October 28th – “The Black Jacobins”

On October 28th we will discuss “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution” by C.L.R. James. The discussion will take place on a Zoom video call – please register (free) to access the details and be sent a reminder on the day.

In Black Jacobins, CLR James provides the definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803 and the story of the French colony of San Domingo. It is also the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces – helping to form the first independent nation in the Caribbean, and inspiring anti-colonial movements around the world.

The book obviously contains considerable references to the brutality of enslavement, and to racist ideas and commentary.

The full text of The Black Jacobins is available online for free in different formats. We encourage people to read the whole book, and as much as possible if not.

For those who know they will only have time for a section, our introducer Jeremy Green recommends Chapter 2 – The Owners. Click below to download Chaper 2 and introductory pages.

Black Jacobins as full text .pdf or .mobi files via link

This is the third session in our Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism series – but readers are welcome to join if they have not attended previous events.

September 30th 2020 – The Many-Headed Hydra

As part of our series of discussions exploring Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism (monthly online events till November 2020), on September 30th 2020 we discussed “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic” by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker.

Read a summary of The Many-Headed Hydra and our discussion on Amplify Stroud.

The full text of The Many-Headed Hydra is available online as a pdf, and as ever we encourage people to read as much of the book as possible.

We focussed our discussion on the Introduction and Chapter 6 – “The Outcasts of The Nations of The Earth” – download this section as a .doc text file.

Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors of The Many Headed Hydra explore the foundations of our modern global economy, and show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a ‘hydra’ and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity.

Chapter 6 explores the the “structure of New York’s commerce”, at a time of slavery and imperialism – part of what the authors call their recovery of a “lost history of the multiethnic class that was essential to the rise of capitalism and the modern, global economy”. As Sukhdev Sandhu writes in his 2001 review of the book for The Guardian: “A central chapter of the book is concerned with what came to be known as the New York Conspiracy. In March 1741, radicals set fire to New York. Fort George, the prime military fortification in British America, was reduced to ashes. Soon, other metropolitan landmarks were torched. These were no random conflagrations. Lying on the west side of Manhattan, Fort George was a site of huge strategic importance for the Atlantic trade and a nodal point of the Britain-Africa-Americas triangle. Slaves and slave products were imported there. It was also populated by a swarm of people whose labours underwrote the city’s wealth, but who themselves were wholly despised.”

The chapter places the events of 1741 in context of a cycle of “multiracial conspiracies” and rebellions of the 1730s and 1740s, and notes how repression of these led to the promotion of “a white identity” in order to “produce new discipline and a different solidarity”.

Content warning: this chapter includes an image of a painting entitled “The hanging of an African in New York”. The book as a whole features other images of this nature, as well as some graphic descriptions of (racist and/or sexual) violence, and quotes historical racist texts.

This event will be followed by two further discussions exploring Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism:

October 28th – “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution” by C.L.R. James

November 25th – “(B)Ordering Britain: Law, race and empire” by Nadine El-Enany.

Summer Fiction Reading: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Our Summer Fiction reading for 2020 is Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. The discussion will be held online on Wednesday 26th August.

We will meet to discuss the text from 7.30-9.30pm. Please register to access details of the video call via Eventbrite.

A member of our group, Dawid Majer, has selected Tokarczuk’s book Flights for us to read – and will introduce it. The book was originally published in Polish in 2007 – and, in English translation by Jennifer Croft, won the Man Booker International prize in 2018. For a brief introduction, this article covers Tokarczuk’s work. This article also covers the awarding of the 2019 Nobel prize for literature to Tokarczuk.

Another article covers Flights specifically, summarising: “In Flights, she meditates on travel and human anatomy, moving between stories including the Dutch anatomist who discovered the Achilles tendon when dissecting his own amputated leg, and the tale of Chopin’s heart as his sister transported it from Paris to Warsaw”.

decorative - cover of book

2020 Series 2: Debates around social ecology

Our monthly events in spring 2020 will form a series on “Debates around social ecology”. Each of these three events will be held on the last Wednesday of the month, 7.30-9.30pm – online via Zoom. See poster and text below it for more details.

