FROM SPARKS TO CONFLAGRATIONS – AN INTERVENTION
The entire development of technology, which is constantly breaking down all barriers, and uniting the world in a way that has never been seen before, is an argument in favour of a world planned economy… a democratically-run society, in which men and women would achieve conscious control over their lives and destinies. On the basis of a harmonious planned economy, pooling the resources of the entire planet, a vista of unlimited development opens up. On the one hand, we have the task of nurturing our own world, of making it fit for human beings, of repairing the ravages caused by the greed of irresponsible multinationals. On the other, we have before us the greatest challenges yet contemplated by our species—the exploration of space, linked to the question of the future survival of humankind.
Alan Woods and Ted Grant, Reason In Revolt
In the twentieth century … Africans have become aware of their own identity and concerned for their standing relative to the rest of the world. White, Negroes, Asians and mixed communities have strongly asserted their claim to self-development, uniqueness and independence. Many conflicts of interest among these groups have not been resolved. Like other continents, Africa has become an amalgam, a crucible of complex forces. Africa is one thread, distinguishable yet not isolated, in the fabric of human history.
Donald L. Wiedner, A History of Africa – South of the Sahara
African society is now a multi-racial society. Like American society, African society exhibits a multi-racial texture of Black-Africans, White or Boer-Africans (Afrikaners), Arab-Africans, Indian-Africans and Mixed Blood-Africans (Coloured or Half-Castes). The emergence of this amalgam over a period of history has been the result of the interplay of a multiplicity of interests, converging and disintegrating but ultimately forging out of this melee the African Nation. The historian, Donald L. Wiedner, observes above that ‘Like other continents, Africa has become an amalgam, a crucible of complex forces. Africa is one thread, distinguishable yet not isolated, in the fabric of human history.’
The process of African history maps up a trajectory of the evolution of political institutions on the heels of economic developments to service the economic system. This map throws up the spectacle of trade and trade routes increasingly connecting the people of Africa. This trade that emerged from communities involved in subsistence agriculture spread across the Sahara to bring Arab traders in contact with Blacks. The trade in salt and gold occasioned the creation of states with the corresponding breakdown of communal societies in the savannah and forest regions. Population explosion in cattle-rearing communities initiated migrations from the West African region to central, eastern and southern Africa to live in contact with the indigenes.
While these developments led to the emergence of empires out of the initial states which were then brought together, the practice of slavery, as a social means of discipline for transgressing persons upon the appearance of private property in society, was debased into commoditization of the person. Blacks were bought or captured from the forest regions and sold in markets across the Sahara and the East African coast. The scale of this trade in human cargoes expanded with the appearance of Europeans on the West African coast, in search of the source of the trans-Saharan trade in gold, and the development of cotton plantations in America. The slave trade became a source of revenue for the semi-feudal kingdoms of Dahomey and Ashanti as well as others in southern Africa while it provided labour in America and Asia.
The European and Arab interaction with Blacks promoted not only state and empire-building activities in African society but also created opportunities for inter-racial marriages and the consequent emergence of mixed races on African soil. The importation of Indian labour from India to work on European plantations in Southern Africa added to the racial mix. Once in Africa the Indians could not return home since they were made to live together irrespective of their castes. The breakdown of the caste system among them disqualified them from re-entry into Indian society in India where they would be treated as outcasts. On African soil, where they appeared free from caste restrictions, their standard of living was higher than in India. In addition, Europeanization and Arabization created a cultural mix whereby some Blacks became detribalized and saw themselves either as Europeans or Arabs by reason of their cultural acquisition.
Fundamental to these developments was the mix of class interests. Within each race of the racial mix were classes. The dominant class within the particular race mobilized the dominated ones against all other races. Hence, in Southern Africa the British elite favoured British residents in appointments against the Dutch (Boers); but they collaborated with the Boer elite not only against the collection of the British and Boer lower classes but also organized those lower classes behind them against the Black and Indian populations. With the Black placed at the bottom of the social-economy this system of collaborations finally held the elites of the various races in an unholy alliance in their economic exploitation of the collection of the lower classes of all the races. For, as Wiedner put it, ‘multiracial interdependence … underlay the nation’s economic life.’
Whenever the Boer elite accused the British of imperialism they tried to mobilize the other races which were perceived as ‘lower’ than them. But once they settled their differences their alliance remained intact; of course, until they finally dislodged the British and inaugurated the apartheid system against all the other races. The issue of race, like ethnicism, had always, as even today, been a device by the elite classes to fight out intra-elite secondary contradictions over the spoils of their exploitation of the underprivileged classes whom they kept and keep divided. And yet the deceit of the masses did not, as it does not, last forever. Seething under elite (bourgeois) oppression, the masses initiated their own liberation; this they did, paradoxically, by courting personalities within their own oppressor elite during the period of nationalism to lead the struggle.
The orientation and ideological direction of the nationalist struggle depended on the extent to which the said leadership identified with the needs and aspirations of the masses. Where such an identification was temporary, the nationalist struggle ended, first, in the substitution of local elite oppression and exploitation in place of foreign oppression and exploitation; and, second, in the realignment of local elite alliance with the erstwhile forces of imperialism for a neo-colonial relationship against the masses in an act of grand betrayal of the masses. However, where the said identification was permanent, the leadership (Dr. Kwame Nkrumah being a classic example) committed what amounted to class suicide and made a life-long commitment to the needs and aspirations of the masses. The survival of such a leadership depended on its attitude towards the inherited colonial power system (the state).
That system was created, built and established for the specific purpose of serving colonial interests against the interests of the colonized people. Like a machine designed to grind maize but not stones, the colonial state apparatus could not be used to serve the interests of the freed people. It either needed to be replaced or reformed through reorientation if the needs and aspirations of the masses were to be fundamentally served. But any reform, by definition, left the basic functions intact and changes could only be cosmetic. On the other hand, to effect a replacement involved a fundamental ideological reorientation and self-sacrifice that only a conscientized and fully conscious people, disposed to long-suffering, could undertake. Where the departing colonial administrator disabled the set up, the task appeared half-completed.
In other words, where the local elite betrayed the masses in leadership a neo-colonial system emerged as a reform of the colonial system which was thereby essentially left intact for business as usual – imperialist capitalist exploitation with the collaboration of the local elite. The attempt to replace the colonial system involved a leadership that was not only committed to the task but had a clear understanding of the character of the required change in terms of structural or institutionalized mass undertaking of that task. In point of historical fact, where the power apparatus was inherited intact the committed leadership at best left it only shaken while it sought to build its replacement (an alternative) alongside it consciously or unconsciously. Where this occurred, it was predicated on a fundamental drive to freeze class formation in Africa as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah attempted to do.
In the rear case of Guinea where the departing colonial power dismantled its power apparatus before leaving, the new leadership had the singular opportunity to create the new institutional structure straight-on. Creating mass-based defence committees and militia, it was burdened, however, with an administrative personnel weighed down with the ideological hangover of the erstwhile colonial power. Its imminent collapse was only a matter of time. It survived an invasion undertaken by Portuguese imperialist and mercenary forces that had the collaboration of personnel within the administration. But the pressure of neo-colonial forces, operating in and out of the country, ended in a coup d’état that put paid to the revolutionary efforts in that country. Neo-colonialism has since then been entrenched in the country.
In the face of the weakness of the emerging balkanized nation-states to stand the demands of development the urgency of the programme in the Declaration of the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester became pronounced. That Declaration, authored by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a secretary of the Congress, had projected a Pan-African perspective for the liberation and development of the continent. The unviability of the nation-states, which represented the truncated process of integrating the African people through the building of states and empires, became and remain the greatest obstacle to the unification and development of African society. In the process, the radical endeavours of replacement of the inherited colonial power system required concerted efforts across the continent.
