|CP HISTORY GROUP: Two pamphlets launch new series|
Welcome to the first in a new series of pamphlets produced by the Communist Party History Group, which was re-established following discussion in a subject stream at the 2005 Communist University of Britain. Although convened by the Communist Party, the CPHG is not restricted to current CP members. Both new pamphlets will soon be available online at the shop.
However, the focus of the activities of the Group has been designed to provide an antidote to the `cottage industry' that some have built for themselves out of our own history. In many cases this has been regardless of the fact that they have had little or no ties to the Communist Party in the past or the present, let alone sympathy. Much of the product of this labour has been to make negative judgements about the Party's past (or even existence) by those whose antipathy to the Communist Party - from either a right or left perspective - is perhaps obscured by the seemingly 'scholarly' nature of their work. Yet a great deal of this research is contentious and often lacks a sensitivity of understanding of the nature of class struggle, much less the personal dynamics that apply in Party life.
The CPHG has begun to seek to rescue Party history from this ‘commodification’ and subject it to the - sometimes critical but always perceptive - perspective of contemporary Marxism. At the same time, it has always been a feature of the Marxist approach to history to consider not just our own history, and that of the labour and progressive movements, but to apply our theoretical approach to all strands of historical study.
Much of the initial work in co-ordinating research and writing on such themes has been conducted by e-mail and a series of some eight e-bulletins containing a range of articles, updates on work in progress, and calls for assistance on a wide area of Communist history were produced, which are still available on the Party’s Issuu account, see: http://issuu.com/ We called these bulletins “Our History – New Series” in a nod to the past heritage of Communist historical work.
Recently, a range of publishing initiatives in the field of biography and history have suggested to us that there is probable a wider appetite for more Communist and working class history in a more accessible form. In particular, the publication “The CP 1920-2010: 90 Years of Struggle” by Ben Stevenson and Rob Griffiths generated much interest, with the result that we have therefore decided to embark on a range of a series of relatively brief pamphlets, which this edition begins.
The role and importance of studying working class history has long been a feature of the Communist Party. Indeed, the Communist Party’s Historians’ Group, which was founded in the immediate post-war years (note the importance of the slight name difference to today’s CPHG!), has been highly regarded for the number and quality of influential professional historians who were associated with it, although there were others involved. Many of the better known writers were ultimately to leave the Party but most did broadly continue to work in the Marxist tradition. Such eminent historians as Christopher Hill and E P Thompson left, whilst Eric Hobsbawn and A L Morton stayed in the Party.
The Group aimed for a popular radical approach that would provide inspiration for modern times. The originality with which historical insights were explored and the emphasis on enabling marginalised voices in history to be uncovered was a model that many more mainstream historians learned from. Indeed, it may not be stretching things to say that the best of British historiography in the late 20th century broadly acquired from the CPHG an abiding interest in what Thompson famously dubbed “history from below”.
Aiding this process, in 1956 the Group launched a quarterly series "Our History". In the next few years the subjects covered by these indicated this approach in practice, as these titles suggest: The Class Struggle in Local Affairs; Luddism; Labour - Communist Relations 1920 – 1939; The Tradition of Civil Liberties in Britain; Enclosure and Population Change; Land Nationalisation in Britain; Cromwell; Tudor and Stuart England; The Working Week; The Historical Novel; Africa in World History; Party Politics in the 19th Century; Chartist Literature; Sheffield Shop Stewards 1916-1918; An SDF Branch 1903-1906; The Common People 1688-1800; Ernest Jones the Chartist; The General Strike In The North-East; The Lancashire Cotton Famine 1861 - 65; Thomas Bewick 1753-1828; Tom Mann; The Lesser Fabians; Transition From Feudalism to Capitalism; Songs of the Labour Movement; Chartism and unions; Homer, etc
A complete list of titles published to 1976 is available online, with some complete texts also available on: http://www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/collections/shs/index_frameset1.htm.
Without seeking to challenge this precedent, the CPHG now aims to bring to a new generation of activists some insight into historical themes that we think will inspire and motivate many.
There is no specific theme to the many planned pamphlets in this new series of “Our History” pamphlets for the 21st century, but the neglect of women's history and local working class history will be key features. Some editions will be a work of original research, others more a homage to previous work that is now largely ignored or forgotten. All will celebrate history from below.
Communist Party History Group
Future titles include:
« “From Handsworth to the Soviet Union – the tanks that stopped Hitler”
« “Cardiff cigar workers and the `feminine strike’ of 1911” by Rob Griffiths
« “The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and Chesterfield” (A reprint of a 1988 pamphlet by Shirley Clarke with a contemporary introductory account.)
« “Rouse Ye Women” – the Cradley Heath Chain Makers Strike of 1910
« “The Coventry general strike of 1917”
« “The Walsall bomb plot provocation of 1892”
« “London Landmarks” (A reprint of a 1963 CP pamphlet describing locations associated with Marx, Engels, or Lenin.)
« “Keep the flag flying” - the Alice Wheeldon affair”
« “The martyrs of River Street – the Derby turnout of 1833-4”
« “The Battle of Cable Street”
Marxism - an introduction
Marxism inspires millions to struggle for a better world. The Communist Manifesto is the starting point in understanding working class politics. It was written in 1847 and published the following year. The CP reprinted the Manifesto in 2005 as part of it's Classics of Communism series, read it here.
Revolting Europe is a political blog with an internationalist flavour. Edited by radical left writer Tom Gill, it is great source of information about events in the political cauldron currently called 'European Union'
21st Century Manifesto is a daily blog of politics - home and abroad, economics and culture. It regularly features in the top 150 political blogs in Britain. Manifesto has a worldwide following and speaks with authority on international issues.
Country Standard newspaper was launched by the Communist Party in 1935. It has long championed the rights and welfare of workers in the food and farming sector. Today the journal is run by an editorial collective of CP and Labour members, environmentalists and trade unionists. It is available in print and online.