Pan-Africanism Today & the Working Class

Pan-Africanism Today & the Working Class
Cosmas Musumali of the socialist Rainbow Party welcoming comrades to the Conference

The “Pan-Africanism Today” Conference which took place on March 25-27, at Lusaka brought together activists from 21 countries on the African continent and diaspora as well as comrades from India and Sri-Lanka. It was a major event and an opportunity to reflect on Pan-Africanism and the global struggle of the working class for socialism.

Activists at the Conference which SWL & UAD comrades were participants from Nigeria included Eddie Conway, a leading Black Panther unjustly jailed for 44 years in the United States & now a producer with The Real News Network, Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, historian and former guerrilla in the DR Congo, Ernesto Raymond Kesar of the Trinidadian Movement for Social Justice, Ousmane Lankoandé of the Burkinabe Balai Citoyen (Citizens’ Broom) which led the revolution that ousted Blaise Campaore, Irvine Jim, General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

Some other leading voices were: Tafadzwa Choto an International Socialist and Director of the Zimbabwean Labour Centre, Tetteh Hormeku-Ajei of the Third World Network-Africa, Joaquín Pinheiro, a leading member of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), Fred M’Membe, director of the Zambian journal The Post and Cosmas Musumali of the socialist Rainbow Party in Zambia, the hosts of the conference.

The Conference began by tracing the history of Pan-Africanism as idea and as movement. It was observed that Pan-Africanism has had and continues to have different strands. The only form of Pan-Africanism, participants were agreed upon, which could be considered as being progressive is one that is derived from the concrete reality of the working people of Africa and African descent worldwide, and which thus aims for socialist revolution.

The current global crisis underpins the unsustainability of capitalism as a model for human development. The need to overthrow this exploitative and retrogressive system has thus become more urgent than ever before. But, this involves the building of the forces of popular movements in Africa and across the world, and the forging of their unity in action.

There were reflections on the post-colonial history of Africa. The roles of a number of African radicals such as Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Samora Machel and Che Guevera was celebrated. Participants applauded the place of Cuba in the struggle for the de-colonisation of Africa noting that 350,000 Cubans fought besides freedom fighters in several Southern African countries.

Pan-Africanism today, must consider anti-imperialism as an empty phrase if it is not seen as an integral part of the struggle for socialism. We cannot consider the local elites who have much more in common with ruling classes in advanced capitalist countries than with the African working class-people, as part of the Pan-African project the Conference aims at pursuing.

This fact is of the utmost importance for us, at this juncture. At the same time that a renaissance of Pan-Africanism from below as represented by the Conference is unfolding, we are witnessing winds of a Pan-Africanism from above, as well. Following the pathway of enslavement to capital accumulation from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the so-called “New Economic Partnership for Africa” (NEPAD), African rulers have set a deadline for effecting a Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) for the end of 2017.

This Pan-Africanism of the bosses, we are told, we help ensure greater development, through improved intra-African trade, unlike the current situation where most African states trade more with Europe, North America, India and China. This itself is not a bad thing. Domestic revenue mobilisation will most likely be enhanced, which on the face of it make more funds available for bettering the lives of Africa’s millions of impoverished working class-people.

But, at the centre of this Pan-Africanism from above is the primary interest of local and foreign capitalists alike, and not the interest of poor people. In many countries in Africa, particularly those like South Africa and Nigeria whose “big bosses” will benefit most from the CFTA, the problem is not so much lack of resources as it is inequitable distribution of the social wealth. The secret of the rich’s wealth lies in the exploitation and poverty of working class-people.

Pan-Africanism from above is however not limited to that of the bosses as reflected in NEPAD and now the forthcoming CFTA. Several radical formations and leaders have equally posited unity for Africa with a bureaucratic approach, from the top. No matter how well meaning they are, this cannot but be counter-productive to the working class’ project for its self-emancipation.

More often than not, such Left-inclined Pan-Africanisms from above become wrecked projects. The ongoing effort has to learn from the African Left Networking Forum which was formed in 2008 and has now to all effect become little more than an NGO. While a few of affiliates, particularly the Social Democratic Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Kenya have remained forthright in the cause of working class-people’s struggle, its leading components, particularly the South African Communist Party (SACP) have shown in practice that they are little different in substance from the bosses they (used to?) claim they are fighting against.

Without revolutionary theory, as Lenin points out, there can be no revolutionary movement. Apart from bad faith smoothly lubricated by expensive champagne that they have learnt how to drink even better than the capitalists, the devil of an ideology which sees the socialist revolution from a two-stage perspective cannot but make their politics one of hell for working class-people.

At a meeting of the Network in 2010, Mr. Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the SACP claimed that “the fundamental task facing the African continent is that of taking forward and completing the national democratic revolution (NDR)”. Nothing could be further from the truth. There will be several democratic revolutions in the course of and summing up the socialist revolution, in Africa and globally. But the idea of a “the” national democratic revolution (and which is yet to be completed!) is nothing but a recipe for collaboration with the bosses.

Pan-Africanism today for the working class must have at its heart: unity of the working class across the length and breadth of Africa and worldwide; ceaseless and undiluted struggle against the bosses, especially those on the continent and; a clear understanding of socialism, our goal of “system change”, as being the winning of democracy, by we ourselves. Only with this and through this can we emancipate ourselves and through our control and management of the abundant resources humankind has created, ensure that development is real for all and sundry.

by Todun Jagun



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