Final Friday Film: Camp de Thiaroye

Directed by Ousmane Sembène 
From a screenplay by Ousmane Sembène and Thierno Faty Sow 
(1987 Senegal 153 mins)

“In this powerful and moving film Sembène, in collaboration with Thierno Faty Sow, who co-scripted and co-directed, reclaims and tells to the world another of those fragments of history concealed by colonialism which he sees it as his task to disinter. Such stories are part of the history not only of Africa, but of the colonial powers, in this case France, as well. “You don’t know natives or the colonies”, Capt. Raymond is informed when, at a meeting at the General’s H.Q., he insists that the Army should honour its obligations to the tirailleurs. France, he argues, cannot successfully reconstruct by “robbing natives”, particularly those who have, as he outspokenly reminds the assembled officers, been fighting the war “in your place, gentlemen”, a reminder that the authorities in Senegal initially collaborated with Vichy. Ironically, it is not his ignorance of “natives or the colonies” that limits Raymond, but his naivety about his fellow Frenchmen: “An officer who does not keep his word is not worthy to wear the French uniform.” When he hears of the massacre in Diatta’s village he is quick to point out that it occurred in 1942, under Vichy. (In Sembène’s 1971 film Emitai massacres in the Diola region from which Diatta comes are shown as continuing after the liberation of France, and De Gaulle’s assumption of power.) Diatta argues that the mentality of colonial armies, be they French or Nazi, is the same, going on to point out that collaborators are surrounding the leader of the Free French and being put in charge of the colonies. Despite his greater historical awareness (Raymond is, in fact, often prepared to defer to his erudition) Diatta too is taken in when the General apparently gives in to the tirailleurs‘ demands, and offers his word “as a general officer”.

“Secondly, debate is very important in African cinema. It draws on the political rituals of traditional society, which, though feudal, had its system of checks and balances, which resulted in some degree of democratic exchange of opinion. In Camp de Thiaroye the tirailleurs use the traditional, highly rhetorical, almost theatrical, mode of debate of their various societies, but adapt this ritual form to the only language they have in common: the pidgin which the French insultingly call “petit nègre”, a language which is both a result and a tool of colonial exploitation. Here it is revealed as having a potential for eloquence, allowing it to become a moving medium for the articulation of feelings, needs, grievances and resistance, and thus ultimately for the development of the tirailleurs‘ collective political awareness and consciousness of themselves as Africans. One consequence of the latter is the decision to choose their own leaders, selecting a representative from each barracks, rather than relying on their nonetheless much loved and respected Sergeant-Major, who has been promoted by the whites. The structures they evolve grow out of their historical situation, and compare strikingly with the rigid hierarchies of colonialism and the military: “The army is discipline. Obedience to your superiors”, the General tells them. The formal pageantry of the parade-ground serves to stifle debate, mask conflict, hide betrayal and destruction, whereas the theatrical exchanges of the traditional discourse offer a forum for debate, evolution and reconciliation.”                    —James Leahy, Sense of Cinema, October, 2003

Ousmane Sembène was the son of a fisherman, born in Ziguinchor in Casamance to a Lebou family. From childhood Sembène was exposed to Serer religion especially the Tuur festival, in which he was made cult servant. Although the Tuur demands offerings of curdled milk to the ancestral spirits (Pangool), Sembène did not take his responsibility as cult servant seriously and was known for drinking the offerings made to the ancestors. Some of his adult work draws on Serer themes. His maternal grandmother reared him and greatly influenced him. Women play a major role in his works.

In 1944, Sembène was drafted into the Senegalese Tirailleurs (a corps of the French Army). His later World War II service was with the Free French Forces. After the war, he returned to his home country and in 1947 participated in a long railroad strike on which he later based his seminal novel God’s Bits of Wood.

 

Please follow and like us:

Moving Against the System

Moving Against the System:
The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
With editor and author David Austin

In 1968, as protests shook France and war raged in Vietnam, the giants of Black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their Black brothers and sisters. For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era.

Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the ‘Third World’, this group of activists, writers and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power.

With never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney and C.L.R. James, these documents will prove invaluable to anyone interested in Black radical thought, as well as capturing a crucial moment of the political activity around 1968.

David Austin is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James.

 

Tickets are sliding scale / No one is turned away for inability to pay

 

Please follow and like us:

Highlights of Marx’s Capital, Volume One

A 9 Session Class and Discussion with Juliet Ucelli
Wednesdays, 6:00 to 7:30 pm
October 4-December 6, 2017

Capital is the indispensable sourcebook on Marx’s method for analyzing the economy, politics and struggles. Many of us have less time to study it because, as Marx predicted, we have to work longer hours— and often more than one job—in order to survive. Fortunately, even a basic familiarity with the key concepts of Volume I offers many tools for understanding capitalism’s dynamics. With current conditions, we’ve been offering this highlights approach, breaking down key concepts and sections:

• use value, value and surplus value;
• why capitalism has needed conquest, enslavement and white supremacy;
• why capitalism drives technological innovation, overwork and unemployment and leads to ecological destruction;
• how working-class people (employed and unemployed) have historically won improvements in living and working conditions.

Participant reports and life experiences are welcome!

The course provides a basic grounding for participants to pursue further study on their own or collectively. We’ll refer to new resources such as on-line and visual aids and current articles that illustrate capitalism’s developmental tendencies, which Marx calls its laws of motion. Suggested fees are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay.

Juliet Ucelli has taught labor economics and class/race/gender for labor unions, and was a public high school social worker. She writes on Eurocentrism in Marxist theory, the politics of inner city public schooling and Marxist understandings of human development.

Please follow and like us:

Five Explicit and Implicit Notions of Revolution in Capital, Volume I

Five Explicit and Implicit Notions of Revolution in Capital, Volume I, as Seen from a Multilinear, Peripheral Angle

It is often said that Capital, Volume I is concerned with the enfoldment of the capital form, with many dialectical twists and turns, but not with revolution. However, such a picture severs Marx the revolutionary from Marx the social theorist. In fact, Capital I can be connected to five different notions of revolution: (1) a working class uprising that rises as a form of revolutionary negation of the centralized productive apparatus of modern industrial capitalism, but posed at a high level of abstraction; (2) four other notions of revolution that connect a class uprising to race, ethnicity, colonialism, and the need to abolish the state.

Kevin B. Anderson teaches at University of California, Santa Barbara. He has worked in social and political theory, especially Marx, Hegel, Lenin, Luxemburg, Marxist humanism, the Frankfurt School, Foucault, and the Orientalism debate. Among his books are Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism (1995), Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (with Janet Afary, 2005), and Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies (2010/2016). He has also contributed to For Humanism: Explorations in Theory and Politics (ed. D. Alderson and R. Spencer, 2017) and the Transition from Capitalism (ed. S. Rahnema, 2017), and is the coeditor of the Rosa Luxemburg Reader (with Peter Hudis, 2004), Karl Marx (with Bertell Ollman, 2012), and the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse-Fromm Correspondence (2012, with Russell Rockwell). He is a member of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization.

Please follow and like us:

Reading Capital Politically

A Six Session class: July 12, 19, 26, & August 2, 16, 23 (no class August 9)

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of contending classes.” —Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

For 150 years, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital has fascinated, frustrated and or confounded readers. It is most often read as a work of political economy whose aim is to understand how the capitalist economy works or even philosophically for its method (the influence of Hegel and his method continues to be debated). However Marx himself intended Capital to serve as a “weapon” in the hands of the working class. This makes Capital first and foremost a political work. But what does it mean to read capital politically? To answer this question, this class will examine Reading Capital Politically by Harry Cleaver (the most well known American exponent of what has come to be labelled “class struggle” or “Autonomist” Marxism after the Italian “Autonomia” movement of the 1970s). For the autonomists, Marx’s maxim that class struggle is the “motor force” of history is to be taken literally and not viewed as simply some literary metaphor. But what does this mean in the real world? How does this work? And, how should we read capital politically?

Reading for this class will include:

Reading Capital Politically by Harry Cleaver (https://libcom.org/files/cleaver-reading_capital_politically.pdf)
Capital Volume 1, Chapter 1 (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm)
CyberMarx by Nick Dyer-Witheford Chapter 4 (on Autonomist Marxism) https://libcom.org/library/cyber-marx-nick-dyer-witheford

Dan Karan has been studying Marxism for 40 years and was a student of John Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre’s official biographer.

Please follow and like us:

2 More Lectures With Stanley Aronowitz are postponed

Sponsored and presented by the Institute for the Radical Imagination

May 13 Lecture: The Labor Question in the 21st century
May 20 Lecture: Political Organization?

Both lectures will take place at a later date

Please visit: https://radicalimagination.institute

for more information

Please follow and like us:

Day 3, Session 2—Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States

A presentation and discussion with Mark Dudzic

The rise of neoliberalism has weakened and demoralized labor and left movements throughout the advanced capitalist world but its impact has been particularly devastating in the U.S. We will discuss the reasons for that as well as the various dysfunctional responses from the U.S. left to this crisis as it became increasingly marginalized and powerless. We will review the 1990’s effort to launch a Labor Party in the U.S. based primarily in the institutional labor movement and the reasons for its demise. We will explore the prospects and possibilities for independent working class politics in the wake of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Mark Dudzic is the National Coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer and is a former local union and district council president of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (now part of the United Steelworkers). He served as National Organizer of the Labor Party after the death of party founder Tony Mazzocchi.

Please follow and like us:

Day 3, Session 1: Slackers, Sabotage, and Syndicalism

American Labor History and the Refusal of Work
Kristin Lawler

In this session, we will consider the labor movement tactic most associated with the Industrial Workers of the World — sabotage, or the collective withdrawal of efficiency — engaging the history of the American slacker to think through possibilities for working-class freedom and power vis-a-vis capital today. The term slacker originated during WWI and disparaged those (primarily Irish) coded “lazy,” “vagrant,” and resistant to a proper Protestant work ethic; it also referred to those who would not fight on the side of the Americans (and of course, the British) during WWI. We can deploy this history to analyze the relationship between labor supply and worker power, and between anti-imperialist national liberation struggles (like Ireland’s) and struggles at the point of production, drawing out these connections for a new generation of scholars taking a look at the militant radicalism of the IWW in the context of a resurgence in the US and Europe, since at least 1999, of an anarcho-syndicalist, direct action-oriented politics.

Kristin Lawler is Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. Her first book, The American Surfer: Radical Culture and Capitalism, was published by Routledge in 2011 and examined the politics of American surf culture during the twentieth century. She is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination; her work has been published there as well as in several edited collections, Z Magazine, and the digital forum of the Social Science Research Council. She is currently at work on her new book, Shanty Irish: the Roots of American Syndicalism.

Please follow and like us: