Saturday, August 31, 2013

Heinz Rudolf Kunze - Ich bin auch ein Vertriebener

This is the only rock song I know of to deal with the brutal expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Central Europe at the end of WWII. For those of my readers that understand German take a good listen to the lyrics of this song.

Labor Situation Update at the University of Ghana

Yesterday, the VC  refused to put anything in writing regarding the oral agreement to pay the remaining $800 of our book and research allowance from last year. Instead he is threatening to shut down the university on Monday in contrast to the assurances he gave to the Ghanaian press earlier in the week that he would not nullify the academic year. If the university is shut down on Monday it appears that our salaries might very well also be suspended for a year. The university would also by my calculation owe US study abroad programs about $6 million dollars in refunds due immediately. Money that is very unlikely to ever be generated again as I suspect many US programs will permanently cancel their existing agreements with the University of Ghana if the VC shuts down the university. The 1000 or so US exchange students would lose a year of university credit and for many of them that would also mean they would lose their financial aid. Shutting down the university would cause incredible damage to the reputation of the University of Ghana and by extension the Republic of Ghana. It will take many decades to overcome this damage if the VC goes ahead and nullifies the academic year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another UTAG Meeting

Today we had another emergency UTAG meeting. It turns out that the government and university have taken steps to pay $700 out of the $1500 owed each of us for our research and book allowance from last year. But, the promise to pay the remaining $800 given to the union only exists in an oral form at present. So the union's position is that we will remain on strike until such time as there is a written promise and time table by the VC to pay the remaining $800 to faculty and a similar written agreement by the government to reimburse the university. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that the government will refuse to put anything in writing which will mean there will be no evidence of its promise to pay this money. In that case the union will probably remain on strike. If the strike continues on past Monday then the VC will have the option of shutting down the campus and nullifying the semester. I am not sure if the impasse will be resolved by then or not. But, right now it doesn't look like I will be teaching Friday morning. I will be checking throughout tomorrow to make sure.


At least the most recent country targeted for bombing by Obama is not in Africa. It is still a colossally bad idea, however. In addition to doing nothing to bring back the innocent victims of Assad's regime it is going to add a considerable number more in the form of collateral damage. Really, US "progressives" need to stop thinking that emulating the policies of France and Israel of randomly bombing countries is somehow an acceptable substitute for an actual foreign policy. Between these three "progressive" governments they have managed to bomb Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Mali, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since I arrived in Africa less than three years ago. Notably all of these countries are either African or Asian. Although it is not as if there are no European regions like the Caucasus with Islamic extremists, terrorism, ethnic separatists, civil war, and mass human rights violations. Russia just happens to be politically powerful enough to prevent any US military intervention in the region while Africa, the Levant, and South West Asia are not.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

28 August 1941

The twenty eighth of August marks the official day of commemoration of the deportation of the Russian-Germans. On 28 August 1941, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet ordered the deportation of the Germans living in the Volga German ASSR, Stalingrad Oblast, and Saratov Oblast. This decree received the numerical designation Ukaz 21-160. Clicking on the link will bring you to an English language translation of the decree. The decree was published two days later on 30 August 1941 in both the German and Russian language newspapers of the Volga German ASSR. In the top right corner you can see a photocopy of the German translation published in Nachrichten and right below it you can see a photocopy of the original Russian as it appeared in Bolshevik. Ukaz 21-160 was the only deportation order dealing with the Russian-Germans that was published at the time it was issued. The few previous and many subsequent deportation orders ethnically cleansing the Soviet Union west of the Urals of almost all of its citizens of German ancestry did not see the light of day until decades later.

"Third World", "Tri-Continental Bloc", or just Asia, Africa, and Latin America?

I was talking to a Visiting Scholar in our department from the US yesterday who is an expert on Latin America about this. But, the term "Third World" really seems to be problematic since the disintegration of the second world. Absent a political unity in refusing to align with either the US or the USSR during the Cold War or a revolutionary commitment to anti-imperialism there is almost nothing that ties the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America together anymore. Indeed the term Third World was popularized as a specifically political stance of decolonizing countries in Asia and Africa at the Bandung Conference in 1955 to assert their independence from the US, Europe, and USSR. This idea received concrete organization in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement. The idea of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America forming a distinctly revolutionary bloc opposed to colonialism, neo-colonialism, and racism reached its peak at the Tri-Continental Conference in Havana in 1966. Prior to the Havana conference Latin America had not been fully integrated into the organizations agitating for such a bloc, most notably the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). While including Asian members, the Cairo based organization held all of its conferences prior to the Tri-Continental Conference in Africa. The first one was in Cairo in 1957 followed by Conarky in Guinea in 1960, Moshi in Tanzania in 1963, and Winneba in Ghana in 1965. AAPSO much more so than the early Non-Aligned Movement stressed revolutionary opposition to the First World rather than a position independent of  both the US and USSR. Indeed delegates from the USSR participated in the activities of AAPSO from the beginning in 1957. The idea of Africa, Asia, and Latin America forming either a third non-aligned bloc or a revolutionary anti-imperialist bloc today, however, seems far fetched. The collapse of the USSR made this first option impossible and the second one highly improbable.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Love your mama not MAMA

Robert Young has a great acronym in his book White Mythologies. It is MAMA (Male Anglo-Saxon Marxist Academia) which is an English translation of 'le marxisme analytique anglo-saxon' (Young, p. 3). It should of course not be confused with mama as in mother including Mother Africa, especially since MAMA almost completely ignore the contributions made by Africans to world history (Young, pp. 4-7).  You should love your mama, see the image to the right, but MAMA is a pathology that unfortunately dominates the US and a number of other countries. The extreme Eurocentrism of white English speaking Marxists even in places where they should know better such as South Africa is pretty glaring (Young, p. 8). Young is not the only scholar to note the unjustified exclusion of Africa and other parts of the world outside Europe and North America in the dominant academic discourse, a discourse largely controlled by MAMA. Reiland Rabaka has also commented on this phenomenon although unfortunately he does not use the acronym MAMA like Young does (Rabaka, pp. x-xi). As he points out the "conventional" critical theorists are predominantly "white, unmistakably Marxist and male" (Rabaka, p. xi). They are thus the MAMA that Young points out "defend the ideas of Marxist historicism without generally acknowledging the Eurocentrism of that narrative..." (Young, p. 3). He goes on to note that "a particular problem in Marxism hitherto almost invisible in Europe and North America, namely its implacable whiteness, its Eurocentrism, an orientation most clearly evident in the accounts of history offered in its name..." (Young, p. 4). One of course also sees this orientation replicated on the Internet with almost all Left wing academic blogs. The major ones all focus almost exclusively on issues relating to Europe and North America to the almost complete exclusion of Africa.


Reiland Rabaka, Africana Critical Theory: Reconstructing the Black Radical Tradition, From W.E.B. Dubois and C.L.R. James to Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral, (Lanham, MD; Lexington Books, 2009).

Robert J.C. Young, White Mythologies: Writing History and the West, second edition, (London: Routledge, 2004).

Strike Update

Apparently there is a meeting between the UTAG leadership and VC today to discuss the strike. It appears that the union may suspend the strike for a day in order to prevent 21 consecutive days of industrial action from accumulating. That would deprive the VC of the option of shutting down the university. We are supposed to know what the status of the strike is by Thursday. If it is suspended that would mean I would go and teach this Friday. But, it would also mean that the following week that the strike would resume. If this happens I am going to try and cram as much information into my two hour lecture on main campus as humanely possible. It might be possible to cover all ten weeks of lectures in one day if I really put my mind to it. However, currently I don't have any reliable information on what exactly is going to happen this week and next week regarding the ongoing strike. UTAG's stated position is that it will continue to withhold teaching of lectures until such time as all the money currently owed to its constituent members is actually paid into their bank accounts. The arrears from last year have now been paid. But, the book and research allowance is still outstanding. I have heard rumors that the government wants to eliminate the automatic payment of the allowance and make people apply for all research grants so that they can give the money to their political allies and friends. Such a position of course is completely unacceptable to the union and if the government actually goes through with it could keep us on strike indefinitely.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Decree No. 2056-93ss

The official commemoration of the deportation of the Volga Germans takes place every year on August 28th. That is the day in 1941 that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz no. 21-160. This decree which was published on 30 August 1941  falsely and unconstitutionally accused the ethnic Germans of the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast of mass treason. This decree, however, was crafted to provide a justification for the decision made two days earlier by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of People's Commissars. This earlier decree (No. 2056-93ss) which is the actual decision states no reasons for the mass deportation of the Volga Germans. Instead it merely orders that they all be resettled to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The first page of the decree is reproduced in the original Russian language in the image in the right hand corner. An English translation is available here. This decree formed the administrative basis for the massive ethnic cleansing of the Volga Germans from 3 to 20 September 1941. Ukaz no. 21-160 issued two days later by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was a post-facto attempt by the Soviet government to legalize a blatantly unconstitutional decision. But, the 28 August 1941 decree was published at the time whereas the 26 August 1941 one remained secret for many decades. So the official day of commemoration for this crime against humanity is on the 28th rather than the 26th. Personally I think both days should be observed as well as the 27th which is the day Beria issued NKVD Prikaz 001158 instructing the NKVD on the proper measures to undertake this mass uprooting of humanity. Over the next couple of days I will have more posts relating to the 72nd anniversary of the deportation of the Volga and groups of Russian-Germans.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pan-Africanism and the Arabs of Africa

