29 October 2010

Muammar Gaddafi

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9c

Colonel Gaddafi as he was

Muammar Gaddafi

Muammar Gaddafi led a small group of junior military officers in a bloodless coup d'état in Libya against the pro-Imperialist King Idris on 1 September 1969. By the grace of god he is still the leader of that country. In fact, he is the longest-serving national leader of any country in the whole world at this stage.

Libya is a large African country on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, West of Egypt and East of Tunisia, by now much more developed than before.

Gaddafi and Mandela

Muammar Gaddafi’s 1975 “Green Book”, and especially the part on “Democracy”, is a very useful text for discussion in study circles, because it does not take bourgeois democracy for granted, but interrogates it, criticises it severely and to a considerable extent, rejects it.

Gaddafi is certainly and African Revolutionary Writer. In the other, much more recent piece for the New York Times, Gaddafi sets out a plain case (see the second linked download) for the “One-State Solution” in Palestine, which is the same in principal as South Africa’s one-state solution (“One person one vote in a unitary state”).

Muammar Gaddafi recently

Muammar Gaddafi is a wise man and a humble Muslim man of great energy, in spite of the sorrows that he has personally had to bear. He is loved by the revolutionaries of Africa.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

28 October 2010

Ahmed Ben Bella

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9b

Ahmed Ben Bella with Gamal Abdel Nasser

Ahmed Ben Bella

Ahmed Ben Bella is an Algerian Revolutionary and freedom fighter, 3rd President of Algeria (1963-1965), born in 1918, now aged 91.

The main document linked below is an interview with Ben Bella done in 2006.

Of course it would be preferable to have a political pamphlet, speech, or article for a theoretical journal written by the comrade’s own hand. But this is a good substitute.

You will see that Ben Bella interacted with both Cabral and Mandela. Says Ben Bella:

“Mr. Mandela and Mr. Amilcar Cabral themselves came to Algeria. It’s me who coached them; afterwards they returned to lead the fight for freedom in their countries. For other movements, which were not involved in a military fight and who needed only political support, such as Mali, we helped in other ways.”

You will see Che Guevara was also there at one stage.

In 2003, Ben Bella went into action again and was elected to lead the International Campaign Against Aggression on Iraq. We all failed to stop that war. Ben Bella, old as he already was, did more than most.

Viva, Ben Bella, Viva!

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

27 October 2010

Samir Amin

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9a

Young Samir Amin

Samir Amin

Samir Amin is an African Revolutionary Writer born in Egypt, fluent in French, often published in English, and a scholar who has illuminated the revolutionary potential and imperative for half a century in our continent.

The downloadable text below, coming from an article in Al Ahram, begins with the following statement, unfortunately no less true today than when it was written in 2003: The United States is governed by a junta of war criminals…”

This article is a thorough-going denunciation but also a scientific and very well-informed analysis of US society and history, seen from outside, contained in only four pages. It is also a call to arms.

Samir Amin is a living example of the moral and humanist clarity that is characteristic of the African Anti-Imperialist intellectual cadre. According to Wikipedia he has written more than 30 books.

He remains a stalwart.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

26 October 2010

Issa Shivji

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9

Issa Shivji

Issa Shivji [pictured] has been a professor at the University Dar es Salaam for four decades. He is an African revolutionary intellectual of the first rank. Shivji provides our reading text for today, “The Struggle for Democracy and Culture” downloadable via the first link given below.

Shivji has made the anti-Imperialist case very well, reminding us among other things that it is we freedom-fighters who are the humanists now, and it is the Imperialists who are the barbarians (a message that is also reinforced by Kenan Malik’s short, included piece about culture).

Issa Shivji’s address on The Struggle for Democracy and Culture explicitly and correctly claims, on behalf of the national-liberation and anti-colonial struggles, that this struggle carries, for the time being, the banner of progress for the whole world.

For a long time past, and into the future, until such time as the struggle for socialism itself becomes once again the principal one, the National Democratic Revolutions taken together constitute the main vehicle for human progress, bearing up and rescuing all that is noble and fine in humanity.

The bourgeoisie is a thieving class and it will steal the clothes of the revolutionaries without any hesitation if it sees the smallest, most temporary advantage in doing so. The Imperialist bourgeoisie wishes to reverse the appearance of its shameful past and of its hopeless future. It wishes to claim the moral superiority that the liberation movement has, and steal it.

