27 June 2011

The First International

Course on Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 1b

Revolution in Paris, France: February 1848

The First International

The Communist Manifesto is a deliberately internationalist document. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were deployed to write it by the international Communist League, of which they were members. The League was strongly based among continental workers in London, where the first edition was printed (in German) while Marx was running a part of it in Brussels, Belgium. Engels was in Germany, and Communist League members were in action in many other countries including France.

The Manifesto’s publication coincided almost exactly with the outbreak of revolution in France, in February of 1848, which quickly spread to other countries. The final Chapter IV of the Manifesto says among other things that: “… the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things,” and it finishes with the famous slogan “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”

The Communist Manifesto is one of the first two books of Marxism to come into the public realm. Both were written and published in 1847/early 1848 (the other book is “The Poverty of Philosophy”).

Marxism was internationalist from the start and it has never ceased to be so.

Most of the revolutions of 1848 were aimed at overthrowing feudal monarchies, or in other words turning kingdoms into republics, if necessary by supporting the bourgeoisie in the anti-monarchy revolution. The content of Marxist internationalism to this day includes relentless opposition to monarchy.

Marx’s 1864 Address to the International Working Men’s Association (The First International) was the consequence of his being invited and elected to the leadership of that organisation formed in London in a hall next to where the South African High Commission now stands. Please download and read the Address in the downloadable document linked below. Marx had been in exile in London since 26 August 1849 after being banished in quick succession from Belgium, Germany and France. In 1864, Marx’s reputation was that of being the foremost internationalist of his time.

The First International survived until the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871. The Second International was established at a gathering in Chur, Switzerland ten years later in 1881, two years before Marx’s death in 1883 and fourteen years before Engels’ death in 1895. The Second International fostered Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg among many others. Its collapse in 1914 marked the great division between the opportunists (such as the “renegade” Kautsky) who in the face of imperialist war folded their internationalism and became cowardly national chauvinists, and on the other hand the true internationalists like Luxemburg and Lenin who opposed the imperialist war. These latter ones, the true internationalists, were also the communists, who established the communist parties of today.

The Third International, also called the Communist International (or Comintern) was launched in Soviet Russia less than two years after the October Revolution, in 1919, and in 1921 it admitted the Communist Party of South Africa into membership, thus founding the party that is today known as the South African Communist Party, the SACP.

The history of the communists is an unbroken line of internationalism of which the SACP is an indissoluble part. The SACP is still internationalist and it continues to promote the same relentless anti-monarchical, anti-feudal, anti-colonial, anti-neo-colonial, anti-imperialist cause as before and will do so until the day of continental permanent proletarian revolution dawns in Africa.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

25 June 2011

1850 Address to the Communist League

Course on Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Week 1a

1848 in Berlin

1850 Address to the Communist League

When history is on the move the changes run all over the place. The job of the communists is invariably to urge history on, and to push all the players, including the bourgeoisie, to play their parts to the utmost extent.

The phrase "permanent revolution" belongs first to Marx and not to Trotsky. It comes from the March, 1850 Address given by Karl Marx to the Central Committee of the Communist League, of which "permanent revolution" are the last two words. See below for a link to a downloadable file of this great document.

"Permanent revolution" only means a qualitative change that will be defended.

It does not mean that the revolution is irreversible.

Nor does it mean that the revolution has to be repeated constantly like the punishment of Sisyphus.

The March, 1850 Address to the Communist League is an internationalist document. At the time, the newly formed communist organisations were active all over Europe, in a time when monarchies were falling and feudalism was on the way out in many countries.

Read the document with care and attention!

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

24 June 2011

On War

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 1

On War

Michael Howard, translator of Clausewitz’ work and author of “Clausewitz”, opens his Introduction with a quote from one Bernard Brodie, about Clausewitz: “His is not simply the greatest, but the only great book about war;” and Howard records his own agreement with this assessment.

If you can get it, Howard’s book helps readers a lot to understand Clausewitz’ “On War” (Chapter 1, the summarising chapter, is linked below) but in one respect Howard appears to be mistaken. After describing Clausewitz’ “dialectic” (e.g. the relationship between physical and moral forces; between historical knowledge and critical judgement; between idea and manifestation; between “absolute” and “real” war; between attack and defence; and between ends and means) Howard writes: “The dialectic was not Hegelian: it led to no synthesis which itself conjured up its antithesis. Rather it was a continuous interaction between two poles, each fully comprehensible only in terms of the other.”

