With this newsletter, we bring reflections on the material roots of racism and caste stratification. On the 50th anniversary of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, labor activist and intellectual Bill Fletcher, Jr. assesses this landmark book’s on-going international relevance. His review, due out in the spring 2022 of New Labor Forum, contemplates the contemporary significance of Rodney’s assertion that racism and colonial oppression evolved in service capitalism’s development, and not because of a European genetic predisposition toward racism. At a time in the U.S. when the correcting of historical accounts of slavery and racial oppression are met with book burning and banning, Fletcher affirms Rodney’s historical analysis as vital to identifying the root causes of and solutions to immiseration and exploitation.
In a similar vein, our podcast, Reinventing Solidarity, offers an interview with Sujatha Gidla, author of Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India. Her talk with NLF Editor-at-Large Kafui Attoh reveals the economic basis of India’s caste system in feudal agrarian society and its staying power as a system of hyper exploitation. Through the lived experiences of her own Dalit family, Gidla’s book tells the tragic, modern story of caste as it subverts labor organizing and political solidarity among the poor and working-class. We are particularly excited to promote Gidla’s book, in light of the fact that she completed it while working as a New York City train conductor and member of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union.
Table of Contents
Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: The Continued Relevance of a Landmark Book/ Bill Fletcher, Jr., New Labor Forum
Reinventing Solidarity Episode 29: “Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India
“A People’s Guide to New York City,” Tuesday, April 12, 2022 – CUNY SLU Event
Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: The Continued Relevance of a Landmark Book
by Bill Fletcher, Jr, New Labor Forum
It is difficult to overstate the importance and impact of the 1972 publication of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In this major contribution, Rodney reaffirmed the centrality and relevance of Africa in world history; the impact of the rape of Africa in the development and expansion of European and Euro-American capitalism; and the challenges that awaited the post-colonial world. This landmark book’s fiftieth anniversary provides a welcome opportunity for its reassessment.
In this episode, we turn to India’s two-millennia-old caste system that has often been compared to our own structures of racial oppression. A recent book, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, provides a sort of memoir of caste viewed through the experiences author Sujatha Gidla’s Dalit family. Speaking with New Labor Forum Editor-at-Large Kafui Attoh, Gidla says she drew motivation and courage to write this personal account by witnessing individual and collective acts of resistance of African Americans. A resident of the U.S. since age 26, Gidla completed the writing of the book while working as a New York City train conductor and member of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union.