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Soundings, Volume 78, pp 124-137; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.11.2021
In this interview Paul Gilroy talks to Femi Oriogun-Williams about his love of folk music of all kinds. He discusses its songs of expropriation, suffering, soldiering, impressment and migration; its relationship to the countryside - often a dangerous and menacing place - and to Englishness, including English nationalism; and the role of Black performers inside the world of folk, including Nadia Cattouse, Dorris Henderson, and Dav(e)y Graham. He also discusses the cosmopolitan of musicians, and their appetite for music that operates across cultural and national boundaries; the plasticity, pliability and nomadic aspects of musical forms mean that Nina Simone can make a song by Sandy Denny her own, and Kathryn Tickell can experiment with South Asian sources; it allows songs to appear in many different versions, as with 'The Lakes of Pontchartrain'. The folk traditions of the Atlantic world exhibit all of the recombinant cultural DNA that went into them. This creates the possibility of reading the culture of the Atlantic world, North and South, with the idea of a Creole culture - and the possibility of thinking with a creolised planet in mind.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 96-102; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.07.2021
For many years Berta Caceres - Honduran environmental defender, Indigenous community leader and co-founder of COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras) - campaigned against the construction, without consent, of the Agua Zarca dam in Lenca territory, by private energy company DESA. In 2016 she was assassinated. Since then there has been a long struggle to bring those responsible to justice. In 2018, seven men were found guilty of planning and carrying out the assassination, but records showed they were following orders from higher up the food chain. In July 2021, DESA president David Castillo was found guilty of being a 'co-conspirator' in the assassination. Others involved, including Daniel Atala and other members of his wealthy family, are yet to be investigated. In Honduras, a culture of impunity, corruption and violence prevails, which links the state, the army, the business world and criminal networks. Although those who resist are frequently killed, the resistance continues. Within this grim picture, 'clean energy' and 'development' often act as shiny eco-covers for elites amassing profit without regard to the rights of Indigenous people. It needs to be more widely recognised that green capitalism is not a solution for the climate crisis: it is merely a form of neo-colonialism.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 86-95; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.06.2021
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 38-49; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.02.2021
The impacts of human-induced climate change are manifested through losses and damages incurred due to the increasing frequency and intensity of climatic disasters all over the world. Low-income countries who have contributed the least in causing climate change, and have low financial capability, are the worst victims of this. However, since the inception of the international climate regime under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), loss and damage has been a politically charged issue. It took about two decades of pushing by the vulnerable developing countries for the agenda to formally anchor in the climate negotiations text. This was further solidified through establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) and inclusion of stand-alone Article 8 on loss and damage in the Paris Agreement. Its institutionalisation has only done the groundwork of addressing loss and damage however - the key issue of finance for loss and damage and other matters has remained largely unresolved to date – particularly since Article 8 does not have any provision for finance. This has been due to the climate change-causing wealthy developed nations' utter disregard for their formal obligations in the climate regime as well as their moral obligation. In this article, we tease out the central controversies that underpin the intractability of this agenda at the negotiations of the UNFCCC. We begin by giving a walk-through of the concept and history of loss and damage in the climate regime. Then we present a brief account of losses and damages occurring in the face of rising temperature, and highlight the key issues of contention, focusing on the more recent developments. Finally, we conclude by suggesting some way forward for the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, UK in November 2021.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 109-123; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.09.2021
The international outpouring of abolitionist sentiment in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the spring of 2020 came as a surprise even to experienced activists and researchers. The context of the pandemic had thrown into stark relief the consequences of fraying commitments to social welfare and excess commitments to security, policing, and incarceration. This essay argues that the moment laid bare the necessity of abolition, not only of police and prisons but also of the industries which exacerbate ecological disaster. To support this argument on the basis of political theory and intellectual history, it returns first to W.E.B. Du Bois's account of "abolition-democracy" as prompted by a recognition of necessity. The essay then goes on to define "necessity via the philosophical dialectic of freedom and necessity, before finding that conception of abolition as necessity expressed in nineteenth century Black abolitionist thought. It concludes by returning to the present, in which the pathological freedoms of neoliberalism seem to call up the necessity of abolition in response.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 20-37; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.01.2021
