Hundreds attend Coventry vigil for Orlando victims

Hundreds attend Coventry vigil for Orlando victims

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Socialist Party member Dan Crowter speaking at the vigil

Over 150 people attended a vigil in Coventry on Monday in solidarity with the victims of the horrific massacre in Orlando. At least 50 people died when a gunman opened fire in the Pulse nightclub, a local LGBT venue.

Vigils have been held across the UK and around the world, showing a united and defiant response to those who seek to spread hatred, fear and division. This mood was clearly present in Coventry, with defiant speeches urging us not to live in fear.

Coventry TUC President Jane Nellist spoke and expressed solidarity from the trade union movement in Coventry and pledged to fight to cut hate crime in our city.

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Socialist Party member Dan Crowter spoke at the vigil and said “I don’t just want equality under the law, I want liberation.” The only way to achieve that liberation, and to defeat LGBTphobia, Islamophobia and oppression is to fight against the capitalist system that causes it.

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Socialist Party members showing solidarity with Orlando and the LGBT+ community worldwide

Part of the 99 per cent? Why you should vote to leave the EU

Part of the 99 per cent? Why you should vote to leave the EU

For a Socialist Europe

Vote to exit the EU

We publish the following Q and As about why you should vote to leave the EU on Thursday 23rd June. The original article was written by Socialist Party deputy general secretary Hannah Sell and appeared in The Socialist newspaper. Please share on social media, and join our campaign by filling in the form at the bottom of this article. If you would like leaflets to distribute to your friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues etc get in touch!

1) Isn’t it only right-wing Tories and Ukip who want to leave the EU?

No. In the media the referendum campaign has been completely dominated by right-wing, pro-big business politicians. The voice of working class people has not been heard. In fact, however, a number of trade unions – including the militant transport workers’ union the RMT – are campaigning for exit. So is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) of which the Socialist Party is a part.

Our campaign has nothing in common with the right-wing nationalist politicians who speak for exit in the media. In fact TUSC is running a campaign to demand that none of the official ‘leave’ campaigns receive state funding to peddle their right-wing nationalist reasons for exit.

In the last European referendum campaign, back in 1975, socialists like Tony Benn were prominent campaigners for voting for exit. They understood that the EU (then called the Common Market) was exactly that – an agreement between the different capitalist classes of Europe in order to create the largest possible market and maximise their profits. Since then a succession of EU treaties have further enshrined privatisation and attacks on workers’ rights into the fabric of the EU.

It is only necessary to look at the way the institutions of the EU have treated the people of Greece – forcing endless austerity on them which has lowered incomes by an average of one third and led to mass unemployment – to see that the EU acts in the interests of the 1% not the 99%.

2) You say that the EU enshrines privatisation and attacks on workers’ rights but isn’t it better to stay in and try to reform it?

Some politicians who agree with many of the criticisms of the EU listed above (Green MP Caroline Lucas, for example) say that it is better to stay in the EU and try to reform it. The question they can’t answer, however, is how the EU could be reformed.

Voters across Europe get to vote for MEPs who sit in the European Parliament; but that is an almost completely powerless body. Of course, when socialists are elected to the European Parliament they have been able to use it as a platform to campaign in defence of workers’ rights. But it is not the European Parliament but the European Council that takes the vast majority of EU decisions.

The European Council is made up of the heads of government of the 28 nation states of the EU – the EU really is a capitalists’ club. The governments of Europe have no interest in handing some of their power to the European Parliament.

It can’t be totally excluded that a powerful European-wide mass movement could force them to do so – but a movement that powerful could also achieve far more than the reforming the EU, it could put a socialist federation of Europe on the agenda.

3) But isn’t it more internationalist to be in the EU together with other nations?

The EU is not internationalist. On the contrary, it is ‘Fortress Europe’, doing everything it can – including allowing refugees to drown in the Mediterranean – in order to prevent those fleeing for their lives from Syria and elsewhere being able to enter the EU.

Nor does not it foster European solidarity within the EU; rather it increases tensions between different nations. It is a capitalist project attempting to impose unity between nations from above, in the interests of the capitalist classes of Europe, particularly those from the most powerful nations.

Over the last eight years the institutions of the EU – the hated ‘troika’ – have imposed terrible austerity and privatisation on the economically weaker countries of the EU – above all Greece, but also Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, Romania and others. The governments of these and other EU countries have used EU rules as the excuse for the misery they have imposed on their populations. The inevitable result is an increase of national feelings as people rebel against endless EU austerity.

Real internationalism is workers’ solidarity across Europe. Working class people have huge common interests. We are facing the same fight against low pay, casualisation, cuts and privatisation in every country of Europe. Successful movements in one country would have huge support, and be emulated, across the continent. That is why the institutions of the EU were desperate to force the left-led Syriza government in Greece to its knees in order to demonstrate to workers in other EU countries that there was no alternative to endless austerity.

Under huge pressure from world capitalism the Syriza government capitulated – and is now implementing further savage austerity – to which the Greek working class have responded with general strike action.

But it didn’t have to be that way. If the Syriza government had stood firm and implemented socialist policies it would have been kicked out of the Eurozone, and even the EU. But, by showing a real alternative to austerity, it would have inspired millions of workers across Europe to fight for socialist policies in their own countries.

Socialists are internationalists; we want the maximum possible unity across Europe. But this is only possible on the basis of democratic socialism, eradicating poisonous divisions through real working class internationalism, leading to a voluntary socialist federation across the continent.

4) Doesn’t the EU Social Chapter give workers more rights?

For decades now the majority of trade union leaders in Britain have argued that the European Social Chapter provides important protection for workers in Britain.

In reality the Social Chapter, while it potentially gave some extra legal protection on certain issues, was never much more than a fig leaf to disguise the reality of the European Union as an employers’ union.

What protects workers in Britain – and in other countries – is not the European Social Chapter but our collective strength. If, over the last decades, the trade union leaders had led a determined struggle against austerity and privatisation, we could have won far more than the few crumbs provided by the Social Chapter.

Let’s remember Major’s Tory government was allowed to simply ‘opt out’ of the Social Chapter when it was first introduced. When Labour was elected in 1997 they opted into the Social Chapter. However, Britain’s anti-trade union laws, both the already draconian existing laws and the even more brutal ones currently going through parliament, are not deemed to have contravened the Social Chapter.

And after many years of neo-liberal EU treaties and endless austerity, even the fig leaf of the Social Chapter is now in tatters. EU member states that have been ‘bailed out’ by the troika have suffered the biggest fall in collective bargaining rights in the world. According to the International Labour Organisation (the ILO) collective bargaining rights have fallen by an average of 21% across the ten EU countries hardest hit by the economic crisis, and have fallen by a massive 63% in Romania and 45% in Greece.

5) What would exit mean for workers in Britain who are citizens of other EU countries?

The Socialist Party is campaigning for the right of all those working in Britain to be able to continue to do so with full legal rights. We understand, however, that many workers from other EU countries are worried that a vote to leave might put their rights in danger.

In fact, in the short term their rights would not change. For two years, or until UK has negotiated a leaving deal with the EU, the existing situation would remain.

It is not likely a deal would be negotiated quickly. Losing the referendum would be a disaster for Cameron and would almost certainly mean he would be forced to resign. The Tories could split. It is even possible that they could be forced from power.

There would therefore be plenty of time for the workers’ movement to organise against any threat to EU citizens in Britain. It is possible that – if the government was to fall – a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party could come to power.

It is important therefore that Jeremy Corbyn makes clear that his government would defend the rights of all EU citizens. And of course EU workers who are members of trade unions will have far greater protection in the workplace than they get from EU law.

Even if the Tories remain in power, it is not at all certain that a post-exit government would want to threaten the rights to work in Britain of EU citizens. There are two million British nationals settled in other EU countries who could then be threatened with expulsion from their country of residence.

In addition British capitalism has used super-exploited EU workers as a means to try and lower wages of all workers in Britain. The capitalist class would like this to continue.

However, inside or outside of the EU, the Tory government is attempting to increase the exploitation of EU workers by cutting their rights to claim state benefits. In doing this they are attempting to divide and rule – falsely laying the blame for austerity at the door of migrants.

The workers’ movement needs to counter this by explaining that it is only big business that gains when we are divided. When workers from Eastern Europe are paid less than the rate for the job it is the bosses that gain. The only solution to this is a united struggle for all workers to get the rate for the job – with a £10 hour minimum wage.