But it would seem to be perfectly Hegelian to conceive of such a unity and struggle of opposites; and as to whether Clausewitz’s dialectic lacked a forward dynamic, or not, is something that can be settled at once by reading only a few pages. Whereupon it will be found that Clausewitz is surely one of the most dynamic authors ever.

Clausewitz was ten years younger than Hegel, but died only two days after Hegel on 16 November 1831. They were both victims of the same cholera epidemic.

Since Hegel’s was the official philosophy of Prussia, and Clausewitz was in charge of the Prussian War College in Berlin for twelve years, while Hegel was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Berlin, it is impossible to believe that Clausewitz was not familiar with Hegel’s ideas.

These were the same Hegelian ideas that seized the imagination of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (both of whom spent time in Berlin during the late 1830s to early 1840s) and upon which their thinking relied for the rest of their lives. Clausewitz and Marxism are not far apart, neither in their pedigree, nor in the philosophical structure of their thinking.

Much is made, in the commentaries on Antonio Gramsci’s 20th-century writings, of the contrast between wars of manoeuvre and of position. But the military breakthrough of Clausewitz’s lifetime was the French revolutionary campaign against its neighbours, including Prussia, which had rendered obsolete, already in the 1790s, the ancient military alternatives of march and siege which were the limits of Gramsci's military perception, still, in the 1930s. Although a servant of the Prussian crown, what Clausewitz described was warfare in the age of mass democracy. As one who fought against Napoleon, Clausewitz had understood Napoleon’s warfare as well as, or better than, anyone else.

Clausewitz defined strategy and tactics as “the linking together of separate battle engagements into a single whole, for the final object of the war.” To define strategy in this way, as end, and tactics as means, was a profound contribution for which we in South Africa owe a debt to Clausewitz.

Equally as profound is the complex of thinking around Clausewitz’ well-known understanding of war as an extension of politics, by other means.

Not only does this mean that war is always and everywhere subordinate to politics; but it also means that war (the breakdown of negotiation and the resort to force) must, and can only, return the parties to the negotiating table. War is an interlude of brutality between negotiations. This was Clausewitz’s most famous insight.

To sum up: The world of 1848, when the Communist Manifesto was first published, was already charged up with historical potential by great preceding events, first and foremost among them the Great French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that followed it; and also by great thinkers and writers, foremost among them GWF Hegel and Carl von Clausewitz, whose insights will assist us to understand the place of violence in the history of revolution.

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

22 June 2011

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 0

Short General Introduction

To Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace

We are about to begin a new course on the CU-Africa channel: Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace. A previous edition of this course can be accessed here.

The series begins with Chapter 1 of Clausewitz’ “On War”, described by one critic, Bernard Brodie, as “Not simply the greatest, but the only great book on war”. Clausewitz shows the dialectical (or in Clausewitz’ term “reciprocal”) nature of any study of war. It also shows that war can only be an interval between negotiations. It the pursuit of politics by other means - means which cannot be conclusive.

We are for peace but we have to be prepared for war. We are not pacifists, though we have no interest in bloodshed. We seek the ascendancy of the working proletariat. We know that the bourgeois power is everywhere defended with brutal force.

The ANC democratic breakthrough owes its existence to successful armed struggle, in turn a part of a historic worldwide struggle against Imperialism. Yet the South African armed struggle is barely acknowledged. Instead, bourgeois virtues are daily paraded in front of us by bourgeois “role models”. The South African police shoot demonstrators, while bourgeois pacifism is pushed as a compulsory ideology for the rest of us.

Internationally in the 21st Century, Imperialism has embarked upon a series of wars, including wars in Africa, which have the character of “underdeveloping” once again and subordinating, or recolonising, African countries.

Therefore it is necessary to have a frank look at the question of the military. The political democracy must know enough about war to be able to oversee and to command the military. The military must always be subordinate to the political. This is the most important thing to know.

21 June 2011

Walter Rodney

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10c

Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney was a revolutionary intellectual born in Guyana who is also eternally associated with the Dar-es-Salaam University school of African Revolutionary Writers, of which we have already featured two others in this series, namely Issa Shivji and Mahmood Mamdani.

Rodney was assassinated in his birthplace of Georgetown, Guyana, on 13 June 1980, while running for office in Guyanese elections. There is another biography of Walter Rodney here.

This downloadable text linked below is a much longer one than usual in this Communist University African Revolutionary Writers Series. It is the last item in the last part. It is the 44-page Chapter Six of Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.

The entire book can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here (1069 KB).

More writings of Walter Rodney are available in the MIA Walter Rodney Archive .

