Space Project - Leeds
"Occupy Everything: Reflections On Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere"
Last week The Space Project hosted a book launch for "Occupy Everything: Reflections On Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere". The book provides a critique of Paul Masons recent publication "Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions" and features several chapters by Leeds activists, including members of Really Open University, 500 Hammers, The Free Association and The Space Project.
Five contributors gave a short presentation on their chapter, updating them with reflections and revisions on the past year of struggle inlcuding the August riots, the Occupy movement and recent national strikes.
The talks are available for download here. Get in touch to buy a book.
Last Updated (Friday, 30 March 2012 17:20)
Where Next For The Space Project?
The Space Project is coming to the end of the 6 months we've been in our current location. We've held some great events in that time from John Holloways lecture and the Radical History course last year to New Weapons reading group and the "Crashing Through Capital" economics course more recently. We've also met loads of new people and had interesting conversations about the project itself.
Although we'll be moving out of Mabgate, we'd love to see the project continue in some way and we've already been thinking about what to do next (after a well deserved break of course).With this in mind we want to invite everyone who's visited the project, put on an event or followed what we've been doing to reflect on the last 6 months and discuss where we can go from here and what we'd like to see come out of the Space Project.
We want to hear what the Space Project has been to you, what you've enjoyed and got out of it, as well as what criticisms you have, how you think it could improve or what you'd like to see come out of it in the future. So if you're interested in getting involved in building up what has been for us an enjoyable and interesting (and at times exhausting) project come along to this meeting.
When we begin: or, why did only three people turn up to a reading group about feminism and crisis?
Reflections on the latest session of the New Weapons reading group on Feminism and Crisis. Originally posted here
This is not a whinge or a rant, but a question posed as openly and ingenuously as it's possible to do. It won't be long, but I thought it was worth writing about.
In the Space Project, a temporary education and organising space in Leeds, people have been running a reading group on (The) Crisis – discussing and learning about this current depression and why, when and how crises of capitalism occur. It's been 'successful' in terms of the fact that quite a lot of people have come (between 20-35 at each session) and some interesting conversations have been had, people are sharing knowledge and experiences and questions and occasionally arguing. Yesterday, it was the fourth session, 'Feminist Perspectives on Crisis', which I was helping facilitate. Three of us involved in the reading group were there. Three others came. And there we were, the six of us.
I am not going to mount a defence of why a feminist analysis is relevant to our understanding and reactions to the crisis, but I nevertheless hope it's illustrated by the following outline of the hour-or-so long discussion we had, which was one of the best conversations I've had the pleasure of having.
Ellen talked about her experience of the multiple feminisms of the 80s, of the place of black feminism which had its own particular intersection with Marxism and conflicts with liberalism, about Shulamith Firestone's idea of a feminist revolution analogous to a Marxist revolution, but of people taking back the means of reproduction as well as production. For her, what makes feminism interesting and immediate is how it changes and challenges our understanding of different 'levels' of human inquiry – psychology, environmentalism/ecology, economics, culture – and how it crosses boundaries between these 'disciplines'. For her using feminist theory and ideas to talk about crisis is a way of getting away from structural definitions (related to the economy, capital and so on) and to talk about these other 'levels' too – about our lives as they are physically lived, about our needs and desires, about education, how we are cultivated. She mentioned, too, the suppression of female intellect and dismissal of women's ideas over history, and pointed out that it was a woman, Harriet Martineau who first posited that a full political economy had to take into account unpaid (and predominantly female) labour.
It turned out that Gaye had hosted one of the first Women's Liberation groups in the UK in her home in Bolton in the late 60s. She wasn't sure what it was all about at first, but she agreed strongly with free access to abortion, one of the four key demands of the movement at the time (They were: free nursery care, free contraception, free abortion on demand and equal pay for equal work). We then had a long discussion about work, and in particular about the Wages for Housework campaign, each chipping in what we knew. Guy pointed out that in Italy, the demand of Wages for Houswork was far more strategic – not a 'genuine' demand but a way of pointing out that under capitalism, this demand could not be fulfilled, thus exposing the system's reliance on vast volumes of unpaid labour and exploitation; in the UK, however, people took it as a real demand and got caught up in the complexities of how it could ever be properly implemented. Why are certain political proposals dismissed as utopian or 'impractical', we wondered, while others are not? Why 'can't' certain debts be forgiven? If we can have a Universal Benefit soon, why not a Universal Wage?
For the 4 younger (mid-20s) participants in this conversation, our different experiences of feminism and activism kept overlapping with thoughts about the readings; one of us had come to feminism through his experiences of another reading group and understanding feminism as the possibility of a radical critique of gender, sexuality and wage labour (not always together though!). We talked about our experiences of gendered work, we reminded ourselves that many kids in the UK are not paid and have paltry welfare support for caring full-time for members of their family. We kept trying to keep the borders of the working world open in our minds, talking of how labour migration affects women and men differently in different countries and times. I recalled a book called 'Global Women', read when I was about 18 about women who leave their families to go and care for others' children, or houses, or do sex work, and how it made me think beyond white liberal feminism for the first time.
We talked about why reproduction is often framed as a 'lifestyle choice' in either positive and negative terms, or an economic one. Stigmas around 'single mums' and 'absent fathers' which seemed to begin in the 70s in earnest (or maybe things always seem to begin when we begin), in one crisis of the welfare state. One of us had counselled young women saw their rational choices to have children so that they could get housing and a guaranteed income. And so we talked about our basic needs, and how we get them met, in the fourth largest country GDP in the world, where 10% of GDP is a huge sloshing tide of capital running in and turning out of the City of London, a conduit passing dry shores. And about anxieties around reproduction and socially reproducing the workforce, the call to teach 'parenting', coercing kids into gender and work. Disciplining for self-discipline.
The Black Death of the late 14th century killed up to 60% of Europe's population, resulting in a crisis for reproduction and labour. Jon talked about Federici's thesis of expropriation of labour, especially women's labour, as something which long predates modern capitalism. Early capitalists, the state and the church all combining forces to gender certain tasks, to remove or suppress the wage, to break down a feudal familial structure in order to boost population growth and unpaid labour. This included proscriptions on sexual and other behaviour, legalisation of rape, regulation of prostitution, and trials for witchcraft. Another point, made later - After the Boer War killed so many men, 'surplus women', wandering women, changed the makeup of teaching from a male-dominated to a female-dominated profession. This gave rise to anxieties about lesbianism, adultery, women unhitched from the sphere of domesticity and of marriage. And here were women, making men and women, and one reserve army begat another.
I don't think we could have had the same kind of discussion with a larger number of people. It would just have been different, no better, no worse, who can say? But still we found ourselves asking; why didn't more people come? The recommended readings weren't any more 'difficult' than the other readings we've had (see below for more ideas). Did people, then, feel that a feminist analysis was tangential, that they could opt out of this one? Did they think it was a tokenistic session? Did the men who didn't come either think it was a discussion 'for women' or did they feel uncomfortable that a feminist approach to crisis was potentially going to attack their individual and collective actions as men? We people worried others would intimately ask them to think about their own (waged and unwaged) work as well as their feelings, their sexuality, their 'personal' politics? Is feminism 'past' to them and now a niche interest?
I've thought quite a lot and quite unsatisfactorily about what 'free universities' and free schools, squatted social centres etc can do to redo, to undo, to de-educate and challenge, to generate as well as impart knowledge. I think we opened up a short and important space yesterday to tell history and politics in a way it is not usually told, not even in 'the left' or amongst 'radicals', and to make new links in our minds. I learnt tons.
I really can't bear a self-referential politics that endlessly unpicks our interpersonal differences and problems, or unconstructively criticises other movements, but I don't think I'm doing that in asking this question. Why did people not come? is a question I intend to ask at the beginning of the next and final session, because I really, really, think it matters. I think it's fair to surmise that feminist perspectives provide a huge and endlessly intriguing and rage-inducing array of ways to look at crises of capitalism, past and present. And they trouble that 'past and present', distinction too, to see what modalities of power mutate and carry on.
BOOKS, ARTICLES and WOMEN recommended/referenced during our discussion:
Silvia Federici – Precarious Labour – A Feminist Viewpoint
Feminist Fightback – Why Cuts are a Feminist Issue
Laura Augustin – Sex as Work and Sex Work
Silvia Federici – Caliban and the Witch
Dale Spender – Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done to Them
Harriet Martineau – Illustrations of Political Economy [Martineau (1802-1876) was an early sociologist and all-round badass. I had never heard of her till yesterday]
Barbara Ehrenreich – Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy
Last Updated (Friday, 02 March 2012 18:12)
Economics As Capitalist Science
Terry Wassal gives a write up of "Economists and Commoners" by David Harvie, the first lecture in our "Crashing Through Capital" series. Originally posted on Terry's blog.
On Monday 6th February I went to the first in a series of introductory lectures and discussions on economics, Crashing Through Capital: An Introduction to Economics, hosted by The Really Open University at the Space Project. The lecture was given by David Harvie, an economist at the University of Leicester. This post summarises some of the key points and issues as they struck me, so it will not be a detailed transcript of the lecture or the Q&As. A recording of the lecture was made and hopefully this will be made available on-line in due course. If so, I'll link from here. David has given permission for his slides to be attached to this post – Economists and Commoners (slides).
David opened the lecture by questioning if it was necessary or useful for us, as lay people and activists, to learn about economics. He made it quite clear very early on that establishment economics, which he referred to as a capitalist science, is highly problematic and in some particulars simply wrong. None-the-less we need to know about it so as not to be deceived by it. As, metaphorically speaking, economics functions as a sort of handbook for capitalism, we need to study it in order to 'know the enemy'.
He made a distinction between two approaches to economics as a discipline – the positive versus the normative. The positive view sees economics as a science that reports on the way the economy works. It claims to be a neutral account, just like any other science, that simply tells us the way it is with no value assumptions or axes to grind. Opposed to this is the view that economics should be normative. It should be based upon and express values. It should be concerned with value judgements about how economies should work, the way society should be. It is clear that the positive view and its assumption of value freedom are highly problematic. David drew our attention to this but did not elaborate. Sufficient to say that the claim that science is value free and simply produces objective models of reality has long been discredited. There is no such thing as a value free science and therefore no such thing as a value free economics. Positive economics that claims to be value free is in fact shaped by values whether its practitioners and advocates realise it or not. In practice these unacknowledged values are based on some underlying assumptions including that capitalist economies are in some way natural.
David introduces another perspective on economics that he favours. Economics is performative. Economics doesn't just describe the world; it is the basis of policy and action and is instrumental in shaping society and producing aspects of its reality. This is why he is ambivalent about just claiming establishment economics is wrong. It is certainly demonstrably wrong in some of its assumptions about society, human nature and so on. But there is some sense in which it is correct simply because the world it describes has been partly produced according to its theories and models. It studies and describes phenomenon that to some extent have been produced and made real according to its dictates and templates. It is correct in much the same way that a plan (say of a road system) becomes a map once the plan has been carried out and there is a reality that corresponds to the plan. There is a long tradition for this sort of thinking. I immediately thought of W. I. Thomas (1863-1947), the American sociologists whose famous theorem was "if men (sic) define situations as real, they are real in their consequences". Today readers may be more familiar with something like Foucault's 'regimes of truth' perhaps.
We then had a brief tour of historically influential economists that still shape economics today, starting with Adam Smith (1723-1790) and his seminal work The Wealth of Nations. Smith is the founder of political economy, the forerunner of modern economics. Using a series of quotations David established three basic tenets of economics that still inform the discipline today – individuals are selfish, they have a natural propensity to truck and barter, and therefore markets are natural. In addition, when individuals seek their own advantage (as they do naturally due to their inherent selfishness) the cumulative consequence of this benefits the whole of society as if guided by an invisible hand. (Once someone mentions 'unintended consequences' my sociological antennae begin to quiver. One description of sociology is the study of the unintended consequences of human behaviour). These assumptions are still alive and well (or ill) in modern economic theory – markets are natural and are the most efficient allocator of goods, the trickledown effect, human beings are naturally rational economic actors (homo economicus), and so on. David appeals to a variety of writers and anthropological evidence to call these assumptions into question and asserts that in practice there is virtually no empirical, historical or anthropological evidence to support any of them. For instance there is virtually no evidence that markets in the truck and barter sense existed prior to capitalism. What economics assumes is natural about today's economy is actually produced by capitalism and the capitalist state. David referred to the work of David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. But despite some of his assumptions being incorrect, Smith's account of the economy was not wrong in any simple way. He described what he saw and offered an explanation for it but in doing so helped to shape the processes he was describing. In this sense his economics was performative. His ideas helped create markets that had not existed earlier and in his own time were highly contested, for instance the food riots where people wanted to pay what they saw as the moral, fair, price rather than what the merchant could get by keeping the produce and taking it to market. The food was taken and sold at the fair price, the money taken being returned to the merchant. This account was taken from E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class (1961) and a later essay, The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century (1971).
One of the most original and influential insights Adam Smith had was the centrality of human labour to the production of wealth. Before him wealth was seen as arising from the land and agriculture (the Physiocrats) or from minerals like gold and silver (the Mercantilists). He recognised that wealth was produced by human labour but couldn't explain how it was produced; where profit came from. The answer to this riddle was provided by Karl Marx. At this point David gave a brief explanation of Marx's theory of value (value basically means profit). In summary, the labourer sells his capacity to work to the capitalist employer for a specified working day. The time it takes to produce the value that covers his wage is, say, four hours. This means that in a twelve hour day (not uncommon then), for the remaining eight hours the value of goods produced goes entirely to the owner. The owner can increase profits in a number of ways. One is to extend the length of the working day so the worker works more hours producing profit beyond his or her wages. Another method is to shorten the number of hours it takes for the worker to create the value of his wages. This latter strategy can be accomplished by either making the labourer work harder and faster or by making the worker more efficient, perhaps by reorganising the work or introducing new tools or technology. Of course both can happen – the lengthening of the working day and the improvement of the workers' productivity. In practice, as the position of workers has become more powerful (for a number of reasons including collective organisation) the working day has tended to shorten but profits have been increased by increasing productivity – the intensification of labour. But it is the production of value over and above the wages paid that is the source of profit. Of course it is more complicated than this, for instance profit is increasingly made from rent rather than directly from human productive labour, for instance software licenses and other intellectual assets. But it is still the case that the majority of wealth is created ultimately by paying workers less than the value of their work. In this sense the the capitalist labour relation is essentially exploitative, however benignly you care to interpret that term.
In contrast to this we were then introduced to John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), quite a party animal according to David. Keynes, although radical in his approach to economics with his analysis of the demand side of the economy and the economic role of the state, was by no means anti-capitalist. David illustrated Keynes position with a number of apposite quotations. Keynes was more realistic about how the economy works, recognising that to some extent markets have to be produced and enabled by supporting the conditions for consumer demand. There is no point in capitalist enterprise producing more and cheaper goods if they stay in the warehouses for want of buyers. In the early days of capitalist production the wages of the labouring classes were rarely much above subsistence, if that. Most manufactured goods were sold to relatively wealthy customers. But as production increased the working classes gradually became important as consumers as well as producers. The tendency had been to drive wages down to increase profits but once profits also depended on the purchasing power of the workers in expanding markets the capitalist was faced with something of a contradiction – two drivers of capitalist development that seemed to pull in opposite directions. To some extent the welfare state, inspired in part by Keynes' argument that the State had a role in supporting the demand for goods, offered a solution to this dilemma by promoting consumption by state expenditure, effectively putting money into the economy and people's pockets. The freeing and encouragement of debt has had a similar function in recent decades. So like the previous orthodox economics, Keynes' theory was a theory of the capitalist economy but one that recognised how the modern economy worked in the early 20th century rather than based upon an idealised version of how it worked in the late 18th century. And like previous economics it was performative in that it shaped the reality it described via government policy. Economics is performative in the sense that it is prescriptive as well as descriptive.
However, despite Keynesian economics achieving near orthodoxy in the post WWII era of reconstruction and development, it was largely defeated in the 1970s with the return of something like the positive economics based on the ideas of Adam Smith. There are a number of complex reasons for this including a world recession, globalisation and so on but these were not covered in this lecture. The current performative economics is now represented by the neo-liberal and Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker whose acceptance speech was published as Human Capital (subtitled A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education). David suggested we might like to read this as a paradigmatic example of current neoliberal economic thinking.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture and found it thought provoking. It left me with a number of questions. David implied (although didn't say) that the improving share of wealth the working class achieved over the best part of 300 years was due largely to their increasing power and resistance through organisation and collective action. Also, by implication, he suggested that the dramatic fall in that share since the mid 1970s is largely due to the weakening of working class power. Undoubtedly this is of central importance but the rise and fall of the fate of the working classes, including the managerial and administrative classes, is tied to a number of systemic features of a now global capitalist economy that I think we may be addressing in future meetings for this course. My other main reflection is that the lecture and presumably future lectures focus on and study economics as a performative discipline. However, what emerges from this first lecture is the notion that the concept 'economy' as used in economics is an abstraction from a social reality where 'the economic' does not exist as an isolated separate sphere of behaviour or social process. A critical stance towards economics as a discipline exposes its ideological and partial (and historically contingent) nature and therefore demonstrates the necessity to go beyond the bounds of orthodox economics to make sense of living and working in late modernity. I guess this is what a sociologist would say.
I have reconstructed this account from my near unreadable notes. I would be very happy if anyone else at the lecture wants to take issue with any of this or add anything I've missed. Please leave a comment.
For a more detailed account of the way capitalism accumulates value, its impact on the division of labour today and some of the political consequences, in his view, you might find Zizek's recent article in the London Review of Books interesting . The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie is a short post here and a link to the original article.
I was very interested in what David had to say about the notion of a moral economy. I found the following article about E. P. Thompson's ideas on this – Moral Economy as an historical social concept.
An interesting paper by Ben Fine (who David referred to as a Marxist economist and a critic of Gary Becker's neoliberal fundamentalism) that outlines Fine's view of modern classical economics, its exclusion of society and even an understanding of its own history, its assumptions and narrow focus, etc. is Economics Imperialism and Intellectual Progress: The Present as History of Economic Thought?
No Pasaran! - Remembering Auschwitz
As part of "No Pasaran!", the recent Antifascist film festival at the Space, there was a talk by Javaad Alipoor and Imran Mansoor on their work taking Yorkshire teenagers on tours of Auschwitz. They were part of an organisation that gave young people a course in a history of political action and resistance of which the tours formed a part. Unlike other Auschwitz tours, theirs placed an emphasis on a comparisson to the world around us and the same types of discsrimination we find today.
A full write up of the weekend can be found here.
Last Updated (Monday, 13 February 2012 16:49)
John Holloway: "Rage Against The Rule Of Money"
Visiting Professor John Holloway giving his final lecture in the three part series "Rage Against the Rule of Money" at the Space Project in November.
John Holloway lives and works in Mexico as a Professor at the University of Puebla. He has published widely on Marxist theory, on the Zapatista movement and on the new forms of anti-capitalist struggle and is the author amongst others of Change the world without taking power (2002) and more recently Crack Capitalism by Pluto Press which is already being translated to other nine languages.
Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, he spent some time as a visiting professor at the School of Geography, University of Leeds in 2011 including teaching at the MA in Activism and Social Change. During this time, he gave four public lectures; the first one in May 2011 and the next three as part of a series titled "Rage Against the Rule of Money".
The final lecture in the series took place in the Space Project, taking academia off campus and away from the barriers of the university as an institution during the 30th November strikes.
The previous two lectures can be viewed here: http://johnhollowayinleeds.wordpress.com/
Last Updated (Monday, 13 February 2012 13:34)
Crashing Through Capital: An Introduction to Economics
As we face austerity and what seems like an ever changing global economic situation, understanding the reasons behind it all can seem daunting.
Really Open University will be hosting a 2 month crash economics course at the Space Project. We present a beginners guide to economics through lectures, discussions, film showings and workshops unravelling the financial jargon, examining the history and analysing the causes of the crisis whilst also collectively creating our own resistance to this new stage of Capitalism.
Each session works on its own so you are free to come to as few or as many as you like. For further readings and discussions around a specific area of economics, check out the New Weapons reading group on "Crisis".
6th Feb –"Economists and commoners: an introduction to the capitalist 'science' " David Harvie
A brief historical introduction to the ways in which economists have remade the world, and remade us in their image - and are continuing to do so. And why we should care.
David Harvie is a senior lecturer in finance and political economy at the University of Leicester, political activist and member of the Free Association collective.
13th Feb – "Inside Job" Film Showing
Film highlighting the systemic corruption within the financial system and how it led to the debt crisis. This will be followed by a discussion on the central role played by debt in Neoliberalism. The session should explain the ideology of debt and how it is inherent to the capitalist system, a great introduction to the following workshop...
20th Feb – Corporatewatch Debt Resistance Workshop
As we all face more and more debt, this is a practical workshop on how we can resist it in our everyday lives. Corporatewatch is a research group providing information on corporations and supporting campaigns against them.
27th Feb – "What we got for £850 billion: finance and its functions" David Harvie.
The second lecture from David Harvie, focusing on financial institutions and the technicalities (in everyday language) of the financial markets. How do they work? What does the jargon mean? Why did the British state commit £850 billion to bailing out the banks and why is finance so essential to neoliberal capitalism.
We'll have more events in March including reflections on the Eurozone crisis by the Occupied London blog, and talks by the ex-Deterritorial Support Group and Paul Mason. Keep an eye on the website for further details!
Last Updated (Tuesday, 31 January 2012 12:27)
No Pasaran! - Leeds Antifascist Film Festival
4th - 5th February
Since its emergence as a distinct ideology at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, fascism has brought more misery to the world than any other political doctrine. Yet, even today, even after the titanic antifascist struggles of the past, and even the Nazi Holocaust, from Anders Breivik to Dale Farm, the threat of fascism still exists. In the past, our comrades had the courage to stand up and say No Pasaran! – They shall not pass! – From Leeds' own Holbeck Moor, where Oswald Mosley was routed, to the battlefields of Spain. The heroism of these brave antifascists, who often paid the ultimate price for their resistance, should not be forgotten.
We are showing these films, documenting the fight against fascism in Spain, Germany, England, France, and Poland, to educate and inspire. We should never forget the reality of fascism nor shrink from confronting it ourselves. For evil to flourish it is only necessary that good people do nothing.
We are showing films documenting the struggle against fascism in Spain, Germany, France, and England. The programme also includes some short talks, a quiz, and there will even be some anti-Nazi comedy. The Leeds ABC bookstall will be there selling books, pamphlets, T-shirts, badges, CDs, and more. There'll be sandwiches and vegan cake, a raffle, and the weekend concludes with a session of antifascist songs from Javaad Alipoor.
This should be a great event so please make every effort to attend. Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully received on the door. No Pasaran! is a benefit for antifascist prisoners.
11.00am - Auschwitz – Recollections Of Prisoner No. 1327 - Kazimir Smolen survived four and a half years in the Nazi concentration camp. In this Polish-made documentary, he returns there to tell his tale. Running time 42 minutes.
12.00 Noon - Remembering Auschwitz - A short talk by Javaad Alipoor and Imran Manzoor about the infamous death-camp and their work in taking West Yorkshire teenagers to visit the site.
1.00pm – Conspiracy (15) - The chilling true story of how, at a short conference in Wansee, just outside Berlin, in 1942, the Nazis decided on 'The Final Solution' to the European 'Jewish Problem'. Stars Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci. Running time 92 minutes.
3pm - When The Violins Stopped Playing - A short talk about the Gypsy Holocaust.
3.30pm - Edelweiss Pirates (15) - Politically and culturally the Edelweiss Pirates were the polar opposite of the Hitler Youth. This film focuses on a group of young Edelweiss Pirates in Cologne towards the end of World War Two. In German with English subtitles. Running time 96 minutes.
5.30pm - The 43 Group - Returning home after World War Two, many Jewish ex-servicemen and women were astonished to see Oswald Mosely's fascists once again trying to stir-up anti-Semitism on the streets. This short film chronicles the militant response of the antifascist 43 Group.
6.00pm - Antifascist recollections from the 1970's - A short reading.
6.10pm - The Welling Case - A talk about last year's prosecution of 20 antifascists on trumped-up 'conspiracy' charges by one of those acquitted.
6.20pm – Spinach Fer Britain – The 1943 anti-Nazi Popeye cartoon which wasn't released until 2003.
6.30pm - Laughing At The Enemy - Bod Green tells some of his favourite antifascist jokes, including some genuine 1930's gems.
7.00pm - The Army Of Crime (15) - The true story of one of the most notorious resistance groups in Nazi-occupied France. In an attempt to discredit them, they were dubbed 'The Army of Crime' by the fascists they fought against. French (mainly) with English subtitles. Running time approximately 135 minutes.
12.00 Noon - Land And Freedom (15) - Ken Loach's inspiring film about the Spanish Civil War, which follows a (fictional) young antifascist volunteer who leaves his native Liverpool to go and fight in Spain. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. Running time 109 minutes.
2.30pm - Living Utopia, The Anarchists & The Spanish Revolution - Juan Gamero's 1997 documentary, which contains moving and inspiring interviews with 30 survivors of the Spanish Revolution. Regarded by many as the best film of the genre. Spanish with English subtitles. Running time 95 minutes.
4.30pm - The Anarchist Black Cross – A short talk about the work of Leeds ABC.
5.00pm - Pan's Labrynth (18) - Guillermo Del Toro weaves fairy-tale imagery into this powerful film set in post Civil War Spain. Spanish with English subtitles. Running time 119 minutes.
7.15pm - The Dead Fascist Quiz – What it says on the tin!
7.45pm - To The Barricades! - Javaad Alipoor performs a set of international antifascist songs.
Last Updated (Monday, 23 January 2012 07:52)
There Was Struggle Before Us: A Radical History Of Leeds Walking Tour
Around 40 people fouhgt their way through the hordes of christmas shoppers to tour the streets where Leeds workers, chartists, co-operators and radicals met, organised and were opposed by violent and repressive city bosses.
Shaun Cohen of the Ford-Maguire Society, named after two notable Leeds socialist pioneers Isabella Ford and Tom Maguire, shared his wealth of knowledge.
He led us past the Markets, originally an area called Vicars Croft used for open air political meetings. It was here that chartists rallied, as well as a marshaling point for the workplace struggles of the 19th century in which Leeds played a crucial role in getting lower working hours.
The consumerist temple of Harvey Nicols stands on the site of the old town hall, where the heads of executed Parliamentarian consprators were placed on poles in the 17th century.
We ended up by City Square, where Victorian inspectors compiling a report on child labour had been beseiged at their lodging in the Scarbrough Hotel by a mass of working children themselves.
It's so easy to be dazzled by the glitzy windows or just to see the changes in our time. But to be told of this peoples' history changes the way we feel about the streets around us. Harvey Nicks will never look the same again.
The event built on a walk a week earlier along the railway viaduct through Hunslet learning about strikes at the mills adn the as works and fights against the Black Shirts. There are more events coming up so keep an eye on the Space Project website.
STRIKE! Tales From The Front Line Of The Miners Strike
Former miner and NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) official Dave Douglass gave a comprehensive history of class-struggle in the coalfields of England. Once Britain's most powerful trade union, Dave explained how both Labour and Tory administrations had plotted the downfall of the NUM, as a precursor to the taming of the organised working-class as a whole.The 1984-85 Miner's Strike was the most important industrial action of modern times, but it was more than that, it was about far more than jobs, and it involved whole communities fighting back against the might of the British police state. In the run-up to the strike, both sides made preparations, Thatcher's NCB National Coal Board) axe-man MacGregor stock-piling coal and the miners trying to wear those stocks down through an overtime ban. The NCB picked the time, March 1984, by provoking a walk-out at Cortonwood colliery, and the strike quickly spread through Yorkshire and throughout the country. A year of hard struggle followed and Dave covered everything comprehensively, from scabs in Nottinghamshire who sided with Thatcher and her boot boys, to the role of the pit deputies union NACODS, who despite an 80% vote in favour of strike action, kept every pit open. Eventually losing the strike was a crushing defeat, not only for the miners, but for the working-class as a whole. Nonetheless, people kept fighting back throughout the 80's, not least in the coalfields, which saw strikes and walk-outs within weeks of the return to work. Dave put the strike and that great period of struggle firmly in its historic context and talked about the lessons we can take from this watershed in the class war, lessons that were certainly not lost on the audience at The Space.
