Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Popular protest, social movements and class struggle in Africa - recent developments by David Seddon

                                This article expresses the personal views of David Seddon

An era of protest?

In September 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared at the opening of the UN General Assembly, "we are living in an era of unprecedented level of crises". What did he mean, and to what ‘era’ was he referring? Was he referring to the global economic crisis that began in 2007-08 and has lasted until now, with recession in many countries and a significant slowing down of growth in others? Was he referring to the growing militarisation of Russia and its interventions in the Crimea and Ukraine, and the ongoing ‘civil war’ inside Ukraine, or was he referring to the on-going and arguably deepening set of conflicts associated with the aftermath of foreign intervention and the emergence of new radical Islamist movements across the Middle East in particular, from 2001 onwards?

Or could he possibly have been referring to the upsurge in popular protest against economic reform, austerity and the authoritarian or pseudo-democratic regimes that have adopted these policies in recent years, in many parts of the world - including the so-called developed countries of the West, and of course Africa - that some on the left have identified in recent years?

Of course, all of these in different ways represent major current crises in the global political economy, but it is the first three identified above that have received most attention, the fourth significantly less so. This is, in large part, because in their analyses of the political crises, the Western media very largely focus on what appear to be major threats associated with international and regional security issues, while in the case of the global capitalist crisis, most commentators focus on the crisis of capital, whereas those concentrating on the crisis of labour, and the impact of the capitalist crisis on the urban poor and working classes, are relatively few and far between in the mainstream media - dominated as they are by the interests of capital and of the governments that are either obliged or, in many cases, choose to represent those interests rather than those of the mass of their citizens.

Even when the impact on ordinary people of these ‘crises’ is considered, it is all too often from a perspective that identifies them as the unwitting and unwilling victims of events, powerless in the face of powerful economic forces and newly emergent political tendencies to be addressed largely through various forms of humanitarian intervention. In the case of the crisis of global capitalism, it is rarely acknowledged that these ordinary people are active players in the dynamics of contemporary capitalism, even if it is indeed the case that they generally are less able to influence world events than are the bankers and financiers, industrialists, merchants and traders, and the governments, armed forces and international agencies of various kinds.

But there is a growing body of writing on the global political economy that recognises the continuing importance of the class struggle, and particularly of the various forms of direct action from below that stem from the active resistance and opposition of ordinary people to the dominant forces of global capitalism and its national manifestations, and to the governments of various guises that preside over and actively promote growing inequality, imposing austerity and other measures to control and regulate labour and the working classes as a whole.

In the March-April 2013 issue of Amandla, for example, Esther Vivas wrote a piece on popular protest entitled ‘From the World Social Forum to the Arab Revolts’, in which she drew attention to the significance of the fact that Tunisia was hosting the World Social Forum at the time of publication: ‘Tunisia, cradle of the revolts in the Arab world, hosts from today [26 March] and until Saturday the World Social Forum (WSF), the most important international meeting of social movements and organizations. And this is not by chance. The promoters of the WSF chose this country in reference to the Arab Spring. The latter has not only given rise to new movements of opposition in North Africa and the Middle East, but has also "contaminated" the south of Europe, in particular with the movement of the ‘indignant’ in the Spanish State, as well as the Occupy movement in the United States.

Significantly, she identified this phenomenon as ‘a new cycle of protest which has emerged on an international scale, determined by a systemic crisis and debt and austerity policies, in particular in the countries of the periphery of the European Union subjected to harsh measures of adjustment’. Is her idea of a ‘new cycle of protest’ emerging on an international scale, starting with the so-called Arab Spring of 2011 and continuing up to 2013, convincing – and at least congruent with Bank Ki Moon’s notion of an ‘era of crises’? Our reply would be – yes, and no.

Yes, because there can be little doubt that the period of the global recession of 2008-2015 has coincided with a wave of popular protest across the world; no, because this is only the latest of a series of waves of global popular protest that can be identified since the last major recession of the 1970s and early 1980s when numerous countries in the Third World (and in the Second World also) were obliged to undertake economic reforms and ‘structural adjustment’ in the initial stages of what has come to be termed ‘ globalization’. Some, furthermore, see this most recent, post-independence series of waves of global protest in a longer historical perspective, going all the way back to 1848, and would regard them as part of the ‘long waves’ of the anti-capitalist movement.

