11 November 2014

The Present and Future of China

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Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10b

Mao Declaring the People’s Republic of China in 1949

The Present and Future of China

Attached and linked below is an article by Samir Amin on China, which can serve to finish off our course on Anti-Imperialism.

This article creates a picture of where the National Democratic Revolution takes a country, if care is taken with the alliance that the NDR depends upon. The Chinese communists have taken good care.

More than this, the article is in effect a comparative critique of all of the post-20th-century states, and more especially of the other BRICS countries: Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The article deserves to be read, and read again at intervals. It is a comment by an African revolutionary intellectual on the world as it has been, is and will be for a long time to come.

One piece of unfinished business left by this article may be the definition of socialism.

The difference between the proletariat and the peasantry is not, as Samir Amin correctly notes, that one has no use for property, while the other craves property above all. These are caricatures.

The more functional difference is the one pointed to by Marx in his “18th Brumaire”, with his unforgettable phrase “sack of potatoes”, used to describe the relation of peasant families to each other.

Whereas the proletariat has learned two things in its harsh relationship with capital: discipline and social organization.

The social division of labour that is characteristic of the proletariat is what is otherwise called the socialization of production under capitalism. It is the material root of the idea of socialism.

Socialism means the integration of people over larger and larger fields (village, town, city, nation, world). If it is only de facto, it may in practice be imperialism or it may be “globalization”.

The word “socialism” is not precise. This is clear from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, where Marx and Engels talk of feudal socialism and bourgeois socialism, among others. Socialism is only society organised as a unity, and not as a “sack of potatoes”. The proletariat is the most socialist class because of its highly developed and explicit divisions of labour.

Communism is a more precise word. It just means a classless society. Inherent in the idea of communism is escape from capitalist relations of production. For all that Samir Amin has to say about state capitalism, and correctly, he does not say this much. But the initial reason why post-revolutionary production must be “state capitalist” is only that there is no other relation of production available.

So the move of hundreds of millions of Chinese people from the rural areas to the new cities is bound to be a move from peasant, more-or-less self-sufficient family production, towards wage labour.

Seeing it as a move from the smallholding to the factory is maybe an over-simplification. But the absence of an alternative way of organizing production other than the notional factory, is a reality.

The present absence of an alternative set of relations of production appears to be the reason why the Chinese will say that they don’t expect “socialism” (probably in this instance meaning communism, the classless society) for another 200 years.

The relationship between the proletariat (the hammer) and the peasantry (the sickle) is not a relationship of like with like, but it is a relationship of different classes.

In South Africa, the urban survivalists, and the small businesses, have to some extent replaced the peasantry, but they are also not strictly proletarian. Slogans that include the words “workers and the poor” can obscure this distinction, or illuminate it, depending how they are used, and understood.

Intelligent communist-party leadership is the essential ingredient in the National Democratic Revolution. Samir Amin gives ample evidence and argument for this assertion.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: China 2013, Samir Amin.

10 November 2014

Massacre at Cassinga. War no more.

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Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10a


Massacre at Cassinga. War no more.

Piero Gleijeses has written a lot. The second and last item in this final part of the “Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace” course is an article of his (download linked below) containing this memorable passage:

‘While Castro’s troops advanced toward Namibia, Cubans, Angolans, South Africans, and Americans were sparring at the negotiating table. For the South Africans and Americans the burning question was: Would the Cuban troops stop at the border? It was to answer this question that President Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary for Africa, Chester Crocker, sought Risquet. "My question is the following," he told him: "Does Cuba intend to halt the advance of its troops at the border between Namibia and Angola?" Risquet replied, "I have no answer to give you. I can’t give you a Meprobamato [a well-known Cuban tranquillizer] – not to you or to the South Africans. ... I have not said whether or not our troops will stop. ... Listen to me, I am not threatening. If I told you that they will not stop, it would be a threat. If I told you that they will stop, I would be giving you a Meprobamato, a Tylenol, and I want neither to threaten you nor to reassure you ... What I have said is that the only way to guarantee [that our troops stop at the border] would be to reach an agreement [on the independence of Namibia]." [15] On August 25, Crocker cabled Secretary of State George Shultz: "Reading the Cubans is yet another art form. They are prepared for both war and peace ... We witness considerable tactical finesse and genuinely creative moves at the table. This occurs against the backdrop of Castro’s grandiose bluster and his army’s unprecedented projection of power on the ground." [16]’

War is a terrible thing. War is never a choice for the revolutionaries. We are not pacifists but we do not choose war and we do not choose to be banned or clandestine. We are for peace and for full participation in all democratic forums.

The Cassinga massacre is now more than thirty years in the past. For some of us it was once an event in our present life, very shocking for us because we had though that such horrors were already in our past by the time. For others now living, the Cassinga massacre is now so much in the past that it may be a struggle to see what a huge significance this terrible event had.

War no more

Perhaps this reflection, and by extension this entire course, is a way of saying that it falls upon all of us, young and old, to strive politically so that such things do not happen again, and will not require again the militarisation of our struggle, here in Southern Africa.

The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Massacre of Cassinga [and after] Piero Gleijeses.

09 November 2014

Liberation Struggle

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Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10

Jorge Risquet Valdés Saldaña

Liberation Struggle

In political education, our method is to remove ourselves in place and time. We go to the “classics” and to authors of the intermediate period, and we study other places, in the past or in the present.

All of these provide us with examples. The examples provide us with a theoretical and practical “sandpit” that gives us a “codification” or in other words a basis upon which we may have a common dialogue.

Dialogue is where political education happens. Anything that can provide an occasion for political dialogue is good for education.

Our own history can be used, but what do we find? When looking for history of our liberation struggle, and the history of the armed struggle in particular, we find very little. The materials about the culminating struggle in Angola assembled below will have to suffice for now. They can also serve as a small contribution towards recognising the Cuban and Soviet comrades who fought faithfully and often fell for us, until victory came.

Vladimir Shubin has written and published two books in English: “ANC: A View from Moscow” and “The Hot 'Cold War’: The USSR in Southern Africa”. These books are presently available from bookshops in South Africa, or they can be ordered via the Internet.

The Soviet record of events does not correspond in every respect with the Cuban record, and this contrast would force the readers or students to make judgements of their own, as to what was really the critical path that led to the final political result, which was victory in Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Let us hope to find a suitable Soviet or Russian article in electronic form, soon.

Fidel Castro has written a lot. Linked below, as our main item, is the speech he made on 2 December 2005, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first Cuban expeditionary force to Angola, which became what the US Imperialist diplomat Chester Crocker called an “unprecedented projection of power”.

Jorge Risquet Valdés Saldaña, fighter, negotiator, and currently member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, has written (in Spanish) “El Segundo frente del Che en el Congo” (ISBN 959-210-412-3, Casa Editorial Abril, 2006) – the history of the Patrice Lumumba Battalion, in which Risquet served. The picture above is of the same Jorge Risquet, a great and brave hero, also famous for his friendliness and joie-de-vivre. The person seen to the left of Risquet is Piero Gleijeses, of whom more in the next item.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Thirty years after Angola and 49 after Granma, Fidel Castro.

04 November 2014

Citizen and Subject

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Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 9a


Citizen and Subject

Mahmood Mamdani’s “Citizen and Subject” (downloadable extract linked below) maps the relations of four class-based powers in the anti-Imperial struggles in Africa: Bourgeois, Proletarians, Imperialists and “Traditional Leaders”. The (national) Bourgeois and the Proletarians are the modernisers and the democrats, who are compelled by necessity to combine together to fight for the democracy that forms the nation.

Capitalism has failed, and Imperialism has failed. In South Africa, capitalist Imperialism arrived more than 114 years ago, and it never delivered to the people or even employed more than a fraction of them at any time. It started bad and it got no better. Recently it has gone from a boom from which the masses somehow failed to benefit, to a recession that will last for years. What’s new? The same excuses have been there all along. Maybe it is truer to say that Imperialism didn’t fail: it only lied. It was never going to deliver, and it never will.


Like Issa Shivji and Walter Rodney (author of “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, also downloadable in [1069 KB] PDF format by clicking here), Professor Mamdani is a cadre of the famous Dar-es-Salaam campus. Mamdani is now Director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in his native Uganda, and has previously served in many capacities including at Columbia University, New York, USA, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” in this work is different and opposite from the usual communist, or philosophical one. Here it means a subordinate person, like for example the subject of a king, and not a free person.

In the book, Mamdani’s principal insight is to recognise the class alliance typically sought by the Imperialists in neo-colonial Africa countries. According to Mamdani, the Imperialists prefer to ally with the most backward rural feudal elements (often called “traditional leaders” or “chiefs” in Africa) in opposition to the modernising bourgeoisie and proletariat of the cities and towns.

Mamdani regards South Africa as the classic case in this regard, although he quotes many other examples. Mamdani’s analysis stands in contrast with a common presumption, namely that the Imperialist monopoly-capitalists tend to work through “compradors”, who are local aspirant bourgeoisie, or bourgeoisie-for-rent, who do the Imperialists work for them.

Such compradors do exist, and clearly they exist in South Africa. Yet Mamdani’s scheme reflects the facts and history of Imperialism in Africa better, at least up to now. Imperialism is in general hostile to the national bourgeoisie. The typical neo-colonial war of recent decades, including the Iraq war, the long war against Afghanistan, the war against Libya, and the war against Syria, is a war of Imperialism against a national bourgeoisie that wants national sovereignty and control over its country’s national resources.

In the light of this analysis it becomes easier to see why it is that the South African proletariat has long been, via the ANC, in alliance with parts of its national bourgeoisie, for national liberation, against the monopoly-capitalist oppressors with their Imperial-globalist links.

The Imperialists make a marriage of convenience with the most retrogressive social power that they can find – tribalism – in a pact to hold Africa where it was under colonialism: partly rich, but mostly dirt poor. In South Africa the Imperialists relied heavily on Bantustan leaders and on the Inkatha Freedom Party, but the ANC was able to form better links with the rural as well as with the urban masses, thus achieving a class alliance that could, and in fact did, dominate the country in terms of mass support.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Citizen and Subject, Chapter 8, 1996, Mamdani.

03 November 2014

Democracy is Ours

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Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 9


Democracy is Ours

This part is the second-last in the present series on Anti-Imperialism, Peace, and Socialism. This part is designed to invite comrades to reflect upon the place of the anti-Imperialist struggle within the entirety of world history.

That is why Issa Shivji’s address on The Struggle for Democracy and Culture (linked below) is used. It explicitly and correctly claims, on behalf of the national-liberation and anti-colonial struggle, that for the time being this national democratic revolutionary struggle carries 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, 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, or the 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, the revolutionary Dar-es-Salaam intellectual, shows very clearly how the 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 start to believe from what you read that it was liberal whites who liberated South Africa from the old regime.


The struggle for democracy is ours, not theirs. The struggle for freedom is ours. We are the humanists now. We, the liberationists, are the principal creators of human history, and we have been for many decades past. The 20th Century was the liberation century and the first 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, and finish with Imperialism altogether.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Struggle for Democracy and Culture, 2003, Shivji.