Those who survived in the underbellies of boats, under each other under unbreathable circumstances, are the undrowned. Their breathing did not make them individual survivors. It made a context of undrowning. Breathing in unbreathable circumstances is what we still do every day in the chokehold of racial gendered ableist capitalism. We are still undrowning. And this 'we' doesn't only mean people whose ancestors survived the middle passage, because the scale of our breathing is planetary. These meditations inspired by encounters with marine mammals are an offering towards the possibility that instead of continuing the trajectory of slavery, entrapment, separation and domination, and making our atmosphere unbreathable, we might instead practise another way to breathe. And because our marine mammal kindred are amazing at not drowning, they are called on as teachers, mentors, guides: the task of a marine mammal apprentice is to open up space for wondering together, and identifying with. The first meditation explores how we can listen across species, across extinction, across the harm that humans have inflicted on other mammals as well as each other. The second explores how we can learn different ways to breathe. The third considers what we remember and what we forget, how we name and categorise what we can barely observe, how we cage, categorise and destroy marine mammals, and what we can learn from the lives of those that have survived.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 138-146; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.12.2021
Lola Young discusses the work of photographer Ingrid Pollard, and looks at the extent to which environmental issues are racialised, including in relation to issues of population control and environmental degradation. Cities are often represented as breeding crime, disease and alienated subjects, while the English countryside is held up as a repository of values, culture and heritage. Although the range of locations and occupations in which black people may be found has expanded over the years, old stereotypes persist. Pollard addresses this in her work, including her work on the Lea Valley in East London, which looks at the 'country within the city'.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 172-188; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.15.2021
People involved in actions at Heathrow, City and Stansted airports reflect on the development of climate justice narratives and how this has evolved over the three 'aviation strikes' at these airports. At the time of the Heathrow action, the focus was on the impact of the aviation industry on the environment, to which Plane Stupid was seeking to draw attention. The City action became a Black Lives Matter action, with the aim of making connections between race and climate change. The Stansted action was organised by a coalition of groups, including Plane Stupid and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM), and sought to prevent the take-off of a deportation plane. Activists describe their own political development as these narratives shifted over time. They also discuss Extinction Rebellion, which aims to make direct action a mass participation event, and more local actions, such as the anti-raids action in Glasgow in summer 2021.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 165-171; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.14.2021
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 64-80; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.04.2021
Rio Tinto's destruction of Juukan Gorge brought international condemnation. The subsequent interim report commissioned by the Australian Parliament was entitled 'Never Again'. But was this a 'never again' to the logic of settler colonialism? Or to the extractive capitalism that rearranges economic and social life with the sole objective of wealth accumulation? Or to the legislative collaboration between settler colonial states and capitalism? Environmental injustice is sustained internationally through the many entanglements at the intersection of law, coloniality, corporate extractivism and Indigenous sovereignty. These entanglements are explored here in relation to: the idea of a 'trade-off' between Indigenous rights and 'economic benefits' (e.g. the Shenhua coal mine in Australia); the over-riding of local rights through a corporate-driven developmental narrative, which results in the erosion of Indigenous ways of life over a long period, rather than through a singular dramatic event (e.g. oil extraction by Chevron in Ecuador); the difficulties in bringing cases to justice (e.g. the Mount Polley dam collapse in Canada); the need for 'green alternatives' to also respect Indigenous rights; and the potential for greater legal regulation (e.g. the ruling by the Supreme Court of Panama on Indigenous rights; recent legal challenges to the Brazilian government's failure to meet its environmental responsibilities). Social movements and juridical spaces need to adopt a radical shift in their vocabulary and in their world-making practices. Courts play a major role in shaping the way Indigenous environmental justice is understood, and are a vital site of contestation for radical environmental justice movements.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 103-108; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.08.2021
Ken Wiwa heard of his father's execution in November 1995 while he was in New Zealand, as part of his campaign against the Nigerian government's planned judicial murder of his father and eight other Ogoni leaders. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was due to be held in Auckland the following week. At the time of his death Saro-Wiwa was the leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which sought to challenge the situation whereby a community which had contributed to the exchequer an estimated $30 billion in oil revenue found itself without basic amenities, living in a wretched environment, and being daily assaulted by oil exploration. He had accused Shell Oil company, which had a very close relationship with the Nigerian government, of 'waging an ecological war against the Ogoni'. After the executions, Nigeria was roundly condemned by international leaders, as was Shell itself.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 81-85; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.05.2021
