Oct
01

Lumumba: May Our People Triumph

LeoPard books has collected the speeches, writings, letters and telegrams of the former Prime Minister of DR Congo, Patrice Lumumba in "May Our People Triumph" (2016). It also collects a set of articles written about him after his murder. The book has some editorial errors and formatting issues, but nonetheless is a useful collection to read the thoughts and ideas of Lumumba hisself (as opposed to other books that have been written about him). Most of the contents published in this book are available here. Some notes:

"Many brilliantly gifted young people turned down the opportunity to receive a higher education for the simple reason that they no longer wished to be indoctrinated by the colonialists, who wanted to turn our young men and women into eternal servants of the colonial regime." (p. 16)

"We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village. Today, with Africa liberating herself, they seek to divide us on the level of states. They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites, and, having begun from that stage of the cold war, deepen the division in order to perpetuate their rule." (p. 29)

"Upon the arrival of two aircraft transporting Canadian military personnel, the security forces wished to check the identity of these passengers. But the latter flatly refused to produce their identification papers and hurled coarse language at the Congolese officials. And even graver was the fact that Swedish troops of the U.N. force prevented the legal authorities from carrying out the check." (p. 94)

"Without dignity there is no freedom, without justice there is no dignity and without independence there are no free men. Cruelty, insults and torture can never force me to ask for mercy, because I prefer to die with head high, with indestructible faith and profound belief in the destiny of our country than to live in humility and renounce the principles which are sacred to me. The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations. It will be the history which will be taught in the countries which have won freedom from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity." (p. 110-111)

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Sep
26

The Green Book - Gaddafi

The former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explained his political philosophy in The Green Book. The Green Book is a short work (the English translation is 92 pages) presented in short chapters on a wide range of topics, organized into three parts. The first part is a critique of Western forms of democracy and a proposal for democracy rooted in people's self governance. The second part is about socialism and the third part about the social relations in society. A copy is available here. Some notes from the book:

"Parliaments are the backbone of that conventional democracy prevailing in the world today. Parliament is a misrepresentation of the people, and parliamentary systems are a false solution to the problem of democracy. A parliament is originally founded to represent the people, but this in itself is undemocratic as democracy means the authority of the people and not an authority acting on their behalf." (p. 10)

"Under such systems, the people are the victims whose votes are vied for by exploitative competing factions who dupe the people into political circuses that are outwardly noisy and frantic, but inwardly powerless and irrelevant." (p. 11)

"The existence of many parties intensifies the struggle for power, and this results in the neglect of any achievements for the people and of any socially beneficial plans. Such actions are presented as a justification to undermine the position of the ruling party so that an opposing party can replace it. The parties very seldom resort to arms in their struggle but, rather, denounce and denigrate the actions of each other. This is a battle which is inevitably waged at the expense of the higher, vital interests of the society." (p. 14)

"...society alone supervises itself. It is dictatorial for any individual or group to claim the right of the supervision of the laws of the society, which is, democratically, the responsibility of the society as a whole. This can be arrived at through the democratic instrument of government that results from the organization of the society itself into Basic Popular Conferences, and through the government of these people through People's Committees..." (p. 29)

"In a socialist society, it should not be in the form of wages from any source or charity from any one. In this society, there are no wage-earners, but only partners. One's income is a private matter and should either be managed privately to meet one's needs or be a share from a production process of which one is an essential component. It should not be a wage in return for production." (p. 44)

"The new socialist society is but a dialectical outcome of the unjust relationships prevailing in the world today. The new socialist society will introduce the natural solution - privately-owned property to satisfy one's needs without exploitation, and collective property in which the producers are partners replacing private enterprise, which is based on the production of others without recognizing their right to a just share of the product." (p. 51)

"The possibility of a socialist revolution starts by producers taking over their share of the production. Consequently, the aims of the producers' strikes will change from demanding increases in wages to controlling their share in production." (p. 53)

"Freedom means that every human being gets proper education which qualifies him or her for the work which suits him or her. Dictatorship means that human beings are taught that which is not suitable for them, and are forced to do unsuitable work." (p. 82)

"Education, or learning, is not necessarily that routinized curriculum and those classified subjects in textbooks which youths are forced to learn during specified hours while sitting in rows of desks. This type of education now prevailing all over the world is directed against human freedom. State-controlled education, which governments boast of whenever they are able to force it on their youths, is a method of suppressing freedom. It is a compulsory obliteration of a human being's talent, as well as a coercive directing of a human being's choices. It is an act of dictatorship destructive of freedom because it deprives people of their free choice, creativity and brilliance. To force a human being to learn according to a set curriculum is a dictatorial act. To impose certain subjects upon people is also a dictatorial act." (p. 85)

"This does not mean that schools are to be closed and that people should turn their backs on education, as it may seem to superficial readers. On the contrary, it means. that society should provide all types of education, giving people the chance to choose freely any subjects they wish to learn. This requires a sufficient number of schools for all types of education." (p. 85-86) 

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Sep
20

Sankara, An African Revolutionary

If you have heard of Thomas Sankara but don't know much about him and his life, Ernest Harsch's "Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary" (2014) is a useful introduction. However, the book is quite brief (152 pages in a small sized book) - it is part of the Short Histories of Africa series. For a more detailed understanding, I would recommend the publication of his speeches and writings (which I will blog about in a future post). What this book does, which his speeches and writings do not, is provide some context, such as his time in Madagascar). Some notes:

"Sankara advanced his political education through more than books and discussions. He was able to personally witness revolutionary change. His last year in Madagascar coincided with an unprecedented period of political upheaval marked by peasant revolts, general strikes, huge public demonstrations against a conservative pro-French regime, and finally a military takeover that steadily brought ever more radical officers into high positions of power." (p. 28)

"There was little difference between colonial rule and "neocolonial society," Sankara said, except that some nationals had taken over as the agents of foreign domination. While the twenty-three years of Upper Volta's independence was "a paradise for the wealthy minority, for the majority - the people - it is a barely tolerable hell."" (p. 54)

"Although the northeast had unexploited manganese deposits, the World Bank and other donor agencies considered extension of the railway to be uneconomical, and therefore declined to fund it. The Sankara government hoped to change their minds by building an additional 100 kilometers of track from Ouagadougou to Kaya through its own financing and labor mobilization." (p. 76)

"At a time when many African leaders behaved like supplicants eager to do anything to attract Western financing, the Burkinabe government insisted that national priorities came first. As the five-year plan put it, Burkina Faso's development strategy had to "base itself on national resources, both human and material, to build the new society."" (p. 91)

"Justin Damo Barro, who was finance minister during Sankara's first year, later revealed that he had tried on four occasions to persuade the president to ask for assistance from the International Monetary Fund, but Sankara declined on the grounds that IMF "conditionality" would spell the end of the revolution, by shifting decisions over basic economic policy away from Burkinabe and toward an external entity." (p. 92)

Regarding seeking partnerships with other governments, Sankara said: "What is essential is to develop a relationship of equals, mutually beneficial, without paternalism on one side or an inferiority complex on the other." (p. 112-113)

"...many African countries originally took the loans, at steep interest rates, on the advice of Western financial experts, who ultimately bore responsibility for the mushrooming of the debt. "Those who led us into debt were gambling, as if they were in a casino. As long as they were winning, there was no problem. Now that they're losing their bets, they demand repayment." Individually, African countries would be too weak to refuse to pay, Sankara pointed out. So he proposed that African leaders stand together and create a "united front" against the debt. The OAU never followed Sankara's advice..." (p. 122)

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Sep
15

An African Renaissance: Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is one of the most important voices on language and decolonization. His works include Decolonizing the Mind (1986) and Theory and Politics of Knowing (2012). This post shares some notes on his 2009 Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance (copy appears available here).

"colonialists did not literally cut off the heads of the colonized or physically bury them alive. Rather, they dismembered the colonized from memory, turning their heads upside down and burying all the memories they carried. Wherever they went, in their voyages of land, sea, and mind, Europeans planted their own memories on whatever they contacted." (p. 7)

"In his attempt to remake the land and its peoples in his image, the conqueror acquires and asserts the right to name the land and its subjects, demanding that the subjugated accept the names and culture of the conqueror. When Japan occupied Korea in 1906, it banned Korean names and required the colonized to take on Japanese ones. But one might ask: What is in a name? It is said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet; however, the truth is that its identity would no longer be expressed in terms of roses but, instead, would assume that of the new name. Names have everything to do with how we identify objects, classify them, and remember them." (p. 9)

"Africans, in the diaspora and on the continent, were soon to be the recipients of this linguistic logic of conquest, with two results: linguicide in the case of the diaspora and linguistic famine, or linguifam, on the continent." (p. 17)

"In the continent as a whole, the postcolonial slumber would not be disturbed by memories of the African holocaust. Slavery and colonialism become events of shame, of guilt. Their memory is shut up in a crypt, a collective psychic tomb, which is what Oduche symbolically does when he shuts the python, a central image of his people's cosmic view, in a box." (p. 61)

"Pan-Africanism has not outlived its mission. Seen as an economic, political, cultural, and psychological re-membering vision, it should continue to guide remembering practices. Economic Pan-Africanism will translate into a network of communications—air, sea, land, telephone, Internet—that ease intracontinental movements of peoples, goods, businesses, and services. Africa becomes a power bloc able to negotiate on an equal basis with all other global economies. But this is impossible without a powerful political union, as championed by Kwame Nkrumah." (p. 88-89)

"In the year 2000, a number of African scholars and writers met in Eritrea and came up with the Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, a ten-point document that begins by calling on African languages to take on the duty, challenge, and responsibility of speaking for the continent. It then lists nine other conditions—including recognition of the vitality, equality, and diversity of African languages as a basis for the future empowerment of African peoples; the necessity of communication among African languages and their development at all levels of the schooling system; promotion of research, science, and technology in African languages; and the necessity of democracy and gender equality in the development of African languages—and it concludes by emphasizing that African languages are essential for the decolonization of African minds as well as for the African renaissance." (p. 93)

"Memory resides in language and is clarified by language. By incorporating the colonial world into the international capitalist order and relations, with itself as the center of such order and relations, the imperialist West also subjected the rest of the world to its memory through a vast naming system. It planted its memory on our landscape. Egoli became Johannesburg. The great East African Lake, known by the Luo people as Namlolwe, became Lake Victoria." (p. 113)

"We have languages, but our keepers of memory feel that they cannot store knowledge, emotions, and intellect in African languages. It is like possessing a granary but, at harvest, storing your produce in somebody else's granary." (p. 114)

"We must produce knowledge in African languages and then use translation as a means of conversation in and among African languages. We must also translate from European and Asian languages into our own, for our languages must not remain isolated from the mainstream of progressive human thought in the languages and cultures of the globe." (p. 124)

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