Saturday, June 28, 2014

ASSASSINATION OF THE CENTURY


Another Saturday, another STOP PRESS...
 

PRESS RELEASE from REMEMBERING THE REAL WORLD WAR 1 

ASSASSINATION OF THE CENTURY

Saturday, June 28, 1.30 Parliament Square to 2.30 St James Park 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenburg, will be assassinated for the second time on Saturday, June 28 in Westminster. The original assassination in Sarajevo a century ago, which triggered the catastrophe of World War 1, will be reenacted at the Guards Division Memorial, St James Park, with a slow-motion replay outside BAE systems in Carlton Gardens. 

Organisers Remembering the Real World War 1 hope to get enough anarchists out of bed to do the job. A spokesperson says: ‘Everyone thinks it was all the fault of Gavrilo Princip that the First World War broke out. But in reality it was down to arms traders, warmongering politicians and unrelenting, jingoistic propaganda.’ With the world at war again in the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, she continues ‘our theatrical reconstruction of these events outside BAE systems will reveal how little has changed today.’ 

The assassination will be preceded by a tour of statues and memorials of the ministers and field marshalls who led Britain into disaster, recalling the words they spoke as they sent almost one million men to their deaths. 

{The Archduke and his wife Sophie [were to be] available for interview on June 27, the eve of the centenary, during the interval of a rare showing of J’Accuse, the world’s first anti-war movie.} 

For more info contact press @ 07955 215115



Notes

  • Event starts at Lloyd George’s statue, Parliament Square, 1.30 pm, Saturday, June 28, continues via Cenotaph and Haig statue, Whitehall to Horseguards. The Guards Division Memorial stands opposite Horseguards in St James Park.
  • Gavrilo Princip, a radicalised student member of the Young Bosnia movement, succeeded in shooting dead the Archduke and Duchess when the car carrying the couple took a wrong turning. They had already evaded an earlier bomb attack. Eerily, the car’s numberplate A111118 prefigured the date of the end of the First World War more than four years, and 16 million deaths, later.
  • BAE Systems are major arms exporters and war profiteers trading with Saudi Arabia, which currently sends arms to ISIS and other Al Quaeda affiliates across the Middle East.
J’Accuse, made in 1919 by the great French director Abel Gance, with actors who had fought at the Battle of Verdun, [was] playing at 7pm, June 27 at the Cock Tavern, 23 Phoenix Road, NW1 1HB.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

LRCND Public Meeting on “Abolishing War”


 Leaflet:

London Region CND Public Meeting
Wednesday July 2nd, 8-9pm
ABOLISHING WAR
Speaker: David Swanson, of the US Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War”.  Author of War No More: The Case for Abolition” (2013) and “War Is A Lie” (2010) among other works.   
Followed by questions and discussion.
At Fenner Brockway Room, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square WC1 (near Holborn tube.)  
This event form part of a speaking tour by David Swanson organised by Movement Against War and Veterans for Peace. 
Entrance is free, but collection will be taken to help cover cost of room and expenses of organising the speaking tour.

(This public meeting is preceded from 7-8pm by a London CND planning meeting at the same venue.
Info: David, david.lrcnd@cnduk.org

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

IDEAS FOR FREEDOM 2014


A weekend of socialist education, discussion, and debate hosted by Workers’ Liberty

Across the world, capitalists are waging class war against the living standards and rights of workers and the oppressed. At Ideas for Freedom, we will be asking: how can we effectively resist and fight back? And how can we organise and educate to revive and strengthen our movement for the long term?

Thursday 3-Sunday 6 July 2014
University of London Union, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY

The main body of the event will take place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July at ULU, but there will also be events at other venues on the evening of Thursday 3 and Friday 4 July. Full agenda below.

For the Facebook event click here.

Free creche and accommodation (get in touch to book) and cheap food.

More information or to book accommodation or creche: awl@workersliberty.org

IDEAS FOR FREEDOM 2014 AGENDA begins:

THURSDAY 3 JULY

Radical Walking Tour of East London
Meet 6pm, Bow Church DLR
Facebook event here.

FRIDAY 4 JULY

A century of radical women's struggles, 1914-2014
7pm, The Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, Euston NW1 2HR
Including: Jill Mountford on the women's movement during World War 1; film about the Grunwick strike; Unison activist Jean Lane on Women Against Pit Closures; SUArts President Shelly Asquith on women workers' and students' struggles at London universities; RMT Women's Committee Chair Becky Crocker on transforming the labour movement.
With food. Facebook event here.


For Saturday and Sunday workshops, see: http://www.workersliberty.org/ideas

Saturday, June 21, 2014

‘Not Just Tea and Sandwiches: Women of the 1984 Miners Strike’

STOP PRESS
Saturday 21st June – 12pm – 8pm, followed by Homespun Women’s Social

The Feminist Library, 5 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7XW 

PROGRAMME 

Exhibition in the LibraryAll Day. Artefacts documenting women’s activism in the Miners’ Strike, presented alongside contemporary artwork. Curated by Megan Pickering (http://iamnotawomanartist.tumblr.com/) featuring original work by Jessica Scott (http://jessica-scott.com/)

12-1.30pm Storytelling Workshop: Fiction from Fact, with Laura Wilkinson. This workshop will consider different approaches to writing fiction (short stories and novels) inspired by real life events using a range of images and ideas. Suitable for all levels and experience. Come ready to write. Places limited – please RSVP to bookshop@feministlibrary.co.uk. Fee £10 (if you have trouble attending because of the fee, please contact us so that we can discuss arranging a subsidy)  

12.30-2pm Film: Here We Go! Women Living in the Strike, produced and directed by Maggie Wright, followed by discussion with Jill Mountford of North Staffs Miners'’ Wives Group.
1.30-2.30pm Lunch break – please bring a packed lunch 
2.30 – 4pm Literature of the Miners'’ Strike: where are the women? Women were key activists during the 1984/85 UK dispute, yet their voices remain marginal in popular representations of the strike. Dr Katy Shaw, a leading authority on the literature of the Miners'’ Strike, in conversation with Laura Wilkinson, author of Public Battles, Private Wars, explore women’s crucial involvement in the events of 1984/5 and the role now played by the strike in modern fiction. 
4pm-4.30pm Refreshment Break – Tea, real coffee and cakes (inc. vegan and GF options) available for modest donations.  
4.30-6pm Recording Experiences of the Strike – Documentary and Oral History. Looks at women'’s experiences in the strike and its aftermath, how it changed lives and communities, if these changes lasted, and what can we take from them today.
We will be screening “Not Just Tea and Sandwiches,” a short documentary from “The Miners'’ Campaign Tapes”, as well as being joined by Rachel Kirk of One For All Productions, creators of oral history project “Holes in Tights”, which records the experiences and memories of North East Women in 1984/5.
 
6 –-8pm Group Meal and Discussion, kicked off by Kit Habianic, author of Until Our Blood Is Dry, (Parthian, 2014) which explores transitions in a male dominated South Wales mining community where traditional values are ripped apart. Kit will also tell of her eight-year struggle to get the book published.  We will reflect on the day as a group, and consider what we can take from the various sessions, and how they might relate to our communities today. Hot food with vegan and gluten-free options will be provided for donations.  
8pm onwards: Homespun Women’'s Social, with music from the 80s!
Suggested donation minimum £3 to the Library to support its ongoing work. 
All genders welcome to the day’'s activities, but the social is self-defined "women only".–
Accessible building:– if possible please contact in advance so that we can facilitate access needs.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering the Real WW1 (London): Events this summer


• 100 years since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand
A TOUR OF WHITEHALL
– remembering the victims and opponents of World War 1

Saturday 28 June,
Meet at 1.30 p.m,
Parliament Square
London

The official commemorations for the start of WW1 will focus on the sacrifice and suffering of the war. But the statues displayed around Whitehall – of Lloyd George, Churchill and Haig – show that the British
establishment still has few regrets about that suffering. These WW1 leaders were responsible for sending a million men to their deaths in a war that killed 16 million, a war that led, inexorably, to fascism and the horrors of WW2.

