Hermann Duncker 1960

Conversation between Professor Hermann Duncker and Brother Diallo Seydou

Source: Hermann Duncker: Introduction to Marxism. Selected Speeches and Writings, VEB Edition Leipzig, Leipzig, 1963, 2. enl. ed., pp. 57-59.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive 2021
Transcribed: Geoff
HTML Markup: Zdravko Saveski

On May 6th, 1960, the general secretary of the Union Générale des Travailleurs d'Afrique Noire (UGTAN), Diallo Seydou, who was paying a visit to the German Democratic Republic, visited the director of the German Trade Union College "Fritz Heckert", Professor Hermann Duncker. Professor Duncker had invited Brother Diallo Seydou to see him, since, being already then tied to his sick-bed, he was not in a position to take part in the meeting of the College Collective with Brother Seydou. The meeting between Professor Duncker and Brother Seydou took place in an atmosphere of the warmest friendship. The following text contains the record of the most important parts of the conversation, which lasted one and a half hours.

Prof. Duncker: I am so taken up with the importance of the movement in Africa and I am so glad that we in the College are making special efforts to work together with Africans. That is why I am so happy to come in close personal contact with one of the main representatives of the African movement. I hope that it will still be given to me to live through a small part of this movement and to collaborate in the spreading of this idea, in so far as it is possible for me. First of all, then, my warmest thanks. I am glad of the presence of Seydou in our circle. I would like to believe that this is only the beginning of an even closer link with Africanism, as he is seeking to implement it in Africa. So, once more, my heartiest greetings.

Brother Diallo Seydou expressed his great joy that it was possible for him to meet with Professor Duncker. He said that it was very important for him to meet such a person, who had lived through the period of two world wars, who had fought all his life against imperialism and who still took an active part in the fight of the peoples for peace and, in particular, in the fight of the African people against colonialism.

Brother Seydou stressed that he regarded it as his great good fortune to hear the voice of a person, a man, who had given his whole life for the ideals of socialism. Brother Seydou thanked Professor Duncker for the fight that he carried on for the German people and expressed his conviction that this fight was of great significance not only for the German people, but also for the liberation of Africa, for Africa would not be a fighting continent today, if there had not been people in the past who had gone in for Africa's liberation.

Professor Duncker: I might add again that I believe that I shall still live through the beginning of the great African Revolution, with which Africa places itself alongside the great revolutions of the world, beginning with the French Revolution and continuing with the Russian Revolution and then with the Chinese. I believe that you are now called upon really to carry through the African Revolution, and also the revolution in thought and ideas, and in that spirit you are children of the revolution and a part of the World Revolution itself. In this sense the thoughts of Marx and Engels are the thoughts which give the World Revolution its foundation. Please permit me to give Comrade Seydou the two volumes in which my revolutionary and socialist work of six decades had been set down. I believe that it contains a number of articles and speeches that, in their thoughts, reach beyond Germany, that in their thoughts seek to prepare for the World Revolution.[1]

Brother Diallo Seydou, deeply moved, thanked Hermann Duncker for his present and said that it was the most splendid present that anyone could give an African such as he. He was convinced that the ideal which had filled the life of Hermann Duncker had kept him always young. He had spoken today with a man who was both young and old. He wished Hermann Duncker many more years of health and creative force, so that he would long be in the position to propagate the ideas of socialism. When he went back to Africa, he would tell his African brothers, Brother Seydou emphasized, of this significant meeting with Hermann Duncker, so that they might learn what great men he had met together with here.

Professor Duncker: In the years of my emigration in America from 1940-1947, I naturally had many interesting experiences. Of course, I also saw how strong reaction still is in America. One of the finest of these experiences was that one day I met Paul Robeson. We sat together and Robeson spoke of Brother Duncker. He sang his songs and the whole impression which I gained of him as a personality made this meeting with Robeson unforgettable.

I really believe that there is a true and deep brotherhood between the peoples, no matter what the colour of their skin or what language they speak. We have all the same great aim and we all want to lead the world to an ever deeper understanding of the importance of work, science and solidarity. I have spoken of these three ideals in an article in my book and I believe that is what binds us all together. We all understand how work, science, the real science, and solidarity lead us all closer together and allow ever more strongly to recognise each other as brothers. I would like to say that just as I felt about being together with Paul Robeson at that time, so today I feel about being together with Brother Seydou and am happy over this company.

Brother Diallo Seydou expressed himself as deeply impressed by these words and stressed that he had been convinced in the German Democratic Republic that the workers practise solidarity towards the peoples of Africa, fighting for their liberation not only in words but also in deeds. Brother Seydou said that in Africa one often asked oneself, on what basis the splendid friendship, which had grown up over the past 15 years between the German working class and the African people, existed. Through this meeting with Hermann Duncker he had received a clear answer to his question. He had realised that already formerly, and also in the dark night of fascism, there have been men who had stood up for these ideals and fought for them. These humanistic ideals which are latent in the people and only waited to be awakened, have been tended and developed by men such as Hermann Duncker. Even so it is in Africa. There are still great parts of this continent which have not yet been able to liberate themselves from the fetters of colonial exploitation and oppression. There are still many brothers who suffer under foreign rule, who know neither trade union nor political rights. But the fires are now kindled and the flames spread wider all the time. And so we, too, are firmly convinced that the final victory will belong to us. Brother Seydou expressed his sincere wish that he might live with Brother Duncker to see the victory in this struggle.

Professor Duncker: Above all I rejoice over the optimism, which is expressed in the words and declarations of our African brother; this confidence which naturally is the basis of our modern socialism, this confidence in the future which we have and in which we live. With this confidence in the future one can look over generations, and so I feel myself bound to you, also through the future, which I personally shall not live to see. But that which I am now living through is a wonderful beginning of this shape the future will take. Just as I have said already, as meeting Paul Robeson showed me, that Paul Robeson is a great revolutionary personality, so I believe that we all feel ourselves revolutionary personalities and we are united by our ideas, when not by our tongues. When one can look back over such a long period of the struggle of the labour movement as I can, one is all the more confident that one day the whole world will live and think in a socialist way, and this confidence in the future is what I hope will give me still a little while to live. All who have worked for this aim, work with the same strength and the same confidence in the future, and that unites us. And I believe that you can say with pride that precisely the black African brothers who work here, are the most capable and most eager people possible, and I have experienced the start of this work with great joy. The young people from Africa who are working here must be filled with the conviction that they should concentrate all their energy on this work. They must not take over from the so-called civilisation what Africans easily take over when they merely come in superficial contact with this civilisation. But I am sure that the young revolutionaries, through the great tasks before them, will be protected from the traditions of capitalist civilisation, and that they will all aspire to a truly socialist revolution and socialist work. In this manner it is possible to strengthen the understanding of our best youth and to make firm the ties which bind us to our black brothers.

I would be glad, if I were still a young man and could also live through it all, but I shall have to resign myself to it.

Immense tasks are standing before you, but I believe that the size of these tasks will also help you to carry them out. Everything depends on this, that the moral weakness of capitalist civilisation, too, shall be ever more clearly perceived, that one should have the aim of building a socialist civilisation ever more clearly before the eyes. This development, naturally, cannot be forced, it will come only through conviction, but this conviction must be developed to the degree that one must continue to work with capitalism. To the same degree, however, one must become clearer over the dangers that exist in capitalism, "good capitalism", too. And you must grasp the idea even more that it is completely virgin land on which you must act. And the aim is naturally not just a "good capitalism", but rather the aim is an ever deeper understanding of the idea of the socialist world association. I wish you all success in this.

When we were in emigration in the still capitalist countries, we learnt that there are in the capitalist world, fortunately, quite a number of unconscious socialists. These unconscious socialists supported us powerfully and helped us during the time of our emigration. I am sure that also now in all countries, America, England, France, etc., all over the world indeed, there are unconscious socialists. We must just understand how to turn these unconscious socialists gradually into conscious socialists. And I believe that also in your country the circle of conscious socialists will spread more and more, and that must be your aim. This education of real conscious socialists is an indispensable part of evolution. And I hope that you will feel yourself how in your own circles the consciousness of socialism is becoming stronger and stronger.