In particular, the following five articles are recommended:

“How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” made a huge impact when it was first published. It still continues to have legendary status among the African Revolutionary writings, and rightly so.

Rodney marshals the facts and the literature and he makes the arguments. He takes on Imperialist theories of “underdevelopment” head-on, and he overturns them.

Bourgeois theorists and academics, to the surprise of the naïve among us, proceeded to ignore Rodney after his death, and to revert to even more reactionary theories than before in their universities. Hence the importance of maintaining the currency of this literature, and keeping the dialogue around it fresh, in a virtual University, or Republic of Letters.

The late Walter Rodney was himself a scholar of the literature that we have attempted to revisit, and sample, in this CU African Revolutionary Writers Series. This is apparent from the essays that are in the Walter Rodney Archive, linked above. Rodney is a very good example for us. Not only did he have his own ideas, but he also knew where they fitted in relation to past writers, and to contemporary writers.

Rodney gives his reflections on the historic place of many of our chosen African Revolutionary Writers, including Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, as you will see if you read these essays.

Therefore all these works of Walter Rodney’s can serve well to conclude our series, as a critical summing up by an eminent scholar as well as by a leader and revolutionary martyr.

Viva, Walter Rodney, Viva!

Viva all the African Revolutionary Writers, Viva!

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

The End

20 June 2011

Thomas Sankara

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10b

Thomas Sankara

As we said with Huey Newton, the reading of the original words of political leaders is apt to result in a re-evaluation of the received opinions about intermediate writers. In the case of Thomas Sankara, the revision is downwards.

Sankara is the legendary President of Burkina Faso, immortalised in the book “Thomas Sankara Speaks”, of which the downloadable document below is an extract.

The only document mentioned by Sankara in this speech, made shortly before his death in a coup organised by his comrade Blaise Compaore, is his own Political Orientation Speech of 2 October 1983 allegedly (according to Wikipedia) written by another comrade, Valère Somé.

Compaore is still President of Burkina Faso in 2011. Valère Somé survives as an oppositionist.

The Political Orientation Speech was given soon after the coup d’état of 1983 that brought Sankara and Compaore to power. It was a kind of ad hoc statement of good intentions.

Otherwise the speech of 4 August 1987 is all generalisation. No other political figures are quoted, no events, no specific projects. It is not like the speech of a president. It is all exhortation, and every assertion is hedged with a counter-assertion.

At times Sankara indicates that he is about to go into details, but then he does not do so. At times he says we must learn from other revolutions, but mentions none. Other African countries are not mentioned other than in the salutations at the beginning and the end.

We have all heard such empty speeches. They are called “clap-trap”.

The organizations mentioned are all top-down.

The peasants are insulted from the start.

There is paranoia in this speech. When you read this speech, you cannot be surprised that Sankara was couped and murdered on 15 October 1987, less than three months later.

There is no actual politics. It all reduces to appeals to strive for happiness and dignity. The mass agency of which Sankara is proud to boast is overwhelmed by the “persuasion” that the proposed vanguard is meant to exercise.

It is necessary to read all, but this one is a shocking discovery. The great Sankara, with such a romantic image and huge following, turns out to be a revolutionary fraud.

The next writer, Walter Rodney, our last, was not a fraud.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

19 June 2011

Julius Nyerere

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10a

Julius Nyerere

In his 1962 pamphlet, Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism, Nyerere begins: “Socialism – like democracy – is an attitude of mind.”

This was a few months after the Independence of Tanganyika, and Julius Nyerere was the country’s first President.

“African Socialism” was mostly a swindle, but here, probably, and also in the opinion of Ngugi wa Thiong’o as we have seen, Julius Nyerere was expressing a conviction held in good faith.

Nyerere believed that socialism was an attitude of mind, perhaps comparable to the imaginary “milk of human kindness”. He believed that socialism was entirely a subjective condition.

We will ponder, in the case of Thomas Sankara, the assassinated president of Burkina Faso, whether such a subjective kind of socialism, which Sankara also espoused, and which is neither rooted in science nor in international solidarity, is not always doomed to defeat.

Julius Nyerere was respected by relatively-more-scientific socialists like Ngugi for the remainder of his life, and under Nyerere's leadership his country played a heroic role as a front-line state against Apartheid, Portuguese and Rhodesian colonialism.

Walter Rodney also apologised for Nyerere in his 1972 essay, “Tanzanian Ujamaa and Scientific Socialism” (click here). Rodney thought that Ujamaa was de facto revolutionary, if not consciously so.

Tanganyika combined with Zanzibar in 1964 to become Tanzania. As Tanzania it was host to many liberation movements and from the late 1970s was host to the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College. As Tanzania it adopted the famous Arusha Declaration of 1967. These things are major parts of the dual history of socialist ideas in Africa and of pan-African solidarity.

Read these two documents to discover part of Tanzania’s struggle with the meaning of socialism in circumstances where almost the entire population was made up of peasants. For better or for worse, this is a major part of Africa’s history.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

16 June 2011

Kwame Nkrumah

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is one of the very greatest of the African Revolutionary writers, as well as being the independence leader and the first democratic president of his country, Ghana.

Of the two Nkrumah downloads linked below, the first covers major parts of his 1965 work “Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism”.

At the end of this book Nkrumah wrote:

“I have set out the argument for African unity and have explained how this unity would destroy neo-colonialism in Africa. In later chapters I have explained how strong is the world position of those who profit from neo-colonialism. Nevertheless, African unity is something which is within the grasp of the African people. The foreign firms who exploit our resources long ago saw the strength to be gained from acting on a Pan-African scale. By means of interlocking directorships, cross-shareholdings and other devices, groups of apparently different companies have formed, in fact, one enormous capitalist monopoly. The only effective way to challenge this economic empire and to recover possession of our heritage, is for us also to act on a Pan­-African basis, through a Union Government.”

In the year following the publication of this revolutionary book, and while he was on a visit to China and Vietnam, Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown as President in a military coup d’état organised by the US Central Intelligence Agency. This was in 1966.

In 1967 Nkrumah spoke at a seminar in Cairo, Egypt, in strong opposition to the “Negritude” philosophy of Leopold Senghor, and against the generally phony false-flag product called “African Socialism”. The second linked document is a transcript of this input.

From the time of Eduard Bernstein with his 1899 book “Evolutionary Socialism”, and of Rosa Luxemburg’s classic 1900 response to Bernstein, “Reform or Revolution?”, the same question has often been repeated. In the history of the struggle for liberation from colonialism in Africa, the question “Reform or Revolution?” was once again inevitably put.

The neo-colonialists wanted to sound better and to deceive the people more easily. So a false kind of reformist “Socialism”, not very different from Bernstein’s kind, but now calling itself “African Socialism” was widely deployed as a smokescreen for neo-colonialism, from soon after the dawn of African Independence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Some of the appeals to “African Socialism” were more honest than others. The late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere is still respected, and we will look at some of Nyerere’s writing next. After Nyerere, we will look at the self-referential and self-isolating case of Thomas Sankara. Finally we will look at Walter Rodney, who commented upon Nyerere’s “Ujamaa” concept of socialism, as well as on underdevelopment as a deliberate act of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Hence we will end our series with these two questions still open:

1. What is Socialism and why do we need it?
2. How do we achieve African unity and thereby defeat Imperialism?

Kwame Nkrumah stands out as the greatest of the advocates of revolutionary Pan-African unity against Imperialism. His clear intention was to destroy neo-colonialism. For this reason it is fitting that Osagyefo’s writing takes the position of main text in this, the final part of our African Revolutionary Writers’ Series, of which the point is to change the world in the particular way that Nkrumah advocated, i.e. to do away with neo-colonialism.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

14 June 2011

Gamal Abdel Nasser

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9c

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Gamal Abdel Nasser was the leader of the Free Officers’ revolution in Egypt in 1952 which deposed the king and established a republic. He subsequently became President of that African country until his death in 1970. Nasser was a giant figure in the liberation movement, the anti-colonial and anti-Imperialist movement, and in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Nasser was a famous orator in the golden age of the transistor radio, and could be heard by that means in streets as well as in homes throughout the Arabic-speaking world in those days, and all over Africa. Our main linked item below is a speech that Nasser made just over a month prior to the 1956 imperialist invasion of his country – an invasion which failed, and was repulsed.

Egypt under President Nasser had nationalised the Suez Canal. The Imperialist countries responded with threats – as the linked, downloadable speech relates.

France, Britain and Israel finally mounted a military attack on Egypt on 29 October 1956, in what is known in those countries as the “Suez Crisis”. This confrontation ended in a reversal for the imperialists, consolidated the republic and established Egypt’s rights over the canal on its territory forever.

The operation resembled the 2011 aggression against Libya in many ways, but especially in the demonization of President Nasser that preceded it.

But now, as Wikipedia says: “Nasser is seen as one of the most important political figures in both modern Arab history and politics in the 20th century. Under his leadership, Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal and came to play a central role in anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World and Africa. The imposed ending to the Suez Crisis made him a hero throughout the Arab world.”

