Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Book: The Amistad Rebellion


THE AMISTAD REBELLION: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom
By Marcus Rediker
ISBN: 9780670025046

On June 28, 1839, the Spanish slave schooner Amistad set sail from Havana on a routine delivery of human cargo. On a moonless night, after four days at sea, the captive Africans rose up, killed the captain, and seized control of the ship. They attempted to sail to a safe port, but were captured by the United States Navy and thrown into jail in Connecticut. Their legal battle for freedom eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, where their cause was argued by former President John Quincy Adams. In a landmark ruling, they were freed, and eventually returned to Africa. The rebellion became one of the best-known events in the history of American slavery, celebrated as a triumph of the legal system in films and books, all reflecting the elite perspective of the judges, politicians, and abolitionists involved in the case. In this powerful and highly original account, Marcus Rediker reclaims the rebellion for its true proponents: the African rebels who risked death to stake a claim for freedom.
Using newly discovered evidence, Rediker reframes the story to show how a small group of courageous men fought and won an epic battle against Spanish and American slaveholders and their governments. He reaches back to Africa to find the rebels’ roots, narrates their cataclysmic transatlantic journey, and unfolds a prison story of great drama and emotion. Featuring vividly drawn portraits of the Africans, their captors, and their abolitionist allies, he shows how the rebels captured the popular imagination and helped to inspire and build a movement that was part of a grand global struggle between slavery and freedom. The actions aboard the Amistad that July night and in the days and months that followed were pivotal events in American and Atlantic history, but not for the reasons we have always thought.
The successful Amistad rebellion changed the very nature of the struggle against slavery. As a handful of self-emancipated Africans steered their own course to freedom, they opened a way for millions to follow. This stunning book honors their achievement.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

National Demonstration in London: Stop Israel's War on Gaza

National Demonstration: Stop Israel's War on Gaza 24 November

A national demonstration has been called in London this Saturday 24 November by Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, CND, BMI and supported by other organisations.

It will assemble at 12 noon at Downing Street to show David Cameron and the UK government that its unstinting support for Israel's assault on Gaza is not in our name. From there we will march to the Israeli embassy.

The global protests show the people of Gaza that they are not alone. We urge you to support this national demonstration and to encourage everyone you can to join us. Please use every available means you have -- email, Facebook, Twitter etc -- to publicise the demonstration as widely as possible.

Called by Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, CND, BMI and others

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Julie Waterson - legendary anti-fascist and revolutionary

Many anti-racists and anti-fascists internationally - alongside her friends and comrades in the British Socialist Workers' Party of which she was a leading member - will have been deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Julie Waterson on friday at the tragically young age of 54, for she was not only an outstanding revolutionary socialist but truly a thorn in the side of Nazis - courageous, brave and inspiring in her tireless indomitable opposition to them.  Yet despite the harassment and intimidation she faced from the likes of the Nazi BNP - from the times I met with her, she always remained a wonderfully warm and cheerful personality - ever ready to challenge and take the piss out of any kind of egotism, arrogance, hubris, hypocrisy or downright betrayal - especially when it came from those supposedly 'on the left'.  She was in many ways, to paraphrase the Bob Marley song, like 'a small axe, well sharp, ready to cut you down' to size.  And many, many socialists loved and respected her for this.  I first met her in 1998 as a first year student who had just joined the SWP in a student occupation for free education (Blair's New Labour had just imposed tuition fees) - she had come up to do a meeting in the middle of our occupation - and her passion for socialism and contempt for the capitalist system shone through.  I remember being amazed at someone who could talk so knowledgeably and powerfully about the world for over half an hour from so few notes (I think she had about five words written on her scrap of paper in front of her). Julie Waterson will be sorely missed in the struggles ahead - and if there is any consolation to be taken from her early passing - and there really isn't - it is that the British fascist movement has never really been in a weaker state, more divided and fragmented, at a time when it should really be the ideal conditions for a fascist movement to grow given the capitalist crisis and racism from mainstream politicians.  That the British far right is so weak in many ways stands as a kind of tribute to Julie's life and work - though sadly the state of the socialist movement in Britain isn't exactly much better - and socialists trying to rebuild that movement in Britain will have to try and do so now without the contribution of one of the greatest and most dedicated class fighters we have seen over the past few decades.  RIP Julie.

I will try and link to tributes below as and when they appear:

Obituary in Socialist Worker by Alex Callinicos
Obituary in the Guardian by Simon Hester
Tributes to Julie Waterson
Unite Against Fascism tribute
Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services tribute
Tithi Bhattacharya
Hazel Croft
James Drummond
Nick Lowles

Edited to also add: The Julie Waterson Internet Archive

 Edited to also add:
A memorial to Julie takes place in Bathgate, West Lothian, Saturday 15 December. Meet 10.45am for 11am at Glasgow Road cemetery, EH48 2AA, and then afterwards at the Royal British Legion, 50 North Bridge Street, EH48 4PL. If you would like further details or a map please contact charlie@swp.org.uk

Donations in memory of Julie can be made to the Socialist Workers Party, PO Box 42184, London SW8 2WD (cheques payable to SWP) or online at www.swp.org.uk or to St Joseph’s Hospice, Mare Street, Hackney, London E8 4SA (cheques payable to St Joseph’s Hospice) or online at www.stjh.org.uk

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Unite the Resistance conference

South African miner at centre of crucial strike to speak at Unite the Resistance conference on Saturday 17 November in central London

Tumi Moloi, Amplats striker, comes to London for the conference. Make sure you are there to hear a report direct from one of the world’s crucial class battles.

For the last three months the Rustenburg area in South Africa has seen bitter class battles between striking miners, the police and the bosses of the multinationals. The massacre at Marikana in August revealed the brutality used against workers who fight for their rights. Despite the killing of 34 of their comrades, the Marikana miners won a great victory against their Lonmin bosses, securing a big pay rise and building up organisation that has continued after the end of the strike.

The Lonmin strikers’ demand of 12,500 rand a month inspired workers across the industry. Workers in the nearby Amplats platinum miners have been on strike for two months demanding a wage of 16,000 Rand (£1,150) a month. They have defied waves of attacks. In October police used teargas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunition against thousands of striking miners after they barricaded a road to stop police assaults. Later the same day police attacked a meeting of thousands of strikers, arresting at least 14. The police then rampaged through a shack settlement. Destroying homes and hitting people.
Unite the Resistance is proud to announce that Tumi Moloi, an Amplats striker, will speak at the Unite the Resitance conference on 17 November.

Tumi is 27 years old, and has worked as a general labourer underground at an Amplats shaft close to Rustenburg for over a year, where he earns £400 per month, from which he supports his mother and his sister.

During 2010 his leadership of the youth in local civic township organisation ensured electricity was finally connected and faulty sewerage systems were repaired. Despite having no union involvement Tumi led his shaft’s 4,500 workers out on strike in September. He is a member of the Rustenburg strike committee (now being reconstituted as the Rustenburg workers’ committee).

Taking place just days after the millions of workers across Europe are set to take part in a general strike, it will to bring together hundreds of trade unionists, students, anti-cuts and community campaigners to debate how we build an effective fight back against austerity, inequality and injustice.

A major plenary will debate “After 20 October how do we beat the Tories”, whilst a series of workshops will provide forums to discuss our fight for the NHS, education and public services, how we organise against attacks on protest and build unity against scapegoating, racism and the attacks on women, LGBT people and people with disabilities.

We hope the conference will provide a forum to learn from resistance here and internationally, to debate the way forward and to help build a network of activists in every union, community, workplace and college that can organise together and build solidarity in the struggles ahead. 

Highlights include:

Opening plenary 11am: The Tories and the neoliberal assault with Owen Jones author of Chavs, Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary, Sheila Coleman Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Kevin Courtney NUT general secretary, Tumi Moloi Amplats strike, Matt Wrack FBU general secretary and Gill George UNITE NEC

Tumi Moloi, Amplats striker who has been at the centre of the South African miners struggle struggle has inspired the world (see link to story here). He will be joined by activists from Egypt, Spain and Greece to discuss the international struggle against austerity

Michael Mansfield lawyer representing just causes from miners fitted up by police at Orgreave to the Hillsborough families fighting for justice. He will discuss Solidarity, Protest and the Law along with Carol Duggan aunt of Mark Duggan killed by police in Tottenham,  anti blacklisting campaigner Dave Smith and Alfie Meadows victimised student currently on trial for taking part in the student protests against fees.

Building a strategy to defend the NHS with Wendy Savage of Keep Our NHS Public, Ray Gill Save Our Hospitals Ealing, Karen Reissmann UNISON NEC and health workers and campaigners organising against attacks on pay, closures and cuts.

Our Vision for Education with Katie O'Neil who was involved in the successful Chicago teachers strike in the US alongside John Holmwood -Campaign for the Public University, Prof Steven Ball Institute of Education and Jamie Woodcock, NUS NEC.

Benefits, Scapegoating and Organising with Merry Cross (DPAC), Ronnie Draper BFAWU general secretary, Jamil Keating NUS NEC FE, Mark Dunk Right to Work

Fighting for equality as part of the fight against austerity with Zita Holbourne PCS NEC and BARAC, Sara Bennett UNITE NEC and Ronan McNeren Queer Resistance/Occupy