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Robin Blackburn: In Haiti, 8 October 2009

... I arrived after dusk at Toussaint Louverture Airport and was relieved to see someone holding a board with my name on it. The State Department and Foreign Office websites had been very discouraging. A taciturn young man from Sécurité whisked me through passport control and into a tacky VIP lounge, then down some steps to an exit, watched over by an unsmiling female security guard ...

When I’m 65

Robin Blackburn: A reply to Martin Daunton, 19 February 2004

... The origins of state pensions are to be found in market failure. States have intrinsic advantages over companies as pension providers: because they have the power to tax, and are around for a long time, they can count on those not yet born to pay for the pensions of those not yet retired. Today’s contributions are used to pay today’s retirees (a company that did this would be convicted of running a pyramid scheme ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bad Manners, 6 July 2000

... in her lengthy acknowledgments, Tariq Ali is singled out for thanks twice. Rowbotham also thanks Robin Blackburn, who, we understand, is to review Richard Gott’s new book, In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela (Verso, 246 pp., £16, 1 July, 1 85984 775 7) for the New Statesman. Again, it has not gone ...

How a desire for profit led to the invention of race

Eric Foner: Slavery, 4 February 1999

Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America 
by Ira Berlin.
Harvard, 512 pp., £18.50, October 1998, 0 674 81092 9
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The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern 1492-1800 
by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 602 pp., £15, April 1998, 1 85984 890 7
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... in colonial America, seeking to explain the system’s origins. The new books by Ira Berlin and Robin Blackburn are outstanding contributions to this literature. Berlin, who has already written a study of free blacks in the 19th-century South, for many years directed the Freedmen and Southern Society editorial project. Documentary editing rarely ...
The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery 1776-1848 
by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 560 pp., £27.95, April 1988, 0 86091 188 8
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Pro-Slavery: A History of the Defence of Slavery in America, 1701-1840 
by Larry Tise.
Georgia, 501 pp., $40, March 1988, 0 8203 0927 3
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Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean 
by Alfred Hunt.
Louisiana State, 196 pp., £23.75, March 1988, 9780807113288
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Thomas Paine 
by A.J. Ayer.
Secker, 195 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 436 02820 4
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Paine and Cobbett: The Transatlantic Connection 
by David Wilson.
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 218 pp., $27.95, April 1988, 0 7735 1013 3
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... A sugar plantation with its mill, and its businesslike organisation and rhythms of work, bore, as Robin Blackburn points out, a clear resemblance to the factory that emerged with the Industrial Revolution; and its labour force was ‘more intensively exploited than any group of this size in history’. By a kind of poetic justice, of the three ...

Dear Prudence

Martin Daunton: The pension crisis, 19 February 2004

Banking on Death or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions 
by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 550 pp., £15, July 2002, 9781859844090
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... societies is away from the public funding of pensions and towards private, commercial provision. Robin Blackburn describes the finance companies selling pension schemes as a new form of tax farmer, offering dubious deals in return for tax subsidies and lavish commissions. The analogy indicates the tenor of his thinking: tax farmers contributed to the ...


Tariq Ali: In Cochabamba, 21 June 2007

... I was last there forty years ago as part of a four-man team (the others were Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn and Ralph Schoenman) sent by Bertrand Russell to attend the trial of Régis Debray in Camiri, not far from where a besieged Che Guevara was fighting to escape the Bolivian army. Debray had been captured while attempting to leave the guerrilla ...

Bring on the hypnotist

Neal Ascherson, 12 March 1992

After the Fall: The Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism 
edited by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 327 pp., £32.95, November 1991, 0 86091 540 9
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... which raises at once the preliminary question of what that failure has to do with this future. Robin Blackburn, the book’s editor, assumes that they have everything to do with one another. He writes at the outset of his own chapter that ‘the anti-capitalist Left will have no credibility unless it can account for the dire experience of Communism ...
... R.B.: You were imprisoned in the Brezhnev period because of your oppositionist ideas. What was prison like? B.K.: The really difficult thing was that you were forced to stay with the same person for months on end. A manager who had been arrested for taking bribes taught me a lot about the functioning of the Soviet management structure and the way the economy worked, but even so you cannot spend day after day with the same person: it becomes psychologically destructive ...

On the State of the Left

W.G. Runciman, 17 December 1981

The Forward March of Labour Halted? 
by Eric Hobsbawm, Ken Gill and Tony Benn.
Verso, 182 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 86091 041 5
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... Harrison, professor of social history at Warwick, but Jack Jones and Stan Newens MP; not only Robin Blackburn of New Left Review but Mike le Cornu, shop steward at Heathrow. They all, with remarkably few reservations, agree with Hobsbawm not only that there is a crisis of capitalism but that the apparent ineffectiveness of the Left is, therefore, all ...


Marina Warner: Why I Quit, 11 September 2014

... studies, its sympathy with poets, translators, excitable theorists, its egalitarianism. Robin Blackburn on slavery, Angela Livingstone on Tsvetaeva, Ernesto Laclau’s charismatic mystifications. Dawn Ades’s work on Latin America inspired artists from all over the continent to donate paintings and sculpture, so it has a collection unrivalled ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... and not allude to, among others, E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn, R.D. Laing, and the personnel of the New Statesman, would be to create another kind of absent centre. Caute solves this problem by resort to the teasing deceits of the Disraelian political romance. That is, he daringly hints at real persons ...

A Long Forgotten War

Jenny Diski: Sheila Rowbotham, 6 July 2000

Promise of a Dream: A Memoir of the 1960s 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Allen Lane, 262 pp., £18.99, July 2000, 0 7139 9446 0
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... control, the importance of the clitoris, an introduction to a circle of socialists – Robin Blackburn, Gareth Stedman Jones, Perry Anderson – who challenged her acceptance of Edward Thompson’s non-sectarian New Left, the frivolity of mascara) came from Bob Rowthorn, who became Rowbotham’s adviser and long-term – oh I don’t know ...


R.W. Johnson, 8 February 1990

Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism 
by Raymond Williams, edited by Robin Gable.
Verso, 334 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 86091 229 9
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The Alien Mind of Raymond Williams 
by Jan Gorak.
Missouri, 132 pp., $9.95, December 1988, 0 8262 0688 3
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Raymond Williams: Writing, Culture, Politics 
by Alan O’Connor.
Blackwell, 180 pp., £27.50, June 1989, 0 631 16589 4
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Raymond Williams on Television: Selected Writings 
edited by Alan O’Connor.
Routledge, 223 pp., £7.95, April 1989, 9780415026277
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News from Nowhere: No 6. Raymond Williams: Third Generation 
edited by Tony Pinkney.
Oxford English Limited, 108 pp., £3.50, February 1989
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Raymond Williams: Critical Perspectives 
edited by Terry Eagleton.
Polity, 235 pp., £29.50, September 1989, 9780745603841
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... enemies. One must ask what good is a critical intellectual if he won’t criticise his own side? Robin Blackburn, introducing Resources of Hope, writes that Raymond Williams ‘was the most authoritative, consistent and original socialist thinker in the English-speaking world’. One cannot but be struck by the warmth and number of similar tributes ...

Tricky Business

Megan Vaughan: The Middle Passage, 12 December 2002

The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade 
by Robert Harms.
Perseus, 466 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 1 903985 18 8
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... of the ship’s passage, prices, rates of exchange, slaves’ vital statistics and deaths. As Robin Blackburn has argued, the slave trade and the slave plantation were run with an instrumental rationality, according to business principles that were ahead of their time, and produced an abundance of statistics. Durand’s journal is one of the handful ...

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