In 2018 the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) commemorated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kwame Nkrumah’s historic book “Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare.” The Central Committee of the A-APRP (the organization’s leadership body) re-read and discussed the book’s continuing relevance during a series of meetings. What follows is an “interview” with the Party’s leadership about the book:
Question: What has changed globally for African People since the writing of this book?
A-APRP: The National Liberation struggle in Africa is not finished, and imperialist militarism has increased on the continent with AFRICOM, expanding bases in Ghana and Djibouti, increased drone bases, and African militaries receiving training from both NATO and AFRICOM. Economically neo-colonialism is now in the stage of neoliberalism.
Question: Hold up! You’re using a lot of big words. What does all of that mean?
A-APRP: Yeah, okay, I’ll try to break it down. Imperialism means governments, corporations and other forces outside of Africa reaching into the continent and stealing and exploiting Africa’s valuable resources. Often, they do this by force, not so much by sending in their own armies anymore, but now they will send their military forces as “trainers” and “advisors” to direct African soldiers to do the imperialist dirty work. When the world sees that, it doesn’t appear that foreigners are dominating Africa. This is really the primary mission of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). They get away with this only because there are African stooges who are in leadership positions in African countries who cooperate with these crimes. We call this “neo-colonialism” because it’s just a new form of colonialism – foreigners controlling Africa using puppets with black faces. These puppets have helped push Africa into a neo-liberal stage, or a period when private and foreign interests have total freedom to do whatever they want in Africa with no interference or control by governments or the people at all.
Question: If this is happening right now, why is the A-APRP reading and talking about a book that was published more than 50 years ago?
A-APRP: The A-APRP and other revolutionary forces need to talk about how imperialism still attempts to destroy revolutionary organizations and countries like Guinea-Bissau, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe that are under siege by imperialism. Nkrumah had to consider these issues when he wrote his book, but it falls to the AAPRP and other revolutionary formations to revise discussion of the role of the Party/State in moving us toward socialism while also ensuring that everyone understands the economics of neo-colonialism.
Imperialism means governments, corporations and other forces outside of Africa reaching into the continent and stealing and exploiting Africa’s valuable resources. Often, they do this by force, not so much by sending in their own armies anymore, but now they will send their military forces as “trainers” and “advisors” to direct African soldiers to do the imperialist dirty work. When the world sees that, it doesn’t appear that foreigners are dominating Africa. This is really the primary mission of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
Question: Movement toward…socialism? Is that what you said?
A-APRP: Yes. Simply put, we want the wealth and resources of Africa to be in the hands of the broad masses of Africa’s people rather than in the hands of a tiny African elite and foreigners. Socialism makes that happen.
Question: It seems like a very tall order. A revolution? To take the wealth and put it in the hands of the people? How can you pull that off?
A-APRP: We do it by waging an information war that educates people to the need for revolution and that points the way forward. Once the people know what’s happening, they can be organized into a force that nobody can stop. The information we give people is propaganda. The capitalists have made that a dirty word, but one of the good things about Nkrumah’s book is that he explains how and why propaganda is vital to revolution. The capitalists certainly use propaganda against us. The African revolutionary forces must underscore the role of propaganda. Look at the example of Libya and other liberation movements whose images were distorted and perverted by capitalist propaganda. They were made to appear to be illegitimate revolutionary forces that just labeled themselves socialist and communist.
Question: You continue to push this idea of socialism and communism. I’ve always heard those systems are antidemocratic, and even tyrannical. Why would we want that if we’re trying to put the people in control?
A-APRP: Nkrumah emphasizes the fundamental importance of knowing the enemy. This means in the case of democracy the revolutionary forces must explain the difference between capitalist ruling class democracy and people’s participatory democracy. Capitalist democracy means the people can choose government leadership from candidates approved by the capitalists. The people don’t get to make any decisions at all about the wealth of the country. The capitalists own and control that. People’s participatory democracy means that the people not only get to decide who they want to lead the government, but they also own the nation’s wealth and decide how it is used. There is a big difference, and you need socialism to have a people’s participatory democracy.
Question: The African continent is huge. Seriously, it is HUGE! I don’t understand how even the most committed revolutionaries are going to get control of all that territory.
A-APRP: Nkrumah explains how to do it in the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. The strategy is based on what we call the “zonal theory.” That means that Africa is made up of different types of zones. There are zones under enemy control, which is self-explanatory. There are “contested zones” where serious liberation struggles are being waged. And there are “liberated zones” where revolutionaries have been victorious, and they control the territory. Nkrumah called for the establishment of an All-African Committee for Political Coordination (A-ACPC) that will make it possible for African revolutionary parties and forces in liberated zones to act in a coordinated way with parties and revolutionary forces struggling to win power in contested zones. Although the analysis is more than 50 years old, it remains relevant to today’s reality. The A-APRP and other revolutionary Pan-African parties must study and update information about the progressive and revolutionary political formations in Africa and figure out how to manage our relationships with them on the African continent and throughout the African World. But basically, the idea is to win Africa incrementally, zone by zone. It can and will be done.
Question: Are you saying that nothing has really changed in 50 years?
A-APRP: No, we’re not saying that at all. Consider for example our revolutionary objectives. They include nationalism, socialism and Pan-Africanism. We have to look at how these concepts have changed over time and how they apply to our struggle today. How do we define nationalism today as compared to how we defined it in 1968? Amilcar Cabral’s definition contemplated controlling the means and modes of production. But we are currently in a complete state of neo-colonialism where even though the means and modes of production are in African hands, there are still foreign forces that give those African hands orders about what to do with those productive resources. It’s very different from what existed in 1968. Consequently, we are looking at achieving liberation of the nation from neo-colonialism. Conditions have changed in other ways. In the diaspora for example, we see how in Brazil, Colombia, and other places, there are Africans fighting alongside indigenous people and to a certain degree forging a different kind of nation. How are those struggles against settler-colonialism tied to the African Revolution? Is settler colonialism in some ways upheld or aided by these struggles in which Africans seek land outside of Africa? We have to define today how these struggles fit into our definition of Pan-Africanism. In the Caribbean, none of those islands are self-sufficient in terms of production. They are very neo-colonial, even with national independence. It underscores yet again that our struggle is primarily against neo-colonialism.
