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  • For the love of the struggle: Memoirs from El Salvador

     

     

    You can watch Brian Murphy interviews Andrés McKinley here.

     

    From his home in El Salvador where he has lived over four decades, the author shares an intimate personal and political memoir that follows his remarkable journey from the comfort and security of a picturesque New England town to a stirring and heroic engagement in common cause with the struggle for peace and justice in El Salvador.

    After four years as a Peace Corp worker in northern Liberia beginning in the late 1960’s, followed by a stretch back in the United States as a street worker in the ghettos of North Philadelphia, McKinley finds himself in Central America as an aid worker in 1978. He quickly becomes engulfed by the political violence of the region and engaged with the people and their struggles against five decades of military dictatorship, centuries of poverty and exploitation. The story is marked by terror, adventure and courage, by trials and tragedy redeemed by the beauty and transcendence of people in struggle.

    Originally based in Guatemala heading up a Catholic relief agency, his commitment to the struggles for change in the country attracts the attention of the military, and his own government, forcing him to leave the country in late 1980. He moves to El Salvador where he begins a gradual incursion into the revolutionary struggle of this country, in a commitment that will last the rest of his life.

    Interwoven with this personal journey, is the story of Teresa Rivas, her husband Antonio, and their five children, a peasant family whose commitment as catequists with the Jesuit, Rutilio Grande, led to their eventual incorporation into the guerrilla forces of the FMLN after Grande’s assassination in 1977. The book describes the circumstances under which the author meets Antonio Rivas and family in the war zones of El Salvador, falls in love with them and their cause, and commits to accompanying their struggle through its darkest hours during the most violent years of the war. It also describes their life after the war, with resettlement in the lowlands of Guazapa where many ex-combatants were building a new life.

    Interwoven with these stories, is the epic of a decades-long people’s struggle for economic justice, human rights and authentic democracy in El Salvador. The book lays out the social, economic and political origins of the armed struggle that caught fire in the 1970s, and the experiences of a people in desperate pursuit of non-violent options for democratizing their country and assuring a dignified life for the impoverished and marginalized majority of its population. It explains in detail the gradual emergence of the objective and subjective conditions for revolution in El Salvador, including the difficult choice for the use of violence as the only available option for transformative change in the country.

    The book also details the challenges of reconstruction after the Peace Accords that end the war in 1992, and the tragedy of opportunities lost during the immediate post-war period in the face of the ongoing resistance of traditional opponents to reform. The author—himself deeply involved during these years in support of non-violent political organizing and advocacy—describes the efforts to sustain peace and to resolve the issues that continue to threaten the country with political violence. One of these is the water crisis that threatens the viability of the nation and life itself, and the book reveals the processes of organizing behind the ultimately-successful 17 year struggle to ban metallic mining—an historic victory in 2019 approved by a vote in the National Assembly, and without precedent in the world.

    As the memoir closes, the author reflects on his choice to be in El Salvador over the past 43 years, and the country as he finds it in these changing times; on the family with whom he has shared love and life there; on his continuing relationship with Antonio Rivas and his surviving family; and his gradual reconciliation, from a distance, with the country of his birth.

    With a Foreword by Charlie Clements, author Witness to War (Bantam, 1984) and Former Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

     

    Andrés McKinley has penned a beautiful, moving love story – a stunning tribute to his family and country of birth and to his family and country of re-birth. Read it also as a tribute to a generation whose best and brightest members seized the opportunity to be a part of the social justice movements that were unfolding around the world. Theirs was not a journey for fame or for fortune. Baby-boomers, read this book to remember; others, read this to understand not only the sacrifices made but, more importantly, the fulfillment gained. May others follow Andres’s path to love, wherever it may take take them. — Robin Broad (Guggenheim Fellow) and John Cavanagh (director, Institute for Policy Studies), coauthors
    of The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed (Beacon Press, 2021).

    The voice is simple, authentic, articulate, and consistent and coherent throughout. Given the unique and dramatic personal story that Andrés tells, it is actually understated and quiet—restrained intensity is how I might describe it. What really sets it apart, though, is the intimacy, care and respect with which he describes and tells the stories of the Salvadorans with whom he shared life and struggle throughout these years (and for that matter the villagers in Liberia in his early Peace Corps years). … It is a work of great humility, even as it tells a heroic tale without flinching, and in great detail. Nor is he romantic about the course that the struggle has taken; he is unflinching in that as well, and so leaves history open-ended but blessed with the grace of those who struggle. — Brian K. Murphy, writer and organizer, former policy analyst at Inter Pares, who writes at MurphysLog.ca

    This is a very impressive book which tells a truly remarkable personal story, without the story becoming purely personal. In fact, there is a great deal of political history in the book, which I can confirm as I also studied as well as lived through some of the Salvadorean civil war. The truly incredible Salvadorean peasants who stayed in the war zones despite army incursions and US backed aerial bombing, are just as he describes them. They led me also to a lasting respect and love for them, even with- out the long term depth of experience of the author. The way the author brings us so many personal stories is very powerful. We get to know the friends he makes and then to feel as he did, when they lost their loved ones in this horrendous violence un- leashed on the Salvadorean poor and their allies by the Salvadorean wealthy elites, their military and US backers. — Jenny Pearce, Research Professor, Latin America and Caribbean Centre, London School of Economics

    Andrés McKinley’s book For the Love of the Struggle is a moving and personal account of his involvement in the fight for justice in El Salvador during the civil war of the 1980s. But more than the events he describes, with great detail and political insight, it is his love for the people of El Salvador that sets this book apart. From working with church related organizations, to joining the guerrillas in the liberated zones, to his work along the communities opposing metallic mining, it is his relation- ship with the people, particularly the humbler ones, which stands out.

    Most books that deal with the civil war in El Salvador end with the signing of the Peace Accords, which put an end to the armed conflict and laid the foundation for a more democratic and just El Salvador. As important as the Peace Agreements were, they did not solve all the problems and conflicts of the country. When several rural communities were threatened in the early 2000s by the efforts of trans- national gold mining interests, they rose in defense of their rights through social organization and peaceful opposition. In spite of the repression they suffered, after 17 years of struggle they finally prevailed, showing how people united, can bring about change.

    This belief is particularly important now, at a moment in which our democratic insti- tutions are being threatened precisely by those who should be the first to protect them. It is the role of organized civil society to defend what we have conquered and McKinley’s book is an excellent and timely reminder that this is something possible and necessary to achieve.— Francisco Altschul is a former Salvadoran Ambassador to the United States

  • Mau Mau From Within: The Story of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army

    Karari Njama

    The inside story of the struggles of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, referred to by British colonialism as the ‘Mau Mau rebellion’, is little known today. The autobiographical material written by Karari Njama (a senior leader in the Mau Mau hierarchy) and compiled by Donald L. Barnett was first published by Monthly Review Press in 1966, as Mau Mau From Within: An analysis of Kenya’s Peasant Revolt. It was reprinted in 1970; it has remained out of print for many years. As the late Basil Davidson put it in his review of the first edition: “Njama writes of the forest leaders’ efforts to overcome dissension, to evolve effective tactics, to keep discipline, mete out justice … and to teach men how to survive in those merciless forests. His narrative is crowded with excitement. Those who know much of Africa and those who know little will alike find it compulsive reading. Some 10,000 Africans died fighting in those years . Here, in the harsh detail of everyday experience, are the reasons why.”

    The book is an extraordinary story of courage, passion, heroism, combined with recounting of colonial terror, brutality and betrayal. It is a story of how the very idea of being ‘Kenyan’ was intimately linked to the idea of freedom, a connection that was destroyed not only by the firepower of the British, but also by those who collaborated and established themselves as the beneficiaries of neocolonial rule. Disconnecting notions of freedom from identity left only a caricature that rapidly descended into tribalism and ethnicity.

    This momentous story of the struggle for freedom described here is relevant not only for a new generation of Kenyans but also for all those engaged in emancipatory struggles internationally. For so long as the experiences arising from the struggles described in this book are perceived as merely ‘African’ or ‘Kenyan’, it is not possible to fully grasp the contributions they have made to the struggle for a universalist humanity.

    What is recounted in this publication is more than an ‘analysis of a peasant revolt’. It is above all a history of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. As Ngūgī wa Thiong’o points out in his Preface to this new edition, ‘we don’t have to use the vocabulary of the colonial to describe our struggles.’ We were tempted to rename the book ‘Kenya Land and Freedom Army from Within.’ But because the original title has wide recognition, and and as one of the characteristics of movements of the oppressed is to appropriate derogatory terms used by their oppressors and repurpose them as an expression of pride in their own experiences, this book retains the original title, but with a change in the subtitle as ‘The Story of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army.’

