Ajmal Waqif is a London-based historian and CHASE/AHRC studentship-funded PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London, researching the networks of international solidarity that connected anti-imperialist campaigners from the colonial periphery with communists and the labour movement in interwar Britain. The project particularly focuses on the activity of the British Section of the League Against Imperialism and the work of Black and Asian-led affiliated organisations in attempting to build a radical case for decolonisation and racial justice in the imperial metropolis.
Stuart Hall once described the history of colonialism and anti-colonialism as ‘the outside history that is inside the history of the English’. A key commitment of Ajmal’s work is attempting to bring that ‘outside history’ back in.
Ajmal has a background in radical heritage. This ranges from co-leading on a project to digitise the Marx Memorial Library’s collection of 20th century radical posters, to serving for 4 years as digital and print editor for the International Brigade Memorial Trust, a national charity which commemorates the history of the ordinary anti-fascist volunteers from Britain and Ireland who fought for democracy during the Spanish Civil War.
Believing radical study has to be matched with radical action, Ajmal has been a community and trade union organiser for almost a decade. As an elected official of the grassroots-led Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, he has helped to unionise historically non-represented workplaces such as in the charity sector, and supported some of the most marginalised workers in the country through cases and campaigns to win better conditions, pay and rights.
His work and activism is informed by his Afghan refugee background and his engagement with a distinct internationalist left-wing political culture which he was steeped in from a young age through his family.