The study of history can't be a mere celebration of those who struggled on our behalf. History should instruct us to transform our ways. If not, then study and celebration becomes an exercise in the inflation of our egos and cuts us off our current reality.
Cheikh Anta Diop says in "The African Origins of Civilization,"
"Intellectuals ought to study the past not for the pleasure they find in so doing, but to derive lessons from it. Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward. History remains the clock that tells a people their historical time of the day”.
As dialectical materialists, a catalyst of societal history, we must study revolutions in Africa and around the world to avoid repeating the same mistakes that some parts of Africa or the world might have experienced. Ama Biney (2011) expounds on the pitfalls of Africa's liberation movements, using Fanon's Pan-Africanist theoretical and conceptual framework to make his criticisms.
If Fanon were alive today, his message would remain that it is imperative that the wretched of the earth, particularly in Africa, confront the fact that class oppression in Africa comes from fellow Africans with black skins, who comprise a conceited oligarchy which takes seriously its role as the intermediary of the international conglomerates that are plundering the continent.
Fanon saw that colonialism gave rise to the development and polarisation of social classes in post-colonial African society. These classes are: The lumpen-proletariat, the peasantry, the working class (or proletariat), and the national bourgeoisie (or middle class). They continue to remain useful analytical categories for examining the phenomenon of socio-economic differences in contemporary Africa. It appears that the minority African elite or ‘comprador bourgeoisie’ – as Fanon characterised this class – have become entrenched in Africa and the Caribbean today. They continue to perform the role of the ‘transmission line between the nation and capitalism,’ colluding with foreign capitalist interests to further their own narrow class interests.
As Fanon eloquently writes:
‘The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner.’
Whether in Haiti, where elements of the Haitian business classes have colluded with the US's giant conglomerate, Walmart, to exploit the Haitian poor with paltry wages that Jean-Bertrand Aristide sought to increase; or the dumping by countries of the North of obsolete computers that release toxic fumes in waste grounds in Ghana – it is the ‘hopeless dregs of humanity’, as Fanon described the sufferers in Africa, who are exploited, whilst the African elite benefit alongside their European corporate partners. In South Africa, for example, after decades of apartheid, sections of the black middle class that have benefitted from the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programmes of successive ANC governments boldly assert that ‘there is nothing wrong with being filthy rich’ whilst levels of socio-economic inequality increase between the beneficiaries of BEE and those who live in the black townships.
Therefore, the current struggle in Africa is fundamentally both against the ruthless forms of capitalist exploitation that robs the majority of African people – the peasantry and working class of their labour and the rich resources of their lands – and those Africans who collude in the misappropriation and blatant theft of this wealth that is denied the majority. The unfolding of this internal class struggle will be one of advances and defeats on the African continent.
British Marxist sociologist, cultural theorist and political activist Stuart Hall said to us that race is:
“...the modality in which class is ‘lived,’ the medium through which class relations are experienced, the form in which it is appropriated and fought through."
Historian and Academic Robin DG Kelley on a lecture titled What is Racial Capitalism and Why Does it Matter asserts that "race and class are modalities in which capitalism lives." Kelley also submits that capitalism is built upon and strives through differentiation. Kelley further submits that racism is not about how you look but how people assign meaning to how you look.
In the context of South Africa these modalities in which capitalism lives express themselves through race, which has been the single most used tool in the history of the country – and the continent as a whole, collectively. The expansion of European capitalism and imperialism through the Berlin conference of 1882 divided Africa into different territories which European countries colonised and formed new nation states within. This is what we inherited post-independence: an Africa divided by colonialism. Within such nation states, capitalism furthermore found more hosts to exist through tribalism; think of the creation of Bantustans in SA. Think about the Hutu and Tutsu contradictions in Rwanda, Yoruba & Igbo people in Nigeria, etc.
The nation-states' contradictions are obvious, as we see them play out today. As Fanon had already warned us,
"If the oppressed fail to identify and find their enemy externally, they will dialectically find one inside their own circles, among themselves."
The bourgeois class will fuel any sort of division within the oppressed masses to further delay the inevitable collapse and self-destruction of capitalism.
Currently in South Africa and the continent, with all its social ills, we are confronted with the beast of Afrophobia, we have a crisis of drugs & violent crime, and to top it all off, the crisis of unending gender-based violence. The root cause to all this is the dominant means of production of capitalism, which has created a legacy of poverty. Without any revolutionary change on social relations we have now, we will keep chasing shadows.
The fundamentals of our class structured post-colonial Africa, and how the enemies of our progress (imperialist blocs) exploit these vestiges of coloniality (tribal divisions/Afrophobia) as a narrative in order to cause social divisions, confusion, and to further exploit our means of production. The tribal (Afrophobia) beast that shapes our current neo-colonial African societies is one of the many modalities and forms which neo-colonialism has entrenched itself within masses of our people. Neo-colonialism is based upon the principle of breaking up former, large, united colonial territories into several small, unviable States, which are incapable of independent development and must rely upon the former imperial power for defence and even internal security. Their economic and financial systems are linked, as in colonial days, with those of the former colonial ruler. Within such nation states, further divisions and differentiations are encouraged in order to further widen any margin of unity amongst the oppressed and the disposed.
In this age of blithe post-modernist hysteria, we take heed from our ideological cornerstone, author of "Class Struggle in Africa," "Africa Must Unite," and "Neo-colonialism: The Final stage of Imperialism," Kwame Nkrumah.
Nkrumah notes in “Class Struggle in Africa” that:
"The tribal formula is frequently used to obscure the class forces created in African societies by colonialism. In many areas, uneven economic development under colonial rule led to a differentiation of economic functions along ethnic lines. This tendency is exploited in the interests of international capitalism."
He further postulates in "Neo-colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism" that,
“The objectives of African unity can seriously be undermined by tribalism which provides one of the hardest hitting grounds for colonialist and neo-colonist enemies of African independence and unity. Unless we take this problem of tribalism carefully in hand, it can undo all our valid efforts to bring real independence to Africa.”
In his magnum opus speech, The Weapon of Theory, delivered to the first Tricontinental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America held in Havana in January, 1966, Amilcar Cabral warned us that,
“...the ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements — which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform — constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all".
The prerequisite of a correct and global strategy to defeat neo-colonialism is the ability to discover and expose the way in which a state becomes neo-colonialist. It is this absence of ideology which poses a great danger to the ultimate liberation of the African people, as Fanon noted in Wretched of the Earth.
The strategy of neo-colonialism is to control everything but deny it controls anything, leaving others to believe that they are in control. It is the indigenous bourgeoisie who provide the main means by which international monopoly finance continues to plunder and to frustrate the purposes of the African Revolution.
The basis of a revolution is created when the organic structure and conditions within a given society have aroused mass consent and mass desire for positive action to change or transform that society. The core of the Black Revolution is in Africa, and until Africa is united under a socialist government, the Black nation throughout the world lacks a national home.
In his contribution titled "Aspects of the International Class Struggle in Africa, the Caribbean and America" to the sixth Pan African Congress in 1974, Guyanese Pan-Africanist historian and Marxist Walter Rodney posed these three fundamental questions about the national liberation movements and whose interests they represent:
- Which class leads the national movement?
- How capable is this class of carrying out the historical tasks of national liberation?
- On the behalf of which of the silent classes are 'national' claims being articulated?
It serves no purpose to for us to dwell on the validity of the questions that Rodney posed above, as we all know the answers; our urgency should be focused on organising and asking ourselves how far the Pan-Africanists are in addressing this historic mandate and mission.
In 1961, Frantz Fanon wrote in "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness" that "HISTORY teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism". However, regarding the (African) natives' determination and sacrifices to end all forms of human abuses, the most damning elucidation by Fanon was when he noted that
"It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps".
Kwame Nkrumah was never disillusioned; he was cognisant of the dangers and pitfalls facing the African Revolution as far back as early 1960's.
It was the 24th of May, 1963 at OAU when Kwame Nkrumah articulated and provided the justification of African Unity, asserting that,
"Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish. I am confident that by our concerted effort and determination, we shall lay here the foundations for a continental Union of African States....
We have already reached the stage where we must unite or sink into that condition which has made Latin America the unwilling and distressed prey of imperialism after one-and-a-half centuries of political independence. As a continent, we have emerged into independence in a different age, with imperialism grown stronger, more ruthless and experienced, and more dangerous in its international associations. Our economic advancement demands the end of colonialist and neo-colonialist domination of Africa."
Fanon argued that,
"National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in any case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been."
Both Frantz Fanon and Kwame Nkrumah were correct, and their analyses became our living reality, today.
We must ask ourselves deep questions, especially considering my last citation of Nkrumah on "Imperialism: The Last Stage of Neo-Colonialism", where he described imperialism as "growing stronger. more ruthless and experienced and more dangerous". Without having to look farther than here in Azania, the stranglehold the comprador bourgeoisie have in the Pan-Africanist bloc, and the systematic disintegration of the Pan-Africanist Movement across all provinces – and Africa as whole and its diaspora – compels many of us to return to the drawing boards. Imperialist agenda has triumphed, national liberation struggles in Africa has ushered the neo-colonial state. Post-colonial Africa has become neo-colonial Africa, a happy hunting ground of the imperialist!
WE MUST ORGANISE, ORGANISE, AND ORGANISE!