|Ernest K Bramsted|
[Rowan Cahill, 16 February 2017]
'THE FATAL LURE OF POLITICS'
|.....Childe in the 1930s....|
|...Irving, over seven decades later......|
[Rowan Cahill, 3 November 2015]
|Raewyn and Terry at the Conference, in front|
of the !st edition cover of CSAH
Photo: Nick Irving
The cause of her death was an unexpected and unforgiving brain aneurysm.
MISSING IN ACTION?
A key part of this 'action' is seeking ways to go beyond the academic/scholarly format and conceiving of intellectual work as engaging democratically with more than niche audiences. It is not impossible. In Barcelona in 2012, trained historians and ‘historytellers, historical agitators, artists, independent archivists, history groups, political archaeologists etc’ came together to set up the International History From Below Network. As the document for its recent meeting in Manchester explains, the network aims to create a ‘self-organized, do-it-yourself practice’, an historical sub-culture of ‘commoning and levelling, promoting the sharing of resources and countering the idea that history is solely the province of professional historians. We aim to find new practices and arenas for radical history beyond the austere mood and sensibility of the academic lecture and conference.’
BEYOND LUMINARIES: E.P. Thompson, AND Jack Lindsay and V.G. Childe
|V. G. Childe|
But the message largely went unheeded; labour history in Britain as well as Australia continued to attract radical historians. This was understandable. Labour history had begun in the institutions of the labour and socialist movement, drawing strength from its political vision, so at least in its early days it could bring academic and movement historians together.
|Anti-conscription poster featuring |
|Campaign leaflet against the attempt |
by Menzies to ban the Communist
Party of Australia, 1951.
Linebaugh’s essay collection is not only an historian’s reading of history, but intended also as a spiritual uplifting for modern dissidents and activists, a writing of history that liberates and encourages radical possibilities, the ‘resistance’ in his title not only referring to the subject matter of his text, but to the present and to the future. For Linebaugh, we are “losing the ground of our subsistence to the privileged and the mighty. With the theft of our pensions, houses, universities, and land, people all over the world cry, Stop Thief! and start to think about the commons and act in its name”. This acting, be it protecting or imagining/creating ‘commons’, is termed ‘commoning’ by Linebaugh. It is this historical vision, intent, and inspiration, that is at the core of radical history.
Simply, the WW1/Anzac commemoration process, with all its war-porn and militarised confectionery, has little to do with remembering the tragedy of WW1, little to do with the abattoir and carnage that it was, little to do with the maimings and the cripplings and the traumas that dogged its survivors, little to do with ‘learning from history’, little to do with ‘it must never happen again’, for it is a psychological grooming, an ideological massaging of the national consciousness, the inducement of a martial state, a zombification of the citizenry — let this happen again, let the nation be ready for more wars, groom the youth of the future to rush into uniform should the need arise, cultivate the citizenry to accept war as a normal part of life and because of this, accept even more and larger budget allocations to ‘defence’ and martial expenditures, and groom the citizenry and the media to uncritically acknowledge the glory and necessity of going to war and accept future military adventures wherever and whatever these be. Unleash the dogs of war, because war is good for the national soul.
Brothers by John Tognolini is the first of a projected quartet of novellas dealing with the war experiences of four of Tognolini’s uncles during WW1, beginning with those of Stephen and Andrew Tognolini, working-class men in their early twenties, at Gallipoli. In many ways the book breaks from the dominant narrative enshrined in popular retellings of the Anzac/Gallipoli experience, beginning with the Tognolini brothers, city-industrial workers, not bushmen, and of Italian and English/Irish descent, not pure Anglos. Indeed, the Gallipoli of Tognolini’s account is peopled with ‘others’: the Allied invaders fighting the Turks are not just Australians and New Zealanders (ANZACS), but also British, French, Canadian Newfoundlanders, Canadians, British Indians (from the future India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), while in the Australian ranks are people of Aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, West Indian descent--not only the pure Anglos who tend to people populist accounts.
|Jesse Lemisch: On active service|
Terry and I were delighted to address an audience of students and staff on the
|Terry leads the charge...|
|Rowan tells it the way it was....|
(Photos courtesy of the Sydney University Education Action Group)
A GRADUATE RESPONDS
|On stage, on the night|
MOLECULAR IMAGININGS: MANSELL, MANION, AND ME
WITNESSING AGAINST THE BEAST.
|William Blake (1757-1827): Radical, and poet.|
EDUARDO GALEANO: RADICAL HISTORIAN.
