Monday, 24 April 2017

Yom HaShoah 2017

Sugihara Chiune

At the weekend, I attended as I do every year Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Jewish Cemetery in West Park, Johannesburg, known as Yom HaShoah. I personally prefer the Romani term Porajmos, the Great Devouring, to the terms Shoah (Destruction) or Holocaust (Consummation by Fire), as it reminds me of a Kali-like devouring demon and in fact, an alternate Romani term is Kali Traš, meaning Black Fear, but this is merely a matter of personal resonance. 
This year, the survivor’s testimony was given by Don Krausz, one of the fifty or so survivors who live in South Africa, a man I have often encountered at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre and who spoke on behalf of survivors at my event there last year commemorating the conclusion of the 22nd annual remembrance of the “Hundred Nights” Rwandan Genocide. 
I had, however, never heard him speak before of his personal experiences, as a child between the ages of 12 and 14 as he traversed the concentration camps of Ravensbruck, primarily a camp for women and children, and Sachsenhausen, which had originally been set up to detain the politicals, but which Krausz described as a “destruction camp,” a final way-station on the way to the terrible terminus of the gas chambers.
There in Sachsenhausen, Krausz’ job as a teenager so wasted away that his hands could almost encircle his waist, was to remove the corpses of those who died overnight of starvation, disease or the extreme winter cold of -28⁰C so that they could be tallied with the morning roll-call of the survivors. 
He recalled one day passing “The Bunker”, the camp’s Gestapo interrogation block, and seeing a woman stripped to her underwear in that icy weather and tied to the barbed wire as a punishment – but miraculously still alive. He recalled talking to the Sachsenhausen veterans which included old communists and anti-fascist fighters from the Spanish Revolution (there were likely anarchists among them, though most Spanish republicans were sent to Mauthausen where 10,000 of them died) about their experiences. 
Eventually, after having survived a death-march where perhaps 500-6,000 were shot en route for not being able to keep up the punishing pace of 30km/day on starvation rations of a single potato and slug of water every three days, he was liberated and returned to Holland to find his mother and sister still alive – though his father and so many others had perished. By the Nazi’s own records, he said, some 12-million people died in their archipelago of more than 42,000 concentration, labour, and extermination camps.
Krausz’s moving testimony was followed by Rabbi Yossi Goldman who spoke of his late father’s escape from Poland through to Japan with the help of the Japanese diplomat Sugihara “Sempo” Chiune, the vice-consul stationed in Lithuania, and thence on to Shanghai and eventually to Johannesburg where, Goldman said, his father’s proudest achievement had been rebuilding his Shoah-decimated family. 
Sugihara, who died in 1986, is today recognised by Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations” – an honorific for non-Jews who saved Jews from Nazi annihilation – for rescuing between 10,000-40,000 Eastern European Jews by giving them transit visas to travel through the USSR to Japan and China.
At the end of Goldman’s testimony, steeped as it was in his religious convictions, a lone voice – seemingly that of a frail old man – cried out from under the cypress trees, as it does every year, to the obvious discomfort of the mourners, though security made no move against him, probably knowing him to be a concentration camp survivor, “There was no God at Auschwitz!”


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Character Study for my First Novel

Here's a start I made on a character study for my first attempt at a novel, centred on the crew of an Algerian seaman in the mid-1950s who smuggles lamb into the Levant then Turkish morphine base and Laotian opium into Marseilles for the Union Corse, then WWII surplus arms into Algeria to foment the liberation war against colonial France. The character study is of the ship's motorman, in other words, unlicensed mechanic, who starts out as an anarchist barber in the port of Donostia, Basque Country, becomes a gunman during the Spanish Civil War, then flees the fascist defeat of Donostia and becomes a smuggler. The actual writing style will differ significantly from my character studies, however. The core characters, like this one, are of my own creation, but some, like Queen Dina bint ‘Abdu’l-Hamid of Jordan  whose yacht delivered the first known shipment of arms to the Algerian freedom fighters via Morocco in February 1955 – are real!

The shiv was hand-made, and that made him proud, for he’d previously always had flash through his hands steel manufactured by lathe in Sheffield or elsewhere, things of sublime silvered beauty that reflected the moonlight just so, to be sure, but machined things nevertheless, nomatter the craftsmanship keening the edge. But this was half of his own creation, half of a forgotten madness. He’d found the naked haft lying in a pile of smoking evidence destroyed in some leger demain out the back of the Guardia Civil station in Elizalde, a river village just inland from Donostia, then an industrial port city on the make. He’d wiped the blackened detritus of burned cotton – clearly the clothes of some disappeared crim – off the glowering blade and looked at it in wonder. He was only sixteen. 
The blade was crude and manufactured from a simple slice of steel. It was the shape of a Roman spearhead – the same that did Jesus in and that the Nazis had by rumour stolen from a museum in Austria – but this was more visceral and real. Its fat and heavy core was bevelled at the edges with a rough but purpose-oriented eye on a grinder. It was shaped with two slight transverse points at the base of the blade, as a means, it seemed, of giving an overzealous stabber a moment of pause before plunging their fist wrist-deep into an enemy’s belly. There were incautious hacklines at that midpoint because grace and a fine finish were not its purpose; rapid, perfunctory death was its aim. 
He’d had a long-lost friend drill three holes into its handle two decades ago; two held fast an ageing wooden handle with brass pins, and the third held a hank of black leather cord with which he could swing it, casually, suggestively, as he walked the night streets. 
His name was Joan Gomes Etxebehere, a Basque motorman, somewhat feared on the timeless docks and fish-stunk alleyways of Donostia, but the Spaniards called him Navaja, meaning Razor, for he carried in his greasy leather toolbelt not only the spanners and hex keys of his current trade, but the straight-razor and shaving kit of his prior. For Navaja had been a barber before the conflagration – though in later life, a gunman after a sort – so his pitch-black hair and curled moustache were always impeccable, regardless of the soiled degeneration of his dungarees. Sharpness was his creed, and the home-made shiv he carried hidden in a leather pouch sewn into the inside of his left boot.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Anti-African Racism in China

A racist detergent ad featuring a young Chinese woman stuffing a black man into a washing machine only to be delighted at the Chinese man who emerges at the end of the wash cycle provoked outrage in China last year. It is but one indication of the rising intolerance towards Africans living in the country — and could be a driver of their subsequent exodus. 
The 1997 Asian economic crisis caused some African traders to relocate their businesses from Thailand and Indonesia to the Chinese port city of Guangzhou. There, predominantly male business community of mostly Malian, Congolese, Nigerian and Guinean expats, but also Angolans, Burkinabé, Somalis and others, settled in 7 km stretch that swiftly became known as Little Africa. Their numbers have increased to perhaps 100,000, making it the largest African settlement in Asia.
They built a bustling market in the central square of Little Africa, but few African traders in
Guangzhou were hawkers of low end goods. Ghanaian professor Adams Bodomo, in a survey for his 2012 book Africans in China, found that 40% of migrants had tertiary education. And they were among the biggest contributors to the 2014 peak of African-Chinese trade flows, which exceeded that of US trade with the continent by US$ 120bn.
Guangzhou-based journalist Jenni Marsh, in a Wits-funded analysis of the phenomenon, interviewed Amadou Issa, who arrived in China in 2004 with only $300 to his name. By 2015, Issa had a Chinese wife and was a wealthy exporter of construction materials. He lived in an $800,000 apartment in the city’s smartest district, and drove a $64,000 car.
Other Africans invested non-business skills in China, such as Senegalese footballer Youssou Ousagna, who relocated to Sichuan in 2005 after being scouted by Chengdu Tiancheng football club. He is fluent in Mandarin, and married a Chinese woman.
Afro-Chinese marriages are on the rise in Guangzhou. In June 2014, Marsh covered Nigerian Eman Okonkwo’s wedding to Jennifer Tsang for the South China Morning Post. Marsh wrote: “In Guangzhou, weddings like this take place every day. There are no official figures on Afro-Chinese marriages but visit any trading warehouse in the city and you will see scores of mixed-race couples running wholesale shops, their coffee coloured, hair-braided children racing through the corridors.”
But there were rumblings of trouble. A sensational public race debate was sparked in 2009 over Lou Jing, a 20-year-old Afro-Chinese woman who entered the final rounds of Go Oriental Angel, an imitation of TV talent contest American Idols. A racist backlash on social media included calls for her to “go back to where she came from” — even though she was born in Shanghai to a Chinese mother and an African-American father.
A 2008 Wikileaks cable from Guangzhou to the CIA had noted that many Chinese did not want to live in Little Africa because of “differences ” that ranged from “culture to lifestyle [and] hygiene,” and warned that local police were incapable of communicating with the Africans. The cable said local authorities were “extremely concerned with the high concentration of Africans into a few Guangzhou neighbourhoods”, especially as the diaspora had no formal representatives with the exception of “Big Brothers”, Africans who had Chinese citizenship and who spoke Cantonese .
In 2015, Marsh interviewed one Big Brother, Emmanuel Ojukwu. Since his arrival in 2007, Ojukwu had established his reputation as the elected head of Nigerian expats, and was calling himself “the president of Africa in China”. Interviewing him again for CNN last September, Marsh found him despondent over the numbers of Africans who had not returned to Guangzhou after the holidays, remarking that Little Africa had lost its character and vitality.
“Over the past 18 months,” she wrote, “hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of Africans are believed by locals and researchers to have exited Guangzhou.”She said exact numbers were hard to find. “A dollar drought in oil-dependent West African nations, coupled with China’s hostile immigration policies, widespread racism, and an at-once slowing and maturing economy, means Guangzhou is losing its competitive edge.”


Monday, 10 April 2017

Contents of Deepest Black: Defending Mass-Line Anarchism

This book, part of which was initially published in Brazil almost a decade ago, is a work in progress which I will have completed by the end of this year. It presents four case studies and a comparative analysis of mass anarchist movements that were socially diverse, which included anarcho-/revolutionary syndicalist formations, and which defended themselves and the insurgent working class and peasantry by force of arms.



On anarchist-communist mass organisations under conditions of armed struggle

Chapter 1. Black Sea A (Ukraine)
The Anarcho-Communist Group (GAK) 1918-1921

A Ukrainian anarchist armoured train circa 1919

Chapter 2. Black Sea B (Bulgaria): 
The Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB) 1919-1948

Bulgarian anarchist insurgents in Madedonia circa 1903

Chapter 3. Black Dragon River (Manchuria): 
The Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (KACF) 1929-1945

Anarchist militia in Manchuria circa 1929

Chapter 4. Black River (Uruguay): 
the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) 1956-1976

The National Convention of Workers in Uruguay, 1973

Military Adventurism or Mass Organisation?



Contents of Death Flight: Apartheid's Secret Massacre

Fort Rev Special Forces Base, Ondangwa, South-West Africa, 1988 (c) Gert Pienaar

I have only just begun project planning for this new book and documentary film, but this is what the contents page looks like at this stage. It involves the first-ever in-depth investigation into Operation Dual, the drugging at Fort Rev (above) and dumping from light aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean over 1979-1987 of some 200 members of the South West African People's Organisation by an apartheid military death-squad that was sequentially named Delta 40, then Barnacle, then the Civil Co-operation Bureau.



Introduction: Forensic Meditation

Chapter 1

Dirty War: Terror and Counterterror

Chapter 2
Antecedents: A Brief History of Death Flights, 1947-1983

Chapter 3
Loadmasters: Rhodesia & Mozambique, 1978

Chapter 4
Starting the Engine: The Formation of Delta 40, 1979

Chapter 5
Flight Path: The Trajectory of Operation Dual, 1979-1987

Chapter 6
Terminal: The Aftermath, 1988-2002

Appendix A: D40/Barnacle/CCB Chains of Command

Appendix B: Maps and Op Dual Flight Plans

Appendix C: Index


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Contents of Wildfire: Global Anarchist Ideological and Organisational Lineages