For example, The Economist – that doyen of neo-liberal thinking - carried on the front cover of its 29 June – 5 July 2013 issue, under a banner headline: ‘The March of Protest’, a picture of four figures, the first (a woman bearing aloft the flag of France) representing 1848 in Europe, the second (dressed as a hippie and carrying flowers in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other) representing 1968 in the US and Europe, the third (a man in worker’s clothes) with a spanner in one hand and a candle the other) representing 1989 in Eastern Europe, and finally, a woman (dressed in modern clothes and carrying a Starbucks coffee container in one hand and holding aloft a mobile phone in the other) representing 2013 ‘everywhere’. Interestingly, in light of its own detailed coverage of the phenomenon throughout 2011 and 2012, The Economist of June-July 2013 fails to illustrate the ‘Arab Spring’. There is no figure in Arab dress representing the Arab world in 2011, significant though that was for Esther Vivas.

The lead article in The Economist points out that ‘the protests have many different origins. In Brazil people rose up against bus fares, in Turkey against a building project. Indonesians have rejected higher fuel prices, Bulgarians the government’s cronyism. In the euro zone they march against austerity, and the Arab spring has become a perma-protest against pretty much everything. Each angry demonstration is angry in its own way. Yet just as in 1848, 1968 and 1989, when people also found a collective voice, the demonstrators have much in common’. It notes that ‘over the past few weeks, in one country after another, protesters have risen up with bewildering speed. They have been more active in democracies than dictatorships. They tend to be ordinary, middle-class people, not lobbies with lists of demands. Their mix of revelry and rage condemns the corruption, inefficiency and arrogance of the folk in charge’.

‘Nobody can know how 2013 will change the world—if at all’, concludes the Economist. ‘In 1989, the Soviet empire teetered and fell. But Marx’s belief that 1848 was the first wave of a proletarian revolution was confounded by decades of flourishing capitalism and 1968, which felt so pleasurably radical at the time, did more to change sex than politics. Even now, though, the inchoate significance of 2013 is discernible. And for politicians who want to peddle the same old stuff, the news is not good’. It remarks that, while popular protest might be uncomfortable and even threatening for democracies, ‘democrats may envy the ability of dictators to shut down demonstrations’.

It comments that ‘China has succeeded in preventing its many local protests from cohering into a national movement. Saudi Arabia has bribed its dissidents to be quiet; Russia has bullied them with the threats of fines and prison. But in the long run, the autocrats may pay a higher price. Using force to drive people off the streets can weaken governments fatally, as Sultan Erdogan may yet find; and as the Arab governments discovered two years ago, dictatorships lack the institutions through which to channel protesters’ anger. As they watch democracies struggle in 2013, the leaders in Beijing, Moscow and Riyadh should be feeling uncomfortable’.

Interestingly, given the analysis developed by The Economist in its June-July 2013 issue, the London Review of Books carried an article by Slavoj Zizek in July 2013, entitled ‘Trouble in Paradise’, which begins by observing that ‘In his early writings, Marx described the German situation as one in which the only answer to particular problems was the universal solution: global revolution. This is a succinct expression of the difference between a reformist and a revolutionary period: in a reformist period, global revolution remains a dream which, if it does anything, merely lends weight to attempts to change things locally; in a revolutionary period, it becomes clear that nothing will improve without radical global change. In this purely formal sense, 1990 was a revolutionary year: it was plain that partial reforms of the Communist states would not do the job and that a total break was needed to resolve even such everyday problems as making sure there was enough for people to eat’.

Zizek then asks: ‘where do we stand today with respect to this difference? Are the problems and protests of the last few years signs of an approaching global crisis, or are they just minor obstacles that can be dealt with by means of local interventions?’ He suggests that ‘the most remarkable thing about the eruptions is that they are taking place not only, or even primarily, at the weak points in the system, but in places which were until now perceived as success stories. We know why people are protesting in Greece or Spain; but why is there trouble in such prosperous or fast-developing countries as Turkey, Sweden or Brazil?’

His question about the significance of widespread popular protect in the emerging or rapidly developing countries of what was previously the Third World, as well as in the arguably struggling if not failing ‘developed’ countries of Europe, is very pertinent. For it encourages us to turn our attention to Africa, which many have argued has experienced an extraordinary rate of economic growth in recent years. Indeed, many have suggested that Africa is going through unprecedented phase of capitalist development, which is sometimes characterised as ‘Africa Rising’.

