16 Police violence

Tuesday 21 MAY 6PM-8PM

Birkbeck College,  Room 103,
30 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DT.

ACTIVISTS

Kevin Blowe – co-ordinator of Netpol. The Network for Police Monitoring seeks to monitor public order, protest and street policing, and to challenge and resist policing which is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil rights. Netpol has built an inclusive network of activists, campaigners, lawyers and researchers to create a forum for sharing knowledge, experience and expertise. Through active campaigning, sharing knowledge and building awareness, Netpol aims to effectively challenge policing strategies which are unnecessarily damaging to any sector of our society.

Second group TBC

HISTORIANS

Jonah Miller is a research student at King’s College London. He recently published ‘The Touch of the State: Stop and Search in England, c.1660-1750’ in History Workshop Journal

Anja Johansen is a Senior Lecturer in History at Dundee University. Her research is focused on the relationship between police and the public in France, Germany and Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her current research project “Quarrelsome Citizens: Emerging Police complaints Cultures in London, Paris and Berlin, 1880-1914” compares the ways in which individual citizens challenged police violence and malpractice. She is also interested in the development of civil liberties activism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how individual citizens sought to challenge public authorities – including the police and the judiciary. 

ANTI-FASCISM WRITE-UP

Tuesday 16 April, Birkbeck College

Key questions:

  • Why is anti-fascism so white?/ What is the relationship between anti-fascism and anti-racism?
  • How can fascism be effectively combatted on the internet?
  • Is violent confrontation a necessary aspect of anti-fascist activism?
  • What is the significance of language?/ Who gets to define ‘fascism’?
  • Is it useful for anti-fascism to be subculture?
  • Is anti-fascism policing the acceptable boundaries of discourse?
  • How can you counter fascism when it is in power? / What happens when the overton window shifts and you are opposing government policies, rather than fascists on the street?
  • How useful is localism and the idea of defending one’s own ‘turf’ in anti-fascist mobilisation?
  • How can we fight fascism when it is more diffuse and fluid than its predecessors?
  • Are anti-fascists mobilising against organisations/institutions or narratives?
  • How can anti-fascists address the underlying factors that give rise to support for fascist groups and narratives?
  • How can anti-fascists counter the weaponization of the label ‘fascists’ against the left?
  • What role has anti-communism played in fascism historically?
  • Is there any value in the idea of a ‘popular front’ against fascism?
  • How can we deal with the sheer number of fascists that are being mobilised?
  • Should anti-fascists mobilise against fascism in particular, rather than the ‘far-right’ more broadly?

The History Acts session on the 16th April brought together historians of anti-fascism with anti-fascist activists to discuss what value history might have in combating fascism today. Here is a brief summary of some of the issues and ideas that were discussed.

Adam, member of Plan C and one of the hosts of 12 Rules for What, suggested that history could be a tool for anti-fascists, yet has the potential to weigh them down. Campaigns such as ‘Bring Back Rock Against Racism’ are stuck in the cultural moment of the 1970s and risk mis-reading contemporary youth culture – much of which is now orientated towards online platforms like YouTube. Although there has been progress made in the development of a counter-movement of left-wing youtubers like ContraPoints, it is difficult to know how to tackle the sheer popularity of many right-wing youtubers like PewDiePie amongst young people.  

There might be value in drawing parallels between fascists today and WW2-era fascists – such as the picture that was leaked of John Tyndall of the BNP in full Nazi uniform, or the comparison of Tommy Robinson with tape over his mouth to a similar image of Hitler – but this toxification of fascist ‘brands’ might be more difficult in the present day when it is not as easy to draw a straight line connecting key figures to WW2 fascism.

The relationship between anti-fascism and anti-racism must also be explored; anti-fascism must necessarily be anti-racist. The majority of anti-fascist activists are white, but can we expect people of colour put themselves in danger in potentially violent conflicts with fascists in the street? This raised the question of the place of violence and militancy in anti-fascist activism. Nigel Copsey, historian of anti-fascism in Britain, suggested that violence has historically been a defining feature of anti-fascism – which is necessary, effective and justified. Adam also suggested that militancy is itself a territory that needs to be contested and not simply conceded to fascists. What, however, happens when fascists withdraw from the street into ‘community politics’, or take power? How might anti-fascists develop effective techniques and tactics of mobilization which are able to adapt as fascists do?

This related to the broader question of what anti-fascists are rallying against. Anti-fascists are not necessarily organising against particular parties, groups or organisations – as in the twentieth century – but narratives, such as the ‘betrayal of brexit’, sexual grooming cases or the denial of ‘free speech’. How should anti-fascists respond when they are no longer fighting battles in the street – but government policy and the mainstream media?

Discussion also turned to how anti-fascists can address the root causes of fascism. Is ant-fascism useless if it is not combined with a structural critique of the economy? How has fascism, historically, been associated with anti-communism? Anti-fascist mobilisation can often be rooted in localism and the idea of a defending one’s own turf against fascists, but how could this local mobilisation also speak to the material deprivation communities face and offer a transformative vision for economy and society?

