Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Standard | Online Edition : Obama’s ‘revolution’ brewed in the African pot of ‘ubuntu’

Published on 24/02/2011

By Mangoa Mosota

US President Barack Obama’s successful run for the White House in 2008 was grounded in humanist philosophy, utu in Kiswahili, or ubuntu, as is commonly called in Bantu communities, an attribute well appreciated in most of Africa.

And Kenya, the land of Obama’s father, played a pivotal role in ingraining that principle in Obama through the steady base of his immediate and extended family.

Prof Horace Campbell, who was in the country this week to launch Barack Obama and Twenty-First-Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment In The USA provides interesting perspectives on the evolution of Obama from a community organiser to President.

Campbell, a political science professor at Syracuse University in US, is a pan-Africanist who spent most of his adult life in Africa, away from his land of birth, Jamaica.

He says Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Sarah Obama, played a key role in making him understand the history of his grandfather, Hussein Onyango, and the Luo community at large.

Campbell enumerates the many challenges Obama faced in his quest for the presidency, including racism and economic crisis, which he refers to as economic terrorism engineered to plague his campaign.

Campbell extensively quotes Obama’s seminal autobiography, Dreams from My Father, to reinforce his arguments about Kenya having played a pivotal role in Obama’s evolution.

Five Great Women

"In the estimation of this writer," Campbell writes about Obama’s turning point by his father’s graveside, "This is when Obama made the decision that he was going to soar and be a beacon of light for the new relations between humans transcending race, ethnicity and religion."

In the book, the author brings out Obama’s appreciation of the five women who shaped his life, among them his white grandmother, fondly known as Toot, and mother. Campbell says the duo taught young Obama pragmatic tendencies that included being realistic about future tasks in his life.

Prof Horace Campbell with a book enthusiast and (inset) the book. Campbell was in Kenya to launch his book: Barack Obama and Twenty-First-Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment In The USA [PHOTO: Mangoa Mosota/STANDARD]

Many white Democrats saw Obama as one of the millions of blacks in the US. But Obama employed ubuntu, the shared humanity, to reach to American voters.

Campbell is emphatic that for close to 80 years, the Democratic Party was centred around ethnic politics and party bosses were linked to the very rich; real estate developers and bankers in urban centres.

He writes that the Clintons’ (former President Bill and his wife, Hillary, now US Secretary of State) control of Democratic Party between 1992 and 2008 gave them false hopes of their domination of the party machinery.

This control gave the Clintons a sense that Hillary’s victory in the primaries was a foregone conclusion.

Obama, however, sought to change this through ubuntu to appeal to the whole spectrum of American society. Campbell elaborates that through this humanist philosophy, Black Americans overcame the racist tag that consigned them as less human. More

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Opposing Massacres in Libya: A Call for Solidarity and Vigilance

The news of the massacre of innocent citizens of Libya by the dying regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi reminded the world of a number of basic facts. The first is that dictators everywhere are weak and require brute force to remain in power. The second is that an organised and dedicated people can enter the political stage and bring about revolutionary situations. Third is the new awareness that once the people gain confidence and the wave of revolutionary energy sweeps through Africa, no external force can contain this energy and no foreign military intervention can derail liberation. And fourth is the reality that money cannot guarantee political loyalty for long. It is for these reasons that in the last seven days, not even the US$150 billion of foreign reserves controlled by Gaddafi and his sons can save the regime from a people who want basic freedoms. These points have been driven home by the rapid disintegration of the governments in North Africa and the Middle East with the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions leading the way to a new era of political change in world politics. It is apt to term the Libyan uprising a revolutionary situation to distinguish this first phase of the Libyan rebellion from the robust forms of self-organisation that had matured inside of Tunisia and Egypt.

From Ethiopia to Gabon and from Djibouti to Yemen and Bahrain, the stirrings of the oppressed have exposed those governments that used the so-called ‘War on Terror’ as a smokescreen to exploit the mass of the people. In every country of Africa and the Middle East, dictators are calling on each other to dust off manuals on repression as people defy the weapons and torture to demand a new mode of economics and politics. The struggles for freedom in Libya and the dying spasms of Gaddafi are particularly noteworthy because Gaddafi and his Western backers had calculated that this dictator could use the billions of dollars from hydrocarbons to not only buy weapons but also to seek to bribe all and sundry. On Tuesday 22 February the Security Council of the United Nations expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the mass murders that were being carried out by paid militia persons as the permanent members of the same UN Security Council rushed to cover their tracks in relation to their military support for Gaddafi. The Arab League expelled Gaddafi while numerous governments in Europe lined up behind cameras to condemn the killing of innocent civilians. Belatedly, after the Arab League expelled Libya, the chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, expressed ‘deep concern’ about what was going on in Libya. It is in the face of the timid position of the leaders of the African states that this statement wants to forthrightly express solidarity with the peoples of Libya and their demand to end the Gaddafi police state.


We seek to distinguish between the peoples of Africa who have been oppressed by Gaddafi and his allies and those mercenaries who are now on the streets killing innocent civilians. One can understand the anger of the citizens of Libya, who are being killed in cold blood, but it is urgent that in the process of a rebellion, xenophobia and racist ideas are not brought into the opposition to Muammar Gaddafi. More

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Book Reviews of "Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA"

By Eusi Kwayana

Horace Campbell, a professor of Political Science at Syracuse University who gave us Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney and Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation, has been cutting some more edges in the thick maze of uncertainty that now surrounds the earth’s people in the political sphere and its extensions. Campbell approaches this formidable task through Barack Obama and Twenty-first Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA.

The book begins by defining examples of a number of “revolutionary moments,” naming among other moments, those preceding the US, Haitian and Cuban revolutions. His definition of a revolutionary moment is the backdrop against which the setting of his arguments can be evaluated. Campbell views all of these revolutionary processes as arising “out of moments when the ideas supporting or propping up the old order had become unsustainable” (pg 3).

In this book of multi-level learning, Campbell goes on to distinguish the revolutionary moment from the “maturation of the revolutionary process” which begins “in the womb of the old society”. The maturation seems to be a process which must meet the point of a “critical break from the old when then ideas, the organization, and leadership of the new rising forces can decisively remove the old order from political and social power.” More

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Revolution and Reconstruction in Egypt

Today the victory of the peoples of North Africa over one of the most repressive police states in the world is shifting the balance of power in international politics; it is also strengthening people’s power against exploitation, sexism, domination, police repression and those forms of rule that have been associated with neo-liberal capitalism. After resisting 18 days of protest from millions of Egyptians who want the birth of a new Egypt, Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his 30-year presidency on Friday 11 February. From Djibouti, Libya and Yemen, to Bahrain, Iran and Algeria, youths are standing up for freedom as the ripple effects of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions act as a school for new revolutionary processes.

As the people of Egypt move to consolidate their victory there is a sense of dual power – that of the people organised in the streets, and the power of the military that took the reins of the state in the aftermath of Mubarak’s exit. Though they have dissolved the Mubarak puppet parliament and suspended the Mubarak-serving constitution, these military officers continue to dither on crucial issues, such as the lifting of emergency powers and the release of political prisoners.

In order to exercise their newly gained freedom and express their lack of confidence in military government, workers extended their industrial actions after strikes broke out in all sections of the economy. Even the police who were the frontline repressors came out on strike, seeking support from a public that they had oppressed a few weeks before. There are reports that in some enterprises bosses are running away and workers have to begin to manage the institutions because the bosses have been implicated by their collusion with the police state. These actions by workers, along with actions by the rural farmers, signalled to the military that the exit of Mubarak was only a minor step and that the tasks of the revolution were not yet accomplished. The ultimate task is to end oppression and give dignity to the people.

In my previous articles, I drew attention to the issues of self-organisation and self-emancipation in this context of the uprising to remove Hosni Mubarak from power, and I outlined four significant stages that make up the first phase of the revolution. The stepping down of Mubarak has now paved the way for the second phase of the revolution, which is that of reconstruction. In the second phase, the challenge is how to deepen the victory of the people so that what was won politically is not taken away by a transition that is built on the ideals of ‘liberal democracy,’ where there are no fundamental changes in the economic edifice that was built by Sadat and consolidated by the clique around Mubarak. This is the stage where questions of reconstructions are linked to the structural transformation of revolutionary societies.


Mubarak could never have accumulated a fortune of US$40-70 billion through control over the state alone. More

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egyptian Peoples’ Power Persists: Revolution Continues

The renewed energy of the popular power in the streets of Egypt ensured that the political initiative remained in the hands of the grassroots mobilisers who had come together to trigger an uprising that is now called ‘the people’s revolution’. Their continued tenacity and strategic planning shocked observers, who were already reporting that ‘the protests were running out of steam’, and that ‘life was returning to normal in Cairo.’ What was considered ‘normal’ for the international capitalist forces that supported the Mubarak regime was the fact that banks were opening and there were traffic jams on the bridges across the Nile. But these stories could not conceal the floods of freedom as more people surged onto the streets to demand the immediate removal of the Mubarak regime. This reenergised outpouring of support for the revolution was beamed around the world as citizens everywhere who wanted genuine democracy watched and calculated the balance of forces in the revolutionary process. Was the tide shifting toward revolt elsewhere? This was the question being raised in all continents as ideas of sharing, cooperation and repair were challenging greed and obscene wealth in the midst of grinding poverty.

In all revolutionary situations, small acts of groups and individuals acquire historical importance. The coming-together of the grassroots organisers to form the ‘Unified Leadership of the Youth of the Rage Revolution’ represented one moment of historical significance. At this stage of the revolution, the interview of Wael Ghoneim, who was released from state detention on Monday 7 February, became one more barometer of the temperature of the people who wanted change. Wael Ghoneim, a business operator for an international information-age company, had been arrested by the secret police. His testimony on the brutality and murder of those picked up by the secret police again exposed to millions the nature of a police state in Egypt that was called a stable democracy. As the revolution gained new momentum, people demonstrated in differing parts of urban centres, even around government offices and the disgraced parliament. Thousands of workers intensified industrial actions to cripple the regime.


Esam al-Amin, in his writing on the leaders of the youth movement who are emerging as core organisers and future leaders (‘Meet Egypt's Future Leaders’), spelt out the principal demands being made. Inter alia, these demands were: the resignation of Mubarak, the immediate lifting of emergency law, release of all political prisoners, the dissolution of both upper and lower chambers of parliament, the formation of a national unity government to manage the transitional period, investigation by the judiciary of the abuses of the security forces during the revolution and the protection of the protesters by the military.

From their statements on the internet and in interviews, the youths have made it clear that their demands are not only for the removal of Mubarak but that they are also calling for constitutional reforms in the areas of civil rights, political freedoms and judicial independence, and economically addressing poverty, unemployment, social justice and fighting corruption. It is clear however that political freedoms and social justice cannot be realised within the context of the present mode of economic organisation. Moreover, as in Tunisia, the corrupt and discredited members of the oligarchy want to remain within the national unity government for the transitional administration.

One of the many challenges of current stage of what some analysts have called ‘the Nile Revolution’ is how to take the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt through the twists and turns of the counter-revolutionary planning and scheming coming from the remnants of the old order. How could the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples achieve the ultimate goal of the revolutions? The goal of these revolutions, as expressed by the millions who took to the streets, is a society that would ensure the human dignity of its citizens by dismantling the old order of government corruption, repression of freedoms, political alienation and denial of economic rights. The challenge is now how to build on the momentum of the ongoing revolutionary process for a structural reorganisation of the economies to meet the basic needs of the people over and above the interests of local and foreign capitalists and militarists.

From Alexandria to Suez, and in some cities that did not play a significant part in previous demonstration, workers are building industrial actions to support the new energy. In particular, the emergence of judges, lawyers and other professional strata on the streets of Cairo at a time many thought the revolution was losing steam has pointed to the realisation by sections of the elite that they can no longer be silent in the face of the corruption of the values of the society. In a society of over 7,000 years of traditions, where sharing and collective security had defined the birth of human civilisations, these social forces are seeking redemption from the devaluation of human life by the system that placed profits over human life. The constant renewal of this energy and the consolidation of the revolutionary gains made so far are critical to maintaining the focus of the revolution. Read More

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Echoes from Tunisia and Egypt: Revolutions without Self-proclaimed Revolutionaries

‘It was a victory parade – without the victory. They came in their hundreds of thousands, joyful, singing, praying, a great packed mass of Egypt, suburb by suburb, village by village, waiting patiently to pass through the “people's security” checkpoints, draped in the Egyptian flag of red, white and black, its governess eagle a bright gold in the sunlight. Were there a million? Perhaps. Across the country there certainly were. It was, we all agreed, the largest political demonstration in the history of Egypt, the latest heave to rid this country of its least-loved dictator. Its only flaw was that by dusk – and who knew what the night would bring – Hosni Mubarak was still calling himself “President” of Egypt.’

This is how Robert Fisk of the Independent of UK captured the mood of optimism of the peoples in Tahrir Square (also called Liberation Square) in Cairo before the veiled fist of counter-revolution unleashed its whip to reverse the initiative of the popular uprising in Cairo. On Tuesday 1 February there were over 2 million people gathered on Liberation Square to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak, and on Wednesday 2 February plain-clothes police and armed thugs mounted on camels and horses stormed the unarmed citizens, attempting to kill and brutalise those who want to be free. The people stood their ground and beat back the government thugs.

The peoples of Egypt had grabbed the attention of the world as oppressed peoples all over took courage from the new sense of purpose of the Egyptians. Their confidence and freedom from fear has inspired oppressed people in all parts of the world, and there are already popular uprisings and protests in Jordan, Yemen and Sudan. Not far behind are citizens in Algeria, Cameroon and Libya who are slowly stirring and demanding political and social change.

The peoples of Egypt and Tunisia have made their mark on the world stage and they have shifted the balance of power back to ordinary people. They have re-established the essence of popular democratic participation and elevated the issues of the politics of inclusion. This shift is bringing back the sense of power to the exploited all over the world. Oppressed peoples all over the world now take courage from the new sense of purpose of the demonstrators. Their confidence and freedom from fear have been so inspiring that there are already popular uprisings and protests in Jordan, Yemen and Sudan. Not far behind are citizens in Algeria, Cameroon and Libya, who are slowly stirring and demanding political and social change.

Indisputably, youths are rewriting the meaning of revolutionary organisation and at the same time exposing the hollowness and hypocrisy of the liberal ‘democratic’ posture of Western imperialists. It is this same Western liberal force that supported the regime in Egypt as a bulwark of ‘stability and counter-terrorism’ in North Africa and the Middle East. By unleashing thugs and state security personnel to attack the unarmed civilians, the Egyptian revolution now poses a challenge of the fourth stage of the revolution: how to harness the ideas of revolutionary non-violence to be able to stand firm and fight back against internal and external provocations. In this standoff, the army will be put to the test as the external supporters of the moribund Mubarak regime seek to crush the revolutionary spirit of the people. One of the important tasks of the peace and justice movements internationally is to oppose the militarists who will seek to exploit the moment of transition to foment war and military interventions. Read more