Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Auguste Coulon – Special Branch Anarchist!

by Christopher Draper

(Following on from Part 1 and Part 2, this is Part 3 of the 'Walsall Anarchists' story)

Employing agent provocateurs to infiltrate and disrupt the British anarchist movement is a long and dishonourable tradition pioneered since its inception in 1883 by the “Metropolitan Police Special Branch (MPSB)”.  Despite the State’s grim determination to conceal its grubby little secrets anarchists always maintained that the “Walsall Bombers” were set up by MPSB agent Auguste Coulon.

“No voice speaks so loud as Dynamite, and we are glad to see it is getting into use all over the place…Good old Dynamite”!  (Auguste Coulon, 1891)

The Personal is Political
Auguste’s role in the “Walsall Bomb Plot” was outlined by Quail but little of Coulon’s life-story was uncovered. Convinced “the personal is political” and curious to understand how aspects of anarchist lives intertwine I researched AC’s biography. Regrettably, 127 years after the event the authorities continue to refuse my “Freedom of Information” requests and cynically shredded key documents (as I’ll report once my appeal process has been expended). Despite these difficulties I’ve identified Coulon’s origins, early politics, later decline and miserable demise.

Talented Linguist
Commonly described as a Frenchman and most recently by Butterworth as “half-French, half-Irish”, Coulon was actually born in Mouscron, Belgium in 1844 to Martial Coulon, a dyer. His elder brother, Pierre Joseph Ernest was skilled in the decoration and gilding of leatherwork whilst Auguste was an accomplished linguist. Studying in Florence, Paris and Berlin, August developed a love of European literature and acquired fluency in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and English. Despite describing himself as “Professor of Modern Languages” there’s no evidence Auguste ever actually held a Professorial chair at any university. In reality, Coulon spent most of his time scratching a precarious living from lending his linguistic skills to anyone able to supply sponsorship. An early commission came from Hossfield’s publishing company who asked him to contribute a volume to their popular series, “Learning the German Language in the Easiest and Quickest Way.

Pioneering Irish Socialism
In 1883 Auguste was engaged on a short-term contract to teach at a Dublin girls’ school. He was probably already radical as back home in Belgium politics ran in the family. A relative edited Le Proletaire, which was suppressed by the authorities whilst his brother, Pierre Joseph Ernest, was sought by French police for “crimes prejudicial to the security of the State”. In December 1885, encouraged and supported by nine comrades, Auguste initiated organised Socialism in Ireland with a meeting of The Socialist League convened in Abbey Street. The group’s opposition to parliamentary politics was outlined by comrade Michael Gabriel, “What would be the use of sending labour candidates to Parliament? It would be no use whatever to send them to talk to capitalists and landlords whose interests were different from theirs. As working men they would never get anything by using a vote.”
Dublin SL planned to hold weekly public meetings at the Oddfellows Hall in Upper Abbey Street with the first on Thursday 7th January 1886, entitled, “The Problems of Socialism”. About 30 people turned up and newspapers reported, “In the subsequent discussion some speakers expressed the hope that Socialism would never take root in Ireland and denounced its resort to assassination, but one or two advocated the use of the dagger.” When word got out that such unorthodox opinions had been expressed the “Oddfellows” refused permission for any future use of their facilities.

Auguste to the Rescue
The next venue didn’t last long either and so at the beginning of February a rather cloak-and-dagger arrangement was adopted, “An advertisement appeared in yesterday’s paper which was to the effect that a Socialist meeting would be held (where, it was not mentioned). The advertisement then stated that that admission would be gained to the meeting by applying to the members (who the members were was not mentioned)…”
The report continued, “The meetings of this association had been held first in the Oddfellows Hall, Abbey Street and then over some public house but these resorts were “proclaimed” and thus the mysterious advertisement not announcing the place of rendezvous was inserted.”
Fortunately, Coulon accommodatingly offered the use of his own office space, and so, “These socialists met at the house 50 Dawson Street in a room on the second floor…” The lecturer, Robert Reubin Lipman, concluded his speech to the applause of the assembled audience, “…Let the capitalists and landlords, aided by the powder and steel of their armies, unite and deny them, the labourers, their rights as long as they could, but the time was coming when the labourers would also unite to rise and vindicate their rights and their property!”

Family Man
Coulon rented the Dawson Street premises to run a language school. Advertising himself as “Monsieur Auguste Coulon, European Polyglot Institute…French, German taught all over Ireland, correspondence: stamp for prospectus; Evening Classes for French, Italian, Spanish, German, 50 Dawson Street, Dublin”.
Auguste was assisted by his wife, Helena who hailed from Wurttemberg, Germany, where her father, George Ulmschneider, was Superintendent of the Mauser Armaments Factory. The pair had married in 1884 at St Anne’s Church, Dublin where comrade Lipman served as best man and witness. Although Dawson Street was Auguste’s professional address the family actually lived at 9 Leeson Street. A daughter, Helena jnr was born in 1885: a son, August the following year and on 28th July 1888 the Coulon’s had their third and final child, another daughter, named Zelie Juliette.

The Dublin branch endured rocky relations with the SL’s Central Council in London which wasn’t yet as distinctly anarchist as it later became. Matters came to a head in October 1886 when the branch backed Charles Reuss and rebuked the leadership for expelling him from the League for being a spy in the pay of German police. A settlement was eventually cobbled together but the branch disintegrated the following March when Reuss’s treachery was dramatically demonstrated.
Coulon’s activism continued undiminished, running an eclectic outfit called Dublin Socialist Club as well as attaching himself from time to time to whatever local group seemed most militant. In the same month that the SL branch collapsed Coulon hosted an, “International Celebration of the Commune of Paris at 50 Dawson Street, the following nationalities being represented: English, Welsh, Scotch, Irish, French, Danish, Russian and American…A most enjoyable evening was wound up by comrade Coulon singing the Marseillaise in French”. Life continued in similar vein until in May 1889 Coulon made an extended visit to Paris and the family departed for London.