Poster with concentric circles in different colours, "Debates around Social Ecology" title, and details contained in webpage text

29th April: Ecological Marxism and environmental neo-Malthusianism

We will discuss “Ecological Marxism vs. environmental neo-Malthusianism: An old debate continues” (online article) by Brian Napoletano.

Let us know you plan to attend via the Facebook event: Ecological Marxism and environmental neo-Malthusianism

27th May: Social Ecology and Deep Ecology

We will discuss the introduction to “Defending the Earth: A Debate”. Download the 8,000 word introduction as an ODT file (should open in most word processing programmes), the full text is available online. The book is based on a 1989 public debate between social ecology theorist Murray Bookchin and deep ecology activist Dave Foreman.

While we will focus on the Introductory section, I recommending reading more of the text if you are able to. You down the 10,000 word closing section of the book as an ODT file. This is made up of two essays from Bookchin and Foreman on their reflections on the debate, written one year later (10,000 words). This might be of particular interest.

Let us know you plan to attend via the Facebook event: Social Ecology and Deep Ecology

24th June: Green New Deal and Beyond

We will discuss “‘We have a once-in-century chance’: Naomi Klein on how we can fight the climate crisis“, a selection from Klein’s latest book “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal“,  together with a critical review by Angela Mitropoulos, “Playing With Fire: Securing the Borders of a Green New Deal“.

Let us know you plan to attend via the Facebook event: Green New Deal and Beyond.

 

2020 series 1 – Praxis: activism, social movement, and revolution

Our monthly events in early 2020 will form a series on “Praxis: activism, social movements, and revolution”. Each of these three events will be held on Wednesdays, 7.30-9.30pm at The Exchange Stroud (GL5 1DF). Dates and links to full information below

SRRG3b.jpg
Poster for Stroud Radical Reading Group first series of 2020

Download the poster above (pdf, 1.25Mb) or a portrait format poster (pdf, 1.25Mb).

January 22nd: Why Social Movements Matter (click for full details)

We will focus our discussion on Chapter 4: “Practice-Oriented Thinking: ‘The Philosophers Have Only Interpreted the World’ (you will need to email us for the text, but are encouraged to read the full book, which can be ordered for next day delivery from Stroud Bookshop, £19.95). Why Social Movements Matter explains social movements for a general educated readership, shows how much social movements are part of our everyday lives, and how in many ways they have shaped the world we live in over centuries.

February 19th: Revolution in Rojava (full details)

We will focus our discussion on Chapter 5 “A Women’s Revolution” (pages 82-102) of Revolution in Rojava – Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan (pdf, 4.7Mb)  by Michael Knapp, Anja Flach, and Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl). Since a 2012 revolution, and following the wider civil uprising in Syria beginning in 2011, Rojava is an autonomous region in northeastern Syria with direct democratic ambitions based on an anarchistic and libertarian socialist ideology – promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity. We recommend you also read the Foreword (by David Graeber) and Introduction if you are unfamiliar with Rojava (pages 12-25). Copies of the book are available from Pluto press priced at £17.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook.

March 18th: Fat Activism (full details)

We will discuss “What’s Fat Activism?” (pdf) by Charlotte Cooper, exploring what we can learn from the history of fat activism, as well as touching on how we can unpick the ways we’ve been shaped by harmful, moralising discourses around food and weight that surround us. The article covers similar ground to Cooper’s book Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement (HammerOn press, paperback £16, ebook £10), a rare insider’s view of fat people speaking about their lives and politics on their own terms. As ever, we have selected a shorter text to focus our discussion but recommend readers read the full book if they are able.

Fat Activism by Charlotte Cooper

Due to the necessary social distancing measures and our desire to support the effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19, we will be holding our next sessions online.

We will discuss “What’s Fat Activism?” (pdf) by Charlotte Cooper, as part of our 2020 series on “Praxis: activism, social movements and revolution”.

We will explore what we can learn from the history of fat activism, as well as touching on how we can unpick the ways we’ve been shaped by harmful, moralising discourses around food and weight that surround us.

To accompany the text, we encourage readers to read this short Instagram post by Sofie Hagen, a response to the question ‘but what about health?‘, and watch this short video featuring author Charlotte Cooper on ‘A Walk Around Fat Activist London’ as part of promotion for her book Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement (HammerOn press, paperback £16, ebook £10), a rare insider’s view of fat people speaking about their lives and politics on their own terms. As ever, we have selected a shorter text to focus our discussion but recommend readers read the full book if they are able.

Please share via Facebook: Fat Activism – event page.

Further information:

Charlotte Cooper is a psychotherapist, cultural worker and para-academic living and working in London. She is a founding proponent of Fat Studies. By lifting the lid on a previously unexplored social movement and offering a fresh perspective on one of the major problems of our times, Cooper’s expansive grassroots study:

  • Reveals details of fat activist methods and approaches and explodes myths

  • Charts extensive accounts of international fat activist historical roots going back over four decades

  • Explores controversies and tensions in the movement

  • Shows that fat activism is an undeniably feminist and queer phenomenon

  • Explains why fat activism presents exciting possibilities for anyone interested in social justice.

19th February: Revolution in Rojava

On Wednesday 19th February, 7.30-9.30pm at The Exchange Stroud: Revolution in Rojava – Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan (pdf)  by Michael Knapp, Anja Flach, and Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl). This event forms part of our 2020 series on “Praxis: activism, social movements and revolution“.

We will focus our discussion on Chapter 5 “A Women’s Revolution” (pages 82-102), and recommend you also read the Foreword (by David Graeber) and Introduction if you are unfamiliar with Rojava (pages 12-25). Download a pdf of these three focus sections.

Please read more if you like – the whole book is available free as a pdf via the link above, and includes chapters on the theoretical influences, the revolution itself, the current political structures, and the geopolitical context, background, and prospects. Copies of the book are available from Pluto press priced at £17.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook.

Please share on Facebook: Revolution in Rojava – SRRG event.

If you prefer audiovisual sources, you could listen to a 50minute podcast from Pluto Press on Rojava and the Kurdish Women’s Movement, or watch the short video from Internationalist Commune, below:

 

https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js Global call to defend the Rojava Revolution! from Internationalist Commune on Vimeo.

January 26th: Holocaust Memorial Day event

On Sunday 26th January, 7.30-9.30pm at The Exchange Stroud we will host an event outside of our usual series to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. After a short opening statement from Jeremy Green, we will have an open discussion focused on the questions:

  1. Why commemorate the Holocaust at all?
  2. What have we learned from Holocaust commemoration, and what should we have learned?

  3. Are there any no-go areas in discussing the Holocaust, and should there be?

As an aid to the discussion, we recommend attendees read Primo Levi’s answers to the most common questions he was asked about “Survival in Auschwitz”, first published in 1986.

Share details via Facebook: SRRG Holocaust Memorial Day event.

Our Stroud Radical Reading Group event at The Exhchange, 7.30-9.30pm will follow the annual inter faith HMD event at Rodborough Tabernacle Church URC, earlier the same day – Sunday 26th January at 2.00 pm. Short address by Rev Adrian Slade, plus contributions from many faith groups. All faiths and none welcome. Tea and cake afterwards! (there is very limited parking at the Tabernacle-please walk/cycle/car share)

27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) “encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide”. They “promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) – the international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur

The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.

HMD is for everyone. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. We know they learn more, empathise more and do more.

Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.”

The HMD website contains pages where you can learn about the Holocaust and genocides, and including resources including life stories of survivors and those who were murdered, schools materials, activity ideas, films, images and more.

22nd January: Why Social Movements Matter

To kick off our 2020 series on “Praxis: activism, social movements and revolution” We will focus on Chapter 4 of Why Social Movements Matter by Laurence Cox, one of Europe’s leading social movement researchers: “Practice-Oriented Thinking: ‘The Philosophers Have Only Interpreted the World’” (email us for the text). We encourage you to read the full book, which can be ordered for next day delivery from Stroud Bookshop, £19.95, though we will focus our discussion on the chapter, and welcome people who have not done the reading to listen to the discussion.

About the book: Social movements and popular struggle are a central part of today’s world, but often neglected or misunderstood by media commentary as well as experts in other fields. Why Social Movements Matter explains social movements for a general educated readership, shows how much social movements are part of our everyday lives, and how in many ways they have shaped the world we live in over centuries. It explores the relationship between social movements and the left, how movements develop and change, the complex relationship between movements and intellectual life, and delivers a powerful argument for rethinking how the social world is constructed. Drawing on three decades of experience, Why Social Movements Matter shows the real space for hope in a contested world.

Author Laurence Cox is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and Associate Researcher at the Collège d’Etudes Mondiales, Paris. He has published widely on different aspects of social movements, including We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism, Voices of 1968: Documents from the Global North, Understanding European Movements, Marxism and Social Movements and Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

He has been involved in many different kinds of movement since the 1980s, including ecological, international solidarity, human rights and organising against repression, antiwar, community activism, radical media, self-organised spaces, alternative education and the alter-globalisation ‘movement of movements’.

If you’re not able to read the text, or prefer an audio-visual source, you may be interested in a 36minute podcast from the New Books Network, or the short videos with Laurence Cox produced by the publisher of the book.
Why Women’s Movements Matter” links best with our other readings in this series.

 

20th November – Post-War to Post-Wall, an event with Berliner Zeitgeist

Stroud Radical Reading Group is collaborating with Uta Baldauf and Katharina Child to host a session as part of the Berliner Zeitgeist programme of events.

For our November session we will read and discuss two texts exploring the past and present of Berlin, and how memory of history affects society, in a German context. We will meet at Atelier Stroud, 19A Lower St, Stroud, GL5 2HT, 7.00-9.00pm (there is a small amount of parking at Atelier, alternatively a short walk from Parliament St car park, or a 15 minute walk from Stroud train and bus stations). The two texts we will discuss are

  • “Understanding the City through Crisis. Neoliberalization in Post-Wall Berlin” by Henrik Lebuhn, and
  • “On How Postwar Germany Has Faced Its Recent Past” by Jurgen Habermas.

1. “Understanding the City through Crisis. Neoliberalization in Post-Wall Berlin” by Henrik Lebuhn (read online or download via link). This article discusses how “Two watershed events are crucial for an in-depth understanding of the dynamics at work [in modern Berlin]: The collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989, followed by a neo-conservative and nationalist, entrepreneurial strategy for the reunified German Capital; and the financial crisis of 2001, which brought a coalition between Social-Democrats and Socialists into power that strongly emphasized Berlin’s (sub-)cultural and cosmopolitan identity, but effectively put the city on a fierce austerity track.”

2. “On How Postwar Germany Has Faced Its Recent Past“, by Jurgen Habermas (word document download via link). Habermas argues that “Since reunification in 1989, Germany’s attitude toward its past has remained ambivalent. Today a New Right calls for the self-confident reassertion of a German nation unburdened by its past. But the past will lose its hold over Germany, Habermas argues, only through the work of a truly faithful memory.” The piece explores what Habermas identifies as four phases of how “postwar Germany attempted to come to terms with its ‘unmasterable past'”

Find out more about the Berliner Zeitgeist programme of events.

This event follows our 25th September session on Insurgent Empire by Dr Priyamvada Gopal, and 23rd October session on Antonio Gramsci.

Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend but we ask for a donation of £2-3 from anyone who can afford it to cover venue costs. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Stroud Radical Reading Group meets once a month. Here you can find details of sessions, links, and further information

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