Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Occupying the Ministry of Justice, London

by Floyd Codlin

“We are not the dirt, we clean”, is the slogan from United Voices of the World (UVW,) a relatively new union that is making a big industrial splash in Britain. UVW is a members-led, campaigning trade union, which supports and empowers the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly migrant workers in the country. The union was founded in 2014, rapidly gaining media attention and popular support with a series of high-profile victories for workers serving Sothebys, Harrods and the London School of Economics. Their members work overwhelmingly in London’s ubiquitous outsourced industries, which include cleaning, portering, security, and retail, waiters and bar staff.

UVW has campaigned for all members to receive at least the London Living Wage (£10.20 per hour as of November 2017), contractual sick pay and other rights, dignified and safe conditions, and general respect. They’ve also challenged outsourcing itself, which creates two-tier workforces in order to slash wage bills and deny important rights. Most recently, from 7th-8th of August 2018, UVW cleaners went on strike at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) for the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour and sick pay.

There are two things that go to make UVW so unusual; one is the fact that (more…)


The piece below appeared as one of the editorials in the latest round of workplace bulletins produced and distributed by The Spark organisation in the United States; we’ve slightly changed the title but left the American-English spelling of the original.

by The Spark

The words are bad enough, but they are symbols of something much worse: the vicious ideas that Trump and others like him try to peddle.

The countries Trump denigrated are all poor. So let’s talk about why they are poor – the truth which demagogues like Trump trample on.

U.S., Spanish and French capitalists stole the wealth produced by labor in Haiti and El Salvador. That’s what impoverishes them.

Let’s talk about the European and American slave traders who stole 20 million human beings and their labor power from Africa. Let’s talk about the colonial system which drained Africa’s mineral wealth to enrich European industry. Let’s talk about (more…)

Marikana massacre of workers carried out by ANC government, August 16, 2012; the single most number killed by any Slouth African government in a single action since the 1960 apartheid regime massacre of black civil rights protesters at Sharpeville

Billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa has been made president of the ANC, although Jacob Zuma will continue as president of the country.

Ramaphosa says the ANC will spend 2018 reconnecting with the people and making up for its mistakes.

The idea of this super-rich capitalist reconnecting with the masses is a hoot.  Ramaphosa, who supported the massacring of mine workers just a couple of years ago, leveraged his time as a militant trade union leader to get into business and epitomises everything that went wrong with the ANC in the first place. 

by Peter Manson

Readers will know that president Jacob Zuma was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the African National Congress at the ANC’s elective conference in December.

Zuma will remain South African head of state, however, until a new president is elected by the national assembly following the 2019 general election – unless, of course, action is taken by the ANC and parliament to remove him earlier, which is a distinct possibility.

Just before the elective conference, commentator Peter Bruce pleaded to ANC delegates:

The fact is that policy uncertainty is crippling foreign investment … And try not to think of foreign investors as fat, white capitalists smoking cigars in a club somewhere and deciding which ideological friends to finance … They’re investing the savings and pensions of people like you … They need a return on those people’s money, just like you need a return on yours.1


Such commentators wanted Zuma out – and were equally opposed to his replacement as ANC president by his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was seen as a mere continuation of the current corrupt regime. Zuma not only stands accused of using state funds to upgrade his private residence, and of allowing the Gupta family to exert huge influence over government appointments – so-called ‘state capture’ – but he still has no fewer than 783 charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering hanging over him. These are connected to the multi-billion-dollar arms deal finalised in 1999 just after Zuma became deputy president. His financial advisor at the time, Schabir Shaik, was jailed in 2005 for facilitating those bribes and, while Zuma faced charges too, they were conveniently dropped just after he became president in 2009.

During the pre-conference campaign Ramaphosa repeatedly insisted that all those implicated in ‘state capture’ and corruption must be (more…)

61KZcsFsm4L._UX250_Mark Lause is a veteran Marxist and author of a series of books on the history of the working class in the United States, especially in the 1800s and in relation to ‘the race question’.  We talked to him about his new book which examines the interconnections between free and unfree labour, the US civil war and the emergence of a distinctly American working class.  

Philip Ferguson: What interests you about this period of US history in particular? How did you come to write this book?

Mark Lause: This marked a very critical point in shaping the United States. Both Marxists and contemporary Lincoln Republicans and Unionists
– ie supporters of the union of the states, as opposed to the confederate separatists – described the conflict as a “Second American Revolution,” and it arguably marked far greater, more pervasive, and more rapid changes than the first one, marking American Independence from Britain.

downloadWar in general is under-studied by social and labor historians. I had a friend—another historian—who used to take great pride in never teaching about war in his history classes. I understood his point, of course, but history can’t be understood without studying the subject. To me, something like the Civil War represented a kind of Hadron Collider that smashed ordinary social relations and permits us to see what makes a society tick.

In the case of this particular conflict, we are discussing an essential period in the making of an American working class. In many respects, the conflict of 1861-1877 represented the most indispensable few years in that entire process.

Phil: I guess to most people in NZ, the American civil war was about the north wanting to end slavery and the south wanting to keep it. Could you elaborate on the wider issues?

Mark: It’s an accurate generalization, though there were many different kinds of Northerners with many different reasons for getting rid of slavery. From the (more…)

In October 2011 the corrupt and repressive regime of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya by a set of rebel forces backed by NATO.  Very quickly the country descended into chaos, broken up into a series of areas run by rival warlords and their militias.  The Libyan people have paid a high price for their ‘liberation’.  The following article was written a year later, in October 2012, and explains what happened and why.  The article has certainly been confirmed by events since.

After NATO, another key imperialist institution, the United Nations, began playing a central role in the ongoing chaos.  Now a new peace deal is supposed to unite the country behind a single parliament – two parliaments emerged after the overthrow of Gaddafi – and a government has been appointed.  The prospects of peace, let alone peace and prosperity, seem very limited however.  Once again Western intervention has wreaked havoc.

by Workers Fight

_81052882_libya_strikes_624v2On October 23rd it will have been exactly one year since Libya was officially declared “free” by the governments of the imperialist powers, after seven months of “humanitarian” carpet bombing which they carried under the official pretext of protecting the Libyan population from Gaddafi’s guns.

However, if it was not for the inconvenient death, right in the middle of the American presidential campaign, of the US ambassador in Libya and three of his diplomatic staff, killed by gunmen in Benghazi, on September 11th this year, Libya’s dire situation would have been left under the carpet where it was swept many months ago.

Apparently the Obama administration had at first hoped that this killing could be explained away as the collateral damage of a wave of protests which had been taking place at the time throughout the Middle-East and beyond, following the release of a US video accused of “insulting Islam”.

But any cover-up would have been immediately exposed, since the diplomats had obviously been killed as a result of well-organised rocket attacks on two US facilities in Benghazi. Instead of a fanatical mob going mad, this was a serious military operation against a western power, which had been planned in advance to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New-York. And this, in a country whose population was supposedly eternally grateful to the US for its help in overthrowing Gaddafi’s dictatorship!

While US politicians of all shades were bickering over the lack of protection given to diplomatic personnel, what these developments really exposed, once again, was the myth of the West’s “humanitarian” intervention in Libya. Just as in Iraq and Afghanistan, “regime change” in Libya was carried out by Western bombs – the main difference being that, this time, it had been done at a (more…)

The article below was written in late 1980 and is a response to attempts by the imperialists through the 1970s to scapegoat the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for oil price rises. As oil remains a vital political question, the article remains highly relevant.

imagesby Tony Norfield

Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela formed OPEC in 1960. For years these five backward capitalist nations had had their oil plundered by imperialism. The oil ‘majors’ – Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon), Anglo-Iranian (now BP), Shell, Gulf, Mobil and Texaco – had made billions of dollars at their expense, controlling their oil revenues and severely hampering their plans for development. This, and the fact that in 1959 and 1960 oil prices fell, spurred them into forming OPEC, a cartel which aimed to maintain prices and keep revenues up.

In fact, they largely failed. Between 1950 and 1969, the price of a barrel of oil from the Persian Gulf rose less than 10 cents (P. Nore and T. Turner, eds, Oil and Class Struggle, Zed Press, 1980). Drawing other oil producers into the cartel didn’t help much either. Although Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Libya, Algeria and Indonesia all joined in the 1960s and Nigeria entered in 1971, OPEC could not secure a significant price increase until 1973.

What the 1973 energy crisis was all about

Over the winter of 1971 OPEC upped the prioce of oil from $US3 to nearly $US12 a barrel. To understand why, we have to look at the changing (more…)

imagesThe article below is part of our series of reprints from the magazine revolution (1997-2006) , one of the precursors to this blog. It appeared in the ‘Living’ section of issue #3, August/September 1997.

by Susanne Kemp

Everything is political. When you do everything you can to avoid politics, that’s still political.” So says Salif Keita, one of the highlights of this year’s Womad in Auckland.

Unfortunately, Keita is not much known in New Zealand and so unlikely totour here outside appearances like Womad. Yet he is at the forefront of world music, possibly the most rapidly-growing category of music around today.

Rise of African music

African music is the biggest component of world music, a fact that probably owes quite a lot to the way in which it has been promoted by big-name Western artists whose own music had run out of steam. Paul Simon, for instance, dabbled in South African township sounds and managed to revive a flagging career and shift copies of Graceland by the lorry load as well as introduce white middle class America to the music of the downtrodden of Soweto. Peter Gabriel has been more consistent; African influences have been a genuine part of his music since at least his fourth album in 1982. Working with a range of West African artists, most notably Youssou N’Dour, and initiating Womad, he has played a central part in opening up European and North American audiences to the exhilarating sounds of the region.

The fact that so much Western music had (more…)