Workshop and film screening on transnational solidarities

As part of their visiting fellowships at the CSMCH, Ljubica Spaskovska and Claudia Stern each had to organise an academic and public engagement event. With a bit of imagination, however, they were able to combine their expertise and put together a workshop and film screening. In this blog, they tell us a little more about what happened on the day. 

On 27 May 2019, the CSMCH hosted a workshop on the Histories of Solidarity, Youth and Transnationalism in the 20th Century. There were two panels. The first focused on ‘Youth, Generation and Activism in the Cold War’ and featured papers by Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Bangor University) and Ljubica Spaskovska (University of Exeter).

Nikos’ presentation, entitled “Internationalism, Holocaust Memories and Organised Youth Mobility from West Germany to Israel during the Cold War”, concentrated on the “special relationship” between West Germany and Israel and interrogated internationalism’s characterisation as a solely benevolent phenomenon. Ljubica’s paper on “Non-Aligned Punk – Youth Cultures and Politics Between the Blocs” presented part of her first monograph on “the last Yugoslav generation” and used the citizenship lens to analyse youth negotiation and contestation, as well as the framing of transgressive cultural and political acts in the context of the 1980s.  

Emile Chabal’s presentation focused on student activism in Paris in the late 1930s, especially in the Rassemblement mondial des étudiants

The second panel, ‘Revolutionary (Inter)nationalism in the ‘Short’ 20th Century’, featured presentations by Emile Chabal (Edinburgh) and Harini Amarasurya (Open University). Emile’s paper was entitled “Revolutionary Dreams: Eric Hobsbawm and Global Communism in the Late 1930s”. It uncovered Hobsbawm’s transnational engagement and early political socialisation as a young student in interwar Europe, in particular through his involvement with the Rassemblement Mondial des Etudiants (The World Student Association for Peace, Freedom and Culture), underlining the importance of the little explored aspect of politics and sociability. Harini’s presentation was entitled “From respectable to violent revolutionaries: changing narratives of student activists in Sri Lanka”. She looked at the reasons for and representations of radical leftist student violence, in particular the Sri Lankan student insurrection in 1971, demonstrating that student politics can sometimes be hierarchical, gendered and authoritarian.

The workshop on transnational solidarities ended with the screening of the documentary Nae Pasaran!, directed by Felipe Bustos. The screening was followed by a Q&A moderated by Fraser Raeburn, with the participation of Martín Farias and Claudia Stern, that centred on the Chilean recent history, the political background of Salvador Allende’s government, the Coup on September 11, 1973, and the subsequent dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The screening of ‘Nae Pasaran!’

The story of solidarity of Scottish union workers from the Rolls Royce company who refused to repair the engines of the Hawker Hunters jets used by the military junta in Chile is unravelled throughout the documentary. With a variety of testimonies and unprecedented colour images from the period, the documentary brings together different experiences and exposes the scope of the act of solidarity of the Scottish trade union organisation at the East Kilbride engine factory, with both the Chileans in the country and in the communities in exile during 1970s.

Claudia and Ljubica after the screening

Bob Fulton, Robert Sommerville, John Keenan and the rest of the workers’ refusal to work on arms for Chile is a story of hope that reflects the sense of unity, courage and morality of the factory workers, in a period of trade union strength in the UK. The documentary presents an unknown episode of solidarity toward Chile, that from a transnational viewpoint can be seen as a Cold War nuance. It also shows different faces of Chilean society and their political positions, their ambiguities and their divergent versions of memory. The meaning of democracy, power and the sense of solidarity interconnects with the idea of the collective, where past and present are in dialogue. The director of the documentary sends an inspiring message of global solidarity based on his own history.

This blog post was written jointly by our CMSCH-IASH Visting Fellows for 2018-9, Ljubica Spaskovska and Claudia Stern. You can find out more about their research here.