This is how Nasser began this 1956 speech:

“In these decisive days in the history of mankind, these days in which truth struggles to have itself recognized in international chaos where powers of evil domination and imperialism have prevailed, Egypt stands firmly to preserve her sovereignty. Your country stands solidly and staunchly to preserve her dignity against imperialistic schemes of a number of nations who have uncovered their desires for domination and supremacy.”

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

13 June 2011

Ahmed Ben Bella

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9b

Ahmed Ben Bella with Gamal Abdel Nasser

Ahmed Ben Bella

Ahmed Ben Bella is an Algerian Revolutionary and freedom fighter, 3rd President of Algeria (1963-1965), born in 1918, now aged 93.

The main downloadable document linked below is an interview with Ben Bella done in 2006.

Of course it would be preferable to have a political pamphlet, speech, or article for a theoretical journal written by the comrade’s own hand. But this is a good substitute.

You will see that Ben Bella interacted with both Cabral and Mandela. Says Ben Bella:

“Mr. Mandela and Mr. Amilcar Cabral themselves came to Algeria. It’s me who coached them; afterwards they returned to lead the fight for freedom in their countries. For other movements, which were not involved in a military fight and who needed only political support, such as Mali, we helped in other ways.”

You will see that Che Guevara was also there at one stage.

In 2003, Ben Bella went into action again and was elected to lead the International Campaign Against Aggression on Iraq. We all failed to stop that war. Ben Bella, old as he already was, did more than most.

Viva, Ben Bella, Viva!

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

11 June 2011

Samir Amin

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9a

Samir Amin

Samir Amin

Samir Amin is an African Revolutionary Writer born in Egypt, fluent in French, often published in English, and a scholar who has illuminated the revolutionary potential and imperative for half a century in Africa.

The downloadable text below, coming from an article in Al Ahram, begins with the following statement, unfortunately no less true today than when it was written in 2003: “The United States is governed by a junta of war criminals…”

This article is a thorough-going denunciation but also a scientific and very well-informed analysis of US society and history, contained in only four pages. It is also a call to arms.

Samir Amin is a living example of the moral and humanist clarity that is characteristic of the African Anti-Imperialist intellectual cadre. According to Wikipedia he has written more than 30 books.

He remains a stalwart.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading:

10 June 2011

Issa Shivji

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 9

Issa Shivji

Issa Shivji [pictured] has been a professor at the University Dar es Salaam for four decades. He is an African revolutionary intellectual of the first rank. Shivji provides our reading text for today: “The Struggle for Democracy and Culture” downloadable via the first link given below.

Shivji has made the anti-Imperialist case very well, reminding us among other things that it is we freedom-fighters who are the humanists now, and it is the Imperialists who are the barbarians (a message that is also reinforced by Kenan Malik’s short, included piece about culture).

Issa Shivji’s address on The Struggle for Democracy and Culture explicitly and correctly claims, on behalf of the national-liberation and anti-colonial struggles, that this struggle - our struggle - carries, for the time being, the banner of progress for the whole world.

For a long time past, and into the future, until such time as the struggle for socialism itself becomes once again the principal one, the National Democratic Revolutions taken together constitute the main vehicle for human progress, bearing up and rescuing all that is noble and fine in humanity.

The bourgeoisie is a thieving class and it will steal the clothes of the revolutionaries without any hesitation if it sees the smallest, most temporary advantage in doing so. The Imperialist bourgeoisie wishes to reverse the appearance of its shameful past and of its hopeless future. It wishes to claim the moral superiority that the liberation movement has, and steal it.

Issa Shivji shows very clearly how this monstrous fraud is attempted. The constant droning about “good governance” is the extreme of hypocrisy, coming as it does from the worst oppressors in history – the force that has taken oppression to the ends of the earth – Imperialism. Read Shivji. He tells it well. But also note the hypocritical machinations of our present South African anti-communists, including but not limited to, the DA. If you did not know better, you could believe from what you read that it was liberal whites who liberated South Africa from the old regime.

Let me repeat: the struggle for democracy is ours, not theirs. The struggle for freedom is ours. We are the humanists now. We, the liberationists, are the bearers of the best of human history and we have been so for many decades past. The 20th Century was the liberation century, the anti-Imperial century. That was when we overtook the others in politics, in morality, and in philosophy - but we were only starting. In the 21st Century we will finish the job.

Please download and read the text via this link:

Further reading: