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Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa 1

Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa

Stephanie J. Urdang was born in Cape Town, South Africa, into a white, Jewish family staunchly opposed to the apartheid regime. In 1967, at the age of twenty-three, no longer able to tolerate the grotesque iniquities and oppression of apartheid, she chose exile and emigrated to the United States. There she embraced feminism, met anti-apartheid and solidarity movement activists, and encountered a particularly American brand of racial injustice. Urdang also met African revolutionaries such as Amilcar Cabral, who would influence her return to Africa and her subsequent journalism. In 1974, she trekked through the liberated zones of Guinea-Bissau during its war of independence; in the 1980’s, she returned repeatedly to Mozambique and saw how South Africa was fomenting a civil war aimed to destroy the newly independent country. From the vantage point of her activism in the United States, and from her travels in Africa, Urdang tracked and wrote about the slow, inexorable demise of apartheid that led to South Africa’s first democratic elections, when she could finally return home. | more…

Activists demonstrate against Centum's coal project

‘Africa Rising’ in Retreat

New Signs of Resistance

The neoliberal export-oriented strategy has done enormous damage to Africa’s human development, gender equity, and natural environment. Reversing this project is the major challenge for Africans who resist injustice, through which they can build solidarity with the rest of the world’s oppressed peoples. | more…

And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique

And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique

Gaining Independence in 1975, Mozambique’s government proclaimed a progressive approach toward women’s liberation, seeing it as essential for the continued success of the revolution. Stephanie J. Urdang, who traveled often to Mozambique, examines women’s status there ten years later, talking with women in factories and fields, village co-operatives, and state farms. Urdang produces an inspiring yet sobering picture of how African women continued to struggle for their survival and their liberation. Drawing on scholarly research as well as first-hand investigation, And Still They Dance says much about the daily lives of women living in independent Mozambique after the revolution. | more…

Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau

Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau, a small country on the West Coast of Africa, had been a colony of Portugal for 500 years, and with the 1926 rise of a Portuguese fascist dictatorship, colonization of the country became both brutal and complete. In 1956, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was founded by Amilcar Cabral and a few country people. At first, PAIGC's goal was to organize workers in the towns, hoping that through demonstrations and strikes they would convince the Portuguese to negotiate for independence. It soon became clear that this approach to independence would not work. Each demonstration was met with violence, until the 1959 massacre of fifty dockworkers holding a peaceful demonstration at Pidgiguiti. This was a turning point for PAIGC: they realized that independence could not be won without an armed struggle, one that had to be based on the mass participation of the people. This book focuses on the way in which PAIGC ideology integrated the emancipation of women into the total revolution: the way it emphasized the need for women to play an equal political, economic, and social role in both the armed struggle and the construction of a new society. | more…

Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment

Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment

Samir Amin has undertaken an ambitious task: nothing less than an analysis of the process of capital accumulation on a global level. Drawing on a wide range of empirical material from Africa and the Middle East, Amin attempts to demonstrate, through a critique of writings on “underdevelopment,” how accumulation in advanced capitalist countries prevents development, however that may be defined, within the peripheral social formations, usually referred to as “underdeveloped” countries. Samir Amin ranks among those who realize the necessity not merely to comprehend the growing crisis of world capitalism, as it manifests itself within individual nation states, but also at the world level. | more…

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

Forthcoming in January 2018

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.”  | more…

Cotton: The Fabric of Death

Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Knopf, 2014), 640 pages, $35, hardback.

For four years following the 2008 mortgage crisis, I worked as a cotton merchant for one of the “big four” trading firms—ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. These shadowy giants, two of them privately held, maintain oligopoly control of agricultural commodity markets. From desks in Memphis, my colleagues and I purchased mountains of cotton in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, warehoused it, speculated on it, and sold it back to mills on those same continents.… We sat at the pinnacle of a web of political and economic forces that funneled cotton into facilities we owned and cash into our accounts, but nowhere in the office was there a visible sign of the violence that made it all possible.… Too often liberal histories focus on a single period, territory, or class perspective, and end up obscuring the truth, severing the threads that tie a moment to its historical roots. Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton is different. Although a liberal historian, Beckert refuses to limit his scope in the traditional way. Instead, he follows the movement of cotton across time, space, and class, bringing forward the threads that bind the objects of an otherwise distorted past. | more…

Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism in Africa

When international media were broadcasting live video footage of Tunisians gathering in hundreds of thousands in front of the central office in Tunis of the long-terrifying ministry of home security, chanting in one voice “the people want to bring down the regime,” something had already changed: ordinary people realized they could make huge changes. Weeks later, the Egyptian uprising removed the Mubarak regime that had been entrenched in power for over thirty years…. The neoliberal forms of imperial rule that had destroyed the hopes of the liberation movements were under attack. In order to counter the possibilities for a massive breakthrough at the popular level, the Western forces mounted an invasion of Libya using the mantra of humanitarianism to disrupt, militarily, political and economic life in Africa. Later in collusion with the counter-revolutionary forces in the Egyptian military, Western imperialism sought to roll back the gains of people in the streets of Tunis and Cairo. | more…

South Africa: Exploding with Rage, Imploding with Self-Doubt—but Exuding Socialist Potential

The fast-reviving South African left is urgently coming to grips with the most acute national crises of structure and agency the country has experienced since the historic freeing of Nelson Mandela in February 1990 and the shift of the entire body politic in favor of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).… The subsequent rise in unemployment, inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation soon reached some of the worst levels in the contemporary world. The consequent social unrest is now so high that President Jacob Zuma…promised increased “public order policing” personnel and the purchase of a new generation of technologically advanced weapons, including sonar canons…. In this conflagration, what survived of the left is now growing by leaps and bounds. Within a decade, it may become a force capable of an electoral challenge to the ANC for state power. But much will depend upon how it regroups amidst shards of splintered radical projects, with myriad questions hotly debated in the movement. | more…

Monthly Review, December 2014 (Volume 66, Number 7)

December 2014 (Volume 66, Number 7)

Notes from the Editors

In 1832, when the global cholera pandemic was approaching Manchester—as a young Frederick Engels was later to recount in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)—“a universal terror seized the bourgeoisie of the city. People remembered the unwholesome dwellings of the poor, and trembled before the certainty that each of these slums would become a centre for the plague, whence it would spread desolation in all directions through the houses of the propertied class.” As a result, Engels noted, various official inquiries were commissioned into the condition of the poor. But little was done in the end to combat the social factors that facilitated the spread of the disease.… One can see an analogous situation today in the growing concern that has materialized in the United States and other wealthy nations over the Ebola epidemic in Africa. | more…