[News] Tell the People That the Struggle Must Go On

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 20 10:57:09 EDT 2020

the People That the Struggle Must Go On: The Thirty-Fourth Newsletter
August 20, 2020 - Vijay Prashad


[image: Thami Mnyele (South Africa), untitled, pen and ink, Gaborone,
Botswana, 1984.]

Thami Mnyele (South Africa), untitled, pen and ink, Gaborone, Botswana,

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Young children marvel at an obvious contradiction in capitalist societies:
why do we have shops filled with food, and yet see hungry people on the
streets? It is a question of enormous significance; but in time the
question dissipates into the fog of moral ambivalence, as various
explanations are used to obfuscate the clarity of the youthful mind. The
most bewildering explanation is that hungry people cannot eat because they
have no money, and somehow this absence of money – the most mystical of all
human creations – is enough reason to let people starve. Since there is
ample food to eat, and since a lot of people do not have enough money to
buy food, the food must be protected from the hungry people.

To that end, we – as human beings – allow for the creation of a police
force and for the use of violence to defend food against the hungry. In one
of his earliest journalistic reports, Karl Marx wrote of the violence used
against the peasants of the Rhineland who collected fallen wood to feed
their fires. The peasants, Marx wrote, know the punishment – including
death – but they simply do not know the crime. For what reason are they
being beaten and killed? The collection of wood that has fallen on the
forest floor cannot be seen as an act of criminality, nor can the basic
human need for hungry people to forage for food. And yet, social wealth in
a society in which the hierarchies of class are entrenched is sluiced off
to build larger and larger repressive institutions, from the police to the

You would think that amid a pandemic, when employment has collapsed and
hunger has risen, social wealth would be diverted from the police to erase
starvation, but that is not how the society of entrenched class hierarchy
works. In July, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and other UN
agencies released a report
– *The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World *– which showed
that the trend before 2014 was for a decline in world hunger; since then
the numbers have climbed dramatically, and since the Great Lockdown they
have climbed exponentially. Half of the world’s hungry are in Asia, with
the majority in India. About three billion people cannot afford a healthy
diet. Storehouses of food are opened only briefly, relief distributed only
fleetingly. Afflicted by the hunger pandemic, when people go onto the
streets to demand food or to defend their rights, they face the cold steel
of state repression.

In August 2020, our office in South Africa published dossier no. 31
‘*The Politic of Blood’: Political Repression in South Africa*, a powerful
text that demonstrates a painful fact: that the violent state institutions
germinated by the apartheid era have been carried over since 1994 into the
post-apartheid South African state. During the transition, ‘a struggle
waged by millions for the construction of popular democratic power and
participatory forms of democracy was reduced to elections, the courts, a
free commercial press, and the substitution of NGOs, now described as
“civil society”, for democratic forms of popular organisation’. After
apartheid, ‘independent forms of self-organisation and popular demands for
more participatory forms of democracy were frequently treated as criminal’.
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent, the dossier argues, that
in South Africa, ‘the police kill people, the vast majority of them
impoverished and black, at a per capita rate that is three times higher
than that of the police in the United States’. The numbers are stunning,
the range of violence shocking.

[image: Police barricade the entrance to the City Hall during a march of
thousands of members of Abahlali baseMjondolo protesting against political
repression, Durban, 8 October 2018. Credit: Photograph by Madelene Cronjé /
New Frame]

Madelene Cronjé, New Frame (South Africa), Police barricade the entrance to
the City Hall during a march of thousands of members of Abahlali
baseMjondolo protesting against political repression, Durban, 8 October

In South Africa, repression against popular organisations – trade unions
and shack dwellers’ formations – has not come down during the pandemic.
Almost 300,000 people have been arrested in these months; public gatherings
have been banned, which means that the people’s organisations have had a
difficult time building resistance against the harshness of state violence.
One of the test areas is Durban, where the shack dwellers’ movement – Abahlali
– has led land occupations, and where the local government has been harsh
in its violence against the people in these new settlements. On 28 July,
for instance, the African National Congress-led municipality attacked
<http://abahlali.org/node/17156/> the eKhenana Occupation in Cato Manor, a
historic, popularly initiated working-class neighbourhood, which– in 1959 –
had been where women such as Dorothy Nyembe and Florence Mhize forged the
uprising against the apartheid state that began to win popular support for
the African National Congress. All that is forgotten now, as state violence
was used – despite court orders to protect the residents – to evict them
from their homes, their urban farming project, and their cooperative that
afforded them food sovereignty.

