Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bookfairs, history months and a few other things

London Radical Book Fair on Saturday June 24th
12 noon - 6 p.m.
Free Entry, all welcome
At Goldsmiths, University of London, New CrossLondon SE14 6NW
More information on the website, including speakers' programme and list of stalls.
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An international round-up of events from PM press:

Left Forum in New York, NY from June 2nd to 4th

Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, CA on June 3rd and 4th

The Captain's Vintage Punk Rock Flea Market in Philadelphia, PA on June 3rd

Dorset Radical Book Fair in Christchurch, UK on June 3rd
Wonderlands, The UK Graphic Novel Expo in Sunderland, UK on June 3rd

Wars of Position Conference in Manchester, UK from June 8th to 10th

Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago, IL on June 10th and 11th

Stockholm Anarchist Book Fair in Stockholm, Sweden on June 10th

SF Free Folk Festival in San Francisco, CA on June 10th
Institute for Social Ecology in San Francisco, CA from June 11th to 15th

Global Studies Association Conference in Berkeley, CA from June 14th to 16th

Against the Slow Cancellation of the Future in London, UK on June 15th and 16th

Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI from June 16th to 18th

Punk Island 2017 in New York, NY on June 18th

London Radical Book Fair in London, UK on June 24th

Human Rights Researchers' Network Conference in London, UK on June 28th
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London Anarchist Bookfair - 28th October 2017
Booking now open 

London Anarchist Bookfair collective writes:-

With the prospect of another 5 years of Tory rule, with labour stabbing each other in the backs and all the other parties just offering a different version of the same old rubbish, it really is time we started to show that anarchism is a real alternative to the dead end party politics the media and the rest seem to love so much. People are working in anarchist ways every day of their lives – they just don’t put a name on it. Events like anarchist bookfairs (and there are more and more going on throughout the UK and abroad each year) are a chance to show our ideas in their fullest along with all the campaigns we believe in. Along with having stalls and meetings, we would really love groups to take on publicising the event as widely as possible and further than the “normal suspects”. Sometime anarchists seem to be worried about promoting their politics. We think we all need to take the bold step and be public and proud of our ideas. The Bookfair collective is only 5 of us – so we need everybody to help with publicity, as we just don’t have the numbers to do it all.

If you want a stall, meeting or advert in the programme can you email the form back to me (and pay by paypal via our website) or put the form and a cheque/cash in the post to Freedom Bookshop - address is on the form.

If you need anything for your stall or meeting can you check with us as early as possible so we can try and sort it. With a newish venue we are still finding our feet so we don't totally know if they will have what you might need.

We have 25,000 leaflets [front and back] and 1,000 posters to distribute as well. Again email us if you can help distribute these, especially in London. Or, pick them up from Freedom & Housmans bookshops or other good spaces.

By moving venues we need to do a lot more publicity so people know the new venue. Please email the details and leaflet to any mailing lists you are on that are relevant.

We may have missed some groups who may want stalls or meetings, so please forward this if you think we have missed someone.

Nice one

London Anarchist Bookfair collective email woodywood2@blueyonder.co.uk
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NEWS FROM NOWHERE CLUB
Saturday 10th June 2017
New Leaf: A Botanical Phylogeny Garden for All
Speaker: Vinnie O’Connell
Vinnie, botanist & plant historian, is Founding Director of this fascinating project in West Dulwich. They not only offer education, training & employment to adults aged 16+, but run a bookshop, maintain a phylogenic garden (depicting the evolution of flowering plants throughout time, starting in the pond with water lilies 140 million years ago through to modern cottage gardens) but also organise children’s activities, outreach work & create gardens in other parts of London. It’s a hub for local people of all ages who drop in & learn about the plant & insect life on their own doorstep.
7.30pm buffet     8pm talk
All welcome. Free
Epicentre, West St E11 4LJ
 Info 0208 555 5248

UPDATE 10th June, from News from Nowhere:
The speaker tonight has had to cancel at short notice.
""However, we will keep the subject of gardens (public or private) and invite everyone who was planning to come to still come and bring with you (if you want) photos, stories, tips, books, poems, seeds, plants etc etc, about your own gardening experiences, memories, desires, needs...
From time to time, speakers have had to cancel at short notice, but we always manage to create a really good evening at the last minute.
There will be some excellent, substantial gardening books as raffle prizes too.""
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Screening of the Women's Peace Crusade film in London. Friday 23 June
Friday June 23rd at 7.30 at the Torriano film club 99 Torriano Rd., Kentish Town, supported by Peace News. 
The film was made as part of a collaborative project in 2016/17 with local volunteers, activists and archivists in Manchester and East Lancashire.
Charlotte Bill, the film maker from the Clapham Film Unit, will be there for any questions about making the film/the project /Crusade and you can buy the book about the extraordinary East Lancashire Crusades in 1917.
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Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent,
SalfordM5 4WX  

The flame still burns: the creative power of coal
This Thursday, 15 June at 7pm the Working Class Movement Library hosts an unusual free event celebrating ‘the creative power of coal’.
 This year is the 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the coal industry.  Vesting Day for the National Coal Board was 1 January 1947.  Blue and white flags were unfurled outside each pit proclaiming “This colliery is now managed by the National Coal Board on behalf of the people”.
 Our event is centred around a book, The flame still burns: the creative power of coal, which explores the sheer power of an industry which created rich, diverse cultures in the different mining communities, and continues to inspire fresh creative work today.
 Granville Williams, the book's editor, will introduce a selection of films produced by the versatile and creative NCB Film Unit between 1947 and 1984.  The NCB sought to 'win hearts and minds' through a monthly 10-minute newsreel/cine-magazine, Mining Review, and a high quality monthly magazine, Coal.  The aim of such publicity was to boost recruitment, bind the distinct cultures and histories of the different coalfields together and promote a positive, modern public image of coalmining.
 Come and find out more on 15 June… Admission free; all welcome.

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Our current series of free Wednesday 2pm talks runs through until July:-

Invisible Histories talks - Workplace conflict at Gardner's

7 June Stephen Mustchin - Strikes, workplace occupations and 'the right to share hardship': engineering trade unionism and the 1980 occupation at Gardner
This talk, by Stephen Mustchin, Lecturer in Employment Studies, University of Manchester,
focuses on engineering trade unionism, workplace conflict and strikes at the famous Eccles-based engine manufacturer L. Gardner and Sons. 
Strong workplace union organisation emerged following two long strikes in 1968 and late 1972, and in 1980 a high-profile strike and occupation against mass redundancies won significant concessions. The organisation exhibited by the Gardner workforce was remarkable and represented a partial victory in a period when strikes were increasingly difficult to organise. However, retribution by the company led to the erosion of these gains demonstrating their fragility in the wider context of recession, deindustrialization and increasingly anti-union management in the 1980s.
Based on a recently-published article in the academic journal Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, and drawing on wider historical research on strikes in the 1980s, the talk draws on research based on materials held at WCML and interviews with former employees and participants.

21 June Dean Kirby - Angel Meadow
In this talk, journalist Dean Kirby will take listeners on a journey through the gin palaces, alleyways and underground vaults of this nineteenth century Manchester slum, which was  considered so diabolical it was re-christened 'hell upon earth' by Friedrich Engels.
Dean is a national newspaper journalist who has been covering the news in Manchester and the North of England for nearly 20 years. His search for his ancestors led him to Victorian Manchester's Angel Meadow slum, where he made a remarkable discovery in the rubble of an archaeological dig. Angel Meadow: Victorian Britain's most savage slumis his first book.
5 July Bruce Wilkinson - Three Lancastrian poets of the '60s
Bruce's book Hidden culture, forgotten history looks at the 1960s publishing and political activities of working class Lancastrian poets Jim Burns, Dave Cunliffe and Tina Morris, and traces their literary and activist impact.

19 July Dave Randall - Sound system: the political power of music
Years of touring, playing and protesting have given Dave an insider’s view of the music industry, enabling him to shed light on the secrets of celebrity, commodification and culture.

Full details of all our talks are at www.wcml.org.uk/events.
Discovering the stories of those people who attended the Peterloo demonstration  Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society is launching a project to find the descendants of those attending the peaceful demonstration that has become known as the Peterloo Massacre. 
 They say: 'We will never know the true number of casualties, as all injured persons would have had to pay for any treatment received.  Many would just go to the local “wise-woman” or midwife for treatment. Many hid in pubs etc to avoid being arrested.  We want their stories to create a lasting memorial to them'.
 A web page at www.peterloo.mlfhs.org.uk gives further details, and the project can be contacted via email at peterloo@mlfhs.org.uk or by phone on 0161 652 9765 (answerphone, please leave a message).
 If you want to be involved in the project or have information to share, Rod Melton will be attending Manchester Central Library each Tuesday between 10:30 and 15:00.  Please go to the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Help Desk and ask for Rod.
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JUNE is Pride Month and also 
Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month: London Events here.

In Ealing:-
"Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month (GRTHM) started in 2001 in Brent and in 2008 it was celebrated across the country with backing from the government. GRTHM is an important opportunity for communities to celebrate their heritage and for everyone to learn about the history, achievements and cultures of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers."
Irish Traveller Storytelling -  Join renowned Irish Traveller storyteller, Thomas McCarthy, for special sessions of stories from Irish traveller folklore and history. 
Acton Library Saturday 10th June 2:30 – 3:30pm; 
Southall Library Saturday 24th June 11:00am – 12:30pm
 L[ocal] H[istory] Talk: Gypsy Travellers in Ealing - Join Dr Jonathan Oates, Ealing Archivist, for a FREE talk about the history of Gypsy Travellers in the London Borough of Ealing. Ealing Central Library Thursday 15th June 5.30 – 6.30pm FREE
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A permanent plaque for York’s LGBT History? Call for ideas

Following LGBT History Month 2017 and the third Rainbow Plaques event, York LGBT History MonthYork’s Alternative History,York LGBT Forum and York Civic Trust  are working together to identify Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans histories that can be commemorated with a York Civic Trust permanent plaque... starting this with an open call for ideas. 

Everyone is welcome to contribute. You can make a suggestion via this websurvey.

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At the British Library: New Exhibition 
Entrance Hall, The British Library
96 Euston Road, London
NW1 2DB 
Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546; Email: boxoffice@bl.uk


Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty
Open until Tue 19 Sep 2017
Admission: Free entry

""1895, the trial of Oscar Wilde. 2017, the pardoning of gay men by the ‘Alan Turing Law’. How far have we come in 122 years?
Personal testimony. Public protest. Art and culture. We tell the story of love, legislative change and the battles for equality experienced by gay men and women in the UK. 50 years after the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality, our exhibition looks at the build up to this monumental step, its impact, and asks what challenges still remain.

Listen to oral histories. Explore Sarah Waters’s manuscript notebook for Tipping the Velvet. Take a closer look at the diary of Kenneth Williams. Film, original manuscripts and rare printed items trace a history of troubles and triumphs for gay people. Other items on display include the 1957 Wolfenden Report, the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto, and vinyl from the Pet Shop Boys.

How have perceptions of homosexuality changed and what impact have they had in creating distinctive and dynamic gay identities in the UK?""

#BLGayUK
- See more at: https://www.bl.uk/events/gay-uk-love-law-liberty#sthash.ve4am5xg.dpuf  ============================
Thursday 15th June back by unpopular demand – 
Come see a slice of Central London squatting history
• See the square where squatters and tenants half succeeded in fighting off the encroachment of office blocks
• See the hotel which ex-soldiers and others occupied in 1946
• See one of the Really Free School buildings from the recent struggles against cuts and the privatization of education and knowledge
• See places that were homes to hundreds, alternative bookshops, women’s centres, the starting places for wholefood empires 
… meet Tolmers Square,  London, NW1 6 for 6.30, Thursday 15 June 2017.
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Shakespeare and Marx
Venue: Garrick's Temple, Hampton Court Road, Hampton, London   Price: £20
Speaker(s): Gabriel Egan, Hugh Grady, Chris Fitter, David Hawkes, Martin McQuillan and Christian Smith
View the programme.   Booking is essential to attend this event. Book now >
For further information and booking details, see the Kingston Shakespeare Seminar website. 
For further information about this event: Email: R.Wilson@kingston.ac.uk
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Another search for activists...
Researching for a project with Shubbak festival (1-16 July) and currently looking to speak to people who have been involved in activism in East London (particularly Dalston) from 1960s-1980s

The project is being developed by artists Laila Soliman and Ruud Gielens, and will be shown in Dalston during the Shubbak festival on 7-9 July. 
They are working on the changes in the aesthetics and rhetoric of activism and civic resistance, focusing on East London during the 1960s-1980s. 
For their site-specific intervention, they are unearthing the history of social and political activism in the area, including anti-racism, LGBTQ rights, anti-capitalism etc. 
They are particularly interested in finding older generation cultural activists and would like to link their stories/memories with today’s new surge in activism. 

For more information on this project, as well as Shubbak's project in Dalston: http://www.shubbak.co.uk/shubbak-in-dalston/

The artists are keen to meet with individuals who have been involved in such movements, or who would know about the subject. We plan to have initial meetings to get to know people on 20-24 June. This could then be followed by an interview for the purpose of the project. 
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Labour Party - what next for the Corbyn Surge?
What does its past tell us about its future?

Independent Working Class Education Network
Special Meeting Book a place:  Keith Venables, Convenoriwceducation@yahoo.co.uk    
Evening Meeting in London on
Thursday 29th June5.45 - 8.00
Boardroom 1, Unite the Union, 33-37 Moreland St. London EC1V 8BB (near Angel Tube).
There will be short presentations on the history of the Labour Party and its
ambivalent relationship with socialism, the unions and progressive movements in society.

We'd welcome your ideas on the Labour Party's present and future.
  • Where did the Corbyn Surge come from? 
  • What do the hundreds of thousands of young people who've recently joined want? 
  • What role do Momentum (and Progress) play? 
  • What would our ideal Labour Party look like?
IWCE Events are always participatory and non-sectarian.

It is hoped that some of the Forward-Looking presentations might contribute to a Special Edition of "Post-16 Educator". http://iwceducation.co.uk/  
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Wakefield Socialist History Group
SATURDAY 1 JULY: 
DEMOCRACY UNCHAINED: TOWARDS A REAL DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT
Wakefield Socialist History Group will have a speaker from Republic*, Mark Sutton, at their "Democracy Unchained" event at the Red Shed (Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1) on Saturday 1 July at 1 p.m. 
The other speakers are Paul Feldman and Corinna Lotz from "A World to Win." 
Admission is free and there will be a free light buffet.  Tony M. will be chairing.
*Republic's Royal Expenses Campaign Launch" is happening outside Buckingham Palace on 17 June.
Next, after the summer:
SATURDAY 9 SEPTEMBER: GEORGE ORWELL AND SOCIALISM
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As usual this listings page will be updated from time to time (until it gets too long).


Thursday, June 1, 2017

In case Grand-Daddy was a Bank Robber: Review of a Useful Book

Jonathan Oates, Tracing Villains and their Victims: A Guide to Criminal Ancestors for Family Historians. (Pen & Sword, 2017), 178 pp. Original price £14.99 pbk. Library shelfmark (London) 364.3092



Radical historians may not be the primary target readership for this book, but its potential usefulness is not as limited as the title and sub-title might suggest and many of us will be able to find something of relevance to our concerns – which will often involve people who have found themselves up against the law – within its pages. And this can be a fruitful area of research generally, since, as the author points out, “the agents of the state and church take notice of those who break the state’s rules.” Examples are given of how the rules have changed, with some types of behaviour no longer bringing condemnation while others – including riots – are constant targets of the law enforcers.

Chapters deal with Criminal Courts in England and other parts of Britain, Punishment, Police Records, newspapers, books and other sources, followed by two case studies, of a murderer and a victim, and include a lot more than these headings indicate. Deliberate transgression for the sake of an ideology or principle – political crime – is something of an also-ran in the story but crops up at several points, with reference to a selected few variants: Jacobites, Jacobins, Chartists, Luddites, Communists, Fascists, “more modern forms of terrorism” and Suffragettes are mentioned. Only the first of these (about which Dr Oates has written elsewhere) rate an index entry. (In fact the index is rather patchy, with some subjects and names omitted, e.g. Robert Farquhar of “Peter Culter” [Peterculter], Aberdeen, whose unsuccessful petition for clemency gets a two-page spread.) “Riots” will take the reader to half a dozen pages, however.

Throughout the information is presented not as mere lists and not uncritically but with discussion of its scope, limitations, accessibility and context. Frequent extracts and quotations help to put flesh on the archival bones and bring out the human interest of the material, and there are a number of interesting illustrations. A certain bias may be observed towards the author's own location and research interests, not a serious fault since he shows how his methods can be applied elsewhere. England is not taken to mean Britain, other parts especially Scotland receiving a share of attention, if perhaps not quite an equal one: although repeated mention is made of suicide having been a crime until 1961, the fact that this was not the case in Scotland is unstated.

There is less to be discovered about victims although still perhaps more than can usually be known about "ordinary" people. What there is may serve to correct impressions conveyed by prejudice and stereotyping, (for example by examining witness statements of evidence - sometimes not presented in court - about young women, contrasted with media assumptions about them). Such is always a valid endeavour, as is the aim, evident throughout, of arriving at as complete and accurate an account as possible of any given event.

Of particular relevance to some radical historians' recent concerns (see below) are the pointers to information on prisons (including deaths therein), courts martial, mental health, and young offenders' institutions. Even corporal punishment in schools comes under scrutiny, with the strong suggestion that the punishment - "this heinous behaviour" - was the real crime there. Guidance is provided as to which file series in the National Archives deal with what: MEPO for the Met (including Special Branch although this is not said), KV for MI5 surveillance of individuals and so on. The sources considered are by and large official or mainstream, so that there is room for more publicising of archives generated by perceived subversive organisations themselves, specialist library holdings, and websites which have made out-of-print publications available again. Next time "Tracing Your Subversive Ancestors"?

The internet is not favoured by the author as a primary research tool in any case, which may partly explain the slightly puzzling absence of any reference to the Digital Panopticon project* – although that is admittedly a “work in progress”. Contact details and a bibliography however are provided with websites where applicable, rounding off a very worthwhile publication, professionally presented and accessible to amateur and “feral” historians as well as the ancestor or antecedent hunters.

*The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925. See alsoNew Online Resources for Radical Historians (2)

A "great riot" at Newcastle in 1740
as reported by the Gentleman's Magazine (p.125 of the book)
Some previous posts on this blog that have used the sort of resources mentioned in the book:

"Indecency" in a Brighton Church, 50 years ago
"Indecency" in a Brighton Church, 50 years ago

Trying Times: More Anarchists in 1894, Part 2
Trying Again: More Anarchists at the Old Bailey, 1894
Little stories from the Old Bailey: Anarchist on trial 1894

Little Old Stories from the Old Bailey
Suffragette Conspiracy Trial, 1912.

... and more...


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Call for participants (Claimants' Union and other activists) to help a research project

A social policy lecturer at the University of Edinburgh has contacted us about a research project entitled ‘Bringing labour back in: class antagonism, labour agency and Britain’s active labour market reforms’.

He writes:

As part of the study I am conducting oral history interviews with people active in claimants unions/ advocacy and campaign groups/ Unemployed Workers Centres/ relevant trade unions during the 1980/90s.

The main aim is to recover a ‘bottom up’ story of people's response to the introduction of various social security and employment programme reforms of the last 30 years and how they and their organisations sought to shape them and were shaped by them.  

I’m especially interested in speaking with individuals who were active in initiatives around Restart/Job Training Scheme/YTS/ Stricter Benefit Regime in the 1980s and/or Project Work and JSA/ New Deals in the 1990s

(The research is supported by the Independent Social Research Foundation and more about the project can be found at http://isrf.org/about/fellows-and-projects/jay-wiggan/)

Dr Jay Wiggan
Lecturer in Social Policy
School of Social & Political Science, University of Edinburgh
15a George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD

(The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336)

He adds:
I’m hoping to complete most of the interviews between now and the end of June, prior to people's most likely holiday period. I am though more than happy to speak to people at any point during the summer.

I will of course come down to London to conduct interviews unless the person would prefer to speak over the telephone.

RaHN adds: 
Previously on this blog:-

Claimants and unemployed issues and struggles in the 1970s and 1980s (especially in Tottenham in the 1980s) - what can we learn from them?

Haringey Solidarity Group - some activities past and present [1990-2005]

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Notes from the Frontier of an Empire in Decline

[Guest Blog]

1. DEEP IN FAR WEST TEXAS: WHERE THE WALL WILL NOT BE BUILT.

Build a Wall! Build a Wall! Build a Wall!

Empires may decay at their centres but they fray at their frontiers. If the American Empire has a frontier, it is its 1500 mile southern border with Mexico, especially the stretch of the frontier which runs along the Rio Grande river between Texas and Mexico. And just as the Romans looked uneasily over their frontier walls at the approaching barbarians, and the Chinese did likewise over their Great Wall, so today many Americans would like to see a wall built against encroaching Hispanicisation. Such was offered to them by Donald Trump during his recent and victorious electoral campaign, and this promise resonated with the crowds baying in unison their approval. And not just those crowds.

“This is why we need a wall to secure our borders,” wrote Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Minister in an internet post shortly before Trump’s inauguration on January 20th,explaining, ”There are violent criminals and members of drug cartels coming in and we must put a stop to it.” This statement by such a high ranking Texas government official was after the report that two men had been shot on a remote ranch in Presidio County, in Far West Texas, by Mexican interlopers who had tried to steal the victims’ RV vehicle, a report Miller then retailed. The Presidio County Sheriff Office put out a statement that this was false news, and that the two men had been hurt in a “friendly fire” hunting accident with no other involvement. Despite this Miller has refused to withdraw his post-truth alternative-facts interpretation of the shooting and doubtless most Texans now believe the false version of the event, and take it as confirmation of their paranoid fears. (Not all these fears are groundless, however. The same week $2 million dollars worth of crystal meth was seized in a car at the legal crossing port of Presidio, concealed in the tyres and bumpers of a vehicle driver in from Mexico by a drug gang.)
"What Illegals have to cross..."
Far West Texas was the Last American Frontier on the march to American Manifest Destiny.”Ain’t No Law West of the Pecos” (the eastern river boundary of Far West Texas) used to be said long after the rest of the West was won. Victorio and his Apache bands raided here till the 1880s despite the $200 offered for every Indian scalp, man, woman, or child, and even until 1921 the area of Big Bend at the Mexican border was occupied by US troops, fighting both Mexican revolutionaries like Pancho Villa who invaded the USA, or engaging in hot pursuit into Mexico itself after Mexican bandits who themselves raided over US the border. The bandits were seldom offered the chance of a trail when caught. It is an area which was Confederate in the Civil War, having enslaved Mexicans and native Americans rather than negroes, and has been-like the rest of Texas, overwhelmingly Republican since one of Texas’ less honoured sons, Lyndon B Johnson, devoted himself to advancing Civil Rights in the 1960s. It is no accident that in was in Texas, that the Bushes, George and Dubya, founded their ranch and found their spiritual home. You are much more likely to see a Texas flag than a stars and stripes on people’s homes hereabouts, and even the occasional Confederate one flutters as well. Freedom or Death, Don’t Mess with Texas, has been the traditional mindset. Road signs are peppered with bullet holes, and shops of all description carry signs welcoming customers who are carrying arms in defence of their civil liberties.

But Far West Texas is changing. This area was stolen from Mexico in a series of aggressive wars from the 1820s to the 1840s - cue Davy Crockett, Alamo and All That, but it is being slowly wrested back by Hispanic immigration. El Paso contains the bulk of the population of the area, about 700,000 of Far West Texas’ - the area between the Rio Grande and the River Pecos - total of approximately 800,000. Thirty years ago El Paso was 50% Hispanic 50% white; now it is 80% Hispanic. And as traditional industries of ranching and mining contract, the white population of the rest of sparsely inhabited Far West Texas is also changing, and consists increasingly of liberal minded incomers seeking an area where the excellent climate gives opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, and the landscape gives inspiration for artistic workers of all sorts. Former mining towns like Terlingua which once produced mercury are now flourishing artistic and musical centres, gaining an almost entirely new population in the last 30 years or so. The most redneck area of Texas, where films like Giant were set, is becoming one of the more liberal and tolerant in some locations.
I recently spent a week in Terlingua soaking up the musical scene, centred largely on the Starlight Theatre, which used to be the cinema of the mining town in days gone by and is now a great restaurant with music almost every night. Some of the musicians are people who have settled here, some are transients who flock here in winter for the climate and a chance to sing for their suppers. It was good to hear a wizened old timer singing in the Starlight, performing a take-off of Merle Haggard’s redneck anthem Oakie from Miskogie, re-rendering the original illiberal words as
We all smoke dope down in terlingua/Some of use even tried LSD
We dont hate gays down in Terlingua, and we don’t hang negroes from the trees.
I talked with him afterwards on the porch outside the theatre where people engage in jamming sessions under the stars, and hope to get their foot in the door and he told me, “Ain’t 10 people in this whole town voted for that *********Trump.”
(Illustrations supplied by the author of this article.)
Even in this relative backwoods, which remains the most sparsely populated and probably most remote part of the mainland USA ( it is 600 miles to Dallas!) marches in defence of the threats to women’s rights and immigrant rights have been called in towns such as Marfa and Alpine by those who feel threatened by the implications of a Trump Presidency, adverts have appeared in local newspapers such as the Big Bend Sentinel, paid for by local activist groups , stating “We the People are Greater than Fear, We are Greater than Hate” and in certain areas the local authorities have refused to implement anti-immigrant measures and created immigrant-friendly zones. The central legislature in Texas, strongly Republican, is threatening to move against these “sanctuary zones” threatening legal and financial penalties. The Proposed Senate Texas Bill No.4 put forward in the current Texas Legislative Session by Senator Charles Perry specifically targets these “sanctuary areas”. Other proposed legislation would restrict access by dependents of unregistered immigrants to education. The Republican lawmakers know their targets.

El Paso County has officially resolved to decline to enforce federal immigration laws, and has been supported by a coalition - Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA) - which wants to legalise all undocumented immigrants and this in turn had found support from El Paso Democrat Senator Jose Rodriguez, who has called for  “the rejection of the politics of racism, division and hatred, in favour of the principles of human dignity and rights.” The struggle between the forces which brought Trump to power and those appalled by that victory, are engaged, not just in Washington but also here in the area that is probably the Back of Even Beyond in mainland USA.

The outcome of this struggle over the next four years is uncertain. But one thing is certain, There Will Be No Wall. You just have to come out to Far West Texas and look at the pathetic trickle that is the Rio Grande once it has been raped upstream for agricultural irrigation in semidesert areas, for golf course and lawn watering, for industrial and power-generation use, and realise that at most parts of its 1,000 mile-plus meander through the Texas-Mexico borderland, you could walk across the river at many places with feet dry. And the immigrants do, then taking to the huge uninhabited areas as passage to what they hope is a better life. Despite the mega millions spent on Border patrols these are tokenist at best; car checks on roads that no sane cayote (illegal drug or people smuggler) would use. To police even the Texas portion of the border efficiently would require probably the entire resources of the US Army, and the costs of constructing any even partially effective wall would be beyond the spending capacity of a country already more indebted than any previously in history to the tune of trillions of dollars.

Technically and economically the idea of a wall is revealed as an absurdity as you stand on the banks of the Rio Grande. And even if the USA could build such a construction, the Great Wall did not save China, nor did walls like Hadrian’s save Rome. A nation that was the world’s banker until the end of the 1980s is now dependent for its economic survival of loans from China. The American century is over, the American Empire is in decline and the great metaphor for this decline is the situation on its Rio Grande frontier with the Hispanic world.

I.M.