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Who Pays for Think Tanks?


Who Pays for Think Tanks?

Corporate and foundation money often comes with an agenda


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Think tanks are important institutions that provide information and analysis to both policy-makers and the public. But when they court donations, it can become unclear whether that analysis is tainted by donor agendas.

Read MORE:
Wealthy Donors and Corporations Set Think Tanks’ Agendas

Just what is a think tank?

Revealed: who pays for the corporate lobbyist Think Tanks?

Ken Silverstein in the Nation (5/21/13) recently exposed the extent to which positions at the center-left Center for American Progress (CAP) and other think tanks were shaped by the interests of donors. “Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors,” Silverstein reported.

The 25 institutions in FAIR’s study of think tank citations have gotten money from corporations, foundations, governments and individual donors. The law does not require public disclosure of who the donors are, though donations above $5,000 are reported to the IRS. Many think tanks thank their donors in their annual reports, while others list donors on their websites. Sometimes the trawling of tax documents is required to figure out who is giving—and what they’re getting in return.

The sobering news about atmospheric carbon dioxide passing 400 parts per million (Guardian, 5/10/13) is another reminder that the global community needs to quickly take serious steps to avert looming ecological catastrophe, but with world leaders relying on research funded by the energy industry, it is unlikely the drastic measures required will be considered.

Pete Peterson (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Billionaire Pete Peterson has ties to five top think tanks (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Almost two-thirds of the think tanks studied (16 out of 25) took money from at least one oil company. Thirteen—more than half—were funded by ExxonMobil, while more than a third, nine, were funded by Chevron; the Koch brothers contributed to seven. Shell gave to four think tanks, and Conoco-Phillips and BP each funded three.

Reflecting the clout that big donations bring, various think tanks have Big Energy sitting on their boards. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has Rex W. Tillerson, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, on its board of trustees, along with John Hess of Hess Oil. Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers sits on the boards of the Brookings Institution and the Aspen Institute. Aspen also has David Koch of Koch Industries, who’s on the board of the Cato Institute as well. The board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) features the “Honorable Richard B. Cheney.”

Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird

War-related issues are also of vital public concern—and the companies that most profit from war are using their wealth to shape the discussion in ways that benefit them. Just under half (12 of 25) of the most-cited think tanks take money from weapons manufacturers; General Electric bankrolls 11 of them, while Boeing and Lockheed Martin each contributed to six. Four got donations from Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon financed three.

Ten of the 25 think tanks received donations from finance corporations. Five have finance executives on their boards; Brookings has three different Goldman Sachs–linked individuals, while Aspen has two. The board of the Institute for International Economics (IIE) has three members linked to Citigroup, and the Carnegie Endowment has one.

Thirteen of the think tanks had connections to the for-profit healthcare industry, either by donation or by board members. Nine received donations from pharmaceutical interests like Pfizer, Merck and the lobbying group PhRMA, while three have accepted money from health insurance companies like MetLife. AEI’s board has Wilson Taylor, chair emeritus of Cigna, while Brookings’ contains former Cigna chair Ralph Saul. IIE’s board holds Karen Katen, former vice chair of Pfizer, and Ronald Williams, retired chair and CEO of Aetna.

Think tanks are also funded by charitable foundations, often channeling the fortunes of wealthy families of individuals, many of which have an ideological agenda that can be seen clearly in their choice of beneficiaries. Foundations tied to Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon banking heir who has helped to “fund the creation of the modern conservative movement in America” (Washington Post, 5/2/99), have bank-rolled the Manhattan Institute, AEI, Heritage, Hoover, Cato and CSIS. Scaife sits on the boards of Heritage and the Hoover Institution.

The Koch brothers foundations support Cato (where David Koch is on the board), Heritage, AEI, Manhattan and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The DeVos family, whose fortune derives from Amway, fund through various foundations AEI, Heritage and Cato. The Gilder Foundation funds the Manhattan Institute (where its founder is chair emeritus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Cato and Heritage. The Bradley Foundation donates to AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato.

The Walton Family Foundation, created by the family of billionaires who own Walmart, have given money to conservative groups like AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato. They’ve also given money to the centrist Brookings and the center-left CAP, which backs President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a program that may drive up costs for Walmart’s small business competitors (Business Insider6/30/09).

Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who has relentlessly campaigned against retirement benefits through programs he helped launch like the Concord Coalition and the Fix the Debt campaign (Extra!3-4/976/10CounterSpin3/15/1311/16/12), is the former chair of the Council on Foreign Relations (and is still on CFR s board) and the founding chair of the IIE. His entities have bankrolled the Atlantic Council, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and New America Foundation (NAF).

Billionaire financier George Soros is an outlier among wealthy givers, contributing through multiple foundations and corporations to a variety of institutions ranging from center-right to progressive: the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Woodrow Wilson Center, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Carnegie, Aspen, Brookings, Cato, CFR, EPI, NAF and CAP.

Think Tank Ties to Media


 

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Neo-Con Think Tanks that Drive Policy and Send us to WAR


The military-industrial-propaganda complex: The neo-con think tanks that drive policy and send us to war

Well-funded think tanks push corporate agendas through media “experts” and sustain the neo-conservative apparatus


America’s first think tanks developed in the early 1900s and grew out of a desire to improve government and to help government think, according to McGann. The first kind of think tank was the academic model, such as the Brookings Institution, founded in 1916 by reformers devoted to fact-based studies of national public-policy issues. Experts at Brookings played a role in shaping plans for the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. The next model, McGann says, was the RAND Corporation, established in 1920 as a consulting agency for the government.

The advocacy think tanks emerged in the 1960s. These new-style organizations, which campaigned actively for their policy preferences, tended to reflect that decade’s swing to the political left. But the next two decades saw what McGann calls “a sort of conservative counter-revolution,” leading to a “war of ideas,” with openly ideological or partisan think tanks proliferating on both sides.

In 1963, during the period of the Vietnam War and the Great Society, the first advocacy institution was the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. The neoconservative Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973.

Conservative think tanks have more power and influence today in U.S. politics, McGann says, adding that there is “increasing criticism and worry over the domination of the right on policy.” David Callahan wrote in the Washington Monthly in November 1999, “The big development of the 1990s is that conservative institutes have had spectacular new success in tapping business money to fund ideologically charged policy research.” According to Callahan, “Corporate giving to right-wing groups has steadily increased as private sector leaders have seen the effectiveness with which conservative think tanks, and their armies of credentialed ‘experts,’ advance business interests in the political arena. Money, it turns out, can buy scholars as well as politicians.”

Callahan wrote that the “current gusher of corporate funding for right-wing policy work has its roots in the 1970s, when leading conservative thinkers appealed to corporations to fund intellectuals who supported their economic interests.” He pointed out that corporate leaders make up the overwhelming majority of board members at most conservative think tanks. “Even the American Enterprise Institute, among the most scholarly of conservative think tanks, has some two dozen corporate leaders on its board and only one academic, James Q. Wilson.” Wilson, who taught at Harvard, died in 2012.

One of the most powerful underwriters of far-right-wing conservative causes is Koch Industries, the oil and chemicals conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion. The conglomerate operates oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota and controls some four thousand miles of pipeline.

Writer Jane Mayer described the political activities of Koch’s owners, David and Charles Koch, in an August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker magazine. Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have provided more than $30 million to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, much of it for a think tank called the Mercatus Center, which describes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas and real world problems.”

Mayer quotes an environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center and who explained to her how corporate interests use think tanks to promote their private agendas. “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank” that “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” Among the largest and most influential of the conservative think tanks, in addition to the American Enterprise Institute, are the Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

More than twenty AEI people wound up with top jobs in the George W. Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and backer of the Iraq War, is now a visiting scholar at the AEI, which has an annual budget of about $20 million. It has about fifty so-called scholars and about 150 on the payroll. Its objective is to influence public policy. Christopher DeMuth, president of the AEI from 1986 through 2008, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, put it this way: “We try to get in the newspaper op-ed pages and hawk our books and magazines much more aggressively than a university would feel comfortable with.”

If you watch the op-ed pages in the newspapers carefully, you will find the AEI and other think tanks well represented, week after week, month after month. You will also see them on television presenting their point of view. When network-television talk shows and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) want “experts” on foreign policy, they often turn to the AEI or other prominent think tanks. But they don’t always tell the public who is paying the salaries of the “experts.” You can bet it is corporate America.

DeMuth, for example, has said that his board of trustees is composed of twenty-four business and financial executives. “They read our work. They tell me what they like, and they tell me what they don’t like.” In his 2005 interview, DeMuth said the AEI raised $20 million to $25 million a year with a third of the money coming from corporations, a third from individuals, and a third from foundations. “We have over three hundred corporate donors,” he said.

Rob Stein, by profession a venture capitalist, but a former strategic adviser to the Democratic National Committee, has spent years studying conservative groups. From 2003 to 2005, by his estimate, conservative organizations spent about $295 million seeking to influence policy while those of the left spent about $75 million.

More recently, bestselling author Thomas Frank wrote in a New York Times column, “During the last three decades a cottage industry of conservative institutions and foundations has grown into a powerful quasi-academy with seven-figure budgets and phalanxes of ‘senior fellows’ and ‘distinguished chairs.’ While real academics dither and fret over bugbears like certainty and balance, the scholars of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute act boldly in the knowledge, to quote a seminal conservative text, that ideas have consequences.” The AEI “has long been the reliable source of corporate money. Its principals effectively ran the Goldwater campaign in 1964 and it was deep thinkers from the institute who, after moving into the Bush administration, dreamed up the war in Iraq.”

A prominent opponent of the war was the libertarian Cato Institute, which is conservative on domestic issues but traditionally opposed to foreign intervention. In California’s Orange County Register, Cato vice president Ted Galen Carpenter wrote—just days before the war began—that the pro-war camp’s justifications for invading Iraq were faulty: “The United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic. As such, the job of the U.S. military is to defend the vital security interests of the American people. U.S. troops are not armed crusaders with a mission to right all wrongs and liberate oppressed populations. American dollars are too scarce and American lives too precious for such feckless ventures.”

As for the idea that Saddam’s overthrow would trigger a democratic transformation in the Middle East, Carpenter said, “This is a fantasy. The harsh reality is that the Middle East has no history of democratic rule, democratic institutions or serious democratic movements. To expect stable democracies to emerge from such an environment is naïve.” He went on, “If free elections were held today in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they would produce virulently anti-American governments.”

The libertarians were right. The hawks were wrong.

HAWKS IN AFGHANISTAN

Two of Washington’s most successful think-tank hawks are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the husband-and-wife team who spent a year in Afghanistan working as unpaid volunteers for the U.S. general in charge of the war. Frederick Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which has a history of supporting American military intervention around the world.

Having written papers that advocate an aggressive U.S. military policy, the Kagans moved to Afghanistan in 2010 and embedded themselves as “de facto senior advisors” to General David Petraeus. The Kagans were given top-level security clearance in Kabul, where they reviewed classified intelligence reports and participated in strategy sessions. The Kagans used their positions to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, “including a harder-edged approach,” according to a Washington Post report about them, published December 18, 2012.

Think-tank hawks have always sought to impact defense policy. The Kagans found a way to go beyond traditional influence peddling and gain the ear of the military man in charge of a real war. The Kagans were not paid by the U.S. government for their work, but their proximity to Petraeus provided valuable benefits. The Post article reported that the arrangement with Petraeus “provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank,” the Institute for the Study of War, which advocates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. At an August 2011 dinner, Kim Kagan thanked two contractors, DynCorp International and CACI International, for funding her institute and making it possible for her to spend a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus.


Excerpted from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts by James McCartney with Molly Sinclair McCartney. Copyright © 2015 by Molly Sinclair McCartney and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

‘White Philosophers to be Dropped from Curriculum’


News | UK | Home News

SOAS students call for ‘white philosophers to be dropped from curriculum’

Lucy Pasha-Robinson | @lucypasha | 9th January 2017

Students at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are calling for white philosophers to be largely removed from the curriculum to better represent the university’s focus on Asia and Africa.

As part of the student union’s “educational priorities” for 2017, students outlined ways to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university” as part of an initiative that aims to “decolonise” SOAS.

One suggestion was to ensure the majority of philosophers taught on university courses come from the Global South or its diaspora.

The students also said if white philosophers were required, their work should be taught from a “critical standpoint”, to acknowledge the colonial context in which many of their works were written.

Dr Deborah Gabriel, founder of Black British Academics, said the students were clearly seeking to engage in a more culturally diverse discussion that was reflective of the university’s focus, and interrogate the links to colonisation held by the institution.

“A culturally democratic curriculum is something that all scholars, regardless of their ethnic background, should be teaching, given global and national priorities in the 21st century,” she told The Independent.

“Teaching is often based on very narrow criteria and often tends to be eurocentric. These students are calling on scholars to meet the criteria of their role to teach from different cultural contexts, it’s something we all should be doing more of.”

University of Liverpool Law professor explains why Leave campaign lied ‘on an industrial scale’

However, she also said decolonising doesn’t necessarily equate to removing the problematic.

“I don’t believe that necessitates removing white scholars because not all white scholars espouse ideas that are narrow in context, a lot of them do engage in anti-racist teaching. Academia often draws on series that are decades old, which is what people often find problematic,” she said.

“If you remove that kind of content from the curriculum, how are you going to critique it? That is what changes attitudes and thinking by looking at past theories and how they have evolved, and looking at what is considered progressive and acceptable now.”

The SOAS “educational priorities” came amid growing calls from students across the UK to rid British universities of associations with colonialism.

Last year, Oxford University refused to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College over his links with Britain’s colonial past, despite a high-profile student-led campaign.

Cambridge University’s Jesus College took down a bronze cockerel statue, which had been looted during a British colonial expedition to Nigeria in the 19th century, after students asked for it to be repatriated.

SOAS is the largest European centre for the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

SOAS spokesperson Dr Deborah Johnston, pro-director learning and teaching told The Independent: “One of the great strengths of SOAS is that we have always looked at world issues from the perspective of the regions we study – Asia, Africa & Middle East. Informed and critical debate and discussion about the curriculum we teach is a healthy and proper part of the academic enterprise.”


The Independent has approached SOAS’s student union for comment.


Rhodes Must Fall


News | World | Africa

Controversial Rhodes Must Fall founder defends lashing out at white student with ‘protest stick’

Adam Withnall Africa Correspondent  | @adamwithnall | Thursday 22 September 2016

‘I wish I had actually not been a good law abiding citizen, and whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b******’


A former Oxford student and co-founder of the university’s Rhodes Must Fall campaign has reportedly been caught on camera lashing out at a white student during protests against higher education fees in South Africa.

Ntokozo Qwabe, who last made headlines when he refused to tip a white waitress until “you return the land”, did not deny using what he called his “protest stick” in the video, but said he only wished he had “whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b******”.

Video posted to social media appeared to show Mr Qwabe standing on a table in the law faculty of the University of Cape Town, one of a number of institutions across the country hit by protests in recent weeks.

According to the Times Live, Mr Qwabe said he was involved in a “shut down” of the “arrogant” faculty when a white student started filming the protesters on his mobile phone.

The footage shows an argument over the filming, before it ends abruptly when Mr Qwabe appears to lunge towards the camera with a stick.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Qwabe said it was “not true I assaulted or whipped with a stick a white student”.

qwabe.jpg
(Ntokozo Qwabe/Facebook)

He said the only acted to knock the phone out of the student’s hand. “He picked it up and continued to video‚ at which point I came closer to him and told him to switch it the f*** off,” Mr Qwabe said, at which point the student “then kindly put it back into his pocket”.

“Although I wish I’d actually not been a good law abiding citizen & whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b****** – who continued to video record us without our consent – this is not what happened as the media is reporting.”

Mr Qwabe rose to prominence in the UK when he helped start the movement calling for Oxford University to remove its statue of the colonialist leader Cecil Rhodes.

A Rhodes scholar himself, he said forcing black students to walk past the statue outside Oriel College was a form of “violence”.

In June, he caused outrage after saying on social media he had made Cape Town waitress Ashleigh Schultz cry “typical white tears” after he wrote on a cafe bill: “We will tip when you return the land”.


 

Continue reading Rhodes Must Fall

Pope Francis Washes Feet of Refugees for Easter Week


Pope Francis washes feet of refugees for Easter Week

25 MARCH 2016

The traditional Easter Week foot-washing ceremony by the pontiff is meant as a Catholic gesture of service.


The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles [L''Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP]
The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles [L”Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP]

Pope Francis has visited a refugee centre to wash and kiss the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees — a gesture of welcome at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has risen after the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Francis celebrated the traditional Easter Week foot-washing ceremony at a refugee shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome, inaugurating the most solemn period of the Catholic Church’s Easter season.

The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.

Francis was greeted with a banner reading “Welcome” in a variety of languages as he processed down a makeshift aisle to celebrate the outdoor Mass.

A fraction of the 892 asylum seekers living at the shelter attended, though others milled around nearby and filmed the event on their smartphones.

Vatican rules had long called for only men to participate in the ritual, and past popes and many priests traditionally performed it on 12 Catholic men, recalling Jesus’ 12 apostles and further cementing the doctrine of an all-male priesthood.

But after years of violating the rules outright, Francis in January changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.


READ MORE: Pope visits mosque in besieged CAR enclave


The Vatican said on Thursday that four women and eight men had been selected. The women include an Italian who works at the centre and three Eritrean Coptic Christian migrants. The men include four Catholics from Nigeria, three Muslims from Mali, Syria and Pakistan, and a Hindu from India.

The new norms said anyone from the “people of God” could be chosen to participate in the ceremony.

While the phrase “people of God” usually refers to baptised Christians, the decree also said that pastors should instruct “both the chosen faithful and others so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully”, suggesting that the rite could be open to non-Catholics as well.


Source: AP


 

EU set for NEW Migrant Crisis


EU set for NEW migrant crisis? 15million African immigrants ‘to arrive in Europe by 2020’

PUBLISHED: 15:41, Sat, Jan 7, 2017 | UPDATED: 19:08, Sat, Jan 7, 2017

AS many as 15 million new migrants could enter Europe from Africa in the next three years, according to a report by an Austrian intelligence agency.


MigrantsGETTY

The Austrian Military Intelligence agency predicts a further 15m migrants into Europe from Africa

Analysis by Austrian Military Intelligence, an agency of the Austrian Armed Forces, has predicted a sharp rise in unemployment across Africa, which would lead to millions of economic migrants travelling to Europe in search of work between now and 2020.The predicted numbers, reported by German newspaper Bild, dwarfs the estimated figure of one million migrants believed to have entered Europe during the current crisis.

The agency said one solution to the impending influx would be for Europe to bolster African nations’ economies, in order to support job creation, productivity and education.

This in turn would encourage more investment from abroad and persuade more people to stay and work in their country of origin.

However, the agency recognised such payments are open to abuse by certain regimes, who would use the funds to “attack their own people” and only increase the number of people fleeing to Europe.The report also called for countries of origin to invest in monitoring their own borders and reduce the “flow of migrants”.

The study found that between 2013 and 2016, more than half a million Africans immigrated to EU countries, with the most coming from Eritrea.

About 100,000 Eritreans are believed to have fled their war-torn country, while Nigeria had the second most asylum seekers, with around 80,000.

Somalia was third with about 60,000, followed by Gambia (40 000), Mali and Algeria (30 000 each), Sudan, DR Congo, Guinea and Senegal (more than 20,000).


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Misogynoir: Where Racism and Sexism Meet


Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet

 | Monday 5 October 2015 

Activists argue that the prejudice against black women is ignored by mainstream feminism. But what are the corrosive stereotypes feeding it?


Serena Williams … victim to Twitter trolls.
 Serena Williams … victim to Twitter trolls. Photograph: IBL/REX Shutterstock

Last week, London nightclub Dstrkt was accused of turning away two young black women for being “too fat” and “too dark”, prompting a swift, strident response on social media. The club was quick to deny the allegations and the council equally quick to express its concern. News outlets went into overdrive, to find “voices” to give the incident context. In the Guardian, one writer explained that young black people often resort to unlikely methods to get into certain clubs – the kind, like Dstrkt in Soho, that aren’t really about the music anyway – while in the Independent, DJ Edward Adoo discussed the pervasive racism of London’s nightclubs as a matter of fact.

But what is alleged to have happened at Dstrkt isn’t just about race; the accused promoter is black. It’s about gender too. Discrimination, prejudice and unchecked fear aimed specifically at black women now has a name: misogynoir.

The term was coined in 2010 by gay black feminist American academic Moya Bailey, who defined it “to describe the particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual and popular culture”.

Since then black women – and some men – predominantly on social media, have taken ownership of the term, using it to describe prejudice experienced in a range of contexts.

“Misogynoir provides a racialised nuance that mainstream feminism wasn’t catching,” says black feminist commentator, Feminista Jones. “We are talking about misogyny, yes, but there is a specific misogyny that is aimed at black women and is uniquely detrimental to black women.”

She says it is both about racial and gender hatred and can be perpetuated by non-black people and by black men – it is the latter, Jones says, she experienced the most often. “In my campaigning on street harassment, I have been targeted because I am a black woman who is vocal. They don’t go to anybody from Hollaback or Stop Street Harassment [campaigns run by white women] … they will say I’m a traitor and call me a tool for white supremacy … just because I’m calling out their very targeted misogynoir.”

