Egalitarianism as a Prerequisite for Achieving Kwame Nkrumah’s Vision of Pan-Africanism DOREATHA D. MBALIA & AHMED F. MBALIA
As an integral part of his ideology, Kwame Nkrumah recognized that a dialectical materialist form of analysis was the proper tool for understanding the nature and resolution of the struggle of the exploited and oppressed African masses.i According to dialectical materialism, there are two opposing forces in any phenomena. These forces can be characterized as negative and positive forces that struggle for dominance. Nkrumah’s theory of ‘positive action’ suggests that the application of positive action by the positive force (the African masses), on the negative force, (the oppressor), will reduce the position of dominance held by the negative force.i
In his analysis, Nkrumah recognized two dimensions of this negative force: an external enemy and an internal enemy.i Externally, the obstacle that obstructs the building of Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of Pan-Africanism – a free, united and socialist Africa – is the economic system of capitalism, from its earliest manifestation to its neo-colonial presence in Africa. Nkrumah understood, wrote and spoke about the fact that this economic system was antagonistic in nature to all that was critical for Africa’s development. In fact, he noted that capitalism ‘was but the gentleman’s form of slavery’.i In Consciencism, Nkrumah detailed the need for a humanist, collective and egalitarian society as he saw capitalism as the antithesis of Africa’s needs;i it was the very mode of production that had enslaved as well as disrupted the development of the African nation, and the very nature of the capitalist system viciously usurped the control of the collectively owned resources of Africa for the benefit of the capitalist ruling class. Finally, this economic system failed to allow all to develop to their fullest potential.i
Internally, Nkrumah identified the African bourgeoisie as the ‘true enemy’ of African people.i According to him, ‘in any given class formation, whether it be feudalist, capitalist or any other type of society, the institutions and ideas associated with it arise from the level of the productive forces and the mode of production’.i The productive forces consist of the people, their level of knowledge and the tools they create. First colonialism and now neo-colonialism, the particular manifestation of capitalism that exists in Africa today, has repeatedly sought to thwart all efforts intended to increase the industrial capacity of Africa under indigenous control.i Profit, not the welfare of the African masses, is the concern of the neo-colonizer and, thus, the concern of the African bourgeoisie.
Another internal contradiction is the African male’s oppression of the African female. Emerging from capitalism were three major ideas that still have an impact on the development of African people today. The first, which emerged from slavery, is the formation of class societies within which a ruling class exploits the labour of the struggling masses. The second is the patriarchal structure which flourished with male domination within class societies throughout Europe. Finally, the capitalist system justified the exploitation of African people with the creation of a racial supremacist theory that is reflected still today in their national oppression.i
To struggle against class exploitation and national oppression, both African men and women are needed. In other words, to liberate ourselves from exploitation and oppression and to build Pan-Africanism, we must eradicate the internal contradiction that exists among African people around the world: the oppression of the African female.
The African female is victim of a triple oppression that prevents her full participation in the liberation process. She suffers from class exploitation, national oppression, and gender oppression. This third aspect of the plight of the African female is exacerbated by the participation of the African male through his failure to reject the capitalist idea of male supremacy, i.e. the patriarchal structure of capitalist societies.
