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Written in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, this publication celebrates the birth of Black studies as a liberated academic zone. Professor Mũgo reflects upon the significance of Africana studies, specifically within the context of America’s predominantly White universities, revisiting the hers/his/torical context that birthed Black studies as a field of knowledge. She reflects on the ownership of knowledge, its production, dissemination and custodianship while proposing utu/ubuntu as imperatives in defining transformative education. The hypothesis and heart of the argument is that knowledge and scholarship can either be colonizing, alienating and enslaving; or, alternatively, they can be conscientizing, humanizing and liberating, creating new human beings with the agency to transform life and the world, for the better. The latter constitutes what Professor Mũgo calls utu/ubuntu rooted-scholarship which, she argues, should define Africana studies, research and scholarship, all of which needs to have both a mind and heart. This should be the mission and vision that led to the birth of Black Studies as an academic. She dismisses the false myth of dominating, colonizing and imperialist cultures that claim to have a monopoly of knowledge and whose purpose is to justify the dehumanization of the conquered, the attempted erasure of their knowledges, heritages and ultimately, entire cultures.
The essay urges us to reflect on a number of critical questions: What is the objective of Africana research and general search for knowledge? In whose service are teaching, research work and publications by Africana scholars? Do their conference papers bring any Africana knowledge systems to the round table of ideas? Is the knowledge they produce liberating and humanizing, or for the advancement of careerist ambitions? What does Black scholarship contribute towards what Paulo Freire called the ‘dialogical education for problem solving’?
It is hard not to be effusive about the author of this pamphlet. Let’s just say it loud: Mῖcere Gῖthae Mũgo is a legend in her own time. And ours. Ours because, as she would say, paraphrasing universal African wisdom: without us, there is no her. From her native Kenya, a source to which she returns continually for yet more ancient wisdom; to Zimbabwe, where she once found refuge on being forced to flee her native land in the face of political persecution; to the United States of America, to which she eventually emigrated; and beyond, way beyond, Professor Comrade Sister Mugo has been a lodestar and wonder—in the academy and in the community, locally and globally. This pamphlet is a discursive offering to Africana studies, a notebook on a field of study born of struggle, student-led struggle. The organizing principle is Utu-Ubuntu, the universal African moral conception centered on the paramountcy of the soul over material accumulation. It is a stinging rebuke to capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism and all the other antihuman isms, Utu-Ubuntu. Here, indeed, is an Africana studies manifesto, one that should be required reading for all students of the field, in and out of the academy. She never ceases to educate, to enlighten, to energize—this soul sister, this scion of Utu-Ubuntu, this magnificent struggler in the cause of African vindication and human liberation, Mῖcere Gῖthae Mũgo. — Michael O. West, Professor of African American Studies; History; African Studies, Penn State University
An insightful essay that insists that Africana research and scholarship has “to have both mind and heart” to be truly emancipatory — for that is the essence of the meaning of Ubuntu and of Utu, the Swahili equivalent. That is the basis for challenging the dominant colonizing cultures that seek to dehumanize our people. The inimitable Micere Mugo forces us to think about the purpose of teaching and research: whose interests do they serve? — Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice & President of Supreme Court, Republic of Kenya, 2011-2016
An excellent celebration of the contribution of Utu/Ubuntu – African Indigenous Knowledge – to Africana scholarship by Professor Micere Mugo, an icon of Africana Studies. This epistemological imperative for the creation of ‘liberated academic zones’ advances the post-modern and critical theory traditions, while firmly establishing Africa’s unique contributions, not only to Africana Scholarship, but also to the Global Academy and to humanity. — Filomina Chioma Steady, D.Phil. (Oxon.) Professor Emerita and Former Chair, Africana Studies, Wellesley College
Pathogens repeatedly are emerging from a global agrifood system rooted in inequality, labor exploitation, and unfettered extractivism by which communities are robbed of their natural and social resources. A crisis-prone economic system that prioritizes production for profit over meeting human needs and ecological preservation is organized around intense monocultural production that, along the way, allows the deadliest of diseases to emerge. The Pandemic Research for the People (PReP) focuses on how agriculture might be reimagined as the kind of community-wide intervention that could stop coronaviruses and other pathogens from emerging in the first place. We address how mainstream science supports the same political and economic systems that helped produce the pandemic. Then we introduce agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. Agroecology—a science, movement, and practice—combines ecological science, indigenous and peasant knowledges, and social movements for food and territorial sovereignty to achieve environmentally just food systems.
Peasant- and indigenous-led agroecology is uniquely positioned to limit the spread of zoonotic viruses: Post-capitalist agroecology champions the indigenous and smallholders who protect agricultural biodiversity. A diverse agroecological matrix of farm plots, agroforestry, and grazing lands all embedded within a forest can conserve animal biodiversity in the landscape. Agricultural biodiversity can make it more difficult for zoonotic diseases to prevail. Such a mode of conservation also takes into account the economic and social conditions of people currently tending the land, rather than a conservation that uproots people to foster the private accumulation of capital.
Contents: Introductory note / Globalized food systems, structural inequality, and COVID-19 / What is mutual aid? A COVID-19 Primer / Can agroecology stop COVID-21, -22, and -23? / Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture
Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture is born out of the coordination between scholars and community organizers and it should be shared widely. The group behind it, the Pandemic Research for the People, is an expression of collective wisdom and necessary unease. In fact, organization and solidarity are two values to be cherished in this moment of multiple crises. COVID-19 is a neoliberal disease and agroecology that frees the land and people of greed and towards food sovereignty is the pathway out of this mess. — Saulo Araujo, US Friends of the Landless Workers Movement
If you want to know more about the connections between racial capitalism, industrial agriculture, environmental destruction, and epidemics and pandemics, then this is a great place to start. But this pamphlet is more than just an analysis of the immense problems generated by capitalism. More importantly, this pamphlet represents an attempt to overcome this system and to develop revolutionary alternatives to it. Rather than falling into the tempting illusion of reform, the authors of these texts give invaluable insights into how we might support and develop revolutionary forms of agro-ecology that can sustain and reproduce life outside of the racial capitalist machine that is destroying it.” — Arturo Castillon, co-author, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising
Increasingly threatening climate disaster coinciding with a pandemic has tragically illustrated that the world doesn’t have the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time – and capitalist agriculture is at the root of both. The authors show convincingly that there is a better way: one that’s based on self-determination and building on human cooperation, not competition. This publication makes a strong case for agroecology as a crucial part of a future that puts people above profit; a future that assures people`s health by allowing planetary health to flourish. It will bring clarity to everyone trying to understand how the next pandemic could be averted whilst building a more just world — Vijoleta Gordeljević, Health economist and environmental health policy expert, People’s Health Movement.
As African people most of us are brought up to believe many myths about ourselves. One of these is that we are poor because we never grew out of the dark ages. Another such myth is that we will always need European guidance because of our backwardness. Not only has there been a lot of research done within the last few decades disproving these myths but the constant forward and backward motions of various societies in the world proves that a new beginning is always “in the cards” when a forward-looking vision and a determined set of energies are released.
However, to be properly understood, all this must be put into historical perspective. This is what the author has done: starting from the early days of Egypt down to present day Southern Africa, he has analysed the long journey from development to underdevelopment and back towards development. The fact that European/North American domination has played such a large part in influencing the direction of this path, this manuscript is about both the history of African and European people as well as an economic analysis of foreign domination.
Given the extensive nature of this task the author has deliberately downplayed statistics as most of the empirical details stated are taken from the research work of reputable scholars, reference to which is constantly engendered, so that the reader could independently pursue the documentation of all aspects of the work.
