Defiant, farcical, profane: These are the words that come to mind when attempting to describe the street art that photographer Yoav Litvin has chronicled on the streets of New York for the past few years.
Semi-sanctioned, quasi-legal, or downright illegal, the works that draw Litvin’s eye—those created by alternative painters, graffiti artists, collagists and muralists—are compiled in his new book, Outdoor Gallery: New York City (Ginko Press).
The resulting collection makes a compelling case that ephemeral street art is a cultural treasure.
Although society tends to look at these outdoor works as vandalism, Litvin takes a longer view.
The book profiles 46 artist, mostly pseudonymous personalities—Toofly, Miyok, Icy and Sot, Gaia, Kram and Bunny M being just a few—to prove street art’s current wave impacts contemporary aesthetics just as powerfully as the Salon de Refusés did in the nineteenth century.
Much of that has to do with exposure: While posting on private and city-owned surfaces ensures these works won’t be around for long, the street provides enviable visibility while they last.
These days the format is distinguished by its rebellious edge, too: As Litvin told me, “I can appreciate the rush and risks artists take when putting up pieces in public.
I also really admire their generosity in taking these risks to share their vision.”
Following Australia’s entry into the first World War, thousands of Queenslanders enlisted in the military to go and fight in Europe.
However, as the war dragged on and it became evident that victory would not be achieved quickly or easily, the initial enthusiasm for the conflict waned and recruitment rates began to decline.
The British government, needing fresh manpower to bolster its reserves in France, pressured the Australian federal government to send more reinforcements. The federal government, led by Billy Hughes, did not have the numbers to legislate for compulsory military service.
The Queensland government had originally been mildly supportive of the notion of conscription, but with election of a Labor government led by T. J. Ryan in 1915, the government’s stance hardened by late 1916, as the position of the party’s rank-and-file membership swung decisively to opposing compulsory service.
This opposition was not welcomed by Hughes, and Ryan was the only state premier to openly oppose the federal government on the issue.
The federal government responded to this anti-conscription sentiment in the community with a series of censorship measures, which permitted the federal government to censor speech which in their view would have interfered with the war effort. Some of these censorship measures were unorthodox even for the time.
Premier Ryan and Treasurer Ted Theodore, finding the situation intolerable, decided to counteract the actions of censor Jeremiah Stable by reading out some of the banned material on the floor of state Parliament, working that parliamentary privilege would allow Hansard containing the material to be distributed.
Travelling to Brisbane ostensibly to address a public meeting, Hughes arrived late at night with Stable and a detachment of soldiers at the Queensland Government Printing Office, seizing all 3,300 printed copies of Hansard, along with all of the type.
Hughes then informed Ryan that while there was “nothing worth censoring” in his own speeches, the anti-conscription materials of Theodore and his fellow minister John Fihelly were objectionable and would not be allowed to be distributed.
Hughes also informed the Government Printer, A. J. Cummings not to publish any further copies of the Hansard. Cummings was an ardent conscriptionist, and disclosed to Hughes that Ryan had ordered him to ignore any censorship instructions that he might receive, and that if the Army were to attempt to enter the printing office by force, that the Queensland Police would “offer every assistance in their power” to prevent them from doing so.
Upon learning this, an alarmed Stable, not wanting the situation to descend into violence, cabled Hughes and asked if there were any way to solve the problem without resorting to armed force.
The following day, 27 November, Ryan demanded an explanation from Hughes for the seizure of Hansard, and for the failure of the postal service to transmit copies of the Hansard to subscribers. He also had a special issue of the Government Gazette issued that described the situation, and gave a general description of the contents of the Hansard, without giving any specific details that might fall afoul of the censor.
Hughes responded, taking responsibility for both actions, accusing Ryan of publishing a document that was “a Hansard in name only”, and putting Ryan on notice that “if some of the statements published in your so-called Hansard are repeated outside (of parliamentary privilege), I shall know how to deal with them”.
The Chartist movement emerged out of the London Working Men’s Association in 1836.
Several of the leaders of this group were already involved in publishing radical newspapers. Henry Hetherington had been the publisher of the very popular The Poor Man’s Guardian and James Watson had edited the Working Man’s Friend.
In 1836 John Cleave was the publisher and editor of the most successful radical newspaper in Britain. Cleave’s the Weekly Police Gazette was selling over 40,000 copies a week.
As well as providing information on the latest crimes in Britain, Cleave’s newspaper also campaigned for the Chartist movement. William Lovett, the leader of the Chartists, also edited a newspaper, The Charter.
This newspaper was much more intellectual in its approach that the Weekly Police Gazette and only managed to sell 6,000 copies a week. Another newspaper that supported the Chartists in 1836 was The Champion, a journal inspired by the ideas of William Cobbett.
The Charter, The Champion and the Weekly Police Gazette, were all written and published by supporters of Moral Force Chartism.
The supporters of the Physical Force Chartists felt that there was a need for a newspaper that represented their views.
In 1837, Feargus O’Connor, the Leeds representative of the London Working Mens’ Association, decided to establish a weekly radical newspaper in Yorkshire.
