Black History and Revolutionaries in Leicester


This October Leicester City Council is supporting Black History Month, and this year BHM aims to reflect upon “the theme of policy, practice and socialist justice, inspired by the life and work of South African Social Rights activist Desmond Tutu on the occasion of his 85th Birthday, the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, and the 40th anniversary of the seminal publication The Arts that Britain Ignores by Naseem Kahn.”

Two must-watch films being showcased this year at the Phoenix Cinema are The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) and Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution (2013): the first being shown at 7pm on Wednesday 12th October, and the second at the same time one week later.

For those who don’t know, the Black Panther Party was a socialist organisation primarily based in the United States that came to fame during the 1960s because they “armed themselves and promised to overcome poverty and oppression through revolution.” As a direct result of their principled use of weapons to defend themselves from routine police brutality, many members of the Black Panthers were murdered by the US government as a part of the FBI’s notoriously anti-democratic Counterintelligence Program.

Important lessons for all socialists can be learned from the proud history of the Black Panther Party. And even though Leicester’s Labour Council obviously have no aspirations to be part of a revolutionary movement — after all most can barely bring themselves to support their current reformist socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn — our councillors might take note of the bravery shown by the Black Panthers in their determined struggle for justice.

I say this because with Tory funding cuts destroying the very viability of most of Leicester’s community services (like libraries, children’s centres and youth services) it seems that the very least our Labour Council could do is to support Corbyn and then refuse to implement further Tory attack upon the people of Leicester. It certainly would not take a revolutionary action to stand up to the Tories, but presently it is a necessary action that our councillors are refusing to take.

If our Labour councillors refuse to be moved into action by the example set by the Black Panthers then the second BHM film, Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution (2013), might do the job instead. This film provides much needed critical insight into the barbarous nature of the capitalist system as seen through the lens of the US government’s brutal invasion of Grenada in 1983. Grenada’s only crime, so it seems, was to present a democratic and socialist alternative to the despotic pro-big business regimes that the US government preferred to deal with at the time. For more on this sordid history read William Blum’s short overview on Grenada in his excellent book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II (2003).

Of course, socialists fighting for a fairer world have always been vigorously opposed by the powers that be, whether they be opposed by imperialist warmongers in the United States or by war criminals in the UK, like Tony Blair. Thankfully, however, with Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the head of the Labour Party, a new and potentially bright chapter of socialist history is opening up in Britain. The only question that remains is: how many of Leicester’s Labour councillors will step up to the mark and support Corbyn in the struggle to replace capitalism and imperialism with an alternative world premised upon socialism and solidarity?

For an excellent recent treatment of the inspiring history of the Black Panther Party watch the documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967 1975 (2011).

For more background about the Grenadian revolution, see the following documentary Grenada: The Future Coming Towards Us (1984).


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