At the beginning of this year, BBC World Histories Magazine asked historians to nominate the ‘greatest leader’ –someone who exercised power and had a positive impact on humanity – and to explore their achievements and legacy. More than 5,000 readers voted, and in second place, with 25 per cent of the vote is Amilcar Cabral, who as head of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), led his country to independence. What made Cabral great? Why must those who struggle for Pan-Africanism know and understand this man’s life, work and legacy? Let’s examine his contributions. While the BBC magazine vote confirms what some historians have affirmed for more than 50 years, the magazine doesn’t highlight more relevant aspects of Cabral’s anti-imperialist strategies for political-military coordination, and his work on culture as the basis for the liberation of the means of production. Such is the fundamental revolutionary role played by ideology and liberation organizations like the PAIGC.
Cabral focused on Ideology and Revolutionary Consciousness
…The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements–which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform–constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all. We believe, however, that a sufficient number of different experiences have already been accumulated to enable us to define a general line of thought and action with the aim of eliminating this deficiency…Amilcar Cabral, The Weapon of Theory
Mass revolutionary consciousness and the mass nature of the armed struggle for national liberation that employs the people’s culture explains why the PAIGC is still alive, vibrant and struggles to this day. Cabral gave highest priority to training cadres who would continue his work in theory and practice after his physical disappearance. To complement the nucleus of cadre who were with him from the beginning, Cabral established boarding schools in areas liberated from the colonizers where children were given political/ideological training. The best of these students were sent to the ‘Escola Piloto’ (Pilot School) in Conakry, next to the PAIGC headquarters. Cabral regularly spent time participating in the ideological training and reminding students they were to become the political cadre of their country after independence.
For the non-military “armed militants,” ideological centers were established as well as political commissaries inside the People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARP). Still other militants were sent to socialist countries, including China, Cuba, Ghana, Algeria, the USSR and Eastern Europe for political education and military training. These unsung cadres continue their revolutionary work.
Cabral ensured the PAIGC’s durability through training
Consistent training may explain why the PAIGC is one of only a few parties in Africa that has possessed the capacity to regain state power several times after losing it. State power lost in 1999 was regained in 2004, and then fully reinforced in 2008. When power was lost again in a 2012 coup, it was regained in 2014. The PAIGC suffered a palace coup in 2015 but regained control in 2019. Because of yet another coup in February, the PAIGC is fighting again to lead the country.
Disciples and students of Amilcar Cabral who honestly want to continue the work must adhere to the following three decisive tenets:
- faithfulness to the political program, including fundamentals and objectives, ideology, strategy and tactics;
- active engagement in socio-political structures rooted in the popular culture of the People on a national, African and international level. Such makes possible the application of the political program in practice and development of revolutionary consciousness;
- commitment to following Cabral’s political/cultural example.
Cabral walked the walk of Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism by establishing organizations
Many know Cabral (along with comrades) established the African Party for Independence (PAI) in 1956. (It became PAIGC in 1960 to acknowledge Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands.) Less known is that Cabral also helped found the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) – also in 1956. Specifically, he was one of the founders of the Partido de Luta Unida dos Africanos de Angola (PLUAA) that preceded the Manifesto of the MPLA. In addition, Cabral strongly influenced the shaping of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), and he had a major influence on the development of the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome e Principe (MLSTP) especially while its office and leaders were based in Conakry, not far from the PAIGC headquarters.
Cabral was also one of the co-founders of the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL) in 1966, which coordinates political-military struggles of anti-imperialist revolutionaries on three continents. These organizations still exist, each with hundreds of thousands of members. (The MPLA has about a million) These are profoundly meaningful legacies left by Cabral.
Cabral gave us a vital revolutionary example to follow
Amilcar Cabral’s pragmatism, courage, modesty, intelligence, honesty and credibility are irreproachable. He was a genius strategist. His example serves as a potent weapon. Although he is not as well-known as he should be, awareness of Amilcar Cabral’s record of sterling service grows day-by-day in Africa and abroad. The 2020 BBC World Histories Magazine ‘greatest leader’ feature doesn’t mention the revolutionary aspects of Cabral’s profile that are highlighted here, but such a publication cannot hide the sky with its hand. Even the magazine had to acknowledge that Cabral “united Africans in Guinea-Bissau to defeat Portuguese colonialism.”
It is not enough to simply declare Cabral as one of the greatest leaders of all time. We must follow his example in practice. Faithfully adhering to Comrade Amilcar Cabral’s tenets and principles will lead us to the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism with the modes and means of production controlled by Africa’s people. In Central and South America, Asia, the African Diaspora, and throughout the revolutionary world, revolution consistent with Amilcar Cabral’s thoughts means ‘returning to the source,’ committing class suicide and becoming re-born as a revolutionary worker, actively involved in daily sacrifices inside a mass political party, which is the organized political expression of our people’s culture, led by ideology that comes from our culture and which is produced by our history.
Eternal glory for Amilcar Cabral! Cabral “ka muri”! Cabral ká tá more! (Amilcar Cabral is not dead; Cabral never dies!)