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The Revolutionary Ecological Legacy of Herbert Marcuse: Inspired by the revolutionary legacy of Herbert Marcuse’s social and political philosophy, this volume appeals to the energies of those engaged in a wide range of contemporary social justice struggles: ecosocialism, antiracism, the women’s movement, LGBTQ rights, and antiwar forces.
Marcuse argued that U.S.-led globalized capitalism represented the irrational perfection of waste and the degradation of the earth, resurgent sexism, racism, bigoted nationalism, and warlike patriotism. The intensification of these regressive political tendencies today must be countered, and this can be best accomplished through radical collaboration around an agenda recognizing the basic economic and political needs of diverse subaltern communities. From Marcuse’s perspective, the world needs a strategy to go on the offensive for the real changes that can extend race and gender equality, labor freedom, economic abundance, leisure, communal well-being and peace. Marcuse’s “Great Refusal” captured the Sixties’ spirit of rebelliousness which expressed a visceral repugnance at the totality of the efficiently functioning social order of advanced industrial society. “The whole thing is outdated, crooked, humiliating. . . it does not have to be: one can live differently . . . as the ‘leap’ into a qualitatively different stage of history, of civilization, where human beings, in solidarity, develop their own needs and faculties.”
The current absence of any emancipatory vision for Africa lies at the heart of our political problems of racial capitalist and colonial oppression. Any attempt to rethink political emancipation on the African continent must be able to locate a universal conception of freedom within singular cultural experiences where people live. Irrespective of the specific manner in which such struggles for freedom were thought within different historical contexts, emancipatory politics always exhibited such a dialectic when it was based within popular traditions. Yet only some militant intellectual leaders understood the importance of this dialectic in thought.
The present volume outlines and discusses two particularly important views concerning the role and importance of popular culture in emancipatory politics in Africa. Each is the product of distinct forms of colonial capitalist exploitation: the former saw the light of day within a colonial context while the latter is directly confronted by the neocolonial state. All emancipatory politics are developed in confrontation with state power, and all begin with a process of discussion and debate whereby a collective subject begins to be formed. The formation of such a collective political subject has been fundamentally informed by popular cultures on the African continent.
The two authors whose essays are included here understood this and posit popular culture at the centre of their politics. The first, Amílcar Cabral, addresses the central role of popular culture in the independence struggle of Guinea Bissau in the 1970s; the second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, addresses the centrality of African popular culture in an emancipatory politics for the current Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the distance in time that separates them, both Cabral and Wamba-dia-Wamba develop a dialectics at the core of their politics which activates the universals of culture in the present. It is this that makes their views of central importance to emancipatory thought today.
Revolutionary Hope vs Free-Market Fantasies: Keeping the Southern Africa Liberation Struggle Alive – Theory, Practice, Context
We are pleased to announce that your book Revolutionary Hope vs Free-Market Fantasies Keeping the Southern Africa Liberation Struggle Alive: Theory, Practice, Context has been nominated for the Rik Davidson / Studies in Political Economy Book Prize in Political Economy.
This important discussion of the most recent developments in the commodification of media and culture goes beyond market-based analyses of relations of exchange and locates their central dynamic in the alienated forms of human relations that characterize contemporary forms of the capitalist mode of production.
—Peter Hudis, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Oakton Community College and author of Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism) and Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades.
A vital exploration of Marxist and critical theory in relation to the lived reality of a society permeated by social media; features a strong discussion of the Global South.
—Kevin B. Anderson, Professor of Sociology at University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism: A Critical Study, Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies, and Dialectics of revolution : Hegel, Marxism, and its critics through a lens of race, class, gender, and colonialism (Daraja Press, 2020)
Technology is one of the central elements of contemporary human life. The world as one knows it today is a space increasingly mediated by technological interventions, be it in the field of contemporary cultural expressions or political, organizational forms. Social media has played an important role in this transformation. Gone are the days when social media was merely a conduit for conversations. Today, it is a diverse field of operations spanning advertising mechanisms, branding processes and even direct commercial exchanges between users: the prime focus of this particular book. The book analyses real-world interactions, interviews and observations through the theoretical framework provided by Marxist political economy and social theory. It draws upon the theoretical scope provided by Marx’s dialectical methods of social analysis and uses it to unearth the effects that trading and commercial activities performed through virtual communities have on society and individuals.
