Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Great Strike: The Miners' Strike of 1984-5 and Its Lessons

This is a timely addition to the Marxists' Internet Archive - an excellent book written by Alex Callinicos and Mike Simons just after the great miners' strike in Britain which began thirty years ago next month.  Mike Simons was a journalist on Socialist Worker who covered this mass strike at the time, and is also involved with the making of a new film about the strike, (Still) The Enemy Within - a film which will form the backdrop of a conference in London on 8 March - and will be shown in full for the first time at this years' Marxism festival in July.

Edited to add: A recent review of the book by Resolute Reader here

Edited to also add: 30 Years On: The Great Miners' Strike - Socialist Worker special
Victory to the Miners cover

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Why higher education workers in Britain are right to strike

The UCU’s action is about fairness, equality and defending public higher education, say Tom Hickey and John Holmwood - see also here

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Stuart Hall

The passing of Stuart Hall is very sad news indeed.  Hall was one of the most remarkable, distinctive and principled voices on the New Left in post-war Britain - a very cultured anti-Stalinist Marxist intellectual whose heroes were figures such as Antonio Gramsci and C.L.R. James, and whose writing was always thoughtful and thought provoking, even if one did not agree with it in its entirety.   Duncan Hallas once said of Ralph Miliband that he 'hovers, hesitates, floats, between the best of the academic left and revolutionary left', and this was true of Hall and his contribution as well.  Given we are approaching the 30th anniversary of the start of the Great Miners' Strike in Britain,  there will no doubt be some discussion of Hall's analysis of Thatcherism as 'authoritarian populism' and the problematic positions associated with his support for the Marxism Today project.  Yet we should also remember Hall's contribution as a youthful activist in the first New Left - around CND and as the first editor of New Left Review - which are brought out quite well in the film 'The Stuart Hall Project'.  Those wanting to critically engage with Hall's work around 'Cultural Studies' would be well recommended to read Colin Sparks's contribution to the volume edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen, Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1996), which shows the essential continuities in thought which ran throughout his life from the 1950s until the 1980s in thinking about such questions as class consciousness and identity.  Overall, Hall made a creative, original and impressive contribution to the British and international Left, both as a black radical public intellectual and a generous partisan academic - and I count myself very privileged to have been able to have met him in person.  My sincere condolences go out to those who were close to him, particularly his friends, family and comrades - RIP Stuart. 

Edited to add: a link to some videos of Stuart Hall speaking: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9F57C5B178A98750

Edited to also add: Tributes / obits / commentary from Robin Blackburn (with useful links), Tariq Ali Evan Smith , Keith Flett , Gary Younge, Suzanne Moore, Stuart Jeffries

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Stand up to UKIP

Stand up to UKIP

A timely new website - remember also the national demonstration against racism and fascism on 22 March

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A New Nursery Rhyme

A New Nursery Rhyme by Tom Maguire

Sing a song of England,
Country of the free,
Sing her teeming millions,
Rulers of the sea;
Sing her trade and commerce,
And her "vales serene",
Isn’t it a dainty dish
To lay before the Queen?

Sing a song of England,
Shuddering with cold,
Doomed to slow starvation
By the gods of gold;
See her famished children
Hunger-marked, and mean,
Isn’t that a dainty dish
To lay before the Queen?

Sing her House of Commons,
Sitting all at ease,
While the ring of coal-lords
Fasten like disease
On the helpless toilers,
Hollow-eyed and lean;
Faith! it is a dainty dish
To lay before the Queen.

Mammon in the counting-house,
Counting out his money,
His Lady in the parlour
Eating bread and honey.
The worker on the highway,
Short of food and clothes -
God bless happy England!
And save her from her foes.

From The Labour Champion, 11 November 1893. 

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''The Blairs have a very bloody history''

Longstanding (or perhaps more accurately, long suffering) readers of Histomat might recall a brief discussion back in 2006 on George Orwell and Suffolk, where in the comment boxes Michael Rosen among other people joined in a speculative discussion about why Eric Blair chose the pseudonym 'George Orwell'.  Today, perusing Spanish Diary by the forgotten socialist John McNair, who like Orwell went to fight in the Spanish Civil War with the Independent Labour Party contingent, I stumbled upon a passage which brings us much closer to the answer - McNair's recollections of a conversation he had with Orwell while out in Spain:

"Never mind about that; tell us, George, why you changed your original name, Eric Blair."
"Well, I hated the name Eric Blair. Eric seemed to smack of that phoney school story, 'Eric, or little by little' (Dean Farrar), and the Blairs have a very bloody history."
"But why George Orwell?" we enquired.
"I wanted a working-class name. George is good working-class, as you Geordies ought to know, and, of course, you've heard of the 'Orwell' - a good Suffolk proletarian river."

I like this quote a lot - both the bit about the River Orwell being 'proletarian', while Orwell was certainly onto something about 'the Blairs', at least if their modern descendants are anything to go by...

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Marxism 2014 - 10-14 July, Central London

1914-2014: A century of war, crisis and revolution
What are the alternatives for today?

Marxism 2014 is a five day political festival. Thousands are expected to attend this year.  Speakers and activists will come from across the globe to discuss and debate some of the key questions facing all of us who not only want to understand the world but also change it.

Book online today here

Six years into the global economic crisis, the situation is complex and often contradictory.  There are exciting new developments as people seek a better world and a break from pro capitalist models. But alongside explosions of resistance from Turkey to South Africa to Brazil, we have seen vicious scapegoating of immigrants and the poor as well as the rise of UKIP.
Alongside advances there have been set backs. Whether it’s the Egyptian revolution three years on or fighting austerity in Britain, the situation is not straightforward.

Many political questions are up for debate. 
  • Who are the working class?
  • What is the role of trade unions? 
  • How can resistance go forward after the defeat at Grangemouth?
  • How can we end oppression?
  • Can there be a left alternative to the Labour Party? 
  • How should socialists organise? 
  • What are the prospects for revolution in the modern world?
Meetings at Marxism 2014 will seek to offer analysis, discuss alternatives and debate these issues and many others. 
Come and be part of the discussion.

Despite rising costs the price of Marxism has not gone up  . . . tickets cost the same as 2013.  Plus, book before 6 April and you get £5 off . . . 

Edited to add:  The provisional timetable is now online

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