Africa Rising?

In Amandla no 37/38 2014 and in International Viewpoint online in December 2014, Firoze Manji asked ‘Is Africa Rising?’ He drew attention to the new conventional wisdom that emphasised the importance of GDP growth rates across Africa as a whole of 5 to 6 per cent as year, particularly in the years before the global recession. But he points out the heavy reliance of Africa on growth and income from the extractive industries, pointing out that Natural resource extraction and associated state expenditure account for more than 30 per cent of Africa’s GDP growth since 2000. The primary contributors to the growth in GDP have been a small number of the oil and gas exporters (Algeria, Angola, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria), which have the highest GDP on the continent but are also the least diversified economies.

Manji argues that ‘international capital sees the possibilities of major profits to be gained from oil, natural gas, minerals, land grabbing and the like. Transnational corporations court African governments to implement policies that include the massive privatisation of state-owned enterprises, low or no taxation of corporate profits and opening markets to a flood of manufactured commodities. All of these measures have had a devastating impact on the ability of local manufacturing to survive. It is hardly surprising that, according to a McKinsey report, the "annual flow of foreign direct investment into Africa increased from $9 billion in 2000 to $62 billion in 2008 – relative to GDP, almost as large as the flow into China". Most of this investment has been into the extractive industries’.

So how has Africa benefitted from this? According to Carlos Lopes, the executive secretary of UNECA, "Average net profits for the top 40 mining companies grew by 156 per cent in 2010 whereas the take for governments grew by only 60 per cent, most of which was accounted for by Australia and Canada." He points out that the profit made by the same set of mining companies in 2010 was $110 billion, which was equivalent to the merchandise exports of all African LDCs in the same year. In reality, the GDP growth rates on which the proponents of the idea of ‘Africa Rising’ rely disguises the fact that across the continent there has been a decline in the manufacturing sectors, caused primarily by the neo-liberal policies that opened up the economies to manufactured goods from the more developed industrial capitalist countries.

As pointed out by Rick Rowden in his analysis of the 2011 UNCTAD report, the share of manufacturing value added (MVA) in Africa’s GDP ‘fell from 12.8 per cent in 2000 to 10.5 per cent in 2008’, while in developing Asia it rose from 22 per cent to 35 per cent over the same period: ‘There has also been a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa’s exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa’s total exports having fallen from 43 per cent in 2000 to 39 per cent in 2008. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries had negative MVA per capita growth during the period 1990 - 2010, and only five countries achieved an MVA per capita growth above 4 per cent’. The trend of the declining contribution of manufacturing is confirmed once again by the 2014 UNCTAD report on LDCs.

So while ‘Africa Rising’ means a one-dimensional focus on rising GDP and massive profits accrued by transnational corporations, the reality is that in Africa, although governments and national capital may benefit to some extent, the major features of the political economy are: the rape of largely non-renewable resources, land grabs and rising profits for foreign companies, and rising prices of basic goods, including food, increasing landlessness, growing urban poverty and inequality and the effective pauperisation of the mass of the people, including the so-called ‘middle classes’, many of whom also struggle to survive.

Africa Uprising?

In this context, it is highly significant that as Manji goes on to remark, ‘there is another aspect of the idea of ‘Africa Rising’ that gives us hope in the future and potential for self-determination of the people of the continent needs to be given greater attention: that is, risings of people across the continent, which I have highlighted elsewhere’. ‘In addition to the outbreak of revolutionary situations in Tunisia and Egypt that resulted in the ousting of Ben Ali and Mubarak (respectively), there have been popular uprisings in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe’.

‘More recently’, he observes (writing at the very end of 2014), ‘we have witnessed uprisings in a number of other countries including Nigeria and Chad. Most recently, uprisings in Burkina Faso have led to the deposing of Blaise Campaore, the murderer of the Burkinabé revolutionary, Thomas Sankara’. Each of these uprisings, Manji suggests, has been fuelled by decades of dispossessions and pauperisation that accompanied the latest phase of capitalism, popularly referred to as ‘neo-liberalism’, which represents a stage in the longer process of ‘globalisation’ (the development of capitalism on a world scale). They were fuelled also by reversals of the gains of independence that established universal education, access to health care, social welfare, water, power and a wide range of social infrastructure. In other words, he identifies this ‘wave’ of popular protest as a distinct and relatively recent phenomenon.

He was in no position, however, given that he was writing at the end of December 2014, to comment that the popular protest movement in Burkina Faso continued into 2015. The ‘wave’, however, continues to roll…

Burkina Faso

The Burkinabè uprising was a series of demonstrations and riots in Burkina Faso in October 2014 that quickly spread to many other towns across the country. They began in response to attempts to change the constitution to allow President Blaise HYPERLINK ""Compaoré to run again, and extend his 27 years in office. Following a tumultuous day on 30 October, which involved protestors burning the National Assembly and other government buildings as well as the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party's headquarters, and a number of deaths, Compaoré dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency before eventually fleeing to Ivory Coast with the support of President Alassane HYPERLINK "" HYPERLINK ""Ouattara.

At the beginning of November 2014, army chief, Gen Honore Traore, declared that he had taken over, but it was not clear that he had the backing of all the military. Indeed, shortly afterwards an interim government was announced, with President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida taking on the key ministries of foreign affairs and defence respectively. Of the 26 posts available, the army claimed six, including mines, communications and the interior ministry. Other members were drawn from civil society groups and a medley of political parties. A brief period of army rule ensued, led by HYPERLINK ""Zida, before he bowed to pressure from the African Union to cede power to a civilian president, who was to remain in charge until elections in 2015. At the beginning of February, however, thousands of people took to the streets to call for the scrapping of the presidential guard, following the ousting of Blaise Compaore in October.

 During last year’s protests, which left at least 24 people dead and more than 600 injured, Amnesty International accused the elite corps of ‘excessive and lethal’ use of force. The guard was disbanded, but the protest movement, which had brought together a number of different elements of civil society, notably young people, and involved a number of non-governmental organisations, including Le Balai Citoyen (The Citizen’s Broom), remained vigilant.

The Citizen’s Broom is a political grassroots movement in Burkina Faso, which was part of the opposition against President Blaise HYPERLINK ""Compaoré. The movement is part of the Sankarist political tradition, appealing to the legacy and ideals of Captain Thomas HYPERLINK

""Sankara, a radical left-wing revolutionary who ruled the country from 1983 until his death in 1987, killed during a coup orchestrated by his successor Compaoré. Co-founder Sams’K Le Jah received his political education in the Pioneers of the Revolution, the youth movement of Sankara's Democratic and Popular Revolution. The movement is so named both in reference to ‘sweeping out’ perceived political corruption, and also to the regular street-cleaning exercises – initiated by Thomas Sankara – in which citizens would pick up brooms and clean their neighbourhoods, both an act of community development and a metaphor for societal self-sufficiency. Members carry brooms during protests as a symbol of this.

It was co-founded by two musicians, reggae artist Sams’KHYPERLINK

"" Le Jah and rapper Serge Bambara ("Smockey") in the summer of 2013. They organized several protests in early 2014, for example hosting a joint rally with the newly formed Movement of People for Progress, filling a 35,000-capacity sports stadium to its rafters. When the October 2014 HYPERLINK ""Burkinabé

HYPERLINK "" uprising broke out the group became a prominent part of the protests, its activists gaining note due to their presence on the streets. President Compaoré was forced to resign and flee the country on 31 October, after 27 years of rule. The Citizen’s Broom, which organised a symbolic sweeping of Ouagadougou's streets following Compaoré's departure, was reported to be supportive of Zida's transitional government. But its leaders called for protesters to "remain vigilant and on high alert, to not let anyone steal the victory of the sovereign people.

"We encouraged young people to rise and protest," says Dramane Zinaba, national co-ordinator of the Citizen’s Broom, which was one of the movements at the forefront of the protests last autumn. "Now we want to keep them mobilised. They need to get their weapon, their voter's card, to bring real change in 2015." The movement is currently campaigning to encourage young people to enrol on electoral lists before the elections which are now scheduled not to take place until October 2015.


Manji was also not in a position to comment on the mass protests that broke out in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April 2015, in an initiative not too dissimilar to that of Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso, that he would run for a third term in the June elections. The demonstrations continued over a period of three weeks until 13 May, when a military coup took place, while Nkurunziza was out of the country. Forces loyal to the President overturned the coup the next day, but the situation remained tense and uncertain throughout the rest of May and by the third week of the month the UN estimated some 120,000 people had fled from Burundi seeking refuge elsewhere, mainly in Tanzania.

On 18 May 2015, hundreds of protesters took to the streets across the capital once again, despite a ban and official warnings against taking part in demonstrations after the failed coupHYPERLINK "" the previous week. ‘Our politics are different’, protesters chanted in the local Kirundi language, as some stomped in unison, clapped, blew whistles, raised hands and carried branches. ‘Our politics are different because we are against corruption’, said one protestor, Arakata Bonfils, age 32, according to an article by Ismail Kishkush in The Economist online (18 May 2015), ‘The president has become a king’.

During the demonstrations, many shops in the capital, Bujumbura, remained closed, public buses were scarce and Army patrols roamed through town. In areas where protests were expected, soldiers were heavily armed. Ismail Kushkush reported that ‘In the working-class neighborhood of Musaga, demonstrators started to gather in the midmorning, carrying banners that read, ‘No to a third term’ and ‘No war’ in French. A soldier fired warning shots that dispersed the crowd, at least for a few moments. "We are not attacking; why are they shooting?" said Nahimana Jean-Claude, age 35, who ran into an alley. Protesters slowly trickled back, burning tires, setting up a roadblock of stones, branches and trash, chanting and singing choir songs and the national anthem’.

‘As one group of soldiers tried to manage the protest, another unit without numbers on their uniforms walked up from behind, cocking their guns and igniting a quarrel. That led the first group to plead with them to back off. "If you shoot, I will shoot," one soldier said to another in Kirundi’. The army had largely been seen as neutral throughout the crisis. But the failed coup and divisions among its ranks have led to questions about its future role. "There have been divisions for several years, with the army much more divided than the police," said Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch. "Some, including senior officers, have become increasingly impatient and disillusioned with President Nkurunziza."

President Nkurunziza warnedb of"threat from Al Shabab, the Somali Islamist extremist group’. "We are not worried about Al-Shabab," said Patrick Ndumwimana, a student protestor, "We are worried about the Imbonerakure." The Imbonerakure are members of the youth wing of the governing party and have been accused of intimidating, threatening and even killing opponents.

On 2 June 2015, Burundi opposition leaders called for fresh protests and vowed to keep up the rallies against Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term. On 11 June 2015, Pierre Nkurikiye, deputy spokesman for the security ministry and the police declared that ‘There are no more demonstrations in Bujumbura or inside the country’, adding that the media were to blame for the remaining pockets of protests. "It is a movement of some journalists -- especially those sent by the international media -- who... organise groups of people in remote areas, away from police, and ask them to sing, to exhibit placards."

Civil society leader, Pacifique Nininahazwe, called the claims the protests had ended ‘a joke’. "If there are no more demonstrations, why is it the police fire every morning and every night in Bujumbura's neighbourhoods? Why do we bury people every day killed by the police?" he asked.

In a stronger statement, the government claims were ‘pure lies’ said opposition leader, Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, and expressed concern that little more than two weeks remained before parliamentary elections were to be held.

Democratic Republic of Congo

In the middle of January 2015, university students were at the forefront of demonstrations in Kinshasa, as they protested against an attempt by President Joseph Kabila to extend his period of office to introduce a draft law that would enable him to extend his presidency beyond his current mandate, which ends in 2016. The law was adopted on 17 January 2015 by the Congolese National Assembly.

After several days of violence, in Kinshasa and other towns, at least 42 people had been killed, according to the International Federation of Human Rights (although the government gave an estimate of five). The army and the police arrested dozens of protestors as they hurled rocks at state buildings, public buses and even passing cars. In Brussels, where he was recovering from illness, Etienne Tshisekedi, the veteran leader of the main opposition party, the UDPS, urged the Congolese people to force ‘a dying regime’ from power.

On 23 January 2015, the International Crisis Group commented that ‘this surge of protest is the latest and, so far, most violent confrontation between the government and the opposition since the deeply flawed November 2011 elections and is a clear demonstration of the continuing crisis of legitimacy that faces Kabila’s presidency. While regional and international actors have largely focused on crises in the east, there has been little effort to encourage the national government and opposition to create a more consensual political environment. The Senate decision proves that there is no consensus even among the majority group that supports the president. It also remarked that ‘the reaction of the Kabila government to the protests has been heavy-handed, involving the deployment of riot police and troops, including the Republican Guard. Demonstrators were violently repressed and there are reports of several casualties. Several opposition leaders have been arrested or had their freedom of movement limited. From 20 January, the government has blocked or limited SMS and internet access.

At the end of January AFP reported that ‘a call by the Congolese opposition for peaceful demonstrations to oust President Joseph Kabila went unheeded Monday as authorities maintained a crippling block on text messages and social networks used to rally demonstrators. Only about 50 people gathered at the headquarters of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) in the capital Kinshasa, despite the party calling for mass protests. The small crowd dispersed shortly before midday (1100 GMT) when several jeeploads of police arrived at the scene after authorities warned no opposition demonstrations would be permitted’.

On 12 February 2015, election officials announced that presidential elections would be held in November, thereby satisfying a key demand of the opposition. Violent protests had broken out the previous month over fears that President Joseph Kabila was trying to delay polls. President Kabila is currently constitutionally barred from contesting the poll; but he has not officially declared his intentions for the election, although the government denies he is deliberately seeking to extend his presidency and has dropped plans for a controversial census to be held before elections. The United States has repeatedly urged Kabila to respect term limits and set a date for the election.

A month later, on 18 March 2015, it was reported that the government had ordered the immediate expulsion of four foreign pro-democracy activists detained over the weekend during and criticized the United States for supporting the event. Government spokesman, Lambert Mende, said the foreign activists including a Burkinabe and three Senegalese activists were part of a "subversive movement inspired from abroad." Authorities had found military uniforms in their luggage but Congo has dropped a criminal investigation into them, he added. The foreign activists have organized protests in their home countries supporting presidential term limits ahead of elections. The Burkinabe activist was a member of grassroots political group ‘Balai Citoyen’ (The Citizen’s Broom), which played a leading role in toppling long-term President Blaise Compaore last year as he – like President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and President Kabila of the DRC - sought to extend his mandate.

The four detainees were among some 40 activists, musicians and journalists arrested in the capital. A US diplomat was also briefly detained. Mende said a "black hand" had been active in Congolese politics this year and singled out the role of the U.S. embassy, which has acknowledged partially sponsoring Sunday's news conference. ‘The U.S. embassy does not have the status to organize political events in Democratic Republic of Congo’ Mende said. The US embassy declined to give an immediate response to the spokesman's comment, although it has previously said that representatives at the event were respected and non-partisan. One Congolese journalist in Kinshasa was released shortly after his arrest but the remainder of the local activists remained in custody. Mende said their cases would be ‘closed very soon’. In the eastern city of Goma, about a dozen youth activists were released after having been detained earlier in the day by intelligence agents while protesting the Kinshasa arrests.

Comparisons and Cross Country Co-operation

These three instances of popular protest resemble each other in a number of important respects. In all cases the trigger for the demonstrations was an attempt by the President of the county concerned to extend his period of office beyond the limited allowed by the Constitution. This tendency to wish to consolidate and extend power is not, of course, confined to these three cases – there are several other examples in other parts of Africa which we intend also to consider in future issues – but it is significant that direct action and popular protest appears to be an increasingly common response in countries where efforts by the officially recognised opposition parties in these pseudo-democracies to prevent a further consolidation of power in the hands of a very few prove ineffective.

It is also clear that there has been at least some success in developing linkages between the social movements promoting direct action against illegitimate attempts by existing pseudo-democratic regimes to consolidate power and undermine democracy - the presence of ‘The Citizen’s Broom’ from Burkina Faso in the DRC, is a case in point. We shall also be concerned in future issues of ‘popular protest, social movements and class struggle’ to examine the extent of cooperation between pro-democracy and anti-capitalist movements across countries in Africa. Some recent attempts to explore these issues include ‘African Struggle Today: social movements since independence’, by Peter Dwyer and Leo Zeilig (Haymarket Books, 2012), and Africa Uprising: popular protest and political change’, by Adam Branch and Zachariah Mampilly (Zed Books. 2015).

Space does not allow for a more protracted consideration in this issue of ‘popular protest, social movements and class struggle’ of the patterns and trends in Africa in recent years, or indeed even in the last year or so, indicated by the contributions by Firoze Manji and Esther Vivas, referred to in this article. We hope to be able to extend and deepen the discussion in the future.

David Seddon

12 June 2015






No comments: