By Kevin Rashid Johnson
Leviathan Summer ’05 Issue No. #6
Comrade Amilcar Cabral led one of the most successful Afrikan national independence struggles of the 20th Century, in Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands. Cabral was Afrika’s foremost revolutionary theorist and practitioner of his time. In my opinion, his contributions to the question of national and colonial liberation rank him with such renowned revolutionary thinkers as V.I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara.
One of Cabral’s greatest strengths was his recognition that while valuable lessons can be learned from other’s struggles, each movement must develop and apply methods suited specifically to their material conditions and people. Cabral was able to make a clear and correct analysis of his country’s objective conditions and organize appropriate and successful resistance to Portuguese colonial rule based upon this analysis.
Cabral organized and led the African Independence Party of Guinea and the Cape’ Verde Islands (PAIGC), which was formed in 1956 to resist the brutal colonial occupation by the Portuguese. Cabral followed a plan that advanced in three-year increments. He committed the first three years to the internal organization of the PAIGC (1956-59), the next three years to educating and organizing the masses for waging armed struggle (1959-62), and then waging revolutionary war until independence, which was won in 1974.
Cabral understood that the working class was the only class capable of leading all the way revolution and not settling for a new accommodation with the imperialists that puts black faces in high places but left the masses poor and exploited. He recognized that all power and control had to be placed with the working masses.
Recognizing that his country had virtually no industrial proletariat, he saw that the intellectuals leading the PAIGC, such as himself, must cultivate a working class outlook and proletarian consciousness to lead the struggle.
By 1969, the PAIGC had liberated two-thirds of Guinea Bissau and begun educating the 98% illiterate population that had long been oppressed by Portuguese colonialism. Armed by the United States, the Portuguese Army launched repeated military assaults that were repulsed by the fighters of the PAIGC.
The imperialists concentrated more firepower and military manpower against the Guineans than the Vietnamese. But all the government controlled was a few fortified cities.
During his last visit to the US, (1972), Cabral called an informal meeting with various leaders of the Black organizations here, and he extended the support and familial bond of solidarity of the people of Guinea-Bissau. He encouraged American Blacks to come visit in his country, to learn from their struggle, but to keep in mind that we must make our revolution in· America based upon the concrete conditions that are here.
Cabral struggled unceasingly to prevent the armed struggle from degenerating into racial or tribal war, as happened elsewhere in Africa with the sponsorship of the colonists and imperialists. He also made it clear that his fight was not with the people of Portugal.
“We do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the color of people’s skin,” Cabral stated in March, 1968, at the release of several Portuguese prisoners. of war; “we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by Black people.”
‘We are not fighting against the Portuguese people, against individual Portuguese or Portuguese families,. ..we have been forced to take up arms in order to extirpate from the soil of our African fatherland, the shameful Portuguese colonial domination.”
Unfortunately, shortly after his visit to the US, Amilcar Cabral was assassinated by Portuguese secret agents who had infiltrated the PAIGC. They incited anti-white and anti-mulatto hatred against Cabral, who was half Black and half Portuguese. Upon his death, his brother, Luis, took over leadership, and the struggle continued to surge forward. In April of 1974, a revolutionary coup brought down the government in Portugal and ended the occupation of Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands.
But the greatest struggles came after liberation, when the people had to struggle to keep the initiative in their hands and smash all remnants of elitism and colonial rule. Shortly before his death, Cabral stated that accomplishing this, “was the most important problem in the liberation movement.” He observed that, “the nature of the state crated after independence is perhaps the secret of the failure of African independence.”
Under the PAIGC, led by Louis Cabral, the country made several substantial gains in economic and political development. However, in 1980, Louis was driven into exile in Cuba, and he was replaced by the former PAIGC guerrilla commander and minister of defense, Joao Vieira, who played the “race card” against Louis Cabral, promoting Black racialism.
Instead of the PAIGC commanding the gun, the gun came to command PAIGC leading to privilege, corruption and arbitrary rule by a new elite. Amilcar Cabral called for Power to the People and for the people to “return to the source” of their tribal cooperative heritage.