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19 Nov 03:21

Nonviolent guerrilla cartographers

by Amar Jamal

During the Sudanese uprising, Khartoum became a carefully re-mapped city where only the revolutionaries knew its paths.

Photo by Mohamed Tohami on Unsplash

Since its emergence in December 2018, and during its impressive course, the Sudanese revolution resembles in my mind Deleuze’s description of Foucault: “A new cartographer.” Sudanese revolutionaries created a new, metaphorical space that allowed the revolution to take root. They rejoiced in the space, reconfigured, redefined, and re-demarcated it, closing it off partially or completely according to what these space poets saw fit.

The first exultation with space came on December 19, 2018, via viral videos transmitted on social media. These videos were effectively a livestream of the ruling party’s headquarters set ablaze in the working-class city of Atbara, turning it into pure creosote in Sudan’s nervous system, expelling fear and instilling hope for restructuring solidarity after thirty years of national mass depression. Signs flooded the space and the revolution began to rediscover a power that connected action to a collective existence.

To achieve a sense of solidarity, the Sudanese re-discovered traditional tactics in the form of guerilla urban warfare and attrition maneuvers, but all under the banner of a nonviolent revolution. It was difficult, if not impossible, to directly confront a regime that had in the September 2013 uprising killed hundreds and locked up thousands in its notorious prisons well known for their torture methods. Still the events of September 2013 were an opportunity to lay the foundations of the Sudanese Resistance Committees, which came to be known later as the Neighborhood Committees, playing a leading role in the #Tasgot_Bas (Just Fall) revolution six years later.

In their pamphlet book “Declaration”, the Marxists, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, drew the common features and characteristics of the 2011 cycle of struggle that began in Tunisia and then Egypt, and eventually spread to the squares of Western metropolises:

These movements do, of course, share a series of characteristics, the most obvious of which is the strategy of encampment or occupation. A decade ago the alter globalization movements were nomadic. They migrated from one summit meeting to the next, illuminating the injustices and antidemocratic nature of a series of key institutions of the global power system: The World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the G8 national leaders, among others. The cycle of struggles that began in 2011, in contrast, is sedentary. Instead of roaming according to the calendar of the summit meetings, these movements stay put and, in fact, refuse to move. Their immobility is partly due to the fact that they are so deeply rooted in local and national social issues.

Since its inception, the #Tasgot_Bas (#Just_Fall) revolution has had its own unique style, stemming from the Sudanese youth’s long experience of resisting Omar al-Bashir regime with its repressive Islamic ideology. But at the same time, it is an experimental albeit pragmatic, open-ended style that can be expressed in one phrase: a routing table. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a routing table is inside a computer network host: it lists the routes to particular network destinations. It is essentially a map with an infinite number of possibilities radiating outwards from its core.

On December 25, 2018, a signed statement by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) (a banned independent trade union umbrella) called on people to march in their millions towards Sudan’s Presidential Palace in Khartoum while calling on the president to step down and to hand over power to a civilian government. Even if the procession failed to achieve its goal, it laid the foundation for a poetic valorization between SPA and the revolutionaries. And because the identity of the SPA members was concealed from all, including the forces of the regime and its repressive militias, the link between the power of action and the collective existence was made only through statements and declarations. A published statement on the SPA’s social media page specifying times and routes was enough to mobilize tens of thousands who poured out in a given time and space. This collective action of a mass mobilization broke through fear, but more importantly, new assemblages begun to form in its wake.

For four consecutive months until April 2019, day after day, the Sudanese marched in peaceful processions throughout the country. Processions were called for through SPA statements which included a scheduling of place, time, and slogan. The multitude observed schedules faithfully and betrayed them even more (betrayal is another name for freedom as Deleuze had warned us). Treachery came from the most mysterious bodies, the Neighborhood Resistance Committees, which represented the microphysics of the peaceful movement. Whenever the schedule identified a neighborhood for an assembly, the other neighborhoods also organized marches in clear betrayal of the order. Ultimately, certain neighborhoods (Buri, for example) mobilized so often that they became a practice in devotion to betrayal. It must be mentioned here that these resistance committees were based on a traditional system of values ​​rooted in participation, sheltering all and protecting the oppressed. A system that often worked in the past as a false fantasy, before the revolution transformed it into a spirit of trust and solidarity. The revolution had moved into the most intimate of space, the homes, the family and the conscience of mothers and fathers.

