From John Maclean to Tahrir Square?

Internationalism From Below – from John Maclean to Tahrir Square? Talks, films and discussion with:

Allan Armstrong, Unity, Maud Bracke, Camcorder Guerillas and Deryck de Maine Beaumont.

7pm-10:00pm, Wednesday 12th October 2011, Kinning Park Complex 43 Cornwall Street Glasgow FREE

The current struggles across Arab-speaking countries, the crises created by trans-national financial corporations, and protests over ‘austerity’ and education in Europe and the US, have vividly brought the global and inter-connected nature of power and politics to the foreground. Issues of self-determination, the political agency of non-governmental groups, and ad-hoc assemblages of ‘the people’ and other populist constituencies are shaping political discourses on various levels.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, groups of Irish and Eastern European migrant workers, dispossessed Highlanders, and working class tenants organisations formed various assemblies, unions and organisations within Scottish cities and rural areas. Whilst often born out of local needs, these groups formed networks and syndicates that spanned geographies, linking crofter land struggles with urban housing, women’s education with revolutions in Lithuania and Latvia, Irish emancipation with the Lanarkshire coal mines. Informed and stimulated by the ideas and action of figures such as Michael Davitt, John Maclean, and Ethel MacDonald, this period represented the development of what Allan Armstrong has called ‘Internationalism From Below’, a challenge to the ‘internationalism from above’ of British Imperialism, global capital and the top-down institutions of established political governance.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, ‘alter-globalism’ has emerged as a new form of international network, combining various political and social movements across the world. These range from large events such as the World Social Forums, to localised conflicts over land dispossession, and campaigns against political and economic border regimes. The Unity Centre in Glasgow has been the focus for such struggles in Glasgow, providing support for asylum seekers and sans papiers, and exposing the conditions of British border control and detention centres. It can, in some ways, be seen as a contemporary counterpart to the self-organised groups supporting political refugees that a century ago were found in Glasgow, Bellshill and Coatbridge.

Media emphasis upon the use of internet and social media in events in Egypt, Libya and Syria has suggested that these technologies have catalysed these as forms of self-organised struggle ‘from below’. Whilst this may be the case in some instances, the perspectives of those based within these countries often questions the selective portrayal of issues and events given in Western media. To what extent do the events in Tahrir Square represent an aspirational desire to emulate Western consumerism, as often portrayed, or something that more deeply challenges the cosy arrangements upon which Western power has profited in these areas? More broadly, what are the relationships between these disparate struggles? Between the movements of today and those of previous times? What are the relations between alter-globalism and the forms of earlier internationalism?

‘Internationalism From Below’ explores these questions and the histories that lie behind them through talks, film and discussion. Participants include: Allan Armstrong, a communist republican, internationalist and historian of Scottish labour movements, and  co-editor of ‘Emancipation & Liberation’; members from the Unity Centre and related projects; Maud Bracke, a historian at University of Glasgow interested in West European communism during the Cold War, social and political radicalisation in Europe of the 1960s-70s and 2nd-wave feminism; and Deryck de Maine Beaumont, an activist-filmmaker who has been living in Eqypt during the past year, filming events and interviewing participants to witness and record the differences in people that the protests have brought about. Films will include: Camcorder Guerillas’ “Visit Dungavel, Monster of the Glen” about the detention and deportation centre, and  Deryck de Maine Beaumont’s “Eyewitness Egypt”.

Radical Independent Bookfair (RiB) will be hosting a bookstall.

Directions and map to Kinning Park Complex:

Organised by the Kinning Park Complex and members of The Strickland Distribution.

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