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Clay vs Liston: how a new horizon was opened

Fifty years ago, Cassius Clay “shook up the world” by winning the heavyweight title – and embracing the Nation of Islam On the night of February 25, 1964, the 22 year old Cassius Clay defeated the supposedly undefeatable Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. It was an upset of historic proportions… Read more

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – fifty years on

The Guardian, 22 February, 2014 Fifty years ago this month, the 22 year old Bob Dylan released his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin, the acme and as it turned out the end of his “protest” period. Dylan renounced this genre so quickly, and took his fans on such a giddy journey afterwards, that… Read more

The man who went beyond a boundary

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, February-March 2013 When CLR James’ Beyond A Boundary was first published fifty years ago, the sociology of sport and the politics of popular culture had no place in the academy or on the left. The book had to create its own subject, define a new field of intervention. James… Read more

Olympic icons

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, June-July 2012 In a world where the words ‘iconic’ and ‘icon’ have been cheapened by gross overuse, it’s salutary to recall their original meanings. In a religious context, an icon is a representation that is more than a representation, an image that contains a power beyond itself. It’s not… Read more

Sheikh Jarrah and the “masterplan” for Jerusalem

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 20 February On a visit to Jerusalem in December, we met with residents of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood north of the Old City, where 28 extended Palestinian families are waging a struggle against eviction and displacement by Jewish settlers. The families came here in 1948 as refugees from Israel. With… Read more

Contesting white supremacy

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, June-July 2010 Back in August, in the wake of BNP success in the Euro-elections, Red Pepper ran a debate about anti-fascist strategy. Although a good start to a necessary discussion, too much of it was polarised between an attack on and a defence of existing strategies and structures. While… Read more

Obama and the spectre of race

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 7 September It’s a paradox. Barack Obama’s candidacy is hailed as “historic” for the very sound reason that he is the first African-American to become the presidential nominee of a major party. In a country whose history is permeated by race, that’s clearly a significant event, at the least a… Read more

No sanctuary

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 19 April Despite an average of 40 violent deaths a day in recent weeks, Iraq, the British Home office insists, is a safe place. Accordingly, 1,400 Iraqi asylum seekers have received letters informing them that they must return home or face homelessness and destitution in Britain. Those who agree to… Read more

A demanding legacy

Versions of this article appeared in The Hindu and The Guardian’s Comment is free It’s testimony to the awkward power of Martin Luther King’s life and work that so much effort has gone into sanitising his memory. Today he’s commemorated as an apostle of social harmony, a hero in the triumphant march of American progress…. Read more

Unreality TV

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 28 January ALL words can be cheapened by misuse, especially when they are misused by the powerful. The reality they refer to is disguised, rather than revealed. But what happens when the word in question is “reality” itself? On his visit to India, Gordon Brown, still the bookie’s favourite to… Read more