Sunday 14 October 2012

Quotation Station - Richard Pankhurst

"Life is nothing without enthusiasms."

Richard Pankhurst (Richard Marsden Pankhurst)

Pretty much my whole knowledge of the Pankhursts is derived from Barbara Castle`s book Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst, which I`ve owned for about twenty years and only read twice, so I can`t claim to be an authority on the subject.

The Pankhursts are chiefly associated in the public mind with the Suffragette movement, of course. On wider issues, their endless idealogical twistings and turnings can make unintentionally humorous reading.

Richard M Pankhurst began his political life as a Conservative, went on to become a radical Liberal and eventually began to associate himself with socialist causes of his day such as the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party. His wife Emmeline joined her husband in his campaigning for the Independent Labour Party but ended her days a Conservative.

Of their three daughters, Adela was a founding member of the Australian Communist Party but like her mother eventually moved to the right. Christabel evetually became a Second Adventist and disowned her Suffragette past, whilst Sylvia was at one point so far to the left she thought Lenin too moderate.

In fairness to Sylvia, in her post-Communist period she continued to apply herself tirelessly and indeed selflessly to a variety of causes, in some ways anticipating later developments in progressive thinking, for instance in her involvement with Africa. Her son, the younger Richard (Richard Keir Pethick Pankhurst) lives in Ethiopia and is a well-respected author/historian.

Perhaps for Sylvia another of Richard M Pankhurst`s sayings is also relevant ;  "Every struggling cause shall be ours."

Saturday 6 October 2012

More Hoonaloons For Webdubs

Having been relatively high-minded for the last couple of postings, I still have to make a living !

Here are a couple of recent additions to our stock that may be of interest ;

At 5394 in our listings is Alex La Guma`s A Walk in the Night and Other Stories, with an introduction by Nahem Yousaf.
Prior to leaving South Africa in 1966, La Guma (1925 - 1985) had been active in anti-apartheid causes and the labour movement, as had his father before him, and was among the defendants at the so-called Treason Trial. He pursued his career as a writer whilst in exile, as well as continuing an involvement in the social/political issues of his homeland.
At 5399 is Ian Dewhirst`s The Story of a Nobody ; A Working Class Life 1880 - 1939
Dewhirst has written a number of books about Yorkshire in general and Keighley in particular. 
 Taking as his starting point an old school photograph showing a nine-year old Arthur Illingworth - an ordinary man, the `nobody` of the title - and his friends, Dewhirst has told the story of Arthur and the times through which he lived, including World War One and the Depression of the `30s.
I`ve only picked out a couple of titles here. Our monthly online newsletter can be found at , and further details of a couple of other titles can be found at and .
To view our entire stock, click here ; .
Thanks for your interest,

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Updates ; Minority Rights Group September 2012 (Kenya)

The Minority Rights Group has issued a press release condemning "ongoing retaliatory attacks" between the Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups in Kenya`s Tana River Disrict.

The group has praised Kenya`s "new and progressive constitution" and has urged the Kenyan government to build on the "postive environment" this has created by taking "immediate steps to protect the lives of  affected communities and prevent a further escalation of violence.""

MRG`s Director of Policy and Communications, Carl Soderburgh, is quoted as saying "These attacks are related to poverty, competition for scarce resources and marginalisation of minorities...If governments in East Africa continue with policies like the privatization of rangelands, commercial ranching and sedentarisation of nomads, without the participation of communities, peace will continue to elude the region."

For more information ;

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Samuel Morley 1809 - 1886

This is Samuel Morley MP (1809 - 1886), a noted 19th century philanthropist and social reformer.

To find out how the man they called The Merchant Philanthropist became a noted anti-slavery campaigner and a major backer of a radical trade union jourmal, see my post `Samuel Morley of Nottingham`, posed yesterday at .

NB  The photo is entitled Nottingham Arboretum : Bust of Samuel Morley by John Sutton. To find out more about his work, click here ; 


Sunday 2 September 2012

Hoonaloon For Webdubs

As I`ve already mentioned, this month`s Hoonaloon News is already online and can be found at

Additionally, I`ve decided to post details of a few recent additions to our stock that may be of interest to visitors to this blog ;

5283 - Doreen Lawrence - And Still I Rise : Seeking Justice for Stephen  - Faber and Faber 2006  - 1st/1st - Hardcover
5247 - Charles E Cobb Jr - On the Road to Freedom ; A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail - Algonquin/Workman - 2007 - Paperback
5275 - Alice walker - The Same River Twice : Honoring the Difficult - The Women`s Press - 1996 - 1st English Edition
I don`t think any additional comment is needed from me. Further details of condition, price etc are available by visiting our online shop at ABE. As ever, if you have any further questions then feel free to ask.
Don`t forget to check out Hoonaloon News September 2012 for details of more from our stock.
All the Best,
Nick and Ann-Marie
Hoonaloon Books

Hoonaloon News September 2012

Just to let you know, the current issue of Hoonaloon News is online now and can be found at . Happy reading !

Friday 31 August 2012

News From Hoonaloon 31 August 2012

During July of this year we had a sale during which all the stock we were offering on sale via ABE was discounted by 25%.

During August of this year, all the stock which had been included in the sale was still offered at the sale price, but new items entered onto our listings after the end of August went online at their full price.

It`s clear that the difficult times we live are making customers increasingly price-conscious.

For that reason, we are going to extend the August offer for another two weeks - all the books we still have that were part of the July sale will continue to be offered at the sale price - 25% off their `normal` price.

We`ll be continuing the offer until 15 Sept 2012, after which the moment will have passed.

Make the most of your opportunities and visit our online bookshop at ABE Books now.

Respect the Book !

