To coincide with the publication of Voices from the ‘Jungle’, we present a blog, introduced by one of the book’s editors, Katrine Møller Hansen, and accompanied by the voices of the book’s authors: the Calais Writers.
This book brings together the personal stories of people who lived as refugees, during 2015 and 2016, in the Calais camp on the northern French coast, just 26 miles from the UK: a camp that was often called the ‘Jungle’. For the authors, that have all left behind loved ones and a place of belonging, the ‘Jungle’ became home for a short or a longer time. Through poetry, prose poems, diary entries, photography, drawings and conventional accounts they narrate their personal experiences, life stories and they imagine the lives that lie ahead of them. We hear about the borders – geographical, national, cultural and religious – they have crossed, drawn or dissolved on their journeys and in their search for better and safer futures.
The authors want their voices to be heard and they call for audiences willing to listen. Aware that they are becoming objects of distrust and fear and that they have been depicted as benefit cheats, criminals and terrorists, they take control in this book, of their own representation. However, they do not speak in unison. Differences in opinion appear and the stories may ‘disagree’ with each other. Through such conversations, the book displays the human face of the current world crisis. This implies a multiplicity of truths and life trajectories rather than one homogenic narrative or life story. Their collective voices negotiate what it means to belong and to be human and their stories may resonate with any reader that queries into the human consequences of the displacements and human rights violations we witness today.
Image 1 Photo by Babak Inaloo (from Iran) Continue reading
Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.
Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana – a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.
The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.
We have compiled a list of books that explore Left Wing Social Movements from the African continent or by African people. We chronicle the diverse labour movements, social thoughts and political economies of Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zanzibar and follow the fight for political freedoms across the rest of the world.
The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others by Mya Guarnieri Jaradat
Drawing on a decade of courageous and pioneering reporting, Mya Guarnieri Jaradat brings us an unprecedented and compelling look at the lives of asylum seekers and migrant workers in Israel, who hail mainly from Africa and Asia.
From illegal kindergartens to anti-immigrant rallies, from detention centres to workers’ living quarters, from family homes to the high court, The Unchosen sheds light on one of the most little-known but increasingly significant aspects of Israeli society. We hear of Sudanese hunger strikers in Israeli detention centres, Eritrean refugees staging non-violent protests calling for Israel to process asylum applications and agitations opposing poor medical care and educational provisions. By highlighting Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of African migrants, The Unchosen presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’.
Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide by Ben White
Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance by Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby
Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel by the Activestills Collective
The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe Mbatha
On the 16th August 2012 on a platinum mine in Marikana, the South African Police Service opened fire on thirty-four protesting black mine workers. This would come to be known as the Marikana massacre; one of the most lethal uses of force by South African security services since the apartheid era.
Through oral testimonies and exhaustive fieldwork, Sinwell and Mbatha create a gripping account of the incidents that followed. What began as a simple dispute over pay became an emblem of working class resistance in South Africa. The Spirit of Marikana is a testament to the mine workers’ heroic resistance against the cronyism of mine bosses, the government authorities and the crooked union establishment. Continue reading
Adam Mayer’s Naija Marxisms: Revolutionary Thought in Nigeria, has just been published. In this article, republished from ROAPE, he discusses the importance of recognising and engaging with the rich history of Marxist scholars in Nigeria.
‘As I write this entry, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) just backtracked on a planned general strike against the removal of the fuel subsidy. For readers from Northern national economies, the importance of the fuel subsidy – which allowed for consumer fuel prices to be kept at around N100 [$0.50] – N50 [$0.25] less than the market rate – perhaps seems an unusual reason to call for a general strike in the first place. Nonetheless, if carried through with, this would have been the third such general strike (after 2003 and 2012) that centred on the removal of this vital government subsidy – with a long list of minor strikes before, after and in between. What is crucial is the fact that the national minimum wage is around $90/month, and 70% of people are not in formal employment and thus not eligible even for that sum. Primary school teachers – in formal employment – or wheelbarrow men and market women – not in formal employment – all need to commute to their workplaces – and their commute is never covered by an employer. Thus the removal of the fuel subsidy will increase an average worker’s cost of living by around 25-30% with no real compensation beyond promises — a major drawback! Factional struggles nipped this nationwide strike in the bud – nonetheless the NLC is very far from a spent force.
The NLC’s labour organizers draw on a rich and multifaceted tradition when they call for strikes. Neoliberal charlatans, media pundits and government officials may tell the Nigerian lorry driver, and the unemployed women and men in his compound that the removal of the fuel subsidy will allow for a reallocation of “precious government resources to worthy causes” such as schools, hospitals, nurseries and water towers, it is improbable that they would buy into this hegemonic babble. President Buhari, a man famous for his personal disdain for embezzlement, is at the same time also the man left in charge of a neo-colonial political economy. His credentials in fighting Maitatsine – as Mohammed Marwa was known, Marwa was a radical Islamic preacher, who attracted considerable support in the 1970s – as military head of government in the early 1980s, or Boko Haram as president since 2015 do not make him a progressive. Muhammadu Buhai was elected in 2015, promising to fight endemic corruption and the advances of Boko Haram.
Earlier this month at the Historical Materialism conference in London, we caught up with Manny Ness, Professor of Political Science at CUNY, New York, co-editor of our new Wildcat book series, and author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class.
In this video Manny talks about his new book, and the exciting developments in workers’ movements around the world – specifically focusing on China, India and South Africa.
Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He is author of Guest Workers and U.S. Corporate Despotism and Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labour Market and numerous other works. He is editor of the International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Working USA: The Journal of Labour and Society.
Southern Insurgency is available to buy from Pluto Press here.
By John S. Saul
How real has been the much celebrated “liberation of southern Africa” that culminated in South Africa’s embarking on its post-apartheid future almost exactly twenty years ago to the day? My new book for Pluto, A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation, raises this question quite precisely and suggests that it cannot be answered simply or straightforwardly. For the outcome of the “thirty years war for southern African liberation” was as much failure as success, the major winners of that “war” being global capitalism on the one hand and the newly ascendant local black elite, riding on the back of the ANC’s “success” to power and privilege of their own. In effect, southern Africa has merely been recolonised by capital with the lot of the vast mass of these territories’ populations still poor and politically marginalized!
Of course, as I point out in my conclusion to the Pluto book, related issues had already been raised forcefully with reference to the first wave of African “liberation” that, in the 1950s and 1960s, saw so many territories in the northern part of the continent realize their freedom from colonialism (principally as it had been imposed on Africa by the British and French): the assessment that, most often, the struggle for such national liberation had brought merely a “false decolonization.” Frantz Fanon was the clearest of voices articulating such a position, most notably in his celebrated text The Wretched of the Earth. Thus, for Fanon, the new African elites that inherited power then did little to actually liberate their countrymen from the yoke of global oppression by capitalism – these elites merely comfortably stepping into the privileged positions of intermediaries:
‘The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary. Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission lines between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neo-colonalism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any com- plexes in a most dignified manner. But the same lucrative role, this cheap-jack’s function, this meanness of outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolize the incapability of the national middle class to fulfil its historic role as a bourgeoisie.’[i]
The following article appeared as “Review of the Month” in Monthly Review’s April edition and is kindly reproduced with their permission. Patrick Bond is the author of Elite Transition (Pluto, 2000), a fully revised and updated Second Edition of which will be published later this year.
The African National Congress (ANC), led during the 1990s by the late Nelson Mandela, is projected to be reelected in South Africa’s May 7, 2014 national election by a wide margin, probably with between 50 and 60 percent of the vote. But underneath the ruling party’s apparent popularity, the society is seething with fury, partly at the mismanagement of vast mineral wealth. The political and economic rulers’ increasingly venal policies and practices are so bad that not only did ANC elites play a direct role in massacring striking mineworkers in August 2012, but corporate South Africa was soon rated by PriceWaterhouseCoopers as “world leader in money-laundering, bribery and corruption, procurement fraud, asset misappropriation and cybercrime,” with internal management responsible for more than three quarters of what was termed “mind-boggling” levels of theft.1
With such degeneration from above, the country’s impotent socialist left was pleasantly surprised last December when the largest union in Africa, the 342,000-strong National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (“Numsa”) split away from the ANC. Numsa pledged to organize mineworkers and any other disgruntled workers, and steadily to reconstruct a new South African left from below, including radical social movements once derided as “ultraleft” (because from the early 2000s they had already broken with the ANC). The “Numsa Moment”—which I think can be contrasted to some local trade unionists’ “Lula Moment” advocacy, akin to Brazilian labor corporatism—is of enormous importance, especially if it leads to a “united front approach” and the “movement towards socialism” as promised in Numsa’s “Breaking New Ground” congress of 1,300 shop stewards, just a week after Mandela’s death.2 However, up against such a strong and prestigious national liberation movement, whose most famous leader stayed in the ANC until the end of his life, Numsa and its new allies are not yet contesting power in the next election. They must work hard on local alliance-building, and the underlying socioeconomic conditions must continue to deteriorate, if Numsa is to rekindle the confidence of older revolutionaries and create a new generation of activists. Continue reading