Modern European History

CFP: XXVth Conference of the Australasian Association for European History, Monash University, 11-14 July 2017

Monash would like to invite you to the XXVth Conference of the Australasian Association for European History, to be held at Monash University’s Caulfield Campus in Melbourne.
Europe’s Entanglements
Location: Monash University (Melbourne), 11 – 14 July 2017
Contact: arts-AAEH2017@monash.edu
Website: http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/australasian-association-for-european-history-2017/
First deadline for paper and panel proposals:  30 September 2016

As Europe commemorates the centenary of the Great War, current conflicts nearby spark the largest influx of refugees since the Second World War. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom considers (once again) leaving the European Union, and economic downturn and the re-emergence of far right politics throughout the EU threatens its unravelling at the seams. What intervention can historians make to understand these developments? This conference invites a reconsideration of Europe’s entanglements – with the past, with its neighbours in the world, and within itself ­­­– and how these have been forged as well as unmade through the commemoration and forgetting of its history, the movement of people across its borders, the clash of political and economic interests, the encounters between different ideologies and worldviews.

We invite established scholars as well as postgraduates to discuss Europe’s entanglements (and disentanglements), their historical roots, contours and contemporary resonance, from the eighteenth century to the present, on the topics below. Individual papers are welcome, and we also encourage panel proposals.

  • The formation and dissolution of borders, blocs and empires in Europe;
  • The foundation, expansion and maintenance of overseas colonies and empires, their dissolution and legacies;
  • Efforts at national and regional unification, as well as the resistance of ethnic and religious groups against integration within nation-states and across the continent;
  • The movement of people as migrants, refugees, expatriates;
  • Social and cultural networks and movements – monarchies and aristocracies, entrepreneurs and business people, journalists, scholars, public intellectuals, artists, entertainers and writers;
  • Europe’s efforts, attempts and failures at integrating within a global community, through legal, economic and political institutions;
  • Entanglements with the past through commemorative practices and communities, representational practices, custodial institutions and museums, and through traces and monuments in the landscape (natural as well as urban);
  • The historical trajectory of environmental entanglements, between humans, animals and their habitats, urban and rural;

 

CONFIRMED KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Glenda Sluga, University of Sydney
Professor of International History, ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Jennifer Sessions, University of Iowa
Associate Professor of History

Tony Ballantyne, University of Otago
Professor of History, Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Advertisements

Celebrating VE Day in the Tribune and Daily Worker

To celebrate the 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies in May 1945, here’s how the Communist Party of Australia’s Tribune celebrated the victory, compared with the reporting of the victory by the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Daily Worker.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 7.57.31 pm

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 11.12.01 pm

‘Fortress Britain’ and the end of the Cold War

Timothy Garton Ash wrote in The Guardian this week that the walls and barriers that had fallen in 1989 were being rebuilt in 2015. A cartoon in the pages of Marxism Today published in December 1989 seems to have made the same argument – that while the West celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, at the same time, they were seeking to build metaphorical walls of their own to keep out ‘undesirable’ migrants.

Wall 1989

In 1982, Thatcher described the Berlin Wall as ‘a monument to oppression and cruelty, but also to futility’. The British border control system, which was significantly strengthened during her Prime Ministership, could be described in the same terms.

Since Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, the free movement of people within the borders of the EEC (and then the European Union) meant that Britain experienced significantly more numbers of migrants from Europe than from the Commonwealth and other nations, whose numbers were cut dramatically by the introduction of the Immigration Act 1971. Although opposition to Britain joining the European Community has been widespread, but diffuse, since the late 1960s, opposition to migration from within Europe was only a minor feature in the discourse on immigration in Britain until the 1990s.

The most reasonable explanation for this is because there was free movement within the EEC’s borders, labour migration was not permanent and numbers seemed to rise and fall in line with changes in the economic landscape. But there is also the possibility that objections to European migration were muted because most migrants within the EEC were “white”. The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-1991 and the enlargement of the European Union in the early 2000s have shifted the discourse on European migration in Britain.

A substantial part of the discourse has been a concern over migrants from Eastern Europe to Britain, replicating fears expressed over previous waves of migrants to Britain – that Eastern Europeans, particularly Polish migrants, have been taking jobs away from British people and that others, particularly Romanians, Bulgarians and Albanians, have been involved in crime in Britain, from petty offences to trans-national organised crime. These objections to migration from Eastern Europe have been usually, but not always, part of a wider objection to the European Union and a push for Britain to leave the EU.

