Sunday, July 21, 2013

Socialist artists and Third World Books in 1979 South London

Looking through an old copy of Photography/Politics: One, published by the Photographers Workshop in September 1979, I noticed a couple of interesting South London small ads.

Sabarr Books was at 121 Railton Road SE24 'Specialising in books on Third World politics and literature'. I believe that Olive Morris (among other things a Brixton Black Panther) was involved with this. Later the same address was squatted for many years as the 121 Centre anarchist bookshop and social space.

The League of Socialist Artists was based at 18 Camberwell Church Street (now Tuckers solicitors), and were advertising a publication on 'Class War in the Arts! The League of Socialist Artists v. The "Art and Culture" Agencies of Monopoly Capital'.

The LSA seem to have been a dogmatic group promoting strict 'socialist realism' in art and associated with the small Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain. According to this article by Sam Richards:

'In addition to his activities  in the MLOB, Mike Baker and other members of the group, notably his co-worker and wife, Maureen Scott, were active from August 1971 in the League of Socialist Artists (LSA). John Walker argues that: "Despite their left-wing rhetoric, in certain respects the LSA artists were conservatives: they believed in representation not abstraction, employed traditional techniques such as painting and drawing, accepted art galleries as places to display work and the necessity for artists to make a living by selling their products as commodities"(Left Shift: Radical Art in 1970s Britain).  Based at 18 Church Street, Camberwell,The Communard Gallery, until 1975 provided the exhibition space where they exhibited their own work, delivered lectures, published the poetry of the Turkish Communist Nazim Hikmet, The Wall ,with illustrations by Scott, sold posters of Marx, Lenin and Stalin and generally promoted the cause of socialist realism'.

As was usually the way with such organisations there were bitter splits and denunciations. Baker was expelled as leader of the MLOB in 1974 - and in another local connection I note that the address given for the organisation at the time was 17b Brindley Street SE14.

(found this image online, seemingly from a gallery catalogue)


Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

Railton Road and neighbouring streets were a wonderful area of Socialist groups then.

I lived in a flat in Spenser Road, just off Railton Road, from 1976 until the early 1980s and remember being canvassed by door-to-door groups of activists, including bunch who were convinced, completely convinced, that their HQ in Acre Lane was the equivalent of Mao's forward base from which he embarked on the Long March in the 1930s.

Transpontine said...

Think that must have been the grandiosely titled Mao Zedong Memorial Centre at 140 Acre Lane in Brixton which is mentioned here:

Not sure history has proved them right that the 'whole world will be shaped in the bright red image of the greatest communist that has or ever lived or will ever live, beloved Chairman Mao!'. I guess they might be suprised too that China, still under the rule of the Communist Party, is a powerhouse of global capitalism.


I have a 2 degrees of separation to Maureen Scott.

Transpontine said...

Might have to do a bit more research on Maureen Scott, apparently she painted a Chile mural in Peckham in the AEU HQ. Building is still there but I guess mural has probably been painted over, wonder if anybody has a picture of it.

Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

Sinister and horrible. The group I mentioned in my comment on 22 July, which Transpontine followed up, is the group now involved in the slavery accusation in Angell Town.

I was tempted to laugh at them, not only in the 1970s but in July, but not any more. I wonder what happened to people involved in all the other far-left groups in and around Brixton in the 1970s?

Transpontine said...

Well most of the other 'far left' groups weren't as far out as this one, so guess most of the members of other groups are just leading the same kind of spectrum of normal/messed up lives as everybody else to be honest.

flora aurora said...

My now lost Chile mural appears on my web site when it was presented to the AUEW. I HAVE NEVER MANAGED TO TRACE IT AFTER THE union MERGERS (It was detachable). SOMEBODY OUT THERE MUST KNOW.

the artist