Entries from February 2018

Dictating Democracy – On Recent Elections in East Africa

These are frustrating times for supporters of liberal democracy in East Africa. Over the last two years, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have all held deeply problematic presidential elections and the latter two countries have tabled radical constitutional reforms that threaten to cement these so-called democracies into dictatorships. East African leaders have proved themselves very capable of manipulating liberal donor expectations by implementing democratic reforms in name only. The tools and language of democratic politics become means to achieve the elite’s capitalist and ethnocentric goals, while maintaining popular legitimacy.

A few days before the 2017 presidential election in Kenya, Chris Msando, the electoral officer in charge of technology and communications was tortured and murdered under mysterious circumstances. His death may equally have been committed by ruling party supporters (because they went on to win) or the opposition (as they wished to discredit the election). In any case, bloodshed at election time is nothing new in Kenya. The two previous Kenyan elections were hotly contested, with the allegations that the ruling party were cheating being supported by international observers. In 2007, the opposition leader from western Kenya denounced the results of the election as fake. Political leaders of both sides then cynically manipulated ethnic hostility, which boiled over into nationwide riots bordering on civil war. There were over a thousand deaths and mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. [Read more →]

Lewisham ’77 – Myth and Anti-fascist History

Fourty years ago this summer [2017], one of the most decisive events in 1970s UK anti-fascism took place in South East London.

On 13 August 1977, the far right National Front (NF) set off on a march from New Cross to Lewisham in what was intended to be a major show of strength. Lewisham NF organiser Richard Edmunds had promised the NF’s ‘biggest-ever rally… Everybody will know that the Front is marching’, while national organiser Martin Webster had talked of the march as part of its racist and anti-communist struggle: ‘The Reds have had it all their own way and the only way you can fight Communism is to confront it. We believe that the multi-racial society is wrong, is evil and we want to destroy it’. Earlier that year the NF had won over 119,000 votes in the Greater London Council elections and, although it did not succeed in winning any seats, the party had cause to believe that it was a growing force.
In the event, thousands of people mobilised to oppose the march, and as it started from New Cross there was hand to hand fighting as anti-fascists broke through police lines and seized NF banners. The local paper reported:

‘Suddenly the air was filled with orange smoke, and a hail of bricks, bottles and pieces of wood fell onto the Front from demonstrators and householders leaning out of their windows… At one point the Front marchers stopped. Half the marchers remained in Pagnell Street, afraid to walk into the hail of missiles… One young man, perhaps 16 years old, rushed into the Front ranks and grabbed a flagpole from one of them, broke it in half and held the pieces up while the crowd cheered. Others hurled dustbins and fence stakes into the Front column from close range’ (Kentish Mercury 18.8.77). In later clashes in Lewisham town centre, police used riot shields for the first time in England as they confronted anti-fascists and local young people. [Read more →]

Most Read Datacide Articles in 2017

Not entirely without hesitation we publish our “traditional” list of the most read articles of the previous year. The hesitation comes from the fact that it looks like it’s mostly the same articles that are read year in and year out. It has been suggested before that perhaps we should be making a list of the least read, or simply a list of recommendations.

Don’t get us wrong: all the articles on this list are well worth reading. However there is a wealth of material on this site which tends to be overlooked – especially newer additions.

Of course by publishing this list we somewhat contribute to the ‘problem’, but we’re not creating it. A key reason that the most read article list has become increasingly similar over the years seems to be the way that search engines and social media are now the dominant ways to find content on the internet. So articles which have already found many readers and are linked to more than others and will rank higher on search engines than new additions. In other cases an intense social media buzz or a link from a prominent web site can cause a (often short term) spike.

But what seems to be missing is much of a direct readership navigating the web site, as readers are increasingly and unwittingly turned into passive consumers.

Granted: There is much room for improvement on this site, and we will be working on it this year.

Below: The usual top 20 of 2017 + 3 recommendations + the least read article ever on this site! [Read more →]