Film on 1871 Paris Commune reviewed

This video from London, England says about itself:

15 February 2017

The New Babylon is a 1929 Russian silent film about the 1871 Paris Commune. It was directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, with a musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich. Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, explains the importance of this film from a political and film history context.

Petitions in British history

This video from Wales says about itself:

Following the midday ‘Save Our Chartist Mural‘ demonstration in John Frost Square, Newport on 5th October 2013, some of the protesters returned at around 4pm to begin a march from the square to the Civic Centre. A petition signed by over 4200 people in the preceding months was received there by Councillor Charles Ferris on behalf of Newport City Council.

By Keith Flett in Britain:

Petitions can make a difference

Monday 6th February 2017

Petitions are often seen as the most low-key forms of protest, but history shows us that they can bring about political change, says KEITH FLETT

THE petition remains a device of political protest in 2017 perhaps partly because it can now be done online, a case in point being petitions to Parliament, rather than having to be done by signing in ink in person.

Of course the physical petition still exists and you can see people out on high streets asking people to sign for this or that important cause, against cuts, for better air quality and so on.

Politicians will tell you that some people will sign anything, and point to examples where people have signed petitions for and against similar matters.

Indeed this does occur and can be understood by the fact that some will sign to get rid of a persistent petitioner or to avoid an argument.

Through political history petitions have been bedevilled by this. The huge Chartist petitions for the vote in the 1840s were sometimes derided because obviously false names were included.

Yet the petition has remained a significant strategy of those pressing for political change, and this is perhaps the most interesting thing, part of what Charles Tilly called the repertoire of contention of politics since at least the 17th century.

The repertoire ranges from the petition, through to demonstrations, strikes and risings and examples of all of them are the stuff of recent political history.

However the petition has a specificity to it. The one perhaps most in the current mind is that calling on the government not to allow any visit Donald Trump makes to Britain to be a state occasion.

That gathered towards two million signatures in a few days, underlining the power of the online petition. It will, under current rules, now be debated in Parliament on February 20 and it will be accompanied by a protest outside the House of Commons.

There are campaigning organisations, such as 38 Degrees, whose central political focus is the petition. They see it as a way not only to influence opinion but also to mobilise active support for causes.

It is the petition plus physical protest that has most worried the authorities over the centuries, however.

In 1661, under the newly restored monarchy of Charles II, the Tumultuous Petitioning Act as passed. It was not repealed until 1986.

Parliament had been inundated by petitions relating to disputes over land confiscated under Cromwell from 1649 and then restored from 1660. The Act required any petition to Parliament to be agreed by justices of the peace before it could be presented.

The importance of the petition continued despite the 1661 Act primarily because it was one of the few legal ways of making a political protest.

Gatherings of more than 49 people for the purpose of considering political change required permission under various Seditious Meetings Acts, passed from 1795 onwards and again only repealed in 1986. One way around this was to demonstrate in support of a petition that was to be delivered to Parliament.

The Chartist petitions for adult male suffrage in 1839, 1842 and 1848 are probably the most well-known examples of the use of the petitioning strategy.

The final Chartist petition was to be presented to Parliament on Monday April 10 1848. Gathering in Kennington Common, the Chartists planned a mass march to the Commons with the petition.

The authorities had other ideas and the army was called out to prevent the procession from crossing over the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge.

It is an example of how a petition, often seen as the most low-key campaigning tool, can make a real impact. Theresa May and Donald Trump, beware.

Dutch historians against Trump

This video from the USA says about itself:

Gorsuch Nomination Draws Hundreds of Protesters to Steps of Supreme Court

1 February 2017

Whether selecting a nominee for cabinet position, imposing gag rules on government agencies, or issuing an executive order, Trump is inspiring a steady stream of resistance at each turn.

From the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

Pledge of non-cooperation with Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

On Friday 27 January, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order on Immigration effectively banning people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen entry to the United States. Both in its presuppositions and its consequences, the Executive Order is discriminatory against the inhabitants of the countries concerned.

As members of the scientific community in the Netherlands, we sign this pledge of non-cooperation with the Executive Order. Our concern goes out to all persons who are now barred from entering the United States on discriminatory grounds.

We are acutely aware of the implications this measure will have for our own daily activities as scientists and academics. Scientific development thrives on international cooperation and the possibility to engage with scholars across national borders. We are proud of our strong ties with individuals and institutions both in the United States and in the seven affected countries. We will work to maintain and strengthen these connections, and will not accept the exclusion of any colleagues as a result of this ban.
We therefore declare, that

within our universities, research institutes and as individual scientists, we will work to uphold our principles of non-discrimination, cooperation and solidarity;
we support the thousands of scientists and their institutions inside the US and elsewhere who have expressed their protest against the Executive Order;
wherever the Executive Order might affect the work of scientists from the seven countries, we will take practical steps to cancel such effects (e.g. when organizing conferences or international workshops, joint research projects, and other forms of cooperation);
we will use our connections to encourage action from the international scientific community to mitigate the immediate results of the ban, and to strengthen the call for its repeal.

We ask members of the scientific community to endorse and spread this pledge, both on an individual basis and through their institutions.

International Institute of Social History

For more information please contact communicatie{at]

Posted: 1 February 2017

Protests in history, London exhibition

This video from Britain says about itself:

Satire, Print Shops and Comic Illustration in 18th and 19th Century London – Mark Bills

11 August 2011

This lecture tells the story of visual satire in London, a city in which caricature flourished like no other. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the people of London have been both amused and outraged by the thousands of social and political satires in paint, paint and engravings which have variously and humorously described London and its people.

