Emancipation, freedom of taxonomy? What does it mean to be African?

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

Firoze Manji, drawing on a libertarian and anti-state reading of Amilcar Cabral, looks at the politics of African identity.

Submitted by red jack on March 29, 2019

Cabral . . . did not think that independence movements could take over the colonial state apparatus and use it for their own purposes. It was not the colour of the administrator that was the issue, he argued, but the fact that there was an administrator. ‘We don’t accept any institution of the Portuguese colonialists. We are not interested in the preservation of any of the structures of the colonial state. It is our opinion that it is necessary to totally destroy, to break, to reduce to ash all aspects of the colonial state in our country in order to make everything possible for our people’.

Cabral argues further: ‘We are fighting so that insults may no longer rule our countries, martyred and scorned for centuries, so that our peoples may never more be exploited by imperialists, not only by people with white skin, because we do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men’s skins; we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by Black people.’ He argues that the failure of the national liberation movements in Africa was their dismissal of theory and of ideology: ‘The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, on the part of the national liberation movements – which is basically explained by the ignorance of the historical reality which these movements aspire to transform – constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses, if not the greatest weakness, of our struggle against imperialism’.

For Cabral, theory is an essential weapon in the struggle against imperialism and for the emancipation of humankind. ‘It is true that a revolution can fail,’ he argued, ‘even though it be nurtured on perfectly conceived theories, [but] nobody has yet successfully practiced revolution without a revolutionary theory’. As I have argued elsewhere emancipatory freedoms require and express the collective power of peoples to determine their own destiny.