Trump blocked putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 note. This is why

Published on: Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:36

Sacha Ismail

I’m struck by how many (left-wing, engaged) people I know haven’t heard of 19th century slave turned anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman. Hopefully Harriet, the new film about a crucial decade of Tubman’s life, will help right that. She was one of the most remarkable of many remarkable figures in a world-altering social and political upheaval, the civil war and revolution that destroyed slavery in the US. Though not a socialist, she is firmly in our broad tradition.

Despite the dark subject matter of slavery, the makers have told Tubman’s story as a pretty easy to watch action-adventure film.

Democratic Deficit USA

Published on: Wed, 22/05/2019 - 11:18

Barrie Hardy

North Carolina’s 12th District was said to be the most gerrymandered in America. Until 2017 it was a long, straggling, narrow strip, at points extremely narrow. One critic quipped that a two hour drive down its length with both car doors open would endanger the lives of most people in the district.

The term Gerrymandering dates from 1812 and refers to the manipulation of electoral boundaries to establish party political advantage. It was coined from the practice of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who had electoral districts drawn up in what looked like the shapes of a salamander.

Blues Power

Published on: Wed, 27/03/2019 - 09:12

Barrie Hardy

Right-wing politicians always have great difficulty trying to get support from anyone with artistic integrity. In the Thatcher era, when numerous talented musicians sang up for the Labour cause under the banner of Red Wedge, all the Tories could cobble together were talentless tosh like Vince Hill, Jim Davidson and Mrs Mopp. Similarly, the Trump Presidency from the world of showbiz have been decidedly threadbare. Apart from the odd aged crooner or obscure country artist, the chief White House favourite has been the despicable Ted Nugent – NRA nut and serial slayer of North American wildlife

Creativity in the face of cruelty and oppression

Published on: Wed, 24/10/2018 - 11:30

Matt Kinsella

Shortlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize, Washington Black is the story of George Washington Black, a child slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados.

The book continues the theme of author Esi Edugyan’s previous novel, Half Blood Blues, which features Hiero, a black musician sent to Sachsenhausen. Both stories centre on how human creativity persists in the face of cruelty and oppression.

In Washington Black, Wash is brutalised by the horrors of plantation life, intensified after the late slave rebellions in Barbados, Jamaica and Demerara, and carries a reminder of this violence after being badly

Trump and Charlottesville

Published on: Wed, 23/08/2017 - 11:29

Dan Katz

After hundreds of far right activists marched on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on 12 August US President, Donald Trump, condemned both sides. In other words he placed Nazi sympathisers who chanted antisemitic slogans on the same moral level as the anti-racist black and white youth who rallied against them.

The anti-fascists faced extreme violence from the far-right, including one murder, of Heather Heyer, mowed down by a racist who rammed a car into a group of protesters. Trump’s remarks were met with outrage, and even some Republican politicians openly protested.


Darcus Howe on Black Power

Published on: Wed, 26/04/2017 - 11:53

A new TV drama — Guerilla — tells the story of the British Black Panthers. Long-time black and left activist Darcus Howe, who recently died, was a founder member of the group and consultant for the show. In this interview from 1995 Howe discussed the politics of “black power” with Dan Katz.

DH: The Panthers have been grossly misrepresented in political circles. They were an intensely revolutionary organisation, the largest non-establishment political party ever to exist in America — larger than the Communist Party or any left-wing group.

There were thousands of them all over the United States

Challenging the “lost cause” myth

Published on: Wed, 29/03/2017 - 12:36

Bas Hardy

The American Civil War casts a long shadow over America history. Anyone doubting its pernicious legacy need only note that all of the states of the former Confederacy except Virginia voted for Trump. However it would be a mistake to believe that the white population of this region have alway acted en bloc as rabid racists.

Recently released on DVD, Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughy, tells us that even during the Civil War sections of the white population in the south sided with the Union. The film deals with what was essentially an insurrection against the Confederacy in Jones

A soundtrack for the movement against Trump

Published on: Wed, 08/03/2017 - 11:41

Bas Hardy

Found dead people in the forest Tallahatchie River and lakes
The whole wide world is wonderin’
What’s wrong with the United States

What’s wrong indeed! Lyrics from the Staples Singer’s Freedom Highway recorded twenty five years ago still resonate. It’s now the closing track on the second solo album of Rhiannon Giddens.

Her latest collection of songs lay bare the condition of Afro-Americans from slavery days to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Although the thoroughly reactionary Trump regime trumpets the “threat of terrorism”, the black population of North America has lived in a state of

Scapegoating Jews for the slave trade?

Published on: Sun, 11/09/2016 - 08:54

Dan Katz

There was a lot of Jewish support for the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Martin Luther King spoke out against anti-Semitism:

“How could there be anti- Semitism among Negroes when our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood…

“It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro’s struggle for freedom — it has been so great.” (1965)

That Black-Jewish unity broke down, partly because of the emergence of radical Black Nationalist organisations which identified with the Palestinians,

Comments on the US Civil War

Published on: Wed, 10/02/2016 - 22:11

Mark Osborn

Consider this sentence from an advert for a recent AWL public meeting on Sacha Ismail’s pamphlet, Workers Against Slavery: “When the war began, both sides, North and South, said they would preserve slavery. What changed? One thing was mass action by the slaves themselves, forcing their way into the conflict and helping to transform it into a battle against slavery.”

Really, this is mysticism. Lincoln was obliged to re-set the Northern war aims in late 1862, declaring a war to abolish slavery, because he felt that was necessary in order to win. The slaves played no role in Lincoln’s policy

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