Dreams and Recurring Nightmares – 50 years after Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ Speech

Professor Gus John

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These famous words, the second sentence of the American Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, were the cornerstone of Dr Martin Luther King’s speech on 28 August 1963. That speech is rarely remembered in its entirety and consequently over time the last part which is most frequently quoted has come to represent a rallying cry for black and white integration rather than a ‘call to arms’ in the struggle for equal rights and justice.

Why is that important and what is its relevance for Britain? Read more of this post

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The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti

Nora Connolly 

On this day in 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed, their final hours spent writing letters to loved ones. They were apparently remarkably calm, this the final dreadful stage in a seven year legal battle. In the very early hours of that terrible morning another man was executed with them, though his composure not as pronounced. He was Celestino Madeiros and while he was executed for an unrelated matter he had admitted to his involvement in the armed robbery and murder for which Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted. Madeiros had given compelling evidence which totally absolved both men but still failed to save them from the electric chair.   Read more of this post

The North Star

Nora Connolly 

Image © Flickr: Mural on the Solidarity Wall

To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy licence; your national greatness swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy, a thin veil to cover up crimes to which would disgrace a nation of savages…Frederick Douglass 5th July 1852

The 50th anniversary of Dr King`s iconic speech, is a good time to reflect on the significance of the Civil Rights Movement both within but also outside the USA. In 1967 for example, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was formed in an attempt to address the manifest discrimination the Catholic population experienced in areas such as housing, jobs and in the gerrymandering of the political system. The Irish Civil Rights Movement clearly attempted to emulate the USA campaign but it appears a symbiotic relationship existed between the Irish and US civil rights experience long before Dr King emerged to lead the civil rights movement.   Read more of this post

Orwell and Loach on Spain

Dr Alan Sennett  

Even for the well read lay person, the politics of Republican Spain during the 1936-39 civil war can appear baffling. A viewing of Ken Loach’s 1995 film Land and Freedom raises more questions than could possibly be answered in a standard length feature film.   Familiarity with George Orwell’s 1938 account Homage to Catalonia fills in much detail and has clearly provided both source material and inspiration for screenwriter Jim Allen.  For those with a deeper knowledge of the micro-politics of the Spanish Left, the contributions of Andy Durgan, Loach’s historical advisor and expert on the Catalan dissident communists, are also evident.  Yet the reasons behind the main protagonist’s disillusion with the official Communist movement, at one point prompting him to tear up his CPGB party card in disgust, might still appear unclear.  Ideally the viewer needs an appreciation of the origins and context of the dispute between those who saw an organic connection between the struggle against fascism and what they believed to be an ongoing social revolution, and those who viewed the fight as solely a defence of democracy with revolution an unwelcome distraction.  Much can be explained by analysing the film’s key political scene.  Yet it has to be said that both Loach’s film and Orwell’s account must be approached with a critical eye. Read more of this post

Oh what a circus, what a show…

Legal Eagle

Image © Alastair Rose

The Administrators (TSAs) carrying out the consultation process into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, held a meeting last night before a massive audience. The traffic congested near the County Showground, an apt venue for this consultation circus, which has apparently; thus far cost many millions of pounds. It would be interesting to get a break down of the figures, easy enough to organise an audit, after all bean counters are dominating this process. No doubt some of the money went into producing the slick twenty-minute video, which the audience was subjected to and the administrators hid behind (a shield as well as a sword). The video a weak attempt to pacify the multitude, it only increased the anger; it simply highlighted what everybody already knew, provision reduced, or abolished. Maternity gone and Stafford will no longer have an Accident and Emergency department after 10pm. Read more of this post

Fifty years of dreaming…

Nora Connolly

Image © Gregory F. Maxwell

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, made in the shadow of the Lincoln memorial, a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr King eloquently demanded freedom, a clarion call transmitted around the world; he reminded his audience that successive governments had defaulted on a promissory note. King made clear his commitment to the democratic process whilst rejecting the tranquilising drug of gradualism assuring his audience that the bank of justice was not bankrupt. Dr King made several I have dream speech`s in 1963, his Detroit version recorded by Motown. But the statement on August 28 is unique, the most memorable lines “were completely extemporaneous” the language precise the sentiment soaring. As Manning Marable points out the speech was more than a “rhetorical achievement: it was a challenge to white America to break with its racist past, and to embrace a multiracial future”.  Read more of this post

Reflections: Neil Kinnock with Peter Hennessy

LeftCentral Review 

Image © Simon Speed

As with last week’s broadcast featuring Norman Tebbit, Professor Hennessy proves he is an accomplished interviewer. In yesterday’s programme, the former Labour Leader and European Commissioner, Neil Kinnock looked back on his political life and times. Hennessey`s approach is to allow each guest time to consider the pivotal events that they lived through and often shaped. It was interesting, though not unexpected, that Arthur Scargill should feature so significantly. The 1984 strike a dominant theme during yesterday’s programme, Kinnock became leader in October 1983, the year long strike began in the spring of 1984; his leadership heralding what he described as his “mid-life crisis”. The former Labour Leader represented a Welsh mining constituency, so the realities of the dispute were literally on his doorstep and could hardly be ignored. That said, one wonders if Professor Hennessy might provide Arthur Scargill with a similar platform in the future, allowing the former NUM leader the right of reply through the medium of a non-adversarial forum. Read more of this post