Saturday, February 29, 2020

Lectures by Walter Rodney Presents an African Perspective on the Russian Revolution

After being in the vaults for many decades the martyred scholar’s lectures in Tanzania provide a glimpse into his thinking on socialist transformation

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Saturday February 29, 2020
African American History Month Series Number 4
Book Review

Title: The Russian Revolution: A View From The Third World
Author: Dr. Walter Rodney
Publisher: Verso Books, 2018

During the late 1960s and the 1970s, the University of Dar es Salaam in the East African state of Tanzania was a center of Marxist thought on the continent.

After the overthrow of Convention People’s Party (CPP) of Ghana on February 24, 1966 which was founded and led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the ideological thrust of the African Revolution shifted to other geo-political regions. Nkrumah’s emphasis on African unification and socialism had drawn the ire of United States imperialism and its allies.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was able to coordinate and facilitate a military and police led coup against the CPP installing a pro-western regime which brought Ghana back into the sphere of world capitalist system both ideologically as well as politically. During that same year, Dr. Walter Rodney, having completed a Ph.D. in historical studies at London University, took a teaching position at University of Dar es Salaam where he researched and wrote his most famous work, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, published in Tanzania in 1972.

With so much interest in Socialism and Pan-Africanism, the origins of the world movements against capitalism and imperialism would be an important topic pursued by young scholars and their students. Consequently, a coterie of intellectuals and students in Tanzania debated fiercely the character of the struggle for socialism during this period and the character of the Ujamaa system inside the country itself.

President Julius Nyerere was given the Kiswahili name of “Mwalimu” meaning teacher. This had been his occupation prior to leading the independence movement in Tanzania to independence in 1961.

Nyerere realized that it was not enough to just become an independent state that the society had to be liberated from the economic and political legacies of colonialism. In 1967, the Arusha Declaration was issued by the ruling Tanzania African National Union (TANU) which outlined the need to build socialism in the largely agricultural country. (

The Arusha Declaration was widely read and analyzed in this era. Its very existence was bolstered by the presence of organizing and educational structures established in Tanzania by the leading national liberation movements on the continent such as the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), Southwest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), African National Congress (ANC), among others.

Rodney, who was born in the South American nation of Guyana in 1942, had grown up in a progressive working class family which was committed to educational achievement. He would attend the University of the West Indies and later travel to London to research and write his dissertation on the impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade in West Africa’s Guinea coast.

Lectures Series Addressed Broad Scope of Russian Revolutionary Historical Questions

The existence of these lectures had been spoken of by former students and instructors at the University of Dar es Salaam for many years. Those who lived through the early 1970s when the lectures were delivered awaited their official publication by the Walter Rodney Foundation in 2018.

Rodney’s daughter, Asha, writes in an introductory statement to the book that: “Most dedications are written by the author to someone or something that was important to the book’s creation. Who or what Walter Rodney would have written here was taken from us when his life was violently snatched from us at the age of thirty-eight. It has taken us the sum of his lifetime, another thirty-eight years, to publish this book. So, given this task, I dedicate this book to Walter Rodney, who brilliantly penned these lectures; and to his immeasurable mind and thirst for knowledge that made this work possible.”

These lectures are divided into nine categories with the first being “The Two World Views of the Russian Revolution” where the author examines the historical approaches to the Bolshevik Party which are either sympathetic and supportive or condemnatory. He raises the question as to why should African people be hostile to the revolutionary tradition when objectively they have faced similar problems which engulfed Russia at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rodney states in this introductory lecture: “As it is, we know for a fact how prejudiced and distorted Europe’s view of Africa has been. We know that European capitalism and imperialism continue to have our exploitation as their main objective. There is, therefore, every reason to be suspicious of the Western European (and American) view of the Soviet Revolution, and there is every reason to seek an African view.” (p.3)

Later in parts two and three, he reviews “The Russian Regime and the Soviet Revolution” along with “Marx, Marxism and the Russian Left.” Marxism as a revolutionary body of intellectual work and political practice had existed since the mid-to-late 1840s when Karl Marx and Frederick Engels joined forces during a period where industrial capitalism was emerging as the dominant mode of economic production.

Citing Marx and Engels in their writings on Western Europe and Russia, Rodney concludes that the bourgeois historical critique which argues that what became Soviet society was not conducive to the building of scientific socialism is refuted by the actual writings of the two activist-scholars. Simply because the proletariat and capitalist classes did not constitute the majority in Russia in 1917 and in subsequent years during the early phases of the revolution does not mean that the general principles of historical and dialectical materialism are not applicable.

An entire chapter of the book of lectures examines Leon Trotsky as an historian of the Russian Revolution. Later Rodney discusses the concepts of democracy and its application to the Bolshevik revolutionary seizure of power in late 1917.

These chapters serve as a means for chronicling the intellectual and political attacks on the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. A comparative analysis is put forward on the views of V.I. Lenin, the main architect and organizer of the revolutionary seizure of state power in Russia, Karl Kautsky, the German theoretician and literary executor of Marx and Engels, along with Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish and German left social democrat and later communist who debated with Lenin for years over the right of nations to self-determination, land redistribution to the peasantry and issues related to revolutionary democracy such as the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly  by the Bolsheviks.

Kautsky of course, received a scathing attack by Lenin when the German writer charged the Bolsheviks with undemocratic practice and extended his support to the Mensheviks. Rodney’s views on these important historical questions indicate a position quite sympathetic to Lenin and the developing Soviet state.

The final three chapters are of extreme importance in relationship to the lessons of the Russian Revolution and their significance to developments in Africa during the later decades of the 20th century when many of the national liberation movements and post-colonial states adopted Marxism-Leninism as methodology and ideology which could provide guidance in both defeating colonialism, settler-colonialism and imperialism as well as constructing a socialist society.

These final lectures are entitled: “Building the Socialist State”, “The Transformation of Empire” and “The Critique of Stalinism.” Rodney explains in his evaluation of the historical treatment of the peasantry in the Soviet Union under leader Joseph Stalin by western oriented capitalist scholars, noting: “Underlying bourgeois historical writings on this issue is the assumption that the capitalist system is infinitely superior. Indeed, at most points of the evaluation, there is the implied comparison, especially since the whole object of the Cold War propaganda was to set up the capitalist system as a superior one. It is therefore very relevant to inquire how capitalism treated peasants. The answer is quite revealing. In Eastern Europe, the peasant was bounded off his land….. Outside of Europe, wherever Europeans established capitalist farming, they did so by expropriating the land of the indigenous peoples and often they virtually committed genocide. The latter applies with most force to the United States, while examples of crude treatment of the indigenous landowners are also to be found in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and Algeria.” (p. 123)

Relevance of the Russian Revolution Today

It has been over a century since the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Russian and Soviet Revolutions were instrumental in providing political models and material assistance for other popular upheavals and socialist transformations in Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Ghana, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, among other geo-political regions.   

Since the collapse of the socialist states in Europe and the Soviet Union during the late 1980s until 1991, bourgeois scholars and political figures have utilized this phenomena to attack the theoretical underpinning of Marxism-Leninism as being inherently undemocratic, impractical and even contrary to human nature. Socialism in China, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Bolivia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are often castigated for the purported lack of individual freedom and prosperity.

Yet capitalist societies have become more unequal in the 21st century with the broadening gap between the wealthy and the working class. Imperialist wars throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America have created enormous social dislocation while creating the conditions for unprecedented environmental degradation which endangers the very existence of the planet and humanity. The advances made in Cuba, Venezuela, China, the DPRK and Vietnam is routinely overlooked while the ideological Cold War propaganda against these societies continues unabated.

