Southpaw podcast: "The Lost History of Worker Sports and the American Left w/ Dr. James Robinson"

James Robinson's picture

We are joined by historian Dr. James Robinson to discuss the parallel histories of the worker sports movement and socialism. At one time, there were millions of socialists across Europe and the US. Worker/People Olympics were bigger than the actual Olympics. The generation before the Baby Boomers are portrayed as simple country folk rather than as they were, politically aware immigrants who helped start most of our unions. Rather than boycotting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (or disallowing Nazi Germany from hosting), the IOC along with most countries including the US participated in what is now known as the Nazi Olympics. But the US participation is portrayed as a protest when there was an actual protest Olympics scheduled that was not only going to be bigger but more diverse (which included Jewish exiles from fascism). It was the socialists who fought the fascists before the war, whose warning to the US about Nazis fell on deaf ears, who were wiped out along with the Jewish people for being anti-fascist and/or also Jewish. 

But revisionist history has led many Americans to believe World War II was fought against the socialists, not the fascists. The sports we enjoy now and their often socialistic nature traces back to actual socialists. Our worker rights trace back to socialists. A lot of anti-racist actions in the US involved socialists. Even with the current anti-racist protests, rather than disparaging the protests, who were the first to join the protests? It was NOT white liberal Democrats. The raised fist you see now was started by the Industrial Workers of the World. How much of our history that not only represents a whole period but also the lived experiences of millions of people is not being taught even in "liberal" circles? This is why you should listen to this episode and share it. 

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