Amilcar Cabral

The Nationalist Movements of the Portuguese Colonies

First Published:1969
Source: Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, stage 1, London, 1974, pp62-69
Translated: Richard Handyside
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer
Copyleft: Copyright stage 1 .

Opening address at the CONCP Conference held in Dar Es-Salaam, 1965.

Dear comrades and friends: I am going to tell you very simply and as briefly as possible about our position, our situation and, if you like, our options. A brief analysis we would like to make objectively and without passion. If we do not forget the historical perspectives of the major events in the life of humanity, if, while maintaining due respect for all philosophies, we do not forget that the world is the creation of man himself, then colonialism can be considered as the paralysis or deviation or even the halting of the history of one people in favour of the acceleration of the historical development of other peoples.

This is why, when speaking of Portuguese colonialism, we should not isolate it from the totality of the other phenomena which have characterised the life of humanity since the industrial revolution, from the rise of capitalism to the Second World War. This is why, when speaking of our struggle, we should not isolate it from the totality of the phenomena which have characterised the life of humanity, in particular in Africa since the Second World War.

I remember that period very well. We are getting old. I remember very well how some of us, still students, got together in Lisbon, influenced by the currents which were shaking the world, and began to discuss one day what could today be called the re-Africanisation of our minds. Yes, some of those people are here in this hail. And that, dear friends, is a striking victory against the retrograde forces of Portuguese colonialism. You have among you here Agostinho Neto, Mario de Andrade, Marcelino Dos Santos, you have among you Vasco Cabral and Dr. Mondlane. All of us, in Lisbon, some permanently, others temporarily, began this march, this already long march towards the liberation of our peoples.

In the second world war millions of men, women and children, millions of soldiers gave their lives for an ideal, an ideal of democracy, freedom, progress and a just life for all men. Clearly, we know that the second world war produced fundamental contradictions within the imperialist camp itself. But we also know that one of the fundamental objectives of that war started by Hitler and his horde was the destruction of the socialist camp about to be born.

We know too that in the heart of every man fighting in that war there was hope, the hope for a better world. It was that hope which touched us all, making us fighters for the freedom of our peoples. But we must state openly that equally if not more so. it is the concrete conditions of tile life of our peoples-misery, ignorance, suffering of every kind, the complete negation of our most elementary rights- which have dictated our firm position against Portuguese colonialism and, consequently, against all injustice in the world.

We had many meetings, we created many organisations. I am going to recall just one of those organisations: the Anti-Colonialist Movement, MAC.

One day we will publish the famous-for us very famous and historic-manifesto of the MAC, in which you will certainly find the preface to our struggle, the general line of the struggle which we are victoriously waging today against Portuguese colonialism. We are fighting against Portuguese colonialism. In any struggle it is of fundamental importance to define clearly who we are, and who is the enemy. We, the peoples of the Portuguese colonies, are African peoples, of this Africa ensnared by imperialism and colonialism for decades and even in some cases for centuries. We are from the part of Africa which the imperialists call Black Africa. Yes, we are Black. But we are men like all other men. Our countries are economically backward. Our peoples are at a specific historical stage characterised by this backward condition of our economy. We must be conscious of this. We are African peoples, we have not invented many things, we do not possess today the special weapons which others possess, we have no big factories, we don't even have for our children the toys which other children have, but we do have our own hearts, our own heads, our own history. It is this history which the colonialists have taken from us. The colonialists usually say that it was they who brought us into history: today we show that this is not so. They made us leave history, our history, to follow them, right at the back, to follow the progress of their history. Today, in taking up arms to liberate ourselves, in following the example of other peoples who have taken up arms to liberate themselves, we want to return to our history, on our own feet, by our own means and through our own sacrifices. We, peoples of Africa, who are fighting against Portuguese colonialism, have suffered under very special conditions, because for the past forty years we have been under the domination of a fascist regime.

Who is this enemy who dominates us, stubbornly scorning all laws, all international legality and morality? This enemy is not the Portuguese people, nor even Portugal itself: for us, fighting for the freedom of the Portuguese colonies, the enemy is Portuguese colonialism, represented by the colonial-fascist government of Portugal. But obviously a government is also to some extent the result of the historical, geographical and economic conditions of the country which it governs. Portugal is an economically backward country, in which about 50% of the population is illiterate, a country which you will find at the bottom of all the statistical tables of Europe. This is not the fault of the Portuguese people who, at a certain time in history, showed their valour, their courage and their capacity, and who even today possess capable sons, just sons, Sons who also want to regain freedom and happiness for their people.

Portugal is a country in no position at all to dominate any other country. Portugal came to our countries proclaiming it came in the service of God and in the service of civilisation. Today we reply with arms in our hands: whichever God is with the Portuguese colonialists, whichever civilisation the Portuguese colonialists represent, we are going to destroy them because we are going to destroy every sort of foreign domination in our countries.

I will not go into detail about the characteristics of Portuguese colonialism. The main characteristic of present-day Portuguese colonialism is a very simple fact: Portuguese colonialism, or if you prefer the Portuguese economic infrastructure, cannot allow itself the luxury of being neocolonialist. This enables us to understand the whole attitude, all the stubbornness of Portuguese colonialism towards our peoples. If Portugal was economically advanced, if Portugal could be classified as a developed country, we should surely not he at war with Portugal today.

Many people criticise Salazar and say bad things about him. He is a man like any other. He has many failings, he is a fascist, we hate him, but we are not fighting against Salazar, we are fighting against the Portuguese colonial system. We don't dream that when Salazar disappears Portuguese colonialism will disappear.

Our national liberation struggle has a great significance both for Africa and for the world. We are in the process of proving that peoples such as ours-economically backward, living sometimes almost naked in the bush, not knowing how to read or write, not having even the most elementary knowledge of modern technology-are capable, by means of their sacrifices and efforts, of beating an enemy who is not only more advanced from a technological point of view but also supported by the powerful forces of world imperialism. Thus before the world and before Africa we ask: were the Portuguese right when they claimed that we were uncivilised peoples, peoples without culture? We ask: what is the most striking manifestation of civilisation and culture if not that shown by a people which takes up arms to defend its right to life, to progress, to work and to happiness?

We, the national liberation movements joined in the CONCP, should be conscious of the fact that our armed struggle is only one aspect of the general struggle of the oppressed peoples against imperialism, of man's struggle for dignity, freedom and progress. We should consider ourselves as soldiers, often anonymous, but soldiers of humanity in the vast front of struggle in Africa today.

We must also define clearly our position in relation to our people, in relation to Africa, and in relation to the world. We of the CONCP are committed to our peoples, we are fighting for the complete liberation of our peoples, but we are not fighting simply in order to hoist a flag in our countries and to have a national anthem. We of the CONCP are fighting so that insults may no longer rule our countries, martyred and scorned for centuries, so that our peoples may never more be exploited by imperialists-not only by Europeans, not only by people with white skin, because we do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men's skins; we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by black people. . -

In Africa we are all for the complete liberation of the African continent from the colonial yoke, for we know that colonialism is an instrument of imperialism. So we want to see all manifestations of imperialism totally wiped out on the soil of Africa; in the CONCP we are fiercely opposed to neo-colonialism, whatever its form. Our struggle is not only against Portuguese colonialism; in the framework of our struggle we want to make the most effective contribution possible to the complete elimination of foreign domination in our continent.

In Africa we are for African unity, but we are for African unity in favour of the African peoples. We consider unity to be a means, not an end. Unity can reinforce and accelerate the reaching of ends, but we must not betray the end. That is why we are not in such a great hurry to achieve African unity. We know that it will come, step by Step, as a result of the fruitful efforts of the African peoples. It will come at the service of Africa and of humanity. In the CONCP we are firmly convinced that making full use of the riches of our continent, of its human, moral and cultural capacities, will contribute to creating a rich human species, which in turn will make a considerable contribution to humanity. But we do not want the dream of this end to betray in its achievement the interests of each African people. We, for example, in Guinea and Cabo Verde, openly declare in our Party's programme that we are willing to join any African people, with only one condition: that the gains made by our people in the liberation struggle, the economic and social gains and the justice which we seek and are achieving little by little, should not be compromised by unity with other peoples. That is our only condition for unity.

In Africa, we are for an African policy which seeks to defend first and foremost the interests of the African peoples, of each African country, but also for a policy which does not, at any time, forget the interests of the world, of all humanity. We are for a policy of peace in Africa and of fraternal collaboration with all the peoples of the world.

On an international level, we in the CONCP practice a policy of non-alignment. But for us non-alignment does not mean turning one's back on the fundamental problems of humanity and of justice. Non-alignment for us means not aligning ourselves with blocs, not aligning ourselves with the decisions of others. We reserve the right to make our own decisions, and if by chance our choices and decisions coincide with those of others, that is not our fault.

We are for the policy of non-alignment, but we consider ourselves to be deeply committed to our people and committed to every just cause in the world. We see ourselves as part of a vast front of struggle for the good of humanity. You understand that we are struggling first and foremost for our own peoples. That is our task in this front of struggle. This involves the whole problem of solidarity. We in the CONCP are fiercely in solidarity with every just cause. That is why our hearts, in FRELIMO, in MPLA, in the PAIGC, in the CLSTP, in all the mass organisations affiliated to the CONCP, beat in unison with the hearts of our brothers in Vietnam who are giving us a shining example by facing the most shameful and unjustifiable aggression of the U.S. imperialists against the peaceful people of Vietnam. Our hearts are equally with our brothers in the Congo who, in the bush of that vast and rich African country are seeking to resolve their problems in the face of imperialist aggression and of the manoeuvres of imperialism through their puppets. That is why we of the CONCP proclaim loud and clear that we are against Tshombe, against all the Tshombes of Africa. Our hearts are also with our brothers in Cuba, who have shown that even when surrounded by the sea, a people is capable of taking up arms and successfully defending its fundamental interests and of deciding its own destiny. We are with the Blacks of North America, we are with them in the streets of Los Angeles, and when they are deprived of all possibility of life, we suffer with them.

We are with the refugees, the martyrised refugees of Palestine, who have been tricked and driven from their own homeland by the manoeuvres of imperialism. We are on the side of the Palestinian refugees and we support wholeheartedly all that the sons of Palestine are doing to liberate their country, and we fully support the Arab and African countries in general in helping the Palestinian people to recover their dignity, their independence and their right to live. We are also with the peoples of Southern Arabia, of so-called 'French Somaliland, of so-called 'Spanish' Guinea, and we are also most seriously and painfully with our brothers in South Africa who are facing the most barbarous racial discrimination. We are absolutely certain that the development of the struggle in the Portuguese colonies, and the victory we are winning each day over Portuguese colonialism is an effective contribution to the elimination of the vile, shameful regime of racial discrimination, of apartheid in South Africa. And we are also certain that peoples like that of Angola, that of Mozambique and ourselves in Guinea and Cabo Verde, far from South Africa, will soon, very soon we hope, be able to play a very important role in the final elimination of that last bastion of imperialism and racism in Africa, South Africa.

We strongly support all just causes in the world, but we are also reinforced by the support of others. We receive concrete assistance from many people, from many friends, from many brothers. We accept every sort of assistance, from wherever it comes, but we never ask anybody for the assistance which we need. We just wait for whatever assistance each person or people can give to our struggle. Those are our ethics of assistance.

It is our duty to state here, loud and clear, that we have firm allies in the socialist countries. We know that all the African peoples are our brothers. Our struggle is their struggle. Every drop of blood that falls in our countries falls also from the body and heart of our brothers, these African peoples. But we also know that since the socialist revolution and the events of the second world war, the face of the world has been definitely changed. A socialist camp has arisen in the world. This has radically changed the balance of power, and this socialist camp is today showing itself fully conscious of its duties, international and historic, but not moral, since the peoples of the socialist countries have never exploited the colonised peoples. They are showing themselves conscious of their duty, and this is why I have the honour of telling you openly here that we are receiving substantial and effective aid from these countries, which is reinforcing the aid which we receive from our African brothers. If there are people who don't like to hear this, let them come and help us in our struggle too. But they can he sure that we are proud of our own sovereignty.

And what are they doing, these people who don't like to hear us saying that the socialist countries are helping us? They are helping Portugal, the fascist-colonial government of Salazar. Everybody knows today that Portugal, the Portuguese government, if it could not count on the assistance of its NATO allies, would not be able to carry on fighting against us. But we must state clearly what NATO means. Yes, we know: NATO is a military bloc which defends the interests of the West, of Western civilisation, etc. . . . That is not what we wish to discuss. NATO is concrete countries, concrete governments and states. NATO is the USA. We have captured in our country many US weapons. NATO is the Federal Republic of Germany. We have a lot of Mauser rifles taken from Portuguese soldiers. NATO, for the time being at least, is France. In our country there are Alouette helicopters. NATO is, too, to a certain extent, the government of that heroic people which has given so many examples of love of freedom, the Italian people. Yes, we have captured from the Portuguese machine-guns and grenades made in Italy.

Portugal has other allies too: South Africa, Mr Smith of Southern Rhodesia, the government of Franco, and other obscure allies who hide their faces because of the shame which this represents. But all this assistance which the Salazar government receives to kill our people and burn our villages in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea, Cabo Verde and Sao Tome has been incapable of stopping our national liberation struggle. On the contrary, our forces become stronger each day. And why? Because our strength is the strength of justice, progress and history; and justice, progress and history belong to the people. Because our fundamental strength is the strength of the people. It is our peoples who support our organisations, it is our peoples who are making sacrifices every day to supply all the needs of our struggle. It is our peoples who guarantee the future and the certainty of our victory.

In the perspective of our struggle, the place of this conference is clear. We must strengthen our unity, not only within each country but also among ourselves, as peoples of the Portuguese colonies. The CONCP has a very special significance for us. We have the same colonial past, we have all learned to speak and write Portuguese, but we have an even greater, and perhaps even more historic, strength: the fact that we began the struggle together. It is the struggle which makes comrades, which makes companions, for the present and for the future. The CONCP is for us a fundamental force in the struggle. The CONCP is in the heart of every fighter in our country, in Mozambique and Angola. The CONCP must also be an example, of which we are proud, to the peoples of Africa. Because in this glorious struggle against imperialism and colonialism in Africa, we are the first colonies to have joined together to discuss together, to plan together, to study together the problems concerning the development of their struggle. 'Ihis is surely a very interesting contribution to the history of Africa and to the history of our peoples.

Africa assists us, yes. There are some African countries which assist us as much as they can, directly, bilaterally. But in our opinion Africa does not assist us enough. In our opinion Africa could help us much more, if Africa could understand the value and importance of our struggle against Portuguese colonialism; so we hope that on the experience of the two years since Addis Ababa, the next summit conference of African heads-of-state will take concrete steps to effectively reinforce Africa's aid to the combatants of Guinea, Cabo Verde, San Tome, Mozambique and Angola. Equally, our friends in the world, and in particular our friends the socialist countries, will surely be aware that the development of our struggle involves the development of their fraternal assistance; and we are sure that the socialist countries and the progressive forces of the West will develop their assistance and their political, moral and material support for our struggle as this struggle itself develops.

To finish, I would like to simply say this: in our country, in Guinea and the Cabo Verde Islands, the colonialist troops are pulling further back each day. Today if we want to fight the colonialist troops, we have to go to them, we have to fight them in their barracks. But we must go there because we must eliminate Portuguese colonialism from our country. We are sure, dear friends, that it will soon be the same in Mozambique-and it is already happening in certain areas there. It will be the same in Angola-and it is already happening in Cabinda. The Portuguese colonialists are beginning to be afraid of us. They sense now that they are lost, but I assure you that if they were present here today- it's a pity they don't have any agents here-seeing us, hearing all the delegations speak, seeing all these people, seeing the fraternal welcome which the government of Tanzania has given us, the fear of the Portuguese colonialists would be even greater. But comrades and brothers, let us go forward, weapons in hand, everywhere where there is a Portuguese colonialist. Let us go forward and destroy him and liberate our countries quickly from the retrograde forces of Portuguese colonialism. But let us prepare ourselves too, each day, and be vigilant, so as not to allow a new form of colonialism to be established in our countries, so as not to allow in our countries any form of imperialism, so as not to allow neocolonialism, already a cancerous growth in certain parts of Africa and of the world, to reach our own countries.