The argument against Western imperialism can only be strengthened by a firm opposition to other imperialisms, argues Mike Marqusee
Red Pepper blog, 5 March 2014
It really should be easy enough to condemn Russia’s action in Ukraine while at the same time rejecting and campaigning against US-EU military intervention. Sadly, there are some in the anti-war movement who see this as an awkward proposition. Read more
Fifty years ago, Cassius Clay “shook up the world” by winning the heavyweight title – and embracing the Nation of Islam
by Mike Marqusee
On the night of February 25, 1964, the 22 year old Cassius Clay defeated the supposedly undefeatable Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. It was an upset of historic proportions – Liston had been an eight-to-one favourite – and a shock to the sports-writing fraternity, which had written off Clay as a self-publicising loudmouth.
But the result in the ring was to prove only a prelude to a series of greater shocks. Read more
The Guardian, 22 February, 2014
Fifty years ago this month, the 22 year old Bob Dylan released his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin, the acme and as it turned out the end of his “protest” period. Dylan renounced this genre so quickly, and took his fans on such a giddy journey afterwards, that there’s a tendency to downplay the extraordinary achievement and impact of his work in this brief initial phase of a long career.
As a collection, the album is one of the high watermarks of political song-writing in any musical genre. These are beautifully crafted, tightly-focussed mini-masterpieces. And they have a radical edge, a political toughness, that one rarely finds in the folk music of the period. Abstract paeans to peace and brotherhood were not for Dylan; the songs are uncompromising in their anger and unsparing in their analysis. Read more
As Gareth Edwards’ reminds us in his excellent letter in today’s Guardian, Jesse Owens was able to give the Nazis that slap-in-the-face at the 1936 Berlin Olympics because the boycott campaign preceding it had not been strong enough to stop the US, British and other national Olympic authorities from taking part. In the US, as Gareth notes, there was a serious, well-publicised campaign to press the reactionary US Olympic elite to withdraw from the games. It was very much a ‘popular front’ era campaign, aiming to build a wide coalition against fascism. (Opposition to the boycott by sections of the US Jewish leadership proved to be one of several obstacles the campaign encountered.)
It’s interesting to speculate about what might have happened had the boycott campaign – in US, Britain and elsewhere – been successful. Read more
Contending for the Living
Red Pepper, February-March 2014
Last spring, I made the steep climb to the mountainside entrance to the Cuevas de Covalanas, one of several caves in the Cantabrian region of northern Spain decorated with pre-historic paintings. I had seen reproductions of this type of art in books, but nothing prepared me for the experience of the paintings themselves, on site and in person. Afterwards, I wondered how, not having seen these creations, I could ever have thought I knew anything about art history. I kicked myself for my presumption. Read more
Published in Wisden India Almanack 2014, edited by Suresh Menon.
By Mike Marqusee
Let’s imagine a group of ultra-intelligent extra-terrestrials who visit earth and find themselves at a cricket match. I’d submit that, given sufficient time, they would be able to deduce the rules of the game in their entirety (even the lbw law) from direct observation, without the aid of a native interpreter. The mechanism of the competition would become intelligible to them: runs and wickets, overs and innings, the ten ways of getting out, the no-ball, the draw.
What would remain a mystery to them is: why? Why did earthlings expend so much time and passion on this apparently pointless exercise? What purpose did it serve? Read more