This lecture examines the role of anti-slavery and slave resistance in the elaboration of 'human rights' and the misappropriation of such ideas by Western colonialism and militarism.

Robin Blackburn is a historian and sociologist, and one of New Left Review’s editors. Blackburn teaches at the New School in New York and the University of Essex in the UK. He is the author of many books, including The Making of New World Slavery, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, Age Shock, Banking on Death, and The American Crucible.

Conducting its first survey of previous participants, the IIRE has obtained an uplifting insight into the longer-term impact of its schools.


The IIRE is planning its programme of activities for 2015. Two seminars are already confirmed.

The Fifth LGBT seminar at the IIRE took place from July 26 to July 29. Like the previous seminars, it was a gatherings of activists in LGBT movements from around the world who are committed to radical anti-capitalist politics.

The aim of the LGBT Seminar is to share and develop ideas on the most pressing topics concerning the struggle for human rights in the LGBT community, debate about strategies for LGBT liberation , and discuss how to participate in LGBT struggles on the basis of an anti-capitalist political project.

Two questions this edition of the IIRE LGBT seminar looked at are the building of alliances between lesbians, gays and trans people in emancipation movements and the impact of campaigns around marriage-rights. The seminar started with a discussion on building alliances: how can different emancipation struggles support each other while avoiding the risk that certain movements or issues come to dominate others? The second topic was marriage equality: looking at recent experiences in France and Argentina, the participants discussed the potential but also the limitations of different movements for marriage rights. Finally, the seminar examined the various responses of the political and religious right to LGBT emancipation.

In addition to the traditional homo- and transphobia, we see an increasing instrumentalization of LGBT-issues by certain parts of the right to justify war, repression and the exclusion of minorities. This topic led to much debate, partly because of the very different contexts from which different participants were speaking. Like the previous LGBT seminars at the seminars, the activity including people from all over the world. Participants came from Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Lebanon, France, Indonesia, Argentina, Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. The participants drew a positive balance-sheet of the seminar but concluded that issues such as 'homonationalism' need to be discussed more in depth. We hope to continue this discussion during a coming seminar.