09: Happy Birthday Karl Marx; The New Scramble for Africa with Lee Wengraf

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This week we talk to Lee Wengraf about her book, Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism and the New Scramble for Africa (bit.ly/ExtractingProfit). Lee’s book challenges the prevailing myths that shape how most people understand the persistence of war and poverty in Africa. These come not only in outright racist forms, but also as paternalistic, liberal tropes. We discuss the Guyanese Marxist Walter Rodney’s groundbreaking work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Lee describes how economic and social development was reversed in Africa history as a result of colonial intervention. She argues that this is not only in the colonial past, but that imperialism and neoliberalism have continued to shape the development of Africa.

Lee extends Rodney’s analysis to discuss the role of the IMF, the World Bank and neoliberal economic policy since the establishment of national independence throughout most of Africa. Today there is a new scramble for Africa, with the US and China competing for access to oil and mineral assets. Extractive industries have threatened the ecological sustainability of the continent and are displacing local communities. But they are also creating a powerful working-class.

Lee talks about her recent trip to attend a conference of left-wing activists in Tanzania and then to South Africa, where she was able to witness a one-day national strike. She talks about how the debates that African socialists have wrestled with for many decades, and which are discussed in her book, have taken on a pressing urgency today. If you're in the New York area, catch Lee's book launch event on May 18.

In our opener, we wish Karl Marx’s a happy 200th birthday (which was on May 5th). We discuss the centrality of struggle from below, the concept of self-emancipation and why Marxism is not just a narrow economic struggle but a strategy for full human liberation. We point to the teachers’ strikes as a vindication of Marx’s project of working-class self-emancipation and end our opening segment with interviews with Arizona teachers on strike.


You can purchase Lee’s book at Haymarket Books (bit.ly/ExtractingProfit). If you want to learn more about Walter Rodney, you can see the video of Lee’s presentation for the Socialism Conference (bit.ly/Socialism2018) at our YouTube channel (bit.ly/RodneyVideo).

For more about class struggles in South Africa after independence, two excellent talks are available at We Are Many (bit.ly/WeareMany): Pranav Jani on After Independence (bit.ly/AfterIndependenceJani); and, Aaron Amaral on Class Struggle in South Africa Today (bit.ly/SouthAfricaAmaral).

If you liked what we had to say about Karl Marx’ relevance today, read Todd Chretien on How Marx Became a Marxist (bit.ly/SWMarxist) for Socialist Worker’s 200th birthday feature. To find out more about socialism and ways to get involved, check out Socialism 2018 , held in Chicago, July 5-8 (bit.ly/Socialism2018). The NYC ISO, DSA and Jacobin are hosting a meeting on the Lessons of the Teachers’ Revolt (bit.ly/LessonsTeachers) May 9th at Verso in NYC - you can watch the livestream at Jacobin's facebook page (bit.ly/JacobinFB).


The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

DJ Mujava, “Township Funk,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBNYjAhEsx4

Amandla, “Sasol,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fu9N1U9fFY

Band Aid 1984, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQzJAKxTrE

Seun Kuti, “IMF,” ft. M1 (from Dead Prez), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fGcf3GODKE

Y'en a Marre, “Dox ak sa Gox,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74YyD_SB33U

Fela Kuti, “International Thief Thief (I.T.T.),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jptR_YwCs3o