Frederick Engels, the classical socialist philosopher, reflecting on the nature of scientific thinking stated:
“The analysis of nature into its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and objects into definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic bodies in their manifold forms, these are the fundamental conditions of the gigantic stride of our knowledge of Nature… But this method of work has also left us as legacy, the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, apart from the connection with the vast whole; of observing them in repose, not in motion; as constants, not as essential variables; in their death, not in their life.”[i]
Most of the facts and events have been documented in numerous scholarly writings. But one item of his concern is that most of these works have in one way or other fallen prey to Engels’s criticism, either on grounds of limited geography or of limited history (tackling only a short period). However, what is more usual for the more bourgeois–influenced scholars is to limit their scope to one or two of the arbitrarily imposed “disciplines” of Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, etc.
Of course, it is understandable that the two types of limitations (geography and history) are not made without reason, as no one person could hope to cover a broad enough scope in a detailed and rigorous manner especially within easily readable limits. However, the need of scientists especially when covering as important a topic as the development process, to produce a work covering the broadest possible perspective.
Given limited resources, the author has attempted to do just that – albeit in an introductory manner. It is his hope, however, that more people start viewing development as a broad, holistic process and not just a phenomenon limited in space and time to economics or even political-economy. In this regard, the annual compilation of The Human Development Index by the UNDP whereby countries worldwide are ranked, not merely by GDP per capita – as is usually cited in classical bourgeois economics – but by Life expectancy, Fertility and Under-five Mortality Rates, Combined School Enrolment, Adult Literacy Rate, Urbanisation, and (generally) by a Human Poverty Index. This approach can only be viewed as a step in the right direction.
An extra bonus for readers is that I have included quotes from a cross-section of classical scholars on the development process. Hence, readers can follow up on these references to further edify themselves.
[i] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1892), 406.
COVID-19 has exposed the racialized nature of food systems, but also potentially grants opportunities to build anew. Maywa Montenegro explores a series of breakdowns, from fractured supply chains to uncontrolled infection among essential food workers, among Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities scythed through by the virus along old grooves of race and class oppression.
She traces the likely origins of COVID-19 to spillover sites forged by agroindustrial expansion into forested regions where pathogens spring free and infect humans. Industrial animal agriculture drives these ecological changes that incubate future outbreaks. Pandemics have their roots in the violent separation of communities from their territories, seeds, knowledge and wealth. Racism enables such theft as fundamental to capitalist expansion.
To tackle pandemics and food injustices, Montenegro calls for an abolitionist agroecology. No anti-capitalist alternative can ignore the racism that is central to transnational food system. Scholars including Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba have argued that although abolition is frequently seen as an oppositional strategy — to eradicate, for example, prisons and police — abolition is equally propositional. An abolitionist agroecology cracks open multiple possibilities that respond to the exigencies of a pandemic planet — there is no ‘normal’ to which we can safely return.
Transforming ourselves, Transforming the World: An open conspiracy for social change – Second Edition
This is a new edition of the book originally published by Zed Books in 1999. The book includes an Introduction written by David Austin and an Afterword from the author, Brian Murphy.
This book is for all those – community workers, adult educators, social activists of every kind – who want to overcome pessimism and play a part in changing society in the direction of peace, justice and dignity for all human beings. As author Brian Murphy— the independent analyst, organizer, educator and writer, and former staff member of the social justice organization, Inter Pares—points out, many of us are pessimistic about our ability to change the world when confronted by destructive political and corporative forces and the destruction they wreak. Murphy reveals the social and personal dilemmas which hold people back from social engagement, and argues that the various constraints we face can be overcome.
In this new edition, David Austin explains in his Introduction why this book, first published in 1999, is perhaps more relevant to our times than ever, offering insights from his own experiences of engaging critically with the book and with others. (David Austin is author of Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution, Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal and the editor of Moving Against the System, The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness.)
