Monday, 15 April 2019

Far From the Cruel Sea: British Destroyer HMS Fife Visits the Nigerian Navy in April 1970

Rear Admiral Joseph Wey in conversation with Captain William David Scott in Wey’s office at Naval Headquarters in Lagos.

There has always been two sides to the depiction of the careers of sailors. The press-ganged, scurvy-enduring man-on-deck who braved the elements and partook in merciless warfare on the high-seas is as imprinted in the popular imagination as is that of the adventure-seeking, hard-drinking sailor who had a girl in every port.

One side of the coin is the gritty realism of war as portrayed in Nicholas Monsarrat’s 1951 novel The Cruel Sea, which was made into a memorable film a few years later. During war there are endless drills, hours of enforced silence in darkness and the constant fear of death within a floating coffin.

But the other side, that of the peacetime navy, is one which can be a very attractive one for both officers and men. The “Run ashores” and “Rum Tots” bear testament to the arcane rites that are part of naval life as well as the rich lexicon of expression.

For Captain William David Scott, the command of HMS Fife, a 6,000-ton county-class destroyer equipped with guided missiles and Wessex helicopter, there were many responsibilities and challenges in a peacetime navy which operated as an integral part of NATO during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

The vessel was designed to operate in areas of nuclear fall-out. Its three main roles were to serve as an escort, to provide task unit support and to carry out peace time police duties.

But the compensations in observing these duties and remaining in a state of preparedness spoke for themselves. Among the destinations visited by Captain Scott and his 500-man crew during a round-the-world tour between 1970 and 1971 were Hawaii, Singapore, Nigeria, Japan and Hong Kong.

HMS Fife visited Lagos, Nigeria for four days in April, 1970. Nigeria, a former colony of Britain, had been independent for a decade, but had endured a two and a half year civil war that had only ended three months earlier.

Among the visitors to the ship was Rear Admiral Joseph Wey, the Chief of Nigerian Naval Staff who had presided over the Nigerian Navy’s role in enforcing a littoral blockade of the secessionist state of Biafra. Scott gave him a tour of the ship and Wey later entertained him on shore at the naval base. Some of Fife’s crew partook in a football friendly with Nigerian naval personnel.

Fife holds the distinction of being the last Royal Navy ship to issue the rum tot. Photographs of the funeral of the rum tot barrel and others covering Scott’s naval career can be viewed at Maritime Quest dot com. [Click HERE]

Addendum:

HMS Fife was decommissioned in 1987 after 21 years service and sold to the Chilean Navy in which it operated under the name Blanco Encalada. Captain Scott, who was later knighted, retired as a rear admiral. Rear Admiral Wey, who also served as the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters in Nigeria’s military government was compulsorily retired after a military coup in July 1975, having attained the rank of vice admiral.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Monday, 8 April 2019

Anti-Russia Nuclear First Strike? Poland would need a "Demographic Precaution" Plan

General Waldemar Skrzypczak (rtd)

In a recent interview in the Polish media, retired General Waldemar Skrzypczak spoke of the possibility of NATO launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Russian Federation. His remarks not only serve to remind of the danger of a thermonuclear war between the world’s nuclear powers in the new era ‘Cold War’ -an issue which is disturbingly underplayed in the public discourse on global security- they should also serve to concentrate the minds of the Polish people on the question of the survival of their nation in the event of a nuclear armageddon.

Wlademar Skrzypczak’s comments recorded by the media conglomerate Wirtualna Polska speak of the hardline, anti-Russian attitude of many influential establishment figures in former Eastern Bloc nations who have welcomed NATO’s eastward expansion towards Russia’s borders, as well as the deployment of innovative weaponry such as missile shields.

But the idea of a nuclear ‘First Strike’ has perilous implications for Poland.

It was always understood at the time of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War that Poland would be wiped off the map in the event of a nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The same can be argued today if a war of similar magnitude developed between NATO and the Russian Federation.

Skrzypczak’s thinking is reminiscent of the dangerous expositions of Herman Kahn who believed in a “First Strike” doctrine and a winnable nuclear war. Yet, if he is truly serious about this, he may have to bear in mind the ‘Demographic Precaution Plan’ suggested by Tadeusz Tuczapski, a senior Polish general during the Cold War. The plan provided that Poland could only be preserved by building a special bunker housing a hundred men and two hundred women who would form the germ of a reconstituted Polish nation after a nuclear holocaust.

Tuczapski, who like many of his counterparts was alarmed at the prospect of Poland having to bear the brunt of a nuclear attack, outlined his theory to Polish leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski at a training briefing in the General Staff:

I stood up and told Jaruzelski, “General, more should be given to Civil Defence so that a good, solid bunker could be built, lock up in that bunker a hundred Polish men, some sort of real good fuckers and two hundred women so that we can rebuild the Polish nation. Give some money for that.”

Jaruzelski was apparently offended either by what he perceived as Tuczapski’s flipancy or the tastefulness of his remarks. Perhaps both. But Tuczapski felt that he was being a realist. Many senior Polish generals were worried that Poland would not survive even a limited exchange of nuclear weapons in a conflict which was often envisaged would start off with conventional battles that were certain to inflict great damage on Poland’s civil and military infrastructure.

Whatever the shortcomings may be of her internal administration, the narrative of Russian aggression does not stand up to objective scrutiny. Indeed, what may be termed as ‘aggression’ has come from the West: NATO’s eastward expansion in breach of agreements reached between the leaders of America and the Soviet Union as a condition of the reunification of Germany, the abrogation by the United States of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces regime, and the deployment of a missile shield system.

Conflicts involving the Russian armed forces near and at a distance from its borders can be persuasively argued to have been reactive rather than proactive in nature: the response to Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the absorption of Crimea in response to the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev which threatened Russia’s security interests in the Black Sea, and the NATO-supported infiltration into Syria by Islamist militias which mirrored covert US support for Chechen Jihadists.

Remarks of the sort made by Skrzypczak were rare during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War because leaders on both sides were careful to seek to diffuse tensions and not intensify them. It is time for the leaders of Poland, the Baltic nations and others to begin speaking in terms of dialogue and diplomacy; not war. Otherwise the Polish nation must begin seriously considering the Tuczapsk Demographic Plan.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Leon Degrelle: Poster Boy for Neo-Nazism and White Nationalism

Leon Degrelle in the uniform of an SS Officer

The rise in contemporary times of White Nationalism has meant that many of its adherents have sought inspiration from the Nazi and Fascist era of the 20thCentury. This is not limited to the political parties that came to power in Germany and Italy, but encompasses the likes of the Spanish Falange, the Romanian Iron Guard, the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, the British Union of Fascists and the Belgian Rexist Party. The founder of Rexism, Leon Degrelle serves as an icon to those who range from adventurers seeking military action with the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion of Ukraine to the White Nationalist groups who have marched in cities like Charlottesville. White identitarians claim they are reacting to mass immigration of non-whites, the threat of Islam and the domination of Jews in their societies. And in Degrelle they conceptualise the creation, in his words, of “a European world which would be the master of the universe of all time.”

“You must train harder than the enemy who is trying to kill you. You will get all the rest you need in the grave.”

- Leon Degrelle

The dark era of the ascendant European right-wing prior to and during World War II produced a range of figures who continue to be revered not only by present day neo-Nazis, but by adherents to the belief system of what is contemporarily termed “White Nationalism”. Reinhard Heydrich, the S.S. chief who was assassinated in Prague in 1942, unlike many figures of the German Third Reich, escaped the humiliation of a criminal’s fate of death on the gallows, while Robert Brasilliach, the French writer-advocate for fascist movements, is martyred by those who consider his culpability for intellectual rather than for political or military crimes to be a vindication of sorts. And there is Otto Skorzeny, the swashbuckling Austrian special forces officer, who came to be known as Hitler’s favourite commando.

But Leon Degrelle, the Belgian Nazi-collaborator and long-term exile in Francoist Spain, perhaps embodied a sufficient quotient of the properties each of the aforementioned possessed. A man composed of great resourcefulness, intellect and physical courage, he does not carry the sort of ‘baggage’ of Heydrich whose homicidal activities with einsatzgruppen forces speak of more of sadism than heroism. At war’s end, Brascillach hid in his mother’s attic to evade capture before meekly giving himself up. And Skorzeny’s reputation as ‘Commando Extraordinary”, built up by Nazi propaganda and self-publicity, has been severely revised in recent times. He was also revealed to have compromised his national socialist credentials by working for the Israeli Mossad.