Space debris has reached alarming proportions and is growing at a frightening pace, because of the expanding number of satellites circulating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), designed to increase global Internet coverage and provide earth observation data. LEO satellites are now being launched in mega-constellations, including by Elon Musk's company SpaceX. It is time to completely overhaul the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which was not designed to deal with current problems. The COP forum should therefore include the near-earth environment within its concept of the earth's climate, enabling the UN to acknowledge, as a collective, the growing menace of human-made debris in near-earth space, and, in partnership with the UN-Outer Space Affairs Office (UN-OOSA), call for a new declaration on LEO.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 50-63; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.03.2021
The notion of the planetary allows us to distinguish between the global of globalisation and the global of global warming. Globalisation is the process through which humans created the world we live in, how we converted the planet into a spherical human domain, at the centre of which are the human stories of technology, empires, capitalism and inequality. Global warming is what has resulted at the planetary level as intensified human consumption of the globe's resources has turned humanity into a geological agent of change. The global is 500 years old, while the planetary is as old as the age of the earth. The physical world has its own deep history: over time it has experienced profound changes. If climate change is to be addressed this mutability must be recognised – the unchanging nature of the world can no longer be taken for granted. The interview covers the rise of atmospheric sciences during the Cold War, when the Earth became, effectively, part of a comparative study of planets; the relationship between Marxism and the idea of 'deep history'; the human-made ecological disaster of bush-fires in Australia; the influence of Rohith Vemula and Rabindranath Tagore on planetary thinking and ideas about connectivity; biopower, zoe and the pandemic; and the difficulty of thinking politically about deep history.
Soundings, Volume 78, pp 147-151; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.78.13.2021
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 56-73; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.06
As it grew safer for schools to reopen fully in spring 2021, FORUM convened a roundtable discussion to hear more about the experience of teaching and learning through the pandemic, and how that experience might help us rethink the education system. Melissa Benn chaired this wide-ranging and insightful conversation between Eliane Glaser, a parent and writer, Jim Hudson, a secondary teacher of citizenship and history, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, and Patrick Yarker, the editor of this journal.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 169-173; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.15
Since its inception in 1993, Ofsted has been charged with maintaining standards in schools in England. But how has this worked out? A former inspector gives his account of the journey from the inside. His point of view can be summarised from a conversation he had with a senior Ofsted inspector on his first Inspection: 'You're still on their side. The side of the teachers.' 'No. I'm not and I'm not on your side either. (Pointing to the pupils.) I'm on their side'.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 161-168; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.14
A detailed analysis of Hansard transcripts was undertaken to explore the dialogue used in parliamentary debates and committee meetings where reference was made to grammar schools between October 2015 to March 2019. During this period, the first new grammar school for fifty years had been approved, along with the establishment of the £50 million selective school expansion fund. Detailed qualitative analysis highlighted the widely disproportionate use of the term 'good' in relation to grammar schools. It is argued that 'good' instead of 'outstanding' or 'excellent' is chosen in relation to grammar schools as 'good' has moral overtones that go beyond reported educational standards. Proportionately, the number of comprehensive schools rated good or outstanding would need to be referred to in conjunction with 'good' 6698 times, not the forty-nine times this actually happened. Campaigners for comprehensive education need to reclaim the discourse of 'goodness' for all schools.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 174-181; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.16
The government's policy of helping pupils and students 'catch up' with 'lost learning' misconceives learning, and endorses pedagogical approaches based on this misconception. Whether or not to learn lies with the learner, so teaching is more properly understood as an act of faith in people rather than of delivery to them. Such a view has implications for the restoration of formal education after the pandemic.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 141-147; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.12
This year sees the release of London Recruits, a film chronicling the anti-apartheid activism of young men and women volunteers who, from 1967, travelled from the UK to South Africa. The recruits were invaluable to the campaigning work of the African National Congress and the wider international anti-apartheid movement because as white tourists, which is all the South African authorities saw them as, they were free to travel unmonitored in ways impossible for black citizens. To coincide with the release of the film, an education pack, comprising the testimonies of the recruits as well as other source material, has been compiled for use in schools. The pack was funded by the National Education Union and coordinated by Steve Marsling, a former recruit, who writes the opening section of this article. Chris Smith, who writes the rest of the article, was a serving history and politics teacher at the time of writing this article. He helped provide learning activities and exemplar lesson plans so teachers can straightforwardly make use of the pack in their classrooms. Work to create these educational resources started just before the upsurge of Black Lives Matter campaigning in the UK sparked calls for 'decolonising the curriculum'. It is hoped this pack shares and complements that goal. As the story of the recruits makes clear, there have always been those who have needed to resort to direct action to have their voices fairly heard. Institutional racism is an undeniable feature of life in all nations whose pasts are closely entwined with imperialism. It is hoped this pack will form part of the continuing work in our schools to teach a more diverse curriculum, not only in subjects such as history, but also in citizenship, creative arts and even during pastoral time. Teachers are struggling with unprecedented and seemingly endless demands: may this pack help them tell a story that until now had been largely untold.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 20-31; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.03
In England we are currently in the grip of a damaging hegemonic discourse in the field of education. Unquestionable goods include standards, aspiration, effectiveness, measurable performance and – the subject of this contribution- progress. We discuss how progress is currently understood and deployed within the educational landscape in England and draw connections between this and the framing of 'catch-up', of 'being left behind' and of 'lost learning' in the government's response to education and the pandemic. We then argue for other ways of understanding education and suggest that two key aspects of understanding education as non-linear and non-teleological are love for the world and hope-in-the-present.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 191-191; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.18
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 98-108; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.09
The Covid-19 crisis calls for a transformation of education and schools, with the crisis having shown the many roles and purposes they do and can serve. But, the article argues, in the process of transformation there is another valuable experience to draw on: the 'Every Child Matters' policy agenda of the Labour government, including the concept of the extended school. Drawing on research into this ambitious programme, the article considers the potential of this image of the school, a rich image that has been wilfully neglected by governments since 2010.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 182-190; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.17
The contribution of 'consumerism' to environmental degradation has been widely acknowledged. An anti-consumerist perspective appeals because it draws attention to the ideological underpinnings of people's attitudes and day-to-day behaviour, but the tone of the debate often leads to polarisation rather than a productive engagement in dialogue. To persuade people to re-examine their values and beliefs requires a more nuanced approach, where the various bêtes noires identified by anti-consumerist rhetoric are subject to greater scrutiny. In this article I critically examine some of the key concepts of the anti-consumerist position and suggest a better starting point for discussion in a school context would be one which emphasised the significance of pleasure-seeking in the social life of students, and the part played in this by 'consumption'. Some implications for schools are discussed, in particular the space allowed for 'free' association of students as an important aspect of the flourishing life in school in the here and now. I note the dangers of adopting a disapproving approach to informal and popular culture, and the possible link between this and resistance to the environmental message by disadvantaged groups.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 148-160; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.13
In this article we develop the notion of 'organising around ideas'. We highlight the ways in which education debate in England has narrowed as traditional spaces for discussion and debate have been closed down. The state now has extraordinary power to shape discourses and frame narratives about the purposes of schooling. Here we argue that we must find new ways to engage in the battle of ideas, not simply as an exercise in rational argument, but as an essential element of organising and movement building. The article provides three short case studies of 'organising around ideas' in action to illustrate what this work can look like. The cases are not templates, but illustrate the flexible, grassroots-based activity that is central to building a movement from the bottom up.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 109-130; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.10
This short piece from the Forum archive introduces Caroline Benn's detailed critique of 'The myth of giftedness'. Her starting point is the need to define and then demand comprehensive education as a basic educational right, set alongside a mapping of the modern giftedness movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 74-88; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.07
Not all parents across England are happy about sending their children back to school, following the lifting of lockdown measures in March 2021. Our qualitative research, listening to accounts from eighty-five such families, finds that these concerns stem from Covid-related anxiety, most commonly linked to protecting members of the household at greater risk of severe illness. The experiences of these parents resisting the return to school sheds light on the fragmented nature of our education system – the uneven, haphazard practices across different schools – and how once again this differentially impacts certain students and their families. Particular difficulties for students with a special educational needs diagnosis (SEND), or those from multi-generational households, are underlined. Whilst some parents feel bullied into compliance, others are pressurised to deregister in a spate of what we term 'Covid off-rolling'. Several families have been able to fully embrace a permanent move to genuine home education, further raising criticisms of our competition-driven, performative, neoliberal education system with its narrow curriculum offer. A comprehensive education system with critical pedagogy at its heart is what is called for.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 89-97; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.08
This is a first-hand account of a head teacher's quest to bridge the digital divide in a school catchment of considerable disadvantage in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It describes the Microsoft Anytime Anywhere Learning project (AAL), which the school helped to pioneer in the UK. From this, the paper aims to provide some fresh perspectives on the deficit of IT provision which has inhibited home learning during the Covid-19 pandemic 'lockdown'. Through referencing the AAL project, the author also calls into question the notion that bridging the digital divide is the great educational panacea, a view which has become the received wisdom among certain politicians and educationalists.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 32-43; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.04
This is an edited transcript of the Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture, given by Ken Jones, at the request of the Socialist Education Association, in November 2020. The lecture situates Caroline's work in the context of the 'Long Revolution' of twentieth-century Britain. The lecture discusses the meaning of that revolution for education; it charts the course of the right-wing reaction to it from 1976 onwards, and the growth of managerial cultures at the level of the school which have blocked its further development. The effects within education of the Black Lives Matter and the Covid pandemic have revived, in both practical and ideational ways, some of the themes of the Long Revolution. The lecture argues that this is a change of historical significance. The possibility of change as a collective democratic project has been reawakened.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 4-8; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.editorial
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 44-55; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.05
British education has faced an upheaval during the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, schools often went beyond traditional interpretations of what was needed for educational provision. This article explores how those interpretations have been challenged by the response to Covid-19. It discusses the various ways in which, during the crisis, schools have supported their communities and the most vulnerable in them. It looks at how schools themselves have transformed from local hubs into comprehensive community support networks. It suggests that through the provision of emergency childcare, material resources and locally varying forms of support beyond traditional remits, schools have significantly enhanced their communities' ability to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. It concludes by suggesting a number of positive consequences accruing from this support, including strengthened school-community relationships and mutually enhanced teacher/parent recognition.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 131-140; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.11
Schools are a microcosm of society and often tasked with fixing society's ills. We need to explore the purpose of education and the place of educators not only to prepare young people to gain the best qualifications they can but also to challenge ourselves as educators and our young charges to be active citizens with enough knowledge about society and citizenship to shape tomorrow's world. Recent world events have given educators a push towards addressing issues around racial justice and equity. Although this shift is rife with complexity, some schools and groups are actively addressing the issues with students in practical and powerful ways.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 9-19; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.02
The cancellation of public examinations in England during the coronavirus pandemic drew attention to a long-standing educational concern. Grading and ranking students, in various ways, has taken place for many years, but in summer 2020 this process was shared between teachers and, initially, an 'algorithm'. Maintaining standards and consistent grade distributions is a feature of the exam system in 'normal' times. This article considers why exam grades are (roughly) normally distributed, tracing origins of bell-curve thinking, to suggest that we should not be returning to this kind of 'normal'.
FORUM, Volume 63, pp 192-200; https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.2.19
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 146-160; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926337
On 30 December 2020, amid the turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic, Argentina approved the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy Law, which legalises abortion until the fourteenth week of pregnancy. In public hospitals, the procedure is now free of charge. Prior to this milestone, which was enacted on 14 January 2021, abortion was only permitted in cases of rape or when a pregnant woman's health was at risk. The law is the result of years of activism and protests against prevailing conservatism in a country heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, led by a grassroots women's movement, known as the 'green wave', which unites many different organisations that have been working towards the same goals.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 79-108; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926328
