The parable of the red flag

In this short essay for The Guardian, I tell the story of the British overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guiana, its sole colony in South America, in 1953. The piece engages with the conversation in the United Kingdom around attempts to rehabilitate and revise the history of empire and imperialism.

“The parable of the misconstrued red flag was as true for 1953 as for 1964, when it was fact. It imparts a lesson about the tragic consequences of outsiders misunderstanding Guyana’s landscape. That year, there was a shining moment of utopian possibility in the colony, and the emergency fractured its politics in ways sadly still evident. The most recent election was resolved in August after five months of impasse, with racialised violence a spectre throughout. Significant reserves of oil, discovered by Exxon five years ago, have created stakes for the rest of the world. Guyana still amounts to its resources for some. For those of us who carry the wounds of 1953 within us, as the heirs of divide-and-rule, the stakes have always been clear and heartbreaking.”

“Should My People Need Me”

My profile of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi runs on the cover of Ms. Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue. The woman who has long personified the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma has finally decided to engage with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is running for a seat in a parliament created by the military junta that put her under house arrest for almost two decades, after stealing an election from her. Read about the challenges facing her as she attempts a shift from moral icon to politician. As she told Congressman Bill Richardson in 1994, “I look upon myself as a politician, and that isn’t a dirty word, is it, Congressman?”

Nativists Get A Tea-Party Makeover

The Nation – The Minutemen were the largest border vigilante group in the country before financial scandals and criminal violence tore the group apart. Now former leaders are bringing their anti-immigrant politics inside the Tea Party. Read my piece for The Nation. (Thanks to The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund for providing support.)

Minutemen gather near Tombstone, Arizona in 2005, in the above photo by Mark Ebner.

The whites-only BNP, founded in 1982 as a breakaway from the neo-Nazi National Front, has been trying to shed its nutter image as part of a bid for respectability in mainstream politics. It was recently given a platform far more prominent than Speakers’ Corner, when its chairman, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC flagship program “Question Time” alongside members of the political establishment. Griffin was elected to the European Parliament in June.

This weekend, at its annual convention at an undisclosed location, 300 core BNP members will debate changing its constitution, which currently restricts membership to “indigenous Caucasians.” The move resulted from a lawsuit against the BNP by the country’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission, but Griffin is spinning it as further proof of a changed party.

Read my piece about the far-right for GlobalPost. Part One: A Far-Right Party Makes a Bid for the Mainstream and Part Two: How Britain’s All-White Party Gained Its Following.

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