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Darcus Howe, Black Power and the New Left


The funeral cortège outside the historic Mangrove Restaurant

Last month I attended the funeral of Darcus Howe, great-nephew of C.L.R. James and someone I had the privilege of getting to know a little over the last few years of his life, having first met him when he agreed to speak at a conference I helped organise to mark ‘Seventy years of The Black Jacobins‘ in 2008 – and someone whose generous support for my work on James since then I will always appreciate.   ‘I am an immigrant’, he defiantly told me one of the last times we met – a great statement in the context of the rising racism underway in Britain – and his thoughts on Nigel Farage were very memorable.  ‘He is what I call a “talkative” … he babbles inanities’.   Anyway, by way of tribute to Darcus, I thought I would link to a short obituary I wrote for Socialist ReviewDarcus Howe: Black Power in the New Left. RIP Darcus.



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Remembering the Leeds Convention of 1917

To mark the centenary of the historic Leeds Convention of 3 June 1917, where some 3,500 democrats and socialists pledged solidarity with the Russian Revolution and voted to set up Worker’s and Soldiers’ Councils in Britain, Leeds Trades Council and the Ford-Maguire Society with the generous support of the Lipman-Miliband Trust are holding a one day event at the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds on Saturday 3 June from 10-4pm. Speakers include Michael Meadowcroft on the Leeds Convention, John Newsinger on the Russian Revolution, Janet Douglas on Arthur Ransome, Leeds and the Russian Revolution, and Jill Liddington on ‘Leeds Suffrage Stories: Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe and Leonora Cohen’. There will also be an evening event with American folk singer David Rovics performing  – for those near Leeds this is not an event to be missed. Together with Janet Douglas I have recently co-edited a new centenary edition of the proceedings of the Leeds Convention, British Labour and the Russian Revolution – The Leeds Convention of 1917 (Spokeman, 2017) which includes the original 1974 introduction to this volume by the late Ken Coates as well as new archival material and other details relating to this event which Ralph Miliband described as ‘perhaps the most remarkable gathering of the period’.

Provisional timetable:

10am – Welcome

10.15 – Michael Meadowcroft, ‘The Leeds Convention’

11.15 – coffee break

11.30 – John Newsinger, ‘Revolutionary Russia and the Dream of a New World’

12.30 – lunch break

1.15 – Jill Liddington ‘Leeds Suffrage Stories: Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe and Leonora Cohen’

2.15 – Janet Douglas ‘Arthur Ransome, Leeds and the Russian Revolution’

3pm – Final Remarks (inc Steve Davison, Keighley TUC) and Book Launch of ‘British Labour and the Russian Revolution – The Leeds Convention of 1917’ (Spokesman, 2017) and David Rovics leading us in singing ‘The Red Flag’ .

4pm close

7.30pm – Love Music Hate Racism gig with David Rovics at the Fox and Newt, Burley St – tickets £10 / £5

Register on eventbrite here to help keep track of likely numbers:

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The Red and the Black

2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and among the many conferences and events being organised to mark the anniversary I am co-organising one entitled ‘The Red and the Black – The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic’ which will be held at the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), University of Central Lancashire, Preston, from the 14-15 October 2017 – for more information please see this page, which includes a call for papers (deadline 31 Jan 2017).

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Our Migration Story

The Runnymede Trust have put together a tremendous resource relating to Our Migration Story: The Making of Britain, which while ‘primarily designed to support teachers and students studying migration to Britain, its aim is to be a useful resource for anyone interested in Britain’s migration history.’ It looks a fascinating archive of material overall – for those interested, I have contributed a section on ‘The African diaspora: global solidarity in inter-war Britain’.

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CLR James and the Manchester Guardian

Amidst the current hysteria about Trotskyism in Britain as a result of the continued attempts to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, The Guardian has published a letter by yours truly relating to C.L.R. James, the ‘Manchester Guardian Trotskyist’…

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Two exciting new developments relating to C.L.R. James that I felt I ought to report here – firstly, the long awaited documentary Every Cook Can Govern: Documenting the life, impact & works of CLR James is nearly complete – with film showings and launches planned – this promises to help introduce a new generation to James’s work.

Secondly, there is a timely call for papers for a conference in New York entitled ‘C.L.R. James Now!’ which promises to try and theorise the relevance of James’s work for questions of race, resistance and revolution in the 21st century – which looks a great initiative:

Call for Papers – CLR James Now!

Call for Papers: CLR James Now!
Cosponsored by the New York Metro American Studies Association (NYMASA) and the CUNY Institute for Research on the African Diaspora and Caribbean (IRADAC)

Location: The Segal Theater at the CUNY Graduate Center (New York, New York)
Date: Friday November 4th, 2016

CLR James’s life spanned almost the entire 20th century. He was part of Trotsky’s circle in Mexico in the 1930s and Stuart Hall’s in the 1970s. A fulcrum of leftist thought for the past fifty years, James was an influential advocate of social change from below. James was a product of the colonial process and an early resister of it, and he recognized that the Global South as a generator of political innovation rather than a container for received ideas. As a theorist of British imperialism and what has come to be called the Black Atlantic, James helps us reorient the geographic perspective of American Studies towards the Caribbean and expands what blackness can mean in the United States.

A novelist, playwright, theorist, sports writer, literary critic voracious reader, and polymath intellectual, James forces us to challenge the narrow boundaries of academic life on the one hand and resist the lure of sectarianism in political organizing on the other. In his embrace of cricket, he claims the cultural capital of the colonizer for the post-colonial subject. His critique of Soviet communism as “state capitalism” anticipated the emergence of China as a state-run free market, just as his fascination with the Haitian revolution theorized the inextricable connections between racialization and divide-and-conquer class politics that is a focus of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

What can CLR James tell us now?

We invite proposals for presentations on (but not limited to) the following topics:

Can every cook govern? Revolutionary possibilities past and present
CLR James and “friends”: overlaps, influences, and influenced: Trotsky, Gramsci, Luxemburg, Hall, Spivak, Said, Davis, Padmore, Dunayevskaya, James and Grace Lee Boggs, and more
James and his “enemies”: conflict, opposition, surveillance, suppression
James at the margins, James at the center, James in the black Atlantic
Migration, diaspora, deportation, flight
James’s critique of state socialism, from the USSR to Cuba to the Chinese Communist Party
James and the “studies”: postcolonial, (post)marxist, transnational, gender, sexuality
Critiquing James

Please use the following Survey Monkey link to submit abstracts (250 words maximum) for the conference by May 15, 2016:

For any questions or concerns about the symposium or call, please email Justin Rogers-Cooper at
Please help us advertise and create discussion for the symposium using the social media hashtag #CLRJamesNOW

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Save the Nello James centre

Please support this important campaign underway to save the Nello James Centre in Whalley Range, Manchester, which according to the Guardian back in 1972:

Started in 1967 as a community education centre, the cottage supplied day-care and a nursery playground, legal advice, a printing workshop and a social centre. The founders of the centre had partly come together to protest police brutality, although its membership broadened beyond West Indians to include local university students. Amongst its successful events were dance nights and a free university. The centre was visited by the select parliamentary committee on race relations. Its political radicalism was expressed not only in the cottage being named after leading Trinidadian socialist intellectual C.L.R. James but also in the posters on the trees outside reading “Free Angela Davis” who had been arrested as part of the repression of the Black Panther Party in California during the early 1970s.

For some media coverage of the current campaign to stop the building being sold off, see here and here, while there is a petition to sign here.

Given James’s own links to Manchester – from his work alongside Neville Cardus as a cricket journalist for the Manchester Guardian from 1933-35 to his Pan-Africanist activism in the 1930s alongside figures such as George Padmore, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Chris Braithwaite and Jomo Kenyatta which helped lead to the Fifth Pan-African Congress being held in Manchester in October 1945, to his return to work for the Manchester Guardian as a cricket writer in the post-war period for a year or so – it is only right that this centre named after him in 1967 is saved and brought back to life to serve the needs of the local community in a manner in keeping with James’s radical and revolutionary spirit. To paraphrase Scott McLemee, having C.L.R. James’s name on any building is an honour – to the building. Save the Nello James Centre!

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Welcome to the website of Christian Høgsbjerg, a historian and teacher based in the UK.  From 2013-14 I was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at the University of York, where I completed my doctorate in History in 2010, and in 2016 I am working as a Teaching Fellow in Caribbean History at UCL’s Institute of the Americas.  I work on twentieth century British imperial history (particularly with relation to the Caribbean), the black presence in imperial Britain, the black experience of the British Empire, and how race and empire impacted more broadly on twentieth-century British identity, politics, society and culture.

My specialist focus of research to date has concerned the life and work of the black Trinidadian Marxist and Pan-Africanist intellectual and activist C.L.R. James (1901-1989) a writer, radical historian and political thinker who made a profound contribution to, among other areas, the making of modern multi-cultural, ‘post-colonial’ Britain.  I am the author of C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain and Chris Braithwaite: Mariner, Renegade and Castaway,  the editor of a special edition of C.L.R. James’s 1934 play about the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture: The story of the only successful slave revolt in history, and the co-editor of Celebrating C.L.R. James in Hackney, London.

This website – which I am afraid is very much a ‘work in progress’ at the moment – has been set up to hopefully enable people who wish to get in touch with me to more easily be able to do so, as well as allow me to collate a list of my writing to date in one relatively easily accessible place.  If you have any questions about my research etc please do get in touch using the form on the contact page – many thanks.

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