This fight also has to defend the right of EU workers to claim benefits when they need to. In fact workers from Eastern Europe are less likely to claim benefits than those who were born here (6.6% compared to 16%) but if those workers don’t have the right to claim when they need to it will make it easier for big business to force them to work for lower wages, strengthening the ‘race to the bottom’ for us all.

6) So if socialists should support leaving the EU why is Jeremy Corbyn voting to remain in?

In the last referendum on Europe, in 1975, Jeremy Corbyn voted for exit. During his leadership campaign last summer he refused to promise to call for a Remain vote, instead suggesting a conference of the workers’ movement to discuss a position.

Once he was elected leader of the Labour Party, however, he came under enormous pressure from the right wing of the Labour Party – and from the capitalist class – to call for a vote for Remain. Shadow Foreign Minister Hilary Benn, before he tried to blackmail Corbyn over Syria, threatened to resign unless Corbyn buckled on the issue of the EU. Unfortunately, he did buckle.

If Jeremy Corbyn was heading up a left exit campaign, it would have transformed the debate. The possibility of Leave winning and the Tories being evicted from power would have been far greater.

Instead, unfortunately, Labour is largely trailing behind the Tories. Alan Johnson MP, who is heading the ‘Labour in for Britain’ campaign, even said that he wanted to prevent Cameron having to resign!

7) Are you saying that – unless we leave the EU – it will never be possible to implement socialist policies in Britain?

No, of course not. The Socialist Party opposes the EU because of its laws and institutions but they could not stop a determined workers’ government supported by a mass movement from carrying out socialist policies. However, they are another hurdle to overcome, with real consequences for the day-to-day struggles to defend working class interests.

Here are a few reasons why you should vote to leave the EU:

  • TTIP is just the latest secret trade deal negotiated by the EU. Like those that have gone before it institutionalises privatisation, including of health services. EU treaties also drive forward privatisation – including of postal services and transport services.
  • EU laws forbid nationalisation (or even state subsidies to companies!). Jeremy Corbyn’s call for renationalisation of the railways which is supported by over 70% of the population, for example, is illegal under EU law.
  • EU treaties have systematically undermined workers’ rights. It promotes zero-hour contracts, low pay and ‘flexible’ working as part of its structural adjustment programme. The posted workers’ directive, for example, does not recognise collective agreements between workers and employers and ‘in a race to the bottom’ allows businesses to employ workers’ on worse pay and conditions than the minimum for the industry concerned in that particular country.
  • EU laws demand permanent austerity from all EU governments. They include strict rules limiting public spending and government borrowing

Agree, and want to help the Socialist campaign for Exit? Fill in the form below!

Dave Nellist on the Sunday Politics – watch here!

Dave Nellist on the Sunday Politics – watch here!

Former Labour MP and Socialist councillor Dave Nellist

Former Labour MP and Socialist councillor Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, Socialist Party member and national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics show. Dave makes the socialist case against the EU and also puts the record straight on the view being put forward by some of the big trade unions that it was the EU that gave us our workplace rights.

 Agree with Dave? Then fill in the form at the bottom of this page!

RIP Muhammad Ali – 1942-2016

RIP Muhammad Ali – 1942-2016

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Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers of the 20th century, sadly died yesterday at the age of 74. As well as being a legendary fighter in the ring, Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam and his support and solidarity with the black struggles of the 1960s leave a lasting legacy. Politicians from all sides will pay tribute to Ali today, but 50 years ago they hounded him for standing up for the civil rights of black people.

We are proud to reproduce the below article on Ali by Hugo Pierre from 2003.

Ali & the black struggles of the 1960s

DESPITE ITS CLAIM to be the ‘Land of the Free’, the US ruling class has subjected blacks to systematic racism since the beginnings of colonialism. Blacks, however, have fought tenaciously to end the denial of even the most basic rights, exploring all methods of struggle and all forms of alliances to end this repression.

After Lincoln was forced to declare the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War (1861-65), blacks in the northern states joined the union armies and in the south fled the plantations to join the fight. Blacks were often the most determined soldiers and made up a higher proportion of the union armies than their size in the population.

Although slavery was abolished, the vicious ‘Jim Crow’ system perpetuated racism in the southern states. ‘Jim Crow’ was the term used to describe the state laws passed from the 1890s to segregate blacks from whites in the south, in schools, housing, public transport, and other areas. All kinds of measures, from poll taxes to open intimidation, were used to keep blacks from registering or exercising their right to vote. This system was absent in the north, but there the capitalist class employed the tactics of divide and rule to put black workers in the worst paid jobs in the factories.

