Reading Against Fascism

Soon after The Public Archive launched in 2010, we began featuring reading lists. Syllabi, some might call them, though regardless of the name, they were critically annotated compilations of texts grouped together under a number of general themes. “Reading Haiti,” for instance, gathered recently-published books that challenged mainstream media representations of the Black Republic and offered serious, non-voyeuristic readings of its history, politics, and culture. The initial “Reading Haiti” list was posted in 2011. Subsequent versions followed in 2012 and 2014. “Radical Black Reading” surveyed the contemporary literature on Black radical thought and politics, broadly conceived. Editions of Radical Black Reading appeared in 2011, 2012, 2013, and  2014. Two versions (in 2012 and 2015) appeared under the banner of “Radical Black Cities,” and focused on architecture, urbanism, and Black rebellion. Another examined the question of Blacks and Palestine. We also offered year-end round-ups featuring ten books, some new, some not, that had caught our eye and spoke to the contemporary political and cultural moment. These lists can be found here, here, and here.

In all cases – in all our lists – we attempted to highlight the work of writers from the Black World. We tried to avoid, as much as was possible, both commercial publishers and academic presses – as well as titles from the imperial, Anglophone centers of knowledge production. We strove to foreground the incredible work of Black-owned presses in North America, of independent imprints from the Caribbean and Africa, and of alternative and radical publishers from around the world, especially those publishing in languages other than English. (Of these presses, our recurring favorites include Mémoire d’encrier of Montreal, Présence Africaine of Paris, Peepal Tree Press of London and Ediciones Cielonaranja of Santo Domingo).

Our book choices have been shaped less by the marketing teams of white corporations or by the taste-making mandarins of white academic presses than by a belief that Black literary and political culture should be shaped autonomously and independently. Our sense is that Black readers are poorly served by the mainstream press. We suffer intellectually and politically in the absence of a truly pan-African, Black World review whose editorial policy is guided by a spiritual and critical commitment to the deep traditions of Black radicalism. To that end, we hoped out lists would be read for their juxtapositions and counterpoints and that readers would see the works talking to each other across time and space and genre and discipline.

We’ve been a little late offering another reading list. We’ve been reluctant to add to the incessant din of this extended season of syllabi. And we’ve been stricken with something of an existential doubt about the valence of the proliferation of lists. Lists without context. Lists without foundational evaluative principles. Lists of friends and colleagues. Lists for vainglorious self-promotion. Lists for the mere sake of listing. Moreover, our sense is that a list is not a course, a syllabus does not imply a pedagogy, and that reading without communal practice is not really reading at all.

Even so, given current political conditions we would be remiss if we did not in some way add a voice – and our list – to the ongoing appraisal of the present. So here, then, another list: a deliberately selected, briefly annotated, critically compiled list of books that try to apprehend the mistakes and missteps of the past, to assess the contorted terrain of the now, and to offer some guidance towards a radical, liberated future.

The Public Archive

editor[at]thepublicarchive.com

Kwakwakaʼwakw writer, artist, and activist Gord Hill’s 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance offers a compressed, incendiary account of the incessant history of Native resistance to colonialism in the Americas. Beginning in 1492, Hill’s history also provides the deep historical background to background to the ongoing struggles for indigenous sovereignty against settler colonialism represented by Idle No More, NoDAPL and MMIWG. Also see The Winter We Danced: Voices From the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement edited by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective, the late Métis writer Howard Adams’, Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.

Jennifer Morgan’s Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery offers a fierce riposte to those white patriarchal revisionists who still write of slavery – and of capitalism – as if Black women were somehow marginal to both. Building on the historiography of Black feminism while mining the archives of colonialism, Laboring Women writes the history of the doubled practices of reproduction burdening Black women in slavery while proving, decisively, the centrality of Black women’s bodies to the history of capitalism. Also see Kamala Kempadoo, Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, Race and Sexual Labor; Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation.

Arguably the most important book on Reconstruction since W.E.B. DuBois’ Black Reconstruction, Nell Irvin Painter’s Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction recounts in harrowing detail the forms of state violence – lynching, terrorism, bulldozing – meted out on Blacks in the US that spurred the late nineteenth century flight from the South. A forensic accounting of white supremacist violence, Exodusters is also a moving history of Black autonomy as Painter describes attempts to found free Black communities in Kansas, and recounts African American hopes of return to Africa.

Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary is a fast-paced, eye-witness account of the political tribulations of early twentieth-century Europe told from the perspective of a radical activist and a gifted writer. Serge is a keen-eyed witness who never succumbs to sentimentalism and never compromises with despotism and the Memoirs offer a severe accounting of the failures of liberalism in the face of fascism. Also see: Claude McKay, A Long Way from Home.

The Man Who Cried Genocide, the autobiography of San Francisco-born Black Communist and lawyer William L. Patterson, describes not only Patterson’s own political awakening, but also the origins of the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights movement – and their roots in Communist activism. From the Sacco-Vanzetti trial to the Scottsboro campaign to the presentation of the “We Charge Genocide” petition to the United Nations, Patterson demonstrates how local struggles were energized by international support, how class solidarity was energized through inter-racial alliance, and how the critique of capitalism means little without that of white supremacy. Also: Gerald Horne, Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle.

With all the talk of the false consciousness of the white worker and the racial fractures amongst the proletariat its worth remembering those radical, inter-racial attempts at organizing against capitalism and the state. Revolt Among the Sharecroppers, Howard Kester’s account of the struggles of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union and during the Great Depression recounts one such struggle. It is a study labor insurgency that deserves a place alongside those other great histories of rebellion from the 1930s, including George Padmore’s Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers  and CLR James’ A History of Pan-African Revolt.

Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism is the classic polemic on the foundational barbarity that marked the birth of the West. Locating the origins of European fascism in the gulags and concentrations camps of the colonies, Césaire argues that fascism at home was forged in the furnaces abroad. Alongside Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Discourse on Colonialism remains critical to our understanding of race and empire. Also: Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui, Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns, and Africans: Race and Self-Determinatino in International Law.

If there’s been a tendency in certain quarters to reduce the work of radical poet, librarian, and essayist Audre Lorde to a single slogan – that of “self-care” – a return to Lorde’s  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches serves as a reminder of Lorde’s intellectual range and brilliance and of her absolutely uncompromised, resolutely ethical vision. Sister Outsider contains the deservedly famous “Master’s Tools” talk.  But it also has a stunning account of the US intervention in Grenada (and, with it African American complicity in US imperialism), urgent meditations on the meanings of the Sixties and the politics of anger, and an empathetic assessment of the legacy of Malcolm X. A rare, radical assertion of intersectional politics.

The reach and possibilities of the total surveillance society have radically expanded since the 1960s and with the emergence of information powerhouses like Alphabet and Facebook. But that doesn’t mean that some of the tactics and politics haven’t changed. To that end, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall’s Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement is as relevant now as it was when it was first published almost two decades ago. Churchill and Vander Wall’s documenting of the efforts by J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO to wipe out a generation of Black and Indian activists remains unsurpassed.

The Black Atlantic is certainly the most debated book by British sociologist Paul Gilroy but There Aint No Black in the Union Jack”: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation has always been our favorite. Gilroy provides a trenchant reading of the maelstrom of race, class, and nation in Britain and the rise of dangerous registers of populism, authoritarianism, and absolutism. But There Aint No Black is also buttressed by some deep-digging in the archives of Black music as Gilroy demonstrates how diaspora culture chants down racial capitalism. Also see: A. Sivanandan, Communities of Resistance; No Sizwe, One Azania, One Nation: The National Question in South Africa.

As heart-wrenching as it is searing, Brother I’m Dying, Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat’s memoir of citizenship, migration, and the intimate violence of the state, is a stunning account of one family’s encounters with the cruel bureaucracy of the post-911 US immigration authority. Perhaps more relevant now than when it was first published.

We don’t think Butch Lee and Red Rover use the terms “neoliberalism” or “racial capitalism” but in many ways, Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo Colonial Terrain, is a vertigo-inducing critique of both. Lee and Rover historcize the rise of imperial- and corporation-friendly multiculturalism, seeing its emergence in the radical push back against the movements for decolonization and Black and Third World sovereignty. They also map the landscapes of the new modes of global, neocolonial capital accumulation, identifying, in the process, its historical subject. “Our primary question,” they write, “is who is the modern proletariat and what role does it play as a class? The answer is simple: it is primarily women, children, and alien labor. Those who are colonized.”

From here we should begin.

Mentions: Sergio González Rodríguez, The Femicide Machine. Abdourahman A. Waberi, Transit. Amitava Kumar, A Foreign Carrying in the Crook of his Arm a Tiny Bomb. Dana D. Nelson, Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People. Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being.

