Thursday, 3 November 2016


by Séamas Cain
'I first met Laurens Otter outside a Labour Party Conference in Blackpool in 1959:  he was selling Peace News and I was with some Young Liberals from the North West demonstrating.  Later, in 1960, Laurens came to address the Rochdale Young Liberals on anarchism and worker's control.  He was involved in the peace movement and the Committee of 100, and for some of us he had a big influence on our development as anarchists in this country in the 1960s.  A member of the Syndicalist Worker's Federation, he had been a founding member of the National Rank & File Movement in London in 1959-60.'  (editor) 

LAURENS Otter was a prominent activist in the Ban-the-Bomb Movement in Britain during the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Indeed, he was a strategist and theoretician for The Committee of 100 and Polaris Action.  Mr. Otter has now published a Memoir of his life and activism.  I think it will prove to be of some historical interest.

Over the years Mr. Otter has been a prodigious small-press publisher.  He has published any number of collections of essays, as well as collections of poetry and plays by various authors.  His Memoir, however, provides a wealth of specific details and glimpses of movements that challenged established institutions throughout the world.

Laurens Otter has written:  “My parents knew Gandhi in India — mother had first contacted him when she was in South Africa, she used to fast whenever he did and my elder brother and I (in my case from the age of 4) used to fast for a day or two whenever Gandhi began to fast.”

Martin Bashforth, the editor of The Otter Memoir, has written that “Laurens belongs to a generation who, though they did not know it at the time, laid the foundations for the New Left in the 1960s and beyond.  Laurens was very much one of the activists from that generation — people who gave the movement its practical impetus.  They created organisations, movements, and publications to which those of us born after World War Two could turn as we worked out our response to the world around us.  In particular, during the late 1950s and early 1960s their use of non-violent civil disobedience was an inspiration, even for those of us too timid to adopt these tactics ... The Memoir as it stands admirably sums up the culture on the Left that had been created since 1945 and that deserves to be revisited by today's networked dissident generation.  They need to honour their forebears and learn from them.”

The Otter Memoir is available here as a free download ...

This Memoir contains descriptions of encounters, disagreements/agreements, and/or interactions between Laurens Otter and Richard Acland, Alex Alexander, Frank Allaun, Andy Anderson, Lady Clare Annesley, Pat Arrowsmith, Brian Bamford, John Banks, Donald Bannister, Robert Barltrop, Ernie Bates, Olwen Battersby, Brian Behan, Desmond O'Neill Belshawe, John Bishop, John Boland, Claude Bourdet, Maurice Brinton, Eileen Brock, Hugh Brock, Lily Brown, Peter Copper Brown, Tom Brown, Dr. Noel C. Browne, Oliver Browne, Forbes Burnham, Melita Burrell, Mike Callinan, Mary Canipa, April Carter, Ian Celnick, Ray Challinor, Terry Chandler, Terry Chivers, Stuart Christie, Bill & Joan Christopher, Chichester Clark, Howard Clark, George Clarke, Tony Cliff, Ken Coates, Kelso Cochrane, G.D.H. Cole, Canon John Collins, Phil Cooke, Mike Craft, Rikki Dalton, Lawrence Daly, Sir Tam Dalyell of the Binns, baronet, Dorothy Day, Francis Deutsch, Ian Dixon, Dr. Richard Doll, Kurt Dowson, Peggy Duff, Raya Dunayevskaya, Father Alan Edwardes, Freda Ehlers, Robert Ehlers, Stanley Evans, Marianne Faithful, Baron Brian Faulkner, Leah Feldmann, Michael Foot, George Foulser, Crystal Gates, Dorothy & Norman Glaister, Ygael Gluckstein, Victor Gollancz, David Goodway, David Grahame, Martin Grainger, Eddie Grant, Robert Green, Jo Grimond, Reg Groves, Stephen Gwynn, Denzil Harber, Margaret & Bryan Hart, Ernie Hartley, Ken Hawkes, Stephen Hawking, Eric Heffer, Ammon Hennacy, Wynford Hicks, Axel Hoff, Philip Holgate, Gerald Holtom, Bishop Trevor Huddlestone, Cheddi Jagan, C.L.R. James, Brenda Jordan, Pat Jordan, Francis Jude, Matt Kavanagh, Douglas Kepper, Jim Kilfedder, Father Gresham Kirkby, Charles Lahr, John Lall, Kitty Lamb, Bill Lean, Father Kenneth Leech, John Lloyd, Meng-Tse Lo, Keith Lye, Freddie Lyons, Seán MacStíofáin, Ollie Mahler, Father Donald Manners, Harry Marsh, André Marty, Madame Natalia Trotskaya, Tom Mboya, John McGuffin, Pronchais McGuinness, George McLeod, Harry McShane, Clifford Mélotte, Albert Meltzer, Hélène Michon, Renée & Lucien Michon, Yvonne Michon, Bernard Miles, Rita Milton, Harry Mister, Ron Moir, George Molnar, Sybil Morrison, Ken Morse, Peter Moule, Arthur Moyse, Hilda Murrell, Colin Myers, Mike Nolan, John Olday, Captain Terence O'Neill, Dr. Chris Pallis, Jeanne Pallis, Max Patrick, Geoffrey Payne, Inge & Donovan Pedelty, John Pilgrim, Carl Pinnel, George Plume, Eric Preston, J.B. Priestley, Stu Purkiss, Jim Radford, Mike Randle, Vero Recchioni, Vernon Richards, Archbishop Tom Roberts, S.J., Adrian Robertson, Mary & Jack Robinson, Jeff Robinson, Ernie Rodker, Roger Rolph, Donald Rooum, Father John Rowe, Bertrand Russell, Raphael Samuel, Philip Sansom, Simon Schama, Ralph Schoenman, Father Michael Scott, Natalia Ivanovna Sedova, Mike Segal, Gene Sharp, Dr. Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Sydney Silverman, Allen Skinner, Jim Slater, Colin Smart, Harry Smith, Joan Smith, Dr. Donald Soper, Harold Steele, Mary & Jack Stevenson, John Stockbridge, Bishop Mervyn Stockwood, George Stone, Douglas Stuckey, Buck Taylor, Carol Taylor, Joe Thomas, E.P. Thompson, Tommy Thompson, David Thornley, Charles Tillon, David Toogood, Peter Turner, Arthur Uloth, Fred Walker, Barbara Wall, Bernadine Wall, Digger Walsh, Nicolas Walter, Colin Ward, Tom Wardle, Will Warren, Kate & Bobby Waters, Kurt Weisskopf, Fran White, Roma White, John Whiteley, David Wicks, Kathy & Wilfred Wigham, Thomas Willis, Tom Wintringham, and Lillian Wolfe.

The Otter Memoir is available here as a free download ...

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