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Francis King introduces issue 57 of Socialist History

In the context of the British labour movement’s current disassociation from European socialism and socialist organisations, this paper seeks to provide a chronological narrative of the comparatively strong relationship of British radicals and socialists to European republicans between 1789 and 1914.

lara Zetkin (1857–1933) founded the Socialist Women’s International and was a regular Social Democratic Party (SPD) delegate to the congresses of the Second International.

Not just Peterloo: Remembering the Anti-Apartheid protest against the Springboks, Manchester, 26 November 1969

Michael J. Braddick (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2015; 636 pp.; ISBN 9780199695898, £95.00, hbk

Samuel Foster introduces Socialist History 55.

The Irish revolutionary period of 1912-1923 helped stimulate and develop the political thinking and outlook of the Irish left. During this period, Irish socialists and labour movement activists had to frame responses to the movement for independence, the responses of the British state, the rise of unionism, and the threat of partition.

In the wake of Karl Marx’s bicentenary, and the recent centennial commemorations of both the Great War and Russian Revolutions, Issue 54 of Socialist History serves as a retrospective on Marxism’s impact, legacy and possible future. Samuel Foster introduces issue 54 of Socialist History.

This article examines German communists’ efforts to construct a revolutionary political culture during the Weimar Republic.

John Kelly’s excellent study argues that while the British Trotskyist groups have been extremely unsuccessful in fulfilling their stated aims, principally building a mass revolutionary party, their main impact has come through involvement in wider social or political movements.

Francis King introduces Socialist History 53

Samuel Foster explores how the Southern Slavs, developed a distinctively social­ist movement and culture of their own, particularly from 1903 to 1914, capable of both challenging and shaping politics in the Balkans.

The Russian revolution of November 1917 – or October according to the calendar it inherited from the tsars – was the world’s first successful workers’ revolution and an inspiration to socialists everywhere. Established in the midst of Europe’s most senseless and destructive war, the new Soviet state met with concerted resistance from within and without its borders and drew on campaigns of international solidarity as part of a world-wide movement against capitalism and colonial rule. Nevertheless, when seventy-four years later the Soviet state collapsed, there was no significant movement to defend it either nationally or internationally.

It was a communist romance. In 1923, Croatian American communist Steve Nelson (born Stjepan Mesarsoš) met Margaret Yeager, the daugh-ter of ‘radical’ German immigrants, at the Communist Party office in Pittsburgh. As Nelson recalled in his 1981 memoir, ‘everything happened’ very quickly, and the two married the same year. Both understood that Yeager, the ‘better educated’ and ‘more sophisticated’ of the two, would not accept a ‘passive role’ in the relationship. Indeed her mother gave the nineteen-year-old bridegroom a copy of August Bebel’s Woman and Socialism as a wedding gift. Nonetheless, they soon took on stereotypical roles. He became an important activist, while she ‘tailor[ed] her life to what was required of me’. Recognising that an outsider might ‘conclude … that Maggie accepted a traditional female role because she shared the accepted view of a “woman’s place” at the time’, Nelson assured his readers that she did not: ‘As a revolutionary she consciously gave me all the breaks, feeling this would be best for the movement’. Thus a self-consciously revolution-ary union produced a paradoxically traditional marriage.

In 2014, we edited a collection of essays under the title Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 (Manchester University Press). Our objective was really twofold. First, to generate discussion on the British left in general; to bring together scholars and writers in order to present a ‘way in’ to current thinking on the history of the British left. The context of the book’s gestation was telling: the idea began in the wake of the 2010 general election and the fall of New Labour.

The History Workshop movement, a grassroots coalition of radical-academic, feminist, and labour historians founded at Ruskin College in the late 1960s under the guidance of Raphael Samuel, represents a powerful example of the fusion of political commitment with historical practice. However, outside of a handful of general commentaries, the history of the Workshop remains mostly unexplored. This article focuses on two central pillars of the Workshop’s programme, the annual workshop gatherings held at Ruskin and the History Workshop Journal, in order to examine how its socialist (and feminist) political aspirations were translated into democratic and radical historical forms. It argues that this connection between politics and history should not be simply understood in theoretical or ideological terms, but should also encompass the symbolic, aesthetic and emotional dimensions of historical practice. While critical attention is paid to the tensions and limits of the Workshop’s project, the article suggests that it was precisely in the effort to negotiate the contradictions inherent in its own ideals that the relevance and productive use of the case of History Workshop endures.