INSTINCT, CONSCIENCE AND
IN RELATION TO CULTURE
THE MIND OF SÉKOU TOURÉ
Lang T. K. A. Nubuor
The Agency of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism
Inspired by his conscience of a man who has been frustrated by history, drawing from the source of human knowledge new creative capacities, depending on his own social and cultural wealth, the African has already brought and will continue to bring in, whether one chooses or not, his contribution to the crucible of universal civilization.
Consequently, prompted by a revolutionary conscience directed towards right and legitimate human objectives, the Peoples of Africa will impose on all attempts to subordinate Africa and reduce her to slavery, the African Personality, based on a type of humanism the quintessence of which is far from being discovered.
Ahmed Sékou Touré, Revolution, Culture and Pan-Africanism, p. 201
A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time an ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles of Africa. Such a philosophical statement will be born out of the crisis of the African conscience…
Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 70
[The] Essence of Marxism-Nkrumaism is contained in Towards Colonial Freedom. This plus Consciencism has its place in the development of Nkrumaism. Latter is not a concrete set of laws or principles, but will evolve as the revolutionary struggle in Africa evolves.
June Milne, Kwame Nkrumah: The Conakry Years, p.196
The significant agreement in these quotations is Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s and Ahmed Sékou Touré’s admission that the original humanist principles of Africa are in a state of being discovered. The process of discovery is still unfolding. In this sense, Marxism-Nkrumaism – as the philosophy, ideology and science of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism – continues to evolve in the revolutionary struggle. For this reason, Sékou Touré urges new generations not to retain transmitted knowledge, virtues and qualities as they are but improve them. In his own words:
Revolutionary culture helps the transmission of all knowledge, virtues and qualities to the whole People and in particular to the new generations whose duty is not to keep them as they are, but to increase them, to surpass them with a view to giving them greater dimensions and effectiveness in the service of justice, equality and human solidarity. (Ahmed Sékou Touré, Revolution, Culture and Pan-Africanism p. 74)
The process of improvement involves as well a struggle to combat reactionary ideas that run counter to the people’s aspirations. At page 175, for instance, Sékou Touré urges a struggle against Negritude which he describes as the most noxious and alienating ideologico-literary tendency with the form of apartheid within Pan-Africanism. We find at page 178 a statement suggesting a variant of Negritude. In the circumstances of today The Sankofa Tendency represents that variant. We will treat his damaging exposition of Negritude later in these pages. For now, let us characterize the agency for improvement.
That suggests a prior characterization of Pan-Africanism itself. Let it suffice here to state that at page 177 Sékou Touré sees Pan-Africanism in its present era as ‘the class struggle at the level of Africa and of her external branches’. As a movement born out of revolt, he proposes at page 175, Pan-Africanism is revolutionary. In this light he finds that ‘The proletariat’s compass is reliable’ (p. 181) and thus places the working class (the proletariat) at the centre of the class struggle that Pan-Africanism wages. This makes the working class the agency for the envisaged improvement of the said philosophy and ideology.
In his characterization of the revolutionary working class Sékou Touré defines the revolutionary at page 157 in terms of the latter’s ‘social and historical utility’. He says that such a ‘revolutionary is nothing else than a conscious instrument of history to which he conforms his thoughts, his acts and his behaviour’. This means, in fact, that it is the people who define for him what is truth, legality and legitimacy by which the expression of his will is regulated. In this respect, at previous pages, Sékou Touré equates ‘people’ with ‘history’: for him the people are eternal while the individual is transient.
This element of dedication in the character of the Pan-African revolutionary is better appreciated at page 151 where Sékou Touré accuses those who place their own problems above those of the larger society of concealing ‘their mind of resignation’. He is here better quoted than paraphrased thus:
Those who conceal their mind of resignation in asserting that they are satisfied with keeping themselves busy with their own problems before keeping themselves busy with the problems of their family, then of their village, then of their district or region, nation and finally Africa, use here a paltry argument which does not manage for conscious minds, to disguise the nature of duplicity to which they (sacrifice) the major interests of Africa.