It can be said that the vague, decentralized, and horizontal body of SPA was a product of the Resistance Committees “loyalty to betrayal”, fueled by a system of solidarity values ​​in which everyone was involved. It is one of the rare moments of the revolutionary praxis maturity in human history.

The cartographer revolutionaries redrew their city. Khartoum’s architecture is no longer what it was. A new city emerged with towering barricades, and murals painted with revolutionary graffiti (many of which resembled the drawings of children and madmen). Bridges linking the capital’s neighborhoods across the Nile and those linking the capital to the state and the states with others were closed off. But we must emphasize here an interesting feature: Often times, the empty streets coincided with the continuation of the revolution. No sooner did the revolutionaries set fire to tires and build barricades in the narrow alleys of their neighborhoods, than security personnel and the police personnel invaded them with their mounted pickup trucks. And so revolutionaries retreated inside houses, climbing onto roofs to film the dullness and stupidity of their assailants, the police cars falling into the traps the people had set up for them. Sudanese rebels discovered, through pragmatic experimentation, the weakness of their opponent. Masked regime militias were falling one after the other in the alleys of the new city, unknown to them. Whenever the security forces wore masks that concealed their faces, the city wore a new map, chanting, “Peaceful oh Khartoum.” In the background, these sound effects of children, women and revolutionaries echoed. Khartoum became a carefully re-mapped city, where only the revolutionaries knew its paths.

These peaceful guerrilla warriors carried out a revolution with a unique characteristic within the cycles of global struggle that began in the 21st century. But we have to be careful here. In a way, the Sudanese revolution is considered a continuation of a continuous and diverse process that had begun before; its causes stem from a localized tragedy of global capital’s greed and its entanglement with the repressive model of Western democracy, linked by a declaration of universal rights that is abstract in its conception of a human. However, at the same time, reflection shows that the action-image of the #Tasgot_Bas revolution had a strategic uniqueness that moves away from the distinction of Negri and Hardt between the two tendencies of the revolution that marked the 21st century. Sudan did not have a “nomadological” revolution like Porto Alegre, nor was it as sedentary as Tahrir Square. In its daily deterritorialization and reterritorialization with “strike and run” style, the Sudanese revolution resembles more the strategies of the mid-twentieth century liberation movements, the “barricades” of the guerrilla wars of the student and labor movements and drug cartels in the sixties, and the attrition tactic of Algerian war of liberation. What collects these models and places them in the Sudanese case is the map, the routing table, that was re-configured and that now offers a number of possibilities moving into the future.

The Arabic version of this piece was published in the October issue of the Lebanese magazine Bidayat. I would like to thank Professor Benoit Challand and Raga Makawi for their valuable comments regarding this English version.

21 Mar 04:00

Drake’s Plan

by Africa is a Country

The plot of Drake's music video for "God's Plan" is him giving him out money to the poor. What was he trying to say?

Canadian rapper Drake recently went on a giving binge in South Florida. The giving doubled as visuals for his single, “God’s Plan.” What is he trying to say? That’s when we asked around the office.


Sean Jacobs

What did you make of this?

Boima Tucker


That’s the Donna E. Shalala Student Center in the first minute? Isn’t Donna Shalala the president of the Clinton Foundation. Coincidence?

Dylan Valley

My immediate reaction is that I feel good watching it — but also I feel like this kind of photo-op philanthropy seems more beneficial to the person who’s giving than the actual people in need.

Anthony Fantano, the Needle Drop guy on Twitter, did a Youtube video arguing for the merits of the video, saying that Drake was trying to make a point about poverty in the US.

Sean Jacobs

Of course rappers handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas is an old thing, but this ups it a bit.

On the back of Black Panther, I can only see it increase. At a selfish level, not to be cynical, it seems like the the next logical thing for 30-odd year old and aging rappers trying to find themselves or have meaning. Jay Z has been adopting such a posture too; so have aging NBA stars.

French Montana recently received a meaningless award from the Global Citizen people for giving $100,000 for health in Uganda, after he went to shoot a video there.

The other recent example is Chance the rapper giving $2m to Chicago schools.

At the time, I liked the Chicago Teachers Union’s response to Chance’s donation:

Recognizing that at least Chance did something unlike the mayor of Chicago or the Illinois governor, “… Private philanthropy and goodwill, however, are a wholly inadequate method for providing a sustainable and fully funded school district. At this rate, we would need more than 200 Chances to emerge to fill in the gaps already imposed and planned for CPS this year.

The one part of what that Tantano guy said in that video you forwarded Dylan that is interesting, is his comment about Canada. It would have been great had Drake campaigned for the Canadian social democracy model being implemented in the US.

Boima Tucker

“Drake campaigning for the Canadian social democracy model being implemented in the US.”

He did? If so that kind of changes my opinions of him. I still think the video was funded by the Clinton Foundation. Shalala is no coincidence!

BTW, Tef Poe, the best contemporary political rapper in the US (from St. Louis) talks about not taking money from George Soros:

Sean Jacobs

No Drake did not. My point was: what if Drake did do that.

I like Tef Poe, but why would he hate on Soros? Of all the people to take money from, Soros’s money usually goes to better things.

Boima Tucker

I think it was a reflection of internal politics around Ferguson and the formation of Black Lives Matter. A lot of local black organizations jockeying around the US Midwest happened around the time of Ferguson, and I think Tef Poe’s rap had something to do with that. Like activist NGO beef?

Maybe it’s a general anti-philanthropy stance? Remember these sorts of debates?

Sean Jacobs

Yeh, one critique of foundations is that they try to capture and end up managing whatever radical energies existed into “programs” or talk shops and as a result end up containing people’s abilities to use mass politics to change things.

Shona Kambarami

I guess one take would be how interesting it is that in an age of a declining belief in the social contract, it is — ironically — private entities that are stepping up and filling the gaps. This will always be inadequate, unregulated and cruelly inconsistent (which is why government needs to do it) but it’s interesting that private acts of do-goodery are essentially co-opting government programs. We’re in a world of opposites. leftists are bigging up millionaires as long as they are giving up, cheering for the surveillance state, promoting states rights … and this is just one example of the political topsy turviness that we are living in.


Sean Jacobs

For you’re interest:

Haythem Guesmi

That part in the last link Sean shared when Peter Rosenberg, one of the morning hosts of Hot 97, the New York City radio station, speaks of different types of Mitzvahs and “of not knowing who you are giving to” is exactly how the whole idea of giving back is explained in Islam (sadaka) and Buddhism (dana).

But back to Drake. I see the video as another public relations stunt that benefits more Drake and his public image than the recipients of these donations. To pay for groceries for a day or to divide the amount of $1 million into tiny small amounts of $20,000, do not resolve the lingering issues of impoverishment and underfunding.

But I think there is another angle to Drake’s initiative. His donation is part of a larger culture of fundraising in the US that comes to be seen as a voluntary and generous act but also as a necessary dimension of the functioning of public institutions: From university fundraising to crowdfunding websites for personal causes, civic funding and donations have been promoted as “smart,” “participatory,” and “innovative.” What this narrative dismisses is that a heavy reliance on donations is a blueprint for a manipulative rebranding of individual and organized philanthropy as a substitute to the role of government. It is interesting in this sense that Drake’s video mobilizes a thinly-disguised aesthetics of organized charity marketing.

From Oprah to Bono to the Clooneys, donations are to celebrities what philanthropy is to organized charities: a veiled abstraction of what Donald Glover refers to, albeit indirectly, as “the algorithm.”

Dylan Valley

Damn. Mic drop, Haythem!

Boima Tucker

Seems like Drake is a bit of a spoilt child:

01 Sep 20:22

Microsoft and Google Challenge US Government Gag Orders

by timothy
First time accepted submitter ace37 writes "Microsoft says it plans to move ahead with a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government in June to affirm the right of businesses to disclose limited information about government demands for data made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In separate legal filings, Microsoft and Google challenged the gag order that typically accompanies FISA demands for customer data. The two companies asserted that they have a First Amendment right to publish the total number of FISA requests received and the total number of user accounts covered by such requests."

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01 Sep 20:21

One Strike Against No Fly List; More Scrutiny To Come

by Soulskill
New submitter MickyTheIdiot writes "The Jurist reports: 'A judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruled Wednesday (PDF) that those placed on the U.S. government's no-fly list have 'a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in traveling internationally by air, which is affected by being placed on the No Fly List.' The plaintiffs in the case are 13 U.S. citizens who were denied boarding on flights over U.S. airspace after January 2009.' Judge Anna Brown hasn't ruled on the constitutionality of the No Fly List yet, and has instructed the attorneys involved to present a roadmap for deciding the remaining issues. However, she has acknowledged that the No Fly List is a major burden to those on the list and they have the right to get that status reviewed."

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