Born on June 15th 1906 in the municipality of Bouillon, Degrelle was a Walloon who formed and developed the political ideology of Rexism, a far-right Catholic, nationalist, authoritarian and corporatist creed. After studies, he became a journalist for Christus Rex, a conservative  Roman Catholic periodical, and then led a radical group within the Catholic Party. The friction with the mainstream factions within the party led to Degrelle and others to form the Rexist Party in 1935.

The ideology of Parti Rexiste, which agitated for religious and social reform, was heavily influenced by Benito Mussolini’s fascism and was avowedly anti-Communist. Degrelle’s charisma and oratorical skills played a huge part in the party’s initially promising electoral success. His rising profile led to meetings with both Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. He also forged links with the major far-right parties in Spain and Romania, respectively the Falange and Iron Guard.

But his rise would be halted and the commencement of a downward spiral in his fortunes begun when he lost a by-election in 1937 that had been triggered by the resignation of a Rexist whose departure had been supposed to have paved the way for Degrelle’s entry into the Belgian legislature. He had been labelled as an extremist by his political opponents and the Catholic Church, and the next stage of his descent was his internment in France when war was drawing closer.

German conquest and occupation of his country paid little dividend for Degrelle after his release. With the occupying power favouring the Flemish population, he tried to make himself relevant by reaching out to German administrators, Belgian and French collaborators as well as the Church. It was to no avail. Degrelle then decided to rebirth his party as a clone of the Nazi Party. It marked the beginning of his collaboration.

The reformation of his party notwithstanding, Degrelle continued to be ignored by the Nazi leadership including Joseph Goebbels who considered him to be a “fraud”. His next move was an audacious one. In response to Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Degrelle, despite having no previous military experience, decided to join the Legion Walloonie (Walloon Legion) as part of Hitler’s ideological crusade against Bolshevism. The legion was initially attached to the Wehrmacht, but from June 1943 became a part of the Waffen-SS. Beginning as a private, Degrelle survived the harsh conditions of the German Ostfront, including material privations and a high casualty rate, to win the German Iron Cross (2nd Class and then 1st Class) and eventual promotion to SS-Standartenfuhrer (colonel) and leader of the legion.

Degrelle’s triumphs led to a meeting with Himmler, and after his part in his legion’s holding back of superior Soviet forces during the battle of Cherkasy to enable the withdrawal of 60,000 German troops during the by now permanent retreat of the Nazis, he was rewarded with a meeting with Hitler, who awarded him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. According to Degrelle, Hitler is supposed to have told him:

You are truly unique in history. You are a political leader who fights like a soldier. If I had a son, I would want him to be like you.

But despite this and his triumphant speaking tours in his native land, the tide had begun to turn against the Nazis, and collaborators such as Degrelle. The retreat already a consistent factor on the Eastern Front had begun in the western theatre after the D-Day landings at Normandy in June 1944. The violent retribution against collaborators which followed had a personal impact on Degrelle, whose brother, a pharmacist was assassinated by guerrillas of the Belgian resistance. Degrelle’s part in conducting reprisals including the murder of three hostages –all political enemies of his- further consolidated his post-war designation as a war criminal.

As the Third Reich collapsed around him, Degrelle, one of the few survivors of the Walloon Legion, commandeered a Heinkel 111 bomber in Oslo and along with three others embarked for Francoist Spain where, short of fuel, the plane crash landed on a beach in San Sebastian.

He lived in Spain under the protection of the Franco regime, which rebuffed all entreaties from the allies to hand him over for trial with the post-war authorities in Belgium who would condemn him to death in absentia. There he remained staunchly committed to the cause of Nazism and resolutely proud about the anti-Bolshevik campaign in which he had participated. In his interviews he continually extolled the racial theories of the Third Reich and wrote an open letter to the Pope denying the extent of the official number of Jews murdered during the war, claiming that it was scientifically and logistically impossible to have killed the amount of people claimed to have been exterminated at Auschwitz.

He died in Malaga on March 31st 1994 at the age of 87, defiant to the last.

Once asked if he had any regrets about the war, Degrelle replied:

“Only that we lost!”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Saturday, 30 March 2019

Ralph J. Gleason’s Original LP Liner Notes for Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew"


This is a reproduction of the Grammy Award-winning liner notes for Miles Davis' Bitches Brew written by Ralph J. Gleason in the lower-case format printed in the album.

there is so much to say about this music. i don't mean so much to explain about it because that's stupid, the music speaks for itself, what i mean is that so much flashes through my mind when i hear the tapes of this album that if i could i would write a novel about it full of life and scenes and people and blood and sweat and love.
and sometimes i think maybe what we need is to tell people that this is here because somehow in this plasticized world they have the automatic reflex that if something is labeled one way then that is all there is in it and we are always finding out to our surprise that there is more to blake or more to ginsberg or more to trane or more to stravinsky than whatever it was we thought was there in the first place.
so be it with the music we have called jazz and which i never knew what it was because it was so many different things to so many different people each apparently contradicting the other and one day i flashed that it was music.
that's all, and when it was great music it was great art and it didn't have anything at all to do with labels and who says mozart is by definition better than sonny rollins and to whom.
so lenny bruce said there is only what is and that's a pretty good basis for a start. this music is. this music is new. this music is new music and it hits me like an electric shock and the word "electric" is interesting because the music is to some degree electric music either by virtue of what you can do with tapes and by the process by which it is preserved on tape or by the use of electricity in the actual making of the sounds themselves.
electric music is the music of this culture and in the breaking away (not the breaking down) from previously assumed forms a new kind of music is emerging. the whole society is like that. the old forms are inadequate, not the old eternal verities but the old structures. and new music isn't new in that sense either, it is still creation which is life itself and it is only done in a new way with new materials.
so we have to reach out to the new world with new ideas and new forms and in music this has meant leaving the traditional forms of bars and scales, keys and chords and playing something else altogether which maybe you can't identify and classify yet but which you recognize when you hear it and which when it makes it, really makes it, it is the true artistic turn on.
sometimes it comes by accident. serendipity. with the ones who are truly valuable, the real artists, it comes because that is what they are here to do even if they can say as miles says of his music i don't know what it is, what is it? they make music like they make those poems and those pictures and the rest because if they do not they cannot sleep nor rest nor, really, live at all. this is how they live, the true ones, by making the art which is creation.
sometimes we are lucky enough to have one of these people like miles, like dylan, like duke, like lenny here in the same world at the same time we are and we can live this thing and feel it and love it and be moved by it and it is a wonderful and rare experience and we should be grateful for it.
i started to ask teo how the horn echo was made and then i thought how silly what difference does it make? and it doesn't make any difference what kind of brush picasso uses and if the art makes it we don't need to know and if the art doesn't make it knowing is the most useless thing in life.
look. miles changed the world. more than once. that's true you know. out of the cool was first. then when it all went wrong miles called all the children home with walkin'. he just got up there and blew it and put it on an lp and all over the world they stopped in their tracks when they heard it. they stopped what they were doing and they listened and it was never the same after that. just never the same.
it will never be the same again now, after in a silent way and after BITCHES BREW. listen to this. how can it ever be the same? i don't mean you can't listen to ben. how silly. we can always listen to ben play funny valentine, until the end of the world it will be beautiful and how can anything be more beautiful than hodges playing passion flower? he never made a mistake in 40 years. it's not more beautiful, just different. a new beauty. a different beauty. the other beauty is still beauty. this is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever been before.
what a thing to do! what a great thing to do. what an honest thing to do there in the studio to take what you know to be true, to hear it, use it and put it in the right place. when they are concerned only with the art that's when it really makes it. miles hears and what he hears he paints with. when he sees he hears, eyes are just an aid to hearing if you think of it that way. it's all in there, the beauty, the terror and the love, the sheer humanity of life in this incredible electric world which is so full of distortion that it can be beautiful and frightening in the same instant.
listen to this. this music will change the world like the cool and walkin' did and now that communication is faster and more complete it may change it more deeply and more quickly. what is so incredible about what miles does is whoever comes after him, whenever, wherever, they have to take him into consideration. they have to pass him to get in front. he laid it out there and you can't avoid it. it's not just the horn. it's a concept. it's a life support system for a whole world. and it's complete in itself like all the treasures have always been.
music is the greatest of the arts for me because it cuts through everything, needs no aids. it is ... it simply is. and in contemporary music miles defines the terms. that's all. it's his turf.
- ralph j. gleason

Bitches Brew - Reflections on Miles Davis' Revolutionary Album

“Bitches Brew” by Mati Klarwein (1970)

March 30th marks the anniversary of the release of Bitches Brew, an album that took Miles Davis’ excursion into Jazz Fusion even further into the experimental mode began with his album In A Silent Way.

The revolutionary album had an cover that was arguably befittingly revolutionary in its own right. Painted by Mati Klarwein, the surrealist imagery juxtaposed “light” with “dark”, “earth” and “space”, “unity” and “disconnection”. The sense of paganism, the continuum of time and space is pervasive as is its resolutely Afrocentric ambiance. The multi-layered evocations of Klarwein’s art mirrored the music Davis had produced in tracks such as “Pharaoh’s Dance”, “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down”, “Spanish Key” and the title track.

The use of electric instruments were as jarring to Jazz purists as it had been to those followers of Blues and Folk genres when the likes of Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan went electric. But Miles’ music went further than mere electrification of instruments. It’s sonic texture: the treatment of harmony, varieties of tempo, as well as post-production effects marked it as a complete departure from previous creative efforts.

Miles loved to claim that he changed Jazz “five or six times”, and this was the development of one such change, albeit one purists of the day could not stomach. Although winning praise from contemporary reviewers in Rolling Stone and Village Voice, for its level of daring and inventiveness, it was derided by others for being unfocused, and too much of a strange concoction.

The album itself is flawed in several respects: its lack of coherence and what the Penguin Guide to Jazz referred to as “a gigantic torso of burstingly noisy music that absolutely refuses to resolve itself under any recognised guise”, but it sold well -over a million units- and was instrumental in paving the way for Jazz-orientated crossover music by the likes of Herbie Hancock and Weather Report.

And while traditionalists such as the writer Stanley Crouch and the musician Wynton Marsalis, remain avowed critics of the deviations of Free Jazz and Jazz fusion, Miles continues to receive praise for his level of creativity and relentless pushing of the boundaries of conventional understanding and appreciation of Jazz music.

It is certainly the case that the criticism directed at Miles by the likes of Marsalis can be turned and used against his accusers. Marsalis, who drew an incalculable well of inspiration from the sound developed under the auspices of Miles’ second great quintet, has himself being criticised for ignoring what many would acknowledge as the historical disposition of Jazz towards innovation, while attempting to turn the genre into a museum piece.

Described by Rolling Stone’s Langdon Winner as being “so rich in its form and substance that it permits and even encourages soaring flights of imagination by anyone who listens”, Bitches Brew serves as a testament to Jazz music’s ineradicable capacity for change. It was the code by which Miles Davis lived. As he once said:

If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change. Living is an adventure and a challenge.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Friday, 29 March 2019

Books - A Personal Selection of Titles Published by Cambridge University Press


“I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles”.

- Sherlock Holmes, The Lion’s Mane (1926).

The people at Cambridge University Press have been good enough to send me a number of books I selected in connection with my efforts in regard to the boxing instalment of their “Companions to Literature” series.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Cambridge Companion to Boxing - Now Published in the United States

The cover of the Cambridge Companion to Boxing features Jack Johnson.

The Cambridge Companion to Boxing has now being published in the United Kingdom (January 24) and the United States (March 14) by Cambridge University Press. I have contributed the following chapters:

8. “The Africans: Boxing and Africa”
19. “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”

Description

While humans have used their hands to engage in combat since the dawn of man, boxing originated in Ancient Greece as an Olympic event. It is one of the most popular, controversial and misunderstood sports in the world. For its advocates, it is a heroic expression of unfettered individualism. For its critics, it is a depraved and ruthless physical and commercial exploitation of mostly poor young men. This Companion offers engaging and informative essays about the social impact and historical importance of the sport, listing all the important events and personalities. Essays examine topics such as women in boxing, boxing and the rise of television, boxing in Africa, boxing and literature, and boxing and Hollywood films. A unique book for scholars and fans alike, this Companion explores the sport from its inception in Ancient Greece to the death of its most celebrated figure, Muhammad Ali.

Editor

Gerald Early, Professor of English and African-American Studies at Washington University, St. Louis. He has written about boxing since the early 1980s. His book, the Culture of Bruising (1994) won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He also edited the The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998) and Body Language: Writers (1998). His essays have appeared several times in the Best American Essays series.

Contributors

Byron J. Nakamura, Elliot J. Gorn, Adam Chill, Louis Moore, Colleen Aycock, Carlo Rotella, Troy Rondinone, Adeyinka Makinde, Benita Heiskanen, Cathy van Ingen, Steven A, Reiss, Tony Gee, Randy Roberts, Wil Haygood, Lewis Erenberg, Michael Ezra, Mark Scott, Kasia Boddy, Scott D. Emmer, Leger Grindon, Rebecca Wanzo, Benjamin Cawthra, Rosalind Early, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Gerald Early.