Monday 23 July 2012

Global Ban on Asbestos #2

On 22 June 2012 I posted a brief note on the sad death of my good friend Chris a few years ago from the effects of an industrial disease contracted whilst working with asbestos.

I also mentioned this year`s Action Mesothelioma Day (6 July 2012) and the fact that the theme for the day was to call for a global ban on asbestos.

Mesothelioma UK have now released the first of two bulletins giving details of events that took place on the day.

By definition, many of the groups involved in the day are community-based groups more accustomed to raising funds/awareness and providing support to people in difficulties than with being part of a co-ordinated campaign. Nevertheless, all the groups involved contributed in their own way and I congratulate them all.

I particularly liked the Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group, who like a number of groups, had to abandon a plan to release doves as an act of remembrance due to severe weather conditions but stated defiantly "the rain spoilt nothing about the day". That`s the spirit !

Returning to the campaign itself, two events may be of particular interest.

In Manchester, the meeting was addressed by Canadian campaigner Kathleen Ruff who spoke about the Quebec Government`s decision to fund the re-opening of the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine which is expected to extract and export 5 million tonnes of asbestos over the next 20 years. Most is expected to go to countries such as India that have no restrictions on the importation of asbestos.

A number of MPs addressed the meeting, and I believe all of these were from the Labour Party. Amongst them was Jim Dobbin MP who had asked the Prime Minister and the International Development Secretary, both Conservatives,  to encourage international communities to oppose this decision.  To his credit, Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to raise the issue at a meeting with the World Health Organisation later that day.

In Leicester, that city`s first elected Lord Mayor, Councillor Abdul Razak Osman, also endorsed the call for a global ban and spoke of the need to support those whose goverments have no restrictions on the importation of asbestos.

If you would like to know more about the campaign, or about the events that took place on the day, please contact Liz Darlison or Tracey Heseltine at .


Wednesday 18 July 2012

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Various parties have gone online to post items commemorating Nelson Mandela`s birthday on Wednesday and slightly belatedly I`m going to do the same.

At risk of showing my age, I thought I`d post an image of my Free Nelson Mandela badge, which obviously dates from a time when Mandela`s circumstances were rather different to the ones he enjoys today.

I had hoped to post pictures of a few other relevant items of a similar vintage but unfortunately my inbuilt tendency to untidiness means that I`ve no idea where I`ve put them !  When I get a few moments I`ll see what I can find and post a few more images.

In the meantime, these two items may be of particular interest ;

Peter Clottey - South Africa`s Unions Congratulate Mandela on Birthday - 17 July 2012

VOA News - S. African School Children Sing Happy Birthday to Mandela - 18 July 2012

both of the above can be found at .

Sunday 8 July 2012

Quotation Station ; W E B Du Bois on Liberty v. Repression

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

W E B Du Bois

Hoonaloon Books July 2012

Just a to let you know that the current Hoonaloon Books Newsletter is online now and can be found at .

Don`t forget that our latest sale is already underway, with the prices of all items we are selling via ABE books reduced by 25% until 27 July 2012.

Monday 2 July 2012

Hoonaloon Books Sale July 2012

In a spirit of enlightened self-interest, I`d like to mention that the latest Hoonaloon Books sale is now underway and runs from 1 July 2012 - 27 July 2012.

During that period all the items we have for sale via ABE will be discounted by 25%.

The prices shown on our ABE listings are already discounted, so all you have to do is make your choices and place your order.

As I`ve already mentioned we stock a range of titles in the fields of history, politics and philosophy, with a variety of viewpoints represented.

As a quick glance at our listings will show you, we also carry stock in a wide range of other categories. Recent additions to our listings have included works on Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Therapy,  the flora of the Rocky Mountains, historic  monuments in the UK, folktales and legends, a book of religious texts and some books of poetry.

Any questions, feel free to ask.

Nick & Ann-Marie
Hoonaloon Books

Monday 25 June 2012

Life During Wartime : Kwei Quartey on West Africa`s Role in World War Two

Time for a bit more history.

Over at Foreign Policy in Focus, columnist Kwei Quartey has penned a useful article on West Africa`s role in the Allied war effort during World War Two. His artticle can be found here ;

Kwei Quartey - How West Africa Helped Win World War Two - , 6 June 2012

I`d like to address this subject in a little more detail at some point, so it`s something I may return to in future.

For the moment I`d just like to mention that there was no conscription in the Commonwealth
during World War Two, so the Empire/Commonwealth forces were all volunteers.

The other thing I`d like to mention is that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission exists to "commemorate the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars". It maintains cemteries, memorials and burial plots and provides various services such as a register of Commonwealth war dead so that graves or names on memorials can be located.

To find out more, visit this site ; .

Friday 22 June 2012

Global Ban on Asbestos

Three years ago my oldest friend died from the effects of having worked with asbestos in his youth.

For that reason, I like to promote awareness of the dangers of asbestos and in particular to give a plug to the UK`s annual Action Mesothelioma Day, which takes place this year on 6 July 2012.

The theme of the day this year is to call for a global ban on asbestos.

I have posted various items relating to issues around asbestos at and over a period of time, including a number of fairly recent items.

Anything anyone can do to promote awareness of this cause, perhaps by the use of blogs and social networking sites, would be very much appreciated.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Imminent Earth Summit Inspires Publication

Staying with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (`Rio+20`), IRIN* has produced a new publication, Living With Climate Change, which will be available to participants at Rio+20 or can be downloaded from their site.

For more information/links etc , see the unsigned article `GLOBAL : New IRIN Publication to Mark Rio+20`, posted 13 June 2012 at .

*IRIN is an online "humanitarian news and analysis" service provided by the UN Office for the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. They make the usual stipulation that views expressed by contributors to the new publication are not necessarily those of the UN, which is also true of their site itself.

