Tambimuttu and Sivanandan: Cold-War America and International Socialism

Dr Ruvani Ranasinha (Kings College London) considers and contrasts the political positions and self-fashioning adopted during the careers of two mid-century Sri Lankan writers. Ranasinha recounts Tambimuttu’s self-stereotyping of the sensual Orient, first with his move to the UK in 1938, and later in terms of his reception among beatnik authors during the 1952-1958 period, when he lived in the Village of New York City and wrote for Atlantic Monthly. Tambimuttu adopted a critique of British colonialism during this latter phase, aligning himself with the US’s own positioning as the custodian of decolonization. Ranasinha contrasts Tambimuttu’s prior apoliticism towards the UK to the politics of Sivanandan, who became involved with the Trotskyite movement (LSSP) after he moved to the UK in 1958. Sivanandan’s political consciousness developed in relation to black British working class and anti-racist movements, and under his leadership the journal Race changed to Race & Class – a distinctly Third Worldist approach to international politics and race.