The enormous body of cartoon images range from the specific to the general: from caricature portraits of leading figures to the London ‘types’ recognized by all Londoners; from specific events and political debacles to the state of a typical London street. The array of approaches of artists, both ‘high’ and ‘low’, amateur and professional, is equally wide and extends from light-hearted mocking to vitriolic and libellous attacks. This lecture leads us through the various ages of the production of cartoons in London, from the independent print publisher to the editor of a comic journal, providing us with a rare perspective on the life of the city through its contemporary satirical images.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: here.

By Jane Clinton in Britain:

Designs on dissent

Tuesday 31st January 2017

JANE CLINTON recommends an exhibition on radical protest over the last two centuries

A SMALL silk buttonhole, a pamphlet on how to avoid arrest and a petition for women to sit their medical degree exams.

These are just some of the objects on display at the Radical Voices exhibition at Senate House Library in the University of London charting how protest has been expressed over the past two centuries.

Including petitions, photographs, posters, songs, poetry, book collections, political cartoons, badges and ephemera, it is a rich analysis of the voices that have spoken out and have often forced change.

There’s a James Gillray cartoon dating 1807 — the oldest item on show — along with much more recent items such as a 2003 Stop the War poster and literature printed by Occupy Design in 2012 as part of the occupation at St Paul’s cathedral.

For Dr Jordan Landes, research librarian of history at the library and the guiding light behind the exhibition, it was reading Rebel Footprints by David Rosenberg that inspired her.

“It made me realise the wealth of what was in the collections as I recognised that we held the collections of so many of the people he wrote about,” she says.

“Instead of trying to do this by subject we do it by how the voices are expressed,” she explains. Thus the Gillray John Bull and Communist Party cartoons sit cheek by jowl in the political cartoons section, while in the badges category there’s a silk buttonhole worn by men to express support for the Suffragettes next to membership badges of the Liberal Party of South Africa.

The “Advice for Those Taking Part in Protests” section is a particular favourite for Dr Landes because it not only reveals the ever-shifting face of protest but also how dissent was once regarded as the sole preserve of men.

“There is the change over time in the tone and language,” she explains. “I love the 1934 pamphlet, where there is a warning to men to tell their wives not to let policemen into their house.

“There was the assumption that the women would not be protesting. It reveals so much about society at the time, not just about protest.”

That this free exhibition should take place at the University of London is no surprise. It has long been seen as a radical institution and this too is explored.

William Beveridge served as vice-chancellor of the university from 1926-1928 and in 1942 he outlined the contents of The Beveridge Report in Senate House’s Macmillan Hall.

Also progressive was the fact that the university did not have a religious requirement. In 1878 it was one of the first institutions to open up higher education to women.

Despite this progress, there was a sticking point — women were not allowed to sit their examinations to earn their degrees. A petition calling for this to change is included in the exhibition.

With a mixture of personal libraries and manuscripts, Radical Voices also has a concurrent series of events including film screenings, talks, conferences and music.

“I hope the exhibition is a reminder that libraries and archives are places that preserve these, as we are calling them radical voices, and in preserving them they can potentially inspire people to study further and learn more, which is our main purpose.”

On entering the space, there is a poster emblazoned with a simple but powerful quotation from WH Auden: “All I have is a voice” and Dr Landes is keen that the exhibition will inspire people to think more deeply about the means and messages of protest.

“Hopefully this exhibition will allow people to read and hear others’ voices and maybe in turn it will help them find their own.”

The free exhibition Radical Voices runs until March 31 at Senate House Library, University of London, Malet Street, WC1, opening times here.

Racists are not ‘populists’

This video from the USA is called The People’s (Populist) Party.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain today:

Jeremy should be as populist as Tom Watson

According to the Guardian, some of those close to Jeremy Corbyn want him to try a more “populist” stand.

If he does, the one lesson he should learn from populism is that to succeed, it must be anti-racist.

This might sound odd because in Britain, right-wing, anti-migrant parties are often called “populist.” But the actual original populism was firmly on the left. This is all about Tom Watson, populism and bigotry.

No, not that Tom Watson, but the one who was born in the US in 1856. He was one of the leaders of the People’s Party, a US insurgent political movement of the 1890s, which was the original “populism.”

It was a movement of poor US farmers for political reform, that grew massively until it was absorbed by the Democrats in 1896.

It stood for a progressive income tax, nationalisation of the railways, an eight-hour day, and the end of the “gold standard,” which tended to depress farm prices. When the party was growing, Watson made strong speeches against racism.

He said to black and white farmers: “You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because on that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both.

“You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both.”

The People’s Party was far from perfect in its stand against racism, but it made some advances given the deeply racist nature of the US at the time.

The first populists were better than the thoroughly racist Democrats of the US South.

However, when the People’s Party sank into decline in the 1900s, the same Tom Watson became a leading “white supremacist” and an anti-semite. The lesson is clear. If you want a growing populism, it has to be against bigotry, if you want to spiral into decline, then play with the poison of racism.

Etienne Balibar: Populism in the American Mirror: here.

Bison, elk became nearly extinct in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Why the U.S. Army Guarded the 23 Remaining American Buffalo

16 December 2016

In 1882, General Philip Sheridan’s expedition to the protected buffalo haven in Yellowstone National Park revealed a gruesome reality: Poachers were continuing to slaughter the last remnants of America’s big-game icon. He then called in the U.S. Army to intervene.