Anarchism survived the 1939 defeat in Spain: 2nd Congress of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE), Toulouse, France, 1961. Wildfire, my 16-year study, will be the most comprehensive global history of the anarchist movement over 15 decades. I hope to have the writing done by the end of the year and be ready to hand it over to my editors and indexers. Then it's sourcing pictures, finalising the maps I have drawn, and getting a graphic artist to illustrate key organisational lineages. Having now written the introduction and much of the concluding chapter, it currently stands at 390,000 words - and that's *after* having extracted 42,000 words a year ago to slim it down! :D For those non-writers who ask me "how many pages is that?," well, if formatted like Vol.1, then it is currently 2.5x that book's length, which means 1,018 pages ;) ... and of course the maps, graphics, and pictures will add a few more... My nearest competitor, Peter Marshall's Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (1993), by comparison, weighs in at a mere 768 pages ;)





 “Anarchism is no beautiful fantasy. No abstract notion of philosophy, but a social movement of the working masses; for that reason alone it must gather its forces into one organisation, constantly agitating, as demanded by the reality and strategy of the social class struggle.” – Nestor Makhno, Ida Mett, Piotr Arshinov and others of the Dielo Truda group, Organizatsionnaia Platforma Vseobshchego Soiuza Anarkhistov: Proekt (Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists: Project), Paris, France, 1926 




About the Author

(Reprising and reassessing key themes; My “Six Waves” historical periodisation; Explaining the structure of this book)

Part 4: The Latin Heartland and its Peripheries

Chapter 12: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: Latin Europe, Brazil and the Southern Cone of Latin America
(Spain and Portugal: the fiery roses of the CNT-FAI and CGT; Italy: Errico Malatesta, Armando Borghi, the UAI, the factory occupations and the Fascist menace; Argentina: Pedro Gori, John Creaghe, Juana Rouco Buela, Severino di Giovanni and the southern citadel of the FORA, CORA and FACA; Chile: José Domingo Gomes Rojas, Juan Gandulfo, the revolts of the FORCh, IWW, CGT and FACh; Uruguay and Paraguay: the FFREU, FORU, FORPa, FAU and the challenge of welfare reforms; Brazil: Neno Vasca, Domingos Passos, Maria Lacerda de Moura and the FORB/COB and FORGS)

Chapter 13: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: the Andes, Central America, and the Caribbean
(Bolivia and Peru: the FOL, FORPe and the indigenous question; Colombia and Ecuador: bitter battles at high altitude; Venezuela, French Guyana and Surinam: the UOV and SAF in the margins of Bolivarismo and colonialism; Mexico: the PLM, COM-Lucha, CGT and FAC, the Flores Magón brothers, Antonio Gomes y Soto and the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1922; Nicaragua and Central America: Augusto Sandino, the CAS, FOH and the “banana republics”; Puerto Rico: the FLT, Louisa Capetilla and the question of who gets to wear the pants; Cuba: Enrique Roig San Martin, the FTC, FGAC, and the CNOC against imperialism, bigotry and the dictatorial elite)

Part 5: The Western Imperial Centre and its Peripheries 

Chapter 14: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: Western and Northern Europe and North America
(France and Belgium: the CGT, CSB, FCRA/UA, GCL, Jean Grave, Fernand Pelloutier, Ernest Tanrez and the syndicalist laboratory; Germany and Switzerland: the Jura Federation, AKP, AFD, LAB, Gustav Landauer, Fritz Kater, André Boesinger and the anti-militarist, anti-Nazi struggles of the FVDG/FAUD, MTWIU and the AAUE; the Netherlands: the LVC/LFVC, NSV, “Domela” Nieuwenhuis, Christiaan Cornelissen, Harm Kolthek and the forgotten syndicalist template of the NAS; Sweden and Scandinavia: the SAC, NSF, DFS, Martin Tranmǽl and stable syndicalism; Britain and Ireland: the IWB, ITGWU, James Connolly, Tom Mann and the refuge of Freedom; the United States and Canada: the IWPA/CLU, IWW, FACNAC, Daniel de Leon, “Big Bill” Haywood, industrial unionism and desegregation)

Chapter 15: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: Central and Eastern Europe
(Pre-revolutionary Russia, the Ukraine and the Georgian Revolution of 1904-1906; the NWU, Cherny Peredyel, Afanasy Matiushenko and Varlaam Cherkezov among the narodniks and terrorists; Bulgaria and Romania: the LCB, FAKB, BONSF, FAY, Mikhail Guerdzhikov, Gueorgui Cheitanov, and platformism armed; Greece: the Democratic Popular League of Patras, “Kostas” Speras, the SEMS and the lessons of direct democracy; Poland and the Baltics: the ZZZ, FAGPL and the shadow of Russia; Czechoslovakia: the FÈAK, ZJH-O, Bohuslav Vrbenský and the seductions of nationalism; Hungary and Austria: the URW, URS, Sandor Czismadia, Ervin Szabó and Leo Rothziegel in the heart of the empire; Yugoslavia and the Balkans: Miloš Krpan, Krsto Cicvarić, Paul Zorkine and the direktaši workers’ faction)

Part 6: The Colonial and Postcolonial World

Chapter 16: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: East Asia, South-East Asia, and Oceania
(Japan and Taiwan: Ōsugi Sakae, Kanno Sugako, Hatta Shūzō the Zenkoku Jiren and the struggle against gender oppression and Japanese imperialism; China: Liu Shifu, the Wuzhenfu Gongchan and multinational resistance; Korea and Manchuria: Shin Chae-ho, the KAF, KACF, KPAM and the Manchurian Revolution of 1929-1931; Vietnam: Phan Boi Chau, the Phuc Viet and the question of class consciousness; the Philippines, Malaysia and their environs: Isabelo de los Reyes, the UOD and the universal appeal of anarcho-syndicalism)

Chapter 17: Anarchist Mass Organisation 1860s-1930s: the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the Antipodes
(Anatolia and the Middle East: Alexandre Atabekian, Daud Muja‘is and radicalism in the empire; Palestine: Joseph Trumpeldor and left-Zionism; Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal: Saïl Mohamed, the CGTU and CGT-SR; India and South Asia: Lala Har Dayal, the Ghadar Party and violent anti-imperialism; South Africa, Mozambique and Southern Africa: Andrew Dunbar, “Bill” Thibedi, Johnny Gomas, the IWAf, the ICU and the critique of White Labourism and craft unionism; Australia and New Zealand: Tom Glynn, the Red Feds, Wobblies, Maoris and labour solidarity)

Part 7: October 1917 and its Aftermath

Chapter 18: The Global Revolt of 1916-1923, and the Russian and Ukrainian Revolutions

(From the “Second International” to social democracy; anarchism and the ten years that shook the world; the Russian anarchists and the February Revolution of 1917; the PACF, Iosif Bleikhman and the July Days; anarchists in the October Revolution of 1917; anarchists and the Bolshevik state; civil war, Bolshevik power and the Kronstadt Uprising; anarchists and the origins of the “Stalinist” regime; Nestor Makhno and anarchist revolution in the Ukraine; a Siberian Makhnovschina?; red pogrom in the Ukraine and Siberia; the historical role and class character of the Bolshevik regime)

Chapter 19: A Blazing Star at Midnight: Anarchist Resistance to Red and Brown Corporate States
(Anarchism and the rise of Bolshevism; the Comintern, Profintern and the IWA; Bolshevism and the fate of the Left; repression, fascism and anarchist decline; between “brown” and “red”; the conditions for survival, and the Spanish phoenix; anarchism and fascism in Spain; fascism or revolution; revolution in agriculture and industry; revolution and war on fascism; crisis in the anarchist ranks; counter-revolution and the anarchist split; “crushing fascism once and for all”; water and oil: anarchists and government; anarchism, anti-fascism and partisans; anarchist partisans and the Red Army)

Part 8: Survival and Revival

Chapter 20: The Cold War: Syndicalist Unions and Imperialism, 1940s-1970s
(Syndicalism after the war: Western Europe and Latin America; communists, from “de-Nazification” to the Cold War; anarchism and the West’s dictatorships; anarchism and cracks in the East Bloc; the Cuban Revolution and anarchism; the revolts of 1968-1969; Cuba, anarchist guerrilla forces and the limits of armed action)