The first edition of the Northern Star was published on 26th May, 1838. Within four months of starting publication, O’Connor’s newspaper was selling 10,000 copies a week.
The success of the Northern Star encouraged other Chartists to publish newspapers.
This included newspapers edited by George Julian Harney (Democrat and the Red Republican); Bronterre O’Brien (The Southern Star and The Northern Liberator) and Thomas Cooper (The Illuminator and The Extinguisher).
One of the most popular Chartist newspapers was the Scottish Chartist Circular and for a while sold 22,000 copies a week.
In 1851 Ernest Jones and George Julian Harney started a new radical newspaper, The Friend of the People. Jones wrote: “The very first, the most essential requisite of a movement is to have an organ to record its proceedings, to communicate through, with its several branches – to appeal through, to exhort through, to speak through, to defend through, to teach through.
A movement that has not the mighty organ of the press at its command is but half a movement – it is a disenfranchised cause, dependent on others, pensioned on others, pauper on others for the expression of its opinions.”
After a dispute with Harney in 1851, Jones started his own journal, The People’s Paper. Jones attempted to publish what he hoped would be a “complete newspaper”. As well as news of the Chartist movement, The People’s Paper included reports of parliamentary debates, public meeting and what Jones called “legal, political, mercantile and general intelligence.”
The newspaper became a socialist newspaper and one of his main contributors included Karl Marx, who was now living in exile in London.
The circulation figures of these newspapers reflected the fortunes of the Chartist movement.
For example, the sales of the Northern Star fell from 50,000 in 1839 to 1,200 a week in 1851. In April 1852 Feargus O’Connor sold the Northern Star to its former editor, George Julian Harney.
Harney merged it with the Friend of the People and called his new paper, the Star of Freedom. However, the Star of Freedom only survived a few months and in December, 1852, the last of the Chartist newspapers came to an end.
The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times and Legacy of Joe Hill.
by William M. Adler
This is the new, definitive, well-illustrated biography of Joe Hill, legendary American songwriter and labor hero, with explosive new evidence pointing to his innocence of the crime for which he was executed nearly a century ago.
In 1914, Joe Hill was convicted of murder in Utah and sentenced to death by firing squad, igniting international controversy.
Many believed Hill was innocent, condemned for his association with the Industrial Workers of the World — the radical Wobblies.
Now, following four years of intensive investigation, William M. Adler gives us the first full-scale biography of Joe Hill, and presents never before published documentary evidence that comes as close as one can to definitively exonerating him.
Joe Hill’s gripping tale is set against a brief but electrifying moment in American history, between the century’s turn and World War I, when the call for industrial unionism struck a deep chord among disenfranchised workers; when class warfare raged and capitalism was on the run.
Hill was the union’s preeminent songwriter, and in death, he became organized labor’s most venerated martyr, celebrated by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, and immortalized in the ballad “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.”
The Man Who Never Died does justice to Joe Hill’s extraordinary life and its controversial end. Drawing on extensive new evidence, Adler deconstructs the case against his subject and argues convincingly for the guilt of another man.
It reads like a murder mystery set against the background of the raw, turn-of-the-century West.
The former transport union official Frederick Blake, recalled: “When the Dagenham girls came down to see Barbara Castle [then employment minister] in 1968 I was asked to sit in a separate room because she wanted to see them on their own, which is fair enough.”
Mr Blake was described by newspapers at the time of the strike as “the leader of the new suffragettes”.
“Although I was in charge of the union for the Ford factory I stayed in the background because I didn’t want people to think that a man was leading the women,” he added. “I was asked by the bosses to tell them to go back to work so we could keep negotiating, but I wouldn’t do that until we had a good settlement because there were men doing the same job and getting paid far more. It wasn’t fair.”
Mr Blake explained that he was an advocate of women’s rights long before the 1968 strike that made history: “When I came home after fighting in Burma in the Second World War and saw the damage that the bombs had done to the country, I thought,
‘Why don’t the women get medals for what they’ve had to put up with, too?’ That’s what first made me think about equality.”
Image: A scene from the 2010 movie “Made in Dagenham”
.When women machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant downed tools in 1968 in protest at the fact that they were classed as unskilled workers, while male colleagues doing the same job were thought to be skilled and paid much more for their efforts, they couldn’t have imagined the ramifications.
The three-week strike brought production at the factory – which was the focus of the UK car industry at the time – to a standstill, and the dispute was resolved only when Barbara Castle was brought in to negotiate a settlement.
The Ford machinists went back to work after agreeing to be paid 92 per cent of male machinists’ wages, and the strike speeded up the introduction of the Equal Pay Act of 1970, which made it illegal to have different pay scales for men and women.
The women on the picket line in 1968 endured jeers when a photographer snapped one of their banners declaring “We Want Sexual Equality” partly unfurled, so that it read “We Want Sex”.
The machinists were also supported by the union representative Bernie Passingham, and many had the backing of husbands who worked in the factory.
At the time the practice of women being paid less than men for the same jobs was widespread – a tradition that hasn’t entirely died out