Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Africa Liberation Day and the Legacy of Global Anti-Imperialist Struggles

Africa Liberation Day and the Legacy of Global Anti-Imperialist Movements

45 years since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the struggle continues

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire


May 25, 2008 marks the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was formed by over 30 newly-independent states on the continent in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That day was proclaimed Africa Liberation Day, a holiday that has since been commemorated all over the world including various countries in Africa as well as in the former Soviet Union, the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.

Prior to 1963 and the founding of the OAU, the African independence movement caught fire resulting in the anti-colonial struggle becoming the major engine for historical transformation on the continent after the conclusion of World War II, the revolutions in Korea, China, Vietnam and Cuba.

On April 15, 1958 there was the First Conference of Independent African States in Accra, Ghana, convened by eight nations that had been successful in throwing off the yolk of direct colonialism. That day was proclaimed African Freedom Day and this year represents its 50th anniversary.

It was the burgeoning indepenence movement and the convening of the first conference of independent African states that created the conditions for the All-African Peoples Conference that was also held in Accra, Ghana in December of 1958. Ghana at that time being the vanguard of the national independence movement on the continent under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The first All-African People's Conference introduced the continent and world to the young and determined revolutionary leader Patrice Lumumba. It was Lumumba and his Congolese National Movement (MNC) that led the mineral-rich former Belgian colony to national independence. His short-lived government immediately came under attack by the United States administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lumumba was overthrown and later kidnapped and murdered at the hands of United States-backed operatives under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The 1950s and 1960s ushered in a new phase of the anti-colonial struggle. This spirit of independence paralleled the civil rights movement in the United States where the masses of African-Americans sought to overturn centuries of superexploitation and national oppression. The Pan-African revolutionary leader and socialist Kwame Nkrumah sought to link the struggles against racism, colonialism and imperialism throughout the continent and the world.

Kwame Nkrumah stated in his address to the Ghana National Assembly in response to the ratification efforts of the first annual conference of the OAU that: "The Afro-American has been taught to appreciate the dignity of the individual, living as he (she) does in one of the most techinically advanced countries of our time; and yet at the same time he (she) is being denied what is his (her) essential and inalienable right. The Afro-American did not choose to go to the New World. He (she) was dragged into America to help establish the economy of that country. This he (she) has done with great credit, distinguishing himself (herself) in all fields of human endeavour. In Music, Law, Diplomacy, Art, Science, Education, he (she) has achieved great distinction for America. The United States has therefore a moral duty to accept the essential humanity of the Afro-American."

Historical advances in the African liberation struggle

Several African nations sought to go beyond the acquisition of national independence and to build an anti-capitalist state and economy. Countries such as Ghana, Guinea, Egypt, Algeria, Tanzania, Zambia and later Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, developed revolutionary liberation movements and political parties that sought to break with the tentacles of world capitalism and imperialism.

As a result of these efforts, the imperialist struck back and launched destabilization campaigns, counterinsurgency operations and outright interventions through the manipulations of intelligence agencies and direct and indirect military occupations. The Nkrumah government in Ghana, which held power between 1951 and 1966, was overthrown by a clique of military and police operatives financed and coordinated by US imperialism.

Other nations such as Guinea-Bissau suffered targeted assassinations with the murder of revolutionary and socialist theorist Amilcar Cabral on the eve of that nation's independence in 1973. When the US and British-financed apartheid regime in South Africa attempted to reverse the independence of Angola under the leadership of the Popular Movement for Liberation (MPLA), the Cuban internationalists intervened in defense of the revolution and played a decisive role in the defeat of the racist South African Defense Forces (SADF) in both 1975-76 as well as the final victory against their attempted occupation of Angola in 1987-88.

This gallant period in African history has been documented in a recent BBC produced film entitled: "Cuba, Africa, Revolution." This historical account illustrates how a socialist internationalist government made tremendous sacrifices to destroy apartheid in southern Africa. This important episode in African history brought about the consolidation of Angolan independence after 1988, the liberation of Namibia in 1990, which suffered under South African colonialism for decades, and eventually the destruction of the racist apartheid system in 1994.

All during this period the United States and its allies sought to maintain colonial regimes and to halt the social advances of the national liberation movements which sought to embark upon a socialist path. US-controlled financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank WB) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sought to strangle the African revolution through imperialist control of the economic development within these states. The overall underdevelopment of African societies can be directly traced to the historic legacy of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

In the United States, the passage of civil rights laws during the 1950s and 1960s did not totally liberate the African-Americans and other nationally oppressed groups. The most dedicated elements within the civil rights and black power movements were subjected to the counterintelligence program where leaders and their organizations suffered mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, chemical warfare through the proliferation of narcotics in their communities and the attempted criminalization of successive generations of African-American, Latino and working classs youth.

Challenges of the Contemporary Situation in the African World

In the 21st century the machinations of imperialism have not subsided but these schemes aimed at the continued exploitaion of the natural resources and labor of the continent and its people have accelerated. Looking at the crisis in Zimbabwe, where the ruling African National Union, Patriot-Front Party (ZANU-PF) has been the target of a systematic campaign of destablization and regime change, any genuinely independent observer will see that only the tactics have changed but the objective of the western imperialist countries remains the same: to prevent Africa from becoming genuinely independent of imperialist domination and exploitation.

In Somalia, the United States has backed an invasion and occupation by the neigboring Ethiopian regime in order prevent the masses from seeking a political dispensation independent of imperialist influence and control. The Ethiopian regime that is in power today are the same forces which overturned the revolutionary gains of the 1970s and 1980s with the fall of Mengistu Haile Mariam who was supported by the former Soviet Union as well as Cuba.

Sudan, with its millions of barrels of oil reserves, is a focal point of US and British intrigue designed to reclaim the ground lost by the growing independent character of the government and peoples of this central African country. The overwhelming majority of African people are calling for the cancellation of the foreign debt obligations, the establishment of fairer terms of international trade and the halt to US, British and French military interventions on the continent. Consequently, this has resulted in the rejection of the United States military plans to establish an African Command (AFRICOM) on the continent.

The popular struggles within the labor movement, among youth, women and the increasing vocal land reform efforts in various regions of the continent, reflects the increasing awareness of the potential power of the people to take control of their social destinies and to forge an independent path towards economic and social developement.

In the United States and Canada, the rapidly burgeoning repressive character of national oppression has led to mass demonstrations against the persecution of the Jena 6, the police terrorism exemplified by the murders of Sean Bell and countless others as well as the systematic removal of hundreds of thousands of African and other working class and poor people from the Gulf region results directly from the failure of the state to protect people in the face of disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

What is becoming obvious to growing numbers of people inside the United States is that these problems of economic exploitation, national oppression and racist violence and mass incarceration cannot be solved under the current system of capitalism. Only the advances made under socialism in various geo-political regions throughout the world during the course of the people's history of the last century provide a model for genuine social transformation.

Therefore, it is the struggle for socialism, where economic development will be based on the material needs of the working people within society that national and gender oppression will be eradicated. This struggle will set the stage for the true liberation of the immense majority of humanity.

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