Friday, June 28, 2024

Vietnam Solidarity in Blackheath 1966

An interesting item from a July 1966 edition of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign bulletin, published to mark its founding conference that year. It includes an announcement that 'the South East London Centre for Socialist Education is organising a summer fair to buy arms for the National Liberation Army of Vietnam', an event to include an art exhibition, poetry reading, live jazz and Indian classical sitar. The venue address was 7 The Glebe, Blackheath, London SE3. 

Another local detail - the National Council of the VSC included Ted Knight, attending the conference as representative of Lewisham Trades Council and later Leader of Lambeth Council.

The Centre for Socialist Education was a national initiative associated with The Week newsletter, an attempt to develop a non-sectarian independent socialist project to the left of the Labour Party. Its founders included Ralph Miliband, Marxist academic and father of later Labour leading lights Ed and David.  There were various other local branches including in Croydon, the SE London Group  being set up at a meeting at same Blackheath address in January 1966.

The Week, 27 January 1966

The Week, 17 February 1966

Those named as involved included Inge Westergaard (secretary of the group), John Westergaard (sociologist and later co author of the classic 'Class in a Capitalist Society'), Tony Stone and Malcolm Caldwell (chair). The latter was a prominent figure on the left who was for a while chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In the 1970s he stood for Labour in Bexley Council elections but came to a tragic end as a result of his support for the brutal Cambodian regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Caldwell, like Noam Chomsky at the time, refused to believe reports coming out of Cambodia of atrocities and he went to visit in 1978. Shortly after a meeting with Pol Pot he was murdered by his henchmen, though the exact circumstances are unclear. A few days after his death Pol Pot was deposed by invading Vietnamese forces - successor to the very national liberation army of Vietnam fundraised for in Blackheath 12 years earlier.

(Not sure if 7 The Glebe in Blackheath was a private residence at the time or some kind of public venue, but wonder if it was where Caldwell lived as it is given as  his contact address here)

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