Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking at the Black August commemoration in Detroit. The event honored the legacy of rebellion inside the United States., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Africa Liberation Day 2011: Imperialist War, Occupation Threatens to Engulf Continent
Events in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, etc. illustrates the monumental tasks ahead
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
On May 25, 2011, people all over the world will recognize the 48th anniversary of Africa Day (also known as Africa Liberation Day) when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed with over 30 member-states in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2002, the OAU was transformed into the African Union with a commitment to establish stronger institutions aimed at fostering economic development, political unity and the full equality for women.
Although 1963 represented a watershed in regard to liberation struggles of peoples of African descent on the continent and throughout the world, the specter of neo-colonialism was very much in evidence. Just three years prior to the founding of the OAU, the imperialist intervention in Congo illustrated that the independence movement would be forced to defend itself against post-colonial efforts aimed at continuing political and economic domination.
It would not be until 1994 that the last vestiges of white minority-rule would be eliminated with the ascendancy of the African National Congress to power in the Republic of South Africa. With collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist countries two decades ago, Africa has been forced to grapple with its own challenges aimed at genuine national self-determination and independence amid a renewed push by the imperialist states, led by the U.S., to accelerate the rate of exploitation of the continent and its resources.
Over the last two decades the U.S. has escalated its military involvement on the African continent. In 1992, the George Bush Sr. administration sent thousands of marines into Somalia under the guise of providing humanitarian relief. Later in 1998, the Clinton administration would bomb a pharmaceutical plant at al-Shifa in Sudan, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state.
Also in 1998, the U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright encouraged the western-backed regimes of Uganda and Rwanda to militarily invade the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which had recently overthrown the neo-colonial puppet Mobutu Sese Seko. The result of this adventure would be millions dead in a war that would last until 2003 drawing in the progressive governments of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola in defense of the DRC.
In 1996, the U.S. encouraged and coordinated the Ethiopian client-regime to intervene in Somalia in order to stop the Union of Islamic Courts from taking over the Horn of Africa country and exercising political independence. The resistance forces re-consolidated under the banner of al-Shabab and are still battling the AMISOM and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) military forces which are supported with hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars annually.
The formation of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008 put the continent and its supporters on notice that the imperialists would intensify their quest for further domination of territory, waterways, labor and resources. These efforts would be enhanced with the establishment of a U.S. military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti and the conducting of war games in various regions throughout continent.
Nonetheless, these events have been placed within an even more dangerous context beginning on March 19 when the U.S./NATO forces began to bomb the North African state of Libya. This bombing campaign would coincide with the material and political assistance provided to anti-government rebels who have consistently refused, along with their imperialist backers, to enter into negotiations for the cessation of hostilities.
The war in Libya has spread to the border areas with Tunisia and Egypt as well as the Mediterranean Sea, where the death from thirst and starvation of refugees are a daily occurrence. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans along with guest workers have fled the country with many of them entering Europe where they are being met with vicious racial discrimination and exploitation.
Africa and the Global Class Struggle
The intervention by the U.S. and NATO in Libya must be viewed within the context of the popular uprisings that have swept various states in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. Striking imperialism off guard, the rebellions and strikes in Tunisia and Egypt led to the departure of longtime western-backed puppet leaders in Tunis and Cairo. Yet the revolutionary struggles in both Egypt and Tunisia have still not reached fruition with calls from the most principled elements within the democratic and workers’ movements to move ahead to deepen reforms and to bring about the transformation of the neo-colonial client states.
However, absent of the seizure of power by the workers, youth and farmers of Tunisia and Egypt, the existing client regime, absent of the veteran dictatorial leaders such as Ben Ali and Mubarak, are being used by the imperialists against the people and government of neighboring Libya. The Tunisia government has allowed the anti-government rebels in Libya to utilize border areas in their imperialist-backed war against Tripoli and Egypt has sent its special forces into eastern Libya to assist in the US/NATO war of aggression as well.
With the still unresolved political situation in Tunisia and Egypt it is not surprising that recent demonstrations in Tunis have been held under the banner of conducting a “second revolution” and in Cairo, the anti-imperialist and anti-zionist character of the weekly demonstrations have increased. In Egypt, a new coalition of left organizations has been formed in an effort to advance the class character of the struggle inside this North African state on the border with Israel.
According to the state-owned Ahram newspaper, “For decades the word ‘socialism’ has aroused skepticism in Egypt. After more than fifteen years of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s (a co-founder of the OAU) rule, the once esteemed doctrine that was adopted by the one party ruling establishment until the early 1970s is considered by many as the cause of Egypt’s misfortune in the decades since. However, now that Nasser’s Arab socialism no longer exists, its adherents, emboldened by the revolution, are trying to find their way back into the political scene.” (Ahram Online, May 12)
This same article goes on to note specifically that “A few days ago five socialist groups and newly established parties united to form a ‘socialist front.’ One of the founders of the Popular Democratic Alliance party, Yehia Fekry, says that the front’s aims at organizing the efforts of different socialist groups already working on the ground before and after the January 25 Revolution in order to create a more dominant leftist force. The intention being that such an entity would be able to attract people who already sympathize with the politics and ideas of the left but don’t identify themselves as leftists.”
