Mr. Programme Director, Veterans of the Liberation Struggle, Friends and Comrades, all protocol observed.
Today, we launch the Mayihlome Annual Lecture. A lecture whose form and content is Pan Africanist, deviant from the normal, and indeed revolutionary. This being the occasion, I feel qualified to say I am honoured to be the first one to deliver the lecture, out of many able comrades and friends, present and absent in this house.
I accepted the invite to engage on this august occasion with the humility, and indeed an appreciation of what a noble task has been bestowed on me. It is not many times that one gets an opportunity to participate in the emergence of a revolutionary movement. This must therefore be a privilege by all of you that have taken time out to attend.
Mayihlome evokes memories of one’s engagement in the on-going societal struggles to assert their rights and class position. I don’t forget that in our days, back then as students, we had used Mayihlome as an effective tool to communicate our Africanist views. We have also done the same in the youth movement. So Mayihlome, whatever our different interpretations may be, has for some time been an associate of the young, dynamic Africanists.span>
I thought Mr. Programme Director that I should preface my engagement with you in this way. In a way that leaves all of us clear of the pride and humility with which I accepted the honour to be the first one, on the first annual lecture, the first one of its kind.
I am aware that I have done the uncommon and unconventional by thanking you, all of you, not at the end of my talk but upfront. This approach, one that breaks textbook speech guideline, is a deliberate indicator of what I believe. The history of the Africanist movement is a true revolutionary story, a story everyone of us must narrate with pride and commitment. This story has been told through and through from the perspective of a nation. A story of a nation attacked, plundered and conquered by colonialists.
Pan Africanism as we know has so ably narrated a true life and blood story of slavery. This ground breaking ideology has unmasked the workings of neo-colonialists who employ ‘civilised’ methods to perpetrate oppression of the African nation by another. We learn, too, from this ideology that the African nation, at home and abroad, must unite against intruder nation.
It is argued that the salvation of the African nation lies in the unity of these arbitrarily demarcated nations. This version, a nation version, has been workshopped on us from generation to generation.
On the international fronts eminent intellectuals such as Marcus Garvey and Burgha Du Bois have so eloquently made a case for the oneness of Africa. African people have a common destiny and common history, and they are duty bound to defend the nation.
On the African continent, the land on which all of the colonial plunder occurred, pan Africanists emerged in multitudes and went on to lead governments. Kwame Nkrumah was the embodiment of this crop of African revolutionary intellectuals endowed with the theory and practice of pan Africanism.
Here in South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League of 1949 laid solid basis for the emergence of a pan Africanist movement. The young lions of 1949, Lembede, Mda, Sobukwe, Mandela, Mothopeng, Raboroko and many others changed the course and tone of the struggle. They no longer just demanded equal rights with the intruder nation. They now demanded their birthright to determine their own destiny, run their own affairs and to govern themselves. They asserted that Africa is their land, their home and their pride, whom they demanded restored into their hands.
I cannot miss to state that even more lively and telling was the founding of the pan Africanist vehicle in April 06 1959, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
As I stated, Mr. Programme Director, the story of pan Africanism has for generation been told from a nation perspective. Over 100 years since the founding of the pan Africanist movement, should we continue to tell this story only from a nation perspective?
This, Mr Programme Director, is a question I want us to navigate slowly and carefully. It is a question we must interrogate, and a question to interrogate us, our thought process, the rationale, the future perspective. It is on questions like this that I will say, let us talk. Questions like this, to which answers found in dogma, are unable to respond.
The current set of circumstances, more and more, challenge us to tell and live this pan Africanist story from another perspective – a perspective of class!
Perhaps we must begin from the very founding blocks of pan Africanism, the right to mange own affairs or at least capacity to do so. The truth must be told, and be told openly, frankly and directly.
For different reasons and for varying motives so called African intellectuals and leaders continue to assert the nationalist form of the struggle. They argue that African people, whatever their class inclinations, must unite to deal with the foreign intruder nation. In their learned, educated and philosophical diagnosis they see, still, the intruder nation, against which we must subjugate class interests and fight in unison.
Today, pan Africanists who wish to employ a class perspective to this ideology, must ask the question and talk about self determination and / or nationalism. Nationalism or self determination national causes are democratic tactics and not a matter of principle. Nationalism delivers the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and such other related rights.
What the nationalists, professed and unprofessed, do not tell us, is that nationalism cannot deliver on the people’s economic class aspirations. These nationalists want us to harbour a false idea that nationalism is an end in itself and that the right to national self determination is a permanent never ending process. By default they canvass an idea that class struggle is a never-desired, impossible tool to true freedom.
Of course, Mr. Programme Director, they will not present their case in the manner as I have, they will cloak their case with verbiage, candour and camouflage. Again, I feel confident to stand here and say the nation perspective of pan Africanism has become redundant, counter productive and self destruct.
The African people have realised their hard fought right to self determination. They have the right to vote, right to eat, freedom of association and movement. Yes they remain poor, but this does not necessarily suggest nationalist perpetuity. We must not expect much more from the nation perspective of pan Africanism. This is how much this perspective can deliver.
The debates about whether African government use their legislative, judicial and executive authority to self determine the affair of their people is another. What we all know, and perhaps ought to know, is that African people through their governments now have the right to determine own affairs. The issue of international forces at play will forever be at play.
In this day and age, an attempt to define this intruder nation would only lead to backwardness and stifling the growth of the pan Africanist ideology. Which is this nation that we must unite against? Europeans, all of the them? Americans, all of them? Asians, all of them?
Times have moved, and our tools of analysis must likewise align. The perpetual dreaming of conspirators, exaggeration of one’s correctness has all led to the collapse of many pan Africanist organisations, here and abroad.
By all accounts we must adopt and live the class perspective of pan Africanism. Now that we have united successfully and deposed foreign governments, we must now adopt a class struggle as the dominant form of our struggle. If pan Africanism is to survive, it must now expose underlying class contradictions, and champion the interests of the poor working and unemployed class. This class is ready; all they require is a revolutionary party to lead them.
The pan Africanist ideology must refine its nationalistic tenets, it must elevate class analysis.
Mr. Programme Director, we can still stretch this debate to show the limitations of the nation perspective of pan Africanism.
Who exactly must unite with whom? The kind of unity that would emerge from this perspective analysis would be cosmetic unity. It would be unity of the borders, unity in form and disunity in substance? We submit that even the unity of Africans envisaged by pan Africanism can only truly and openly take place from a class perspective. Unity is unity when it is so both in form, purpose and content.
The oneness of Africa cannot be true and possible, underpinned by a partnership of socialists and had core capitalists. Need I say Mr. Programme Director, that some of the so called African leaders are ardent believers in the market economy. Whilst others oppose this unity for fear of losing territorial influence. So we must say; the path to realising the ideals of pan Africanism, lie in class struggle.
This class struggle must lead to the triumph of socialism. This triumph must also occur in us individually. We need not delude ourselves into believing that the incessant continual canvass of capital and markets has had no effect on us. A new chapter must begin. A chapter whose theme is a united Africa, marching to that unity through class struggle, the ideal being socialism.
Mr. Programme Director, we again must say that this class perspective of pan Africanism will not lead itself. It requires mass mobilisation and organisation.
Our generation, whose time and turn to redefine the practical and ideological path of history has come, must cause the establishment and / or strengthening of the Africanist movement, whose pan Africanism must be modern, revolutionary and forward looking. It is indeed hurtful to cling to an unrefined ideological perspective only for the fear to sound unusual and unconventional. The movement that must drive this new vision must be pan Africanist and classs driven.
I may as well say Mr. Programme Director, that in tandem with the need for a dynamic and revolutionary organisation to drive this vision, IOTA is presented as a programme of action for the pan Africanist organisation. In there we underscore the unassailable importance of ideologizing, organising, and takeover of power. Mass mobilisation and organisation is the key theme of this programme. Campaigns are the feed.
So indeed, I can now truly claim that I am a modern pan Africanist, a class conscious one and a committed socialist. The organisers, and all of us present here are the authors of this new chapter, a chapter that dawns a winning, sustainable and revolutionary Africanist cause.
I thank you.
DELIVERED BY MATOME MASHAO