| our favourite radical reads from 2022 | MR Online Our favourite radical reads from 2022.

ROAPE’s 2023 best reads for African radicals

Originally published: ROAPE (Review of African Political Economy) on December 21, 2023 by ROAPE’s Editorial Group (more by ROAPE (Review of African Political Economy))  | (Posted Jan 04, 2024)

| our favourite radical reads from 2022 | MR Online

Last year, for the first time on roape.net, members of ROAPE’s Editorial Group offered some of our favourite radical reads from 2022, new and old, fiction and non-fiction. Here again, in what we hope will beome an annual offering, Editorial Group members provide a list of books that have served to educate, shock, move, and inspire over the last 12 months, in our 2023 offering of ROAPE’s best reads for African radicals. Five of the ten books listed are available as free downloads.


| Revolutionary Hope vs Free Market Fantasies Keeping the Southern African Liberation Struggle Alive | MR OnlineRevolutionary Hope vs. Free-Market Fantasies: Keeping the Southern African Liberation Struggle Alive

by John Saul

No doubt John Saul has left an indelible legacy at the intersection of left-thinking scholarship and activism. In the year that he passed on, I finally read his Revolutionary Hope vs. Free-Market Fantasies, one of a trilogy. This was two years from its publication, when I finally arrived at the section of the bookshelf where it had been lodged, driven by a hungry search for answers to the many questions I as a southern African was grappling with regarding our lost liberation struggle and prospects for redemption. By the time I read the last page, I had been challenged to ask more questions than those which drove me to the book in the first place. And this is why I’m recommending it. It reimposes with renewed candour the tough questions and arguments about how, in the 21st century, class and capital still centrally define the enduring and evolving oppressions and challenges facing southern Africa, but whose relevance is both local and global.

Chanda Mfula


Empire of Disorder

| Empire of Disorder | MR Onlineby Alain Joxe

Written more than 20 years ago now, Alain Joxe’s Empire of Disorder is one of my three best to read and think books this year. This is particularly so since the onset on 7 October 2023 of the Israeli war of extreme violence and terror against Gaza and the Palestinian people. Readers might find Joxe’s analysis of the ‘Palestinian Question’ and Israel’s ongoing wars and status as a U.S. client state incredibly insightful and prescient [The book is available here as a free download].

Caroline Ifeka


Revolutionary State-Making in Dar es Salaam

by George Roberts

| Revolutionary State Making in Dar es Salaam | MR OnlineRoberts puts Dar es Salaam in its rightful place in the political historiography of liberation in Southern Africa in particular and the Global South in general. At a time when xenophobia and parochial nationalism are on the rise, Roberts reminds readers of the strategic role of this ‘revolutionary city’ and its Nkrumah Street in forging Pan-Africanism and ‘Third World’ solidarity during the ‘global sixties’. The book is a gem to those interested in Cold War politics, state-building, capitalism, socialism, urbanism, globalization, and transnationalism [The book is available here as a free download].

Chambi Chachage


Dismantling Green Colonialism: Energy and Climate Justice in the Arab Region

edited by Hamza Hamouchene and Katie Sandwell

Just a few years after compiling and editing The Arab Uprisings: A Decade of Struggles (one of the recommended radical reads from last year), Hamza Hamouchene has done it again, this time partnering with co-editor Katie Sandwell to publish a timely collection of writing on green colonialism in the Arab region. Covering a wide range of countries from Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria and Tunisia to Egypt, Sudan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine, as a collective work the book challenges Eurocentrism, draws attention to the imperialist agendas either holding back or underlying energy transitions, and foregrounds a class-based analysis that is all too often absent in accounts of and discussions around climate justice. Available as a free download here, the book can also be purchased for around £12/$15 by those who can afford it.

| Dismantling Green Colonialism Energy and Climate Justice in the Arab Region | MR OnlineBen Radley


Red Africa: Reclaiming Revolutionary Black Politics

by Kevin Okoth

My radical read of the year is Kevin Okoth’s book Red Africa: Reclaiming Revolutionary Black Politics. I really appreciated his critique of Afro-pessimism and his attempt to show that Marxism and Black liberation are not always incompatible [See here for a longer review by Mikayla Tillery].

Chinedu Chukwudinma
| Red Africa Reclaiming Revolutionary Black Politics | MR OnlineDark Emu
by Bruce Pascoe

My daughter lives in Australia, so I spend a lot of time on the continent. I have noticed how one of the outrages of a country that seems to be regarded as a ‘promised land’ is its treatment of the Aboriginal population. Herded into rural settlements, suffering daily abuse and racism and imprisonment by the state, Aboriginal Australians are invisible in the so-called Australian dream.

The myth that Australian history only really began with the arrival of European adventurers and colonialists in 1788 is repeated annually on Australia Day—a jingoistic celebration of the arrival of the first settlers in 1788; renamed Invasion Day by activists. The real history of this settlement is the genocide of Aboriginals Australians across the continent in the 19th century. Yet, there was tremendous resistance from the start, and many settlers, including convicts were killed in an organised anti-colonial revolt. For every settler murdered, fifty Aboriginal Australians would be massacred—does that sound familiar?

| Dark Emu | MR OnlineOne of the great lies of Australian settlement, and occupation, was that pre-colonial Australia was a desert wasteland, with uncultivated expanses of land peopled by hunters and gatherers. These falsehoods continue to be perpetuated in the popular and academic press.

In 2014 the Aboriginal author, Bruce Pascoe wrote Dark Emu, a remarkable book which I read on my recent Australian visit—reading is the only cure I know for jetlag. Pascoe’s thesis is simple, and his evidence extensive: the hunter-gather label is a colonial appellation denigrating a complex history of developed and settled agricultural societies, with large and diverse communities across the continent.

Using the reports and dairies of the early colonialists, Pascoe provides evidence of Aboriginal dams, levees, channels, and fish traps, and argues that pre-colonial Aboriginal people practiced advanced aquaculture. Yet, this extraordinary and complex world was systematically destroyed by European settlement, and much of the history consciously erased.

When I was researching Walter Rodney’s life a few years ago, I found in the archive in Atlanta correspondence between an Aboriginal activist group and Rodney in the mid-1970s. Inspired by his recently published book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, they expressed kinship with the obliteration of their own history by colonialism, and the need to resurrect it.

| Joan Wicken A Lifelong Collaboration with Mwalimu Nyerere | MR OnlineMore than forty years later, Pascoe has now written a contribution to Australia’s history equal to Rodney’s classic. I urge our readers to pick up a copy!

Leo Zeilig


Joan Wicken: A Lifelong Collaboration with Mwalimu Nyerere

by Aili Mari Tripp

A fascinating study of Joan Wicken, the personal assistant and speechwriter for President Julius K Nyerere from 1961 to 1985. Based on the author’s interviews with Ms Wicken, it combines her history and her experience and perceptions of Nyerere. Joan Wicken witnessed the “enormous” reception of Nyerere in one village after another in the early ‘60s, campaigning for independence and for TANU afterwards. Every evening they would discuss issues that arose that day and events for the following day. She would draft a speech on the basis of these discussions, he would go through them, add to them, and return to her for polishing up. Nyerere usually “kept to the script” with English speeches, whereas he adlibbed a lot with Kiswahili. There was often no written speech at mass meetings.

| Amílcar Cabral The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist | MR OnlineNyerere spoke freely with Joan Wicken about issues more than people, knowing “it wouldn’t go anywhere else”, which is why she embargoed her notes for thirty years after her death. She could argue with him because of age and similar outlooks. In later years, Mwalimu worried “that the party was becoming slack and losing concern for the people and involvement with the people.” She thought Nyerere was a democrat prepared to go over the heads of the leaders to the people, as in the case of the Arusha Declaration of ujamaa na kujitegemea [socialism and self-reliance]; “The people loved it, but not the leaders”. The book is full of gems like that, but would be strengthened with more analysis.