It is such a disciplined and committed Pan-African revolutionary that Sékou Touré refers to as ‘The true African elite’ at page 18. He numbers among them ‘ardent patriots, honest workers, men of popular culture, with or without a university degree, whose political, social and cultural behaviour is in keeping with the determination of Africa for the qualitative transformation of the Peoples’ existence. The true elite always acts in silence in an efficient and useful manner. It is made up of freedom fighters and all those who continuously contribute to the edification of an authentic and fully emancipated Africa with its immense resources, enormous capacities and most of all progressive thinking, confident in the future.’(Italics added)
Sékou Touré would not, consequently, vacate this issue of agency without a piece of advice that needs to be taken seriously if existing and coming generations are to find their names immortalized in the annals of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism along with those of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Amilcar Cabral, Felix Moumie, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Sobukwe, Franz Fanon and others. This is how he puts it at page 189:
The advice is perhaps or certainly a sabre cut in water, for incorrigible are those who do not know to choose between, having themselves registered in history soiled with infamy on one hand and having themselves registered with eternal esteem of the Peoples on the other hand. Fame has two sides: the one which spreads disgrace on those who have become famous in the acts of contempt of the Peoples and the one which keeps honourable memory of those who distinguished themselves in the defence of right causes.
Hence, in his celebration of this agency for the continuation and elaboration of the philosophy and ideology of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism as well as its execution, Sékou Touré bursts this forth in poetry at page 43. Here are extracts of the poem ‘Class Struggle’:
They will finally be in the right, these masses
Who are going to substitute altruism
To the class enemy’s selfishness,
Thus founding the bases of true humanism.
Let them scorn the fighting People’s ardour
These wicked and irreverent individuals!
The wheels of History must turn round
And no enemy can divert it
From its objective of popular happiness
For it is driven by true proletarians
Who, with the Socialist Revolution
Will forever destroy capitalist exploitation.
The Question of Negritude and its Variant
In seeing Pan-Africanism in its present era as ‘the class struggle at the level of Africa and of her external branches’, Sékou Touré asserts the simultaneous engagement of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora in the struggle of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism (RP-A). This assertion of the geographical space together with the dimensional spread of the African human content of Pan-Africanism stands in negation of and in opposition to spurious claims of RP-A restricting itself to geographical Africa as such without considerations of the condition of the African person.
In making such huge false claims The Sankofa Tendency, in the persons of Prof. Kwesi K. Prah and Prof. Chinweizu I. Chinweizu, burdens us with a brand of Pan-Africanism that is of an essential racist breed – a Blackism restricted to Africa South of the Sahara with a problematic (as it is a hypocritical) inclusion of the Diaspora. The stance of The Sankofa Tendency presents it as a variant of Negritude. To appreciate the connection of the two one needs to delve into Sékou Touré’s interpretation and condemnation of Negritude. The current section of this write-up attempts such an appreciation.
At page 186 of his Revolution, Culture and Pan-Africanism Sékou Touré says that under colonial rule the colonialist had justified their claims of superiority over the African on account of difference in skin colour or pigmentation. In reaction to such claims the African asserted pride in being black and thus boasted about his pigmentation, ‘our negritude’. This reminds us of slogans in the 1960s such as ‘I’m Black and Proud’ in the Unites States of America. In fact, Sékou Touré says that ‘negritude … in the colonial days … was an arm of unity … (that) united us to the Black Americans, to the Blacks of all Continents’ (pp. 187-188).
In his view, with the achievement of sovereignty in Africa negritude becomes ‘for those who champion it, only a means of diversion, a means of division which favours imperialism while weakening the battle front formed by African peoples’. (ibid) He points out that ‘Those who before insulted us by calling us “nigger” and whom we fought against are the very people who today speak enthusiastically of negritude. They even talk of it more than ourselves because they have understood that negritude is an arm of division in Africa…’ (p.187). He then explains the divisive nature of negritude.
According to him, ‘to talk of Africa in terms of colour is to try to divide the continent’. By that assertion, he turns his look off the European colonizer to the continent’s internal reality of people of different colours who had all been through the experience of being colonized. Talking of Africa in terms of colour, he says, ‘Mauritania would have known division since black and white people live together there. What about Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, (Libya), Somalia, Sudan, Egypt or Ethiopia; wouldn’t they suffer the same fate and same tragedy?’ Point is that he is against such a division for good reason.
In this respect he asks and answers his own question thus: ‘Have we any interest in dividing our Peoples? We do not think so, for all these Peoples who live in Africa must join their energies in a common battle for rehabilitation’. This immediately asserts the geographical and African human dimensions of the Pan-African enterprise. And in so doing, it declares the irrelevance of colour. For, it actually dismisses colour in these forthright terms: ‘Colour does not concern history’ (p.187) or ‘… all theories of superiority of one colour over another are fundamentally vicious’. (p.186)
In summing up the case against Negritude, Sékou Touré boldly announces that ‘To talk of the African continent is to understand it as a geographical, psychological and social entity, with its historic content. The whole of Africa has experienced colonization; she must henceforth assert herself in freedom and dignity. And to talk of Africa in terms of colour is to try to divide the continent’. We do not need to repeat herein Sékou Touré’s reference to the story of the triplets distributed into different societies. We only need to listen to him say that ‘we are all moulded in another cultural environment’. (p.186)
The racial parochialism of Negritude thus established, for those who have been following the debates with The Sankofa Tendency familiarity with the issues Sékou Touré addresses should not be in doubt. For those who might not be that familiar it suffices to state that Sékou Touré’s criticism of Negritude is as if he addresses himself against The Sankofa Tendency of today. Being not only anti-socialist but anti-Marxist-Nkrumaist as well, The Sankofa Tendency represents everything that Negritude stands for with this variant that the former is hypocritical and ahistorical in its ways within Pan-Africanism.
Who is The Sankofa Tendency working for if not international capitalism and imperialism, neo-colonialism and international reaction?
A Single African State and Nation
At page 178, Sékou Touré reflects that ‘it would be a very big mistake of those who judge Pan-Africanism from abroad … to think that it concerns a Pan-Negrism ancestor, a kind of racism based on a certain Negro Nation’. This justified rejectionist attitude towards a racist conception of a ‘Negro Nation’ appears extended to his attitude to the form that African Unity must assume. For, even in its non-racist form of the ‘African Nation’ he appears to resist the conception of the latter as comprising the people of Africa and the Diaspora in a state of ethnic diversity over Africa’s entire geographical space and time.
He rather perceives units of Africans comprising diverse but parts of dismembered entities within patches of geographical space and time; which units he refers to as ‘African Nations’. Whenever he applies the concept of an ‘African Nation’ it is always in reference to a country in Africa. Such a country is seen to be engaged in an exercise of ‘nation-building’. It is, as said, a composition of the parts of dismembered ethnic entities the other parts of which constitute sections of neighbouring countries. As a colonial construct it is a historically recent creation trying to hold itself together as a nation-state.
Sékou Touré’s ‘African Nation’ is not a historical fact but a political fact. He makes this clear at page 89 where he defines a nation in the following terms: ‘Nation is a political fact underlined by the will to live a fact that the common ideology, common policy, common economy, common joys and difficulties develop and crystallize’. A nation, indeed, is rather the product of historical evolution wherein a people politically crystallize out of a process of horizontal integration over a geographical space with a culture that identifies it. Within the nation emerge out of its class struggles dominant ideology, policy, etc.
This historical evolution takes its roots from the development of the economic sub-structure wherein production and exchange compel the forging of relations among peoples within geographical spaces. The consequent need to regulate these relations to enhance the further development of the economy in a particular direction precipitates the emergence of state systems or their expansion into other territories involved in the said economic interaction. This logic of the historical process informs the history of the pre-colonial African nation-states until the disastrous European adventures on the continent.
Sékou Touré does not only acknowledge the emergence in that process of what he correctly calls ‘African Culture’ but also records the effects of the European adventures in terms of their interruption of what he again calls ‘that free development’ in the following words at page 168:
But that free development was brutally interrupted by the aggression of European imperialist powers against the Peoples of Africa, whose resistance, everywhere determined and fierce, has been finally reduced for the simple fact of superiority of material means used by the occupation troops who have come far across the seas.
How could Sékou Touré acknowledge an African Culture without an African Nation that is at least in the process of fulfilment? What prevents him from a call for the resuscitation and continuation of that process? Why does he now restrict the concept of the African Nation to petty, petty unviable fragments of the larger whole? Of course, an African Culture with roots dating to the pre-colonial period could not have emerged out of the pigeon-holes of neo-colonially fabricated so-called African Nations. This contradiction in his mind constitutes the source of volte-faces in his Pan-African policy determinations.
In particular, Sékou Touré, as documented in Elenga M’buyinga’s book titled Pan-Africanism or Neo-Colonialism: The Bankruptcy of the O.A.U. and long after the formation of the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union in 1958, goes to the First Summit of the O.A.U. in Addis Ababa in 1963 only to dissociate himself from Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s proposal for ‘African Unity Now!’ and thus left Dr. Nkrumah alone. But not many months after that summit, M’buyinga reports, Sékou Touré comes out with a proposal for ‘Continental Unity Now!’ We quote M’buyinga at length:
But the real surprise of the conference was Sékou Touré’s support for the American and Ethiopian sponsored Charter. In plenary session, he practically defined African unity as a policy by which African states could simply ‘co-ordinate their activities in the pursuit of freely chosen goals expressing our common desire for democratic progress and social justice’. He even asserted that the African states had already made ‘identical choices’:
To a greater or lesser extent, all the African states have opted for the complete emancipation of the African people. Since the purpose of their actions is the same and all seek to give their development the same character, it is quite understandable that the mission we have set ourselves has found such widespread response in all our states. [Obvious lies and verbiage, E.M.]
