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Huey Newton’s Lessons for World Revolution in Our Times 

3 Nov

 

“Huey used the framework of dialectical materialism, which gave him the understanding that all development is a struggle between contradictions.”BAR contributor Danny Haiphong delivered the following remarks to a day-long conference on “Huey P. Newton: Our Struggle for Self-Determination and World Peace” October 28, at Temple University, in Philadelphia.

First, to discuss the significance of Huey P. Newton and the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism in the same space as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Yvonne King, and Regina Jennings is more than the word honor can describe. A big thanks to the Black and Brown Coalition for putting this conference together. The foundations for this conference reminded me of what Huey P. Newton said at the Revolutionary People’s Convention in 1970, which was also held at Temple:

“We who are gathered here by our presence do resolve to liberate our communities from the boot and whip of the oppressor so that people of good will may live their lives free from want, free from fear, and free from need.”

Huey Newton helped me take this pledge. As an alienated subject of empire, my family’s history cannot be separated from the US imperialist war on Vietnam’s just struggle for socialism. The Agent Orange sprayed over the lands of a quarter of the country and the imperial violence experienced by the people of Vietnam left an indelible mark on my personal history. Vietnam’s victory over the US, so repressed by the popular mythology of the US empire, led me to search for the truth about US wars not found in Ken Burns documentaries. Huey Newton helped me find the truth. He helped me see this period as one marked by war. Few others have raised the people’s subjective consciousness to the conditions of war and have prepared them to fight for global peace as Huey P. Newton.

“He connected the police occupation of the Black community to expand white capitalist profit to the wars waged by the US military abroad for the same purpose.”

 

 

Huey P. Newton conceptualized peace not as an abstract idea, but a material condition rooted in the interconnected development of history and political economy. The path he traveled to become a revolutionary warrior for peace was paved by the reality of endless war. Huey observed two forms of war. He founded the Black Panther Party first as a self-defense organization of the Black working class trapped in ghettos occupied and terrorized by the police. That was the first front of war. Huey then emphasized that Black people also needed to defend themselves from what the police protected: capitalism’s impoverishment of the Black community. He connected the police occupation of the Black community to expand white capitalist profit to the wars waged by the US military abroad for the same purpose. He believed that Black liberation was impossible without the support of the colonial peoples waging wars for national liberation and socialism.

Huey’s understanding of war propelled the Black Panther Party into a vanguard position in the world revolutionary movement for peace and socialism. His leadership represented the best of the Black Radical Tradition’s long history of international solidarity with the oppressed worldwide. He was instrumental in the development of the Black Panther Party’s international chapters in nations such as North Korea and Algeria and organized a delegation to socialist China just prior to Nixon’s historic trip in 1972. But Huey was neither an adventurist nor dogmatist. He was a Marxist-Leninist and believed that theory had to be grounded in the material reality of the people if it is to bring about revolutionary change.

“Newton believed that Black liberation was impossible without the support of the colonial peoples waging wars for national liberation and socialism.”

 

 

Huey Newton was a student of history who sought to advance the people to a higher level of consciousness than what had been achieved in prior generations of Black struggle. That is why Huey developed the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism. He observed that US imperialism was evolving into a high-tech, global empire. This empire degraded the condition of the working-class to the status of “unemployable.” Huey also observed that the US empire didn’t allow colonized nations to exercise independence without the threat of war. Advances in technology and the concentration of capital had placed humanity into one “global village.” Oppressed people faced the same oppressor not as nations, but as communities. Some of these communities, like socialist China, had liberated their territories and formed socialist, planned economies. Still others were completely dispossessed of the state power required to determine their own destinies.

Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s contribution to Marxist theory as it applied to Black people and oppressed people worldwide. Imperialism was the central question. The peoples’ wars that were raging in Vietnam, Mozambique, and Uruguay when Huey introduced the concept in 1970 were profoundly important in the development of the theory. Huey studied their successes and their failures. He urged the Black Panther Party to reach out to national liberation movements wherever they resided. In a letter to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, he explained that:

“Our struggle for liberation is based upon justice and equality for all men. Thus we are interested in the people of any territory where the crack of the oppressor’s whip may be heard. We have the obligation to take the concept of internationalism to its final conclusion–the destruction of statehood itself. This will lead us to an era where the withering away of the state will occur and men will extend their hand in friendship throughout the world.”

Revolutionary intercommunalism presented a practical guide toward the goal of a classless world. That meant, as Huey explained, “it is imperative to defend people of color when they are attacked by American troops in other lands. These attacks are designed to continue the profit mongering of the ruling class. . .” The first lesson of revolutionary intercommunalism, then, is to oppose US imperialist war. The second is to unite with oppressed peoples subject to US imperialist war in a common program for human emancipation.

“Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s contribution to Marxist theory as it applied to Black people and oppressed people worldwide.”

What else do we learn from revolutionary intercommunalism? We learn that the question of class is in fact not a matter of mere economics. That class is what shapes the interests of the global order and is attached to the hip of any real understanding of white supremacy or racism. That figures like Ta-Nahesi Coates talk about race as a static phenomenon detached from material reality, all in the name of personal class gain. The class from which Coates belongs ignores the world in its entirety. It makes attractive statements about the racist roots of the US but fails to acknowledge who those racist roots serve and how they serve them. It is much easier to lay the blame for oppression on white American foot soldiers of white supremacy than to look at the class in power. Especially if your goal is to be that class or make peace with that class.

Revolutionary intercommunalism, however, is about waging a people’s war for real peace in our time. We are faced with a dangerous global situation, more dangerous than the one Huey Newton inherited. The US imperialist system is playing with a world war scenario that has the potential to be more destructive than any war ever known to humanity. A bi-partisan consensus exists in the halls of Washington and the US military to wage war on Russia, China, and whatever independent political force gets in the way of their quest for unquestioned hegemony and guaranteed profit for the military, finance, and corporate capitalists, even if it means rendering the planet to nuclear dust. Millions have died in the US military’s endless war on the people of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The DPRK, a friend of the Black Panther Party, hangs on to independence despite a constant barrage of US-backed provocations in the Korean Peninsula. Africa is almost entirely occupied by the US military in the hopes that China will cease economic activity with the resource rich continent. Political chaos and economic stagnation prevail in much of the world, especially in the so-called “developed” countries in the US and Western orbit.

“It is imperative to defend people of color when they are attacked by American troops in other lands.”

 

 

Yet war and peace is not the question on the order of the day for most who are engaged in the struggle for social justice of any kind. There is little identification with the oppressed classes of the world because few in the struggle identify as a class. Few US-based left tendencies, organizations, and groups offer solidarity to oppressed people facing the same enemy that exists here. In fact, a lot of them repeat the mantras of the empire and place themselves in the imperialist camp. Not only have the people of Syria, Libya, Korea, and elsewhere suffered from this fatal error, but so too have poor and working class people in the US suffered, especially the Black poor. Black wealth is approaching zero, joblessness and poverty is rampant, and the mass incarceration state refuses to let up in a period where it takes nearly a trillion in US tax dollars to maintain US military supremacy worldwide. It is as if we should forget that the NYPD receives training in Israel or that the same weapons deployed to local police against the Black community are used to arm US-backed fascists in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere. We are living in an era characterized by full spectrum counter-insurgency warfare enforced by the dominant class.

As Huey proclaimed, the root of the endless war that exists in the world is what unites the oppressed beyond national boundaries. Black Americans share a common enemy with Syrians, Libyans, Russians (yes that’s right, Russians), and Venezuelans to name just a few. That enemy, US imperialism, is more consolidated than during the era of the Panthers. Technology has advanced and confirmed Huey’s analysis that a mass of unemployed proletarians would disrupt the economic stability of the system. US imperialism is more desperate in the 21st century than maybe ever before. It can no longer invade or indebt its way out of economic slowdown. The markets have dried up and much of the planet is looking to China to provide relief amid the destruction that US domination has wrought. As the contradictions become more acute, revolutionary intercommunalism helps inform our answer to the question, where do we go from here?

“Africa is almost entirely occupied by the US military in the hopes that China will cease economic activity with the resource rich continent.”

We can begin to answer this question by recognizing that the method that Huey utilized to devise the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism is just as important as the content of the theory itself. Revolutionary intercommunalism was a specific application of Marxist theory to existing historical conditions. It required a deep study and investigation into the developments of the historical epoch from which Huey lived. The precarious position of the Black poor and the explosive wars that the US empire had imposed on the peoples of the world led Huey to the conclusion that exploited people in the US mainland had to transcend their understanding of what a nation was. The US was no longer a nation, it was an empire destroying national liberation struggles abroad in a similar manner to which it violently opposed any effort by Black America to form its own nation. And Black Americans needed to build international alliances if they were to gain the strength necessary to defeat a global enemy.

The most appropriate way to celebrate revolutionary intercommunalism is to study Huey P. Newton’s methodology. First, we must assist the masses in applying intercommunal thought to the present condition of the masses. We must investigate global developments and make firm conclusions about who can be trusted as friends of the exploited and oppressed in the US, and who are the enemies of peace and liberation. Huey used the framework of dialectical materialism, which gave him the understanding that all development is a struggle between contradictions. These contradictions inevitably produce change at specific stages of the development process. We must harness this mode of thought to understand the forces at play in our current stage of development.

“Black Americans share a common enemy with Syrians, Libyans, Russians (yes that’s right, Russians), and Venezuelans to name just a few.”

 

 

Second, we must understand that the conclusions we come to in the 21st century will differ in form but not in substance to Huey’s interpretation of Marxism. A specter of crisis haunts the US imperialist system that was unknown five decades ago. The US is in fact losing its grip on hegemony in the world, especially in the economic realm. US imperialism’s total share of the world economy is shrinking. China, a developed socialist economy, is set to surpass the US as the largest in the world in the coming years. This has sent US imperialism into a state of desperation, launching war after war in hopes that the world will submit to its continued domination.

On the domestic front, there are signs that the masses are rudely awakening to the reality that US imperialism has little to offer except misery and alienation. That was the lesson of the 2016 Presidential elections. US imperialism’s crisis is defined by a terminal decline evident in all spheres of society. More than half of the population in the US is poor and unable to pay for $500 emergencies when they arise. Healthcare remains in private hands and the costs keeps rising. Police repression in poor Black communities continues to intensify. Low-wage jobs and unemployment dominate the economic landscape as automation compels workers to work faster and longer for less pay. The war on the poor is the only means the system has left to maximize profit yet this has come at a significant cost to both the masses and the rulers. The masses feel the burden of poverty and the rulers feel the coming storm of collapse when reality sets in that what the poor produces cannot be absorbed back into the economy without producing harsher and ever more burdensome crises.

“Black Americans needed to build international alliances if they were to gain the strength necessary to defeat a global enemy.”

Huey Newton taught us that the inherent contradictions of US imperialism lead to seismic change. He taught us that the war at home is the war abroad. There is no time to allow so-called leftists who spend their time condemning oppressed people worldwide to continue to lead. These forces must be isolated, and their positions thrown into the dustbin of history. New relations among people in the US will be born out of a deep consciousness of the condition of the oppressed under the gun of empire. Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s call to investigate the common experience of exploited classes and act on this investigation by developing an international political program that can strengthen our struggle in the belly of the empire.

We can start putting Huey’s theory into practice by extending a hand of friendship and solidarity to the targets of empire. The people of the world, though always empathetic to the struggles of oppressed people in the US, cannot possibly trust a movement that does not recognize their rightful struggle against US imperialism. Unlike charities or NGOs which are designed to enrich the oligarchy and subvert self-determination, intercommunal solidarity is driven by the people themselves. If we conclude that oppressed communities share a common enemy, then we must plan a course of action that will bring our common struggle closer to a victorious conclusion.

 

 

Source: Huey Newton’s Lessons for World Revolution in Our Times | Black Agenda Report

 

 

The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does Left Wing & Progressive books & blogs fah451bks.wordpress.com

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The real History; Juana Azurduy de Padilla; Bolivian guerrilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. International day of women’s rights

5 Mar

 

Juana Azurduy de Padilla was a Bolivian guerilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. It was this day in 1816 that she along with 200 Indian women on horseback, defeated the Spanish troops in Bolivia.

Juana Azurduy Llanos (July 12, 1780 or 1781 – May 25, 1862) was a South American guerrilla military leader.

She was born on July 12, 1780 or 1781 in the town of Chuquisaca, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (now Sucre, Bolivia). She was Mestizo by ethnicity, meaning she was half Spanish and half indigenous. “Her mother married into a family of property” meaning she married into a more wealthy family. Her father, however, was killed by Spaniards, and the killer apparently got away without any repercussions. She grew up in Chuquisaca and at the age of 12 joined a convent to become a nun. She was then expelled at the age of 17 because she rebelled too often. She married Manuel Ascencio Padilla in 1805, a man who shared her love of the indigenous populations in Bolivia. She spoke Spanish and two South American languages: Quechua and Aymara. Juana Azurduy was born in Toroca, a town located in the Municipality of Potosí in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (present-day town of Ravelo, Potosí Department, Bolivia) on July 12, 1780. Her parents were Don Matías Azurduy, a rich white owner of many properties and Doña Eulalia Bermudes, a chola from Chuquisaca.

Upon their return they raised an army and joined in the fighting in the area. She fought a guerrilla style war against the Spanish from 1809 to 1825. On March 8, 1816, her forces temporarily captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, the main source of Spanish silver, also leading a cavalry charge that resulted in the capture of the enemy standard. For these actions she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 16, 1816, by Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata at Buenos Aires. However, Shortly after Juana, who was expecting her fifth child, during a battle in November 1816, she was injured and her husband was killed while trying to save her, The body of her husband was hanged by the realists in the village of Laguna, and Juana found herself in a desperate situation: single, pregnant and with realistic armies effectively controlling the territory. After giving birth to a girl, she joined the guerrillas Martin Miguel de Guemes , which operated in northern Alto Peru. On the death of this leader guerrillas north dissolved, and Juana she was forced to malvivir in the region of Salta. at which she led a counterattack to recover the body of her husband. When the Spanish eventually counter-attacked in 1818, she fled with some of her soldiers to Northern Argentina where she continued to fight under the command of the Argentinean governor/guerrilla leader, General Martín Miguel de Güemes. She was appointed to the position of commander of patriotic Northern Army of the Revolutionary Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. With this army she was able to establish an insurrection zone, until the Spanish forces withdrew from the area. She was so determined to the cause that she actually fought while she was pregnant, at one point, giving birth to her daughter, then returned to the fight soon after. At the highest point of her control, she commanded an army with an estimated strength of 6,000 men. After her military career was over she returned to Sucre (Chuquisaca), where she died on May 25, 1862. Throughout all the conflicts she lost her four sons and her husband, yet she continued to perform her duties until she retired and later died.

 

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At the time of her death, she was forgotten and in poverty, but was remembered as a hero only a century later. She was awarded the rank of general of the Argentine Army in 2009. She also has “The National Programme for Women’s Rights and Participation” of Argentina is also named after her.

A 25-ton, 52-foot-high statue of Azurduy was created in Buenos Aires and unveiled July 15, 2015. It was commissioned by Bolivian president Evo Morales, and placed in the space where a statue of Columbus has stood. As of December 2015, months after its inauguration, it shows weathering damage.

A bas relief sculpture of Juana Azurduy was on display as part of an outdoor exhibition of famous Latin Americans on the grounds of the Pan American Union Building in Washington, DC in Spring 2014. Juana Azurduy is also the subject of a children’s cartoon designed to promote knowledge of Argentine history.

 

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It’s not just racial tension; It’s White Supremacist Capitalist Imperialist Patriarchy! #BecomeUngovernable.

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

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For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

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