Issa Shivji shows very clearly how this monstrous fraud is attempted. The constant droning about “good governance” is the extreme of hypocrisy, coming as it does from the worst oppressors in history – the force that has taken oppression to the ends of the earth – Imperialism. Read Shivji. He tells it well. But also note the hypocritical machinations of our present South African anti-communists, including but not limited to, the DA. If you did not know better, you could believe from what you read that it was liberal whites who liberated South Africa from the old regime.

The struggle for democracy is ours, not theirs. The struggle for freedom is ours. We are the humanists now. We, the liberationists, are the bearers of the best of human history and we have been for many decades past. The 20th Century was the liberation century, the anti-Imperial century. That was when we overtook the others in politics, in morality, and in philosophy - but we were only starting. In the 21st Century we will finish the job.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

21 October 2010

Angela Davis

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8b

Angela Davis

Angela Davis is well known but hard to summarise. She is a scholar. She is also a holder of the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, and she was twice a Vice-Presidential candidate on behalf of the CPUSA. 

This link takes you to an interview that Angela Davis did with Gary Younge of the Guardian (London) in 2007, during a trip which also took her to Johannesburg, as recorded by the CU here.

This link takes you to the Angela Davis page on Wikipedia, where as usual there are more links, at the bottom of the page.

Chapter 13 from Angela Davis’s 1981 book, Women, Race and Class (download linked below) is to a large extent a polemic against the Wages for Housework Movement of that time, led by Mariarosa Dalla Costa in Italy. In this sense, the text represents “African Classicism” for the purposes of ordering this course: it is an orthodox Marxist defence against a kind of anarchism or liberalism. Naturally this does not mean that Davis has always been orthodox, any more than C L R James was orthodox.

In this text, Davis tackles the matter of housework first, arguing for a communist solution to the drudgery of child care, domestic cleaning, food preparation, and laundry.

She shows that the current situation of women is historically recent in origin, and that the repression of women coincides in historical development of human society with the appearance of private property, quoting Engels’ “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”. Davis reports on her 1973 interaction with the Masai people of Tanzania, where there was still division of labour between the sexes that was “complementary as opposed to hierarchical,” according to Davis.

Davis recounts, in her own way, the nature of the capitalist wages system, where money is only paid for the survival or continued availability of labour power, and nothing at all is paid for the expropriated product of labour. Davis also records aspects of the South African apartheid system of exploitation, which was still in full force at that time.

In her concluding paragraph Davis says: “The only significant steps toward ending domestic slavery have in fact been taken in the existing socialist countries.” In other words, wages for housework is an ineffective gimmick; the real solution to women’s problems in society can only come from changing society through the democratic organisation of women in the same kind of way as workers are organised, so that their organisation is a component of democracy and is not outside of democracy.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

20 October 2010

Martin Luther King

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8a

Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

This part of our series on African Revolutionary Writers is called “African Classicism”, meaning that portion of the theoretical load that Africa has contributed, and born. The “Beyond Vietnam” speech (download linked below) of the late Rev Martin Luther King Junior, is just such a classic.

Nowadays it has become commonplace to refer to “international solidarity” as if it is both a narrow idea, and also a universal one. But this concept that we have received and then stripped of its particularity, does actually have a tremendous and specific history whose meaning is not fully conveyed by the mere formula-phrase, “international solidarity”.

The anti-Imperialist struggle and the democratic struggle can and should be one. It is not a matter of charity of the rich to the poor. It is also not solely a matter of good-hearted and exceptional individuals, but there have indeed been such individuals, and there will be again. Martin Luther King was such a man.

What Martin Luther King describes, and justifies, is: “why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate - leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”

In other words, MLK at the meeting of the “Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam” in April, 1967, was preaching the intrinsic, organic unity of the struggle of the common people everywhere. It is not an artificial altruism but it is a unity of purpose, in concerted action against the single enemy: monopoly capitalist Imperialism; and it involves personalities, and actual events, and places.

Further than his literal message, there is also the extraordinary power and style of MLK’s oration. Lenin spoke of “insurrection as an art”. It is an art that goes beyond the military, and encompasses all of our activities. Therefore when reading such a piece, one should regard it as a source of learning of the art of advocacy, which is part of the art of leadership, essential to the art of insurrection.

Exactly one year after making this speech, King was gunned down by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee, where he gone to show solidarity for workers who were on strike there.

Picture: Rev. Martin Luther King, Junior, at the White House, Washington DC, USA

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

19 October 2010

C L R James

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8

C L R James, 1901-1989

This section of our African Revolutionary Writers series is collected under the heading, “African Classicism”. These are African and Diaspora writers who have carried forward the mainstream of political theory at the top level.

Apart from C L R James, we have Martin Luther King and Angela Davis, and before the next time around with this course we would hope to have added some of Henry Winston’s, and some of Ruth First’s work.

C L R James was the author of “The Black Jacobins”, about the revolution, commencing in 1791, that created the world’s first independent black republic, in Haiti. James also wrote about cricket, and the social consequences of cricket. He was certainly a writer, and a revolutionary writer. He was also often in his long life a political actor, among others with George Padmore in the 1930s in London, then with the Socialist Workers’ Party in the USA from 1938 to 1953, and then back in London and his native Trinidad, West Indies. James died a famous and a well-respected man, though he had annoyed plenty of people along the way.

The linked downloadable text given below is from C L R James’s 1948 work on G W F Hegel called “Notes on Dialectics”.

James says in the second paragraph of this text that “The larger Logic is the most difficult book I know”. 

Lenin wrote that “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!”

Fro most of us this is likely to be the last great frontier of Marxist study: Marx’s own master, Hegel. How well did James do with it? Raya Dunayevskaya, the former secretary to Leon Trotsky, writing in 1972 when James was still very much alive, did not think much of his work on Hegel. She accused him of “skipping”.

But for us, as absolute beginners, James is a great help with Hegel, and gives us just what we need. He gives us a way in (and so does Andy Blunden with his “Hegel by Hypertext”). He even gives an adequate answer to Dunayevskaya in this very text we are using today: “I am not giving a summary of the Logic. I am not expanding it as a doctrine. I am using it and showing how to begin to know it and use it.”

This is a good enough description of political education for most purposes.

Now, what does it mean to say “African Classicism”? What does it mean to say “African Revolutionary Writers” and to concentrate mainly on the black African ones among them, as we have done so far?

The point being made here is that African revolutionary theory and practice cannot be separated from the world’s general revolutionary history, neither chronologically, nor geographically, nor in relative sophistication. Nor can it be said that one is derivative of the other. It is precisely when the African revolutionary heritage is looked at, that this inseparability becomes apparent.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

12 October 2010

Mahmood Mamdani

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 7

Mahmood Mamdani

The Communist University will meet on Thursday 14 October 2010 at the University of Johannesburg Doornfontein Campus Library at 17h00.

This seventh part of our “African Revolutionary Writers Series” was supposed to have material from Bantu Stephen Biko’s “I Write What I Like”; Cheikh Anta Diop’s “Civilisation or Barbarism”; and Albert Memmi’s “Coloniser and Colonised”. Our course is in development. The last three weekly parts, still to come, are more complete.

What remains for this week is an extract from Mahmood Mamdani’s “Citizen and Subject” (downloadable extract linked below).

Like Issa Shivji and Walter Rodney, both of whom we will come to later, Professor Mamdani is a product of the famous Dar-es-Salaam campus. He is now head of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in his native Uganda, and previously served in many capacities including at Columbia University, New York, USA, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” in this work is different and opposite from the usual communist one. Here it means a subordinate person, as opposed to a free person. It is typical of the English language that, just when you need certainty, it gives you ambiguity.

In the book, Mamdani’s principal insight is to recognise the class alliance typically sought by the Imperialists in neo-colonial Africa countries. According to Mamdani, the Imperialists prefer to ally with the most backward rural feudal elements, commonly called “traditional leaders” or “chiefs” in Africa, in opposition to the modernising bourgeoisie and proletariat of the cities and towns.

Mamdani regards South Africa as the classic case in this regard, although he quotes many other examples. Mamdani’s analysis stands in contrast with a common presumption, namely that the Imperialist monopoly-capitalists tend to work through “compradors”, who are local aspirant bourgeoisie, or bourgeoisie-for-rent, who do the Imperialists work for them.

Such compradors do exist, and clearly they exist in South Africa. Yet Mamdani’s scheme reflects the facts and history of Imperialism in Africa better, at least up to now. Imperialism is in general hostile to the national bourgeoisie. The typical neo-colonial war of recent decades, including the Iraq war, is a war of Imperialism against a national bourgeoisie that wants national sovereignty and control over its country’s national resources.

In the light of this analysis it becomes easier to see why it is that the South African proletariat has long been, via the ANC, in alliance with parts of its national bourgeoisie, for national liberation, against the monopoly-capitalist oppressors with their Imperial-globalist links.

The Imperialists make a marriage of convenience with the most retrogressive social power that they can find – tribalism – in a pact to hold Africa where it was under colonialism: partly rich, but mostly dirt poor. In South Africa the Imperialists relied heavily on Bantustan leaders and on the Inkatha Freedom Party, but the ANC was able to form better links with the rural as well as with the urban masses, thus achieving a class alliance that could and did dominate the country in terms of mass support. The (national) Bourgeois and Proletarians are the modernisers and the democrats, who are compelled by necessity to combine together to fight for the democracy that forms the nation.

Please download and read this text via the following link:

3 October 2010

Revolutionary Imagination

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 6

Ousmane Sembène

Revolutionary Imagination

So far, in our African Revolutionary Writers Series, we have done well enough to provide sufficient dialogic material in each of the first five parts of the total of ten parts.

True, there are works not included yet, which we would wish to feature and will try to include the next time this course is run. Among them are writings of Paul Robeson and W E B du Bois; Oginga Odinga and Malcolm X; Eduardo Mondlane, Agostinho Neto and Samora Machel.

Gaps remain in the last four parts as they are planned. The CU still does not have electronic (“soft copy”) material from Steve Biko, Cheikh Anta Diop or Albert Memmi; Henry Winston; Sékou Touré, Julius Nyerere or Thomas Sankara.

We also don’t have anything from Ruth First’s book “Mozambican Miner: Proletarian and Peasant”, which should be of great topical interest today.

We have very little from women at all in this category of “African Revolutionary Writers”. Whose fault is that? Fault or not, the CU needs assistance to find more serious general revolutionary writing from African women, and not just from South African women.

Once again, the CU appeals to readers to come forward with suitable material. If all goes according to plan this African Revolutionary Writers Series will be run every year from now on, on one or another of the CU’s three main channels, which are SADTU Political Education, CU-Africa, and this Communist University channel or “pipeline”. The series can be improved. It is always work in progress, freshly made, and transmitted as a steady flowing resource for revolutionary study circles in and beyond Africa.

Please help if you can, by e-mailing texts, or URL links to texts, to dominic.tweedie@gmail.com.

This week’s part, called “Revolutionary Imagination”, was planned to show off some of Africa’s revolutionary story-telling, or fiction. The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when the majority of African former colonies regained their national sovereignty, were also the boom years for the paperback book-publishing business worldwide. Companies such as Penguin Books and Heinemann (which had and still has a dedicated African Writers Series) popularised many African authors in English or in English translation during this time.

We would mention four, as a start.

Large parts of Ousmane Sembène’s 1960 “God’s Bits of Wood”can be read on Google Books. This novel is about a strike among railway workers on the line between Dakar, Senegal, and Bamako, Mali, in the time of the French colonial empire. Ousmane Sembène, who died in his eighties in 2007, was also an outstanding film-maker.

Ayi Kwei Armah’s 1968 “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” also has parts visible on Google Books. This is a post-independence “not yet uhuru” story based in Ghana.

The late South African writer Alex La Guma and the mercifully still surviving Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o should also be more fully featured in this part, next time around.

Did the African writers create a “genre”? At least one could say that they were typically open and keen to portray life and personalities as they were. They represented a revolutionary, generally optimistic (but sometimes tinged with disillusion) popular imagination that was widespread in those years, at least among African intellectuals. One of the highlights of those years was “FESTAC”, The Second World African Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Nigeria in 1977.

Is there continuity today? No. It is not the same today. Culture is now more “globalised”, the consequence of a reactionary, neo-liberal Imperial offensive. The sense of an African anti-Imperialist popular cultural wave has lost momentum, for the time being. But we are working on the problem!

This post goes out early. The next one is scheduled to go out in ten days’ time from now.

Image: Ousmane Sembène

2 October 2010

Comrade Mzala

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 5c

Jabulani Nxumalo, 1955 - 1991

“Cooking the Rice Inside the Pot” (download linked below) by "Comrade Mzala" (Jabulani Nxumalo) was written in 1985, the year of the ANC’s Kabwe (Zambia) conference and is the final item in this Part 5 of the African Revolutionary Writers series.

Sixteen years after the Morogoro conference, and nine years after the 1976 events in South Africa in which Mzala himself took part, victory was clearly certain, yet the path still had to be understood and pressed forward with determination and vigour.

What Mzala shows, and which is even more clear when taken together with the writings of Moses Kotane, Govan Mbeki and Oliver Tambo that we have used and which are also linked below, is that the armed struggle initiated on 16 December 1961 was crucial.

Any dismissive criticism of the armed struggle, whether it concentrates on MK or on any particular operations misses the point that is made crystal clear by Mzala. The rice was always going to be cooked inside the pot, i.e. inside the country. The armed struggle was the way back to the “pot”. Both by example as well as by direct contact, the adoption of armed struggle by the ANC (which was also a turning away from “passive resistance”) was essential. If there had been contradiction between the liberation movement and the popular masses on this point, it could have been disastrous.

The point is made particularly strongly when Mzala quotes Che Guevara thus: “…guerrilla warfare is war by the entire people against the reigning oppression. The guerrilla movement is their armed vanguard; the guerrilla army comprises all the people of a region or country.”

Mzala even finds support for his argument from a “racist general”, writing in the Johannesburg “Star” in 1973, saying: “The objective for both sides in a revolutionary war is the population itself . . . military tactics and hardware are all well and good, but they are really quite useless if the government has lost the confidence of the people among whom it is fighting.”

Mzala, writing in anticipation of victory, is careful to note that the popular masses cannot be taken for granted, illustrating this caution by reference to the Spanish experience.

But for us, now looking at the armed struggle in retrospect, this text is a powerful reminder of its crucial necessity and the central part that it has played in South Africa’s liberation to date.

Comrade Mzala was the author of the book “Gatsha Buthelezi - Chief with a Double Agenda”, published by Zed Books in 1988. An account of the attempted suppression of that book in South Africa from 1991 can be downloaded here (556 KB PDF).

There is a short biography of Jabulani Nxumalo on the SACP web site here, and an obituary written shortly after his death by Brian Bunting, here.

The Communist University’s “Mzala” archive is here.

The Communist University has no likeness of the late Jabulani “Comrade Mzala” Nxumalo. Please send an electronic file with his picture if you have it.

Please download and read this text via the following link:

Further reading:

1 October 2010

Oliver Tambo

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 5b

Oliver Tambo, 1917 - 1993

This thoroughly confident speech of O R Tambo’s in December 1969 (downloadable via the first link below), was broadcast not long after ANC’s Conference in May of that year that had adopted the famous Strategy and Tactics document.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, an equal or greater set-back had been the arrest of the top leadership at Lilieasleaf Farm, Rivonia, Johannesburg on 11th July 2010, including Govan Mbeki who featured here yesterday.

Yet the 1960s, we can see now, were far from being an interlude. What was laid down in those years is what was going to come to pass, namely, in Tambo’s words, that “the enemy is headed for inevitable and ignominious defeat.”

The speech was broadcast on the anniversary of the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the “new national army” as Tambo proudly called it.

Tambo’s typically broad historical sweep, even in this short speech, includes an acknowledgement of PAIGC, the revolutionary liberation movement led at the time by another in this series, Amilcar Cabral, which was about to achieve a stunning victory.

The unbanning of the ANC and the return of Tambo to South Africa were not achieved until more than twenty years later. Yet it is easy to see why the ANC used to say in those years: “Victory is Certain!”

In the next and last item in this fifth part of our African Revolutionary Writers series we will see through the eyes of Comrade Mzala (Jabulani Nxumalo) how the theory and practice of armed and political struggle drew inexorably towards its goal.

These four pieces of writing from “Africa’s Oldest Liberation Movement”, taken together, should leave no doubt as to the systematic, deliberate and relentless nature of the ANC’s revolutionary project, and the all-round exemplary way in which it has been carried out to date.

You can read more of O R Tambo’s speeches here.

Please download and read this text via the following link:

Further reading: