Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Learning from the Past

by Neil Scott
Browsing through the WEE RED BOOKSHOP in Glasgow I realised there was a huge amount of working class history and knowledge that has not made it online.  Some websites like the fantastic marxists.org try to redress that, but lots of material lies in the collections of older comrades - materials new generations can learn from or compare present day conditions with conditions from an earlier time and read about the response our forefathers had to them.  Reading a lot of these pamphlets you begin to realise we are standing on the shoulders of giants and owe a lot of the gains of the class, like pensions and decent working conditions, to these men and women.  
I believe it is important  in these times of forced austerity - job losses, rising prices, impending ecological disaster and the rolling back of our much fought for welfare state to revisit the fights and struggles, wins and losses from the past.  
As Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight's Economics Editor says in his superb book "Live Working or Die Fighting," about the period since Thatcher/Reagan came into power, "A culture that took 200 years to build was torn apart in twenty... the anti-globalisation movement is not in any shape to supply the narratives - it's oldest legend tells of a day in Seattle in November 1999."  Mason believes the history of the workers movements that were albeit destroyed in the West by neo-liberalist global Capitalism needs to be rediscovered because two sets of people "stand in dire need of knowing more about it: first, the activists who have flooded the streets in Seattle, Genoa and beyond to protest against globalisation; second, the workers in the new factories, mines and waterfronts created by globalisation in the developing world, whose attempts to build a labour movement are at an early stage."
He goes on to write about such giants of the past such as Louise Michel, Li Qi-han, Larkin and Bill Haywood, comparing them to struggles across the developing world today and concludes, "I have seen the young Louise Michel dancing to a samba band in a field outside the Gleneagles summit; her face was painted and she was wearing pink fairy wings.  She still has a lot to learn."  
In publishing pamphlets from the past, periodically, on this blog, I hope some of those who, like me, wish for a better, fair world read, research and compare, contrast and turn knowledge to activity in order to win the world and that in struggle and battles won, we can, in the words of Paul Mason, experience the joy of Larkin et al, "on those rare days when the downtrodden people of the world were allowed to stand up and breathe free."

See HERE for Pamphlets from the Past 

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