Modern Revolutions and the African- Our Agency, Our Centrality, Our Outcomes: A Survey of Modern Revolutions and Reform






















Below is a link to a PowerPoint presentation (Joko Teach-In: Modern Revolutions) and the bullet points that expand on some of the slides.  I gave the presentation a member of the JOKO Collective, a grassroots, community based  brain trust/think tank/study circle/discussion group.

“In the Yoruba language the word JOKO means “sit”. To “have a JOKO” is to have a “sit down”, or gathering for the purpose of resolving conflict — by uncovering the truth of the matter…JOKO is not a space where all information is created equal. It’s a space where information is scrutinized through universal rules of logic and inquiry, source quality and corroborative data, and sound, replicable methods of analysis…Thus, our agenda statement currently reads: ‘JOKO At The AFIBA is a panel/group discussion series that provides a space for the exercise of critical thinking. For practice in the art of sustained, critical dialogue, we treat selected topics for several sessions and in this way, we construct in-depth understandings of the topics, and their relationship to African People’s bid for empowerment.'” (from “Welcome to JOKO, a Grassroots Braintrust” by Tasha Thomas, posted at, August 5, 2014)

Joko Teach-In Modern Revolutions

A July Joko Two Day Teach-in:

“Modern Revolutions and the African World”


Saturday, July 11, 2015, 4-6 PM “A Survey of Modern Revolutions”

  • We must define Revolution and Reform.
  • 1649 The Commonwealth of England
  • Cromwell and Rump Parliament execute King Charles I and attempt to create an English republic.
  • Republicanism becomes the primary form of the modern, bourgeois, liberal state.
  • The class controlling the state controls the economy, the colonies, and the trade routes, to all of which Africans were central.
  • 1775-1783 The American War of Independence
  • The North American settlers wage an anti-royalist war for reform. They assume management of the system, and retain property and social relations. Independence insures that the U.S. can maintain slavery as the foundation of the national wealth.
  • 1789-1815 The French Revolution
  • Radical break with the Old Regime: Royalty, Aristocracy, and the Church.
  • Under pressure from men of color in the French National Assembly, slavery is abolished and then reinstated by Napoleon.
  • 1791 -1804 The Haitian Revolution
  • History of African resistance
  • From Caribbean front of French Revolution to Haitian Revolution.
  • Haiti shakes the security of all other slaveholding states and colonies in the Americas.
  • Spanish American Wars of Independence
  • Africans & Afro-Mestizos central to conflicts
  • 1808-1821 Bolivar and Gran Colombia
  • 1810-1821 The Mexican War of Independence
  • 1862-1898 Cuban Wars of Independence
  • 1848 Revolution in Europe
  • Primarily middles classes and organized workers seeking reform and/or asserting nationalist claims
  • Within a year, royalists and reactionaries reassert control.
  • Socialist ideas and principles spread and grow in popularity.
  • 1910-1920 The Mexican Revolution
  • Land reform was a key issue.
  • 1917-1918 The Russian Revolution
  • Bolsheviks come to power, execute royal family, and dismantle the Czarist state.
  • 1949 The Chinese Revolution
  • China goes from a nationalist liberation struggle to communist revolution with a primarily peasant army.
  • 1959 The Cuban Revolution
  • Under U.S. control since 1898 and the U.S. intervention in the Cuban struggle, Cubans make several attempts to overthrow foreign rule and the local collaborators.
  • July 26 Movement finally achieves victory.
  • Cuba embodies the propaganda problem of a successful revolutionary example.
  • 1945-1992 “Third World” Revolution
  • Africa
  • Americas
  • East and South Asia
  • The Pacific
  • Western Asia




Retiring Endeavor and the Meaning of Spectacle


The retirement of the space shuttle USS Endeavor provides a rich opportunity to examine the role spectacle continues to play in the political culture of the postmodern imperial state.  The citizen-subjects of the United States enjoyed the opportunity to gaze upon the Sovereign embodied in the technology of the space shuttle program.  The vehicle that provided the means for the empire to break the barrier of the atmosphere and return multiple trips has always meant more to the image that the U.S. state has wanted to project to the U.S. public and the world than merely its scientific value.  In mid-October, it began its new old semiotic life.  The spectacle of the shuttle being carried across country on the back of a jumbo jet allowed the citizen-subjects to gaze upon the body of the Sovereign-Republic reconfigured in the display of power in its aspect as technology; it also allowed them to experience an imagined real transfixing moment. The Sovereign-Republic, twice embodied in the space shuttle and the plane big enough to carry it, doubles itself again in the joining of its two aspects, State and Civil Society, characterized by the political economy of government military spending on contracts with private industry. And the national and local media happily played their role as imperial criers, readying the population for the display of the Sovereign’s train.

The sight of the Endeavor riding piggy-back on a jumbo jet should have delivered a sufficient display of power, but it turns out that for Los Angeles, piggy-back space technology only provided prologue to the main event.  That was like the cartoon movie houses used to show before the double feature back in the days before the multiplex. In my neighborhood, we had a close up view of the spectacle. In fact, we joined in the spectacle, although joining in might not be exactly accurate. The engineers pulled the Endeavor from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center at Exposition Park.  That journey goes right through Inglewood and Southwest Los Angeles, among L.A.’s Blackest and Brownest neighborhoods, and also neighborhoods where barely working class, working class and lower middle class families live near some of the most affluent neighborhoods just up the hill or across the freeway.  This symbol of the Sovereign’s power took a two day journey through the midst of the U.S.’s historically repressed and exploited internal colonies, U.S. and immigrant Africans, First Nations and Chicano-Mexicanas, Central Americans and Puerto Ricans, Pacific Islanders, East Asians and South Asians.  People came out in droves to see the shuttle, and upon seeing the crowds, maybe to see each other.

Still, I question whether we joined in anything because most of us did very little. That is, the event, and it was an event, required minimal participation. The event required us to come forth and view. That is the meaning of spectacle, a thing to be seen, and that’s what most of us did, look, try to get a close-up, snap photos, post to Facebook or Instagram.  So despite the carnival atmosphere, the sense of celebration, there was no celebrating really happening beyond the official performances and speeches from politicians and community…leaders?  Those too were to be seen.  That aligns quite well with late modern popular culture in the U.S. So much of it requires watching: watching movies, watching parades, watching the game, watching TV, watching computer screens, watching smartphone screens, watching celebrities, watching our words, but not watching the watchers.  We waited, and we simply watched the shuttle sit on its raised, be-wheeled platform, or watched it get pulled ponderously, achingly slowly down the Inglewood and L.A. streets, being maneuvered to avoid telephone and lamp posts.  Many trees gave their lives for Endeavor even before the journey began, a little less shade in the ‘hood.

The Endeavor made an extended stop at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard, in the heart of the last U.S. African majority neighborhood within the city limits of Los Angeles.  King runs east and west and marks the southern border of Exposition Park.  Besides the California Science Center and Aerospace Museum, Exposition Park also “houses” the L.A. County Museum of Natural History, the Rose Garden, the California Afro-American Museum, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Olympic Pool and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  Pointing east on King, the Endeavor was positioned for its final expedition, from Crenshaw to Exposition Park.  Befitting a city known for its entertainment industry, the Endeavor sat on its platform in the intersection flooded with lights, underscoring the (anti) drama of the moment and lending a bit more of unreality to the scene, as it felt like a movie set.  That night, as I joined the crowd to get a close up view of the thing that had blocked traffic in the neighborhood all day and had been attracting thousands since ten that morning, hours before its arrival in the early evening, I heard a sister on a cell phone behind me. “There it is,” she said, “right in front of me. Well, I’ve seen everything now. I guess I can move out of the neighborhood.”

When Exposition Park, Inglewood and Southwest L.A. were first designed and built, they were white neighborhoods.  That the display of the Sovereign wound its way through Black and Brown neighborhoods occurred as a result of history, shifting demographics, and white flight.  Nonetheless, the spectacle offered the local residents their chance to share in the delusion of inclusion as many of the country’s most marginalized people chanted, “U.S.A.,” for the local news crews.  For the weekend of October 12 through October 14, they occupied the patriotic center of attention, certainly in the region if not elsewhere.  Very much the way the spectacle of a black president has given permission to many otherwise disaffected people of color to express openly long held desires to feel a part of the project of the United States, the people most often found newsworthy for pathology, embraced their roles as the faces of U.S. patriotism.

Now, Toyota has launched an ad campaign for the Tundra, highlighting the truck for pulling the tonnage of the Endeavor.  In fact, Toyota’s advertising campaign is what has got me thinking about the Endeavor again.  The fact of a Japanese auto company capitalizing on a U.S. American patriotic display, and Time Warner Cable using their participation in clearing the Endeavor’s path as a public relations move, points us in the right direction: behind the sentimentality associated with this display of U.S. technological achievement, the Endeavor tells a story of the profit motive and military advantage, obscured themes of the United States’ story of itself.  The tales of brave astronaut-scientists routinely tempting death and defying the confines of the atmosphere in the pursuit of knowledge situate the U.S space program in a fictional space outside politics in the mainstream discussion.  The actual losses of life with the Challenger and the Columbia have demonstrated the real danger associated with human space travel and have only enhanced the seeming apolitical character of the space program.  But like all military contracting and aerospace projects, questions of jobs, resource use, spending priorities, disbursements, and budgets always carry political implications. 

The relationships between the technology present in the space shuttles and the procurement of the “strategic minerals” necessary to produce and maintain the now grounded shuttle fleet and other U.S. military technology remains primarily obscured.  But when we gazed upon the shuttle, we gazed upon the empire’s resolve to maintain control of those “strategic minerals,” minerals primarily found in the Global South, the ancestral homes of the people of color who lined the streets to see the body of the Sovereign, pulled down the street by a Toyota Tundra.  I am going to guess that few of us thought of the Endeavor as implicated in mineral wars in Congo or Western Asia, or ruinous mineral extraction in South America or the Caribbean Basin. I’m going to guess that most of us did not think of rocket testing in the Pacific.  I’m going to guess that few of us drew a connection between our under-funded public schools, libraries and medical centers and the government contracts awarded for shuttle construction, even as the shuttle program promised to enhance and inspire research in these areas.  Science is not free of the stains of imperialism and capitalism.

So now, the Endeavor sits in its new home, covered by a large tent in order to protect the State’s investment from weather and vandals.  It represents a tourism coup for Los Angeles County, one more destination for school field trips and visitors to our lovely city.  That means revenue, and revenue matters, which is why Toyota and Time Warner have seized the opportunity to use the Endeavor to sell Tundras and telecommunication services.   But more than the money, or at least as importantly as the money because of its implications for the continued flow of the money, the cultural meaning of the Endeavor also matters, matters very much.  The cultural value of the Endeavor’s display, which is to say its ideological value, must be measured in its ability to intimidate, to awe and to pacify the public at large, especially the colonized public.  It must be measured in its ability to foster a sense of credibility and inevitability for the Sovereign’s reign.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure that the Endeavor has retired at all.                

Free Libya Is Green Libya: Supporting the Real Libyan Revolution

For eight months now, NATO has executed an open crime against a sovereign African state and called it a democratic revolution.  Libya was a stable, prosperous, debt-free country in Africa until it came under attack in February.  The United States and the European Union cynically seized the opportunity provided by the genuine people’s movements in Tunisia and Egypt where the Western backed administrations were forced to remove their heads of state in attempts to manage the popular democratic movements in the streets.  The U.S. and E.U. rapidly exploited the monarchist and “Islamist” resentment long present in Benghazi.  The democratic aspirations of this opposition in Libya was dubious from the beginning, and within days of the actual opposition demonstrations that were not unusual in Benghazi, the “peaceful demonstrators” attacked a police station and suddenly emerged as a full-fledged armed faction.  That U.S. and E.U. country Special Forces and intelligence forces had been on the ground from the very beginning arming and guiding what has become the National Transitional Council has become clear, and who denies the fact?

Even now, as this coalition claims to be the true and legal representatives of the wishes of the Libyan people, they represent maybe 5 percent of Libyans.  They are an illegitimate entity thrust upon Libya by the force of NATO military power, and still they have not defeated the Jamahiriyah, the People’s Government of Libya.  Through their actions, NATO has declared once again that no country can impart upon an independent path of development and an indigenous, culturally specific experiment with democracy.  The West claims a monopoly on the meaning, form and practice of democracy, and the intellectuals, journalists and pundits in the West have shown themselves unable to remove the prejudices that convince them that democracy must look like and smell like the elite bourgeois democracy of the imperial countries.  These are the same liberal bourgeois republics and constitutional monarchies that have perpetrated more than two hundred years of slavery, colonialism, and genocide attendant to capitalist production over the centuries.  That doesn’t smell very good!

