‘Every single Viceroy of India, whether they liked it or not, had to deal with Gandhi’

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Harjeevan Gill speaks to author and historian Talat Ahmed about her new biography of Mohandas Gandhi, the battle over his legacy in India today and what Extinction Rebellion can learn from him.

There’s been so much written about Gandhi. What was the motivation behind writing your book?

Yes there are lots of books about Gandhi — you could fill an entire library with the number of biographies and political theses. Some of the literature is very good indeed and there are lots of historical works dating back 30 or 40 years where historians have mined all kinds of archival material in order to try and make sense of Gandhi. Much of that work has been very useful and it certainly influenced me in my own thinking.

The queer and unusual life of Roger Casement

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Knighted by the British crown for his work in Africa and later executed for high treason for his work in Ireland, Roger Casement was a unique figure. Noel Halifax tells the story of this pioneer of human rights, a gay man at the time of the creation of modern homophobia.

Roger Casement had an extraordinary life. He was born in Dublin from an Anglo-Irish background in 1864. Lauded by the establishment for his work in Africa and knighted in 1911, he became one of the most famous men of his age.

In 1913 he resigned from the Foreign Office. In 1916 he was hanged in Pentonville prison for high treason for his part in the Dublin Easter Rising. Though central to the Irish freedom movement he was largely overlooked by the Irish Republicans because, to their great embarrassment, he was also gay.

Algeria's bitter struggle for freedom

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Fifty years since Algerian independence Ian Birchall looks at the uprising that forced the French to leave

In July 1962 Algeria achieved independence after a bitter war lasting over seven years. Some 300,000 Algerians died to win their nation's freedom. The war was fought brutally on both sides, but the need for a violent independence struggle was deeply rooted in the violence French imperialism had imposed on Algeria for over a century. As philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "It is not their violence, but ours, turned back."

Champion of the Wretched

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Fifty years ago this month Algerian psychoanalyst and revolutionary Frantz Fanon died - just as his most famous book, The Wretched of the Earth, was published. Leo Zeilig looks back at Fanon's extraordinary life and the lessons his groundbreaking work has for us today

Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925; thirty six years later he was buried in Algeria. In his short life he became one of the greatest proponents of Algeria's extraordinary revolution.

Haiti - repression and resistance

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The staggering poverty in which the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's population live is a shock to anyone. Yet it is not because of some peculiar Haitian backwardness but the result of centuries of exploitation.

At the end of the 18th century Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean, and its then capital, Cap-Français, was one of the world's richest cities.

When the French Revolution began in 1789 the island had nearly 800 sugar plantations and 3,000 coffee, cotton and indigo plantations, all destined for France under a colonial trade monopoly. Its population of 35,000 whites and 27,000 mulattoes (people of mixed race) controlled the island economy, while 1 million slaves were brought from Africa to work the land.

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Gilded African

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Locked in an Alpine castle, Toussaint L'Ouverture died in April 1803 having led the slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue and challenged French domination of the Caribbean.

It was a cruel irony to take this great leader from his Caribbean island and incarcerate him through a freezing winter.

Born a slave around 1743, Toussaint enjoyed a degree of privilege as a house slave and coachman and was taught to read and write. At 33 he was given his freedom and adopted the name L'Ouverture ("opening"). Like others he must have anticipated that the French Revolution of 1789 would liberate the slaves. Instead wealthy planters remained in control of an island vital to the French economy.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

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At a time when Gordon Brown is cynically taking up the cause of Darfur in a vain attempt to find some moral high ground for New Labour to occupy, it is worth remembering the British Empire's record in the same region.

According to Piers Brendon in his new history of the empire, "British punitive expeditions in the Sudan were even more brutal than those in Kenya, at times amounting almost to genocide. Certainly, as one district officer acknowledged, they produced a crop of 'regular Congo atrocities'."

A great British tradition

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Government spin on the role of British forces around the world portrays them as gallant beret-wearing chaps just trying to help. Writer and anti-war activist John Newsinger recalls the events of the Great Indian Rebellion 150 years ago this month, which show how far this is from the truth

The British Empire has always responded to any resistance to its rule with ferocious repression. In 1857 the Great Indian Rebellion posed a massive challenge to the British Empire. It was suppressed with unprecedented brutality. The British adopted a policy of "no prisoners", a policy which was enforced by means of massacre and mass executions. One officer, Thomas Lowe, later remembered how on one occasion his unit had taken 76 prisoners (they were just too tired to carry on killing and needed a rest, he recalled).

The Rebel's Weapon

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In 1961 Frantz Fanon, a leader of the Algerian National Liberation Front, wrote the inspirational book The Wretched of the Earth. French socialist, philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an extended introduction to Fanon's important work. Here we reprint extracts from Sartre's essay calling on the French left to support the Algerian struggle and see it as their own.

Have the courage to read this book, for in the first place it will make you ashamed, and shame, as Marx said, is a revolutionary sentiment. As a European, I steal the enemy's book, and out of it I fashion a remedy for Europe. Make the most of it.

Path of Greatest Resistance

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Bush and Blair's denunciation of Iraqi insurgents as 'criminals' and 'terrorists' recalls the experience of the French Resistance and the Algerian war of independence.

There is nothing new about the situation in Iraq. Ever since imperial powers have imposed their rule on other peoples, there has been resistance. And since the occupying powers have superior weapons, those fighting back use unconventional methods, breaking the rules that their oppressors would like to force on them. This meant guerrilla fighting of some sort. Already in the 1840s a British military commander in India moaned that rebels were 'cruel bloodthirsty cowards' who hid and ran rather than give the British 'a little honest fighting'.


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