The violence of the violated

In his earliest pieces, Sivanandan was at pains to show liberals and orthodox Marxists that a violent black rejection of white society should not be read simply as a form of reverse racism, but the result of the destructiveness of racism on the black psyche. From his early writings on Frantz Fanon and Black Power, through his analyses of the 1975 Spaghetti House Siege and the UK urban uprisings in the 1980s to his response to the rise of religious jihadism in the West, Sivanandan argued that individual interpersonal violence was more often than not a reflection of choicelessness – a political or existential reaction to a larger systemic state-based violence. The ‘cure’ therefore had to be sought not in individual punishment but in interrogating and changing state policies and political culture.