Living With An Earthquake
The first weekend of November saw The Space Project team up with the Leeds International Film Festival to programme a series of film screenings about class struggle in Italy in the 1960s and '70s. The series, dubbed Living With an Earthquake, kicked off with Working Slowly (Radio Alice), a 2004 feature film about cultural subversion in Bologna, and was followed by Porto Marghera: The Last Firebrands, a documentary about workplace organising in the toxic environment of Venice's heavy industrial zone. The series finished with a double bill of documentaries featuring Antonio Negri – a Revolt that Never Ends, a profile of the famous radical philosopher and political prisoner, and Il Trasloco / Moving out of the future, a film about some of the central characters from the Italian 'autonomia' movement.
Living With An Earthquake will be followed by a series of regular fortnightly screenings of radical, subversive and countercultural films at The Space Project. The Militant Cinema Club opens with Omicron on 22nd November, followed by Medium Cool on December 6th and The Working Class Goes to Heaven on December 20th. All films start at 7.30pm and entry is 100% free.
Militant Cinema Club 2011 programme:
Tuesday, November 22 · 7:30pm
(Hugh Gregoretti, 1964)
The body of an apparently dead Italian worker is found inside a pipe. The worker, however, is not dead. His body has, rather, been taken over by Omicron, an alien who is seeking to learn the customs and functions of modern humans as a prelude to an alien invasion. As Omicron learns how to operate the body he returns to the workers factory job and is soon enmeshed in the class struggle of the time. This plot device allows us an outsider's view of the situation resulting in a light-hearted parody of the capitalist system.
Tuesday, December 6 · 7:30pm
Two "world-wise" middle class news reporters are sent to film the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and become unwittingly involved in its political demonstrations, the inner city problems that have precipitated them, and the lives of a single mother and her young son in this harsh, confusing and seriously under-privileged world. A 60s counter culture classic that is part film, part documentary and famously contains scenes shot amidst the actual riots surrounding the Convention.
Tuesday, December 20 · 7:30pm
The Working Class Goes to Heaven
(Elio Petri, 1971)
Lulù Massa is a boss's dream, a Stakonhovite enemy of his class, until he loses a finger at work. Newly radicalised, he joins the movement torn between the unions and more radical workers and students- only to be fired during the ensuing strike. Alienated, bored with the monotony of the factory, Lulù is shaken into awareness of his true value as a worker.
Last Updated (Thursday, 17 November 2011 20:28)
Leeds Turned Upside Down
About thirty people joined us on the "Leeds Turned Upside Down" guided walk last week. They were taken on a secret path above the city from which we could look down onto the key sites in the history of Leeds. We talked about history but we were also interested in the present and the future. We talked about the 'undead' plans the big developers and their compliant council have for our city.
One area we visited is now called 'Holbeck Urban Village'. Interestingly it's a development plan that comes with its own historical narrative, in which the story of Leeds is reduced to entrepreneurs, businessmen and gentlemen reformers. In many ways our walk is an antidote to that 'official' history. The ordinary people of Leeds are written out of the official story, mere pawns, to be housed here or sent to work there. And they'd like to keep us as pawns in their future Leeds.
But that Leeds is never going to happen, it's been killed by the economic crisis. We now need something fundamentally different but it's not going to come from the economic and political elite..
Luckily the real history of Leeds has many stories of ordinary loiners organising themselves, taking action and bending the city to their needs. On our walk we saw how, again and again, people had to step up and struggle for control over their lives, whether struggling for the vote, for the 8 hour day, or just for some dignity. It seemed to us walkers that we are long overdue a turn of our own.
Last Updated (Monday, 14 November 2011 13:17)
Reimagining Education: What Is Critical Pedagogy?
Last night Really Open University launched the new critical pedagogy discussion group at The Space Project. Critical pedagogy is a group of theories within educational theory that attempts to look at power relations within education, how education relates to and often mirrors the politics of society outside the classroom and how these relations can be subverted to make education a site of political resistance. We were very lucky to welcome Sara Motta and Sarah Amsler, both of whom are lecturers in critical pedagogy and active in projects which attempt to put the theory into practice including the Social Science Centre and West Midlands Critical Pedagogy Group.
The event was opened with some brief words from ROU members about negative experiences with teaching and the desire to explore critical pedagogy in order to enact it in our transformation of education, including in The Space Project. Sara and Sarah gave a great introduction to critical pedagogy. They told us how the recent rise of groups like Really Open University and the Social Science Centre are creating an exciting change in how people are viewing critical pedagogy and attempting to use it as a tool in practice rather than an abstract thing to be discussed. The description of critical pedagogy they gave acted as a warning against set methodologies and how it can be absorbed into a neoliberal model. They instead emphasised that critical pedagogy should come from a political project and analysis of society at large, that it cannot be divorced from an analysis of power and critical reflection.
The rest of the session was taken up by a workshop in which participants discussed why we are interested in the theory and what we hope to gain from it. We talked about some texts that were handed round as a group to get a better understanding of some key concepts. The really exciting part of it though was that we were constantly thinking about how power was acting even within the group, including how the texts themselves could be alienating, and the different positions each of us came from. This led to a collective questioning and enquiry that we're all keen to pursue. We'll put up a mind-map of what we discussed on the site soon for people to look at and think about. The next session for the critical pedagogy group will be on the 23rd November in which we will build on this introduction to come up with some collective questions we want to read around and discuss for the rest of the course. It's open to anyone who has ever taught or been taught, in whatever setting or standard. If you want to know more about the course or how to get involved get in touch.
