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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
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
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
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.