Kwame Nkrumah’s Thought In The Evolution of Pan-African Ideology By: ISSA G. SHIVJI
Introduction Pan-Africanism is a century-old ideology. Understandably, it was the Diasporans who founded it for, as it is said, ‘you never see Africa whole until you are out of it’ (Prah 2006: 10). Enslaved Africans were transported from Africa, not from vinchi (statelets), to use Nyerere’s apt Kiswahili phrase, which were carved out by European imperialists at Berlin. In spite of the boundaries created by colonialists, and gleefully accepted by some, not all, of our post-independence rulers, outsiders, friends and foes alike, treat Africans as Africans, not as Tanzanians or Gabonese or Gambians. Nyerere (1997) captures this common perception thus:
‘Hitler was a German, Mussolini was an Italian, Franco was a Spaniard, Salazar was Portuguese, Stalin was a Russian or a Georgian. Nobody expected Churchill to be ashamed of Hitler. He was probably ashamed of Chamberlain. Nobody expected Charles De Gaulle to be ashamed of Hitler; he was probably ashamed of the complicity of Vichy. It is the Germans and Italians and Spaniards and Portuguese who feel uneasy about those dictators in their respective countries.
Not so in Africa. Idi Amin was in Uganda but of Africa, Jean Bokassa was in Central Africa but of Africa. Some dictators are still alive in their respective countries, but they are all of Africa. They are all Africans, and all perceived by the outside world as Africans.
When I travel outside Africa, the description of me as a former president of Tanzania is a fleeting affair. It does not stick. Apart from the ignorant who sometimes asked me whether Tanzania was in Johannesburg, even to those who knew better, what struck in the minds of my hosts was the fact of my African-ness.
So I had to answer questions about the atrocities of the Amins and Bokassas of Africa. Mrs [Indira] Gandhi [the former Indian prime minister] did not have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Marcoses of Asia. Nor does Fidel Castro have to answer questions about atrocities of the Somozas of Latin America.
But when I travel or meet foreigners, I have to answer questions about Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, as in the past I used to answer questions about Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia or South Africa.
And the way I was perceived is the way most of my fellow heads of state were perceived. And that is the way you [the people of Africa] are all being perceived.’
Often both the ideologues and detractors present Pan-Africanism as a racial construct. Even more astute African scholars like Kwesi Prah underscore the racial character of Pan-Africanism. Admittedly, Prah rightly argues that the ‘race’ here is not a biological, but rather a historical and a cultural construct (Prah 2006: passim). This is only partly true. In my view, the underlying leitmotif of Pan-Africanism as an ideology is much more the commonality of struggle against oppression rather than culture, taken separately from struggle. In this respect, culture is a construct of struggle and vice versa. Culture and struggle are interlinked and inseparable. Common experiences, embedded in culture and struggle, construct the identity as well. This is where Amilcar Cabral’s thesis relating culture to national liberation is apposite. He argued that it is in the struggle for liberation that national culture becomes fundamental in understanding issues of culture and identity while avoiding the pitfalls of racial definitions of culture (Cabral 1970). Fanon arrived at similar conclusions for he argued that national culture is constructed in the fight of the nation against colonialism and imperialism. In his own words:
‘It is around people’s struggles that African-Negro culture takes on substance, and not around songs, poems and folklore. … Adherence to Africa-Negro culture and to the cultural unity of Africa is arrived at in the first place by upholding unconditionally the people’s struggle for freedom. No one can truly wish for the spread of African culture if he does not give practical support to the creation of the conditions necessary to the existence of that culture; in other words, to the liberation of the whole continent’. (Fanon 1967: 189)
In the context of the PAFMECA (Pan-African Freedom Movements of East and Central Africa) conference in 1959 in Zanzibar, which underscored unity between ZNP (Zanzibar Nationalist Party) (perceived to be Arab) and ASP (Afro-Shirazi Party) (perceived to be African) for immediate independence, Julius Nyerere addressing a mass rally reiterated the need for unity in the struggle for freedom.
‘Nyerere said that Africa belonged to the Africans at which there was a loud applause. Nyerere then told his audience not to clap as yet because he wanted to explain the meaning of an ‘African’. He did not believe, he said, that an African was defined by the colour of his skin. For him, an African is anyone who has made Africa his home and is struggling for the rights of his country.’ (Shivji, 2008a: 30)
With this as the red thread running through this paper, I try to characterise and periodise broadly, albeit tentatively, the evolutionary trajectory of the ideology of Pan-Africanism in long durée. Within each period of its evolution, I am more interested in the issues that Pan-Africanism threw up rather than the details of history. The caveat, needless to say, is that the periodisation is not separated by a Chinese wall. At any one time, the germs of the future are already present in the current, except that we characterise or label a particular ideology based on its dominant character.
The first section of this paper situates Kwame Nkrumah’s thought in the context of the evolutionary trajectory of Pan-African ideology. Section Two will attempt to suggest what should be some defining characteristics of Pan-African ideology in the present era of the crisis of the imperialist-capitalist hegemony of the world.
I: The Ideological Trajectory of Pan-Africanism The trajectory of the evolution of the pan-African ideology may be periodised as follows:
• 1900-1945: the ideology of resistance;
• 1945-1960s: the ideology of national liberation;
• 1960s-1980s: interregnum – rise of territorial/statist nationalism and receding of the ideology of Pan-Africanism;
• 2000s: towards Pan-Africanism as an ideology of social emancipation
The ideology of resistance: 1900-1945 Founded by African-Americans and African-Caribbeans, the central theme of the ideology in this period was against oppression and discrimination, which was based on colour. It was the ideology of resistance rather than revolt, more on the defensive than on the offensive. Since the dominant ideology of oppressor was racist, exalting the superiority of the white race, the resistance to it took the form of the assertion of the humanity of black people. The term itself did not mean, nor could it mean, the unity of Africa. Africa at the turn of the century was in fact being divided up by colonial powers. Thus, the concept was more an assertion of ethnic pride by the descendants of Africans who had been enslaved, forcibly relocated, their humanity denied, and their dignity brutalised.
At this stage, the ideology was not seeking any form of alternative to the oppressive system but rather an acceptance and even accommodation within it. True, there were different tendencies within it including the most radical form of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), for return to Africa. Garvey’s ideology was much more racially based then W.E.B. DuBois who was intellectually inclined in the direction of a kind of civil rights-type of struggle. Yet, the race question had its reverberations even within the African-American community. For instance, there were times when Garvey accused DuBois of not being racially black enough (given his part white ancestry) (see generally Lewis 2000).
It is also interesting to note that while the movement was led by the Diaspora, the congresses were held in Europe and involved a number of Africans from the continent. The leading ones among these, like Blaise Diagne, were from francophone Africa and were thoroughly bred in the ideology of assimilation. They glorified France and the role of black Frenchmen in it. Yet DuBois’ intellectual prowess managed to keep the demand for racial equality alive.
The question of race and colour, or in more modern discourse, ‘who is an African’, continues to bedevil Pan-African ideology. We will return to the question in the later section. Kwame Nkrumah spent some ten formative years in the United States when Garveyism and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People were active on issues of civil rights and racial equality. Nkrumah does not seem to have been very active in racial/colour politics; rather uppermost in his mind was the colonial question, the question of independence of Africa from colonialism and imperialism. He no doubt learnt a lot, absorbed progressive politics, and already showed his socialist inclinations (see generally Sherwood 1996). This does not mean that Nkrumah did not have a viewpoint on the issue of race. We will return to his stand on the race question later in this chapter.
The ideology of liberation: 1945-1960s The Fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester was undoubtedly the turning point in the evolution of Pan-African ideology. For the first time Africans from the continent played a significant role in the organisation, deliberations, and the resolutions of the Congress (Legum 1965 and Lewis op. cit.). The Congress took a firm stand against colonialism and for the independence of African states in its slogan ‘Africa for African’. Nkrumah’s essay Towards Colonial Freedom (1962) that he started writing while in the US in 1942 was completed in London in 1945. By his own account, what exercised his mind most at the time of writing his essay was the question of colonial freedom or national liberation. To be sure, even then, Nkrumah had begun talking and writing about his other passion, which was developed more intensely later, the issue of African unity. At the Manchester Congress, Nkrumah was already talking about a federation of West African states. In the resolutions of the Fifth Congress, there are germs of the future social character of the ideology present – a kind of social democracy. For instance, one of the resolutions condemns ‘the monopoly of capital and the rule of wealth and industry for private profit alone’ and welcomes ‘economic democracy as the only real democracy’ (Legum 1965: 155).
Nkrumah returned to Ghana, successfully reorganised the United Gold Coast Convention away from its previous elite leadership, mobilised mass support with the new Convention People’s Party and eventually won independence from Britain.i Ghana’s independence had an electric effect not only on the Africans in Africa but also in the Diaspora. In the words of his critic and admirer C.L.R. James, Nkrumah ‘led a great revolution’ and ‘raised the status of Africa and Africans to a pitch higher than it had ever reached before’ (James 1966, in Grimshaw 1992: 356).
Soon after Ghana’s independence, Nkrumah set himself two continent-wide tasks: liberation of the rest of Africa and African unity. He called conferences of liberation movements to strategise on independence struggle because for him, Ghana’s independence was incomplete without the independence of the whole of Africa. With the help of George Padmore, Nkrumah organised the famous All-Africa People’s Conferences where liberation movements, African trade unions and leaders met to discuss African unity. Nkrumah was passionate about both, liberation and unity. Nkrumah’s position on African unity and his passionate advocacy of ‘African union now’ is too well known to need repetition. While on liberation he could carry most of his colleagues, it was the not the same with the issue of Union government. Just as he declared that Ghana’s independence was incomplete without the liberation of the rest of the continent, he inscribed in Ghana’s republican constitution that Ghana would cede its sovereignty on the formation of the Union government. In this, he could not carry many African leaders with him. Let Nyerere take up the story:
‘Kwame Nkrumah was the great crusader of African unity. He wanted the Accra Summit of 1965 to establish a union government for the whole of independent Africa. But we failed. The one minor reason is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow heads of state. The major reason was linked to the first: already too many of us had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided.
Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats of the United Nations, and individuals entitled to a 21-gun salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, prime ministers and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanised. That was what Nkrumah encountered in 1965’. (Nyerere, 1997)
Indeed it was the vested interests of the African proto-bourgeoisies which began to coalesce around what was essentially a colonial state that set the vinchi on the trajectory of territorial nationalism. As predicted by Nkrumah and Nyerere, the new African states became a pawn on the imperialist chessboard. The survival of the new governments was extremely precarious as coups and assassinations proliferated, more often than not, instigated or supported by imperialist powers. Nkrumah himself became a victim of such a coup instigated by the CIA. Even the most Pan-Africanist among the first-generation African leaders who managed to survive, got embroiled in consolidating their own ‘nation states’ under various theories of nation building.
As Nkrumah had argued, there was nothing national about African countries. These were colonial constructs. Ironically, therefore, the task of nation building, as Nyerere openly acknowledged, fell on the state. Essentially this was the colonial state trying to build a national state. The result was state building, rather than nation building.
As territorial nationalism in effect became state nationalism, so Pan-Africanism reduced itself to the organisation of states in the form of Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The anti-imperialist ideology of national liberation that was the product of the Fifth Pan-African Congress receded to the background. It was eclipsed by statist territorial nationalism at best, or ‘compradorialism’, at worst.
The interregnum: territorial nationalism and neo-liberalism Fifty years of African independence can be divided into two periods, the nationalist, and the neo-liberal. In the immediate post-independence decades, imperialism was on the defensive. In spite of instability and fragility of the African state, the nationalist and developmentalist ideology and discourses held sway. As expressed earlier, the agent for both the tasks – that of nation building and development – was the state. To be sure, there were some achievements – education, some industrialisation albeit of the import-substitution kind, national pride and assertion etc. – of the nationalist period, which should not be belittled. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1970s, the limits of territorial nationalism and developmentalism began to become apparent as the economies entered the worst crisis. This created space for imperialism to go on the offensive in the form of neo-liberalism spearheaded by the Reagan-Thatcher duo and crystallised in the so-called Washington Consensus.
More than its economic policies and conditionalities, the thrust of the neo-liberal assault was ideological. The symbol and substance of African independence was of course the sovereign state and it was state sovereignty that came under severe attack by neo-liberalism. Without a disguise, imperialist powers and its agencies took over the core function of the state, that of policymaking. State sovereignty was undermined. The national project was defeated. The limits of state or territorial nationalism were exposed and even the modest achievements of the nationalist period were reversed. Imperialism was morally and ideologically rehabilitated. The British Secretary of State, Douglas Hurd could say with satisfaction in 1990 that ‘we are slowly putting behind us a period of history when the West was unable to express a legitimate interest in the developing world without being accused of “neo-colonialism”’ (quoted in Furedi, 1994: 99). And the US ambassador to Tanzania could openly rubbish the period of national liberation in a patronising ‘lecture’ to the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs:
‘The liberation diplomacy of the past, when alliances with socialist nations were paramount and so-called Third World Solidarity dominated foreign policy, must give way to a more realistic approach to dealing with your true friends – those who are working to lift you into the 21st century where poverty is not acceptable and disease must be conquered’. (The Guardian, 29 July 2003)
Another significant insignia of sovereignty – to determine your friends and enemies – was demolished.
Perhaps the most important impact of neo-liberalism was on diverting the Pan-African discourse from an anti-imperialist, political thrust to a regional, economistic operation in alliance with, and at the behest of imperialism. Nkrumah saw the Pan-African project as a political and anti-imperialist project. Unlike Nyerere, for example, whose fervent advocacy of African unity was premised on the unviability of African statelets, Nkrumah’s was rooted in his profound understanding of the political economy of imperialism. He thus argued that regional unity was ‘balkanisation on a greater scale’. Nyerere was a gradualist. For Nyerere, any level of unity of any type was a step forward. Even then, his advocacy for an East African Federation was driven by Pan-Africanism.
Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the motive force of first-generation regional unity, whether political or economic, was Pan-Africanism conceived as an anti-imperialist ideology (Nye, 1966: passim). That is not the case with the second-generation unity born in the womb of neo-liberalism. I dare say that what NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) is to AU (African Union), EAC (East African Community) is to EAF (East African Federation). Both are predicated on an ‘integrationist’ economistic approach, integration here meaning integration in the global capitalist circuits as subordinates. Unlike the first-generation EAF (or OAU, for that matter), which were cast within the Pan-African project, the EAC/EAF does not have a Pan-African vision. One of the authors of NEPAD, former president Thabo Mbeki, had to borrow ‘African renaissance’ from European history, with little relevance to Africa, to ‘ideologise’ NEPAD. Unlike Pan-Africanism, the so-called African renaissance has little resonance in African history. Similarly, EAF lacks a truly Pan-Africanist vision. It is cast in integrationist and developmentalist mode. “The visionary purpose for the establishment of an East African Federation’, says the Wako Report on fast tracking EAF, ‘is the accelerated economic development for all, to enable the region to move away from a Least Developed Region to a Developed Region, in the shortest possible time.’ (Wako Report, 2004: 9) This is not to say that ‘accelerated development’ is not important. The point is that development cannot be understood outside the history of five centuries of underdevelopment in which imperialism has played a central role. History teaches us that deepening of integration in the global, imperialist-dominated economy only results in further deepening of underdevelopment.
Fortunately, although with devastating results, the collapse of neo-liberalism last year has once again shown that it is futile to expect that Africa can develop politically in alliance with imperialism and economically by integrating in global capitalism. Africa has to develop its own alternative agenda and path of development. Of necessity, this will be in opposition to imperialism, as Nkrumah argued.
One of the central elements in Nkrumah’s seminal work, Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, is the concept of an integrated African economy. He argued that there could be no sustainable development in Africa in the interest of the African people unless there was a continent-wide integration of the production system as a whole, in particular the use of resources – oil, forest products, minerals etc. – to build an ‘integrated industrial complex’ (Nkrumah 1965: 234). In the same vein, he emphasised that the initial capital for constructing such a complex was being lost through siphoning off of surplus from Africa by the multinationals (ibid. 238). He further underlined the importance of a common market within Africa.
Nkrumah was a great believer in economic synergies and economies of scale on the African level. Two decades later, Nkrumah’s vision, to a limited extent, was concretised in the Lagos Plan of Action, 1980, drawn up by the Economic Commission for Africa. But as Adebayo Adedeji puts it, ‘these [plans] were opposed, undermined and jettisoned by the Bretton Woods institutions and Africans were thus impeded from exercising the basic and fundamental right to make decisions about their future.’ (Adedeji, 2002: 35-36)
In sum, our argument is that both regional and continental unity – whether economic or political – has to be cast in a Pan-African vision, which by definition is anti-imperialist.
II: Towards New Pan-Africanism
Just as the rise of neo-liberalism exposed the limits of territorial nationalism and regional unity, so its fall is creating conditions for the insurrection of a new Pan-Africanism and continent-wide African unity. New Pan-Africanism will undoubtedly have to integrate the developments, lessons and the changes of the last fifty years of African independence. First, let me reiterate, without much argument, which I have made elsewhere, certain truisms about Pan-Africanism both as an ideology and as a political movement (see generally Shivji 2009).
Pan-Africanism was and continues to be a political project. It is a political project of a people not only uprooted physically from their land but also uprooted from their life and livelihoods on their land by five centuries of enslavement, dispossession, and humiliation. The history and trajectory of this story is interwoven with and inseparable from the history and trajectory of global capitalist accumulation (Shivji 2008b). Colonialism and its anti-thesis, ‘territorial’ national liberation, was only a short episode. Undoubtedly, it was a revolutionary episode and we ought not to minimise it. Nonetheless, it is also true that the revolutionary moment of independence overshadowed and marginalised the Pan-Africanist project, which was the progenitor of territorial nationalism in the first place. It is the great foresight and vision of people like Nkrumah and Nyerere, that African countries on their own could not attain national liberation, only the continent as a whole could, that we are celebrating today with wisdom of hindsight. The last twenty-five years of neo-liberalism have brought home the limits of territorial nationalism. The neo-liberal assault has driven home another truism – that Pan-Africanism was and is an ideology of liberation, in the first instance of national liberation. Therefore, perforce, it was and is an anti-imperialist ideology.
What then are the main, or critical, elements of new Pan-Africanism? Obviously, we can only make tentative and broad suggestions. Its contours and contents can only work out in practical struggles of social forces. At this stage, such forces can be identified only in the embryo.
First, the national project remains incomplete. In other words, the national question has not been resolved. Therefore, national liberation in Africa is still on the agenda. This, itself is a contested terrain. The dominant compradorial discourse argues that political independence resolved the national question, and that the question on the agenda is one of economic development. Sometimes this position even assumes a radical rhetoric of saying that we have political independence but not economic independence. This position, however disguised in radical rhetoric, is actually misleading and flawed. The national question is primarily a political question, and remains unresolved as such. To paraphrase Nkrumah, the search for the ‘political kingdom’ through the independence of individual countries has failed. The question therefore is to re-interrogate both the ‘national’ and ‘liberation’ in ‘national liberation’.
We suggest that the ‘nation’ in ‘national liberation’ is the African nation and not the Gambian, Kenyan or Namibian nation. As Nyerere put it, ‘We are all Africans trying to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa, we have not been completely successful’. (Ibid., 1997) I need not belabour the point that if there is anything neo-liberalism has proved, then it is the failure of the national project conceived at the level of territories called countries. Even the best and honest among the first-generation African nationalists, like Nyerere, did not fully succeed in building ‘nations’ in their countries. In fact, their modest achievements were woefully reversed by their neo-liberal successors.
Yet, the notion of the African nation, even among Pan-Africanists, is a fiercely contested concept. It is, unfortunately in my view, formulated in a rather fruitless question: ‘Who is an African?’ Are the Arabs in North Africa part of the African nation and therefore included in the Pan-Africanist project? Are the Indians in East and Southern Africa, the Lebanese in West Africa, the Boers and Malays in South Africa, among others, Africans? For Prah, Arabs are not Africans and therefore not part of the African nation and therefore Pan-Africanism includes and covers only Black Africans in sub-Saharan Africa and Africans in the Diaspora. Prah defines the African subtly in terms of history and culture although he cannot always keep clear of the race and colour in his conceptualisation of ‘who is an African’. Having strongly denied that his conceptualisation is based on race or colour, he ends up with a throwaway:
‘But when that has been said, I must add that the overwhelming majority of Africans are black and the absence of unifying cultural attributes like a literacy-based religion or a common language, colour has been a fortunate reference point for people of African-descent both on the continent and in the diaspora. We can literally invariably recognise each other from afar’. (Prah, 2008)
The question of colour, Prah’s reference point, often gets reduced to the biological rather than the historical and cultural. While, the issue of ‘who is an African’ remains contested, from the viewpoint of Pan-Africanism, it seems to me, the better approach is political in terms of struggle against domination and exploitation. It is within this political context of struggle against oppression that Prah’s cultural diversities can be accommodated; otherwise, as Prah rightly points out, these diversities become divisions as oppressors, and their allies, politicise race, ethnicity and colour for their own power game.
While conscious of the issue of race and colour and how it was constructed by the dominant powers as an ideology of domination, Nkrumah (and Nyerere) was very clear that the Pan-African project, as a political project, was inclusive of all those who live and struggle in Africa and for Africa. In other words, ‘who is an African’ is determined by history of struggle rather than by colour of the skin. We can say, therefore, that the African nation is constituted and will be reconstituted in the process of struggle rather than by some a priori abstract definitions, whether based on colour, ancestry, or culture. This is not to deny that historically dominant powers have used race and colour to dominate, and therefore, the oppressed have used colour and race as ideologies of resistance. For Pan-Africanists like Walter Rodney and Steve Biko, ‘Black’ was an identity of the oppressed against Eurocentric oppression and exploitation of the ‘wretched of the earth’ rather than a question of pigmentation (Sheikheldin 2010).
As for liberation, our argument is that this connotes liberation from imperialism. Imperialism remains the enemy, whatever new guises it may assume. But by imperialism I mean capitalist imperialism for it is fashionable these days to define imperialism in such broad terms that virtually every expansionist project under the sun becomes imperialist (see, for instance, Soyinka 2010). With the advent of neo-liberalism, imperialism lost currency in the dominant discourses of the political and intellectual elites in Africa in the mystified language of globalisation. Once again, Nkrumah and Nyerere were very clear on the question of imperialism. Nkrumah understood the political economy of imperialism very well and what it portends for the liberation of Africa. His advocacy of African unity was often posited against imperialist slavery for he was prescient in his position that without unity, individual African countries would become pawns on the imperialist chessboard. The issue of national liberation against imperialism was best summed by Amilcar Cabral ‘so long as imperialism is in existence, an independent African state must be a liberation movement in power, or it will not be independent’ (Cabral 1980: 116). African states failed to be liberation movements in power; hence the apparent success of the neo-liberal assault.
Secondly, in the last fifty years, African societies are much more differentiated in class terms than at the time of independence. All kinds of proto- and comprador bourgeoisies have entrenched themselves in various ways, including using the state as the terrain of accumulation. In the period of neo-liberalism, social polarisation has been exacerbated as the restraints of nation-building and developmentalism have been ideologically rubbished and African political elites have surrendered to rapacious capital accumulation. During the neo-liberal era, various methods of primitive accumulation have returned with the pillage and plunder of natural resources, both over, and underground, including flora and fauna. In these circumstances, the new Pan-Africanism as an ideology has to go beyond the tasks of national liberation to those of social emancipation. It is not sufficient for liberation ideology to be anti-imperialist; it has to be anti-capitalist as well. European capitalism as it has developed over the last five centuries is on a slippery road. The recent crisis of developed capitalism is not episodic; it is systemic. And any emancipatory ideology has to provide an alternative to this rapacious system.
Towards the end of his life, Nkrumah began to move beyond national liberation to Marxist socialism as seen in his Class Struggles in Africa (1970). Perhaps the analysis is somewhat over-generalised and simplistic but the core question, that we can no longer talk simply in terms of undifferentiated African ‘people’, comes through clearly. A class analysis demands a concrete analysis of our concrete social formations and a deep understanding of conjunctural as well as long-term political formations in our countries. I am arguing, though, we have to go beyond ideology and raise Pan-Africanism to the level of a theory and world outlook. This is what is meant by saying that Pan-Africanism must be developed into a category of intellectual thought.
Thirdly, the issue of social agency: Who would be the carriers of Pan-Africanist liberation and emancipation? Do African states, ruling classes, and neo-liberal elites have a role to play? My position is that at this stage, using Walter Rodney’s potentially profound concept, it is the working people of Africa who would constitute the agency for African revolution. A deep analysis of the contemporary stage of accumulation of global capitalism would show that objectively the working people – workers, small producers on land and in urban areas, so-called informal sector workers etc. – constitute the revolutionary class. It is a class-in-itself but not yet a class-for-itself, to use the classical Marxist formulation. However, this means that African states and compradorial classes are not part of the people. Statist approaches to issues of African unity and Pan-Africanism have exhausted their potential; they invariably end up in some or other form of pro-imperialist ‘model’. This is as true of Mbeki’s NEPAD as it is true of Muammar Gadaffi’s African unionism.
Admittedly, these are very tentative and approximate formulations that no doubt need to be developed. It is the task of committed Pan-Africanist intellectuals to think, theorise, and convert Pan-Africanism into a category of intellectual thought. As someone said, insurrection of ideas precedes insurrection of arms. In Africa today, we need an insurrection of Pan-African ideas and the place to begin is in our universities and other centres of learning. Over forty-five years ago, Julius Nyerere musing over what he called the dilemma of a Pan-Africanist, by which he implied the Pan-Africanist in power, rhetorically asked:
‘Who is to keep us active in the struggle to convert nationalism to Pan-Africanism if it is not the staffs and students of our universities? Who is it who will have the time and ability to think out the practical problems of achieving this goal of unification if it is not those who have an opportunity to think and learn without direct responsibility for day-to-day affairs?’ (Nyerere 1966 in Nyerere 1968: 216-17).
Forty years later, at the 40th anniversary of Ghana’s independence when he was no longer a head of state, Nyerere returned to this question. The first-generation African nationalists had set themselves twin tasks, he said, that of African liberation and African unity. In the first, they had succeeded but had failed in the second. Calling upon the new generation of African leaders and people, he continued:
‘So this is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with the firm conviction that without unity, there is no future for Africa. …
So accepting the fact that we are Africans, gives you a much more worthwhile challenge than the current desperate attempts to fossilise Africa into the wounds inflicted upon it by the vultures of imperialism.
Do not be proud of your shame. Reject the return to the tribe, there is richness of culture out there, which we must do everything to preserve and share.
But it is utter madness to think that if these artificial, unviable states which we are trying to create are broken up into tribal components and we turn those into nation states we might save ourselves. That kind of political and social atavism spells catastrophe for Africa. It would be the end of any kind of genuine development for Africa. It would fossilise Africa into a worse state than the one in which we are’. (Nyerere 1997)
The stark choice facing Africans today is ‘Pan-Africanism or tribalism’. Nyerere once said that ‘exclusive nationalism’ meaning territorial nationalism, was ‘the equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate nation states’ (Nyerere 1965, in Nyerere 1967: 335).
And as a part of humanity, the choice before us is ‘socialism or barbarism’? My argument in this presentation is that the task before us is to develop Pan-Africanism as a world outlook that will address, provide answers, and lead us to understand these alternatives and make choices to rise to a united Africa or descend into tribalism; fight for and contribute towards humanity’s next stage of civilisation, socialism, or degenerate into capitalist barbarism.
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