NEW YORK CITY, March 19 — “Abdoulaye Wade, dictator!” and “Wade, degage!” [Wade, get out!] rang out through Harlem. Over 100 Senegalese workers, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, participated in a demonstration of their own against the flagrantly corrupt president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade. Since the PLP convention last August, our PLP club has built a small presence in the West African community of Harlem. A comrade and I were at a Senegalese cafe in the neighborhood when we heard the commotion about the demonstration forming at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue.
Abdoulaye Wade was elected president in a coalition of electoral parties called the “Sopi Coalition” [“Sopi” is Wolof — an indigenous language spoken by many workers in west Africa — for “Change,”] in 2000. Eight years before Barack Obama ran for president in the United States, Wade promised sweeping reforms after 40 years of the corrupt, governing Socialist Party.
Steals $3.4 Billion
It was recently revealed that over the past ten years since the election, Wade stole over 1.6 trillion francs (about $3.4 billion USD) from the government treasury, including $400 million for a new private jet that previously belonged to French president Nicholas Sarkozy, who upgraded to a better jet himself. Wade, who is 84 years old and sick, refitted the jet with a state-of-the-art hospital clinic staffed by French doctors and nurses and (perhaps wisely) insists that only French pilots be allowed to fly the jet.
The workers at the demonstration added to the list of abuses under Wade. According to a recent article, when a journalist recently accused him of looting the government treasury, Wade retorted, “at least I admit I’m using the money!” Wade’s son, Karim, is Minister of State for International Corporations, Minister of Regional Development, Minister of Regional Transportation, and Minister of Infrastructure. Meanwhile, other attacks include:
2.5 million workers in the capital, Dakar, suffer electricity blackouts for four hours a day;
Primary and secondary schools have seen mass layoffs and closures;
The university in Dakar that is serving primarily working-class students is facing deep cuts, as the bosses’ children study abroad in France, Britain or the United States.
The demonstration, led by an organization representing the Senegalese diaspora worldwide, caught us by surprise, and therefore the hour we had to prepare was a limiting factor for us. We only had five CHALLENGEs on hand, but we found an internet cafe and quickly revised the PL leaflet “Middle Class Dream or Working Class Power?” (showing the futility of relying on union sellouts and politicians) to reflect the situation in Senegal, and printed off 150 copies.
We ensured that every worker received the leaflet. Although we didn’t have time to write a translation in French, the workers translated the leaflet aloud from English to those who only spoke French.
Voting No Solution
The weaknesses of nationalism were apparent in the demonstration; one popular chant, in the language of Wolof went: “Na dem, na dem, na dema dema dem, bou deme ba dem ñou dew akh souñou rew!” In English, “Let him go, go, go so that when [Wade] is gone we’ll have the country to ourselves!” However, one worker who grew up in Mali and lived in Senegal for several years before coming to the United States, spit on the ground after a speaker at the rally supported voting as a solution.
“I spit on this because it’s all for nothing! Look at what’s happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Wisconsin, everywhere — this isn’t just about Senegal!” We gave the worker a CHALLENGE and discussed the Party’s position on uniting the international working class for communist revolution and smashing all borders. The worker read through a couple of articles, and made an impromptu speech. A small group of five demonstrators and onlookers in the street stopped to listen to him.
He said, “I like communism because it’s for everybody. In the United States they say they’re ‘for’ everybody, but in January the cops in Brooklyn beat me. That’s what a democracy is! Everything happening in Egypt already happened in Mali in 1991. I was a schoolboy and we filled our bags with rocks instead of books because the police shot at us. If you saw a cop, then BOOM! A rock to his head or a bottle if you could find one.
This I’ll never forget: a cop shot my best friend when we were throwing rocks one day. He died in my arms, so with his blood still on me I found that cop and broke his skull open with the biggest rock I could find. He murdered my friend so it was fair.
“I tell people all the time that people, black or white, are working people and we’re the majority of society. Look what’s happening in Japan! In Libya! This would never happen if we took care of each other…I’m not fighting because I want money. I make enough. But I have two children now and I’m sick when I think of them being attacked in the street like me because their lives are worth nothing. We need to fight!”
When the worker wanted to know if the Party would help organize a demonstration against police brutality, “with ten other friends of mine who were beaten too,” we suggested to have a meeting (see page 6).
Our efforts at the demonstration had positive results: we made four contacts, met a few raised fists and heard many positive remarks. We were completely ignored by the organizers of the demonstration, who just read our leaflets and shrugged; we were lucky, and can’t always expect such a passive greeting. Even though there were only two of us, it reaffirmed that even modest efforts to bring our revolutionary politics to the working class creates opportunities to elevate the class struggle and build a new mass international communist movement. We also agreed from now on we should carry more CHALLENGEs with us, in case we’re ever caught off-guard again. More to follow.