The creation of an African Common Market [N.B., E.M.], the industrialization of Africa, the sharing of its resources, the harmonization and rationalization of our actions in order to avoid contradiction and unnecessary duplication of tasks are all direct consequences of the identical choices our states have made, choices which call for an honest and realistic attitude on the part of our government…
Nkrumah had spoken just before Sékou Touré. In his speech, he asked the Conference:
What are we trying to achieve? Are we trying to draw up a Charter rather like that of the United Nations, whose resolutions, as we have seen for ourselves, are sometimes ignored by certain member states? ….
Or do we intend to turn Africa into some sort of Organization of American States? … Is that the kind of association we want for the United Africa we have all been talking about so vehemently and emotionally?
African unity is, above all, a political realm which can only be won by political means. Africa’s economic and social development will grow out of its political achievements, but the formula is not reversible.
Unless we achieve African unity now, we who sit here today will become the victims and martyrs of neo-colonialism.
Only a United Africa, with a Union Government, can seriously mobilize the material and moral resources of our individual states and apply them with the efficacy and energy which is indispensable if we are to improve the living conditions of our peoples quickly.
Without necessarily sacrificing sovereignty, great and small alike can here and now forge a political union based on common defence policies, common diplomacy and diplomatic representation, common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone and an African central bank. We must unite to bring about the complete liberation of our Continent. We need a common system of defence, with an African High Command.
To which Sékou Touré replied:
The goal of emancipation our states have committed themselves to is just, legitimate and achievable. The firm, loyal and faithful attitude with which our governments will apply the decisions this Conference has enabled us to take, combined with the quality of the new structure we must set up if we are to promote direct co-operation between our sister nations, will be the basis for our success in accomplishing the common task we have undertaken in the name and interests of our peoples.
This Conference must draw up and adopt a Charter, specify its fundamental principles and aims, and create an Executive Secretariat charged with co-ordinating the activities of our states.
Of course, after so many speeches, a decision had to be taken. When the time came, history records that Nkrumah found himself alone in defending the thesis of continental political unification to the very end.
Barely a few months later, Africa’s revolutionary militants had the nauseating pleasure of hearing Sékou Touré declare:
Nothing prevents us creating a Continental State of Africa apart from personal selfishness, political disloyalty and the insufficiently high level of African consciousness. If we were really determined to turn Africa into a Continental State, we could do so immediately.
If it was the ‘insufficiently high level of African consciousness’ which held back the creation of a Continental African State — the most developed, not to say the only real form of African unity — how could Sékou Touré go on to say:
African Unity, which some people confuse with the O.A.U., does exist; it exists amongst the peoples of Africa and is, at that level, more real, more profound and more historically rooted than the present O.A.U., which is after all only the organic and structural extension of that consciousness.
But the question is precisely whether the O.A.U. has ever been, or will ever be ‘the organic and structural extension’ of that African unity which the African peoples of the entire continent dream about.
These reports, citations and criticisms by Elenga M’buyinga confirm one thing: Sékou Touré’s awareness that ‘African Unity … exists amongst the peoples of Africa and is at that level, more real, more profound and more historically rooted than the present O.A.U.’ This muted assertion of an African Nation with a spread across the continent conforms not only to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of a United Africa but also the spirit of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism. Did not the First Republican Constitution of Ghana under Dr. Nkrumah assert Ghana’s readiness to dissolve into the Republic of Africa?
It is the combination of the reality of this African Nation with the spokes that the so-called African nation-states represent in its wheels rolling for the Continental State to consummate African Unity that continues to compromise all-round African development for the realization of the African Personality in its glorious effulgence. And let the neo-colonial and imperialist forces that sustain these neo-colonial states rest assured that their time is nigh: in a single accord the working people of Africa and the Diaspora shall rise one of these days to reclaim their birthright to continue from where their forebears left off.
‘Pan-Africanism is not founded on the will of some States’ but ‘is essentially founded on Africa of Peoples, Peoples who cover entirely the geographical boundaries of our continent and overflow them towards the Americas’ (p.174) and as such it ‘must lean on the primacy of Peoples in front of States’ (p.175). Sékou Touré, Revolution, Culture and Pan-Africanism
In the current era we can only improve on that: rather than asserting ‘the primacy of the Peoples in front of States’ we assert the primacy of the People in confrontation with the States with the singular purpose of destroying them altogether to be replaced by the People’s Republican State of Africa. Need we say more?
July 16, 2013