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Black Anarchism and the Black Radical Tradition: Moving Beyond Racial Capitalism
I am glad to see that there is a second wave of Black anarchists since 2015, arriving on the scene. I support the rights of all Black anarchists to build their movements, and I defend the rights of Anarkata. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but that is immaterial. This is an excellent book and well written. — Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, activist and author of Anarchism and the Black Revolution and The Progressive Plantation. During his over 50 years as an anarchist, Ervin was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, and Concerned Citizens for Justice. He founded the first Black anarchist federation in North America, Black Autonomy.
This revolutionary book reveals the political power of “stretching” the classical anarchic tradition to critiques of racial capitalism. Bagby-Williams and Suekama deliver an accessible, thought-provoking analysis of two waves of Black American anarchism: that which arose from 20th-century politics of Black liberation and the later reanimation of anarchism triggered by 21st-century killings by American police. The authors layer deep class criticism with insightful case studies not just to retrace a history of Black Anarchism but to make a compelling argument about the diversity of thought that influences the radical tradition. With this book, the historical and continuing contributions of feminist thought, queer activism, and anti-colonial struggle to the movement are made clear. Readers will learn that Black Anarchism has not died due to “progress,” but rather proliferated in light of the American tragedy that is capitalism, imperialism and brutal, carceral control. This book has nuance. Read it now!” — S.M. Rodriguez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Gender, Rights and Human Rights, London School of Economics, and author of The Economies of Queer Inclusion: Transnational Organizing for LGBTI Rights in Uganda. www.smrodriguez.com
A necessary and accessible historical analysis of the often overlooked Black anarchism. Bagby-Williams and Za Suekama demonstrate that any revolutionary movement truly committed to a post-capitalist world must constructively engage with this Black radical tradition. — Toni Harrison, Black Canadian writer, community organizer, and host of the podcast Actually Existing Socialism (https://podbay.fm/p/actually-existing-socialism).
Thank you for sharing the pamphlet. Once we started reading it we could not put it down. It was refreshing to learn about the different texts, approaches and experiences of Black anarchism. What stood out the most for us was the inclusion of feminist and queer perspectives moving away from the ableist heteropatriarchy lens. The authors recognize the importance of pan-Africanism as one source of Black anarchism. They also emphasize the Black anarchist insight that all forms of oppression must be fought, to better address the challenges across all oppressed and Black bodies. In an era where movements are advocating for the abolition or reform of oppressive systems, this text helps reflect and reimagine what new inclusive systems may look like. It also makes an important analysis that highlights the complexity and diversity in Black anarchism, which is essential if we are to confront the white savior complex and complacency in addressing inequities and dismantling racial capitalism. —Tinashe Goronga, medical doctor and public health leader in Zimbabwe; coordinator of EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism affiliated with the international Social Medicine Consortium; and Mandela Washington Fellow for 2022; and Yeukai Chikwenhere, pharmacist and global health researcher in Zimbabwe, co-founder for the Centre for Health Equity, and community organizer for EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism.
This geography of Black anarchism succeeds in outlining its tendencies, champions, and contradictions. It reminds us that the children of Maroons don’t need no lessons in liberation. That we’ve always used things that confine to redefine. We beat plowshares into swords. And then we rob gun stores, cause who uses swords anymore? —Ben Passmore, comics artist, political cartoonist, creator of the Daygloayhole Series, and author of My Black Friend, which in 2017 won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic.
This work Is an important achievement in clarifying the history and current importance of Black anarchism. The information that the book presents will be new to many readers. For instance, one important component involves the explanations of how hierarchical principles within the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army helped generate the emergence of Black anarchism among key party members who later developed their ideas and strategies while in prison. Likewise, the book breaks new ground in demonstrating that Black anarchism has emerged not from the European/ North American anarchist traditions but rather from roots in Pan-Africanism, the Black radical tradition focusing on racial capitalism and the work of Cedric Robinson, and grassroots struggles partly in the U.S. South. An in-depth analysis of the somewhat different but complementary focuses within the two generations of Black anarchism also is very helpful. Finally, the book highlights concrete, contemporary implications for revolutionary strategy, including a perceptive analysis of the compatibilities between socialist and Black anarchist approaches to current transformative struggles. This publication will become widely known and used, because it brings enlightening new ways to understand and to act on the intertwined structures of racial capitalism and the capitalist state.
MATHARE: An Urban Bastion of Anti-Oppression Struggle in Kenya.