Napoleon of Notting Hill
The Coulons settled at 41 Talbot Grove, Notting Hill where Auguste joined the North Kensington SL branch. No slouch, he was soon giving talks for his new comrades at the Clarendon Coffee Tavern where he was initially billed as, “Auguste Coulon (Paris)”. On 16th April 1890 his topic was, “The French Revolution” but as spring turned into summer, Coulon took his turn on the branch’s outdoor soapbox at Latimer Road and in June, at Kingston market. By then he’d realised that he could better advance his professional and political ambitions by moving into central London so the Coulon’s transferred to 37 London Street, Tottenham Court which was handily placed for the Autonomie Club in Windmill Street.

Convivial Company
Ingratiating himself with members of the Autonomie, Coulon falsely complained that he’d been expelled from Hammersmith Socialist Society for preaching anarchy. He’d certainly alienated west London comrades by his constant entreaties for violence and determined distribution of the terrorist manifesto, L’Indicateur Anarchiste, containing instructions on dynamite and bomb-making.
Auguste joined the activist North London branch of the SL that met every Wednesday evening at 8pm at the Autonomie Club. Within weeks the branch embarked on a propaganda visit to Yarmouth where Coulon concluded every speech with a burst on his accordion.
Throughout the late summer and autumn of 1890 Auguste was an incendiary presence on the Sunday soapbox at Hyde Park alongside libertarian luminaries Edith Lupton, Thomas Cantwell and Mrs Lahr. He was also in contact with his Metropolitan Police Special Branch (MPSB) handler, Chief Inspector William Melville.

Sympathy for the Devil
On 18th July 1890 Coulon received his first official £2 payment from Special Branch but he may well have already been in the pay of other security services. Coulon’s prolonged 1889-90 trip to France looks suspicious. It’s clear that he didn’t really abandon his Dublin business merely to attend the 1889 Paris Exposition as his wife Helena claimed. In June 1889 he described himself to the Paris correspondent of the London Standard, as “the delegate who is to represent the Irish at the Socialist International Congress” but he appears self-appointed and certainly never returned to Dublin to report to his erstwhile Irish comrades. He intimated to Commonweal that he’d really gone to France to attend the Socialist Conference and then stayed on to report on French affairs (from 49 Rue de Billancourt). In typically grandiose fashion he’d had business cards printed describing himself as, “Correspondant du Commonweal de Londres”. In despatches Coulon derided French parliamentary politics, praised violence and advised English readers that, “The bourgeois shot 35,000 of our friends in the last commune. If so many are killed this time, they won’t be all on one side we can promise you.”
He claimed French parliamentarians were paid by the authorities to divert workers’ discontent into harmless channels, “It is a known fact, I say, that this party get secret money to play the game of the government.” Coulon’s linguistic expertise and extensive political contacts made him an attractive prospect for several nations’ security services and someone obviously met the considerable cost of his eight month sojourn in the French capital.

Enfant Terrible
MPSB files confirm that Coulon had come to the attention of the Irish Special Branch as early 1885 and it’s quite possible he operated as their agent years before his first formally recorded London payment. Perhaps he engineered disruption to nascent Irish socialism. Consider for a moment the difficulties the SL encountered securing a venue and the spying potential of Coulon’s provision of accommodation. Consider also the branch’s obdurate defence of the traitor Reuss despite HQ’s well-founded decision to expel him (trusting Reuss cost one anarchist his life). Coulon also wrote to SL HQ criticising and undermining branch organiser Michael Gabriel.
With two major International Socialist Conferences convened in Paris during Coulon’s 1889 stay the city was flooded with cops on the look out for collaborators. If Auguste wasn’t signed up there and then it was likely only because he was already “an old friend”. The anarchist historian Max Nettlau who met Coulon in Dublin in 1888 later described him as, “shady and shabby – most likely always a rascal”!

Coulon’s Cunning Plan
Individual MPSB officers accepted private commissions from overseas security agencies so uncovering conspiracies, either real and imagined, was a lucrative activity. Over the summer of 1890 Coulon plotted with his MPSB “handler” to entrap a group comprising both overseas and English anarchists. Auguste suggested to Louise Michel that she might kill two birds with one stone by starting an international anarchist school in London; providing an income for herself and an invaluable educational facility for comrades.
Michel was a trained teacher but her English was poor so she welcomed Auguste’s offer to act as both School Secretary and teach language lessons. Melville immediately rewarded him with a bonus payment and from December 1890 put Coulon on a weekly wage of £1 as Freedom announced, “It is proposed to start an international Socialist School in London, with Louise Michel for directress. The French Group in the Autonomie Club are taking the initiative in the affair…”

Wonderful Enterprise
The school was a prestigious project with a prospectus designed by Walter Crane. Kropotkin, Malatesta and William Morris all served on the steering committee and educational pioneer Margaret McMillan was amongst the teaching staff. In the New Year Commonweal confirmed that, “We have received a notice from Comrade Coulon that the International Socialist School…has opened at the Autonomie Club, 6 Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road, and he makes an appeal to all Socialists in the neighbourhood to send their children.”
A few weeks later Commonweal revealed, “The Committee have now secured large and commodious premises in the neighbourhood of Tottenham Court Road. Funds however are urgently needed and subscriptions should be sent to A Coulon, Secretary…” The new premises were 19 Fitzroy Street and Auguste offered patrons, “A portrait group of teachers and scholars”. Margaret McMillan provides a colourful snapshot of one of Coulon’s lessons, “Louise had just finished teaching the piano and Coulon, her assistant was teaching French, (behind Coulon) stood the blackboard with its terrible pictures; the Chicago Anarchists hanging by the neck”!

