Only the overthrow of capitalism can bring liberation

Reflections on African Liberation Day 2016


This year the celebration of African Liberation Day of May 25 took place with the energy of the new Pan African force that emerged in all parts of the world that simply stated that, “Black Lives matter.” From Bahia in Brazil to Mogadishu in Somalia and Chibok in Nigeria to Chicago in the United States there are new forms of political organizing to register the need to protect Black life. These new forms of organizing have brought to the forefront new militants for liberation and emancipation and new sites of struggles. The old battles for liberation involved the struggles for state power and the new push for freedom requires not just state power but also the struggles for bread, freedom and social justice.  Some liberators of yesterday have become oppressors. Others pay lip service to the idea of African independence while stealing billions which should be put to work for the health and safety of the working peoples. In principle, most of the governments in the Pan-African world do not work to free the people from threats to life and livelihood. At the same time they remain silent with the rise of petty fascism as manifest in the emergence of Donald Trump in the United States and the forces of the National Front of France.

When the idea of the celebration of one day to mark African liberation was first mooted, it was in recognition of the intense struggles for dignity that had inspired the African ancestors. The freedom fighters of yesterday started with the understanding that “all great achievements and changes begin with a vision.” The vision of a self-determination and a free Africa, that is, the aspirations of African people everywhere for a prosperous, integrated, peaceful and secular Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in repairing the planet earth and securing the lives of Africans at home and abroad. This vision of securing the lives of Africans has been co-opted by leaders who have turned the African Union into a talking shop about how to protect the careers of dictators as we have recently seen in the case of the massacres in Burundi.

It was not possible in 2016 to celebrate African Liberation Day without remembering the committed energies of Tajudeen Abdul Raheem who dedicated his earthly life to the cause of human freedom and African dignity. It is now seven years since Tajudeen joined the ancestors on May 25, 2009 and one cannot go through the minutes of the day of May 25 without remembering the major contributions made by Tajudeen Abdul Raheem to the cause of Pan African liberation. Tajudeen is now a historical figure joining the ranks of the thousands of African freedom fighters who continue to inspire us. This article is also an effort to remember his contribution.

Origins of African Liberation Day

When the compromise for the formation of the Organization of African Unity had cemented itself in 1963, May 25 had been designated as Africa Day. The idea of Africa Day was to make one day a moment to celebrate and support the struggles for dignity. This idea was first mooted at the All African Peoples Conference that was held in Ghana in 1958.The highlight of the total opposition to colonialism and apartheid was the observation of African Liberation Day on May 25 of every year. At the All African Peoples Conference in 1958, hosted by the peoples of Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, it was agreed that one day would be set aside as a national day of remembrance for African freedom fighters. The Conference spearheaded the start of African Freedom Day, a day to “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”

This celebration of freedom had been begun by ex-Garveyites living in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York in the United States. These Garveyites had carried forward a tradition of Black Internationalism that inspired Kwame Nkrumah when he was a student in the period of the last great capitalist depression in the United States. Up to 1994 the dynamic anti-racist momentum that propelled the spirits of Pan Africanism was driven by the desire to end white supremacist rule in Southern Africa.  It was significant that it was in those states that supported African liberation with moral, material and political support that this day of May 25 was observed at the national level. The military defeat of the South African army in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale leading to the formal ending of the apartheid in 1994, combined with the Third World Conference against Racism and the formation of the African Union were four elements in the revitalization of the forces of African freedom. However, at the dawn of the century many of the leaders of Africa reneged on the principles of reparative justice just when the African descendants of the Americas were looking to link with the victories over apartheid to turn a corner internationally.

Liberators have become reactionaries

South Africa was the society that was at the center of the struggles for African freedom after 1948 when the minority white regime embarked on a policy of apartheid. For many in the African liberation process the coming to power of the ANC-led government of Nelson Mandela was supposed to be a new era in the revitalization of Africa. Twenty years later the working poor of South Africa have been faced with increased exploitation as the ANC government has turned its back on the principles of freedom. The book No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000 used biographical data to show the different movements that had been organized for half a century to support African freedom. [1]

As the former freedom fighters turned into crude accumulators and embraced the forms of exploitation of the exploiters, the idea of African Liberation Day lost its resonance to the poor and exploited in Africa. Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are two of the best examples of how the idea of liberation has been turned against the people. Everyday the people seek new ways to register their claims for life and health and the most recent victory of gold miners in South Africa remind Pan-Africanists of the conditions of work for millions of workers in all parts of the Pan-African world. Mine workers who suffered from silicosis or tuberculosis brought a class action suit against the top gold producers of South Africa. This class action suit reminded the other African workers that there are multiple fronts of struggle for liberation. As Tajudeen always said, one struggle, many fronts. Tajudeen spoke out clearly about liberation and emancipation for the oppressed and exposed the liberators who had become reactionaries. In one of his postcards, now reproduced in the book, Speaking Truth to Power, Tajudeen had this to say of the former liberators:

“What happens to revolutionaries when they get into power?  … They have stayed so long in power that they have all forgotten their previous jobs, values and visions. From heralding “fundamental change” they have become apostles of “no change”. They have become reactionaries, tired revolutionaries exhausting the country they claim they have liberated. The challenge now facing Ugandans is similar to what is facing Zimbabweans, Ethiopians, Eritreans and other post-liberation societies: how to liberate themselves from their liberators. The liberators have become establishment reactionaries blocking future changes.”[2]

The Pan-African world and the global capitalist crisis

All around the continent there are death tendencies. Former liberator Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has turned the army of Uganda into an instrument of oppression and as a mercenary force in the service of the imperial masters. After coming to power through armed struggles in 1986, Museveni continues to hold on to power in the quest to build an indigenous capitalist class, reaping surplus from turning Uganda into a petro-state. Yoweri Museveni and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi are two misleaders who project themselves as peacemakers in Somalia while oppressing people in their own societies. The Security Council of the United Nations perpetuates the farce of the Burundi and Ugandan leaders acting as peacekeepers because the so-called ‘war on terror’ diverts attention from the real economic terror and insecurity facing the peoples because of the global capitalist crisis.

Both the Ugandan and Burundian people are reeling from the genocidal economic relations that have spawned in the region of central Africa for the past fifty years. The specific form of capitalism in Africa requires force and violence on a day-to-day basis. This has been the reality from the era of King Leopold and Cecil Rhodes down to the present moment of state repression in Egypt, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. These repressive tendencies are all of the indices of the destructive nature of capitalism are present before humanity. From the dawn of capitalism the forms of relations for the majority of the African peoples were always based on the brutal and primitive forms of accumulation. Africans did not have to await the current financial meltdown to grasp the realities of capitalist exploitation.

The evidence of global capitalist crisis is disguised with rosy forecasts about ‘global recovery’ but the impoverished of the world are witnessing one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich. This transfer to the top 1 per cent is being carried out under the political and military leadership of the United States where the financial wizards seek new ways to extract wealth and roll back the limited sovereignty that had been won with political independence. For over thirty years the oppressed in Africa had opposed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the devaluation of their lives. Under the mantra of Structural Adjustment, the IMF and World Bank bullied countries to attract ‘foreign investors’ by weakening their labor laws and supressing the organization of workers and small farmers. [3] Together with local comprador elements the IMF worked with the states to eliminate collective bargaining laws and suppress wages. The IMF’s mantra of “labor flexibility” empowered corporations to fire workers at whim and move where wages are cheapest. While weakening the organized workers the IMF collaborated with governments to slash spending on social services such as health, education and environmental clean-up. User fees at public clinics and hospitals made healthcare unaffordable to those who need it most, especially in the period of bio- economic warfare. As capitalist relations of plunder intensify in Africa, working class women have become more exploited as government workplace regulations are rolled back and sweatshops abuses increase. With the rollback of services urban spaces increasingly look like garbage dumps in areas where the working peoples eke out a living.

Today the working peoples of Greece are seeing concretely how the international bankers use organizations like the IMF and the European Central Bank to erode independence. Their ports, water supply entities, shipping companies, public utilities and even islands are now open for privatization for the people of Greece to save German and French bankers. The operations of Wall Street now dictate that there is a new focus on liberation from financial warfare and the role of the bankers who have established the numerous mechanisms to loot billions of dollars from Africa. Figures published by The Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) point to the fact that approximately $1.4 trillion has left Africa in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009. These figures on illicit financial flows on monies earned from criminal activities do not cover the other figures of the 15 ways that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rob Africa of its vital surpluses. [4] African public officials have no shame when it comes to stealing from their own people and some are now concerned that they did not steal enough so that their names could have appeared in the Panama Papers highlighting the names of those who have been looting the resources of Africa. [5] The task of liberation today involves the strengthening of the ideas of returning stolen assets to Africa.

Through the policies of liberalization and privatization the Bretton Woods institutions and their associated allies have been able to direct the attention of the African youth towards ideas about the establishment of capital markets and markets for financial securities. But because most of Africa remains outside the debt trap of the international financial institutions it is necessary to use brute force to seize African assets as the NATO intervention demonstrated in Libya. The crudity of Nicholas Sarkozy who justified the destruction in Libya in the name of saving the Euro is only surpassed by the complicity of the African ruling elements who have refused to mount even minimal diplomatic offensive in the ranks of the Non-Aligned Movement to expose the recolonization and destruction of Libya.

Economists such as Samir Amin and Michael Hudson have been writing about finance as a new form of warfare and the reality that the financial moguls of New York, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo perpetuate the same objective as “military conquest: to gain control over land and basic infrastructure, and collect tribute. It is not necessary to conquer a country or even own its land, natural resources and infrastructure, if its economic surplus can be taken financially. What formerly took blood and arms is now obtained by debt leverage. [6]

Because Africans have not been completely seduced into debt leverage there are military interventions such as in Libya, Somalia and Nigeria to destabilize the peoples of Africa. This destabilization is carried out under the banner of fighting terror and terrorists in Africa. Hence, institutions such as the US African Command (AFRICOM) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are now seen clearly as obstacles to African liberation.

The revival of racism, chauvinism, jingoism in the context of the capitalist crisis

On African Liberation Day 2016 the entire world is looking askance at the rise of racism and Islamophobia inside the United States. Since the 2008 international financial crisis the white working classes of the US have been seeking ways of regaining white privilege instead of directing their focus on the bankers and financial predators who have deepened their impoverishment. The rise in inequality has now reached the white working class and it was into this fray that Donald Trump entered inciting anti-immigrant, nativist and Islamophobic animosities. Of the two mainstream political parties in the USA, the Republican Party since 1968 prospered in disenfranchising black people and promoting racist policies. These were most overtly spelt out in the Southern Strategy. After the election of Obama in 2008 the Republicans reared a new racist formation called the Tea party with neo-conservatives such as Ted Cruz emerging as senators. Out of this counter-revolution emerged a field of 17 contenders for the candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency. Out of these seventeen emerged the real estate billionaire Donald Trump.

On African Liberation Day Trump received enough votes to be nominated as the official Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States at the upcoming convention. The career of Donald Trump has been one of misogyny, racism and the celebration of white supremacy. After the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States in 2008, Donald Trump fed the ideas of the Tea Party about Obama not being an American citizen. Campaigning under the slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’ Donald Trump is pushing forward the impossible goal of making America white again.  The celebration of white supremacy has now received a new lease of life when the working class whites should be focused on the capitalist classes who have gotten rich while expropriating millions from their homes.

