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Lynsey Black

Irish society, bolstered by the policies and discourse of Church and state, lived under overwhelming taboos in relation to sex and sexuality in the decades post-independence. Within these limits, illegitimacy became an unthinkable prospect for many unmarried women who found themselves pregnant. The intensity of this shame moulded the profile of women’s lethal violence, ensuring that the criminogenic powers of shame motivated women to destroy evidence of extramarital sex. Despite these clear patterns, and the example of Britain, there was no urgency in government to reform the law on infant murder. Instead, there was a clear symbolic function in retaining the legal condemnation for as long as it remained unchanged. This commitment to a symbolically punitive regime appears more perverse in light of the sobering rates of infant mortality within those institutions established for the confinement of unmarried pregnant women and their infants. Despite the structures of censure, the cases offer glimpses throughout of the experiences of motherhood in Ireland in these years, demonstrating the complexities of the meanings of maternity, and providing examples of offending women as mothers.

in Gender and punishment in Ireland
Lynsey Black

For women reprieved from a sentence of death in Ireland, their negotiations for clemency did not cease once they were free of the condemned cell. The petitioning of women from prison, while they cannot be read uncritically, provide rare examples of the women’s voices. In this light, petitions illustrate the position of women within their families and reveal the emotional and physical strains of imprisonment. Further, the petitions demonstrate sparks of resistance and anger, which serve to acknowledge the lived experience of imprisonment and confinement, and the subjectivities of reprieved women. Crucially, reprieved women’s experiences of imprisonment differed significantly from reprieved men; ‘punishment’ did not end at the prison door for women. In Ireland, release from prison often worked to conceal gendered punishment regimes which captured women for life. The transcarceration of women from prison to religious institutions contributed to the fall in the rates of women’s imprisonment post-1922 as imprisonment came to be viewed as inappropriate for women.

in Gender and punishment in Ireland
Lynsey Black

Overwhelmingly, the women before the courts on charges of murder were drawn from rural or small-town Ireland, a demographic fact which entailed some stark consequences for women in these decades. In the years of nation-building post-independence, notions of rural Ireland, and especially the ‘West’, enjoyed a vaunted status as an emblem of the ‘real’ Ireland. These ideals crumpled on impact with the Dublin legal sphere as notions of ignorance and depravity infused debate on the women’s crimes. These assumptions laid bare the moral judgements which were targeted at members of the labouring classes. Crucially, minorities such as Irish speakers and Travellers were often doubly suspect, and were ‘Othered’ before the courts. Such positionality not only shaped criminal justice responses; the imperatives of Irish rural life could also shape the motivations to kill for some women before the courts.

in Gender and punishment in Ireland
Lynsey Black

The cases of women prosecuted for murder and convicted of lesser offences demonstrate the intensely gendered punishment regimes prevailing in postcolonial Ireland. The sentencing for this cohort illustrates the shadow system of penality, operating with the explicit imprimatur of the formal state but often beyond the bounds of state oversight. The delegation of punishment to religious orders was notable for particular cases, namely younger women who could be deemed to have committed an offence of morality. For such women, the ‘sin’ of sexuality rendered them subject to religious control. Religious detention came to dominate as the decades passed, rising in importance as the idea of the prison as a site of punishment for women fell out of favour.

in Gender and punishment in Ireland
Lynsey Black

This chapter presents the profile and trends over time of women prosecuted for murder in Ireland from independence. The profile of prosecuted women speaks to the strange phenomenon whereby hundreds of women were capitally prosecuted in circumstances in which there was no notion of eventual execution. The legal frameworks which persisted until the reform of the law on infanticide ensured that a punitive regime prevailed for women suspected of killing their illegitimate infant. Throughout, the profile of these women was signally different from the cases of women prosecuted for the murder of an adult, reflected in the individual circumstances of the women before the courts and the criminal justice responses. Despite the intensely gendered nature of crime and punishment in these decades, in which separate gendered regimes of punishment were devised for women, the criminal justice apparatus was always predicated on the male offender. This presumed ‘maleness’ obscures the female experience of these processes and regimes. An analysis of murder and punishment in Ireland from this perspective creates an alternative map of significance.

in Gender and punishment in Ireland
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Hakim Adi

This afterword reflects on the profound impact of the revolutionary events in Russia in 1917, especially the ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’ and the launch of the Communist International in 1919 on Africans and those in the African diaspora. It discusses the impact of the controversial ‘Black Belt thesis’, the right of African Americans to empower themselves and become the decision-makers in the Southern states of the United States, where they constituted a clear majority. The afterword also reflects on how the biographical accounts presented in this volume offer fascinating insights into the lives of key activists during the twentieth century, and highlights the need for much more work to establish the influence of Marxism and Communism on Africans and those in the African diaspora from the nineteenth century onwards, particularly black women. It also raises issues around the methods that can be utilised in such research, including how surveillance activities can often seem to be a boon to researchers because the police and security services collect information which is then sometimes placed in archives at the disposal of historians.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson
Lisa Merrill and Theresa Saxon

African-American actors Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson are pivotal figures for discussions of attitudes globally that continue to inform contemporary critical approaches to race and representation. This chapter explores their engagements, reception, and appropriation in both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Aldridge and Robeson visited Russia within very different political climates. Aldridge travelled from America to England in 1824, then in the 1850s and 1860s spent several years in Russia. Official discussions around the emancipation of serfs, and connections between the systems of slavery and serfdom, were noted in press reports of Aldridge’s performances. In the 1930s Robeson was drawn to the USSR, regarding it as a place where people of African descent would be treated fairly, unlike the discrimination they faced in the United States. Robeson travelled extensively throughout the Soviet Union from 1934, throughout the 1940s, and returned later after the US reinstated his passport in 1958. Though Robeson was more overtly political than Aldridge, they each were drawn to Russian culture, received warmly by Russian audiences, and utilised by the Russian press as catalysts for political positions that they were seen to represent with their artistry. Robeson’s speeches in support of Soviet workers and of the Communist state led to his harassment by House of Un-American Activities Committee/the US government. Aldridge’s celebration of African ancestry and championing of the repressed in Russia led authorities to fear his advocacy. This heritage of political activism associated with both Aldridge and Robeson as Black American performers in Russia forms the basis of this chapter.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
Henry Dee

Over the course of the 1920s, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU) and its Malawi-born leader, Clements Kadalie, demonstrated for the first time the possibility and importance of black mass organisation in Southern Africa. Through its organising successes, the ICU influenced radicals across the world and transformed ideas about race, radicalism and revolution for Communists and non-Communists alike. This chapter makes three arguments about the multidirectional flow of radical ideas between Southern Africa, Russia, America and Europe, and the syncretic nature of both the ICU and early Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). First, it contextualises the early reception of Communism in Southern Africa against entrenched anti-Communist local tendencies. Second, it explains how the ICU’s leadership transformed the priorities of the CPSA by demonstrating the necessity of organising black workers in their hundreds of thousands. The successes of the ICU led the CPSA to see the mass industrial organisation of black workers (rather than the local white labour aristocracy) as the instrument of historic change, and it was through the ICU that ideas of race consciousness and race leadership shaped the policies of Comintern officials in Russia and black radicals in America and Britain. Third, ICU criticisms indicate that the early CPSA was severely weakened by the enduring influence of white labourism and top-down dictatorial tendencies. The Russian Revolution certainly inspired a select number of militant ICU leaders, but the ICU gave black workers in Southern Africa and beyond a vivid example of black mass organisation.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
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Guns, bombs, spooks and writing the revolution
Jak Peake

Cyril Briggs is principally remembered for his activism and journalism, with his founding of the journal The Crusader in 1918 and, a year later, the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), a black-centred, left-leaning organisation, cementing his reputation as a ‘Black Red’. What rarely surfaces in treatments of his life, writing or career, however, is his fiction. This chapter offers a biographical treatment of his life, charting his journalistic work at the New York Amsterdam News and The Crusader; his role as an ABB leader; the ABB’s implication in the 1921 Tulsa riots; his political orientation prior to and after the ABB’s affiliation with the Communist Party of the United States of America in 1921; his attempted alliances with Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and subsequent feud with Garvey. Crucially, it includes reflection on two of Briggs’s short stories and another by Virgin Islander Romeo L. Dougherty, serialised in The Crusader – two of which (Briggs’s ‘The Ray of Fear’ and Dougherty’s ‘“Punta” Revolutionist’) were archived and assessed by Bureau of Investigation operatives. In shedding light on this underexplored fiction, this chapter charts not only Briggs’s networks, but also the shadow networks of J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau during and after the first US Red Scare. It also unravels the role of Agent 800, aka James Wormley Jones, the Bureau’s first black, full-time agent, in Briggs’s world. Jones not only fuelled animosity between Briggs and Garvey, but also turned in a report of an ABB near-bomb plot in the US South – a narrative straight out of Briggs’s fiction.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917
Tennyson S.D. Joseph

Caribbean intellectual C.L.R. James has made a distinct contribution to global Marxist thought through his insightful analysis of the organisational imperatives for revolutionary change beyond the vanguard party model offered by V.I. Lenin. Indeed, in the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the global experience of the rise of spontaneous mass movements independent of centrally organised vanguardist leaders has concretely actualised James’s reflections. Yet, despite the contemporary validity of his perspectives, James has been largely assessed as being more relevant to the radical politics of the advanced capitalist regions of Europe, than to the small Caribbean states in the Black Atlantic. While James is acknowledged as a foremost Pan-Africanist, his ‘Pan-Africanism’ is often treated as separate from his Marxism. Except for the reviews of his ‘The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro problem in the USA’, few writers see his theoretical reflections on Marxist organisation as being linked to the possibilities of Pan-African liberation. This chapter seeks to highlight the analytical link between C.L.R James’s Pan-Africanism and his Marxism, by engaging in a comparative analysis with the work of other notable black Marxists. The chapter seeks to resolve tensions between race and class, and Marxism and Pan-Africanism, in order to address the lingering questions about the applicability of Marxism to black revolutionary politics in the twenty-first century.

in Revolutionary lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917