Conversations with Gamechangers: Grassroots Liberation


(part of the Conversations with Gamechangers webinar series.)

1. Organised by SEA (Solidarity Economy Association)

  • small coop based in UK
  • multiple small projects for solidarity economy from below
  • SE
    • being done all over the world (although maybe not called SE)
  • SEA: sharing tools tips and solidarity from around the world

2. Grassroots Liberation

2.1. Speakers

  • Waringa Wahome
    • social justice and human rights lawyer
  • Brayan Mathenge - writer on politics
  • Gacheke Gachihi
  • Kinuthia Ndung'u
  • all members of differnt social justice centres, involved in grassroots liberation, part of young communist league kenya
  • music played at the beginning, tribute to the leader of the Mozambique people (Eduardo Mondlane?)

2.2. Mathare Social Justice Centre

  • economic crisis in east africa
  • mathare social justice centre started in 2015
    • collective political power and economy from below
    • documenting human rights violations
    • fight for the right to organise
    • in the face of extrajudicial killing and torture
  • inspired by democratic confederalism of Rojava
  • the centres have around 30 membres
  • campaigns: rights to water, extrajudicial killing, ecological justice

2.3. Genesis

  • how are the conditions historically changing
    • colonialism to neoliberalism
    • spread of hopelessness in Kenya's informal settlements
    • broken healthcare, education systems
    • high levels of unemployment
    • police brutality, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings
  • activities engaged in by the SJCs:
    • monitoring these things, stepping up to be a vanguard of the community
    • organised both legally and when legal means fail taken to mass actions in the streets
    • organising ecological justice hubs, parks in local neighbourhoods
    • building a popular power within local neighbourhoods
  • Ecological Justice hubs
    • people's park
    • clean up garbage and plant trees
      • not just for the park
      • but in memory of those affected by state violence, police brutality and killings
    • Kenya has a history of police state and violence
    • former british colony that has remained violent
    • sustainable economy
    • in urban areas Ecological Justice is pressing
      • growth
      • people trying to make profits from housing
      • open sewers, causing myriad of chronic conditions
      • in shanties (informal settlements) lots of people suffering from cancer and similar
      • also a lot of land grabbing, minimal green spaces
        • air is polluted
        • can't drink the water that is in the rivers
      • social justice centres
        • organised in different ways in different areas
        • own means of sustenance
        • home where people can communicate
      • two struggles
        • first, building a civic space for community organising
        • second, building a sustainable basis for these
        • these spaces are sites of struggle

2.4. Informal settlements

  • Kenya's informal settlements - what is the life like there?
    • history, problems, typical lifes
    • poverty is violence, poverty is crime, drugs
    • 70% of people live in settlements
    • no water, housing
    • crises of capitalism
    • police stop people from organising against poverty and hopelessness
      • SJC are to give a space to start organising
  • protest marches every year

2.5. Political education

  • international solidarity is critical to send message to gov to stop cleansing and criminalisation of the youth
  • hard to do community organising where there is poverty and hopelessness
  • political education is important
  • ecological justice campaign has helped challenging for a democratic space to organise
  • political education
    • important to understand our history
    • to know where we are going
    • looking at history, all struggles are political questions
    • politicisation of human rights
    • in kenya, HR has been suspended
    • borrow from history, such as Che Guevara
      • first duty of revolutionary is to be educated
    • very important in understanding neoliberalism
    • students of walter rodney: revolutionary must understand the system
    • different ideological factions with doing opinions
      • standardised political programme
    • hopelessness in informal settlements (because of poverty)
    • wretched of the earth are detached
    • PE reawakes the wretched of the earth
    • to expose systemic forms of oppression
      • taking up sites of struggle
    • e.g. to help connecting water shortages to political organisation
    • create a syllabus of political thinkers and political writers
      • network of political thinkers
      • to organise around the same issues, and conduct education
  • jeff miley
    • lives in england, political sociology
      • kurdish freedom movement in 2014
      • very involved in that since then, 2018 involved in dialogue with people in mathare social justice centre
      • affinity between kurdish movement and movement in nairobi
      • beyond NGOs and the nation state
    • grassroots liberation was born out of internationalist spirit
    • trying to do things at grassroots
    • organised a series of seminars done in the communities themselves
      • rasta resistance
      • women's lib in the 21st century (from kurdish freedom movement)
      • social ecology as a revolutionary paradigm
      • legacy of walter rodney - he saw need for grassroots education
        • not political speeches, but go to grassroots and engage
    • arusha declaration for the 21st century

2.6. Intergenerational movement?

  • focus on youth, intergenerational? how is it structured?
    • bring together different movements
  • emancipation from NGOism
  • majority of african population is young people in general
  • borrowed heavily from democratic confedarlism
    • three line
      • ecological justice (youth, young people)
      • women's rights
      • democratic confederalism
  • rasta population has a lot of similarities with the kurdish people

2.7. What was the existing way of organising?

  • organising cooperatives around food and rural organising
  • organising around water
  • people were doing self-help but began organising around struggle
  • borrowing from south africa that organises around the housing question
  • existing resilience of the people
  • preexisting conditions
    • used to have individuals taking charge in the community
    • any time the community involved itself it was as a spontaneous reaction
      • that was not sustained organising
      • political education to help sustain the organising
    • individuals who defended the community might disappear
      • but if it's as a whole community, then it's harder to take down
  • the main road that runs through mathare
    • mau mau road
    • preexisting tradition of land and freedom movement
    • political consciousness in the ghettos
      • political history that was betrayed by post colonial activities
      • referenced Dedan Kimathi

2.8. NGOism

  • recent form of colonialism is NGOism
    • international development, NGOism
    • how have they challenged NGOism?
    • last 30 years in neoliberal economy
      • politiclisation of social movements by NGOs
      • has affected many people
      • similar to as in latin america
    • organic intellectual networks is putting together a book on ngo discourse, role of ngos in east africa
      • community organisation has to challenge NGOism every day
    • NGOs don't ask fundamental question of why people are poor!
      • never look at political economy
  • NGO activities limit their struggle
  • neoliberalism is not necessariliy a tactic that people understand, this is part of the education work
  • NGOs fragment different political struggles in communities
  • the communities become depolitised
    • political education helps fight back against this
  • fundmental question within GLs circles
  • NGOism is very deeply rooted
  • NGOs were born from the belly of neoliberalism and free market economy
    • very tied to neoliberal system
    • move from dependency to dignity
    • a self-determined structure
    • some progressive NGOs have had a positive influence or positive contribution (but they are still a result of neoliberal economy)
    • jeff: from an internationalist perspective
      • even going in with the grassroots, it's hard to avoid a neocolonialist perspective
      • distinguish between NGOisation and leveraging our privilege
      • check our privelege and leverage our privilege
      • e.g. speak out about police violence, can be very dangerous for those threatened by it, leverage privilege to speak out about it
      • distinguish internationalism from neocolonialism

2.9. Economic aspect

2.10. Differences between rural struggles and urban struggles

  • [missed a bit]
  • as capitalism reinvents itself, the rural workers are experiencing similar struggles urban struggles as well, so there are overlaps

2.11. international solidarity

  • sharing of their documents
  • online fundraising that can be shared with us by jeff
  • sharing about the crisis of capitalism
  • creating awareness across the globe
  • connect struggles - collective international campaigns

2.12. power relations between those with abilities and those with needs

  • philosophical question
  • it is inherent in the nature of capitalism that ther eis an imbalance
  • there has long been a class difference
  • those who are privilege must leverage that
  • jeff:
    • fanon says that political education is different from coming in with speeches. help to be the midwife in the birth of critical thinking.
    • paulo freire - pedagogy of the oppressed
    • these webinars are one way of attempting to organise political education different

2.13. what is the situation for women?

  • primary question is class struggle
  • particular issues that address the women question
  • patriarchy is prominent in capitalism
    • something to organise around
    • advocacy from women in SJC
    • women in SJCs are organising wmen in informal settings to politicise them
  • NGOs and red carpet feminism
  • glass ceiling and rock ceilings

Do you have any interactions with local government? Are they supportive or antagonistic?

(my computer is also struggling with zoom so I can't ask this personally, sorry!)

2.14. social justice centres

  • even if people don't necessarily belief in the political theory
  • people can engage with questions of housing, poverty, police violence, etc
  • once reasoning about immediate needs
  • history of kenya: dictatorship, crisis of economy
  • social justice was a proposition from below
  • why do we have an economy that is inherently violent?
  • 21 SJCs in Nairobi
    • meet every 2 weeks (or twice a week?)
    • building a mass urban movement
    • organise forces against state violence
    • SJCs are found in informal settlements, where it is the less privileged and majority of poor people

2.15. closing remarks

  • learn from each other and inspire international solidarity as the crisis of capitalism continues

3. Elsewhere

3.1. In my garden

Notes that link to this note (AKA backlinks).

3.3. Mentions

This page last updated: 2022-11-13 Sun 18:04. Map. Recent changes. Source. Peer Production License.