History is written by the victors of any war. But what happens when the victors forget to write down their history or omit the cog of the struggle? This is the untold story of Mathare Slum that has never been told to the world: of the role it played in anti-colonial struggle and the planning ground for the Mau Mau struggle which culminated with the fall of the British Colonial Empire in Kenya in the midnight of December 12th 1963. Mathare has also played a critical role in anti-oppression struggle against the four regimes that we’ve had since independence and continues to do so up to date. This history has not been documented and has only been done piecemeal. This has overtime eroded the rich history of Mathare and led to a distorted history of once a planning ground and a bulwark of Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KFLA). The current generation are not cognizant with the critical role Mathare played in the independence of our country.
Presently, Mathare is majorly known for all the negative reasons and its proximity to Mathari Mental Hospital has contorted its image to the outside world. My story tries to re-tell the history of Mathare from an informed insider perspective by threading the struggles from the colonial era to the present day and the role it has played in agitating for social justice.
My story brings to view the past history of this informal settlement in the heart of Nairobi, the present struggle and the promising future through community organizing.
International Brigade Against Apartheid: Secrets of the People’s War That Liberated South Africa
Edited by Ronnie Kasrils with Muff Andersson and Oscar Marleyn.
First published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2021, ISBN: 978-1-4314-3202-8, this Daraja Press edition is available in North America and East Africa
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the global anti-apartheid movement until I read this extraordinary collection of essays. This book blew my mind!
—Robin D.G. Kelly
We hear for the first time from the international activists who worked secretly for the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe(MK), in the struggle to liberate South Africa from apartheid rule. They acted as couriers, provided safe houses in neighbouring states and within South Africa, helped infiltrate combatants across borders, and smuggled tonnes of weapons into the country in the most creative ways. Driven by a spirit of international solidarity, they were prepared to take huge risks and face great danger.
JACKSON EN REVUELTA
[Spanish edition of Jackson Rising]
Mississipi; el estado más pobre de los EEUU, el que tiene el porcen- taje más alto de población Negra y con una historia dramática de terror racial y de resistencia Negra. Este es el contexto de la resistencia presentada en este recopilatorio de escritos.
Sin desanimarse por la incertidumbre, el miedo y la an- siedad causadas por el constante deterioro del orden ne- oliberal, la respuesta de las activistas Negras de Jackson ha sido organizarse. Inspiradas por la rica historia de lucha y resistencia en Mississipi y comprometidas con la Estra- tegia Jackson-Kush, construyen instituciones arreladas en el poder comunitario, que combinan política y desarrollo económico y que satisfacen necesidades reales de la gente para crear un model social alternativo.
Las experiencias y análisis recogidas reflejan el poder creativo que se genera cuando la lucha política se basa en una visión del mundo liberada de las contradicciones y li- mitaciones inherentes al liberalismo. Esta es, en definitiva, una historia sobre un porceso decolonial y socialista, orga- nizado y dirigido por personas Negras.
El Significado Revolucionario de la Revuelta de George Floyd
Si quieres poner la rebelión de George Floyd en su contexto político e histórico adecuado, esta es una de las obras con las que debes empezar. El Significado Revolucionario de la Revuelta de George Floyd plantea el caso incuestionable de que lo que presenciamos no fue solo una serie de eventos con el objetivo de reformar el imperio, como los medios burgueses quieren hacernos creer, sino un movimiento que en su corazón tenía y tiene como objetivo la erradicación del imperio y la construcción de un futuro nuevo e incierto. Este trabajo explica por qué y, además, aborda cómo puedes participar más profundamente.
– Kali Akuno, cofundador de Cooperation Jackson
Hablando sobre la descolonización, Fanon dice que cuando tratamos de cambiar el orden del mundo, esto es “claramente una agenda para el desorden total.” Con esto quiere decir que es una demanda absoluta, que no puede ser mediada por modificaciones de política. Esta demanda absoluta regresa en las llamas del Tercer Recinto en Minneapolis, en el verano de 2020. Nadie se ha acercado más que Shemon y Arturo en capturar esta lucha, en nombrar el carácter extraordinario y contradictorio de la Revuelta de George Floyd—cómo escapa la misma historia que la produce, única e inevitable, una verdadera insurgencia, progenitora de un centenar de formaciones contrainsurgentes. Estos comunicados de la rebelión ofrecen claridad sobre las desesperadas y extraordinarias victorias de la lucha y las formas que tomará el enemigo. Este texto es portador de las posibilidades, propuestas y problemas del verano; No puedo imaginar un mejor destino para la escritura.
– Joshua Clover, autor de Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings
No hubo nada más que oscuridad en la primavera de 2020 cuando la pandemia de Covid-19 se enfureció y cerró la economía. Pero mientras que los manifestantes de derecha exigieron el fin del cierre de emergencia, un conflicto mucho más grande se estaba gestando bajo la superficie. Una rebelión exploto en Minneapolis en respuesta al asesinato policial de George Floyd, y durante la rebelion una estación de policía fue tomada y prendido fuego. Después de esto la revuelta se extendió rápidamente por todo los Estados Unidos. Los manifestantes saquearon los centros urbanos, lucharon contra la policía, quemaron coches de policía y destruyeron edificios de gobierno. El proletario negro lideró la carga, pero los proletarios blancos, latinos, asiáticos e indígenas también se unieron a la lucha, demostrando nuevas posibilidades para construir alianzas en esta sociedad segregada. Si bien las rebeliones contra la policía continuaron durante el verano y el otoño, el levantamiento retrocedió con el comienzo del invierno. Pero este conflicto está lejos de terminar.
Preparándonos para las grandes luchas que vienen, El Significado Revolucionario de la Revuelta de George Floyd proporciona un análisis de lo que sucedió durante los disturbios de 2020 en los Estados Unidos, sus potenciales, límites internos, e implicaciones estratégicas.
Esta es una traducción al español de The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising
Life Histories from the Revolution: Three militants from the Kenya Land and Freedom Army tell their stories
In the early 1970s, Donald Barnett — who worked with Karari Njama to produce Mau Mau From Within (published by Daraja Press) — also worked with three militants of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army to enable them to tell the story of their experience in fighting for freedom and against British colonialism.
These rarely acknowledged militants were Karigo Muchai, Ngugi Kabiru and Mohamed Mathu. Their stories were published in 1973 by LSM Information Center (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) as part of a series entitled Life Histories of the Revolution, as The Hardcore: The Story of Karigo Muchai; The Man in the Middle by Ngugi Kabiro; and The Urban Guerrilla by Mohamed Mathu.
As part of its mission of Nurturing reflection, sheltering hope and inspiring audacity, Daraja Press is pleased to republish the three booklets as a single volume that will help a new generation of activists — Kenyan and international — reflect on a history that might inspire audacious struggles to continue the struggle for freedom that was the goal of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army.
Donald Barnett wrote the foreword to each of the booklets as follows:
One of our objectives in launching this series of LIFE HISTORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION is to provide a medium through which individual members of these classes-in-motion within the revolution can speak. We also believe it important that they be heard by those of us who comprise imperialism’s privileged and literate metropolitan minority. Their recounted lives throw our own into sharp relief, while at the same time they offer us fresh perspectives on the processes of repression and revolution from a unique vantage point: from below. Their life stories provide us with a window into the qualitative—as distinct from the merely statistical and quantitative—aspects of class conflict, thus enabling us to better understand and weigh the various factors at work in transforming oppressed masses into revolutionary classes. Again, their remembered life experiences can provide us with significant insights into the dialectical relationships between material and subjective conditions which shape the revolutionary situation, embrace the revolutionary transformation of individuals and classes alike, and move humanity forward toward a new international social formation.
Not all of the individuals whose life histories are included in this series are illiterate peasants or workers. Some are educated defectors from petty bourgeois classes who have joined the revolution and identified their interests with those of the oppressed masses in a very concrete way. They constitute a very important part of the revolutionary vanguard—i.e., the middle cadres who articulate the relationship between leadership and base, who carry forward the military and civilian programs in day-to-day contact with the armed militants and popular masses. The selfless dedication, integrity, comportment and skill of the middle cadres is an essential ingredient within any successful revolutionary process.
The life histories in this series have been recorded and prepared as historical documents from the revolutionary struggles of our time. The techniques and methods employed at each stage of the process, from initial contact to final editing, have therefore been chosen or fashioned with the purpose of guaranteeing the authenticity and integrity of the life history concerned. These stories, then, to the best of our ability to make them so, constitute a body of data and testimony as revealed by a few of those history-makers normally condemned to silence while others speak on their behalf.
We would like to express our thanks to Ole Gjersta, Steve Goldfield and others involved in the LSM Information Centre for making these booklets available.
The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising
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.
Lenin150 (Samizdat): 2nd expanded edition
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.
어떻게 자본주의를 넘어설 것인가라는 질문에 대한 답을, 지금 우리가 “감히” 찾아보려고 한다. 이 소책자를 통해, 자본주의를 벗어나 생태사회주의로 향하는 길을 찾는 우리의 노력이 뚜렷해지길 바란다.
자본주의에 갇힌 우리는, 어떤 형태로든 행동 또는 비행동inaction에 관여하고 있다. 행동은, 자본주의를 직접 마주하기 보다는 자본주의가 초래하는 심각한 여러 문제를 개선하기 위한 투쟁에 참여하는 모습을 띈다. 즉, 우리의 행동은 원인이 아니라 결과에 초점을 맞추는 모순을 보인다.
반면, 비행동은 동의를 의미하게 된다. 우리는 자본주의 경제 체계를 영속시키는 경제 활동에 문제 제기를 하거나 변화를 요구하는 행동을 하지 않음으로써 자본주의에 [암묵적으로] 동의하고 있다. 결과적으로 평범한 우리가 자본주의에 봉사하는 자본가 역할을 계속하고 있는 것이다.
왜 자본주의 억압의 대상인 우리가 억압에 동의하는가? 그 이유가 단지 [외부의] 탄압 때문만은 아니라고, 이탈리아 파시즘 하의 감옥에서 그람시Antonio Gramci는 말했다. 즉, “헤게모니”를 장악하는 이념이 우리의 삶을 둘러싼 억압적인 환경을 설명하고 정당화하는 것이다.
“소소한 혁명”은, 개개인의 삶 속에서, 쉽고 안전하게, 엄청 근사하지는 않지만 일상적이고 실천가능한 행동과 비행동을 얘기한다. 지금까지의 혁명사는, 혁명을 가능하게 했던 전체 민중보다는 소수의 혁명가에 주목했었지만, 자본주의에 맞서는 “우리는” 마르크스나 엥겔스가 떠올렸던 주인공들보다 훨씬 다양하고 규모가 커졌다. 자본주의를 수호하기 위해 싸우는 “그들은” 전 세계 인구의 극소수일 뿐이다.
자본주의의 어떤 특징이 억압적이고 그래서 제거되어야 하는지, 또 반대로 어떤 사회경제구조의 특징이 억압적이지 않으며 그래서 남겨져야 하는지를 뚜렷이 설명하는 전략이 필요하다. 자본주의 이후 사회가 어떤 모습이어야 할지는 점점 명확해지고 있다. 소소한 혁명은, 자본주의의 영속과 발전에 필수적인 과정에 대한 우리의 동의를 거두는 데에서 시작하여, 수 백 만의 우리가, 여전히 적은 소수이긴 하지만, 건설적인 혹은 파괴적인 노력에 창의적으로 참여할 수 있는 방법 또한 포함한다.
세상은 자본주의 그 이후로 이미 진행 중이다. 세계 곳곳에서 창의적인 모습의 공동체communal organization들이 생겨나 스스로 통치하고 구성원들의 생존과 안녕을 보장하기 위해 활동하고 있다. 복지 국가를 포함한 자본주의 국가를 넘어서는 것은 국가 자체를 넘어서는 결과로 이어진다. 연대 경제solidarity economy는 먼저, 소규모의 협동조합 성격을 띄는, 저렴하고 유쾌하고 편안한 주거 공간을 구성하는 방법을 모색하여, 착취적인 임대료, 빚, 세금, 보험에 대한 공동의 해결책을 제시한다. 또한 이러한 공동체는, 영양이 풍부한 먹거리를 지역에서 생산하여 유통하는 방법으로, 자본주의식 농업으로부터 독립을 꾀할 수 있다.
창조적 파괴는, 허가를 받아 하는 대규모의 시위가 아니라 자본주의가 순조롭게 기능할 수 없게 멈추거나 둔화시키는 직접 행동으로 가능하게 된다. 우리가 투자나 세금으로 흘러가게 내버려 두는 돈의 흐름을 비자본주의적인 연대경제에 돌리는 것도 창조적 파괴의 한 방법이다.
소소한 혁명은, 간단하고 안전하며, 자신의 삶을 조금이라도 바꾸고 싶은 의지가 있는 사람이라면 실천가능하다. 자본주의가 우리의 안녕과 행복을 파괴하는 체계라는 것을 알면서도, 부지불식간에 자본주의를 지지하고 동의하는 행동을 멈추는 즐거움을 누릴 수 있다. 놀랍게도 혁명을 위해 다치거나 죽지 않아도 되고, 심지어 큰 불편을 감수하지 않아도 된다. 우리가 해야 할 일은 단 하나. 어차피 하기 싫었던 여러 일들을 이제 정말 그만두는 것이다.
Revolución Rinky-Dink: Yendo Más Allá del Capitalismo Negando Consentimiento, y Promoviendo Construcciones Creativas y Destrucciones Creativas
Este panfleto aborda la pregunta: ¿cómo podemos pasar de A a B, del capitalismo al poscapitalismo? La revolución de Rinky-dink involucra acciones e inacciones que son fáciles, seguras, mundanas, sin glamour y factibles dentro de la vida de cada persona.
Howard Waitzkin presenta una intervención clara y directa para el cambio revolucionario en el sistema económico capitalista global. Cubre mucho terreno, con sofisticación, mientras mantiene la discusión en tierra. Su enfoque en las formas de facilitar un desafío al capital y construir una mayor transformación revolucionaria es crucial en esta coyuntura histórica. Esta discusión sobre construcciones creativas y destrucciones creativas es particularmente útil.
— Brett Clark, profesor de sociología de la Universidad de Utah y autor De El Robo De La Naturaleza: Capitalismo Y Grieta Ecológica, The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and Ecological Rift en inglés.
El fin del capitalismo es posible. Waitzkin nos lleva un paso más allá en el proceso creativo para esta transformación. A través de ejemplos específicos de grupos organizados dentro de los Estados Unidos y en el extranjero, este trabajo constituye una guía práctica para todos. Waitzkin alienta nuestra creatividad para actos organizados y seguros además de omisiones para trascender el capitalismo.
— Nylca J. Munoz Sosa, abogada, líder de salud pública y activista centrada en la justicia sanitaria y la descolonización en Puerto Rico.
Mau Mau From Within: The Story of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army
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.
What is to be Thought? The Dialectics of Emancipation and Africa: political theory and political practice
Beginning from the understanding that it is imperative today to develop new concepts for the thinking of an emancipatory politics on the African continent (Fanon), this book proposes to focus on dialectical thought as the core subjective feature of all emancipatory political experiments on the African continent in particular. It traces a dialectical thinking to its origins in Ancient Egypt that arguably influenced Plato, and notes its opposition to the idea of representation in state politics during various historical sequences right up to the present. Starting from the fundamental conception that all people are capable of universal thought, and that an idea of universal humanity is central to popular thought during experiences of collective emancipatory struggle, the argument traces and analyses a number of emancipatory historical political sequences and their attendant contemporary narratives. Currently it is proposed to include
1) the Ancient World: Ancient Egypt (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant – 4000 BCE) and Plato (as read by Alain Badiou);
2) Pre-colonial Africa and resistance to slavery: the Donsolu Kalikan (in the Manden/Mali, 1222), the Antonian Movement (in Kongo, 1684-1706) and its continuation in the Lemba Movement, and the Haitian Revolution (undertaken by slaves from Africa),
3) The National Liberation Struggles of the 1960s as thought by Fanon and Cabral, and
4) The mass popular struggles in South Africa during the 1980s.
The core of the political dialectic in each case differs and creates, during a limited sequence, what can be called a subjective political singularity that always combines dialectically a particular thought of resistance emanating from its specific social location with one of universal humanity during what is a process exceptional to hegemonic social relations.
It is further argued that whereas the political dialectic is not a given feature of African cultures as such, the latency of universalistic conceptions of humanity is identifiable within many African cultures. This means that rather than having to be invented ex nihilo, conceptions of the human universal in Africa have the potential to be (re-)activated in practice. Ato Sekyi-Otu and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba are discussed as major contemporary African dialectical thinkers.
Coming to the present period, the book elaborates a theory of neo-colonial state politics through unpacking the core idea of representation and the absence of popular sovereignty. It is argued that the neo-colonial character of the state must be understood beyond binaries but rather, following Gramsci, as structured by objective dialectical relations characterising fundamentally distinct modes of rule. This objective dialectic is assessed, in addition to Gramsci, through a discussion of a number of well-known contemporary thinkers of the dialectic (Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Carchedi, Anderson, etc).
These modes of rule enable the neo-colonial state to reproduce itself and social relations in conjunction with popular responses to such rule. Differing modes of state rule are identified and the formation of distinct domains of politics corresponding to them and founded on different forms of representation are elucidated. These domains amount to three types:
1) civil society (where the state rules through a relation of citizenship and the right to rights),
2) uncivil society (where the right to rights is inexistent and thus state violence is dominant), and
3) traditional society (where the state rules through custom and tradition itself the object of struggle).Using various cases from Africa, contradictions and struggles within each of these domains are analysed and the potential to draw on latent cultural conceptions of universality (when in existence) is discussed.In this manner both the dialectic of emancipation and the character of state power are thought conjointly and dialectical thinking is opposed to the idea of representation in politics as well as in social science. The concepts and categories used are explained in a simple manner understandable by all.
Finally and as a kind of concluding argument, it is proposed to rethink the idea of representation through a critical engagement with the political practices of what could be called the “heroic figures of liberation”. This will be undertaken via an assessment of the politics of Toussaint Louverture and Nelson Mandela in particular regarding the “colonial question” as identified by Aimé Césaire.