Below is a video recording of an excerpt of a presentation on the negritude writers offered at the public JOKO, a project of the Joko Collective in Los Angeles, CA. I would have preferred that the videographer captured more of the slides than the speaker.
For twenty-three years I listened to Dedon keep revolutionary Pan-Africanism on the air and in the conversation. I listened to Dedon survive the Wednesday Night Massacre in the mid Nineties, when the bloc of African hosts were removed from KPFK’s airwaves. I listened to Freedom Now survive moving air times. Because I listened to Dedon, I was able to attend numerous cultural and political events around Los Angeles, able to meet like-minded fellow travelers, comrades and allies. Dedon remained steadfast, a rock against the muting and erasure of radical African political thought and practice, unapologetically Pan-Africanist and revolutionary when reformist solutions monopolize the discourse on the progressive left, and KPFK had begun to sound more like the voice of the unchurched left wing of the U.S. Democratic Party. Dedon kept the African world, the colonized and neo-colonized world, the anti-imperialist international, informed about revolutionary processes locally and globally, with transnational content committed to principled solidarity: Cuba, Ireland, Libya, New York, Palestine, Venezuela, South Los Angeles. But more than that, the chance to know Dedon, to be in his company and talk politics and culture with him, hear his stories of solidarity work and emancipatory journalism in the countries so regularly under attack from the U.S.’s military, economic, and media apparatus, and hear him talk about surfing was to be enriched, educated and uplifted. The first time I met Dedon, I had just started teaching at Santa Monica College. Dedon had brought a sister from the U.K. to speak to the Pan African Student Union. I was so excited to meet the man whose radio show I had been listening to throughout the 90s. He was gracious, gregarious, and just a good brother. He was just an incredible brother, and an elder of depth and integrity. When we had Dedon, we had a treasure, our brother dedicated to our freedom and to a free and just world, and now that we no longer have him with us in this flesh, we are left with a hole that we all must fill because we owe it to him. Mojuba, Baba Dedon!
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 http://www.brothersquarterly.wordpress.com, August 5, 2014)
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.
In Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898, Ada Ferrer describes a nationalist revolutionary process in late Nineteenth Century Cuba that created new subject positions for African descended Cubans, enslaved and free, which in turn threatened the symbolic order such that social relations formed under a slave-society regime exercised a counter pressure that frustrated the most liberatory practices of the independence struggle. The threat to the social order in Cuba following the 1868 declaration of the independence struggle resulted in a propaganda offensive from the Spanish colonial government that initially succeeded by invoking the modern colonial symbolic order through the accusation of “race war”. The partnering of independence and emancipation first articulated by Carlos Manuel De Cespedes in 1868 produced a tension between what a Cuban nationality could mean in the face of a freed and armed Black population and a Hispano-Catholic cultural hegemony. The power of the symbolic order emerges always and already asserting itself under any historical condition. Defined as language, the attempt to describe and assign meaning to the experience of “the real,” and enacted through the formal and informal uses of language by institutions and individuals, people perform the symbolic order through custom and habit. We reproduce the symbolic order through law, education, commerce, customary behaviors, and the myriad conscious and unconscious retellings of the “…legends, stories, history, and above all historicity” (Fanon 112) that inhabit our understanding of how the world does and “should” work. The symbolic exerts a policing action on worldview, placing boundaries on what should be imagined. In other words, the symbolic order is the ideological ground upon which the subject figure acts.
The symbolic order under the regime of modern colonialism and slavery has posited the ontological difficulty of “blackness.” Blackness, as a human condition, has been constructed as a sign of both the absence and the negation of civilization. Indeed, the possibility of human blackness has even been brought into question as Western intellectuals have for centuries now seriously debated whether black peoples are members of the human species, or to what degree black people may be humans. Whereas the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century bourgeois revolutions of the Americas and Europe reformed the Western symbolic relationship among social classes, raising the citizen-subject to ontological equality with the traditional nobility, introducing new behaviors and new explanations for those behaviors, black revolutionary struggle, as in Haiti, threatens to overturn the symbolic order more fundamentally, that is, from its foundation. For example, in response to the colonial state invoking “race war” as the proper representation of the independence struggle, Cuban nationalists of the 1880s and 1890s invoked a policy of “racelessness.” The nationalists invented racelessness specifically to erase the blackness of the independence struggle while avoiding an open appeal to whiteness. But racelessness, as Ada Ferrer shows, means different things from different subject positions. An attempt to shift the terrain of the symbolic, “racelessness” remains trapped in the language of race and the practice of white privilege, thus reproducing the ruling ideology.