The eKhenana Occupation flew the flag of Abahlali and, as part of their
ethos of international solidarity, the flag of their comrades in the Movimento
dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-27-land/> (MST), the landless
workers movement of Brazil. Last week, in Brazil, the ruthlessness of state
violence was on full display against the Quilombo Campo Grande community.
After sixty hours of resistance against the military police, the community
had to retreat from what they had built. Noam Chomsky and I wrote a message
of solidarity to the families of the community, which is given below.

MST (Brazil), Families had tear gas hurled at them during eviction
proceedings at the Quilombo Campo Grande in Minas Gerais, 14 July 2020.

*Statement by Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad on the Eviction of 450
families from Quilombo Campo Grande*

On 12 August, Governor Romeu Zema of Minas Gerais sent in the military
police to evict 450 families from the twenty two-year old Quilombo Campo
Grande. For three days they surrounded the camp, intimidating families, in
an attempt to force them to leave their land, but the landless families
resisted. On 14 August, using tear gas and sound grenades, they were
finally successful. They destroyed a community that had built homes and
grew organic crops (including coffee, sold as Café Guaîi). In 1996, the
families, organized by the Landless Workers Movement (MST), had taken over
an abandoned sugar plantation (Ariadnópolis, which was owned by the Azevedo
Brothers Agricultural Company). Jodil Agricultural Holdings, one of
Brazil’s largest coffee producers, owned by João Faria da Silva, wanted the
eviction so that it could take over production from the cooperative.

As a sign of disregard, the Governor and the military police destroyed the
Eduardo Galeano Popular School, which educated children and adults. As
friends of Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015), the conscience of South America, we
are especially pained by the eviction and the destruction.

This eviction took place a few days after the death of Bishop Pedro
Casaldáliga (1928-2020), whose life was a tribute to the struggles for the
emancipation of the poor. This eviction is an insult to his memory, the man
who sang:

*I believe in the International *
*of heads held high,*
*of speaking as equal to equal,*
*and of hands linked together*.

That is the way to live, hands linked together, not through tear gas and
bullets fired at the peasantry by the military police.

We condemn the eviction of the families, and the destruction of their land
and their school. We stand with the families of Quilombo Campo Grande.

Benjamin Moloise, a factory worker and poet, was born in Alexandra, in
Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955. He joined the then-banned African
National Congress (ANC) and wrote poetry. In 1982, Moloise was accused of
having killed Philipis Selepe, a warrant officer. The ANC leadership in
Lusaka (Zambia) admitted that it had ordered the execution of Selepe, but
said that Moloise did not kill him. An international campaign to free
Moloise did not dent the determination of the apartheid government to
murder Moloise. On the day of his execution on 18 October 1985, Pauline
Moloise – Benjamin’s mother – saw him for twenty minutes. He told her that
while he did not kill Selepe, ‘I do not regret my involvement. Tell the
people that the struggle must go on’. Almost four thousand people spread
across Johannesburg mourning his death. *Mayihlome*, the people cried out,
a call to arms to deepen their struggle against apartheid.

[image: Women protest against evictions and ‘relocations’ to a new housing
development in the Siyanda shack settlement in Durban. March 2009. Credit:
Kerry Ryan Chance]

Kerry Ryan Chance (South Africa), Women protest against evictions and
‘relocations’ to a new housing development in the Siyanda shack settlement
in Durban, March 2009.

A study
published in mid-July showed that two out of five adults in South Africa
said that their households had lost a main source of livelihood since 27
March 2020 when the lockdown started in the country. The impact that this
has on starvation is dramatic, with government policies to shield the
population from hunger being minimal. Instead of sending out armed men to
tear down the shacks of the people and uproot their farms, it would be far
better for a state to work with local structures to arrange the
distribution of necessary supplies. This is where things are confusing: the
protection of private property is far more important for these states than
the protection of precious life. ‘Tell the people that the struggle must go
on’, said Moloise before he was hung inside a cold prison surrounded by
jacaranda trees.


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