Monday, September 22, 2014

RaHN “Resistance to World War One” meeting 10th Sept 2014

Notes from the meeting
Once again there was a good turnout with good contributions from all.

Nick Heath: Resistance to World War One
Nick has been studying this history in detail, which is far from easy as almost all the records of hearings of Conscientious Objectors (COs) were burned. His sources have been newspapers (socialist, anarchist, local, national) and books including:

Ken Weller - “'Don't be a soldier!' The radical anti-war movement in north London 1914-1918”
John Quail’s - “The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British Anarchists” –
(both of which are due to be republished soon.)
and “Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an English Community's Opposition to the Great War” by Cyril Pearce (recently republished).

Nick mentioned that resistance to the war in the UK was not confined to the 16,000 registered conscientious objectors but also included many people who applied for this status but were rejected. CO’s were from different backgrounds – working class, intellectuals and merchants. They included various beliefs such as socialists, anarchists, Quakers and other religious groups.
Nick feels that the official commemorations of the 1914-1918 war have become a celebration of sacrifice and justification for wars happening now. “In some ways World War One never ended”. We now face wars across the world and the tempo of warfare is hotting up.
Prior to 1914 anarchists and socialists had said that they would call for a general strike if war broke out, but this did not happen in most cases – a capitulation. Only a minority of these groups actually opposed the war on internationalist principles.
Indeed, suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst became patriotic from 1914 onwards and were involved with starting the “white feather” campaign to shame men into enlisting. (Sylvia Pankhurst and other suffragettes remained opposed to the war).
Aspiring conscientious objectors were not treated well and faced very biased tribunals. The court in Newcastle was seen as being particularly biased - tribunals there were met with protests, including an occupation.
Other networks of resistance operated alongside support for COs. Draft dodgers and war resisters went on the run (some hid in the Scottish highlands, others escaped to America.)
Branches of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Scotland, London and especially Liverpool helped to smuggle out resisters.
There was also resistance on Clydeside through industrial activity.
Mass opposition soared in 1916 after a great deal of slaughter and the introduction of conscription. The circulation of anarchist newspapers shot up, their popularity bringing police raids and other forms of state repression. The “Voice of Labour” newspaper was shut down, only to be replaced with a new publication titled “Satire”.
George Davison (who had become wealthy through setting up Kodak) established 8 or 9 anarchist “Workers Forum” groups in Wales which sheltered people opposed to the war.
The Communist Club in Stockport distributed anti-war literature and also harboured deserters. It was also raided, its members imprisoned and badly beaten in some cases. (See article by Nick here.
There were some ironies in the UK state pursuing anarchists and socialists from overseas who had settled here. For example German anarchists who had been targeted by the secret service for protesting against the Kaiser when he visited London were then also rounded up with other German nationals and put in internment camps such as those in Alexandra Palace and the Isle of Man (where some of them died).
Towards the end of the war there were mutinies in the British Army, for example the West Indian Regiment (see article in the “Against War” issue of The Anarchist Federation’s “Resistance” free-sheet). Additionally there were revolutions in Russia, Germany Hungary and some parts of Ireland.
Nick finished up by saying that he felt it was our duty as people interested in radical history to dig deep into these hidden stories of resistance. If we don’t, who will?