War brings radicalisation, and the second world war in particular radicalised blacks, who were forced to fight in segregated units. Prior to the war many blacks had been influenced by the major trade union struggles that had taken place in the 1920s and 1930s, especially the massive wave of strikes that broke out in 1934, which included sit-down action and city-wide general strikes (the Teamsters’ rebellion in Minneapolis and the Auto Lite sit-down in Toledo, Ohio). Mass organising campaigns among factory workers and wider layers of unskilled workers gave rise to the Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO), formed in 1936. The new industrial unions (United Automobile Workers, United Mine Workers, United Steel Workers, etc) involved black workers (immediately attracting over 500,000 black members), unlike the old craft unions of the American Federation of Labor. This experience was used to good effect during the war, for example, in the 1941 strike organised by the black railway porters union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which forced the government to end open racial discrimination in federal war production factories.

The pre-war struggles and the events of the second world war set the conditions for the development of a mass civil rights movement, beginning in the early 1950s, that would last nearly three decades. It brought to the fore some of the most courageous US black leaders and inspired workers, youth and the oppressed to struggle, not just in the US but around the world.

One of the most celebrated figures linked to this movement is Mohammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, in January 1942, to a poor working-class family in Louisville, Kentucky, who became probably the greatest heavy-weight boxer of all times. The young Clay, who took the name Mohammad Ali when he acknowledged his membership of the black nationalist Nation of Islam in 1964, was forced to take on the world, not just as sportsman but as part of the struggle for black rights. His successes became a powerful symbol of defiance and pride for black Americans and oppressed people around the world.

Systemic racism

KENTUCKY ITSELF WAS considered the gateway state to the south. But for blacks, this was no halfway house; the repression of Jim Crow was the same as the Deep South states. White terror gangs such as the Ku Klux Klan brutally enforced segregation. In Mississippi there were over 500 lynchings between 1864 and 1955 according to official figures. In Georgia lynchings were so common they often went unrecorded.

In the summer of 1955 a 14-year-old Detroit schoolboy, Emmett Till, while visiting relatives in Mississippi, was brutally murdered for whistling to a white female cashier in a shop. His mother decided his coffin would be left open for the funeral to show the world his mutilated body. Despite this an all-white jury acquitted the murderers. A mood of determination to defeat segregation and Jim Crow gripped Southern blacks.

An early battleground in the struggle against segregation was the transport system, where blacks would be forced to give up their seats for whites, were segregated into ‘blacks only’ seats, and were routinely abused by drivers, who would call them ‘nigger’ and ‘ape’. When in 1955 Rosa Parks, a department store worker, refused to give up her seat to a white man, the Montgomery bus boycott began, bringing to the fore Martin Luther King, who became the pre-eminent leader of the civil rights movement (until his assassination in 1968). The mass boycott started the mass movement across the south to end segregation. By 1956, the Montgomery buses were desegregated, but the boycott tactic had spread not just to other public services but into industry. A sacked black steelworker was re-instated after a boycott in his factory in Birmingham, Alabama, spread to others in the same company. This forced the CIO union leaders to join the campaign to end segregation.

Influenced by these events the young Cassius Clay attended a number of civil rights demonstrations. After a white woman soaked him on one of these marches, however, he declared “that’s the last one of these I’m coming to” – although throughout the course of this struggle marchers faced that and more, in beatings, police dogs, bomb threats and shootings.

As events moved forward, however, Ali was forced to make a stand. Professional sports, and boxing in particular, had at times reflected and impacted on the battle against US racism. Before it was professionalised, slave owners often used to pit ‘their man’ against another slave owner’s for sport and gambling and when boxing was professionalised, the white champions would refuse to fight black challengers. When Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, won the title in 1908, the radical Jack London (who was unable to shed his own racial prejudices) coined the term ‘Great White Hope’ for a white to defeat him. Jim Jeffries, a previous champion who’d refused to fight blacks, came out of retirement ‘for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro’. Johnson inflicted a humiliating defeat on Jeffries, despite the crowd chanting ‘kill the nigger!’ Blacks celebrated across the US, but racist reaction was out for lynchings. The worst rioting of the decade followed.

Baseball was segregated before the second world war and, in order to move upmarket, American Football imposed a ban on black players from 1934 until the 1950s. But even as segregation in sport began to end, US sports owners were careful to cultivate black stars that wouldn’t buck the system. Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball star, testified in McCarthy’s notorious House Un-American Activities Committee against Paul Robeson, the world famous bass singer and supporter of the American Communist Party, helping to provide ammunition for the anti-Communist witch-hunt.

Searching for solutions

WHILST THE MASS civil rights campaign was determined, the youth were preparing to go further. In 1960 the Student Non-Violent Co-Ordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed, which was more militant than King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They organised further boycotts of lunch counters, freedom rides and demonstrations against segregated schooling.

Cassius Clay, however, had been attracted to the Nation of Islam, from his days as a schoolboy (his teacher refused to let him do a project on them). This multi-million-dollar organisation that amassed real estate, jewelry and luxury cars, was a direct descendant of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association. (Garvey, a pioneer of black nationalism in the US, advocated a ‘back to Africa’ movement and also attempted to promote black businesses in the US). Ali’s father, Clay senior, was familiar with Garvey’s views and regularly spoke about them at home.

The Nation would have remained a sect, however, had it not been popularised by its radical leader Malcolm X. The Nation vehemently opposed participating in the mass civil rights movement, calling instead for self-containment and separation of blacks from ‘white’ America.

But the mass events taking place had a profound effect on Malcolm X, even as he maintained his loyalty to the leadership of the Nation. In 1962 Los Angeles police invaded Mosque 27 and one of its leading members was shot and killed. Malcolm X was prevented by the Nation’s leadership from launching a defence campaign even though he had conducted a vigorous investigation and started to organise a powerful alliance of black groups and oppressed workers’ organisations. He also supported a union boycott of a firm in New York that refused to hire black workers, against the wishes of the other Nation leaders.

Malcolm’s activism, his support for involvement in the mass struggle for black rights and, especially, his increasing concern with economic and class issues, brought him more and more into conflict with the Elijah Muhammad leadership. He was increasingly critical of the idea of black separation and was moving towards a position of solidarity with the white working class. In the end, the Nation’s leadership organised his assassination, with the collusion of the US law-enforcement agencies. Despite the close friendship that had grown between Malcolm X and Mohammad Ali, before Ali faced Sonny Liston for the world championship in 1964, the political split within the Nation separated Malcolm and Ali, whose political inclinations were closer to Elijah.

In explaining his conversion after his shock victory over Liston, Ali exposed the racist nature of the US. But he also declared his support for the Nation’s brand of segregation:

“I ain’t no Christian. I can’t be, when I see all the coloured people fighting for forced integration getting blowed up. They get hit by stones and chewed by dogs and they blow up a Negro church and don’t find the killers. I get telephone calls every day. They want me to carry signs. They want me to picket. They tell me it would be good for brotherhood. I don’t want to be blown up. I don’t want to be washed down sewers. I just want to be happy with my own kind.

“I’m the heavyweight champion of the world, but right now there are some neighbourhoods I can’t move into. I know how to dodge booby traps and dogs. I dodge them by staying in my own neighbourhood. I’m no troublemaker. I don’t believe in forced integration. I know where I belong. I’m not going to force myself into anybody’s house…

“I love white people. I like my own people. They can live together without infringing on each other”.

Ali, having embraced the religion and at the same time conquered the boxing world, now became the most famous member of the Nation of Islam. He also became the centre of a power struggle within the Nation itself and, at the same time, a major cause of discussion in the civil rights movement. Two men publicly congratulated him on his victory over Liston: Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King. Jackie Robinson meanwhile commented that Ali’s conversion meant ‘nothing’ to the civil rights movement and put his trust in liberal whites to win the day. But Robinson also warned that, “if Negroes ever turn to the Black Muslim movement in any numbers… It will be because white America has refused to recognise the responsible leadership of the Negro people and to grant us the same rights that any other citizen enjoys in this land”.