Many in the Pan-African world outside would not know the history of Donald Trump beyond his foray as a reality TV star. This Donald Trump had been the cheerleader in calling for the death penalty for five young black men who had been wrongfully convicted of rape in New York City. Donald Trump had whipped up racial hysteria about black rapists and had taken out signed full-page newspaper advertisements explicitly calling for the five teenage black boys to die for a crime they did not commit. It took the painstaking work of Pan-Africanists such as Elomb Brath to prove the innocence of these five youths – four African Americans and one Latino, all under age 18 –who had been framed by the New York Police Department for the rape and brutalization of a white woman during the infamous Central Park Jogger case in 1989. The NYPD forced confessions from the youths amidst a racist campaign egged on by Donald Trump and the corporate media. The men were finally exonerated in 2002, when a convicted rapist confessed to the Central Park attack.

Elomb Brath had been one of the foremost Pan-Africanists in the New York area and for over fifty years he had spearheaded the hosting of African Liberation Day activities there.  This activity by Brath was part of a wider political mobilization where the black and brown workers in the New York area had been at the forefront of anti-imperialist work. Mention had been made earlier of the ex-Garveyites who had organized in the USA and Malcolm X had emerged in the late 1950s on the platforms of black liberation.  By the time of the passing of Malcolm X in 1965 his work among the poor, not just blacks, had led the Socialist Workers Party to claim that Malcolm X was a socialist. [7] The relevant point for African Liberation Day 2016 is that in the anti-racist struggles in the USA revolutionaries such as Malcolm X and James Boggs, Grace Boggs  and others understood the vital role of the black working peoples in the fight against capitalism. The traditions of Malcolm X are still too strong in the New York area; for a Donald Trump to have emerged in that arena, it required the wider base of the entire US society where the ideas of eugenics and racial hierarchy have more prominence for Trump to merge as a leader.

Donald Trump has gone on to take his racism national and international with calls for the deportation of 11 million immigrant workers and for the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico. For two hundred years the US society has been built on the super exploitation of black lives, and in the midst of this capitalist crisis the new movement called #Black Lives Matter has emerged to stand up against the police killings and the deep racism of capitalism in the United States.

The Black Liberation Movement in the USA under the leadership of a new cadre of revolutionaries in the #Black Lives Matter movement are exposing the militarization of urban spaces in the United States that had been covered over with talks about democracy and freedom. Fascist ideas abound in the USA but the strategic location of the black and brown working peoples inside the economy has weakened the possibilities for the full-blown fascist party to emerge. The Occupy Wall Street Movement had delegitimized the dominant liberal idea of the society that everyone could make it if they only work hard.  It is this latent alliance between the Blacks and Latinos along with the alliance with the progressive sections of the working classes, the progressive wing of the LBGTI movement, progressive sections of the women’s movement, the peace movement and the environmental justice movement that makes it difficult for the right wing to fully consolidate politically in the United States.

As in the last capitalist depression when fascism overtook Europe the rise of racist ideas abound in Europe with parties aligned to the same ideas of Donald Trump receiving large support from the white working class in Europe. The deeper the crisis the more outrageous the positions of the right wing populism of political organs such as that of Freedom Party of Austria, Danish Peoples Party of Denmark, the National Front in France, United Kingdom Independence Party (in Britain), the Party for Freedom of the Netherlands, Golden Dawn of Greece, the National Alliance in Italy competing with the Northern League, and the National Democratic Party of Germany.

The European working classes have reached a crossroad where they have to choose between supporting the racist ruling classes or fight for their rights.  African liberation Day 2016 coincided with the occasion of mass actions by workers in France and Belgium when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest austerity, mass layoffs and war. The top three French banks are heavily exposed in the current financial crisis and for the past year the government has been whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria about terror in order to divide black and white workers in Europe. [8] The European media used the refugee challenges presented by warfare and destruction in East Asia as a diversion while the capitalist classes carried out massive attacks on the rights of workers and other basic rights such as the right to a living wage.

The European ruling classes are especially fearful of an organized working class force in France. For fifty years the political establishment in France plundered Africa and France continues to mobilize the resources of 14 African states to prop up its status as a major power.  After the NATO intervention in Libya and the interventions of France in Mali and the Central African Republic the rulers in France had hoped that racism was enough to dampen the militancy of the exploited French workers. May 2016 exposed the fact that the state of emergency introduced in France and Belgium shortly after the ‘terror attacks of November 2015 was not aimed primarily at Islamist terror networks, but on the potential mass mobilization of workers. One of the current challenges will be for the reparative justice movement to develop a clear alliance with the progressive sections of the working class to blunt the rise of the National Front while opposing French imperialism in Africa.  African Liberation Day 2016 is also another occasion to bring forward the demand for France to end neocolonial rule in Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania.

The coup in Brazil and its meaning for African liberation

From Haiti to Venezuela and from Honduras to Bahia the struggles of the African descendants demand solidarity from all parts of the Pan-African world. When the All African Peoples Conference was called in Accra in 1958 the question of the independence of Puerto Rico had been high on the agenda of the Pan African movement. Today, the peoples of Puerto Rico are calling for solidarity in the face of the intensified oppression from the Wall Street bankers who want the people to starve while the bond-holders in New York are paid. The peoples of Puerto Rico as well as the peoples of Martinique, Cayenne, Guadeloupe and the 20 other colonies are calling for an end to the outmoded concept of colonial rule. This is a reminder to all peoples that as long as one territory is under colonial rule all peoples are threatened by foreign domination.

In 2016 the peoples of Haiti sought to deepen their engagement with the African Union as one way to bring attention to the anti-Haitianism in the region, especially the successful efforts of the leaders of the Dominican Republic in stripping citizenship from tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent creating the largest stateless population in the Western Hemisphere. Members of the African communities all over the Americas are calling for solidarity in the face of this intensified anti-black wave. While the Caribbean community have called for this solidarity with the peoples of Haiti, the African Union rejected the application of the peoples of Haiti to join the African Union. The same leaders who decided to grace the leaders of Rwanda with the hosting of the meeting of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda, failed to openly support the Haitian peoples in struggle. In this way the AU has entered into the murky debate as to who is an African, denying the platform that had been agreed upon at the founding of the OAU that the AU was founded to achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa at home and abroad.

It is in Brazil, however, where the white supremacists have come out blazing by moving to remove the elected government of Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party. Brazil is the society of the Americas with the largest African population outside of Africa. The population of African descendants in Brazil number over 120 million out of a population estimated at 204 million. For three hundred years the capitalist classes practised the most perverted form of genocidal economics which had been covered over by a concept of ‘racial democracy.’ Afro-Brazilians have been fighting in many different fronts for their basic rights and in this century they began to gather international support after the Durban Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Afro-Brazilians had thrown their weight behind the Workers Party of Lula in 2002 and since that time the society embarked on minimal reforms to end the most overt forms of racism and police killings. It is in the Americas where the question of liberation is now linked to reparations and reparative justice.

Despite the massive diplomatic foray into Africa in the past twenty years by Brazilian construction and energy corporations, the reality is that millions of black Brazilians live in the most wretched conditions in the Favelas – slums. The national statistics of Brazil cannot reveal the depth of the exploitation and state violence against black people on a daily basis. The educational system is organized to repress blacks with less than 4 per cent of the African Brazilians having access to higher education. The media in Brazil is a vehicle for the reproduction of eugenic ideas with the now famous Novelas carrying forward images of whiteness and purity.

In the past fourteen years the Workers Party (PT) had embarked on limited reforms to better the conditions of the poorest Brazilians (the black, brown and indigenous peoples). Real minimum wages rose by 70 per cent under the PT and the government sought to expand social services with cash transfer programs such as Bolsa Familia – (basically a social wage). The governments of Lula and Rousseff embarked on a massive expansion of educational opportunities including a targeted program of making higher education accessible for Afro-Brazilians. It was a real contradiction to hear of calls for ‘affirmative action’ in Brazil when what was needed was a complete overhaul and reconstruction of the society to serve the needs of the majority of the peoples. Despite this contradiction, the entrenched white capitalists were threatened by any motion towards dismantling the legacies of the genocidal state structures of Brazil.

The Workers Party came to Power in 2002 and embarked on tinkering with reforms while keeping the model of capital accumulation in Brazil intact. These reforms were seen as a threat to the security and power of the capitalist classes. The extremists of Brazil, taking advantage of the capitalist depression in Brazil, mobilized to oust Dilma Rousseff who was re-elected in 2014. (One of the most telling images that was circulated on social media during the demonstrations against Rousseff was that of the white couple demonstrating against the PT government while their black house servant dressed in her uniform pushed their child in a prom behind them). [9]

The PT government has been removed while the impeachment trials are underway. The Brazilian coup is one of the clearest examples of the need to mobilize for a new understanding of black alliances with progressive sections of the organized workers in the fight against capitalism in the 21st century. Slowly, it is becoming clear that it is only with the massive mobilization of the black Brazilians in alliance with the wider working class that can roll back the neo-fascist forces in Brazil.

This is also the case in Venezuela where the legacies of the Bolivarian experiment are under threat from the entrenched conservative forces. The Venezuelan social and economic crisis like the Brazilian struggle point to the reality that capitalism in Latin America cannot be seriously challenged without a frontal assault on white racism and the ideas of settler colonialism that killed millions of Blacks and Indigenous First Nation peoples. [10]

Educate the youths on past victories in order to mobilize for the transformation of the social system

All over the Pan-African world the conscious Pan-Africanist took the occasion of African Liberation Day to remind the youths of the victories of the Peoples of Africa over the Italian colonialist in 1896 at Adwa. It was significant that in the celebration of African Liberation Day in South Africa by the progressive force the focus of the discussion was on the importance of indigenous knowledge for the transformation of Africa and the need to teach all peoples of the importance of the 1896 battles between the Italians and Africans at Adwa. This victory over the forces of colonialism was repeated in the last depression in 1935 when the forces of Ethiopia drove back the forces of Benito Mussolini. This past victory inspired the global Pan-African movement and the Rastafari movement emerged as a strong Pan-African force.

The Ethiopian victories guaranteed the fact that the peoples of Ethiopia enjoyed nominal independence throughout the era of overt European colonialism. While these memories are being kindled it is also appropriate to stand in solidarity with the Ethiopian workers and poor farmers who are being expropriated from their land and communities by the Ethiopian ruling elements. The poor workers and small farmers of Oromia are feeling the brunt of the chauvinism of the Ethiopian capitalist classes. In the absence of a vigorous working class movement to mobilize the working peoples beyond religious, ethnic and regional lines, the ruling elements use religion and ethnic chauvinism to seek to blunt the righteous demands of the workers in all sectors of the economy. Progressive Pan-Africanists in all parts of the world are being called upon by the workers and small farmers of Ethiopia to expose these forms of expropriation. The Ethiopian ruling class cannot boast the hosting of the seat of the African Union while repressing its own people. Ethiopian women like hundreds of others in Eastern Africa are sent to the Arabian Peninsula to work in conditions of semi-slavery. A militaristic and patriarchal leadership in Ethiopia has done very little to end this mini-slave trade with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

This year the celebration of ALD took place when the question of black lives took precedence over the future of political leaders. A vibrant Pan-African optimism is being pushed across the Pan-African world by cultural leaders while the states use educational system to confuse the youth. I was recently in Abidjan and saw first-hand the important revolutionary spirit of cultural leaders such as Tiken Jah. Reggae artists across all parts of the Pan-African world have demonstrated creativity and the fact of what can be done with technological innovation. As I sat in the stands at Abi Reggae Festival listening to Tiken Jah Fakoly and Julian Marley I was witnessing the new energies for liberation coming from those who are not suborned by Francophonie. Julian Marley’s rendition of Africa Unite cut through all of the xenophobia and chauvinism that is now abroad among the ruling elites in Africa. The initiative for wisdom in action and for peace is taking place with people who do not have a vested interest in power or political domination

Whether in Burundi, Somalia, Sudan or the Central African Republic the questions of peace and reconstruction have been smothered by petty dictators who benefit from dividing the people.

