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International Socialist Review, Summer 1966


Towards a United Democratic Movement of Africa


From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.3, Summer 1966, pp.109-114.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following editorial and statement of principles are reprinted from Unity, the newsletter of the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa, Volume II No.4, April, 1966.

* * *

In this issue of our newsletter we take the opportunity to put forward our ideas on the vexed question of organizational unity in Africa. We do this, not in a spirit of boastfulness, but in order to help solve a problem that has presented itself forcibly to Africa as a result of recent events in this continent.

We feel that we can make a contribution here, for, after all, we are a unity movement. Since the early ‘forties we have clamored for organizational unity in our own country. This was not accidental. Our experience taught us that the fight against national oppression and exploitation in South Africa cannot succeed without the unity of the oppressed and exploited.

Indeed, we have taken the matter so seriously that we have worked out a basis for such unity and have never ceased to invite our brothers in the other liberatory organizations to come and join hands with us. But the forces that are ranged against the liberation movement in that country as in the whole of Africa, are so great and powerful that so far they have been successful in keeping us divided.

These forces we clearly understand and have lost no opportunity to expose them. It is for this reason that the organizations affiliated to the All-African Convention and the Unity Movement have never received publicity from the imperialist press. Hundreds of people belonging to these organizations have been victimized by the South African Herrenvolk (master race) without the slightest murmur from the press. There has been an almost complete conspiracy of silence against our organizations. The forces of imperialism -its press, radio and other agencies – have fought a relentless war against the All-African Convention and the Unity Movement.

We are not in the least worried by this. For we know the enemy we are up against. It is an enemy with a long history of trickery, subversion, subterfuge and double-dealing. To be able to meet this enemy effectively, we have to know its nature. For a people desiring to emancipate itself must’ understand the process of its enslavement. Only in this way can we see through the machinations of imperialism.

In the pages that follow, we attempt to draw the attention of the liberation movements and organizations in Africa to the necessity of forging a united struggle against all those forces that are opposed to our freedom. It will be seen that we all suffer from the same disabilities; we have to fight against the same enemy; that this enemy has, for strategic reasons, decided to carve up our continent into a checkerboard pattern of separate states; that in spite of this Balkani-zation of Africa, the enemy itself has formed a unified strategy against the people of Africa.

Finally, we seek to show the possibility of the formation of a united democratic Liberation Movement of Africa. Such a movement would, of necessity, look beyond the granting of formal political independence, into a future where Africa will have thrown off the shackles of domination by imperialism in any shape or form. Then Africa will be really free to determine its own destiny.

It is our considered opinion that for this there can be no better training-ground than co-operation among the liberation movements in their pre-independence struggles against the local fascists in particular, and imperialism in general. Just as imperialism has a unified strategy for Africa, so also must the liberation movements work out a unified strategy for the fight against imperialism and neo-colonialism.

To make such unity lasting, fruitful and not self-defeating, we shall have to accept certain fundamental principles, which alone will enable us to wage a consistent and intransigent struggle against our enemies. Unity for the sake of unity is worse than disunity. There must be purpose in our unity, and this purpose must be to declare war on all the enemies of our freedom and to ensure that we shall finally gain complete, genuine, and not spurious, independence.

These principles are laid down below, and we believe that no organization or movement genuinely fighting for liberation will reject them. But acceptance is not enough. What is more important is to act consistently in accordance with accepted principles and programs. Our experience is that those who prate loudly about freedom very often refuse to be tied down to a form of behavior consistent with their protestations.

This is what makes unity difficult to achieve because principled unity means a complete break with the past, which for most oppressed people has been one of collaboration with the enemy in one form or another; it means a new orientation, a new political outlook. This is resisted most strenuously by imperialism, sometimes working through its agents-conscious and unconscious-among us. This we have to guard against.

Finally, it must be clearly understood that we are up against a formidable enemy and that the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism will be a protracted one. But history is on our side, if only we can realize the tremendous power that is potentially in our hands. Let us act now. This is the time for principled unity of all the liberation movements in Africa.

Imperialism in Africa

Africa, Asia and Latin America are awakening to their responsibilities in the world today. Large sections of the population in colonial, ex-colonial and neo-colonial countries are taking up positions in the inevitable confrontation between imperialism and anti-imperialism.

There is a growing realization, especially in Africa and Asia, that imperialism, being united and international in character, can only be countered by a united and international force. This is the thought behind the clamor for Afro-Asian solidarity. It is increasingly being felt that the anti-imperialist forces of the world must unite for thereby they have nothing to lose but their chains, which tie them to their feet behind the chariot wheel of international finance capital.

Equally, there is a growing realization in Africa and Asia that imperialism is capable of adapting itself in order all the more effectively to perpetuate its stranglehold over its spheres of influence all over the globe. For example, in its own interests, imperialism has contrived to withdraw its political hegemony over its vast domain in Africa and Asia, giving formal independence to its erstwhile children of bondage, only to tie them even more securely to its economic apron strings.

The more progressive elements in these two continents have seen through the machinations of imperialism. They have learned by bitter experience that neo-colonialism invariably follows in the wake of so-called independence and are taking steps to counteract the perpetuation of imperialism in this new guise. It is this realization that has given birth to the concept of continental unity in Africa, of which President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana is the chief exponent.

Imperialism has reacted sharply to this move. For this form of unity, if brought about, would be detrimental to the interests of imperialism in Africa. Therefore, imperialism, its press and its lackeys, have turned their venom on President Nkrumah; have vilified him and called him all sorts of ugly names. The attempts to sabotage and subvert the Conference of the African Heads of State and Government held in October last year in Accra; the hysterical outbursts of the imperialist press thereafter; and the prolonged hallelujahs after the army coup, are all of a piece with the concerted conspiracy by imperialism and its agents against the real independence of Africa.

Side by side with these developments, and as a logical concomitant of them, has been the call for a united struggle amongst the liberation organizations and movements in unliberated territories against the forces of national oppression and exploitation-in particular against the united military and political strategy of the South African Herrenvolk, the little fascists in Rhodesia, the blood-stained Franco dictatorship and the tottering Salazar regime backed by the NATO powers, by West Germany and American imperialism.

It is this aspect of the strategy for the effective liberation of Africa that we set out to consider below. We have to examine whether or not it is possible for the liberation organizations and movements to forge a co-ordinated struggle against South Africa, Rhodesia, Portugal, Spain and imperialism in general. To put it in another way, we have to explore the possibilities of launching a united movement for the purpose of fighting for democratic rights on a continental scale. For this purpose we have to know the problem with which we have to contend. It has become axiomatic that a people seeking to liberate itself must first understand the nature of its oppression. It is only in this way that the oppressed can evolve methods of struggle that will be effective in the fight for freedom. When we look at all oppressive regimes in Africa, we find that they are based on a policy of perpetuation of national oppression and exploitation. The white oppressors in these territories have found it convenient to discriminate against the aborigines and other groups, on the basis of pigmentation and have sought and find all manner of justification for their prejudices in the outmoded and primitive theories of race differences.

These fascist regimes have put their racist theories into practice. They have erected impermeable walls between the ruling classes and the oppressed; they have created relationships of master and servant between the two groups; they have deprived the oppressed of all human rights; they have dehumanized them and treated them as things, as objects brought to this world only for the convenience of the ruling classes.

The oppressed peoples have been treated as beasts of burden, regimented and ordered to do the bidding of their masters; they have been relegated to an inferior position in all walks of life; they have been impoverished, deprived of education and social status; they have been consigned to the bleak squalor, to the slush and the stench of location life and stripped of all human dignity. Their person, their house and privacy have been violated in accordance with the laws of the ruling classes; they have been molested, brutalized and tortured by the police with impunity.

They have been placed outside the pale of equality before the law. Freedom of speech, thought, movement and association has been denied to them. No real political rights are accorded to them so that they cannot participate in the making of the laws that govern their lives; they have been bludgeoned into submission and obedience to the laws that have been designed for their own enslavement. In short, the oppressed have been reduced to the status of Helots and Calibans in their own motherlands.

This is a characteristic feature of all the oppressive regimes in Africa. They are based on a policy that is designed to maintain, entrench and perpetuate national oppression and exploitation. It is a policy that pays huge dividends to the representatives of international finance capital in these territories and to their masters in America, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and other imperialist countries.

Indeed, the accident of color in these unliberated countries has been used to cover up the interest of finance capital in the economic exploitation of the oppressed. Racialism has been drawn like a red herring across the trail in order to blur the picture so that this form of exploitation should go on unchecked. It is this type of exploitation that continues in the shape of neo-colonialism even after constitutional independence has been granted to some of those countries whose blood imperialism has sucked for ages.

Here, various devices are used, one of which is to make the emergent states client states to the various colonial powers, who maintain the new governments in power by extensive financial assistance. In this way these imperialist powers pose as the great philanthropists who are dedicated to promoting the welfare of the so-called undeveloped countries. In return they expect collaboration from the victims of their generosity.

This aid should properly not be regarded as an act of bounty by these colonial powers. Apart from the fact that it is intended to maintain imperialism in effective control, it should also be regarded as an insignificant fraction of the loot and plunder that these impoverished countries have recovered from the imperialist brigands. It is nothing to be thankful for. On the contrary, these states should feel outraged by the thought that imperialism seeks to entrench itself in this reprehensible manner. In addition, they should demand more from these expropriators of colonial wealth.

From the above it will be clear that we in the unliberated territories suffer from both national oppression and class exploitation. That is the nature of our oppression. But let us go deeper into our problem. This is the role of imperialism in Africa.

One of the most important things for the Liberation Movement in Africa to remember is that imperialism has big stakes in the unliberated countries. It is because of these interests that imperialism gangs up with the local race supremacists against the people struggling for liberation.

There may be small domestic quarrels between imperialism and its little servants in South Africa, Rhodesia and elsewhere, but when it carries to the major question of the national oppression and exploitation of the people on whose sweat and toil imperialism has reached fantastic dimensions of prosperity, there is the greatest unanimity between imperialism and its local representatives and agents. Imperialism knows which side its bread is buttered. It has a unified plan for the maximum exploitation of the human and natural resources of Africa.

British investments in Rhodesia, for example, have been estimated as amounting to $420 million to $560 million. British and American finance capital owns practically all the mining and industrial wealth of Rhodesia. Rhodesian Anglo-American and Roan Selection Trust produce between them one-eighth of the world supply of copper; Tate and Lyle has over $2.5 million invested in Rhodesia; Imperial Tobacco has $210 million. Other firms include the British American Tobacco, Dunlop Tyre Company and numerous other American and British companies, including clearing banks and insurance companies.

Big British international companies like British Petroleum, Unilever and International Chemical Industries have extended their tentacles to Rhodesia. Some of these have subsidiaries all over the world, including South Africa and other imperialist puppet regimes.

Britain and America have their biggest stakes in South Africa-$3 billion and $600 million respectively. It is therefore in their interests to maintain in power a government in South Africa that will ensure the continued and uninterrupted flow of profits from their mining, industrial and commercial concerns there. All successive governments in South Africa have been nothing more than the watchdogs of imperialist interests in that country.

That is why Britain and America will not, at the United Nations, go beyorid condemning the most obviously crude aspects of Verwoerd’s apartheid policies. They will not be party to any attempt seriously to challenge the dictatorship of the minority over the majority in that country. The present ruthless exploitation of the Non-Whites pays imperialism well, and all that Britain and America would have Verwoerd do is to have it sugar-coated, mixed and alloyed with hypocrisy.

Verwoerd’s brutality is unsophisticated and must inevitably lead to a revolt, not only against the system of herrenvolkism in South Africa, but also against imperialism in general. It is this that imperialism finds embarrassing and dreads.

Imperialism also has its vested interests in the Spanish colonies in Africa – the Canary Islands, Rio de Ore on the west coast of Africa and Equitorial Guinea. The Canary Islands are a strong source of revenue for Spain, her investments there amounting to $700 million. Spain and America also act in concert and collusion in the exploitation of the people of the Canaries; there is the greatest mutual understanding between them in the savage brutalities perpetrated by Spain upon the innocent people.

In 1953 a military treaty was signed between these two imperialist countries. In terms of this treaty, America was, by imperialist law, empowered to set up military bases in the Canary Islands. One of these bases, recently established, is equipped with atomic weapons as part of the imperialist unified strategy for the permanent exploitation of the wealth of Africa.

The Canary Islands are also used as bases for South African and Portuguese military and civil aircraft. Official figures for 1964 show that of the 2,172 aircraft that landed at Las Palmas alone, 483 were South African, 164 Portuguese and 101 Belgian or West German planes. Spain and South Africa are close friends and treaties of friendship and co-operation have been concluded between Spain and Portugal.

The fascist regimes of Verwoerd, Smith, Franco and Salazar have the full backing and encouragement of imperialism. They have the support of Britain, America, West Germany, France and Belgium in the continued oppression and exploitation of the unliberated peoples in Africa. West Germany, for example, through its notorious multi-millionaire, Baron Alfred Krupp, the armaments industrialist and Hitler’s disciple, controls the extraction of oil in Angola.

Britain, America and South Africa also have interests in the exploitation of the wealth of Angola under the aegis of the Salazar fascist regime. America, through Dillon Read and Company, with strong links to South Africa, has underwritten the development plan of the Portuguese dictators for Angola and Mozambique to the tune of $20 million.

In addition to the ideological ties that exist between Verwoerd, Smith and Salazar, there are strong economic links that bind these dictatorships closely together. To be able to keep the wheels of the gold mining industry running and thus maintain and increase the rate of profits that accrue to imperialism, Verwoerd has to look beyond the borders of South Africa for cheap labor.

Rhodesia, Barotse Province (Zambia), Malawi and the British Protectorates are among the chief sources of this cheap labor, which alone helps maintain the strength and stability of South Africa’s economy by boosting the gold mining industry which is the mainstay of that economy. Furthermore, South Africa has a standing contract with Portugal whereby the latter, for financial gain, places at the disposal of South Africa, for exploitation on the mines, human slaves numbering between 150,000 and 200,000 annually.

These men are chattels, completely under the control of the ruthless fascists. For them no home and no family life is permitted to exist. They must be bled until the last drop of blood has been squeezed out of them, their children and their children’s children. Portugal is perhaps the most barbaric of all the Hitlerite regimes in Africa.

Between South Africa and Rhodesia in particular there exist the closest blood, ideological and economic ties. Recently trade agreements have been signed between the two countries to ensure maximum economic co-operation in time of need and include the unrestricted entry of a wide range of duty-free goods. South Africa’s interests in Rhodesia amount to $490 million.

The Governments of Verwoerd, Smith and Salazar have the same interests in common and are faced with similar problems. They have therefore entered into secret military pacts to stem the tides of revolutionary movements at home and to keep the snowballing of African nationalism at bay beyond the Zambesi River. To this end the Verwoerd regime has built military concentrations along its borders with Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique and South West Africa.

It has built airstrips for military purposes along its borders with Rhodesia, Mozambique and Caprivi (at Katimamulilo) just across the Zambesi. With the aid of Britain, America. France and Japan, South Africa and her fascist allies have built up a powerful military force equipped with modern weapons. South Africa’s military instructors and advisers include experts in guerrilla warfare from France and experts in the application of inhumane methods from Nazi Germany.

One of these German militarists, Major-General Friedrick Wilhelm von Mellenthin, was a member of Hitler’s General Staff. His activities in South Africa between 1950 and 1961 were extensive and included talks of establishing strong military links between NATO and South Africa, Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique, and the formation of a South Atlantic Treaty Organization (SATO) and the building up of a force with “permanent striking power.” Another aspect of Mellenthin’s activities was the signing of a secret agreement between South Africa and West Germany in 1961. All these facts show that the local fascist regimes have strong imperialist backing and that the struggle against them should really be regarded as a struggle against imperialism itself. Indeed this is a necessary prerequisite for the final liberation of Africa as a whole from its visible and invisible shackles.

Throughout the continent of Africa there are unmistakable signs that the people are ready to make sacrifices for their liberty. But this by itself is not enough. They must learn to define more precisely what freedom means. Freedom from what and for what? They have to learn to know where they are going, and also how they are to achieve their goal, that is, they must know the nature and the methods of the struggle in which they are engaged.

It is the task of the leadership to bring this knowledge to the masses. The people must be taught to regard their organizations as instruments of struggle, as vehicles for the ideas of the Liberation Movement. We have to form a continental organization, not only as an instrument of struggle but also as a weapon of defense against the ceaseless attacks from imperialism and its agents and agencies.

Nature of the Struggle

Such an organization will give the liberation movements and the organizations from the different countries a sense of belonging and thus strengthen them in their fight against the local fascists in particular and against imperialism in general. We must state our struggle as one against oppression and exploitation and for complete and unfettered democracy.

Unity must be forged as a matter of principle, not expediency. For this reason it is necessary for the organizations and movements seeking to unite to lay down a clear basis for such unity as they desire. This unity must also have a purpose, not unity for the sake of unity or unity for the purpose of collaborating with imperialism with all its ramifications. Such unity would not serve the interests of a free and independent Africa.

The Organization of African Unity has realized the necessity for the different freedom organizations from each country to unite and fight together under one leadership. Only in this way can a Liberation Movement which truly represents and expresses the wishes of the people be formed.

That the OAU has failed to achieve this unity in the case of ZAPU (Zimbabwe African Peoples Union) and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) on one hand, and PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) and ANC (African National Congress) on the other, does not detract from the correctness of this principle. Other inherent factors come into play here. We need not go into these for our present purpose. Suffice it to say here that such unity has to be based upon clearly formulated principles and a program of action acceptable to the parties concerned.

Just as unity of all liberation organizations in each territory is essential for the effective prosecution of the struggle against national oppression and exploitation and for liberation, so is it vitally important for the different liberation movements and organizations in different territories in Africa to work towards the formation of a single, unified command for the effective conduct of the struggle against national oppression and exploitation and is a pre-condition for the post-independence anti-imperialist anti-neocolonialist struggle.

Only in this way is it possible for the different liberation organizations and movements to formulate a common strategy against the local fascists and against imperialism in general.

United in this way, and conducting the struggle for liberation on the basis of principles and programs accepted by them and formulated by them, the liberation movements and organizations will be transformed into a new body, with a new vitality and a new status and deriving its dignity from its ability to conduct a truly independent struggle against all forms of oppression and for a truly democratic Africa, free from all insidious influences.

In this way the continental Liberation Movement will be in a position to speak with one voice and to act as one body. It will also be able to approach the OAU or individual African states on a new basis and ask for the kind of assistance and advice that it as a whole or its affiliates need. This relationship will be healthy for both the African Liberation Movement and the African revolution as a whole.

In our view the following program of minimum demands should be acceptable to all organizations and movements seriously fighting for democracy. And if these demands are acceptable to all liberation movements and organizations, then it should not be difficult for them to unite under a single, unified leadership in pursuance of these democratic objectives. The demands are:

  1. The right of every man and woman to participate in making the laws that govern his country. This means the granting of full citizenship rights to all irrespective of so-called race, color, sex and religion.
  2. The fundamental right of Habeas Corpus should be accorded to all irrespective of so-called race, color, sex or religion. The present state of helplessness of the oppressed peoples is an outrage to the principles of democracy. No man should be molested by anyone whosoever, including the police, with impunity. All should have the right to inviolability of person, of one’s house and privacy.
  3. It is the duty of the democratic state and parliament to safeguard the rights of the workers irrespective of so-called race or color.

Demand for Agrarian Reform

  1. There must be a fair and equitable division of the land in conformity with the existing rural population, living on the land and working the land. This means the abolition of all discriminatory laws relating to the land, whereby the oppressed have been rendered landless and helpless while the ruling class has appropriated to itself vast estates and has instituted feudal relations on these white-owned estates at the expense of the oppressed. This demand implies a new division of the land in accordance with democratic principles.
  2. All citizens, irrespective of so-called race, color, sex or religion, must have the right to full and equal educational opportunities. The general aim of education, which should be the function of the democratic state and parliament, should be to educate the worker and the peasant to the level of the technician and the engineer.

    The social function of education should be to prepare the citizens for life in a free and democratic society. No artificial limits should stand in the way of the acquisition, dissemination and application of knowledge. Nothing but natural lack of capacity should prevent anyone from acquiring and enjoying the best that the educational system can provide and the democratic state, parliament and people should be the guardians of the best standards of education.
  3. Everyone should be accorded freedom of movement and occupation irrespective of so-called race, color, sex or religion.
  4. Everyone should be entitled to full equality of rights without distinction of so-called race, color, sex or religion.
  5. Everyone should be accorded freedom of speech, press, meeting and association in accordance with democratic principles.
  6. There must be complete equality of all citizens before the law and all punishment incompatible with human dignity must be abolished.
  7. There should be no taxation without representation, and the system of taxation must be free from all discrimination of the basis of so-called race, color, or class.

Principles of Unity

The basis for unity should be that:

  1. all the organizations and movements accept the demands for full democratic rights as set out above;
  2. all accept the policy of non-collaboration with imperialism and its agents and agencies and are uncompromisingly opposed to neo-colonialism; they are opposed to oppression and exploitation and refuse to collaborate with the oppressors;
  3. all accept the principle of unity of all liberation organizations and movements in Africa; and
  4. all accept the federal structure, that is, that the existing organizations and movements shall be united under one federation.

It must be realized and accepted that:

  1. unity is a prime necessity for the successful conduct of a protracted struggle, and the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialsim must of necessity be a protracted one involving painful sacrifices, including loss of life;
  2. a pre-condition for a united struggle is a complete break with imperialism and its agents in all countries;
  3. the maximum unity can only be achieved in the actual conduct of the struggle, provided that the struggle is an independent one, free from the influence of the ideas of the enemy class, and has a principled basis and a correct policy; and
  4. a continental organization under a central command is essential both as a short-term policy and for the long drawn-out struggle for liberation and for real independence.

Once we have accepted the principles enunciated above, once we have formulated our objectives, once we have clearly stated which way we are going, once we have freed ourselves of all feelings of dependence upon the enemies of our freedom, we shall be in a position to launch a democratic Liberation Movement united in its determination to transform Africa into a new continent of free and independent peoples.

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