Furthermore in 2015, the nations that exist on the edges of the EU, such as Greece, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have been seen as having porous borders that have allowed asylum seekers and ‘illegal immigrants’ from the Middle East and South Asia into Europe. Under the Conservatives (and driven to the right by UKIP), anti-European and anti-immigrant sentiment had reached such a height that Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU and Cameron has pushed for a renegotiation of the nation’s obligations to Europe. This is possibly the biggest assertion of British self-interest within the EU since Margaret Thatcher refused to join the Schengen Area in the late 1980s.

In 1985, the Schengen Agreement was first signed by member countries of the EEC to discard the operation of border control between these countries, which has expanded within the EU to twenty-five countries. Thatcher refused to join and during an infamous speech in Bruges in 1988, stated:

Of course, we want to make it easier for goods to pass through frontiers. Of course, we must make it easier for people to travel through the Community. But it is a matter of plain common sense that we cannot totally abolish frontier controls if we are also to protect our citizens from crime and stop the movement of drugs, of terrorists and of illegal immigrants.

By this time, ‘Fortress Britain’ had already excluded most Commonwealth immigrants and now it resisted relaxing its controls with regards to people from within Europe.

As travel restrictions between East and West Germany were abolished in November 1989, Thatcher expressed that she hoped that ‘this is only a prelude to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.’ As the rest of the Soviet Bloc collapsed, while many proposed greater integration of the former Eastern ‘people’s democracies’ into the European Union, Thatcher and other Eurosceptic Tories worried about expansion of the EU eastwards. However by the time that EU expansion was actually tabled, Labour was in power, who did not oppose this, much to the chargrin of many.

While the walls are going back up across mainland Europe now, Britain’s (metaphorical) walls have been erected since the dying days of the Cold War.

 

Archive of Connolly Association’s ‘Irish Democrat’ now online

This is a guest post by Gerard Madden. Gerard Madden is an Irish Research Council funded PhD student in NUI Galway, currently completing a dissertation on ‘Irish Catholic anti-communism in the era of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, 1940-1971’. A founding member of the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class, he is interested in the cultural and political history of twentieth century Ireland, North and South, and the revolutionary left, both in Ireland and internationally.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.43.34 pm

For historians of the British and Irish communist movements, Irish republicanism, the Northern Ireland conflict, and those examining the Irish community in Britain generally, the digitisation and uploading online of the newspapers of the Connolly Association, Irish Freedom (1939-1944) and the Irish Democrat (1945-2000), by the group are an important development that will make research much easier.

Wedding traditional Irish republicanism with socialism, the Connolly Association played a highly visible role in the Irish community in Britain after its establishment in 1938, having branches in most of the main cities to which Irish immigrants were attracted in the large-scale post-war migration across the Irish Sea. As Enda Delaney’s The Irish in Post War Britain notes, the group held frequent meetings in Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner in London, while in Birmingham Connolly Association members sold the Irish Democrat outside churches, in pubs, and to arriving Irish immigrants getting off trains.

The Irish Democrat’s editor from 1948 to 1988 and the Association’s most important figure was C. Desmond Greaves, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and an early biographer of several important figures in Irish radical history, notably James Connolly and Liam Mellows. While a majority of the Connolly Association’s members were not involved in the CPGB, something confirmed by the CPGB’s archives, the paper’s denials of CPGB links convinced few observers, limiting its appeal amongst the broader Irish community. Correspondence between Greaves and CPGB General Secretary Harry Pollitt in the CPGB archives confirms that the paper was seen by the party as a means for it to reach out to the Irish working class in Britain.

The paper was certainly identified by Catholic clerics, both British and Irish, as an attempt to recruit unwitting Irish Catholics into the British communist movement. Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, a Galway-born labourer and Connolly Association member, recalled seeing a comrade attempt to sell the paper to an elderly Irishman who snarled, ‘clear off with your oul’ paper, the Church doesn’t approve of it.’ The News of the World- also a bugbear of Irish Catholic clergy for its perceived immorality- was sticking out of the man’s pocket, prompting the paper-seller to turn ruefully to Mac Amhlaigh and ask, ‘just how mixed-up can Irishmen get?’ One particularly vocal anti-communist among the Irish Catholic hierarchy, Bishop Michael Browne of Galway, went as far as to write to the Irish Democrat denouncing it as communist in 1949 after it denied a claim by him that the group was a communist front, the paper publishing the letter but rejecting subsequent ones from Browne.

