The defence of liberty and the pursuit of justice: Hugh MacDiarmid at the Oxford Union with Malcolm X

On December 3 1964 Hugh MacDiarmid took part in a debate at the Oxford Union. MacDiarmid supported the motion that “extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue”. The motion was taken from a speech given by then Senator Barry Goldwater when he accepted the Republican party’s presidential nomination (beating, among others, Richard Nixon) in July of the same year. The conservative Goldwater had gone on to lose the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson the following November.

The Oxford Union debate is most famous for the appearance of Malcolm X, a little over two months before his assassination in New York City on 21 February 1965. A forthcoming book by Saladin M. Ambar of Lehigh University’s Political Science department, “Malcolm X at Oxford Union: Racial Politics in a Global Era” (OUP USA, March 2014), examines Malcolm X’s contribution in the context of his travels across Africa and the Muslim world and the subsequent broadening of his thought to engage with decolonisation and the revolutions across the newly postcolonial world:

Unfortunately there appears to be no video footage of MacDiarmid speaking at the Oxford Union. However, thanks to a full audio recording of the debate is available:


LGBT History Month: poem that launched GGLC

University of Glasgow Library

February is LGBT History month and the University’s SRC Sexual Orientation Equality Officer, Liam King, has been investigating material in Archive Services and Special Collections. Liam came to the Library to look at a poem in the Edwin Morgan papers which has particular relevance for LGBT History in Glasgow.

Liam explains: “In 1995 the Glasgow Gay and Lesbian Centre (GGLC) opened. It was the second inception of such a centre (the original being founded in 1977 and lasting until 1982) and followed nearly 4 years of fundraising. The purpose of the centre was to be a social and cultural space: where LGBT people could socialise and become involved in the arts. It was involved in the founding of the annual Glasgay! festival.

Edwin Morgan, who came out in 1990, was a very active supporter of LGBT rights and wrote a poem for the opening of GGLC. He gifted…

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Subject Formation In Alasdair Gray


alasdair-gray After focusing on Scottish literature over on the Twitter’s a few weeks back I found one of the recurring theme was the notion of how Scottish identity was formed. That in turn collided with me re-reading Alasdair Gray’s fantastic political, fantasy novel ‘Poor Things.’ Here are the thoughts that followed…

On first reading it may well be easy to dismiss Alasdair Gray’s novel as nothing more in-depth than a gothic drama stitched together with the old technique of the ‘found manuscript.’ However as Will Self articulates it Grey is ‘a creative polymath with an integrated politico-philosophic vision’[1] and thus deserving of closer attention. The quote from Self will form the starting point for this essay focussing on the theoretical underpinnings for Gray’s political and philosophical ideas at play in the text. Key will be examining how these ideas function in action upon the characters themselves – in essence, how…

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