The discussion on liberation and peace in Africa has been dominated by attempts to reconcile political forces who understand the peace process as another way of consolidating the struggle for political power. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union has tended to treat the African people as victims who are silent, helpless who do not have a role to play in reconstruction. The emphasis by the international media and by governments has been to stress the centrality of United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations.

There is always something to be done

The isolation of the peoples of Africa in the African Union on peace and education is manifest in many ways. There is a dearth of information on the real meaning of external military interventions to fight ‘terror’. This disinformation campaign on the real roots of terror is only reinforced by the monies spent by the international think tanks to cream off the brightest from among the youths to seek employment in international non-governmental organizations. Those who are not ensnared by employment by external agencies gravitate towards the new forms of fundamentalism where youths seek salvation by oppressing others. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem whose mortal remains are interred in Funtua, Nigeria, must be turning over and admonishing all of us who have not been more forthright in exposing and opposing elements such as Boko Haram. The rise of fundamentalism in the world in many forms is an attempt by peoples to develop new cultural and spiritual values. Unfortunately, in the attempt to develop spiritual reference points there are some zealots who develop religions and religious expressions to dominate and exploit the spiritual values of the African peoples. These elements develop extreme forms of bigotry in the process of celebrating spirituality and spiritual values. We have the spectacle of Christian, Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists, all who manifest intolerance in the process of elaborating their spiritual values

African women from the grassroots are at the forefront of developing new theories of African liberation. They point out the reality that the stress on state wars of political forces ignores the cause of even greater violence, structural violence of exploitation, social violence against the exploited and domestic violence against women. In this sense African liberation day is taking place when new radical forces such as Asma Mafhouz are emerging in every society of Africa to develop new forms of self-organization and self-expression. There are new forms of organizing emerging slowly and carefully. It is not by accident that the leading forces within the #Black Lives Matter movement in the USA were the transgender forces who have made it clear that homophobia is incompatible with African liberation.

Tajudeen, like C. L. R James, always said that there is always something to be done. This year, the capitalist crisis is calling forth new techniques of rebellion and organizing as the youths proclaim that fascism will not take hold in this period. The rise of Trump is a backlash to Obama’s election. What is becoming clearer from the candidacy of Hilary Clinton is that the mainstream political organizations such as the Democratic Party cannot be the vehicle for respecting black lives. Youths from the #Black Lives Matter movement have reminded the society that it was Bill and Hilary Clinton that termed young blacks as violent predators. Thus, on African liberation day 2016 most young blacks had gotten over the euphoria that electoral politics could change the social system. So in the USA, so in Africa and Latin America.  In 1963, most African and Latin American countries were ruled by dictators. Today less so, but capital is demonstrating the fact that they will resort to ruthless measures to ensure the survival of capitalism.

The lessons of the Ebola outbreak

The issues of biological warfare and environmental destruction are not usually addressed by the celebrations of African liberation. However, the dramatic outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone dictates the need for a Pan-African response to health crises. Ebola, HIV/AIDS, environmental destruction and gas flaring have exposed the stark realities that Pan-African solutions will be needed beyond the Berlinist states that had been carved out of African communities in 1884. In the United States the black workers of Louisiana had taken the lead in the struggles against environmental racism and brought white communities in St. James Parish to the realization that the Mississippi River Industrial Corridor (also known as Cancer Alley) did not discriminate when the capitalists were destroying the natural environment.[11]

The global capitalist crisis has pointed out clearly that Africans cannot restructure their economies without a fundamental shift of global power. At present the African descendants have the moral authority to oppose capitalism and through the Global Reparations movement they are calling for reparative justice and for a restructuring of the international economic system. This call for a New International Economic Order had been embraced by leaders such as Julius Nyerere who championed the cause of fighting against the odious debt of Africa.  It is in states such as Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, DRC and South Africa where there is a very large working class where capitalism works hardest to divide the poor on regional, ethnic and religious grounds. A new cadre of freedom fighters is needed to oppose the current leaders in Africa who have proven to be accomplices in the looting of Africa. There is need for new forms of organizing to meet new conditions.

In 1959 when Malcolm X organized African Liberation Day in Harlem the ruling class of the USA and the co-opted black leadership dismissed the ideas of Malcolm X.  Malcolm X was far ahead of his time and he lived in a generation when he understood that the struggles for civil rights in Mississippi could not be separated from the struggles for freedom in the Congo. Elomb Brath understood that the fight for the lives of the youths in the case of the Central Park jogger could not be separated from the fight to free Nelson Mandela in South Africa or showing solidarity with the Cuban people by hosting Fidel Castro in Harlem.

Whether in Bahia, Brazil, or in Ferguson, Missouri, the chant that #Black Lives Matter is carrying forward a new rallying call for opposition to global destruction of black lives and black communities. Plans for the organization of the world under US hegemony are found wanting because the global Pan-African struggle continues expose the looting and destruction of empire. The massive police killings of blacks in the USA makes it difficult for the US Africa Command to promote the fiction that the US military is in Africa to protect black lives.

In the era of the consumer culture of the West and the debased values of greed and corruption, African religious forms and other forms of spirituality are now important forms of self-expression. Africans and other oppressed want to identify with spiritual values which can provide a base for emancipation and redemption. African customs, values and traditions are being interpreted in a way which could oppose the western cultural domination. However, in many cases there are those who exploit the spiritual values to promote organized forms of religious expressions which are also oppressive. African fundamentalism exists and is manipulated by some forces, but as of yet these forces do not have the material resources to create havoc as other fundamentalists.

The spiritual values of self-reliance, love, redemption and deliverance are values which can unleash the creativity of the African to develop new forms of organizing and conceptualizing society. The task is to find new ways to harmonize the relations between human beings and between humans and nature. Africa is a rich continent. Thus far the conception of the African leaders has been to mobilize resources and raw materials based on the vision and demands of Europe.

The struggles for African Liberation in 2016 is part of the global struggle for a new social system beyond capitalism. It is important to learn from the accomplishments in order to inspire a new generation to carry forward the torch of freedom.

* Horace G. Campbell, Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya: Lessons for Africa in the Forging of African Unity.

End notes

[1] No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000, edited by William Minter, Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb Jr. Africa World Press, Trenton, New Jersey 2007.

[2] Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, Speaking Truth to Power Selected Pan-African Postcards, Pambazuka Press, London, 2010

[3] For an early critique of the role of the IMF and World Bank in Africa see Samir Amin, Maldevelopment: Anatomy of a Global Failure, United Nations University, Tokyo 1990

[4] After the IMF and the World Bank established the SAPS projects to ensure tax evasion and control fraud in Africa the same Bretton Woods Institutions organize studies to divert attention from the real plunder of external flows from Africa. For one such IMF inspired study see Draining development?: Controlling flows of illicit funds from developing countries, edited by Peter Reuter, published by the World Bank , Washington 2012. This was one response to the information published by Léonce Ndikumana and James Boyce, Africa’s Odious Debt: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent, Zed Books London, 2011

[5] For the amount of money offshore in tax havens James S. Henry, John Christensen, and Nick Mathiason, The Price of Offshore Revisited, Tax Justice Network, 2012,…

[6] Michael Hudson, Finance as Warfare: World Economic Association, London 2015

[7] George Breitman, The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary, Pathfinder Books

[8] Horace Campbell, Manipulation in Paris, Counterpunch, January 19, 2015 image was reproduced along with the article by Glen Greenwald, Andrew Fishman and David Miranda, “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption — and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy,” The Intercept, May 18, 2016,…

[9] Richard Gott,”Latin America as a White Settler Society,” Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 269–289, 2007

[10] See Environmental Justice and the Mississippi River Industrial Corridor,…



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