The Irish Democrat also covered other events of interest to the Irish community in Britain, in order to appeal to the working class Irish community which it targeted– for instance, it regularly reported on the events of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Britain, an important social outlet for Irish Catholic immigrants. The Irish language featured regularly in the paper – unsurprising, given Mac Amhlaigh, a well-known Irish language writer, was a regular contributor. It also covered broader social issues in Britain from a specifically Irish perspective, such as London’s racist Notting Hill riots of 1958, urging the Irish community to disavow racism and support their fellow immigrants against discrimination.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.40.34 pm

Moving into later decades, the newspaper is also an important source when examining the emergence of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, campaigns surrounding the wrongful imprisonment of Irish people in Britain during the conflict, and the relationship of the British Labour Party and the broader British left towards Ireland. While Jeremy Corbyn’s relationship with Sinn Féin in the 1980s has become a talking point of Labour’s current leadership election, also of contemporary interest is the appearance of Labour’s current acting leader, Harriet Harman, on the front of the January 1983 issue declaring her support for an united Ireland!

The Connolly Association’s newspapers were not easily accessible to historians before this- I had previously relied on the archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, of all places, to access the Irish Democrat for my current research on the Irish Roman Catholic Church and anti-communism during the Cold War, the Archdiocese under Archbishop John Charles McQuaid collating the paper to keep up to date with the activities of the Irish communist movement. In making them freely and easily accessible online, the Connolly Association have done both scholars and those interested in the Irish left more broadly a great service.

The Communist Party and Mosley’s Union Movement, 1947-51

News came through this week that veteran anti-fascist campaigner Morris Beckman had died. Beckman had been involved in the 43 Group, a militant anti-fascist organisation set up in the late 1940s to combat Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement. The 43 Group worked alongside the Communist Party of Great Britain to fight the UM in the late 1940s and it can be argued that one of the reasons that Mosley fled to Ireland in the early 1950s was that the UM had encountered stiff anti-fascist resistance on the streets, led by these two organisations. Beckman’s account is worth reading, alongside Dave Hann’s history of militant anti-fascism – but the best account would still be David Renton’s book from 2000 on the subject.

The following post is an extract based on my forthcoming book on the CPGB and the politics of ‘race’, which, I anticipate, will be off to the publishers in the next week or so…

An anti-fascist meeting in the late 1940s

An anti-fascist meeting in the late 1940s

One of the key areas of the anti-racist struggle in the late 1940s was the fight against Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement, which arose out of the ashes of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF). A prominent organisation in building this anti-fascist resistance to the Union Movement was the Communist Party of Great Britain. The anti-fascist work of the CPGB during the inter-war period was one of the Party’s highest achievements and the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, where the Communist Party helped lead over 100,000 people in a demonstration against the BUF in October 1936, had quickly become part of the Party’s mythology. In his study of Mosley and British fascism, D.S. Lewis wrote of the importance of the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in the history of British anti-fascism and the vital role the Communist Party played:

On the day itself the CP divided responsibility for different streets amongst its members, as well as establishing first-aid posts, information posts, and runners to carry messages to other sectors of ‘the front’. The rest, of course, is history.[1]

Mark Neocleous wrote in his study of fascism, ‘seeing fascism as a historical phenomenon that ended in 1945 or thereabouts… encourages a dangerous forgetting’.[2] While Mosley and leading members of the BUF, as well as the leader of the tiny Imperial League of Fascists, Arnold Leese were interned during the Second World War, this did not happen to the majority of fascists. Although the War and internment were huge blows to British fascism, it did not end in 1940.[3] Richard Thurlow correctly pointed out that the fascist organisations that existed in the inter-war period did not survive the War, but that did not stop Mosley and other fascists attempt to adapt fascism to the post-war period.[4] From 1945 and 1951, Mosley’s Union Movement, alongside other fascist organisations and agitators, revived a campaign of violence and intimidation, with a programme that still ‘smacked of fascism’, despite attempts by the Union Movement to distance itself from the BUF.[5] As the majority of British people were clearly hostile to fascism in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Union Movement was ‘always doomed to failure’, but as James Eaden and David Renton acknowledged, anti-fascists, including the CPGB, ‘can also claim some credit for having helped to hasten fascism’s demise’.[6] In the post-war period, the Communist Party was a leading organisation in the anti-fascist movement after the ‘failure of the Labour Party to take a lead in the street campaigns against Mosley’.[7] Alongside the CPGB were Jewish organisations, such as the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, progressive organisations, such as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), and the radical organisations, such as the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and the 43 Group.

Despite the decision of the state to intern fascists during the Second World War, the post-war Labour Government was reluctant to act decisively against fascist agitators, believing the existing laws would contain the negligible fascist elements that existed in post-war Britain.[8] However the state was far from neutral on the issue of post-war fascism, with Noreen Branson recounting:

Home Secretary [Chuter] Ede had imposed a temporary ban on all political processions in London… Yet, as the Communist Party Executive pointed out, hundreds of police were being used to protect meetings by the fascist Oswald Mosley who was trying to re-establish his anti-semitic organisation.[9]

As E.P. Thompson wrote in a 1947 pamphlet, Fascist Threat to Britain, ‘It is quite clear that the fascists welcome the police at their meetings – not as a warning, but as protection from the justice of the people’.[10] This did not prevent the Communist Party from demanding that the state be used to contain fascist activity. Arguing against the common assumption that ‘the police already have enough powers to deal with [the fascists]’, Thompson declared, ‘If they have, they should use them. If they have not, they should be given the powers they need’.[11] As the Labour Government was viewed as not dealing effectively with the fascist resurgence, the Communist Party, with its ‘reputation for anti-fascist work going back to Cable Street’, began anti-fascist work against Mosley and the Union Movement.[12]

However there was a move by the CPGB leadership away from the direct militant action of the 1930s, such as that witnessed at Cable Street, to a position of reliance upon the state. In Thompson’s pamphlet, the actions advocated by the Party did not include direct action, instead demands were made that ‘spreading of specifically fascist doctrine… be outlawed’, ‘spreading of racial hatred and anti-Semitism… be made a crime’ and that ‘existing laws… be strictly enforced’.[13] Alongside this, the Party urged that other organisations ‘go on record for the outlawing of fascism’ and more immediately, ‘If the fascists come into your locality, get all the inhabitants to sign a petition of protest to the Home Secretary’.[14] Nigel Copsey suggested two reasons for this move away from direct militant action. The first was that the ‘decisive action taken by the state’ against the British fascists during the Second World War led the CPGB leadership to believe that a ‘non-confrontational policy towards fascism was the most appropriate’.[15] Secondly, the cautious post-war policy by the Communist Party should be read as a result of their support for the Labour Government in the early post-war years.[16] As part of the transformation by the CPGB to adjust to Britain’s post-war conditions, the Party leadership ‘officially discouraged any anti-fascist activity likely to give the Communist Party a bad name’. By demanding a state ban on fascism, the CPGB attempted to appear as a respectable political party.[17] This reliance on the state and reluctance to be involved militant actions contributed largely to how the Communist Party anti-fascist campaigns throughout the post-war period.

In the 1945 General Election campaign, the CPGB had proposed that anti-Semitism become a criminal offence, an attempt to attract support from the local Jewish circles and emphasise the Party’s anti-fascist stance.[18] While a proposal for banning anti-Semitic propaganda and agitation was a practical task to deal with the immediate threat of fascism, the total banning of fascist organisations by the state was much more problematic. As seen with the 1936 Public Order Act, while the Government stressed that ‘any legislation would apply equally to the Left as well as to the Right’, in practice the state used this legislation ‘almost entirely… against anti-fascist protestors’.[19] The CPGB bore the brunt of the state’s zealousness to keep the status quo and as David Renton has written, the state frequently used its laws to harass the CPGB while sympathising with the fascists.[20]

This did not prevent all Communist members from being involved in militant action to stop the Union Movement organising, with some members of the CPGB working closely with the anti-fascist collective, the 43 Group. Formed in March 1946 as a militant anti-fascist group with the aim to ‘go on the attack against the emergent fascists with a view to destroying them’,[21] a ‘number of prominent members of the Communist Party’ David Renton wrote, ‘had taken part in the discussions leading to the formation of the 43 Group’ with a ‘party cell’ existing within the Group.[22] It was believed at the time by the police and the fascists that the 43 Group was a Communist front organisation, but as Morris Beckman, one of the founders of the Group, told Socialist Review:

It was said that the 43 Group was a subversive Communist organisation… We were not connected to any organisation, but sometimes we worked with the Communists. They wanted to take us over… Sometimes we found ourselves attacking the same fascist meetings as the Communists. We would even pass information to them.[23]

Beckman wrote in his memoir of the 43 Group, ‘the enemy of our enemy was our friend, and the Communists were actively attacking the fascists’.[24] The CPGB leadership could not publicly condone the actions of the 43 Group, but there was no disciplinary action against those Party members involved.

The Communist Party and its anti-fascist work of the 1930s and 1940s has been largely identified with the Jewish population of London and the considerable Jewish membership within the Party. The relationship between the Jewish community and the CPGB has been well-documented by Henry Srebrnik, who described the Party’s anti-fascist legacy and its stature among East End Jews as tapping into a ‘specifically ethnic means of political expression’.[25] For the Jews of East End London, their attraction to the CPGB was the Party’s ‘self-appointed role as a steadfast opponent to all manifestations of domestic fascism’.[26] In the Stepney branch, one of the Party’s biggest, around fifty per cent of the one thousand members in 1945 were Jewish.[27] As the Union Movement began to agitate in the early post-war period, Communist Party members and Jewish activists both fought against the fascist revival, utilising the memory of the Party’s anti-fascist work of the inter-war period. However by the early 1950s, the Jewish Communist subculture had fallen into decline, although as late as 1965, it was estimated that around ten per cent of the CPGB’s membership was Jewish.[28]

There are several factors for this decline. David Renton stated that the physical destruction of London’s East End by the Blitz meant that large numbers of the Jewish population moved north and west, out of the areas where the BUF had drawn support and with the end of the war, more former East End Jews became employed in middle-class jobs, with the number of Jews in trade unions dropping dramatically.[29] Alongside this, Chimen Abramsky, Secretary of the CPGB’s National Jewish Committee, suggested that in the post-war period, ‘Fascism was not the main issue of the day’ and the CPGB was ‘more concerned with the danger of the Cold War, with the Marshall Plan, with the future of India, of the future of Palestine’, believing that Mosley was ‘a spent force’.[30] There was also the Communist Party’s opposition to Zionism, based on Stalin’s statement that Zionism was ‘reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish bourgeoisie’, as well as the Party’s uncritical support for the Soviet Union when details of widespread anti-semitism amongst the CPSU began to surface in the 1950s.[31] However there was an uneasiness amongst some CPGB members towards the large Jewish membership in London, which is possibly indicative of the latent working class racism that the Party had to face in the post-war period, demonstrated by this passage in Bob Darke’s 1952 exposé on the Communist Party:

Yet I never felt happy with Jewish Communists. They were too sensitive, their feelings were too close to the skin. They were certainly among the hardest-working, most active members of the Party, but they made me uncomfortable. And a great many Gentile comrades felt the same way.[32]

After six years of anti-fascist activity, the Union Movement went into decline and in 1951, Mosley left Britain for self-imposed exile in Ireland. This can be viewed as the end of ‘classical’ fascism in the vein of the inter-war movement, although not the end of fascism in Britain (as the rise of the National Front demonstrated). The defining organisation for the post-war fascist movement was the League of Empire Loyalists (LEL), formed in 1954 by former BUF Director of Propaganda, A.K. Chesterton and an organisation through which nearly all the important figures of post-war fascism passed. However the fascists were now a response to the collapse of world imperialism and the decolonisation process. In the Cold War polarisation between Washington and Moscow, Britain had lost its significance as a world power and for the fascist organisations of the mid-1950s onwards, non-white Commonwealth immigrants became the new scapegoat for the fascists’ perceived threat to the ‘remnants of the British Empire and way of life’.[33]

