Towns/small cities with leftist history/culture, outside the US?
September 1, 2019 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Hello! I'm very interested in smaller cities, towns, and communities (preferably fewer than 100k) that have a strong culture, tradition, and/or history of leftist organizing. I'm interested in examples outside of the United States. Give me any examples you can think of, and any suggested further reading!
posted by sugar and confetti to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Radical history of Broken Hill, NSW. [That first link is by a 'socialist newspaper' so it overplays the radicalism, but it's a good review of Broken Hill's history of unionism.] The Barrier Industrial Council was, in its heyday, one of the most industrially powerful town organisations of its kind, acting as a kind of quasi-Council.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:53 PM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ballarat is the site of the Eureka Rebellion in 1854. That event is credited with being part of the birth of democracy in Australia.
posted by mewsic at 9:12 PM on September 1, 2019

Livorno is where Gramsci and Amadeo Bordiga founded the Italian Communist Party, and I believe it's still a center of left-wing activity, although most of what I could easily find on Google is more about the left-wing ties of the city's soccer team rather than the city itself.
posted by Copronymus at 10:03 PM on September 1, 2019

In Canada, historically Salt Spring Island, although I would say about two decades ago it became a place of trust-fund hippies a little more concerned with NIMBY instead of the larger world. To a much, much lesser extent I would say Guelph (Ontario), Wolfville (Nova Scotia), and Nelson (British Columbia). The Toronto Islands used to be leftist but real estate prices have made it quite an enclave. Now we are seeing a lot more leftist organizing in Indigenous communities (such as Idle No More and various organizations focused on MMIW) where a different worldview, rejection of capitalism, and collectivist values are elevated; Six Nations outside Brantford and Oka have both been active.
posted by saucysault at 10:07 PM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Red Corner
posted by Ideefixe at 10:43 PM on September 1, 2019

Freetown Christiana
posted by frumiousb at 11:38 PM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alice Springs has a leftist subculture tracing in part to women's peace protesters who came to protest at the joint Aus/American military base and stayed.
posted by hotcoroner at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2019

Stroud in the UK.

The area had utopian socialists in the 19th century. In the modern era it spawned the first completely organic cafe in Britain and was where the now-global Extinction Rebellion was founded.

Polly Higgins
also lived there and is where she fought her ecocide campaign.

The population of Stroud is about 13,000.
posted by vacapinta at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, UK, was the site of the 1831 Merthyr Rising, & elected one of the first Labour MPs in 1901.
posted by misteraitch at 1:35 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don’t know if Islington would count as it’s a borough of London, but it felt very much like a self-consciously-distinct geographical unit when I worked there 20 years ago.

Clerkenwell Green was a key location in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 (Clerkenwell Green was previously in the former borough of Finsbury, which has now been amalgamated into the present-day borough of Islington).

When Lenin was in exile in London, his periodical Iskra was printed in Clerkenwell Green at a printing press in a building which is now the Marx Memorial Library.

In the 1970s and 80s, it was nicknamed The Socialist Republic of Islington thanks to the hard left policies of the council, which placed a bust of Lenin in the Town Hall and flew the red flag on the roof.

(Less radically, though still, I guess, on the left, it was also home to Tony Blair until he became PM, and the location for the infamous Granita pact between Blair and Brown in 1994)

When I was political reporter on the local newspaper there in 2000/2001, the borough was in the hands of some fairly right-wing Lib Dems, who were busy selling off everything they could, but it now looks to have swung back to Labour.

And of course it is also home to the current, left-wing, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been MP there since 1983 (and who I spent years confidently citing to people as an example of a politician who was a career back bencher, happy to stick to his principles and not interested in leadership, so what do I know...?)
posted by penguin pie at 5:25 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe Sanrizuka?
posted by wintersweet at 7:14 AM on September 2, 2019

posted by ChuraChura at 8:12 AM on September 2, 2019

(it's a big township, but the uprising was centered in a few specific areas)
posted by ChuraChura at 8:20 AM on September 2, 2019

I'm not sure if utopian intentional communities fall under your ambit, but you might want to read up on Auroville.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The village of Sointula in British Columbia was founded as a utopian socialist/co-operative community:

The idea for Sointula originated in the Finnish temperance organizations of the 1890s associated with the coal mines of Vancouver Island. The working and living conditions led to high rates of drunkenness, debt and death. Miners had to move repeatedly from one mine to another and each time had to find or construct their own accommodation. Talk of an independent, stable community for Finns based on socialist-cooperative principles evolved into a decision by twenty Finns to start looking for the resources they would need to realize their aspiration. They decided they wanted an inspirational leader and sought out Matti Kurikka (1863-1915). He had been editor of a labour daily in Helsinki but at that time was in Australia trying, unsuccessfully, to establish a utopian community. He arrived in Nanaimo in 1900. Matti Kurikka in turn felt he needed another person to help with this project and asked his friend A.B. Mäkelä (1863-1932) to come from Finland, which he did.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:00 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Marinaleda in Spain, known locally as the Communist utopia.
posted by Lluvia at 11:30 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nimbin, and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, might be of interest?
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 3:20 PM on September 2, 2019

And another one in Wales – all the slate quarrying areas (and they are currently making an application to be considered an UNESCO world heritage site), but specifically Bethesda where the Great Strike took place. People there still know which families broke the strike.
posted by sianifach at 1:14 AM on September 3, 2019

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