I feel compelled to write this because I recently listened to a presenter at a conference – in Africa no less – describe Pan-Africanism as “resistance and defiance.” I was like bruh what? Certainly the revolutionary political tendencies from which Pan-Africanism developed could be accurately be described as defiant. And certainly Pan-Africanism as a strategy and an ideology is uncompromising in it’s resistance to colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. However, stopping at such nebulous and emotion-driven descriptors and neglecting to mention clear history when describing Pan-Africanism only serves the purpose of obscuring clear, world-changing – and as yet unmet – political objectives.
Because that is what Pan-Africanism is – a political objective: the total liberation and political unification of the entire African continent under scientific socialism. It is a revolutionary response to the dispossession, exploitation, and attempted genocide of African people everywhere. It is Africa’s contribution to the struggle for the liberation of all humanity and the movement to build global communism.
Pan-Africanism was born in the diaspora, further developed in Africa, and successfully implemented as the ideological foundation of national liberation struggles all over the continent and the world. Every anti-colonial struggle that was won in Africa used Pan-Africanism as it’s theoretical basis. This is because the very best revolutionaries that Africa has produced all understood that liberation in one corner of the African world meant nothing and could not be sustained without the total liberation of our home – Africa. They understood that liberation and unification of Africa was the only thing that could win liberation, justice, and power for Africans everywhere.
In order to understand why this is, it’s important to understand the strategic significance of Africa within the global economy. Africa is the most resource-rich landmass on the face of the planet – home to the most acres of arable land, the largest variety and concentrations of precious metals and minerals, and the fastest growing and youngest working population on earth. It is for these reasons that imperialist powers in the West and all over the world have scrambled to lay claim to Africa’s resources and have contributed to the global oppression of African people.
Sometimes in the US there is a tendency to assume Africa’s value to capitalism and colonialism was concentrated in those Africans who were kidnapped and enslaved during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. While it is true that the exploitation of our ancestors provided the foundation for the development of the US into a superpower, focusing on slavery only shows us one part of the picture. The reality is that there would be no modern industrialized Western civilization as we know it, without the exploitation of Africa. To paraphrase Aime Cesaire – the West (meaning all of Europe, the US, Australia, and Israel) is a creation of Africa.
There would be no laptop computers, no cell phones, no drones, no satellites without microchips made with colton found in the Congo. There would be no rubber, no aluminium, no steel, no diamonds, no gold, no uranium, no platinum without exploited mines – and exploited African miners – in Azania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. No cocoa and no coffee without plantations in Ghana and Ethiopia. The list goes on and on. The entire world runs on resources found in their highest concentrations in Africa. And these resources are currently available cheaply on the global market because they are stolen. Stolen by imperialist powers and transnational corporations who work together – alongside our traitorous African bourgeois and petit-bourgeois – to ensure that poor and working class African people all over the world remain oppressed and exploited.
In the current political paradigm, the masses of African people are poorly represented by neo-colonial governments. We are seeing our futures and our livelihoods bartered away by our bourgeois in order to fill a few pockets and keep the world turning on our backs. Each African nation – poor and weak – enters into negotiations with imperialist superpowers on it’s own and in exchange for selling off natural resources, land, clean water, and our collective future we receive crippling debt, foreign military installations, drone warfare, decimated social services, high unemployment, and structural adjustment programs.
Kwame Nkrumah correctly recognized that no single African nation could operate from a position of power on the world stage and definitely not while operating under a capitalist system. He, alongside Sekou Toure, Amilcar Cabral, Mangaliso Sobukwe, Kwame Ture, and the members of the 5th Pan-African Congress, put forward the most advanced conception of Pan-Africanism yet – the idea of a totally liberated and unified socialist Africa under one continental government that would represent the masses of African people as one collective force. Under a unified continental socialist government, the natural resources, land, and means of production would belong collectively to the masses of poor and working class African people. The neo-colonial borders would be dissolved, allowing free passage for Africans all over the continent and repatriation for those of us in the diaspora who choose it. Africa’s vast wealth would be used for the benefit of the masses of African people – to guarantee that every African person everywhere would have housing, healthcare, education, safety, and employment.
The power and promise of Pan-Africanism is first and foremost liberation and self-determination for Africa and for all people of African descent everywhere. But victory for Pan-Africanism would also represent a deathblow the global capitalist-imperialist system that heavily relies on cheap resources, stolen land, and our exploited labor to function.
As Kwame Nkrumah said, “It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.” Pan-Africanism is that solution. Pan-Africanism is our mission. Let us be clear about our objectives, our politics, and our history. Forward to Pan-Africanism!