Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year in Africa

Looking at the Internet I am thankful that I am free man in Africa and not a mental slave working in a US university. Despite what people in US academia believe, people based at African universities do conduct research and attend conferences. Many of these conferences which include participants from North America, Europe, and other regions of the world even take place in Africa. However, what North American academics think about Africa and other places in the world is completely irrelevant. The fact that people in the US and Europe choose to denigrate or ignore accomplishments in Africa does not diminish these accomplishments. That is a loss for people in the US and Europe not Africa.  It is quite possible to be successful and happy without the approval of people living far away on other continents. After all nobody at US universities worries about what people here in Africa think about them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Today's Walk

It has been really hot and humid here the last couple of days. But, I did go for a walk among the now mostly deserted student dormitories today. I noticed that they have installed a bunch of new green benches sponsored by Indomie ramen noodles. They are hugely popular here and they are the only ramen noodles I have ever seen that are fortified. I would think that just like with cereal that fortified ramen would be the norm, but it is not. As far as I can tell Indomie is the only brand that fortifies their noodles with vitamins. Lately I have been eating mine with a combination of hot wing sauce and Dijon style mustard vinaigrette. There are of course an unlimited number of ways one can flavor ramen noodles which will always remain the favored food of serious intellectuals.

Nela - Jok (Kyrgyz Music)

This song has a definite Arabesque influence which is one of the reasons I like it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Suggestions for Blogging in the New Year?

I am not sure if this blog has any regular readers other than my parents. The site meter makes it impossible to sift out real readers from bots. But, in the spirit of optimism I am going to assume that I have one or two, three if I am really lucky. To these few people I am asking what direction should I take this blog in the next upcoming year? There doesn't seem to be much interest on the internet at all in most of the topics I write about, but some do better than others. My most popular blog post ever by far is this one on communism in Africa. It has about three times as many hits as the next most popular post. In the last month my most popular post has been this one on the distribution of Russian-German labor army conscripts in Soviet labor camps in January 1945. In the last week my popular post has been this one on racial discrimination in the USSR quoting Marina Mogil'ner on how natsional'nost in the USSR "was in essence not only racial, but 'racist'..." So I am not exactly sure how to interpret these results. Any subjects you would like to see me cover more of in the next year?

Letter from Beria to Molotov on Kalmyks

Even almost two full years after their deportation to Siberia on 28-29 December 1943, the Kalmyks still lacked sufficient housing, food, clothes, and shoes.
29 October 1945
Deputy Chairman
Council Peoples Commissar Union of SSRs
Comrade Molotov V.M.
No. 1299/6
29 October 45 
      Among the specially settled - Kalmyks there are up to 15 thousand elderly invalids and mothers with many children, that have not been supplied food.
      The absolute majority of Kalmyks do not have clothes or shoes, the result that with the onset of winter they will not be able to go to work, or children of Kalmyks attend school. Up until this time a part of the Kalmyks have not been provided with normal housing.
      The outcome of this is that the NKVD considers it necessary to render specially settled Kalmyks assistance even if minimal in food, clothing, shoes and wood for constructing housing.
      Enclosed on this question is a draft resolution of the SNK USSR, for you to examine and approve. 
Peoples Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Union of SSRs Beria

Source:  N.L. Pobol' and P.M. Polian, eds., Staliniskie deportatsii 1928-1953(Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye Fond "Demokratiia", 2005), doc. No. 3.110, pp. 433-434. Translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Seventy Years Since the Deportation of the Kalmyks

The Kalmyks are a Mongol people living on the steppe just west of the Caspian Sea. They are the only Buddhist nationality in Europe. Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Ukaz no. 115/144 ordering "All Kalmyks living in the territory of the Kalmyk ASSR are to be resettled to other regions of the USSR and the Kalmyk ASSR liquidated." (Alieva, vol. II, p. 39). The next day the NKVD began the actual ethnic cleansing of the Kalmyks from their homeland to Siberia. In a mere two days they forcibly evicted over 93,000 people from their homes (Bugai,doc. 2, p. 85), mostly women, children, and old men since many young men were still in the Red Army at the front fighting against the Nazis. Deported in the middle of winter large numbers of the exiles died of typhus and exposure during the journey and during the first few years of exile. In Siberia the Soviet government placed the Kalmyks under special settlement restrictions making them second class citizens in the USSR as result of their race. Later the Soviet government decreed these legal restrictions to adhere permanently to the Kalmyks for all eternity. Fortunately, for the Kalmyks the Soviet government under Khrushchev pardoned them and released them from the special settlement restrictions on 17 March 1956 (Alieva, vol. II, p. 59). In January 1957 the Soviet government allowed the Kalmyks to begin returning home to their homeland on the Caspian Sea (Polian, p. 195). By 1959, the percentage of survivors to return home had reached 61.2% of the population  (Polian, table no. 11, p. 198).  The picture in the corner is a monument to the deportation and 13 years spent under special settlement restrictions in Siberian exile.


Alieva, S.U., ed., Tak eto bylo: Natsional’nye repressi v SSSR, 1919-1953 gody (Moscow: Insan, 1993).

Bugai, N.F., ed., Iosif Stalin – Lavrentiiu Berii. “Ikh nado deportirovat’,” Dokumenty, Fakty, 
kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba narodov, 1992).

Polian, Pavel, Against their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2004).

Happy Boxing Day from Africa

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Continuing Divisions Between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa has never been unified politically or culturally. One of the biggest divides in the continent is not only cultural, but also ethnic and indeed racial. That is the divide between the white Arab north and the black south. Many Pan-Africanists like Frantz Fanon have made compelling arguments for forging a single African continental identity from these two groups. But, the differences are not just based upon skin color. The idea that sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa are parts of two separate civilizations has a long pedigree. Among other things it allowed for the justification of enslaving black African Muslims. It was also one of the causes for the two long running civil wars in Sudan. North African countries like Morocco have sometimes found themselves at serious odds with the sub-Saharan consensus on certain issues. For instance the OAU and later AU has supported the Sahrawis in the conflict between Morocco and the POLISARIO over Western Sahara. While the divisions between the whites of North Africa and the blacks of sub-Saharan Africa is opposed by many Pan-Africanists it nonetheless continues to exist.

One element of this conflict I had not considered before is the sexual component. Of course much of the Trans-Saharan slave trade did have a sexual element, not only with regards to women, but also young boys. The sexual exploitation of young boys in North Africa in places like Tangiers Morocco of course continued long after the end of the slave trade. This blog post got me to thinking that such  practices in North Africa and the militant opposition to homosexual activity in sub-Saharan Africa may in fact be linked to the continuing antagonisms between the white Arabized northern portion of Africa and the black sub-Saharan regions. I know that Pan-Africanists like Frantz Fanon who advocated for unity between the two parts of Africa did not mention this aspect. Nor have I seen it mentioned by writers arguing against including the white North as part of a Pan-African project, but rather defining African along purely racial lines. But, it is something that I think needs further research.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

South Sudan

Africa's newest independent state, South Sudan seems to be rapidly sliding into civil war. For decades the OAU (Organization of African Unity) had a strict policy of accepting the borders established under colonial rule for independent African states. Attempts by Katanga in Congo to secede were strongly opposed by African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. Later in 1967, the attempt by Biafra to break away from Nigeria received some limited African support from Tanzania, Zambia, Ivory Coast, and Gabon. However, the Nigerian military succeeded in crushing the attempt to create an independent Biafran state. The first successful alteration of African borders took place in 1993 when Eritrea became a recognized independent state after a UN supervised referendum. From 1961 to 1991, the ELF(Eritrean Liberation Front) and later EPLF (Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front)  fought a guerrilla war against Ethiopia. The primary backers of the Eritrean guerrillas were various Arab governments. Eritrea had been an Italian colony before WWII and then after a brief period of British rule was first federated with Ethiopia in 1951 and then completely annexed by Addis Ababa in 1962. The existence of distinct colonial borders dividing Eritrea from Ethiopia which was never colonized, however, meant that technically that this case adhered the old OAU policy of enforcing old colonial borders and not recognizing secessionist states. South Sudan was the first breakaway state in Africa to completely violate the policy of accepting the colonial borders drawn by the European powers. Like Eritrea it too had fought a decades long war for independence. The Second Sudanese Civil War lasted from 1983 to 2005 and was in many ways a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War from 1955 to 1972. In January 2011 a referendum for independence led to South Sudan becoming an independent state on  9 July 2011. Now this state is proving to be unstable and may ultimately prove  not to be viable. There is now fighting within South Sudan between opposing political factions.  Four US airmen have been wounded in the process of evacuating US citizens from the country. But, I see no advantage for the US to intervening in South Sudan militarily to try and restore order. The continuing Balkanization of Africa has not solved the various problems that have beset the continent. South Sudan has gone from being at war with Khartoum to being at war with itself.

An Assessment of Soviet Style Socialism in Africa

The attempt to implement Soviet style socialism in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, but also in Angola and Mozambique and to a lesser extent in places like Guinea and Benin  proved to be a dismal failure just as it was in the USSR and East Central Europe. Fortunately, African scholars unlike many US scholars recognize this. Sam Mbah & I.E. Igariwey, note that Ethiopia under Mengistu was the worst of the failed states (48). An assessment with which I find myself in agreement. Their overall judgement on the socialist experiment in Africa is summed up in the quoted paragraph below.
Socialism in Africa, for all practical purposes, was based on the Soviet/Eastern European model, and it displayed all the essential features and characteristics of that model. The African experience was, perhaps, peculiar in the sense that the state inherited at political independence was neo-colonial. Expectations that socialism would alter this were never realized; if anything, socialism truncated development and reinforced neo-colonialism. The pauperization of countries like Guinea under Sekou Toure, Benin under Mathew Kerekou, Ethiopia under Menghistu Mariam, etc., went hand in hand with massive repression and authoritarian self-righteousness. Some of the most backward, most reactionary regimes that ever set foot on African soil were socialist ones, some led by military officers who shot their way to power.
The type of "progress" Mengistu brought to Ethiopia did not solve the basic problems of poverty and underdevelopment that had festered under Haile Selassie. It did, however, bring the use of state terror, forced relocations, and famine to the country. That is the type of "progress" Africa and the rest of the world can do without.

Source: Sam Mbah & I.E. Igariwey, African Anarchism: The History of a Movement, 2001, p. 48.

"Mulatu" by Mulatu Astatke

Here is some Ethiopian jazz. There was a vibrant jazz scene in the country before the 1974 communist revolution.

More on racial discrimination in the USSR

Unlike US anthropologists who claim that the statement "Chechens and Ingush have a specific genotype" has no racial content what so ever, Russian anthropologists are well aware that natsional'nost was in fact often in the case of stigmatized peoples like the Chechens just a Soviet term for race. Marina Mogil'ner sums up how this worked succinctly in the following manner.
But, in reality these “differences” were not only not overcome in social practice, but were even implanted and strengthened on an official level – in part, through the obligatory fixing of  natstional’nost in the passport.  ’Natsional’nost’  in Soviet passports, was determined by father’s or mother’s ‘blood’, this was in essence not only racial, but ‘racist’ in that it was understood that these categories, were insurmountable stigmas or inherited advantages. It was not possible to choose or ‘construct’, one’s parentage.
US based anthropologists really are some special type of stupid to think there was no racial thinking what so ever involved in the deportation of the Chechens and that they could just change their nationality at will in the special settlements.

 Marina Mogil’ner, Homo Imperii: Istoriia fizicheskoi antropologii v Rossii (Konets XIX-Nachalo XX v.) (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe oborzenie, 2008, 494). Quotation translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Idea for an Article on Africa

I am thinking I should try and write a journal article dealing in some way with Africa this Christmas break. I am thinking about doing a thought piece on the relationship between state terror by indigenous regimes and the support for those regimes by foreign states outside of Africa. While the orthodox academic view in the US seems to be that the only such foreign state to have engaged in such morally dubious behavior during the late 20th century was Washington DC that does not seem to be the case in Africa. For historical and geographic reasons Africa is considerably different than Latin America where the above position has some merit. Instead in Africa the role of European states like France and Belgium was quite significant in supporting dictatorships in Congo (Zaire), Burundi, Rwanda, Togo, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Mauritania, Chad, and Gabon.  Indeed in most of these states  France played a much, much, much more important role in propping up brutal dictatorships than did the US. One should also remember that one of the most brutal dictatorships ever established on the African continent, Ethiopia under Mengistu, was supported the USSR and Cuba. I am thinking of perhaps writing a comparative thought piece on how indigenous dictatorships and foreign sponsors interacted in the case of French client states and Ethiopia. If anybody has any suggestions for sources or how I should go about this project please leave a comment. (Yes, I know there will be absolutely no comments. But, I feel I have to at least try).

Where you can find some of my academic work

If there is anybody out there interested in reading some of my longer and more academic work they can find some of it at this site. It occurred to me today that I do not do nearly enough marketing of my writing to people who might actually be interested in it. So I am trying to make up for that now. So far it has been working. The readership for my academic work has increased exponentially in the last twelve hours. So I figure I might as well see if I can add a few more extra readers from this site. One never knows. One or two of the hits on this site might actually be from real people and not from robots. So go check out my more formal, but still highly subversive work. I can't guarantee your safety from my enemies if you go read it. But, there is nothing worse than living in fear. That is a fate far, far, far, worse than death.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review of Love on the Road

Sam Tranum and Lois Kapila, eds., Love on the Road: Twelve Tales of Love and Travel (Malinki Press, 2013) is a collection of stories, a couple of them even true, about travel and romance. The stories seem to be a lot stronger on the travel part and providing picturesque descriptions of a wide variety of locations including Egypt, Russia, Georgia, India, the US, France, Spain, Nigeria, and Poland. Except for one story which does have a traditional happy ending and is one of the few stories that is actually true almost all of the stories are about unrequited love. There is thus not a whole lot of actual romance in the book, but rather failed attempts at romance. This seems to fit in with the general overall atmosphere of the collection which aims at a combination of quirky, bizarre, and out of the ordinary. If you are looking for something with out of the way locations and the slightly off key characters that travel to them then this book is for you. However, don't be expecting a lot of the type of erotic love stories that are normally associated with the romance genre.