These efforts were made in a two-pronged strategy of uniting the continent at the level of the states and liberation movements. They led not only to the creation of the Organization of African Unity and the system of All-African Peoples Conferences but more importantly to the consciousness of an African Nation. For, as Wiedner once again puts it, ‘One of the tests of national unity is the unanimity of response, regardless of domestic politics, to foreign dangers.’ Africans face the common dangers of imperialism and neo-colonialism whose blood is capitalism. Their unanimous response to these dangers was held in check and continues to be held in check; but the sustained consciousness and determination of the Kwesi Pratts guarantee ultimate victory as this check cannot be sustained forever in the face of the people’s mass resistance, thanks to historical inevitability. Acts of balkanization stand condemned.
This brief overview illustrates that in the process of imperialist and capitalist exploitation of African society concepts of race, ethnicity and culture are secondary to the capitalist, colonialist and neo-colonialist enterprise. African history portrays a panorama of a multiplicity of racial and ethnic forces in the pursuit of economic interests leading to the evolution of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic class-rendered society. In their collective exploitation of the society the exploiting elites (bourgeois forces), small as they have always been, collaborate and unite the strength of their class, in spite of racial origin and cultural differences among them, to dominate and exploit the overwhelming masses of the working people in the first instance. In this endeavour they play the racial or ethnic card only when they disagree among themselves over the spoils of or prospects for exploitation.
Across the African landscape sprawls the reality of a multi-racial amalgam – the African Nation of Black-Africans, Arab-Africans, Boer-Africans (Afrikaners) and Indian-Africans as well as so-called Coloured Africans and even Europeanized and Arabized Africans forged by the force of history. What makes them African is their collective history of living together, with all the difficulties that this implies, and sharing a common stake in the fortunes of Africa as well as exhibiting cultures peculiar to Africa and forged in the cauldron of civilization on the African continent. The false consciousness that an Afrikaner or Indian-African, born and bred on African soil, might suffer on the basis of pigmentation and therefore claim to be either a European or an Indian, in spite of the fact of a cultural and historical heritage that is different from that of the so-called mother country, is only the symptom of the continued exploitation of racial and ethnic concepts to sustain the hegemony of the exploiting elite classes. If it were not so, could Barak Obama commit to America against African interests?
It is in this light that the balkanization of African society, orchestrated by imperialist and neo-colonialist forces and their intellectual surrogates of sociologists and anthropologists, against the Pan-African Project needs to be quickly deciphered and combated with the appropriate measure of force – intellectual and political. This forms the immediate context of our intervention in the Shivji-Prah Debate in Part Two of this paper.
What appears as a parenthetical reference to Professor Kwesi K. Prah’s alleged racialist position on the conception of an African in Professor Issah Shivji’s paper on Nationalism and Pan-Africanism has produced a huge but instructive outburst from Prof. Prah. Like many of such conflagrations it ends up in, at least, an attempted destruction of the Pan-African Project through its balkanization. To be considered an African it is said to be essential that wherever one resides one acquires and exhibits some particular cultural traits historically associated with a particular group of people in the universe.
The historically immediate geographical origin of that person is not considered equally crucial or strategically relevant. Prof. Prah does not deny that the African has a land. He just does not consider this ownership crucial enough in the definition of the African for us to bother our heads over a sizeable part of it, together with its resources, being alienated in a Pan-Arab Project that might divorce such land and resources from their utilization for the fulfilment of the African as he conceives him.
In the process, the territorial space of Africa is essentially divorced from the concept of an African as a historico-cultural personality. For, a conception of the African as one whose personality is not essentially identified with the entire African land mass denies his materiality, the source of his sustenance, and, therefore, his being, existence. We therefore see in our hands an African without a land of birth which he protects and should protect as his own. This essentially locationless African cannot therefore even be living in a Diaspora which connotes, in part, a geographical location of historical origin relative to current abode. He is a universally located person and therefore not located – the universe is his home. The loss of land, even if only a part of it, is a meaningless proposition to such a person. These are harsh implications of Prof. Prah’s concept of the African.
Let it register in the mind of anybody with such a misconception of the African – an African essentially defined with an alienable land – that unless the united world projected in Woods and Grant above is attained the African, conceived as a historico-cultural person primordially located in and immediately associated with the territorial space called Africa with economic and political interests, will be defended with our blood, flesh and life. No inch of Africa can ever and will ever be ceded to any other people. It is not for nothing that Jews have sought a location and defend it after centuries of dislocation. (Of course, today they are denying the same to the Palestinians in contradiction).
Arabs and the Arabized on the African continent are no less African than the Asante sitting on Guan land or the Bantu on Khoisan land. Prof. Prah invites us to look at the history of Arabs on the African continent. Yes, in that history we find Arabs enslaving Blacks. But we also find Asantes and Dahomeyans enslaving fellow Blacks. And all these people were not only involved in the slave trading of the Black but also waged wars to nourish that demeaning trade even when attempts were being made to stop it. The Afrikaners milling around Prof. Prah in South Africa did not only enslave the Bantu but as well seized his fertile land and concentrated him and his family in reserves on infertile sections of his own land.
The feudal systems that emerged in African society were preceded by these slave socio-economic formations which were blind to the pigmentation of the skin in their infliction of collective pain on African society. Together with the ravages of colonialism, these formations have left us with an African society of an amalgam of races sharing a stake in the continent and its independence against imperialism. Hence, we see the emergence and observance of a non-racial policy in Southern Africa. Does Prof. Prah contest that policy?
No one needs telling that there are conflicts of interest among people living in Africa just as we find such conflicts on the other continents. To use cultural differences to define Africaness or Africanity is to worsen this panorama of conflicts by misdirecting our attention from the class struggle. Not only have returnee Black slaves, respectively calling themselves Creoles and Americo-Liberians, sought to dominate the other Blacks they came back to live with on claims of cultural superiority – thanks to the cultural violence inflicted on them by the slave master – but also their descendants have only been recently involved in mutual violence with the ‘indigenes’ in Sierra Leone and Liberia. West Africa is still seething with the repercussions of those conflicts.
So also have we had Sudan involved in conflicts between Arabized Blacks and non-Arabized Blacks – leading to the unfortunate creation of yet another potentially unviable state in Africa. Pan-Africanism, conceived essentially in cultural terms, is an innocuous device to retain African disunity for a more effective imperialist and neo-colonialist exploitation of the continent and its people. This is what Prof. Prah’s strategy of minorities imbibing majority cultures enhances – not the historically-determined aims of unification and scientific socialism – against the Nkrumaist strategy of mobilizing and organizing Africans around their land and resources in the first instance. Nkrumah did say at page 80 of Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare that ‘We must have every inch of our land and every one of our mines and industries.’ In Africa Must Unite he puts it this way: ‘There is no single part of the African continent which is not precious to us and our development’.
In his rebuff of Prof. Shivji, Prof. Prah also provides us with a spark to set our own conflagration. Ours aims at the destruction of the myth of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s turning Marxist only after the 1966 coup d’état. This popularized myth constitutes such a monumental intellectual, if not just an academic, injustice to Dr. Nkrumah’s intellectuality that his great works in theory and practice before the coup have been crudely excised from the conscience of the mature or older African and denied to that of the young. And yet even a casual perusal of his Revolutionary Path confirms his desire in The Conakry Years to trace his consistency as a Marxist theoretician and practitioner from his writing of Towards Colonial Freedom in 1945-47 through Class Struggle in Africa to Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare; that is, from the inception of his Pan-African political activities until his demise. Why minds like Prof. Prah’s have not yet tested Dr. Nkrumah’s undertaking in the Revolutionary Path to refute the latter’s claims to Marxist consistency beats the imagination. Such minds have rather created a monstrous myth – without evidential support.
They refer to that myth as if it were an axiom. The publication of Class Struggle in Africa appears to be the genesis of this myth; and, yet, Class Struggle in Africa, together with Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, represents only a programmatic shift from stemming the tide of the crystallization of classes to the intensive waging of the class struggle in Africa. That was in application of the principle of concrete analysis of the concrete situation. No principle of Marxist theory and practice was consequently violated. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s critical operation within the Marxist theoretical framework and the internationalist programme of the 1950s appears to us as the most conscious undertaking by a Marxist intellectual ever on the African continent to apply theoretical insights with a universal validity to concrete struggles in Africa. In Consciencism we find the summation of the theoretical framework. In Africa Must Unite and Neo-Colonialism, etc., we find its application.
In this respect, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a Marxist scholar and Pan-African activist is explored in Part Two as a sub-theme to explain that he had become a Marxist scholar and Pan-African activist before he returned to Africa in 1947. His application of Marxist principles to African reality revealed to him a society with a class structure that he initially believed could be arrested in its development to enable a quicker transition from the colonial society to ‘a socialist society in which each would give according to his ability, and receive according to his needs’. See Revolutionary Path, p.161. This emphasis on arresting the crystallization of classes in African society on the premise of state-led industrialization process tolerated private enterprise only as a dispensable partner in development. State-led industrialization, prosecuted from above, was then in vogue internationally.
The coup against him and the derailing of the state-led industrialization process in favour of private enterprise necessitated a change of perspective in favour of emphasizing the class struggle to directly destroy the bourgeois classes in armed struggles. This intensification of the class struggle in the mind of Kwame Nkrumah was not the initiation of it but just as stated – an intensification of it. He had waged the class struggle by way of seeking to arrest the continued development of classes and therefore abolish them but had failed. He regretted ever being so soft with the bourgeoisie and the neo-colonial surrogates. That was his only important regret. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s consistent struggle for Pan-Africanism under the banner of Scientific Socialism was consistent but not without problems and difficulties.
Before these considerations we explore Prof. Shivji’s view of Pan-Africanism in terms of his difficulties regarding the concept of the African Nation and his prescription of a focus on the political struggles against subjugation and domination on the continent as the concern of Pan-Africanism. Prof. Prah’s reaction to this in terms of his peripheral acknowledgement of those political struggles and preference to multiculturalism – which goes abstract with its concepts of majorities and minorities in the African context but concrete on African-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans in the United States context – is also evaluated. In the final rounds we raise issues with the conception of the Pan-African Project as one without direction under a particular ideological searchlight but rather under some so-called universal principles that can be detected as the limited gains of centuries of mass struggles in various countries.
We intend to leave the reader with the understanding that in the Shivji-Prah Debate, Prof. Shivji and Prof. Prah have both failed to provide us with a total concept of Pan-Africanism in our era. Such a concept embraces territoriality and raciality as well as the scientific socialist ideology in its definition – for, the question of race is better appreciated within the context of the class struggle. Hence, by this total concept we have within the African Nation all who, irrespective of race and cultural differences, have established their homes in Africa over the centuries and have established their living on the continent’s land and its resources not as individuals but as groups. So that we have all shades of Black Africans, all shades of Arab-Africans, Indian-Africans, Boer-Africans or Afrikaners as well as Half-Casts and Africans of the Diaspora making up the Nation. African society, like American society, is now a historical multicultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic society out of which forces of revolution seek to integrate the three main cultural strands with the humanist egalitarian principle of traditional African society as the basis of a dominant ideology for reconstruction.
UNDERSTANDING SHIVJI AND PRAH
To begin with Prof. Issa Shivji, he starts with a statement that identifies the mode of analysis he employs in his paper. As a process of identification, the statement distances the analysis from the mode of conspiracy theories and processes of economics as well as its mechanical reduction to the mode of production. It further distances the analysis from that which portrays a periodisation in terms of stages of history whereby the march of progress of Western civilization is rendered as the essence of events. That is negative identification – stating what the analysis is not. For its positive identification, stating what the analysis is, it is described as one that sees a pattern in the major shifts and changing continuities in their complexity and variability – a pattern of capitalist accumulation over a long period that requires some periodisation in its presentation.
The analysis shows a bifurcation of the process of capitalist accumulation into accumulation by appropriation and accumulation by capitalization. With accumulation by appropriation he means acts of plunder, privation and invasion of the wealth and human resources of the non-capitalist spaces of the world involving unequal exchange as well as the annihilation of the civilizations therein. Within this aspect of the bifurcation it is all rivers of blood and rivers of gold directed at capitalization at the metropole. He also equates this accumulation type with primitive accumulation but not until he differentiates it from the time-specific meaning that Marx renders it. Accumulation by capitalization means to him that accumulation which results from equal exchange. Thus defined, the analysis conceives accumulation as endemic to capitalism throughout its existence – the bifurcation being the necessary condition for its life.
Hence, the analysis rejects suggestions that capitalism is self-contained as it claims Marx does in his portrayal of capitalism. Capitalism, for it, inexorably requires space outside its own area if it is to survive. Prof. Shivji illustrates this with a thesis that maps out the development of capitalism from the city-state to the nation-state, from the nation-state to the colonial state, from the colonial state to the continental colonial state, and from this latter to dissolution of the hierarchical system of nation-states in this era of globalization.
On the periodisation of his presentation, Prof. Shivji says that to periodise the processes of capitalist accumulation is a hazardous undertaking since they overlap and intermingle in such a way that incipient ones within the old are not recognized on time while the old ones persist even when they have ceased to be of use. This self-awareness informs his periodisation of the African encounter with Europe. First of all, he sees a general period of four centuries of the processes of accumulation spanning the term 1475 to 1825. Secondly, he sees within that period two particular periods. The first of these periods appears to be up to 1500 while the second occupies the 1500 to 1825 period. He also appears to approve the period 1780 to 1840 as the inception of the industrial revolution.
To justify accumulation, the West constructs ideologies, religions, cultures and customs centrally based on race, according to Prof. Shivji. Even geography is constructed as such. The essence of the racist construct is to inculcate a sense of being a property in the victim. Outside the West, that construct is used to divide and separate the colonized people from each other lest they harm themselves. Thus, the analysis projects a scene of primary and perpetual concern with capitalist accumulation bearing a bifurcation on the basis of which a racist ideological superstructure is erected.
Prof. Shivji says that this analytical framework forms the context within which he locates the genesis of the grand narrative of nationalism and Pan-Africanism. According to him, this grand narrative shows some five centuries of history as the period when the West did not only construct its own story but also the story of the Rest – that is, the rest of the world including Africa.
In this construction, Prof. Shivji portrays a panoramic scene of destruction of trade routes together with the great Islamic civilizations and centres of learning of Timbuktu in West Africa and Kilwa in East Africa. Treasuries were looted in the process. This is dated to the last quarter of the 15th century. The Portuguese expeditions had specific instructions to both eliminate the Muslim traders and Christianize the ‘natives’. In the next period between the 16th and 19th centuries the slave trade in Blacks dominated the trade between Africans and Europeans in service of sugar and cotton plantations that fed the industrial revolutions from the Americas.
The treatment of these slaves set in motion a resistance movement that conducted itself in ideologies that borrowed elements from the ideologies of domination. Hence, with the latter being racist in content the ideologies of resistance became racist. Blacks sought death for the Whites. It is from this resistance that Prof. Shivji traces the roots of Pan-Africanism which appears initially as racial nationalism. At this point the narrative skips straight to the 20th century and discourses on this racial nationalism as championed by W.E.B. Du Bois and the territorial nationalism of Marcus Garvey. Du Bois is portrayed as seeking accommodation of Blacks within White structures for equal racial treatment (citizenship). Garvey on the other hand is portrayed as seeking a separate racial space for Blacks in a Back to Africa movement.