Monday 18 June 2012

Earth Summit Anticipated

I briefly looked at the forthcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (sometimes referred to as `R+20`) some time ago (Earth Summit Blues, this blog, 17 Feb 2012).

As the Conference is about to commence, it`s worth revisiting the subject.

Checking the usual sources, I find that on Friday, the European and ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) nations held a joint ministerial conference and issued a statement calling on participating nations to deal with "new and emerging challenges".

Peter Richards of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency reported that they urged  the international community "to help developing countries deal with the impact of climate change and other environmental issues as well as achieve sustainable development goals."

To learn more, see Mr Richard`s article Europe and Former Colonies Urge Action at Rio+20, 16 Jun 2012 at .

Thursday 14 June 2012

Hoonaloon Books Online News

Just a quick note to let visitors to this blog know that the Hoonaloon Books Newsletter for this month is online now and can be found at .

We carry a varied batch of fiction and non-fiction, with avariety of political, philosophical and religious viewpoints catered for. Not to mention the humorous, the quirky and the downright odd !

Have a dabble amongst our listings and see what you can find !

Sunday 10 June 2012

Quotation Station ; Addams and Goethe - Two Views on Patriotism

Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.

Jane Addams

There is no such thing as a patriotic art or a patriotic science. Both art and science belong, like every higher good, to all the world and can be fostered only by the free flow of mutual influence among all contemporaries, with constant regard for all we have and know of the past.


In the interest of variety, I`ve gone for a different approach to Quotation Station this time, with differing views on patriotism from Civil Rights pioneer Jane Addams and German writer Goethe.

Clearly Addams, a noted social reformer and internationalist, has no problems reconciling patriotism with progressivism whereas Goethe appears to see them as mutually exclusive.

It may be that the two meant very different things when they spoke of `patriotism`, with Addams perhaps envisaging something rather more outgoing than the insular nationalism that Goethe appears to decry.

For myself, I see no inherent contradiction between  patriotism, progressivism and internationalism, and I can raise a glass to "the free flow of mutual influence among all contemporaries, with constant regard for all we have and know of the past."

But what do I know ? Form your own opinion.

Monday 28 May 2012

African Rights

"Spurred by popular uprisings in North Africa, pressure to respect the rights of all Africans is growing across the continent, but political leaders are standing in the way, says the internationally respected lobby group, Amnesty International."

That`s the opening paragraph of an unsigned article posted on the allAfrica website (  on 24 May 2012.

To read the full article, including a link to Amnesty`s report, click here ;

As I`ve explained before, I`ve decided to brighten up the blog occasionally with pics of a few items of my own. This picture, by a Zambian artist named Patrick Kamanga, was purchased from a shop in Nottingham, UK,  probably during the 1980s. It has no real connection with the story on the All Africa site, but I thought it would make things a bit more interesting. 

The Philosophy of G Lowes Dickinson

G Lowes Dickinson - Plato and His Dialogues - Pelican - 1947 (Reprint)

I`ve mentioned before that my knowledge of history and philosophy is largely based on old and often second-hand books. This is a case in point.

The book is based on a series of talks given by the author aimed at "men and women who are not and do not mean to be scholars, who have not much time for reading". Sounds good to me !

The author gets off to a strong start, acknowledging that his hero "is in some respects the greaest of revolutionaries, in others the greatest of reactionaries".  He infers that he has some differences with Plato, finding an element of despair in the philosophers` later work "and, even worse, a recourse to intolerance and persecution." He differs sharply with Plato on this issue ("by that road there is no way out") and affirms his own optimism and belief in liberty.

He looks at the time and place that formed Plato`s character, quoting Thucydides ; "The whole Hellenic world was in commotion ; in every city the chiefs of the democracy and of the oligarchy were struggling." Against this background, the young Plato saw his mentor Socrates imprisoned and condemned to death.

After looking at contemporary accounts of the life and character of Socrates he moves on to Plato`s dialogues.

Plato`s works were written in the form of conversations, a little like plays, in which two or more characters attempt to get to grips with the issues of the day. As a tribute to his mentor, Plato always makes Socrates the central character and portrays him as an incisive questioner who exposes inconsistencies in the arguments of others and  makes them question their attitudes and values. 

Disappointingly,the passages Dickinson quotes do not really show us Socrates the opponent of hypocrisy, but often seem to be mere exchanges of courtesies by no means essential to the matter in hand. Terms such as `charming`, `beautiful` and `delightful` are bandied about, but we are no further on with actual questions of philosophy.

Now we move on to a pet hate of mine. Plato`s Republic is the book in which he sets out his vision of an ideal state.  It relates to a form of social organisation that has never existed, almost certainly never will, and which probably wouldn`t be desireable in any case. Many of  Plato`s notions concerning this `ideal` state seem quite ridiculous or unworkable to modern eyes, and there is some debate among scholars  as to his true intentions. It is profoundly anti-democratic, mainly because the one democracy he knew well, his native Athens, was profoundly flawed.

Dickinson then moves on to a later work, The Laws, written by an older and rather more world-weary Plato. At this point, Plato  has effectively turned his back on autocracy and, according to Dickinson, now advocates "a moderate middle class democracy". Dickinson notes that Plato "gives a certain preponderance to the richer classes", but also seeks to avoid too glaring a disparity between rich and poor. Because The Laws is not concerned with an ideal society, but with proposals for a real one, it is open to being reformed or improved in a way that The Republic was not.

Unfortunately, once we get on to detail, Plato`s authoritarian streak runs riot once again. There are stipulations as to who should marry, at what age and a great many other such suggestions, including a proposal for compulsory marriage with a range of penalties for men who remain single !

Dickinson himself was an unapologetic utopian and at times I did question his judgement.

Dickinson explains in his introduction that he has made few amendments to the texts of his original talks, but has expanded on the quotations used. This is glaringly obvious, as his quotations from Plato and indeed other sources are often of inordinate length and could usefully have been trimmed down. Despite this, Plato and his Dialogues is a slender volume.

In my view, this book represents an opportunity missed. While I can see that The Republic and The Laws needed to be discussed, there seems no reason why the author could not have added material on Plato`s other works, and I for one would have favoured a lot more emphasis on dialectic.*

I`ve owned this book for a while and if I`m any judge it had more than one owner before me. I think it may be time for this one to find a new home !

*Dialectic is a method by which two or more peoples seek to establish the truth about a particular matter by means of reasoned argument. It is very different from debate in the formal sense (in which the interested parties arrived with a fixed opinion and the emphasis is on `winning`) or from rhetoric. The phrase `dialectic` is often associated with Marxism, but is not unique to that school of thought, which it predates by many centuries, and indeed some strands of Marxist dialectic are not true dialectic at all.


Sunday 20 May 2012

Quotation Station ; Jane Addams

The good we procure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is procured for all of us and incorporated into our common life

Jane Addams

Can You Walk Away ?

President Lincoln`s Cottage is a museum located, as you might imagine from the name, in a country home used by Abraham Lincoln during his Presidency as a quiet setting for important meetings and as a place to enjoy family life or simply to get some time to himself to reflect on the responsibilities he faced.

I`ve never visited it, but one can imagine it was a very important place to him and I don`t doubt that it is fascinating to visit at any time.

The reason for mentioning it today however is the presence there (until 31 August 2013) of an exhibition on slavery entitled Can You Walk Away.

This exhibition began during February 2012 and is intended to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a mark of the commitment of all concerned that it is to have such a long run.

Rather than focussing on slavery in history, this exhibit is intended to "challenge perceptions of slavery in America today" and "inspire people to engage with the modern abolitionist movement". To that end, the exhibition`s website provides links to a variety of relevant bodies, including the Polaris Project, the US State Department, the CNN Freedom Project.

Here are a few links  ;

Saturday 19 May 2012

Figures of Africa

Afficionados of African art might like to check out a recent article of mine ;

Nick Osmond - African Art in Derby - Thurs 17 May 2012 at .

Friday 18 May 2012

Updates ; Minority Rights Group May 2012

The Minority Rights Group has posted a number of news items online in the last couple of weeks, items relating to human rights/the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

To learn more, click on these links ;

Monday 14 May 2012

The History of V Gordon Childe

This will be not so much a review as a collection of observations and thoughts of mine inspired by reading V Gordon Childe`s book `History`.

I should probably make clear that, while I am interested in history and philosophy, most of my reading on these subjects has been from old and usually second-hand books and I can hardly claim to be at the cutting edge in these matters. I could not make any useful contribution to a debate on string theory or post-modernism and, indeed, I don`t want to. Anyone with a greater knowledge of history/philosophy will no doubt find my humble efforts laughable, but if it gives them a few moments  of  innocent amusement I do not particularly mind.

V Gordon Childe was a historian with a particular interest in archaeology and pre-history and is still well-respected today. He held Marxist views and it may be as well if I give a simplified explanation of the Marxist view of history. I am not myself a Marxist and anyone looking to discuss Marx`s politics would probably be better served elsewhere, but I will add a brief footnote on Childe`s approach to Marxism in case it is of interest (see below).

Karl Marx believed, rather grandly, that he had "solved the riddle of history". As I understand it, Marxism is quite a complex belief system incorporating aspects of politics, history, economics and philosophy. For our purposes there are two important aspects I want to mention at this point.

Firstly, Marx  argued that the history of western nations could be understood as a series of incidents in which power was taken from one class by another (in English terms, e.g. the transfer of power between the King on the one hand and the Barons on the other at Runnymede, which was formalised in the Magna Carta).

Secondly, he further stipulated that these changes only came about when prior advances in economic and other forms of development meant that the circumstances for change were fortuitous, i.e. if an old aristocracy were superseded by if a growing and newly assertive middle class of merchants.

Another view, one which I personally find more convincing, would be that the same incidents were all events in which power was diffused more widely as societies evolved new forms of organisation.

Many Marxists have queried how fully Vere Gordon Childe had assimilated Marxist politics into his work. My own feeling is that they had a point. Whether that`s necessarily a bad thing depends on your point of view !

As I understand it, Childe`s thought evolved as he went through life.

Like many Marxists,  for a time he apparently subscribed to a clumsy, mechanistic understanding of Marx - probably believing in a world in which man`s destiny is determined by vast, impersonal forces of history.

Subsequently he developed a more rounded view, arguing that overall patterns of human development could be discerned but allowing for considerable variation at the level of the individual. That seems to be where he was at the time of this book, presenting quite a rounded view of human existence. For instance, although he rejects the old-fashioned view that history is made by  `Great Men` ,  the view championed by Thomas Carlyle, Sir Charles Oman and others, he is careful to acknowledge it`s positive aspects ; "To reject the Great Man interpretation of history, is not to belittle the significance of great men...Men have lived, and do live, greatly, and it is one of history`s functions to preserve this greatness and keep these personalities alive." 

Ultimately,  I gather he went on to reconsider even some of the positions expounded in this book, although he continued to be a staunch believer in human progress. As far as I know, he continued to subscribe to some semblance of a Marxist worldview throughout his life, though clearly within that framework he developed his ideas and understanding as he went along. 

At this point in his life, he had rejected a deterministic view of human development, i.e., he did not believe, as many Marxists have,  that mankind was making it`s way to a pre-ordained outcome. "If history be not following a prescribed route but is making a path as it proceeds, the search for a terminus is naturally vain", he comments. Although he was a member of the original, now defunct, Communist Party of Great Britain, this book does not expound the virtues of  a  socialist utopia in which a classless society has been achieved and which therefore remains static, but looks  more towards "a society in which men consciously and voluntarily co-operate in a collective effort to extend further the productive forces and the creative activities these liberate. Such an order would not be static but consciously and intentionally creative. It might then be regarded as the true beginning of rational history."

In general, Childe`s History is an accessible and thought-provoking overview of human history. It is largely free from Marxist jargon and for the most part his views are not presented obtrusively. Some of the points he makes regarding human history and development have been  shared by non-Marxist thinkers such as Winwood Reade and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Indeed, he makes the point that on one, relatively analytical, matter Karl Marx, right-wing economist Adam Smith and constitutionalist Walter Bagehot were all in agreement !

The last  chapter is rather heavy on the Marxist sources, though as we`ve seen he seems capable of transcending his influences. Some Marxists will find this book disappointing, but I think it should be approached with an open mind. More to the point, you can pick up second-hand copies fairly cheaply (mine cost 99p !) and it does not take long to read !


I don`t particularly feel the need to defend Childe`s political views in every respect, but it may not hurt to give some context.

I`ve  stated that he was a member of the original CPGB (another, quite distinct, body uses that name today). In his day there was no Eurocommunism, no New Left. The party he knew too often supported the Soviet line, even during the Stalin period. For sure, there were periodic internal rebellions but there were no John Pecks or Ray Suttons in those days, no-one (as far as I know) making a sustained and determined effort for change from within. Normally, CPGB members either rebelled over key issues whilst remaining loyal at other times, or left the Party altogether.

Turning to Wikipedia, we learn that Childe`s biographer Sally Green believed his views "were never dogmatic, always idiosyncratic and were continually changing throughout his life" and that "Childe`s Marxism frequently differed from contemporary `orthodox` Marxism."

Marxist Neil Faulkner is quoted in the same piece as describing Childes as someone "heavily influenced by Marxism"  but not a true Marxist as he (Childes)  did not think in terms of class struggle as an agent of social change. For what it`s worth, that`s the impression I formed from my reading of History.

I don`t know if this footnote really clarifies things much but  hope it`s of interest anyway.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Going Global

Just to let you know, the current issue of `Global - the International Briefing` is online now, featuring interviews with Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, President Ramotar of Guyana and jazz musician Hugh Masekela, plus John Vidal on the forthcoming Rio summit, John McCarthy on the BBC World Service, Sir Ronald Sanders on Guyana, Commonwealth Secretary Geneneral Kamalesh Sharma on diversity and much else.

The magazine is quarterly, which at least gives us plenty of time to read it. Find out more at .

To brighten things up a bit, I`ve decided to add a few pictures of items of my own here and there. Where possible, I`ll give any background information but most, like this, were just lucky finds in second-hand shops. This is presumably tourist art from somewhere. I must admit my limited photographic skills haven`t done it justice, but hope you like it anyway.

Monday 7 May 2012

Nabu Press - an Elusive Entity

The word Nabu can have many meanings - a German conservation group, an Assyrian and Babylonian god of wisdom, a children`s clothing company or, and this is the one that interests us today, Nabu Press, a print-on-demand historical reprint publisher.

Nabu allegedly publish around 600,000 titles using POD technology. Of particular interest to me is the fact that their titles include works by Mary White Ovington and George Padmore.

Having found a UK bookseller offering their reprint of Ovington`s The Walls Came Tumbling Down, I placed my order and sat back happily to await it`s arrival.

On taking receipt of the book I was a little surprised to see the publication that arrived was rather more slender than expected, and that the cover illustration had no obvious connection with the subject matter.

On opening the book I was even more surprised to find that the text inside was not Ovington`s personal account of the founding of the NAACP, but an antiquarian work by a German academic, written in German.

I don`t expect to have any problems returning the book but I was curious to find out more. A quick skim around the internet showed that a number of people have had problems with this company`s output. Worryingly, Nabu have no website and their publications provide no contact details.

I did find a useful article `Who and Where are Nabu Press` at which tells you the name of the company that owns them and the address of their registered agent.

I understand that a number of people are experiencing problems with POD reprint companies and that the problem is not confined to Nabu alone by any means.  Presuming you place your order through a reputable book dealer you should have no problem getting a refund if you have a similar experience.

I can see a very valuable role to be played by reprint companies - POD companies if necessary, by all means -   making affordable copies of books like Ovington`s available. Unfortunately, that doesn`t seem to be what`s happening.

If anyone else wants to use the comments facility to tell the world about their experience of these companies - good  as well as bad, if that`s been your experience - I`d be very happy for you to do that.

Sunday 6 May 2012

A Trip to the Library

Staying in the UK, a recent decision by the London Metropolitan University to dispose of two of it`s special collections has proved controversial.

The collections concerned are the Women`s Library and the Trade Union Congress Library. The university has said it is looking for a new home, a new owner or a new sponsor for these.

Cynics have suggested that this because the LMU has been caught `upgrading` figures on the number of students it has in order to get more state funding. I myself had no idea that was the case and couldn`t possibly comment !

A lively campaign is underway in respect of the Women`s Library, which houses everything from early suffragette memorabilia to the archive of the National Women`s Register. For details, see my article Save the Women`s Library , posted earlier today at

At present there does not seem to be an equivalent campaign in respect of the TUC collection. However, these sites may be of interest ;

Hopefully new homes and/or new sources of funding will be forthcoming for these unusual collections. As I`ve said elsewhere, it`s worth remebering that documents and artefacts aren`t the only assets these collections have, there`s also the expertise of the staff that maintain them and their familiarity with the stock.

Perspectives ; Racing to the UK (Part One)

Often a variety of different perspectives are needed to cast light on the social issues of the day, and race relations in the UK is no exception.

The Runnymede Trust publishes the views of representatives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist Parties and is actively involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community. For more on the Trust`s work, see my articles `Racing to Runnymede`, Friday 9 March 2012 at and   `Ann Dummett 1931 - 2012` , Thurs 8 March 2012 on this blog.

The Runnymede Trust certainly brings it`s own contribution to the debate, but clearly it cannot be the only one. What other voices are out there ?

There have been two distinctive contributions from the Conservative Party ;

Max Wind-Cowie (ed) - Are We There Yet ? is a product of the Progressive Conservative Group and features contributions on issues around race and equality by Conservative thinkers such as Andrew Boff, Max Wind-Cowie, Mohammed Amin, Paul Goodman and others. It can be found on the website for Demos ( , and can be downloaded free of charge. I must admit that reading this is on my `things to do` list but with one thing and another I`ve not got round to it yet. I am particularly interested in Mohammed Amin`s `Hard-Edged but Inclusive` and Paul Goodman`s  `Time to End the Tory War on Multiculturalism` , as on the face of it they sound like something I could relate to.

Probably the most thorough work on race and Conservatism is that by Lord Ashcroft KCMG, particularly his report `Degrees of Separation`. For further detail on that, you could do worse than check out his article Ethnic Minority Voters and the Conservative Party at . This offers a summary of `Degrees of Separation` and a link to the full report.

So there we have links to publications featuring the views of what I would think are the four main political parties in Great Britain (GB comprises England, Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland). There is no particular reason why the Conservatives are more heavily featured than the other three.

Of course, political parties don`t have a monopoly on wisdom (far from it!). At some point in the future I`ll be returning to this theme and looking at various non-party organisations.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Updates ; CIW - Fighting Slavery in Florida

Immokalee is an area of Florida, known for producing a large proportion of the US`s fresh foodstuffs, particularly tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. It is home to many migrant and immigrant workers who work the fields where this produce is grown.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (formerly the Southwest Florida Farmworker Project) is a non-profit community-based organisation that campaigns on conditions and pay, as well as such issues as forced labour.

It is noted for the scale of it`s work, which has included a community radio station and a mobile Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum, and for it`s multi-agency approach, working with NGOs, law enforcement agencies, labour inspectors and with local communities.

It has won many awards, and now has good working relations with many law enforcement bodies, notably the FBI, Florida Dept of Law Enforcement and North Carolina State Troopers. It is particularly involved in working with these agencies against people trafficking and has assisted in a number of federal prosecutions.

In 2010 it reached a landmark agreement with an employer`s body, the Florida Tomato Grower`s Exchange, and it is interesting to note that both organisations saw this as the start of a new approach.

FTGE President Reggie Brown commented "this is a work in progress and this new partnership will get stronger over time...we can be certain that labour complaints will continue to arise...but it is how we deal with these complaints that will serve to demonstrate that we are serious.". CIW representative Lucas Benitez felt that the two groups were "coming together in partnership to turn the page on the conflict and stagnation of the past" to "forge a new and stronger industry."

The CIW website can be found at .

Naturally, the CIW has a number of allies, and a few of these can be found at these sites ; , , , .

Thursday 19 April 2012

In Print and Online ; South Africa

A recent article in Global magazine looked at the growing clamour for nationalisation of South Africa`s mining industry, particularly among young members of the African National Congress` Youth League.

Many argue that direct control of industry is necessary to address issues of inequality, unemployment and poverty.

What may be surprising to some are the very different positions taken by many of those who might once have supported such a policy.

The South African Communist Party argues for greater state intervention in the economy, as one might expect, but believes this should proceed on a pragmatic, case-by-case basis and actually advocates a mix of state and private ownership in the mining sector, a position endorsed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (

Senzeni Zokwana, President of South Africa`s National Union of Mineworkers, favours public-private partnerships in the mining sector, similar to those existing in the diamond mining industry in Botsawna and Namibia. 

Taking a wider view, Cyril Ramaphosa, a respected South African businessman with a background in the anti-apartheid struggle and in the NUM and COSATU,  believes that calls for nationalisation arise in part from "frustration" with "our collective inability to sufficiently transform our economy."

Certainly advocates of nationalisation need to ask themselves some hard questions - the assumption that their preferred option would automatically address issues of poverty and social exclusion does seem a little glib, to say the least. At the same time, as Mr Ramaphosa indicates, the ANC and it`s allies do need to address the very real problems facing South African society. 

For the full article, see William Gumede - Out of Africa : `Nationalise the Mines` - Will the ANC Do IT ? at .

William Gumede is the author of Thabo Mbeki : The Battle for the Soul of the ANC.

Also relevant is an article by a notable ANC/SACP stalwart, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin, Should We Nationalise the Mines ? Originally written in 2009, this well-reasoned, and, I think, persuasive article has been reproduced widely on the net, particularly recently.   

Wednesday 4 April 2012

In Print and Online ; IBSA and BRICS

Having recently touched on the roles of IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) on the international scene, it may be worth returning to the subject briefly.

I`m no expert on these matters, and found this article quite handy ;

Brahma Chellaney - BRICS in the Wall, 29 March 2012 in The Hindustan Times ( ). The writer reflects on the BRICS annual summit in New Delhi. Striking a balance, he considers the potential of BRICS but also looks at  those factors which may prevent it realising that potential.

IBSA has been overshadowed by the higher profile of BRICS but maybe it should not be underestimated. One has more of a sense that the three participant nations are all coming from a similar place (all democracies, all multi-cultural) and it may be that they have more in common with each other than they two with the other two BRICS participants.

Anyone interested in IBSA may wish to visit and/or  The latter also carries some useful recent articles on BRICS by Ravi Kanth Devarakonda and Louise Redvers.

I`m aiming to keep these postings fairly short and accessible, so for that reason I`m not going into too much detail. Anyone looking for more on the subject may want to visit the Inter Press Service website at .

In Print and Online ; Wonderwerk Cave

One for the history buffs among you  ;

The University of Toronto has issued a press release concerning recent finds in South Africa ;

"An international team...has identified the earliest known evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Microscopic traces of wood ash, alongside animal bones and stone tools, were found in a layer dated to one million years ago at the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa."

for the full text of the press release, see

`South Africa : Scientists Find Evidence That Human Ancestors Used Fire One Million Years Ago`, 2 April 2012 at .

Monday 2 April 2012

Quotation Station

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.

W E B Du Bois

In Print and On Line ; IBSA at the WTO

Much attention has been paid recently to the growth of the economies of the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) groupings of nations.

Many economists believe that the growth of the economies of the  IBSA and BRICS countries will shift economic power towards the so-called Third World.

An early test of strength came recently at the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Geneva (March 2012), where trade envoys of Brazil, South Africa and India accused the industrialised nations of risking undermining the Doha Round ( The Doha Development Agenda or Doha Round is a system adopted between WTO member states in 2001 to correct historical imbalances and enable poorer countries to integrate. During the `80s and `90s, the WTO was widely criticised as a means by which industrialised nations dominated the less powerful and it`s fair to say those tensions still surface today.)

The IBSA group accepts the need to "reinvigorate" the Doha Round and to "explore new approaches", but stipulate that this must be within the existing framework of "multilateralism, inclusiveness and full transparency."

Find out more at ;

Ravi Kanth Devarakonda - `Tale of Two Approaches ; The WTO Torn Asunder ?`at Inter Press Service (Africa), 24 March 2012 ( ).

 Despite the rather dramatic headline, the article is actually well thought-out and expressed in a tolerably readable fashion, given the rather complicated subject matter.

Updates ; The Freedom Project

American media types CNN have launched their own anti-slavery intiative, The Freedom Project.

For more information, visit them at ;

No doubt there will be ultra-leftists and other ideological purists who decry the involvement of CNN, who I assume to be a privately-owned media multi-national, in this campaign. Myself, I know very little about the company and to be honest I`m not really interested in them one way or the other, but I do welcome the high profile they can give to this issue.  A quick skim through their web pages shows they have been in touch with the International Labour Organisation, Anti-Slavery and others, and as far as I`m concerned that`s all to the good.

There are of course many organisations involved in this issue ; Anti Slavery, Amnesty International, the ILO and Human Rights Watch spring to mind. All I would suggest to anyone interested in these matters is that they check out a few and see which one you personally think deserves support.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Fight Crime, Invest in Kids

Fight Crime, Invest in Kids (California) is an association of Police Chiefs, District Attorneys and survivors of violent crime opposed to education cuts in California, particularly in respect of pre-school education.

They draw upon an impressive body of research among impoverished African-American youngsters in Michigan to support their contention that pre-school education appears to lead to lower levels of offending and higher levels of achievement in later life.

To learn more, see my posting from earlier today, `Meanwhile, Back in the States #4`, at .

Quotation Station

"If we like a man`s dream, we call him a refomer ; if we don`t like his dream, we call him a crank." -

W D Howells, American writer.

Howells was one of the first to join the newly-formed NAACP in 1909. W E B Du Bois was to state that  "When a band of earnest men spoke for Negro emancipation, William Dean Howells was among the first to sign the call."

Thursday 15 March 2012

Celebrating the Commonwealth 2012

Usually refered to simply as `The Commonwealth`, the Commonwealth of Nations came into being as the countries which formerly made up the British Empire gained independence.

The old arrangement was replaced by an association of sovereign nations, one that still exists today.

Unlike other international organisations, it is not designed according to a blueprint but has been allowed to evolve and member nations retain their independence whilst choosing to remain `in association` with each other. You may feel that this compares favourably with some of the other international forums.

It will never be a fashionable organisation, and yet it has survived for decades and of those nations eligible to join, most choose to do so. There are at present 54 member states containing 2 billion citizens and accounting for 20% of world trade.

That`s enough background, now on to the main event.

Commonwealth Day (the second Monday in March) has now expanded to become Commonwealth Week, a series of events which this year included a Celebrating the Commonwealth concert in London  by jazz bods Hugh Masekela and  Zara McFarlane, hosted by comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli.

This year`s theme is `Connecting Cultures`, and this theme was explored by H M Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth  and Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General in their Commonwealth Day messages.

There are numerous Commonwealth-related websites, but here are a few that may be of interest ;

The Commonwealth Secretariat -

The Commonwealth Foundation -

Friends of the Commonwealth -

Not everything about the Commonwealth is perfect.

Last year the UK Dept for International Development rated the Commonwealth Secretariat (CS) as performing poorly in it`s aid programmes. However, it acknowledged that the CS "could play a key role in strengthening democracy and supporting development ...and in making the Commonwealth`s voice heard on global issues" but found that the C S`s programmes "are thinly spread over many interest areas and it`s potential is not being realised."

The two organisations have since agreed, despite some areas of disagreement, to achieve an improvement. To me, an organisation whose works are independently assessed and in which  agreed programmes of reform are pursued within a disciplined framework, is preferable to some (not all) Non Government Organisations who have no real system of evaluation and often see no need for one.

In January 2011, Conservative politician William Hague, in his capacity as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, called for a "reinvigorated Commonwealth" and praised it`s "unique character" and often "unsung achievements".

 Despite it`s imperfections, I have to agree with him.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

In Print and Online ; Land Grab in Liberia ?