The book can be ordered from Amazon at the URL below for $7.99 in Kindle version and $11.69 in paperback.


Yes the 23 Feb. 1944 Deportation of Chechens and their subsequent treatment was racist

While US scholars still militantly claim that there was not any racism involved in the deportation of nearly the entire Chechen nation to special settlement restrictions in Kazakshtan and Kyrgyzstan for 12 years, French scholar Nicholas Werth cites this very interesting document. It comes from the MGB from October 1952. "Specific genotype" certainly sounds to me like race was involved in the poor treatment of the Chechens by the Soviet government under Stalin. But, while French scholars understand this, almost no US scholars do. I can count the number that do on one hand.
They refuse to work, organize mass disturbances, get involved in fights with local inhabitants, and continue their bandit-like activities, robbing private property and stealing kolkhoz [collective farm]property . . . The most hostile elements are even engaged in clandestine anti-Soviet activities . . . It is particularly difficult to struggle against these people. Police infiltration is hopeless, because the Chechens and the Ingush have a specific genotype and are fanaticized by pan-Islamism.
Source: Nicolas Werth, "The 'Chechen Problem': Handling an Awkward Legacy, 1918-1958," Contemporary European History, 15, 3 (2006), p. 347.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Continuing Double Standards

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of  the Korematsu decision upholding Executive Order 9066 regarding the US internment of people of  Japanese ancestry. Now while all "progressive" academics admit that this was an act of racial discrimination there are many of these very same people completely unwilling to admit that there ever was any racism involved what so ever with the Soviet deportations of ethnic Koreans, Germans, Karachais, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks. Instead there is a militant defense of the USSR from any charges of racial discrimination against these groups. Their thinking goes that racism is the most horrible thing in the world, the US is guilty of racism, and the Soviet Union not, therefore the USSR is morally superior to the US. This logic falls down on the basic empirical fact that their claim that there was never any racism by the Soviet government under Stalin against people like Germans and Crimean Tatars is clearly untrue. Only by adopting a definition of racial discrimination completely at odds with international law and scholars like John Rex, George Fredrickson, and others can one come to such a conclusion. So there remains a blatant double standard with many US scholars completely exonerating the Stalin regime of any and all charges of racial discrimination against the deported peoples for actions which they clearly describe as racist when committed by other governments.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finishing up the semester (fall 2013)

Christmas break will be starting soon. In Ghana unlike the US public institutions do not have to be officially atheist along the lines of Albania under Hoxha. So it is Christmas break not Winter break. I have started grading final exams today. I have five done out of 90. But, they are not due for a couple of months so five a day is actually an okay rate for now. So far the grades have ranged from C to B+, but the sample size is small. Tomorrow we have one last departmental meeting. Then the next work related thing I have to do is attend the Ho conference in late January. I have finished the paper and will e-mail it off to Berlin soon. If nothing else I will get to see Ho for free. Other than that I don't have much actual work to do until next semester officially starts in the second week of February. This weekend I took it easy and did some reading.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Request for Suggestions

The semester is now over. My students took their final exam yesterday. Now I just have to grade them. This semester I only have 88 exams with three essays each to grade. There are some classes on campus with over  a thousand students. So grading should go faster than usual. Last winter break I wrote this article. This winter break I still have no idea what I could write on. I need a topic that I can write an article on in six weeks. I would also like to write on something new. After the constant rewriting of the forced labor paper for Ho I want to write about something other than the USSR for a change. I have couple of really embryonic ideas, but really nothing concrete. One would be to do a small version of this idea on state terror. I was thinking perhaps looking at South Africa and Ethiopia during the 1970s and 1980s for this project. Of course one problem is that I have no primary sources for either case. Nor can I read Amharic which means I couldn't do anything with the archival sources of the Ethiopian government even if I could get access to the documents. So that has limited possibilities. I have also thought about starting this project. But, that would involve a lot of expensive travel to the archives and I would like to get funding from somewhere first before I start spending that money. Another possibility I have thought about is doing something regarding the intellectual history of the ideas and concepts associated with the "Third World" and neo-colonialism. Perhaps writing a historiography of dependency theory and underdevelopment specifically as it relates to Africa. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below. Thank you for your time and effort in this matter. (Yes, I know I am not going to get a single comment, but hope springs eternal in Africa.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chrissy Zebby Tembo - Trouble Maker

Some Zamrock from the great Chrissy Zebby Tembo with Paul N'gozi on guitar.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Document on Ethnic Germans from Ukraine Repatriated to USSR

 After the end of the Second World War the Allied powers began the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens including ethnic Germans back to the USSR. This document deals with the arrival of small number of them in Ukraine who were later transferred to hard labor in the Urals.
Peoples Commissar of Internal Affairs USSR L.P. Beria 
20 September 1945 
On the territory of the Ukrainian SSR have arrived from beyond the borders in orderly repatriation 2214 people who are Germans - citizens of the USSR.
We consider it expedient to resettle them in places of settlement of Germans, in part in Komi ASSR and in Molotov obl., and use them for work in local industries.  
We are awaiting your orders. 
V. Chernyshov
M.M. Kuznetsov
Source:  N.F. Bugai, (ed.), Iosif Stalin-Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat' ": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii, (Moscow: Druzhba Narodov, 1992), doc. 47, p. 76. Translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Translation of NKVD Progress Report on the Deportation of Ethnic Germans from Ukraine

In the last week of September 1941 the Soviet NKVD began the systematic deportation of ethnic Germans from eastern Ukraine to Kazakhstan where they were placed under special settlement restrictions. Below is a progress report on this ethnic cleansing from 1 October 1941.
Top Secret 
Information on Resettled Germans from the Ukrainian SSR
1 October 1941 
In accordance with summary report No. 1 of 30 September 1941 from  Dep. Peoples Commissar Serov in the name of Peoples Commissar Com. Beria subjected to resettlement from the Ukrainian SSR are citizens of German nationality , [of this number from]: 
Zaporozhia obl.     - 53 566 people - 15 985 families
Stalin obl.             -  36 205 >>       - 16 246 >>
Voroshilov obl.    - 12 807 >>       -   3608  >>
Odessa obl.          -   6000>>         -   1800  >>
Dnepropetrov obl. -  3200>>          -  1000  >>
                      Total  111 778            38 639
Dep. Chief Section of special settlements
NKVD USSR captain state security          Konradov