Marjorie Mbilinyi


Amílcar Cabral: The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist

by António Tomás

This new biography of Cabral traces many of the themes that shape his political mobilisation and the struggle for liberation from Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.  It draws on newly available archival material and among other things highlights his personal and family context for his political mobilisaiton. The book develops an analysis of how and why national sovereignty is so important and the role of military struggle and political organisation in achieving it. The book reflects on Cabral’s pragmatism in formulating strategies for liberation and unity between Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde as well as the politics of ethnicity that often frustrated him. Perhaps contentiously Tomás notes how in dealing with powerful (imperialist) external forces Cabral noted that the “best ideology to have was not to have one at all”.

| The Hundred Years War on Palestine A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance 1917 2017 Mental Health and Human Rights in Palestine The Life of Gazas Pioneering Psychiatrist Dr Eyad Sarraj | MR OnlineRay Bush


The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017

by Rashid I. Khalidi


Mental Health and Human Rights in Palestine: The Life of Gaza’s Pioneering Psychiatrist Dr Eyad Sarraj

by Wasseem El Sarraj

The ferociously brutal bombing of Gaza in October drove me to immerse myself in literature on Zionist colonialism in Palestine and the Palestinian people’s resistance. Most of what I did was rereading. Rashid Khalidi’s and Wasseem El Sarraj’s books were two that I read for the first time, and found invaluable. They are both similar in two ways.

First, as with many other books worth reading on the history of the Palestinian struggle, they both provide a rich history of the land. Tracing this back for centuries, they disprove the Zionist lies of “a land without people, for a people without a land.” They reveal Britain’s deceitful actions, spanning from the Balfour declaration to the Nakba, and the continuous backing of Jewish colonialism by imperialist powers. The books examine how Arab countries, like Jordan, have had conflicting stances on the Palestinian cause and how this impacts the people’s struggle. And prominently, they highlight this struggle’s “history from below” in all its strength, weakness, pains and tenacity.

Second, a distinctive element of these books is the personal ties the writers have with the stories they tell. Both authors come from influential families that opposed Zionist expansionism before the Nakba and have remained committed to the Palestinian liberation movement.

In The Hundred Years War on Palestine, Khalidi points out that Britain and such Zionist institutions as the Jewish Colonisation Association left no one in doubt that their aim was colonisation of Palestine. But “once colonialism took on a bad odour in the post-World War II era, the colonial origins and practice of Zionism and Israel were whitewashed and conveniently forgotten in Israel and the West”. And the Zionist movement was even presented as an anticolonial struggle of Israel for self-determination, in the period leading to the Nakba.

In Mental Health and Human Rights in Palestine, El Sarraj writes as “a young bi-racial (half Palestinian/half English) man”. The book is a completion of the task which his father Eyad Sarraj had set himself; writing Eyad’s memories. The older Sarraj could not finish this definitively because his life was intertwined with the life of the struggle for a liberated Gaza, and a free Palestine. The younger Sarraj did not exaggerate when he said the book is a biography of his father’s life, and “it is also a history of Palestine with a focus on Gaza.” His father fearlessly spoke truth to power, even challenging Palestinian leaders. This earned him imprisonment several times by the state of Israel as well as the Palestinian authority.

One aspect of the book which struck me in the light of current events is where it points out that aerial bombings became a feature of life in Gaza, decades back. Reading this, I could not but reflect at the folly of arguments that Israel needed Hamas’ 7 October attack to bomb the Gaza strip. Whilst the current merciless bombardment is unprecedented, it is in essence, the continuation of a long-standing trajectory of blood-soaked settle colonialist “disciplining” of the people whose land they had stolen.

Eyad spent the better part of his life fighting to “end the siege on Gaza.” And his words “I would rather die with dignity than live in fear” captures the spirit of the struggle for a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.

As Palestinians in Gaza face one of the most vicious bombardments in recent history, this spirit gives strength even in the face of trauma. For radicals in Africa and across the world in this traumatic era, this is a spirit that must continue to guide us. Books like Khalidi’s and Sarraj’s are tonic for this spirit.

Baba Aye

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the views conveyed in articles republished at MR Online. Our goal is to share a variety of left perspectives that we think our readers will find interesting or useful. —Eds.