Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Free ebook: "Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa"



In 1995 the Nigerian military dictatorship executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists to end their opposition to Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta. This was the culmination of a campaign of terror in which security forces killed perhaps 2,000 Ogoni with many more raped, injured, tortured or made homeless. The indigenous Ogoni had organised to resist the ecological destruction of the wetlands they were dependent on, to demand fair distribution of the profits, and to call for self-determination and human rights. Saro-Wiwa, as a leading Nigerian writer of Ogoni origin, took a leading part in this campaign and paid the price.

“Silence Would be Treason” contains Saro-Wiwa’s last letters and poems from military detention, written to Irish solidarity activist Sister Majella McCarron. They show a fine mind on trial for his life, organising the international campaign for the release and finally the lives of the “Ogoni 9”, strategizing about the future of the struggle against Shell, and living life to the full. They are gripping, harrowing, at times hilarious and immensely readable. The letters were donated by Sr Majella to Maynooth Library in 2011, transcribed and edited by librarian Helen Fallon, African Studies specialist Íde Corley and social movement researcher Laurence Cox, with a foreword by environmental activist and writer Nnimmo Bassey.

This book was first published in print form in 2013 by the non-profit African publisher Daraja together with CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, and supported by Trócaire. Thanks to Daraja Press it is now available in a new and expanded edition as a free ebook, which can be downloaded in PDF here or read online here.

The Maynooth Ken Saro-Wiwa collection also includes digitised versions of the letters, audio archives of interviews with Majella McCarron, Ken’s brother Owens Wiwa and daughter Noo Saro-Wiwa, a video archive of related events and other material. The collection is free online here. The ebook was launched at Maynooth Library today, 14 November 2017 as part of the 22nd anniversary commemorations of the Ogoni 9 executions, by Majella McCarron. The keynote talk was given by Mark Dummett, Amnesty International researcher working on the current court case against Shell in the Netherlands; Samuel Udogbo, researching MOSOP youth in the Niger Delta; and Graham Kay, researching the history of how geopolitics came to centre around oil between 1896 and 1921.




Monday, 16 October 2017

The rebirth of Marxism: haunting the future



The ReBirth of Marxism:
haunting the future

National University of Ireland Maynooth, 4 – 5 May 2018

Call for papers


In his play Marx in Soho, Howard Zinn has Marx ask “Don’t you wonder why it is necessary to proclaim me dead, again and again?” 

May 5, 2018 will be Marx’s 200th anniversary – one among many anniversaries which remind us of Marx and Engels’ long-lasting impact on the modern world. As we send this out, we are sandwiched between the 150th anniversary of Capital and the 100th of what Gramsci called a “Revolution against Capital” in Russia. Our conference includes the May Day bank holiday, celebrated by the traditional labour movement – but it also marks the 50th anniversary of the start of “May 1968” in Paris, while “Ireland’s 1968” is sometimes dated to the violent suppression of a civil rights demonstration in Derry, five months later.

Marx’s work dramatises one of the most vital impulses in contemporary thought and politics, a spectre haunting not only Europe but the world: it is invoked by social movements and trade unions, parties and governments representing a bewildering variety of political approaches; by researchers and teachers in many different disciplines, reading Marx in many different ways; by pundits and critical journalists from the very soft left to the radical fringe; as well as an afterlife in films and music, streetnames and museums from the celebratory to the condemnatory. Within or in dialogue with feminism or postcolonialism, ecology or anti-racism, psychoanalysis or literature, Foucauldians or anarchists, struggles for global justice or GLBTQ+ liberation, Marxist voices and echoes of Marx continue to contribute to popular and intellectual attempts to understand and transform the world.

A major international conference at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, near Dublin, will explore Marx and Engels’ far-reaching different contributions to analysis and political practice, the ways in which their lives and work helped shape history and culture around the world, the many different strands and meanings of “Marxism”, and how we can understand the legacy and ongoing relevance of Marx today, in a world which has changed so much but which – as many have commented in recent years – he would have had no difficulty in recognising. How can Marxism continue to contribute intellectually and practically to critique, understanding and transformation, in Ireland and globally?

Our keynote speakers for the conference are two authors and activists whose work has had an impact around the world: the Italian philosopher Toni Negri, a major figure in leftist thought and debates for half a century, and the American political scientist Jodi Dean, one of the most influential of a younger generation seeking to refashion Marxist ideas today. They exemplify the diversity which this conference seeks to support and celebrate: not the search for a single “true Marxism” but a dialogue of critique as well as solidarity between different traditions, and between theory and practice. 

