- From the Tricontinental to the Global South: Race, Radicalism, and Transnational Solidarity by Anne Garland Mahler
It has by now become commonplace for the word “ground-breaking” to appear in every book proposal that crosses an editor’s desk, especially at academic presses. Every manuscript promises to forge new directions in a given discipline or to deliver much coveted interdisciplinary approaches by reading traditional discourses or histories against each other in some new and useful way. Mahler’s book actually delivers on both of those promises. It does so by positioning itself in the vanguard of the much trumpeted but undertheorized Global South studies, and in the process historicizing a heretofore forgotten (or more accurately, buried) genealogy of the new breed. From the Tricontinental to the Global South does as its subtitle claims: it traces a revisionist history of international subaltern movements from the Tricontinentalism of the 1960s and 1970s to the rise of the Global South in response to the neoliberalism of the past two decades. I call this project revisionist because what it writes out of this history is the discourse of Anglophone postcolonialism that has widely (and wrongly) been seen as inheriting the mantle of mid-twentieth-century leftist thought. Where postcolonialism went wrong is not necessarily the business of this book. But that it has gone wrong and been eclipsed by a more de-territorializing project of the Global South will be the conclusion of any thoughtful reader of it.
None of this would matter if Mahler were not supremely competent in handling the apparently disparate materials that she must bring together to make her case: the Marxist Cominterm, the Bandung Conference, the Tricontinental’s voluminous cultural production, late nineteenth-century Spanish Caribbean revolutionary politics, twentieth-century Cuban and diasporic cinema, economic neoliberalism, Anglo-postcolonialism, Latin American liberation theology, and the burgeoning discourses of the Global South itself. The list goes on and on. No other book that I know of covers all of this material in such a way that brings it together to provide a sweeping yet trenchant vision, not just of where internationalist critical resistance has been, but where it is likely heading. With its thoroughly historicized introduction, the book is well-positioned to argue for “a Tricontinentalist vision of the South as indexing spaces of inequity around the globe—which anticipates the contemporary usage of the term ‘Global South’” (xi). [End Page 790]
Mahler’s central vision of the Tricontinental as embodying a “trans-affective solidarity” (v) that relies on a “metonymic color politics” (14) seeking to both problematize and move beyond Cold War geopolitical East-West formulations unfolds in a winding but cumulatively coherent way throughout the book. Chapter 1 explores the 1960s Civil Rights movement in the broader context of the Black Atlantic and the Tricontinental, while recognizing its Cold War strictures—the extent, in short, to which the Castro regime’s interventions were part of a larger Soviet initiative to manipulate US racial issues in the service not of a broadly anti-imperialist project, but a more narrowly-defined internationalist Marxist agenda. From the Tricontinental to the Global South unfailingly draws a clear distinction between the Tricontinental’s broader internationalist color politics and narrower nationalist politics that drove the Cuban Revolution historically associated with it. For instance, throughout the book Mahler recognizes the disillusionment that US Black activists came to experience with the Cuban revolution (from Robert F. Williams, to Stokely Carmichael, to Eldridge Cleaver). Mahler’s book elegantly historicizes the internationalist movement in the context of its color politics and entanglements with nationalist stakeholders, clarifying that “the ideology claimed by the Tricontinental was already circulating among an international Left well before” (79) Cuban involvement. Chapter 3 further solidifies this reading by its brief but trenchant history of New York’s Nuyorican organization, the Young Lords, both in its “explicit and direct engagement with the ideology of Tricontinentalism” (108) and its transcendence of it via its equally explicit critique of Cuban hetero-patriarchy via the former’s embrace of intersectional multiracial feminist...