An Alternative History Of Leeds
On Thursday night Shaun Cohen, a self-taught local historian, gave a talk on Leeds' radical past to an audience of over twenty people. Starting in the 1790s, the talk leaped dizzingly back and forth in time, rather than taking a linear, step-by-step narrative, up until around 1848, though the time-travel took us to 1911 at one point and back to the 1720s at another. We sprang through the rise of Trade Unionism, the Leeds Corresponding Society, the Luddites, the Chartists, the Dripping Riots, the Leeds Gas Strike - and less-well known evidence of resistance, of working-class organisation and self-education. Some of what was covered can be found in E.P. Thompson's indispensable The Making of the English Working Class, but much was drawn from Shaun's own research into this period. Given the time period covered and the amount of material to be brought to light, this leaping from one time to another, between different struggles, proved to be a useful and perhaps necessary approach and kept the audience attentive. Perhaps most valuable was that this encouraged us to make connections across time between all of the manifestations of radicalism, too often portrayed as isolated, separate events in mainstream history. Throughout his talk, Shaun passed around copies of original documents, from an alarm-filled reactionary letter about subversives meeting in Leeds public houses to plot revolution though to Chartist posters. A very important point made by Shaun was that, for those people struggling for self-determination in the early 19th century, there was nothing inevitable about Capitalism's success and, for them, it was a foe that could be defeated. What succeeded most about the talk was that it left one wanting to know more, to follow up some of the inspiring connections - right up to the present day.
Shaun Cohen is also leading a walk, exploring some of the sites of Leeds' radical history, on Sunday, 27th November, setting off from The Space at 2:30pm.
Last Updated (Monday, 31 October 2011 08:39)
Anarchy In The Egyptian Revolution
Last night The Space Project played host to Jano Charbell, journalist and anarchist activist from Cairo in Egypt. Jano spoke to an audience of about 30 in the newly decorated Space, about the conditions in Egypt since the revolution began and Mubarak fell. He warned of the counter-revolutionary activities of the ruling military council in Egypt as being a threat to the energy and optimism of the millions who took part in the initial uprisings of 2011. The council has put thousands of civilians on trial, gagged the media and delayed promised elections. He also spoke, however, of the causes for optimism in Egypt where new civil society organisations, such as independent trade unions and neighbourhood assemblies continue to spring up.
For Jano the internationalism of the current wave of resistance is crucial. There is a real cross-fertilisation of struggle. Activists in Egypt are not only inspiring and inspired by other Arab popular revolts, but also inspired by the current global Occupy movement and other anti-capitalist protests. Building international links of solidarity and support is a key part of ensuring that the challenges to capitalism remain strong.
Jano’s talk is just one of the many events being organised in The Space Project. Other up and coming events include: ‘There Was Struggle Before Us’: A programme of walks, talks rides and performances concerning radical history on the streets of Leeds; and in conjunction with Leeds International Film Festival, ‘LIVING WITH AN EARTHQUAKE: A WEEK OF MILITANT CINEMA’.
Last Updated (Friday, 28 October 2011 12:41)
The Space So Far...
Most of the decorating is done now and the Space Project is looking great. Thanks everyone who's given up their time and helped out on the work days.
We can't believe how quickly everyone has taken to suggesting events for the Space and started to fill up the timetable. Already we've had film showings, a German conversation group, and meetings for No Borders and Real Democracy Now. November is already looking busy so get in touch soon if want to put something on.
We're very excited to be hosting a talk by Egyptian Anarchist Jano Charbell tomorrow, one of only two speaking dates he has in the UK. Jano will be talking about his experiences in Arab Spring, including being an occupier of Tahir Square. Come along to this interesting talk and rare opportunity to discuss with a participant in the Egyptian Revolution Sunday 23rd October at 19:30.
Next week we also have our next open house meeting. All are welcome if you want to get more involved with the Space. It will be a great chance to talk to other people putting on events in the Space and exchange ideas.
Also next week we have our launch event! Stay tuned to the events page for updates!
We’ve moved into the space! Finally got the keys to the new hub of radical education in Leeds on Tuesday! Seeing as we don’t waste any time we had our first public meeting that evening with about 40 people attending. After an introduction to the space we handed over to people to introduce their own ideas for events they might like to run in the Space, then had a chance for everyone to socialise and chat to each other. Some really good ideas came up and we’ve already had some additions to the calendar so keep an eye out for new stuff! Next up we have a day of cleaning and decorating the space and maybe even making some furniture from midday on saturday. Please come along if you have the afternoon free and want to get involved in the Space. Thanks to everyone who came on Tuesday and made the first meeting a success!