28 March 2013

Induction: What it is, and what it is not


Induction, Part 0

Induction: What it is, and what it is not

Please send in your suggestions for our new course

Next week, after Easter, the Communist University will for the first time run a course on Induction. This course is still in preparation. Texts will continue to be selected and openings to discussion written, as the course goes along. Hence there is a lot of scope for participation from you, the subscribers of the Communist University.

“Induction” is the process of making a new recruit, or a promoted person, aware of everything necessary for an individual to perform normal duties in an organisation, at any level.

Induction is therefore not the same thing as “Political Education”, and this course will contain relatively little of what is usually regarded as politics, compared to other Communist University courses. (For an introductory course in political matters, please use the “Basics” course.)

History of organisation

On the other hand, the material of the course is far from being without political consequences. Organisation is not class-neutral, and it is not apolitical. It has a history, and it has a pre-history of social structure even if unselfconscious and led by “organic intellectuals”.

The conscious principles of organisation are as old as the origin of the family, private property and the state. The oldest forms of organisation are religious, legal and military, corresponding to the necessities of the original state, when society first divided into antagonistic classes.

Among the oldest still-existing corporations in the West are the Church of Rome and its orders. Notable among them is the order of St Benedict (480–547), originating shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. The Benedictine model relied not on allegiance to a central power, but on adherence to a common set of rules (“St. Benedict’s Rule”). In other words, it was truly “organised”. It relied on organisation more than on what is nowadays called a “power structure”. We shall continue to sustain the critical distinction between power and organisation, or between the mechanically hierarchical and the socially organic, during this course.

The monastic tradition, that St Benedict successfully codified, had earlier been brought to Europe from Africa (and it may have originated further East, possibly in India). With this donation Africa helped to rescue Europe. It was the monasteries that eventually brought Europe back from its descent into barbarism. The Church provided the clerical framework and bureaucracy that the European states needed while they grew again slowly, during a period of a thousand years, during the centuries of feudalism that are called “The Dark Ages” and “The Middle Ages”.


Secular trading corporations and permanent military organisation (standing armies and navies) did not arrive until the bourgeoisie became (first in Italy) a prosperous and powerful class, and at last, from the 16th and 17th Centuries onwards, a ruling class in the Netherlands and in Britain.

The word “Office” comes from the Italian “Uffizi”, notably used in Renaissance Florence. Double-entry book-keeping was developed during the Italian Renaissance, in Florence and in Genoa, and was for the first time described as a system by Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan Friar and friend of Leonardo da Vinci’s, in Milan.

The bourgeois ability to organise on a large scale, and to project its organisation overseas, meant that European culture at last surpassed, in many ways, the level of development that the ancient Romans had achieved more than a thousand years before. Unfortunately, bourgeois society was also no less brutal than that of the Romans.

The ways and means of bourgeois organisation were among the reasons for the success of capitalism over all other systems, most spectacularly so following the French Revolution of 1789, its export by force of arms under Napoleon Bonaparte, and the contemporary bourgeois “Industrial Revolution” in England.

By the fifth decade of the 19th Century, bourgeois capitalism was set to rule the world, such that in the same moment, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were able to observe, in the Communist Manifesto of 1848:

“All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.... the bourgeoisie... must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”

Enter the grave-digger

So long as the opponents of capitalism have less-well-developed means of organisation, they are very unlikely to be able to succeed in overthrowing the bourgeois class from its seat of power. But the working-class proletariat that the bourgeoisie brings forth from the old agrarian society that it has ruined, is drilled and organised - by the bourgeoisie - like no other before it.

All that remains is for the working class to become a self-conscious class for itself (the political task of the communists) and then to seize hold of all the means that the bourgeoisie has developed, and forced the working class to learn. The working class must become better at all kinds of organisation than the previous masters of organisation, the bourgeoisie have been. And this is very possible.

Therefore, although we may appear in this course to be considering other matters than politics, yet our motives for doing so are extremely political. These are some of the means to power, and that is why we want to possess them.

Way forward

Having stated our intention to master the organisational expertise of the bourgeoisie so that we can use it to defeat the very same bourgeoisie, the next problem will be to classify the material, divide it, and decide on the limits that can practically be dealt with in our ten-part format.

The contents of the course are supposed to be the things you need to know about, but often do not get told. Sometimes people become afraid to ask about such things, fearing that they may look foolish. This is a mistake. There is no reason why everyone would know all these things. They are not taught in schools or in universities as general knowledge, but as specialisation. It is we who must make them general knowledge to the working class.

Therefore please help to make the list a useful one, by suggesting topics for inclusion.

Here is an unorganised list of candidate topics:

Law: Contract Law, Company Law, Co-ops, Juristic person (corporation sole)
Rules of Debate
Chairperson and Secretary
Constitution and structure of the Party
Tyranny of Structurelessness
Organisation including Trade Unionism
SACP Membership Records
Correspondence and filing
Press releases
Mass and Vanguard
Voting Districts, Wards
History of the SACP

Please suggest additions to this list that would help you, or would help any other comrade, in your opinion.

Recommendations of suitable, short, original reading texts would be especially helpful.

Attached, please find Amilcar Cabral’s pamphlet “Apply Party Principles in Practice”. In it, please note that a “watchword” means the same as what we would call a “slogan”.

26 March 2013

Walter Rodney


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10c

Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney was a revolutionary intellectual born in Guyana who is also eternally associated with the Dar-es-Salaam University school of African Revolutionary Writers, of which we have already featured two others in this series, namely Issa Shivji and Mahmood Mamdani.

Rodney was assassinated in his birthplace of Georgetown, Guyana, on 13 June 1980, while running for office in Guyanese elections.

There is another biography of Walter Rodney here.

The downloadable text linked below is a 4-page extract from the 44-page Chapter Six of Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.  The entire book can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here (1069 KB).

More writings of Walter Rodney are available in the MIA Walter Rodney Archive . In particular, the following five articles are recommended:

“How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” made a huge impact when it was first published. It still continues to have legendary status among the African Revolutionary writings, and rightly so.

Rodney marshals the facts and the literature and he makes the arguments. He takes on Imperialist theories of “underdevelopment” head-on, and he overturns them.

Bourgeois theorists and academics, to the surprise of the naïve among us, proceeded to ignore Rodney after his death, and to revert to even more reactionary theories than before in their universities. Hence the importance of maintaining the currency of this literature, and keeping the dialogue around it fresh, in a virtual University, or Republic of Letters.

The late Walter Rodney was himself a scholar of the literature that we have attempted to revisit, and sample, in this CU African Revolutionary Writers Series. This is apparent from the essays that are in the Walter Rodney Archive, linked above. Rodney is a very good example for us. Rodney gives his reflections on the historic place of many of our chosen African Revolutionary Writers, including Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, as you will see if you read these essays.

Not only did he have his own ideas, but he also knew where they fitted in relation to past writers, and to contemporary writers. As an example of this, the essay “International Class Struggle in Africa, the Caribbean and America” is given, prepared like all the other files for printing as a booklet, in this case 20 pages.

This essay was written in preparation for a 6th Pan African Congress, in the tradition of the ones organised by the likes of W E B du Bois and George Padmore. The 6th Pan African Congress was supposed to take place in Tanzania. Whether it did, or not, the CU does not know. The essay is full of class analysis and comparisons are drawn between African struggles and struggles in other places and times. Among other things, Walter Rodney wrote, 38 years ago, and 17 years after 1958:

“The African radicals of 1958 are by and large the incumbents in office today. The radicals of today lead at best an uncomfortable existence within African states, while some languish in prison or in exile. The present petty bourgeois regimes would look with disfavour at any organized programme which purported to be Pan‐African without their sanction and participation.”

There is a great deal in this essay about the petty-bourgeois nature of the new independent regimes. Rodney writes that “the petty bourgeoisie during this early stage of the independence struggle constituted a stratum or fraction within the international bourgeoisie”.

The works of Walter Rodney can serve well to conclude our series, as a critical summing up by an eminent scholar as well as by a leader and revolutionary martyr.

Viva, Walter Rodney, Viva!

Viva all the African Revolutionary Writers, Viva!

25 March 2013

Thomas Sankara


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10b

Thomas Sankara

As we said with Huey Newton, the reading of the original words of political leaders is apt to result in a re-evaluation of the received opinions about writers. In the case of Thomas Sankara, the revision is downwards.

Sankara is the legendary President of Burkina Faso, immortalised in the book “Thomas Sankara Speaks”, of which the attached document is an extract.

The only document mentioned by Sankara in this speech, made shortly before his death in a coup organised by his comrade Blaise Compaore, is his own Political Orientation Speech of 2 October 1983 allegedly (according to Wikipedia) written by another comrade, Valère Somé.

Compaore is still President of Burkina Faso in 2012, 25 years later. Valère Somé survives as an oppositionist.

The Political Orientation Speech was given soon after the coup d’état of 1983 that brought Sankara and Compaore to power. It was a kind of ad hoc statement of good intentions. It quotes no antecedents.

Otherwise the speech of 4 August 1987 is all generalisation. No other political figures are quoted, no events, no specific projects. It is not like the speech of a president. It is all exhortation, and every assertion is hedged with a counter-assertion.

At times Sankara indicates that he is about to go into details, but then he does not do so. At times he says we must learn from other revolutions, but he mentions none. Other African countries are not mentioned other than in the salutations at the beginning and the end.

We have all heard such empty speeches. They are called “clap-trap”.

The organizations mentioned are all top-down.

The peasants are insulted from the start.

There is paranoia in this speech. When you read this speech, you can suspect that Sankara already had fears that were born out when he was couped and murdered on 15 October 1987, less than three months later.

There is no actual politics. It all reduces to appeals to strive for happiness and dignity. The mass agency of which Sankara is proud to boast is overwhelmed by the “persuasion” that the proposed vanguard is meant to exercise.

It is necessary to read all, but this one is a shocking discovery. The great Sankara, with such a romantic image and huge following, turns out to be a revolutionary fraud.

The next writer, Walter Rodney, our last, was not a fraud.

22 March 2013

Julius Nyerere


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10a

Julius Nyerere

In his 1962 pamphlet, Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism, Nyerere begins: “Socialism – like democracy – is an attitude of mind.”

This was a few months after the Independence of Tanganyika, and Julius Nyerere was the country’s first President.

“African Socialism” was mostly a swindle, but here, probably, and also in the opinion of Ngugi wa Thiong’o as we have seen, Julius Nyerere was expressing a conviction held in good faith.

Nyerere believed that socialism was an attitude of mind, perhaps comparable to the imaginary “milk of human kindness”. He believed that socialism was entirely a subjective condition.

We will ponder, in the case of Thomas Sankara, the assassinated president of Burkina Faso, whether such a subjective kind of socialism, which Sankara also espoused, and which is neither rooted in science nor in international solidarity, is not always doomed to defeat.

Julius Nyerere was respected by relatively-more-scientific socialists like Ngugi for the remainder of his life, and under Nyerere's leadership his country played a heroic role as a front-line state against Apartheid, Portuguese and Rhodesian colonialism.

Walter Rodney also apologised for Nyerere in his 1972 essay, “Tanzanian Ujamaa and Scientific Socialism” (click here). Rodney thought that Ujamaa was de facto revolutionary, if not consciously so.

Tanganyika combined with Zanzibar in 1964 to become Tanzania. As Tanzania it was host to many liberation movements and from the late 1970s was host to the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College. As Tanzania it adopted the famous Arusha Declaration of 1967. These things are major parts of the dual history of socialist ideas in Africa, and of pan-African solidarity.

Read these two documents to discover part of Tanzania’s struggle with the meaning of socialism in circumstances where almost the entire population was made up of peasants. For better or for worse, this is a major part of Africa’s history.

21 March 2013

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is one of the very greatest of the African Revolutionary writers, as well as being the independence leader and the first democratic president of his country, Ghana.

Of the two Nkrumah downloads attached, the first covers major parts of his 1965 work “Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism”.

At the end of this book Nkrumah wrote:

“I have set out the argument for African unity and have explained how this unity would destroy neo-colonialism in Africa. In later chapters I have explained how strong is the world position of those who profit from neo-colonialism. Nevertheless, African unity is something which is within the grasp of the African people. The foreign firms who exploit our resources long ago saw the strength to be gained from acting on a Pan-African scale. By means of interlocking directorships, cross-shareholdings and other devices, groups of apparently different companies have formed, in fact, one enormous capitalist monopoly. The only effective way to challenge this economic empire and to recover possession of our heritage, is for us also to act on a Pan­-African basis, through a Union Government.”

In the year following the publication of this revolutionary book, and while he was on a visit to China and Vietnam, Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown as President in a military coup d’état organised by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This was in 1966.

“African Socialism”

In 1967 Nkrumah spoke at a seminar in Cairo, Egypt, in strong opposition to the “Negritude” philosophy of Leopold Senghor, and against the generally phony false-flag product called “African Socialism”. The second attached document is a transcript of this input.

From the time of Eduard Bernstein with his 1899 book “Evolutionary Socialism”, and of Rosa Luxemburg’s classic 1900 response to Bernstein, “Reform or Revolution?”, the same question has often been repeated.

In the history of the struggle for liberation from colonialism in Africa, the question “Reform or Revolution?” was once again inevitably put.

The neo-colonialists wanted to sound better and to deceive the people more easily. So a false kind of reformist “Socialism”, not very different from Bernstein’s kind, but now calling itself “African Socialism” was widely deployed as a smokescreen for neo-colonialism, from soon after the dawn of African Independence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Some of the appeals for “African Socialism” were more honest than others. The late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere is still respected, and we will look at some of Nyerere’s writing next. After Nyerere, we will look at the self-referential and self-isolating case of Thomas Sankara. Finally we will look at Walter Rodney, who commented upon Nyerere’s “Ujamaa” concept of socialism, as well as on underdevelopment as a deliberate act of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Hence we will end our series with the following two questions still open:

1. What is Socialism and why do we need it?
2. How do we achieve African unity and thereby defeat Imperialism?

Kwame Nkrumah was the greatest of the advocates of revolutionary Pan-African unity against Imperialism. His clear intention was to destroy neo-colonialism. For this reason it is fitting that Osagyefo’s writing takes the position of main text in this, the final part of our African Revolutionary Writers’ Series, of which the point is to change the world in the particular way that Nkrumah advocated, i.e. to do away with neo-colonialism.

20 March 2013

Gamal Abdel Nasser


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9c

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Gamal Abdel Nasser was the leader of the Free Officers’ revolution in Egypt in 1952 which deposed the king and established a republic. He subsequently became President of that African country until his death in 1970. Nasser was a giant figure in the liberation movement, the anti-colonial and anti-Imperialist movement, and in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Nasser was a famous orator in the golden age of the transistor radio, and could be heard by that means in streets as well as in homes throughout the Arabic-speaking world in those days, and all over Africa. Our main linked item below is a speech that Nasser made just over a month prior to the 1956 imperialist invasion of his country – an invasion which failed, and was repulsed.

Egypt under President Nasser had nationalised the Suez Canal. The Imperialist countries responded with threats – as the linked, downloadable speech relates.

France, Britain and Israel finally mounted a military attack on Egypt on 29 October 1956, in what is known in those countries as the “Suez Crisis”. This confrontation ended in a reversal for the imperialists, consolidated the republic, and established Egypt’s sovereignty over the canal on its territory, forever.

The operation resembled the 2011 aggression against Libya in many ways, but especially in the demonization of President Nasser that preceded it.

But now, as Wikipedia says:

“Nasser is seen as one of the most important political figures in both modern Arab history and politics in the 20th century. Under his leadership, Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal and came to play a central role in anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World and Africa. The imposed ending to the Suez Crisis made him a hero throughout the Arab world.”

This is how Nasser began this 1956 speech:

“In these decisive days in the history of mankind, these days in which truth struggles to have itself recognized in international chaos where powers of evil domination and imperialism have prevailed, Egypt stands firmly to preserve her sovereignty. Your country stands solidly and staunchly to preserve her dignity against imperialistic schemes of a number of nations who have uncovered their desires for domination and supremacy.”

19 March 2013

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 94.

The main downloadable 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 that 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!

15 March 2013

Samir Amin


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9a

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 the revolutionary imperative for half a century in Africa.

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, 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.

Issa Shivji


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9

Issa Shivji

Issa Shivji 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” (attached).

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 - our 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 again becomes 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 Imperialist 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. 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.

Let me repeat: 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 so 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.

11 March 2013

Muammar Gaddafi


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8c

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. When the second edition of this course went out he was still the leader of his country. In the third edition we had to note that Muammar Gaddafi was now dead, having been murdered, like so many others of our African Revolutionary writers.

Libya is a large African country on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, West of Egypt and East of Tunisia. One used to say that Libya was much more developed than before. But now Libya has been “underdeveloped” in a catastrophic way.

Gaddafi and Mandela

We will still take Muammar Gaddafi as a writer. Writing transcends human mortality.

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. This document is attached.

Gaddafi was certainly an African Revolutionary Writer. In the other, much more recent piece for the New York Times, attached and linked below, Gaddafi set out a plain case 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”). This document is also attached.

Muammar Gaddafi recently

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

Between the first and second versions of this introduction, Libya was been bombed and invaded by forces of Britain, France and the USA. One of Gaddafi's sons and one of his grandchildren had been killed. This was on top of the daughter killed in the raid organised by Reagan and Thatcher in 1986. The Wikipedia entry on Muammar Gaddafi had been re-written to conform with Western propaganda. 

Muammar Gaddafi did not retreat or run away. He stayed and faced his terrible death.

We have touched on the question of Libya before in this series, in the item on Ruth First, which in turn is linked to a download from First's book on Gaddafi's Libya. 

Huey P Newton


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8b

Huey P Newton

Reading the original works of revolutionary writers means getting around and past all the commentators and analysts and academic secondary writers who would want to tell their readers what to think of the primary sources, usually without offering more than a few short quotations from any primary source.

Consequently, reading the original works is apt to result in a re-evaluation, either upwards, or downwards.

In the case of Dr Huey P Newton and The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense which Newton co-founded with Bobby Seale in October 1966, and of which Newton was the main ideologue, the re-evaluation is definitely upwards.

In the early days of the BPP, Newton was the “Minister of Defense” while Eldridge Cleaver became the “Minister of Information” for the party. This made sense insofar as the BPP was for Defence, and so Defence was the main position. But in practice, Newton was still the thinker of the BPP. Cleaver was only interested in armed struggle, but Cleaver was often seen as the mouthpiece, until he fled to Algeria in 1968. Cleaver ended up as a supporter of the right wing of the US Republican Party.

The BPP was under constant attack, mainly as a consequence of the activities of COINTELPRO, a part of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), organised to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" political targets of which most were black or communist organisations.

‘COINTELPRO began in 1956 and was initially designed to "increase factionalism, cause disruption and win defections" inside the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA),’ says Wiikipedia.

In short, there were political conflicts within the BPP, and between the BPP and other organisations, which had a real basis; and there were other disagreements and conflicts, even armed conflicts resulting in many deaths, that were the consequence of US government action against a political party, the BPP.

This is the USA and how it works. Some say it has changed. Some say it has not changed.

The attached document (also linked for download) shows Huey Newton to have been a sophisticated political thinker with theory, strategy and tactics that were fitted to the times and the circumstances. He promoted a Ten-Point Plan that, as he said, was “not revolutionary in itself, nor is it reformist. It is a survival program.” And he proposed a classless society and a world that would be communist.

It seems clear that Huey Newton was not a terrorist and that he had every intention of helping to organise the oppressed black people of the USA into primary mass organisations for their survival and self-defence. As such he was going to be more effective than any terrorist. The BPP was a serious political party. It is surprising to read about such things existing in the USA, but of course it is possible, and it has always been possible.

To download the Huey P. Newton Reader (55MB PDF), Click Here.

The Dr Huey P Newton Foundation web site is at http://www.blackpanther.org/.

9 March 2013

Angela Davis


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8a

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 (attached) is to a large extent a polemic against the Wages for Housework Movement of that time, led by Mariarosa Dalla Costa in Italy. Davis makes 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 always 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 the 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.

7 March 2013

C L R James


African Revolutionary Writers, Part 8

C L R James

C L R James was the author of “The Black Jacobins”, about the 1791 revolution that created the world’s first independent black republic, in Haiti. James also wrote about the game of cricket, and the social consequences of cricket. He was a great writer, and a revolutionary writer. He was also often in his long life a political actor, together with, among others his fellow-Trinidadian George Padmore in the 1930s in London, then later 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, although he had annoyed plenty of people along the way. But perhaps he was still under-appreciated as the great political intellectual that he was.

The linked downloadable text given below is from C L R James’s 1948 work on G W F Hegel, called “Notes on Dialectics”. It can serve in this series to show that the ability of the revolutionary writers to challenge the bourgeoisie at the frontier of philosophy is crucial, and that African revolutionaries have not been shy to do so, as difficult as this task may be.

James says in the second paragraph of this text that “The larger Logic is the most difficult book I know” (meaning the book that is more often referred to as Hegel’s “Greater Logic”).

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!!” Naturally, this applies to Africans as well.

The last great hurdle of Marxist study is Marx’s own master, Hegel. How well did James do in tackling 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 beginners, James is a great help with Hegel, and is maybe just what we need. He gives us a way in (and so does Andy Blunden with his “Hegel by Hypertext”). James himself gives an adequate answer to Dunayevskaya in the very text that 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 what we want: an opening (in French: ouverture).

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. To say so, is to display ignorance. Becauset is precisely when the African revolutionary heritage is looked at, that this inseparability becomes apparent.

On MIA there is a C L R James Archive at http://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/index.htm.

We have chosen, for the purposes of this section, to take a sample of C L R James on Hegel. But in terms of the African Revolutionary Writers Series as a whole we would equally benefit from the following items that are in the MIA James Archive:

These articles are to a large extent reflections by James on the interplay of revolutionary literature with the mass political movements that changed the African political landscape in the 20th Century.

They can therefore be read as reinforcing, or contrasting with, the remarks of Eduardo Mondlane, Amilcar Cabral, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and soon to come, Walter Rodney, that we have used for this course. You may also take all these articles as validating the editorial choices and comments that have been used in the construction of this course; or alternatively you may regard them as a good exposure of the inadequacies of this course.

Either way, it is the problematisation of all these overviews of the literature which can be educational, especially if problematisation is followed by face-to-face or e-mail dialogue and discussion.