Since modern radicalism emerged in the wake of the French revolution, radicals and revolutionaries have held divergent perspectives regarding the relationship between personal and social transformation. On the one hand, radicals recognised that the institutions of bourgeois democracy would never allow the working class to achieve the moral, economic and social standards of respectable life, due to poverty, lack of democratic rights, racism and exploitation. For these revolutionaries, the organisation of the working class would allow working-class families to achieve respectable families and community life. On the other, becoming a social revolutionary involved a transformation of personal life as well as social ideology. This was expressed in a critique of conventional sexuality and family life, and experimentation with nonrespectable practices in their daily lives. This article explores the ways that this conflict played out over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It assesses the notion of 'respectability' – especially its 'democratisation' – among communists in the United States, and engages with questions of how respectability was to be achieved for the working class, where the notion of respectability came from, how it applied to sexuality, and whether it was challenged by a desire for personal liberation amongst those committed to the revolutionary project.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 45-78; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926355
Dutch communists were remarkably progressive in their views on (heterosexual) sex, sex education, contraception and family planning. Many were active members of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Sexuele Hervorming ('Dutch League for Sexual Reform' or NVSH), and were passionate advocates of sexual health, and promoted the use of contraceptives and the legalisation of abortion. This progressive stance on sexuality and contraception was not led by the Dutch Communist Party (CPN). In fact, from the 1940s until the late 1960s, topics related to birth control, sex education and family planning had been given a wide berth in the CPN and its organisations. The CPN seemingly followed the example set by the Soviet Union, where, after a very brief moment of sexual liberation in the early post-revolution years, conservative views about sexuality, the family and household organisation had prevailed. Considering the Dutch party's refusal to address sex education and family planning, it is quite remarkable that so many of its members were such passionate advocates of sexual health. Based on a series of interviews with twenty-five cradle communists, communist archives, and a wide range of other sources, this article explores communists' stance on sexual health, and discusses their roles in the NVSH and the abortion rights movement during the Cold War. It argues that in regard to sexuality and sex education, the ideas of Dutch communists were much more in line with utopian socialist traditions that predated the Russian revolution as well as anarchist traditions carried through to communists, than with the Soviet ideology.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 13-44; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926373
Historians have pointed to overseas colonialism and 'race science' as influential in the construction of European sexual science. Soviet sexology arose on a 'semi-periphery' between Europe and colonised societies. The 'Others' against whom Russian sexual ideals were forged would be 'internally colonised' peasants and non-Russian ethnicities of the Soviet Union's internal orient. Pre-Stalinist sexology blended the 'sexual revolution' with European sexual science focused on workers in the Slavic urban industrial heartland; nationalities beyond this perceived heartland lagged behind and their sex lives required modernisation. Stalin virtually curtailed sexological research. After 1945 the party revived it to spur fertility, especially in Slavic urban centres where births had dropped below replacement rate. Ideological control constrained sexologists, confining them to silos, limiting internationalisation and cramping research. But new, heteronormative therapeutic measures, some from Western science, and others devised at home, were developed. Less vocal than Western or Eastern Bloc sexology, Soviet sex research continued to display anxiety about internal national and ethnic Others into the 1980s and beyond.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 4-12; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926364
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 161-173; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926346
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 136-145; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926382
The 1970s and 1980s are often characterised as sober and gloomy, a prolonged anti-climax to the swinging 1960s. The oil crisis of 1973 led to widespread unemployment in most industrialised countries, which was only exacerbated in the early 1980s by a worldwide economic crisis. In the Netherlands, people – especially youth – struggled to find employment, and class antagonisms, which had been largely absent in the 1960s, resurfaced. Despite these growing social tensions, the Dutch communist movement began to embrace single issues that were not necessarily rooted in class struggle. This new course, while condemned by some hardliners, opened up space for closer links between the Communistische Partij van Nederland ('Communist Party of the Netherlands'; CPN) and anti-racist, feminist and gay politics. In a parallel development, membership demographics changed significantly. Among new CPN members in the early 1970s there were just as many workers as there were artists, students and unemployed. In this interview, Eshuis looks back on her life and, in particular, her experiences in the CPN in the 1970s and 1980s.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 109-135; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926391
For personal or political reasons undocumented and controversial to this day, Greenwich Village lesbian photographer Angela Calomiris joined forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the Second World War to infiltrate the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). As Calomiris rose through CPUSA ranks in New York City, espionage efforts resulted in the Attorney General's office declaring the avant-garde Film and Photo League to be a subversive communist organisation in 1947, and the conviction of communist leaders during the Smith Act trial two years later. Interestingly, despite J. Edgar Hoover's indeterminate sexuality and well-documented harassment of gays and lesbians in public life, what mattered to him was not whether Calomiris adhered to heteronormativity, but that her ultimate sense of duty lay with the US government. This article demonstrates how this distinction helped Calomiris find personal satisfaction in defiance of patriarchal conservative expectations and heteronormative cold war gender roles. This article, which utilises FBI files, press coverage, some of Calomiris's papers and her memoir, concludes with a brief discussion of Calomiris's later life in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she continued to craft her identity as a left-liberal feminist, with no mention of the service to the FBI or her role in fomenting the second Red Scare.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 55-70; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.04.2021
The aim of the Pirate Care project is to put the politics back into caring and to disrupt the global property regime that is colonising public welfare services and turning them into privately traded assets. Piracy refers to all the practices of survival and solidarity that disobey unjust legal and social rules that support property at the expense of living beings. The idea of piracy enables the foregrounding of the need to expand the realm of conceivable political responses to the crisis.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 71-75; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.05.2021
The privatisation of railway arches, which has led to big rent hikes and many small-business closures, is an example of asset-based capital in action. Arch Co were able to buy a 150-year lease of the arches because of successive governments' massive programme of privatisation of publicly owned land. It is jointly owned by Blackstone and Telereal Trillium, two global property companies. Blackstone CEO is Steve Schwarzman, formerly of Lehman Brothers and a Trump ally. Telereal Trillium is owned by the William Pears property group, whose advisor, Lord Griffiths, was one of the Goldman Sachs executives involved in the Malaysian 1MDB scandal.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 121-134; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.09.2021
How should a political party that is primarily focused on winning elections respond when it suffers a catastrophic electoral defeat? Some tactical steps have been taken by Keir Starmer, but there has been little engagement in the task of seeking an understanding of the deeper context of events and exploring new and memorable political ideas. One resource for a transformative perspective are the ideas of Raymond Williams: in particular the idea of the 'long revolution', and of the central role of culture and processes of learning. Labour needs to focus some energy on considering such questions: among its other roles, a progressive party needs to have an educative purpose and a diagnostic capacity.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 109-120; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.08.2021
1990s Britain was under Thatcherite continuity rule. But radio waves were appearing that carried fragments of the future: weekend broadcasts of a new kind of music - Jungle - were being illegally beamed across the city from the rooftops of tower blocks, appropriating them as the locus of an alternative cultural infrastructure. Pirate stations used newly emerging technologies to spread subversive sounds from the margins and to challenge dominant cultures.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 89-100; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.07.2021
For Emmanuel Macron it is natural that a French President should have the powers of an English Tudor monarch. He also believes in a version of neoliberalism in which the state is rolled back when it comes to protections for workers, welfare support and regulating the economy, but not in its role in determining everything. Macron was a key Hollande advisor at the time of his U-turn to neoliberalism, and he has been named 'the Great Manipulator'. As French citizens have become increasingly disenchanted with his performance, Macron's political machine, Le République En Marche!, has crumbled. The signs are that he will now tack further to the populist right.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 37-54; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.03.2021
In this interview Sheila Rowbotham talks to Jo Littler about her involvement in feminism and politics over several decades. This ranges across her role in the Women's Liberation Movement, left activism, historical scholarship, work with in the Greater London Council (GLC), involvement in the international homeworking movement and her secret life as a poet.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 101-105; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.rev.2021
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 9-22; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.01.2021
This article reflects on Steve McQueen's Small Axe series, exploring its importance in placing black narratives at the centre of history and on prime time television. It locates it within the context of a longer history of struggles over black representation and misrepresentation in mainstream British media. Naidoo draws on her own experiences to discuss the very slow progress towards diversity in the cultural life of Britain. She pays tribute to pioneers who campaigned for a more representative media in Britain. What made these films especially important was the space given to pleasure, presence and collective joy.
Soundings, Volume 77, pp 76-88; https://doi.org/10.3898/soun.77.06.2021
Because of the quirks of the US constitution, Democrats find it difficult to assemble an electoral coalition capable of delivering working majorities in both chambers of Congress and a Democrat president. In the 2020 elections, Biden's electoral college victory was secured by 44,000 votes, distributed in three states. Republicans currently hold 59 state chambers to the Democrats' 39, and they will use this to further gerrymander boundaries and suppress votes. Trump took Reagan's Republican strategy - small government, populism and mobilising conservatives - to a logical conclusion by seeking to wreck government as a deliberate strategy and mobilising right-wing extremists to support his rule. Repairing Americans' faith in government is a long term task . However, Biden's continuing allegiance to the ideas of the New Deal, and the recognition the party must now give to its grassroots activists, particularly in black communities, may help to energise the Democrat coalition.