The Trials of Muhammad Ali

August 21, 2013


C.L.R. James and E.P. Thompson in Conversation

January 7, 2013

This is a truly priceless video of a long conversation between two great historians, C.L.R. James and E.P. Thompson.

Their meeting took place in the 1980’s hence their discussion of Reagan and Thatcher as well as a fascinating dialogue on the state of the international Left and peace movement.


Harry Belafonte Documentary

November 21, 2011

Pete Seeger enters 9th decade as an activist

October 27, 2011

Very inspiring!

An extraordinary life and an amazing artist and human being.

Pete Seeger enters 9th decade as an activist

By CHRIS TALBOTT

Tao Rodriguez-Seeger was halfway through Friday night’s march down Broadway to support the Occupy Wall Street movement, a guitar strapped over his shoulder and his grandfather Pete Seeger at his side. Suddenly a New York City police officer stepped from the crowd and grabbed his elbow.

“Are you Tao Seeger?” the officer asked tersely. “Was this your idea? Did you think of this?”

Rodriguez-Seeger, a New Orleans-based musician, was certain arrest was imminent. The officer reached for his hand and he readied for the cuffs. Then something unexpected happened.

“He shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you, thank you. This is beautiful,'” Rodriguez-Seeger said. “That really did it for me. The cops recognized what we were about.”

That moment affirmed the message that his grandfather has preached tirelessly across nine decades. The causes and movements have changed from time to time over 75 years, but his message has always been the same: Song is the key to understanding and change.

“Music does something to you,” Rodriguez-Seeger said. “It can cross rivers of meaning that entire books can’t get across. … You take any one of Bob Dylan’s songs and you get to the heart of the matter where it took Homer volumes and volumes of books to get to the same point.”

Today, Pete Seeger is approaching the far end of a life lived walking hand in hand with American history, often at odds with the government that runs things. It failed to shut him up. The courts had no chance. Changing tastes and values? Never. Even time seems to have taken a step back in deference to the musical rabble-rouser’s resolve and determination.

Click here to view the entire article


What Paul Robeson Said

September 15, 2011

What Paul Robeson Said

In April 1949, just as the Cold War was beginning to intensify, actor, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson traveled to France to attend the Soviet Union-sponsored Paris Peace Conference. After singing “Joe Hill,” the famous ballad about a Swedish-born union activist falsely accused and convicted of murder and executed in Utah in 1915, Robeson addressed the audience and began speaking extemporaneously, as he often did, about the lives of black people in the United States. Robeson’s main point was that World War III was not inevitable, as many Americans did not want war with the Soviet Union.

Before he took the stage, however, his speech had somehow already been transcribed and dispatched back to the United States by the Associated Press. By the following day, editorialists and politicians had branded Robeson a communist traitor for insinuating that black Americans would not fight in a war against the Soviet Union. Historians would later discover that Robeson had been misquoted, but the damage had been almost instantly done. And because he was out of the country, the singer was unaware of the firestorm brewing back home over the speech.

It was the beginning of the end for Robeson, who would soon be declared “the Kremlin’s voice of America” by a witness at hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Committee chair John Wood, a Georgia Democrat, summoned baseball great Jackie Robinson to Washington. Robinson, appearing reluctantly, denounced Robeson’s views and assured the country that the singer did not speak on behalf of black Americans. Robeson’s passport was soon revoked, and 85 of his planned concerts in the United States were canceled. Some in the press were calling for his execution.

Later that summer, in civil rights-friendly Westchester County, New York, at the one concert that was not canceled, anti-communist groups and Ku Klux Klan types hurled racial epithets, attacked concertgoers with baseball bats and rocks and burned Robeson in effigy. A man who had exemplified American upward mobility had suddenly become public enemy number one. Not even the leading black spokesmen of the day, whose causes Robeson had championed at great personal cost, felt safe enough to stand by the man dubbed as the “Black Stalin” during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and ’50s.

Click here to view the entire article


Dr. King Weeps From His Grave

August 26, 2011

These are the Black voices that MATTER not the uncritical Obama cheerleaders like Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Roland Martin, et al.

Sharpton, who has a new show on MSNBC, went as far to say that he will not criticize President Obama.

In light of that, are people really supposed to take his political opinions/analysis seriously?

What a horrible disservice to the political discourse in the US and even more so heading into an election year.

Cornel West is absolutely correct to raise the important issues that MLK fought against and ultimately lost his life over.

Poverty, Racism, US Militarism and Economic Injustice.

All of these problems not only still exist but remain as important as ever because these are the real causes for the economic divide and social inequality that is prevalent in our society.

And it is concrete proof that even with a Black President in office, the wealth, racial and power structure in the US remains unchanged.

nytimes.com
Dr. King Weeps From His Grave
By CORNEL WEST

Princeton, N.J.

THE Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday — exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)

These events constitute major milestones in the turbulent history of race and democracy in America, and the undeniable success of the civil rights movement — culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 — warrants our attention and elation. Yet the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel still haunt us: “The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King.”

Rabbi Heschel spoke those words during the last years of King’s life, when 72 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks disapproved of King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to eradicate poverty in America. King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” He called America a “sick society.” On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.”

King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis. He was not an American Gibbon, chronicling the decline and fall of the American empire, but a courageous and visionary Christian blues man, fighting with style and love in the face of the four catastrophes he identified.

Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians). Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.

Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law — in the name of the “war” on drugs — have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. And poverty is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people.

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts’ stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King’s four catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.

King weeps from his grave. He never confused substance with symbolism. He never conflated a flesh and blood sacrifice with a stone and mortar edifice. We rightly celebrate his substance and sacrifice because he loved us all so deeply. Let us not remain satisfied with symbolism because we too often fear the challenge he embraced. Our greatest writer, Herman Melville, who spent his life in love with America even as he was our most fierce critic of the myth of American exceptionalism, noted, “Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.”

King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.

In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.

Cornel West, a philosopher, is a professor at Princeton.


ALL-SPORTS issue of the Nation Magazine

July 29, 2011



For only the second time in the magazine’s long history, The Nation’s upcoming issue will be all about sports.

There will be plenty of politics as well.

Politics have been present and held a prominent place throughout US sports history.

Even more so today.

From all the labor problems between the players and owners to athletes speaking out against war and social injustice. There’s also the economics side of sports and that is just as a political issue as anything else.

As a long time sports fan and as a person greatly interested in politics I am really looking forward to reading this special issue of the magazine.

Click here to view the list of articles in the All-Sports Issue of The Nation