A new course at MML which aims to provide the historical background to the criminal law, particularly that of England and Wales, from a critical and Marxist point of view. It is hoped that some of the reasons behind some apparently irrational aspects of the law and its implementation will be made clearer, through tracing their origins.
The classes and their sequence have been designed on the assumption and hope that those who come will attend all, or at least most, of the classes. This will allow a minimum of tedious repetition and rehearsal of material previously covered.
Some prior reading, before each class, after the first, will be suggested, in order to enable as many as possible to take an active part in discussion. I shall try to suggest short, accessible pieces and, where possible, will try to make them available via the website, or as hard copies for those without access to electronic sources, at the preceding class.
The five classes are as follows
1. 13th September : Marx on ‘Crime’; ‘Theory’ Vs ‘Common Sense’; Where the Law comes from; Race; Class; Gender; and Machinery of Law Enforcement; Choosing and Making ‘Examples’ to deter offenders. The criminal law before the 18th Century.
There is no preparatory reading for this session. But Albion’s Fatal Tree, (1975), Ed: Douglas Hay et al, would be a good general background to the course. Ch. 1, by Doug Hay, would be especially useful.
2. 20th September: Class and Criminal Law: 'Patronage Chains'; Prosecution Practice; Labelling and Character; 'Negotiation by Riot', Food, Turnpike, Industrial and Political Riots; The Changing Role of Men and Women in Riots. Suggested Reading: Simon Renton 'The Moral Economy of the English Middling Sort in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Norwich in 1766 and 1767', in Markets, Market Culture and Popular Protest in Eighteenth Century Britain and Ireland, Edited by Adrian Randall
3. 27th September: ‘Perks’ into ’Theft’, the Invention of ‘Crime’; the Rise of ‘Absolute Property’; the Criminalisation of Customary Taking in Manufacture and in the Countryside.
1) Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: (2003) Chapter 11
2) Karl Marx: on the Theft of Wood;
Marxist .org/archive/marx/works/download/marx_Rheinishe_Zeitung.pdf pp 48-81.
4. 4th October: The Bourgeois Demand for Order and the Rise of the New Police; The Irish Context of the Met Police; Class and Opposition to the New Police; ‘Moral Panic’ and the Making of an ’Under-Class’
Ruth Paley, ‘ ”An imperfect, inadequate and wretched system?”: policing London before Peel’, Criminal Justice History (1989).
5. 11th October: Capital Punishment; the Image of the State; the Justification of Punishment; the Decline of Transportation and the Rise of the Prison. Reform and Retribution, Detection and Deterrence.
Harry Potter, Hanging in Judgment: Religion and the Death Penalty in England, (1993).
TUESDAYS EVENINGS FROM September 13th, 2016 7:00 PM
Developments over the past couple of years are forcing a profound reconsideration of the nature of education within the trade union and labour movement.
# Government support for the Union Learning Fund has been cut by 35 per cent. Future funding is likely to suffer even bigger reductions – with more restrictive conditions being imposed on what is taught
# The government’s Trade Union Bill is seeking to attack many of the fundamental principles of collective bargaining and to undermine the rationale of the trade union movement
# Within the wider Labour Movement there is a new awareness of the need for education that enables people to challenge the political assumptions of austerity and to attack the arguments about the nature of our society that underlie the TU Bill.
Education within the Union Learning Fund has been very important in providing training and support for tens of thousands of union representatives within the workplace. It has also set important new standards for the quality of education.
At the same time its scope has been restricted by the limits prescribed by the government and, in general, it has not been able to provide a wider understanding of the political and economic system that was a strength of much trade union education up till the 1970s and 80s.
Where does the MML fit in ?
We would say precisely on the terms laid down by its founders: to develop an understanding of Marxism within the trade union and Labour Movement and at the same time to develop an appreciation of the history of that movement.
Promoting Marxism may seem a rather narrow, even sectarian remit. The Trustees of MML would, however, argue it is quite the reverse.
Historically Marxism provided a major part of the world view that united the British Labour movement in its crucial early years of development. While there were differences over how to achieve a socialist society, all sections of the Second International, of which the British Labour Party was part, endorsed socialism as their objective and subscribed to Marx’s analysis of capitalist society. Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, wrote a textbook on socialism endorsing Marxist economics. In 1948 the Labour Party published its own edition of the 1848 Communist Manifesto.
It offers an understanding of our society that directly challenges that of our Conservative government and all who have sought to govern within neo-liberal perspectives – and indeed all orthodox economic perspectives that ultimately make profitability the test for economic and social policy.
Marxism, on the contrary, gets to the heart of our society’s economic contradictions and of the way its necessary structure, the private ownership of the means of production, requires the maintenance and enforcement of fundamental inequalities, of property, of gender and of race, and of ideologies that glorify individualism and greed.
Marxism, by contrast, talks about class in terms of future social transformation: of uniting all who labour by hand or brain around the ideals derived from collective action for justice and social change. It was precisely this vision that motivated past generations of trade unionists through the hardships required to build our movement.
This is why today MML has begun enhancing its education for the trade union and labour movement – moving beyond its traditional lectures series delivered in the Hall of the Library and providing more focused education on both Marxism and on the history of our movement – particularly as represented in the archives of the Library.
These steps are outlined on the following pages. They include: