Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism

Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism[1] Don’t talk to me of fucking representing the class yer were born into any more. Yer going to get ’urt and start resenting it’s not poetry we need in this class war. Yer’ve given yerself toffee, cunt. Who needs yer fucking poufy words. Ah write mi own. Ah’ve got mi work on show all ovver Leeds like this UNITED ’ere on some sod’s stone. Tony Harrison, V You don’t choose the family or the circumstances you are born into but you can choose your tribe Katy Perry Between tribe and multitude: the shape-shifters of class For many on the British left, ‘identity politics’ emerged out of the radical student and youth cultures of the late 1960s, at a time when the onward march of Labour was beginning to grind to a halt in the face of the first wave of de-industrialisation. Identity [Read More…]

London 2012  and the Post Olympic City- A Hollow Legacy ?

Edited by Phil Cohen and Paul Watt Published Palgrave Macmillan  May 2017 ISBN 987-1-137-48946-3 The strap line for 2012 was ‘Inspire a Generation’, and with the advent of the Rio Games a new chapter in Olympic history is  being  written – now is the time  to both look back and forward , and reach a considered verdict about how far that promise has been delivered. The London 2012 Olympics are widely seen as a success story. In the referendum debate the Brexiteers  made much  of a moment in which the nation came together to surmount its internal   divisions and triumphantly  stood on its own feet  to show its best face to the world. Even if the moment did not last long,  there is still an official optimism that   2012 will provide a lasting legacy of benefits to the host communities of East London.  As always there is a counter-narrative, in [Read More…]

Livingmaps Network

  LIVINGMAPS is an international  network of artists, activists and academics concerned to develop  the theory and practice of critical cartography . It was founded in 2013 and established as a not- for profit- company in 2015. We collaborate with a wide range of organisations,  from community  and youth groups, to museums, galleries and university research departments. Our conceptual  approach is trans-disciplinary, bringing together  geographers, photographers and ethnographers , digital and environmental  activists, visual and performance artists  in common projects and discussions. Our practice  explores  innovative   methods  of  counter-mapping drawing on state of the art technologies.    We are committed to developing cartography as a participatory and democratic platform of civic engagement  with  all forms of social inequality and injustice . ONLINE JOURNAL Livingmaps Review is an open access journal published twice a year in Spring and Autumn.It carries scholarly articles together with shorter more experimental pieces, reports of work in [Read More…]

February Blog There goes the neighbourhood

FEBRUARY BLOG :THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – AN URBAN TRIPTYCH   1)  Chic by Growl   I recently moved into a new neighbourhood in Islington. My flat is  in  a large Peabody Estate, off the Essex Road, quite close to the area which Ruth Glass  made the object of her famous study on ‘gentrification’. I am living in one of the earliest ‘ model dwellings’  built in the 1860’s for the ‘industrious working classes’ by  the great Canadian philanthropist and which  became  an inspiration for the  development of social housing in Britain. Today the estate’s inhabitants are a cross section of all those  who cannot  afford to buy or rent in the private housing market, and increasingly this is including middle class professional people  like myself. A recent study of local housing conditions concluded that by 2020  you would have to be either very rich or very poor to remain [Read More…]

Finding Uncommon ground : re-thinking  working class identity politics in post Brexit Britain 

  Part One : Subtle Dialectics,Crude Thoughts  ‘In order to save the Party we had to destroy it’ (with  acknowledgement to Bert  Brecht) After the so called uprising of June 23/When  business and political leaders /had leaflets distributed /stating that the people/had forfeited their confidence/and could win it back only/by redoubled efforts  in another referendum /Would it not be easier in this case /for the government/to dissolve the people/and elect another?/Such a subtle dialectic/Trading places with  such crude thoughts. After the  attempted  coup of June 28/when members of the PLP/had leaflets distributed/stating that their leader/had forfeited their confidence /and could only win it back/by giving up the ghost/would it not be easier in this case also /to dissolve the membership/and elect a committee of psycho-pomps/to lead the now non-existent party/to a new underworld ?/Such a crude thought/In search of  subtle dialectic. I wrote this poem  because I was  invited to [Read More…]

BOTH SIDES OF THE LINE Stuart Hall and ‘New Ethnicities, then and now

In June  1992 Stuart Hall came to the University of East London to give the inaugural lecture for the Centre for New Ethnicities Research  to which I had just been appointed director. I had been working for a number of years at the Institute of Education developing an approach to  anti -racist work with young people  based on  ethnographic research  in schools, playgrounds, housing estates and neighbourhoods  in East London. The focus, then  as now,  was on trying to understand the impact of   economic change  on the livelihoods, life styles,  and life stories of  the people most directly affected and their families over a long period of time.  East London, and especially the    Isle of Dogs where much of this  work took place  was  then a front line of racial tension  between a long established  working class community traumatised by the closure of the docks, and  more recently arrived Bangladeshi [Read More…]

Ben Cohen Obituary Royal Society of Medicine

  Ben Cohen, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, has  died  at the age of 101.  He was born into a family of poor Jewish immigrants who settled in the Glasgow Gorbals before the First World War. His father was a militant socialist and fled from Vitebsk to avoid both political and religious persecution under the Tsar. The son grew up  in the political culture of ‘red Clydeside’, attended Socialist Sunday School, and accompanied his father to many  meetings where he heard Jimmy Maxton and John Maclean  speak of social injustice, early experiences  which left a lasting impression on his political sympathies. He won a scholarship to Hutcheson’s Grammar School, where he excelled in Classics, but was persuaded  by his family  to study medicine at Glasgow University, where he qualified at the age of 22. He wanted to volunteer for the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War but [Read More…]

An Unseasonal Triptych

Trump L’Oeil Like most people on what we used to call the Left,  I guess I have been struggling to come to terms with the result of the US Presidential election, not to mention the  UK vote to leave the EU and the gains by the Far Right in Eastern Europe. It is fatally easy to join up the dots and see the emergence of  authoritarian populism and national isolationism as an irresistible force sweeping across the Western world, demolishing what remains of the advances made by Social Democracy and the Labour  movement  following the defeat of Fascism in 1945. We never dreamt, in our worst nightmares,  that anti-globalisation protest  would take this form. Faced with this circumstance, the Liberal Left commentariat have done what they do best and engaged in a frenzied  bout of  breast beating and straw clutching, a difficult manoeuvre at the best of times,  but  which [Read More…]

SPEAKING OUT OF PLACE : reflections on London’s post Olympic legacy

Q: Who said: ‘As a microcosm of what we hope to achieve,  look at the Olympics and their Legacy….We have set ourselves the goal of ‘convergence’.  The idea is that kids growing up in East London should have the same life chances as anywhere else. There is no reason why the kids of East London should not benefit from, say, rugby, as much as the kids from Richmond. After two hours of hard physical exercise such as scrumming and tackling around the ankles, a 16 year old is less likely to want to get into a gang fight.’ A:Boris Johnson in 2020 Vision. The Greatest City on Earth: Ambitions for London   The Olympic Games are unique  amongst mega sporting events, not just because of the scale of infrastructure investment and impact on host cities, not even because of the scope of media attention, which provides an unparalleled platform for [Read More…]

SEPTEMBER BLOG :SUBTLE DIALECTICS,CRUDE THOUGHTS

I  was recently  asked to speak at an  event  in support of Jeremy Corbyn`s bid to retain his leadership of the Labour Party.  The request came from the son of one of my oldest friends, a young man who  has recently discovered politics, along with a great deal of self confidence  after an unusually difficult  and prolonged  period of sturm und drang.  I would normally have  agreed but when  faced with the prospect of being a cheerleader for Jezza I  suddenly balked. Like many I had paid my 20 quid and broken the habit of a lifetime in order to vote him in  a year ago. Up to that point I had always belonged to the Groucho Marxist tendency and never joined a club that would have me as a member. Are we that Poem? The title of my  poem derives from   a debate that took place during the 1930’s [Read More…]