Incendiary Anarchist
As School Secretary, Coulon had artfully placed himself at the hub of a network not only able to harvest contact details of exiled anarchists but as the advert makes clear, also enabled to “legitimately” photograph children, parents and staff. Throughout 1891 Coulon carried his fiery torch of anarchy far beyond the school walls, advising Fred Charles that robbery is the anarchist answer to poverty. Commonweal readers were directed to launch an immediate General Strike and visiting Norwich, Auguste insisted workers, “PAY NO RENT!” Coulon also started teaching chemistry lessons at the Berners Street Club dedicated to explosives and bomb-making and ever a friend in need, he asked his Walsall comrades to find employment for Victor Cails.

Springing the Trap
Coulon was overcome by his own importance and by October 1891 his school colleagues had grown to resent his high-handed behaviour and suspect his incendiary lessons and before the end of the year he was asked to leave. By then his Walsall bomb-making plot was well advanced but it was imperative it bore fruit before he was exposed. On December 5th he despatched Battolla to Walsall to speed things up but when Giovanni complained of the inadequacy of their crude efforts it was clear to Coulon that it was risky to await a satisfactory completion so in the New Year the trap was prematurely sprung. On 6th January 1892 Joe Deakin was lured down to London and arrested by waiting officers with the other “conspirators” picked up over succeeding days.

State Conspiracy
When the trial opened and Coulon didn’t appear his erstwhile comrades realised he’d set them up. Lying to Parliament, the Home Secretary insisted that the State never, ever employed agent provocateurs! When the defence solicitor questioned Inspector Melville, “witness declined to say whether he had paid a man named Coulon for information in this case. – The Judge ruled that in the interest of the public service he need not do so.”
Three years later a disgruntled secret policeman let the cat out of the bag and detailed to reporters the mechanism of State complicity, “All information that Coulon supplied was taken possession of by Mr Melville, who submitted it to Mr Anderson, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Anderson would direct what action was to be taken in the matter…In serious cases every iota of information has to be reported to the Assistant Commissioner….during the course of the formation of the plot we have been discussing the Assistant Commissioner was in possession of all its various phases. And he in his turn was responsible to one man only, the Home Secretary.”

Nice Little Earner
Two anarchist “conspirators” were found not guilty but the rest were given long jail sentences, one sent down for five years and the remaining three given ten-year sentences. Coulon got a £4 bonus from Melville for the arrests and a 250% weekly pay increase during the four month prosecution period.
Coulon attempted to shift blame for the betrayal onto other comrades. When he was called to account at the Autonomie Club on January 10th he insisted his money didn’t originate from Melville but, “like all anarchists I live by plunder!” It didn’t wash and he was expelled.
Meanwhile, Commonweal’s editor, David Nicoll, campaigned for the release of his imprisoned comrades and collected evidence of Coulon’s guilt. Just as Nicoll was about to publish the police swooped, smashed up Commonweal’s printing equipment and imprisoned him for a year and a half. Utterly shameless and adding insult to injury, Coulon went on the offensive and distributed a series of handbills denouncing Nicoll as a police agent!

“Innocent Victims”
The cover of David Nicoll’s twenty-page account of the conspiracy proclaims, “Innocent Men in Penal Servitude” but the Walsall Four were not innocent; they did conspire to make bombs. Neither were they prosecuted to the full extent of the law as the maximum sentence allowable was fourteen years. George Cores, at a subsequent Walsall protest meeting, publicly declared the men, “innocent victims of a plot deliberately got up that they might be entrapped”. They were not innocent but they were entrapped, this severely mitigated their culpability and should have greatly reduced their sentences. With cruel, unacknowledged irony, Mr Justice Hawkins recognised this in granting Deakin a reduced sentence on the explicit basis, “that he thought Deakin had been the dupe and the victim”. In truth, all four men were entrapped by Coulon and duped into manufacturing “bombs for Russia” yet the judge readily acceded to MPSB’s demands to suppress Auguste’s key role in the conspiracy.
Cails and Battolla had undoubtedly indulged in loose talk at the Autonomie which Coulon had creatively exploited to link them with Charles and Deakin who had the means to provide practical effect to bomb-making. Once the conspiracy was sufficiently advanced searches and arrests were made by police without warrants, scare stories of the imminent threat of anarchist outrages were “leaked” to the press, the prisoners were then denied visitors and writing materials, provided with minimal food and confined in substandard conditions.
Deakin was induced to confess to conspiracy by a clever combination of whisky, cigars, threats and straightforward lies. During the trial the cynically selected judge, “Hanging Hawkins” systematically turned a deaf ear to all mention of police transgressions. All manner of prejudicial material was introduced into Court to associate, in the jury’s minds, the accused with the wildest of terrorist declarations. The police were even permitted to present their own bombs to the jury as apparent proof of the anarchists’ intentions. Despite the absence of any actual explosives, the law, recently enacted to convict Fenians, meant the remotest association with explosives, such as the coil of miner’s fuse found at the Socialist Club had to be justified by the accused in order to prove innocence – an outrageous reversal of the established principle of presumed innocence. Legally the men were guilty but the whole process was biased; as convinced anarchists the Walsall Four could have expected nothing different.