It’s not ideal, as the comedian The Kid Mero pointed out last week, “We gotta make up better terms for oppressive shit cuz ‘misogynoir’ sounds like a scandalous Cirque du Soleil Vegas show”. Still, the term has spread to Britain, where most recently, writer Maya Goodfellow discussed misogynoir on the online platform Media Diversified, in reference to the abuse Diane Abbott has received since her appointment as shadow international development secretary. Goodfellow concluded that “a black woman who challenges the status quo and won’t apologise for doing so will always be judged unfairly. Because too many, subconsciously, feel it’s not up to people ‘like her’ to be the voice of opposition.”

Of course, detractors will inevitably counter that bouncers abuse their power all the time and people of all races and gender have at some point been refused entry. And that as a politician, Abbott is fair game for ridicule and scorn. Both of those points are acceptable, but neither explain or invalidate the experiences of hostility that sit at the intersection between sexism and racism.

Diane Abbott … new job criticised.
 Diane Abbott … new job criticised. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

At the heart of this concept are two corrosive stereotypes. The first characterises black people as animalistic, uncontrolled or uncontrollable, and is in part responsible for the concepts of the “angry or strong black woman”. These are used to deny pain and legitimise offence: “Oh, that unfair treatment you’ve received at work? You’ll get over it, you’re a strong black woman.” The second is that black women’s bodies are hypersexualised: the “sexy black woman” is all tits and twerking.

Few people in the public eye seem to have experienced this problem quite as much as Serena Williams. To the United States Tennis Association president, Katrina Adams – and countless others – Williams is the “greatest athlete of all time”. John McEnroe recently described her as “I think, the greatest player that ever lived”. But to the Twitter trolls she’s “a gorilla”, “more manly than any man”. As Marc Bain wrote in Quartz: “Only sexism and racism can explain why Serena Williams doesn’t earn more in endorsements.”

Misogynoir may also explain how American actor Nancy Lee Grahn can praise Patricia Arquette for using her Oscar speech to speak out about gender inequalities, but ridicule Viola Davis for doing the same thing, saying to the former: “Use your win to champion women. Make your moment matter. I like that.” But to the latter: “None of us get the respect we deserve. Emmys not venue for racial opportunity.”

Zalika Miller, Reisha, Tasha and Lin Mei on their way to Dstrkt nightclub in the West End
 Zalika Miller, Reisha, Tasha and Lin Mei on their way to Dstrkt nightclub in the West End Photograph: Lin Mei

It is because mainstream feminism has so often failed to recognise and include the experience of black and transgender women that terms such as misogynoir have been able to flourish in the shadow of feminism’s third wave. Grahn has since apologised on Twitter.

But the intention was never to use jargon to exclude the majority, in order to create safe space for the minority. Instead, argues Jones, the word is supposed to start a broader conversation. “If people want to dismiss it as jargon, it’s because they don’t want to be part of the conversation. [The term] is for everybody. We [black women] can talk until we are blue in the face but if nobody else is listening and nobody else is willing to work to make change, it really doesn’t do much for us.”

But misogynoir simply connects a new generation to the gap in the discourse on rights that abolitionist Sojourner Truth spoke of in her 1851 speech, Ain’t I a Woman. Then she told a gathering of feminists about her own needs that went unmet “betwixt the negro in the south and the white woman in the north, all talking about rights”. It has only taken 164 years to give Truth’s predicament a name. Here’s to hoping we don’t spend the next 164 discussing the term, while continuing to make excuses for the discrimination it describes.


Why Travelling with an African Passport is Difficult?


Why is travelling with an African passport so difficult?

 | Friday 11 September 2015 

Getting around Europe is a struggle, but it’s just as tough to cross borders in our own continent


Morocco v Cameroon - FIFA2010 World Cup Qualifier
 A 2014 ranking of countries by the strength of their passport revealed that Cameroonians can travel to only 43 countries of their choosing. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

In the summer of 2003, a clerk at the US embassy in London informed me that under new 9/11 laws, I was considered “unstable”, and my request for a tourist visa would be denied. Never mind that on the invitation of my aunt – a US citizen – I had bought non-refundable, round-trip tickets to Philadelphia (both the written invitation and the confirmed bookings were prerequisites), or that I was at the end of the second year of a four-year degree course at Liverpool University, or even that I had a visa and job confirmed in France, where I would be spending my third year.

None of that mattered. I carried a Cameroonian passport, and the job of the consulate team was to presume I had no intention of leaving the US, unless my documentary evidence convinced them otherwise, which clearly it hadn’t. As I left the embassy, my face wet with tears, I invented scenarios to console myself: “Her husband has obviously just left her for her best friend, she’s obviously taking out her frustration on me.”

Over the years it’s not just Americans who have looked at my forest green passport and seen the warning: “Beware! Likely to spread contagion or disappear into the black market.” Queuing in Lille in northern France to upgrade my visa from visitor to work permit was like waiting in line with the disallowed – easily 200 of us jostling to be seen by the gendarmes, emotions ranging from hopeful to desperate, depending on how many times you’d been turned back for some trivial reason. “Revenez demain” (“Come back tomorrow”) became the most painful words to hear.

Much of my time in Britain has also been punctuated by the cycle of visa applications, the prices for which escalate with each change of government. My conversations with immigration officers have become something of a chess match: they make their move then I make mine.

“How long have you been in the UK?” I’m asked, as the immigration officer feels up the page to which my visa is stuck, checking to make sure it didn’t belong to a different passport. “Oh, only 10 years,” I say, insouciant; using my BBC Radio 4 voice. “What did you study at university?” “Do you mean my first degree or one of my masters?” Neither of us break eye contact.

They were only doing their job, but I felt as though I too was doing mine: subtly making the point that I had every right to be here. I’d studied a British curriculum, taught to me by British teachers in African schools; and after my parents raised the thousands of pounds needed to pay for the British university education they thought would help me establish my place in the world, I just wanted to be left to get on with it.

But this is not just a problem in the west. My most painful visa transactions have, sadly, been on the African continent – the place where passports should be recognised immediately for the useless, artificial construct they are; where members of the same ethnic group are separated by barriers imposed from outside.

But Africa’s leaders have been among the most ardent defenders of national boundaries. In 2013, the African Development Bank wrote: “African countries remain closed off to each other, making travel within the continent difficult. Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest visa requirements. This situation is even more restricted for Africans travelling within Africa, as compared to Europeans and North Americans. On average, African citizens require visas to visit 60% of African countries.”

But immigration systems and visa requirements aren’t designed with actual people in mind. Instead, they are a reflection of the geopolitics of the day and of voter sentiment. The number of countries your passport grants you access to is directly proportional to how many friends your government has, and Cameroon’s Paul Biya is famously reclusive.

That said, Cameroon is not the worst. In a 2014 ranking of countries by the strength of their passport, Finns, Swedes and Brits can travel the most freely, swanning into 173 countries of their choosing. Cameroon came in at 43, alongside China, Congo, Jordan and Rwanda. The least desirable passport was Afghanistan’s, giving its citizens access to a paltry 28 countries.

The system is broken, and the idea that where you are born is a lottery exempts us from our collective responsibility to change that system. But I’m an idealist with wanderlust. So I studied hard for the Life in the UK test, pledged my allegiance to the Queen, and swapped my forest green passport for a crimson red British one – all so that I could just finally roam free.


Africa’s Population Boom Fuels “unstoppable” Migration to Europe


Africa’s population boom fuels “unstoppable” migration to Europe

Caste Across the Kalapani


Caste across the kalapani

BY SINTHUJAN VARATHARAJAH | 24 MAY 2013

The long struggle to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK finally succeeds.


The recently activated Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits caste discrimination in the UK, where B R Ambedkar, an icon of the anti-caste struggle, spent formative years as a student at the London School of Economics between 1916 and 1923. Photo: flickr / liitsMeanwhile, the British Government investigated just how prevalent caste-based discrimination was in the UK. It commissioned the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) to study the issue, and promised to consider the evidence before taking any final decisions on the matter. The NIESR’s study  was published in December 2010, two months after the Equality Act 2010 came into force. Its findings largely agreed with those of a joint study by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) and several UK universities, reaffirming that caste-based discrimination, harassment and bullying occur in employment, education and social services in the UK. However, despite the weight of these findings and pressure from human rights activists, the UK government delayed its final decision. Frustrated activist groups such as the ACDA then voiced their discontent internationally, submitting a report on caste discrimination in the UK to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which promptly urged the government to bring activate Section 9(5)(a) and “amend it to provide for caste to be an aspect of race”.

‘Back to the caste system’

Anti-caste activists’ efforts did not go unchallenged. Many ‘upper caste’ British Hindu groups, and also some British policymakers, argued that caste discrimination did not exist outside Southasia, that it was confined to private (but not public) relations, or that legal amendments would not solve the problem. Other objections that caste discrimination only affects a small segment of British society, and so does not require special legal or political protection dismissed the fact that if equality is to be meaningful, it needs to be institutionalised for all, regardless of their numbers. Some even claimed that the ban on discrimination on grounds of ‘race, religion and belief’ would suffice to protect Dalits and other ‘low castes’, insinuating that caste discrimination was an inter-ethnic or inter-faith phenomenon and not, as it really is, the oppression of a minority within communities of more or less uniform faith, ethnicity and ancestral belonging.

Although the anti-caste movement (and also the caste-apologist movement) in the UK is largely driven by members of the Indian diaspora, caste-based discrimination is neither exclusively nor inherently Indian. It also exists among other Southasian religious and cultural communities – Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist and even Christians, from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and elsewhere – many of whom, consciously or subconsciously, negotiate social relations along the lines of caste, although the specific terminologies and degrees of discrimination vary. There is little discussion and activism related to caste questions amongst other Southasian diasporic communities because they have yet to confront the issue, not because the Indian diaspora is the only one affected.

Whilst the government pondered the amendment, the first case of employment discrimination on the basis of caste, Begraj vs Heer Manak Solicitors, in which a Dalit husband and his ‘upper caste’ wife accused an upper-caste Southasian they had worked for of discrimination, humiliation and harassment, was brought before a British court in August 2011. The case was a litmus test for how caste discrimination could be addressed legally in the absence of the recognition of caste as an aspect of race. After two years of proceedings, however, the case collapsed when Heer Manak Solicitors’ laywers claimed that a private visit to the presiding judge by two police officers following an attack against an anti-caste activist could unfairly bias her judgement. The judge recused herself, leaving the Begrajs’ lawyer to lament the fact that the couple was left “without a fair conclusion to their serious complaints of caste-based discrimination, victimisation and harassment.” The case served to show that without specific legal recognition of caste-based discrimination, its victims were left with little recourse.

On 1 March 2013, a few days after the Begraj vs Heer Manak Solicitors trial collapsed, and more than three years after deferring a decision on Section 9(5)(a), the UK government finally released a ministerial statement on tackling caste discrimination. The Department for Culture, Media and Sports expressed the government’s preference for an educational campaign meant to discourage caste discrimination (named ‘Talk for A Change’) over legislative protection. This came as no surprise given the apparent view of the Conservative Party – which is currently part of the ruling coalition alongside the Liberal Democrats – that more anti-discrimination legislation means more red tape and higher legal costs that could discourage business. The government seemed to be ignoring the findings of the independent study it had itself commissioned, which provided legitimate grounds for supporting anti-caste discrimination legislation.

By ignoring calls for such legislation, the government served the interests of capital and of powerful factions within the British Asian community. Hindu groups such as the Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu Council UK, and the National Hindu Students’ Forum, which claim to represent the country’s hundreds of thousands of Hindus, have persistently denied the existence, impact and relevance of caste-based discrimination in the UK. Unsurprisingly, most of the groups opposing Section 9(5)(a) – which have united under the banner of the Alliance for Hindu Organisations UK (AHO) – are strongholds of the ‘upper’ castes. The AHO’s power is understandable: Of the thousands of cultural and religious organisations represented by the AHO, most are led by British Indians, often identified as Britain’s ‘model minority’, with some of the highest education rates, lowest unemployment rates, and high average income and wealth. This ‘model minority’ status and socio-political power has made the demands of British Indians, a large segment of whom are ‘upper caste’, particularly dear to the country’s leaders.

Despite the efficiency and influence of ‘upper caste’ lobbying groups, Dalit and anti-caste groups such as the Dalit Solidarity Network, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, CasteWatch UK and others continued their campaign. The legal manoeuvring was far from over. Merely three days after the ministerial statement, the issue of caste discrimination was debated in the House of Lords, Britain’s upper house. Hours later, the House voted in favour of amending the Equality Act 2010, with even 22 Liberal Democrat and nine Conservative peers supporting the amendment in a departure from their parties’ stance. Suddenly the campaign against caste discrimination, for many years the unwanted stepchild of equality politics in the UK, received new impetus. The House of Lords debate forced policymakers, academics and the media to rethink their view of caste as something limited to Southasia. The lack of engagement with Southasian diasporas on this issue had created an indifference that fostered both the perpetuation and invisibility of the caste system. And Southasian diasporas were complicit in this social silence.

Almost a month after being passed by the House of Lords – ironically itself a symbol of class segregation, elitism and inherited aristocratic privilege in the UK – Section 9(5)(a) was brought before the House of Commons, which had rejected the amendment in a prior vote and which again voted it down on 16 April by 307 votes to 243. The amendment seemed doomed to failure. Interestingly, addressing the House that same day, the UK’s Under Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, stated that “there are a range of views within those [British Asian] communities that are very, very concerned about the possibility of actually increasing stigma through using legislation to try to deal with this particular issue.”

Swindon’s views, and presumably also those of the government, were precisely those voiced by the AHO, which had released a statement on their website on 12 April, four days before the vote in the House of Commons, entitled ‘Don’t take us back to the caste system’. The statement argued that talking about caste, whether from an anti-casteist or casteist point of view, would only reaffirm casteist ideology in today’s supposedly post-caste environment. Exchange the term ‘caste’ with ‘race’, and the analogy to discredited racial discourses was obvious.

Summed up, the AHO’s prime stated concern was that the British Hindu community would be labelled as ‘institutionally discriminatory’. Yet the real fear seemed to be that ‘revoking’ caste identities through legislative action would undo both caste privilege and caste subordination, which go hand in hand. Groups such as the AHO argued that caste-blindness can lead to post-castesist societies, but failed to understand that the inability to legally acknowledge and redress caste-based discrimination is partly responsible for Britain’s lack of effective tools to combat it. As many progressive scholars and activists have made clear, caste ideology does not simply wither away with the progress of time and migration to new locations, but loses its power only when it is recognised and socially criticised for what it is.

Colonial concerns

Britain’s historical relationship with caste is marked by Orientalist curiosity, exotification, abhorrence and exploitation. British colonialists in India saw the caste system as antithetical to modernity, an example of the supposed barbarism and backwardness of Southasian people. As such, it was frequently used to justify the racial, cultural, economic and political subjugation of Southasian Hindus, and to produce the racist images and notions of Southasian people, cultures and religions that still prevail today. Colonial ethnography aimed to locate, map and classify caste, while colonial policymakers attempted, through legal and political measures, to give it structure and form that could be exploited for purposes of power and control. By doing so, colonial rule substantially influenced the indigenous practice of caste, adding new meanings and rationale to existing conceptions. Britain’s encounter with the caste system was not passive: the policies of the Empire shaped caste while simultaneously being shaped by it, with both historic and contemporary consequences.

This is not to say that the caste system was any more humane prior to its reconfiguration under European colonialism. It was not. Nor were the British the only ones to exploit the system; the Mughals, among others, did the same well before them, and there certainly were and are many ‘native’ beneficiaries who cannot be absolved of culpability. However, we should remember the intimate relationship between caste and the Empire, and hence its descendant, the UK. That relationship, and subsequent questions of responsibility, has never been seriously considered in the UK. The campaign for legally recognising caste discrimination in the UK could help sensitise the British public to the history of the Empire. But it remains to be seen if Britain will ever admit and apologise for its role in managing the caste system. As it is, British policymakers did not seem aware of the historical significance of their deliberation on caste in the UK.

Other complex questions also remain. Most concerns of the ‘upper caste’ opponents of Section 9(5)(a) concerned their self-interested preservation of privileges. Some of their criticisms, however, demand further attention due to the specific nature of the power relationships they concern. The worry that certain notions of ‘backwardness’ projected onto non-European people and cultures for centuries will again be enshrined in law cannot be easily dismissed. There is a genuine fear in the UK, shared by many feminist and anti-racist activists in the Global South, that, in the words of Cambridge lecturer Priyamvada Gopal, “xenophobes, racists or even just ‘muscular’ liberals” could misappropriate anti-caste critique to advance racist agendas. To avoid the risk of being condescending, racist and paternalistic, all those involved in the UK’s caste debate must ask: How do we prevent the discussion from reinforcing racist and Orientalist assumptions of the cultural superiority of European ‘progress’ and ‘enlightenment’ over non-European ‘backwardness’? How do we prevent genuine anti-oppression movements from being misused to serve neo-colonial agendas? How do we keep ‘non-British’ culture from being devalued and being framed as a problem? And, most importantly, how do we struggle against the notion that assimilation is the only solution to integration?

Britain and beyond

Less than a week after the House of Commons rejected Section 9(5)(a), it was again debated in the House of Lords. A tug of war emerged between the two Houses, with opposing opinions and interests. On 22 April, the House of Lords rejected the government’s stated position, reiterating its support for Section 9(5)(a), in a 181 to 168 vote. The next day, for the third time, the amendment was put to the vote in the House of Commons.

Anti-caste campaigners expected another disappointment, but were determined to defend their cause. After more than ten years of work, there was just too much to lose. On Tuesday, 23 April, buses full of activists from across the UK arrived at Parliament Square in London to join a protest involving the DNS, CasteWatch UK, Indian Christian Concern, Voices of Dalit International, the Federation of Ambedkarite Buddhist Organisations UK, and others.

That afternoon, at about 3 pm, the protestors received unexpected news from the House of Commons: the government had used its ministerial power to prepare Section 9(5)(a) for legal implementation, merely a week after it had been rejected to the outrage of protestors assembled in the same square. The protest turned into a street party.

The motives behind the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition’s unexpected U-turn are so far unknown, and might take years to uncover and understand. Meanwhile, the government’s delayed intervention means that almost nothing can now stop the process of enforcing legislation against caste-based discrimination. The British Secretary of State must now take steps to include caste as an aspect of race, and hence ban caste discrimination, within two months of the enactment of the Enterprise Regulatory and Reform Act 2013, which comes into force on 25 June 2013 and will include changes to competition policy and employment law.

Although outlawing caste-based discrimination will not eliminate the caste system per se, it will provide protection to its victims and help restore their dignity. Educational programmes like those previously proposed by the government and some Hindu organisations are commendable, but would not do enough to provide justice. They may bear fruit many years, if not decades, down the line, but the caste discrimination that continues to occur in the UK today demands, both as immediate redress and future deterrent, the enforcement of anti-caste law. The new law gives victims of caste discrimination a strong incentive to speak out, and could also challenge ‘upper caste’ groups’ claims to power and representation within the British Asian community.

Beyond the UK, the activation of Section 9(5)(1) is also a milestone in the global struggle for caste justice. It marks the first time that caste-based discrimination has been legally recognised and banned outside of Southasia. Equally significant is that for the first time ever, including in Southasia, caste has been recognised alongside colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin as a component of race.  The new law abandons the concept of caste as being peculiar to Southasia in favour of a transnational, globalised view. Ideally, this will further internationalise the issue, and encourage calls for similar legislation in other states with significant Southasian communities. The attention generated by Section 9(5)(1) may even bring the UK and the world closer to acknowledging the former Empire’s responsibility in exploiting and shaping systems of caste and race oppression in its former colonies.

This revolutionary legislation has even alarmed the Indian government. Although India outlawed caste discrimination decades ago, its anti-caste laws have been not been applied pro-actively or effectively. The Indian government has strongly opposed any comparison between caste-based and race-based discrimination, which it considers to fall under two separate categories. This goes against the views of many activists, scholars and institutions, including the UN and several Western governments, who argue that caste is universally understood to be based upon birth, and believed to be biologically and physically manifest and measurable; hence casteism, like racism, is a form of discrimination based on descent. Casteism’s effects on its victims also closely mirror those of racist discrimination: residential segregation, social stigma, lack of access to education and social mobility, under-representation at all levels of power and trade, and similar forms of violence. There is no reason that a Dalit woman should have inferior legal protection from discrimination than, say, a black woman.

Yet the Government of India’s displeasure with the potential activation of Section 9(5)(a) was strong enough for it to directly communicate its objection to the British delegation at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2010, and to raise the issue again at the European Union-India Human Rights Dialogue in 2013. India had long championed outlawing all discrimination based on descent, including that based on caste, including under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which it signed in 1967. However, following apparent concerns over the Convention’s strict reporting obligations, which would have required much more serious action against caste violence and discrimination within its own borders, in the mid-1990s the Government of India changed its stance on recognising caste as an aspect of race. As India’s counterproductive involvement in the debate over Section 9(5)(a) illustrates, the struggle for global caste justice is far from over on either side of the kalapani.


Sinthujan Varatharajah is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a researcher on Islam and Muslim communities in France, Belgium and Switzerland for Euro-Islam. Follow him on twitter @varathas 

Africa at war with Parasitic Capitalism

bachar Alep OK
image credit: http://www.voxeurop.eu/files/images/article/FABER-EU-Africa.JPG


The Burning Spear.com
Jun 21, 2016
Luwezi Kinsasha; Secretary General, The African Socialist International


#UnFair #Africa #Europe #Capitalism


Africa at war with Parasitic Capitalism

Since the assault on Africa began in 1415 by marauders from Christendom, which would later become known as Europe, the continent has never known a single day of genuine peace on our own terms.

From a land of free people, from a cradle of humanity and civilisation, Africa has been turned into an enslaved continent with the primary task of producing life and wealth for the European invaders, kidnappers and looters.

This feudal European attack is different from the attacks by ancient Romans, Greeks, Western Asians and all other groups who attacked Africa before 1415, because they did not result in the creation of a global capitalist parasitic system as we know it.

The Europe that attacked us was not a capitalist Europe; it was a feudal Europe, where the main contradiction in society was between the nobility or aristocratic class and the serf class. Although the latter was not owned by the former, most of what the serfs produced was owned by the nobility. In feudal society, the king claimed that his rule came from God.

Europeans did not come to Africa to export capitalism and democracy, which did not exist. Nor did they come to impart benevolent Christian morality, which also did not exist.

Europe was characterised by generalised despotism, where women were routinely burned on allegations of being witches or similar backward stuff. Democratic values were alien to feudal Europe when they assaulted Africa.

Europe came to Africa seeking wealth through wars of conquest and looting

Several decades before the ‘discovery’ and assault of the Americas by looters and thieves from Europe disguised as explorers, Africa was already bleeding under European attacks. By 1452, as Hugh Thomas explains, Africans were being kidnapped and brought to Madeira, Portugal, for sugar production:

“Portuguese sugar plantations had ever fulfilled their promise. Now Madeira seemed the best alternative. Well-watered terraces were therefore built, some by guanche slaves, from Tenerife; and Africans slaves were introduced there at much the same time in this Atlantic island. As would happen in Barbados and elsewhere in the Caribbean 200 years later, the earlier established farmers of others crops were driven into bankruptcy”.[i]

This attack on Africa 600 years ago announced the birth of European imperialism, a process which would develop fully into what is commonly referred to as capitalism; or as Marx noted: “… the discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins…”[ii]

Chairman Omali Yeshitela and the African People’s Socialist Party have been arguing for decades that capitalism did not develop to later on become imperialist––it is the other way round.

We are clear that ours is a struggle to end the parasitic relationship that has been imposed on us some 600 years ago:

“Would capitalism and the resultant European wealth and African impoverishment have occurred without the European attack, its division, African slavery and dispersal, colonialism and neo-colonialism? No! No! No! A thousand times no!”[iii]

Europe imposed a new but deadly relationship with Africa, where nothing comes out of Africa peacefully. Up to this very moment, every natural resource that comes out of our black workers’ hands or that comes out of Africa is a bloodletting process; it is an antagonistic process to our right to life.

The violence that dominates African people’s lives everywhere on the planet is a direct continuation of the assault on Africa that started some 600 years ago. This is the origin of the relationship between today’s white oppressor nation and the oppressed African nation.

European imperialism captured, distorted and fragmented our African identity

The identities we carry today in most parts of the world are part of the historical assault on Africa and African people. Imperialism’s assault captured, colonised, distorted and fragmented our African identity in every way possible.

Look at the different despicable names we have been called by our oppressors: nigger, mulatto, coon, macaque, kaffir, etc. Or look at the different false nationalities imposed on us: Afro-American, Brazilian, South African, Black British, Afro-Swedish, Creole, Nigerian, Cameroonian, Caribbean, mixed-race, instead of one African people.

All these nationalities are falsifications of our history and of the truth. They hide the relation of oppressor and oppressed that exists between African people and imperialist oppressors.

We are African people wherever we are located; we suffer the same way, and the masses of African people will never know freedom again unless we recognise that one essential condition for black people to retrieve our freedom is to achieve self-determination as a united people in a united Africa.

Struggles for civil rights have shown their limitations in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. Neo-colonialism everywhere in Africa is an embarrassment of titanic scale.

When we speak of being Africans, we are not solely referring to biology––though we all are connected to Africa. We are speaking about a shared historical, political and social reality; just as ‘European’ is a political definition that represents the historical, social and political privileges of a certain group of people that has access to and benefits from dominant structures and institutions of society.

Chairman Omali defines the African nation as:

“… a community of people with core identity based on historical ties to the equatorial continent of black Africa, creating a common culture, history, physiognomy (physical features of an ethnic group). All Africans on the continent of Africa, all African people everywhere who have been forcibly dispersed through slavery and colonialism, all with a sense of sameness with Africa, who because of skin color face poverty and oppression, Dalit in India, Indigenous of Australia, Asia-Pacific Islanders and Europeans, Arabs, Indians and others living in Africa who commit national suicide, unite with the African working class and abandon allegiance to predatory, colonial relationship to African people”.[iv]

In the words of Chairman Omali:

“Our revolutionary struggle for liberation, unification and socialism in Africa, throughout the colonies and other areas of the world to which we have been forcibly dispersed in the construction of capitalism, will prove to be as significant in the defeat of the capitalist social system as the slave trade was in its advent”.[v]

A worldwide African revolution is necessary to end worldwide parasitic capitalism

It will take a revolution to change our relationship with all the imperialist States which dominate our lives. There is no exception in that. Imperialism was born at the expense of the lives and the right to life of African people everywhere.

The primary role of every imperialist State is to maintain the foundation of the imperialist system itself, which means the relation of oppressor and oppressed nations across the planet.

The current U.S.-funded occupation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Haiti, the split of Sudan, the war in Darfur, the military aggression against Libya and overthrow of Kaddafi, and the AfriCom military occupation are all part of the same desperate imperialist effort trying to sustain itself at the expense of Africa.[vi]

Africom is a U.S. imperialist military plan to achieve hegemonic control over African natural resources. This means conducting regimes change, overthrowing governments that are in favour of China or willing to fight for genuine independence etc.

The AfriCom website is explicit that it encompasses the whole of Africa––North, South, East, West and Central regions.[vii]

It is worth reminding readers that Africom played a key role in the co-ordination of the war and aggression that overthrew Mouammar Kaddafi in 2011.

The wealth enjoyed by corporations dealing in electronics, in the tradition of parasitic capitalism, come at the expense of the African people of the Democratic Republic of Congo where at least 6,000,000 (six million) people have died because of wars and neocolonial conditions imposed on us by the U.S. and its allies of oppressor nations––and the bourgeois press and society do not care about that.[viii]

These wars are looting enterprises to facilitate the cheap extraction of strategic minerals like coltan needed by Apple, Microsoft and other companies to make smart phones, Xboxes and other modern electronic gadgets etc. This extraction is nothing but modern-day slavery, where people work in appalling conditions, including dire health hazards, and are paid almost nothing. Furthermore, many of these exploited labourers are women and children.

Following a visit to coltan mines in the Congo, on 22 October 2015 The Mail Online filed a report which shows how the DRC is looted by foreign multinationals:

“After their haul is weighed and classified, miners are paid $5 (£3.35) a day for the back-breaking work to dig out the precious mineral that powers our $500 (£335) smartphones.

But with a minimum wage set at $3 (£2.00) a day in the DRC, the 1,400-strong work force at Luwow are prepared to endure the gruelling and sometimes dangerous conditions.

“Manufacturers Apple, who make iPhones, and Samsung Electronics, who make the Galaxy, admit they use coltan mined in the DRC to make the smartphones that fuel our 24-7 lifestyle.

“And Apple says it will continue to do so.

‘Apple remains committed to driving economic development and creating opportunities to source conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries,’ Apple told the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in February this year (2015).

“Apple says its suppliers must adhere to its code that: “every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect”.

“Samsung says it “recognises the seriousness of human rights violations and environmental pollution problems of mineral mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo”.[ix]

Black revolution is also against the African petty bourgeoisie, the enemy within

From Barack Obama in the U.S., to Paul Kagame in Rwanda or Jacob Zuma in South Africa, there are many representatives of the African petty bourgeoisie. These are the individuals (with their close cronies) that lead the collusion of the African petty bourgeoisie with parasitical capitalism to secure their own material comfort and political power at the expense of African working classes and poor peasants everywhere.

The African petty bourgeoisie emerged as a significant player after World War II weakened European imperialism. They are the ones who organised and led the struggles against direct colonialism everywhere in Africa. They were conscious that independence meant emancipation of the African petty bourgeoisie class and status quo for African working class and peasantry class.

In the Congo, the leadership of Lumumba was demanding that independence must transform the conditions of the people. Status quo was not an option. He said, “Between slavery and freedom, there is no compromise.”[x] That is why it became necessary for the imperialists to attack Lumumba and his government.

Mobutu, a former member of Lumumba’s Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), and after being promoted from sergeant to colonel in the army by Lumumba, turned against him and carried out the 14 September 1960 neocolonial coup that brought down Lumumba’s government.

Later, at the end of the Cold War following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, Mobutu was no longer needed. So the U.S. intervened to remove the man who had served them so well for 32 years. The following quote provides clarity on the motives for regime change in the Congo in 1997:

“The geopolitical stakes of the international mining companies in the DRC, therefore, constituted the critical basis for the overthrow of Mobutu. So as the regional quest to remove Mobutu ripened, based on security concerns and ambitions for a Tutsi empire, mining conglomerates found the appropriate alliance with Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda to lead a military campaign to oust the Congolese despot. The alliance also, very critically, entailed the involvement of multinational companies that were directly linked to high ranking politicians from western countries. The two main new Anglo-American mining conglomerates that stood at the heart of this alliance were American Mineral Fields Inc. (AMFI) and Barrick Gold Corporation…AMFI is based in Hope, Arkansas, and chaired by Mike McMurrough, said to be a personal friend of former U.S. president Bill Clinton…AMFI directly financed the (Alliance of Democratic Forces of Liberation) AFDL’s military campaign to remove Mobutu by, for example, putting at the disposal of Kabila its hired corporate jet. In return AMFI secured the copper-zinc mine at Kipushi in Katanga (Shaba) province…an Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) report which revealed that Barrick Gold Corporation, headed by former US president George H.W. Bush and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was also formed just before the outbreak of the AFDL rebellion. Nabudere argues that the invasion of eastern Congo by the combined forces of Rwanda and Uganda behind the AFDL rebels … prepared for a take-over of Congo’s gold rich eastern territory by Barrick Gold Corporation.[xi]

The African petty bourgeoisie today relies on the same structures born out of our enslavement and colonisation; they depend on the same colonial State apparatus and colonial systems––particularly ‘divide and conquer’––to repress the people.

The advent of China in Africa has given the African petty bourgeoisie an alternative to white imperialist bourgeoisie, but it has not created an alternative for the people whose conditions of living continue to deteriorate without any let up.

Seduced and personally rewarded by the colonising governments and corporations, the corrupted African elites unite with Sarkozy to attack Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire; they unite with Obama and Cameron to destroy Kaddafi; they would join the BRICS, China, Francophonie, Commonwealth or Africom, anything except building our own power.

They are opposed to the vision of Lumumba, Nkrumah and Garvey to unite the African nation. And to confuse our people, in 1963 these elites created the useless Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later changed to the African Union (AU) in 2002.[xii] The OAU or the AU, none of them has ever done anything for the people. It was born a neocolonial organisation despite the drive and integrity of Kwame Nkrumah, whose vision of one independent and unified Africa was fought against by the likes of Nyerere, Houphouet-Boigny, Senghor and other African petty bourgeois comprador and bureaucratic leaders.

A call to unite

African workers in every country and the black community must organise under the banner of African Internationalism and the African Socialist International (ASI) in order to wrest power away from the African petty bourgeoisie and usher in a phase of revolutionary struggle to, once and for all, defeat parasitic capitalism.

We lost our freedom as a people, we would regain our freedom as a people.

All power to the people.

Black power to African workers!


 

Luwezi Kinshasa, born in the Congo, is the Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party-UK. He is also the Secretary General of the African Socialist International. Kinshasa is based in London and has spoken throughout Europe, the U.S., Europe and Africa for the liberation and reunification of Africa and African people worldwide.

 


[i] Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade (London: Picador, 1997) p. 70.
[ii] Karl Marx, Capital (London: J.M Dent & Sons, 1934).
[iii] Omali Yeshitela, An Uneasy Equilibrium (St. Petersburg, FL: Burning Spear Publications, 2015) p. 63.
[iv] Yeshitela, op.cit., pp. 145-146.
[v] ibid., Yeshitela, p. 127.
[vi] The US itself is, of course, a pirate nation – an ongoing European and settler occupation of indigenous lands.
[vii] “A full-spectrum combatant command, U.S. AFRICOM is responsible for all U.S. Department of Defence operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters. AFRICOM began initial operations on Oct. 1, 2007, and officially became an independent command on Oct. 1, 2008.” http://www.africom.mil/.
[viii] Owen Jones, ‘Let’s be honest. We ignore Congo’s atrocities because it’s in Africa’, The Guardian, 6 March 2105, London.
[ix] Nick Fagge, ‘Picks, pans and bare hands: How miners in the heart of Africa toil in terrible conditions to extract the rare minerals that power your iPhone’, MailOnline, 22 October 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3280872/iPhone-mineral-miners-Africa-use-bare-hands-coltan.html.
[x] Jean Van Lierde (ed.), Lumumba Speaks: The Speeches and Writings of Patrice Lumumba, 1958-1961 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972). See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/1959-patrice-lumumba-african-unity-and-national-independence#sthash.9aoi7yeR.dpuf.
[xi] Sagaren Naidoo (ed.), ‘The War Economy in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, Institute for Global Dialogue, Occasional Paper no. 37, 2003, p. 6. http://www.igd.org.za/jdownloads/Occasional%20Papers/op_37_chapter_1.pdf.
[xii] http://www.au.int/en/history/oau-and-au.

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