Category Archives: Past

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.

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). 


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.

10 International Solidarity

Tuesday 20 March 2018 18:00 to 20:00
Dreyfus Room, Birkbeck26 Russell Square, 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.

Our panel

Activists

Cuba Solidarity Campaign is a British organisation that campaigns against the US blockade of Cuba, for an end to the US occupation of Cuban land at Guantanamo Bay, and to defend the Cuban people’s right to be free from foreign intervention. The campaign also works to build links and better understanding between Britain and Cuba, and has more than 5000 members, affiliated organisations and local groups.

Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign was formed in spring 2017 and aims to be a broad-based campaign, affiliated with trade unions, civil society groups and the labour movement in order to promote the cause of a free and democratic Kurdistan.

Dr Francisco Dominguez, National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, is Head of the Latin American Studies Research Group, Middlesex University. He is former refugee form Pinochet’s Chile and is active on Latin American issues in the UK. He is a specialist on the contemporary political economy of Latin America about which he has written extensively. He is co-author ofRight-Wing Politics in Latin America(Zed Books). He is also a member of the National Executive Committee of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and is co-coordinator of Friends of Ecuador.

Historians

Dr Helen Yaffe is Lecturer in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow. She is an economic historian specialising primarily in Cuba and Latin America. She is the author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution (2009) and, with Gavin Brown, Youth Activism and Solidarity: the Non-Stop Picket Against Apartheid (2017).

Pádraig Durnin is a PhD researcher in History at Queen’s University Belfast. His research focuses on solidarity activism with Latin America in Britain and Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the wider history of such activism in a particularly Irish context. His broader interests include the history of the post-war political left, in particular its relationship to the emergence of the human rights paradigm. He is also former Outreach Officer of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Emergency: On strike. How to win?

Can history help us win this dispute?  Can we link our struggle over pensions to the struggles against casualisation of teaching and outsourcing of university staff? In an emergency History Acts teach-out, we invite historians of trade unionism to discuss strategies and tactics with union officials and activists.

WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 6pm to 8pm
MAYDAY ROOMS, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH

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

ACTIVISTS

Mike Berlin is joint-President of Birkbeck UCU, and a historian specialising in the social history of early modern London. UCU members are currently on strike to defend their right to a fair pension.

Henry Chango Lopez is President of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, a small, independent trade union, whose members are predominantly low paid migrant workers in London. The union was founded in 2012. The IWGB is a campaigning union, which has waged a number of high profile campaigns such as for the London Living Wage at the Royal Opera House and at John Lewis, and the 3 Cosas Campaign (sick pay, holidays, and pensions) at the University of London.

Catherine Oakley is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds and co-founder of The Academic Precariat (TAP), a new activist platform for research and teaching academics, and other categories of staff in the Higher Education sector united by the material and psychological conditions of precarity.

HISTORIANS  

Dr Laura Schwartz is Associate Professor in Modern British History at the University of Warwick. Her main research interests are the history of feminism and radical movements in Britain, and she is completing her third monograph on ‘Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class Conflict and Domestic Labour in the British Women’s Suffrage Movement’.

Laura is involved with Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE), a network aiming to bring together casualised academic workers involved in struggles around the country, to organise for better labour conditions.

 

09 Disability

An opportunity for historians with an interest in disability to engage with activists.

Tuesday 20 February
18:00 to 20:00,

CHANGE OF ROOM
Room 407, 30 Russell Square, Birkbeck, London WC1B 5DT

THIS ROOM IS FULLY ACCESSIBLE

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.


Our Panel

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is an organisation for disabled people and allies to campaign against the impact of government spending cuts on the lives of disabled people. DPAC was formed by a group of disabled people after the 3rd October 2010 mass protests against cuts in Birmingham, England. DPAC is for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality.

Eleanor Lisney is a founding member of Sisters of Frida, an experimental collective of disabled women. Taking their name from the disabled artist and activist Frida Kahlo, Sisters of Frida work to find new ways of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks. Their vision is a future in which disabled women are empowered, celebrated, informed, connected, valued and at the centre of society.

Mike Oliver is Emeritus Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich and a campaigner for disabled people’s rights. His 1983 book, Social Work with Disabled People, is credited with introducing the ‘social model of disability’, and his work has been influential in the development of disability studies over the past three decades. Other publications include The Politics of Disablement (1990) and Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice (1996).

Dr Esme Cleall is Lecturer in the History of the British Empire at the University of Sheffield. She researches and teaches on the social and cultural history of the British Empire; the politics of difference; and race and disability in nineteenth-century Britain. Her current research project, Colonising Disability: race, impairment and otherness in the British Empire, c. 1800-1914, explores the construction of disability in the nineteenth-century British Empire.

08 Labour & Momentum: The left in government?

An opportunity for historians with an interest in left wing governments to engage with Momentum and Labour activists.

Tuesday 16 January 2018 18:00 to 20:00
ROOM CHANGE 6pm to 8pm Dreyfus Room, Birkbeck
26 Russell Square, 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.


Our Panel

Beth Foster-Ogg is a Labour activist and Momentum Training Organiser. She has had articles published by Labour List and the Independent, and in 2016 she ran for the position of Chair of London Young Labour.

Michael Walker is a contributor to Novara Media and a Labour activist. In 2016, he worked on the Jeremy for Labour leadership campaign in the volunteer mobilisation team and was a panellist at our first History Acts workshop.

John Callaghan is Professor of Politics & Contemporary History at the University of Salford. His research interests include: the politics and history of socialism, international history since 1789 and political ideologies. Amongst other works he is the author of The Far Left in British Politics (1987) Socialism in Britain Since 1884 (1990), and The Labour Party and Foreign Policy: A History (2007).

Charlotte Riley is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British History at the University of Southampton. She specialises in the history of twentieth-century Britain, especially the Labour Party, aid and development, and decolonization. She is also interested more broadly in the culture of British politics and society, especially issues around gender politics and the British state.  She is currently working on a monograph exploring the Labour Party’s aid and development policies from the 1920s to the 1970s.