Prof. Shivji deems it important to keep in mind that throughout its evolution Pan-Africanism has been an essentially anti-imperialist ideological and political movement. And both Du Bois and Garvey did not question the boundaries set by the dominant political and social constructs – White supremacy and colonially carved borders respectively. He is however silent on what happened to Garvey’s movement while he states that Du Bois organized a series of Pan-African Congresses attended by a few African-Americans, African-Caribbean and continental Francophone Africans. Between the war years the Congresses were concerned with racial equality, equal treatment and accommodation in existing structures or citizenship, for short.
While not giving us the composition of the 5th Pan-African Congress of 1945, Prof. Shivji tells us that it marks the turning point in the history of Pan-Africanism when, with George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah as its moving spirits, the unambiguous demand for liberation from colonialism is made – thus giving birth to nationalism. It is at this point that important questions are raised at the Congress as to whether the character of this nationalism should be based on the separate colonially-created borders or across borders. These in turn raise questions about citizenship or race if the borders are to be the basis and whether the African Diaspora is to be included if it should be across the borders. And, again, if it should be across borders the place of Arab inclusion is to be determined. The latter raises the racial/cultural question in the Pan-African context. Even years after independence these remain hot issues, so says Prof. Shivji.
The post-independence era sees the triumph of nationalism based on borders, or what Prof. Shivji calls territorial nationalism, with the achievement of sovereignty. Racial nationalism also triumphs with the achievement of citizenship in the United States (where even the President is now a Black, a reactionary one at that). But at this point, Prof. Shivji says, Pan-Africanism develops a new bifurcation as Kwame Nkrumah declares continued commitment to across-border Pan-Africanism for total liberation and unification of Africa with the support of George Padmore. The bifurcation spreads out into Conferences of Independent States and All-African Peoples’ Conferences. The former later develops into the statist Organization of African Unity and the latter, made up of national liberation movements and other grass root organizations like trade unions, lapses into the shadows of the former in an increasing eclipse – (in fact, it temporarily collapses – we are aware of efforts to reconvene it in 2012 in Ghana).
It is important at this stage to pause a little to clear our minds on what Prof. Shivji means by territorial nationalism. When he says above that both Du Bois and Garvey operate within the boundaries set by the dominant political and social constructs he means, for example, that Garvey seeks to operate within the borders demarcated by the colonial powers but necessarily not across them, disregarding them. Hence, when he talks about territorial nationalism he implies this Garveyist conception which pigeon-holes the African people in balkanized states. This is confirmed in his paper Mwalimu’s Non-Alignment and Pan-Africanism in Relation to the Tasks of the Post-Neo-Liberal Generation. It is different from the across-borders territorial nationalism, which seeks the abolition of the colonial borders or their reduction to state/regional boundaries as in a federation like Nigeria, and as represented in the visions of Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere. In this sense, Prof. Shivji is consistent – displays an exact use.
Now, in his Mwalimu’s paper, just referred to, Prof. Shivji says that Nkrumah’s declaration of Ghana’s independence being incomplete unless it is linked up with the liberation of the entire African continent leads to the creation of the O.A.U. Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam. In spite of this common commitment to the Pan-African Project, he says, Nkrumah and Nyerere differ in their methods. Nyerere sees a dilemma in committing both to nation-building and development within the balkanized or nation-state and to the Pan-African Project at the same time. He believes that these demands on the Pan-Africanist conflict. But Prof. Shivji believes that they more than conflict as can be seen in the statist discourse on African unity and integration or disintegration which buries the vision of Pan-Africanism. He does not tell us what the content of Nkrumah’s view is, vis-a-vis Nyerere’s dilemma, but in his Mwalimu’s paper he suggests that Nyerere later concedes to Nkrumah.
In the midst of this tension, imperialism exploits the situation to orchestrate assassinations and coups d’état to which Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah and others fall prey. On Nyerere’s part, he becomes pre-occupied with his survival. Thus, though these Pan-Africanists understand that in the present state of affairs no single African state can, on its own, develop without African unity their efforts at total liberation and unification are thwarted and buried, thanks to imperialism and their own lack of consensus on approach. Prof. Shivji explains that the twenty five years of the period of these Pan-Africanists are the period of the contention between accumulation by capitalization and accumulation by appropriation. With the Pan-Africanists out of the way, the accumulation by appropriation side of the capitalist equation assumes the ascendancy once more with greater imperialist vim. It is at this stage that Prof. Shivji takes us into the period of neo-liberalism with the emergence of the compradorial classes.
This is the era when the imperialist media welcomes what they call a new breed of African leaders, allies in the imperialist appropriation project. The project is directed at reversing the nationalist project of accumulation by capitalization which is pursued as schemes variously labelled socialism or self-reliance or modernization. It uses the compradorial classes – the local state or private merchant capital – as its instrument. Through the channel of trade, self-serving aid and debt, the compradorial classes facilitate the rapacious exploitation of natural resources and surpluses of the working people to fill the centres of imperialist capitalization. This process absorbs and aborts the nationalist attempts at autocentric development. The project spans the Golden Age of Capitalism (1945 – 1971) within which the nationalist attempts are made. By this, Prof. Shivji shows the tension between accumulation by appropriation and accumulation by capitalization within an overlapping periodisation.
Attributing the defeat of the nationalist project of accumulation by capitalization to the lack of the means – that is, autonomous economic space and political self-determination – as well as historical time and opportunity to master accumulation as the driving force, the nationalists generally do not construct alternative ideologies and institutions for their project. Afflicted, through education, with the colonial master’s theories, culture and history, the nationalists operate on the principle of the atomist individual bearing equal rights. This principle informs their notions of nationalism, sovereignty, self-determination and citizenship. It restricts them to their colonially-determined borders; for, by that principle the individual state struggles it out alone. In the African circumstance, this lack of unity among the states denies them the autonomous economic space and true self-determination; for which reason Prof. Shivji holds that ‘national liberation continues to be the historical agenda’ (Mwalimu’s paper).
He expands on this with the explanation – paraphrasing Amilcar Cabral – that national liberation means a people’s reclaim of their right of liberating the process of their development of national productive forces from imperialist domination. This involves, he says, the fundamental reconstruction of the structure of the economy and re-organization of the state. Under imperialist and capitalist domination none of these can be done. He concludes with conviction that under imperialist domination either one succumbs to neo-colonialism, capitalism, state capitalism or takes the path of socialism. In the period of neo-liberalism, he states in the Mwalimu’s paper that Africa is not colonized but national liberation is aborted as imperialist powers not only use consultants to make policies for Africa but also that they sit ‘in the decision-making processes of all strategic ministries from planning, through finance to central banks’ and thrust policies down the throat of politicians, including parliamentarians, with the use of loans, aid and budget support as carrots and their withdrawal as stick.
In the current situation, strategically-speaking, ‘the tension of the nationalist period between accumulation by capitalisation and accumulation by appropriation has been resolved in favour of the neo-liberal primitive accumulation’, Prof. Shivji says. Even pockets of capitalist accumulation by capitalization are destroyed through deindustrialization while the few achievements of social services in education, health, water, old age pensions and other public services are commoditized under such policies as cost sharing and outsourcing. What he calls imperialist capitals grab African land, minerals, water, flora and fauna with the support of imperialist states and a supposed donor-community. To underscore this support is the process of militarization of Africa through the erection of military bases (AFRICOM) on the continent and around it. This neo-liberal attack on radical nationalism is economic as well as political, cultural and intellectual in its manifestation. In the face of these developments, the need for African unity dawns on many conscious Africans. It is a new realization.
