Skip to content

Month: July 2013

White Heat Fifty Years On

The Centre for British Politics and the People’s History Museum recently marked the 50th anniversary of Harold Wilson’s iconic ‘white heat’ speech, which he used to open a debate on science held at the Labour party’s national conference on October 1st 1963.

His first speech to conference as leader, having only been elected in February after the sudden death of Hugh Gaitskell, and with an election in the offing, Wilson mapped out what Britain would have to do to prosper in a post-war world defined by the radical application of new technologies of production, one that posed as many threats as opportunities. Hoping to reverse the party’s apparently fatal electoral decline, Wilson claimed that only Labour could help the country advance in this context by using the state in new ways, thereby unlocking the full potential of science and of the British people themselves.

Aimé Césaire and the revolutionary power of language

So begins Aimé Césaire’s wonderful 1939 Cahier d’un retour au pays natal/Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, described by Andre Breton as ‘nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of this time’. Césaire, writer and politician, was born in 1913 in Martinique and died in 2008. He was one of the founders of Negritude, the international black consciousness movement that challenged colonialism and racial inferiority. Césaire served as mayor of the Martinique capital and was a deputy in France’s National Assembly almost continuously for five decades.  Césaire has been described as ‘perhaps the greatest poet of the anti-colonial movement’.