Robert Wedderburn’s ‘Universal War’

Anti-colonial universality in the Age of Revolution

Ajmal Waqif
The ideas and political commitments of the revolutionary abolitionist and Spencean Robert Wedderburn (1762-1835) represent a compelling example of a form of universality, articulated in the midst of the Age of Revolution, which defied European colonialism and plantation slavery. An engagement with Wedderburn’s writings on the Haitian Revolution, maroon warfare and his proposal of a Spencean communist programme will clarify ongoing debates about Enlightenment, empire, slavery and universality and might inform a re-engagement with the idea of universal emancipation in the political present.

Did Marx Defend Black Slavery?

On Jamaica and Labour in a Black Skin

Gregory Slack
Over the past 40 years a tradition of Marx interpretation has built up around a single passage concerning black slavery in an 1853 letter from Marx to Engels, in order to demonstrate that Marx’s support for emancipation was conditional on the level of ‘civilization’ attained by black slaves. I will argue that this interpretation, which attempts to prove Marx’s racist defense of slavery, is overdetermined by an inattention to historical context and a hypersensitivity to Marx’s nineteenth-century epithets. This is important because the alleged anti-black racism of Marx and the place black workers occupy in his historical materialist vision of class struggle are of the utmost significance for properly conceptualizing the relationship between Marxism and black liberation.