- Son of the devoted Stalinist, Paul Robeson
- Advocates a revolution to topple the existing American social structure
- “All institutions in this country [the U.S.] are, to one degree or another, infected by racism.”
Paul Robeson, Jr. is a civil rights activist, a Marxist, and a self-declared “black radical.” He is the only child of the famous entertainer and devoted Stalinist Paul Robeson (1898-1976).
Born in New York City in 1927, Paul Robeson, Jr. spent much of his young life traveling the world with his parents. He lived for some time in Moscow, where he attended school with Joseph Stalin’s daughter. He returned to the U.S. in 1939 and later attended both Rutgers and Cornell Universities, earning a degree in electrical engineering. By the time he graduated in 1949, he was well known for his radical political views.
Like his father before him, Robeson detests the United States, characterizing it as a nation rife with bigotry and injustice aimed at nonwhite minorities. “This is still a profoundly racist country,” he says, “meaning [that] the majority of white people are still racist, to one degree or another.... All institutions in this country are, to one degree or another, infected by racism.”
Robeson believes that the American government felt threatened by his father because the latter presented “an alternative value system of an unassimilated, automatically dissident culture.”
“He [my father] wasn’t the communist in the family,” Robeson says. “I was.” Robeson claims that his father never officially joined the Communist party because “he thought it would destroy his effectiveness.” “I, being a generation younger and not an artist,” adds Robeson, “felt that the way to be effective was through an organization.”
Paul Robeson, Jr. was a member of the Communist Party from about 1948 to 1962. “It [the Party] was an instrument,” he says, “a radical instrument that could help advance the interests of African-Americans.”
In 1986 Robeson was a signatory to a statement opposing the Reagan administration’s policy of aiding anti-Communist forces in Nicaragua. Drafted by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, the statement was signed by such notables as Ed Asner, Richard Falk, Todd Gitlin, Allen Ginsberg, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, and George Soros.
In 1998 Robeson happily predicted that the 21st century would be “Marx’s time.”
Robeson advocates an all-out revolution that would topple America's existing social structure and usher in a Communist era. “Talk is cheap,” he says. “Revolutions never got made by talking. Revolution only happens when large groups of people spontaneously want it.”
Ultimately, Robeson calls for a form of “economic justice” based on a massive redistribution of wealth; the U.S. government, he says, should spend “hundreds of billions of dollars” to elevate the income of every American earning less than the median income.
Robeson accuses “reactionary” conservatives of having brought to the U.S. “a creeping Fascism that seeks to install power vested in big banks, business corporations, the President, and the army in place of power vested in the people and Congress.” The cure for “the disease of Fascism,” says Robeson, is a “peaceful anti-Fascist mass movement” comprised of a “coalition of Blacks, Latinos, labor, progressive whites, and Asians, which is committed to the political destruction of the Republican Party.”
In a January 2003 speech, Robeson told an audience of Dartmouth College students that the U.S. was becoming a nation of two separate cultures: one dominated by blacks, the other by “white, Southern Protestants.” Calling President Bush “part of a neo-Confederate government geared at destroying the Union,” he drew a parallel between Bush’s strong support among voters in America's southern states, and the fact that Adolph Hitler had been very popular in the southern regions of Germany.
In September 2005 Robeson wrote:
“The Republican Party has become a Confederate party with a program of ... unrestrained corporate greed, racism, anti-unionism, imperial war, and domestic fear. This Republican president has lied to the American people about 9/11, the Iraq war, the ‘war on terror,’ the domestic economy, and home security…. His Republican Party’s political gangsters have brazenly stolen two national elections by 2.3 million (in 2000) and 3.4 million (in 2004) popular votes.”
According to Robeson, African Americans who support Republican political leaders “are reminders of those house slaves and freedmen who loyally supported the Confederacy at the expense of the field slaves.”
In 2001 Robeson appeared with Pete Seeger in the documentary film Freedom Highway: Songs that Shaped a Century, about 20th century folk and protest music. In 2005 he appeared in 500 Years Later, a documentary film about the global impact of the transatlantic slave trade. Others in the cast included Molefi Kete Asante, Amiri Baraka, and Maulana Karenga. Robeson also has written and co-produced a number of scripts for theater.
Robeson authored the 1993 book Paul Robeson, Jr. Speaks to America: The Politics of Multiculturalism, a collection of essays about “the culture wars” in America. He also penned A Black Way of Seeing: From “Liberty” to Freedom, a critique of the U.S. in the 21st Century (2007).
Robeson currently lectures on a variety of political, social, economic, and cultural topics throughout the United States and Europe.