Africa + LeftWord's Blog

Submitted by admin on Wed, 11/01/2017 - 16:15
US government pledging $60 million to a southern Saharan military force


Dear Friends,

Following up on the story from the Sahel belt in Africa, where the 'War on Terror' appears to be ready to be ramped up with the US government pledging $60 million to a southern Saharan military force that has its specific aim to attack extremism. As far as my own reporting goes, the story is more complex. It is not clear, as a former US intelligence officer who had done his turn in the Sahel told me, that ISIS killed the four US soldiers. It is as likely that they were killed by smugglers. Nonetheless, rather than tackle the many real challenges that face the Sahel, the US and France are now ready to extend their 'war on terror', which - to any unbiased observer - appears like neocolonialism.

In 1965, Kwame Nkrumah, in his monumental Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, argued that the new Western intervention into Africa was an example of power without responsibility. Countries such as France - with its Colonial Pact with its former colonies - wanted to exercise power without taking any responsibility. The net result, wrote Nkrumah, would be a proliferation of 'limited wars'. We are seeing something very much like this taking place in the Sahel.

At Alternet, I return to the story of the War on Terror in the Sahel, with a report that you can read here. It follows up on last week's report, which you can see here, where I had laid out the map of the Sahel - in particular how the Europeans were trying to move Europe's border from the Mediterranean Sea to the southern end of the Sahara Desert. This has created tension with the smugglers, who - rather than ISIS - might have been those who attacked the US troops. And even these categories are hard to break apart. After all al-Qaida in the Maghreb is not only an extremist group; it remains one of the main cigarette smugglers across the Sahara and in North Africa. Smuggler, Terrorist - all this has to be seen in the framework of the desertification of the Sahel. These are longer term issues, with deeper roots in our world order, than the narrow framework of the War on Terror. Such a narrow view of the conflict will further inflame the region rather than solve its immediate and pressing problems.


Children's Play - Feng Shin


There is a great deal of activity at our LeftWord Books blog. I welcome you to read the three most recent blog posts on offer:

(1) Lisa Armstrong, a contributor to Communist Histories, Volume 1, returns to the blog with a charming story of finding revolutionary block prints from China in the archival collection of the American communist Betty Millard. Millard collected a series of block prints when she went as a delegate to the Asian Women's Conference of 1949, held in Beijing. One of the prints is above. Lisa is writing a book for us on the growth of a Third World revolutionary socialist feminist universe that grew out of peasant struggles from Morocco to Korea. It is going to be a landmark book. This blog post, which you can read here, is a small treat from her broad and deep archival investigation.The last paragraph of the blog post is charming. It gives a sense of the world of her project.

(2) We are now in the thick of the Ten Days that Shook the World from a century ago. At LeftWord, we have published a series of books to commemorate 1917 - including, most recently a volume of writings and speeches by Alexandra Kollontai (edited by Parvathi Menon). At our blog, Suchetana Chattopadhyay, another contributor to Communist Histories, Volume 1, writes about the media coverage of the Russian Revolution available in India in 1917. This is a lovely essay, showcasing Suchetana's wide understanding of the radical movement in Kolkata at that time as well as her work on colonial power and surveillance of the radicals. You can read it here.

(3) Finally, Manikumar, who wrote a sharp book for LeftWord on the politics of caste in Tamil Nadu in the first decade after Indian independence, writes a short blog post about what it was like to investigate caste violence of that period in today's Tamil Nadu. Please read the post here.

Panjipara, Islampur (North Dinajpur District)


Since October 22nd, communist and allied forces - part of the Bengal Platform of Mass Organisations - have marched over thousands of kilometers across West Bengal in support of a charter with 17 demands. These are elementary demands - including such issues as food for the hungry, no to privatisation of public sector firms, minimum guaranteed wages and social security for the workers of the unorganised sector. There has been virtually no press coverage of this march, which will culminate in a large rally in Kolkata on November 3rd. I doubt that the press will cover that either. The picture above is from one of the marches, this one from Panjipara, Islampur (North Dinajpur District).

Meanwhile, I am off to London to join in various celebrations at the Marx Memorial Library and the Trades Union Congress of the Ten Days that Shook the World - the October Revolution of 1917. In the picture below, WEB Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois visit Marx's grave in 1958. They, like us, are in search of the Old Mole. As Marx wrote, 'We recognize our old friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, suddenly to appear: the revolution'. Our old friend, the Old Mole, around the corner then, burrowing upwards, ready to take us from here to there.

Warmly, Vijay.


WEB Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois visit Marx's grave in 1958