1pm on WILLIAM MORRIS.
Then on Saturday 16 July - again at the Red Shed - a meeting on TOLPUDDLE AND THE FIGHT FOR TRADE UNION RIGHTS TODAY.

Here is a short piece on Richard Lilburne, one of the most prominent Levellers:

John Lilburne was born in Sunderland, the third son of RIchard Lilburne, a minor country gentleman.  His mother was daughter of Thomas Hixon, master of the King's Wardrobe at Greenwich Palace.
He was educated in Newcastle (probably at the Royal Free Grammar School) and educated also in Bishop Auckland.
In the 1630's he was apprenticed in London to Thomas Hewson, a wholesale clothier and Puritan.  Through him he got to know John Bostwick, a campaigner against Episcopacy.
Soon Lilburne was himself involved in the printing and distribution of unlicensed Puritan books and pamphlets.  It led to him being arrested in December 1637 and being taken before the Court of Star Chamber.
He was sentenced on 13 February 1638.  In addition to being fined £500 he was also to be whipped at cart-tail from Fleet Prison to New Palace Yard, Westminster.  There he was to stand in pillory.  Then he would be imprisoned until he "conformed and admitted his guilt."
Languishing in prison, he wrote the first of many pamphlets publicising the injustices against him.  And when King Charles reluctantly summoned the Long Parliament in 1640 Oliver Cromwell MP seized the opportunity to highlight Lilburne's case.  Parliament duly ordered his release.
When the first Civil War broke out Lilburne enlisted as captain in Lord Brooke's regiment of foot and fought at the battle of Edgehill.
He resigned his commission in April 1645 however and was imprisoned that summer for having denounced MPs who lived in comfort whilst common soldiers fought and died for Parliament.
In July 1646 he was in trouble again.  He was sent to the Tower for having denounced his former commander Earl of Manchester as a traitor and Royalist sympathiser.  There he continued to write pamphlets -smuggled out and published by friends and supporters- that drew attention to examples of hypocrisy, corruption and profiteering in high places.
Lilburne wanted a new form of accountable government and whilst still in prison was associated with the drafting of the "Leveller Manifesto: An Agreement of the People."
Released on bail, he hurried to support Leveller mutineers at Corkbush field and then went to London to try build up Leveller organisation.
He and other Leveller leaders were arrested however in March 1649.  He'd already attacked the new republican government in "England's New Chains Discovered."  But he was still found not guilty of high treason and of inciting mutinies.
Lilburne died in 1657.  As highlighted, Lilburne had faced along series of trials throughout his life and became known as "Freeborn John" because of his defence of rights such as that to hear the accusation, face one's accusers and not to incriminate oneself.  Indeed he is seen as having inspired the 5th Amendment to the American Constitution and is cited by many constitutional jurists and scholars.

By: Alan Stewart, Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

How It Went...
Forty one people packed in to the meeting room at Wakefield's Red Shed on Saturday 13 February to hear three speakers talk about two 17th century radical movements, THE LEVELLERS AND THE DIGGERS.
Ian Brooke, author of "England's Lost Revolution", argued that the Levellers were the "first political party of the English people."  They believed in religious tolerance including for Catholics.  They opposed armies being sent to Ireland and argued that the Irish should be treated as equals.
Shaun Cohen from the Ford Maguire Society emphasised that the Levellers and Diggers were two quite separate groups.  We should be careful not to conflate the two.  He argued also however that "we need to remember their ideas."  They are "part of our history" and "part of our tradition."
The third speaker, Steve Freeman from the Republican Socialist Alliance, went on to relate the ideas of the Levellers and Diggers to events today.  There is a "democratic crisis in this country."  Power is concentrated in the institutions of the Crown.  We need a republican party and a democratic revolution.
An hour of lively discussion followed after the speeches.  Points were raised about the class nature of the Levellers, press freedom, reclaiming public spaces and resisting current government policies.

On Saturday 27 February, Wakefield Socialist History Group, are holding a meeting, "William Morris: Revolutionary Socialist or Utopian Dreamer" at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1.  The event starts at 1pm.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

 William Morris was born in Walthamstow in 1834 - a place he described as then being a "suburban village on the edge of Epping Forest."  He told friends that his father was a businessman in the city and that his parents were able to send him to Marlborough, a "new and very rough school." 
Just before he went off there though his father died.  However latterly his father had been indulging in lucrative mining speculation and the family were very well off.
In 1852 Morris sat a matriculation examination to Exeter College, Oxford.  He went up the following year.  There he fell under the influence of the HIgh Church or Puseyite School.  He and friend Edward Burne -who he  met at Oxford- both seemed destined for ecclesiastical careers.
Yet Morris was also exposed to -and inspired by- the arguments of those critical of the prevalent materialism of the age.  He heard Carlyle's denunciations of the "dehumanising effects of the cash nexus." And he read Ruskin postulate that art is a "public concern."  It is a "measure of a nation's wellbeing rather than a hobby for the elite."
Morris himself was now writing poetry and whilst still a student he set up a literary publication, "The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine."  When he finished studies he was briefly articled to G.E. Street, the architect, but soon embarked -Leopold (2003) says- on a career combining "decorative art and creative writing."  His firm -Morris and Co.- would go on to do pivotal work with stained glass, embroidery and painted furniture.  Plus the first of his distinctive wall paper designs were registered in 1864.
His active involvement in politics dates from 1876.  Disraeli had sanctioned an alliance with the Turks to wage war on Russia despite Turkish atrocities committed on the Balkan people.  Morris became Treasurer of the Eastern Question Association and in April 1877 addressed his pamphlet, "Unjust War" to "the working men of England."
By 1880 he saw that the Liberals were just as bad. Gladstone had reneged on promises of radical reform at home.  Plus abroad his coercion of the Irish was appalling too.  Morris, who'd read Marx's CAPITAL, in French, was being increasingly drawn to socialist ideas instead.

"We are Wakefield " event Friday, 19th February, 7.30pm at Lightwaves in Wakefield

"There's tons going on at the Working Class Movement Library..."

 It’s Queer Up North? Working Class Men and Same-Sex Desire in the North of England
This coming Saturday, 6 February at 2pm Helen Smith from the University of Lincoln will be giving our LGBT History Month talk, with readings by Mike Joyce.
The event will delve into the lives and loves of working class men in the north throughout the 20th century. Through her research Helen has uncovered many stories that had been lost and because of this, gives an alternative history of same-sex desire.
Admission free; light refreshments afterwards.  This event is part of LGBT History Month.

National Festival of LGBT History
The above event acts as a curtain-raiser to the National Festival of LGBT History which takes place at the People's History Museum on Saturday 27 February. The programme includes talks, discussion, tours, theatre and music.  Highlights include talks from musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Prof Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History. The full programme is at  There is also an LGBT history tour on Friday 26 February, 1.15–2pm.

No Power on Earth Living History play performances
The 30-minute free performance of our Living History play about WW1 conscientious objector James Hudson on Saturday 5 March will be at 12.30pm, not at 2pm as noted in the previous e-bulletin.  Sorry about that.
That's a day to bring your butties, because once you've watched the play you can stay on for our International Women's Day talk which is at 2pm that day...  See details below.
No Power on Earth, a monologue telling the story of an ordinary school teacher at the start of the First World War who finds himself at odds with the popular mood, can also be seen at Salford Museum and Art Gallery on Sunday 21 February at 2pm, and at the Library on Wednesday 2 March at 1pm.
We are delighted to announce that Joel Parry (to be found on Twitter at @parry_joel) will be playing the part of James Hudson.
The performances accompany the Library's current exhibition To End All Wars, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Remembering Mary Barbour - International Women's Day event
On Saturday 5 March at 2pm the Library's IWD event welcomes Catriona Burness who will give a talk, 'Remembering Mary Barbour - social reformer, rent strike leader, women's peace crusader and pioneering woman councillor'.
Mary Barbour worked tirelessly to change laws to help families in poverty.  Her capacity to mobilise working class families, especially women, to challenge the power of landlords and the state during the 1915 Govan rent strike led to the passing of one of Europe’s first rent restriction acts.  She also fought for free school milk, children’s playgrounds, municipal wash-houses, and an end to slum housing.
This event will also feature a discussion on current related issues. Admission free; light refreshments afterwards.
This event is part of Wonder Women, Manchester’s annual feminist festival. From 3-13 March 2016, we celebrate the women’s movement born in our city through film, art, music, walking tours, gallery takeovers, comedy and debate, asking how far we’ve come in 100 years – and how far we have yet to go. Visit - and browse the full events listings at

Wars of position: Communists on the media in 1930s Britain
A talk by Dr Ben Harker, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British Literature at the University of Manchester, takes place tomorrow, Tuesday 2 February, at the John Rylands Library from 12-1pm.
Newspapers were central to the identities of the Soviet-inspired Communist Parties in the 20th century, seeming to provide a means to expose the capitalist system and to organise the revolutionary forces in opposition.  Communists in the West, however, increasingly found themselves operating in a thickly layered and rapidly changing media landscape of national radio, newsreels, mass-circulation tabloid and picture newspapers and emerging television.  This talk asks how Communists in Britain navigated that landscape in the 1930s.
The Research Forum takes place in the Christie Room at the John Rylands Library. Entry is free and open to all - just turn up on the day.

Resistance to World War One - conference
There is a conference at the University of Leeds from 18 to 20 March, Resistance to War 1914-1924. This international conference brings together scholars from more than eleven nations and community groups from across the UK to explore aspects of opposition to the First World War during and in the aftermath of conflict.
You can register for the full 3-day conference or for the Conscientious Objectors event on Saturday 19 March.

Our mailing address is: 
Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent
Salford, M5 4WX


Class Inequality: Narratives from the inside

New Anarchist Research Group 
Saturday 27 February 2016 
MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1 DH 2.00- 4.30 pm 
While the 1% rule, poor neighbourhoods have become the subject of public concern and media scorn, blamed for society's ills. My research focuses on their stories from the inside. Having lived on a council estate most of my life I use my ‘insider’ status to tell the stories of working class people. My recent book 'Getting By' is set in St Anns a council estate in Nottingham however over the last two years I have been undertaking ethnographic research in East London specifically focused upon class cleansing and gentrification 
 Lisa Mckenzie is a research fellow in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, working on issues of social inequality and class stratification through ethnographic research. Lisa brings an unusual and innovative approach to research by means of her extensive experience of bringing the academic world and local community together. 
- See more at: 
 Please note... new venue, The MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH. The nearest tube station is St Paul's, but there are others close by. For more details about the MayDay Rooms and how to get to there (including a map) go to there website:

Sites of Resistance: Radical Bookselling
A discussion event
Tuesday 9th February 2016, 6.30-8pm, 
Institute of Archaeology, Room 6.12
31-34 Gordon Square

And of course our own next meeting.

Call for Papers: British Communism and Commitment
Day-school, 9th June 2016. Manchester
‘I am not ready to join the party’, wrote the novelist Harold Heslop to leading CPGB party theoretician, Rajani Palme Dutt in 1936, recognising the forbidding level of activism expected. The mandatory Communist hyper-commitment repelled potential recruits and actual members alike, especially in the early years. But others who joined the party then and later found through Communist commitment a meaningful way of life and a framework for understanding the world.
Bringing together academics from a wide range of disciplines and former party activists, this day-school analyses the complexities of commitment in the British Communist Party over its seventy-year history (1920-1991). Papers (20 minutes) might cover, but aren’t restricted to:
  • The motivations and trajectories of party ‘hardliners’ who dutifully observed party discipline and the party line, regardless of misgivings;
  • Communism as a way of life;
  • Expulsion and the fear of it;
  • Autobiographies written by former Communists;
  • Figures who struggled to reconcile vocational, professional or artistic commitments with their Communism;
  • ‘Loyal dissidents’ who remained fundamentally committed to the party while often challenging and seeking to enlarge its assumptions, procedures and priorities;
  • Those who challenged what they saw as dominant party perceptions that ‘race’, gender and sexuality were secondary to class as sites of oppression;
  • Activists who considered their ultimate commitment as being to Communist principles from which they believed the party to have deviated, and who challenged the party on those grounds;
  • Those who transferred their abiding Marxist commitments to different currents or organisations—Trotskyist, New Left, Maoist—and the complex relations with the CPGB that followed.
Part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Wars of Position: Communism and Civil Society’, the day-school will be held in the Reading Room of the Labour History Archive and Study Centre in the People’s History Museum, Manchester, and will include a tour of the CPGB archive holdings. It will mark the opening to researchers of a new tranche of significant CP archive material relating primarily to the 1950-91 period (the papers of John Attfield, Monty Johnstone and Paul Olive). The event will conclude with a round-table discussion about Communism, commitment and the archive chaired by Professor Kevin Morgan and featuring Francis King (historian, former CP activist and archivist, editor of Socialist History), and John Attfield (historian and former secretary of the Communist Party History Group).
Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be e-mailed to Ben Harker ( by 1/4/16. radicalstudiesnetwork | 28/01/2016 at 5:01 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: