Ama Biney Jan 23, In this special issue on Amilcar Cabral we seek to return to the life, writings, legacy, political, social, economic and cultural insights of this revolutionary figure whilst examining what he means to Africans and their struggles of today Amilcar Cabral would be 90 years old on 12 September if his life had not been cruelly cut short by reactionary forces on 20 January He was 49 years old at the time and therefore 20 January marks forty one years since his brutal assassination. Cabral risks becoming an obscure figure to new and younger generations not only in Africa but globally who are able to reel off sportsmen and women, musicians and celebrities, rather than revolutionary internationalist figures such as Cabral. Therefore in an attempt to reinsert Cabral into the consciousness of African people and progressive peace loving citizens around the world, Pambazuka News celebrates the short life, thought and contribution of this almost forgotten figure who was not only an agronomist, guerrilla fighter, but a poet and political theoretician committed to the unity of Africa and Africans.
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Review of A. At such a time, it is perhaps useful to consider the character of the national liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau and, more particularly, the ideas of its leader, Amilcar Cabral. The national liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau was a major factor in precipitating the overthrow of the Portuguese dictatorship in April The Portuguese position in the country was becoming militarily untenable with the real possibility of physical eviction in the not too distant future.
It was the imminence of military defeat in Guinea-Bissau that finally goaded the Armed Forces Movement into action in Portugal itself. The defeat of the Portuguese, backed up as they were by the NATO alliance, was a tremendous achievement.
To a considerable extent it appeared to vindicate the political ideas of one man, the founder and early leader of the PAIGC, Amilcar Cabral.
Cabral, who was assassinated by the Portuguese secret police in January , has been widely recognised as one of the foremost theoreticians of national liberation in the contemporary world, as an intellectual who tried and proved his ideas in practice. He was always concerned to theorise the national liberation struggle within the categories of a Marxist class analysis, and, in particular, he grasped at what has become a thorny problem for Marxist theory: the role of the petty bourgeoisie in national liberation struggles.
While rejecting both the method he employs in resolving this problem and the conclusions that he eventually comes to as inimical to Marxism, his work has a great virtue in that its intellectual honesty makes it all the more transparent. His transformation of Marxism into an idealism takes place out in the open where it can be seen for what it is, without the sleight of hand that usually accompanies such exercises. Initially, the small group of petty bourgeois intellectuals that had come together to form the PAI it only became the PAIGC in October looked to the urban workers of Bissau, Boloma and Bafata as the social force that would overthrow Portuguese colonialism.
They agitated and organised among the seamen and dockers, artisans and service workers, and achieved some small successes. Then, in August , Portuguese troops crushed this embryonic labour movement with an exemplary massacre of fifty dockworkers at Pidjiguiti. After this defeat, the PAIGC turned to the countryside, to the peasantry, and to a strategy of protracted guerrilla war to defeat the Portuguese. Cabral was the chief exponent of this change in strategy.
Given the weakness of the working class in Guinea-Bissau, a country without industry, it was certainly true, as Cabral argued, that the workers alone would not be able to defeat the Portuguese.
At no time, however, was the possibility of building a working class revolutionary party that could lead the peasantry in struggle considered. Inevitably such a shift in the social basis of the party from the towns to the countryside involved more than a change of strategy: it involved a change in the whole character of the struggle and in the objectives that would be accessible to it.
Cabral did not accept this. For him, the leadership in the national liberation struggle was not provided by the working class anyway, but by a revolutionary section of the petty bourgeoisie that was somehow transformed into the proletarian vanguard. This means that in order to play completely the part that falls to it in the national liberation struggle, the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie must be capable of committing suicide as a class, to be restored to life in the condition of a revolutionary worker, completely identified with the deepest aspirations of the people to which he belongs.
It is, of course, highly appropriate that this idealistic metaphysics should have been propounded in Havana, the capital of the Cuban Revolution. Indeed, Cabral intended his speech as a summing up of the meaning of the Cuban experience for himself and his comrades, and paid generous tribute to Fidel Castro, a somewhat less candid fellow practitioner.
What Cabral was, in effect, doing was maintaining the theoretical proposition that the working class is the vanguard of the national liberation struggle at the same time as he rejected it in practice.
The real working class on the docks and in the workshops failed to develop the appropriate consciousness and was accordingly superceded by the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie. What this consciousness amounted to was belief in the efficacy of protracted rural guerrilla warfare and in the virtues of a planned economy with some degree of popular participation.
In order to make the leading role played by the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie in the national liberation struggle fit into the framework of Marxist theory, Cabral had changed the content of the categories of that theory. The revolutionary petty bourgeoisie becomes the proletarian vanguard and the theory remains intact; all that has happened is that materialism has been superceded by a species of idealism. They may well have seen themselves as having been transformed from a section of the petty bourgeoisie into the vanguard of the proletariat, as having committed class suicide and been resurrected.
This reflects the urgent necessity for them to mobilise the peasantry against the Portuguese colonialists. In the midst of the struggle against colonialism when the concern of socialists in the West is quite correctly to support the national liberation movement, the reality can be quite easily lost sight of and the rhetoric of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie taken at face value.
Once the struggle has been won, however, and the new petty bourgeoisie is confronted with the need to consolidate itself and undertake on its own behalf the extraction of surplus value from the workers and peasants, then things become clearer. Whatever the subconscious consciousness of the leadership, whatever their feelings of sympathy and identification with the people, they are constrained by the harsh necessity of ensuring the survival of their state in a world dominated by the major capitalist powers of both East and West.
Inevitably, this involves them in the organised exploitation of their own people and everything that follows on from this. Whereas Saul had earlier seen the way forward as involving the progressive petty bourgeoisie mobilising the support of the workers and peasants to defeat conservative influence within the ruling party, TANU, and then using the existing State to carry through socialist construction, now he asks whether independent trade unions might not be a good idea and whether it might not also be a good idea for progressives to organise independently of and in opposition to TANU.
In his earlier volume, Saul put forward the idea that the African working class was a labour aristocracy that had shared interests with the multinationals and their local agents. He now goes some way to modify this opinion and acknowledges that the working class does on occasion enter into conflict with the multinational companies and the State. For Saul, the working class is not the stuff of which a revolutionary class is made.
Instead, he follows after Cabral, whose theoretical contribution he acknowledges, and looks to progressive or revolutionary elements of the petty bourgeoisie. The role of this class is absolutely crucial in the struggle for socialism, not just in Tanzania, but throughout Africa.
Fair enough! But the will of a section of the petty bourgeoisie taking power in a poor underdeveloped country is not enough to overcome the circumstances. Only the international working class will be able to do that. That we should support national liberation struggles in every way we can is elementary for socialists in the West. But this does not mean that we close our eyes to the class nature of the liberation movements and to the limitations that derive from this.
On the contrary, we have to argue for independent working class revolutionary organisation within every country joining together in a new International as the only means to overthrow the international capitalist system. Footnote 1. This procedure is followed by, among others, orthodox Trotskyist commentators on Third World Revolutions though their reasoning is heavily camouflaged.
The Weapon of Theory
Review of A. At such a time, it is perhaps useful to consider the character of the national liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau and, more particularly, the ideas of its leader, Amilcar Cabral. The national liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau was a major factor in precipitating the overthrow of the Portuguese dictatorship in April The Portuguese position in the country was becoming militarily untenable with the real possibility of physical eviction in the not too distant future. It was the imminence of military defeat in Guinea-Bissau that finally goaded the Armed Forces Movement into action in Portugal itself. The defeat of the Portuguese, backed up as they were by the NATO alliance, was a tremendous achievement. To a considerable extent it appeared to vindicate the political ideas of one man, the founder and early leader of the PAIGC, Amilcar Cabral.
Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings of Amilcar Cabral
The goal of the conflict was to attain independence for both Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verde. Over the course of the conflict, as the movement captured territory from the Portuguese, Cabral became the de facto leader of a large portion of what became Guinea-Bissau. In preparation for the independence war, Cabral set up training camps in Ghana with the permission of Kwame Nkrumah [ citation needed ]. Cabral trained his lieutenants through various techniques, including mock conversations to provide them with effective communication skills to aid their efforts to mobilize Guinean tribal chiefs to support the PAIGC. Cabral realized the war effort could be sustained only if his troops could be fed and taught to live off the land alongside the larger populace.