In memory of John “Brad” Bradbury of the Specials who topped the charts with Ghost Town whilst Britain burst into flames of riots and racism in 1981 – Colin Revolting remembers how anti – racists danced to the Specials and fought against racism and unemployment.
A fire at a house party in New Cross kills 13 teenagers. They are all black and it is believed to be a racist petrol bombing.
With some members of my band, I move into a squat on New Cross Road, the same street as the burnt out house. The fire building stands as a monument to the teenagers, the bricks blackened above the gaping holes where the windows were.
On the first evening I go out to make a phone call. New Cross Road is eerily quiet. The pavements are empty, parked in the side streets there are green coaches…
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What to get a friend who’s committed to the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist mode of production and its zombifying culture industry, but still deserves a present for Christmas (even if that friend is yourself)? Following on from the excellent suggestions in Part 1, there are a whole lot more great ideas below…
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NUT teachers at John Roan School in Greenwich took strike action on Tuesday, 10 November over their working conditions. In their words, they have “an unsustainable workload alongside excessive monitoring and scrutiny of our work”. A local trade unionist reports from the picket line.
“It’s important we take this action as I’ve seen the effects at other schools, ” says the teacher holding out a petition board for passers by at John Roan School this morning.
The picket line is already twice as big as for previous national strikes when I arrive at 7.45am. The teachers are vocal and passionate about why they are striking. “I give everything to the school and when I get home there’s nothing left,” one of the group of PE teachers tells me.
Most teachers at the school are in the National Union of Teachers and they are taking this action locally whilst knowing that the issues…
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In celebration of the 98th anniversary of the Russian Revolution we are publishing this short extract from John Reed’s brilliant eye witness account, Ten Days That Shook The World. Reed was a socialist journalist from the USA, who described the revolution as: “Adventure it was, and one of the most marvellous mankind ever embarked upon.”
This section is from the night before the insurrection of 7 November 1917. The full text is available on Marxists.org.
Up the Nevsky in the sour twilight crowds were battling for the latest papers, and knots of people were trying to make out the multitudes of appeals and proclamations pasted in every flat place; from the Peasants’ Soviets, the “moderate” Socialist parties, the Army Committees—threatening, cursing, beseeching the workers and soldiers to stay home, to support the Government.
An armoured automobile went slowly up and down, siren screaming. On every corner…
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When millions of people held “Je Suis Charlie” signs in memory of the cartoonists killed in Paris this past January, a different Charlie came to mind. Charlie Chaplin who made his first screen appearance, 100 years ago, as the Tramp.
Why did I think of this other Charlie?
Chaplin knew a thing or two about satire. And when it came to racism and oppression he knew exactly which side he was on. Charlie mocked the mighty and was adored by millions. Governments despised his radical politics and banned his films.
From starting life destitute in a London workhouse, Charlie became the most famous film star in the world at a time when cinema was the most popular art form.
The Tramp, despite being broke and downtrodden, was spirited and resilient. Hilarious and heart breaking, Charlie’s films were about the lives of the oppressed and exploited, as seen by the titles The Vagabond, The Kid and The Immigrant. In The Immigrant, Charlie endures a challenging voyage and gets into trouble as soon as he arrives in the USA.
Modern Times (1936), was made at the height of industrial unrest in the USA and saw Charlie the Tramp become a factory worker. He is literally caught up in the grinding machinery of capitalism, experiences street fighting between the unemployed and the police and, holding a red flag, inadvertently leads a march of militant workers. Hitler and Mussolini banned Modern Times labeling him a “pseudo-Jew”.
The Great Dictator (1940) was a massively popular film that tore into Hitler and his persecution of the Jews. In 1938 when the western governments were appeasing Nazi Germany and Charlie was planning the production, the British Board of Film Censors tried to get Hollywood to prevent the film being made fearing it would upset Nazi Germany.
In the film Charlie becomes both the dictator Adenoid Hynkel and a Jewish barber living in the ghetto — both with their little toothbrush mustaches. Towards the end of the movie the Jewish barber is mistaken for the Dictator and called to make a speech. Coming out of character and speaking as Chaplin himself, he denounces not just fascism but all governments, “Don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty,” he declares, as Europe is about to be launched into carnage.
Chaplin was warned that including the speech would damage the film’s reception and reduce his profits by a million dollars. He responded, “I don’t care if it is five million dollars.” Far right groups attempted to disrupt the opening. The speech was reprinted as a pamphlet by the Communist Party and has been watched by over 10 million people on YouTube.
When the film was released the war had started but the USA was staying out of it. Charlie addressed an anti-Nazi rally with a forty minute speech addressing the crowd as “Comrades”.
Long disliked by the US establishment for his left wing sympathies, Charlie was chucked out of the country in 1952.
He lived out his life in Switzerland and continued to be a radical comic and satirist. As he said in his autobiography late in life, “My films have always been for the underdog.”
Je suis Charlie Chaplin.
A collection of anti-racist activist and photographer Syd Shelton’s work from Rock Against Racism is currently on display at the Autograph ABP gallery in London. Is this exhibition, and book, a nostalgic trip to the bad old days of 1970s racial conflict or does it have something to offer a new generation fighting the changing face of racism in the 21st century? Colin Revolting believes it is both.
Syd Shelton’s photographs, starkly black and white, portray the sharp contrasts and conflicts in the 1970s Britain. National Front marchers and anti-racist crowds, the police and the youth on the street, the punks and Rastas, Sikh pensioners and black and white kids, the bands and the audiences.
At the time, mainstream British culture was riddled with blatant racism – from sitcoms to school classrooms, football stadiums to police canteens, TV news studios…
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