In this new realization, there is an insurrection of Pan-Africanist ideas in a direction to revisit or reconstruct Pan-Africanism and address it as the unfinished project of national liberation from imperialism for the emancipation of the African working people from capitalist hegemony. Prof. Shivji refers to this as a ‘new Pan-Africanism’. By it, a fundamental change involving all across the colour and national lines is projected. In the Mwalimu’s paper, he is concerned with a conceptualization of the ‘new Pan-Africanism’ through a definition of the concept of national liberation. He, first of all, sees the liberation component to mean liberation from imperialism. Secondly, the national component refers to the African Nation in the Pan-African Nation sense as opposed to the limited sense of the territorial nation. To avoid confusion let us remember that when he talks about ‘territorial’ he means the space of a balkanized state as distinguished from the continental space. He claims that though Nkrumah and Nyerere both make this point, with them it is neither this explicit nor do they even state it as a reconceptualization of the concept of a nation. They have the European concept of it.
The European concept, he says, conflates the nation with the state; and when we listen to him more carefully it is conflated with country as well. For the avoidance of doubt let us quote how he puts it directly thus: ‘Earlier debates on the concept of nation remained imprisoned in the European history of conflating nation with state. So, for example, even where Mwalimu and other African leaders realised that the so-called African countries did not constitute a nation, they sought to address this issue through various theories of nation-building.’ Italics are ours. We see at one breath the conflation of nation with state and at another the conflation of nation with country. There is some confusion here unless a country is conflated with a state. But in his use of state during his discourse on the O.A.U. as a statist organization his meaning has more to do with the superstructural organ for the exercise of power than with the country in which that organ is situate. And given that in the colonial situation where the state is not necessarily situate in the colony (country) – as we find, for instance, in the French colonial system, more or less – any such conflation creates conceptual problems. This extends to conceptual problems for Prof. Shivji’s conception of Pan-Africanism.
Before we elaborate on those problems let us look at his elaboration of the ‘new Pan-Africanism’. In the Mwalimu’s paper, he has a concept of a state that is a liberation movement in power to complete national liberation which targets imperialism as the enemy. This is a different type of state. He does not detail the content of the difference. Is it different from the national liberation movements Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere led? Yes. It is like the one that Amilcar Cabral projects. Prof. Shivji proposes the Cabralian concept as a good point of departure. By that concept, an independent African state remains a liberation movement if it is to be independent. ‘Cabral said that “so long as imperialism is in existence, an independent African state must be a liberation movement in power, or it will not be independent”, he quotes Cabral and we also quote him. How do we understand this? That a liberation movement in an African country creates a different state there and remain anti-imperialist in order to be independent? No. Consider his Pan-African civil society concept.
Prof. Shivji projects a Pan-African civil society as a political arena outside the neo-colonial state which it must engage with. We understand this as the setting in motion of a political liberation movement independent of the state but engaged with it. These are his exact words: ‘we have to make Pan-Africanism a category of intellectual thought, on the one hand, and work towards creating a Pan-African civil society, as a political arena outside the state but in engagement with it, on the other.’ All italics are supplied. Clearly, a Pan-African civil society is to be contrasted with the civil society within borders as it cuts across the borders. Within that society, Prof. Shivji makes the working people the agency for bringing Pan-Africanism about. He declares:
‘The question that the present generation faces is both one of the road to Pan-Africanism – that is whether through regional unities or continental unity – and the social agency for bringing it about … African societies are much more differentiated than they were at the time of independence. This means that we have to look at the agency in a much more differentiated way. Can the African state, with its compradorial ruling classes, really be the agency to lead the process of Pan-African unity? I have my doubts … I suggest that objectively the historical agency for a Pan-African revolution is the working people of Africa. I am using the term ‘working people’ in Rodney’s sense. Working people is a configuration of social class which finds its roots in the political economy of accumulation by dispossession based on old and new forms of plunder, expropriation and financial circuits … The working people is still the agency-in-itself; for it to become agency-for-itself, we need an insurrection of Pan-African political ideas in all its dimensions and comprehensiveness.’
With all this said, Prof. Shivji raises the question as to where to begin from. He does not point at the working people of today but implicitly at the next generation of the working people when he suggests that ‘the place to begin is in the realm of ideas, at the site of the generation of ideas – schools and universities – and dissemination of ideas – media.’
We are now finally poised to determine his concept of the African Nation. When he puts the question as to who constitutes the African Nation for the purposes of national liberation (or who an African is for the purposes of Pan-Africanism) some of the difficulties we experience initially appear cleared; for, it is clear that his concept of the African civil society is an across-border conception that is also multi-racial. That bears the implication of continental territoriality in consonance with Kwame Nkrumah’s conception. Listen to what he says appreciatively of Tajudeen Abdel Rahman: ‘Tajudeen kept the universal torch of Pan-Africanism alive. I say universal because for Tajudeen Pan-Africanism was NOT sub-Saharan only, or black only, or Muslim or Christian or Yoruba or Ogoni only. It was truly Pan-Africanist. He wouldn’t give in to culturalism or in to what Nyerere once called, these territorial divisions caused by “imperialist vultures”.’ Those who represent racial and cultural exclusion he identifies in the persons of Kwesi Kwaa Prah, Bankie Foster Bankie and Chinweizu Ibekwe. It is this categorization that sets the conflagration, with Prof. Kwesi K. Prah firing from the angle of racial, cultural and territorial exclusivity.
Prof. Kwesi K. Prah advocates a Pan-Africanism restricted to Africa South of the Sahara, geographically speaking. He excludes Arabs and Arabized Blacks from the Pan-African Project. In this way, he employs not skin pigmentation for his act of exclusivity but history and culture. He is categorical that Arabs, in spite of the number of years that they have been on the continent, are not African. So also are the Indians, Lebanese, Malays and Boers who, for now, require the boundaries of their cultures to blend with and interpenetrate African cultures to become African; until then they are not, being only citizens, legal entities. By this procedure, Blacks of the Diaspora who have lost their language, culture and/or history can only return to the continent not in the conceptual garments of an African but as citizens requiring acculturation – although he acknowledges their roots from the continent.
In his review of Prof. Prah’s Beyond the Color Line: Pan-African Disputations, Ager Dimah outlines Prof. Prah’s commitment to the economic and political goal of African unity and tells us that he makes the determination of the question ‘who is an African?’ the prime condition for any meaningful discussion of African unity. In his own Without African Unity there is No Future for Africa Prof. Prah states that there are two formulae for African unity: either the continentalist or historical-cultural formula. Whereas the former bases the Pan-African Project primarily on the geographical unity of the continent, the latter is primarily based on the unity of the African people. He sees the latter as more meaningful than the former. According to him, this former has the weakness of not contending with the fact that the Arab north has aspirations for an Arab Nation away from the African people.
Prof. Prah uses a criterion that we need to pay strict attention to. In his On Records and Keeping Our Eyes on the Ball, the African is determined not only by their history and culture but also their willingness to see themselves as African. He says that there are some people in Africa who do not want to be known as and called Africans. These people do not have African cultures and live in a caste-like relationship with Africans. Some have African roots but through their Arabization they are now Arabs. Such people are even prepared to go to war against Africans. Listen to him quietly: ‘In North Sudan most of the people who describe themselves as Arabs are historically Arabized Nubians; Africans who have been Arabized. They have become Arabs. Some have been ready to go to war against Africans to promote Arabism.’ Italics are supplied. By this criterion, how do we place the African-American?
The African-American does not speak a single African language. He is a Westernized being employed in the Marine and elsewhere to fight the West’s war against the rest of us. His history is now the history of America. In this culture-specific sense and on the strength of Prof. Prah’s criterion, the Diaspora of African-Americans cannot be captured as African in concept: at best they can only be citizens here in Africa just like the Indians, Lebanese, Malay and Boers. They have become strangers – Americans. This might appear to be understanding Prof. Prah too far. In fact, he explains that continental Africans share homogeneity of religious systems and symbolism as well as rituals with Africans in the Americas – the religious systems bear at the centre ancestor veneration. More than this, these systems are defined by expressive visual art forms, dance and recognizable rhythms. But these are shared with the Arabized Nubians too.
Having made history and culture the ‘prime points of definition of Africanness’, Prof. Prah explains that ‘colour is no basis for defining an African’. Certainly, the Arabization of the Nubian is a cultural event within historical space. It has nothing to do with biological change. Till today the Nubians remain black just as Westernization leaves the African-American black. In addition to that we find among even non-continental Arabs, Israelis and Indians people with black skin. By implication, an African may be a white or yellow person: what qualifies him is his historico-cultural nurturing – he speaks fine Hausa, for instance; he venerates his ancestors in exquisite performance of appropriate rituals; his dance steps are impeccably Hausa in form and content; and even corrupt if he is a comprador bourgeois. But saying that does not prevent Prof. Prah from attributing colour to the African.
He asks Prof. Shivji whether on the basis of visible biological traits one can confuse a Chinese for an Indian or a Chinese for a European. Meanwhile, he adds that in ‘the Afro-Arab borderlands one cannot always make out an Arab and an African on the basis of colour’. And yet Prof. Prah says that ‘in a crowd of humans it is invariably easy to pick out those that are Africans’. He does not attribute this to their visible exhibition of history and culture but to the ‘advantage of colour and high visibility’. This is his direct statement of it: the ‘advantage of colour and high visibility is such that in a crowd of humans it is invariably easy to pick out those that are Africans.’ May it not occur that the supposed Africans are in fact non-continental Arabs? Or they may exhibit no relevant history and no relevant culture? This is why Prof. Shivji sees that in Prof. Prah the question of colour often gets reduced to the biological rather than the historical and cultural.
It is clear to us that Prof. Kwesi Prah’s handling of the question of race is at best not clear. It oscillates between the biological and the historico-cultural. And this is understandable. For, in the space of history, the biological and historico-cultural assume dialectical relations. The caste system that Prof. Prah rightly abhors is a biologic-historico-cultural social phenomenon that condemns a person born into a particular family to a status of cultural inferiority and neglect while another person is born into a particular family to a status of cultural superiority over historical space. So also the royal families are born to live a life apart from the people. And on the basis of race have millions of people been murdered or enslaved. In these sets of circumstances, consciousness of the colour of one’s skin becomes an enduring feature of the psyche. The struggle to accommodate this burden of history manifests in the oscillations we have at hand. Its resolution begins with the elimination of prejudice within the class context.
This naturally draws our attention to the question of social democracy and the working people that Prof. Prah raises in respect of Prof. Shivji’s advocacy of popular democracy. But there is the issue of majority and minority cultures that require explication and resolution beforehand. Prof. Prah explains that there are minorities amongst Africans with cultures that have helped the latter. Such minorities may come to regard themselves as Africans. The means of achieving this are not explicitly stated. All the same we have an inkling of them in words and phrases like ‘diffusion’, ‘interpenetration’, ‘mixing’, ‘embrace Africans’, ‘inter-community marriage’ and ‘permeable cultural and social borders’. This is all in the direction of becoming Africans and it is in one breath. In that breath, Prof. Prah says that the minorities ‘cannot live among Africans, maintain social distance, practice exogamous and caste-like relations with Africans and become Africans at the same time’. He regrets that ‘After more than a century among Africans you could possibly count on two hands the number of inter-community marriages’. Clearly, becoming African involves physical and cultural absorption.
In the other breath, Prof. Prah suggests to Prof. Shivji not to ‘undermine the right of the minorities to their cultures, and the celebration of their cultures in equality and diversity’. He says that ‘cultural and universal rights must come equally to all of us; minorities in Africa should be free to choose how they socially evolve so long as the universal rights of others are not violated. They do not have to become Africans. To argue otherwise would be assimilationist, undemocratic and unhelpful.’ Italics are supplied. If so, why this concern with ‘diffusion’, ‘interpenetration’, ‘mixing’, ‘embrace Africans’, ‘inter-community marriage’ and ‘permeable cultural and social borders’? This is because, according to him, ‘cultures are not stagnant or fixed entities. Cultural change is a permanent feature of all societies. No human group has from time immemorial been hermetically sealed, culturally or otherwise.’ Do we experience some tension here? Let us address it at once.
Prof. Prah explains that minorities have the right to choose how they evolve. They can choose to develop in the direction of becoming Africans. They can also choose to develop in the direction of not becoming Africans. In the first case, they achieve all the rights of being African, including the rights of citizenship and ‘telling Africans who they are and who they are not’. In the second case, they achieve only the rights of citizenship, in which case they understand that not all citizens in Africa are Africans. On the face of it this appears to be a fine statement of principle. Upon a more careful consideration of the issue, however, we will observe that the Indian and Boer minorities on the table are people who have not only lived in Africa for over a century and also been born there but more importantly have developed variants of their ancestral cultures which now mark them out in Indian and Dutch populations as African-Indians and Afrikaners, respectively. They have not needed Black African culture to make them African. Africa has its cultural variants. Geography has also had a role to play.
Returning to the question of social democracy and the working people, Prof. Prah defines social democracy in terms of universal ideals but not as a class concept – which latter is what Prof. Shivji does. Tracing the Pan-African movement within the context of the process of accumulation, Prof. Shivji has defined the working people as the social class agency-in-itself to be transformed into the agency-for-itself to effect the anti-imperialist emancipation of society. Prof. Prah understands and endorses a non-class based definition of what he prefers to call ‘democratic socialism’. According to him, social democracy defined as democratic socialism sets out these universal ideals: acknowledgement of individual rights, transparent constitutionalism, the rejection of the Marxist-Leninist notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, support for universal adult suffrage, the inclusion of social and economic equality and rights to education, medical care, pensions, employment and some measure of social security support for the unemployed and underprivileged. Many of these have been won by the socialist movement but within the capitalist and imperialist process of accumulation by both appropriation and capitalization which only grudgingly concedes them. This is not the fundamental change that Prof. Shivji calls for when he cries out:
‘Humanity stands at cross-roads. It is crying for fundamental change. We need an alternative utopia to live by and fight for if we are not to be consumed by the death and destruction wrought by the barbaric system of the last five centuries. The worst of that barbarism has been felt and continues to be endured in Africa.’
This is not a call to remain within the clutches of capitalism and imperialism. It is the painful cry for emancipation from the roots of our woes – capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism. Pan-Africanism has long passed the stage of hobnobbing with capitalism and its imperialist and neo-colonialist tentacles. It has long been engaged in a revolutionary war to liberate the continent from capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism under the direction of scientific socialism, a.k.a. social democracy, a.k.a. popular democracy, which offers a fundamental alternative to accommodationist democratic socialism, a.k.a. bourgeois democracy-repackaged. Prof. Shivji is not talking about bourgeois democracy, so-called democratic socialism which Prof. Prah seeks to innocuously plant into his mouth. Sure, ‘In a reconstructed Pan-Africanism, Africa is calling all “at the rendezvous of victory …”’.
This is where the place of Marxism within the Pan-African Movement comes in handy. And for the first time from the platform of Pan-Africanism, the 5th Pan-African Congress, the issue is spelt out thus: ‘We are unwilling to starve any longer while doing the world’s drudgery, in order to support, by our poverty and ignorance, a false aristocracy and a discredited imperialism. We condemn the monopoly of capital and the rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone … We shall complain, appeal and arraign. We will make the world listen to the facts of our condition. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment.’ This is quoted from the main resolution of the Congress in a BBC World Service article captioned The Story of Africa Between World Wars 1914-45.
In his Revolutionary Path, Kwame Nkrumah, who wrote the approved and adopted Declaration to the Colonial Peoples of the World issued by the 5th Pan-African Congress, states that ‘There had been four previous Pan-African Congresses. These were attended mainly by intellectual and other bourgeois elements of African descent living either in the USA or the Caribbean … The Fifth Pan-African Congress was different. For the first time, there was strong worker and student participation, and most of over two hundred delegates who attended came from Africa. They represented the re-awakening of African political consciousness; and it was no surprise when the Congress adopted socialism as its political philosophy.’ In the Declaration itself he had written, ‘We believe in the rights of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the right of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, whether political or economic… The Fifth Pan-African Congress, therefore, calls on the workers and farmers of the colonies to organize effectively. Colonial workers must be in the front lines of the battle against imperialism’. All these acts and documents transformed Pan-Africanism in 1945 from a movement seeking improvements within the imperialist system to one for its overthrow and socialism.
