Month: March 2015

CFP: From Civil Rights to the Bailout (NIU Galway)

Here is a post from my friend David Convery:



Irish Centre for Histories of Labour and Class

NUI Galway

19-20 June 2015

From the Civil Rights Movement to contemporary protests against austerity, the years since 1968 have witnessed widespread and varied social movements in communities, workplaces and colleges throughout Ireland, North and South, that have fought for, and resisted, social change. These movements have spurred the growth of numerous organisations ranging from those advocating limited reform, to those advancing revolutionary change in society. However, despite its immediate relevance to an understanding of contemporary Ireland, the lack of historical research conducted in the agents and resisters of social change since 1968 is a noticeable gap in the study of class and politics in Ireland. This interdisciplinary conference hopes to address this. We welcome scholarly contributions of 20 minutes from established academics to students on any issue that falls under the remit of the conference title. The conference also affords us the opportunity to preserve and generate sources for the benefit of future researchers. We hope to offer workshops on oral history and the preservation, including digitisation, of documentation such as leaflets, posters and periodicals. To this end, we especially want to hear from activists in movements and organisations from the period who may be interested in sharing their experiences and documentation in a friendly and open environment.

Possible topics for papers include but are not limited to:

  • Civil Rights in Northern Ireland
  • Trade union growth, activism, and change
  • Workplace strikes/occupations
  • Left Social Democratic groups (e.g. Socialist Labour Party, Liaison of the Left, etc)
  • Socialist Republicanism
  • Trotskyist, Communist, and other Leninist groups
  • Anarchist and other libertarian groups
  • Catholic Worker, Christian Socialist groups
  • Left-wing periodicals
  • Community campaigns (e.g. housing, drugs, hospital closures, water charges)
  • Second Wave Feminism and Women’s rights (e.g. equal pay, access to contraception, divorce, abortion rights)
  • LGBT rights
  • Anti-globalisation movement
  • Anti-war movement
  • Solidarity campaigns on issues abroad (e.g. Nicaragua, Vietnam, Miners’ Strike, apartheid in South Africa)
  • Student activism
  • Media representation of social movements, trade unionism, and left-wing activism

If you wish to present a paper, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biography including affiliation, if any, by 31 March 2015 to David Convery at

If you were/are an activist in this area and are interested in attending, please let us know at the same address by the same date. We would be especially grateful if you could inform us if you are willing to share your experiences as part of an oral history interview and/or have documentation which would be of interest. All documentation will remain the possession of the owner.

Further information about the conference can be found here:


New Communist History Online Resources

Just a quick post to let those interested in Communist history that there are two new online resources to play with!

Firstly, the Russian Archives have now made the Comintern Online Archive free to access. The website is only navigable in Russian at the moment, but after playing around with Google translate, I have been able to find some very interesting stuff. This article from the Library of Congress in Washington is very helpful in outlining what each file group are by reference number.

Secondly, the University of Wollongong has digitised all 148 issues of Australian Left Review, the monthly journal of the Communist Party of Australia from 1966 to 1993. Similar to the CPGB’s Marxism Today, the ALR was the outlet of the Eurocommunist/Gramscian wing of the CPA, with significant crossover between the ‘Euros’ in both parties.

I have been trying to get the draft of my book finished, so I haven’t had enough time exploring these two resources, but hopefully soon I will be able to blog about some of my finds. Happy hunting!

Integration and limitation: Labour and immigration, 1962-68

Last night, Channel 4 aired a program on the 1964 election in the seat of Smethwick, where immigration became a controversial topic and was used to reason why Labour lost a safe seat to the Conservatives. I have written about the use of a racist slogan during the election campaign before (here and here), but this post gives a wider context for the changing political landscape at the time and why the Smethwick election had a long-lasting impact the Labour Party. It is based on an extract from our book Race, Gender and the Body in British Immigration Control, which came out last year.