Through mainstream media, these professional talkers and writers made and continue to make the ground and air war palatable.  Mainstream capitalist media rarely break with the official story offered by government.  However on Libya, they have aggressively disseminated misinformation about Libyan society and the character of the uprising.  Not every rebellion is a revolution. The media’s uncritical representation of the factions that would become the NTC cast them as democratic freedom fighters rather than investigate their reactionary monarchism and fundamentalism.  Moreover, the media all but ignore the aggressive genocide taking place against the native Black population and migrant worker population.  Early in the conflict, media spread the lie of “African mercenaries,” thus facilitating attacks against dark skinned Libyans and other Africans.  Again, mainstream media reproduce the official story as a matter of course.

Unfortunately, the mainstream, corporate, pentagon friendly media were joined in the demonization of Gaddafi and the misrepresentation of the Jamahiriyah by the standard of progressive and liberal media in the United States, Democracy Now! and the Pacifica Network.  Progressive/liberal media characterized the rebellion that began in Benghazi as a revolution rather than the counter revolution that it is.  They provided airtime for opposition spokespersons and their supportive progressive and liberal analysts and pundits, which betrayed an antipathy to African and Arab revolutionary nationalism.  They offered little to no air to voices in support of the Jamahiriyah; neither did they report on its democratic processes, again reproducing the government narrative.  Those voices that make it onto Pacifica stations are brought on by independent producers like Dedon Kimathi at KPFK in Los Angeles and J.R. Valrey of Block Reportin’ at KPFK in Berkeley.  Progressive/liberal media has been consistent in its unity with the mainstream on the question of Libya, revolutionary nationalist governments like Zimbabwe, and war in Africa, assuming their place in the continuum of the hegemonic narrative of empire.  Much of the establishment Black press was only slightly better, refusing to criticize Obama directly, or doing so only obtusely, even when covering the anti-black violence of the NTC brigades.  Tied to the two-party system, and especially the Democratic Party, the imperative to re-elect the undeserving Obama supersedes the duty to defend what was the most advanced country in Africa in regard to the human development of the population and a government that reached out to African Americans as members of the Pan-African nation.  The Nation of Islam’s The Final Call’s coverage has been, on the other hand, exemplary.

Libya is the northern front in the re-assault on Africa.  NATO countries engage in proxy war in Somalia while French troops continue muscularly to prop up the imposed government of Alassane Ouattara in Cote Ivoire, and now with troops on the ground in Central Africa, the U.S and Europe through AFRICOM has increasingly militarized their activities on the continent.  These powers cannot abide African independence, nor will they allow China to continue to pursue its agenda in Africa unchallenged.  As during the Cold War of the Twentieth Century, the US and EU again show their willingness to use African and Asian bodies in hot war to frustrate the interests of their competitors, this time capitalist-communist China.  Where ever the U.S. and Europe are present in Africa, the countries are destabilized and in debt, and the people suffer.  Despite their democratic rhetoric, their humanitarian rationalizations, and promises of economic growth, the Western presence in Africa, whether through diplomacy, covert and overt military intervention, economic investment, or settler channels, remains toxic.  Now the poison flows through Libya, literally, as NATO has bombed both land and water with depleted uranium.

During the 1960s and 1970s, socialist and progressive sectors around the world recognized the heroism and the correctness of the Vietnamese people in their struggle against the U.S. inheritors of the French colonial project in Southeast Asia.  The Vietnamese fought the most powerful military in the world and won the victory.  Their struggle inspired revolutionaries across the Global South and among internal colonies in the Global North.  Today Vietnam is a sovereign country.  Despite a number of independent journalists’ (e.g. Lizzie Phelan, Webster Tarpley, Stephen Lendmen, Gerald Perreira, and Thierry Meyssan) challenges to the dominant narrative on Libya, easily accessible on the internet and sometimes on cable news outlets like RT News, Libya still suffers from gross misrepresentations of the experiment in direct democracy and socialism embodied in the People’s Committees of the Jamahiriyah.  Western professional progressives rarely take the vision expressed in the Green Book seriously, routinely falling into the “eccentric, flamboyant” Gaddafi” lazy reporting trap.   The failure of what passes for leftist analysis in much of the U.S. and Europe to recognize the progressive and genuinely popular character of the Jamahiriyah makes them complicit in the disaster called the NTC that has befallen Libya.  Nonetheless, the Libyan people continue to fight against the most powerful military alliance in the world, NATO.  The NTC is nothing without NATO.  The Green Resistance continues to fight.  Libya is Vietnam.  Can the Green Resistance rely on international support?

Libya is also Spain in the 1930s.  During that struggle, the capitalist governments of the West stood by and watched the fascists bleed Republican Spain, despite material support from the Soviet Union, because in fact, they cared more about capitalist social relations and profits than they cared about democracy and the will of the Spanish people who elected the popular government.  Today, they have destroyed the infrastructure of the most stable African country outside of Southern Africa, bombing them incessantly in support of racist, fascist and monarchist forces in the NTC who would have been defeated months ago if not for NATO air war.  This time Russia failed to veto the key vote in the UN Security Council and can’t offer the same kind of material support, despite their distrust and defensive position vis-à-vis NATO.  Their criticism of NATO since then, even as it helps challenge NATO’s narrative, still rings somewhat hollow.  During the Spanish Civil War, progressive forces around the world organized themselves into international brigades to support the Spanish Republican and Loyalists forces materially and as brothers and sisters in arms.  Can the international brigades today fly to Libya’s aid?  Can African revolutionaries fight in Libya, knowing that the fight for Libya is the fight for Africa, and not care if they are called mercenaries?  What national African military will join the Green Resistance in its battle against a virulently anti-black, racist force in the NATO/NTC and the mercenaries they are now flying into Libya, like Xe (formerly Blackwater)?

Of course, now it is not so easy to offer material support or even ideological support to revolutionary movements.  In the world of the Patriot Act, heightened security measures and full spectrum surveillance, one can quite quickly be arrested and disappeared for aiding and abetting “terrorism” if the group or movement one supports has been classified as a terrorist organization.  Power has been very careful to police the degree to which groups and movements engaged in anti-imperialist and revolutionary struggle can be helped by exile and solidarity formations.  The kind of fund raising and support that the ANC, the PAC, the PAIGC, the PLO, the IRA, the FMLN and similar movements enjoyed in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s into the ‘90s is mostly illegal now.  The governments of the NATO countries will not likely look easily on activists among their own citizens and residents dedicated to restoring the people’s government they have spent so much money and time bombing.  The formation of a group like C.I.S.P.E.S. (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) or Witnesses for Peace who worked to support citizens and revolutionary parties in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s grows increasingly difficult in the current surveillance climate.  Even so, those of us committed to African sovereignty, African continental and diasporic integration, to socialism and people’s democracy, and to a brighter future for humanity need to find ways to support the Green Resistance in Libya.  We need to find ways to be international brigades for Libya.  Free Libya is Green Libya.

More than two hundred years of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is long enough.  Liberation struggles and revolutionary governments must be supported despite differences on some ideological points.  The fate of an individual is not what is at stake.  Despite his defamation in the mainstream Western press, Gaddafi is being mourned by millions in Africa and around the world.  This attack has short circuited the move toward African continental integration that Gaddafi championed.  He acted independently in the interests of Libya and Africa, and offered real material support for the integration of Africa under one, gold standard currency, one army, and continental governing institutions.  He supported revolutionary and national liberation struggles around the world.  He was a genuine anti-imperialist.  For many of us, the opinions of Minister Louis Farrakhan, Ms. Cynthia KcKinney and Warrior Woman of the Dine Nation matter more than the opinions expressed by the U.S. State Department and 10 Downing Street and disseminated by the New York Times, Le Figaro, CNN, AL Jazeera, et al. The Jamahiriyah is a genuinely popular government that has come under attack by the most powerful and advanced militaries in the world, yet they continue to hold out despite the loss of the revolutionary leader.  Who speaks out?  Who can help restore Libya and a united Africa?  NATO, the UN and the NTC trivialized the African Union during this debacle, rendering the body all but ceremonial.  Will they now stand up and assume the real leadership necessary to make themselves relevant, or is overcoming their class allegiance to the Western bourgeoisie just too much to fathom? That’s probably too much to expect from a class trained to protect the interests of its benefactors in order to protect its own narrow interests.  I guess this great task is up to the world’s African workers and peasants.