But Whitehall has an alternative history, a history of protests by suffragettes, soldiers and workers. Join us to explore that history.

(Dressing up is [of course] optional. But organisers say it would be great if people came as anti-war suffragettes or ‘unknown soldiers’ – or Archdukes Ferdinand and Duchess Sophies...)

*‘Remembering the Real WWI’ presents:
Abel Gance’s anti-war film, J’ACCUSE

Friday 27 June,
7 p.m.
Cock Tavern, Phoenix Rd. NW1 1HB, Euston
Free admission

By 1918, after almost four years of war, European society was in a state of shock.
French soldiers had mutinied and the Russian revolution had shown an alternative to capitalism and war. But there still seemed no end to the slaughter. In this atmosphere, Abel Gance resolved to make a film exposing ‘the horror of war’. The result was J’Accuse, a complex love story that culminates in stunning scenes of the war dead rising from their graves ‘to see if their sacrifice was worth anything at all.’

A veteran himself, Gance used French soldiers to play these ‘zombies’ – many of whom, in real life, went on to fight and die in the last battles of WW1. Gance was inspired by the idea that ‘if all the dead came back, the war would stop at once.’ A romantic delusion? Yes, certainly, but more radical and thought-provoking than the barrage of TV programmes presently commemorating the centenary of the conflict.

* The Imperial War Museum will be opening its new WW1 exhibition on
Saturday 19 July.
The museum was set up in 1917 by the very same generals and politicians who started the war. Join us on that day to commemorate the fact that it wasn’t victorious generals and politicians that ended the conflict, it was mutinying soldiers and striking workers – and they did so in revolutions that, almost, toppled the entire capitalist system.

For more details on all of the above see:
http://therealww1.wordpress.com/

Contact Remembering the Real WW1 (London):
therealww1@riseup.net

Monday, June 9, 2014

Report of RaHN Meeting 7th May 2014

Radical History Network of Northeast London
Topic: Political Policing and Surveillance
There was a good turnout, a couple of dozen or so including many with different experiences relating to this topic from all sorts of perspectives.
Political Policing: Summary of talks and discussion
Speakers (after an introduction to the group generally and what we’d got up to in the past):
John from the Radical History of Hackney blog talked about some of the history of political policing in Hackney over the last thirty-forty years. Hackney copper, quote: “The community hated us and we hated them…” In the early 1980s local policing was violent and racist, almost in outright war against local black community. Police actions very raw, no attempt at public relations: open repression and hostility. Black youth especially targeted in stop and searches, harassment, violent arrests. As early as 1982 there was demand for an enquiry into policing locally, coming from the community.
In January 1983, Colin Roach, a local black 15 year old, died from gunshot wounds in the foyer of Stoke Newington Police Station. Police said he shot himself, but there were highly dubious circumstances, and signs of a police cover-up. Colin’s family was treated very badly - Colin’s father was held for questioning for several hours before being told his son was dead. The death, and the way the Roach family were dealt with, provoked a huge local upsurge of anger. Strong parallels with more recent Mark Duggan case. Colin’s friends organised a mass picket of the Police Station, which ended with arrests and a mini-riot. Numerous protests and community organizing followed; the mass response to this death sparked collective activity that lasted several years.
The Roach family and supporters wrote their own report on Colin’s death, held their own public inquiry when they didn’t get an official one, and publicized racist and violent policing in Hackney. They produced a good book on the subject, a sober and critical look at policing in Hackney from the 1940s.
Eventually an inquest verdict of suicide was brought in on Colin, but it was critical of the police response. Many community organizations ended up in effect refusing to co-operate with the cops at all. Even the (then) leftwing Labour Council, quite supportive of the Roach family, voted to stop paying towards policing (though this was eventually ruled illegal later).
As an example of attitudes of the time – Hackney Teachers Association produced a leaflet demanding police keep out of the schools, as they were coming in to intimidate and gather intelligence on local youth. A third of Hackney school excluded cops completely at one point – the police cleverly attempted to get round this by setting up disco dancing sessions and suchlike.
Police brutality continued into the mid-80s, with the vicious beating of Trevor Monerville, the death of Tunay Hassan in custody in Dalston Police Station, and other cases. The community campaigns that formed from these cases eventually came together with the founding of Hackney Community Defence Campaign (HCDA).
HCDA stepped up the pressure on the police locally, setting up a database of violent, racist and corrupt police and those involved in harassment and deaths etc., following up cases, going to court, running campaigns, uncovering police corruption and drug-dealing. Eventually they forced the transfer of eight officers, another committed suicide, others jailed for nicking money from victims and dealing…
In return they experienced harassment, were followed by unmarked cars, received threats… Also one of the undercover police exposed over recent years spent some time infiltrating them at the Colin Roach Centre (disappearing in 2000).
But although there was some restraint on police activity, the Stoke Newington Copshop was redesigned (and Dalston closed down), people continued to die: Shiji Lapite was killed by police in 1994, Harry Stanley shot in the street for carrying a chair leg ‘mistaken’ for a gun in 1999…
Still HCDA and the Hackney experience shows the value of strong community campaigns, did put the police on the defensive for a while, contributed to them being forced to pin back some of worst behaviour. Or at least make an attempt to be seen to be less racist and murderous. Here and in other parts of London (and other cities), the level and tone of police racism and violence did decline into the 1990s as they were called to account.
Next Kevin from Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) spoke about NMP’s long history of fighting police oppression. NMP emerged from local community campaigns in Newham in the early 80s, very much in the same way as HCDA, and numerous other police monitoring groups that sprang up around that time. NMP is one of only two survivors though…
NMP was created out of resistance to racist attacks in Newham, but quickly also came to focus on the failure of the state to deal with them, and took on opposition to police harassment/’sus’ laws, and racist policing. Victims of racist attacks were routinely arrested themselves then, especially if they defended themselves; and racist abuse from cops was pretty much the norm.
NMP also supported work in neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets, especially in the 1990s when BNP were strong there, (gaining a councillor in the Isle of Dogs in 1992), and racist violence again increased in London (there were several racist murders at this time, Stephen Lawrence, Rohit Duggal, Rolan Adams…). Many incidents, including a police attack on picket of Royal London Hospital after local Quddus Ali was beaten up (led to the arrest of the Tower Hamlets 9, and setting up of Bengali organization Youth Connection). NMP also did lots of work supporting refugees targeted by police, state, and racists. EgIbrahimaSey, who died after being pepper-sprayed by police.
Eventually many deaths in custody led to the setting up the United Friends and Families Campaign, which took on the old Police Complaints Authority, disrupted meetings, campaigned to hold police to account over deaths, harassed the Attorney General, etc…
Many of these campaigns were infiltrated by undercover police, as is now slowly emerging (though widely suspected at the time). For example, Peter Francis was undercover in the Lawrence Campaign, there was at least one more, and more to come probably. NMP and Southall Monitoring Project supported Lawrence family during the 90s and MacPherson Inquiry, again spied on.
The main police tactic for dealing with these campaigns seemed to be to try to undermine them, often briefing journalists against them, trying to discredit them. (Undercover police formed a part of this strategy, trying to find evidence of ‘extremist’ links or whatever.) Jean Charles de Menezes case, shot by police in Stockwell tube, mistaken for a terrorist, because he looked a bit foreign – also heavily lied about and briefed against by police to undermine his family. Deliberate smearing. Police also lied in the Ian Tomlinson case in 2008, till it was proved by passer-by’s video that he had been pushed by police.