Another aspect of the symbolic order, gender, also complicates the meaning of independence and national character. In their own representation of the emerging Cuban nation, the Cuban nationalists of the late Nineteenth Century constructed an emphatically masculine image of the nation. Governance remained the domain of men, black and/or white, those who through their struggle and sacrifice made independence possible. The nationalist writers erase the contributions of women, without whom the war for independence could not succeed. They erase the women from their representations of the struggle, thus excluding women from the public sphere of an independent Cuba. On the gender question, the rebel army and nationalist intellectuals reproduced the symbolic order apparently without question, and this was despite the very active cadres of women forming revolutionary clubs, support committees and raising funds for the fight as Nancy Mirabal describes in “No Country but the One We Must Fight For” (62). These tensions produced by challenges to the symbolic order and recourses to the symbolic order coalesce in the court martial of Quintin Bandera, a successful Black general of the rebel army, discussed below.
Struggle transforms. When Carlos Manuel De Cespedes freed his slaves, declared them co-citizens and exhorted them to join him and other Cuban patriots in an armed struggle against the Spanish colonizer, he invited those African men into new subject positions, namely into a new claim to a Black subjectivity in the public sphere. The call to independence and emancipation, the two being constructed as necessary for the realization of each other, and the call for African men to participate in the practice of independence and emancipation, created a sanctioned public space for Black subjectivity within a symbolic order that denies or at best doubts the possibility of a public Black subjectivity. The Black body is already marked as an object, the body par excellence, if not exclusively, that can be enslaved. The constructed pre-condition of the enslaved/enslaveable Black body made the certificate of freedom necessary for free Africans in slave societies, the authority of the master represented through the law embodied in the text of the certificate, here invoked to supersede the symbolic order of custom. Unlike the unsanctioned public subjectivity of the maroon communities, the palenques, De Cespedes’ call to revolution and emancipation constructed Black armed resistance as a creative force in the forging of the nation, rather than the destructive element preventing the emergence of the nation. It was after all, Ferrer reports, the prominent African descent population that allowed Spain to represent Cuba as incapable of nationhood because the nation would be a Black nation, another Haiti, in a sense an anti-nation. I will return to this subject below.
African men expressed their new subject positions through new and open challenges to traditional social relations during the independence war. Ferrer offers the example of Emeterio Palacios, a free black tobacco worker from Santiago who was detained by the Spanish authorities for suspicion of supporting the rebel cause. What is of significant interest in his case has less to do with his actual or perceived support of the rebels, but rather with the manner in which he (allegedly) greeted a white man familiarly in a café. Ferrer reports Palacios as having withheld the honorific title Don from the white man, D. Jose Gilli, and instead calling Gilli ciudadanito [little citizen]: “Palacios thus not only denied him the don to address him as “citizen” and therefore as an equal, but he also opted for the diminutive form of the word, much in the same manner that non-blacks often addressed blacks as negrito” (41). Palacios’s familiarity was taken as a threat to public order of the same high order as any possible rebel activity. Indeed, they are of a piece, the leveling of social relations both through race, class, and the claim to citizenship.
Again, Ferrer offers Antonio Maceo as an illuminating example of the challenge to the symbolic order expressed through traditional social relations. When the Spanish commander Martinez Campos approached Maceo to bring him into the Pact of Zanjon, which inscribed the negotiated surrender of the Cuban rebels after ten years of war, Maceo, having already assumed a position in the symbolic order denied to him on at least two counts as colonial subject and a mulato, that of an honorable man, he also challenged Spain’s claim to being a civilized nation, equating civilization and progress with full emancipation and social equality. As long as Spain was a slave owning empire, which is to say an empire at all, colonialism being a species of slavery, the colonial state could not be characterized as civilized. Maceo turns the colonial symbolic order on its head (66).
Nonetheless, the symbolic order is resilient and adaptable. It frames the ideology of a culture and gives shape to the content of that ideology, reproducing the ideology through the embodied actions of people, including those cultural acts like speech acts or the exercise of politeness or courtesy. Even in the execution of the war, the tension created by the challenge to the symbolic order reveals the difficulty with which those invested in the maintenance of the order attempt to reproduce traditional social relations. Insurgent white officer Ignacio Mora’s specific criticisms about the transfer of power from the white Cuban Ignacio Agramonte to the black Dominican Maximo Gomez betray a cultural-racial-national anxiety. Ferrer reproduces this passage from his war diary:
“If [Gomez] has not destroyed the Camaguey division and converted it into bands, it is because its officer corps, formed by Agramonte, still remember the maxims and rules of their old leader. How jarring it is to see today’s camps! The noise, the gambling [el juego], the shooting of cattle, the tango of the blacks, the wild parties, and the filth of these camps warn us that their leader completed his apprenticeship in Santo Domingo. Everything reveals his poor upbringing and the society from which he comes.” (52)
Mora clearly experienced anxiety over the shifting cultural forms of recreation in the camps. War had been conducted as a “gentlemen’s” endeavor for centuries, reproducing the class structure of civilian society. His comments replicate the myths, stories and legends that cast African cultural forms as inherently immoral and antithetical to “the love of discipline, order, or morality” (52). Even his reference to “bands” may allude to unease with a shift to guerrilla tactics by Gomez. The culture of war came into tension with the shifting subjectivities that the rupture of the independence war allowed to emerge.
Under the modern colonial condition of white supremacy, the black body represents a troubling presence. The symbolic order under white supremacist colonialism demands that blackness, however widely or narrowly represented, to be defined as a problem. Thus, the pressure exerted by the hegemonic symbolic order rendered the notion of an African Cuba, another Haiti, unthinkable except as a nightmare by slave societies and their neo-slavery arrangements following emancipation throughout the Americas in the Nineteenth Century. Colonial Spain could therefore easily employ a propaganda war to exploit the fear of race war and the anxiety produced in the rebel camps by the darkening of the ranks and the officer corps. Mora, cited above, was not among those rebels who surrendered to Spain in 1871, but he agreed with those who surrendered that the “problem” with the rebel army, the reason for its de-moralization, could be found in its increasingly African descended character. Elite men asserted the old class hierarchies and racial hierarchies within the rebel army, and these assertions crashed against the new public faces of African men, Cuban citizens and patriots making claims to equality through shared armed struggle and the embrace of the values of the French Revolution: Liberte’, Egalite’, Fraternite’.
The representation of the independence struggle as a race war effectively demoralized white Cuban support for the war both within the rebel army and among the civilian population. To combat claims of race war by Blacks against whites during the period between La Guerra Chiquita and the final war for independence, 1880 to 1895, the Cuban nationalists on the island and in exile reconstructed the war under the rubric of racelessness. But racelessness is a tricky proposition. It remains within the semantic field of race language. The appeal to racelessness in the hands and from the pens of the most sympathetic of white Cubans could not transcend the “problem” of blackness. Racelessness as a position was necessary because the racist anxieties of the white population needed to be assuaged. In this way, racelessness reinforced a Eurocentric premise: the opinions and attitudes that mattered most were the opinions, fears and attitudes of whites, not blacks. Ferrer explains that the whitening of Cuba through increased Spanish immigration in the period helped the nationalists in this reconstruction of the discourse of the Ten Years’ War. Indeed, throughout Latin America, ruling elites encouraged and facilitated European immigration in order to whiten the overwhelmingly Mestizo/Mulato populations.
Even as the final war in the 1890s drew to a close, and before the United States’ intervention, another sort of whitening occurred with the moving of white Cubans, many late comers to the struggle, into the military administrative positions that would eventually become the local governance, and thus limited or eliminated the possibility of black leadership in the future civilian administration of the nation. Suitability for leadership became associated with “refinement” and “civility” and education, traits preconceived as nearly impossible in the black individual and monopolized by elite families. Consistent with early Spanish colonial policy regarding gentes de razon or “persons of reason,” namely those conversant in the Spanish language, the sign of a rational mind, the turn to refinement as the mark of suitability for leadership again reproduced the lie that on the one hand equates progress, modernity and civilization with European history and culture, and on the other alienates Spain’s (and other European and settler colonialists’) colonial subjects from their own histories and cultures in antagonistic relation to Europe and whiteness. Black majority threatens white existence and thus must remain controlled.
In contrast, in the hands and from the pens of black Cuban nationalists, the appeal to racelessness was an appeal to the democratic and egalitarian principles of the independence struggle. It should have meant the removal of traditional barriers to advancement or access to power. When it did not mean that, but instead denied access to African descended persons or facilitated the advancement of white individuals in order to remove the suggestion of favoritism toward blacks and mulattos, and thus remove charges of race war like those routinely aimed at Maceo, black Cuban intellectuals decried the practice as fundamentally treasonous, betraying the very ideals upon which the struggle was launched by Manuel de Cespedes in 1868, indeed antithetical to slogan of the French Revolution used freely by the Cubans: liberty, equality, fraternity.
Ferrer effectively demonstrates this in her comparative analysis of the writings of Juan Gualberto Gomez, a mulatto journalist, and Cuban patriot Jose Marti. Once again betraying the anxiety producing presence of the black body, the black insurgent was a prominent figure for reconstruction. Whereas the white reading audience needed to be reassured of the fidelity and even passivity of the black insurgent, grateful and deferential under arms, black and mulatto writers writing for a black press championed the black insurgents’ dedication to Cuban nationality, gratitude for the independence struggle that led to the end of slavery, but also the reminder of the nation’s debt of gratitude to the black insurgents. Black and white Cuban nationalists both represented race war waged by blacks against whites as unthinkable and the accusation as slanderous.
Finally, Ferrer effectively raises the problematic of gender in the representations of the independence struggle. The Cuban independence writers constructed a singularly masculine image of the nation. The descriptions of men, black and white, struggling as brothers in arms, suffering the hardships of camp life and war, dying in each other’s arms and carrying each other’s wounded bodies placed a claim on the public sphere of the emerging nation. These writers constructed the nation as the creation of modern Cuban men inventing a new kind of brotherhood in the world. This representation is, of course, a fiction. Ferrer mentions the participation of mambisas, Cuban women who fought in battle with the men (174). Susan D. Greenbaum discusses Paulina Pedroso, a black Cuban woman living in Tampa, Florida, during the independence struggle who among other activities organized locally in support of independence (53). Mirabal reports on organizations founded by Cuban and Puerto Rican women in support of the independence struggle when they were barred from joining the male revolutionary clubs formed by the exile communities in North America, organizations like La Hijas de Cuba that challenged the hegemony of all-male groups like Junta Revolucionaria de Cuba y Puerto Rico (62). Nonetheless, the masculinist language of the independence movements constrained access to power for women engaged in the struggle: “They remained, despite their efforts and relative power, outside of the decision-making body of what was quickly becoming the main exile nationalist organization, the PRC [Partido Revolucionario Cubano] (64). This masculinist discourse of nation doubly erased the contributions of African descended Cuban women.
Like the black presence, and with its own body of myths, stories, legends, histories and historicities, the female presence is also troubling in the masculinist symbolic order of patriarchal culture. To return to a point introduced above, Ferrer’s discussion of the court martial of Quintin Bandera focuses on the cultural differences that emerged in the accusations against him, namely his openness about his fraternization with women in the camp, even though what he was accused of was a widespread practice throughout the rebel army, if done under cover of dark, as it were. Among other things, the morality of his camp was impugned because of the presence of his female partner and those of his men in the camp, rather than at a remove as was the custom.
A “rustic” man, Bandera’s manner clashed with the expectations of the more “refined” Cuban leadership. Bandera broke with the expectations and the representation of the rebel camp as an exclusively masculine space. The broader, more inclusive and accurate model for the nation could have been taken from Bandera’s example, except that it too deeply upset the symbolic order that had been inscribed regarding the makers of the nation. I even wonder to what degree Bandera and the men and women in his army may have been conducting the practice of war in a maroon manner. That is mere speculation. But I am fascinated by the suggestion.
Ferrer’s use of the war diaries and memoirs of the rebels provide an illuminating view into the ways in which political and social struggle transforms social relations and public subjectivities. The African descended men (and women) who participated in this struggle in the thousands on the one hand seized upon this opportunity to abolish the slave society that held many of them and/or their family members as chattel, and on the other hand to participate in the forging of a new, independent modern nation, one that would owe them loyalty and gratitude for their service. Ferrer’s examination of the independence writers also offers another example the role of a discourse of nationalism and the press in inventing the nation. Nonetheless, the racialized symbolic order of modernity (re)imposed itself upon the Cuban struggle for independence, highlighting the difficulty involved in dismantling systems of hierarchy and oppression, however necessary the work, something to which contemporary Revolutionary Cuba attended early in its process when Fidel claimed African blood flowing freely through Cuban veins as constitutive of Cuban identity (qtd. in Cole 77). Revolutionary Cuba acted upon this heritage through internationalist solidarity with liberation and revolutionary movements and nations in Africa and the Africa Diaspora. Whereas Revolutionary Cuba has also inherited and promoted its own version of racelessness, and despite lingering racists attitudes and assumptions in Cuba, the revolution has at least seriously attempted to reconcile the African character of Cuban history, culture and genealogy with a contemporary Cuban national identity, another form of challenge to the modern symbolic order. Read Ada Ferrer’s Insurgent Cuba. She provides valuable lessons for us as some of us continue to work for a free world, for genuine African liberation.
Castro, Fidel. “We Stand with the People of Africa.” Venceremos Brigade Pamphlet. 1976. Quoted in “Afro-American Solidarity with Cuba. Johnetta B. Cole. The Black Scholar: Report from Cuba. Summer 1977.
Greenbaum, Susan D. “Afro-Cubans in Tampa.” The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Eds. Miriam Jimenez Roman and Juan Flores. Duke University Press: Durham, 2010. Pp. 51-61.
Fanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness.” Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. Grove Press: New York, 1967. Pp. 109-140.
Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1999.
Mirabal, Nancy, Raquel. “No Country but the One We Fight For: The Emergence of an Antillean Nation and Community in New York City, 1860-1901.” Mambo Montage. Eds. Agustin Lao-Montes and Arlene Davila. Columbia University Press: New York, 2001. Pp. 57-72.
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.