Abayomi Azikiwe at PASU sponsored event on June 14, 1989 at WSU, Detroit. Azikiwe was addressing a seminar on South Africa featuring a representative of the African National Congress., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Pages From History: Reflections on the African American National Question
The Struggle Against Racism and National Oppression in the 1990s
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
PANW Editor’s Note: The following speech was delivered at the “Conference on Southern Africa and the Third World Crisis” that was held at Wayne State University in Detroit on Nov. 3, 1990. It is taken from the overall report of the conference which was published by the Pan-African Students Union in their monograph series entitled Pambana Journal. This monograph series was circulated between 1984 and 2000 and was edited by Abayomi Azikiwe. The monograph series issued 24 publications in addition to two pamphlets.
As the introduction of the report from the conference indicated in regard to the broader political context in which the event was held, “With the collapse of the Socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, the current disarray that is taking place now in the Soviet Union (which eventually collapsed the following year), the imminent economic unification of Europe which is scheduled for 1992, and also with the current deployment of approximately 240,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia (which led to the first Gulf War of 1991), it becomes very important that people in this country take stock of what is actually going on globally.
“What effect is the situation now in the Middle-East going to have on development assistance to Africa? What effect is the current roll back in affirmative action programs and the attacks on civil rights going to have on the situation here in the U.S. in regard to the economic as well as the political status of African Americans and other oppressed minorities?”
Partial text of comments by Abayomi Azikiwe:
Here in the U.S. the population of so-called minorities, people of color, has escalated tremendously over the last decade. The population of Hispanics as well as people from Asia and peoples of African descent from different parts of the world is escalating tremendously. This is having a monumental impact on the actual political situation inside the U.S.
Also in other western industrialized countries, for example Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada, the populations of Third World peoples are growing at a rapid rate. As a result of the increasing populations in these areas, we have the phenomena of right-wing racist and fascist tendencies that are popping up all over these western metropolitan countries.
Here in the U.S. we can see a firm and consistent escalation of racist violence over the last few years. This has been exemplified by the attacks against peoples of African descent as well as other national minorities here in the U.S.
In regard to our position on Africa, I would like to make a few brief comments. In analyzing the current situation of oppressed African peoples in America, we must not get stalled in the acquisition and citing of data which lends empirical evidence to the increasing oppression and discrimination against our people in the United States. Our ultimate aim is to develop a practical working theory, a practical working program, to actually bring about freedom, liberation and justice for peoples of African descent in the U.S.
The African people of America constitute a nation based on the historical development of U.S. capitalism and its handling of the national question. Coming from many African nations and nationalities on the continent, captured by the Atlantic Slave Trade between the 15th and 19th centuries, African people in America were subjected to the vicious exploitation of their labor, the capture and colonization of their land by western European imperialists and the legal disenfranchisement and social degradation by European political structures.
Consequently, this exploitation and oppression created oppressed African nations in Africa as well as in the Americas. The struggle is to liberate the oppressed African nations from capitalism, racism and imperialism and to build societies devoid of the exploitation of human being by other human beings.
I would also like to point out that recognizing the current nature of African political economy on the continent, the question becomes: how can African people in the United States fight for independent nationhood rooted in independent economic development in Africa? First of all it is important to realize that the attainment of political nationhood does not automatically solve the problems of exploitation and oppression. The lessons of over thirty years of independent former colonies in the nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America shows that until a formal break is made with imperialism, very little progress can be expected overall.
Despite the tremendous assistance given to the national liberation movements and developing states by the socialist countries, their economies still remain incapable of totally counteracting western imperial hegemony of the world economy. And we see this happening in regard to the situation in Eastern Europe and also in the Soviet Union, with the pull back of assistance by these particular countries for the national liberation movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This sober assessment requires that the African liberation movement in the United States be firmly anti-capitalist in orientation and led directly by the African working people of America. We feel that only the destruction of world capitalism and imperialism can bring about the genuine liberation of African and other oppressed people globally.
The exercise of self-determination can be assured with the destruction of the negative aspects of U.S. capitalism and imperialism and a close alliance being formed between the African people of America with the progressive revolutionary forces in Africa as well as the progressive and revolutionary forces throughout the world.