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Monday, October 17, 2005

Paul Robeson

I know almost nothing about Paul Robeson so of course I was surprised to read that he had his son educated in Soviet Russia in order to avoid racial discrimination. I'd like to know more about the black experience in the USSR. Snowball, can you help?


Blogger Snowball said...

I will go away and have a think about the specifics of the black experience in the USSR if that is okay.

I suspect that the number of black (as in of African descent rather than in the political sense of 'black'- which can include Asian) people who visited or lived in the USSR was very small indeed.

One important thing to understand is the way that the Communist movement in the decade or so after the Russian Revolution was an inspiration to black people, like many other people, internationally. The work of Communists in the US in defending black people (eg the Scottsboro Boys 1931) was outstanding.

However, much of the trust that Communists internationally built up among black people through campaigning against racism and imperialism was lost after 1935 when the USSR sold oil to Fascist Italy under Mussolini when it invaded the African country of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) - see your earlier post about Sylvia Pankhurst for more on this perhaps. This betrayal by the Soviet Union - and their switch to Great Power politics in the 1930s in general meant they were no longer seen as a beacon of hope for most militant black people. Robeson was here probably an exception to the extent his faith in the Soviet leadership remained undiminished. The Duberman biography of Robeson has more information on Robeson's experiences when visiting the USSR - if you can get hold of that in Korea.

6:44 pm  
Blogger Mapo said...

Years and years ago (maybe 15)I saw a documentary about another black experiencer of the USSR. He was either British or American. I think he actually defected. Have you got any idea who he was? He looked to be in his sixties even back then.

7:11 pm  
Blogger Snowball said...

The only other outstanding black figures I can think of who visited the Soviet Union were George Padmore and WEB DuBois. Both very interesting people - but I suspect neither are the person you are thinking of (they went to the USSR a lot earlier and neither 'defected' as it were). Sorry about that - am interested as to who it could be.

8:41 am  

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