Ali’s world title defence against Floyd Patterson in November 1965 was preceded by a war of words between the two – not the usual pre-fight hype but a bitter political battle about the way forward. Patterson, who even offered his purse to the liberal-reformist National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), stated: “I have the right to call the Black Muslims a menace to the US and a menace to the Negro race… If I were to support the Black Muslims, I might as well support the Ku Klux Klan”. He reflected the thinking of a layer of blacks who at that stage believed that white American liberals would ‘come to their senses’. By this time, Ali had all his affairs controlled by the Nation and pledged:

“I’m gonna put him [Patterson] flat on his back,
So that he will start acting black,
Because when he was champ he didn’t act like he should,
He tried to force himself into an all-white neighbourhood”.
‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong’

JUST AS THE black movement leaders had to draw conclusions about the way forward, so did Ali in his battle with the US state. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965 but the struggle for more than just voting rights continued. One key issue was the developing war in Vietnam.

In 1965 a poll showed 84% of blacks opposed the war but disproportionately more blacks were being drafted into the army to fight in Vietnam. The youth involved in the civil rights movement under the leadership of SNCC came out against the war in Vietnam.

Early in 1966 Ali was classed as eligible for call-up but he refused to be conscripted into the army, asserting that he was a conscientious objector on religious grounds. His ringing declaration in response to the draft – “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong” – catapulted him into the forefront of the then infant anti-war movement. Ali attended the infamous Los Angeles demonstration – in which 200 demonstrators were clubbed by the brutal Los Angeles Police Department – albeit in his Rolls Royce! He took part in speaking tours around the college campuses.

In 1967 Ali was sentenced to five years in jail for refusing to accept the draft, and the World Boxing Association (WBA) stripped him of his title. Eventually, in 1970, the conviction was overturned by the supreme court (which upheld his right to be a conscientious objector on religious grounds), and the WBA had to reinstate him.

Martin Luther King was also changing his position as riots ripped through most of the country’s black ghettos between 1964 and 1968. Amidst the rubble of the Watts riots, King declared, “It was a class revolt of the under-privileged against the privileged”. In 1967 he was forced to conclude: “We have moved into an era which must be an era of revolution… what good does it do to a man to have integrated lunch counters if he can’t buy a hamburger?” Over those four years 250 mainly black protestors had been killed, 10,000 were injured, and 60,000 had been arrested.

The pacifist movement for civil rights begun in 1954 with a peaceful boycott was developing into a class war. The more far-sighted leaders had started to conclude that the struggle for black liberation was intimately connected to the struggle of the working class. The youth in particular strove for this understanding and the most determined representatives of the movement, the Black Panther Party, adopted some elements of Marxism.

Ali himself found that all the money and fame he had amassed did not isolate him from this struggle. Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 200 metre gold and bronze medallists at the 1968 Olympics, who raised clenched black-gloved fists on the winners’ podium, Ali was inspired by a mass movement that had rocked US capitalism and given blacks a glimpse of their power. Eventually allowed to box again, he recaptured the title with a brilliant mastery of tactics (including gaining the support of the Zairian masses, where the fight was being held) in the 1974 encounter with the apparently invincible giant, George Foreman.

Undoubtedly the US authorities feared the potential impact of a politically active Ali at this time, following the defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal that unseated the disgraced president, Richard Nixon. Later, governments tried to use Ali for their own purposes including, in 1980 under president Jimmy Carter, sending him as a political emissary to Africa to win support for the US boycott of the Russian Olympics (the trip was a disaster for Ali and he feared he was being manipulated). As a powerful political symbol of black defiance, the state has been forced to incorporate his legend into its re-writing of history.

Despite this, however, when blacks in the US are forced into struggle, the youth and the new leaders who will come forward will continue to take inspiration from Ali’s determination. He inspired millions around the world, especially those from the ex-colonial world.

While touched by these events, however, and propelled into taking action, Ali never drew the link with the workers’ movement and the critical importance of collective struggle. I can still remember in one of his interviews with Michael Parkinson how he described how proud he felt driving through ghettos like Harlem in his Rolls Royce and how he believed he presented a positive black role model, urging young black men not to take up boxing but to take up studying.

But times have moved on and the vast majority of blacks in the US still face poverty, unemployment and slum housing. The ruling class and many black leaders still consider that positive ‘role models’ for black youth, rather than organising and campaigning, are the most important way of providing guidance away from a life of poverty, drugs and crime. But as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were discovering, black youth will be forced to go the whole way and link the struggle to end racism with the struggle for socialism.