It is entirely fitting that in this fine book, those engaged in the radical praxis of healing are movements that are subverting the institutions of private property as a path to an emancipated society. Fanon’s legacy today is kept alive in their struggle. Raj Patel, Frantz Fanon’s revolutionary spirit lives on
Coming sixty years after the publication of The Wretched of the Earth and his death from leukemia at the age of 36, Fanon Today: Reason and Revolt of the Wretched of the Earth, edited by activist and scholar Nigel Gibson, provides a solid overview of the relevance of Frantz Fanon to the work of those of us who still believe that a just and humane world is both necessary and possible. Throughout the volume the contributors provide space and examples of a Fanonist development of radical humanism, which provides for the psychological development of the person within the context of consciousness raising, collective action and structural change. Through a variety of examples, the book also clearly demonstrates the fact that the agents of change do not simply have to be the usual suspects of the industrial working class but includes – and must include – the peasantry and the various manifestations of the lumpenproletariat. As noted by Gibson, “Fanon’s new humanism is a politics of becoming, based on the fundamental transformation of paralyzed Black and colonized subjects into new human beings through the liberation struggle” (p. 300). Timothy Wild, Review of African Political Economy. Dec 6, 2021.
This monumental compendium of cosmopolitical provocations and decolonial insights does more than just correct the misreadings that have threatened recently to engulf and mystify Fanon’s work. These exhilarating essays and commentaries put his incendiary contribution back where it belongs: in the insurgent speculations and reconstructive efforts of creative thinkers struggling to transform the imperiled predicament of our planet. —Paul Gilroy, founding Director of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Race and Racism at University College London
This is a wonderful book. It succeeds in extracting Fanon’s thought (the Wretched/Damned of the Earth in particular) from the realms of academia, Cultural Studies and Afropessimism and to locate it squarely where it originally belonged: within the domain of political practice, outside of which it makes very little sense. In academic reading, one remains a prisoner of the limits of the text itself; in a political reading, the text becomes a vehicle for addressing the problems raised by active militancy. Gibson has succeeded in bringing together an international array of brilliant contributors who all prove to be eloquent witnesses to the continued relevance of Fanonian concepts—such as the Manichean character of (neo)colonialism and racism, the corrupt nature of the so-called ‘national bourgeoisie’ and the continued relevance of ‘national consciousness’—in the contemporary expanded reproduction of racial capitalism on a world scale. What is particularly fascinating is the way in which intense studies of Fanon’s writings within the United States carceral system and South African informal settlements among other locations have enabled the production of political thought that takes Fanonian dialectical categories beyond their original subjective context, into concrete political practices combining the necessary experiences of particular struggles with conceptions of universal freedom. This is a militant work for militant readers. —Michael Neocosmos, Emeritus Professor in Humanities, Rhodes University, South Africa.
There is not one time, not one aspect of the world’s experience, that does not give credence to Fanon’s precepts. Our collective human history has taught us that the human is bound to face attempts to crush her or his integrity, to condemn them to despicable exploitation, treacherous oppression. It is in the very nature of that experience that we have learned how Fanon shall never die. For his precepts and action remain always universally relevant. This is also what Fanon Today affirms. The book is fundamentally relevant and useful. It reminds us that in the face of exploitation and repression, the human and the humanist will always find ways to combat those. Dense and eclectic, strategically thought out and organized, critically stimulating, this book is as incisive as it is compelling. —Hanétha Véte-Congolo, President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association
In this collective labor of love of the here and the now, voices of the damned—that pathologized, incarcerated, and evicted majority of the world’s population—rise! From Algeria to Brazil, Ireland to Kenya, Palestine to Portugal, South Africa to Trinidad and beyond, they are breathing life into and actively humanizing our precious and oh-so-fragile earth. Meeting brutal structural violence with the courageous construction of democratizing institutions that nurture mental health, well-being, and solidarity, Fanonian praxis emerges in each chapter. Evincing a thoughtful agency that questions everything, the volume forges new relations spanning generations and locales. Through it, sixty years since the publication of Les damnés de la terre, Fanon’s insights reach out to us, beckoning us to carry on the tireless work of building a world of the “we.” —Jane Anna Gordon, author of Statelessness and Contemporary Enslavement
Coming out of the pandemic, the greatest challenge is how we express our anger, how we make it a digna rabia, a “dignified rage”, as the Zapatistas say. Fanon must be part of the answer. This magnificent collection of essays helps us to focus our minds on that challenge, to direct our anger to the task of making a different world. An important book, an exciting book. —John Holloway, author of We are the Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader
Fanon Today: Reason and Revolt of the Wretched of the Earth, edited and cordinated by Nigel C Gibson, gives the opportunity to several intellectuals and activists with different backgrounds from Brazil to Algeria, from Pakistan to South Africa, to tell how the struggle against injustice and racism inscribe itself into the continuity of the Fanonian visionary legacy. Not to be missed! —Hassane Mezine, Photographer, Film Director of Fanon hier, aujourd’hui
This is an indispensable book. It brings together many among the overlooked communities for whom Fanon actually wrote—the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the organic voices rising from the depths of misery on the verge of despair. What better way to commemorate the six decades since the publication of Les damnés de la terre than to remind readers of that great work that the people in solidarity with whom its ideas were generated not only speak but also write? Read and learn from these voices as, in those proverbial revolutionary words, the struggle continues. —Lewis R. Gordon, author of Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization
*In Fanon Today, Nigel Gibson brings to life the Fanonian project of exploring the implications of radical theory in contemporary sites of struggles. This groundbreaking book commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Wretched of the Earth by exploring its significance in the work of intellectuals and organizers active in radical social movements. Fanon Today is a timely book about the turbulent present and its connections to the long history of racial capitalism. It is a landmark addition to the field of Fanonian studies and an absolutely necessary reading for anyone interested in decolonial thought and social movements. —Yasser Munif, author, The Syrian Revolution: Between the Politics of Life and the Geopolitics of Death
Fanon Today does not just bring Fanon into the immediate present, it also restores Fanon as a thinker of praxis, of organisation and struggle. There are a growing number of attempts to retrieve Fanon’s thought from its immediate historical context and put it to work in the present. But there are very few that show much interest in the fact that most of Fanon’s work was produced and grounded within struggle, within popular struggle. In keeping with Fanon’s own internationalism his thought is brought into struggles in Palestine, Pakistan, Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, the prisons in the United States and more. The worldliness of the work gathered here speaks, implicitly but lucidly, to the spirit of a thinker who was, always, in motion towards the world. Edited by Nigel Gibson, a leading Fanon scholar, including work by a group of exciting younger thinkers, and graced by a contribution from Ato Sekyi-Otu, also one of the best Fanon scholars, and a singular philosophical presence in the examination of the contemporary African condition, the book has real intellectual heft. It is essential reading for anyone who aims to engage Fanon as a comrade in struggle rather than solely as an interlocutor in more isolated and abstracted forms of academic theorizing. — Richard Pithouse, Editor, New Frame and author of Being Human After 1492
Critically engaging Ato Sekyi-Otu’s notion of partisan universalism, this timely volume of essays speaks directly to the onto-metaphysical issues that will give Africana thought the new foundations that will enable it to move beyond the lin- guistic turn, brush aside the ashes of Afro-pessimism, engage Badiou’s new mathematical universalism, and to launch new projects of liberation on decolonized grounds of greater epistemic independence. A must read for all concerned with the future of Africana theory and praxis. — Paget Henry, author of Caliban’s Reason.
Responding to the invitation ‘to re-member severed but shareable things’, these lovers of truth, freedom, and dignity celebrate the searing intellect, generosity, wit, and compassion of the person and the scholar Ato Sekyi-Otu. … Combined with Sekyi-Otu’s autobiographical reflections of learning to be Black in the United States and insistence that Afropessimism turns the perverse ontology of the antiblack world into a Black ontology, this is a precious contribution. Not to be missed! —Jane Anna Gordon, author of Statelessness and Contemporary Enslavement and co-editor (with Drucilla Cornell) of Creolizing Rosa Luxemburg
Ato Sekyi-Otu’s thought is one of the most important and exciting in Africa today. The texts compiled in this volume celebrate and engage with the work of Sekyi-Otu … They bear eloquent witness to Sekyi-Otu’s stature as a thinker and to his consistent commitment to the universalization of humanity in both theory and practice. Deeply anchored in African cultures and modes of life, Sekyi-Otu has shown how ideas of human universality are ingrained in African popular sayings and proverbs and are regularly reflected in artistic creations. — Michael Neocosmos, Emeritus Professor in the Humanities, Rhodes University, South Africa
This anthology in honour of Ato Sekyi-Otu is indispensable for those concerned with Frantz Fanon’s ideas of ‘ false’ and ‘ true ‘ decolonisation and about social humanist critique of post-structuralism’ s truncated version of anti-colonialism. Sekyi-Otu accomplishes precisely such a critique in his Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience and in Left Universalism, Africacentric Essays. The essays here are exemplars of such a critique which, together with Fanon and Sekyi -Otu, build a legacy for envisioning a post-imperialist world. The authors of this volume rescue post-colonial studies from a stale and unfruitful post-structuralist reading of anti-colonialism by positing an apparent paradox of ‘left ‘ or ‘ partisan’ universalism which can then be dialectically resolved. Intellectually and politically active at once, this anthology shows how Sekyi-Otu and his co- authors can help the reader to move beyond a binary and solipsistic stance towards a project of a real emancipation, a ‘ true ‘ decolonisation. In this neither the living experience individual nor the collectivity implied in the notion of the human lose their specificity and universality. — Himani Bannerji, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, Department of Sociology, York University
This collection of essays celebrates the work of Ato Sekyi-Otu as a scholar, teacher and friend, marking his extraordinary contribution to the philosophy, politics and praxis of liberation. As Ato Sekyi-Otu has argued in his most recent book, Left Universalism, Africacentric Essays (Routlege 2019), universalism is an ‘inescapable presupposition of ethical judgment in general and critique in particular, especially indispensable for radical criticism of conditions of existence in postcolonial society and for vindicating visions of social regeneration’. Universalism must and can only be partisan. Edited by Gamal Abdel-Shehid and Sofia Noori, the collection includes essays by Stefan Kipfler, Patrick Taylor, Sophie Mcall, Gamal Abdel-Shehid, Jeremy M. Glick, Nigel C. Gibson, Jeff Noonan, Esteve Morera, Tyler Gasteiger, Olúfeṃ́i Táíẃò, Susan Dianne Brophy, Nergis Canefe, Chistoher Balcom, Lewis Gordon, and by Ato Sekyi-Otu himself.
- Introduction: Gamal Abdel-Shehid
- Fanon for a post-imperial world: On universals and other human matters: Stefan Kipfer
- The Sea Menagerie: Esi Edugyan’s Atlantic: Patrick Taylor
- Reconsidering Fanon’s language of recognition in Indigenous studies: Sophie McCall
- On Fanon and Lacan: Continuities and structural psychiatry: Gamal Abdel-Shehid
- Aimé Césaire’s Two ways to lose yourself: The Exception and the rule: Jeremy M. Glick
- This Africa to Come: Nigel C. Gibson
- Speaking for, speaking through, speaking with: Abstract and concrete universality in the struggle for human emancipation: Jeff Noonan
- Universality: Notes towards rethinking the history of philosophy: Esteve Morera
- Husserl and Tran Duc Thao: Crisis, renewal, and the ontology of possibility: Tyler Gasteiger
- Can Kwame Gyekye’s moderate communitarianism take the individual seriously? Olúfeṃ́i Taíẃò
- ‘Innocuous Nihilism’, social reproduction and the terms of partisanship: Susan Dianne Brophy
- Marxism, Law and the Global South: Asiatic Mode of Production Debates, The Legal Subject and the Promise of Left Universalism: Nergis Canefe
- Universalism and immanent critique in ‘The End of Progress and Left Universalism’: Christopher Balcom
- CON-TEXTS OF CRITIQUE: Ato Sekyi-Otu
- Afterword: Lewis Gordon
- About the contributors
A piercing historical explanation of poverty and inequality in African societies today and the social impact of resource-driven growth, Extracting Profit explains why Africa, in the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century, has undergone an economic boom. Rising global prices in oil and minerals have produced a scramble for Africa’s natural resources, led by investment from U.S., European and Chinese companies, and joined by emerging economies from around the globe. African economies have reached new heights, even outpacing rates of growth seen in much of the rest of the world. Examined through the lens of case studies of the oil fields of the Niger River Delta, the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline and the East African infrastructure boom, this period of “Africa rising” did not lead to the creation of jobs, but has instead fueled the extraction of natural resources, profits accruing to global capital, and an increasingly wealthy African ruling class.
Extracting Profit argues that the roots of today’s social and economic conditions lie in the historical legacies of colonialism and the imposition of so-called “reforms” by global financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The chokehold of debt and austerity of the late twentieth century paved the way for severe assaults on African working classes through neoliberal privatization and deregulation. And while the scramble for Africa’s resources has heightened the pace of ecological devastation, examples from Somalia and the West African Ebola outbreak reveal a frightening surge of militarization on the part of China and the U.S.
Yet this “new scramble” has not gone unchallenged. With accounts of platinum workers’ struggles in South Africa, Nigerian labor organizing and pro-democracy upheavals in Uganda and Burkina Faso, Extracting Profit offers several narratives of grassroots organizing and protest, pointing to the potential for resistance to global capital and fundamental change, in Africa and beyond.
And in an updated Preface, the author analyses the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating climate emergency, as both the crises and resistance to extraction accelerate across the continent.
“Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit – Imperialism, Neoliberalism and The New Scramble for Africa is at once historical and contemporary. It unpacks ongoing resource crimes by analytically exposing its historical roots and pointing to ways by which the oppressed can cut off the bonds that lock in their subjugation.” —Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation
“Lee Wengraf provides an important reminder that Africa’s position within the world economy is heavily determined by its unequal insertion into the global capitalist system and ongoing manifestations of imperialism.” –James Chamberlain, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute
“Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit provides a breathtakingly detailed account and analysis of some of the major socioeconomic ills that have been plaguing Africa for centuries. Amongst the host of issues she tackles, arguably the most consequential are mass poverty in African societies, their indefensible economic inequalities and the steady plundering of the continent’s resources, starting from the slave-trade era up till the present-day.” –Remi Adekoya, Review of African Political Economy
“Extracting Profit offers several narratives of grassroots organizing and protest, pointing to the potential for resistance to global capital and fundamental change, in Africa and beyond.” –Developing Economics
“Evidently, this book is well-researched and it contributes to the expansion of the frontiers of Marxist scholarship on Africa’s development dilemma within the global capitalist order. This book lends credence to the pioneering works of such notable radical scholars as Andre Gunder Frank, Walter Rodney, and Samir Amin among several others. It should be read by students and teachers of political economy, development studies, Marxism and philosophy.” –Marx & Philosophy Review of Books
“Extracting Profit provides a great arch of scutiny from the earliest carve-up of the African continent, through colonialism, war, imperialism, to the recent neoliberal takeover. The book demonstrates the continued importance of Marxist analysis on the continent, asserting the centrality of class analysis and a project of revolutionary change. Wengraf provides us with a major contribution, that highlights contemporary developments and the role of China on the African continent that has perplexed and baffled scholars. An indispensable volume.” —Leo Zeilig, author of Frantz Fanon: The Militant Philosopher of Third World Revolution
“The history of resource frontiers everywhere is always one of lethal violence, militarism, empire amidst the forcing house of capital accumulation. Lee Wengraf in Extracting Profit powerfully reveals the contours of Africa’s 21st century version of this history. The scramble for resources, markets, and investments have congealed into a frightening militarization across the continent, creating and fueling the conditions for further political instability. Wengraf documents how expanded American, but also Chinese, presence coupled with the War on Terror, point to both the enduring rivalry among global superpowers across the continent and a perfect storm of resource exploitation. Wengraf offers up a magisterial synopsis of the challenges confronting contemporary Africa.” —Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley
“One of the most well-known stylized facts of Africa’s recent growth experience is that it has been inequality-inducing in ways that previous growth spurts were not. Lee Wengraf, in her new book Extracting Profit , expertly utilises the machinery of Marxian class analysis in making sense of this stylized fact. Along the way we learn much about Africa’s historical relationship with imperialism and its contemporary manifestations. This book should be required reading for all those who care about Africa and its future.” —Grieve Chelwa, Contributing Editor, Africa Is A Country
“In recent years countries in the African continent have experienced an economic boom—but not all have benefited equally. Extracting Profit is a brilliant and timely analysis that explodes the myth of “Africa Rising,” showing how neoliberal reforms have made the rich richer, while leaving tens of millions of poor and working class people behind. Lee Wengraf tells this story within the context of an imperial rivalry between the United States and China, two global superpowers that have expanded their economic and military presence across the continent. Extracting Profit is incisive, powerful, and necessary: If you read one book about the modern scramble for Africa, and what it means for all of us, make it this one.” —Anand Gopal, author, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes
“Thorough and thoughtful, Wengraf’s book has a radical depth that underscores its significance. It’s definitely a must-read for anyone who cherishes an advanced knowledge on the exploitation of Africa as well as the politics that undermines Africa’s class freedom.” —Kunle Wizeman Ajayi, Convener, Youths Against Austerity and General Secretary of the United Action for Democracy, Nigeria
“Extracting Profit is a very important book for understanding why the immense majority of the African population remain pauperised, despite impressive growth rates of mineral-rich countries on the continent. It continues the project of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. And in several ways, it also goes beyond it, capturing the changing dynamics of global capitalism 45 years after Rodney’s magnus opus.
In this book, Lee Wengraf debunks the myth of “Africa Rising” and the supposed expansion of an entrepreneurial middle-class, revealing “reforms” imposed by international financial institutions as mechanisms for fostering imperialism in an era of sharpening contradictions of the global capitalist economy. The adverse social, economic, political and environmental impact of these are elaborated on as a systemic whole, through the book’s examination of the sinews of capital’s expansion in the region: the extractive industries.
But, Wengraf does not stop at interrogating the underdevelopment of Africa. Her book identifies a major reason for the failures of national liberation projects: while the working masses were mobilised to fight against colonial domination, the leadership of these movements lay in the hands of aspiring capitalists, and intellectuals. The urgency of the need for a strategy for workers’ power internationally, she stresses correctly, cannot be overemphasized.
Reading Extracting Profit would be exceedingly beneficial for any change-seeking activist in the labour movement within and beyond Africa.” —Baba Aye, editor, Socialist Worker (Nigeria)
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.
See the Description below for further details.
Richard Pithouse’s extraordinary overview of the what is means to be human after 1492:
… On 9 August 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The movement that grew out of the rebellion that followed inaugurated a new sequence in the struggle against racism in the United States. As with previous sequences in that struggle it quickly acquired an international dimension, including here in South Africa. One aspect of this international moment has been an urgent confrontation with the reality that what Césaire called ‘abstract equality’ does not, on its own, mark an end to the racialization of life.
In the United States, and elsewhere, there is a sense that history is as present as it is past. Just over a decade ago, Baucom observed that “what-has-been is, cannot be undone, cannot cease to alter all the future-presents that flow out of it. Time does not pass or progress, it accumulates”. It is the sense that time accumulates into the present that has often led to the invocation of William Faulkner’s famous line from Requiem for a Nun in discussions about race: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The past does not merely haunt or shape the present via the enduring power of deep and impersonal structural forces. Across Europe, and in settler societies like Australia, Brazil and the United States, racism is an increasingly explicit and menacing presence at the centre of political and social life. White revanchism has rallied, often under demagogic leadership, to secure the racial order that emerged from the event of 1492. It has already resulted in Brexit in England, the impeachment of an elected President in Brazil and the election of a figure as grotesque as Trump in the United States.
We will not be able to transcend the epoch that began in 1492 without a politics that can confront and defeat this revanchism. And we will not have transcended this epoch until “things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word” are, as Fanon insists, “restored to their proper places”. But the catastrophe from which we are all derived is not solely a matter of material dispossession and accumulation. As Michael Monahan argues, in conversation with Wynter, “the history of colonialism is also the history of the emergence of the idea of Europe and of Europeans, and . . . it is such ideas and cultural practices that inevitably shape our consciousness, conditioning what counts as normal and, ultimately, as rational”.
We inhabit extraordinary times: times in which we are acutely aware of the intensity of what revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon called “the glare of history’s floodlights.” The velocity and scale at which the revolt against police murder that began in Minnesota after the death of George Floyd on May 25th and moved throughout the US, and then other parts of the world, was astonishing. It was impossible to predict, but then, in retrospect, it is George Floyd’s death becomes a nodal point: calling for action as well as rethinking and self-clarification. Thinking about this moment with the world revolutionary Frantz Fanon, we need to be aware of continuities and discontinuities — or, as he puts it, opacities — between the ages, his and ours. Fanon is always speaking to us, but often in ways we cannot hear. We have to work to listen to him and to understand the new contexts and meanings in relative opacity. It is this constant dialogue that helps illuminate the present and enable ongoing fidelity to Fanon’s call in the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth the necessity to work out new concepts to confront one of Fanon’s greatest concerns, the betrayal of the revolutionary movement. In this pamphlet we consider how Fanon’s idea of liberation is connected with “the rationality of revolt.” The practice of engaging Fanon not only with revolt but with the reason or rationality of revolt connects with Fanon’s idea of how this liberated humanity is a product of a new consciousness of collectivity open to rethink everything.
Dialectics of revolution : Hegel, Marxism, and its critics through a lens of race, class, gender, and colonialism
This book collects four decades of writings on dialectics, a number of them published here for the first time, by Kevin B. Anderson, a well-known scholar-activist in the Marxist-Humanist tradition. The essays cover the dialectics of revolution in a variety of settings, from Hegel and the French Revolution to dialectics today and its poststructuralist and pragmatist critics. In these essays, particular attention is given to Lenin’s encounter with Hegel and its impact on the critique of imperialism, the rejection of crude materialism, and more generally, on world revolutionary developments. Major but neglected works on Hegel and dialectics written under the impact of the struggle against fascism like Lukács’s The Young Hegel and Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution are given full critical treatment. Dunayevskaya’s intersectional revolutionary dialectics is also treated extensively, especially its focus on a dialectics of revolution that avoids class reductionism, placing gender, race, and colonialism at the center alongside class. In addition, key critics of Hegel and dialectics like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Antonio Negri, Pierre Bourdieu, and Richard Rorty, are themselves analysed and critiqued from a twenty-first century dialectical perspective. The book also takes up the dialectic in global, intersectional settings via a reconsideration of the themes of Anderson’s Marx at the Margins, where nationalism, race, and colonialism were theorized alongside capital and class as key elements in Marxist dialectical thought. As a whole, the book offers a discussion of major themes in the dialectics of revolution that still speak to us today at a time of radical transformation in all spheres of society and of everyday life.
It is important to see both Marx’s brilliant generalisations about capitalist society and the very concrete ways in which he examined not only class, but also gender, race, and colonialism, and what today would be called the intersectionality of all of these. His underlying revolutionary humanism was the enemy of all forms of abstraction that denied the variety and multiplicity of human experience, especially as his vision extended outward from Western Europe. For these reasons, no thinker speaks to us today with such force and clarity.
It is clear today that the emancipation of labour from capitalist alienation and exploitation is a task that still confronts us. Marx’s concept of the worker is not limited to European white males, but includes Irish and Black super-exploited and therefore doubly revolutionary workers, as well as women of all races and nations. But, his research and his concept of revolution go further, incorporating a wide range of agrarian non-capitalist societies of his time, from India to Russia and from Algeria to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, often emphasising their gender relations. In his last, still partially unpublished writings, he turns his gaze Eastward and Southward. In these regions outside Western Europe, he finds important revolutionary possibilities among peasants and their ancient communistic social structures, even as these are being undermined by their formal subsumption under the rule of capital. In his last published text, he envisions an alliance between these non-working-class strata and the Western European working class.