Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kick over this statue

The legendary 1980s band The Redskins once had a hit of sorts with a song entitled 'Kick Over the Statues' - not a bad sentiment, particularly in a country like Britain where one does not have to look too far for statues honouring various bloodsoaked ruling class 'heroes' - as chronicled by the late Colin Gill and Leon Kuhn in their marvellous little book Topple the Mighty.

It is therefore encouraging to see that a campaign has sprung up in the North East Welsh town of Denbigh against plans to build any new sculpture to pay tribute to a local ruling class 'hero', a particularly brutal imperialist adventurer HM Stanley, of 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?' fame and a central figure in the late nineteenth century European 'scramble for Africa'. As the campaigners letter of protest notes:

'We call on the people of Denbigh not to erect any statue to 'honour' the imperialist HM Stanley. A statue would convey uncritical approval and celebration of all aspects of Stanley - something not possible for such a controversial figure today. It is wrong to romanticise the African "adventures" of Victorian era imperialists. The racist ideas of the day led to hundreds of thousands of Africans being killed or mistreated - Europeans believing that their supremacy entitled them to confiscate land and exploit natives and resources.'

The nineteenth century diarist, W.S. Blunt, once recorded the following note after reading Stanley's autobiography, which gives some indication as to why Stanley became such a racist barbarian after arriving in Africa:

'Stanley, before going to Africa, though ill-bred and ill-educated, was a decent working man with a modest opinion of himself and a good heart, but the position he found himself in in Africa filled him with the usual idea of being the representative of a superior race, with right of command over the people of the country he was travelling through, and little by little he got into the way of shooting them if they did not obey his orders, or provide him with food. All of his later writing is an attempt to show that he had a high motive in excuse for these violences, the cause of Christianity, civilisation and the rest, till he became a contemptible humbug.'

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At 10:41 pm, Blogger Tony Walker said...

Here's the link to the video for 'Kick Over The Statues'.


Watch and reminisce, or, if you’re too young to remember the period, be amazed at the dress sense and physical impoverishment required of any genuine and hard-hitting, revolutionary socialist post-punk rock band. Check out the headline (2:05 seconds in to the video) on the copy of Socialist Worker. In 1985, the slogan: ‘One Solution, Revolution’ applied to Botha and Apartheid. Today, the slogan is as valid as a million workers strike against the ANC government.




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