2018 - ROAPE
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December 2018

In an interview with roape.net Helen Batubo, an activist and worker in Nigeria, describes her experiences at the ROAPE workshop in Dar es Salaam in 2018. She argues that there are possibilities of influencing many other activists through these activities.  Such events are crucial, she says, in ‘calling us to revolt.’ Can you please introduce yourself for readers of roape.net? I was born in 1962, in Okrika, an island in the Niger Delta. I was the only daughter and became somewhat of a Tom boy to survive with my many brothers.  My dad was my mum’s second husband, but we generally depended on my mum for our upbringing due to his drinking.  My primary schooling was delayed by the Nigerian civil war and I later also saw the violence of the Niger Delta militants/gangs first hand. I have suffered my share of sexism and was nearly...

Marking the 60th anniversary of the All African People’s Conference in Accra in 1958 December 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the All African People’s Conference (AAPC), which was held in Accra, Ghana, between 5 and 13 December 1958. Under the slogan ‘Hands off Africa!!’, the AAPC was a watershed moment in the history of Africa’s liberation from colonial rule and white supremacy. To mark its significance, a major one day conference was held on 6 December 2018 at the University of London by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), School of Advanced Study, and Westminster United Nations Association, under the title of ‘Hands Off Africa!!’ The 1958 All African People’s Conference: Its Impact Then and Now’. By Mandy Banton, David Wardrop and Susan Williams The AAPC was inspired by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of newly-independent Ghana, and George Padmore, Nkrumah’s Adviser on African Affairs, to advance...

Nick Bernards argues that placing African labour in capitalism requires that we think seriously and in historical perspective about the politics of irregular forms of work. In his contribution to ROAPE’s debate on capitalism in Africa, Bernards points out that the kinds of work performed by African workers have often been key reference points in global debates about governing irregular forms of work. These debates are often shaped in powerful ways by the unfolding and contingent relationships between the state and various segments of working classes on the continent. By Nick Bernards The exploitation of ‘free’ wage labour – in Marx’s double sense of those workers ‘free’ to sell their labour to whom they choose and ‘free’ of any other means of reproducing themselves – is a core characteristic of capitalist relations of production. On more than a few readings, it is the defining trait of...

Walter Rodney’s posthumous book The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World  sought to understand the significance of the Revolution in order to the strengthen liberation movements that Rodney was directly involved in. As Martin Empson explains in this review, these movements took place in the context of historical colonial exploitation or in underdeveloped economies, economies that Rodney argues had been depleted of their wealth, resources and population by Western capitalism....

Exposing the illusion of the green economy, Simone Claar argues that while the idea of greening capitalism might provide a clear conscience to regions in the North for addressing the ecological crisis, it perpetuates the exploitative relationship between the North and South. Through the green economy framework capitalism, development, and imperialism are ‘green-washed’ as capital invests in new environmental fields like renewable energy or clean cooking. Such a strategy will only ‘greenwash’ capitalism in Africa, leaving its exploitative and destructive nature unchanged. ...

In a powerful defence of Marxist political economy John Saul argues that ‘facing down the hulk of capital that presently bestrides the world was never going to be easy.’ Though as ‘powerful and ill-intentioned as capitalists’ might be ‘as they destroy the world, environmentally and morally’, everything, in Africa and elsewhere, continues to depend on the struggle of the oppressed. In this contribution he blends his on-going work on Africa with a more general analytical and theoretical consideration on progressive political economy. The fruitfulness of this approach is exemplified in his forthcoming book, Revolutionary Hope vs Free-Market Fantasies: Towards the Revival of Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa (to appear in 2019). There readers can see a more elaborated model of the method of both learning and communicating – in exploring the juxtaposition between theory on the one hand and ‘practice’, in the chapters 'southern Africa...

Recently the World Bank published a paper on poverty in Rwanda. The aim of the paper was to deal with the debate started in 2015 by Filip Reyntjens, and which continues on roape.net, on the reliability of Rwandan poverty statistics. Despite the objectives, when properly calculated, the evidence presented by the World Bank actually strongly supports the claim that poverty has increased in Rwanda. Yet the selective and even misleading presentation of supporting empirical evidence by the World Bank is, to say the least, disturbing. Our Rwanda experts ask if the World Bank is guilty of a worrying level of leniency and incompetence, or outright complicity in the manipulation of Rwanda’s official statistics. In September 2018, the World Bank published a paper entitled ‘Revisiting the Poverty Trend in Rwanda 2010/11-2013/14’, the stated aim of which was to resolve [i.e. shut down?] the debate initiated three years...

In a contribution to the debate on imperialism in Africa, Lee Wengraf argues that there is an urgency for left analysis on the centrality of the sharpening inter-imperial rivalry on the continent. Chinese imperialism in Africa is not identical to that of the U.S but it has been able to take advantage of the door kicked open by neoliberal deregulation and privatization promoted by the West. Wengraf argues that African ruling classes do not merely play a ‘lieutenant’ or ‘comprador’ role in a global order dominated by the West but seek to facilitate capital accumulation for their own ruling classes, a project which is both independent of yet constrained by the major imperial powers. She argues that we must turn towards the resistance of African working classes which demand our solidarity, regardless of which imperial players are involved. By Lee Wengraf In the debate on imperialism at...

The public debate on South Africa’s ‘social grant saga’ portrays the case as a typical example of political corruption, personal incompetence and corporate greed. However, as Lena Gronbach argues, behind the headlines is an agenda developed by the World Bank in the early 2000s, which sees poverty as a problem of financial exclusion and restrictive financial markets, rather than the result of deeper structural issues and the lack of a regular and adequate income. This has been nothing short of a fundamental shift in development policy. By Lena Gronbach In 2012 South Africa’s Social Security Agency SASSA appointed Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a private financial service provider, as the sole paymaster for the country’s extensive and rapidly expanding social grant programme. This move was designed to address concerns about payment efficiency, high levels of grant fraud, and the fragmented nature of the previous provincial grant payment system...

Tamás Szentes, Professor Emeritus of the Corvinus University of Budapest (the former Karl Marx University), elected full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is ‘one of the grand old men of development economics.’[1] His first celebrated book in English, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment (published first in 1971, republished in nine languages and ten different countries, totalling altogether 16 editions in the first fifteen years of publication) was praised in ROAPE in 1974 as ‘a serious and comprehensive attempt at providing a true political economy of underdevelopment.’ For a while he was one of the contributing editors of ROAPE, and between 1967 and 1971 worked together with ROAPE activists and researchers such as Lionel Cliffe, Peter Lawrence, John Saul, and Issa Shivji, at the University of Dar es Salaam. In an interview for roape.net Tamás Gerőcs asks Tamás Szentes about the years he spent...