Recently I have been listening to a lot of Algerian rai music. I think Algeria has my favorite music of any African country although I like Malian music a lot as well. This brings me to the point that the Arabs and Berbers despite being White are African peoples and African is a continental, not a racial identity. More Arabs live in Africa than live in Asia and Arabic is the most widely spoken language on the African continent. One of the great Pan-African leaders of the 1950s and 1960s was Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The Pan-Africanist Casablanca group formed in 1961 originally included Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Algeria (Algeria won its independence only in 1962) as well as Ghana, Guinea, and Mali. Thus out of its seven members four were predominantly Arab. Pan-Africanists like Frantz Fanon have always stressed that there is a single African continent and that both Black Africans in the south and White Africans in the north belong to it. Indeed Algeria along with Congo was one of the two great issues that occupied the Casablanca group and its constituent members. The Casablanca group went so far as to give membership to the provisional government formed by the Algerian independence movement. Both Black African and Arab African states have shown solidarity in their opposition to European colonialism, South African apartheid, and the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have written quite a bit recently here on Western Sahara which is an Arab inhabited territory whose liberation has been championed mainly by African states. In fact the provisional revolutionary government of the territory, the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) is a full member of the African Union. A future united Africa can not exclude its northernmost states. The Arabs and Berbers are an integral part of the African continent and the fate of countries like Egypt and Tunisia is just as important to real Pan-Africanists as Togo or Gabon.

Thank You UTAG

This morning I noticed that I had been paid about 3,000 cedis ($1,500). My understanding and it is hard to follow the exactly how the payment system here works is that this is the money that was in arrears from the 2012 market premium. That means that the book and research allowance which is supposed to be doubled from 1,800 cedis ($900) to 3,600 cedis ($1,800) is still outstanding. I got the impression from last Monday's emergency union meeting that the strike would continue until all the money owed to us was paid into our bank accounts. So I think the strike is still on. But, I will try to confirm this on Monday. I will definitely find out before Friday when I am scheduled to teach whether I am to go to class and lecture or not. At any rate I am pretty happy that at least this payment has landed in my bank account this fast. I did not expect to see this money until some time next week. I hope I get the rest of what is owed me soon. But, it is always a good start to a Saturday to find out you have a lot more money than you thought you had in your bank account.

Update: I have confirmed today with my coworkers that the 3,000 Ghana I received is the arrears I was owed, but that the book and research allowance still has not been paid. The UTAG strike will continue until we receive that payment as well. So I am still on strike until I hear otherwise.

Friday, August 23, 2013

74 Years Since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Today is the 74th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This "nonaggression" pact was actually an alliance between the USSR and Nazi Germany from 1939-1941. Its secret protocols divided the countries in between these two states into spheres of influence. In the Soviet sphere of influence fell Finland, eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Bessarabia. The Nazi sphere of influence consisted of most of western and central Poland. The alliance between the USSR and Nazi Germany led to the invasion and annexation of eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Bessarabia by the USSR. The Stalin regime instituted a brutal reign of terror in these countries. On 14 June 1941, the Soviet NKVD deported over 40,000 men, women, and children from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Siberia and northern Russia. Here is an account from an Estonian who survived the harrowing exile to Siberia. She was one of the lucky ones. Many of the deportees from the Baltic states, Bessarabia, and the areas annexed from Poland did not survive. In fact about half of them died in  a little over four years from the poor material conditions imposed upon them by the Stalin regime. The Soviet government also illegally and forcibly conscripted some 40,000 Estonian men into the Red Army of which it transferred 17,000, almost half, to forced labor detachments in Arkhangelsk Oblast. The alliance between Nazi Germany and the USSR signed 74 years ago made this brutality and many other crimes by the Soviet and Nazi regimes against the people of the Baltic states, Poland, and Bessarabia possible. As a result this day is observed as Black Ribbon Day to commemorate the victims that resulted from this pact of evil.

Today's Emergency Union Meeting (UTAG)

Today I went to a UTAG (University Teachers Association of Ghana) emergency meeting. It appears that we are on strike until such time as the government pays all of our arrears and our book and research allowance. So I won't be teaching class tomorrow morning. The union is not always very good at informing its members of when it goes on strike and when strikes end. But, now they are going to start collecting the names of faculty who continue to teach. So the union is actually serious about enforcing the strike this time. Officially the strike has been going on since the start of the semester. That means that in the first week of September that the Vice Chancellor can shut down the campus for the academic year. Currently faculty and senior staff are on strike and junior staff are set to strike in a couple of weeks if their demands are not met. I don't think that the Vice Chancellor will shut down the university. On the other hand until all of our money is actually in our bank accounts we are not going to be teaching. Already the foreign students, particularly those from the US on expensive one semester programs, have started complaining about not receiving the lectures they paid thousands of dollars for. If the strike continues or the university is shut down there is no solution for what to do with the foreign students. The university does not have the money to refund their payments or to pay faculty extra to just teach them as it did during the strike last semester. The best outcome would be for the government to pay us in full as soon as possible so we can go back to work. Otherwise it may be a real easy semester as far as teaching is concerned.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Possible Research Project Update

It turns out there has been a fair amount amount of research already on communism in the Gold Coast and other British West African colonies during the 1920s and 1930s, much of it based on archives housed at PRAAD (Public Records and Archives Department) in Accra. I have found a number of journal articles dealing with the subject through JSTOR. So this is indeed a possible research project I could pursue here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Africa not Moscow, Havana, or Beijing

Western Sahara is the last unresolved colonial conflict in Africa. In 1975 when Spain withdrew from the territory it became occupied by Morocco in opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of the indigenous population (Zunes, p. 35). The Moroccans took over the colonial role of Spain in Western Sahara much as Indonesia did for Portugal in East Timor around the same time. Despite their small numbers the Sahrawis were able to launch and sustain an impressive military and diplomatic resistance to Moroccan rule during the 1970s and 1980s. The Moroccan occupation forces have been quite brutal in their suppression of opposition to their rule.

Both the military and diplomatic resistance of the Sahrawis to Moroccan rule has been quite different politically from most national liberation movements in Africa and the greater Arab world. The political-military movement to liberate Western Sahara from Morocco is known as the Polisario (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro). The government established by the Polisario in the liberated areas of Western Sahara is the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) (Zunes, p. 34). The Polisario has very little ideology apart from a desire to liberate the land of the Sahrawi people, a commitment to participatory democracy, and a "Third World" orientation particularly towards Africa and to a lesser extent towards other Arab states (Zunes, pp. 37-42). Unlike almost all other national liberation movements of the 1970s and 1980s in Africa such as the MPLA, FRELIMO, ZAPU, ANC, and SWAPO they did not closely ally themselves with the socialist bloc. In fact the Polisario never directly received any arms from the USSR, the Warsaw Pact states, Cuba, or even China (Zunes, pp. 43-44). The only European states to recognize the SADR were Yugoslavia in 1984 and Albania in 1987. (Pazzanita, p. 272).  The Soviet bloc in contrast maintained good relations with Morocco, the Soviet Union being in the 1980s Morocco's largest trade partner and Romania providing weapons to Rabat (Zunes, p. 43). Other suppliers of arms to Morocco have included the US, UK, France, Israel, apartheid South Africa, and Saudi Arabia (Bhatia, p. 292). The pro-Soviet Moroccan Communist Party was always a strong supporter of Morocco's conquest of the Western Sahara (Zunes, p. 44). Instead the Polisario and SADR found their strongest support among African states. The SADR gained membership in the OAU  (Organization of African Unity) in 1984 and had achieved diplomatic recognition from 74 states by 1990 (Pazzanita, pp. 271-272). These states included 27 in Africa and 14 in Latin America (Zunes, p. 42). Arms and logistical military support for the Polisario came mostly from Algeria with some support in the 1980s from Libya (Bhatia, p. 292). Thus the Polisario and SADR had a clear orientation towards non-aligned African and Arab states rather than the USSR and its allies in East Central Europe and Cuba.

The lack of attention paid to the plight of the Sahrawis and their national liberation front in North America and Europe is in part due to their lack of a Marxist-Leninist ideology and alliance with the USSR. Their African rather than Soviet orientation did not connect them with the global left in the industrialized North and instead left them isolated from the type of support groups like the ANC could mobilize on their behalf. At the same time their lack of connections with the USSR did nothing practical to help them in the eyes of the US which strongly backed Morocco in Western Sahara despite the fact that Moscow showed absolutely no interest in supporting the struggle of the Polisario. Nonetheless, the Pan-Africanism of the Polisario did garner them the support of most of the membership of the OAU showing that African states could act independently of the superpowers.

Non-Internet Sources Cited:

Michael Bhatia, "The Western Sahara under Polisario Control," Review of African Political Economy, vol. 28, no. 88, (June 2001), pp. 291-298.

Anthony G. Pazzanita, "Morocco vs. Polisario: A Political Interpretation," The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, (June 1994), pp. 265-278.

Stephen Zunes, "Nationalism and Non-Alignment: The Non-Ideology of the Polisario," Africa Today, vol. 34, no. 3 (1987), pp. 33-46.

The Deportation of the Volga Germans

On 26 August 1941 the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Council of People's Commissariats of the Soviet Union issued Decree No. 2056-933ss ordering the deportation of all Germans from the Volga German ASSR and the neighboring Saratov and Stalingrad oblasts. This order came suddenly without warning and blatantly violated the Soviet and Russian constitutions. This first decree gave no reasons for the mass deportations and remained secret until after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The next day, 27 August 1941, Beria issued NKVD Prikaz 001158 detailing the measures and instructions for executing this mass ethnic cleansing (Bugai, docs. 9-10, pp. 41-47). The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued a second deportation decree on 28 August 1941, Ukaz 21-160, which was published in Nachrichten and Bolshevik in the Volga German ASSR two days later. This second decree falsely accused the entire ethnic German population of the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast of treason without any evidence. This false accusation served as the basis for brutally punishing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. The NKVD ruthlessly carried out the deportation of 451,986 Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan of which 365,764 came from the Volga German ASSR. The names of 2,979 of these exiles have been collected so far. The deportation of the Volga Germans was followed up by the deportation of almost all of the ethnic Germans in the USSR west of the Urals still under Soviet control. Their fate was particularly grim. The Soviet government abandoned them in the extreme climate of Siberia and northern Kazakhstan with insufficient food, housing, and medical facilities with the result that a very large number of them perished prematurely from malnutrition, exposure, and epidemic diseases during 1941-1948.

Non-Internet sources cited

N.F. Bugai, (ed.), Iosif Stalin-Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat' ": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii, (Moscow: Druzhba Narodov, 1992).

The US Embassy Warning

I see that the US embassy here has issued a warning about potential violence after 29 August 2013. Thereby further demonstrating that the Obama administration and its State Department  is completely ignorant about Ghana. But, given its policies in other African states I am not surprised.

Friday, August 16, 2013

First Class of the Semester, Fall 2013

Today I had my first class of the semester. After waiting for over 30 minutes, one international student finally showed up. No Ghanaian students bothered to show up. I am hoping next week there is a greater turn out.

Possible New Research Project

Now that I know that PRAAD has nothing available after 6 March 1957, I need to formulate a new research project since obviously I can not look at the relevant Ghanaian documents dealing with the 18 December 1963 African student demonstration in Moscow. I am thinking of looking to see if there is anything in the British colonial records regarding alleged subversion by the Comintern in the 1920s and 30s. Even though the USSR really had no policy at all towards Africa until the 1950s, I am thinking that British perceptions might have been different.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

African Archives

Today I had to go to Accra City Campus to pick up a check. Since it was still morning after I finished I decided to go to the PRAAD (Public Records and Archives Department) formerly NAG (National Archives of Ghana) around the corner to see what the national government archives of the Republic of Ghana had on the African student demonstration in Moscow in December 1963. It turns out that all of the national government archives in Ghana from independence in 1957 forward are still classified and are not likely to be declassified any time soon. Indeed the existing government policy seems to be that all archives of the independent state of Ghana are to be permanently classified. Only archives from the era of British colonial rule and a bit before are available.  I am wondering if any other African governments have similar policies of keeping all of their archives since independence secret and only declassifying those archives dealing with the colonial era and before. If it is in fact a wide spread policy then it is a huge obstacle to researching modern African history. The documents I wanted to look at are almost 50 years old, a time long before my birth when my parents were young, yet they are still classified along with every other central government archival document written after 6 March 1957. If anybody knows about the archival classification policies of African states other than Ghana, please leave a comment.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bloodlands and other Readings for Hist 435

This semester I am teaching Aspects of World History, 1914-1945 again. As in semesters past I am assigning Robert Gellately, Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (London: Vintage Books, 2008) as the main text for the class. In addition I am also assigning Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (London: Vintage Books, 2011) to more fully cover the history of the territory between Moscow and Berlin. I am also assigning six journal articles up from four last year on various aspects of Stalinist repression to fill out the outline presented by Gellately and Snyder. I think together Gellately and Snyder do an adequate job dealing with the Holocaust and other aspects of the history of Nazi Germany, so I don't have any additional journal articles to assign dealing with that part of the class.

I am adding the Snyder text to the class in response to suggestions I received a couple of years ago when I first started teaching the course. Because it covers a greater chronological and thematic expanse I opted instead to assign the Gellatley text. This year, however, I have decided to assign both texts which will bring the reading load for students up to about 100 pages a week. I am told this is a normal amount of reading for a 400 level class.

The six additional articles I am assigning to the class are listed below.

Elza-Bair Guchinova, "Deportation of the Kalmyks (1943-1956): Stigmatized Ethnicity" in Uyama Tomohiko, ed., Empire, Islam, and Politics in Central Eurasia, Slavic Eurasian Studies, no. 14 (Sapporo, Japan: Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 2007), pp. 187-221.

Katherine R. Jolluck, "'You Can't Even Call Them Women': Poles and 'Others' in Soviet Exile during the Second World War," Contemporary European History, vol. 10, no. 3, (Nov. 2001), pp. 463-480.

James Morris, "The Polish Terror: Spy Mania and Ethnic Cleansing in the Great Terror," Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 56, no. 5, (July 2004), pp. 751-766.

J. Otto Pohl, "Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: Russian-Germans in the Labour Army," The Eurasian Studies Society Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, (Feb. 2013), pp. 1-17.

J. Otto Pohl, Eric J. Schmaltz, and Ronald J. Vossler, "'In Our Hearts we Felt the Sentence of Death': Ethnic German Recollections of Mass Violence in the USSR, 1928-1948," Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 11, nos. 2-3, (June-Sep. 2009), pp. 323-354.

Lynne Viola, "The Other Archipelago: Kulak Deportations to the North in 1930," Slavic Review, vol. 60, no. 4 (Winter 2001), pp. 730-755.

African Slavery in the Islamic World

Slavery in Islamic Africa has been a fascinating subject to which many scholars have referred, but of which no detailed monograph has emerged. If the subject of Islamic slavery in Africa has failed to arouse the interest which has attended the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the New World, it must be said it compares with the latter in scale and scope, and outdistances the more popular subject in its length of duration. Indeed, so pervasive is the subject of slavery in African societies, that one cannot appreciate fully the social, economic or political dimensions of the African past and present without some reference to it. Moreover, slaves of African origin formed a vital thread in the living lines of economic production in the Near and Middle East and formed the cord of economic activity in Islamic Africa itself.

Quotation from the preface of John Ralph Willis, (ed.), Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, volume II, The Servile Estate, (London: Frank Cass: 1985), p. vii.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Today's Walk

This morning after my morning koko and koose I took a tro-tro down to Nkrumah Circle and walked down Nkrumah Blvd. through Makola Market. I then cut through Makola Square and walked past the post office and cut through Ussher Town. I emerged across the street from Fort Ussher. Fort Ussher was a slave fort founded by the Dutch and later taken over by the English. It is one of three slave forts in Accra all of them on the same street, the others being Fort James founded by the English which I also walked past and Fort Christensborg  founded by the Danish and taken over later by the English. After exiting Ussher Town I walked along the recently renamed John Evans Attah Mills High Street parallel to the coast which is where all the slave forts are located. Every president of Ghana since the establishment of the Fourth Republic has been named John. I walked past the James Town Palace and crossed the street at the light house. From the street I had a good view of the fishing village on the beach and the Gulf of Guinea. I then walked past Fort James and Tabon Hall (Brazil House) which is "The Cradle of Tabon People." One of our graduate students is doing an MPhil on the Tabon who were Blacks who came to Accra from Brazil. Despite the importance of the Tabon to the Black Atlantic there has not been a lot of scholarship on the group. Then my left foot which I smacked in a drainage ditch yesterday started to hurt again. So I took a cab back home for 12 cedis.

Friday, August 09, 2013

More numbers on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

I came across a good table which provides a breakdown of the importation of slaves to the Americas from 1519-1867. I have compressed and summarized the data below. The overwhelming emphasis by American Left-wing academics on the US role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the almost total exclusion of much larger importers like Brazil is completely unjustified. It would be far more justified to concentrate on tiny Barbados to the exclusion of the rest of the hemisphere than to make the US the focus of teaching and research on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as is currently the case. At 3.7% the US role merits a footnote, but not the overwhelming majority of attention that it currently receives from American Left-wing university professors to the detriment of understanding the institution as a whole with its much larger Caribbean and Brazilian components.

British Mainland North America - 360,400 or 3.7%
Jamaica - 1,077,100 or 11.2% (three times as many as the US)
Barbados - 491,000 or 5.1% (more than the US)
British Leewards - 304,200 or 3.2%
British Windwards and Trinidad and Tobago - 362,000 or 3.7% (more than the US)
Guianas - 403,400 or 4.2% (more than the US)
French Windwards - 304,200 or 3.1%
St. Domingue (Haiti) - 787,400 or 8.2% (more than twice as many as the US)
Spanish America - 427,200 or 4.4% (more than the US)
Spanish Caribbean - 791,900 or 8.2% (more than twice as many as the US)
Dutch Caribbean - 128,700 or 1.3%
North East Brazil - 898,800 or 9.3% (more than twice as many as the US)
Bahia - 1,036,100 or 10.7% (more than twice as many as the US)
South East Brazil - 2,042,300 or 21.1% (more five times as many as the US)
(Sub-Total for Brazil  - 3,977,200 or 41.1% [more than ten times as many as the US])
Other Americas - 110,400 or 1.1%
Africa - 131,200 or 1.4%
Total - 9,657,100 or 100%


David Eltis and David Richardson, "Prices of African Slaves Newly Arrived in the Americas, 1673-1865: New Evidence on Long-Run Trends and Regional Differentials," in David Eltis, Frank D. Lewis, and Kenneth L. Sokoloff,  (eds.), Slavery in the Development of the Americas  (Cambridge University Press, 2004), table 2, pp. 188-189.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Unconstitutionality of the Deportation of the Volga Germans and the Liquidation of the Volga German ASSR

A large number of prominent scholars vehemently deny that the USSR was guilty of racial discrimination or genocide in part because the 1948 Genocide Convention and the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination did not exist yet during World War II. They therefore claim it is anachronistic to hold the Soviet government accountable to these international legal standards. People like Francine Hirsch have argued that we should seek to understand what the Soviet government "thought" it was doing within its own officially stated ideological conceptions and terms and not what the objective results of its actions were as measured against later scholarly and legal understandings of the concept of racial discrimination (Hirsch, pp. 40-41). Of course nobody makes such excuses for Nazi Germany or South Africa under apartheid. It is only the USSR that is still blessed with such stalwart defenders in the western academy against the charges of racism.

