African Liberation Day: The ISL held a successful Pan-African Meeting

This May 25 African Liberation Day was celebrated. The ISL held a commemorative activity for this occasion that is so important for the peoples of Africa. Comrades from Kenya, Guinea, Togo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries participated. The debate allowed us to deepen our socialist and internationalist position on revolutionary Pan-Africanism, progress was made in coordinating student work in several countries and the meeting resolved to strengthen the international campaign of solidarity with Palestine, with the prompt preparation of a joint declaration and coordinated actions. Here is the text that kicked off the meeting’s debates.

The need for Revolutionary Pan Africanism as a driving force towards African liberation

By Ezra Otieno

Pan-African Marxist thinkers not only described the lengthy history of African political economy as a means of developing strategies for national independence movements against colonialism, but they also addressed the question of how true freedom might be achieved throughout the continent. One of the main disputes among Pan-African Marxists in thinking through the topic of liberation after the expiration of formal colonial rule was between those who saw a return to pre-colonial traditions as a way toward liberation and those who contended that the way forward was to embrace “the new”.

To commemorate African Liberation Day, I invite us to review Pan-African Marxist theory and consider what it may give us in the ongoing struggle for freedom. During the twentieth century, as national independence movements gained traction on the African continent, anti-colonial thinkers developed new methods of thinking about freedom from a Pan-African perspective. This theoretical lineage, also known as Anti-colonial Pan- Africanism, was established to help national independence movements achieve their more revolutionary goals by analyzing Africa’s political economy and culture within the global system.

Some thinkers like Chiekh Anta Diop and Walter Rodney believed that rediscovering pre-colonial traditions and culture was a vital declaration of national identity and a means of overcoming the colonial mentality that persisted after flag independence. Walter Rodney stated that “to know ourselves, we must learn about African history and culture.” This is one of the most significant stages toward “liberation.”Some thinkers like Frantz Fannon,highlighted “newness” as a method of emancipation. Fanon argued that reconstructing pre-colonial culture was ineffective as a liberation tactic. He maintained that culture “solidifies into a formalism which is more and more stereotyped” in the face of systematic mechanisms that emphasize the inferiority of the colonized culture. Instead of participating in critique and development, the postcolonial intellectual who seeks inspiration from the past tends to reify previous cultural forms in order to oppose the colonial agenda of devaluing culture on the grounds defined by the colonizer.

Fanon argues that reclaiming a pre-colonial history is insufficient to undo the damage done by colonialism. Instead, he believes that we must look forward and create a future in which liberation prevails over colonialism and its leftovers. This vision for a new future must also look to other parts of the Global South for solidarity in dealing with comparable concerns, such as “trade union questions” or economic issues arising from a shared colonial heritage.

Admittedly, the two opposing viewpoints in this discussion aren’t all that different. Both sides eventually agree that the objective of regaining Africa’s history and pre-colonial culture comes second to the revolutionary battle against capitalism and neo-imperialism. What distinguishes these two viewpoints is the way to achieve actual emancipation for Africa. And the basic question of this argument remains: Is the path to emancipation found in rediscovering the past, or in developing whole new perspectives on the current situation?

Marx’s famous phrase from the 18th Brumaire is that history begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce… The dead generations’ traditions weigh like a nightmare on the living’s minds. And just when they appear to be revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that had never existed before, they anxiously summon the spirits of the past to their service and borrow their names, battle cries, and costumes in order to set the new scene of global history in this time-honoured disguise and language.

Marx outlines a cyclical return in which each new phase of the cycle borrows from the preceding phase yet is distinct from its predecessor due to our need for newness combined with our incapacity to conjure it without the old existing within the new.

The essential question is, what is the next step? Do we turn to  Revolutionary Pan-African from the time of flag independence to meet present problems to Pan-African liberation, or do we require fresh concepts and guiding insights to properly usher in the emancipation that independence promised but has failed to deliver? We need to evaluate, assess, and debate the essential question of whether revolutionary Pan-Africanism can lead to emancipation.

In his article “On Violence” (1961), Fannon highlighted a key issue for independence movements: what was the point of fighting for independence if nothing had changed in the years since? Fanon was, of course, referring to the class system that persisted after flag independence, and he asked this issue as a critique of how, while formal political domination from Europe had ceased, independence movements did nothing to confront capitalism and imperialism. I have always argued that we need to take this vital subject a step further and explore how the revolutionary promise of independence quickly disintegrated into the spread of dictatorships tin most parts the continent.

Local-born leaders repressed the very people who had just gained independence in a manner identical to the colonial rulers against whom they battled. And today, we witness a rebirth in groups seeking to achieve the level of freedom that independence promised but failed to give in so many cases. However, the topic of political freedom remains open at the present, as far-right groups strive to curb it while liberation movements continue.

In the modern age, we have seen several liberation struggles in North Africa, Sudan, and elsewhere, as well as active student movements throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and a number of other current movements aiming at achieving various types of emancipation. However, modern movements, particularly political movements aimed at regime change, have been hampered by authoritarian control, as well as religious nationalist elements that have hijacked current movements’ more revolutionary goals.

In today’s world, when Pan-Africanism is being diluted by populism and shallow rhetoric, the need for a revitalized Revolutionary Pan-Africanism is more than ever. The strength of this movement stems from its unwavering opposition to imperialism and capitalism, as well as its adherence to the critical analysis of scientific socialism. African youth must be equipped with historical knowledge and analytical capabilities to distinguish between vacuous populist appeals and true revolutionary philosophies. When we talk of Revolutionary internationalism, we understand the contradictory nature of this ideology but I think its the best tactic to achieve socialism  in the African continent.

Revolutionary Pan-Africanism is fundamentally an intellectual barrier to imperialism and capitalism. Contrary to detractors who dismiss historical reflection as mere nostalgia, the essence of Revolutionary Pan-Africanism lies in scientific socialism’s ideals and history. Pan-Africanism arose as a result of the devastation caused by the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism in Africa and its people.

To summarize, populist Pan-Africanism dilutes and depoliticizes genuine grassroots political movements, leaving them vulnerable to ambiguous slogans, shallow speeches, and regressive leadership. By discriminating between the superficial and the substance, African youth may lay the groundwork for a bright future. This future would see the flames of real Pan-Africanism blaze brilliantly, inspired by a belief in scientific socialism as the ultimate objective of Pan-African unity.