After the horrific recent attack by ‘alt-right’ racists and fascists in London on Bookmarks bookshop – a longstanding socialist bookshop ‘founded in 1967 in a suitcase’ according to Ian Birchall, I thought the least I could do would be to just briefly put up a post in solidarity with Bookmarks. As someone who is proud to have had two books published with the help of Bookmarks bookshop in the past – Chris Braithwaite: Mariner, Renegade and Castaway (2014) and (as co-editor), Celebrating C.L.R. James in Hackney, London (2015) – indeed we had the booklaunch for the little booklet on Chris Braithwaite in Bookmarks bookshop itself – I managed to pay them a visit today (and bought a few books, and a nice anti-fascist greeting card – see photos below).
Fascist attacks on left wing (and black, women’s and LGBT+) bookshops are of course nothing new, and as Bookmarks manager Dave Gilchrist rightly noted in the Guardian, obviously have chilling historical echoes of ‘book-burning’ in 1930s Nazi Germany. In the current climate when fascists internationally are more emboldened and confident than ever thanks to the normalisation of racism by the likes of Trump and his myrmidons, we urgently need to come together to build a united mass movement against the far right that can turn the tide against them. I would also urge anyone reading this who has not already done so to visit Bookmarks either in person or through their website online and buy a book out of solidarity.
The last 2 years has seen the biggest growth of racism since the 1930s – it’s time to turn back the tide…
Saturday 17 March – #MarchAgainstRacism in London – http://bit.ly/antiracismday18
#TrumpNotWelcome • #BlackLivesMatter • #RefugeesWelcome • No to #Islamophobia & #AntiSemitism • #NeverAgain
Two new exhibitions out now in time for Black History Month 2017 feature the life and work of Chris Braithwaite – in Liverpool and in London.
In Liverpool, at Merseyside Maritime Museum there is an exhibition based largely on the work of Ray Costello, Black Salt: Britain’s Black Sailors and ‘reveals the contribution Black seafarers have made to some of the most significant maritime events of the past 500 years’, and runs until September 2018.
In London, Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives are hosting a new exhibition of artwork on the life and work of Chris Braithwaite by London-based artist Basil Olton, also of Barbadian heritage, who ‘has created a number of new artworks in ceramics reflecting their shared concerns of imperialism and its impact on contemporary British society. The artwork includes clay sculptures as well as archives documenting Chris Braithwaite’s surveillance by the state which have been manipulated by the artist’, and runs until January 2018. See the full programme of events here: http://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-necessary-fiction
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:
“Chris Braithwaite was an inspiring and revolutionary black socialist, trade unionist and political activist. The campaigning work that he carried out in the East End in between the wars had a profound effect on the working lives of dockers and seamen in the East End and beyond. So, it is fitting that this exhibition brings to life the work that he did and shines a light on a sometimes overlooked, but very important figure in our local history.”
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, said:
“We’re proud to be associated with this important memorial for a genuine working class hero, especially in our time of political instability. Chris Braithwaite’s legacy of political and industrial activism in the face of overt racism and prejudice should be on the national curriculum and both Tower Hamlets Council and Basil Olton are to be congratulated on their work to bring this memorial and exhibition about. When we look at the practice of nationality based pay discrimination in today’s shipping industry, all unions who organise seafarers and dockers have lessons to learn from Chris Braithwaite’s example of steadfast and effective campaigning to end long established employment practices that exploit and discriminate against workers to increase owners’ profits.”
2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and among the many conferences and events being organised to mark the anniversary I am co-organising one entitled ‘The Red and the Black – The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic’ which will be held at the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), University of Central Lancashire, Preston, from the 13-15 October 2017 – for more information please see here, which has details of how to register and a provisional programme to download. Keynote speakers are Professor Winston James (University of California, Irvine), Dr Cathy Bergin (University of Brighton), and Professor Hakim Adi (University of Chichester), while there will also be special performances from Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tayo Aluko and David Rovics.
The funeral cortège outside the historic Mangrove Restaurant
Last month I attended the funeral of Darcus Howe, great-nephew of C.L.R. James and someone I had the privilege of getting to know a little over the last few years of his life, having first met him when he agreed to speak at a conference I helped organise to mark ‘Seventy years of The Black Jacobins‘ in 2008 – and someone whose generous support for my work on James since then I will always appreciate. ‘I am an immigrant’, he defiantly told me one of the last times we met – a great statement in the context of the rising racism underway in Britain – and his thoughts on Nigel Farage were very memorable. ‘He is what I call a “talkative” … he babbles inanities’. Anyway, by way of tribute to Darcus, I thought I would link to a short obituary I wrote for Socialist Review – Darcus Howe: Black Power in the New Left. RIP Darcus.
To mark the centenary of the historic Leeds Convention of 3 June 1917, where some 3,500 democrats and socialists pledged solidarity with the Russian Revolution and voted to set up Worker’s and Soldiers’ Councils in Britain, Leeds Trades Council and the Ford-Maguire Society with the generous support of the Lipman-Miliband Trust are holding a one day event at the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds on Saturday 3 June from 10-4pm. Speakers include Michael Meadowcroft on the Leeds Convention, John Newsinger on the Russian Revolution, Janet Douglas on Arthur Ransome, Leeds and the Russian Revolution, and Jill Liddington on ‘Leeds Suffrage Stories: Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe and Leonora Cohen’. There will also be an evening event with American folk singer David Rovics performing – for those near Leeds this is not an event to be missed. Together with Janet Douglas I have recently co-edited a new centenary edition of the proceedings of the Leeds Convention, British Labour and the Russian Revolution – The Leeds Convention of 1917 (Spokeman, 2017) which includes the original 1974 introduction to this volume by the late Ken Coates as well as new archival material and other details relating to this event which Ralph Miliband described as ‘perhaps the most remarkable gathering of the period’.
10am – Welcome
10.15 – Michael Meadowcroft, ‘The Leeds Convention’
11.15 – coffee break
11.30 – John Newsinger, ‘Revolutionary Russia and the Dream of a New World’
12.30 – lunch break
1.15 – Jill Liddington ‘Leeds Suffrage Stories: Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe and Leonora Cohen’
2.15 – Janet Douglas ‘Arthur Ransome, Leeds and the Russian Revolution’
3pm – Final Remarks (inc Steve Davison, Keighley TUC) and Book Launch of ‘British Labour and the Russian Revolution – The Leeds Convention of 1917’ (Spokesman, 2017) and David Rovics leading us in singing ‘The Red Flag’ .
7.30pm – Love Music Hate Racism gig with David Rovics at the Fox and Newt, Burley St – tickets £10 / £5
Register on eventbrite here to help keep track of likely numbers: