Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Radicalization of Pedagogy

Dear Colleagues,

Just a brief post to give a plug for a fascinating new book (published by Rowman and Littlefield) by
Simon Springer, Marcelo Lopes de Souza, and Richard J. White. You can order a copy here:

As those who regularly read this blog will know, a key focus and interest of mine is the means by which activists learn and shape their craft. This new text enters this domain with a focus on anarchist geographies.

As the advertising blub states:

How do activists learn radical politics? Does the increasing neoliberalisation of education limit the possibilities of transgressive pedagogies? And in what contexts have anarchist geographers successfully shaped alternative pedagogic practices?

Pedagogy is central to geographical knowledge and represents one of the key sites of contact where anarchist approaches can inform and revitalize contemporary geographical thought. This book looks at how anarchist geographers have shaped pedagogies that move towards bottom-up, ‘organic’ transformations of societies, spaces, subjectivities, and modes of organizing, where the importance of direct action and prefigurative politics take precedence over concerns about the state. Examining contemporary and historical case studies across the world, from formal and informal contexts, the chapters show the potential for new imaginaries of anarchist geographies that will challenge and inspire geographers to travel beyond the traditional frontiers of geographical knowledge.

The case studies deployed to explore the core thrust include the Zapatista tradition of education as a formative anti-neo-liberal model to. There is an article in Roar Magazine based on this chapter:

You can also see a sample chapter by following the link at the top of this page.

In Solidarity


Monday, 3 April 2017

Renegade: RIP Darcus Howe

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this year the biography of Darcus Howe (activist, writer and broadcaster) Renegade: The Life & Times of Darcus Howe was re-published by Bloomsbury. Details are here:

Sadly, the news today is that Darcus Howe has passed away aged 74. There will no doubt be many tributes, but here's a link to an article in today's Guardian:

Growing up in Moss Side at a time of great economic and political turbulence, it was Darcus Howe through his writing and occasional appearances on television at the time, who made the greatest impact on me in linking contemporary racism to the UK's colonial past.

The tributes pouring in reflect his role challenging endemic racism in UK society, not least within state machinery, and particularly the police force. As is stated in the Guardian articled linked above:

In a hugely varied and influential journalistic career, he was also an editor of Race Today, wrote columns for both the New Statesman and the Voice, and served as chair of the Notting Hill carnival. His television work included the multicultural current affairs documentary The Bandung File, which he co-edited with Tariq Ali, and more recently White Tribe, a look at modern Britain.

Howe's legacy is vitally important in the current context of Brexit and the rise of populist politics and the far right. Please look out for the many hundred of articles critiquing his life and political contribution.

In Solidarity


Friday, 17 March 2017

The legacy of Chris Wilkes (18/12/57-18/03/16)

Dear Colleagues,
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic, early death of former Ruskin College Principal, Chris Wilkes. Chris was an inspirational leader in many genuine, authentic ways. He was deeply committed to Ruskin's ethos of providing an excellent educational experience to working class adults, and encouraged all ideas/initiatives which were in pursuit of this. Below is the post I added to the blog just after an event at Ruskin last year to celebrate Chris's life. I wanted to post it again in memory of him.

Yesterday at Ruskin College we held a memorial event to celebrate the life of Chris Wilkes, the Principal of Ruskin College who died unexpectedly on 18th March.

The event drew many current staff members, and a diverse body of ex-Ruskin staff from the period of Chris's time at Ruskin, the bulk of which he spent in the role of General Secretary on appointment in 1991.

I left Ruskin College in 1991 and so missed meeting Chris, however, we did meet when I worked at the WEA and Northern College, and it was a great privilege to be under his leadership when I started to work at Ruskin College, first as a visiting tutor, from 2000.

Many people made a contribution yesterday, including Ruth Spelman, Chief Executive of the WEA, and Stephen Yeo, ex-Principal.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed was of a kind, caring, considerate man, with a profound commitment to the development and delivery of education which could transform the lives of working class women and men.

I spent many very happy hours with Chris on a variety of areas of work and always felt his genuine support and care for my role at Ruskin. Chris was also my main encouragement to start my doctorate research and I am aim to dedicate this to him.

I was privileged yesterday to host the memorial event, and this allowed me to introduce speakers, and I concluded by saying that the event marked not the end of the way that we remember Chris's legacy, but just the beginning.

In Solidarity


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Yours for the Union: Class and Community Struggles in South Africa

Dear Colleagues,

In previous posts I have written of the close association between Ruskin College, the South African liberation movement, and also those books that had a great influence on me during my time as a student at the College.

With this in mind this post is a plug for the re-issue by Zed Books of Baruch Hirson's seminal text on the making of the black working class in South Africa, Yours for the Union: Class and Community Struggles in South Africa:

Whilst the original edition in 1990 came in for some relatively negative critique (like this from Ian Hunter:, Yours for the Union: Class and Community Struggles in South Africa is still recognised as a critically important text in placing in historical context the inability of the black South African left to overcome internal division.

As the promotional Zed text states:

Yours for the Union stands as a landmark history of the making of the black working class in South Africa. Drawing on a wide range of sources, it covers the crucial period of 1930–47, when South Africa's rapid industrialisation led to the dramatic growth of the working class, and uncontrolled urbanisation resulted in vast shanty towns which became a focal point for resistance and protest. Importantly, Hirson was one of the first historians to go beyond the traditional focus on the mines and factory workplaces, broadening his account to include the lesser known community struggles of the urban ghettoes and rural reserves.

I came across Hirson's book not long after I had read key chapters of Ron Ramdin's The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain. Taken together both books provide a powerful insight upon the processes of radicalisation of economically/politically marginalised groups - not least when a key driver for that marginalisation is racism.

You can still get hold of the original (1990) version of Hirson's book, and although weighty in parts, is essential reading for those interested in working class formation and political mobilisation.

For those with feedback/comments on Hirson or Ramdin please post a reply.

In Solidarity


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Malika Achour @ Ruskin College on 20th February

Dear Colleague,

I am very pleased to say that Malika Achour has agreed to speak at Ruskin College.

Malika is a trade union activist from Tunisia and long-standing member of the UGTT. The event on 20th Feb will provide colleagues with an opportunity to hear from Malika on, amongst other things, the on-going impact of the Arab Spring on Tunisia, and current position of the country's trade union movement.

Full details of the event are below. Please email me to let me know if you are coming.

In Solidarity


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Working the Phones: Control & Resistance in Call Centres

Dear Colleagues,

Many thanks to Jamie Woodcock for agreeing to visit Ruskin to discuss his new book, Working the Phones.

One review helpfully states:

Crikey, talk about “the classical Marxist notion of alienation”. Which is exactly what Jamie Woodcock does in this grim account of the modern-day “chain worker”, goaded to keep pitching to the terminally ill, the weeping bereaved parent, the trade union official who replies by asking about the cold-caller’s union status and, as both quickly switch to code, wishes him luck. The author, a London School of Economics researcher, knows not only his theory but his subject inside out: he researched it by taking a job in the bleak heart of computerised Taylorism. There’s casualisation, cruelty and regimentation, but also subversion, and Woodcock’s focus on employee resistance offers a flicker of hope.

Other reviews are here, and a YouTube clip of Jamie at a book launch event. I'll try and write a comment on the event at Ruskin with Jamie.

In Solidarity


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

What does a union for the 21st Century look like?

Dear Colleagues,

Next week my colleague Fenella Porter and I will be speaking at a collaborative event with researchers from the universities of Leeds and Bradford. We have come together around a project that has sought to explore the implications for organised labour of the Trade Union Act, and as an aspect of this, also examined how differing movement organisations have responsed.
The event (poster below) is in Bradford and anyone with an interest in the future of organised labour is welcome to attend. The official invite blurb reads:
As the Trade Union Act passed through parliament in 2016, a research team from Ruskin College, the University of Bradford and the University of Leeds asked union leaders, activists, officials and politicians for their thoughts on what the Act means for the union movement.
There is no doubt the Trade Union Act is an attack on the labour movement – but how should we respond?
What kind of movement do we need to be in a changing world?
 We invite you to a free talk and discussion on this important issue. We will share some of our findings from the research, and then open up for some discussion.
All welcome – refreshments included.
Please email for more information.