INTELLECTUALS: TAME OR OTHERWISE
|Emile Zola's Open Letter to the French President, 1898. |
A seminal intellectual intervention.
A SHADOW AND A PORTENT
Journal of Australian Political Economy is worth checking out. OK, so it is not 'radical history', but so far as radical scholarship is concerned, it is relevant. The issue is devoted to Marxist political economy. Readers will find much of interest amongst the fourteen essays published. I draw attention to one of these, and whilst it is co-authored by my eldest son, that is not the reason I refer to it. Titled "Marxist Class Analysis: A Living Tradition in Australian Scholarship", the essay is co-authored by Sydney University political economists Thomas Barnes and Damien Cahill. The authors present the findings and analysis of their survey of Australian scholarly journal articles in the social sciences published between 1980-2012. Barnes and Cahill are interested in the nature and extent of Marxist class analysis in Australian scholarship. They find that, contrary to the belief of many scholars that it is redundant and dead/dying, Marxist analysis in Australia is alive and well and innovative and showing no signs of going away; in short, it is an ongoing, vibrant, and living tradition. Which might cause future research grant decision-makers in some future kick-arse Abbottonian world to try to tie the purse strings when it comes to the social sciences. But that is in the future, maybe, and for now the news from Barnes and Cahill is a tonic for the diversity of radical scholars in Australian academies who variously assert Marxist principles and understandings as a legitimate way of exploring and explaining the modern world, and the past. [Rowan Cahill, 21 February 2013]
VIOLENCE, SYRACUSE AND THE FUTURE PROFESSORIATE
According to the American Historical Association (AHA), historians with new PhDs have about a 50% chance of academic employment at the time of their graduation. Is that good or bad? Well, it’s bad, for what the AHA report fails to say is that the ‘lucky’ half will be exploited as temporary adjuncts, without tenure or health benefits, working twice as many hours as the tenured professors for half the salary. A favoured few will manage to move into the tenure track; the rest will labour in this academic underworld all their working lives - or until they join the underpaid in some other industry. As one of the adjuncts explained recently, their situation is not unique; it’s par for the American way of life. They are as expendable as other workers, suffering because of the conquest of academic life by
So I got a bit of a jolt when I came across a conference call from the
Is the program a bad joke, I wondered, or just another example of elite arrogance and market ideology? And is its linguistic cleverness self-deception or deliberate? And if the ruling professoriate can get away with misnaming their school in this way, are the courses they offer tailored to produce a similarly false view of the world and its history?
The reason the Syracuse announcement caught my eye was that the conference’s theme was ‘Violence and Resistance’, described thus: ‘These have become increasingly central to scholarship and have been a palpable presence both on the news and in our classrooms’ – in the latter presumably as matters for discussion rather than as results of an actual struggle to democratize education. The assumption at
Then follows a short list of topics: ‘Memory, religion, gender, military, community identity, popular culture, family, imperialism/colonial experiences, landscape, the self, politics.’ My guess is that they reflect the theses that the students in the school are writing. Culture, experience, identity, memory: these are the organizing ideas of a history profession still in retreat from the radical materialist scholarship of the late twentieth century. Look at what the list ignores: the structures of race and class, surely among the main arenas of violence and resistance; periodisation, a concept that holds out the possibility of another period of progressive action against oppression and its supporting violence; and the social structuring of power and thus the crucial insight for a study of this kind that the state, as the sphere of legitimate violence, is responsible for spreading the very idea of violence as a way of settling conflict.
One of the most encouraging recent developments in the practice of radical history is the renewal of the materialist understanding of history as a creative and collective process. This has occurred as millions of people have shown what that means right now, on the streets and in the squares of hundreds of cities across the globe. If violence and resistance are part of historical analyses today it is because of this movement. It reminds historians of violence and resistance that they have to contextualize them, to consider their material causes and effects, to see them as actions as well as experiences, to analyze their economic and political reality as well as their representations.
The graduate students of
|Bonhoeffer, July 1939.|
ROBIN HOOD: In a 'bargain' bin at the local supermarket I recently found episodes of childhood television fare...a British series my brother and I loved....The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1959), starring Richard Greene. Episodes of this were written under a pseudonym by blacklisted American leftist screenwriter, Ring Lardner Jr. (1915-2000), a victim of the anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940s, 1950s, who found work in England until he could again freely work in his homeland. A matter of politics and popular culture seamlessly mixing, and arguably a subtle part of my early political formation. Nice one Ring, and Robin...and thank you. [Rowan Cahill, 19 August 2012]
“WORKERS OF THE WORLD”, subtitled the International Journal on Strikes and Social Conflict, is a new, and free, online journal. It aims “ to stimulate global studies on labour and social conflicts in an interdisciplinary, global, long term historical and non Eurocentric perspective. It intends to move away from traditional forms of methodological nationalism and conjectural studies, adopting an explicitly critical and interdisciplinary perspective”. The journal is an initiative arising out of the Lisbon Labour Conference in March 2011. The editorial board draws researchers from
Order a copy for your library. And while you are at it, place an order for another impressive newcomer with Australian origins, Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market, edited by Damien Cahill, Lindy Edwards and Frank Stilwell, from the Edward Elgar Publishing stable. This book comprises essays from an international array of scholars on the topic of neoliberalism, including robust discussion/analysis of the embeddedness of neoliberalism. [Rowan Cahill, 24 July 2012]
WISE AFTER THE EVENT: Hard on the heels of my previous post about McQueen, my attention was grabbed by an article in the latest issue of Australian Historical Studies (43, 2012, pp. 287-301), authoured by young historian Nathan Wise from the University of New England (NSW). Wise has made a speciality of radically challenging traditional histories of the Australian martial experience during World War 1, histories which arguably serve to condition and martial future generations of young Australians to uncritically enter bloodbaths overseas.
Wise explains in his article's Abstract, "The Myth of Classlessness in the Australian Imperial Force'',
"The issue of class remains strikingly absent from much of the historical literature on the
Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War. This article briefly explores
the pre-war class backgrounds of soldiers, the traces of class in their writings and their
experiences, the class-based selection processes of soldiers’ writing by post-war archives,
and how key historians of the AIF have paid insufficient attention to class. It argues that
as a result of middle-class hegemony, before, during and after the war, the memory of the
First World War in Australian popular culture and much historical writing is largely a
memory based upon skewed sources and a lack of recognition of class in the AIF."
Wise's article is a scholarly strike against the way many Australian historians and the populists who have followed, have deliberately or otherwise variously misrepresented the Australian martial experience of World War 1. A significant piece of historical research and writing, and a useful contribution to the class analysis of Australian history. [Rowan Cahill, 6 July 2012]
HUMPHREY McQUEEN ON WikiLeaks: Over on the Overland website, the Coombs Lecture Theatre (Australian National University) talk given by Australian radical historian Humphrey McQueen on 27 June 2012 to the Canberra Friends of WikiLeaks has been posted. Titled Yes, Virginia, there are Conspiracies, this is a marvellous, erudite defence of Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks project, and is a masterful demonstration of radical history. McQueen touches upon many things, including the nature of journalism, class analysis of history, and the ways great power and wealth operate to the confusion of the masses. Enjoyable also is his Wildean contempt for the ALP. McQueen's conclusion is the rallying/oppositional essence of radical history:
[To read the whole talk, click here]
NOBBLING INFORMATION COMMODIFICATION: ACADEMIC PRODUCTION, JOURNALS, AND OPEN ACCESS: Once upon a time the academic production of writing and research was characterised by networks, professional societies, collegial informalities, and a certain democratic haphazardness. It was part of general cultural discourse, contributing to the idea of cultural/scientific intellectual commons. Now, however, academic production has largely become privatised. Many academic/scholarly journals have become the property of corporate owners. Scholarship has become a commodity, locked up in repositories, requiring exorbitant payments by universities, libraries, individuals to unlock and access. Instead of the idea of commons, we have the privatisation of academic/scholarly production.
The ‘once upon a time’ never was a level playing field. Some research and journals had greater clout/exposure than others, with factors like the names of people and institutions associated with publications influencing exposure and visibility. But the ‘professionalisation’ and growth of academic journals since the 1970s, and their gradual concentration in the hands of global mega-publishers, has created another uneven playing field, one ruled by money and the generation of huge profits. For example, Amsterdam-based Elsevier, the leading publisher of science and health information/research, with some 2000 titles in its portfolio, reported a profit of £768 million in 2011, an increase of £44 million over that of the previous year.
The Cost of Knowledge petition which began circulating in January this year is of interest. Originating from a blog protest by eminent Cambridge mathematician Timothy Gowers, it has gained international support from thousands of scientists who pledge not to publish in, or otherwise assist, Elsevier journals, in protest against policies which the petition claims restricts access to work that should be readily available. In the UK, the media has been quick to dub the mounting protest, the Academic Spring.
For a good working example of an individual scholar's Open Access site, check out that of Australian sociologist (Professor) Brian Martin, a long-time Open Access advocate and practitioner.
“TALK OF MANY THINGS….” There is a resurgence of scholarly interest in the history of popular protest and collective action in Britain and Ireland. This is taking place at the same time collective action is a global phenomenon, particularly, so far as the mass media is concerned, in the Arab world and in parts of Europe. Two recent papers by Katrina Navickas are of interest: “What Happened to Class? New Histories of Labour and Collective Action in Britain”, Social History, Vol. 36, No. 2, May 2011; and “Protest History or the History of Protest?”, History Workshop Journal, Issue 73, March 2012. There is much to ponder in these thoughtful and provocative pieces; the 2011 essay in particular, is a robust historiographical discussion of recent developments in British labour and collective action history.
P. S. Soon after writing the previous paragraphs, I was notified by a friendly online monitoring outfit that a co-authored article of mine published in 2006 had recently been downloaded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The subject of the article is the imposition of a form of martial-law on a small semi-rural Australian town in 1978, following what now appears to have been a bogus terrorist threat emanating from within
No, that’s not wonderful; it’s an indictment of the bias in the national publicly funded program for digitising rare and valuable printed material. The headline should have read: ‘Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program neglects historic feminist journal while pouring millions into digitising the anti-woman, anti-worker capitalist press.’
There are other feminist journals. I have been reading The Australian Woman’s Weekly – no, not the Packer–Buttrose slave-comforting fairyfloss – but the magazine edited by the feisty, socialist-feminist Jenny Scott Griffiths before she was sacked for opposing conscription in 1916. When will it be digitised? Or Vida Goldstein’s periodicals, Australian Women’s Sphere, and The Woman Voter? The academic contingent of whatever is left of the women’s movement might be more usefully engaged in lobbying the National Library to make these oppositional journals digitally accessible rather than chasing the will-o-the-wisp of women’s ‘leadership’ (?) as part of this country’s ruling, masculinist historical narrative.
First wave feminism never produced as many periodicals as first wave labourism/socialism, so what’s the digitisation score for the labour press? Before we do the count let’s look at the field. I have the 1975 monograph, Labor in Print, compiled by H.J. Gibbney, in front of me. Jim Gibbney identified 488 newspapers or periodicals with a connection to the labour movement between 1850 and 1939. Among them are daily newspapers published in Sydney, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Ballarat and Hobart; trade union journals from key industries; and party newspapers. How many of these have been digitised? Just one – the Queensland Worker – although the Clipper, from Hobart, is set to appear soon, but it is worth noticing that the Clipper, like The Dawn, is ‘contributed content’, that is, its digitisation will not be paid for by the National Library.
So what is going on in the Digitisation Program? If you look at the list of digitised papers on Trove you will find a lot of insignificant stuff - papers for children, for tiny bush communities, and Melbourne suburbs. I guess an argument can be made for this stuff, but does anybody really believe that the Australian Children’s Newspaper that ran for about a year is more important than the Labor Daily that appeared for almost twenty years, or than The Daily Standard that ran for 24 years? Or for that matter, any of the other 486 papers that made the labour movement the oldest source of citizenship training for ordinary people in this country, as well as producing the oldest political party, which currently holds office in the national government? Is political bias at work, or is it that the staff of the newspaper digitisation program are just ignorant of their field? Whatever the answer, the situation is outrageous.
It is also surprising that the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History and its seven branches seem uninterested in this matter, but they get very excited if their flagship journal is threatened with downgrading in the international scholarly pecking order. Perhaps their members have stopped doing research that draws on the labour press, but don’t they feel any responsibility to ensure that the labour press is fairly represented in Australia’s digitisation program? It is not as if they lack clout, as some of the country’s most published and rewarded academics are among their members. About thirty years ago one professor of literature ensured that rare periodicals from the 1840s were microfilmed and digitised. Surely a dozen or so labour history professors today could put enough pressure on the National Library to rectify this outrageous neglect of the labour press. [Terry Irving, 10 March 2012].
OCCUPY HISTORY. The Occupy Movement is a creative and energetic international social protest movement targeting the global growth of economic and social injustices and inequalities. The movement began in North America in September 2011, specifically targeting Wall Street. Since then it has spread to 82 countries and more than 2800 occupy sites/communities. In December 2011, Terry participated in classes organised by the Sydney (Australia) occupiers in Martin Place, iconic and symbolic heart of the Sydney CBD. In support of the movement, we have added our names to the Occupy History site. This site seeks to encourage historians to build discussions about inequality and injustice to include the histories of struggles against these, and the changes needed. [Irving/Cahill, 21 February 2012].
CLASSROOM IRRELEVANCY? The lives of Australian historians Eric Fry (1922-2007) and Jim Hagan (1929-2009) were deservedly celebrated by fellow academics following their respective deaths. Much of the memoir, obituary, scholastic material generated focussed on their significant contributions to the development of labour history as a scholastic/academic sub-discipline in Australia during, and since, the 1960s. On the radical involvement of both men as secondary school teachers during the 1950s and early 60s, before they morphed into academics, the accounts were virtually silent, their early classroom careers apparently considered irrelevant/inconsequential in the light of their later development and achievements as academic historians. Or maybe this aspect of their lives was just too hard to get a handle on. Whatever, it was an omission requiring rectification; simply, in the 1950s, at the height and the worst of the Cold War in Australia, these academics-in-waiting were, appropriating Gramsci, full-blown and courageous organic intellectuals; nor were they alone.
RADICAL HISTORY, SOCIAL HISTORY, & POLITICAL HISTORY: Frank Bongiorno (‘ “Real Solemn History” and its Discontents: Australian Political History and the Challenge of Social History’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2010, pp 6-20) has written a very valuable survey of the revival of political history since the 1980s. He argues that the cause of the revival is the ‘challenge’ of social history, and he discusses several important contributions from radical historians: Connell, Irving, Scalmer et al. Not only radicals contributed of course; on the other hand his emphasis on the radicalising potential of social history suggests a connection between radical historians and social history. We seem to be at the centre of his argument – if not of his survey. All very flattering, yet I’ve got misgivings. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer of social history, at least not in the way Frank means.