Throughout the 1950s, the official position of the Labour Party on immigration control was one of consistent opposition. When the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was debated in Parliament in November 1961, the Labour Party opposed it on the same grounds it had presented in 1958. Gordon Walker, Labour MP for Smethwick, contended that the Conservative Home Secretary R. A. Butler ‘advocates a Bill into which race discrimination is now written – not only into its spirit and practice but into its very letter’.[1] Labour’s opposition to the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was based on both political and economic arguments.[2]

Politically, the Labour Party favoured a more benevolent British Commonwealth and defended the right of free entry for Commonwealth citizens, attacking the Conservatives for ‘having rejected the Commonwealth’ and what it supposed were ‘the principles on which it was founded’.[3] The Labour Party opposed the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill on the principle that it was racially biased, and ‘consistently accused the government of implementing racism’.[4] During the Bill’s second reading, Walker declared that Labour would ‘bitterly oppose the Bill and will resist it’ as it was ‘widely and rightly regarded as introducing a colour bar into our legislation’.[5] Labour’s economic argument was that the flow of migration had been regulated by the demands of the British economy, with leader Hugh Gaitskell stating that ‘the rate of immigrants into this country is closely related and … will always be closely related, to the rate of economic absorption’.[6] As Gaitskell explained, throughout the 1950s until 1959, there was ‘an almost precise correlation between the movement in the number of unfulfilled vacancies … and the immigration figures’.[7]

Some authors, in particular Paul Foot and Peter Alexander, have emphasised the principled opposition of Gaitskell, as leader of the Labour Party, who presented an official, unified, formal position on the concept of immigration control for Labour.[8] Foot wrote that Gaitskell understood ‘much better than his colleagues the general principles behind the international migration of labour’, and believed in the British Commonwealth as a ‘world-wide multi-racial community network’.[9] In Parliament, Gaitskell declared that the Bill was ‘a plain anti-Commonwealth Measure in theory and … a plain anti-colour Measure in practice’[10], and Denis Healey, Labour’s spokesperson on colonial issues, pledged at a meeting of immigrant and Commonwealth organisations that a Labour government would repeal the Act if elected.[11]

However, the Labour Party’s official position changed soon after Gaitskell’s death in early 1963, when Harold Wilson became leader of the party. Whereas previously Labour’s opposition to immigration control had been officially ‘unconditional’, now Wilson claimed that the party ‘supported and … do support certain provisions of the Act’.[12] Wilson announced that ‘[w]e do not contest the need for control of immigration into this country’ and accepted the continuation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.[13]

Wilson’s statement that Labour accepted the concept of immigration control was the beginning of a growing consensus between the two major parties that non-white immigration from the Commonwealth was a problem. The defeat of Labour MP Gordon Walker to Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths, primarily fought on the issue of immigration, made many within the Labour Party move towards an acceptance of strict immigration controls, believing that opposition to controls could be cited by the Conservatives as a sign of Labour’s weakness. Griffiths used the issue of immigration, supported by the Conservative Association, local anti-immigration advocates and fascist groups, to disrupt the traditional support for the Labour Party in Smethwick. The most notorious and infamous aspect of this campaign was the slogan, ‘If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour’, about which Griffiths commented, ‘I would not condemn anyone who said that. I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling’.[14] The Labour Party’s interpretation of the loss of Smethwick (a loss of 7.2 per cent against an average swing across the nation to Labour of 3.5 per cent)[15] was, according to Labour Minister Richard Crossman, that ‘[e]ver since the Smethwick election it has been quite clear that immigration can be the greatest potential vote-loser for the Labour Party’.[16]

Despite the official front, the Labour Party had been internally divided on the issue of immigration for many years. The official position on unconditional right of entry had seemingly only been held together by the leadership qualities of Hugh Gaitskell.[17] The notion of the Labour Party yielding in the face of racist public opinion has been well documented in the history of race relations in Britain. Yet, as Kathleen Paul has observed, the concept of a ‘hostile public push[ing] an otherwise liberal administration toward ever greater “immigration” control’ is the ‘picture presented by policy makers themselves’.[18] Both Labour and the Conservatives had adopted unofficial means to prevent Commonwealth immigration into Britain in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. While the traditional history views the Smethwick result as impetus for Labour’s acceptance of restrictions upon non-white Commonwealth immigration, Kathleen Paul’s assertion that these measures were ‘driven not by the explosion of “race and immigration” into the electoral arena but by imperatives internal to the governing elite’ is far more convincing.[19]

In March 1965, Wilson stated that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was ‘not working as was intended’, recommending that ‘a fresh examination of the whole problem of control is necessary’.[20] The result of this re-examination of immigration policy was the White Paper Immigration from the Commonwealth, published in August 1965. The White Paper suggested that the problem involved how to ‘control the entry of immigrants so that it does not outrun Britain’s capacity to absorb them’.[21] The emphasis of the Labour government’s platform on immigration during this period was on the notions of ‘integration’ and ‘absorption’ of Commonwealth immigrants, but the government believed that integration could not occur without immigration controls. Labour MP Roy Hattersley summarised this by declaring that, ‘without integration, limitation is inexcusable; without limitation, integration is impossible’.[22] To this end, the White Paper made two main proposals: the discontinuation of the Category C vouchers and a large reduction in the number of vouchers issued.[23] Category C vouchers had been the most issued voucher since their introduction, with 42,367 issued between July 1962 and September 1964.[24] More importantly, the total number of vouchers was to be reduced from around 20,000 a year to just 8500 a year, with 1000 reserved for citizens of Malta and ‘not more than 15 per cent of the vouchers issued in Category A will go to any one Commonwealth country’.[25] Effectively this meant that Old Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, which had fairly small populations, were entitled to the same number of vouchers as the more populous Commonwealth countries like India and Pakistan. Regarding the Labour government’s fears of ‘evasion’ of control, the Paper also proposed stronger powers for Immigration Officers to refuse entry to those who were not considered ‘bona fides’.[26]

The result of the White Paper’s release was that consensus was reached within government circles that Commonwealth immigration was undesirable and threatened social cohesion in Britain. As Roy Hattersley stated in Parliament in March 1965, ‘I believe that unrestricted immigration can only produce additional problems, additional suffering and additional hardship unless some kind of limitation is imposed and continued’.[27] Previously speaking as ‘a passionate opponent of the Act’, Hattersley came claimed in 1965 that, ‘with the advantages of hindsight, I suspect that we were wrong to oppose the Act’.[28]

The Labour government’s policy of integration featured heavily in the White Paper, which recommended the implementation of tighter restrictions on Commonwealth immigration while tackling racial discrimination in the domestic sphere. This led to the introduction of the first legislation against racial discrimination in late 1965 to ‘complement’ the White Paper. The Race Relations Act 1965 was introduced to ‘prohibit discrimination on racial grounds in places of public resort’ and was enacted in November 1965[29], but was a much weaker Act than had been proposed by MPs such as Fenner Brockway since the mid-1950s. While reservedly welcomed by both progressive and immigrant organisations, the Race Relations Act was inherently tied to the notions of integration and restriction. As Dilip Hiro wrote:

Taken together, the 1965 White Paper and the 1965 Race Relations Act signalled the convergence of the two major political parties on the issues of immigration control and racial justice. An advance, albeit minor, on the front for ethnic minorities was conceded by the Conservatives in exchange for a retreat by Labour in the matter of immigration restrictions.[30]

The Labour government believed that immigration control and the Race Relations Act would ease the process of integration for non-white immigrants from the Commonwealth into the ‘British way of life’. This process of integration, reinforced by legislation against the most overt forms of public racial discrimination, would help ‘stamp out the evils of racialism’.[31] As Peter Alexander wrote, ‘[i]mmigration control was expected to reduce racism. The reverse happened. And with increased racism came further controls’.[32]

While the number of colonial migrants on work vouchers decreased through the mid-1960s, other colonial migrants (on British passports issued overseas) started to increase in numbers, especially after Kenya won independence in 1963. This point in time symbolises the beginning of an ‘Africanisation’ campaign that ‘prompted many [Kenyan South Asians] to migrate to Britain rather than face continued discrimination’ in Kenya.[33] A ‘steady flow’ of Kenyan South Asians migrated to Britain between 1965 and 1967. In 1967, the Kenyan Government passed a law under which these British citizens of South Asian descent could reside and work in Kenya only on a temporary basis. This created an increase in migration to Britain and prompted demands from sections of the media and Conservative MPs, such as Enoch Powell, that restrictions be applied to these Kenyan South Asians.[34] Powell claimed that the number of South Asians arriving from Kenya would reach a total of 200,000, but the reality was a much smaller 66,000 out of a potential 95,000, with 29,000 already settled in Britain by February 1968.[35] In late February 1968, the Labour government ‘steamrollered through Parliament in three days of emergency debate’ the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 with the ‘sole purpose of restricting entry into Britain of Kenyan Asians holding British passports’.[36] According to this Act, British citizenship was determined by the birth of a person or of one of their parents or grandparents in Britain. This effectively excluded the Kenyan South Asians, or any other non-white citizens of the Commonwealth, from British citizenship. Despite the rhetoric that the 1968 Act was impartial and not racially biased, the reality underpinning this amendment was the Labour government’s intention to prevent further non-white immigration to Britain.

Zig Layton-Henry described the 1968 Act as the ‘logical outcome of appeasement that the Labour government had adopted in order to achieve the bipartisan consensus with the Conservatives and to reduce the electoral salience of the issue’.[37] However, this was more than merely a pragmatic issue of Labour attempting to not appear ‘weaker than the Conservatives on the issue of immigration controls’,[38] but was the result of a deeper reassessment of the idea of British nationality as Britain’s colonial empire collapsed. White British citizens born abroad were ‘never referred to as “immigrants” under any circumstances’. The term ‘immigrant’ was reserved for non-white Commonwealth migrants, and by the late 1960s the equation of ‘immigrant’ with ‘black’ had become the prevailing attitude.[39] The Labour Party had originally opposed immigration controls on the grounds of the ideal of the free movement of people and trade throughout the Commonwealth. However, the right to enter and live in Britain without restriction did not mean that Commonwealth immigrants were ‘regarded as British in any other sense’.[40] For Labour, the ‘Commonwealth ideal had never been intended as a defence of [unrestricted] black immigration to Britain’. And, as Caroline Knowles has stated, the increasingly tougher controls on immigration seen in the 1960s demonstrated that Labour ‘reconstructed immigration away from Commonwealth and labour needs’, perceiving immigrants as ‘an invasive and oppositional political community to indigenousness’.[41]

In 1968, Robert Moore wrote that ‘[r]acialists have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pressing the Labour Government even harder’.[42] The long-term effect of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 was to create a distinction between the predominantly white British citizenry who could claim lineage within Britain and the predominantly non-white Commonwealth citizenry who could no longer claim to be ‘British’, which in turn barred the Commonwealth immigrant from entering Britain. In this we can trace the beginning of the double standard citizenship rule which divides ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ migrants according to country of origin.


Opposition to the 1962 Bill (via National Archives UK)

Opposition to the 1962 Bill (via National Archives UK)

[1] Hansard, 16 November, 1961, col. 706.

[2] Robert Miles & Annie Phizacklea, White Man’s Country: Racism in British Politics (Pluto Press, London, 1984) p. 42.

[3] Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 42.

[4] Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 42.

[5] Hansard, 16 November, 1961, col. 1716

[6] Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 42; Hansard, 16 November, 1961, col. 793-794.

[7] Hansard, 16 November, 1961, col. 794; R. Miles & A. Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 42.

[8] Paul Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1965) pp. 174-175; Peter Alexander, Racism, Resistance and Revolution (Bookmarks, London, 1987) pp. 34-35.

[9] Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics, p. 175.

[10] Hansard, 16 November, 1961, col. 799.

[11] Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics, p. 173; Marika Sherwood, Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile (Londo,: Lawrence & Wishart, 1999) p. 99.

[12] Cited in Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics, p. 170; Hansard, 27 November, 1963, col. 365.

[13] Hansard, 27 November, 1963, col. 367.

[14] Cited in Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 49.

[15] Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 50.

[16] Richard Crossman, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, vol. 1: Minister of Housing 1964-66 (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1975) pp. 149-150.

[17] See Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics, pp. 161-175.

[18] Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1997) p. 177.

[19] Paul, Whitewashing Britain, pp. 177-178.

[20] Hansard, 9 March, 1965, col. 249.

[21] Immigration from the Commonwealth, Cmnd. 2739, HMSO, London, 1965, p. 2.

[22] Cited in Miles & Phizacklea, White Man’s Country, p. 57.

[23] Immigration from the Commonwealth, p. 6.

[24] Figures calculated from Control of Immigration Statistics 1 July 1962 – 31 December 1963, HMSO, London, 1965, pp. 15-16; Control of Immigration Statistics 1964, HMSO, London, 1965, p. 11.

[25] Immigration from the Commonwealth, p. 6.

[26] Immigration from the Commonwealth, p. 8.

[27] Hansard, 23 March, 1965, col. 380-381.

[28] Hansard, 23 March, 1965, col. 380.

[29] Race Relations Act, 1965 .

[30] Dilip Hiro, Black British, White British: A History of Race Relations in Britain (London, Paladin, 1992) p. 211.

[31] David Ennals, ‘Labour’s Race Relations Policy’, Institute of Race Relations Newsletter, November/December 1968, p. 437.

[32] Alexander, Racism, Resistance and Revolution, p. 34.

[33] Paul, Whitewashing Britain, p. 179.

[34] John Solomos, Race and Racism in Britain (Palgrave, Houndmills, 2003) p. 60; D. Hiro, Black British, White British, p. 213.

[35] Alexander, Racism, Resistance and Revolution, p. 36; D. Hiro, Black British, White British, p. 214.

[36] Fryer, Staying Power, p. 383.

[37] Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, ‘Race’ and ‘Race’ Relations in Post-War Britain (Blackwell, Oxford, 1992) p. 79.

[38] Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration, p. 79.

[39] Ann Dummett & Andrew Nicol, Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others: Nationality and Immigration Law (London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1990) p. 201.

[40] Caroline Knowles, Race, Discourse and Labourism (London, Routledge, 1992) p. 94.

[41] Knowles, Race, Discourse and Labourism, p. 96, 103.

[42] Robert Moore, ‘Labour and Colour – 1965-8’, Institute of Race Relations Newsletter, October 1968, p. 390.

Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball: The mixture of Dada, Communism & ‘Zines’ in Weimar Berlin

I am in the (hopefully) final stages of putting together my monograph and have been lacklustre in posting much on this blog lately. In the meantime, I was looking through my old harddrive, looking for notes that I wrote for my PhD, and came across this I wrote for my zine back in 2003. I have always wanted to write about the pre-history of zines (as well as the connections between communism and Dada in Weimar Germany), but have never got round to it, so here’s a little something from my formative years…


In recent discussions on the history and characteristics of zines, there has been some debate on the development of the zine before the punk explosion of 1976-77. At a forum with other zine creators recently [in 2002], a notion was expressed that a history of zines before the 1970s was impracticable due to its splintered and unconnected predecessors. Although there is no simple chain of causality, a history of zines as merely ‘one damned thing after another’ with no correlation is unacceptable. Max Dvorak’s words on the development of art history are particularly poignant, that a history of zines is not the tracing of a single unbroken line of development, but rather a complex development, punctuated with stages of new conditions that provide new shoots from which new developments unfold.

Most histories of zines begin with the science-fiction fanzines that began in the 1930s, but leave many gaps between them and the punk zines of Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn. Fred Wright’s This Document Will Self-Destruct in 30 Seconds goes beyond this simplistic history and disregards the notion of total autonomous zine development, outlining the various zine predecessors such as beat poetry chapbooks, revolutionary war broadsides, Russian Samizdat and the publications of Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, Lettrism and Situationism. Keeping in mind that the photocopier was only patented in 1959, the zine that exists today is aesthetically and constructively different than earlier publications, but as Fred Wright states:

Many zine publishers have claimed affinity with these older publications, and apparently, like a whisper down the corridors of history, these works, just by the fact that they once existed, serve as both inspiration and influence to many of today’s zines.

One of the most influential of these early publications was the ‘journal’ by the Berlin Dadaists, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball or ‘Everyman His Own Football’. It is worthy to note this publication, for its timing, its iconoclastic appearance and its influence, direct or indirect.

In January 1917, Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Zurich in Berlin, having been part of Dada’s Cabaret Voltaire. While the people of Zurich ‘sat in the restaurants with well-filled wallets and rosy cheeks’, Berlin was experiencing the collapse of social order under the pressure of the First World War. The German economy was collapsing with the Imperial Army of Wilhelm II failing to sustain the war effort and prevent the waves of hunger among its citizens. For Huelsenbeck, Berlin was a ‘city of tightened stomachers, of mounting, thundering hunger, where hidden rage was transformed into a boundless money lust, and men’s minds were concentrating more and more on questions of naked existence’.

In the last months of the war, Huelsenbeck met with several others forming the ‘Club Dada’. The others that were associated with Huelsenbeck included Raoul Hausmann, Walter Mehring, Franz Jung, Johannes Baader, Hannah Höch, George Grosz and the Herzfelde brothers, Wieland and Johann. (In protest of the war, Johann anglicised his name, becoming John Heartfield) Wieland Herzfelde had produced a wartime journal entitled Neue Jugend, which was heavily influenced by the Expressionists. Herzfelde founded a small publishing house, Malik Verlag, which produced Neue Jugend. Herzfelde believed that art was a powerful medium for portrayal of radical political ideas, although many doubted the political effectiveness of Herzfelde’s publications.

