One of the foremost African intellectuals and revolutionary leaders, Amilcar Cabral, talked about the struggle against our own weaknesses, telling those gathered for the 1966’s first Tri-continental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America held in Havana, Cuba that the battle against ourselves is the most difficult of all.
This is because the battle against ourselves represents the expression of the internal contradictions in the economic, social, cultural and, therefore, historical reality of each of our African countries.
“We are convinced that any national or social revolution which is not based on knowledge of this fundamental reality runs grave risk of being condemned to failure,” he said then.
According to Cabral, the ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements — which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claimed to transform — constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of the struggle, if not the greatest weakness of all.
Cabral was one of the founders of the Independent African Party (PAI), which later became PAIGC with Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. He was even a founder member of the MPLA and FRELIMO and participated in the war against the apartheid regime’s invasion of Angola.
In fact, he introduced Dr Agostinho Neto to the Cubans and used his airfields in Guinea Bissau as transit bases for the Cuban internationalist forces.
Cabral explains that of the effects of foreign domination on the social structure and historical process of our peoples, there are at least two forms: the first is direct domination, called colonialism and the second is indirect domination, called neo-colonialism.
In the latter, the dominant external forces’ action takes the form of creating a local bourgeoisie or pseudo-bourgeoisie, which accentuates the differences between the social strata in the economic system.
However, both in colonialism and in neo-colonialism the essential characteristic of domination remains the same: the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violent usurpation of the freedom of development of the national productive forces.
This observation seems to be of major importance for the thought and action of liberation movements, both in the course of struggle and after the winning of independence.
It is true that it is often said that national liberation is based on the right of every people to freely control its own destiny and that the objective of this liberation is national independence.
Cabral did not disagree with this vague and subjective way of expressing a complex reality. He prefers to be objective, since for him the basis of national liberation is the inalienable right of every people to have its own history and the objective of national liberation is to regain this right usurped, that is to say, to free the process of development of the national productive forces.
At the occasion of the launching of the party school, the Swapo Party secretary for information and mobilisation Helmut Angula put it eloquently when he said the economic contradictions in an antagonistic society would exist as long as the workers do not come up with their own leadership.
Nevertheless, I don’t agree with him when he described the ideology of Swapo Party in such simplistic terms as a revolutionary party.
According to Cabral, our ideology comes from our culture, which in itself is informed by our history. Thus, Swapo Party as the leader of the national democratic struggle should be described as a force of the left, organised to conduct consistent struggle in pursuit of the interests of the poor and the working masses of our people.
Swapo was created by workers at the mines of Tsumeb and Oranjemund, the fishing factories in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, as well as the service industries in Windhoek and later joined by the rural communities who were deeply affected by the war machinery and brutality of apartheid.
Therefore, Swapo should never be disassociated from its original mandate of liberating the workers and the rural poor, but should consistently advance the struggle for quality jobs and job security; build national solidarity among all sectors of workers; contribute strategically to the building of the developmental state.
This includes the eradication of poverty by engaging capital in ensuring a national developmental vision that contributes towards thoroughgoing socio-economic transformation and the fight against patriarchal relations of production and reproduction that continue to oppress women and the youth, including farm labourers, domestic workers, security guards and service stations petrol attendants.
This means that the principal aspect of national liberation struggle is the struggle against neo-colonialism and the comprador pseudo-bourgeoisie, which at times exploits tribal solidarity to demobilise a considerable part of the nationalist forces.
Cabral concluded that the colonial situation could lead, at least, to a nationalist solution, whereby the nation gains its independence. However, the neo-colonial situation is not resolved by a nationalist solution. It demands the reform of the exploitative structure implanted in the national territory in order to regain the right usurped, that is to say, to free the process of development of the national productive forces.
I, therefore, propose that our vision should be informed by an approach that suggests that having concluded our first transition with its focus on democratisation, we need a vision for a second transition that must focus on the social and economic transformation of the country through a democratic developmental state to intervene in the economy and renegotiate a better deal for our mineral resources.