Source: N.F. Bugai, (ed.),  "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny... I. Stalin": Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody) (Moscow: Gotika, 1998),  doc. 11, p. 34. Translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

We have running water again for now

Today we had running water again. But, I am not sure how long it will last. It is amazing how much nicer life is with running water. I didn't have to run to the poly tank across the street twice this morning like I have had for almost every day this month. This week many of the poly tanks ran dry and I had to keep walking further and further to find water. But, this morning I did not have to leave the house to find water. I  even had spare water to boil for tea to drink and noodles with hot sauce to eat. Of course by this afternoon we many not have any running water again for several weeks. So it might have just been a one off. However, I was beginning to think we were never going to running water again. Even one day with running water is better than no days with no running water.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

History Department Lunch

This picture is from yesterday's History Department lunch here at the University of Ghana. I am the guy in the striped shirt on the right with glasses.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A Labor Army Testimony

In 1942 the Soviet government drafted Robert Avgustovich Ianke (Janke) into the labor army from Kazakhstan and sent him to a logging camp in Molotov Oblast (Perm today). In the spring of 1943 his work column suffered a devastating typhus epidemic. He described it many years later with the following words.
Of the 350 people, 100 died. And how, did they die. They went around these houses on a horse every day, on a horse they go around, collecting the bodies, those that were in the houses, but the common sick house was over on the river bank…They couldn’t cope with all of them. There was this special, this big barrack, it was called the sick house. They put all the people infected with typhus in there, gathered them up. It held 70, and it was full up. Full up. And those bodies, down below, they put them in a stack. And in March, it was already getting warm, they had put them in a stack, they were lying in this big stack, they dragged them all out of the houses and brought them out from that sick house. Well, they piled up 100 people there. And they made us dig – I took part myself – dig a mass grave.
Throughout 1942 and 1943 mass deaths from malnutrition, disease, exposure and accidents afflicted the Russian-Germans conscripted into the labor army. Similar scenes were repeated at numerous other camps in the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and European Russia.

 Source: Jehanne Gheith and Katherine Jolluck, Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), 40.

Mandela and Palestine

While it won't get much airplay in the US and it will certainly never be mentioned by any "radical" American academics, Nelson Mandela and the ANC were strong supporters of the Palestinian liberation movement which they saw as similar to their own. In 1997 Mandela gave this speech on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The hypocrites like Claire Potter, "The Tenured Radical" who claim that there is no comparison to the situation in South Africa under white rule and Palestine have simply ignored everything Mandela ever had to say on the subject. Her radical opposition to taking any type of concrete stand against apartheid in Palestine stands in very sharp contrast to the position of Mandela and the ANC. Unfortunately, the position of Claire Potter and Cary Nelson seems to be the orthodox position of "radicals" and "progressives" in US academia. The position of Mandela, however, has received a recent unexpected boost as people in favor of human rights for Palestinians have pushed back against the orthodox "radical" and "progressive" position as represented by Potter. The American Studies Association following in the footsteps of the the Association for Asian American Studies has endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela

Africa has lost a great man and leader tonight. Nelson Mandela died in South Africa at age 95. The continent will miss him. Leadership is one resource that Africa has been lacking in the post-colonial era. Mandela was one of the greatest leaders in world history. He managed to successfully oversee what was potentially the most difficult transition from white rule to indigenous rule on the entire continent. If Africa had another dozen Mandelas it could solve most of the problems that ail her. Unfortunately, there was only one Mandela and now he has finally left this mortal coil. But, Africa is also a continent of great hope and even without Mandela I am optimistic that her people can continue to move forward. He will be remembered along with Lumumba, Nkrumah, and Sankara as one of Africa's greatest leaders.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Labor Army Document on Planned Distribution of Forced Laborers

Proposal to use Germans - men 17-50 years old  

2 January 1942 

Kraslag Krasnoiarsk krai has a program of lumber production for 1942 - 1700 thousand cubic meters; has prisoners - working - 17 000 people; deficit workers' strength - 6000 people; might take Germans - 8000 people; so that the program might be increased to 200 [sic] thousand cubic meters. 
Ivdel'lag Sverdlovsk oblast has a program of lumber production for 1942 - 2200 thousand cubic meters. On the condition that all working prisoners are transferred  - 16 700 people. (need 32 000) - to Sevurralag might take Germans - 30 000 people. (has 2500 Germans). 
Usol'lag Molotov oblast has program of lumber production for 1942 - 3500 thousand cubic meters; prisoners needed - 40 500; has - 32 130 people; might take Germans - 9000 people. 
Ust'vymlag Komi ASSR has a program of lumber production for 1942 - 1500 thousand cubic meters; prisoners working - 15 000 people; might take Germans - 7000 people. 
Viatlag Perm oblast has a program of lumber production - 1500 thousand cubic meters; has working prisoners 21 000 people; might take Germans - 10 000 people.  
Might organize a new camp in Novosibirsk oblast - Tomasinkii camp, given to the People's Commissariat of Forestry in 1940 - for a program of 850 thousand cubic meters. Germans it might take - 15 000 people.  
Total use for lumber preparation - 79 000 - 80 000 people. 
Bakal factory Cheliabinsk  oblast - for construction of Bakal metallurgical factory (mainly, in the stage of work up until August 1942) - 30 000 people. 
Bogoslov factory Sverdlovsk oblast - for construction - 5000 people. 
Solikamsk factory Molotov oblast - construction - 5000 people. 
Total for use in the economy of the USSR - 120 000 people. 
Deputy Chief of
Internal Affairs USSR

Source: N.F. Bugai, (ed.),  "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny... I. Stalin": Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody) (Moscow: Gotika, 1998), doc. no. 34, p. 57. Translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Russian-German Labor Army Conscripts in GULag Camps January 1945

This is a partial list of Corrective Labor Camps with Russian-German labor army conscripts employed as forced laborers in January 1945. The first number is the total number of Russian-Germans both men and women in the labor army working at the camp at that time. The number in parenthesis is the number of just Russian-German women in the labor army at that camp.  The number in brackets is the number of convicted prisoners of all nationalities working at the camp.

Aktiublag - Kazakhstan - Industrial Construction - 195 [9,121 prisoners]
Altailag - Altai Krai - Railroad Construction - 863 (462 women) [4,024 prisoners]
Arbumstroi - Arkhangelsk Oblast - Industrial Construction - 373 (372 women)
Bakallag - Cheliabinsk Oblast - Industrial Construction -19,860 [11,071 prisoners]
Belbaltlag - Karelo-Finnish ASSR - Industrial Construction - 4,096 [112 prisoners]
Bogoslovlag - Sverdlovsk Oblast - Industrial Construction - 8,603 (32 women) [10,864 prisoners]
Vorkutlag - Komi ASSR - Mining - 6,571 (1,415 women) [39,711 prisoners of which 3,242 women]
Vosturallag - Sverdlovsk Oblast - Logging - 4,767 (1,610 women) [10,524 prisoners]
Viatlag - Kirov Oblast - Logging - 3,707 (805 women) [13,220 prisoners]
Dzhindastroi - Buriat-Mongol ASSR - Mining - 1,572 (1,412 women) [9,393 prisoners]
Ivdel'lag - Sverdlovsk Oblast - Logging - 5,181 (880 women) [16,529 prisoners]
Kraslag - Krasnoiarsk Krai - Logging - 4,224 (824 women) [12,982 prisoners]
Krasnoiarsk Affainazhnyi Zavod -Krasnoiarsk Krai - Mining - 185 (85 women) [968 prisoners]
Ponyshlag - Molotov Oblast - Hydro Electric Station Construction - 17 (14 women) [94 prisoners]
Sevvostlag - Magadan in Khabarovsk Krai - Mining and industrial Construction - 613 [87,355 prisoners]
Sevzheldorlag - Komi ASSR - Railroad Construction - 4,377 [12,418 prisoners]
Solikambumstroi - Molotov Oblast - Industrial Construction - 5,980 [9,123 prisoners]
Tagillag - Sverdlovsk Oblast - Industrial Construction - 4,500 (972 women) [17,003 prisoners]
Unzhlag - Gorky Oblast - Logging - 4,531 (3,206 women) [19,867 prisoners]
Usol'lag - Molotov Oblast - Logging - 7,930 (2,763 women) [28,849 prisoners]
Ukhtoizhemlag - Komi ASSR - Oil - 5,030 (5,030 women) [12,896 prisoners]

Source: A.A. German, "Sovetskie nemtsy v lageriakh NKVD v gody Velikoi Otchestvennoi: Vklad v pobedy," Voenno-istoricheskie issledovaniia v Povolzh'e, Sb. Nauch. (Saratov: Izd-Vo: "Nauchnaia kniga," 2006), Issue no. 7: 292-304.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Africa

I hope all of my half dozen readers in the US have a happy Thanksgiving. The weather is perfect this morning in Legon. I had koko for breakfast, but I still haven't decided what to eat for my main meal. I am tempted to go get pizza since I have had fufu a couple times this week already. Plus the book store is on the way to the pizza place and I could get another one of Lee Child's novels starring Jack Reacher. The first one I read was quite entertaining. I have to admire a character that walks clear across the US with nothing but an ATM card, an expired passport, and a toothbrush in his pockets. At any rate I am thankful to have a job as a history lecturer at Ghana's flagship university.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fela Kuti - Water no get enemy

We are still having water problems. It has been out for two weeks now with the exception of two brief times during last Friday night and Saturday morning and last night and this morning. But, even if I don't have running water at least I can have Fela playing great music about water.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

From Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism

Colonialism came to most of Africa fairly late. The map to the right is a map of European colonial and other holdings in Africa in 1885 before the Berlin Conference divided up most of the continent. For the most part before the conference European holdings were confined to the coastal regions of Africa. Most of the interior of Africa still remained under the domain of indigenous political entities at this time. The conquest of most of Africa takes place after 1886 and was only completed in the 20th century. Ethiopia remained the only truly independent indigenous state. Liberia created by returning Black Americans in the 19th century and White ruled South Africa were neither indigenous states nor truly independent from the US and UK respectively at this time. So in less than 30 years the European powers of France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and Belgium conquered the vast interior of Africa. Most of the colonies established were devoted solely to the extraction of resources rather than the settlement of European colonists. The European colonists only settled significant numbers of settlers in Algeria, Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rhodesia, and South Africa. Out of these colonies only Algeria and South Africa were ever more than 10% White. In the other settlement colonies Europeans remained in the single digits. Yet, despite their small physical presence in Africa, Europeans managed to dominate almost the entire continent politically and economically during much of the 20th century. Even decades after the formal independence of almost all of the continent the economic subordination of Africa to Europe established during colonialism continues to be the most salient factor in European-African relations. Despite granting formal independence to their former African colonies European powers like Belgium and France have actively assisted in the murder of leaders like Lumumba and Sankara who have attempted to break free of this continued neo-colonial subordination.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dependency, Underdevelopment, and World Systems

My good friend Walt Richmond has suggested that I include more pieces on African - US and African - European relations. I am not sure if my opinions on these matters are all that novel or interesting. The other day at dinner Marc Becker broached that I was an un-reconstructed dependenista along the lines of people like Raul Prebisch and Andre Gunder Frank who developed the theory in the context of Latin America. With regards to Africa I would say that the term dependency theory is not used much. The term underdevelopment as expounded on by Walter Rodney in his  1972 classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is instead much more popular although in many ways it describes the same thing people like Prebisch and Frank were writing about regarding Latin America. There is really a clear intellectual development linking dependency theory, the idea of underdevelopment, and world systems. So one can see how Frank's ideas on Latin American - US relations get applied to African - European relations by Rodney, and then become completely internationalized by Immanuel Wallerstein. All of this stemming from the idea of interpreting international relations as consisting of interests in Europe and the US exploiting countries in Africa, Latin America, and also Asia. Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev was one of the first theorists to fully articulate the idea of proletarian nations including Muslims in the USSR who were exploited by the metropolitan centers of colonial empires. But, after Stalin had Sultan-Galiev executed for his political heresy against the official line of the CPSU the idea went into hibernation. Its revival in the 1960s and 1970s largely concentrated on Latin America and to a lesser extent Africa. I think it largely fits regarding the political-economy of most of Africa. But, these are old and not very exciting ideas. So there is currently not a lot of interest by US scholars today even those specializing in Africa to do in depth research on such related topics as  the history of French neo-colonialism in Africa.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Today I had my last lecture and first final exam of the semester. So now I just have to grade exams. I have also almost finished revising my conference paper for Ho. It looks a lot different than it started out. I have eliminated almost all the original references to Africa and concentrated on the ethnic Germans conscripted into the labor army in the USSR during World War II. I have also in the latest draft gone through and removed a lot of the excessive detail on geographic distribution that all my friends thought was boring and not very significant. I have replaced some of it with more description including a number of block quotations from survivors of the labor army. It has gone through five drafts. I am going to let it sit for a couple days now before I again return to editing it. Soon the paper is going to get to the point where I just want to get it finished and done with. I am hoping it is in pretty good shape by that time. I think the current incarnation is the first draft where it looks like all the major restructuring is over.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fresh Blueberry Pancake - Heavy (1970)

The earlier piece I put up by this band, Clown on a Rope, has proven to be very popular judging by my site meter. So here is the whole album. It is the only album this band from Pittsburgh ever recorded.

No Water Again

For the fourth day in a row there is no running water in  my bungalow. Last night I had to make an extra long trip to find an unlocked storage tank on campus with water. This is the third time this semester we have had no water for a week. We never have running water at the office. That seems to be permanent, but I used to have water at the house. If I lived in Mali or Niger I could understand the lack of water. After all there is not a lot of water in the Sahara. It is a desert. But, Ghana has lots of water. It has the world's largest man made lake. How can the flagship university of the country consistently have water shortages for several times a semester that last for weeks on end? Fortunately, unlike most people of Obruni ethnicity I lived in Arivaca for a couple of  years. There we had similar problems, although Arivaca unlike Ghana was in desert so it was a lot more understandable.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Difficulties of Comparative History

I am still revising my forced labor paper for Ho. I got some feedback from a colleague in California today that I will be incorporating. The paper has undergone four major rewrites now and is about to enter on its fifth. One major change has been the shift away from comparing colonial forced labor in Africa, particularly Mozambique and Rhodesia, to concentrate almost exclusively on the experience of ethnic Germans in the labor army in the USSR during World War II. The main reason for moving away from the comparison is that as I explored the Portuguese system of forced labor in Mozambique it became more and more difficult to make any relevant comparisons. My original hypothesis was that the two systems shared a number of broad similarities. But, on reconsideration these similarities really are almost too broad to make any insightful comparisons. Instead it looked more and more like I was comparing apples and oranges and saying that they both came from the tree of forced labor. Which does not tell us anything new. I am sure that people trying to write comparative pieces on revolution, genocide, and other similarly broad topics have also run into this problem. Trying to find specific similarities in the dynamics of the two systems of forced labor was hampered by the fact that I am only familiar with the primary source material in the Soviet case. I don't have access to the archival documents for the African cases and I can not read Portuguese. So already from the beginning the paper was doomed to be heavily imbalanced to the detriment of properly covering the African cases. It might be possible in the future to do justice to such a project. However, I think I would have to select case studies where I can read the primary sources for all the cases examined rather than solely relying upon journal articles written in English for one of the cases.

So now it is a much less ambitious project with a narrower and far less comparative approach. But, I figure it is better to talk about something I know about to an audience who knows nothing about it at the conference then to talk about something I know nothing about and the audience knows a lot about. Yes, that is the easier way out. On the other hand I only have so much time and effort I can devote to a conference paper and book chapter.

Fela Kuti - Sorrow Tears & Blood (Original Extended Version)

Sorrow, Tears & Blood from the Vagabonds in Power album is one of the greatest songs to ever come out of Africa. This particular video is fantastic in showing Fela's defiance of the corrupt and repressive dictatorship in Nigeria at the time. Africa needs more men like Fela and less vagabonds in power.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week in Legon

Today I wrote up my final exam questions. On Wednesday we have to "moderate" them, what ever that means. It is some new directive from the administration. But, we have Wednesday morning free to do this exercise since the departmental seminar I coordinate is now finished for the semester. I just have one last lecture on this Friday before the semester is completely over except for examinations. So I have some time to finish revising my conference paper for Ho. I am hoping to be able to get some serious work done on it tonight. I have removed almost all the references to Africa from the paper and have decided to focus entirely upon ethnic Germans conscripted into the labor army in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The paper is due three days before Christmas so I should be able to have a presentable draft written up in time. I no longer can stand doing things at the last minute. I have to have plenty of relaxed lead time to do things now that I have entered middle age.

Fresh Blueberry Pancake - Clown On A Rope (US 1970)

This is another very rare song from 1970. The original demo album only had 54 copies. The band never made a second album.

Bulbous Creation - Lets Go To The Sea - 1970

A rare, but awesome song from a band that cut one album that was not released until 24 years after it was recorded and in the meantime all its members had completely vanished from the face of the earth.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another Great Music Blog - The Red Hippie

The Red Hippie has a lot of great obscure rock and folk music from the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, it does not  have anything from Africa in its current incarnation. I never got to see it before it was resurrected. Nevertheless, it still has a lot of interesting information on bands from the 1960s and 1970s in the US and UK. There is a lot of fascinating music out there that you owe it to yourself to go check out.

KOUYATE-NEERMAN - Requiem pour un Con

I just saw these guys play at Alliance Francais tonight. They did a bang up job. I can really see that they have strong roots in the Krautrock/Progrock scene of the early 1970s. They also reminded me a lot of the French band Magma from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The band uses xylophones the way others would use keyboards. This particular video in addition to being a great cover of Serge Gainsbourg's piece also has some great animation. I hope everybody enjoys it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More on why I am a reactionary and not a radical

It seems that the term "radical" in the context of US academics means militant support for Israel's war against the indigenous population of Palestine. Claire Potter and Cary Nelson are two very influential and established US academics who both call themselves radicals and strongly oppose any attempt to voluntarily boycott Israeli institutions complicit in supporting apartheid and colonialism. Nelson used to be the president of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) and it was under his tenure that the organization adopted a militant position of defending the apartheid state of Israel from any and all boycotts by US lecturers. The official position of the AAUP that boycotts of universities and other Israeli state institutions supporting human rights violations is a horrible imposition upon academic freedom is a ludicrous one. It is also extremely hypocritical because both the AAUP and "radicals" like Potter and Nelson supported a complete boycott of not only South African academic institutions, but individual South African scholars during the 1980s. I agree that the position of supporting the denial of human, civil, and national rights to Palestinians on the basis of their race is a radical position. I would even argue that Potter and Nelson are correct to see their support of apartheid and colonialism as the orthodox radical left position in the US. The international Left after all almost universally supported the Nakba against the Palestinians and the establishment of Israel as a racially based state in 1948. Potter and Nelson are continuing this tradition. However, I am not a radical or a leftist. I am a reactionary. I am a reactionary precisely because I reject the "radical" position of Potter and Nelson and believe that academics have a moral obligation to boycott the apartheid state of Israel until such time as the indigenous Palestinian population is give full and equal rights with the descendants of Jewish colonists in the territory. Everything else is just special pleading.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Random Work Related Points

I am still revising my paper for the forced labor conference in Ho. It is almost to a semi-readable state now. I figure by the time the conference rolls around in late January I should have edited it into a decent draft. At least now I think I am beyond major reworking of the basic concepts although I still may have to restructure some stuff. But, if anybody wants to give me some more free constructive criticism I am still willing to accept it.

Next week is the last week of lectures. So we have to write up our final exam questions. This year I have to do two sets because international students of which I have two are scheduled to take their exams early. In fact they take them the same day as my last lecture 22 November 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Today we had a special training session in the library. We in fact had it in the new state of the art computer lab that the Koreans built for us. Finding the lab, however, was not easy. First, they only moved it to the lab from the research commons this morning. I was running a little bit late so I did not get this information. Instead I entered the library and followed my head of department to the research commons where we were informed we were in the wrong room. So then we had to go through a labyrinth of narrow corridors and stairways to find the proper room. It turns out that the previous information that we needed to bring our laptops with us was also incorrect, something that would have been nice to know had they informed us earlier. At any rate the training session focused mainly on how to use the electronic library catalog and databases. It just barely touched on how to use footnoting software like EndNote or Zotero. We have to go back to the library in February to get that training session. I am hoping I can find somebody here before then that tell me how to use this stuff.

Lebanese Lunch

Today I got two letters of recommendation for former students sent off to Europe. Although I didn't get the letters written, printed, and entered into PDF form until after lunch. I had lunch at the Lebanese place at the Marina Mall today with a couple of coworkers. I had the kafta plate. It was a bit pricey (21 cedis including a coke), but not bad. It included hummus, chips with ketchup, salad, and pita bread in addition to the kafta. I wouldn't eat there every month, but as a change of pace from Ghanaian food it was decent. It did fill me up which counts for something.

Update: The sujuk at the Lebanese cafe made one of my coworkers really ill for the last two days straight. I think I will avoid eating there in the future.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Forced Labour in a Socialist State: Ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the Labour Army 1941-1958."

I finally finished typing up all 104 footnotes for my conference paper coming up in January. The working title is "Forced Labour in a Socialist State: Ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the Labour Army 1941-1958." I massively reworked it and removed all of the direct references to Mozambique and instead concentrated on themes that I thought should also be looked at with regards to colonial Africa. The empirical or ethnographic part of the paper, however, concentrates on ethnic Germans in the USSR conscripted into the labour army while in Kazakhstan and to a lesser extent Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The majority of them were then deployed to work in labour camps in the Urals. If anybody wants to offer constructive criticism of the paper let me know and I will send you a copy of the current draft. It is a lot better than the first draft, but there is always room for improvement.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

How should slavery be remembered in Ghana?

I just finished reading through a paper by a Ghanaian historian on how slavery is remembered in Ghana. Or more accurately on how the participation of indigenous inhabitants of what now is Ghana in the various international slave trades as well as domestic slavery is ignored in Ghana. It is not denied. Nobody in Ghana claims that there was not significant participation by indigenous Africans in capturing and selling slaves. But, there is still not a public or even strong academic discourse that really focuses on the role played by indigenous Ghanaians in these institutions. Rather the slave forts are viewed primarily as a way in which to generate revenue from the Black diaspora in the US and as such part of a narrative in which only the roles of European perpetrators and African victims are emphasized. Dealing seriously with the legacy of slavery and the various slave trades and the role of indigenous slavers in what is now Ghana is not something that has engaged modern Ghanaian society. It is not considered to be an issue of significance to Ghanaians today to confront this past. This is also reflected on a Pan-African level with the conspicuous absence of Ghana's slave forts on the African Union Human Rights Memorial website. Indeed Ghana is not one of the countries listed by the African Union as having a national human rights memorial participating in its project for "Remembering Victims of Mass Atrocities in Africa." Hence the slave fort at Cape Coast is not listed at the African Union site even though the Maison des Esclaves on Goree in Senegal is listed. Nor does the African Union site list any Ghanaian partners. The paper I just reviewed argues that this needs to change and that Ghanaians especially Ghanaian historians need to be able to come to terms with a full telling of the past which recognizes the fact that people indigenous to the territory were also perpetrators as well as victims of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. While, Ghanaians may indeed be able to publicly acknowledge such a correction in the national narrative on slavery, I am guessing that such a radical rethinking of how slavery is memorialized would be strongly rejected by most US scholars and activists dealing with the issue. Giving the issue of African participation in the slave trade a prominent role in the historical narrative rather than just glossing over it is not something I see the people who currently dominate US academia ever doing.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Good News from Africa

This week I got some stuff done besides normal academic stuff. I got to the doctor and she took me off all of my blood pressure medicines. I no longer have to take any tablets daily. I go back in a month, but I am hoping that I can stay off the pills for the foreseeable future.

I also finally got my passport back with my residency permit. It only took three months this time. The GIS needs to start returning foreign passports in a reasonable period of time. Three months is not reasonable especially when they told me it would be three weeks. The loss of revenue due to potential foreign investors not wanting to give up their passports three months out of the year every year has got to run into the billions of dollars. If Nkrumah were alive I am quite sure things would be better on this front.

Footnotes they are my bane.

I hate footnotes. They take me much longer to type up than the actual paper by a factor of two to three times. Currently, I am finishing up the footnotes for a 14 page single spaced paper. I have done over 80 so far and it looks like the total will be well over 100. People tell me there are easier ways than typing them out individually. But, so far nobody has told me what or how those ways work. When I am writing I find it easiest to put the citation in parenthesis if I can quickly look it up or some cases just put citation needed after the sentence. This means I have a fair amount of work to do after writing the actual article. I am told there are ways I can key all the sources on my hard drive to be footnoted with a few clicks, but again this magic currently eludes me. So I am stuck going through each citation and typing it in the footnotes individually.  I may finish this week. Fortunately, the paper is not due for a few months. But, still the fact that the footnotes take so much work than the actual paper annoys me to no end.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Proposal for a Book on Comparative State Terror during the Cold War

I am currently reading Frederick H. Gareau, State Terrorism and the United States: From Counterinsurgency to the War on Terrorism (London: Zed, 2004). The book argues that a number of states engaged in state terrorism, the US supported this terror, and that the claims that such extreme violence was necessary to fight against guerrillas or terrorists were largely unjustified. He has specific chapters dealing with El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and Indonesia. In so far as proving his three rather simple and at this point not particularly controversial points he does a good job. But, it is apparent that his selection is only telling part of a much larger and more interesting story. His most interesting point is that the reasons used to justify terror in Latin America were largely provided by the military regimes to get support from the US and that the real reasons were more complex and derived from domestic concerns. Unfortunately, he does not really investigate this point. But rather leaves the point without examining its basis. That the threats pointed to by these regimes to justify their use of terror were largely imaginary and that everybody involved was aware of this fact is not nearly so interesting as knowing what were the real reasons for the use of state terror. Alas these are largely glossed over. So there is an image of the military dictatorships in Central and South America engaging in shadow boxing against a largely imaginary threat of communist terrorist insurgencies backed by the Soviet bloc. While in reality the real war is being conducted against the civilian populations of these countries. He doesn't analyze what is the real motive for this massive violation of human rights, however, and instead the book reads like a combination of Amnesty International reports and a harsh critique of US foreign policy for supporting the regimes guilty of these crimes. Indeed the metaphor of shadow boxing is one I came up with and does not appear in the book.

It has occurred to me, however, that the shadow boxing went on in a lot more places than the five examples given in Gareau's book and not all of them were regimes supported by the US. The Soviet bloc conducted its own reigns of terror against civilian populations that it too justified by references to largely imaginary threats. The real reason for the violence again like in the case of Latin America stemming from the domestic goals of these governments. Among such Soviet mirror images in the 1970s and 1980s were Vietnam after unification, Afghanistan following the 1978 coup, and Ethiopia after the 1974 revolution. Inclusion of these examples of state terror by Soviet backed regimes would have greatly improved Gareau's book. Instead of just US supported dictatorships using the threat of Soviet communism to justify state terror employed largely for other reasons there were also Soviet supported regimes engaged in mass violence under the pretext of fighting against US backed counterrevolution. So in point of fact there are two blocs of states engaged in shadow boxing each other while in reality waging war against their own civilian populations for predominantly domestic reasons. This is a much more interesting and intriguing set up than Gareau's frankly one sided and limited approach.

I don't have the ability to write such a book on my own. But, I could definitely compile and edit one written by a variety of  experts. For the Soviet backed regimes I would definitely want to include Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. I am more flexible regarding which US backed governments to include. But, I definitely would want a geographic balance that included a representative sample from Africa and Asia and did not overwhelmingly focus on Latin America. If there is anybody who specializes in state terror in any of the states that might be included in such a collection who would be interested in contributing a chapter, contact me. Maybe I can make this project a reality.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

70 Years since the Deportation of the Karachais

On 2 November 1943, the Stalin regime deported almost the entire Karachai population from their Caucasian homeland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Subsequently the Soviet government also relocated to Central Asia Karachais outside their natal territory such as those fighting in the Red Army against the Nazis. The Karachais like other deported peoples in the USSR came under the restrictions of the special settlement regime. On 26 November 1948, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet decreed these restrictions to be permanent. In southern Kazakhstan the NKVD employed many of the deported Karachais in the cultivation of cotton at Pakhta Aral. About 40,000 initially ended up in Kazakhstan and 23,000 in Kyrgyzstan. A large number of Karachais died prematurely due to the poor material conditions they endured during their initial years of exile in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet government finally released the Karachais from the special settlement restrictions in July 1956, but they were only allowed to start returning to their mountainous home in the Caucasus after 1957.


In an alternate and much better universe Marxism-Lennonism rather than Marxism-Leninism would have become a prominent ruling ideology in the 20th century. I know this is an old joke, but my brain is too tired to put up anything too serious right now. At any rate the stamp to the right from the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia in Georgia is pretty cool. I don't think it is enough to persuade the US, UK, or any other governments to grant them diplomatic recognition, but I can't be the only person to find it to be highly amusing. I don't even care if it is not genuine. It is still awesome even if it is a fake. I actually don't know or care. I found it a few months ago on FB and just like the image.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Great Music Blog

I came across another great music blog the other day. Cosmic Hearse has a lot of great obscure music on it including music from Africa, most notably a lot of Zamrock. It is a good place to look for tunes you won't find elsewhere. The amount of great music you and I never heard before on the internet is just incredible.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why can't all applications be this easy?

Today I filled out an application for a small research grant. What amazed me was how much simpler this particular application was than every single other such application in all of world history. It consisted merely of one simple fill in the blank form of one page, a 500 word proposal, and a single letter of recommendation. The form was easy to download and fill out and required no scanning. The web site did not cause me any problems. The total amount of pages I needed to personally submit was only two, and the organization requested that it be sent by e-mail attachment rather than by a very complex and almost impossible to use web site as every other application seems to now require. I am not sure why this form was so simple. Don't they know that the way to deter large numbers of applicants is to make the process extremely difficult and painful and to require the submission of dozens of pages that have to be copy and pasted or scanned into web sites that don't allow you to advance beyond one or two pages of a required dozen pages of entry blanks? Most applications take days or weeks to fill out. This one took me only about an hour.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Die Vertreibung der Deutschen

This is a pretty good video on the expulsion of  millions of ethnic Germans from what was eastern Germany and the East Central European and Balkan states of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania. I like that the narrative is written rather than spoken so it is easier for me to follow. The video gives the figure of 14 million ethnic Germans as being either expelled or fleeing westward. Other sources give lower figures. But, the total number of refugees and expulsion victims appears to have been at least 12 million. The only notable error I found was the estimates on the number of expelled Germans to die prematurely as a result of their forcible eviction from their homelands. This video gives the number at 2.1 million which appears based upon the early reports by the BRD government in the 1950s. More recent academic studies dealing with the losses have estimated the number of deaths directly caused by the expulsions to be around 500,000. Although as I noted earlier regarding the Russian-Germans the debate about numbers does almost nothing to change the fact that the expulsions were a massive crime against humanity and completely unjustified.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

African Development Past and Future

During the first couple of decades of independence from European rule the strategies for developing the economy followed two main paths. One path was heavily aid dependent and tended to follow from US and European images of Africa as described as the image to the left. As such it was always viewed more as charity or poor relief than actual assistance for indigenous development. Needless to say this strategy turned out to be largely unsuccessful. Another path sought to use the new institutions of the African state to develop the economy. This second path reached its logical conclusion in the 1970s and 1980s when Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique openly pursued development models copied from the USSR and Cuba. This path to development was disastrous especially in Ethiopia where like in the USSR during 1932-33 there was a massive famine resulting directly from the state's agricultural policies. While socialist health care and education have often been quite successful, socialist agriculture has largely been a colossal failure that has resulted in the premature deaths of tens of millions of people in the USSR, China, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Ethiopia. This foreign model did not work any better in Africa than it did in Ukraine. The key to real development and prosperity in Africa is going to be Africans, not outsiders, creating the conditions that will allow the image of Africa on the right to flourish. This means better governance, less corruption, rule by law, protection of property, support for education, and other policies that will allow for indigenous economic growth. This isn't an easy task, but we already know a lot of what does not work so we are closer to finding out what does work.

Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Phil Monsour feat.Rafeef Ziadah - Ghosts Of Deir Yassin

This is the most inspirational music video I think I have ever seen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Article Accepted for Publication

I just got an e-mail from a journal editor in the US informing me that an article of mine has been accepted for publication. The journal in question is the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion and my article is "Colonialism in one Country: The Deported Peoples of the USSR as an Example of Internal Colonialism." This is an article whose intellectual origins stretches back a few years, but spent a lot of time sitting in my hard drive doing nothing. I happen to be big fan of reviving ideas like internal colonialism that have essentially disappeared for decades from the scholarly discourse. As far as I can tell they disappear not because they are no longer useful, but because scholars lose interest in pursuing them in favor of doing other things. I think there are a lot interesting ideas from the 1960s and 1970s that could be picked up and revived as interpretive frameworks for history. But, everybody else seems to want to be on the cutting edge of new ideas regardless of whether they are useful or not. I am not sure when the article will actually see publication.  From the looks of their website it looks like it will be published sometime in 2014. These things always take time. But, This is a good piece of news for me in an otherwise rather frustrating day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013