The Anthropocene

A post created from my experiences at the Marxism and Nature day school which took place at Student Central, Malet Street, London on Saturday.


This post is based on a day school organised by the International Socialism Journal titled Marxism and Nature which took place on Saturday. To set the scene, here is the timetable for the day:



The travel should have been straightforward, since Malet Street is walkable from King’s Cross, but engineering works intervened. The first effect of the engineering works was that I had to get the 6:54AM rather than 7:54AM train from Lynn. After getting the replacement bus service from Ely to Cambridge the next train to London turned out to be a stopper, so reckoning on saving a bit of time overall, I alighted at Finsbury Park and took the Piccadilly line line to Russell Square. Having a little time to spare, I avoided the most crowded route, opting for a slightly circuitous walk which had the bonus of taking in this splendid commemorative plate:


This post will be followed by several on focussing specifically on the public transport elements of the day.


Here before getting to the real meat of the post are some photos taken at the event. The event took place at Student Central, formerly known as the University of London Union (ULU). The opening and closing plenaries were in the Upper Hall, which when I first visited the building was known as the Badminton Court (although these are both beaten in the changeability stakes by The Venue, which was Manning Hall when i first visited, and then became Room 101).



The pictures produced below come from all across the day…

These slides are not presented in the order in which they were shown – the first 14 are from Ian Angus’ talk in the closing plenary, before we have some the workshop session I attended during the early afternoon and then back to Ian Angus’ talk.
The derivation of the word Anthropocene.


These six slides, starting with this comparison between the instability of the Pleistocene and the stability of the Holocene and ending with the indicators that prove to all who will see (remember, there are none so blind as those who will not see).



I have included some of Ian Rappel’s slides above, so this section will focus mainly on the other speaker at the workshop, Sarah Ensor, who is researching the history of class struggle in Iceland and whose blog can be found here.



The closing plenary featured Ian Angus, many of whose slides I have already shown, and Camilla Royle, deputy editor of International Socialism Journal, who had played a key role in organising the event. The event ended with a show of solidarity with antu-fracking campaigner Tina Rothery.


Sally Campbell introduces the closing plenary.
Ian Angus, who travelled all the way from Canada to speak here.


Camilla Royle following Ian Angus.



Knowing that a non-stop train to Cambridge would be leaving Kings Cross at 17:44 I headed that way in no great hurry, and was comfortably aboard the train. Here are some final photographs…


The southbound London Underground routes from Finsbury Park.


Excellent combined route map of these three lines, Kings Cross.



Marxism 1: Getting There and Day 1

An account of my experiences onj the opening day of Marxism 2016, topped and tailed with details of getting there, and getting to my accommodation after the final meeting.


Welcome to the first of what will be a series of posts about Marxism 2016, a five-day political festival that happened in London between June 30th and July 4th.


I made my usual allowances for things to go wrong, catching the 10:54 train out of King’s Lynn. This then ran very smoothly, meaning that I had time once at the event to deposit one bag, pick up a final timetable and plan my meetings without hurry.


This meeting, with Mark L Thomas as speaker was scheduled for the Drama Studio on level one of the Institute of Education building. However, the numbers of people wishing to attend led to a last minute change of venue to the Elvin Hall.

The talk started, as it had to, with some stuff about the attempted coup against a leader voted for by 59.5% of the membership. The 172 PLP members who voted for the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn are vastly out of step with their membership – most are pro-austerity while their membership is anti-austerity.

One of the points made about the progress of this attempted coup was that if it succeeded Labour would have lost all claim to be regarded as democratic party – 172 highly placed individuals would have demonstrated that their opinions counted for more than those of over 250,000 who voted for Corbyn.

Mark L Thomas reckoned that the right-wingers in the PLP had two fears:

  1. As people who depend on election results they feared that Corbyn could not win an election and…
  2. As right wingers they feared that Corbyn could win an election (Blair himself had said opnely that he would rather lose an election than win one with Corbyn as leader).

This meeting was an excellent and inspiring start to the event. Of course since then tens of thousands of people have joine the Labour party, many stating that their reason doing so is to support Corbyn.

I will finish this section with a suggestion/ challenge: if the 172 are so confident that they are in the right why don’t they resign their seats, triggering 172 by-elections, in which they stand without the benefit of the Labour rosette against whoever the CLPs choose as the Labour party candidate? Of course the answer to this is the same as the answer to why hasn’t one of these individuals garnered 51 signatures and challenged Corbyn to a leadership battle: they know that in a fair, open fight like that they would get thrashed.

A late addition – it appears from breaking news that the Chilcot report (it is fairly obvious from the timing of the attempted coup against Corbyn that they wanted him out before Chilcot was released) is very damining – here is a snippet from a much longer piece that can be viewed here:

In its damning report the inquiry panel found:

  • Judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were ‘presented with a certainty that was not justified’;
  • There was ‘little time’ to properly prepare three military brigades for deployment in Iraq, the risks were not ‘properly identified or fully exposed’ to ministers, resulting in ‘equipment shortfalls’;
  • Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were under-estimated;
  • Planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam’s fall were ‘wholly inadequate’;
  • Mr Blair’s government failed to achieve its stated objectives.


Mark L Thomas giving his talk.


This meeting, with main speaker Sally Campbell (editor of Socialist Review magazine, and author of Rosa Luxemburg: A Rebels Guide) and chaired by Ruby Kirsch was also very interesting and lively.

Sally (left as you view the picture) and Ruby preparing for the meeting
Sally giving her talk



Finally in terms of first day meetings came the Opening Rally, at 7PM in the Logan Hall. We heard from a variety of workers who have been involved in struggles in various places (as well as speakers from the UK this panel included an Irish TD and a French railway worker. Perhaps most impressive were Victor and Juan, two cleaners who spoke by way of a translator, and who have been part of an all out strike in the heart of the City. After all these amazing contributions Amy Leather (organiser of the Marxism festival) made the last speech. The whole thing was superbly chaired by Emma Davis, a teacher.

The whole panel of speakers
Emma Davis calls the meeting to order
Emma introducing the first speaker.



The person who had put me up last year had offered to do so again this year. Unfortunately he could not attend the opening day of the festival, so we had arranged a meeting point at the Rose and Crown on Hoe Street, which I located without undue difficulty.


Special Post: Russell Square


This is the fourth piece of its kind, providing a deeply personal, station-by-station look at London. The previous three pieces focus on South Kensington, Tooting Bec and Aldwych.


Russell Square is served by the Piccadilly line and was one of the original stations on that line when it was opened in 1906. It is connected to the surface by lifts or stairs according to choice. It is the local station for the British Museum, but although I love that institution this is not the main importance of Russell Square in my life. Russell Square is also the local station for Great Ormond Street Hospital, where i was a patient for a very long time in my childhood. I managed by to be ill in way that they had never encountered before. They eventually worked out what had caused the illness by discarding all the impossibles and accepting that whatever was left (a previously unheard of reaction to a bout of chicken pox) however improbable it might seem had to be the answer. I eventually left the hospital for good 14 months (one sixth of  life to that period) after first being admitted.

There are three things I remember about this period. First of all, as a day patient in the last few months of my time at the hospital, it was during this period that I properly discovered London Underground, and began to develop an enduring interest in public transport. Secondly, it was as a patient at the hospital that I discovered my affinity for numbers, courtesy of the ward tutor, Don. Thirdly, I remember regular trips to nearby Corams Fields to get out in the open air.