Once Mosley left for Ireland in 1951, the other fascist organisations that existed were more influenced by the inter-war Imperial Fascist League’s Arnold Leese than Mosley, emphasising anti-Semitism and racism against Britain’s black immigrants. What characterised British fascism between 1951 and the formation of the National Front in 1967 was a series of splits into tiny organisations featuring the same individuals, the result of attempting to adjust fascism to post-war Britain and a succession of personal clashes. From 1957 onwards, the same names – Colin Jordan, John Tyndall, Martin Webster, John Bean, Andrew Fountaine – were involved in various groups, which despite numerous splits and different organisational titles, were only superficially distinguishable from each other, primarily the White Defence League (WDL), National Labour Party (NLP), British National Party (BNP), National Socialist Movement (NSM) and the Greater Britain Movement (GBM). Despite involvement in and brief notoriety from the anti-immigrant agitation of the Notting Hill riots, these fascists achieved little during this period. Copsey remarked that, ‘[f]or the most part, the 1950s in Britain were quiescent years for both fascists and anti-fascists’,[34] despite appealing to populist anti-black racism. The focus of anti-racist activists, including those in the Communist Party, in the 1950s and 1960s was the mainstream prejudice against newly arrived Commonwealth immigrants.

————————————————————–

[1] D.S. Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism and British Society, 1931-81, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1987, p. 125

[2] Mark Neocleous, Fascism, Open University Press, Buckingham, 1997, p. xi

[3] David Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, Macmillan, London, 2000, p. 23

[4] Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History 1918-1985, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1987, p. 233

[5] Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur, p. 239

[6] James Eaden & David Renton, The Communist Party of Great Britain since 1920, Palgrave, Houndmills, 2002, p. 108

[7] Eaden & Renton, The Communist Party of Great Britain since 1920, p. 108

[8] Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, p. 74

[9] Noreen Branson, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1997, p. 203

[10] Edward Thompson, Fascist Threat to Britain, CPGB pamphlet, London, 1947, p. 12

[11] Thompson, Fascist Threat to Britain, p. 12

[12] Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, p. 80

[13] Thompson, Fascist Threat to Britain, p. 14

[14] Thompson, Fascist Threat to Britain, p. 14

[15] Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, p. 87

[16] Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, p. 87

[17] Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, p. 87

[18] Henry Srebrnik, London Jews and British Communism, 1935-1945, Vallentine Mitchell, London, 1995, p. 75

[19] Nigel Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, Macmillan, Houndmills, 2000, p. 64; Richard C. Thurlow, ‘The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back: Public Order, Civil Liberties and the Battle of Cable Street’, in T. Kushner & N. Valman, Remembering Cable Street, p. 91

[20] Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, pp. 101-129

[21] Morris Beckman, The 43 Group, Centerprise Publications, London, 1993, p. 26

[22] David Renton, This Rough Game: Fascism and Anti-Fascism, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2001, pp. 176-177

[23] ‘Our War Against Fascism’, interview with Morris Beckman, Socialist Review, March 1993, p. 23

[24] Beckman, The 43 Group, p. 30

[25] Henry Srebrnik, ‘Sidestepping the Contradictions: The Communist Party, Jewish Communists and Zionism, 1935-48’, in Geoff Andrews, Nina Fishman & Kevin Morgan (eds), Opening the Books: Essays on the Social and Cultural History of the British Communist Party, Pluto Press, London, 1995, p. 136; Italics are in the original text

[26] Henry Srebrnik, London Jews and British Communism, 1935-1945, Vallentine Mitchell, London, 1994, p. 53

[27] Tony Kushner, ‘Jewish Communists in Twentieth-Century Britain: The Zaidman Collection’, Labour History Review, 55/2, 1990, p. 66

[28] Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, p. 89; Kushner, ‘Jewish Communists in Twentieth-Century Britain’, p. 66

[29] Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, p. 89

[30] Cited in, Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s, p. 89

[31] J. Stalin, ‘Marxism and the National Question’, in J. Stalin, Works vol. 2, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1953, p. 418, fn. 131

[32] Bob Darke, The Communist Technique in Britain, Penguin Books, London, 1952, p. 44

[33] Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 239

[34] Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain, p. 102

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

Here is a post from my friend David Convery:

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, WORKERS AGITATION AND LEFT-WING ACTIVISM IN IRELAND, 1968-2010

CALL FOR PAPERS

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 david.convery@nuigalway.ie

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: https://fromcivilrightstothebailout.wordpress.com/

