So, I went to Wakanda

Submitted by admin on Fri, 02/23/2018 - 20:01
Wakanda - Black Panther


Dear Friends,

So I went to Wakanda. At first glance, it was an impressive place even though I am allergic to monarchies, all monarchies. It was wondrous to find a country that had ducked under colonialism (don't scare me like that colonizer), that was able to develop according to its own laws, using its own resources for its social welfare. I was happy to find that the resources of Wakanda were being used to make medicines and to create public transport. The country's resources were not stripped to go to the colonizer, for the colonizer's benefit. I was happy to see an African country joyous in its history and its traditions, comfortable with itself (and able to laugh when it woffed the white man into silence).

It became clear that if this African country was not vigilant about the introduction of American ideology - imperialist ideology - it would be sunk under the weight of colonialism despite its own history. So that Wakanda becomes a country whose logic is identical to that of Western imperialism (fears of weapons proliferation to others) and whose power is rooted in control of superiority of arms. It is no surprise then to see the monarchy of Wakanda collaborate with the CIA - the spear of imperialism in our times.

What is liberation to Wakanda, what is freedom? The real liberated countries - such as Zambia and Mozambique in the post-colonial era, opened their borders to front line fighters from Angola and South Africa. That's what freedom looked like. The debate of the film suffocated me: whether to use weapons for Black power or to hide the weapons away. And then, in the end to share knowledge under the smirk of the CIA agent - capitalism's coming, baby, so get ready for the IMF zooming in next with structural adjustment......

Why wasn't this liberated country providing a pathway for liberation of all peoples without starting a world war? Where was the example of Cuba - so important to national liberation as an idea? Couldn't Wakanda have been a Cuba in the African continent?

I went to Wakanda. I was happy to be there. But I wanted so much more. I wanted Walter Rodney to sit beside me during the show, lean over and say, 'For the only great men among the unfree and the oppressed are those who struggle to destroy the oppressor'.


Yagoub Ahmed Mustafa of the National Umma Party (NUP) struck by a tear gas canister
Photo SNS


Meanwhile, in 21st century Africa, in Sudan - one of the continent's largest countries - political turmoil continues. The loss of oil revenue with the partition of Sudan has left South Sudan - with the oil - in civil war and Sudan - without the bulk of the oil - in economic dire straits. Omar Bashir's government has taken its cues from the IMF, cutting subsidies and pushing further austerity. Protests broke out a month ago, with the government responding with harsh force. The picture above is of Yagoub Ahmed Mustafa, a member of the political bureau of the National Umma Party (NUP) being struck by a tear gas canister, his jalabiyya on fire. Leadership in the protests has come from a variety of political sources, including the revitalized Sudanese Communist Party - whose leaders remain in prison. I wrote a brief report on the protests for Alternet, which you can read here.

Further south, in South Africa, there is now a changed guard from the leadership of President Jacob Zuma to President Cyril Ramaphosa. I have shared with you already the consequences of this change of the guard. When in South Africa, I sat down with Ronnie Kasrils, revolutionary veteran and Minister of Intelligence in the government of President Thabo Mbeki. Ronnie led me through the problems facing contemporary South Africa. At The Hindu, in the Despatches section, I wrote a short note on my conversation with Ronnie but also on a visit to Yeoville with my friends Sanza (who runs the Yeoville Dinner Club), the poet Shailja Patel and the Congolese writer Tania Mukwamu. You can read it here.


Rajasthan - All India Kisan Sabha


Meanwhile, in Rajasthan (India), farmers organized by the All-India Kisan Sabha (a mass organisation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist) have been in the midst of a renewed agitation to get their demands met. Their historic struggle last year saw the right-wing government of Rajasthan capitulate to their demands. The government has now reneged on its promise. The farmers are back. Some of their leaders have been arrested. Others are on the streets. Newsclick has done a very short film (in Hindi) and a report (in English) on the struggle. The picture above is from the current struggle. The farmers are motivated to be out there for as long as it takes to win their demands.

Repression is the order of the day in all our societies ruled by the regimes of strong men of one kind or another. Matters are grave in Turkey. Journalists and academics who have merely whiffed at the government are being arrested. The most recent life imprisonment of an intellectual came because the government said that he gave off subliminal signals towards a coup. I wrote a brief report for The Hindu - aided by close Turkish friends - on this, which you can read here.




Repression is the first weapon of our states these days. Real problems - of joblessness, of hopelessness - seem to be set aside. Reading a new report from the International Labour Organisation suggests the grave problems before us. Political forces that are in government seem unwilling to address these in a humane manner. They turn from the detritus of globalisation to their wars on terror.

I visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art recently to have a look at some of their exhibitions. Two caught my eye. The artist Liz Glynn reflects on globalisation (see her work in the large gallery at MASS MOCA above). The artist Jenny Holzer, meanwhile, goes into the heart of the war on terror. These are twin exhibitions. I reflect on them for my Radical Journeys column at Newsclick, which you can read here.

Warmly, Vijay.