In these times of extreme economic crisis, African people are witnessing an intensification of the oppression of African females. Benjamin Friedman, a noted economic historian, argues that globally, long periods of extreme economic deterioration have historically served as a fetter on the achievement of rights and liberties.i Today, this can be seen in the situation of the majority of African females. Despite all of the protocols declared by international bodies, the African Union and African states, gender oppression is on the increase. Thus, more African women are more likely to be poor than men, and they are also at greater risk of hunger because of systemic discrimination. The International Labor Organization estimated that the economic recession would cause more than 22 million more women to be unemployed during 2009. However, this figure would show a decisive increase if the work of African women was included – the majority of African women are in the informal sector and do not show up in unemployment statistics.i It is noteworthy that of the 161 countries ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, about forty-four have said that they will not implement certain provisions of the treaty on political, constitutional, cultural or religious grounds.i The World Economic Forum’s 2009 Global Gender Gap Report – which measures the size of the gender gap in four critical areas of inequality between men and women: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political representation, and health and survival – showed that worldwide, the gap between women and men in terms of economic participation and political empowerment remains wide: only 59 percent of the economic outcomes gap and only 17 percent of the political outcomes gap has been closed.i
Medical and human rights groups in Kenya are reporting an increase in cases of domestic violence. Experts say the increase could be due to a rise in violence in general, more reporting of domestic violence, or both.i In addition, African women are victims of violence in civil conflicts. Currently, more than 70 percent of the casualties are civilians and most of these are women and children. As the foundation of the family, women are the ones who are usually responsible for the survival of children in war-torn areas. As such, they are the first to be challenged with navigating the loss of infrastructure as they seek to maintain some semblance of family life during conflict. Consequently, they are often forced into survival strategies that can involve sexual exploitation.i A recent report cited the rape of women as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other conflict zones. To make matters worse, women living in refugee camps in the DRC described how, after being raped, their husbands saw them as unworthy partners and abandoned them.i
Other problems facing African women include some traditional remnants such as polygamy, lack of land ownership, bridewealth payments as well as contemporary contradictions in legal rights, high rates of infant mortality, reproductive rights, health issues, and political representation. All of this is compounded by the fact that over 90 percent of African countries are controlled and dominated by male leaders who continue to support capitalism.
Therefore, to survive as a people, to build Pan-Africanism, we must return to the vision of Kwame Nkrumah. Not only was this vision one that ensured the elimination of patriarchy through a united, socialist Africa, but also his vision of Pan-Africanism was an all -inclusive one. He believed that to win the African Revolution, all sectors of the African population must participate, including women.
Nkrumah’s Vision of the Role of African Women in Achieving Pan-Africanism
Nkrumah’s vision of Pan-Africanism hinged on the concerted struggle – by both women and men – against neo-colonialism. From his earliest parliamentary addresses to his final letters written from Conakry, Nkrumah demonstrates a clear understanding of the role women must play in the African Revolution. It is a role that undergoes some changes in his writings, commensurate with his own growing understanding of revolution. However, he always saw a clear and vital role for women. In a 1960 speech in Accra to the First Conference of African Women and Women of African Descent, Nkrumah reflects his theoretical transition in regard to the role of women in the revolution. He states:
‘Your role in [in achieving a united Africa] is of great importance. Not only can you carry back this message to the men of your respective countries, but, if you are convinced that unity is the right answer, you can also bring your feminine influence to bear in persuading your brothers, husbands and friends of the importance of African unity as the only salvation for Africa’.i
Phrases such as ‘carry back this message to the men’ and ‘bring your feminine influence to bear in persuading your brothers, husbands and friends’ reflect the patriarchal view of women as being ‘helpmates’ to ‘their men’. However, later in this same speech, Nkrumah rescues and promotes the role of women from one of subservience to one of equality:
There is a great responsibility resting on the shoulders of all women of Africa and African descent. They must realise that the men alone cannot complete the gigantic task we have set ourselves. The time has come when the women of Africa and of African descent must rise up in their millions to join the African crusade for freedom.i
Although he does not spell out in this speech the specific role women must play, he does so eight years later in Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. By 1968, three references to women reflect the evolution of Nkrumah’s theory on women. First, he states that African women ‘have already shown themselves to be of paramount importance in the revolutionary struggle’, stating that,
‘if they satisfy the physical, social and ideological recruitment standards determined by the Commission of Control and Recruitment of AAPRA, women may join the training centres on the same basis as men, and be eligible for the same responsibilities and authority. They will receive similar political, military and social training as men’.i
Secondly, he calls for an examination of the relationship between African women and the African Revolution. Thirdly, he writes:
‘The degree of a country’s revolutionary awareness may be measured by the political maturity of its women’.i
We are particularly interested in this call on behalf of African women, the purpose of which Nkrumah states is to ‘determine the nature of the efforts to be made to fulfill the final objective which is the same throughout Africa: the mobilisation of African women’.i Nkrumah proposed ‘a questionnaire to be studied by our revolutionary cadres, concerning the position of women in African society’. Of the seven questions listed by Nkrumah, four are especially noteworthy:
In statistical and qualitative terms, how has the African woman assimilated the twofold experience of our traditional, communalistic society? That is, how does she stand in relation to the Euro-Christian experience of colonialism and neo-colonialism, and to the Islamic experience?
