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.

23rd October – Antonio Gramsci on Working Class Education and Culture

As part of a series on Culture, Memory and Resistance, Stroud Radical Reading Group will discuss work by Antonio Gramsci on October 23rd at Atelier Stroud, 19A Lower St, Stroud, GL5 2HT, 7.30-9.30pm (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).

We will discuss writings on “Working Class Education and Culture (3.5Mb pdf download)” by Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician, Antonio Gramsci. Included in this pdf download of our focus chapter for discussion is the introduction to the book by Eric Hobsbawm. Much of Gramsci’s writing concerns ideas about the role of culture and ideology in maintaining the status quo through the development of “common sense” values and norms, rather than merely through violence, economic force, or coercion. Radical Readers are encouraged to explore Gramsci’s larger body of work if they wish. Our focus chapter is one set of texts from a larger Gramsci Reader (selected writings, 1916-1935 – 56Mb pdf download), edited by David Forgacs -chapters 6, 7, 11 and 12 are more relevant to questions of culture and “hegemony” for anyone interested in additional reading.

The session with be introduced by Stroud resident and recovering Trotskyist, Jeremy Green.

As people have different styles of learning, we like to include audio and visual materials where possible. You may wish to listen to this Desolation Radio podcast episode on Gramsci (80mins), or watch this short video introduction to key concept ‘hegemony’:

The session is followed by our November session Post-War to Post-Wall, as part of the Berliner Zeitgeist programme, and was preceded by Insurgent Empire – Stroud Radical Reading Group on 25th September.

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.

Culture, Memory, and Resistance – Autumn 2019 Series

Our Autumn 2019 series explores the way in which the status quo is maintained or resisted through culture and memory, looking at this through different historical contexts: the British Empire, and postwar Italy and Germany.

25th September – Insurgent Empire: anticolonial resistance and British dissent

Insurgent Empire by Dr Priyamvada Gopal “examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of empire were influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies, from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. In addition, a pivotal role in fomenting resistance was played by anticolonial campaigners based in London, right at the heart of empire.” (from publishers Verso, who are helpfully selling the book 50% at £12.50 till 23rd September)

23rd October – Antonio Gramsci (reading TBC)

In October we will discuss work by Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician, Antonio Gramsci. A short reading will be chosen ASAP, focusing on Gramsci’s ideas about the role of culture and ideology in maintaining the status quo through the development of “common sense” values and norms, rather than merely through violence, economic force, or coercion.

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:

“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.

 

Insurgent Empire – 25th September 2019

For September’s session we will be discussing Dr. Priyamvada Gopal’s recently published book: Insurgent Empire: anticolonial resistance and British Dissent (as part of our Autumn 2019 series on “Culture, Memory and Resistance“).

The session will be on Wednesday September 25th at a NEW VENUE: Atelier Stroud, 19A Lower St, Stroud GL5 2HT (just up the road from Black Book, which is sadly now closed).

Download the Introduction and Chapter 1 as a Word document. These are the sections we will focus on, but as ever you are welcome to read more if you have the time!

A summary from the publishers: “Insurgent Empire shows how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation. What is more, they shaped British ideas of freedom and emancipation back in the United Kingdom.

Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of empire were influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies, from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. In addition, a pivotal role in fomenting resistance was played by anticolonial campaigners based in London, right at the heart of empire.

Much has been written on how colonized peoples took up British and European ideas and turned them against empire when making claims to freedom and self-determination. Insurgent Empire sets the record straight in demonstrating that these people were much more than victims of imperialism or, subsequently, the passive beneficiaries of an enlightened British conscience—they were insurgents whose legacies shaped and benefited the nation that once oppressed them.”

You may be interested in listening to a Modern Myth podcast, Insurgent Empire and the Lost Voices in Colonialism with Dr. Priyamvada Gopal, or watching videos with Gopal speaking about the book, such as the one below:
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.

Speculative Fiction, 28th August 2019

August’s session will be on Speculative Fiction – it will be on a Wednesday 28th August, 7.30-9.30pm at Black Book Cafe.
We will focus on two short stories:
 
“Will the Circle be Unbroken?” by Henry Dumas and
“Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler.
Download both stories in this pdf (which also features a short afterword in the case of Butler’s story).
The stories have been selected by Ronnie McGrath, a former Creative Writing Director at the University of the Arts, who currently teaches speculative fiction at Imperial College London. Ronnie is also the author of two poetry collections, Gumbo Talk (2010) and Data Trace (2010), the novel On the Verge of Losing It (2005), and the chapbook, Poems from the Tired Lips of Newspapers (2003). He has work in IC3, The Penguin Book of New Black
Writing in Britain, Filigree (2018), and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2017). Ronnie is also a painter, who has held a solo exhibition at Goldsmiths College and the Commonwealth Institute (2018), and spoken at Bristol University on the subject of “The Consciousness of Black Art”.
The stories are both from larger collections – which you may wish to read more of over the summer (though our discussion will remain focused on the two stories, which will be more than enough to discuss over 2 hours):
Dumas’ story is included in Dark Matter II: Reading the Bones (2004), which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2005.
Butler’s is part of her own collection Bloodchild and other stories (1995 / 2005 edition with two additional stories). The title story won the Hugo Award and Nebula Award.
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.

