Friday, February 24, 2012

Abdoulaye Wade, are you a fraudulent Pan-Africanist?


Abdoulaye Wade is 85 years old. Or is it 86? Or 87? Who Knows? He is campaigning for a third term as the president of the Republic of Senegal. Wade won the elections to be president in 2000 and won another six-year term in 2007. There will be elections on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Under the Constitution of Senegal, Wade is not eligible to run for a third term. A questionable panel of judges tampered with the interpretation of the Constitution so that Wade could be ‘given’ permission to stand for a Third term. The people of Senegal have responded and have said that they have not given him permission and have been making daily manifestations against the potential third term presidency of Wade. It is likely that he will come through the elections on Sunday over the dead bodies of many Senegalese. For the past fifty years Wade represented himself as a Pan-African fighter for dignity and unity.

During the presidency of Leopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal after independence, Wade campaigned to form a political party and unsuccessfully ran against the next leader of the Socialist Party, Abdou Diouf. The Socialist Party of Senghor had dominated Senegalese politics for some 40 years but in the era of structural adjustment, this party started implementation of the ‘reforms’ to deepen capitalist exploitation. The ‘reforms’ of structural adjustment involved the strengthening of the local capitalist class in Senegal and included the privatisation of financially sound state-owned entities. In the process new social forces came into being while the majority became impoverished. Hundreds of young Senegalese started to leave the country with the exodus increasing daily. Abdou Diouf was defeated in the elections of 2000 because Wade campaigned on behalf of the people, calling himself the ‘Street President’.

Twelve years later the impact of the ’structural adjustment reforms’ are being felt even more and the people want a government that can respond to their needs. The opposition in Senegal is divided, but this is one of the most sophisticated countries in Africa with a long history of popular struggles. During the colonial period, it was the scene of one of the most protracted strikes for better living conditions. Wade had ridden on this history and had proclaimed himself as a progressive Pan-Africanist. For a short while, he was one of the few leaders calling for the immediate unification of the peoples of Africa and the building of the infrastructure for the United States of Africa. Today, as he turns the weapons of this state against the people, we are calling on Mr. Wade to step aside or go down in history as a fraudulent Pan Africanist. It is not too late to listen to the people.

PAN AFRICANISM AND DIGNITY: DEEP PAN AFRICAN TRADITIONS IN SENEGAL AND WEST AFRICA

The basic creed of Pan-Africanism is the dignity of human beings, especially the dignity of Africans. This concept of dignity has gone through many phases. At one moment it was the struggle against colonialism; at another moment, it was s struggle against apartheid. It was a struggle against Jim Crow and racism. In the 21st century, the Pan-African struggle combines the anti-colonial and the anti-racist history with a new thrust for dignity and renewal of the African person. Increasingly, as the poor people of Africa suffer the brunt of the capitalist crisis, it is clearer that the present state structures in Africa cannot be the basis for freedom and dignity. Africa cannot be free with the structures of the Berlinist state along with the institutions of exploitation and domination.

The peoples of Senegal understood this basic dictum of Pan-African unity and freedom and the ordinary workers, traders and cultural workers from Senegal claimed African and international spaces. They do not respect colonial borders. They do not respect the barriers to the free movement of people. This Pan-Africanism at the grassroots is most evident among the women who are the connective corridor between the Pan-African trade networks across Africa. Whether it is Angola, Zambia, South Africa, Ghana, one will find these traders, crafts persons who do not allow language, currencies or political forces to prevent them from carrying out their day to day existence.

It is this culture of freedom in Senegal that produced some of the greatest Pan-African thinkers and Cheikh Anta Diop stands heads and shoulders over many. Diop’s work and his contributions on the cultural unity of Africa remains one of the foundation documents for the building of the union of the peoples of Africa. Younger Pan-Africanists will do well to read his writings on Pan-Africanism and the need for one government in Africa. Diop was also aware of the need for a special place for women in this united Africa so he suggested a bicameral arrangement with special deliberative bodies for women. It is also Cheikh Anta Diop who wrote and spoke of the vibrant African optimism that will take Africa out of the barbarism of capitalism. Senegal also produced the top film maker and writer, Ousmane Sembène, whose Pan-African writings have lifted the hearts and spirits of peoples everywhere. Sembene wanted humans to have dignity. Then, there are the hundreds of cultural voices who use different mediums to bring across their message. Senegalese rappers are now joining the traditions of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and other Pan-African in singing songs of freedom and emancipation. Read more

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dudley Thompson: A fighter for socialism and African unity


‘Not only are they wicked for enslaving our ancestors but, worse, they have stubbornly and consistently refused to confess their crime against humanity….’ - Dudley Thompson

INTRODUCTION

On 20 January 2012 Dudley Joseph Thompson, the indefatigable fighter for African Unity, reparative justice and socialism joined the ancestors. Born in Panama, raised in Jamaica and serving as a frontline activist for African Liberation, Thompson spent the past 70 years of his life working to end domination and exploitation of the African people at home and abroad. He was 95 years old. After graduating from Oxford University, Thompson moved to East Africa (Tanzania) and from there worked tirelessly for the liberation struggles in that region, acting as one of the coordinators of the defense team for Jomo Kenyatta and other leaders of the Kenyan independence struggles. Thompson returned to Jamaica in 1955 where he participated in the political movement for decolonisation. He could not escape the poisonous political atmosphere existing in the Caribbean during this period of the 1970s and thus he worked to promote anti-imperialist positions. He was a member of the government of the People’s National Party (PNP) led by Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley.