 

Image: Evil Buildings, Reddit.

 

 

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Citadelle du Christophe, Haiti, June 29, 1935.

Frederick G. Clapp, Citadelle du Christophe (1816-1820). Haiti, June 29, 1935. American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.

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“The Black Jacobins” to Appear in Fall

To the Editor of the AFRO:

My book, “The Black Jacobins,” will appear this fall in England (Secker and Warburg) and America (The Dial Press).

The book deals with the story of Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, a subject on which in have already written a play performed by the State Society in London with Paul Robeson in the leading part.

I have written other books: “The Case for West Indian Self Government,” a novel, “Minty Alley,” and “World Revolution” (Secker and Warburg) which has been published in America under the title of “The Rise and Fall of the Communist International” (Pioneer Press) and has been widely reviewed both in the English and American Press.

C.L.R. JAMES

59 Boundary Road, N.W. 8

London, England.

C.L.R. James to The Baltimore Afro-American, October 29, 1938.

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An incomplete bibliography of the writing of Suzy Castor

Une étape du nationalisme haitien (1929-1934). Diss. tesis de licenciatura ens, 1958, mimeo.

Política y Sociología en Haití y la República Dominicana: Coloquio Dominico-Haitiano De Ciencias Sociales, México, Julio De 1971. (México: UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, 1974)

“El Impacto de la Ocupación Norteamericana en Haití.’ Política y sociología en Haití y la República Dominicana. Coloquio Domínico-Haitiano de Ciencias Sociales (1974): 42-64.

Castor, Suzy, and Lynn Garafola. “The American Occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and the Dominican Republic (1916-24),” The Massachusetts Review. 15 (1974): 253-275

“Crisis del 29 y la instauración de un nuevo sistema de dominación y dependencia en Haití,” America latina en la arios treinta (1977): 25-51.

La Ocupación Norteamericana de Haití y sus Consecuencias, 1915-1934 (La Habana: Casa de las Américas, 1978).

Algunas consideraciones sobre la estructura agraria de una sociedad postesclavista: el caso de Saint Domingue. Vol. 29. Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos, 1978.

Algunas consideraciones sobre la estructura agraria de una sociedad postesclavista: el caso de Saint Domingue. (México: Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos, 1978).

Puerto Rico, Una Crisis Histórica (México: Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, 1979).

Castor, Suzy, and Sergio Vega. “Caribe Trimestral.” (1979): 144-145.

“El espacio estratégico: Caribe-Centroamérica en la coyuntura actual,” El Caribe contemporáneo (1980): 14-38.

Etudiants et Luttes Sociales dans la Caraïbe (Port-au-Prince, Haïti: Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le developpement, 1980).

“La politica de Reagan, peligro para el Caribe.” El Caribe Contemporáneo 6 (1982): 13-26.

Etudiants Et Luttes Sociales Dans La Caraöbes. (Port-au-Prince: (Centre de Recherche et de Formation Economique et Sociale pour le Développement, 1983).

“Dictadura y resistencia en Haití: la instancia Cultural.” Rev. Tareas, Nº55, Panamá (1983).

“El campesinado haitiano: su pontencial revolucionário.” Historia política de los campesinos latinoamericanos. (Ciudade do México: Siglo XXI, 1984): 93-141.

Castor, Suzy, and Gérard Pierre-Charles. Echec du Pouvoir Olgarchique et Alternative de Changements en Haïti. (New York: Hunter College, 1984).

Castor, Suzy and G Pierre-Charles. Haiti: Pouvoir, Oligarchie Et Alternative De Changement. (New York: Hunter College, 1984)

“El Campesinado Haitiano: Su Potencial Revolucionario.” Historia Política de los Campesinos Latinoamericanos. (1984).

“La primera guerra caco en Haití o la resistencia popular a la ocupación norteamericana (1915),” Revista Caribe Contemporáneo 10. (1985): 111-121.

Castor, Suzy, and Gérard Pierre-Charles. El Fracaso del Poder Oligárquico En Haití y Las Alternativas De Cambio. (1986).

“El combate por la democracia en la América Latina” Revista Casa de Las Américas 155-156 (1986): 25-34.

“Haití tras la caída de Duvalier: Presente y perspectivas,” Revista Caribe Contemporáneo (1986): 35-45.

“Haití: de la ruptura a la transición,” Revista Nueva Sociedad 82 (1986): 12-17.

Migraciones y relaciones internacionales: El caso haitiano-dominicano (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria UASD, 1987);

Le Massacre de 1937 et Les Relations Haitiano-Dominicaines. (IMPRIMERIE LE NATAL S.A, 1988).

Castor, Suzy, Monique Brisson, and Morna McLeod. Femme: Société Et Législation. Port-au-Prince, (Haïti: Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement, 1988).

Théories Et Pratiques De La Lutte Des Femmes. (Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement, 1988).

Haïti: À L’aube Du Changement. Port-au-Prince (Haïti: Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement, 1991)

Hai͏̈ti: à l’aube du changement  (Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement, 1991).

“Democracy and Society in Haiti: Structures of Domination and Resistance to Change,” Social Justice. 19 (1992): 126-137

Les Femmes Haïtiennes aux Élections de 1990 (Port-au-Prince: CRESFED, 1994).

“Democracy and Society in Haiti: Structures of Domination and Resistance to Change.” In Latin America Faces the Twenty-First Century: Reconstructing a Social Justice Agenda, edited by Susanne Jonas and Ed McCaughan, pp. 158–169. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1994).

“Haití: El reto de una nueva policía,” Nueva Sociedad. (1995): 6-13.

La Formation De La Police: Un Enjeu De La Transition (Canapé-Vert [Haiti: CRESFED, 1995)

Décentralisation Et Processus De Démocratisation (Canapé-Vert [Haiti: CRESFED, 1997).

“Décentralisation et processus de democratization,” Journal of Haitian Studies (1997): 4-14.

“Décentralisation et processus de démocratisation en Haïti.” Alternatives Sud 4.3 (1997): 161-178.

Les Origines De La Structure Agraire en Haïti. (Port-au-Prince: Centre de Recherche et de Formation Économique et Social pour le Développement, 1998).

Pouvwa Lejislatif. (Pòtoprens, Ayiti: CRESFED, 1998).

Castor, Suzy, and Levelt Delva. La Justice au Quotidien. (Port-au-Prince, Haïti: CRESFED, 2000).

Suzy, and Levelt Delva. Lajistis Toulejou (Port-au-Prince, Haiti: CRESFED, 2000).

Castor, Suzy, Nicole Edouard, and Rith Rathon. Le Pouvoir Judiciaire (Port-au-Prince, Haïti: CRESFED, 2003).

“Significado Historico De La Revolucion De Saint-Domingue,” Casa De Las Americas  44.234 (2004): 3-10.

“La cuestión migratoria en el Caribe an los albores del siglo XXI,” Alternativas sur 1 (2004): 159-170.

Collectivités Territoriales: Superficie, Population, Localisation. (Port-au-Prince, Haïti: CRESFED, 2005).

“La difficile sortie d’une longue transition,” in Haiti: Hope for a Fragile State, edited by Yasmine Shamsie and Andrew S. Thompson, (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006), pp. 111–128

“La transición haitiana: entre los peligros y la esperanza.”Revista OSAL (2008).

“A Transição haitiana: entre os perigos e a esperança,” Cadernos de Pensamento Crítico LatinoAmericano 2 (2008): 11-24.

Mémoire et Droits Humains: Enjeux et Perspectives Pour les Peuples D’afrique et Les Amériques : Actes Du Colloque Organisé Par Action De Carême En Collaboration Avec Aide Fédération Et L’iued Les 23 Et 24 Novembre 2006 Au Palais Des Nations Unies (genève). (Lausanne: Action de Carême, 2009).

Castor, Suzy, et al. “Les Impacts du Tremblement de Terre du 12 Janvier 2010,” CRESFED Recontrer (2010): 22-23.

“Le racines séculaires d’une difficile construction nationale,” Haïti, Réinventer L’avenir. (2012): 35-43

Rainhorn, Jean-Daniel, Michaëlle Jean, Michèle Pierre-Louis, and Suzy Castor. Haïti, Réinventer L’avenir (2014).

Castor, Suzy, Sabaiz L. Gómez, Anthony Barbier, Louis R. Thomas, Fritz Jean, Sauveur P. Étienne, Alain Gilles, and Rémy Montas. État De Droit En Haïti: Les Grands Défis (2014).

Castor, Suzy, Sabaiz L. Gómez, and Jean R. Élie. Aménagement Du Territoire Et Décentralisation (2014)

Castor, Suzy, Sabaiz L. Gómez, and Roody Edmé. Éducation De Qualité Un Droit Pour Tous (2015).

 

 

 

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A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island

“….We are presented with a diptych of two beach scenes: one set on a sunny day off the coast of a posh resort with white people sunbathing and engaging in leisure activities; the other set in a storm with dark-skinned people―possibly Haitian refugees fleeing to Florida, in the midst of a crisis involving a seemingly hopeless rescue…. Its message is stark and in-your-face: the white people are completely oblivious to the harsh reality experienced by non-whites in these tropical island paradises…..” Source.

Eric Fischl, “A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island,” (1983), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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Comments on UN corruption and UN cholera during the last press conference of H.E. Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, 13 January 2017

Highlights from the 53.18 mark. H/T @innercitypress.

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Port-au-Prince, January 12, 2010, 16:53

Image: United States Southern Command, photo by RQ-4 Global Hawk after January, 12, 2010 earthquake.

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Nat Turner and the Haitian Revolution


In consequence of the alarming increase of the Black population at the South, fears have been long entertained, that it might one day be the unhappy lot of the whites, in that section, to witness scenes similar to those which but a few years since, nearly depopulated the once flourishing island of St. Domingo of its white inhabitants — but, these fears have never been realized even in a small degree, until the fatal morning of the 22d of August last, when it fell to the lot of the inhabitants of a thinly settled township of Southampton county (Virginia) to witness a scene horrid in the extreme! — when FIFTY FIVE innocent persons (mostly women and children) fell victims to the most inhuman barbarity. The melancholy and bloody event was as sudden and unexpected, as unprecedented for cruelty — for many months previous an artful black, down by the name of NAT TURNER, (a slave of Mr. Edward Travis) who had been taught to read and write, and who hypocritically and the better to enable him to effect his nefarious designs, assumed the character of a Preacher, and as such was sometimes permitted to visit and associate himself with many of the Plantation Negroes, for the purpose … of christianizing and to teach them the propriety of their remaining faithful and obedient to their masters; but, in reality, to persuade and to prepare them in the most sly and artful manner to become they instruments of their slaughter! — in this too he well succeeded, by representing to the poor deluded wretches the Blessings of Liberty, and the inhumanity and justice of their being forced like brutes fro the land of their nativity, and doomed without fault or crime to perpetual bondage, and by those who were not more entitled to their liberty than themselves! — he too represented to them the happy effects which had attended the united efforts of their brethren in St. Domingo, and elsewhere, and encouraged them with the assurance that a similar effort on their part, could not fail to produce a similar effect, and not only restore them to liberty but would produce them wealth and ease!

Samuel Warner. Authentic narrative of the tragical scene which was witnessed in Southampton Country, Virginia, on Monday the 22d of August las, when fifty-five of its inhabitants were massacred by the Blacks, etc. (1831).

Another startling document that linked the events in the French West Indies with the violent overthrow of slavery in the United States was the letter received in Southampton County, Virginia, shortly after the Nat Turner revolt. It was forwarded to the governor of Virginia, James Floyd, who used it in his annual message to the state legislature to prove that outsiders were bent upon destroying Slavery in the South. “Nero” begins the letter pointedly: “Oppression and revenge are two prominent traits in human character; and as long as the former exists, the latter is justifiable.” The author, referring to both St. Domingue and Haiti, state the “our object is to seek revenge for indignities and abuses received– and to sell our live[s] at as a high a price as possible.” Nero assured blacks that they were strong enough and well armed enough to begin their retribution, and that “Hayti offers an asylum for those who survive the approaching carnage.

Alfred N. Hunt, Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America (1988)

…the recollections of St. Domingo were still vivid in 1831.

William Sidney Drewry, The Southampton Insurrection (1900).

Also see:

Southampton County, Virginia: Court of Oyer and Terminer Trials, August 31 – November 21, 1831, The Nat Turner Project.

Thomas R. Gray, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831).

Henry Bibb, Slave Insurrection in Southampton County, VA., headed by Nat Turner (1850)

The Nat Turner Insurrection, Anglo-African Magazine (1859)

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Nat Turner’s Insurrection,” The Atlantic (1861) and Black Rebellion: Five Slave Revolts (1998)

“After Nat Turner: A Letter from the North,” The Journal of Negro History (1970). [$$]

Image: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. “Nat Turner & his confederates in conference.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1863.

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