What did H G Wells and Sylvia Pankhurst find on their visits to the first Communist state? What was it like being brought up in a Communist family in Britain following the events of 1917? Join writer and broadcaster David Aaronovitch alongside historians and archivists to uncover the effect of the Revolution on British socialists.

The Russian Revolution and the birth of the Soviet state had a deep and enduring impact on the British Left, which continues to shape socialist politics to this day. Socialists in Britain watched the unexpected events of 1917 with amazement and confusion, and struggled to draw lessons for themselves. The Bolsheviks, meanwhile, saw the nations of the British Empire as key targets through which their revolt could spread, hoping to spark a world-wide revolution. At this packed day of talks, historians and archivists uncover stories and records of their responses at home, and visits made to witness the new state at first hand.  Writer and broadcaster David Aaronovitch concludes the day with an account of his upbringing in a loyal Communist family in Britain.

Programme

09.00 Registration and coffee

09.30 – 10.15 Dr Jonathan Davis (Anglia Ruskin University) opening keynote: The British Left and the Russian Revolution

10.15 – 11.00 Dr Billy Kenefick (University of Dundee): The Scottish Radical Left and the impact of the Russian Revolution

11.00 – 11.20 Coffee/tea break

11.20 – 13.00 Dr John S. Partington (University of Reading): One Russia, Two Reflexions: H. G. Wells and Clara Zetkin on the Soviet Experiment, 1917-1934

Professor Mary Davis (Visiting Professor of Labour History, Royal Holloway, University of London): Sylvia Pankhurst and the Russian Revolution; Pioneering Solidarity

13.00- 14.15 Lunch (not included)

14.15 – 15.30 Short introductions to British Left archives and resources with Ralph Gibson (Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies), Jeff Howarth (TUC Library), Meirian Jump (Marx Memorial Library) and Katya Rogatchevskaia (British Library)

15.30 – 15.50 Coffee/tea break

15.50 – 16.30 David Aaronovitch concludes the day with an account of his upbringing in a loyal Communist family in Britain – a life filled with picket lines, militant trade unions, solidarity rallies for foreign Communists, the Red Army Choir, copies of the Daily Worker, all underpinned by a quiet love of the Soviet Union. He is the author of the recent autobiography Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists.

 

Two temporary displays will be available to view at this event:

The Russian Revolution and its impact on the course and outcome of WWI. This Heritage Lottery funded exhibition on the impact of the Russian Revolution 1917-22 looks at the two revolutions of 1917, their effect on WW1, the ensuing Wars of Intervention and Labour Movement responses in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

 

The Russian Revolution and the Impact on the Left 1917-1926.  Drawing on the TUC Library’s extensive collections, this new exhibition documents the attempts of British socialists and trade unionists to interpret, emulate and come to terms with the revolution, revealing the extent to which Russia’s socialist experiment challenged accepted notions of internationalism, solidarity and class consciousness not just at home but overseas.