Journal announcements

New issue of Socialist History Journal – British left intellectuals after 1956

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The latest issue of Socialist History Journal is out now, co-edited by myself and Matthew Worley. The issue is dedicated to British left intellectuals after 1956. It is an extension of our forthcoming collection with Manchester University Press, Waiting for the Revolution: The British Far Left from 1956. You can find read our editorial for free here and read Ian Gwinn’s essay of History Workshop for free here.

New article published in TCBH on CPGB and gay rights

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that Daryl Leeworthy and I have just had an article published in Twentieth Century British History journal on the Communist Party of Great Britain and gay rights. The title of the article is ‘Before Pride: The Struggle for the Recognition of Gay Rights in the British Communist Movement, 1973-85′ and is available here.

Here’s the abstract:

This article examines the role of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and its youth wing, the Young Communist League (YCL), in the advancement of gay rights in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the CPGB was the first major organization of the British labour movement—and the British left—to advance a policy of gay rights, its participation in the gay liberation movement has tended to be neglected by scholars. In contrast to the general perception of the CPGB in the last decade (or so) of its existence as a party of declining influence and cohesion, easily ignored by the mainstream of the labour movement, we argue that the embrace of gay rights provided communists with a means of pushing for a diversification of labour politics. This coalesced in the mid-1980s with the co-founding of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) by the communist activist Mark Ashton. With the recent scholarly and public interest in the LGSM and its impact upon the Labour Party’s attitude to gay rights, this article aims to reveal that the ‘pre-history’ of the group is firmly rooted in the CPGB/YCL and the Eurocommunist section of the British communist movement.

If people cannot access the article, let me know and I can send a pdf.

New publications: A journal article and a book review.

This is a quick post to let people know about two new publications of mine. Firstly, the International Review of Social History has published an article titled ‘National Liberation for Whom? The Postcolonial Question, the Communist Party of Great Britain, and the Party’s African and Caribbean Membership’. Here’s the abstract:

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) had a long tradition of anti-colonial activism since its foundation in 1920 and had been a champion of national liberation within the British Empire. However, the Party also adhered to the idea that Britain’s former colonies, once independent, would want to join a trade relationship with their former coloniser, believing that Britain required these forms of relationship to maintain supplies of food and raw materials. This position was maintained into the 1950s until challenged in 1956–1957 by the Party’s African and Caribbean membership, seizing the opportunity presented by the fallout of the political crises facing the CPGB in 1956. I argue in this article that this challenge was an important turning point for the Communist Party’s view on issues of imperialism and race, and also led to a burst of anti-colonial and anti-racist activism. But this victory by its African and Caribbean members was short-lived, as the political landscape and agenda of the CPGB shifted in the late 1960s.

You can access the article here.

Secondly, the Australian Labour History journal has published a review of mine, looking at two books concentrating on the Cold War and the New Left in Australia. The two books are Meredith Burgmann’s edited volume, Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, and Ann Curthoys and Joy Damousi’s edited volume, What Did You Do in the Cold War, Daddy? Personal Stories from a Troubled Time. You can access the review here.

Review of ‘Against the Grain’ in International Socialism Journal

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This is a quick post to let readers of this blog know that the latest issue of International Socialism Journal, the theoretical journal of the Socialist Workers Party, has published a review of our book, Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956. You can read the full review (for free) here.

The review isn’t too bad, but concentrates on the contributions by current and former IS/SWP members. It concludes with:

Against the Grain uncovers a history of activists, actions and arguments of the post-1956 period that might otherwise not have been shared. However, it is important that the book is read with a grain of salt. For revolutionaries, the struggle of the working class and the oppressed is always the starting point. The history of the left is only useful when seen in the context of the broader class struggle; as a way of understanding how revolutionaries and other left groups have intervened in an attempt to shape and (hopefully) push the struggle forward. Unfortunately, Against the Grain does not always manage to do this successfully, as it has a tendency to look inward. Still, the anecdotes and analysis it provides give insights which, if read carefully, can help to inform revolutionaries today.

New article in Journal of Australian Studies: Policing Protest in the Australian Capital Territory

Canberra Times on the first use of the Public Order Act

Just a quick post to let you all know that the latest issue of Journal of Australian Studies features my long awaited article on policing protest in the ACT in the early 1970s. The full title of the paper is ‘Policing Protest in the Australian Capital Territory: The Introduction and Use of the Public Order Act 1971’. The abstract is below:

This article examines the reaction by the Australian Federal Government to the protest movements of the 1960s–1970s and their attempts to use public order legislation to thwart radical discontent in Australia. It argues that the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Act 1971 was aimed at the threat of “violent” protests, particularly the tactic of the “sit-in”, and that to this end, the legislation was an overreaction to the actual threat posed by the protest movements at the time. It also shows that after a long gestation period, the Act was ill-equipped to deal with the changing nature of demonstrations in the 1970s, such as the problems caused by the erection of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Thus, after an initial flurry of use in mid-1971, the law has been seldom used since.

You can find the article here. If you use, you can access the article here.

Stuff by me elsewhere on the interweb!

I just thought I’d mention two pieces which might be of interest to readers of this blog. Firstly, my 2013 article in the Journal for Cultural Research on the 2011 and 1981 riots in the UK is currently free to download/access.

Secondly, my guest blog post on the British Union of Fascists and the perception of Australia as a ‘proto-fascist’ colony made the top ten posts of 2015 at the Imperial & Global History blog.

I highly recommend reading them both!

Review of ‘Against the Grain’ in Political Studies Review

The latest issue of Political Studies Review has a review of our book Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 by John Kelly. It is a brief, but very nice, review. Here is the text:

The far left in Britain – communism, Trotskyism and anarchism – has been the subject of relatively little academic research. One reason may be the view that their dismal electoral performance renders them uninteresting, but the editors of this volume argue persuasively that the far left has been influential in voicing dissent from mainstream political positions and in building or supporting social movements to articulate that dissent. The most compelling evidence for this claim stems from the role of the Trotskyist movement in creating two kinds of social movement. These were the anti-war movements of the 1960s and 2000s: the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition, respectively, both of which mobilised hundreds of thousands of protestors. Over the same period, Trotskyists were also active in initiating anti-racist campaigns – most notably the Anti-Nazi League, which was one of the most successful British social movements. At its height, it comprised over 40,000 members in 250 branches, easily dwarfing its less impressive successors Anti-Fascist Action and Unite Against Fascism. Three chapters in the book argue that these organisations were relatively successful in curtailing the spread of far-right organisations such as the National Front, British National Party and the English Defence League. Individual Trotskyists played a major role in all of these organisations, and they did so with the explicit approval, and often at the instigation of, their parent organisations.

On the other hand, other chapters show that Trotskyist organisations struggled to come to terms with the women’s and gay rights movements. The main reason is that feminist and gay activists in groups such as the International Socialists often demanded a degree of autonomy that clashed with the highly centralised organisational structures favoured by Trotskyists. The Communist Party (CPGB) appears to have been more open to the influence of ‘new social movements’, but its positive engagement with women and gay activists was soon overwhelmed by the bitter inner-party struggles of the 1980s prior to the CPGB’s dissolution in 1991. Other chapters on the CPGB throw new light on the factionalism within the organisation, undermining the idea that splits and divisions are peculiar to the Trotsyist movement.

Overall this is a very valuable, path-breaking study of a neglected, but significant facet of British political culture.

We are hopeful that a paperback version of the book will be available some time in 2016, but if you don’t want to wait for that, Blackwell’s is still selling the hardback version with a £10 discount and free shipping.