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Global Nationalisms: The Montreal Congress of Black Writers and the Case of Caribbean International Opinion Solidarities Through History March 30, 2007 Prepared by David Austin Université de Montréal/The Alfie Roberts Institute Montreal, Canada January 7, 2006 In the mid-1960s several Caribbean nationals formed the Montreal-based Caribbean Conference Committee. They were young, bright, and full of ideas on how to transform the Caribbean, and the world. Many of them (Robert Hill, Franklyn Harvey, Alfie Roberts, Tim Hector, and Rosie Douglas) would later emerge as central members of the Caribbean’s New Left. Their political vision was shaped by Marxism and, in particular, their mentor C.L.R. James. Not only did James conduct political classes for them but, given their keen political senses, James was, in many ways, as much a beneficiary in the relationship as they were. It was members of this group that organized the historic Montreal Congress of Black Writers in 1968, one of the most important post- Second World War gatherings of Black radicals. The meeting brought together many of the leading Black Power figures of the time – Stokely Carmichael, James Forman, Harry Edwards – along with such notable Caribbean politicos as C.L.R. James, Richard B. Moore, Walter Rodney, and Robert Hill. During the Congress, members of the CCC released the Caribbean International Opinion, which, going against the grain of the event, sought to situate Caribbean and Black struggles within the global context of sixties’ social movements. The first and only issue of the journal included detailed analyses of the Vietnam War and Paris 1968, as well as two contributions on Marxist theory by C.L.R. James. In my paper, I will explore the CCC’s politics (literary as well as their political activities) which, though emphatically Caribbean, also sought to vindicate Marxist humanist theory, straddling the line that artificially separated, and at times, brought together, the seemingly disparate streams of nationalism and Marxism, Black/Caribbean politics and liberation/radical humanism. I will also situate the work of the CCC within the context of Quebec’s nationalist movement which, drawing on many of the same influences as the CCC (Sartre, Fanon, Césaire, Black Power, Malcolm X, etc.) also sought to balance its particular struggle with a concern for global social change.
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