-Linton Kwesi Johnson “All Wi Doin’ is Defendin”
Once again, African youth are on the move. From the June 23rd movement in Senegal that is challenging the authoritarian policies of President Wade to flash mobs in Philadelphia to anti-government revolts in Malawi to the rebellions of London African youth are at the center of contemporary militant resistance.
Although the UK uprisings are multi-racial in character, the rebellions were ostensibly caused by the murder of Mark Duggan, a 29 year old African father of four, by the police but, in reality, is just one more example of the militant African response to the brutal aspects of global capitalism. According to the IPCC, Mark Duggan did not fire a gun but instead, the bullet said to have been fired by Duggan was police issued.
However, the rebellions in London must be viewed as a continuation of insurrections in the Caribbean and African continent against British enslavement and colonialism. A few examples are Morant Bay (1865), Jamaica (1968), and the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (1950s). The Caribbean psychologist, Frantz Fanon states “violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; It makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” Due to the psychological aspects of imperialism, the colonized, in this case “Black Britain”, is made to feel the colonizer is inherently superior or ordained by God to rule, therefore, violence is a means of expressing African agency and humanity.
In The Logic of Black Urban Rebellions Dr. Daryl Harris contends “Black urban rebellion is a tactical response to contemporary forms of White domination and an act in which key core values of the African experience are sustained”. In other words, violent revolt is a legitimate form of resistance that contributes to African progress against police terrorism and economic inequality.
Due to the restructuring of global capitalism over the past forty years, the UK has experienced a marked increase in the level of inequality to the point where today it is the 2nd most unequal country in Europe. At the same as Reaganomics was advanced in the US, Thatcherism was promoted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Thatcher believed in the neoliberal ideology of Milton Friedman. The five characteristics of neoliberalism are 1) government deregulation 2) reducing public services 3) trade liberalization 4) privatization and 5) smashing unions. These policies have had devastating consequences for Blacks who are disproportionately poor and working class and employed in the manufacturing and public sector. Of course, oppression breeds resistance and resistance breeds more repression.
According to a report written by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Black people are 15% of the prison population but only 2% of the general population. In other words, Blacks are seven times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population. Then, in 1994 Britain instituted the the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. The act allows the police to search anyone in a designated area without specific grounds for suspicion. Africans are twenty six times more likely to be searched. In addition, since 1998, over 330 people have died in police custody and not one police officer has ever been convicted. These are the conditions led to the rebellion in Brixton (1981), Broadwater Farm (1985), and now, Tottenham (2011).
It must be remembered the revolts are primarily a response not only to the recent global economic crisis and austerity measures but the past forty years of neoliberal global capitalism. Unfortunately, because a process was not put in place to train the next generation of organizers African youth particularly in the UK and US lack a radical ideology similar to the Black Panther Party (in the UK & US).
This deficiency in mentorship can be alleviated by the creation of independent Pan African institutes taught by veterans of the Black Power Movement. The role of the institute is to transmit Left Pan Africanist ideology, strategy, organizing, and other basic skill sets. The students of the institute would then set up freedom schools and day care centers to transmit Left Pan Africanism to the generation behind them. One of the books all African youth should study participating in the institute or not is The Anarchist Cookbook; it has some great recipe’s!
Davies, Caroline. “Deaths in police custody since 1998: 333; officers convicted: none” The Guardian. Friday December 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/03/deaths-police-custody-officers-convicted
Fanon, Frantz. Wretched of the Earth. Grove: New York. 1963.
Fessy, Thomas. “Senegal rapper Thiat rocks President Wade” BBC News. August 4, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14403302
Harker, John.” For Black Britons, this is not the 80s revisited. It's worse” The Guardian. Thursday August 11, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/11/black-britons-80s-mps-media
Harris, Daryl. The Logic of Black Urban Rebellions: Challenging the Dynamics of White Domination in Miami. London: Praeger. 1999.
James, Winston. “The Black Experience in Twentieth-Century Britain,” in Philip Morgan and Sean Hawkins, eds., The Black Experience and the Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2004).
Ramesh, Randeep. “More black people jailed in England and Wales proportionally than in US” The Guardian. October 11, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/11/black-prison-population-increase-england/print.
Thornburgh, Nathan. “London’s Long Burn.” Time Magazine. August 22, 2011.
Vasagar, Jevan. “Mark Duggan did not shoot at police, says IPCC” The Guardian. August 9, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/mark-duggan-police-ipcc
“July 20 Protest Demands” Malawi Today. http://www.malawitoday.com/news/896-july-20-protesters-demands. July 22, 2011.