A Great Man Remembered

July 13, 2009 at 2:50 AM Leave a comment

The 19th May this year marked 20 years since the passing of CLR James  one of the formative influences on my life and of  the development of black politics in the UK.

As a sports journalist, historian, trade unionist, socialist, political theorist and one of the main forces behind the magazine Race Today he was one of a generation of black intellectual giants that left us a great legacy.  A legacy in  his writing by placing in context the black radical tradition of struggle against racism and through his and his contemporaries marshalling of the  anti colonial and imperialist struggles an important lesson which was that we can change the world if we see it clearly and organise to change it.

Maybe it is a sign of the times that The Voice, which describes itself as  Britain’s foremost black newspaper made no mention of his passing. Indeed I was not conscious of  the fact that  his passing had registered with most of the black population.  Which got me to thinking how come  the passing of one of the great black intellectuals of our age can be forgotten.

Perhaps part of the answer lays in the content of  The Voice, which in comparison with the publications by and associated with CLR James, we find a fascination with the promotion of personal wealth and with celebrity, but little comment on the wider issues of  social justice.  It is as if we are meant to believe that if we can only all be successful entrepreneurs, pop stars, fashionable celebrities or sportsman than the scourge of racism would not longer affect us. A reflection of a get rich culture which leaves no room for community or solidarity.

Maybe this has developed because those that promote those ideas have forgotten a central truth that CLR and those of his generation understood with clarity that for some people to be rich, a lot have to be poor.  This is the essential truth of our history, from slavery through colanialism amd imperialism, neo-colonalism through to the modern day.  It is why Africa and other parts of the non white world are still afflicted by poverty, forced and slave labour and is the basic truth on which the ideas of racism were built.  The legacy of  CLR James and  his contemporaries  it is that we cabn organise to achieve change, not only our personal fortunes but change the world and we can.  It is only through this that we can hope to rid ourselves of the racism that blights our lives.  Theres was the generation thatorganised and fought against colonialism and changed the map of  the world.  We have a responsibility to build on that steppping stone and make sure that we and our children fight to change it so that it is a good place to be for everyone.


Entry filed under: Politics, Union.

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