Snivelling Coward
Coulon’s next enterprise was the revived publication in London in May 1893 of a fiery French language journal, L’ International, designed to attract militant subscribers whose names and contact addresses would be handed on to the authorities. Unfortunately one of his targets, the militant anarchist hairdresser Louis Matha, realised who was behind the venture and warned continental comrades through the pages of La Revolte. Once again Coulon attempted to bluff it out and challenged him to a duel but failed to turn up when Matha accepted. Meanwhile, Coulon’s war of attrition with David Nicoll (lately released from jail), continued, as Nicoll shrewdly observed of L’International, “Incendiary sheets of this kind represent not Anarchy but Scotland Yard.”

Good Year for the Grass
In 1894 Coulon sent out flyers soliciting subscribers to a relaunch of the International School which had recently closed. Renamed, Ecole Anarchiste Industrielle, pupils were offered free tuition and print-training which would enable the enterprise to undertake commercial work to finance the school. Simultaneously, Coulon issued handbills advertising an unconnected, “Institute of Teachers” providing correspondence courses in “English, Classics, Modern and Oriental Languages”. Addressed from his home at 85, Sistova Road, Balham Coulon claimed to be working in association with a couple of intriguing characters, Hugh H Johnson the Principal of Liverpool’s pioneering “Moslem Institute” and “Major Foster, Royal Artillery, Professor of Fortifications”. Neither venture got off the ground, so carry on spying!

Worth a Bonus!
The spring of 1894 brought Auguste another couple of bonus payments although it’s not clear what he did to deserve them. It’s said Coulon had a hand in the April 12 arrest of the fugitive Meunier and probably also the capture two days later of Polti and Farnara and he openly boasted of trailing Martial Bourdin before he blew himself up. Coulon also found time to fire off a letter informing the Italian authorities that two anarchists they sought, Malato and Malatesta could be found in the city of Massa Carrara.
Coulon told the Pall Mall Gazette, “The Anarchists feel the London police hold them in the hollow of their hands. Doubtless those that have their misgivings about being watched are correct in their apprehensions. There are few whose dossiers are not filed at Scotland Yard.” Auguste romanticised but probably didn’t exaggerate when, in February 1894 he informed the Morning Leader, “I am in the service of the International Secret Police, which is subsidised by the Russian, German and French governments”.
Amazingly, Coulon wasn’t yet entirely abandoned by comrades and in 1895 two anarchists on the run from continental police stayed with him for a while in Balham. Charles Lutz, a Swiss anarchist also known as “Latour” and the Italian “illegalist” Amilcar Pomati and remarkably, both emerged unscathed.

Spent Force
In 1897 Coulon was still on a £1 a week retainer from Melville, obliged to stoke dissent and supply occasional tit-bits so on July 10 he tried to wind up Max Nettlau who had temporarily fallen out with David Nicoll. “I knew that first week you were in Dublin that you belonged to the Austrian police…I never told anyone but the late William Morris…Now your “Dear” Nicoll is doing a good thing exposing you…” Nettlau was unruffled and nobody took any notice.
Coulon’s blood money only stopped when Melville retired from the MPSB at the end of 1903. By then Auguste had received over £800 plus expenses from MPSB and had long abandoned all pretence of employment as “Professor of Languages”. He was living at 97 Cathles Road, Streatham and touting for business as a self-employed “Painter & Decorator” but couldn’t even get that business off the ground and settled for putting up wallpaper for another tradesman.
Impoverished and long since deserted by his wife, who’d gone to live with their daughter Zelie and her husband in Halifax, in 1923 Auguste Coulon, aged 78, died in Wandsworth Workhouse of “Cardio Vascular Degeneration” and was buried in Wandsworth Cemetery.

      Christopher Draper (December 2017)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Forward to 1918, 1848, and other anniversaries and events... i.e. more listings

4th anniversary of picket at Ashton Job Centre 10-12
Nothing if not festive...
Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

... week [beginning 18/12] it is the 4th anniversary of this weekly picket. Please join Charlotte and friends who stand outside the JC every week providing support including food parcels and advice. Bring some food if you can. Read more about the picket here https://thepoorsideof.life/
[From Mary Quaile Club]

Anarchists, Revolutionaries, and Franco-British Imperial Policing in French Chandernagore, 1905-1930

January 18, 2018 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm 

Venue: Royal Asiatic Society Lecture Theatre

14 Stephenson Way   London, NW1 2HD   United Kingdom
Phone: 02073884539
Website: http://www.royalasiaticsociety.org

(Free event, no booking required).
LSHG Spring 2018 Seminar Programme
London Socialist Historians Seminars Spring 2018
Monday 22nd January - Steve Cushion, '“By Our Own Hands"
        - A People's History of the Grenadian Revolution'
"Much ink has been spilt over the final days of the  Revolution in Grenada (1979-83), while much less research has been done on the preceding four years. By concentrating on the final implosion and discussing in infinite detail who was really to blame, there is a danger that many social advances will be forgotten. Caribbean Labour Solidarity has produced a pamphlet on the achievements of the Grenada Revolution intended to provide an easily accessed source of information on the achievements of the Grenadian people during the Revo’ and to counter the prevailing negative narrative arising from the tragic end of this exciting period in Caribbean history. The social and political achievements of the people of this tiny island, which was still suffering the legacy of slavery, colonialism and dictatorship, should inspire us all."
Steve Cushion is secretary of Caribbean Labour Solidarity. He is a committee member of both the Socialist History Society and the Society for Caribbean Studies. He is a retired university lecturer and is branch secretary of the London Retired Members’ branch of the University and Colleges Union. He is author of “A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution” and ” Killing Communists in Havana”.
Dennis Bartholomew worked in the Grenada High Commission during the period of the Revo’. He was a member of Cause for Concern, a UK-based group that supported the New Jewel Movement prior to 1979. Following the US invasion he has worked to promote the ideas and successes of the Grenadian Revolution.
Monday 5th February - Kevin Morgan, 'Communism and the Cult of the Individual: Leaders, Tribunes and Martyrs under Lenin and Stalin'

Monday 19th February - Marika Sherwood, ‘They were not communists they were independistas! The beginning of the Cold War in Ghana and Nigeria in 1948.’

Monday 5th March - Keith Flett, Monday 10th April '1848 revisited'

All at 5.30pm, Room 304, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1. Free without ticket.  For more information please contact Keith Flett at the address on the linked website.  

NEW: The latest issue of the London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter #63 is now online, with a comment piece by Keith Flett on the royal wedding, and a book review of Origins of Collective Decision Making by Andy Blunden which discusses the Chartists' view of democracy.  Other pieces include an obituary of William Pelz, and book reviews by Ian Birchall and Merilyn Moos.  With respect to the LSHG Newsletter, letters, articles, criticisms and contributions to debate are most welcome - please contact Keith Flett at the address on the LSHG website for more info, and on how to be a member of the LSHG. The deadline for the next issue of the Newsletter is 12 March 2018. The LSHG Spring seminar programme is listed above.
Call for Papers: Workshop on the German Revolution and the Radical Democratic Imaginary
The University of Exeter, 24 May 2018

"In the wake of the First World War, workers and soldiers across Europe organised into democratic councils in order to challenge existing social hierarchies and strive towards self-government and workers’ control over production. During the 1918 German Revolution, a number of institutions and
practices were proposed from within the German council movements to create a more participatory, democratic and worker-controlled society. Although there was much disagreement over specific proposals, council delegates were strongly in favour of deepening and extending existing forms of democracy beyond the limits of the bourgeois liberal state. Yet a hundred years on and political theory has drawn little from the discourses and practices of this significant historical era. Our aim with this workshop is to rejuvenate interest in political theorists and actors of the German Revolution and to place them in dialogue with conversations in radical democratic theory. We pose the question of how these political experiences should be theorised and what significance they hold for political practices today.
"The workshop will be an opportunity for scholars from a variety of disciplines to form ongoing research networks based on shared areas of interest. Through the workshop, we will organise a number of research groups in which scholars will be asked to pre-circulate papers and provide feedback to another member of their group. The idea of the conference is to cultivate a space for in-depth discussion and collaborative research. We are open to scholars engaging with the German Revolution from a variety of perspectives including council communism, libertarian socialism, anarcho-syndicalism and radical democracy, among others. Papers could also contribute to broader debates in political theory on questions of democracy, agency, representation and power. We welcome papers from both a theoretical and historical perspective and anticipate the conference to spark discussion between political theorists and historians.
"A limited number of bursaries will be available for postgraduate students to cover transportation costs. Please include a request with your abstract if you are a postgraduate student who would like to apply for such a bursary."

Deadline for submission of abstracts for conference papers (up to 300 words):
5PM, 26 January 2018. Send abstracts to j.muldoon@exeter.ac.uk

Workshop Date: 9:30AM - 6:00PM, 24 May 2018.
Workshop website: germanrev2018.wordpress.com
Organised by James Muldoon and Martin Moorby, University of Exeter
Independent Working Class Education Network 

IWCE Network

Because of the London NHS Demo on Saturday 3rd Feb,
we've had to POSTPONE the joint day school with We Own it.

It will now be on 19th May. More soon.


Keith Venables for IWCEN/WOI

Day Event looking at
Public Ownership: what would it look and feel like?   POSTPONED
Saturday 3rd February 2018 from 10.00 - 3.30
UnitetheUnion Building in Holborn, London.

Co-presented with We Own It. More details will follow but it's important to book soon.
You can email us at  iwceducation@yahoo.co.uk

Public Ownership: what would it look and feel like?
Day School organised by Independent Working Class Education Network and We Own It.
Saturday 3rd February, 2018, 10.30 - 3.30.
UnitetheUnion, 128 Theobald's RoadHolborn, London (nearest tube,
Holborn, WC1X 8TN)  £5.00 - pay on the day - includes a modest lunch.

"Public ownership used to be out in the wilderness. Now it’s all the rage! But we
will have to fight for it"
What are the key issues? 

What can we do to promote public ownership?
We'll provide interesting background and the opportunity for discussion on a range of issues and sectors. 
To Register email Keith Venables, iwceducation@yahoo.co.uk as soon as possible.
Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent,
SalfordM5 4WX

"Note to those of you who may be planning to visit the Library over the next few months: we will be short-staffed probably until mid-April due to a member of staff being called for lengthy jury service [...]  We are working on ways of ensuring we keep Library services running [...], but would ask anyone wanting to use us as a reader to contact us in advance to make an appointment, and to bear with us if there is some delay before an appointment is available.  Apologies, but we hope you understand."

Film screening Red October: Revolution in Russia
We mark both the New Year and the last week of our Voices of revolution exhibition with a free film screening on Wednesday 17 January at 2pm.  With rare archive footage, this documentary film marks 100 years since the Russian Revolution - exploring the history of the revolution, its impact in Britain, its cultural legacy and its reach worldwide with leading historians, labour movement figures and international perspectives.
It was produced by Platform Films with the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee, the Marx Memorial Library and the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies,and is narrated by Maxine Peake.
We also have a new booklet available giving the text of the display boards in our Russian Revolution exhibition.  So if you can't make it here to see the exhibition, you can still get a flavour of it!
It's only £2 plus p&p - click here to purchase one.
This screening marks the end of our Russian Revolution centenary exhibition Voices of revolution - which closes on Thursday, 18 January

2018 events
We have lots of talks, events and exhibitions planned for early 2018, from a celebration of the writings of Thomas Paine to a play about Sylvia Pankhurst to celebrate International Women's Day.
Click here for the full listing of future events.

In the 1820s radical groups in Manchester and elsewhere celebrated the birthday of Thomas Paine. At our joint event with the Mary Quaile Club "The world is my country", on Saturday 27 January from 1 to 4pm, we will be reviving the custom and highlighting Paine’s ideas in works such as Common senseThe rights of man and The age of reason, which were enormously influential in the British radical movement of the late 18th century.  
We are delighted to welcome as special guests the writer Trevor Griffiths, author of a play about Paine, These are the times, and Mandy Vere from News from Nowhere bookshop
This event is free.  Advance booking is strongly advised; emailtrustees@wcml.org.uk .

2018 is the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, in which some women first won the right to vote. To celebrate this landmark, Manchester’s radical feminist festival Wonder Women 2018 is offering a packed programme of exhibitions, tours, debates, performances and one-off screenings happening throughout March,
The Creative Tourist Web site gives details, including the WCML's hosting of Lynx Theatre's play about Sylvia Pankhurst on Saturday 3 March, and our event here on Saturday 10 March to celebrate the deposit at the Library of the original handwritten minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women's Trade Union Council.

For our next exhibition we are hosting a travelling exhibition from the Marx Memorial Library, The Tolpuddle Martyrs in print.  As well as detailing the history and impact of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, this also features contemporary newspaper reporting, some of it not seen in public for almost 200 years.
Items from the Library collection will also be presented alongside the exhibition.
The exhibition is open from 24 January to 15 February, Wed-Fri 1-5pm, and Saturday 3 February 10am-4pm.

UPDATE: LGBT History Month - How Arena 3 saved my life
The arrival of the very first lesbian newsletter, Arena 3, in 1964 was a quiet revolution. A talk by writer and researcher Jane Traies on Saturday 17 February at 2pm explores its impact through the oral testimonies of older lesbians whose lives were changed by this new contact with other women like themselves.  
Plus, the Manchester Lesbian Immigration Support Group will talk on their work with women from around the world who are seeking sanctuary in our area.
Admission free; all welcome.
50th anniversary of Roberts Arundel strike
"The 50th anniversary of the Roberts Arundel strike is marked by an exhibition organised by Stockport Trades Union Council and now showing at Stockport Local Heritage Library in the Central Library, Wellington Road South, Stockport SK1 3RS, Monday to Saturday, until Saturday 23 December.
"Throughout 1967 Stockport captured national headlines. 150 workers walked out in November 1966 when their new boss Robert Pomeranz from North Carolina refused to talk to the union. The issue was his decision to start a handful of women working at a lower rate than men had been paid for doing the same work until Pomeranz had made them redundant a few weeks earlier. The dispute quickly escalated when in less than a week he sacked every striker and immediately advertised 235 jobs in the Manchester Evening News. Despite numerous attempts to settle the dispute, the strike lasted until April 1968 when Pomeranz finally closed the factory.
"Drawing on the archives of the Library, local photographer Darren Ord has created an exhibition which shows how the strike made Stockport national news for over a year, with workers' Weeks of Action including mass pickets, marches and rallies as well as many examples of solidarity including a weekly levy of engineering workers across Stockport, Manchester, Ashton and Oldham which raised £95,000 – equivalent to £1,500,000 today."

Library opening hours over the Christmas period
The Library will close on Friday 22 December at 5pm, and re-open on Tuesday 2 January at 10am.
Festive regards to you all.

Please note that the talk by Adele Douglas on Spanish Civil War on 31 January LISTED BELOW* *has been cancelled.
Other events in our locality include: Manchester and the Spanish Civil War - talk*
*There will be a free talk on the response to the Spanish Civil War by the British Left, predominately in Manchester and the North West, on Wednesday 31 January from 6 to 7pm at Archives+, Manchester Central Library.   It will be given by Adele Douglas, who is undertaking a dissertation at the topic, and will highlight items from the Labour History Archive at the People's History Museum.
Wakefield Socialist History Group
From email, on Organising Committee meeting: 
*Alan Stewart gave a convenor's report.  The Group had hosted eight events at the Red Shed this year on: Robert Burns, World War One, the Spanish Civil War, Syndicalism, Democracy, George Orwell, the Yorkshire Miners and the Bolshevik Revolution. [See previous listings for more details of these on this blog] Some meetings had attracted over 40 people although the average was a very healthy 30.
*Ken Capstick was not able to attend this organisation meeting due to ill health.  However we discussed the options in terms of getting his work on David Swallow published.  Harris Brothers at Featherstone suggested.  To investigate further and also to discuss again at a short organising committee meeting after the Burns event on 27 January.
*Granville Williams spoke about the Campaign for Broadcasting Freedom's £20,000 crowd funding appeal to step up the battle to stop the Murdoch's buying up SKY TV.  
Please support... www.cpbf.org.ukstopmurdoch
*In terms of future events -on January 27 we have a Burns Night. On March 17 we intend to have "Socialism and the USA: Marxism and Class Struggle in America."  And then on May 19th..."Robert Tressell and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists."  All to be held at the Red Shed and start at 1pm.
*Bob Mitchell and Karen Stewart both advocated having an event later in the year about 1918 and women's franchise/suffragettes.  Agreed.
Next event:
SOCIALIST BURNS NIGHT on Saturday 27 January 1pm at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1.
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

Looking ahead:
On Saturday 24 March, the Wakefield Socialist History Group are holding an event at the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club), Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 on SOCIALISM AND THE USA: MARXISM AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN AMERICA.  It starts at 1pm.


’The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online’ 
with Houman Barekat, Joanna Walsh and Robert Barry
Wednesday 10th January, 7pm
Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase

’The New Poverty’ with Stephen Armstrong
Wednesday 17th January, 7pm
Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase

’Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of WWI to the Streets of Today’ with Anna Feigenbaum
Wednesday 31st January, 7pm
Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase

Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross,
London, N1 9DX
tel: 020 7837 4473
  e: shop@housmans.com
Friday 8 June 2018, University of Liverpool

"Around the time of the financial meltdown of 2008 and the ensuing economic crisis, the slogan ‘Fuck May ’68, Fight Now’ appeared on protest banners and spray-painted on walls all over Europe. In disavowing the legacies of that earlier moment of revolt and revolutionary optimism, it counterposed the urgencies of current struggles against the nostalgia and romance for the radical event. Yet disavowal or refusal have not been confined to a new generation of activists. The whole process of its memorialisation in the media and public culture can be said to have induced form of historical amnesia, in which, according to Paul Foot, a ‘1968 anniversary industry’ has portrayed what happened as ‘an aberration, a moment of delirium which seduced the youth of the time’. Even among historians, there has been a tendency to downgrade the significance of the 68 events in favour of far more consequential long-term processes of change running through the post-war period.
"But these have been far from the only response to the legacies of ’68. The reconstruction of past traditions of radicalism has been a central activity in many post-68 movements. The politics of the Women’s Liberatio_nMovement, for instance, was intimately linked to the rediscovery of women’s role as political agents and agitators in history. Indeed, the fusion of participatory politics and historical (or academic) study remains a vital legacy of 1968, represented, above all, in movements like History Workshop, Geschichtswerkst├Ątten, Dig Where You Stand, and others.
"This conference takes the 50th anniversary of 1968 as an occasion to critically assess the various ways in which radical events and movements since the 1960s have been retold, not just in historical writing, but through a broad range of cultural media, activities, and practices, including by activists themselves. It also seeks to explore how the representation of the past is involved in the struggle over cultural and political meaning in the present, over what counts as history and what does not. Finally, it aims to reflect on how memory and history continue to inform political activity in the contemporary moment. In doing so, the conference organisers invite contributions from activists, historians, and other scholars, but also artists, journalists, curators, archivists, educators, filmmakers, musicians, and cultural workers."

Points for discussion might include:
  • How do activists and movements remember (or ritualise) past traditions of political struggle?
  • What tensions or contradictions are negotiated in this process? (e.g. between past and the promise of a better future).
  • How have certain media and forms shaped the memory of radicalism?
  • What are the ethical and political implications of writing the history of the radical event? Or: How do we write the history of revolution in a post-revolutionary age?
  • Has the history and memory of 1968 become fetishised in academic research?
  • Is history still a weapon?
Presentations of up to 20 minutes are welcomed on any area of political or cultural protest since the 1960s along the lines described above. Please submit proposal abstracts of 250-300 words to Ian Gwinn, e-mail address: iagwinn@liverpool.ac.uk .Any enquiries may be sent to the same address.
The deadline for this call for participation is Friday, 16th February 2018.

Funding should be available for travel expenses and accommodation for those speakers who need it.
The conference will take place on Friday 8th June 2018.
From Mary Quaile Club:-

NEW: Bernadette Hyland will be  speaking on Wednesday 17th  January, 2pm,  in the Tameside Archives in  Ashton Library on Old Street.
She will be speak about her work on the Minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women's  Trades Council, 1895 - 1919.  For 24 years this organised women  in some of the low-paid jobs in Manchester. The organisers included Eva Gore-Booth and Mary Quaile. The  handwritten Minutes were unearthed during research into the life of Mary Quaile and were transcribed  in their entirety by Bernadette on behalf of the Mary Quaile Club.
More information: 

"The world is my country": a celebration of the life and writings of Thomas Paine, "the most valuable Englishman ever"

Saturday 27 January 2018, 1pm, at the Working Class Movement Library.

"In the 1820s radical  groups celebrated the birthday of Thomas Paine. At this event we will be reviving the custom and highlighting  the importance of Paine’s ideas in works such as Common Sense,The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason, which were enormously influential in the British radical movement of the late C18th and early C19th. 
The speakers will be:
  • Michael Herbert who will talk  about the celebrations of  Thomas Paine's birthday by radicals in Manchester and elsewhere.
  • Mandy Vere from Liverpool's News from Nowhere bookshop
  • Trevor Griffiths, author of a play about Thomas Paine, These are the Times. Trevor was born in Manchester and has written extensively for televison, film and the theatre from the 1970s onwards. His other work includes Occupations,  All Good Men,  Through the Night, Comedians, Reds, Food for the Ravens and the series Bill Brand.
Light refreshments will be served after the speeches.
This event is free and has been organised jointly by the Mary Quaile Club and the Working Class Movement Library. The venue is the Annexe at the rear of the library, whose address is 51 Crescent, Salford , M5 4WX. Directions here.

Advance booking is strongly recommended
To book a place please email:  maryquaileclub@gmail.com"

The Lynching: A Play Written & Performed by Jackie Walker

Thursday 18th January 2018 - Performance Start Time 7pm
Friends Meeting House Main Hall, 6 Mount Street, behind Central Library, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 5NS

Admission Free  Suggested Donation £10 waged/£5 unwaged - email contact@psc-manchester.org.uk to reserve seat

A report can be found at https://maryquaileclub.wordpress.com/

The Lynching - a play by Jackie Walker 18 January Manchester
The Lynching by Jackie Walker Flyer

Suspended from the Labour Party and vilified with fake accusations of antisemitism, Jackie Walker tells the story of her extraordinary activist parents and her own struggles fighting  racism in the UK.  How did a black, lifelong anti-racist and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn end up suspended from the Labour Party?