This was a moment when the Jamaican political leadership articulated a program of democratic socialism. The United States government and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) intensified the latent violence and murder of that former slave society. After the popular rebellions of the pre-independence period, both political parties had organised thugs in their ranks. The CIA exploited the basic political mechanisms of the two-party divide and introduced a global connection between guns politics and trafficking of illegal substances. Because of the depth of violence and thuggery of that political system, Thompson was one branch of this political divide. During the period of CIA destabilisation of Jamaica he was the minister of national security and his reputation was permanently tainted by a massacre at Green Bay in 1978. He lived to regret this killing of youths by the Jamaican military. After serving in the Jamaican government (1974 to 1980), he was appointed as the ambassador for Jamaica to Nigeria, West Africa. He worked within the Global Africa reparations movement and from Nigeria strengthened the forces of reparative justice in that society. When Thompson sought to work with leaders such as Nigerian historian Professor J. F. Ade Ajayi and President-elect Chief M.K.O Abiola, the US and Britain were alarmed. Read more

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Transformation of China’s diplomacy: New discipline, new paradigm and new strategy


INTRODUCTION

On 17 December 2011, there was the 11th annual conference on Chinese diplomacy organised by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy held at Tsinghua University with two parallel meetings. Under the title of ‘New Discipline, New Paradigm and New Strategy’, the dominant question in this conference was the changed international situation, especially the new internationalisation of the issues of the South China Sea. Many themes emerged, and I want to identify two. The first was the articulation by various specialists that China will have to be creative and to define new strategies for a foreign policy that will guarantee peace and international stability. The second theme was the reaffirmation by China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs that China was on the road to build socialism and that its foreign policy was one path in this road.

In relation to the first overriding theme, I was intrigued to hear from one international presenter, Robert Kaplan, that the Chinese involvement in Kenya and the building of a new town in Lamu was part of a wider strategy for the projection of Chinese naval power in the Indian Ocean, linking new port facilities from Kenya to Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Meetings such as these reconfirmed the necessity for peace activists to have a global view in order to grasp how rivalries between particular societies can negatively affect the pace of transformation in other societies. On the second theme, there was a basic contradiction between this reaffirmation of the tasks of building socialism and the current intellectual culture at the highest levels, which is subservient to western and realist principles of politics and economics. In my recent work among scholars of international relations at the mainstream universities in China it was rare to encounter a scholar who was familiar with ideas of South–South relations as a theoretical framework. The Marxism of the party cadres was so caricatured that it had no appeal for the young. It was the environmentalists and activists for the landless who were pushing for a new conception of politics. Read more

African world view on revolutionary ruptures and pace of change in 2012: ‘Egypt's popular revolution will change the world’


INTRODUCTION

From time to time in the history of society one event or a series of social struggles point to a new direction in world politics. At the beginning of 2011, the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt were two such social and political struggles. By the end of the year the sustained struggle of workers to retain basic democratic rights of collective bargaining had placed the plutocrats of Wall Street on the defensive. When the spokespersons for the top one per cent met in Davos, Switzerland for the usual retreat of international power brokers in January 2012, there were clear signs that they had lost the political initiative. Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary of the United States, warned of ‘critical risks’ while there were recriminations between the various European spokespersons on the outcome of the proposed ‘austerity measures.’ George Soros, ever vigilant to maintain a system where he has made billions of dollars, warned that the ‘austerity Germany wants to impose will push Europe into a deflationary spiral, creating a ‘very dangerous political dynamic.’ Instead of pulling countries together, it would ‘drive them to mutual recrimination.’

Tim Geithner, George Soros, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were exposing the deep divisions between the old traditional imperial overlords in the face of the sharp shift in the global order. Japan saw the ‘conflicts between Germany and France on one side’ and the other weaker states in Europe and is moving to escape the ‘dangerous political dynamic’ of the European project. Hence, we have witnessed the currency swap arrangements and new vigor to embrace China and other economic partners in Asia.

What should the progressive movement make of these changes and the journey towards a new distribution of global power?

Can a social democratic solution be reconstructed or are we on the verge of a 21st century form of fascism? Read more

China and Japan currency swap: A nail in the coffin of the U.S. Dollar


On 25 December 2011, the government of Peoples Republic of China and Japan unveiled plans to promote direct exchange of their currencies. This agreement will allow firms to convert the Chinese and Japanese currencies directly into each other, thus negating the need to buy dollars. This deal between China and Japan followed agreements between China and numerous countries to trade outside the sphere of the US dollar. A few weeks earlier, China also announced a 70 billion Yuan ($11 billion) currency swap agreement with Thailand.

After visiting China, the Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihiko Noda went on to India and signed another currency swap agreement with the government of India. These currency agreements in Asia came in a year when the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) were seeking to deepen ways to strengthen their firewall to protect their economies from the continued devaluation of the US dollar. In the year of the ‘Eurozone crisis’ when the future of the EURO as a viable currency was fraught with uncertainty, many states were reconsidering holding their reserves in the US dollar.

Moreover, in the face of the neo-liberal orthodoxy of the Bretton Woods institutions (especially the IMF) swap agreements were proliferating in all parts of the globe. The Latin Americans established the Bank of the South and are slowly laying the groundwork for a new currency, the SUCRE. As in Asia, the Bank of the South will be one of the fundamental institutions of the Union of South American Nations that has been launched in Latin America in order to guarantee the independence of the societies of Latin America. Not to be left as the only region holding dollars, the leaders of the oil rich states of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been buying gold while announcing as long ago as 2009 the intention to establish a monetary union with a common currency. In Africa there are plans for the strengthening of the financial basis of the African Union but so far there has not been the same kind coordinated regional plans for financial independence. During the period of the debate on the debt crisis in the USA, the Nigerian central bank governor Lamido Sanusi announced that Nigeria plans to invest 5 to 10 percent of its foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency - the Yuan also known as the renminbi (RMB). Read more