Lost in revolution

The Angels of ZimbabweThe Angels of Zimbabwe by Peter de Lissovoy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Joe, a conspicuously tall young white American, hitchhikes into white-ruled Rhodesia in the early stages of the 1964-1979 "bush war" against supremacist Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front, his passion for liberty and his reckless crossing of color-lines gets him deeper into confusion and ultimately heartbreak. Hoping to help the black African liberation fighters create the free, black African nation they call Zimbabwe, Joe gets himself hired as a very junior journalist for the daily Clarion — whose editor tolerates his ironies because he's an amusing Yank — and using his position and the paper's resources, he gets to observe closely the routines of both blacks and whites in the small, rigidly segregated capital Salisbury (now Harare) — in the town center, the blacks-only bus station, the whites-only spaces but with black servants in stores and offices, the rundown black townships, police violence against black women protesters with their babies strapped to their backs, and a surprisingly multiracial garden party on a country estate. The portraits of ZANU youth activists, aspiring black journalist Shakespeare Forboni, his buddy the little auto mechanic Moses Chivera and the dour, bitter and determined revolutionary Frankie Mundie suggest the range of personality types struggling for a liberation that meant something different to each of them; among the whites, most memorable are the Clarion editor Mr. Wein, a cautious but canny "liberal," the absolutely apolitical but generally good guy sports journalist, and — most tellingly — an older, formerly influential settler who remembers pioneer days and still clings to the hope that whites like him can make a contribution in the future black republic. The ending is an undramatic fade-out with nothing resolved, either for Zimbabwe or for Joe personally, but in the meantime we have been presented a vivid panorama of that last white-racist holdout in Africa and its tensions in its last days, and some clear suggestions of the conflicts that would emerge in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

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Spanias kreative protestb�lge | Radikal Portal

The Norwegian news and opinion website Radikal Portal has invited me to become a regular contributor. Here is my first article, on protest movements in Spain — translated into Norwegian.
Spanias kreative protestb�lge | Radikal Portal

Since it's just possible that you don't read Norwegian, here is my English original in Scribd: Spain's many currents of protest

There have been developments since I wrote that piece, the most important being the gutting of the citizens' legislative initiative by the Popular Party to pass a much weaker version. The main argument, however, still stands: that protests surging outside of the traditional channels of parties and trade unions are shaking the whole institutional system in Spain and may be harbingers of serious change.

My next article for this site will be on Venezuela.


The Real Karl Marx by John Gray | The New York Review of Books

The Real Karl Marx by John Gray | The New York Review of Books

A thoughtful and informed review of Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life, by Jonathan Sperber, a study that puts Marx back in the epoch and amid the controversies in which he lived. According to Gray (the reviewer),
Marx understood the anarchic vitality of capitalism earlier and better than probably anyone else. But the vision of the future he imbibed from positivism, and shared with the other Victorian prophet he faces in Highgate Cemetery [Herbert Spencer], in which industrial societies stand on the brink of a scientific civilization in which the religions and conflicts of the past will fade way, is rationally groundless—

I wonder what the late Eric Hobsbawm would have thought of this book. In the essays collected in How to Change the World, he seems to have reached some of the same conclusions, but with a great difference: Hobsbawm was not very interested in an academic study of Marx and Marxism, but rather in "changing the world", trying to make it better — more equal, more fair, more liveable — which has been and continues to be the great project of those who have called themselves Marxists. Of course Marx alone cannot be taken as a guide for action in a world he never knew, our world of jet planes and Internet and a massive shift of political power away from Europe and toward the BRICS. But reading him can sure stimulate our thinking, the new thinking we need today.