    We were delighted that Karari Njama was able to provide us with a Prologue to the new edition (Kamoji Wachiira, a former political prisoner, connected us with Karari and translated the text of the Prologue). Shujaa Hon Dr Gitu wa Kahengeri, Secretary-General of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association reminds us how the veterans of the liberation movement, like Karari Njama, continue to live in extreme poverty today despite the enormous contribution that they made to the struggle for freedom.

    Kenya’s leading writer and academic, Ngūgī wa Thiong’o, points out in the Preface, how so much of the narratives about the Kenya Land and Freedom Army has been written from ‘without’, emphasizing the importance of a book that speaks to the personal testimony from within the movement. We are honoured to have Mīcere Gīthae Mugo, Emerita Professor of Literature at Syracuse University, provide reflections on the importance of the republication of this historical text. There are many who, as children, lived through the terrifying events of the Emergency during which so many were tortured and killed by the British (and their local collaborators) and whose psyche remains deeply affected by what they witnessed.  Kamoji Wachiira describes some of these experiences vividly in his Introduction to the new edition. He highlights the extent of betrayal by successive post-independence governments, and the development of the post-independence revival of resistance which he was a central part of. He also emphasizes the importance for a new generation of Kenyans “to gain not only a deep understanding of Kenya’s revolutionary history but also to reflect on what lessons may be drawn for the struggle to achieve real freedom.”

    The original publication had no biographical information about Don Barnett. Few are aware of the extent of Don’s political engagement with the cause of liberation, of which Mau Mau From Within was only one aspect. He was a founder of the Liberation Support Movement in Canada, and had close contact with the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). Don sadly joined the ancestors in 1975. We are fortunate, however, that Don and Daphne’s son and daughter, Michael Barnett and Dawn Barnett, were able to provide, together with Ole Gjerstad, a revealing biography.

    We have endeavoured to retain the content of the original book (but for a few minor corrections) including the original Selected Bibliography. An updated Further Reading list is provided.

     

  • Under-Education in Africa: From Colonialism to Neoliberalism

    Under-Education in Africa: From Colonialism to Neoliberalism is a collection of essays on diverse aspects of educational systems that were written over a period of four and a half decades, written from the point of view of an activist educator.

    With the focus on Tanzania, they cover education in the German colonial era, the days of Ujamaa socialism and the present neo-liberal times. Themes include the social function of education, the impact of external dependency on education, practical versus academic education, democracy and violence in schools, the role of computers in education, the effect of privatization on higher education, misrepresentation of educational history, good and bad teaching styles, book reading, the teaching of statistics to doctors and student activism in education.

    Two essays provide a comparative view of the situation in Tanzania and the USA. Linking the state of the educational system with society as a whole, they explore the possibility of progressive transformation on both fronts. They are based on the author’s experience as a long-term educator, his original research, relevant books, newspaper reports and discussions with colleagues and students.

    The author is a retired professor of medical statistics who has taught at colleges and universities in Tanzania and at universities in the USA and Norway.

    Table of Contents:
    – Abbreviations
    – Preface
    – Introduction
    – Education and Colonialism
    – Education and Ujamaa
    – Education and Democracy
    – Education and Dependency
    – Education and Violence
    – Education and Privatization
    – Education and Computers
    – Education and America
    – Education and Debate
    – Education and History – I
    – Education and History – II
    – Education and Reading
    – Education and Educators
    – Education and Activism – I
    – Education and Activism – II
    – Education and Liberation
    – References
    – Author Profile

    A collection of essays from an educator-activist that takes us back to one of the richest periods of African intellectual debate about knowledge and colonization, the early 1970s at the University of Dar es Salaam, with valuable lessons for today.

    Budd L Hall, PhD, Professor Emeritus, UNESCO Co-chair in Community‑Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, University of Victoria, Canada

    This is a timely, broad ranging, provocative series of essays about under-education in Africa. The author’s lived experiences, particularly in Tanzania, form a rich base for much of the critical contextual analysis. New generations of scholar-activists in Africa and elsewhere are urged to learn from history, to debate, to question and strive, with passion and hope, to attain a just, more egalitarian world.

    Shirley Walters, Professor Emerita, University of Western Cape, South Africa

    An inspiring collection of vivid stories and profound critiques of education from a committed scholar-activist who draws upon a lifetime of engaged learning, teaching, research and debate. Revealing how under-education has been spawned by global capitalism, it also inspires hope and offers strategies for educational and social change in Africa and beyond.

    Pat Saul, UDSM graduate, teacher and community activist for social change, Toronto

    A dedicated and passionate educator and scholar activist, Karim Hirji explores the connection between education and a dependent economy, and the systematic de-education of the Tanzanian and African masses during the colonial and post-colonial periods up to the present day. Broad structural analysis of underlying factors such as social and economic injustice, political accountability and neoliberal policy is combined with concrete investigation of the challenges facing students and teachers at all levels of the education system and ends on a positive note, “dare to dream.”

    Marjorie Mbilinyi, Professor of Education, University of Dar es Salaam (1968-2003), independent researcher and writer

    Karim Hirji’s erudite yet accessible collection of essays is bound to become an essential companion and a classic for all concerned with the underdevelopment of Africa and its educational doppelganger, under-education. His dialectical, fine-grained and multi-scalar analysis of educational issues traverses the period of colonialism, the first flush of independence through neo-colonialism to present day capitalist neoliberalism. It is a milestone in connecting past and present struggles through the tools of political economy. While the essays focus on Tanzania, they have continental resonance and remain globally relevant.

    The essays draw inspiration and critical lessons from many countries. Hirji’s education commentary is grounded in a dedicated praxis of over forty years. The collection reflects this breadth of experience and the depth of multifaceted struggles. It embraces many pertinent issues valuable for contemporaneous endeavours against miseducation as these relate to democracy, dependency, violence in schools, the privatisation and corporatisation of education, the uses and abuses of technology, cultural imperialism, academic dissent, publishing, reading and the qualities of an effective teacher.

    Written in a register that exudes deep honesty, wisdom, self-critical reflection and borne out of collective struggle, the essays are indispensable to confront the current obfuscations, falsifications and the dominant right wing and indeed neo-fascist assaults on meaningful education and reason. The ideas and practices of Hirji and his fellow activist scholars such as Shivji, and the much missed AM Babu and Walter Rodney remain germane today and will leave a solid legacy for future generations to build on.

    Despite these bleak, dire and precarious times, this remarkable collection is an antidote to despair. Hirji’s injunction, not to lose hope is also a clarion call to action and a firm belief that, to quote Hirji, “…the struggle is a long term one; there are bound to be ups and downs. But ultimately, Africa and its people will triumph.”

    Salim Vally, Professor and Director, Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

    “This book will be of interest to readers in search of critical perspectives on education in Tanzania and Africa more widely. It invites the policymakers, teachers and students of today to erase their ‘ideological blinders’. For fellow citizens and observers of Tanzania, it elucidates the ideology of ‘education for self-reliance’ in practice. And, as an authoritative text on under-education, it makes an important contribution to the debates on transformative education and knowledge production in Africa as a whole.” Ahmad Kipacha Senior Lecturer in the School of Business Studies and Humanities at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha.

    REVIEWS

  • The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher

    The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher is a riveting account of the bumpy first decade of the work life of Karim F Hirji, a retired Professor of Medical Statistics. Filled with a distinctive variety of eye-opening episodes, it covers lecturing at the University of Dar es Salaam, the life of a political exile in a remote rural area and the challenges of setting up from scratch a one-of-a-kind educational institute in Africa. With a style that seamlessly combines the personal with the general, Hirji provides an illuminating description of different aspects of the Tanzanian political, educational, economic and rural landscape during the 1970s. Starting with a commentary on teacher training, he concludes with a critical comparison of modern university education in the nation with that of the earlier era.

    You can read this book online for free.

    A clearly written, excellently illustrated, valuable and absorbing reflection upon a rich lifetime in teaching that deserves an international audience. Richard Pring, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Education, and Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.

    The remarkable life of a principled Tanzanian educator told with emotion and humor. Peter Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Development Economics, Keele University UK and Lecturer in Economics, University of Dar es Salaam, 1970-72.

    Karim Hirji’s account of four decades of teaching in post-colonial Tanzania is a timely call on teachers to: “educate in ways that will promote equality and social justice”. Dr Anne Harley, Paulo Freire Project, Centre for Adult Education, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o with Rosa Hirji, holding a copy of The Travails of a Tanzania Teacher i.