Marx and Engels’ engagement with Ireland exemplifies some of the diversity we seek to express: from Engels’ love for the Burns sisters and exploration of Manchester’s “Little Ireland” to Eleanor Marx’ support for the Fenians, and from Marx’ analysis of the economics of Irish soil to his conviction that the “Irish Question” was central to working-class emancipation in England, we do not find a single, simple idea but a living engagement with complex realities in need of dialectical connection and political transformation.

We welcome proposals for contributions from activists as well as academic researchers. The conference programme will include cultural and social dimensions; while many presentations will be traditional (20-minute) talks followed by discussion, we are also open to other formats as well as panel proposals conventional and unconventional. Please send us a title, author details (name, affiliation, “independent scholar” etc.) and an abstract (no more than 250 words) to marxinmaynooth2018@gmail.com by February 1st 2018. We also welcome informal enquiries in advance of this date. Selected papers from the conference will be published by a major academic press.

Possible themes for presentations include, but are not limited to:
-        Marxisms, many and fertile: the diversity of interpretations, multiple contributions to intellectual work in the academy and beyond, different traditions and cultures, many afterlives;
-        Marx and Engels’ intellectual, political and personal engagement with Ireland and the Irish;
-        Praxis: Marxism’s contribution to and engagement with many different kinds of social movements and political struggle in hugely varying contexts today;
-        “Marxism and…”: dialogue and engagement with other radical theoretical and political traditions whether around race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, power, democracy, ecology, postcolonialism…

We particularly welcome papers which speak to the very diverse audiences – of scholars, activists and students, people working in different disciplines and movements, from different countries and different Marxist and other traditions – we expect for this conference. We encourage people to attempt prove the “this-worldliness” of their thinking – and Marxism! – for these different fields, to create a lively and challenging space for discussion. What if anything is the value of Marxism today?

The organising committee is made up of (alphabetically) Colin Coulter, Laurence Cox, Sinéad Kennedy, Chandana Mathur, Conor McCarthy and Eamonn Slater, representing a range of academic disciplines, Marxist traditions, political affiliations and none. The conference is supported by the departments of Anthropology, English and Sociology at Maynooth as well as by Maynooth’s Conference and Workshop Support Fund and the Sociological Association of Ireland.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Interface 9/1: for and about social movements

The latest issue of Interface: a journal for and about social movements is now available free online here.

Themes covered in this issue include different social movement tactics, strategies for movement-building in particular contexts, learning and knowledge production in movements, repression, environmental movements and housing struggles beyond the west (special section).

Ireland is represented by an article on direct action in Dublin and one on the water charges struggle.


Friday, 5 May 2017

"No shortcuts: organizing for power" book launch









You are invited to the book launch of “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age” by Jane McAlevey on May 18th, 6:30pm at Mandate offices, O’Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1.

How do we rebuild power for the many, when all the odds appear stacked against us?

This is the question that US union organiser Jane McAlevey has grappled with in her new book “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age”, published by Oxford University Press.
Join us for the book launch and get involved in the discussion on how to take things forward in the trade union movement. Copies of the book will be available on the night at a special discounted rate. This is McAlevey’s second visit to Dublin. In 2014, she launched her first book “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” – you can watch the talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlV8dHFuk7o

This event is sponsored by the Communication Workers’ Union, the Financial Services Union and Mandate Trade Union.

Acclaim for No Shortcuts
“Jane McAlevey is a deeply experienced, uncommonly reflective organizer. In NO SHORTCUTS, McAlevey stresses the distinction between mobilizing and organizing and examines how systematic conflation of the two has reflected and reinforced the labor movement’s decline over recent decades. More than a how-to manual for organizers, NO SHORTCUTS is a serious, grounded rumination on building working-class power. It is a must read for everyone concerned with social justice in the US.”
~Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
“McAlevey’s decades as a labor and community organizer means that she knows what organizers do, or should do. This book lifts the lessons McAlevey takes from that craft into the intellectual realm of power and politics. This book is for anyone who wants a democratic society in which ordinary people share power.”
~Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America
“Whether it is Black Lives Matter, climate change, feeling the Bern, or worker rights, success hinges on the ability to build real and sustainable power. Jane McAlevey gives us both a practical guide and a set of underlying principles to understand how organizing matters more than any other available strategy to grow power, and, what it means to organize. A must read for anyone hoping to create a better world.”
~Dan Clawson, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
“Jane McAlevey is one of the few analysts of social movements today who takes class power and class struggle seriously. McAlevey understands their ineluctable concreteness and force from years of organizing democratic unions that have effectively battled powerful corporations. This is a book for citizens and activists–but also for students and scholars of social movements–who want to understand how the world can and has been changed for the better.”
~Jeff Goodwin, Professor of Sociology, New York University