There, however, can be no doubt that the Soviet deportation of the Volga Germans and the liquidation of the Volga German ASSR was illegal under Soviet constitutional law as established by the 1936 USSR, 1937 RSFSR, and 1937 Volga German ASSR constitutions regardless of the underdeveloped nature of international law at the time. Collective punishment was clearly illegal under article 102 of the 1936 constitution which assigned sole responsibility for determining the guilt of an individual to the Soviet courts rather than administrative decree. Thus Soviet constitutional law required individual charges and trials in order to make any finding of guilt regarding violations of Soviet law and the meting out of punishment. This prohibition on arbitrary administrative punishment was even more forcibly articulated in article 93 of the constitution of the Volga German ASSR which required that all punishments be sanctioned by the appropriate courts and procurators. There were no trials or individual charges brought by any procurator against the vast majority of the more than 370,000 men, women, and children forcibly expelled from the Volga German ASSR and dispersed across Siberia and Kazakhstan. Assigning collective guilt to whole nationalities as the 28 August 1941 decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (Ukaz 21-160) did also violated article 123 of the all union constitution which prohibited all forms of discrimination both direct and indirect on the basis of race or natsional'nost. The deportation itself with its massive confiscation of personal property clearly did not accord with article 10 of the USSR constitution which guaranteed the protection of "the right of personal ownership by citizens of the proceeds of their labor and savings, personal homes and auxiliary holdings, and objects and amenities of personal consumption." This right is reinforced in article 94 of the Volga German ASSR constitution. The special settlement restrictions contravened articles 21 and 123 of the 1936 Soviet constitution (articles 18 and 127 of the 1937 RSFSR constitution) establishing a single Soviet citizenship for all Soviet citizens in which all of them enjoyed the same civil rights regardless of geographic location or nationality. The liquidation of the Volga German ASSR on 7 September 1941 by decree from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow had no legal basis under Soviet constitutional law. Article 16 of the 1937 RSFSR constitution required that all territorial changes within it be first approved by its highest organs. Likewise article 15 of the Volga German ASSR constitution also required approval from its own organs before any changes could be made to its borders (Shadt, pp. 287-296 and Skuchaev, p. 94).

There has long been a school of thought that the systematic and blatant violations of the 1936 Soviet constitution were so great that discussion of the matter in legal terms was superfluous since the document was violated far more than it was observed. There is validity to this opinion. But,  a number of scholars argue that Stalin's mass crimes against various citizens of the USSR had not yet been outlawed by international law and were therefore legal. This argument can not be allowed to stand. Crimes such as the deportation of the Volga Germans were illegal under existing Soviet law. The position of Stephen Wheatcroft that Stalinist repression unlike Nazi killings was "legal" completely falls apart upon even the most superficial reading of the 1936 Soviet, 1937 RSFSR, and 1937 Volga German ASSR constitutions (Wheatcroft, p. 1321, p. 1335, and p. 1348). It is clear that Stalinist repression including the deportation of the Volga Germans violated a great number of articles of the 1936 Soviet and 1937 RSFSR constitutions and can in no way be deemed to have been "legal" under the fundamental laws of the USSR. If it were not for people like Wheatcroft minimizing Stalin's crimes by claiming they were "legal" we could dispense with noting the legal protections provided on paper by the Soviet, RSFSR, and Volga German ASSR constitutions were explicitly and repeatedly violated by the Soviet government. After all the moral wrongness of mass deportations, theft, denial of national self-determination, racial discrimination, and genocide do not depend on what is written in any particular document.


Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 1936 (Moscow: CO-Operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers, 1936).

Francine Hirsch, "Race without the Practice of Racial Politics," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no.1 (spring 2002), pp. 30-43.

Konstitutsiia [Osnovnoi Zakon] Avtonomnoi Sovetskoi Sotsialicheskoi Respubliki Nemtsev Povolzh'ia 1937 reproduced in V. Auman and V. Chebatoreva, Istoriia rossiiskikh nemtsev v dokumentakh (1763-1992 gg.) (Moscow: MIGUP, 1993), pp. 141-156.

A. Shadt, "Pravoi status rossiiskikh nemtsev v SSSR (1940-1950-e), in A. German, Nemtsy v SSSR v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny: Poslevoennoe desiatletie, 1941-1955 gg. (Moscow: Gotika, 2001), pp. 287-312.

O. Skuchaev, "K voprosu o prichinakh i pravovykh osnovaniiakh deportatsii nemtskogo naseleniia iz Povolzh'ia," in A. German (ed.), Grazhdanskaia identichnost' nemtsev v gody Velikoi Otchestvennoi Voiny i v istoricheskoi pamiati potomkov (Moscow: Gotika, 2001), pp. 88-97.

Stephen Wheatcroft, "The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repressions and Mass Killings, 1930-45," Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 48, no. 8, (Dec. 1996), 1319-1353.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Putting things in perspective

In the big scheme of things the sins of the US against the peoples of Africa pale before those of Europe. People in Africa and of African descent in the Caribbean know this. It is only Western Leftists that like to pretend that the US importation of 400,000 African slaves in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade is a greater sin than the European importation of 8 million slaves from Africa into Brazil and the Caribbean where many of them were worked to death growing sugar cane. It is only Western Leftists who think that asymmetrical political relations between the US and various African countries are morally identical to what the Portuguese did in Angola and Mozambique, the French did in Algeria, the Belgians did in Congo, and the British did in Kenya. The CIA's murder of Lumumba and overthrow of Nkrumah were bad, but they are not on the same moral plane as tiny Belgium's murder of 10 million people in Congo. The perverse desire of American Leftists to paint the US as the source of all evil to the exclusion of all other sources is an inverse form of chauvinism. For them the US has to be the sole focus of everything evil even when as in the case of the international slave trade  it had a  very tiny role.

More on the African Slave Trades of which 1.3% went to the US

I have discussed this with a number of Africans and citizens of Caribbean nations and the complete "hijacking" as one Ghanaian graduate student put it of the discourse on the slave trade by Americans is something they greatly resent. Over 30 million Africans were shipped out of Africa as slaves to the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, and other destinations. Out of that 30 million only 400,000 ended up in the US. That is a total of 1.3%. That means 98.7% of the slaves forcibly transported out of Africa went to other countries. Yet reading the blogs of American academics you would think that 100% of the slaves shipped out of Africa were sent to the US. Ten times as many slaves were sent to Brazil as the US and a far higher percentage of them died from maltreatment. Yet you would never know this fact from reading US academic blogs. You would instead be left with the impression that no slaves were ever shipped out of Africa to any place other than the US. In reality of course less than 2% went to the US about the same number as went to Barbados and far less than went to Brazil, Jamaica, or Cuba.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

An African Fall?

Recently in three authoritarian African states the ruling party has won a majority of over two thirds in parliamentary or senate elections. These three states are Togo, Burkina Faso, and Zimbabwe. The same family has been in power in Togo since 1967. Zimbabwe has been ruled by Robert Mugabe and ZANU since 1980. Burkina Faso has been under the rule of Blaise Compoare since 1987 when he came to power in a coup that involved the assassination of Thomas Sankara, one of Africa's most visionary leaders. The consolidation of power by the current ruling authoritarian establishments in these elections is a clear move away from greater political liberalism and tolerance in these countries. Already there have been protests and at least 50 arrests in connection with the elections in Burkina Faso. Political repression of opponents of the existing regimes in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Zimbabwe will no doubt now increase as a result of the recent election results.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Sixto Rodriguez- Cold Fact

 I saw the documentary Searching for Sugar Man on my Emirates flight from Accra to Dubai on my way to Bishkek this June. Like most Americans I had never heard of Sixto Rodriguez whose musical career was a total failure in the US despite his brilliant song writing. What makes the story so interesting is that Rodriguez became a huge hit in South Africa where his albums sold hundreds of thousands of copies without him ever having an inkling as to his popularity in that country. The South African distributors of his albums never bothered to send him any royalty checks during the 1970s and 1980s. Among many Afrikaner youth Rodriguez was considered a musical icon on the same level as Elvis or the Beatles. At any rate I really like his music. You can check it out for yourself. I have embedded his first album from 1970 here.

Back in Africa, History Department Renovations, and Another Strike

I arrived back in Legon several days ago, but the History Department was undergoing renovation. So I could not get access to my office. After a year they have finally installed sockets for the Internet in our offices. They have also put blinds in our offices. They are also supposed to give us a Polytank so that we will at long last have water in the washroom.

We are also on strike again. The government did not pay us, although they fully paid faculty at every other university in the country, all of our back pay. They paid the first two installments before I left and then stopped paying us after we had all gone on vacation and could no longer do anything. We were also supposed to get our annual research grants before August first. Last year we did not get them until December. I hear the research grant has doubled and that would be a very good thing. So until we get our arrears and our research grant we are not teaching classes again which officially begin next week. The predictions are that the government will pay us and classes will start by August twelfth.