Sunday, 22 March 2009

Robeson, culture and the movement

The Paul Robeson show on Friday night was magnificent. Tayo Aluko has a remarkable voice - combined with such an amazing and inspiring life story to tell, it would be hard to go wrong.

It's a shame that Robeson isn't better known today, for both artistic and political reasons. He was immensely courageous and principled, with a long-lasting commitment to radical causes. He refused to capitulate to the anti-Communist witch hunts, despite enormous pressure. And he was astonishingly talented.

Discovering radical cultural figures and traditions is one of the best things about being an active socialist. Being part of the Left involves encountering all sorts of otherwise hidden treasures in our history. Interestingly, Tayo commented (in a brief post-performance discussion) that he was 33 when he first heard of Robeson, despite being (in his words) "a politically conscious black man".

We could surely have more cultural events on the Left and in the anti-war movement. It's been a growth area in recent years, but still very patchy. It would be good to have more film showings, gigs, plays etc - as events in themselves and as ways of reaching out to people and involving them in the movement.

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