Table of Contents

1. "Boxing in the Ancient World" by Byron J. Nakaruma
2. "The Bare-Knuckle Era" by Elliot J. Gorn
3. "Jem Mace and the Making of Modern Boxing" by Adam Chill
4.  "Race and Boxing in the Nineteenth Century" by Louis Moore
5. "Joe Gans and his Contemporaries: The Contest for Supremacy in the Queensberry Realm" by Colleen Aycock
6. "Dempsey-Tunney, Tunney-Greb, and the 1920s" by Carlo Rotella
7. "Prime Time and Crime Time: Boxing in the 1950s" by Troy Rondinone
8. "The Africans: Boxing and Africa" by Adeyinka Makinde
9. "A Century of Fighting Latinos: From the Margins to the Mainstream" by Benita Heiskanen
10. "Women’s Boxing: Bout Time" by Cathy van Ingen
11. "Jews in Twentieth-Century Boxing" by Steven A. Reiss
12. "A Surprising Dearth of Top English-born Jewish Fighters in the Bare-Knuckle Era" by Tony Gee
13. "Joe Louis: ‘You Should Have Seen Him Then’" by Randy Roberts
14. "The Furious Beauty of Sugar Ray" by Wil Haygood
15. "Echoes from the Jungle: Muhammad Ali in the Early 70s" by Lewis Erenberg
16. "The Unusable Champions: Sonny Liston (1962-1964) and Larry Holmes (1978-1985)" by Michael Ezra
17. "Emile Griffith: An Underrated Champion" by Mark Scott
18. "Pierce Egan, Boxing, and British Nationalism" by Adam Chill
19. "Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer" by Adeyinka Makinde
20. "‘Well, What was it really Like?’ George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, and the Heavyweights" by Kasia Boddy
21. "Jack London and the Great White Hopes of Boxing Literature" by Scott D. Emmer
22. "Body and Soul of the Screen Boxer" by Leger Grindon
23. "Black Slaver: Jack Johnson and the Mann Act" by Rebecca Wanzo
24. "Yesternow: Jack Johnson, Documentary Film, and the Politics of Jazz" by Benjamin Cawthra
25. "Opera for Boxers" by Rosalind Early
26. "The Voice of Boxing: A Brief History of American Broadcasting Ringside" by Colleen Aycock
27. "Ralph Wiley’s Surprising Serenity" by Shelley Fisher Fishkin
28. "Muhammad Ali, King of the Inauthentic" by Gerald Early

Book Details

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Hardback: ISBN 978-1-107-05801-9
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-107-63120-5
Price: £69.99 (Hardback)/£24.99 (Paperback)

Mission

Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Imperial Stroke of Pen: The Kamerun Campaign

The Cameroons & Nigerian Artillery during an attack on Mountain Hill Camp during the First World War. (CREDIT: The Illustrated War News, April 28th 1915).

The carving up of various regions of the world by European powers on the continents of Africa and Asia are perhaps best exemplified by the German initiated Berlin Conference (KongoKonferenz) of 1884-85 and the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement (Asia Minor Agreement) of 1916. The former came about at the time of Germany’s emergence as a colonial power, while the latter was a secret deal which enabled the creation of mutual spheres of influence in the Middle East. Less well known is the Anglo-French Picot Provisional Partition Line of 1915. This settlement has a link to the previously mentioned agreements because it was one of several agreements representing the diminution of German imperial power on the African continent -it also lost imperial outposts in east and south west Africa- and the involvement of Georges Picot who was of course a major figure in working out a division of land between the French and the British. These types of agreements often involved a great amount of arbitrariness of which the Anglo-French accord over the former German colony of Kamerun is most striking.

The Kamerun Campaign was part of the confrontation during the First World War between Britain, France and Belgium on the one hand and Germany on the other. The former nations invaded Kamerun (Cameroon) which was then a German colony, in August 1914. By February 1916, most German military and civilian personnel had fled to Rio Muni, the neutral colony of Spanish Guinea, which today forms the continental portion of Equatorial Guinea.

As was the case with the Middle Eastern theatre, Britain and France shared the spoils of war by agreeing to divide Kamerun along what was called the “Picot Provisional Partition Line” with Britain taking approximately one-fifth of the colony situated on the Nigerian border. France acquired Douala and most of the central plateau. The campaign would officially end in March 1916, but before that at a meeting on February 23 1916, Georges Picot “who knew nothing of the lands and peoples he was dividing” drew a line with a heavy pencil” which Sir Charles Strachey, the representative of the British Colonial Office, was constrained to accept.

As one of Strachey’s colleagues later observed:

“If only you had not had a pencil in your hand at the time”.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Churchill: A Conflicted Legacy

“Churchill in the House of Commons”. A charcoal drawing of Sir Winston Churchill by Gerald Scarfe capturing him in his final appearance in Parliament in July 1964.  

The figure of Winston Churchill has for long stood high among those persons considered by his countrymen to be among the greatest ever produced by England. For many, he is the embodiment of the “bulldog spirit”, a peculiar but formidable brand of tenacity that characterises British resolve and valour. His dexterous use of the English language is viewed as having conveyed both wisdom and poeticism. That his words inspired a nation and its empire to successfully resist the threat of Nazi domination is to his defenders beyond doubt. In short, in the collective imagination of a preponderance of his people, Churchill is the greatest ever Briton.

But there is dissent.

Churchill, of course, has always had his detractors. During the earlier period of his career as a politician, he earned the unenviable reputation of a political turncoat and opportunist. He was also widely perceived as a warmonger. And his personal flaws of being prone to drink and depression, as well as having a tendency towards misogyny are acknowledged even by his most ardent supporters.

It goes further. For some, the sins of Winston Churchill are innumerable: the Bengal Famine, the firestorm that consumed Dresden and the brutality meted out by colonial enforcers against the indigenous populace during the Mau Mau insurrection are often put forward as evidence of his crimes against humanity.

To critics, his racism was evident by his admission that genocide against non-whites such as the Australian aboriginals and the indigenous American nations was justifiable because white people by possessing a “higher form of culture” were doing the killing. He also admitted that the exploitation of Persian oil helped the British ruling classes live very comfortably during the 1920s.

What is more, far from hailing him as the man who did most to preserve and protect Britain from foreign conquest, some adamantly hold him to be responsible for the loss of empire and the extension of Soviet power into eastern Europe.

Those who challenge long-held assumptions about Churchill speak from different ideological perspectives: some as modern anti-racists and anti-imperialists, some as socialist pacifists, some as conservative realists and some as white identitarians. Others proclaim themselves as being fueled not by an ideological agenda but by the need to necessarily recalibrate contemporary perspectives as a result of objective historical inquiry.

Sometimes there is a coalescence of critique, albeit that there is divergence in motive and rationale. It was while writing as a humanist and self-proclaimed socialist that the actor Richard Burton in 1974 excoriated Churchill in a written piece for the New York Times as a genocidist who once threatened to wipe out every Japanese man, woman and child. Those on the extreme right, as well as new converts to white racial identity politics consider the Dresden bombings to have been a holocaust perpetrated by one white nation against another which served little end. It is from this school of thought that Churchill as the perpetually indebted servant of “Jewish interests” helped bring about an unnecessary war with Germany when both ought to have stood together against the menace posed by Soviet Bolshevism. Germany, they remind had offered a peace pact with Britain through which it could keep its empire while giving Hitler a “free hand” in eastern Europe.

But what of the argument of presentism? His defenders see Churchill as a man who is being judged according to modern standards, that his racial, gender and imperialistic attitudes were simply a reflection of the prevalent mores of the times in which he lived. There is of course a great deal of truth to this. Yet, so far as his lust for war and interventionism is concerned, his record can be set against those of his contemporaries and be seen as one which nonetheless stands apart from others.

From the time of his early adulthood to his mature years, Churchill would consistently and enthusiastically advocate the violent approach in extending British influence and in putting down the aspirations of liberty held by millions of native peoples who lived under British rule. Domestically too, he promoted the use of authoritarian methods to deal with civil disobedience.

It is clear that these less flattering traits and deeds of Churchill need airing. And they need not be part of a wider “culture war” or ideological dispute. Many of his critics will willingly admit to admiring his strength of character and strategic vision, a far cry from the lightweight politicians who permeate the national and international stage today. Addressing this point, a few years ago the veteran journalist Robert Fisk reminded an interviewer that in 1941, prior to the Wehrmacht’s invasion of the Soviet Union, when Britain was still the sole European nation fighting Nazi Germany and still under the threat of German occupation, Churchill set up a government committee to organise the post-war occupation of Germany.