After the Congress, Kwame Nkrumah tells us, a working committee was set up to organize the implementation of the programme agreed on. W.E.B. Du Bois was its Chairman and Nkrumah was its General Secretary. Hence, the Declarations and resolutions were followed with practical measures to realize them. In this regard, a West African National Secretariat was formed to organize and direct the programme for independence in West Africa; for, the Congress ‘discussions and speeches of African delegates representing working class interests in Africa’ showed a new militancy and impatience for the practical prosecution of the national liberation struggle. Nkrumah became Secretary of the National Secretariat which ‘became the centre of African and West Indian anti-imperialist activity’. In that capacity, Nkrumah travelled to France where he discussed the possibility of setting up a ‘Union of African Socialist Republics’ with some African members of the French National Assembly including Leopold Senghor and Houphouet-Boigny even though, according to him, by socialism they ‘meant something very different from the scientific socialism to which I was committed’.
Out of the regular meetings of the West African National Secretariat a vanguard political cadre group was formed ‘to train for revolutionary work in any part of the African continent’. It was called ‘The Circle’. Kwame Nkrumah was its Chairman. It addressed the imperative need for unification and to organize a vanguard party that pursued scientific socialist principles and was based on workers and peasants. Unification of West Africa was regarded as the first step to continental unity. The use of armed force was considered but as a last resort. Hence, it aimed at maintaining itself as a revolutionary vanguard and the creation of the Union of African Socialist Republics. It saw West Africa as ‘a country’. See The Circle, 1945-47 in Revolutionary Path. Within that period, Nkrumah completed his booklet Towards Colonial Freedom. It dissects the colonial question within the Marxist theoretical framework and partly concludes that ‘under imperialism war cannot be averted and that a coalition between the proletarian movement in the capitalist countries and the colonial liberation movement, against the world front of imperialism becomes inevitable’. That was in October, 1947.
Thus, ten years and more before independence in Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah had not only developed a Marxist orientation but was already applying Marxist principles in his analysis of social phenomenon as ‘a professional revolutionary’ of The Circle. Those were the days when, as intellectuals like Prof. Shivji agree in statements like ‘In absence of a local bourgeois class worth the name, the agency to build the nation and bring about development would be the state.’, social or class differentiation in Africa was less pronounced. A Marxist worth his salt would not, under such circumstances, promote the intensification of class differentiation but its amelioration and eventual elimination (See the Arusha Declaration of Nyerere and Nkrumah’s Dawn Broadcast in the Revolutionary Path p. 151).
It is instructive to note that on the occasion of the launching of his book, Consciencism – Philosophy and Ideology for De-colonisation, in 1964 this issue was addressed by some speakers. Kwame Nkrumah observed an African society with a negligible and severely weak indigenous capitalist class. As a scientific socialist and one who assumed the reigns of power on the crest of worker-peasant agitation against foreign capital, it was not his bent to create a powerful indigenous capitalist class in replacement of foreign capitalists for the same purpose of exploitation that set the worker-peasant agitation on wheels. This is how he puts it in Africa Must Unite (1963)at p.119:
‘I have already made it clear that colonial rule precluded that accumulation of capital among our citizens which would have assisted thorough-going private investment in industrial construction. It has, therefore, been left to government, as the holder of the means, to play the role of main entrepreneur in laying the basis of the national economic and social environment. If we turned over to private interests the going concerns capitalized out of national funds and national effort, as some of our critics would like to see us do, we should be betraying the trust of the great masses of our people for the greedy interests of a small coterie of individuals, probably in alliance with foreign capitalists. Production for private profit deprives a large section of the people of the goods and services produced. If, therefore, we are to fulfil our pledge to the people and achieve the programme set out above, socialism is our only alternative. For socialism assumes the public ownership of the means of production, the land and its resources, and the use of those means in fulfilment of the people’s needs.’ Italics are supplied.
With the process that he set in motion aborted in the 1966 coup d’état and with class differentiation intensified, Kwame Nkrumah revises notes and intensifies the class struggle in a more direct confrontation. He immortalizes this confrontation with the publications of Class Struggle in Africa and Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare as fighting manuals. In a letter to Reba Lewis on December 23, 1969, he does not only announce the completion of the manuscript of Class Struggle in Africa but also pointedly targets it at the African bourgeoisie in these deserved terms: ‘It exposes this bastard African bourgeoisie.’, he writes as quoted in The Conakry Years: His Life and Letters p. 349. Rather than study these as part of Kwame Nkrumah’s Marxist revolutionary theory and practice, some of us, who have not taken the trouble to study his works out of neglect or laziness, have ruled him out as a latter-day Marxist. This is what we see in Prof. Kwesi Prah’s unfortunate passing reference to ‘Marxists (including Nkrumah in his final years)’. Who told him that Nkrumah became a Marxist only in his final years?
Less than two months after Kwame Nkrumah’s overthrow he writes African Socialism Revisited because, as he puts it, the managers of African Forum ‘were printing silly articles on “African socialism”, and giving it an unMarxist interpretation…’ Also, when it came to his attention that he had been accused of juju while in power, his response was ‘Me, a Marxist!’ That report was in June, 1966. Refer to The Conakry Years pp. 41, 45. At least, he sees himself as a Marxist even before his so-called final years – that is, not to talk about the documentary evidence dating from 1945 to 1965. Nobody who knows what is involved in Marxism will ever dream that it is possible to study it, master it and defend it within a matter of less than two months – especially in its application.
Finally, true Pan-Africanism has since 1945 been Marxist-oriented. Julius Nyerere, who describes Kwame Nkrumah as ‘the greatest crusader for African Unity’, admits that once Kwame Nkrumah, the Marxist light, ‘was removed from the African political scene nobody took up the challenge again.’ This tells us that Prof. Prah’s idea that ‘the universe of discourse on Pan-Africanism is marked by a wide spectrum of political hues’ betrays a failure on his part to mark out the authentic trend from the fifth column mass that ensured the failure of the Pan-African Project in the 1960s. The authentic trend is Pan-Africanism with the Marxist orientation. It has never been a ‘politically-neutral philosophy’ as Prof. Prah spells out in these terms: ‘Some pan-Africanists are doubtlessly social democrats, but not all social democrats are pan-Africanists. Some pan-Africanists are right-wing conservatives while others are to the left of social democracy, indeed many have been, or are, Marxists (including Nkrumah in his final years). Indeed, pan-Africanists can be found within the whole spectrum of political colouring.’ This is false. Else the removal of a Marxist would not have crippled the drive.
TOWARDS THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLICAN STATE OF AFRICA
Which way then, Pan-Africanism? Prof. Shivji tells us that ‘In the view of many African scholars, intellectuals and activists, we need to revisit and re-construct the Pan-African project to address the unfinished task of national liberation from imperialism and take us beyond to the emancipation of the working people of Africa from the hegemony of capitalism.’ In his lamentations on this unfinished task, Dr. Ikaweba Bunting, In Search of a New Africa, wails:
‘In Africa today only the symbols of sovereignty exist. There are flags, seats on the UN General Assembly, heads of state (sometimes more than one), armies, national currencies, ambassadors and Mercedes Benzes.
My belief and hope that the post-colonial African nation could become a liberating institution for African people has been sobered by the reality of dependency. Today, finance and economic policy are controlled and managed directly by the World Bank and the IMF. Political parties, governments and leaders in Africa solicit Western support in order to secure a power-base.
The international creditors control all the assets. The workers and peasants toil and sweat to service debts owed to the international bankers and multilateral agencies. So-called national budgets in many countries are more than 50-per-cent dependent on external financing. Development budgets are at least 90-per-cent dependent on donor funding. In other words, the African state is in receivership and cannot operate unless it gets money to do so from Western donors and financiers (imperialists)…
After 30 years I think African leaders, politicians, and business people, together with the international community, have a moral obligation to come to terms with the fundamental mistake that was made. Millions of men, women and children have withstood repression, torture, deprivation, suffering and death in uprisings, civil wars, border disputes and coups all in the name of nation-building and developing African states in the image and likeness of the industrialized Northern nations. It is too high a price to pay.’
In his last interview, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere tells us: ‘Let us create a new liberation movement to free us from immoral debt and neo-colonialism. This is one way forward. The other way is through Pan-African unity’. When he was asked why his attempt to find a new way foundered on rocks, he tells this story about the World Bank:
‘I was in Washington last year. At the World Bank the first question they asked me was `how did you fail?’ I responded that we took over a country with 85 per cent of its adult population illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were 2 trained engineers and 12 doctors. This is the country we inherited.
When I stepped down there was 91-per-cent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of engineers and doctors and teachers.
In 1988 Tanzania’s per-capita income was $280. Now, in 1998, it is $140. So I asked the World Bank people what went wrong. Because for the last ten years Tanzania has been signing on the dotted line and doing everything the IMF and the World Bank wanted. Enrolment in school has plummeted to 63 per cent and conditions in health and other social services have deteriorated. I asked them again: `what went wrong?’ These people just sat there looking at me. Then they asked what could they do? I told them have some humility. Humility – they are so arrogant!’
That was adding salt to injury. It shows the depths to which Africa has sunk since the first generation of Pan-Africanists left the scene in one way or the other. Mwalimu believes that our current independence type makes our exploitation cheaper than during the colonial times. He says that the ‘independence of the former colonies has suited the interests of the industrial world for bigger profits at less cost. Independence made it cheaper for them to exploit us. We became neo-colonies. Some African leaders did not realize it. In fact many argued against Kwame (Nkrumah)’s idea of neo-colonialism.’ They now exercise economic power without political responsibility. Neo-colonialism is the name Kwame Nkrumah gives to this African catastrophe and describes it as the last stage of imperialism. Its destruction constitutes the unfinished task of Pan-Africanism.
For the execution of this task, the nation-state ceases to be the space for the struggle. The entire continental space is the new terrain. For the Pan-Africanist, the dilemma of the nation-state versus the African Nation disappears. Their activity assumes Africa as the country. Yes, Africa and its islands. Movement within Africa becomes unrestricted. The so-called nation-states are the regions of this country, yet to be properly demarcated to enhance socio-cultural interaction and development. The districts of each region are its administrative zones. The agency for the task ceases to be a nebulous referent simply called the people; it is the working people.
Working simultaneously in each region is the mass movement under a central continental (country) leadership for co-ordinated action to replace every vestige of a neo-colonial power structure anywhere in Africa. The new state rises from popular organs to representative ones. Its arms are the All-Africa People’s Revolutionary Party, the All-Africa People’s Revolutionary Army and the All-Africa People’s Revolutionary Government. ‘And avoiding beating about the bush, we would call it the Union of African Socialist Republics’, Kwame Nkrumah says. But no, the nation-states cannot continue to be republics. With their people divided across borders in all directions they have forfeited that right. It is immoral to allow any of them to stand alone. As regions they cannot be republics.
Rather we would call the new state the People’s Republican State of Africa (PRSA). It is the people who now build it, not heads of state. In this respect, we hasten to acknowledge Prof. Prah’s suspicions of the heads of state in his Keeping Our Eyes on the Ball (2) in these set terms: ‘I agree that state-led Pan-Africanism is a road to nowhere. This has been the experience of the last 50 years. Too quickly and too easily the leadership of African states subvert the real purposes and agenda of Pan-Africanism to suit their own petty and narrow flag and anthem purposes. Some of us have argued that these states, as we have them today, are more part of the problem than the solution.’ And the evolutionary formation of these organs of People’s Power is a simultaneous process as set forth in Nkrumaist thought. Its genesis is in the educational institution – the cradle of the conscious working people, the class-for-itself. This evolution takes place alongside and against the neo-colonial state which is to be torn asunder.
The only obstacle to this Pan-African Project is petty-bourgeois fear of the paper tiger – a funny spectacle. The working people in the metropolitan centres of capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism have started to shake themselves up. It is only the start of the long beginning. The United Nations and NATO have exposed themselves in Libya. Their terror finds its antidote in the people’s guerrilla movement on a continental scale. The armed struggle is just about to begin. Its manual remains Kwame Nkrumah’s Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare and allied bibliography.
Better a relatively small and compact ideologically homogeneous mass movement positioned in every region and poised for action to take us out of capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism forever than an ideologically heterogeneous sprawling movement with the set potential to take freedom with the right hand and return it with the left. Mwalimu could say something like this in his last interview: ‘Anti-colonialism was a nationalist movement. For me liberation and unity were the most important things. I have always said that I was African first and socialist second. I would rather see a free and united Africa before a fragmented socialist Africa. I did not preach socialism. I made this distinction deliberately so as not to divide the country. The majority in the anti-colonial struggle were nationalist.’ On his part, in 1966 Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah could say in The Conakry Years, p.45: ‘Sometimes I sit here and indulge in self-criticism. I think I made two mistakes. I was not tough enough, and I did not pursue socialism fast enough. When I go back it will be different.’
The lesson has been learnt – that is, the simultaneous pursuit of political unity and socialism for national liberation from elitist rule. Neo-colonialism is not colonialism. In neo-colonialism we are fighting an internal enemy as well. We cannot afford the luxury of the anti-colonial unity type. Those thinking in the reversed gear must be gently excused. When Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah says in Keeping Our Eyes on the Ball (2) that ‘I think what is important at this stage for us to get off the ground and going is a cultural movement, a cultural movement which will provide in effect confidence and affirmation for our people with regard to our historical heritage and cultural patrimony’ and that ‘This is what we have, together with many other people thought of as a Sankofa Movement; in other words, the reclamation of values, tenets and institutions of our African heritage’ he adds himself to those to be gently excused.
In case you could not see the reversed thought process involved there, he puts it better in these terms: ‘Development is ultimately a cultural construction. Once this message and its import win the hearts and minds of our people the political implications and requirements will become easily perceptible and a natural evolution towards a political movement will be within our grasp. I am saying that the road to a political movement for unity and African advancement must start in our times with an Africanist cultural and intellectual movement’. In this way, the dialectical development of African Renaissance with and in the flow of the political struggles and in support of them is made a separate affair that mechanically precedes the political struggles. In that club are Bankie Foster Bankie and Prof. Chinweizu Ibekwe. It is the club of the anti-continentalists. The continentalists, inheriting the Nkrumaist Pan-African tendency and in accordance with Consciencism, rather see development as being ultimately economic but not cultural construction. Therein resides the philosophical divergence.
OBITUARY: The ink on the last word of this paper had scarcely dried up yesterday when Sister Ama Adumea Ohene called for the second time; this time to confirm that Brother Muammar Gaddafi had been killed. She was choked with tears away from Libya several thousands of kilometres South of the Sahara. This morning a resident in Tripoli told the ETV in Ghana in a live interview that people were jubilating in Tripoli because they were afraid not to do so. It reminded us of 1966 in Ghana. An overwhelming majority of Metro TV viewers mourned the fallen African as some predicted that, like Ghanaians after 1966, Libyans might come to regret this event. Meanwhile, commentators have seen the event as the last nail in the coffin of state-led Pan-Africanism. May Brother Gaddafi rest in peace. He died fighting. That is the spirit!
October 21, 2011