Thoughts about “A Maoist Response to China in Africa” Article

On July 31, 2019, I wrote and posted the article “China in Africa; A Critical Assessment” on my blog at “Ahjamu Umi’s the Truth Challenge” at   Since that time, the “HoodCommunist” blog has launched.  Anyone who knows anything about cadre within the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) knows that we don’t see anyone genuinely fighting for justice as a threat to our work.  We never have and we never will. We operate under the premise that our enemies are the international capitalist/imperialist network led by the United States. I say that to underscore the fact that I welcome, encourage, and support the HoodCommunist blog and everyone else concerned about justice should also.  So, when a good comrade invited me to submit my China piece to HoodCommunist, I didn’t hesitate. After the article was posted to the HoodCommunist blog, Christopher Winston responded with “A Maoist Response” to my original China article. This piece I’m writing here represents my thoughts about Christopher’s critical piece on my original article, but I feel the need to express that I know that many of our people read blogs like “HoodCommunist” and “Ahjamu Umi’s Truth Challenge” because they want inspiration for our fight for African liberation.  As a result, there are more than a few people who may view response articles as divisive or negative. I encourage anyone who thinks that to give the process of exchange of ideas an appropriate chance. Although I have strong disagreement with much of what Christopher wrote in response to my article, I don’t view his efforts as anything except an honest attempt to stimulate dialogue among the African masses about critical questions that face us. This dialogue is absolutely necessary so I thank Christopher for taking the time to evaluate what I wrote and I thank HoodCommunist for posting it in the first place.  I firmly believe that this type of ideological struggle is exactly what’s needed in our fight for justice, liberation, and forward progress.

First, I need to express again, as I did at the summary and conclusion of my China in Africa piece, that without question, the future of African people is inseparable from the future of Africa.  As a result, no outside force will liberate African people so as I stated in my piece, China’s presence in Africa today can never be a positive one because, as I wrote, we do not currently possess the organization to effectively sit at the table with anyone else.  This is why, as I indicated, neo-colonialism is selling away African resources to China and everyone else who meets their price without regard for the masses of African people. Since it was clearly stated in my piece that current trade relationships with China are unacceptable, there is no “justification” of their existence in Africa as Christopher claims was made.  Let me state it again in the clearest terms possible. China and everyone else cannot continue to take our human and material resources in Africa in the current unbalanced relationships that dominate these conditions today. 

A related point of discussion is Christopher’s claim that my piece doesn’t acknowledge the fact China only makes trade deals with Africa because they are profitable to China.  The other part of that discussion is Christopher’s contention with my point that I do not see China through the same definition of imperialism in Africa that I see the U.S., Europe, etc.  Of course, China is profiting from the trade deals they are making. Everyone profits from Africa today all the way down to rural Fulani villagers in Senegal who are hesitant to even let people – even visiting Africans – take videos/pictures because they know that most often, those pictures/videos end up exploiting them in some way for the monetary value the pictures/videos potentially represent.  So, this is unquestionable for Africa today and nothing in my piece was intending to dismiss or forgive China for this. Instead, what I’m suggesting we discuss, debate, and figure out, is how our people can convert the current neo-colonial relationships into ones where we can organize ourselves properly to take as much advantage of these relationships in ways that serve our people’s interests. It’s not debatable that Africa needs infrastructure.  The fact China is providing some of that as indicated in my piece is also non-debatable. I understand the distrust from revolutionaries for anything that smells like revisionist politics. And, we should always use the strong ideological foundations of those who provided concrete revolutionary ideas to guide us – whether its Maoists using the ideas of Mao or Nkrumahist/Tureists using the ideas of Nkrumah, Ture, Cabral, etc., but I also firmly believe that we have a responsibility to build on those ideological foundations by being creative in how we address the problems our people face.  In this spirit – yes – I dare suggest that we figure out how we can develop the capacity to get what we need and deserve from our vast mineral resources instead of the current practice of giving it all away with nothing coming back to our people. The notion that proper revolutionary development suggests that we wait until we have an army of millions of uncompromising proletariat communists who wipe these problems off the face of the earth all at once, with no uneven ideological development, is a wonderful concept that I would love to see happen, but I just don’t believe when you are organizing human beings, that change takes place in that fashion.  Dialectical and historical materialist history tells me that all change is a process. It’s not a flip of a switch, but a process. Christopher and I probably disagree on this, but I don’t see it as a compromise of our revolutionary principles for us to determine how we can maximize those trade deals that bring us the resources we need to further build our revolutionary capacity. In other words, I disagree that our revolutionary capacity can only be developed in the purest forms of isolation to all the other material forces that compete with us in antagonistic and non-antagonistic ways. Instead, I believe that the technical assistance and machinery that China is contributing can provide a multitude of resources to help us continue to develop our independent revolutionary potential provided we can develop in ways that permit us to have mass involvement in that process.  This can be accomplished through the further development of our mass Pan-African parties in Africa like the Democratic Party of Guinea, African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau, Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, Pan African Union of Sierra Leone, etc. These mass parties, united as Nkrumah called for, can serve as conduits to facilitate any trade and development work in Africa because unlike the neo-colonialists, we can ensure these mass organizations will facilitate that process in a way that is advantageous to the African masses. 

Further to the last point and directly to the question about China being defined as imperialist, this question also includes another component Christopher raised about whether China has abandoned socialism.  In his points, Christopher suggests that I somehow argue that socialism is social welfare programs. He uses my refusal to label China as abandoning socialism or upholding it as proof of his assertion. For the record, nowhere in my piece did I state that China’s social welfare programs prove they are socialist.  I admit that it could be that I did not properly articulate the point I meant to make there, and for that, I claim responsibility if appropriate, but my actual point is similar to the one made in the previous paragraph. Many revolutionaries like Christopher take a black/white approach to revolutionary struggle. You are either socialist or you aren’t.  I believe the basis for this materialist position is the Marxist concept that class struggle determines everything. We don’t disagree that class struggle is a primary element to determine everything, but as Nkrumahist/Tureists we also believe that ideology is also a critical factor. As Kwame Nkrumah wrote in “Consciencism”; “Every true revolution is a program and derived from a new, general, and positive organic principle.  The first thing necessary is to accept that principle. Its development must be tied to people who believe that principle and then emancipated from every tie or connection with any principle of an opposite nature.”   We believe that the progression Marx gave us hasn’t answered all the questions about the actual steps taken to demonstrate how these types of societies advance towards socialism.  It seems the question is whether these market reforms in China or even Cuba for that matter, are intentionally implemented to ensure capitalist development? Or, are they being carefully managed to provide resources for further mechanization and eventual socialist development?  Christopher apparently believes it can only be the former as it relates to China’s Communist Party leadership. And regarding their leadership, Christopher is probably correct, but that’s only part of the equation. Here’s an example of how we envision the role ideology plays in class struggle. We all call ourselves socialists and communists today, despite the unquestionable reality that most of us don’t have socialist systems in place that we live in and are building.  Yet, we still decide to call ourselves socialists/communists, Pan-Africanists, etc., because those are the ideological values we are fighting for and if we believe the pathway to power is the masses being able to conceive themselves with power, then we have faith in the Chinese masses who, as Christopher indicates, want socialism. We believe that due to their desires, they will use their commitment to those values to find a way to ensure those market reforms do not eliminate their socialist development.  I merely pointed to the policies on healthcare, etc., to demonstrate that the government recognizes that the people want socialism which speaks to the power of the Chinese masses (to ensure their country never abandons socialism). This is a clear line struggle in China today. Since this is ill refutable, its intellectually dishonest to pretend that this clear line struggle and history in China is no different than the realities in capitalist countries where people also have social welfare, especially in Europe, because they demand it.  Unlike France, Britain, Finland, etc, the question of socialism/capitalism is an open debate among the masses in China today. Due to this reality, I say the question is still open despite what the party leadership attempts to implement. This position is no revision. It’s an acknowledgment that despite the outstanding work of the Chinese comrades, even Mao and those working with him, the current contradictions in China today confirm the ideological question of socialist development was advanced, but clearly wasn’t won. There are strong vestiges of capitalism (as I indicated) still very much in existence in China.  Still, this is an open question that will be decided by the Chinese masses through not only Marx’s classic class division and definition of class struggle, but the ideological struggle that is waging as we speak. In fact, it’s that ideological struggle that will drive the class domination in China and everywhere else. Again, I say this because as Christopher correctly stated, I believe the masses are the makers of history. If China were like Britain in this regard, I would never make such an argument. This is why we believe, as I stated clearly in my original piece, that socialism is still “in the development mix” in China because (I used the example of the 600 million Chinese peasants in the original piece) the people will not just let socialism die.  We see it this way because we base our analysis also on the ideological consciousness of the people instead of strictly the materialist method in which the means of production are owned and controlled. We see the materialist changes China has undergone, but it’s much more difficult to assess the ideological development. Are the majority of people in China for socialism or no? Who can answer that question because, without a clear and ill refutable answer to that question, not just who is in control today, we cannot definitively say socialism is over in China. It’s contested sure, but we believe no one can say the discussion is over and that was specifically the point I made about socialism in China in my original piece.

That leads to the final point I wish to make here about China being imperialist.  The main issue we contend on this question is again, China’s current position in Africa is not to our liking, but we caution everyone to recognize that their existence in Africa today is a completely different reality than the “traditional” imperialist intrusions into Africa.  I mentioned some of the social challenges in my initial piece to the Chinese presence in Africa, but as troubling as those developments are, they do not compare to the systemic and oppressive colonial legacy of the U.S., Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Britain, France, etc., in Africa as it relates to the defamation of African history and culture.  The instigation, escalation, and management of devastating ethnic conflicts. The illegal sabotage of democratically elected leadership and the assassination of leaders the imperialists didn’t agree with. And, nothing the Chinese are implementing suggests their intentions in this direction. If Christopher or anyone else has such evidence, please provide it.  None of this is to say we should trust the Chinese. What it does suggest is an analysis that we should not fall into the ploy of Western imperialists – who we all can agree are imperialists in every sense of the word – to create smoke screens to make African people anti-Chinese in an effort to skew what European capitalism/imperialism continues to do in Africa.

My hope is we can all at least agree that until Africa is free, we can’t be free.  That means we cannot expect China or anyone else to solve our problems, but we can be strategic in how we address our problems, especially if there is a practical reason to be so.  Christopher probably disagrees with that, and I respect that, but for me, I see our struggle as a fight to the finish. And, anyone who has had to fight for their very life understands that in that circumstance, you use any and every weapon at your disposal.  I have faith in our people to do that effectively because I believe we can figure out how to control Chinese involvement in Africa and everyone else’s involvement in our homeland. So, no, I don’t see evidence of imperialism from China in Africa because I don’t see evidence that they are attempting to control Africa.  I see plenty of evidence that they are interested in what Africa has. At that point, it no longer becomes about China to me, regardless of what they are or what their intentions are. This now becomes a question for how we will build our revolutionary strength and potential to make Africa a force to be reckoned with. Some may believe that can only happen in isolation first.  My piece reflected the belief that it’s important for us to determine how to concretely initiate that process now with the world and material forces we live with today. And, to be honest, if I’m wrong and the masses come up with better analysis and ideas that direct us closer to liberation, trust me when I tell you I’ll be the absolute first person to tell you so.

More from this Writer

Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.