Oliver Cromwell arguably had a greater personal impact on the evolution of Britain; a span encompassing the political, military and social spheres. His triumph over the King against whom he sanctioned an act of regicide provided the basis of Parliamentary sovereignty which forms the dominant pillar of Britain’s constitutional system. A man with limited or no actual military experience prior to the English Civil War, he rose up the ranks to become a general who contributed to key victories against the monarch, transforming a rag-tag band of peasants into the formidable New Model Army. He also brought about an unprecedented measure of religious liberty to the country. Yet, to many Britons, Churchill’s perceived role in salvaging a nation imperilled by Nazi conquest automatically trumps the achievement of any Briton before or after.

There is a logic to this thinking which continues to assure Churchill’s place among the pantheon of Great Britons. But to downplay or otherwise dismiss factual evidence of the man’s flaws does a great disservice to the need to constantly subject history and its main players to warranted scrutiny. It should not be a question of marking Churchill’s legacy as being solely that of a racist and imperialist villain on the one hand or an awe inspiring and decisive war-time leader on the other.

Both views are true and need not obviate the other.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Boxing and Pan-Africanism: Kwame Nkrumah meets Roy Ankrah

Roy Ankrah (Left) the featherweight champion of the British Empire with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the independence movement of the Gold Coast which later became Ghana. (CREDIT: James Barnor)

African boxing and boxers merged into the consciousness of the different societies fighting for liberation from colonial control and as such the careers of the most successful ones became entwined with the nationalist sentiments of the day as the connection between Roy Ankrah’s British Empire title win and Kwame Nkrumah’s release from British detention showed.

- Excerpt from “The Africans: Boxing and Africa” by Adeyinka Makinde, Chapter 8 of the Cambridge Companion to Boxing.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is the author of Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal and Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula. He is also a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Jose Torres (1965): A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Jose Torres with his mentor Cus D’Amato, the man he credited with creating him as a fighter

Original Title: Jose Torres II
Year: 1965
Running Time: 58 min
Country: Japan
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography: Marvin E. Newman (B&W)
Cast: Jose Torres, Cus D’Amato
Producer: Teshigahara Productions
Genre: Documentary | Biography | Boxing | Half-length Film | Sports Documentaries

Synopsis/Plot:

This is the sequel to Jose Torres (1959), the portrayal of Puerto Rican boxer Jose Torres, who won a silver medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. We follow Torres from his training in preparation to challenge light-heavyweight champion Wilie Pestrano, to the match and Torres’ victory in 1965. The contrast between the nervous Torres before the match, filmed in painstaking detail, and the first round, filmed in one shot, is striking.

The aforementioned information is reproduced from the website of Film Affinity.

Adeyinka Makinde is a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing. One of his two contributions is Chapter 19, “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.


Jose Torres (1959): A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara

A young Jose Torres strikes a pose.

Original Title: Jose Torres
Year: 1959
Running Time: 25 min
Country: Japan
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography: Hiroshi Teshigahara (B&W)
Cast: Jose Torres, Cus D’Amato
Producer: Teshigahara Productions
Genre: Documentary | Biography | Boxing | Half-length Film | Sports Documentaries

Synopsis/Plot:

Teshigahara studied under Kamei Fumio and demonstrated his belief that documentary is a subjective creation by its director in his short film Jose Torres (1959). His subsequent documentaries and dramatic features have been stripped of all trace of the emotion and lyricism that could have accompanied the creation of such dramatically-composed works from the clearly-defined perspective of the filmmaker. The filmmaker uses his aesthetic sense to pick out fragments of reality, the recombination of which transforms abstract concepts into images. These unique qualities of Teshigahara’s filmmaking polish his subjects’ beauty further without making any concessions to commercialism, thanks perhaps in part to Teshigahara’s position as the head of the Sogetsu school of Japanese flower arrangement. Endowed with both a gift and the environment in which to express it, Teshigahara was in as sense a fortunate, pure-cultured successor to postwar avant-garde art.

The aforementioned information is reproduced from the website of Film Affinity.

Adeyinka Makinde is a contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing. One of his two contributions is Chapter 19, “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.