On May Day in Egypt the growing interests in left politics was reflected in an article published in Al Jazeera the following day. Mona Dohle pointed out that “Red flags were waving yesterday as thousands of Egyptians celebrated Labor Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Workers from different factories across Egypt, the newly founded Federation of Independent Labor Unions as well as several leftist parties rallied to celebrate their new freedoms.” (Al Jazeera, May 2)
This article goes on to say that “While demonstrators shouted enthusiastically, many bystanders felt confronted with an unfamiliar idea. ‘What is this communism, is it a religion?’ asked an older man skeptically. However, after he learned about the demands of the protest, he embraced them zealously.”
The report then stresses that “Although leftists groups have been a central part of the opposition movement, it is unique that they can rally so openly for their cause.” The workers demands during the May Day demonstration included the raising of the monthly minimum wage, salary increases 1500 percent higher than what exists at present and the nationalization of major industries inside the country.
In another country that has an even larger organized working class than Egypt, the Republic of South Africa, there have been two developments that illustrates the central role of trade unions in the current struggle for genuine liberation on the continent. In recent weeks members of the National Union of Mineworkers, who are in a protracted labor dispute with the Vancouver, Canada-based Eastern Platinum Ltd’s Crocodile River mining project, have occupied two facilities demanding decent wages and better working conditions.
A report on the labor unrest noted that “Last Friday, employees drove through a security gate and proceeded underground to damage electrical and pumping equipment at the Zandfontein and Maroelabult mines, according to the company. Roughly 180 members of the NUM then occupied the mines to protest failed negotiations.” (CTV.ca, May 12)
This same article goes on to state that “The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which was called in to negotiate with the workers, has accused mine management of racism, union bashing and unfair treatment of pregnant employees. The revolt follows a first-quarter 2011 loss of $5.6 million for the company.”
In another development, COSATU issued a statement opposing the proposed merger of South Africa’s major retail company Massmart Holdings Ltd with the U.S.-based Wal-Mart Corp. The trade union federation, Africa’s largest encompassing over a half-million workers, said that “Wal-Mart has the reputation of being anti-union and in the process denies workers their rights. Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa gives workers the right to fair labor practices, to form and join a trade union, to participate in the activities and programs of a trade union and to strike.” (COSATU demand Tribunal block Wal-Mart/Massmart merger, May 13)
Socialism and African Liberation
It is these efforts on the part of the workers, revolutionary youth and progressive states in Africa that has drawn the attention of U.S. imperialism and its allies. In Zimbabwe the decade-long land redistribution program and the economic indigenization plans to place Africans in control of the major industries within the country has prompted western destabilization efforts as well as sanctions.
In Libya after the September 1, 1969 Revolution, the oil industry was nationalized and the U.S. military presence inside the country was removed. Italy, the former colonial power which is today one of the imperialist states bombing the country, was forced to apologize for the occupation of the North African country and pay reparations. Libya has supported national liberation movements throughout the world including those operating inside the United States and Europe.
Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the modern state of Ghana, and a leading advocate in the struggle for liberation and socialism in Africa during the immediate post World War II period during the 1950s and 1960s, pointed out when he was president of this West African state that “we have embarked on the socialist path to progress. We want to see full employment, good housing and equal opportunity for education and cultural advancement for all people up to the highest level possible.” (Africa Must Unite, 1963, p. 119)
Moreover, Nkrumah stressed that to achieve genuine liberation and socialism the workers, youth and farmers must be organized into a revolutionary party. Nkrumah identified the organized working class as the foundation for the building of a revolutionary party committed to building socialism and African unity.
According to Nkrumah, “The growth of this new African trade unionism is linked up with the future of Africa, Such a dynamic force, allied to political action, is the surest means to routing out of our continent the last remnants of colonialism and exploitation, since it will stimulate the effectiveness of the nationalist movements.” (Africa Must Unite, p. 128)
The Pan-African revolutionary theoretician and practitioner goes on to point out that “Just as political independence could not have been attained without the leadership of a strong, disciplined party, so Ghana’s economic independence and the objective of socialism cannot be achieved without decisive party leadership. I am convinced that the Convention People’s Party, based as it is on the support of the overwhelming majority of the people, is best able to carry through our economic plans and build a socialist state…. It is entirely Ghanaian in content and African in outlook, though imbued with Marxist socialist philosophy.” (Africa Must Unite, p. 129)
Consequently, the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism will be won through the development and strengthening of a revolutionary party based on socialism and rooted in the working class. This belief has been tested in all revolutionary movements in the modern period from China to Cuba and will also hold true for all working people throughout the world.