To what extent is the African woman’s revolutionary role a prolongation, a modification, or a total departure from her traditional communalistic milieu and her duties, rights and general position? How does it affect her subjective views of emancipation and happiness?
How far is the practice of polygamy synonymous with feudalism? And to what extent does this practice mean that the African woman is exploited?
In which specific cases can it be said that women in Africa are exposed to a twofold exploitation as workers (i.e. class exploitation in the Marxist sense of the term), and as women?
This questionnaire is of particular interest to us because, recently, in presentations on gender oppression and the African woman, there have been those progressive militants who have advised us to ‘stick to focusing on our primary enemy, capitalism and neo-colonialism’. Nkrumah’s proposed questionnaire reflects quite clearly his understanding of the importance of spotlighting not only our enemy and our objective, but also the tactics of the African Revolution. Nkrumah’s vision of Pan-Africanism included this tactical thrust and obliges us to be determined to clear away the obstacles that lie in the way of achieving Pan-Africanism, one of which is the oppression of African women at the hands of some of our own brothers.
Although Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare is the watershed work that marks Nkrumah’s significant ideological development on the gender question, it is in his Conakry letters, published and unpublished, that Nkrumah demonstrates most his high regard for women and their role in the African Revolution. In fact, June Milne states in an interview that Nkrumah believed that women were more loyal than men. This is borne out by the letters, especially those at the end of his life. It is in his letters to these ‘loyal’ women that most of his revised view of the African Revolution appears. Six of these women, in particular, made major contributions:
June Milne – in the documentation of Nkrumah’s theory;
Julie Medlock – who after the coup, was a source of encouragement, writing that ‘all is not lost, fresh opportunity may be on your doorstep’;
Reba Lewis – with whom Nkrumah often shared his new, revised revolutionary ideas;
Julia Wright – who encouraged Nkrumah to write something on Black Power, the consequence of which is the pamphlet, The Spectre of Black Power. She wirte “Osagyefo, this is why I am writing to you. Because you are the only African leader who in his writings has shown an understanding of the plight of the American Negro. Because you are the only African leader who has made African-American solidarity a reality by welcoming to your Ghana Afro-American fighters of the calibre of DuBois, Hunton and my father. It is because of all this and because of the fact that the majority of Africans have not ceased to look up to you as an ideological as well as political source of inspiration, that I am asking you as my leader and my co-fighter to write a statement, or a few reflections, on the recent upsurge of armed struggle for Black Power in the USA’.
Christine Johnson – who I mentioned earlier as one with whom Nkrumah shared his revised tactics: revolution is violent, not peaceful.
Grace Boggs – who always kept him updated on the Black Power struggle in the US and with whom he discussed the connection between this struggle and the struggle for a united Africa. On occasion, he also made clear to her his determination to fight on. In a letter dated 24 September 1968, he writes: ‘The revolutionary fails only when he surrenders. As long as he continues the struggle—in whatever manner he can—he stretches himself towards the ultimate goal of Victory. Though he, the individual, dies in the struggle, he has not failed. The sum total of all his endeavours, his aspirations, his efforts merge with the People who continue towards Victory’.
Cabinet minutes also demonstrate Nkrumah’s vision of the role women must play in the African Revolution. If Nkrumah is serious about socialism, then the underlying principles of this economic system, including egalitarianism with regard to women, should be transparent and reflected in every sector of the state. One of the first actions that Nkrumah’s administration took , therefore, was to put into effect legislation aimed at achieving equality between men and women. Five such legislative acts should suffice in demonstrating Nkrumah’s commitment to gender equality:
19 February 1959: equal employment of women in the civil service;
22 September 1959: ‘providing for the election of women Members of Parliament either from amongst the members of the electoral colleges or from outside them’;
24 June 1960: a scheduled Conference for Women of Africa and African Descent was part of the ‘Other Business’ discussed by the Cabinet;
17 November 1964: The Cabinet ‘APPROVED in principle the proposals . . . for the formation of a Women’s Auxiliary Corps in the Ghana Armed Forces’;
15 December 1964: The Cabinet made ‘recommendations regarding [the] composition of Boards for State Corporations’ as affecting women. According to the minutes, ‘out of 24 corporations listed, 12 women were recommended as board chairmans. . .’
By 1965, Nkrumah’s vision of the role women could and would play in the African Revolution had undergone a significant change. In his 12 January 1965 address to Parliament, he states: ‘At the moment, some of our women are undergoing Pilot Training at the Ghana Air Force Training School at Takoradi’. In this same address, he demonstrates that his vision not only includes a more progressive role for women than ever before, but also that it is an egalitarian role, equal to the role men must play in the African Revolution:
‘We have also established a Women’s Auxiliary Corps which will enable our young women to work shoulder to shoulder with the men in the service and development of our country.’
The new road that Nkrumah traversed in terms of unleashing the powerful and necessary force of African women is revealed best by their role in 1965 in respect of the Rhodesia struggle. The Daily Graphic documents this role in a 16 November 1965 article with the headline: ‘Our Women Protest . . . against Ian Smith’. Part of the article reports that:
‘Members of the National Council of Ghana Women yesterday held a big demonstration in Accra against the unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia by the racist Ian Smith. . . . In a protest note, the executives of the council called on all women of Africa to rally around their leaders in their efforts to crush the illegal and rebellious declaration of independence by the racist minority government of Southern Rhodesia’.
Significantly, the note goes out to all women of Africa and Ghanaian women are proceeding as if Africa is already united. Two days later, on 18 November 1965, a front-page article of The Daily Graphic reads: ‘15,000 Brigadiers Ready to Fight’. It reports that,
“fifteen thousand members of Ghana’s Workers Brigade, including 3,000 women, have volunteered to fight in Southern Rhodesia to help establish majority rule in that African country’.
Here there is no longer talk of African women being ‘helpmates’ to their men. In fact, there is no talk, only action. Women will fight side-by-side with men in the African Revolution. Equality in the struggle for Africa: this is Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of the role of African women. And equality must be the hallmark of the relationship between African men and women today.
Women Have Not Always Been Oppressed
It is important to stress that women have not always been oppressed. According to Cheikh Anta Diop in The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, early human societies in the southern cradle were matriarchal and the African woman was,
‘one of the stabilising elements in her capacity as mistress of the house and keeper of the food; it also seems that she even played an important role in the discovery of agriculture and in plant selection while the man devoted himself to the hunt. In those primitive ages when the security of the group was the primary concern, the respect enjoyed by either of the sexes was connected with its contribution to this collective security’.i
And according to Amilcar Cabral, ‘the history of one human group or of humanity goes through at least three stages. The first is characterized by a low level of productive forces—of man’s domination over nature; the mode of production is of a rudimentary character, private appropriation of the means of production does not exist, there are no classes, nor, consequently, is there any class struggle’.i In these early societies, women were not just seen as equal contributors, but they were also revered for their capacity to ensure the survival of their people. This reverence was grounded in the following: the woman’s capacity to bring forth fruit, i.e. humans, just as the earth, her contribution to the production process, and therefore her leading role in the humanization and socialization of our species.i Moreover, before the domestication of large animals, women were the main bearers of goods and equipment. This reality has led scholars such as Evelyn Reed to argue that ‘the greater physical strength of men over women today is a cultivated product of modern life and attitudes about “masculinity” and “femininity”’.
Women, then, far from being oppressed in early human societies, were the prime producers of the necessities of life. Thus they were both the ‘biological mothers’ and the ‘social mothers’.i Women, ‘already equipped by nature with their highly developed maternal functions and, moreover, capable of cooperating with other females, could achieve the self-restraint and foresight required to take the measures necessary for group survival. “Mother-care” laid the groundwork for a broader and higher development in the world that can be called “social-care”: the mutual concern of all members for one another’s welfare and security’.i
Enslavement, African Women and Egalitarianism
Two essential factors helped to ensure that egalitarianism dominated within the enslaved community in the Western world. First and primary was the role of the woman in the production process. Most women, like men, were field slaves. Working side-by-side with men, chopping sugar cane or picking cotton, women were just as productive and just as abused as men. Secondly, most slaves rejected the value system of their enemy: the slave master. Resistance toward the slave master’s value system has been documented in a plethora of scholarly works and need not be revisited here. However, what needs to be stated is that this resistance was key in the development of an egalitarian slave society. Physical or practical resistance toward the institution of slavery took many forms, from breaking tools and putting glass in the master’s food to organized slave rebellions and the building of maroon societies. Psychological or ideological resistance took many forms as well, from African naming ceremonies to spirituals and work songs, folk literature and slave narratives. All of these ‘cultural’ forms reflect the slave’s de-valuation of the master’s way of life as corrupt and dishonest.
Folktales document the slaves’ belief in their own equality. They were just as intelligent as the master, if not more so, because they could always outwit the slave master. Slave narratives document the immoral, sinful, cruel, dishonest, adulterous behavior of the slave master. According to the documentation, masters violated the very Christian ideology they were attempting to convince the slave to accept!
Even more important than the rejection of the enemy’s value system by creating egalitarianism within the slave community were the relations of production during slavery (i.e. the way African males and females were forced to work). Angela Davis writes:
‘Like the majority of slave men, slave women, for the most part, were field workers. While a significant proportion of border-state slaves may have been house servants, slaves in the Deep South—the real home of the slavocracry—were predominantly agricultural workers. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, seven out of eight slaves, men and women alike, were field workers’.i
Because women worked the fields equally, side-by-side with slave men, there was little chance for the emergence of an idea that the African female was inferior to the African male. Additionally, women ‘were not only compelled to do the normal agricultural work, they could also expect the floggings workers normally received if they failed to fulfill their day’s quota’.i Women were not only whipped and mutilated like men, but also they were raped. African females thus endured a much harsher reality in slavery than their male counterparts. These facts lead Davis to state: ‘Male-female relations within the slave community could not, therefore, conform to the dominant ideological pattern’.i
Forced, collective, egalitarian work in the cotton fields led to voluntary, collective and egalitarian work in the household. After the exhausting field routine, male and female slaves combined their remaining energy in order to ensure the survival of their families. Although they performed different domestic tasks, ‘the sexual division does not appear to have been hierarchical’.i Thus, overall, the ‘salient theme emerging from domestic life of the slave quarters is one of sexual equality. They transformed that negative equality which emanated from the equal oppression they suffered as slaves into a positive quality: the egalitarianism characterizing their social relations’.i
African Men’s Participation in the Oppression of African Women
African men have been socialized by the capitalist economic system to develop certain attitudes and to display certain behaviour and practices to women. Since capitalism holds to the objective of profit at all costs for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many who labour to create the profit, that system will only create a superstructure (e.g. political and mass media systems) that validates its position. In particular, it uses its mass media to proselytize about the beneficence and inevitability of capitalism. As Cabral has argued, the oppressor realizes that the only truly effective way of dominating the oppressed is to modify the oppressed people’s culture.i To reject the capitalist way of life, it is necessary to develop mechanisms that persuade the oppressed to ignore the cultural imperialism ‘pushed’ by one’s enemy. Phillip Carnoy, noted educator, agrees. He argues that capitalist education was and is cultural imperialism, describing this education ‘as one that colonizes people to accept dominated roles, roles defined by a powerful, self perpetuating group’.i Today, the major vehicle of cultural imperialism is mass media. It reaches all sectors of the world’s population, particularly youths, through music and music videos. The message promoted is conspicuous consumption in all forms, including the acquisition of material items. Violence and sex reign supreme in these media presentations, with the female, especially the African female, being denigrated as a sexual object for the man.i
Africa is not immune to this form of cultural imperialism. When African men do not know their history or when they accept the values of the capitalist economic system, they thwart the African Revolution by embracing and accepting the same capitalist ideology which historically has used national and gender oppression to dominate African people.
Too often, African males, even though depicted as inferior, imitate the ‘master’ and abandon the traditional principles of humanism, collectivism and egalitarianism. They begin to exhibit the kinds of backwards, incorrect behaviour that characterizes behaviour within a patriarchal society, one that sees a woman as inferior to a man. And so today, having been socialized by capitalist values, too many African males around the world display the following behaviour:
Objectification of the African female’s body: the male fails to interact with the female as a member of the human species, but rather focuses solely on her physical attributes as if she were an object for his personal pleasure;
Physical abuse, including rape;
Multiple partner syndrome, or the female stable;
Men encouraging the retention of female genital mutilation as a custom;
Supporting traditions such as bridewealth and land ownership systems that place the woman in dire economic straits.
Viewing the European female as the epitome of beauty;
Transmitting the HIV virus to their spouses;
Referring to the female in disparaging ways, or disparaging his wife or partner in social settings;
The ‘down low’ phenomenon whereby a homosexual male fails to disclose this fact to the female with whom he is having sexual relations;
The ‘tipping out’ syndrome whereby married men ‘date’ girls young enough to be their daughters;
Failing to assume an equal role in the raising of the children;
Failing to play an equal role in the maintenance of the household;
Preventing the female from having input in decision making;
Disrespecting the female whom he is with by ogling the body of another female;
Constantly denying his participation in oppressing the female.
Progressive and revolutionary men have a special role to play in helping to combat these examples of backward behaviour. Instead of joining in with their unconscious brothers, they must help to educate them, for it is the conscious brothers who know their history, who know their identity, and who know their enemy. If they forsake their historic duty, they are thwarting the African Revolution, acting as any unknowledgeable African brother or any knowledgeable capitalist.
The Role of African Women in their Own Oppression and Liberation
Despite the psychological, emotional and sometimes physical abuse sisters endure at the hands of husbands, brothers and boyfriends, African men are not the enemy. This is because they have been socialized by the global capitalist system just as sisters are, and until this exploitative economic system is destroyed and replaced by socialism on our own unified land base, sisters never will be truly and permanently free. Lenin writes: ‘True emancipation of women is not possible except through communism’.i This fact, however, does not mean that sisters should wait until Pan-Africanism has been achieved before struggling for their human rights; it does not mean that they should not struggle with their brothers now over their ‘learned’ backward behaviour; it does not mean that African women should subordinate their own full development in order to be with a man who displays backward behaviour; it does not mean that sisters should stay in an abusive relationship.
To the extent that African men oppress women, our brothers are fighting against their own ultimate interests, and participating in their own exploitation and oppression. To want the freedom of your people, you must want egalitarianism. Dialectically, the two are entwined. The oppression of sisters is anti-revolutionary, anti-Pan-African and anti-socialist behavior. Brothers must become a part of the solution.
So too must African women. In fact, they must play the principal role in combating gender oppression, as workers must against their capitalist bosses and African people against racism. It is primarily the sector that is oppressed whose job it is to educate, mobilize and organize around their inhumane treatment. As in the earliest human societies, women must play the primary role of humanizing the nation.
So what must sisters do to stop participating in their own oppression?
They must constantly struggle with brothers around the latter’s behaviour. Sisters should not wait or be deterred from struggling because brothers are unemployed, suffer from racism, racial profiling, unjust imprisonment and other ills that flow from the capitalist/neo-colonial economic system. Workers are not advised to wait; they struggle continually to obtain the benefits from their bosses that they justly deserve. African people did not wait; they struggled against their inhumane treatment during slavery, colonialism, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. And we are still struggling. No oppressed people, or sector of a people, should be told to wait before fighting for justice. The fight against any injustices, including those against sisters, moves us all one step closer toward our goal of Pan-Africanism.
Sisters must speak up and out. We must hold brothers accountable for their actions, just like the sisters at Spelman College (USA) who told the music artist Nelly that if he wanted to come to their campus to speak, he must make himself available for questions concerning his music video showing a sister bent over and a brother swiping her buttocks with a credit card,. How can we sit quietly while President Zuma of South Africa parades his six wives around the world? There is no historic necessity for polygamy today. Moreover, in a global capitalist world driven by profit and individualism, polygamy is exploitive and oppressive.
They must reject the sayings that ‘boys will be boys’, ‘that’s just how men are’, and ‘men are dogs’. We are all primarily products of our environment – a vicious, decadent, immoral capitalist/neo-colonial environment. Don’t settle; better. Better the way our brothers have learned to treat sisters.
They must also reject the negative image that is fostered on them by the capitalist mass media and perpetuated by our own brothers. Sisters are not ‘bitches’ and ‘whores’. They are not the sum of their body parts. So, sisters must stop dressing the part of what the slave master used to call ‘Jezebels’.
Sisters also must stop using the terms ‘bitches’ and ‘whores’ to refer to themselves. They must stop mugging each other, disrespecting each other, fighting each other, and trying to take each other’s ‘man’. Why should sisters participate in their own oppression? “A woman against women is a woman against herself.” Once again, they must follow the example of our earliest sisters who, in order to survive, founded a collective of women who were ‘sisters to one another and mothers to all the children of the community without regard to which individual mother bore any individual child’.i
Since sisters must raise their voices against their oppression, the best way to do that is through organization, an organization that fights for changes here and now as well as for permanent change in the defeat of capitalism and the building of Pan-Africanism. They must get organized!
In this regard, educated, progressive and revolutionary sisters have a special role to play. Instead of joining their unconscious sisters, they must help to educate, mobilize, and organize them, for it is the conscious sisters who know their history, who know their identity, and who know their enemy. Conscious sisters then must become the role models.
In Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, Nkrumah stated that ‘the women of Africa have already shown themselves to be of paramount importance in the revolutionary struggle’.i He also identified gender oppression as a major issue that needed to be examined in order to maximize the role of our African female warriors. Sekou Touré, President of Guinea and leading voice in the Pan-African struggle, noted that ‘the freedom of Africa cannot be effective if it does not lead concretely to the liberation of our women’. i On 8 March 1987, Thomas Sankara, leader of the Burkina Faso revolution, delivered a major speech entitled, ‘The revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women’. He was very clear on the role that the African male plays in the oppression of the African female. Referring to African women, he warned the African male that ‘our final victory depends fundamentally on their capacities, their wisdom in struggle and their determination to win’.
Therefore, to continue the oppression of our mothers, daughters and sisters is to stifle the development of more that 50 percent of the African nation. We will never be free as long as the African female is denied her full humanity. We must become as ingenious as we were in slavery in eliminating gender oppression. We must rediscover and recreate a value system that ensures the preservation, nurturance and protection of all of our most precious resource, our people.
Until global capitalism is destroyed and Pan-Africanism is established, we must reject the value system of our oppressor, a way of life that devours principled behaviour and destroys the harmony between woman and man. This is the only way we will survive and flourish as a people.
What must we do to survive as well as develop institutions that allow us to permanently free ourselves? We must do what we did, and more, during slavery—the most inhumane period in our history as a people: reject the value system of our oppressor, work together, and struggle for what Kwame Nkrumah taught us as the only permanent solution to our problems as a people: Pan-Africanism—a liberated, united, socialist Africa.
Only with a socialist economic system will we have the material base organized to harness the resources necessary to improve the quality of life for all African people and in turn give birth to a superstructure that will embrace the principles of humanism, collectivism and egalitarianism.
Dialectical materialism posits that all things are possible and the possibility of doing things successfully is increased exponentially when the numbers of those trying to do the same things in unity increases. Organization is the key! Therefore, our immediate goal must be to join a revolutionary, Pan-African organization; our short-term goal must be the development of coalitions and alliances with organizations that share our objective: the defeat of capitalism and the creation of global socialism.
Meanwhile, we must immediately seek ways to politically educate both African males and females as to the causes and symptoms of our crises as a people by doing the following:
Study: give to the contradiction of gender oppression the same study that we gave and are giving to class and national (race) oppression.
Join or create organizations dedicated to building Pan-Africanism.
Create separate units inside revolutionary organizations that allow sisters the opportunity to develop their own agenda for crushing gender oppression.
Create separate units inside revolutionary organizations that allow brothers the opportunity to develop their own agenda for crushing gender oppression.
Most important, we must reject the capitalist lifestyle. We must embrace the principles of humanism, collectivism, and egalitarianism in order to show our people the life that they can expect to live once we achieve Pan-Africanism. How else will our people understand the difference between living under capitalism and living under socialism?
A new day is not only possible; it is coming because, as Osagyefo taught, there is no force more formidable than a united people. Forward ever, backwards never!