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The Marx Memorial Library's work continues amid the crisis

While we have temporarily closed our doors on Clerkenwell Green, the MML continues its work mobilising innovative technology in new ways, writes library manager MEIRIAN JUMP

THE Covid-19 pandemic necessitates our closure at 37a Clerkenwell Green. But in the coming weeks and months the Marx Memorial Library (MML) will use digital platforms to facilitate both access to our unique archives on socialist history and engagement with our Marxist education work.

The coronavirus crisis has already resulted in tectonic shifts in our political, economic and social landscape, with, no doubt, more to come. In this period of flux, we hope that our work interpreting past struggles and examining today’s world with a Marxist perspective will have an important role to play — particularly when the time comes to regroup.

Libraries, museums and archives across Britain are closed to the public. Books, manuscripts and journals are locked away in boxes, while events have been cancelled or postponed without an end in sight.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity: how do we plan to deal with these unprecedented circumstances at Marx House?

First, together with Platform Films we are fast-tracking the release of films of recent lectures. If you missed out, now is the time to catch up.

We will be uploading a film each Thursday starting with our series on communist educators and leading figures in the development of the MML as a Workers’ School. The first went live on Thursday March 26 with Professor Mary Davis on Robin Page Arnot.

Next, we will make sessions on Andrew Rothstein and James Klugmann available by Professor John Foster and Prof Roger Seifert respectively. The three lectures mark 100 years since the foundation of the Communist Party in 1920.

These supplement an existing library of films accessible online in the comfort of your own homes. The Engels Memorial Lecture exploring Engels’s early life was given by Terrel Carver In 2018 and Jonathan White’s lecture on Marxism and History was delivered at the end of that year.

Teams of MML volunteers have worked on digitising our collections each week. During this period of closure, we will create new online displays and resources, with a focus on recently catalogued material.

Our priority will be the papers of John Desmond Bernal, eminent scientist, communist, peace campaigner and one-time president of the MML.

His writings examine the ethical role of science, how the work of scientists can transform society for the better, and the importance of international diplomacy and collaboration. Needless to say, these lessons resonate today.

And don’t forget numerous digitised documents populate our website already.

There you will find exhibitions and online displays on the Basque child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, on Socialist Opposition to the First World War and on the Tolpuddle Martyrs told through newspaper reports held in our collections.

As far as possible, we also continue to operate a remote enquiry service, advising researchers on our collections. MML volunteers are working from home and drawing on their recent work with the archives.

We will launch a new research guide on socialist music and song shortly.

2020 marks 150 years since Lenin was born. Self-isolation will not stop us from marking this once in a generation occasion.

This week we open registration for two online lectures on April 23 and 30. Jonathan White will speak to registrants on Lenin’s State and Revolution and the working-class movement today at these free sessions using the Zoom platform.

We anticipate these sessions sparking a lively debate and are now exploring ways of hosting follow-up discussion forums online.

This will complement our usual suite of online courses; students are currently signed up to our “Capitalism, Crisis and Imperialism” course running for the coming five-week period.

We are also enriching this course with new web seminars.

While we are postponing our special event with David Lane, we look forward to inviting those who donated to our flood appeal to a rescheduled celebration later in the year.

Members usually receive a copy of our yearly journal Theory and Struggle in time for our Annual General Meeting. Regretfully, we have had to postpone the meeting and push back the publication date.

Nevertheless, as we make final tweaks to our forthcoming issue, Liverpool University Press have generously provided free online access to Theory and Struggle 2017.

All readers can view this special edition which focuses on the centenary of the Russian Revolution.

What better to while away the hours at home? There you will find articles from Andrew Murray, Sitaram Yechury and Jane McDermid, to name a few.

Social media offers myriad ways of bringing our work to you.

We encourage readers of the paper to follow us on twitter @MarxLibrary for weekly #TuesdayTour posts on our history and other treats from the archives.

We hope that this shift in the focus of our operations will bring our courses and collections to wider audiences internationally during this period of global crisis.

Events and past event videos: https://www.marx-memorial-library.org.uk/events.

Exhibitions: https://www.marx-memorial-library.org.uk/exhibitions-and-projects.

Theory and Struggle 2017: https://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/toc/theory/118.

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