Chapter 21: Neo-liberalism, Fascist / Soviet Collapse and Anarchist Reconstruction 1970s-2010s
(The collapse of Iberian fascism and the resurgence of anarchism; Northern anarchist alternatives to authoritarian “autonomism”; Turkey, the Middle East and the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979; Japan, South Korea and White reaction in the Far East; Zapatismo, Magónismo and resistance in the Andes; self-management in the Southern Cone; African anarchism versus capitalist “liberation movements”; the end of the Soviet empire and the betrayals of state “communism”; the IWA and the independent revolutionary syndicalist unions; social insertion of the broad anarchist movement in the new millennium; the Arab Spring and the Rojava Revolution)

Part 9: Reflections and Challenges 

Chapter 22: Counter-power: the Broad Anarchist Tradition in the new Millennium
(The relevance of anarchism today; understanding anarchism in the light of new claimants; the articulation between militant minority and the masses; new theoretical frameworks; “Four Vectors” transmission of the idea; “Three Spheres” balance of forces theory; “Five Forces” militant-to-mass gradient; “Three Axes” of contestation to build counter-power; “Three Levels” asending models of counter-power; Conclusion: building counter-power)

Part 10: Appendices

Appendix A: Maps
(First Wave: Emergence 1868-1894; Second Wave: Consolidation 1985-1921; Third Wave: Expansion 1922-1949; Fourth Wave: Contraction 1950-1975; Fifth Wave: Rearguard 1976-1991; Sixth Wave: Reconstruction 1992-2018; Anarchist Bids at Counter-power: Mexico, Ukraine, Manchuria, Spain)

Appendix B: Key Organisational Lineages
(Western Mediterranean: Iberia, France, Italy and the Barbary Coast; the Black Sea: Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria; La Plata River Basin: Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and southern Brazil; Gulf of Mexico: Mexico, Cuba and the southern USA); Yellow and East Seas: Japan, China, Korea and Manchuria)

Appendix C: Organisational Index

Appendix D: Thematic Index


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Playing Calavera: a review of Marcus Sedgwick's Saint Death

According to a recent Vice documentary, the cult of Santa Muerte, Holy Death or Saint Death, beloved of narco-terrorists and their victims, is the fastest-growing religion in the world. Attracted by the book's lurid acid-yellow cover, I was soon drawn by Sedgwick into the borderlands of shacks around the murderous Cuidad Juárez, Chihuahua, and the parasitic US twin it serves, El Paso, Texas, a place where he almost has the reader believe, ancient clawed gods roil just beneath the desert floor and smack their reptilian lips in anticipation of the latest blood sacrifice produced by the narco cartels who disappear hundreds of women, grievously torture those who cross them, and grease the wheels of the Yanqui cocaine / maquiladora / coyote machinery. 
Over a critical night and day, we meet Arturo, a bone-poor Chicano who re-encounters his childhood friend Faustino, who disappeared a year previously. A Guatemalan migrant with dreams of making it to El Norte, Faustino has made his own pact with the narco devils and the collection date in imminent; in desperation, he turns to Aurturo to save him – and enable his girlfriend Eva and newborn baby to pay the coyotes to smuggle them into the US. 
As Arturo's dark fate unravels, he staggers towards a hard-won ethical illumination. Underpinned by an anti-capitalist sensibility that defines the narco-wars and the cocaine / maquiladora / coyote system as coterminous evils, but which never overwhelms the visceral nature of the plot and its naked 80-watt bulb descriptions of descent, we are presented with a modern danse macabre of Faust and Mephistopheles. 
Yet Sedgwick's Faustino is a signifier of the world's poor, while his ever-present demonic Santa Muerte is merely the inescapable logic of our decisions as a species to abrogate our pact of brotherhood. And the twist in his tale is the possible, but questionable, salvation offered by Arturo, in trying to discover his Arthurian nobility through self-sacrifice in a distinctly Mexican denouement that is pitiless yet which retains a certain bloody beauty. Well worth the read.