Amilcar Cabral’s definition contemplated controlling the means and modes of production. But we are currently in a complete state of neo-colonialism where even though the means and modes of production are in African hands, there are still foreign forces that give those African hands orders about what to do with those productive resources. It’s very different from what existed in 1968. Consequently, we are looking at achieving liberation of the nation from neo-colonialism
Question: Of the objectives you named, it would seem that nationalism would be the one most familiar to people.
A-APRP: Oh yes, Nkrumah acknowledged that nationalism is an easy concept for the masses to grasp, especially given that our experience with true independence is limited and rare. Everybody intuitively knows that if foreigners control your government and economy, they need to be sent packing. But what happens after they leave? One possibility is that a national bourgeoisie can come to power and control the country’s resources. If that group is functioning essentially as agents for foreign interests, things have not really changed. That is the neo-colonial reality in many countries in Africa. China has a national bourgeoisie, but at least that group has dominant ownership of the means of production. In Africa we haven’t even achieved national liberation in a capitalist context. True liberation that will allow for true nationalism will come only after we have scientific socialism – complete control of our productive forces free from any imperialist domination. We need a unified Africa to achieve scientific socialism. National liberation of the resources – socialism implies that the masses own them and utilize them in the interest of the people.
Question: You mentioned struggles in the African diaspora by Africans allied with indigenous peoples. I’m intrigued by the implications of those efforts for the idea of nationalism. Can you expand on that?
A-APRP: To answer that we must note that there is a difference between nationalism and national liberation. Nkrumah defined nationalism as the struggle for independence, but that alone does not address the question of political and economic exploitation. Yes, there is a clear difference between nationalism and national liberation. Nationalism was a concept used to mobilize people inside a “national territory” to free the land and kick out the colonizer. However, as mentioned earlier, the imperialists continued to control the means of production and productive forces and the political situation. National liberation means that the masses control all aspects of the means of production. Many of these alliances in the diaspora between Africans and indigenous peoples are for the purpose of fighting against settler-colonialism, where foreign forces actually settle in the territory and dominate it. Their struggles are to liberate the territory from the settler-colonists and imperialists. This is a contribution to the fight for scientific socialism. Any struggle anywhere in the world against imperialism is a fight for Africa. Africans in these circumstances who identify with the total liberation of Africa are Pan-Africanists.
Question: You keep returning to the idea of Pan-Africanism, which, if I understand it correctly is the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism. Why is African unity so important? If African countries achieve true independence – true nationalism, won’t that be enough?
A-APRP: Would you suggest that California or Illinois or New Jersey can be self-sustaining, strong, independent countries on their own? Of course not. In order for those states to function in a meaningful way, they have to be united with all other states in the United States of America. Africa is no different. Those little African countries will reach their full potential only after there is a United States of Africa. But unity has still other benefits. African unity will make it possible to provide economic, diplomatic and military protection to Africans globally. Not only that, Africa can support indigenous peoples everywhere in their struggles against settler-colonialism. Africa will generally be in a position to contribute to efforts to bring about international socialism leading to world communism. Imperialism and neo-colonialism must be eradicated in all their forms.
Question: How does scientific socialism differ from “African Socialism?”
A-APRP: Scientific socialism is, as its name implies, based on objective, demonstrable facts and analysis of material conditions. For this reason, socialist principles are the same everywhere. Gravity is a scientific principle. If you observe gravity in Africa, it is not “African gravity.” That’s why “African Socialism” is a farce that was based on romanticism and mythology. For example, some proponents suggested that Africans are naturally socialist because of Africa’s communal heritage, and that pursuit of socialism is instinctive rather than a conscious choice. Philosophically, there may be some links between communalism and socialism but biologically it is not a given that we as Africans who experienced communalism will automatically pursue socialism. The entire African socialism concept was used by neo-colonialism to confuse and distract Africans from taking a scientific approach.
Those little African countries will reach their full potential only after there is a United States of Africa. But unity has still other benefits. African unity will make it possible to provide economic, diplomatic and military protection to Africans globally. Not only that, Africa can support indigenous peoples everywhere in their struggles against settler-colonialism. Africa will generally be in a position to contribute to efforts to bring about international socialism leading to world communism
Question: All that you say makes sense, but aren’t imperialist forces pretty strong? Won’t they crush a revolution?
A-APRP: Not a chance. Imperialism has more and more problems within and without territorial boundaries and imperialist countries and forces become weaker by the day. History shows that all empires collapse. We can hasten the demise of imperialism through revolution.
Question: If imperialists are faced with so many external and domestic difficulties, how then can they afford to step up their aggression in Africa?
A-APRP: Nkrumah explained that it was a deliberate strategy of the imperialist to set up neo-colonial states. This strategy (neo-colonialism) stifled the development of one unified Africa. The imperialists must step up their aggression because if they lose Africa’s natural resources they cannot survive as capitalist nations. Internally, capitalists have balance of payments problems in both Europe and in settler colonies in the western hemisphere. There are ongoing workers’ strikes and massive unrest in the streets in capitalist countries around the globe. Capitalism’s need to control raw materials is why they have fought and continue to fight imperialist wars.