"Hundreds of  villagers and town residents of Liberia`s Grand Cape Mount Country have attracted nationwide attention in their bid to recover what they say is land seized from them and turned over to a Malaysian agro-industrial concern.

A petition sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf`s office in January by the aggrieved people`s political representatives demanded the return of their land."

A very fair and balanced account of the dispute can be found here ;

Unsigned - Liberia : Land Grab or Development Opportunity ? 17 February 2012 at .

Quotation Station ; Olympia Snowe

"In a politically diverse nation, only by finding...common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly I do not see it happening in the near future.

For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honour in consensus-building - but also a political reward for following these tenets."

Olympia Snowe, American politician.

Olympia Snowe, a US Senator with 17 years experience, decided to forego another term in the Senate recently. This quote comes from her article `Olympia Snowe ; Why I`m Leaving the Senate` which appeared on 2 March 2012 in the Washington Post ( .

This blog takes no interest in party politics and in fact, not being American, I had never even heard of her until this week. The quote is an interesting one, however, and worthy of repetition.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Ann Dummett 1931 - 2012

UK race relations charity The Runnymede Trust has been paying tribute to one of it`s past Directors, Ann Dummett, who died recently ;

Sarah Isal - Ann Dummett 1931 - 2012 ; A True Anti-Racist Advocate -  The Runnymede Blog, 6 March 2012 ( )

Other obituaries can be found here ;

Unsigned - Ann Dummett ; A Champion of Equality, 1 March 2012 at
Ian Martin - Ann Dummett Obituary, 24 Feb 2012 at
Sue Shutter - Ann Dummett Obituary, 10 Feb 2012 at .

For more information on the Runnymede Trust, see my article Racing to Runnymede, posted earlier today at

Friday 24 February 2012

In Print and Online ; Further Greetings

Unsurprisingly, I wasn`t the only one posting birthday greetings to W E B Du Bois yesterday.

I`d like to single out just one that I particularly liked ;

Happy Birthday W E B DuBois !, posted by bluemountainecards, 23 Feb 2012 at .

Their Du Bois posting is excellent, and well worth a read.

Their blog, as you may notice, is actually for an American-based ecard company. In addition to promoting their own products,  they post recipes and poems,  send birthday greetings to individuals as varied as W.E.B. Du Bois ,  Edgar Allan Poe, Edward Lear  and John Lennon,  provide potted histories of Mardi Gras and Kwanzaa, and note events such as Valentine`s Day, Winter Solstice, Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, Rosh Hashanah and much else.

 How anyone could not like this intriguing blog is quite beyond me ! Next time you have a few minutes to spare, give it a look.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Happy Birthday, Dr Du Bois !

W E B Du Bois was born 23 February 1868.

What would he make of our world today ?

Over at , Robert W Williams comments "In a world that can be improved to promote the highest ideals of knowledge, peace and love, I would like to think that the progressive spirit of Du Bois lives on."

He asks himself where this spirit can be found and considers the implications of what we used to call `new technology`; "High-tech communications permit wider and speedier interactivity across the globe itself. It is an interconnectivity which challenges what we mean by the terms `global` and `local`."

His comments are echoed by the writer of  an editorial in a recent British Humanist Association newsletter (Unsigned - We Are Citizens of the World - BHA Newsletter 30 January 2012, at ) ;

"We are finding new ways of keeping in touch with each other. This, at times, can make the world seem very small and enables our actions to have a much wider impact. New technology and ways of communicating constantly remind us that we are citizens of the world."

Online campaigning groups are everywhere it seems. It`s worth stressing that these may be quite different in character according to the time and place in which they find themselves; Move On in the US is firmly rooted in the Democratic Party while 38 Degrees, it`s sister organisation in the UK, where distrust of politicians is more widespread, is viewed by many ( most ?) of it`s supporters as an alternative to existing political structures.

 However, the point made by Dr Williams and our anonymous humanist, that the local has become global, retains it`s validity it seems to me.

Are there pitfalls to be found ? Inevitably, new forms of organisation throw up new difficulties and it`s worth remembering that staff of these organisations tend to be appointed rather than elected.

Dr Williams has another point to make ; "I am also aware that there is a digital divide which separates the electronically outfitted, jacked in and techno savvy from those less technologically equipped  and trained. It is a divide that spotlights the unequal material relationships in which we as humans are implicated. Such disparities would probably alarm Du Bois, and might have provided him with further evidence of poverty amidst plenty (or maybe because of it)." 

These concerns have implications for practical matters such as the provision of public services. Dr Williams` comments reminded me of an article I read recently by Ayub Khan,  an official connected with the Library Service in Warwickshire, UK ; "There are still millions of people who have never used the internet, many of whom are what society politely calls `disadvantaged` . Around 23% of households don`t have an internet connection. For the unconnected, real libraries...are a way of joining the digital world and not feeling so left behind." (Ayub Khan - Where Next for Libraries, , 2 Feb 2012 , posted in the blog section) .

Dr Du Bois led a long and active life characterised by many idealogical twists and turns. Many individuals and organisations claim continuity with his work. A variety of schools of thought, some mutually exclusive, claim him as their precursor or their adherent. Some have accused him of inconsistency, but whatever changes of outlook he may have embraced, his "progressive spirit" remained constant. If we are looking, as Dr Williams suggests, for the true spirit of the man then in addition to the `usual suspects` , maybe we should also look among the less exalted souls campaiging in support of local services and to regenerate run-down neighbourhoods.

I can think of no better way to end this article than by quoting Dr Williams once again ;

"Dr Du Bois` spirit remains vital and cogent even today."

Happy Birthday, W E B Du Bois !

Thanks once again to Nottingham-based author Dr Tony Shaw for use of his pictures. Visit him at .