And in his new afterword, Brian Murphy reflects on the continued relevance of the original text, emphasizing how our humanity is being corroded and commodified. To reclaim our humanity, he argues, we must transform ourselves to transform the world.
Brian Murphy’s immensely inspiring book,Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World, deeply challenges us to think and rethink everything we knew and thought we knew.—Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation & Right Livelihood Award Laureate in 2010
We need more conversations like the one in this book, which are rooted in hope while honestly working through a foundational way of seeing and understanding ourselves in the bigger picture.— Christina Warner, Co-Executive Director and Director of Campaigns and Organising, Council of Canadians.
This is one of the coolest, enjoyable and important books I have read in recent years. Written from the heart as well as the head, it is a breathtakingly visionary, unique and insightful take on the life of the ultimate activist.—Hope Chigudu, Feminist activist
The republication of Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World is a gift for our troubled times. All of us who share the drive to change our society will find encouragement and nourishment. This book offers a break from an all-too-common type of “activism” that demands harmful suppression of our individual creativity, freedom and health. What we have here is a celebration — and an entirely convincing validation — of a way of changing the world that is always nurturing and open-ended; a process of possibility and becoming, as we build on humanness to realise greater humanness. As Murphy puts it: “‘I will act, because it is sane, and healthy, and human to do so. We will act together, because it is sane, and healthy, and human, and more effective to do so. … This is how we can begin to develop an open conspiracy’”. I’m energised to sign up to this “open conspiracy”, and I’m sure many more readers will be too. — Mark Butler, co-author with Church Land Programme (South Africa) of in, against, beyond, corona
Table of Contents
Introduction to Second Edition: David Austin
Preface and Acknowledgements
1 The Courage to Be
2 The Dilemma of Action and the Psychology of Inertia
3 Confronting the Dilemmas: Beyond Inertia
Possibilities in Process
4 The Missing Link
5 The Individual, the Visionary
6 Challenging the Established Rationality
7 Imperatives for Modern Education
The Open Conspiracy
8 The Open Conspiracy: Allies for Health and Action
9 Theatres and Strategies: Embracing the Future
10 Education and the Open Conspiracy
Eclectic Notes on Knowledge and Action
Afterword to the Second Edition – Brian Murphy
There was nothing but darkness in the spring of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic raged and shut down the economy. But as right-wing protesters demanded an end to the lockdown, a much bigger social conflict was brewing under the surface. A rebellion exploded in Minneapolis in response to the brutal police murder of George Floyd in late May, during which a police station was overtaken and burned down. The uprising quickly spread across the United States as protesters looted downtown urban centers, set fire to cop cars, vandalized government buildings, and fought the police. The Black proletariat led the charge, but white, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous proletarians also joined the fight, demonstrating new possibilities for building alliances. While anti-police rebellions continued throughout the summer and fall, the uprising receded with the start of the winter. But this conflict is far from over.
In an effort to think through the experience of the uprising and prepare for the great struggles that are coming, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising provides an in-depth analysis of what exactly happened during the 2020 uprising, its potentials, internal limits, and strategic implications.
You can purchase the printed version of this book at the Lulu Bookstore.
The pdf can be downloaded from this page.
For all the official historiographic efforts at forging a mythologised image of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov as the austere, no-nonsense, professional revolutionary, the really existing flesh and blood Lenin understood and appreciated that the most materialist action an individual must carry out without fault to metabolise the struggle for communism is to breathe. Not just biologically respire but consciously breathe. Breathe for oneself and breathe for and with others. If it is indeed our desire to breathe new life into the long choking red star, a new oxygenic Communist politics of walking and breathing is what we must aspire to, inspire, respire and encourage.
Lenin150 (Samizdat) seeks to contribute to the re-kindling of the communist attractor by engaging, in the spirit of critical solidarity, with Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in the year of his 150th anniversary. Conceived out of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, the book brings together contributions from all continents, ranging in style from the academic to the lyrical. As such, these compelling, and in some cases absolutely urgent, appropriations of (the spectre of) Lenin aspire to be of considerable use-value for the struggles ahead.
Chillin’ with Lenin: An interview with Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichorn: Tribune‘s Owen Hatherley interviews Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichorn about his edited collection ‘Lenin 150,’ and the many meanings of the Russian revolutionary in the present day.
LENIN150 Samizdat: Original and inspirational thoughts on man who changed the world
PUBLISHED to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lenin’s birth and conceived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, Lenin 150 (Samizdat) is an outsanding collection of essays, poems and photos. … Lively, thought-provoking and informative, its roots are in the ideas of a group of young communists living and working in Kyrgyzstan, a country which has retained many of its Soviet-era buildings, statues and monuments, with Johann Salazar’s excellent photography providing a fitting complement to the text. … This book is a fantastically eclectic mix, yet the sheer quality of most of the writing enables a breadth of vision that’s a fitting tribute to someone who not only understood the world but was able to change it as well. — Morning Star, UK
“A fascinating and surprisingly uplifting intellectual endeavour – analytically sharp yet wide-ranging. This collection of essays and images invites readers to reflect, from a multitude of perspectives and approaches, on one of history’s central revolutionaries. More importantly, it encourages us to reflect on our own time in revolutionary ways. Its academic readership should also be inspired by its samizdat creation – there are ways to engage in intellectual conversations outside of the mainstream publication business.” – Rebecca Selberg, Lund University
“Wide-ranging, topical and sometimes provoking interpretations of Lenin reflecting different political standpoints.” – David Lane, Emeritus Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge University.
“This wonderfully designed book provides an original and insightful contribution to academic discussions on Lenin, one that does justice to his legacy.” – Joe Pateman, University of Nottingham, UK
“A compelling volume for revolutionary-minded activists who are part of the radical ferment animating waves of dissent and protest sweeping the world – but also of genuine interest to anyone seeking information and ideas about one of the great political figures of the twentieth century.”– Paul LeBlanc, Professor of History, La Roche University, Author of Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and October Song: Bolshevik Triumph, Communist Tragedy, 1917-1924
“What an exciting culmination of the recent Lenin editorial revival! This explosive mix between images of Soviet relics and thoughtful insights about Leninism brilliantly dusts off the legacy of the October Revolution leader…” – Adrien Minard, Independent Researcher
“‘Consciousness not only reflects the objective world, but creates it,’ Lenin wrote before the revolution. In analogy we might say, like Patti Smith once did: ‘We created it, let’s take it over!’ This book is a tribute to revolutionary thought on the one hand and pure rock ‘n’ roll on the other!”
– Ronald Matthijssen, Lifetime communist voter and actor, social justice advocate and writer in the making
“I am not an admirer of Lenin. However, as a historian I believe that it is impossible to understand the contemporary world without a renewed effort to understand the emergence of the Soviet Union and its global legacy, including in the formation of “Western” Europe. This book pleasantly brings us memorial landscapes from Kyrgyzstan, both built and lyrical, originally articulating the latter with a diversity of scholarly and activist perspectives on the figure of Lenin. It is an important step towards a postcolonial debate on the history of the Soviet Union.”