Jennifer Bell: "We will not fight! - Conscientious objectors in North London"
Jennifer has done a great deal of research into COs in Hornsey, mainly via archive copies of The Hornsey Journal. Many of the CO tribunals are reported in detail, but unfortunately no names are given.
There is a register of 16,000 COs but Jennifer thinks there may have been up to 20,000 people who actually objected.
She gave the example of 3 brothers, all of whom applied to be COs but only one had that status granted. The other two were harassed, sent to the front and killed.
Jennifer has found 150 names of objectors from Hornsey alone. The tribunal there was particularly biased against COs. It was chaired by Alderman Edwin Sloper, and featured some subservient councillors, lay members from a middle class area of the borough and a representative of “labour” (i.e. the working class, not the Labour Party) who is not quoted as having said anything. Oh and a representative from the Army.
The “conscience clause” in the law referred simply to one’s conscience generally, but the Hornsey tribunal only accepted religious conscience, rejecting any political or non-religious objectors.
A letter from a trade unionist to the Hornsey Journal stated that he was “astounded by the treatment of the objectors” and felt that the proceedings were “unfair and unjust”.
A Mr Simper, a Christadelphian (lots of whom seemed to be COs – further research needed?) stated that the Hornsey tribunal was the only one he had attended “where I have received coarse abuse”.
The geographical area of the modern borough of Haringey was home to almost 300 COs, which is higher than you would expect – the area was not particularly industrial (so not many trade unionists). Indeed most of the Hornsey COs were lower middle class / white collar workers.
One reason for this may have been the North London Herald League, based in Green Lanes. They held mass meetings in Finsbury Park against the war and also had rallies outside the Salisbury pub (re-enacted in August 2014 with links made to current anti-war movements).
The No Conscription Fellowship was also active in the area – assisted COs.
Hornsey also had strong non-conformist churches including the Presbyterians and Congregationists.
Hornsey objectors included quite a few “absolutists” who refused to take up even non-combatant roles in the war. The Walker brothers were five siblings from Stroud Green who applied for CO status. Charles Walker described the brutal conditions they faced at Chatham barracks where they were held before being moved to prison. Their violent abuse came from officers and NCOs rather than the ordinary soldiers who treated them with respect.
The Walkers were unaligned socialists but are listed as Quakers on the database of COs. Possibly this is because bureaucrats processing COs used “Quaker” as any easy (but inaccurate) shortcut term, or because COs themselves felt that they would be more successful if they claimed to be Quakers rather than political [which would have been correct - see comments above about the bias of the Hornsey tribunal].
Albert Samuel Inkpin, secretary of the British Socialist Party was another interesting objector. He had received a bloody nose for his strident anti-war views at a BSP meeting. Albert was exempted from serving in the war on medical grounds but appealed this as he wanted to be registered as a CO. He was refused, and appealed again!
Isaac and Jason Goss were also absolutists, who lived in the same road as the Walkers (suggesting that social networks played a part in building resistance to the war). The Goss brothers were Jewish converts to Quakerism. Isaac was exempted from war duty on the grounds of doing work of national importance, but also appealed. His case ended up being forgotten about by the powers that be, so he spent the remainder of the war at home. Joseph wasn’t as fortunate – he was arrested for desertion and sent to a work camp. He eventually served more than 2 years in prison (the supposed maximum).
Jennifer raised the issue of “sacrifice” as it is mentioned in the current commemorations. She feels there is a key distinction between self-sacrifice (for one’s own beliefs – as we have seen above) and being sacrificed.
Jennifer has many case studies of conscientious objectors from Hornsey and is currently considering what to do with them. One option would be a hard copy publication, but a blog is also being considered.

General Discussion
·         There was a scandal when it emerged that some absolutist objectors were being transported to France to be shot. (One of them threw a note from the train which was found by a railwayman and trade unionist – the subsequent furore ensured that they were not shot)

·         Some suggestion that aspiring COs in the north of England were forcibly conscripted and “disappeared”? Possibly, but the government was very wary of creating martyrs.

·         How do we commemorate people who objected to the war? An example was given of memorials at a train station to those who had fought. Can we make “counter plaques” for COs and other resisters?

·         Women's Peace Crusade – largely forgotten about now. By 1917/18 many men were dead or in prison so protest was led by women. 130 demonstrations held in 1917 alone, many of which were enormous but unrecorded.

·         It was suggested that the World War One commemorations are essentially an implicit celebration of the British Empire.

·         Provocations in the anti-war movement. The Ministry of Munitions (precursor to Special Branch) infiltrated the anti-war and peace movement. Alice Wheeldon a working class socialist and vegetarian was imprisoned for conspiracy to murder Prime Minister Lloyd George, but only because of the evidence and provocation of an infiltrator. She was eventually released early but became sick and died. It was noted that these tactics are still being used by spycops and provocateurs like Mark Kennedy (see previous meeting). Sheila Rowbotham has written a play about Alice Wheeldon (see “Further WW1 Happenings” entry on this blog)

·         Manchester No Conscription Fellowship networks – looked after the families of COs, including donations of money. Also published a journal, and provided prison support (visits, cakes, songs outside!).
·         In Hackney a CO's daughter was victimised by the Head-teacher at her school, who prevented her from going to her intended grammar school. The Quaker Head-teacher of Clapton School (now Clapton Girls) invited her to study there instead.
·        It was pointed that that if “World War One never ended” that resistance to it never ended either. Much of the peace movement and war resistance we have today has its roots in protests against WW1.

·         Had much research been done into Tottenham/Edmonton? Not much but Tottenham Quakers are doing some. Possibly just into Quakers though.

·         What can we learn from all this? COs did not stop the war. It was suggested that WW1 shows us that only the working class acting together to defend its own interests can. The 1917 revolution in Russia was given as an example of this. “As long as there is capitalism there will be war”. [Possibly the working class role in ending the war is a topic to explore at a future meeting?]

·         General discussion of the strong labour movement prior to 1914 not managing to prevent the war. Clear reasons why individuals with anti-war positions may end up supporting war, but harder to understand why anti-war movements (socialists etc) do.

·         There was a discussion about the ideological evolution of the German Social Democrats [which went a bit over my head, to be honest]. Should they have split instead of opting to stay together as a party?

·         Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg’s 1915 slogan “The main enemy is at home” was cited as an example of German Socialists maintaining principled anti-war positions.

·         John Maclean and James Connolly were given as other examples of people whose class based opposition of the war was worth looking into.

[For more information on COs, see also:
  and  David Boulton, Objection Overruled: Conscription and Conscience in the First World War. Dent,           Cumbria, Dales Historical Monographs in Association with Friends Historical Society, 2014.]

Next meeting: Wednesday 10th December. Topic to be confirmed.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Revolt of the Ravers - CJA protests 20 years on

Sunday October 19th 2014, 2 p.m. - 10 p.m. 
at MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street,
London EC4Y 1DH

(Admission free)

(It's on the day after the London anarchist bookfair.)

"Twenty years ago, on 9 October 1994, a huge demonstration against the
Government's Criminal Justice Act ended in London's Hyde Park with riotous
clashes, police horses charging, and people dancing to sound systems.

The Act brought in new police powers against raves, squatters, protestors,
travellers and others, and was passed amidst widespread opposition.

This event will include memories of this movement, its ways of organising
and representing itself and will feature displays of its ‘material
culture’ such as zines, flyers, cassettes and letters.

There will also be a panel discussion looking at the related
radical/techno zines of the 1990s, in what was one of the last musical and
social movements mediated primarily through print rather than digitally.

The talks and discussion will be followed by an evening of films, music
and refreshments.

It is hoped that the day will be a catalyst for a process of archiving,
circulating and discussing materials from the radical social/musical
movements of the 1990s."

Supported by MayDay Rooms, Datacide magazine, Cesura//Acceso journal,
History is Made at Night.

More info

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Further WW1 Happenings

Memorial for peace and justice campaigner Hetty Bower 1905-2013
Friday 3 October • 7-9 p.m. • Conway Hall, • 25 Red Lion Square,
London WC1R 4RL • Contact:
"Starting early in World War I and continuing for the next 99 years, she was active in peace and disarmament movements, progressive political parties, social justice campaigns, women's, workers', children's and pensioners' rights, international co-operation, progressive theatre and cinema, education and health, especially the NHS."

1. [Reminder] Celebrating Alice Wheeldon 
7.30 – 9.30pm, Thursday 2 October 2014

Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue, London NW5 2RX (tube: Kentish Town)

Chloe Mason – the great granddaughter of socialist, pacifist, suffragist and second-hand clothes dealer Alice Wheeldon, imprisoned in 1917 for the alleged attempted murder of Lloyd George – will also be joining us to talk about the campaign to clear Alice’s name, as well as that of Alice’s daughter Winnie and son-in-law Alfred Mason (who were convicted alongside her). Free event. All welcome.
Hosted by Peace News.

The World is My Country’ is a major Peace News project
a visual celebration of the people and movements who opposed the First World War.

Thursday 2 October
‘An evening celebrating First World War resister Alice Wheeldon’. With Alice Wheeldon’s great grandaughter Chloe Mason; and PN’s Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle. 7.30pm, Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue.
Saturday 25 October
‘Feminist opponents of the First World War’. With Emily & Gabriel. At the Feminism inLondon conference (£30/£15). Institute of Education, Bedford Way.

Saturday 1 November 
‘The World is My Country’. With Emily & Gabriel. Details tbc. 6 Church St.
‘The World is My Country’. With Emily & Gabriel. Details tbc. 

Friday 28 November 
Fourth Friday at the Poetry Cafe. ‘The World is My Country’. With Alan Brownjohn, Anna Robinson, Krysia Mansfield, Dan Kennedy and Mererid Hopwood. 8pm. 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden.
More info: PN, 020 278 3344;


Douglas Newton will be discussing WW1 and his new book 'The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914' @ the Bishopsgate Institute in London on 23rd September. The book is excellent (read an excerpt here) and he's an excellent speaker (he ran a session at this year's Peace News Summer Camp). He'll be joined by Vron Ware and Joe Glenton in the discussion afterwards.
"The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War gives us much to contemplate and reflect on. Is it time though to question the standard account of Britain’s choice for war? Did Britain go to war for the future of the British Empire and not for Belgium or democracy?

In his new book The Darkest Days, historian Douglas Newton uncovers how key figures rushed the nation into war against vehement opposition in parliament, the press and in the streets. Do today’s military adventures – and the movements that oppose them – suggest we have learned anything from our past? Douglas Newton will be joined in discussion with Dr Vron Ware (Open University) and Joe Glenton (journalist and author of Soldier Box). The event will be chaired by Daniel Trilling (Editor, New Humanist). "

Tickets are available here.

3. May we invite you to Derby to
Celebrate the Resisters: The War within WW1
Adam Hochschild 
22nd October, Quad Arts
 Tickets £5.00 (£4.00)

4. [Reminder, previously posted]
On Saturday 20 September the 2014 peace history lecture takes place at the Friends' Meeting House, Manchester. In No Glory in War: noble cause or capitalist adventure? John Westmoreland, Head of History, York College, will propose alternative views to challenge the inevitability of was as the means to resolve conflict. 
The lecture begins at 2pm, with stalls to browse and refreshments from 1.30pm; there is also the option of a guided tour of Manchester Peace and Social Justice Trail 10.30am-12 noon.  Tickets price £5 in advance, £8 on the door - email or phone 0161 273 8283.
Truce tours at IWM North - Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays in September at 3.30pm
Join a free 20 minute Closer Look tour around the Museum reflecting on individual stories, including those who were Conscientious Objectors in the First and Second World Wars, and the idea of truce and conflict resolution and the causes and consequences of conflict.

5. More to come in Manchester, in November: watch this blog.
"We have an active ‘Real WWI’-type group  up here in Manchester. You can find out news and events at our website at
Our main forthcoming event is our World War I Day School on Saturday 15 November 2014- all welcome!"

And as previously posted:
The 3 next London Remembering the Real World War I group meetings will be taking place on

Thursday September 18
Thursday October 16
and Thursday November 6

all from 7.30 until 9.00 pm, at 
88 Fleet St

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Radical History Network of NE London meeting: Resistance to World War One

Next RaHN meeting: Reminder/update

Wednesday 10th September, 7:30pm

Wood Green Social Club, 3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ
(off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube)

In the build up to the first world war and throughout the war years there were strikes and industrial disputes, anti-war campaigns, conscientious objections and mutinies. These are the stories of resistance to the war that the official commemorations will not tell you.

What can we learn from those inspirational struggles which might help us to oppose and prevent the obscene wars for profit and power throughout the world which governments and military blocs are continuing to wage 100 years after the so-called 'war to end all wars'?


Nick Heath (Anarchist Federation) "Resistance to World War One"

Jennifer Bell (Hornsey Historical Society / Haringey First World War Peace Forum) "We will not fight! -  Conscientious objectors in North London"

PLUS: Discussion on all aspects of local (NE London) resistance to the war as well as the wider national and international context.

The next three London Remembering the Real World War I group meetings will be taking place on

Thursday September 18,
Thursday October 16

Thursday November 6

all from 7.30 until 9.00 p.m. at 

88 Fleet St

Other WW1 events:
6 Sept: ‘The World is My Country’ @ the Poetry Bookfair

To celebrate the people and movements that opposed the First World War!
Peace News' WW1 poems and posters project, The World is My Country, will be at the Poetry Bookfair in London this Saturday (6 September) @ the Conway Hall (25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL). The Fair itself runs from 10.30am – 4.30pm, with our slot running 11 – 11.30am.

