For Pan Africanists, it is better to aim for the moon and miss it, than to go for a skunk and get it. The primary aim is to unite the African people into a formidable political, economic and socio-cultural force – a unitary nation-state, if you will – in order to play a significant role in world affairs. This noble objective seems at times to be elusive and slippery, and fraught with contradictions and dilemmas, and even self-inflicted sabotage, such that it looks like a tall order well nigh impossible to achieve.
Without the strength in unity, however, Africa falls prey to predators and it is sliced into bits and pieces by rampaging exploiters of its natural riches. Without revolutionary Pan Africanism, the potential to do good for all the African people is undermined and subverted, and the status of pursuing a skunk pertains to the African struggle.
What is Pan Africanism?
As Nnamdi Azikiwe once argued, “Pan Africanism means a situation which finds the whole continent of Africa free from the shackles of foreign domination, with its leaders free to plan for the orderly progress and welfare of its inhabitants … the people of Africa include all the inhabitants of the continent, embracing all the linguistic and cultural groups who are domiciled therein.”
Under the rubric of Pan Africanism lies a wide range of political persuasions and belief systems, all intending to contribute to the preservation of Africa’s ancient civilisation and to its quest for the humanisation of the modern world. Pan Africanists work together in a patriotic united front made up of various schools of thought, including libertarians, African humanists, Marxists Leninists, democratic socialists, social democrats, liberal democrats, liberation theologians, Black consciousness adherents, progressives and conservatives, and many other compatriots.
The spearhead of this united front came about very strongly in 1933 when George Padmore, an official of the Comintern, broke ranks with the Kremlin following Josef Stalin’s appeasement of “democratic imperialism” and thereby forming a pact with Britain, France and the US allied powers. The allied powers were the colonial masters who relentlessly subjugated Africa. Padmore, a native of Trinidad in the Caribbean islands, was widely considered a ‘veritable and most trusted’ Marxist-Leninist agitator for African liberation and the black republic thesis. The Kremlin position on undermining the right to self-determination in Africa was untenable and exposed a cognitive bias against the African people, according to Padmore.
He sided with Nkrumah and WEB DuBois in advancing revolutionary Pan Africanism. They worked together and wrote of a revolutionary self-determination of the colonised, and the struggle for African emancipation. The three Africanists convened the ground breaking fifth Pan African Congress in Manchester in 1945. Pan Africanism then cut its ties with an elitist talk-shop approach and became a revolutionary tool of action.
Padmore wrote Pan Africanism or Communism: the Coming Struggle for Africa (1956), in which he confirmed the Africanists stance on the ‘CPSA manoeuvre’ of the post-world war old guard congress leadership in South Africa. The PAC of Azania was borne of this internationalist stance and worldview. Nkrumah’s Ghana in 1958 became the lodestar for supporting liberation movements engaged in armed struggle to defeat foreign domination on the African continent.
A political union of African people was sought to establish a national democratic government with the power to control the vast expanse of African land. As the unifying and rallying slogan goes – One Africa, one people, one nation. For revolutionary Pan Africanism, the targeted moon symbolises the objective of transformation and change for the benefit of African people (on the continent and in the Diaspora) and getting restitution of their inalienable right to ownership of the land, and reparations for the Atlantic slave trade and dehumanisation suffered at the hands of the colonialists. This became the genesis of an ongoing struggle against imperialism, neo-colonialism and capitalist super-exploitation of the human and mineral resources of the continent, and it is the cornerstone of revolutionary Pan Africanism.
Pan-African Contradictions and Dilemmas
There are, however, inherent push and pull contradictions and dilemmas in the broad Pan African liberation movement. The tendency for sell out behaviour and divided loyalties, even by some leading elements in the liberation struggle, has bedevilled Africa and brought about a downright betrayal of the people’s revolution. This inherent contradiction is part and parcel of the history of Africa.
The dilemma of an outward-looking borderless international approach versus a territorially narrow inward-looking view concerned only with ‘non-interference in internal affairs’ is as legendary as the various failed states in post-independence Africa. Some heads of states, in fearing Pan Africanist unification, have grown roots in their tiny fiefdoms and hankered after the luxuries and comforts associated with a stay in office.
There are those who accept the authority of the ‘map-makers’ from the Berlin conference of November 1884 to February 1885, and use disparaging definitions like Sub-Sahara Africa, French Africa, Anglo-Africa, Portuguese Africa, Black Africa, Afrikaner Africa, or Arab Africa. They fall into the trap of divide-and-rule tactics used by erstwhile European colonial conquerors and modern transnational corporate pirates.
The internationalists pursue an anti-imperialist agenda while the narrow nationalists work within the framework of neo-colonial arrangements. Revolutionaries such as Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Muamar Gaddafi and others, were systematically removed from power in their respective countries and replaced with western-backed lackeys.
The dilemma of proxy wars such as experienced in Angola from 1975 to 1990 where the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) failed to form a transitional government of unity in time after the Portuguese colonial authority collapsed. This dithering by leaders of the OAU subsequently allowed the now defunct USSR and the US super-powers to fight their Cold War on African soil using their satellites. The corporate arms industry at times tends to promote wars in Africa to increase sales of their weapons. They don’t care about the lives of the indigenous people of Africa. Religious and ethnic conflicts are also often used as a subterfuge, where chaos and lawlessness reigns, to disguise the true intention of the brainpower behind these operations, namely, to control and benefit from Africa’s oil, diamonds and other mineral riches. These unending geopolitical conflicts are a post-independence invention created to destabilize and displace African people from their local areas. The wars have nothing to do with spiritual matters or with the safekeeping of locals, but more to do with the fight by foreign powers to own and control the soul of Africa.
A new dawn is on the horizon for Africa. The people of Africa want to unite. The ‘financialization’ project has in recent years led to the crisis of global capitalism. Emerging economies want stability, and this can only happen in a stable political union. An emerging Africa has to reposition itself and renew its quest for continental unity as a political and economic force.
The Pan Africanist Research Institute
In the past six decades the arc of revolutionary Pan Africanism has experienced stunted growth due to the expressed elimination of its chief strategists. Africans have been deliberately prevented from playing a significant role in the mainstream of world affairs. The western powers in particular have been very hostile towards Pan Africanism, preferring a watered down and moderate version which they can manipulate.
This suppression and distortion of revolutionary Pan Africanism has marginalised and helped to isolate revolutionary African intellectuals and various other sectors of the African community from making positive contributions towards building peace and social development on the home-front and in global issues. Revolutionary Pan Africanism aims to create value by promoting the concept of a multi-polar world system, in which all regions of the world are equal partners in a transparent decision making process, and in the conduct of fair trade with each other.
We in the Pan Africanist Research Institute unapologetically support the worldview of the founding fathers of Pan Africanism, and we are inspired by their hard won victories and unflinching work to realise the envisioned total liberation of Africa. The objective conditions in Africa make Pan Africanism part of the solution to the continent’s challenge. We are not alone in this journey; there are many other Africans in their women, youth, veterans and civil society formations, and in the Diaspora, who are advancing the Black Agenda – a movement designed to reflect the changing attitudes and growing sophistication of young Black people wherever they are on the globe – to supplement the historical struggle against ‘a global system of white supremacy’.
The baton has moved from one generation to the other. To paraphrase Franz Fanon, each generation must finds its mission and fulfils it, or take the sell-out route by betraying what was built by the sweat, blood, and tears of our forebears. We have made our choice consciously, without apology.
By Jaki Seroke
The writer is a stalwart of the PAC and chairperson of the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).