The Lynching is a theatrical performance, a ‘one woman’ show based on the history of black struggle. The play touches on her experiences as a black Jewish woman in the Labour Party and the struggle to bring the Palestinian narrative into the mainstream in the fight for Palestinian rights.

There will be a Q&A discussion session after the performance.

“… a great night. Jackie possesses a lovely singing voice and the honed acting skills of a veteran performer … very funny and frank about her own bolshy nature”  Alexei Sayle The Guardian  19 Nov 2017

Jackie’s play is not a diatribe … but a very skilfully crafted work of art … that forces the audience to draw their own conclusions about racism, oppression, witch-hunts and over-zealous social workers ” Suzanne Gannon  Labour Briefing 4 Nov 2017
At the Epicentre, West Street, Leytonstone E11 4LJ    
Doors open at 7.30pm Buffet (please bring veggie item if you can)
8.00pm Talk & discussion till 10pm & back to buffet till 10.30pm.

Travel and Access
·         Stratford stations & 257 bus
·         Leytonstone tube (exit left) & 257/W14 bus
·         Overground: Leytonstone High Road, turn right, short walk  (open from 14 January)
·         Disabled access
·         Car park / bikes can be brought in
·         Quiet children welcome
·         Phone to confirm the talk will be as shown
·         Open to all. No booking, just turn up
·         Enquiries 0208 555 5248 or  roskane@btinternet.com

Free entry: donations welcome / raffle   Voluntary membership £5 a year
The club is a real beacon of light.’ Peter Cormack, former Keeper, William Morris Gallery

Saturday 13th January 2018 
Radical Routes   Speaker: Emily Johns
Here we are in twenty-first-century Britain, in a world not of our making but one that has been moulded over thousands of years of exploitation and injustice. Radical Routes is a network of housing & worker co-ops stretching from Scotland to Cornwall seeking to change all this through positive social change. Imagine collectively taking control of our housing, work, education, health and play.  Imagine a horizontally organised, mutual aid network using consensus decision making to loan out a million pounds, to move property into common ownership, to make anarchy in action. Emily Johns is a member of Walden Pond Housing Co-op, an artist and Peace News production editor.

Saturday 10th February 2018
George Orwell, the Labour Party and the Left   Speaker: Professor John Newsinger
George Orwell was a lifelong socialist. As far as he was concerned, socialism was involved in the achievement of a democratic classless society, a society in which the rich had been altogether dispossessed. His experiences in Spain in the 1930s convinced him that this would require a revolution and he held to this belief through the Second World War, even hoping that the Attlee government might go down a revolutionary road. This talk examines the trajectory of his political thinking and his changing attitudes towards the Labour Party. John Newsinger is Professor of Modern History at Bath Spa University and the author of several books, including the graphic novel, 1917: The Red Year. He is co-editor of the journal George Orwell Studies and has a new book on Orwell, ‘Hope Lies in the Proles’: Orwell and the Left, coming out in March 2018.

 [further details of later meetings will be posted nearer the times]
Saturday 17th March 2018  ***NB THIRD Saturday***
Wounded Leaders: Why British Politics Is So Flawed   Speaker: Nick Duffell 

Saturday 14th April 2018
The Cinema Museum: Keeping Alive the Spirit of Cinema from the Days before the Multiplex 
Speaker: Martin Humphries 

Saturday 12th May 2018 
A Lancashire Miner in Walthamstow:  Sam Woods and the By-Election of 1897   Speaker: Professor John Shepherd 

Saturday 9th June 2018
Allotment Gardens: A Surprising History   Speaker: Dr Lesley Acton 

Saturday 14th July 2018 
The Vi Gostling Memorial Lecture  (part of the Leytonstone Festival) 
Radical Hospitality, Personalism and Freedom of Movement: A Catholic Worker Perspective   Speaker:  Nora Ziegler 

Saturday 11th August 2018
Is Local Press All Over?   Speaker: James Cracknell, Waltham Forest Echo 

Saturday 8th September 2018 I Ain't F***ing Doing That!  Working with People No One Wants to Work With   Speaker: Charlie Weinberg  
Saturday 13th October 2018 Paupers, Priests & Progressives:  A Personal History of the Salvation Army     Speaker: Captain Josh Selfe 
Saturday 10th November 2018 Lest We Forget: Cycling the Iron Curtain – The Borders of a Divided Europe  Speakers: Katherine and Tom Marshall 
Saturday 8th December 2018 How Far Away Are We from a World Free of Nuclear Weapons?  Speaker: Stephanie Clark
London CND 2018 conference
Sat 13 January 2018
12:00 – 17:00 GMT
SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies),
 University of London

"Living in interesting times: how the world's shaping up under President Trump."

Panel discussions on foreign policy, anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigning, and the UN global nuclear ban treaty – with plenty of time for audience participation.
*Molly Scott-Cato, Green MEP
*Catherine West MP
*Brian Becker, US anti-nuclear campaigner
*Enrique Castillo, Costa Rican Ambassador
*Jim Hoare, former UK ambassador to DPRK
*Sami Ramadani, Iraqi Democrats
Tickets are free to book…

(The conference will follow London CND's Annual General Meeting, which runs from 9.30am to 11.30am in SOAS Room G3.)
Updates and new listings to follow here as they come in.