The publication of these lectures so many years later makes a profound contribution to the historical evaluation of the Russian Revolution and its importance in the modern period.  
Remembering the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention of 1970
Five decades ago the Black Panther Party sought to build an alliance of progressive forces throughout the United States

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Saturday February 22, 2020
African American History Month Series Number 3

1969 had been a critical year for the Black Panther Party (BPP) with hundreds of its members indicted and incarcerated on trumped-up charges while numerous activists had been killed as a direct result of the Counter-intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

During this year, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) J. Edgar Hoover had declared the Black Panther Party has the most serious threat to national security in the United States for decades. (

Such an exaggerated and clearly politically-motived accusation required a political response from the by far most targeted revolutionary organizations working inside the country. The Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention (RPCC) was such an effort to build a broad based alliance encompassing Left-wing and progressive forces which had emerged over the previous decade.

On December 4, 1969, 14 Chicago police officers under the supervision of Illinois State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan had engineered a raid into the BPP residence on Monroe Street on the city’s west side. The attack was set-up by the Chicago Field Office of the FBI in an effort to assassinate African American leader Fred Hampton who was gaining national recognition for his organizing work in the Windy City. (

The police intervention resulted in the assassinations of Peoria chapter Captain Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, Sr. Other occupants of the apartment were wounded, arrested and later charged with several felonies which were completed fabricated.

The assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were an outcome of the role of the FBI in undermining and neutralizing the BPP. Informant William O’Neil, a career thief and informant, had been recruited by the local FBI special agent Marlin Johnson to infiltrate the Chicago chapter and to find any information which could be used to criminalize their work.

Fred Hampton had stated in 1969 that the BPP was committed to remaining a vanguard organization operating publically in major urban areas such as Chicago. Hampton said the Party would not be driven underground and in order to remain relevant had to enhance its outreach and community program to build support from the grassroots. (

After the militarized police attacks on Party chapters around the U.S. during 1968-69, the BPP organized a National Revolutionary Conference for a United Front Against Fascism in July 1969 in Oakland, California. The event attracted thousands of activists while the Party put forward its program for ensuring that the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, the Justice Department, FBI and local police agencies would not be able to destroy the burgeoning revolutionary Left movement around the country. (

In 1970, the BPP was facing extreme repression. Co-founder Huey P. Newton was serving a 2-15 years sentence for manslaughter against an Oakland police officer stemming from a shootout in October 1967. Chairman Bobby Seale and Central Committee member Erika Huggins, the wife of slain Panther John Huggins, were facing the possibility of the death penalty in a murder conspiracy case in New Haven, Connecticut.

Many within the Left were attempting to demonstrate solidarity with the Panthers. At Yale University in New Haven, students called for a mass demonstrations and teach-ins in early May of 1970. In response to the atmosphere inside the country and the state, the president of Yale closed the University for the weekend in honor of the demonstrations saying that Black revolutionaries in the U.S. were incapable of receiving due process under the law.

While over 50,000 people congregated in New Haven, the U.S. administration was concerned that the BPP and other revolutionary organizations would break out of the attempts to isolate them among the youth and other segments of the populations. Therefore, the concept of the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention arose as a means to counter the Nixon program of repression and counter-revolution.

RPCC Holds Three Gatherings in 1970

On June 19, 1970, 1,000 members of the BPP and their supporters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Actor and social activist Ossie Davis was present to lend his support to the concept of convening a Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention to be convened in Philadelphia in early September.

By September there was considerable momentum for the RPCC. So much so that the racist police force of Mayor Frank Rizzo raided several offices and residences of the BPP arresting members and charging them with spurious crimes.

Panthers were forced to disrobe in the streets where photographs were taken by the corporate media in order to humiliate the organization. Despite these acts of repression and destabilization, the RPCC was held with a reported 6,000-15,000 people in attendance.

Huey P. Newton had recently been released from prison after serving nearly three years for the conviction in Oakland for the killing and wounding of two police officers. The release of Newton was a major victory for the Party and the movement since it signaled the capacity of revolutionaries to mount successful legal and political struggles around principled issues of repression, national oppression, racism and economic exploitation.

An entry on an historical website says of the June 1970 gathering that: “The goal of the Convention was to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to ensure equal rights for oppressed groups, including African Americans, women, and young people. The organizers of the rally chose June 19, or Juneteenth, for its significance as the day in 1865 when enslaved people living in Texas were finally freed. Roughly 1,000 people attended the Mall rally. (

At the Philadelphia RPCC meeting in early September, Newton read a draft of the proposed constitutional document. The program called for the withdrawal of Pentagon military forces from Vietnam and the recognition of the Provisional Government of South Vietnam as the legitimate administrative force in this geo-political region. (

The section on international affairs also expressed solidarity with the revolutionary struggles in Palestine, Puerto Rico and throughout the world. In conjunction with the rejection of imperialist war, the RPCC document mandated that standing armies and police forces inside the U.S. be dismantled. In their place there would be the creation of people’s militias and community organizations concerned with security.

This same constitutional draft supported the full rights of Women and Gay people. Newton had issued a directive on these questions to the entire rank-and-file membership of the BPP.

During this period, the campuses and other educational institutions were centers of militant demands and protests surrounding curriculum reforms, affirmative action and intellectual freedoms. A special section on educational transformation emphasized: “All people will be provided with the kind of schooling they desire and need. All levels of schooling will be provided free by the government. Schooling must be non-compulsory. The community will control the schools, education, curriculum, and educators. Education must be part and parcel of the political realities of the time. Education must always serve the people by teaching the true nature of this decadent society.” 

The final gathering of the RPCC occurred in late November 1970 in Washington, D.C. This event represented a culmination of the debates and discussions related to the drafting process of the proposed new revolutionary constitution.

Newton in a statement describing the RPCC of November notes: “This convention of Revolutionary Peoples from oppressed communities throughout the world is convened in recognition of the fact that the changing social conditions throughout the world require new analyses and approaches in order that our consciousness might be raised to the point where we can effectively end the oppression of people by people. We gather here from our communities because we realize that we have a common enemy, a common goal, and that the geographical barriers which separated us from one another in the past are no longer obstacles to our revolutionary unity.” (

Impact and Lessons from the RPCC for Today

Only two months after the November RPCC, the BPP suffered its most severe and devastating political split. There had been other fissures in the organization going back to its founding in 1966 as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Nonetheless, the fracturing of the organization between the Algerian-based International Section headed by exiled Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver and Central Committee member Kathleen Cleaver on the one hand and the national headquarters run by Newton and Chief of Staff David Hilliard, had the most debilitating effect.

The FBI and other intelligence agencies had worked tirelessly to weaken the Party and the entire Left movement in the U.S. This reality along with subjective contradictions within the organization effectively minimized its influence as a national and international entity.

After the early months of 1971, the BPP scored a major victory with the failure of the state to convict Chairman Bobby Seale and Erika Huggins in the New Haven murder conspiracy cases. Others involved in the New Haven trials were either released or given sentences less severe than anticipated by the Panthers.

Today there is a great need for revolutionary organizations among the nationally oppressed and the working class in the U.S. Once this becomes a reality the question of unity and development of a political program will become paramount.

Lessons from 50 years ago can be useful in learning from advances made and the errors committed. Inevitably, the people must be organized in order for socialism and national liberation to be realized in the 21st century.
Renewed Examination of the Assassination of Malcolm X 55 Years Later
Netflix documentary series prompts New York District Attorney to Review Case

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Friday February 21, 2020
African American History Month Series Number 2

February 21, 2020 marks the 55th anniversary of the martyrdom of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik Shabazz) who was 39 years old at the time of his untimely death in New York City.

Malcolm was on the verge of delivering an address at a mass meeting at the Audubon Ballroom on that fateful Sunday afternoon when at least three people rose from their seats to fire numerous bullets into his body.

Since March 1964, when Malcolm X had officially announced his departure from the Nation of Islam (NOI) where he had been indefinitely suspended since early December 1963, the activist had formed two groups aimed at pursuing what he perceived as a more effective and relevant approach to the liberation of African Americans. The Muslim Mosque, Inc., a religious grouping designed to provide orthodox Islamic instruction to potential adherents in New York, was founded in the immediate aftermath of his resignation from the NOI.

Some three months later, after a six week tour of Africa and the Middle East, which included a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Malcolm would form the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), which he described as being partially inspired by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the continent.

After the formation of the OAAU on June 28, 1964, Malcolm embarked upon another trip to Africa and the Middle East which lasted for over four months. His ideological and political orientation by this time was largely secular and sought to build a broad-based united front among African Americans, Africans and other oppressed groups for the purpose of liberating the Black people in the United States and all the downtrodden from imperialism.

During the time of his active political life (1952-1965) after emerging from a six year prison term (1946-1952) for burglary in the State of Massachusetts, Malcolm was under constant surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), local police agencies around the country including New York City, among other government agencies. The corporate press portrayed Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, then headed by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, in an extreme negative light, describing the organization as a hate-mongering and violence prone cult generating racial controversy at variance with other Civil Rights organizations which advocated a nonviolent approach to the  African American struggle.

The fact that Malcolm left the NOI under terms that were less than favorable with recriminations related to the personal life of Elijah Muhammad and allegations of disloyalty by him as the former minister of the New York City mosque, was seized upon by the mainstream press to create an image in the public mind that the assassination was a direct result of differences which emerged between martyred leader and his former organization.

In fact there had been death threats against Malcolm in the Muhammad Speaks newspaper which was circulated nationally during the early 1960s. Several incidents of Malcolm and his followers being pursued by NOI members were well documented. However, what has never fully been taken into consideration by the New York District Attorney’s offices and the U.S. Justice Department is the extensive surveillance of Malcolm X by the FBI and other federal investigative and law-enforcement agencies.

Tens of thousands of pages of FBI files on Malcolm X have been declassified since the 1970s. These files provide proof of the hostility towards the Muslim leader by the state. (

Despite the avoidance by the New York City police and the Justice Department related to a state conspiracy being behind the assassination, many publications and researchers in the African American and Left communities have alleged since 1965 that the federal government and local law-enforcement were involved in the plot to kill Malcolm.

Documentary Reopens the Question of a State Conspiracy

The Netflix documentary series is once again looking into the issues of a potential conspiracy extending beyond the NOI. Nonetheless, this is by no means a novel idea. The federal government had every reason to want Malcolm assassinated in 1965. (

At the time of his death, Malcolm had internationalized the African American movement for human rights and national liberation. His journeys to Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe in 1964-65 had resulted in exposing the failure of the U.S. Congress and the administration of the-then President Lyndon B. Johnson in protecting lives and interests of the African American people even though a Civil Rights Act had been passed and signed by the head-of-state in July 1964.

Malcolm had advocated petitioning the United Nations to take up the cause of the African American people. His trips abroad had been both educational and geared towards winning support for the view that the U.S. government should be sanctioned by the UN for its violations of the human rights of Blacks in a nation which professed to be the citadel of democracy and equal protection under the law.

According to a review by the Guardian of the Netflix documentary series, “Three men were jailed for the 1965 murder of the activist, who in his campaigns for Black empowerment dismissed the nonviolent ideology of contemporaries such as Martin Luther King. Malcolm X had been a member of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam until an acrimonious split in 1964. Another member, Talmadge Hayer – later known as Mujahid Abdul Halim – admitted his part in the killing, while two other men, Norman 3X Butler (who later became Muhammad Abdul Aziz) and Thomas 15X Johnson (who took the name Khalil Islam), maintained their innocence. Aziz was released on parole in 1985; Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009; Halim was released in 2010.” (

However, since the time of the arrests and later trial of the three members of the NOI in 1965 and 1966, innumerable suspicions of a broader conspiracy have existed. Obviously the widespread surveillance of Malcolm and his associates utilizing wiretaps and infiltrations of both the NOI and the groups subsequently formed after the split, the MMI and OAAU, the law-enforcement community was well aware of the criminal plots aimed at his assassination.

The same article published in the Guardian goes on to note: “The documentary examines various theories surrounding the killing, including that it was set up by the FBI and was carried out by white nationalists. Crucially, it emphasizes the lack of evidence against Aziz and Islam, and the fact that Halim said that neither man was involved. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that investigates potential miscarriages of justice, has also claimed that a civil rights lawyer, William Kunstler, obtained FBI documents supporting Halim’s version of events and naming other co-conspirators.”   

New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance has announced a reexamination of the case. Nonetheless, this is not the first time that attempts have been made to reopen the investigation into the assassination utilizing the evidence which exist related to government and police operations surrounding Malcolm and his associates. When President Barack Obama was elected and took office in 2009, his Attorney General Eric Holder was requested by African American activists to review the case. Unfortunately, nothing concrete emerged from the Justice Department.

After over five decades the trail is quite cold. What is known is that one of the alleged gunmen who escaped the assassination scene on February 21, 1965 had been living in Newark, New Jersey unscathed for many years. William Bradley, who was identified through archival film footage by researchers as being present outside the location of the assassination, is suspected to have been one of the gunmen who utilized a shotgun in the murder.

Bradley, later known as Almustafa Shabazz, denied any involvement in the killing of Malcolm X. He died in 2018 having never been questioned by law-enforcement in regard to the case. (

Significance of Investigation and Remaining Unanswered Questions

There are three others identified by Hayer (now Halim) as co-conspirators in the assassination who are now deceased as well. Even if the Innocence Project can clear the name of Aziz (formerly Butler) it does not answer the key questions related to state involvement.

Other African American leaders during the 1960s, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, among others who were assassinated, were clear targets in the efforts to thwart the African American freedom movement. The issue of political assassination emanates from the nationally oppressive and class character of the U.S. capitalist and imperialist system.

Ultimately, a revolutionary struggle to transform the exploitative system is at the root of resolving these ongoing open cases of state-sponsored conspiracy and murder. The U.S. remains an unjust society and until the existing oppressive apparatuses of the state are eliminated no African American leader seeking fundamental social change will be immune from unjust persecution and assassination.  
Mass Student Movement in the United States Began Six Decades Ago
1960 marked the initiation of the sit-in movement demanding an end to legalized segregation

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Wednesday February 19, 2020
Historical Review

On February 1, 1960, four African American students from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University sat down at a racially segregated lunch counter in the F.W. Woolworth Department store in downtown Greensboro to demand service.

This act of civil disobedience was organized by Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, William Smith, Clarence Henderson and Ezell Blair, Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan). They, of course, were refused accommodation by the wait staff which called the police.

Surprisingly these students were not arrested and eventually reached an agreement with the Mayor of Greensboro to abolish the racially segregated policies at several lunch counters in the city. Remarkably this form of protest spread throughout the South and several areas of the North.

By the end of February, thousands of students and their supporters had sat-in at various establishments throughout the country. Many were arrested and brutalized by the police.

Nearly two weeks after the Greensboro protest, African American students in Nashville, Tennessee, a center for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), set out to overturn segregation in the city. The youth were given a political orientation by Vanderbilt University graduate student and clergyman Rev. James Lawson who trained them in nonviolent resistance techniques beginning in the fall of 1959 as they gathered under the banners of the Nashville Student Movement (NSM) and the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC).

Lawson was later expelled from Vanderbilt, a prestigious white university, due to his activism and influence among the African American students at other institutions. Yet the movement in Nashville would produce some of the most militant and consistent fighters for Civil Rights in the U.S. such as Diane Nash, John Lewis and John Hardy.

The struggle to desegregate Nashville lasted for several months. Students from Fisk University, Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial College, Meharry Medical College and the American Baptist Theological Seminary played a leading role in what became the first organized movement aimed at ending all Jim Crow regulations in a major municipality in the South during the 1960s.

White mobs in response to the student demonstrations gathered inside lunch counters and on the downtown streets of Nashville to taunt and physically assault protesters. Activists such as John Lewis and Diane Nash spent time in jail for their actions.

The courageous efforts by the students in Nashville had a monumental impact on youth around the country. Eventually the city administration relented on a number of the demands put forward by the youth illustrating that direct action could win results in the campaign to abolish segregation.

Diane Nash at the time was a student at Fisk University. She travelled to Nashville from Chicago where she had grown up. Along with Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, John Lewis and others, they constituted the core organizers of the student movement in the city.

Nash was quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in regard to her burgeoning activism saying that: “I started feeling very confined and really resented it. Every time I obeyed a segregation rule, I felt like I was somehow agreeing I was too inferior to go through the front door or to use the facility that the ordinary public would use.” (

Lafayette, who was a 20-year-old student at the American Baptist Theological Seminary, noted the central role of Nash in the early phase of the movement in Nashville. In the same above-mentioned article Lafayette told the newspaper: “She was always very calm, clear and articulate. She didn’t try to dominate anything. But she really impressed us with her leadership abilities. One of the things that she was very good at was managing conflict within the group.”

As the struggle expanded to mobilize thousands of students, Nash became the media spokesperson for the movement. She confronted Nashville Mayor Ben West amid a march of 4,000 people which descended on City Hall in the aftermath of the bombing of the home of African American Attorney Z. Alexander Looby on April 19, asking him directly did he think maintaining legalized segregation was morally correct. West said he was a staunch believer in segregation.

Looby, who escaped the bombing uninjured, along with other lawyers, worked tirelessly to win the release of some 150 students who were arrested between February 13 and May 10 when a settlement was reached with the West administration. Although the May 1960 agreement did outlaw segregation in six establishments in Nashville, demonstrations continued against other segregated businesses until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of July 1964.

The Formation of SNCC

While the student movement led by African Americans grew rapidly, a conference was called by Ms. Ella Baker, the-then executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Raleigh, North Carolina in April of the same year. Baker encouraged the students to form their own independent organization which resulted in the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

SNCC played a pivotal role in the mass movement for Civil Rights from that period throughout the 1960s. The following year in 1961, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) began the “Freedom Rides” throughout the South to eliminate racial segregation in interstate travel.

There were malicious attacks on Freedom Riders in Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama where many were severely beaten by white mobs while police and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents looked on doing nothing.  A Greyhound bus was bombed on Mother’s Day in Anniston, Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan. The inhabitant barely escaped leaving many injured with no fatalities.

CORE was forced to abandon leadership of the Freedom Rides which was soon taken up by SNCC. Several of their activists were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi at the end of a journey during the protests and sentenced to weeks and even months in the notoriously brutal Parchman State Penitentiary.

Many of those arrested and sentenced including John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael would later serve as chairpersons of SNCC. Their role in the broader Civil Rights and later Black Power movements during the 1960s and 1970s changed the course of African American history.

Linking the Student Movement to the Plight of Black Farmers and the African Liberation Struggle

The student movement led by SNCC and other organizations would have been historically significant on its own since it challenged the racist notions of African American apathy, complacency and cowardice. Yet its impact was much broader since SNCC and other youth groupings worked closely with sharecroppers, tenant farmers and independent Black landowners in the South.

In Fayette and Hayward Counties in Southwest Tennessee, hundreds of families were evicted from farms where they worked for white landowners when they sought to register to vote in order to participate in the 1960 presidential elections. Local organizers in Tennessee requested assistance from around the U.S. and received food, water, makeshift housing supplies and healthcare workers to prevent the evicted tenant farmers from starving. This activity represented the first “Tent City” of the Civil Rights Movement in the winter of 1960.

SNCC sent organizers to Fayette County to provide assistance. The Tent City encampments coincided with protest efforts in nearby Jackson, Tennessee where students from Lane College, a HBCU, waged a campaign to desegregate buses and other public facilities.

The student movement was inspired by the African independence movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960 alone, numerous African colonies gained their liberation while others continued to wage protracted struggles for freedom under majority rule. It was also on March 21, 1960 that the Sharpeville massacre occurred in South Africa leaving 69 Africans dead at the hands of the security forces for merely protesting nonviolently against the racist pass laws.

As the movements in the U.S., Africa and internationally escalated, other tactics and strategies would emerge. By the mid-1960s, as a result of the direct experience of organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom were influenced by the African Liberation struggles, the Vietnamese Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, etc., some activists concluded that the fight for freedom could not be won solely through nonviolent direct action and passive resistance.

The examples set by developments in Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau and other geo-political regions of the world, led many within SNCC to work towards the building of independent political parties such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964-65 and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), which was the original Black Panther Party in Alabama during 1965-1966.

After 1963, urban rebellions would erupt in cities throughout the U.S. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968 would radicalize even more youth.

These developments involving the student movement and its links with the plight of urban dwellers, farmers and the world liberation struggles should be reexamined by the emerging youth activists at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century. Racism, national oppression and economic exploitation remain intact in the U.S. necessitating the imperatives of organizing and mobilizing the masses of people for genuine equality and liberation.   
Detroit Annual Commemoration of MLK Focused on Antiwar and Social Justice Legacy of Martyred Leader
A broad range of organizations united to extend the struggle into the third decade of the 21st century

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Sunday February 9, 2020

On Monday January 20, the 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally & March was held in the city of Detroit at the Historic St. Matthew’s-St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church located on Woodward Avenue in the North End section of town.

This event has become a hallmark for social justice activists and organizations within southeastern Michigan.

The church was filled to capacity with many youth attending alongside community residents, artists, representatives of trade unions and religious groups. Despite the cold weather and snow, people came out in response to the call issued by the MLK Committee aimed at generating continued engagement around questions of racism, national oppression, economic exploitation, climate change, imperialist militarism, mass incarceration, disability rights, universal suffrage and the organization of low-wage workers.

A tribute to the late former United States Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (1929-2019) was delivered by City Councilwoman Emeritus Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Watson. As a longtime Civil Rights and community activist, Watson served on the staff of Congressman Conyers for many years.

Watson pointed out the role of Conyers as an elected official representing the people of Detroit and other suburban communities. He would hire the late Mrs. Rosa Parks, the woman who would initiate the mass Civil Rights Movement after being arrested for refusing to concede her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955. Parks moved to Detroit in the late 1950s after facing tremendous social and economic pressure in the state of Alabama.

Conyers, who served in Congress for over 50 years, was a frequent guest at the Detroit MLK Day event prominently seated annually in the front row due to his pivotal role in engineering the national holiday in honor of the martyred Civil Rights and Antiwar leader. Just several days after the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, the Detroit legislator would submit a bill to designate January 15 as a national holiday.

Eventually the holiday commemoration went into effect in January of 1986. King’s birthday is celebrated on the third Monday of January when government offices, banks and many educational institutions and businesses are closed in his honor.

The Detroit MLK Day commemoration is designed to highlight the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. King. There was an opening rally which featured a myriad of organizations actively working on issues relevant to the local, national, international communities.

After the rally there was a march through the North End in solidarity with the people against property tax foreclosures, water shut-offs, gentrification, political repression and in support of jobs, community stabilization and democratic rights. The North End as an historic community in the city has been a central target of the existing corporate-imposed administration in Detroit for the forced and systematic removal of residents through the seizure of homes for over assessed delinquent property taxes, the termination of water services to households and the repopulation of the area utilizing high-rents and increased property values.

Since the founding of the Annual MLK Day March & Rally in 2004, the idea has been to reconnect the people with the actual work of King over a period of his active political life from 1955 to the time of his martyrdom in 1968. During the last two years of his life, the co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) attempted to refocus his work to address the plight of African Americans living in large urban areas of both the South and the North.

This reorientation was carried out through the work of SCLC during the summer of 1966 in the Chicago Freedom Movement and their work in Cleveland utilizing boycotts and demonstrations to demand housing reforms and jobs for the unemployed and poor the following year. The work of Dr. King in Chicago and Cleveland during 1966 and 1967 respectively, exposed the continued existence of institutional racism in the northern cities and the need for fundamental social reforms which would guarantee housing, healthcare, jobs and an annual income for all families living in the U.S.

By early 1967, Dr. King had come out solidly against the U.S. intervention in Vietnam. He often described the war as unjust and an enemy of the poor. Dr. King viewed the genocidal war in Vietnam as a reflection of a much deeper malady within the American system where the history of African enslavement and ongoing national oppression was a driving force for imperialism throughout the globe.

Participant Speakers and Presenters Highlight Rich Political and Cultural Legacy in Detroit and Beyond

The keynote speaker for the 2020 MLK Day Rally was Rev. Dr. Luis Barrios, the President of the Board of Directors at the Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) based in New York City. Barrios, an intellectual and clergyman, is also a faculty member at the City College of New York (CCNY) where he teaches young people about the social impact of the Criminal Justice system in the U.S.

Barrios spoke on the attempts by MLK to build an alliance of nationally oppressed groups in the U.S. in order to eliminate racism and poverty. A large aspect of Barrios’ work is centered around support for the Cuban Revolution through travel challenges and campaigns aimed at eliminating the decades-long blockade against the Caribbean nation which has been building socialism since the Revolution in 1959.

Other performers and speakers included: Bobbi Thompson of the Springwells Choral based in Detroit; Cosecha Detroit, the local affiliate of the national organization concerned about improving the social plight of migrant workers who in Michigan are denied the right to driver’s licenses; the African Bureau of Immigration and Social Affairs, which works directly with undocumented workers from the continent who are often overlooked in the national discussions surrounding immigration; Fight for $15, a labor organization campagining for a significant hike in the minimum wage; Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization organizing around climate change; and Geopolitics Alert, a news website educating the public around the role of U.S. imperialism in many areas of the globe.

The MLK Committee each year presents a “People’s Spirit of Detroit” award to some outstanding activists and organizations. This year the award was granted to members of the Denby High School Football team which came under racist attacks during the semi-final game held against Almont in the Oakland County City of Walled Lake. The attacks began after several members of the team “took a knee” in solidarity with the people combatting racism and injustice in the U.S.

After the rally and march, a community meal was provided free of charge by the Wobbly Kitchen. Later a cultural program coordinated by Aurora Harris was presented featuring poets and musicians such as Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke, One Single Rose, Maryam Lowen, Jim Perkinson, Wardell Montgomery, Shushanna Shakur, and others.

Event Sponsored and Endorsed by Many Organizations

MLK Day was made possible by the generous monetary and in-kind contributions of a host of community organizations, individuals and institutions. Many other groups endorsed the activity and helped to publicize the event.

Some of the co-sponsors were: the ACLU of Michigan, Avalon Bakery, the Buck Dinner Fund, the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), Detroit Disability Power, the Detroit Greens, Detroit Wobbly Kitchen, Yvonne and Nelson Jones, Jewish Voice for Peace, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), Mosaic DesignGroup, NextGen Michigan, People’s Water Board, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, Linda Szyszko, Truth Telling Project from Ferguson & Beyond, UAW Local 160, Unite Here Local 24, Viola Liuzzo Park Association, We the People of Detroit, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, National Lawyers Guild, and others.

The rally and march was widely covered in the local media through the presence of television stations and the City of Detroit communications division. 
ECOWAS, Monetary Zones and the Dialectics of Regional Integration
Currency reforms must be linked to genuine unity and sovereignty

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
February 2, 2020

There has been much discussion and debate over the potential for adoption of a new regional medium of exchange in West Africa particularly in relationship to the status of the CFA zone which is pegged to France.

This CFA currency zone formed in 1945 has been a consistent mechanism utilized by Paris to maintain economic dominance over its former colonies in the region.

The existence of the CFA coupled with the continued presence of French military forces and the coordination of its regional counterparts is designed to ensure that neo-colonial interests are upheld while rendering the majority of people to financial dependency. With a legacy of colonial diversity in the region, it seems inevitable that divisions will arise over the nature and character of monetary transition based upon which metropole welds the most significant influence inside the various post-independence nation-states.

Formed in 1975, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is one of the leading regional organizations on the continent. The organization includes the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a former British colony which now is a leading oil exporter which several years ago had briefly been considered the number one economic powerhouse in Africa.

ECOWAS is one of several regional groupings which have developed during the period since the late 1950s and early 1960s when African nations began to emerge from colonialism. Moreover, West Africa had been a center of the Atlantic Slave Trade for centuries, the economic system which built Europe and the United States into imperialist centers fueled by the exploitation of labor and natural resources.

Economic development historically has been a dialectical process. The growth of Western Europe and North America was contingent upon the domination of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

To a large degree this global construct still exists well into the 21st century prompting the imperatives for the second phase of liberation. Beyond the political independence of these nation-states, there is the necessity of breaking free from the economic entanglement which has only benefited elites which are closely allied with the former colonial powers and the U.S., the principal anchor of neo-colonialism and imperialism since the conclusion of World War II.

According to its website: “Member countries making up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation.” (

Consequently, in congruence with its mission, some form of economic integration and monetary transition is necessary to bring about societal development. Yet the question becomes which system can guarantee this transformation and to what degree does the reforms require a complete severing of the existing links with the imperialist nations?

This same ECOWAS mission statement on its website notes: “The Vision of ECOWAS is the creation of a borderless region where the population has access to its abundant resources and is able to exploit same through the creation of opportunities under a sustainable environment. What ECOWAS has created is an integrated region where the population enjoys free movement, have access to efficient education and health systems and engage in economic and commercial activities while living in dignity in an atmosphere of peace and security. ECOWAS is meant to be a region governed in accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance.”

The Debate over the Movement Away from the CFA to the ECO

Since the declaration about the purported abandonment of the CFA zone and the adoption of a new ECOWAS regional currency called the “Eco”, questions have arisen over the actual character of the monetary system that is ostensibly designed to emerge. Apparently, the new currency will not be sovereign. The new money is pegged to the Euro as opposed to the French franc.

In addition to the linking of the Eco to the Euro, French President Emmanuel Macron appears to support the transition for the former colonies. This of course has generated suspicion of the new currency from British colonies such as Nigeria and Ghana which have refused to adopt the proposal for the Eco.

There are two rival monetary zones in West Africa which have taken different positions on the new proposed currency. The West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) consisting of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, all of which are former French colonies except for Guinea-Bissau, which won its independence from Portugal in 1974 after a protracted armed struggle led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) formed and led by Amilcar Cabral.

Another currency system known as the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), composed of Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Conakry, has rejected the imposition of the Eco saying that it will not accept the reforms initiated by WAEMU. All of these states, with the exception of Guinea-Conakry, were former British colonies. Guinea-Conakry was the first former French colony to vote in favor of independence in 1958 and obviously to a certain degree maintains its distance from the CFA franc at least in this instance.

Affiliates of WAMZ held a meeting in mid-January in Abuja, Nigeria where opposition to the Eco was at the top of the agenda. Nigerian Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said on behalf of the WAMZ Convergence Council in a joint communique that the imposition of the new regional currency was “inconsistent with the decision of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS for the adoption of the eco as the name of an independent ECOWAS single currency.” (

The same joint communique continues emphasizing that: “WAMZ Convergence Council wishes to reiterate the need for all ECOWAS member countries to implement the decision of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government towards the implementation of the revised roadmap of the ECOWAS single currency program.” Such a statement suggests that the decision for the transition to the Eco could very well be another means for the continuation of French and European dominance over the West Africa region.

Currency Zones Differences Portend Much for Maintaining Political Stability

This debate is a reflection of the crises of governance and inter-state relations within the ECOWAS region. Problems have developed in the recent period involving the contested outcome of the national elections in Guinea-Bissau; the discontent generated by the refusal of the Gambian president to leave office as originally mandated; the closure of borders by Nigeria which has impacted the import and export of goods to other regional states such as Ghana; among other issues. (

In reference to Guinea-Bissau, leading up to the national elections in November 2019, ECOWAS announced that its regional military force was placed on standby in the event of another attempt to stage a coup by the armed forces of the country of 1.5 million people. This statement by the regional body was quite interesting in light of the current problems in Gambia, where ECOWAS under the leadership of neighboring Senegal, brokered the exit of former President Yahya Jammeh in early 2017 due to a political dispute over the 2016 elections. In 2020, after existing President Adama Barrow has reneged on a promise to uphold term limits is facing mass demonstrations demanding his removal and the return of Jammeh.

Senegal, it must be noted, maintains a special military relationship with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Annual military exercises coordinated by AFRICOM had conducted war games based upon the possibility of such scenarios as did occur in Gambia during 2016-17.

With specific reference to the closure of Nigeria’s borders to certain imports and exports from Ghana and other regional states, much consternation has arisen in Accra where some business people have called for President Nana Akufo-Addo to reciprocate with similar economic policies directed at Nigeria. Ghana has been reluctant to carry out such measures insisting upon dialogue to resolve these matters.

The contradictions between the imperatives of regional and ideally continental unity and unification, being contrasted with the perceived interests of nation-states, must be overcome in order for authentic monetary reforms to be implemented. These disagreements related to economic policy will hamper as well the capacity of ECOWAS and other regional entities in Africa to address internal and inter-state differences that impede genuine growth. 
Libya and the Modern Legacy of the Berlin Conference 
Germany hosts summit seeking path forward for North African state destroyed by imperialism in the 21st century

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
February 1, 2020

Once a leading force in the Pan-African Movement on the continent, Libya today, provides a profound illustration of the detrimental and destructive character of neo-colonialism in the present epoch.

During February and March of 2011, the United States and its NATO allies, utilized the United Nations Security Council to engineer two resolutions which provided the rationale for a blanket bombing of the country and a rebel-ground operation which killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.

Longtime Revolutionary Pan-Africanist leader and theoretician, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, was assassinated in October of that same year. In the aftermath of the imperialist-generated crises, scores of militia groups have battled for an elusive political and economic supremacy.

During late January, the German government led by Angela Merkel, held an international gathering featuring the leading western capitalist powers in another failed effort to draft a roadmap for establishing some semblance of stability inside the country. Not surprisingly, the summit ended without a peace accord signed by the main belligerent in the continuing war, being renegade military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who has been a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative for decades, having spent much time in the U.S. after defecting from the Gaddafi administration in Chad in the mid-1980s.

Over four years ago, a German career diplomat, Martin Kobler, had served as the principal negotiator in the establishment of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), under the titular guardianship of Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister. Nonetheless, the PM has never been able to consolidate power in the East of the country which has a rival and divided as well legislative structure, the House of Representatives, based in Tobruk in alliance with Haftar. (

The power vacuum in Tripoli has partly resulted from the de facto recognition of the Libyan National Army (LNA), directed by Haftar, on the part of Washington and Paris. There are also rumors that the Russian Federation is backing Haftar, although President Vladimir Putin has denied this allegation.

The GNA regime is bolstered by various militias which have prevented the LNA from overrunning the capital city. LNA frustrations have led to the carrying out of bombings of civilian areas and the capture of vessels belonging to Turkey which has entered the fray on the side of the GNA.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the deployment of his troops, an affiliate of NATO, in order to shore up Prime Minister al-Sarraj and to ensure that the LNA does not take control of Tripoli. Turkey was present at the recent Berlin Summit as well.

In the aftermath of the Berlin Summit, the 55-member African Union (AU) issued a short communique which raises more questions than answers. In 2011, at the onset of the Libyan crisis three members of the AU voted in favor of the UN Security Council resolutions imposing a no-fly zone over the country. This proved to be a colossal error, in effect creating further a political calamity with the ostensible backing of leading African states within the UN structures.

Soon enough the AU members recognized the mistake made and deployed representatives in an effort to bring about a ceasefire. However, by that time it was far too late. The imperialists and their rebel underlings rejected the AU diplomatic interventions which further marginalized the continental organization on its own soil.

The Role of the AU in the Present Crisis

The latest AU statement during January said of the summit and the contemporary situation in Libya that: “The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat attended a conference on Libya in Berlin, Germany, at the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel, alongside President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Chairperson of the AU High-Level Committee on Libya. The conference, which invited international actors including all the permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council, had for its objective to assist the United Nations to unify the international community in their support for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis.” (

Well of course, the notion of a peaceful settlement in Libya sounds quite remote. In 2011, the AU had put forward a program for resolving the crises in the North African state through the adoption of an immediate ceasefire, the convening of talks among the Gaddafi government and the western-funded and armed counter-revolutionary rebels, along with the holding of “internationally supervised” elections. Nevertheless, the imperialists and the rebels would not consider these proposals whatsoever. They wanted to remove the Jamahiriya and create a Libyan state in the image of the West. This is a construct of an illusion which has still not been realized some nine years later.

The same AU statement in the aftermath of the January 2020 Berlin Summit concluded by noting: “The Chairperson reiterated the African position in support of a full and unconditional ceasefire, the respect for the UN arms embargo and the need for violators to face sanctions, and the return to an inclusive Libyan-led and owned political process that includes an effective follow-up monitoring mechanism. The African Union High Level Committee on Libya, established in 2011, is expected to convene a follow up meeting in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, on 30 January 2020, to study the evolution of the situation in Libya, ahead of the February 2020 AU Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.”

Even the German press said of the aftermath of the recent Berlin Summit emphasizing in a report that: “Several countries that participated in a Berlin peace summit last week and agreed to respect an existing United Nations arms embargo have violated their commitment, the UN said on Saturday (January 25). The agreement, signed by 16 states and organizations at the Libya peace summit in Germany, set out plans for international efforts to monitor the embargo's implementation. ‘Over the last 10 days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advance weapons, armored vehicles, advisers and fighters," the UN mission to Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement. The mission condemns these ongoing violations, which risk plunging the country into a renewed and intensified round of fighting,’ UNSMIL said. The UN criticized several countries that attended the Berlin summit for violating the embargo, but stopped short of naming them.” (

Legacy of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85

The original Berlin Conference of the late 19th century (1884-85) resulted in the partitioning of Africa by the imperialist powers of Europe and the U.S. This conference was held after four centuries of enslavement and colonialism on the continent and in the Western Hemisphere.

There was always resistance by the African people to imperialism and this culminated during the post-World War II period when numerous colonies rose up demanding national independence and sovereignty. However, the new phase of imperialism in Africa, known as neo-colonialism, which was enunciated and popularized by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, has become the dominant mechanism to perpetuate the global domination of Western Europe and North America. (

At the third summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to today’s AU, held in Ghana in October 1965, Nkrumah urged the immediate formation of a United States of Africa encompassing political, economic, military and cultural integration of the continent. The call was prophetic since it was the last OAU Summit prior to the CIA-engineered coup against Nkrumah which took place on February 24, 1966.

With decades past and lessons learned, the OAU Summit in Libya during 1999 issued the Sirte Declaration, reiterating a form of the Nkrumah program, although on a minimal basis, calling again for continental unification. The Sirte Declaration led to the reformation of the OAU to the AU. Yet the AU cannot realize the objectives of genuine Pan-Africanism absent of a revolutionary program which is anti-imperialist and socialist in character. Such a program will require the empowerment of the majority of workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and youth as the center of development strategies and tactical considerations.

Therefore, the Berlin Summit of 2020 can only lead to the continuation of neo-colonialism. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiated in 2018 faces tremendous obstacles. These impediments are rooted in the continuing legacy of the period of enslavement and colonization. Neo-Colonialism must be defeated before Africa can be totally liberated. 
Sudan and the Political Economy of National Reconciliation
Sovereign Council negotiates with armed opposition while seeking foreign direct investment

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Political Analysis
January 31, 2020

Since the military coup against former Republic of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the ascendancy of the Transitional Military Council and the subsequent Transitional Sovereign Council, the leadership in Khartoum has been attempting to establish a political dispensation to position the oil-rich nation to emerge from its economic crisis and internal social turmoil.

Ongoing discussions with armed opposition groups operating in Darfur, the Blue Nile and South Kordofan has led to preliminary agreements for the entering of politics by groups which were in protracted struggle with the central government.

On January 24, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Malik Agar, signed an agreement with the Transitional Sovereign Council which will serve as a framework for a more comprehensive settlement during mid-February. The pact embodies clauses related to the demands related to security questions and the character of the political system.

SPLM-N Agar wants to be independent of Islamic law governing its affairs. The organization also desires to establish relations with neighboring regions of the Republic of South Sudan and the eventual federation of the now two sovereign nations.

The SPLM-N Agar is a member of Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) where other groups from Darfur as well as factions in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are in alliance. These organizations have been engaged in armed conflict for nearly a decade under the former regime of President al-Bashir.

This preliminary agreement was signed in Juba, the capital of neighboring South Sudan, which gained its independence from Khartoum in 2011. President Salva Kiir was present at the signing and praised the framework as an advancement aimed at a lasting peace and reconciliation within the Republic of Sudan.

Kiir called for the parties to adhere to the accord encouraging others to join this framework arrangement. The South Sudanese leader envisioned the agreement as providing the basis for building internal stability in both states and broader economic cooperation.

Another Faction Fails to Reach Agreement with Transitional Government

In other developments, the SPLM-N al Hilu faction, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, has stated that it is not concerned with the agreement signed between the Transitional Sovereign Council and the SPLM-N Agar. The SPLM-N al-Hilu has maintained its position of upholding the right to a secular state and that this important issue must be resolved at the negotiating table prior to a constitutional convention advocated by the Transitional Sovereign Council.

Talks with the SPLM-N al-Hilu on January 26 failed to reach a consensus and have been suspended until February 4. The Sudanese government delegation member Mohamed Hassan al-Thaishi articulated the view that the agreement with the SPLM-N Agar, which operates in the same theater as the SPLM-N al-Hilu, should serve as the basis for the continued negotiation with other armed groupings.

SPLM-N al-Hilu spokesperson Jack Mahmud rejected this assertion of the January 24 agreement being a basis for broader discussions claiming that al-Thaishi did not consult with their organization prior to making such a statement. Until there is a breakthrough on the issue of a secular government it does not appear that the SPLM-N al-Hilu will be brought into the proposed constitutional conference.

According to Mahmud, "Al-Taishi’s statement expresses the vision and point of view of the government delegation, as well as of the signatories to the agreement. The SPLM-N affirms that it is not concerned with the framework agreement signed between the Transitional Government and Agar/Arman group, even if it is supported by the other tracks.” (

Despite these disagreements, Mahmud did emphasize the SPLM-N al-Hilu’s “full readiness to continue the peace talks, despite the stalemate on the issues of secularism and the right to self-determination".  The South Sudanese mediation team established by the presidency has said that the February 4 talks should lead to a comprehensive peace encompassing all of the armed opposition groupings operating in various areas of the country.

Economic Program of the Transitional Sovereign Council and Its Foreign Policy

Equally as important to the future of the Republic of Sudan is the necessity of implementing economic reforms. Challenges related to the oil industry and its status within the broader petroleum market internationally will be a key component in bringing about stability and political integration.

Although Khartoum is listed by the United States and other imperialist countries as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (SST), a designation which still remains despite the coup against al-Bashir and the National Congress Party (NCP) in April 2019, a statement by a Washington official suggested that this was not the main stumbling block in qualifying Sudan for loans from the global capitalist financial institutions. Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, pointed to the substantial debt obligations as the major impediment to the acquisition of direct foreign investment.

At the conclusion of a tour of several African states including Kenya, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan, Nagy spent considerable time discussing Washington’s inconsistent position on Khartoum with Sudanese Foreign Minister Asma Abdallah. The U.S. position seems quite contradictory as Nagy referred to the government as a partner of Washington while pointing out the roadblocks to full normalization of relations with the imperialist states with the issue of foreign debt as a major factor.

Nagy expressed this dubious policy enunciated by the administration of President Donald Trump indicating that: "We are talking about (that) more than SST. Sudan is a partner. Negotiations are ongoing but I am optimistic. There are thorny issues. We want a successful Sudan but I can’t go into technical issues but we are working it. I wish we can give a time frame.” (

With the rapid decline in oil prices coupled with the partitioning of Sudan, the economy has been in dire straits for a number of years. The unrest against former leader al-Bashir arose over a rise in commodity prices and later escalated to political demands related to regime change.

The monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have provided substantial loans and cash infusions into the Sudanese economy aimed at keeping the state afloat. These relationships with such staunch allies of Washington portend much for the overall foreign policy framework of Khartoum.

There are those within the international financial structures that are willing to write-off loans held by Sudan. However, it is the U.S. that continues to veto any effort by Khartoum to receive assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The State Department official went on to note: "There are a number of other criteria; for instance, Sudan has considerable arrears to international financial institutions which prevent those international financial institutions from making additional loans or grants to Sudan, so that’s one of the problems. So the issue is, number one, reputational; number two, it is the arrears that Sudan has built up that will need to be negotiated in the future. The SST really refers much more to how the United States is obligated to respond to Sudan’s request for broad projects and programs in international financial institutions.”

Nagy also raised that Sudan must pay compensation to victims of terrorism. This is the policy of Washington despite the failure of the U.S. itself to accept any responsibility for the massive deaths, injuries and displacement caused by the successive imperialist wars carried out over the recent period.

Interim Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok agreed in December to purportedly accept responsibility for the actions of the previous government of ousted President al-Bashir and has opened up discussions with the families of victims of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 along with the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Nonetheless, there has never been any definitive evidence that the Sudanese government was directly involved in the incidents. (

Under the U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton, the Pentagon carried out bombing operations against Sudan in 1998 in the aftermath of the embassy attacks which killed several hundred people in Nairobi and a far smaller number in Dar es Salaam. A pharmaceutical plant was destroyed in Sudan claiming it was a source for the manufacture of chemical weapons.

Of course no proof of the production of chemical weapons was ever proven by Washington and the U.S. has not paid any compensation for the destruction of the facility. These allegations by the U.S. played a role in the designation of Sudan as a SST entity. 
The Struggle to End Imperialist Militarism in the 21st Century
Dawn of a new decade requires greater vigilance in the movement against permanent war

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Saturday January 25, 2020

Note: This address was prepared and delivered at a Communist Workers League (CWL) class on United States Imperialism and the War against Iran which was held on Saturday January 25, 2020 in Detroit. The event featured Randi Nord, the editor of Geo-politics Alert website which covers events related to international affairs with a special focus on West Asia, Latin America, U.S. foreign policy and developments in Europe. Also addressing the class was Yusuf Mshahwar, an observer of West Asian affairs and a student at Wayne State University. Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor and writer for various publications, discussed the relationship between imperialist interventions in North Africa and related occurrences in West Asia and other geo-political regions within the international community.

As we enter the third decade of the present century, it is important for anti-imperialists to take stock of events over the previous ten years.

Since 2010, the role of United States imperialist militarism has been just as disruptive, destabilizing and deadly as in previous eras.

Of course there was some initial hope when uprisings erupted in Tunisia and Egypt during late 2010 and early 2011. Nonetheless, neither of these popular rebellions against the neo-colonial dominated regimes in Tunis and Cairo developed into a revolutionary transformation of society.

In Tunisia and Egypt, it was only the military and security apparatuses which proved capable of seizing state power and ushering in a transitional process. Tunisia seems to have been the most pliable in regard to stabilizing a bourgeois democratic system. However, Egypt after the election of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, was the scene of continued unrest and the eventual well-planned takeover in July 2013 by the military.

Former Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, soon stepped down from the military and won two successive terms as president. At present, Egypt is the Chairman of the continental 55-member African Union (AU).

The situation in neighboring Libya clearly exposed the dangers of fomenting unrest absent of a revolutionary character. In fact developments in Libya since February 2011 represent a counter-revolution against not only the people of that oil-rich North African state nonetheless also influencing the impact of the constantly deteriorating situation on other regional nations and the international community in general.

At present a conference in Germany on January 19 discussed the future of what was Africa’s most prosperous country under the Jamahiriya led by Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Turkey has sent troops into Libya in an effort to bolster the Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj which was imposed by the United Nations Security Council four years ago amid internecine conflict and dislocation.

The only announcement to emerge from the Berlin Summit was a vague commitment to honor an arms embargo on Libya. Yet, the initial arms embargo was imposed by the UN Security Council through two resolutions (1970 and 1973) passed during March 2011. Those resolutions were utilized by the imperialists to provide politico-legal cover for the massive bombings and ground operations carried out by the Pentagon and NATO along with its allies in the region which destroyed the country.

Neither the GNU nor the Libya National Army (LNA) of renegade General and longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, Khalifa Hafter, embodies the capacity to rally the people of Libya around a program of unification and national development. Libya, under Gaddafi, had played a leading role in the campaigns to reform the AU and to build structures of continental integration on the military, economic, cultural and political levels.

Today just the opposite reality in Libya and North Africa is in existence. The Pan-African foreign policy of the Jamahiriya has been replaced with a defensive posture of attempting to ensure the recognition of the GNU. Nevertheless, the imperialists had placed their estimations with the ability of the LNA to tear down the defenses of the militias providing security to the UN-recognized administration in Tripoli. Since April of 2019 this has not been the case. The GNU and its supporters have maintained control of the capital and with the Turkish political and military intervention the city will become even more fortified.

Oil has become a weapon unsurprisingly for those in the East backing Hafter and the often unheard Southern communities. Libya has the largest known petroleum reserves in Africa therefore its economic and political trajectory is of profound interests to the Western capitalist countries. The rise in oil prices over the last few weeks in response to the targeted assassinations of Islamic Republic of Iran Lt. Gen. Qassem Suleimani and Iraq Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) Deputy Commander Abu Mahdi Muhandis by the Pentagon, illustrates clearly the significant role of oil production inside the country.

An article published by Middle East Eye on January 25 says of the oil situation in Libya that:
“Libya's oil production has plunged by about three-quarters since forces loyal to eastern military leader Khalifa Haftar began a blockade a week ago, the National Oil Corporation said on Saturday (Jan. 25). The decline, from 1.2 million barrels per day to just over 320,000, has caused losses of about $256m since the closure of major oil fields and ports in the east and south of the country, the NOC said in a statement cited by AFP. Haftar, who controls the east and large swathes of the south, began an offensive in April last year to seize the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. Pro-Haftar forces blockaded the main oil terminals in eastern Libya the day before a summit in Berlin on 19 January that called for the end of foreign interference in the conflict and a resumption of the peace process. The move to cripple the country's main income source was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rivals.” (

According to, the U.S. responded immediately to the oil flow blockages by emphasizing: “The U.S. Embassy in Libya said on Tuesday (Jan. 21) that the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) should be allowed to immediately resume oil operations that were suspended over the weekend after groups loyal to General Khalifa Haftar blocked virtually all oil production and exports from the African oil producer…. On Sunday, 800,000 bpd—more than half of Libya’s oil production of around 1.4 million bpd—was taken offline after forces loyal to Haftar blocked the oil ports in eastern Libya which are under the control of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The move came ahead of an international conference in Berlin between Haftar and the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by the UN.”

The question of energy resources is paramount within imperialism. The western capitalist states want to maintain control over the flow and prices of petroleum and other important energy commodities.

All of these developments in North Africa and the role of Turkey and other NATO countries, portend much for U.S.-Iran relations. The focus on Iran is about oil as well as strategic positioning in regard to international trade. The Straits of Hormuz are significant in the shipping of strategic resources including military dynamics.

Iran and its growing alliance with Syria, Russia, China, among other states, is important in analyzing the current hostility emanating from Washington. Trump is using the Iranian situation to bolster his status among the Republican base and to deflect attention away from current impeachment proceedings in Congress.

Iran and the Revolutionary Struggle in West Asia

It has been 41 years since the triumph of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The previous monarchy of the Shah was installed and supported wholeheartedly by the U.S. and other imperialists governments from 1953-1979.

Since 1979, Iran has made tremendous strides in providing educational, social and political rights to the majority of the population. Iran has also been active in the field of international relations seeking out relationships with countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America.

Efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Washington have proved futile. Successive U.S. administrations continue to maintain this hostile attitude towards Tehran.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) represented a milestone in a negotiated process designed to normalize diplomacy and to lift the draconian sanctions against the Iranian people. Besides the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China were party to the landmark agreement signed on July 14, 2015. However, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump literally tore up the JCPOA and imposed further sanctions.

Then during early January, a targeted assassination of two prominent leaders of Iran and neighboring Iraq prompted the outrage of progressive forces internationally.  Demonstrations were held in capitals throughout the world where the actions of the Trump administration were routinely denounced.

Since the martyrdom of Suleimani and Muhandis, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has shelled a U.S. military base in Iraq. During the same period, a Ukrainian airline was brought down inadvertently by the IRGC killing over 100 people. Now this incident is the subject of an internal and international investigation.

Many are encouraged that full-scale military conflict between Washington and Tehran has not erupted. However, these two incidents, the martyrdom of Suleimani and Muhandis  and the subsequent retaliatory measures by Iran, represents only the beginning of an ongoing military engagement which could result in the deployment of far more troops by Washington to the Persian Gulf. 

The Role of Anti-Imperialism in North America

Those inside the U.S. and Canada who oppose further imperialist engagement in West Asia must remain committed in the struggle to end Pentagon intervention in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, along with other states within the region. Our activities must be consistently aimed at building solidarity with the Iranian Revolution and other progressive movements throughout the region.

Even though now the focus in the U.S. appears to be centered on the Senate impeachment trial, the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon, are moving ahead in carrying out its aggressive policy towards Tehran and other states. The presidential and Congressional elections of 2020 should be utilized as a forum to raise these important issues before the workers, youth and nationally oppressed. We utilized this approach in July and August during the Democratic Party debates held at the Fox Theater in downtown.

We were there with banners, placards, broadsheets and cadres in order to point out that racism, national oppression, capitalism and imperialism are not just the prerogatives of the Republican Party. The working class in actuality needs its own party which can speak in the fundamental interests of the masses of workers, youth, farmers and oppressed nations.

Literature can be developed which clearly articulates the history and contemporary political exigencies involving Iran and U.S. foreign policy in the Persian Gulf, West Asia and North Africa so that people will not be goaded into lending political support to another failed military intervention in West Asia. Through our antiwar actions we can emphasize our maximum solidarity with the people of Iran and the entire region of West Asia.

It is essential that whichever candidate for the Democratic Party is selected to face off in the November elections, we should make it clear that a violation of the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran will evoke the raft of the peace movement in North America. Such a principled position will guarantee that our organizing work links the struggles of the U.S., West Asia and the international community as a whole.