African Anarchism
by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey
Trade Paperback, 119 pages, $8.95
See Sharp Press, P.O. Box 1731, Tucson, AZ 85702-1731

Reviewed by Bill Meyers

Since the fall of the "communist" regime in the Soviet Union, Anarchists have attempted to claim the predominant role in the world's revolutionary politics. Early hopes of speedy advancement of the Anarchist cause, notably hopes for an Anarchist revolution in that same Soviet Union, faded as capitalism and imperialism marched triumphantly over the world's working people. However, evidence that Anarchists are capable of successfully confronting capitalism, now that we don't have communists stabbing us in the back, continues to accumulate. One of the most hopeful signs is the emergence of a strong anarchist trend both in Africa and among African Americans.

African Anarchism portrays the current state of the movement in Africa and shows how anarchists there, through continuing development of both theory and practice, may have much from which American anarchists could learn. The book begins with a chapter on anarchism in general, followed by the development of Anarchism in Europe these last two centuries. Most anarchists will already be familiar with this material and want to skip ahead to Chapter 3, "Anarchist Precedents in Africa." It is here that the book really takes off, showing how some pre-European invasion African communities functioned according to anarchist precepts. The period of European colonization, with its introduction of the modern state and imperialist exploitation, is described along with its effects on African societies.

The topic of African "Socialism" in the post-colonial era is introduced, then is fully developed in the following chapter. Chapter 5 covers the failure of socialism in Africa. It is an important chapter because it paints a picture of African governments and societies in recent times, providing the insight necessary to advance to anarchist theory and practice. It is followed by a chapter specifically addressing the impediments to a stronger anarchist movement, and ultimately an anarchist society, in Africa. Problems include the military, religious influences, and ethnic divisions. Much of this chapter applies equally well, with variations, to United States and probably most of the rest of the world.

The final chapter is a plea to do what is necessary to take anarchism forward in Africa. Anarchist organizations, present and historic, are presented as occasion arises in the book. Perhaps the most prominent is the Awareness League of Nigeria. This began as a student study group with a wide mixture of political trends in the 1980's. The collapse of Marxist Socialism elsewhere, combined with criticism of Marxism within the group, led to an anarchist position. Particularly important to the group's development was the critical analysis of Marxism in The Torch by Ron Taber titled "A Look at Leninism." [The authors appear to be unaware that some former Torch people joined Love & Rage]. In 1991 the Awareness League declared itself to be a libertarian socialist organization. The League operates primarily in Southern Nigeria, has about 1000 members, and in 1996 affiliated with the IWA (International Workers Association, the anarcho-syndicalist international).

Since much of Africa consists of former British colonies, many African anarchists speak English. Therefore communication and solidarity between Americans and Africans should be relatively easy to practice, despite the physical distance involved. Combined with the ongoing uprising in Chiapas and the emergence of an African American anarchist trend (as exemplified by the zine Black Autonomy [323 Broadway Ave. E, #914, Seattle, WA 98102; send $2 for a sample]), the emergence of African anarchism into the world spotlight will be a very important pillar for world revolution. I believe this book is important and inspiring reading for serious anarchists. It fills an important gap in our knowledge. Perhaps, following this up, an anarchist in Africa will volunteer to act as a correspondent for Love & Rage, so that our paper can have a more realistic, international tone.

Go to Amazon.com to Order