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Best books on Black Marxism?

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yoda's walking stick
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Oct 27 2011 03:46
Best books on Black Marxism?

I imagine this website is not very racially diverse, which is really embarrassing for Libcom, or should be. But I was hoping someone could recommend some excellent books on Black Marxism.

Thanks!

Spassmaschine
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Oct 27 2011 07:26

Imagine what you like.

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Juan Conatz
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Oct 27 2011 07:46

Depends on what you mean by that. Are you asking about Marxists who happen to be black, or theoretical tradition called 'black marxsim'?

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Ed
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Oct 27 2011 08:15

Spaßmaschine, please try to be more constructive in your responses.. even if I see how yoda can be a little antagonistic, I think they do start some great discussions (and I kind of have a soft spot for that kind of 'cat amongst the pigeons' style!)..

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RedEd
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Oct 27 2011 13:32

As JC said, more info on what you mean by black marxism would be good. Check out some CLR James if you haven't already. His stuff on race is really good, as is his stuff on other topics. http://libcom.org/tags/clr-james http://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/index.htm

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Arbeiten
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Oct 27 2011 14:15

Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism is a good place to start (I mean this non-sarcastically, great book). It really works through both the points of convergence and contention between black radicalism and marxism (slavery, class and race, nationalism , pan africanism, it covers the lot!).

CLR James is great too. He is a trot though, so be careful. His Black Jacobins is probably one of the best books on Haiti. It is criminal that Zizek et al. do not reference it more. His book on cricket Beyond a Boundary is kicking too, but there is not a lot of directly Marxist related stuff in there. I haven't read his book on Nkrumah and the failure of the Ghana revolution, but i have read a couple of reviews/essays on it. Seems like a great place to start to look at the failures of African national independence (and neo-colonial dependency) and the failures of a nationalist state socialism*. James actually knew Nkrumah personally.

Walter Rodney is also great. Guyanese historian and veritable radical who was eventually assassinated.

W. E. B. Du Bois is the man. African American sociologist. Probably one of the most influential black radicals, but not necessarily Marxist (though definitely Hegelian). His book The Souls of Black Folk is brilliant.

Stuart Hall, still alive and kicking (just about). Again a trotskite (most of them were), but has still written some good stuff (though his later period is probably a bit 'postmodern' for some peoples tastes). Hall is great. He has written loads, done a lot with his life, but never actually written a full book that is not co-authored. I would say a good place to start with Hall is Policing the Crisis this book looks at how the crisis in the capitalist state was reflected in the crisis of law and order and the 'black mugger'. Also, check out his writings on ideology and hegemony. Although this stuff is a bit more difficult to understand. He is trying to work with Gramsci and Althusser so it gets a bit jargon-ish. But if you can get through that check out his essay 'The Great Moving Right Show).

Also check out the Institute of Race Relations website. Loads of interesting stuff to sink your teeth into on that website. You can often pick up copies of IRR's journal Race and Class at bookfairs, online, etc for quite cheap too!

*On this thread I would say read Fanon's first chapter 'The Pitfalls of National Consciousness' in his The Wretched of The Earth. It is usually said that Fanon is a marxist, but I think that is a pretty lazy interpretation, so you might not want to read Fanon if your more interested in the 'marxist' side of 'black marxism'.

1-time
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Oct 27 2011 14:34

Good post Arbeiten, but James can hardly be described as a Trot, can he? He turned his back on Trotsky almost completely by the late 40s...

wojtek
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Oct 27 2011 14:47

http://www.marxists.org/archive/index.htm#black-liberation

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Oct 27 2011 14:48

Yeah your right. I think it was probably unfair for me to call Hall a trot without huge reservations as well. But you mark my words, if I hadn't have done, a bloody libcommer would have tripped me up! It is true, neither Hall nor James can simply be described as 'Trots'. But it is also true to say that both of them have been Trotskists at some point (James more so, but as you say broke with it, as well as the US SWP in the late 40s).

yoda's walking stick
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Oct 27 2011 14:59
Arbeiten wrote:
Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism is a good place to start (I mean this non-sarcastically, great book). It really works through both the points of convergence and contention between black radicalism and marxism (slavery, class and race, nationalism , pan africanism, it covers the lot!).

CLR James is great too. He is a trot though, so be careful. His Black Jacobins is probably one of the best books on Haiti. It is criminal that Zizek et al. do not reference it more. His book on cricket Beyond a Boundary is kicking too, but there is not a lot of directly Marxist related stuff in there. I haven't read his book on Nkrumah and the failure of the Ghana revolution, but i have read a couple of reviews/essays on it. Seems like a great place to start to look at the failures of African national independence (and neo-colonial dependency) and the failures of a nationalist state socialism*. James actually knew Nkrumah personally.

Walter Rodney is also great. Guyanese historian and veritable radical who was eventually assassinated.

W. E. B. Du Bois is the man. African American sociologist. Probably one of the most influential black radicals, but not necessarily Marxist (though definitely Hegelian). His book The Souls of Black Folk is brilliant.

Stuart Hall, still alive and kicking (just about). Again a trotskite (most of them were), but has still written some good stuff (though his later period is probably a bit 'postmodern' for some peoples tastes). Hall is great. He has written loads, done a lot with his life, but never actually written a full book that is not co-authored. I would say a good place to start with Hall is Policing the Crisis this book looks at how the crisis in the capitalist state was reflected in the crisis of law and order and the 'black mugger'. Also, check out his writings on ideology and hegemony. Although this stuff is a bit more difficult to understand. He is trying to work with Gramsci and Althusser so it gets a bit jargon-ish. But if you can get through that check out his essay 'The Great Moving Right Show).

Also check out the Institute of Race Relations website. Loads of interesting stuff to sink your teeth into on that website. You can often pick up copies of IRR's journal Race and Class at bookfairs, online, etc for quite cheap too!

*On this thread I would say read Fanon's first chapter 'The Pitfalls of National Consciousness' in his The Wretched of The Earth. It is usually said that Fanon is a marxist, but I think that is a pretty lazy interpretation, so you might not want to read Fanon if your more interested in the 'marxist' side of 'black marxism'.

Thanks! From the description of Robinson's book on Amazon though, it appears as if his work is an argument against marxism.

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Entdinglichung
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Oct 27 2011 15:03

stuff by Walter Rodney here ... it is also the question, how you define "black", in the 1970ies and 80ies, it was pretty common to use the term "black" with the meaning of "non-white", e.g. A. Sivanandan of IRR

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Oct 27 2011 15:06

Well, I wouldn't say it is simply an argument against Marxism. It isn't that facile (no offence). There are genuine tensions between Marxism and Anti-racism/black radicalism. Cedric Robinson's text is brilliant at elucidating this (as I said, convergences and contentions). If you look at all of these writers I have mentioned, none of them have a simple relationship with Marxism. It is always complex. Most of them have at some time been members of mainstream communist parties, broke with them, flirted with pan-africanism etc, etc. I personally think a lot of these writers have a lot to say to Marxists (and even libertarian communists!) still today. Read the book and decide for yourself!

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Oct 27 2011 15:12

Yeah Ent. makes a good point there, 'black' has a multifarious meaning and can be quite contentious for some writers.

The best example I can think of is the debate between Sivanandan and sociologist Tariq Modood. Siv. wants black to include people of south asian descent, etc, etc. For Siv. black is the mark of the oppressed. If you suffer racism, you are black. Modood believes that this was the failure of anti-racism in the 1980s. The idea of blackness was alienated for south asians. Modood says in practice this often vaunted trans-atlantic slavery history to the detriment of the history of colonialism in India, etc, etc. Alienating south asians from the key symbolism of anti-racism.

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Entdinglichung
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Oct 27 2011 15:12
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subprole
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Oct 30 2011 11:56

http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/black-bolshevik

http://rashidmod.com/

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subprole
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Oct 30 2011 12:12

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/rodney-walter/works/africanrevolution.htm

http://www.historyisaweapon.org/defcon1/rbwstudy.html
http://gatheringforces.org/2009/12/10/lessons-from-league-of-revolutionary-black-workers/
http://libcom.org/tags/league-revolutionary-black-workers
http://kasamaproject.org/2011/01/21/finally-got-the-news-a-documentary-about-the-league-of-revolutionary-black-workers/

bastarx
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Oct 30 2011 12:22

A one line description or at least a title for each link would be nice.

S. Artesian
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Oct 30 2011 17:37

Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism Jeffrey Perry

Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones Carole Boyce Davies

Detroit: I Do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution (Updated Edition) (South End Press Classics Series) Dan Georgakas

martinh
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Oct 30 2011 19:53

On the whole "how do you define black" thing, during the 80s it was common for a lot of the left (and state structures like the GLC) to define it in the "if you're oppressed you're black" way, which meant that there was a lot of arguments that the Irish were black. TBH I think this whole approach ran up against the fracturing of the unity between different ethnic communities in the UK that happened after the 80s (and the gains that were made then) and the move by councils to see communities in terms of representatives as part of the multi-culturalist approach.

regards

Martin

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ocelot
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Oct 30 2011 23:30
Arbeiten wrote:
Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism is a good place to start (I mean this non-sarcastically, great book). It really works through both the points of convergence and contention between black radicalism and marxism (slavery, class and race, nationalism , pan africanism, it covers the lot!).

Second that.

Arbeiten wrote:
CLR James is great too. He is a trot though, so be careful. His Black Jacobins is probably one of the best books on Haiti. It is criminal that Zizek et al. do not reference it more. His book on cricket Beyond a Boundary is kicking too, but there is not a lot of directly Marxist related stuff in there. I haven't read his book on Nkrumah and the failure of the Ghana revolution, but i have read a couple of reviews/essays on it. Seems like a great place to start to look at the failures of African national independence (and neo-colonial dependency) and the failures of a nationalist state socialism*. James actually knew Nkrumah personally.

It's been maybe 20 years since I read James' book on Nkrumah and Ghana. From what I remember it was an embarrassingly awful hagiography. IIRC he actually had to write a postscript 10 years later sheepishly admitting that he had been so entranced by Nkrumah at the time, that he'd temporarily mislaid all capacity for critical thought. Definitely not James at his best. OTOH, I have a vague memory that in his "looking back" section, he did try to look a bit deeper into why not only Nkrumah, but that whole generation of African anti-colonial struggles ended the way they did.