Wangari Maathai, July 17th

Our series on Climate and Environmental Crises concludes with Wangari Maathai’s “The Challenge for Africa: a new vision”. We will meet to discuss two chapters from this book at Black Book Cafe on July 17th, 7.30-9.30pm.

Our discussion will focus on Chapters 8 and 12 – available as a pdf download via this link, though you are welcome to read the whole book. Chapter 8 (pages 160-183) is titled “Culture: The Missing Link”, in which Maathai investigates how her “personal recognition of the importance of culture led [her] to create the Civic and Environemental Education seminars as part of the Green Belt Movement’s work” . In Chapter 12 (239-259), “Environment and Development”, Maathai says she “argue[s] for the centrality of the environment in all discussions of, and approaches to, addressing the challenges Africa faces”.

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! Facebook event – Wangari Maathai: The Challenge for Africa

Information about the book (from the cover of the 2009 William Heinemann edition): “In this urgent yet optimistic new work, Wangari Maathai – winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement – provides a unqiue perspective on the fate of Africa, and offers hope for a new way forward.

The challenges facing Africa are real and vast: terrible conflicts wrack the Darfur region of Sudan, southern Somalia, the Niger delta and eastern Congo; elections have been violently contested in Kenya and Zimbabwe; drought and floods are prevalent in both west and east; and HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis ravage the continent. Natural resources are drying up, and changing rainfall patterns – partly as a result of global warming – directly jeopardise the livelihood of the great majority of Africans who still rely on the land for their survival.

All too often, Africa’s problems are reduced to a series of tableaux vivants connoting dependency, desperation or savagery. What is needed is a different vision – one that comes out of Africa, from an African. Informed by the author’s three decades as an environmental activist and campaigner for democracy, The Challenge for Africa surveys what is really hampering the contintent’s development, and argues that the future of Africa lies not in international aid, but in the hands of Africans themselves.

Written in Wangari Maathai’s searingly decisive yet inspiring voice, and offering nothing less than a manifesto for twenty-first century Africa, The Challenge for Africa celebrates the enduing potential of the human spirit, and reminds us that change is always possible.”

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things

We continue our series on the environmental and climate crises with a discussion of Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore’s “A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet”, at Black Book Cafe on June 19th, 7.30-9.30pm. 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!

Our discussion will focus on the Introduction – download a pdf: PatelMooreHistory7CheapThings (7.4Mb), though we encourage people to read the whole book if possible. Get in touch if you would like to be included in a bulk purchase with Stroud Bookshop.

“How has capitalism devastated the planet—and what can we do about it?

Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated the Earth.

In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analysing today’s planetary emergencies. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate that throughout history crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism. At a time of crisis in all seven cheap things, innovative and systemic thinking is urgently required. This book proposes a radical new way of understanding—and reclaiming—the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.” (from University of California Press page about the book)

Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything, says “Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore have transformed ‘cheapness’ into a brilliant and original lens that helps us understand the most pressing crises of our time, from hyper-exploitation of labor to climate change. They demystify the systemic forces that have gotten us here, showing how our various struggles for justice are connected. As we come together to build a better world, this book could well become a defining framework to broaden and deepen our ambitions.”

The series on climate and environmental crises will continue with a discussion of Wangari Maathai’s A Challenge for Africa on July 17th, and this session follows Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime by Bruno Latour on May 15th.

Down to Earth by Bruno Latour – 15th May 2019

As part of our summer series on climate and environmental crises, we will discuss Bruno Latour’s Down To Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime on Wednesday 15th May, 7.30-9.30pm at Black Book Cafe. Facebook event: Down to Earth-Bruno Latour – SRRG discussion.

The book is available for £12.99 from Stroud Bookshop (we can negotiate a small discount through bulk purchase if enough people want a copy) but we will focus our discussion on chapters 1-5 and 20 of Latour’s book – excerpts available as a pdf here (pages 1-21, 99-106).

From the publisher’s page about the book: “The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people.

What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial.

The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the ideal of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders.

This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.”

Chapter titles of the sections forming our focus for discussion:

Chapter 1: “A hypothesis as political fiction: the explosion of inequalities and the denial of climate change are one and the same phenomenon.”

Chapter 2: Thanks to America’s abandonment of the climate agreement, we now know clearly what war has been declared

Chapter 3:  The question of migrations now concerns everyone, offering a new and very wicked universality: finding oneself deprived of ground

Chapter 4: One must take care not to confuse globalization-plus with globalization-minus

Chapter 5. How the globalist ruling classes have decided to abandon all the burdens of solidarity, little by little

Chapter 20: “A personal defence of the Old Continent”

 

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

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