British suffragettes photo exhibition

Selling ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ newspaper. Melvina Walker (centre) and Nellie Cressall (on her right). Nora Smyth c.1914 Image with kind permission of Paul Isolani Smyth from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

This photo depicts selling of ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ newspaper, by Melvina Walker (centre) and Nellie Cressall (on her right). Photo by Nora Smyth c.1914. Image with kind permission of Paul Isolani Smyth from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 17 November 2018 East End Suffragettes – revealed for first time in 100 years

East End Suffragettes: the photographs of Norah Smyth
2 November-9 February 2019
Tues-Sat: 11.00-18.00 daily
Admission free

EAST End Suffragette photos from 100 years ago, are revealed, for the first time in Britain. The venue is the Four Corners Studio, 121 Roman Road, close to Bethnal Green tube station, East London. Exhibition opening is Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, until February 9. Pioneering campaign photos of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS) from 1914 to 1916, are being shown. They have been loaned by the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

The photos are the work of Norah Smyth, used to illustrate workers’ conditions in the East End of London and the activities of the ELFS in its weekly paper.

Norah was originally inspired by the suffrage campaign of The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) led by Emmeline Pankhurst and daughter Chrystabel Pankhurst in 1911.

She soon met the other Pankhurst sister, Sylvia, and in 1912 they joined supporters and formed a branch of the WSPU in East London. They were moved by the terrible poverty of the working class in that area, and inspired by the history of trade union struggles such as the match girls’ strike in 1888 and the socialist ideas of the Independent Labour Party. They opened a shop in Bow Road, with a head board ‘Votes for Women’. Norah came from a wealthy family and used her inheritance to support the struggle.

During 1913, Sylvia was arrested and started hunger and thirst strikes until she was released to get better, ten times, under the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’. The branch was very active and supported strikes at local factories. Their orientation towards working class struggle was too much for the leaders of the WSPU, who focused on getting the vote for property owning middle class women.

By January 1914, Chrystabel demanded that the ELFS separate from the WSPU. This it did, becoming more socialist, adding the colour red to the traditional suffragette colours of white, green and purple.

The ELFS organised Women’s May Day parades from the East India Dock Gates to Victoria Park, six mile marches to Holloway prison to show solidarity with suffragette prisoners, and held open air meetings all over the East End from Canning Town to Hackney and Stepney. Every week they had a stall in Roman Road market.

Many men took part in the events and the police regularly used force against them.

For a short time in 1913 the ELFS set up a ‘Peoples Army’ modelled on James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army and began drilling, to defend workers’ demonstrations and form protection for Sylvia against re-arrest. In March 1914, they set up a weekly paper called ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ as the ‘only suffrage paper in the country which makes a distinct appeal to working people’.

Articles covered workers housing and work conditions and struggles and their own campaigns. Here Norah Smyth’s photographs played a key role. In May, the ELFS opened their own HQ in 400 Old Ford Rd, which included two large halls, where meetings and clubs were held.

When World War 1 broke out in August 1914, Emmeline and Chrystabel Pankhurst immediately capitulated to the patriotic propaganda and dropped the suffrage campaign, whereas the ELFS became more resolute. They became pacifists and redoubled their support for working class families through welfare schemes in which local woman participated.

Unemployment rose as factories closed. Then conscription of the men left the women trying to care for the children on belated payments. Woman ended up working in munitions and clothing factories on sweated labour conditions. When the ELFS opened some food distribution centres (milk, eggs and barley) for starving woman and children, and communal canteens, hundreds turned up. They organised free nurseries and set up a shoe and toy factory to employ women.

The Dreadnought called for equal pay and working conditions, and rights for soldiers’ and sailors’ wives and ‘Down with sweating’. By 1915, when compulsory conscription was brought in, they campaigned against compulsion. State repression against these rallies increased.

One million working class soldiers were conscripted but many had no vote. The new Franchise Bill excluded poorer men, conscientious objectors, women under 30, and poor and widowed women from the vote. In March 1916, the ELFS changed its name to ‘Workers Suffrage Federation’ (WSF) and demanded universal suffrage for everyone over the age of 21 years. This was not achieved until 10 years later.

The two revolutions in Russia in 1917 inspired the WSL tremendously and they became revolutionary socialists. The new workers’ soviets in Russia seemed to them to parallel their community organisations. The Woman’s Dreadnoaught changed its name to ‘Workers’ Dreadnought’ and stood for ‘household soviets and international socialism’. In summer 1917, it campaigned for ‘a paralysis of military force’.

The WSF set up peace pickets outside parliament with slogans ‘War is murder’, ‘Soldiers in the trenches long for peace’, and ‘Bring back our Brothers’, and ‘Stop this Capitalists’ War’. In 1918, the organisation became the ‘Workers’ Socialist Federation’ and affiliated to the Communist International. Norah and Sylvia attended conferences in Russia and Amsterdam and Sylvia attended the second congress of the Third International in 1920, where the setting up of a British communist Party was debated. There were differences with Lenin.

They supported the ‘Hands off Russia’ campaign, and lobbied the east end dockers not to load munitions for the imperialist armies being used against the Bolsheviks.

The WSF fought to build a communist-type organisation until 1924, when the Dreadnought was ended. The 100 photographs in this exhibition reveal a huge empathy and respect for working woman and their families in the East End of London and a determination to fight for the vote and socialism in conflict with the capitalist state. It is not to be missed. N.B. Most of the information in this article came from the exhibition notices and an accompanying booklet.


Three egrets in India

Birds and jellyfish of Rügen island

This 9 October 2016 video on a flock of starlings is called Hitchcock on Rügen.

12 October 2018, the day after 11 October, was our last full day on Rügen island in Germany.

In the morning we went to a wetland in the east of the island. As the 2018 summer had been dry in Germany, like in other countries, the land was not as wet as usual; probably meaning less water birds than usually.

There was a grey heron. A hooded crow. A great black-backed gull.

Mallard ducks. Four starlings.

Scores of grey lag geese.

Sea thrift flowers.

I arrived at Klein Zicker village.

Shaggy ink cap mushrooms.

In the afternoon, we went to the harbour of Sassnitz.

A decommissioned British submarine, HMS Otus, is now a museum in the harbour.

Jellyfish, 12 October 2018

Many jellyfish swimming.

Mute swans swimming as well.

Black-headed gull, 12 October 2018

Like this black-headed gull in winter plumage.

Great cormorants, 12 October 2018

Great cormorants, like these ones, sometimes had to rest from swimming and diving, as, unlike other water birds, they have to dry their wings.

Cranes, Sandwich terns, medieval church of Rügen island

This July 2011 video is about bad rainy weather in Jasmund national park near Lohme village on Rügen island in Germany.

After 10 October 2018 came 11 October for us on Rügen. The weather was pretty good then.

Many cranes had arrived from Scandinavia on their autumn migration.

Six cranes, 11 October 2018

This photo, from near Bobbin village, shows two adult couples with each one youngster (still no red on the head).

Cranes, 11 October 2018

Many cranes resting or flying over the fields near Bobbin. Some gray lag geese as well.

Cranes, Rügen

Baltic sea bay, 11 October 2018

We continued to a sheltered Baltic sea bay.

Great black-backed gulls, herring gulls, black-headed gulls and a mallard on a causeway.

Two Sandwich terns flying past.

Churchyard, 11 October 2018

We continued to an old churchyard.

It is the churchyard of the Mary Magdalene Lutheran church in Vilmnitz village. This church is originally from the Middle Ages.

Mary Magdalene church, 11 October 2018

However, much of the interior is from the eighteenth century.

Outside, at the churchyard, nuthatch and jackdaw sound.

We continued, from medieval-eighteenth century buildings to the twentieth century: Prora.

Prora was built as a big 4.5 kilometer long complex along the beach, 1936-1939. Nazi Germany intended it as a holiday resort and as military buildings in wartime. In 1939, World War II broke out, with Prora still unfinished. It was never used as holiday resort, though it was used for Hitler’s military.

Prora, 11 October 2018

Now, one of the Prora buildings houses a documentation centre. The sign says: ‘Have a holiday’, in a rather military command tone.

Other parts of Prora are now being reconstructed.

Dilapidated part of Prora

Still other parts are in ruins.

Prora sign, 11 October 2018

This sign, close to the coastal cliff, warns of mortal danger.

Kill nazis, 11 October 2018

Fortunately, the swastikas and other Third Reich signs are gone. This recent graffiti points into another direction.

Antifa, 11 October 2018

As does this recent graffiti about Antifa (anti-fascists).

This July 2014 video shows a hooded crow on a Rügen beach.

We ended 11 October 2018, however, not with hooded crows; but as we had started it, with cranes.

Cranes sunset, 11 October 2018

From a hill, we could see these cranes flying past the setting sun.

Stay tuned; there will be more Rügen on this blog!

American photographer interviewed on immigration

Photographer Tom Kiefer

By Norisa Diaz in the USA:

Interview with photographer Tom Kiefer: “This work is part of the historical documentation of our country’s response to migration”

El Sueño Americano: Exhibition of migrants’ items seized and discarded by US border patrol

26 October 2018

El Sueño Americano: The American Dream—Works by Tom Kiefer, at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Saugatuck, Michigan, October 25–December 22, 2018

The remarkable German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) once suggested that he felt obligated “to see things as they are and not as they should or could be”, and to “speak the truth in all honesty about our age and the people of our age.”

That apparently simple program is both ambitious and difficult to execute. Most of the images currently circulating obscure or conceal the truth.

Photographer Tom Kiefer, born in Wichita, Kansas and raised primarily in the Seattle area, lived in Los Angeles for 20 years.

He moved to Ajo, Arizona—a town of 3,500 people some 45 miles north of the Mexican border—right after the September 11, 2001 attacks, seeking a lower cost of living and a place to develop his work as a fine art photographer.

In 2003 Kiefer needed to find a job to support his photography. He came across “an ad for a part-time janitor”, he told the WSWS, “that paid $10.42 an hour at a US Customs and Border Patrol facility. At that time, in June of 2003, it was a really good wage here in Ajo. I was going to be a janitor in my early 40s.” He worked at the job until August 2014.

Kiefer’s current exhibition at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts in western Michigan, El Sueño Americano, features more than 100 photographs of items—“everyday” and some deeply personal items—confiscated from undocumented men, women and children caught crossing the US border.

The Saugatuck Center’s website explains, “The photographs and objects in El Sueño Americano first beg the questions: ‘Whose things are these? Why so many? Who collected them and why?’ Photographer Tom Kiefer also wants the viewer to ask, ‘What do I make of all this?’

“Kiefer … discovered the items in garbage bags. Taken from people and deemed ‘non-essential items’ as part of the enforcement process, the items were bound for the dump. Kiefer was both intrigued and saddened by what he found in the garbage bags, and began making images of the items in an effort to answer his questions.”

The exhibition features images of “soap, wallets, and canteens and also rosaries, Bibles, and family photos. Taken together the items weave tales of the mundane, of survival, and of the elusive American Dream (el sueno Americano).”

Billfolds and Wallets

Tom Kiefer recently spoke to the WSWS about the project. “I made a decision that whatever time I had left on this planet, what I wanted to do was record life through my camera and I chose to photograph America.”

Norisa Diaz: How did you come to obtain these items?

Tom Kiefer: In 2007 I asked a supervisor if I could begin collecting the food that was being thrown away and deliver it to a food bank … And I found deeply personal items like rosaries and Bibles, family photographs. That was just not right. I was not going to allow someone’s rosary or Bible to remain in the trash. I discreetly began taking them.

Kiefer collected items for seven of the 11 years he was employed at the station, noting that it took some time to determine how to showcase the objects. “Due to the inherent nature of what I was photographing, I needed to figure out a manner in which I could present the items in a respectful and dignified way.”

Primarily a landscape photographer, Kiefer explained, “It was a good five years from the time I started collecting these items until I began photographing them. Even though I was an artist, a photographer, I didn’t feel at first this was the type of subject matter that I was accustomed to doing, but on some level I realized that—my God, this needs to be done.

Oral Hygiene

“I saw an injustice, how do you personally respond to that? It wasn’t right to leave these personal items here. They would throw away a wallet with personal identification in it. Such highly confidential information, it shouldn’t be something I find in the trash, from anyone—immigrant or not. I couldn’t go to an agent and say, ‘Hey, I found this wallet’, and it would be returned. This was the only way that I could document this.”

Norisa Diaz: What conditions did you witness at these detention centers?

Tom Kiefer: The detention centers are there to dehumanize, to act as a deterrent for those entering the US unlawfully. It was my job to be as invisible as possible, but the whole manner in which immigrants are treated is unimaginable, the policy of separating families is truly inhumane and magnified in ways I couldn’t imagine. That type of brutality is just abhorrent, it’s just cruel!

Kiefer described a newspaper story he had read—about Adrián Luna, a 45-year-old Mexican immigrant who was removed from his entire world—wife, children, job and church in a small town in Idaho—as being typical of the fate of those who are deported.

“He was a model citizen, he had kids—just imagine being separated from your kids, your flesh and blood. He tried to return home to Idaho, but he died in the California desert.

Baby Food

“It’s truly heartbreaking. The thing about these objects and personal drawings I’ve recovered … these items made it to the bitter end, so to speak. They hadn’t been discarded, they didn’t fall out of a backpack, or were taken out and left behind because the backpack was too heavy. The people decided to continue carrying a votive candle or bottle of cologne. Who is to say these people didn’t decide to make the journey again and subsequently die crossing the desert?

“Immigrants are doing the dirty, degrading work in meat processing plants, agricultural field work, fast food, the hospitality industry.

“This work is part of the historical documentation of our country’s response to migration. A pair of gloves from a quinceañera [celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday], a family photograph of the kids, safety pins used for diapers—this is humanity and they are all profound objects that tell a story.

Water bottles

“I’ve been away from it for four years now. I resigned August 2014 and worked on finishing the project in 2015. However, it wasn’t until June 2018 that the project took off.”

Norisa Diaz: What’s interesting and telling about the timeframe when you were collecting these items—it was during both the Bush and Obama administrations. Contrary to the claims of the Democrats, it hasn’t just been the Trump administration doing this. Did you see any difference from one administration to the next?

Tom Kiefer: It was just really a steady increase in things getting worse. 2009-2011 were the peak years. The financial crisis stopped some of the flow. Even though the numbers of people were at record levels, it acted as a check and balance. The entire framework of these detention centers, this was a continuation and an escalation by each administration. What we need to do is educate and explain what is going on, that’s half the battle right there. I’ve shown some of these pieces before and I can’t tell you the numbers of people who have come up to me and are completely shocked: “Really, our government’s doing this?” When will the turning point be? We are moving closer and closer to fascism, to tyranny and living under a totalitarian regime. This work is just my contribution to helping our democracy.

Swans and cliffs of Rügen island

This June 2014 German video is about Lohme village on Rügen island in Germany, and a sunset there.

After 9 October 2018 on Rügen came 10 October.

Sunrise, 10 October 2018

This photo is about the 10 October 2018 sunrise.

Rügen, 10 October 2018

This photo shows some of the cliffs of Rügen, near Sassnitz town, later in the morning.

Mute swans, 10 October 2018

Close to the shore, these mute swans.

Mute swans, Rügen

Or on the shore.

Seaweed, 10 October 2018

Also on the shore, this seaweed.

Trees, 10 October 2018

On the Rügen cliffs, the trees grow close to the shore.

In Lohme village, house sparrows use the house martin nests of summer to spend the night.

Meanwhile, more cranes keep arriving from Scandinavia.

This 24 September 2011 video is about cranes at RÜgen.

Stay tuned for more Rügen blog posts!