15: ANTI FASCISM

TUESDAY 16 APRIL 6PM-8PM

Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts
43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

ACTIVISTS

Adam Lawrence, Plan C London
Plan C is an anti-authoritarian communist and anti-fascist organisation, with a number of local groups spread across the UK. www.weareplanc.org .  Adam is one of the hosts of 12 Rules for What, a new podcast about the far right .

Brighton Antifascists /Antifascist Network
Brighton Antifascists is an active antifascist group in existence since 2010. We are willing to confront any fascist/racist activities in our area, by encouraging mass direct action amongst other methods. We try to organise as a non-hierarchical group. BAF is part of the nationwide Antifascist Network, which works to encourage militant resistance to fascists and racists wherever they rear their unwelcome heads.

facebook.com/brightonantifascists
facebook.com/antifascistnetwork


HISTORIANS  

Professor Nigel Copsey is a specialist in fascism and anti-fascism. His first monograph, Anti-Fascism in Britain (2000), examined the history of anti-fascism in Britain from the 1920s to the present day. A second revised and expanded edition of this book was published by Routledge in 2017.

Jessica Thorne is a PhD student at Royal Holloway, researching transnational anarchist resistance to Franco’s Spain 1960-1975. She has written for History Workshop Online and is a contributor to Notes from Below.

Podcast – The Left in Government

Listen to activists and historians come together to discuss the past and future of the Left in government, in the latest episode of the History Workshop Podcast.

Recorded on Tuesday 16 January 2018, the podcast features:

Beth Foster-Ogg, Labour activist and Momentum Training Organiser.

Michael Walker, contributor to Novara Media and Labour activist.

John Callaghan, Professor of Politics & Contemporary History at the University of Salford.

Charlotte Riley, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British History at the University of Southampton.

Find out more

Calls For Research 01 Prisons

The first call for research comes from the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) which is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World. IWOC spoke at the most recent History Acts on Prison Abolition.

IWOC are looking for historical research on:

  • the role of public sector unions in influencing penal policy, prison expansion, prison regimes, etc
  • the role of the private sector as above
  • the historical role of prison labour. continuities and discontinuities (including between institutions, eg. workhouses and later prisons). changing composition of industries. introduction and development of private sector contracts, etc.
  • revenues and expenditure
  • impacts of prisons on local, regional, and national public and community sector service provision (eg. healthcare).
  • the role of reforms in expansion or innovation (eg. significant population increase following introduction of parole). especially the relationship between decarceration and the implementation of alternative disciplinary technologies.
  • the exchange between domestic and colonial prisons

They are also really up for ongoing communication, so if people do know of any research in these areas we’d really appreciate an email, and that we’re really happy to share any research we’ve done ourselves with researchers in the field – so just get in touch!

To discuss this further please contact london.iwoc@iww.org.uk
Please title your email ‘Relevant Research’.

IWOC unfurl a banner at History Acts 14, Prison Abolition – Tuesday 22 January 2019

14: Prison Abolition

Tuesday 22 January 6PM-8PM

Birkbeck College, Room:GOR 327,
43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.

ACTIVISTS

Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World. IWOC struggles to end prison slavery along with allies and supporters on the outside. On September 9, 2016 it was part of a coalition of inside and outside groups that launched the largest prison strike in US history. Resistance to prison slavery continues with work stoppages, hunger strikes and other acts of resistance to business as usual.

The Empty Cages Collective is a project aimed at building a movement in England, Wales and Scotland that resists the prison industrial complex and organises towards a prison-free world.

HISTORIANS  

Oisín Wall is an historian and curator based in University College Dublin at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland. He is currently working on the Wellcome funded project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000. His strand of research is focused on the instrumentalization of health by non-political prisoner activists and the prisoner rights movement in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s..

Ben Bethell is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London, researching a thesis titled ‘“Star men”: first-offender classification in English convict prisons, 1863-1914’.  His publications include ‘An exception too far: “gentleman” convicts and the 1878-9 Penal Servitude Acts Commission’, Prison Service Journal 232 (July 2017) and ‘Defining “unnatural crime”: sex and the English convict system, 1850-1900’ in Sean Brady & Mark Seymour (eds.) From Sodomy Laws to Same-Sex Marriage: International Perspectives since 1789 (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2019). 


Join our team

We are looking to recruit a few people to be part of the core organisational team.

Currently, History Acts organises a workshop once a month during the academic year at the Institute of Historical Research.  We are looking to add two or three people to our core team, to help organise and chair the monthly workshops and to expand our activities.

As well as help with running the workshop we are particularly interested in:

  • Podcasts to reach wider audiences;
  • Developing this website into a resource for activists/historians;
  • Seeding History Acts in other locations.

How to apply:

Please email info@historyacts.org explaining why you would like to be involved. Please attach a cv. Deadline January 7th.

13 Decriminalising Sex Work

Tuesday 27 November 6PM-8PM

Archaeology Lab, Birkbeck College,
26 Russell Square, London WC1E 7HX

ACTIVISTS

SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement) is a collective founded and led by sex workers who believe in self-determination, solidarity and co-operation. They campaign for the rights and safety of everyone who sells sexual services. Together they organise skill-shares and support meet-ups just for sex workers, as well as public events. They are UK-based and part of the global sex worker-led movement advocating the full decriminalisation of sex work.

Decrim Now is a coalition of sex workers, human rights activists, trade unionists, feminists and politicians, which is calling for the full decriminalisation of sex work. Launched at The World Transformed in 2018, they are campaigning for the Labour Party to support decriminalisation.

HISTORIANS

Julia Laite is a lecturer in Modern History at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research interests are in the area of women’s history, the history of sexuality, and the history of migration in Britain and the British world. Her first book, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1930 examined the criminalisation of prostitution in a period that witnessed the codification of laws and development of policies that helped to shape the control of prostitution and the experiences of women who sold sex in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Kate Lister is is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Communication at Leeds Trinity University. Kate primarily researches the literary history of sex work and curates the online research project, Whores of Yore, an interdisciplinary digital archive for the study of historical sexuality. Kate has also published in the medical humanities, material culture, Victorian studies and Neo-Medievalism. She regularly writes about the history of sexuality for inews, Vice, and the Wellcome Trust. Kate won the Sexual Freedom Publicist of the Year Award in 2017.

12 Trans*

TUESDAY 15 MAY 6PM-8PM

Graduate Centre, Room 603
Queen Mary, University of London,
Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

ACTIVISTS

Action for Trans Health London is a grassroots organisation which seeks to democratise and improve trans* healthcare. Their word includes raising funds to facilitate trans* individuals’ access to healthcare, engaging with medical professionals about trans* health, and engaging the trans* community about health issues.

Morgan M. Page is a Canadian artist, writer and activist based in London. She is the author of the widely-distributed BRAZEN: Trans Women’s Safer Sex Guide. She is the recipient of the Youthline’s Community Empowerment Award (2011), along with two 2013 SF MOTHA awards. She is also the host of the trans history podcast, One from the Vaults.

HISTORIANS

Dr Kit Heyam is a researcher and a transgender awareness trainer, based in Leeds, specialising in public sector, higher education and non-profit organisations (including choirs). His research interests concern transgressive sexual behaviour in medieval and early modern England and France, and his PhD (University of Leeds, 2017) investigated Edward II’s developing historiographical reputation during the period 1305-1700. He has published articles on gender nonconformity and LGBT history.

Dr Clare Tebbutt is a Lecturer in Modern British Social History at the University of York. Her research lies in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British cultural history, especially queer history, histories of the body and of social change. Her research examines how medico-scientific concepts surrounding hormones, sex and gender were incorporated into 1930s popular culture, in particular, the many press accounts of people whose sex was deemed to have changed.

Dr Catherine Baker is Senior Lecturer in 20th Century History at the University of Hull. She is a specialist in post-Cold War history, international relations and cultural studies, including the post-Yugoslav region in a transnational and global context. Catherine’s current projects include relationships between the military and popular culture; the cultural politics of international events (including the Eurovision Song Contest); transnational LGBTQ politics and identities since the late Cold War, including queer representation in media; and ‘race’ in the Yugoslav region.

 

11 Environment

Tuesday 17 April 2018 18:00 to 20:00
MAL G16, Birkbeck College, Malet St, London

History Acts workshops are led by activists, who give a short talk or presentation about their work. Historians working on a relevant topic will then respond, before opening it up to group discussion.

Activists

John Hunter, Divest London
Divest London
is a citizens’ movement, pushing public authorities and other institutions across the capital to show leadership and divest from fossil fuels.

Historians

Simon Pirani is Senior Visiting Research Fellow on the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Natural Gas Programme. He has published widely on the development of natural gas markets, and changing consumption patterns, in the former Soviet Union. He was editor of, and contributor to, the programme’s multi-author volumes The Russian Gas Matrix: How Markets are Driving Change (OUP, 2014) and Russian and CIS Gas Markets and their Impact on Europe (OUP, 2009). He is currently completing a book on the global history of fossil fuel consumption from 1950, to be published by Pluto in 2018.

Barbara Brayshay & Chris Church, Our Places, Our Stories: Mapping and Celebrating 50 years of Local Green Action
Our Places Our Stories is a new project which will record the remarkable places and projects where local people stepped up and took action, places where they said “No” to changes that threatened their environment or their community, or they wanted to create something new – a city farm, a cycle route or an energy project. There have been hundreds of local environmental campaigns and initiatives but there is little that records or celebrates what people did.