Christian Høgsbjerg

A most remarkable gathering

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Workers in Britain, sick of war and inspired by the Russian Revolution, met in their thousands in June 1917 at the Leeds Convention to debate how to bring the lessons here, writes author Christian Høgsbjerg.

The Russian Revolution of February 1917 inspired many workers internationally, including in Britain. As Aneurin Bevan, then a young miner, once eloquently recalled:

“I remember so well what happened when the Russian Revolution occurred. I remember the miners, when they heard that the Tsarist tyranny had been overthrown, rushing to meet each other in the streets with tears streaming down their cheeks, shaking hands and saying: ‘At last it has happened’.”

Darcus Howe: Black Power in the New Left

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Darcus Howe, who died last month, was a central figure in the radical black movement in Britain. He developed his politics from his roots in Trinidad through the fight against the National Front and the Mangrove Nine campaign against police harassment. Christian Høgsbjerg tells the story of his life.

The black Trinidadian political radical Darcus Howe was one of the leading ideological agitators of the British Black Power Movement, and a lifelong rebel and “troublemaker” who made a critical contribution to the making and shaping of modern multicultural “post-colonial” Britain.

'A vivid warning about dangers to the planet posed by capitalism'

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The author Richard Adams died last Christmas, prompting Christian Høgsbjerg to re-examine Adams's well-loved work about a band of rabbits on the run, Watership Down. Here Christian analyses the politics of the novel, using the tools provided by Marx, Engels and Gramsci.

The novelist Richard Adams, author of the classic Watership Down, died at the end of last year aged 96. Watership Down, first published in 1972, originated in stories about the adventures of a band of rabbits that Adams — a civil servant at the time — told to his two daughters to pass the time on long car journeys. It quickly became a bestseller and was made into an animated film in 1978.

Staying human in the belly of the beast

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Grace Lee Boggs, who died last month, was an important figure on the US left. Working with CLR James and others she helped to rescue revolutionary socialism from the dead weight of Stalinism, as well as becoming a notable activist in the Civil Rights movement, writes Christian Høgsbjerg.

That the passing of Grace Lee Boggs, a remarkable Chinese American author, activist and humanist philosopher should merit a statement of condolence from President Barack Obama was quite fitting. Grace had been an inspiring and courageous organiser for the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the US and had worked alongside Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.

In 2008 she championed Obama for “providing the authentic, visionary leadership we need in this period”, even comparing him to Martin Luther King, and so it was only right that Obama returned the compliment.

Karl Marx and the First International

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First International

One hundred a fifty years ago a meeting in London met to found the first international workers’ organisation, the International Working Men’s Association. Christian Høgsbjerg shows how Karl Marx made a vital contribution to the IWMA and how he fought to ensure its militant trajectory.

On 28 September 1864, 150 years ago, a mass meeting was held in St Martin’s Hall in central London to launch a new organisation, the “International Working Men’s Association” (IWMA). Composed of mainly trade unionists from London and Paris, it aimed to set up a political organisation that would audaciously aspire to forge a resistance to capital that would be as global as capitalism itself.

X is for Xenophobia

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Xenophobia - literally fear and loathing of "the alien", "the stranger", "the foreigner" - has enjoyed a long if inglorious past, not least in Britain.

Across Europe today, and indeed internationally, xenophobic anxieties about "foreign invasion" through migration retain all the political potency they had over 100 years ago, remaining a phenomenon that unscrupulously cynical bourgeois politicians continue to try and harness in order to attain or maintain political power.

Regaining Gainsborough

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It is great to see Mike Gonzalez writing about culture again in Socialist Review (Culture, Socialist Review, December 2007), but I have to take issue with his implicit attack on the 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough and his (not Constable's) picture of Mr and Mrs Andrews.

For Gonzalez, Mr and Mrs Andrews shows "complacent bourgeois farmers" with "safe landscapes neatly trimmed and fenced off behind". Obviously, this might well appeal to reactionary art critics, but can this painting — and Gainsborough's portraits in general — really be dismissed as just "middle class art" and part of "the artistic culture of the right"?

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