During the war years, many ‘humour’ journals printed in Germany had proliferated and became important means of spreading political ideas. The satirical nature of such liberal and socialist journals as Simplicissimus, Ulk (‘Joke’) and Der Wahre Jacob (‘The True Jacob’) had been changed by the First World War and strongly supported the war effort. In the months after the War, these traditional journals adopted a largely conservative position toward the political events. With the increasing disorder following Germany’s defeat in November 1918, an array of right-wing ‘humour’ journals started to appear, starting with Phosphor, Rote Hand (‘Red Hand’) and Satyr.

By early 1919, Germany was in political and economic crises. The Kaiser had abdicated following the Imperial Army’s defeat with the Social Democrats forming Germany’s first democratic government, the Weimar Republic. A series of Communist uprisings followed and groups of delisted soldiers, the Freikorps, were used by the government to quash the revolutionaries. In January 1919, the Spartakists (members of the German Communist Party or KPD) started revolting in Berlin. Friedrich Ebert, leader of the Social Democrats, employed Gustav Noske as Minister of Defence, who used the violent and nationalistic Freikorps to crush the Communists. The Spartakist leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered by Freikorps officers on January 15, 1919.

In response to the rise of counter-revolutionary publications appearing in Berlin, Herzfelde urged the KPD to employ pictures and drawings by the Dadaists in their official publications, but was told in response that the party press was not a humour magazine. A few days after the Spartakist murders, Herzfelde discussed the publication of a ‘new periodical of a literary, artistic and political character, brought out at irregular intervals, cheap… [with a] newspaper-style make-up’, intended to ‘sling mud at everything the Germans have so far held dear’. On February 15, a week after the First National Assembly of the new German Republic, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was published, Malik Verlag’s first post-war production.

Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was only four pages long and only a single issue was produced, but it was the most concise collection of work by the Berlin Dadaists. John Heartfield designed the journal and created two photomontages for the cover. Photomontage was first developed by the Berlin Dadaists, although there is dispute over its invention. Hausmann and Höch claimed that photomontage was the pictorial extension of the static, simultaneous and phonetic poetry of Zurich Dada, developed on holiday on the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, Grosz and Heartfield claimed that in May 1916, they ‘pasted a mishmash of advertisements… cut up at will in such a way as to say, in pictures, what would have been banned by the censors if we had said it in words’. Hausmann’s photomontages were often random and aesthetically ‘wild and explosive’, while Heartfield’s works were classically composed, laden with revolutionary political expression. Both styles have been widely influential and the photomontages are distinctly recognisable as works of the Berlin Dadaists. As Hans Richter wrote, ‘they have been imitated and copied by thousands who have pocketed the financial rewards always denied to Hausmann and Heartfield, the creative artists’.

The cover parodied the layout of the conservative journals. In conjunction with the title, a sarcastic interpretation of the statesmen’s promise of ‘a chicken in every pot’, photo-monteur Heartfield spliced a picture of his brother Wieland in formal wear with a football, tilting his hat to the saying ‘everyman his own football’. The main photomontage depicted a fan, a vanity item popular in the 19th century, with portraits of the ruling elite. Alongside the Ebert-Scheidemann group, who controlled the Reichstag, the montage included Karl Kautsky, one of the founders of German social democracy (who V.I. Lenin had called a ‘renegade’ and ‘bourgeois reformist’) and General Ludendorff, leader of the Supreme Command of the Imperial Army and future participant in the Nazi putsch of 1923, as well as other military leaders. A caption above it read: ‘Open Competition! Who’s the prettiest??’, while below: ‘German Manly Beauty #1’. This ‘beauty competition’ for the ‘gifted beer bellies’ was in reference to the opening of the First National Assembly of the Weimar Republic that had opened only a week beforehand. The cover was the beginning of Heartfield’s use of photomontages in a coherent aesthetic, departing from the random structures of earlier montages. As Wieland stated, ‘In it he began for the first time to use photography consciously in the service of political agitation’.

As members of the German Communist Party since December 31, 1918, Herzfelde, Heartfield and Grosz used Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball to attack their political and social enemies. The journal’s leading article, by Herzfelde, concerned the ‘socialisation of party funds’ and the choice that the Weimar Republic had to make, between the bourgeois Social Democrats and the Communists.

However, it was Grosz’s cartoons, along with Heartfield’s photomontages, that stood out as violently political as well Dadaistically absurd. Under the title ‘Der Kirchenstaat Deutschland’ (‘The Church State of Germany’), Grosz depicted the Pope controlling puppets of Chief Minister Erzburger and Chief Press officer Viktor Naumann, instructing them on the evils of Bolshevism. In Grosz’s illustration, the Pope’s portrayal of the Bolshevist as a destructive ogre lead workers to be devoured by the jaws of Church officials. Grosz’s cartoons also appeared in an article, ‘Die Latrine’, which depicted a toilet with the dictum ‘A German symbol’ underneath. The article sarcastically asked whether An die Laterne, a paper produced by a government propaganda agency, needed a cartoonist, offering Grosz’s illustration in jest. Surrounding the illustration were statements ridiculing the Social Democrats, the utopian Rat Geistiger Arbeiter (Council of Intellectual Workers) and Max Pechstein, the ‘people’s fine artist’. It was shrewd inversion of the accusation by the conservative press that the ‘Die Sensationspresse’ (‘The sensational press’) was siphoning a toilet’s contents into press articles. For the Dadaists, An der Laterne, a government paper, was the publication to be consigned ‘an die Latrine’.

On February 17, 1919, the six man strong editorial team proceeded with a char-a-branc and funeral band through the streets of Berlin, bearing bundles of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball. The procession resembled the numerous funeral processions in Berlin in the months after the War, following the route to ‘the dreary east side’ that Karl Liebknecht’s funeral had taken a month earlier. In east Berlin, the Dadaists sold most of the 7,600 copies printed as, in the words of Walter Mehring:

Our Dadaist procession was greeted with delight as spontaneous as the ‘on y danse’ of the Paris mob in front of the Bastille. And ‘every man his own football’ entered the Berlin language as an express ion of contempt for authority and humbug.

The Dadaists were arrested on their way home from serenading the government offices in Wilhelmstrasse.

On March 3, 1919, a general strike called by the Communists led to heavy fighting between workers and the Freikorps troops, employed by Noske to crush the strike, which lasted until March 13. On March 7, Wieland Herzfelde was arrested for the publication of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball, charged with seeking to bring the Armed Forces into contempt and distributing indecent publications. Walter Mehring’s poem, ‘Der Coitus im Dreimäderlhaus’, referring to metaphorical ‘coitus’ of the Weimar Republic was one the offending articles from the journal cited. Mehring’s poem, which he suggested as the new national anthem, was, as he himself described, ‘a really distressing, obscene piece of anti-militarism for which there was no excuse even as a product of Dadaism’.

The other article which contributed to the charges against Herzfelde was ‘Against the White Terror’, which condemned the actions of the Bavarian Soldier’s Councils in its war against the Munich Communists. It warned the revolutionaries of the newly formed Bavarian Soviet: ‘The revolution is in danger! Revolutionary soldiers of Bavaria! Close ranks around your flag and for the fight against the White Terror of Berlin!’

Herzfelde remained in prison during the two weeks of fighting and was released on March 20. In the following months, the same Dadaists behind Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball published Der Pleite (‘Bankruptcy’). The second issue was entitled ‘Schutzhaft’ (‘Protective custody’), an account by Herzfelde of his time in prison. It was a sober and informative report of the conditions for political prisoners during the Freikorps terror, relating his experiences of witnessing the mistreatment and even murder of other political prisoners at the hands of the Freikorps. The intervention of Harry Graf Kessler, an Anglo-German diplomat who helped finance Malik Verlag, may well have prevented further imprisonment for Wieland Herzfelde.

Although it was only a single four-page journal, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was an influential publication. It marks the beginning of photomontage as a aesthetic for the printed medium and as revolutionary as any words that could be written. As Greil Marcus wrote, ‘punk-as-dada did not even mean this much… the history-in-nutshell parallels always need to explain something new, or explain it away’. Although a direct line can not be drawn between Dada and the punk explosion, one just has to look at the first UK punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue to see the revolutionary and anarchic fervour of the Berlin Dadas embodied in its pages. While the Talking Heads were setting a Hugo ball sound poem to music or other punks were looking at Kurt Schwitters’ Merz collages, the aesthetics and political content of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was the most apparent in the ‘image’ of punk and more importantly, the punk fanzine. While Herzfelde had had to raise funds for a small publishing house to produce his independent publication, the readiness of the photocopier helped the creators of Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn to achieve the same goal as the Berlin Dadaists – to create something outside the media empires that was provocative and uncensored, an independent work untouched by the sensibilities of the money-makers and the status quo. The ethos that still drives many zine makers today.

John Heartfield

John Heartfield

Works used:

Dawn Ades Photomontage (Thames & Hudson, UK, 1976)

Stephen C Foster & Rudolf E Kuenzli (eds) Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt (Coda Press, USA, 1979)

Douglas Kahn John Heartfield: Art and Mass Media (Tanam Press, USA, 1985)

Greil Marcus Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, USA, 1990)

Joanne Moser (ed.) Dada Artifacts (University of Iowa Museum of Art, USA, 1978)

Hans Richter Dada: Art and Anti-Art (Thames & Hudson, UK, 1997)

Robert Short Dada & Surrealism (Chartwell Books, USA, 1980)

‘Political Journals and Art 1910-1940’ Art Journal 52/1 (Spring 1993)

Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball 1 (Feb 1919)

‘Editorial’ Past & Present 1/1 (Feb 1952)

Fred Wright The History and Characteristics of Zines (

The British left and the end of the miners strike: A guide to online sources

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On 5 March, 1985, the miners’ strike against the Thatcher government came to an end when the National Union of Mineworkers called off the strike. A decisive moment in the history of the British labour movement and in the history of Margaret Thatcher’s Prime Ministership, it wasn’t so clear-cut for the British left at the time. This post is a collection of the various reactions by sections of the British left to the end of the miners’ strike that can be found online. I am trying to finish up a few other things at the moment, but I compiled this to hopefully turn into an article in the (hopefully) near future.

In April 1985, the Communist Party’s Marxism Today featured a roundtable dedicated to assessing the strike, featuring several members of the NUM in different capacities. One of the most interesting things about this roundtable is the debate over whether the end of the strike could be labelled a ‘defeat’. The journal also ran two pieces on the future of the NUM by Hywel Francis in April and August 1985 (with the April piece being much more positive than the August piece). In a piece in the journal in May 1985, Jimmy Airlie wrote:

It will be the height of folly and do the movement and the miners in particular a disservice if the Left failed to that the miners have suffered a major defeat. The strike ended not with a negotiated settlement, but under the compulsion of an accelerating drift back to work…

In the March issue of Socialist Worker Review, the SWP’s Tony Cliff compared the defeat with the end of the 1926 strike and again, much of the blame for the end of the strike was laid at the feet of the TUC. In the same issue, the SWP warned against the retreat into ‘Labourism’ by Militant and the ‘abandonment’ of class politics by the Eurocommunists and argued that only a revolutionary party, like the SWP, could offer a way forward. The SWP’s theoretical journal, International Socialism published a lengthy piece by Alex Callinicos and Mike Simons on the strike which essentially argued this at great length, stating in their conclusion:

The ultimate reason why the miners lost was because capital had a determined, ruthless, highly class-conscious leadership while the working class did not. Fortunately the working class lost only a battle in 1985. But to win the war will require a different sort of leadership, one which builds on every workers’ struggle in order to launch eventually an assault on the citadel of capitalist power in the state machine.

A revolutionary party was seen as necessary for providing the labour movement with strong leadership and a commitment to revolutionary socialism.

The journal edited by John Saville and Ralph Miliband, Socialist Register, featured two pieces on the end of the strike. One by Richard Hyman and one by John Saville, with Saville looking at the strike as the end result of the Conservatives’ long-held plan for tackling the unions developed from the mid-1970s.

Copies of The Militant have not been digitised yet (as well as their journal Militant International Review), but here is Peter Taaffe’s account of the strike, taken from his book on the history of Militant, written in the early 1990s.

Apart from these larger left-wing groups, many of the smaller groups had their own interpretation of the end of the strike. The Spartacist League, in its paper the Workers’ Hammer, declared, ‘The strike has been defeated, but the NUM had been broken”. Red Action portrayed the end of the miners’ strike as a symbol of the Thatcher’s pursuit of privatisation and the strike’s end gave Thatcher the ‘authority’ to take on any industry that the Tories wanted,

And here is a view of the strike from the Communist Party of Australia’s Australian Left Review.

This is only a small sample of the available literature. If anyone can point me to more online stuff (or even interested in collaborating on writing something on this – hint hint), please let me know.