The event, compered by PN co-editor Emily Johns, will feature specially commissioned poems and songs by Alan Brownjohn, Anna Robinson, Krysia Mansfield and Dan Kennedy.
This is a free event & all are welcome! Please spread the word on Facebook, or retweet us.

Peace News will also be hosting a celebration of jailed WW1-resister Alice Wheeldon with her granddaughter, Chloe Mason, on Thursday 2 October:

And in Manchester

On Saturday 20 September the 2014 peace history lecture takes place at the Friends' Meeting House, Manchester. In No Glory in War: noble cause or capitalist adventure? John Westmoreland, Head of History, York College, will propose alternative views to challenge the inevitability of was as the means to resolve conflict. 

The lecture begins at 2pm, with stalls to browse and refreshments from 1.30pm; there is also the option of a guided tour of Manchester Peace and Social Justice Trail 10.30am-12 noon.  Tickets price £5 in advance, £8 on the door - email or phone 0161 273 8283.

Truce tours at IWM North - Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays in September at 3.30pm
Join a free 20 minute Closer Look tour around the Museum reflecting on individual stories, including those who were Conscientious Objectors in the First and Second World Wars, and the idea of truce and conflict resolution and the causes and consequences of conflict.

IWM North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ. Admission free.

Monday, September 1, 2014

New publication: 100 Years of Social Housing

A 10-page booklet, now available as a pdf here, describes a walk in Tottenham for the Twentieth Century Society, led by John Goodier on 23rd March 2013.
Summary of Contents (main headings):

Introduction on the history of social housing from earliest discernible origins

The Garden Suburb Movement and Style
The Moselle stream – “hidden force for much of this walk”

Railway Stations: Wood Green, Noel Park, Bruce Grove
Wood Green as shopping centre
taking in Spouters’ Corner, the Library, Gaumont Palace, The Mall and more.
Crown Court
White Hart Lane and Tower Gardens
Lordship Lane Park
Broadwater Farm
Peabody Cottages
Larkspur Close
Finishing at Bruce Castle 

A RaHN member writes:

Council housing has been fought for and defended for generations by those who realise that it is the only secure, affordable housing for working class people. If anything, ALL housing should be a public resource to be treasured and shared fairly, and not be treated as a commodity to be sold for private profit. Everyone should have a decent home as a right.

However Council housing is currently under attack from the Government and property speculators who cant stand what it represents - resources for need not profit. In London in particular, including Tottenham, property speculation and unaffordable house-building is rife, and developers are now pushing to get their hands on our public estates and the public land they sit on in order to build luxury housing for their own greedy profits. Haringey Council is obediently putting up a number of estates for ominous-sounding 'option reviews' and 'proposed redevelopment' - a disgusting, disastrous and failed policy being imposed by the powers-that-be throughout London.

However, wherever there is oppression there is resistance. Campaigners and local Tenants and Residents Associations in many boroughs have fought hard to oppose these sell-offs, and some have created their own Community Plans for the genuine improvements local residents want to see. A shining example of positive community-led regeneration is our very own Broadwater Farm Estate here in Tottenham, as outlined in the pamphlet. When there was talk of knocking it down in the 1980s, the residents demanded and lobbied hard for a range of improvements, and regeneration funding was then found to implement almost all of them. It’s now one of the most attractive estates in London.

There is a national Defend Council Housing movement, and in Haringey we are proud to have had an active Defend Council Housing campaign for the last 10 years. At the time of writing HDCH have held many public meetings on threatened estates and are calling on the residents of all estates, and their supporters, to demand improvements not demolitions.

This pamphlet is an excellent counterweight to the current anti-Council-housing propaganda in the media and in local and national Government. It demonstrates that the lesson of history is that we can and must fight for more and better public services and facilities of all kinds, and decision-making that benefits our communities and satisfies our real needs.

Dave Morris
- Council tenant in Tottenham
- An active member of Haringey Defend Council Housing
- Secretary of the Haringey Federation of Residents Associations