Liberation Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Records of Liberation [1970-1992]. Comprising: papers of Liberation's Executive Committee; Central Council; Annual General Meetings and Area councils. Outgoing and incoming correspondence of Liberation's officers. Papers relating to Liberation's activities including campaigns and conferences organised by the organisation. Papers relating to Liberation's office management and finances. Publications, mostly not produced by Liberation, relating to countries and campaigns around the world. Papers relating organisations affiliated to Liberation, including the Labour Party and Communist Party of Great Britain. Some personal papers, including papers relating to Kay Beauchamp, former editor of the Liberation Journal.

Administrative / Biographical History

Liberation is a UK based non-governmental organisation (NGO), which campaigns against economic exploitation and neo-colonialism in the the Global South, and in favour of political and social rights around the world.

Liberation is the successor organisation to the Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF). The MCF had been founded in 1954 to campaign against formal colonialism conducted by European states around the world. By the late 1960s many former colonies had attained political independence. However, it was believed that there was an ongoing need to campaign against what was understood as neo-colonialism in the form of the continued economic and political dependence of these newly independent countries. Therefore to reflect these changing global political circumstances, in 1970 the name of the MCF was changed to 'Liberation (incorporating the Movement for Colonial Freedom)'.

The objects and priorities of the organisation were stated in Liberation's first constitution, adopted in April 1972:

"1. The right of all peoples to full independence (including self-determination and freedom from external political, economic and military domination).

2. The principle of international mutual aid by the extension to the underdeveloped territories of economic aid free from exploitation or external ownership, of technical assistance in the economic, social and political fields, and of assistance in the development of trade unions and co-operative organisations.

3. The application of the Four Freedoms and the Declaration of Human Rights to all peoples, and Freedom from contempt by the abolition of discrimination on the grounds of race, creed or colour.

4. The abolition of imperialism and neo-colonialism and their replacement by international cooperation in political and economic relations based on equal responsibility and status."

Liberation's aims as an organisation were pursued, through the lobbying of both the British and overseas governments; and public awareness raising campaigns, which included holding meetings, conferences and organising demonstrations.

Liberation organised conferences on particular events, issues and themes including World Poverty; Apartheid in South Africa, and World Peace. Delegates from Liberation were also invited to attend various overseas conferences and the organisation sponsored delegations to the UK from developing countries and national liberation movements. In addition, Liberation was increasingly involved in domestic campaigns against racism in Britain, in particular, participating in the Greater London Council's 'Year against Racism' in 1984.

The group produced its own journal 'Liberation', alongside country specific publications and reports; in 1980 the organisation also sponsored the establishment of a publishing branch, specialising in cultural and youth titles - Young World Books.

In 1971 the annual income of the organisation was approximately £3,900. Funds were raised through individual membership subscriptions and from affiliate organisations. Affiliated organisations included trades unions, constituency Labour parties, trades councils, co-operative societies, peace societies and student organisations.

Liberation held national offices at 374 Grays Inn Road, London and then at 313/5 Caledonian Road, London before moving to smaller accommodation in the 1980s at 490 Kingsland, Dalston, London and later being based at Fenner Brockway's home. Liberation is, as of 2010, based at the ASLEF trade union offices at 9 Arkwright Road, Hampstead, London.

Liberation retained the internal structure of its predecessor the MCF. Annual General Meetings were held for the purpose of determining wider policy and electing office bearers and Liberation's governing body: the Central Council. From this Central Council, a smaller Executive Council was elected, which served as the organisation's leadership group.

Liberation continued the MCF model of organising Area Councils to co-ordinate the work of the organisation around the country. However, the number of these councils appears to have decreased during the 1970s and 1980s. The notable exception to this decline was the London Area Council, which continued into the 1990s, and although a separate body, met jointly with the Liberation Executive Council throughout the year.

The Labour MP Fenner Brockway (later Lord Brockway) had been the MCF's first chair and remained significantly involved in its successor, as President of Liberation, from the organisations founding until his death in April 1988, at the age of 99.

Stan Newens (b.1930) who succeeded Brockway as chair of the MCF and remained chair of Liberation until 1999, afterwards becoming the organisation's President. Newens was a prominent left-wing Labour MP, sitting in Parliament from 1964-70 and 1974-83; he became Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Foreign Affairs Group. From 1984-1999 he represented London as an MEP.

David 'Tony' Gilbert (b.1914), was Liberation General Secretary between 1976 and 1991. Gilbert was born in the East End of London to Jewish immigrant parents. He became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britian and fought as a volunteer with the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, where he was taken prisoner during fighting. He later served in the British Army in Burma during the Second World War. After the war he worked as a miner and railway worker. Before becoming Liberation General Secretary he was active in the London Area Council of the MCF. Gilbert died in 1992.

Kay Beauchamp (b.1899), a former school teacher, was Secretary of the Liberation London Area Council and editor of the Liberation journal for many years until her death. A founder member of the MCF, she had been a member of the Community Party of Great Britian since 1924, Beauchamp had been one of the original, and only female, journalists at the Daily Worker newspaper in 1930 and a former Communist councillor. Beauchamp married Tony Gilbert in 1972. Beauchamp died in 1992.

Other notable activists included: Michael Szur, a Polish Jewish member of the South African Communist Party worked in the MCF/Liberation office after moving to London. He died in 1975. Dr. Leon Szur, son of Michael Szur, was a radiotherapist consultant at Hammersmith hospital. He served in the South African medical corps during the Second World War and moved to London in 1947. Leon Szur was a foundation member of the MCF and member of its Central Council. He died only a few months after his father in 1975.

Arrangement

The decision to create a Liberation collection [Ref: LIB], separate from SOAS Libray's existing Movement for Colonial Freedom collection [Ref: MCF], was taken at the time of the deposit of material from Liberation in 1999. The addition of a further material deposited in 2009 from Liberation has respected this division.

The Liberation material follows the general arrangement of material in the MCF collection. Material is divided into the following sections: Executive Committee; Central Council; Area councils; affiliates; correspondence, countries, activities; office management; publications, AGMs, finance, personal papers, and miscellaneous.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan from Liberation in 1999

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright held by Liberation

Accruals

Accruals expected.

Related Material

SOAS Library also holds the papers of the Movement for Colonial Freedom [Ref: MCF], the precursor organization to Liberation. These papers include Central Council and Executive Committee papers, Area Council papers, country committee papers, finance papers, correspondence, subject files, and printed publications. The MCF collection primarily relates to the period 1954-1970 but includes a small amount of material relating to the period after the organisation became Liberation in 1970. The MCF material also includes the papers of the associated but independent organisation: the Committee for Peace in Nigeria (1954-1970).

SOAS Library also holds copies of the 'Liberation' Journal, incomplete run [Ref: Per 50L / 655 730] and a number of MCF publications (1968), deposited as part of the Southern African Materials Project. [Ref: MS 380210].

A further small collection of MCF papers, comprising miscellaneous minutes, statements, annual conference papers and reports (1961-1965), are held at the London School of Economics Library, Archives Division [Ref: MISC 0557].

Some papers of Liberation were also deposited in 1997 at The Working Class Movement Library, Salford. These papers include Central Council and Executive Committee papers, AGM papers, London Area Council and Scottish Area Council papers, correspondence, Education for a Multicultural Society project papers, anti-racism projects papers and publications. These cover the period 1972-1995.

The papers of Lord Fenner Brockway (President of Liberation) are held at the Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge [Ref: FEBR]. These papers comprise manuscripts of books, articles, speeches, diaries, correspondence, book reviews and press cuttings for the period 1914-1982. These papers include some material deposited via Liberation and SOAS in 1985.

Further personal papers of Kay Beauchamp (Editor of Liberation journal and Secretary London Area Council) and her partner Tony Gilbert (General Secretary of Liberation), including some papers directly relating to Liberation, are held as part of the archives of the Communist Party of Great Britain at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, People's History Museum, Manchester [Ref: CP/IND/KAYB]. In addition, material relating to CPGB involvement in Liberation is also located in the papers of the CPGB International Department [Ref: CP/CENT/INT/64].