– Tiago Castela, University of Coimbra
“…an inspiring book, which gives a thought-provoking, prismatic picture of Lenin, both as a historic figure and an actual theoretician of change and revolution…”
– Vesa Oittinen, University of Helsinki
“I acquired this very unusual samizdat (self-published) 150th birthday present for Lenin as soon as I heard of it, and enthusiastically endorse its second edition. Not least because it is the product of one of my favourite countries, Kyrgyzstan, with many colour photos of Stalinist representations of Lenin (and Marx) taken in 2019 in the “Switzerland of Central Asia”; 22 chapters by authors from 15 countries, 4 from the USA, but also from the global South and 3 from Kyrgyzstan; poetry from a Kyrgyz revolutionary poet; and ending with a new translation of Bertolt Brecht’s thrilling ‘To Those Born After (An die Nachgeborenen).’ Vladimir Ilich would have been delighted.” —Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London
“A great source of inspiration for those suffering from the corona dictatorships. Governments trying to freeze societies in their tracks will find revolution is around the corner.” – Kees van der Pijl, Prof of International Relations (retired), latest book, Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster
“[The editors have] found exactly the right tone and the right team to bring Lenin into 21st century discussions. It is self-ironic, humorous, unpretentious, serious, wide-ranging, and well designed. As intended, the authors, of usually short pieces, come ‘from all continents, from people of colour, different sexual orientations and gender identities.’ Here we are almost as far away from the doxa of “Marxism-Leninism” as possible.” – Göran Therborn, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Cambridge University
Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn, Preface to the 2nd Edition xi
The Politburo, About This Book xvii
Patrick Anderson, In Search of Meaning: A Note from the Translator xxiii
Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn, Introduction: The Kyrgyz Lenin – From Spectre to Attractor (and Back) 1
- Leon Trotsky, VI Lenin – On His Fiftieth Birthday11
- Alain Badiou, Lenin, Founder of the Modern Meaning of the Word ‘Politics’ 15
- Elvira Concheiro Bórquez, Lenin Does Not Mean Leninism23
- Michael Brie, Learning from Lenin – and Doing It Differently31
- Mauricio Sandoval Cordero, Lenin from Latin America – Towards a Reactivation of the Marxism of Political Organisation and Strategy39
- Vashna Jagarnath, Peace! Land! Bread! – We are not going to die of Coronavirus, we are going to die of hunger! 51
- Atilio A Boron, Notes on “Left-Wing” Communism:
An Infantile Disorder 61
- Owen Hatherley, Dead Russians on the Wall 79
- Marcos Del Roio, Engels and Lenin in Latin America: Yesterday and Today 87
- Kevin B Anderson, A Note on Lenin and the Dialectic97
- Roland Boer, Lenin and Non-Antagonistic Contradictions 103
- Georgy Mamedov, How Is Internationalism to Be Understood? A Leninist Perspective on Identity Politics111
- Jodi Dean, Lenin’s Desire: Reminiscences of Lenin and the Desire of the Comrade 125
Poetic Interlude – Joomart Bokonbaev Three Communist Poems 134
- Ursina Lardi, Playing Lenin – A Conversation about Lenin and Theatre 143
- Oxana Timofeeva, What Lenin Teaches Us About Witchcraft 149
- Tora Lane, Lenin, the Revolution, and the Uncertainties of Communism in the Work of Platonov 163
- Thomas Rudhof-Seibert, Eleven Theses on Lenin in the Corona Era 171
- Matthieu Renault, On Revolutionary Prudence, or the Wisdom of Lenin 191
- Michael Neocosmos, Lenin’s ‘Turn to the Masses’ (1921-1923) 203
- Molaodi Wa Sekake, Lenin: A Man of Action and a Defender of the Integrity of Revolutionary Thought 213
- Matthew T Huber, Electric Communism: The Continued Importance of Energy to Revolution 225
- Mohira Suyarkulova, City of Lenin and the Social(ist) Life of a River 238
- Ronald Grigor Suny, A Whole River of Blood: Lenin and Stalin 255
- Wang Hui, The Revolutionary Personality and The Philosophy of Victory – Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Lenin’s Birth 261
- Darko Suvin, In the Shadows of Never-Ending Warfare: On the Use-Value of Lenin today 279
- Slavoj Žižek, Lenin? – Which Lenin? 291
- Vijay Prashad, For Comrade Lenin on His 150th Birth Anniversary 295
- Johann Salazar, I Believe in Yesterday – A Photographer’s Note on Remembering an Alternative Future 303
Bertolt Brecht, To Those Born After 313
The Central Committee 319
The Politburo 327