The introduction sets out the ways in which the volume uses an engagement with the inspiring international reverberations of the Russian Revolution across the Black Atlantic world to understand the contested articulations of left politics and different struggles against racism and colonialism. The first section situates the volume in relation to the historiography of the Russian Revolution while outlining some of the key ways in which black radicals drew inspiration from these events. The second section positions the volume in relation to recent literatures on black internationalism, drawing attention to how the chapters in this volume take forward these debates. The final section draws attention to the implications of the book for key contemporary debates on the intersection of race and class, on the emergence of politicised forms of anti-racism, in particular those arising out of a revolutionary struggle, and on racialised forms of internationalism and agency. We conclude by positioning the introduction in relation to recent political events, including the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement.
This volume explores the life histories of a wide range of radical figures whose political activity in relation to the black liberation struggle was catalysed or profoundly shaped by the global impact and legacy of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. The volume includes new perspectives on the intellectual trajectories of well-known figures such as C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Raya Dunayevskaya and Walter Rodney, as well as the important South African trade union leader Clements Kadalie and the poet Amiri Baraka. The volume also brings together new research and scholarship on a number of critical activists who were influenced by ‘black Bolshevism’ such as Henry Hubert Harrison, Wilfred Domingo, Cyril Briggs, Grace P. Campbell and Lamine Senghor. Detailed engagements with the political trajectories of such revolutionary figures opens up a set of diverse perspectives and engagements with different articulations of black internationalisms in the wake of the Russian Revolution. This enables a focus on the different and contested terms on which these relations were shaped, and some of the nuanced situated ways in which these relations were negotiated and lived. The engagement with particular lives and experiences offers a focus on different forms of political agency and solidarity shaped at the intersection of the Russian Revolution and the wider Black Atlantic world. Such a biographical approach brings a vivid and distinctive lens to bear on how racialised social and political worlds were negotiated and experienced, and also on historic black radical engagements with left political movements and organising.
African diaspora. Through doing so it outlines a
dynamic framework for articulating some aspects of the racialised, gendered and classed
articulations of revolutionary, political lives in the wake of the Russian Revolution.
Atlantic trajectories, the Russian Revolution and resistance
The lives discussed here are engaged with to open up
a set of perspectives and engagements on both the Black Atlantic but also more broadly blackinternationalisms in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Through doing so the collection
-colonialist and revolutionary movements in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseilles. 1 For, as the historian Michael Goebel has
argued, Paris in the interwar period was the great ‘anti-imperial metropolis’,
which attracted many radicals from around the world, including many black militants who
sought to marry the causes of blackinternationalism and Communism. 2 Over the past few decades, a growing body of research has
sought to look beyond jazz, artistic modernism and the elite black writers of the Negritude
movement to uncover the writings and
‘race-first’ perspective of blackinternationalism and radical political Pan-Africanism was at odds with the
‘class-first’ interpretations of revolutionary socialism, class struggle and
class-against-class of the Comintern and the Communists. 14 Although the Communists in American, British and French labour unions
tried to fuse red and black radical agendas, most of the black workers remained lukewarm to
the Communist call and most black ‘fellow travellers’ turned their backs on
the Communists during the latter half of
suggests important links to contemporary politics of race and
The first section of our introduction explores the relations between black
politics and the Russian Revolution. The second section locates the book in relation to
debates around the Black Atlantic and on blackinternationalism, and the final section
considers the broader contemporary relevance of intersections between ‘the Red and the
Black’. This work sheds new light on the emergence of understandings of the
intersection of race and class, on the
Global Africa, Reparations, and the End of Pan-Africanism
option of determining the degree to which twenty-first-century blackinternationalism can be understood as “Global Africa” in action. Furthermore, they have a golden opportunity to frame the narrative of Global Africa as an organising and operational discourse capable of sustaining Pan-Africanism as an effectively empowering philosophy for the future.
but Sweet with the
Dream’ , 58.
Cyril Briggs, ‘The Acid Test of White
Friendship’, Crusader , July 1921, 9.
Mark Solomon, The Cry was Unity : Communists and African
Americans, 1917–1936 (Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 1998),
Briggs cited in Hill, ‘Racial and Radical’,
Minkah Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black
Kelley points out:
neither Africa nor Pan-Africanism are necessarily the source of black
transnational political identities; sometimes they live through or are
integrally tied to other kinds of international movements –
Socialism, Communism, Feminism, Surrealism … Communist and
socialist movements … have long been harbingers of blackinternationalism that explicitly reaches out to all oppressed colonial subjects
as well as to white workers.28
Peniel Joseph underscores this when he argues for the centrality of Cuba
to black American political cultures.29 He further
to expect when reading this book
This book is broadly chronological, beginning in the immediate post-war period, and providing a selective overview of Britain’s Black political movement in the twentieth century. Specific moments in this period are examined in detail to better unpack how Black resistance to policing is linked to the revolutionary politics of anti-colonialism, Blackinternationalism, Black feminism and anti-capitalism. These radical movements posed the question of why Black people were in Britain in the first place. The Black Power movement