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Lessons for socialists

As the influential text  “In and against the State”,  celebrates its fortieth anniversary, a talk in London on 19 February will provide a space to reexamine the apparent contradiction that has always given the Left food for thought.


Photo from Housmans Radical Booksellers event/Facebook

Natacha Andueza Bosch


Not long ago, this small book enjoyed a resurgence, particularly in the United Kingdom, where elections and Brexit anxiety brought greater attention to the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The book first came out in 1979 and was written by Jeanette Mitchell, Donald Mackenzie, John Holloway, Cynthia Cockburn, Kathy Polanshek, Nicola Murray, Neil McInnes and John McDonald, members of the London Edinburgh Weekend Return Group, a working group of the Conference of Socialist Economists.

Updated on a couple of occasions, it examines the experiences of working class people, the majority socialists, involved in the public sector and the contradictions inherent in such a relationship.

In and Against the State has principally been used as a foundation document for the creation of new forms of political practice and has supported the work of many activists now “comprising the grassroots behind Corbynism”. For this reason and to coincide with the anniversary, a talk “In and Against the State: Lessons from our recent past” has been organised, based on historical material that shows how this seemingly contradictory idea has been an identifiable trend in the history of the Left.

The guest speakers at the event are Rosemary Grennan, co director of May Day Rooms, and Seth Wheeler, cofounder of Labour Transformed and editor of Notes from Below. Grennan and Wheeler will also explore the historic relationships between autonomous social movements and their attempts to exercise power through institutional and parliamentary means in order to “extract visionary lessons for contemporary practice”.

Photo: Pixabay

In the words of the event organisers, Housmans Radical Booksellers,   “In and Against the State, addresses how revolutionary socialists were able to square the apparent contradiction of remaining revolutionary while working within the constraints of the state’s ‘disciplinary architectures’. Informed by ‘autonomist’ political ideas and practices, unleashed in the global ruptures of 1968, ‘In and Against the State’s authors spoke to a generation of activists wrestling with where best to place their energies in recognition of the central place that state provision played in the social and technical reproduction of the working class.”

Time and place: Wednesday 19 February, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Housmans Radical Booksellers, 5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX London, UK.

For more information about the event, click here or visit Housmans Radical Booksellers.

(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email:

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