Gary McFarlane

What did the first black MPs achieve?

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In June 1987 four black Labour MPs were elected. Gary McFarlane recalls this cause for celebration in an otherwise grim night, and looks at the political trajectories of these pioneering politicians.

There are plenty of theories about how Labour managed to lose four general elections in a row to the Tories from 1979 onwards, despite mass unemployment stalking the land and the relentless attacks on working class living standards. Vast swathes of the country became factory-free zones. The working class is disappearing, we were told by the misnamed journal of the Communist Party, Marxism Today. “De-industrialisation”, we were told, meant the only hope for progressives was to band together around the lowest common denominator.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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The Black Panther Party for Self Defense represents the high point of the struggle for black liberation in the US. The story of the party’s founding by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in Oakland California in 1966, and its subsequent rise and fall, is rich with lessons for the struggle today. This is especially true in light of the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and racism.

Thaddeus Stevens and the legacy of radical reconstruction

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Thaddeus Stevens may not be as famous as Abraham Lincoln, but he played a major role in defeating slavery in the US. Gary McFarlane tells the story of this radical Republican senator who pushed for a thoroughgoing transformation of the slave-owning south and for rights for ex-slaves

Not many people have heard of Thaddeus Stevens. If you've seen filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Lincoln you will be aware of his central role in the framing and passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banning slavery. Stevens has been played on film before, but as the villain.

Tough Questions

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Review of 'The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual', Harold Cruse, Granta £9.99

Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, the writings of Richard Wright and James Baldwin - all were essential reading for well-versed political activists in the 1960s, both black and white. But there is one title that was also a part of the canon but today is little read or cited - the work of Harold Cruse and his book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, first published in 1967, just as the civil rights movement was morphing into the Black Power movement.

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