How the Morning Star reported the fall of the Berlin Wall

The Morning Star from 11 Nov, 1989 (all pics from microfilm copies of the paper so text is probably unreadable)

The Morning Star from 11 Nov, 1989 (all pics from microfilm copies of the paper so text is probably unreadable)

Two days before the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the Morning Star (the paper nominally tied to the newly established Communist Party of Britain) had a two page spread celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. Interviewing Yuri Kasin of the Soviet Union’s Social Sciences Institute, the article praised the reforms in the USSR under the banner of perestroika and quoted Kasin about the growth of socialism:

What we are seeing now is not the crisis of Socialism, but the crisis of the outdated model of Socialism. Perestroika is outlining the contours of the new model to which the future belongs.

Those who are ready to bury Socialism, because of the difficulties we are going through will be disappointed. The cause of the Great October Revolution is immortal.

On the night of 9 November, the Berlin Wall began to collapse. The Morning Star first reported it on 11 November under the headline ‘GDR UNVEILS REFORMS PACKAGE’. Roger Trask quoted the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) who were putting their spin on the rapidly unfolding events (announcing 18 new crossing points):

The German Democratic Republic is awakening… A revolutionary people’s movement has set in motion a process of serious upheaval… The aim is dynamically to give Socialism more democracy.

Trask further reported:

The party announced plans for the total reform of the electoral process onto a multi-party basis and for the establishment of the rights of assembly and press freedom. New underground and railway border crossings are also to be investigated, said the GDR Interior Minister Friedrich Dickel.

Amid scenes of wild jubilation thousands of GDR citizens visited West Berlin for the first time in their lives – with most of them enjoying the stay but returning back later.

The newspaper attempted to portray what was happening as part of a wider reform package by the SED and the Soviet Union:

In Moscow leaders gave the changes a warm welcome but warned that they could not lead to a re-drawing of the boundaries of Europe. Soviet government spokesman General Gerasimov called Berlin’s action ‘a wise decision because it destroys all the stereotypes about the Iron Curtain.’

But he added, ‘East Germany has introduced a new regime on its border but the border remains.’

On page 2 of the same edition of the newspaper, the Morning Star ran an editorial titled ‘For peace and stability’. The editorial read:

THE EVENTS taking place in the German Democratic Republic and the decisions being taken by the Socialist Unity Party are part of the process to bring about changes in Socialism in line with the demands and needs of the people in the modern age. Despite the propaganda being pumped out daily in the West, Socialism is not the issue in question. Any interference in the internal affairs of the Socialist countries by the Western powers in an attempt to turn in any difficulties to their advantage can only threaten peace and stability…

There should be no illusions. Strong forces in the West still harbour the hope that they can exploit the current situation in the Socialist countries to the advantage of capitalism. The labour and progressive movement in Britain needs to be aware of this and not allow the more extreme forms of anti-Communist propaganda in the Western media confuse the issue. It is vital that the demand is made that the countries of Eastern Europe be allowed to resolve their problems in their own way without interference. 

The principal [sic] of respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of another nation has got to become the bedrock of all states in the whole of Europe if Europe is to play a role in advancing the cause of peace and make a positive contribution to global problems… Elements within the West who continue to attempt to push arguments about the reunification of Germany are only complicating the situation. The question of the relationship between West Germany and the German Democratic Republic is for those two countries to decide on the basis of the principle of peaceful co-existence.

MS on 13 Nov, 1989

MS on 13 Nov, 1989

As the Eastern Bloc started to unravel over the next year, the Morning Star (on paper at least) welcomed some of the reforms within Eastern Europe (such as the overthrow of the Ceausescus in Romania), but followed the SED and Soviet line until the end in December 1991. I have written more about the reaction of the British left to 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc here and about the line taken by the Morning Star at the time, I said:

As would be expected, the language used in the Morning Star in its reporting of the events from 1989 to 1991 was much more moderate than what was expressed in Marxism Today or the Socialist Worker, but there were many positive stories about the people’s uprisings in Eastern Europe and the moral and political bankruptcy of the collapsing regimes [p. 160].

25 years on, I wonder how the paper will report on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the current climate.

MS announcing the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991

MS announcing the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991