Neville Alexander: South Africa – An unfinished revolution

13 May, 2010 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Neville Alexander.

[The following address — the fourth Strini Moodley Annual Memorial Lecture, held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on May 13, 2010 – was delivered by renowned South African revolutionary socialist and theorist Neville Alexander. From 1964 to 1974 he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Strinivasa Rajoo “Strini” Moodley (December 22, 1945–April 27, 2006) was a founding member of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. In 1976, he was convicted of terrorism in a trial involving members of the South African Students’ Organisation and the Black People’s Convention, and imprisoned on Robben Island. The speech is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Neville Alexander’s permission.]


In her historical novel, A Place of Greater Safety, which is played out against the backdrop of the Great French Revolution through an illuminating character analysis and synthesis of three of that revolution’s most prominent personalities, viz., Maximilien Robespierre, Georges-Jacques Danton and Camile Desmoulins, Hilary Mantel imagines the following conversation between Lucile Desmoulins and Danton:

So has the Revolution a philosophy, Lucile wanted to know, has it a future? She dared not ask Robespierre, or he would lecture her for the afternoon on the General Will: or Camile, for fear of a thoughtful and coherent two hours on the development of the Roman republic.

So she asked Danton.

“Oh, I think it has a philosophy”, he said seriously. “Grab what you can, and get out while the going’s good”

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Shelling out or just a Shell game? By William Bowles

18 May, 2010

19 May, 2010 — Update

Whoops! The ‘press release’ was a hoax (I thought it was too good to be true, shades of the Yes Men as it is in fact a production of the Yes Lab). However, it doesn’t alter any of my comments. Here is the mail I just received on the hoax:

Shell Flummoxed by Fakers

Company flummoxes back; activist group takes responsibility

The Hague – Hours before Shell’s annual general shareholder meeting on Tuesday, and not long after BP’s oil rig catastrophe, millions of people around the world received press releases announcing that Shell would implement a “comprehensive remediation plan” for the oil-soaked Niger Delta. The plan included an immediate halt to dangerous offshore drilling, the end of health-damaging gas flaring, and reparations for the human damage caused over the decades of Shell’s involvement.

The “good news” was fiction, created by an ad-hoc activist group called the Nigerian Justice League to generate pressure on Shell to withdraw from, and remediate, the Niger Delta. According to the activists, Shell’s operations in the Delta have helped transform that area into the world’s most polluted ecosystem, which has in turn resulted in a human rights catastrophe.

(The NJL developed the project as part of the Yes Lab (, a workshop run by a group called “the Yes Men” to share their experiences and facilitate the projects of others. The Yes Lab is in the midst of a fundraising drive.)

“Shell, Chevron, and the others are perpetrating a massive, life-threatening hoax by claiming that they can’t quickly stop their gas flaring, reduce their oil spills, and clean up their mess in the Niger Delta,” said Chris Francis of the Nigerian Justice League. “Our press release revealed the truth: that there is a decent way forward, instead of the continual deceit we get from them.”

Shell’s public relations staff quickly and energetically moved to contain the fallout from the fake release. On Tuesday, Shell attempted to eliminate the Justice League’s spoof Shell website by complaining that it was a “phishing scheme” to the upstream internet service provider. Shell then sent a threatening legal letter to the Danish internet provider hosting the site.

In a related story, the Financial Times (a blog of which, incidentally, was duped by the fake release) refused to run a hard-hitting advertisement, created and paid for by Amnesty International, that called for action against Shell for its Niger Delta legacy. Like the fake release, the ad was timed to coincide with Shell’s May 18 AGM.

“For now, Shell’s legal threats are bearing ripe fruit,” said Esmée de la Parra of the Nigerian Justice League. “But they can’t keep blustering their way to destruction forever. Eventually, people will have had enough. For the sake of the planet, let’s hope ‘eventually’ is very soon.”

My piece follows unedited.

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Video: Marx and the Global South

15 May, 2010, Toronto — Socialist ProjectLeft Streamed

Vijay Prashad: George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies, Trinity College, Hartford. Prashad is the author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2008). Moderated by Shahrzad Mojab.

Part 1:

View part 1 on website

Part 2:

View part 2 on website

Kevin Anderson: Professor of Sociology and Political Science at University of California-Santa Barbara. Anderson is the author of Marx at the Margins.
Ananya Mukherjee Reed: Associate Professor, Political Science, International Development Studies, York University, Toronto.

This was recorded at the Historical Materialism Conference at York University, Toronto.

Video: China responds to Iran deal

18 May, 2010 — The Real News Network

AlJazeera: China views Iran uranium exchange plan as “a very positive step in the right direction”.

Victor Gao, the director of the China National Association of International Studies, says China welcomes news of the Iran uranium exchange plan as “a very positive step in the right direction”. He tells Al Jazeera that for China, imposing sanctions would serve to further isolate Iran and make the situation more explosive. And while China is willing to discuss additional UN sanctions, Gao said, it has always maintained that “diplomatic efforts should be the top priority”.

more about “China responds to Iran deal“, posted with vodpod

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: Elvis Costello’s Beautiful Message By Jesse Bacon

19 May, 2010 — The Only Democracy?

elvis-costello.jpgI was a little young to get Elvis Costello, as opposed to the Pixies. He was well on his way to the iconic status, vaguely stereotypical rabbi look, dorky glasses and angst that made him a kind of hipster patriarch and unfortunately led to a cameo in the hideous would-be 80’s epic 200 Cigarettes. But I was always amazed at how much yearning he worked into pop songs, made them carry an emotional weight more akin to the classical music he also recorded.

Well, now he has perfectly demonstrated how one can use eloquence to illuminate, instead of to obscure. In a refreshingly straightforward piece, he has described why he answered the call not to play in Israel. While other musicians such as Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, and Carlos Santana have also honored the boycott I don’t believe anyone has said why so directly or effectively. Here it is.

It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.

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