Unusually in this last case, charges were actually brought against the copper who attacked Ian, though he was acquitted.
The odds are stacked against you – the state is generally unwilling to let the police to be held to account. The work of organizations like HCDA, NMP, Inquest, UFFC and many more is vital, in unsung back against that, but it is an uphill struggle. One major change is that in the 1980s many people would not believe the police could kill people, but there’s now a much wider cynicism about the police.
Check out Newham Monitoring project at: http://www.nmp.org.uk/
Dave M. then talked about some of his experiences of political policing and infiltration. It is important to recognize that the police are an arm of the state, and we shouldn’t be surprised that they act in the repressive ways described. Dave talked about the police repression faced here by such events as the Windsor Free Festival in 1974, internment in Ireland, international repression such as in Poland in the early 1980s, also the police tactics at Stop the City in 1983-4 (where they couldn’t deal with the dispersed protests to start with but eventually just arrested everybody). Also the repression faced by striking miners, printers, and the poll tax movement. Again the same campaigning and support work around the hundreds of people arrested for the poll tax riots through the Trafalgar Square Defendants Campaign, powerful work done there.
Infiltration into London Greenpeace: a very effective campaigning group, anarchist-oriented, very involved in anti-nuclear, environmental and animal rights campaigns 1970s-90s… One of their most effective campaigns was against McDonalds, produced famous leaflet ‘What’s Wrong With McDonalds’… Which led to them being infiltrated by seven different corporately-sponsored spies paid by McDonalds, with the aim of suing them for libel. This led to the long-running McLibel case. But the group was also infiltrated by at least two police spies who have now been uncovered, who not only acted as provocateurs but also had ‘relationships’, and in some cases children, with LGP activists and others. A pattern that would recur with later police undercovers.
Although these dynamics severely damaged and impacted on the lives of the women thus used by these cops, Dave’s contention was the campaigns were not diminished, undermined or compromised by the infiltration.
The women targeted by these undercover police, together with others who have had similar experience, are now suing the police, and campaigning around this issue as Spies Out of Lives campaign:  http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/
This case was due in court for full hearing on June 5th and 6th, despite police attempts to have it all heard in secret. They have already put together two volumes of evidence on the police response to their case, and have forced the cops to drop an application to strike out the women’s case, after the publicity on the Ellison report and the infiltration of the Lawrence family.
One event Dave also flagged up was the 2005 Freedom to Protest Conference, which brought together many activists, campaigns etc, to discuss and swap ideas and tactics to resist police repression of protest, setting up defence campaigns etc. Sadly, though the conference was useful and inspiring it left no ongoing organizational legacy. A report of the Conference can be found at the Conference website: http://www.freedomtoprotest.org.uk/conferencereport.htm
More recently at the Climate Camp protest at Kingsnorth power station, demonstrators faced a massive police operation set up to prevent them getting near the site, using roadblocks, stop and search, exclusion zone etc. The systematic use of stop and search itself was illegal under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE was itself brought in in 1984 as a result of community pressures and struggles to restrict police powers). Non-co-operation by demonstrators and highlighting of the questionable legalities did lead to the operation being shut down – temporarily, for five hours –  though.
General Discussion
During the resulting, the following points were made:
• Why have some groups like Hackney Community Defence Campaign and many others collapsed, when the broad conditions that led to their creation carry on around us? Some, like Newham Monitoring Project, do continue…
• Many conditions have changed around us, new police technologies and tactics, to which we have to adapt.
• How and why do police do surveillance on us? Why do they infiltrate? To undermine campaigns, yes… But also it seems from the infiltration into Lawrence family recently exposed, to trawl for info, gossip, which can not only be used to direct police tactics, to attack and smear campaigns, but also just to draw up lists of who knows who, who does what, is involved with what… info gathering, for future use.
• How might body cameras now being introduced change police behaviour? Some people think it will peg back police abuses, but they can also be turned off at will… There is some doubt as to how much they can be used in evidence, and also concerns about how they can be switched off, they can record when record light isn’t on. Interestingly the company who provides tasers has won contracts to supply body cameras.
• Tasers and secret courts new and worrying developments to be used against us.
• Another project around undercover police and infiltration is a group putting together a web presence with details of all the different undercovers, what they did, how they link up, who they infiltrated, dealt with etc. this is a long term attempt to draw a bigger picture but also fill in details.
• Netpol are also challenging police surveillance on a policy level; surveillance both by cops and private companies has now reached an industrial scale. You can check your file: put in a subject request on the Domestic Extremism Database on yourself. Lots of the information is wildly inaccurate… Check netpol.org for more info
• Surveillance of everyday life in the digital sphere is very similar to traditional police spying activity. But resistance is growing… in the USA there is a big political response, it has become a massive ‘civil rights’ issue. All over the world also, people are countering digital repression on many levels on the web, it is not a lost cause. Another perspective on this was that we are all pretty trackable these days, there is little many of us can do about it, and maybe we should be being open about what we are doing and not worry… “It’s the new reality and can you even fight it”. An interesting point, although as someone else pointed out, private surveillance for the purposes of things like industrial blacklisting has cost people their jobs, etc…
• But as Walter Benjamin said: ”The police’s job is to go beyond the norm”. We can always expect the cops to use underhand methods to defend existing order; that we have struggled and forced them to back off, has restricted their powers, but they will always be pushing those boundaries. In reply we need to be pushing them back, both on legal and campaigning levels.

Worth reading is Eveline Lubbers’ book, Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark, about both police and corporate spying on activists in the UK and other European countries.
As well as the more highly publicized Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, by Guardian journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans.

And


 
[Published since this meeting]

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Matchwomen's Day 2014


Battles and Victories, 1888-2014

Saturday 5th July, 11am Mander Hall, NUT Hamilton House, Mabledon Place London WC1H 9BD. Transport: King’s Cross,Euston

Tina McEvvit Louise RawKate ConnellyKate HardieSara KhanSukhwant Dhaliwal

John Hendy QC Terry McCartyScarlett HarrisHeather Wakefield Alex Wall Caroline RaineFaisal Ali

Facebook www.facebook.com/Matchwomen Twitter: @Matchwomen1888 Email: Louise.raw@virgin.net

Hosted by NUT London Women Thanks to the Pay Equity Campaign
 

STRIKING A LIGHT:


THE BRYANT & MAY MATCHWOMEN AND THEIR PLACE IN
LABOUR HISTORY


The Strike


In the summer of 1888, fourteen hundred workers, mostly young women and girls, walked out of Bryant & May’s match factory in Bow, East London.

Before the strike the matchwomen were regarded as the ‘lowest strata of society’. The ideal 19th century woman was the ‘Angel in the House,’ a deeply respectable wife and mother – she did not work in factories, and was not to be found in pubs and music halls nor enlivening East End nights with enthusiastic renditions of ‘Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay’(as the matchwomen frequently did).

However, their strike changed everything: during it they were the subject of thundering editorials in the Times, and impressed MPs with their intelligence. After it, they formed the largest union of women workers in the country. They received death threats from someone claiming to be ‘Jack the Ripper’ (the first of the notorious murders occurring just after their victorious return to work) but also attracted the more wholesome attentions of ‘celebrity socialists’ like George Bernard Shaw and, most significantly, Annie Besant, Fabian journalist and, according to all previous sources, the leader of the strike.

The matchwomen’s temerity in taking on Bryant & May, one of the Empire’s most powerful and successful companies, was breathtaking. As working-class female ‘casuals’ they were paid a pittance, could be hired and fired at management’s will and were supposed to know their place – which was firmly at the bottom of the labour hierarchy. That they returned to work two weeks later with their demands for better pay and conditions met, was completely unexpected and not lost on other exploited workers in the East End and beyond.

‘White Slavery’


However, because of Besant’s supposed role, history has frequently treated the matchwomen with condescension to match that of any Victorian grandee. Certainly Besant published a blistering exposé of Bryant & May under the resounding title ‘White Slavery in London’ after interviewing a handful of matchwomen outside the factory.
Besant wrote that Bryant & May’s enormous profits- shareholders were receiving dividends of 20%- had been achieved by slashing wage-rates so dramatically that they were lower in 1888 than 15 years previously. Accordingly the youngest women were obviously malnourished and small for their ages. Factory foreman beat the women and the machinery cut their hands- even severing the fingers of one, who was then unable to work and left penniless.


‘Phossy Jaw’


However their biggest fear was ‘phossy jaw’, the dreadful industrial disease of matchmaking. Toxic particles from white phosphorus, used to dip the match heads, entered the workers’ jawbones through holes in the teeth, causing pain and facial swelling. Eventually the jaw would start to decay, and pieces of bone the size of peas would work their way out through suppurating abscesses. The resulting odour was so appalling that even sufferers’ loved ones could not stand to be in the same room. Factory inspectors would report cases of phosphorus victims living on the outskirts of towns like outcasts. The disease could end in disfigurement and agonising death.

Annie Besant


Besant’s article shocked the nation, and several days later the matchwomen walked out. Accordingly historians have concluded that they were little more than political puppets.
After ten years research I have been able to prove that Besant was in fact nowhere near the match factory when the strike began, and completely unaware of it until a deputation of strikers came to her offices days later. Besant was a remarkable woman whose life, traced in the book, was an extraordinary fin de siecle search for meaning, ending in India where she had become the effective leader of a new age religion and where her body was burned on a funeral pyre. In 1888 she unquestionably produced valuable publicity for the matchwomen, but by no stretch of the imagination led them.


Just a year after the matchwomen’s victory, a wave of strikes resulted in the unionisation of tens of thousands of the most exploited workers, and sowed the seeds of the independent Labour Party. The most famous was the Great Dock Strike, which began within walking distance of Bryant & May’s: but historians would have us believe that this was purely co-incidental. However, I’ve found considerable evidence that the matchwomen were a clear and admitted influenced on the Dock Strikers, who sought their advice, and hailed their example at strike meetings throughout 1889.

From ‘the Emerald Isle’


I believe that an important factor in the strike was their Irish heritage. As their employer said, most ‘hailed from the Emerald Isle’, as did many dockers. The Irish community in London at the time was famously close-knit and political, united against prejudice in England, which combined with oppression at home, heightened class as well as national identity.

After several years’ research I was finally able to identify the women who really began the strike and show that they had strong ties to Dock and Irish communities, living in streets variously described, with the casual xenophobia of the time, as ‘Fenian Barracks’, ‘a regular Irish den…all the vices of the Irish rampant’, and ‘inhabited by many Irish…a rough lot, given to drinking, racing and betting’.

Real Women


The most exciting and moving part of my work was tracing and meeting grandchildren of the Bryant & May strikers. In my book I introduce key figures like Mary Driscoll and Eliza Martin for the first time, and follow their remarkable lives beyond the strike, into marriage and motherhood.

After writing articles for Irish papers I was sent these words, received by a dock striker in a letter from Ernest Bevin:
‘Fifty years ago…you were among those who were involved in a great industrial upheaval- virtually a revolution against poverty, tyranny and intolerable conditions.
You little thought during those weeks…that you were laying the foundation of a great Industrial Movement.’


I believe that this is an equally fitting tribute to the remarkable matchwomen, who were nothing less than the mothers of the modern labour movement, and to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.

http://louiseraw.co.uk/moreinformation.htm

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Advance Notice of next RaHN meeting, 10 September


(and reminder/update about London Remembering the Real WW1 Group)
 
The next RAHN meeting is to be held on Wednesday 10th September, usual time and place:
7.30 p.m., Wood Green Social Club
3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ  (off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube)

The subject will be the First World War.
 
We hope to have more than one main speaker, to spark off discussion on aspects of local (NE London) resistance to the war as well as the wider national and international context. More details will be posted here in due course.
 
Following the successful FreeSchool event on 18th May (report to follow on website), the June and July meetings of the London Remembering the Real WW1 Group will be on  
Thursday June 5th,
Thursday 26th June,
Thursday 10th July 
(not 3rd Thursdays as in the first few months of the group) 
at 88 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1DH, 7.30 p.m. 
All welcome. The group will be hoping “to build on the interest and ideas generated at the FreeSchool for actions around the planned WW1 Centenary Commemorations”
For more information email: therealww1@riseup.net