An obstinate fact that prevails in our epoch is how Africa seemingly remains perpetually behind in all facets of existence. Prosperity in Africa is a material reality for the elite few, while for the immense poor majority it is always out of reach. This dehumanizing state of affairs appears an immutable feature of the continent, but this does not mean that it will forever remain like this.
It is simply a perception that is ruthlessly reified through a conflation of ideas and myths that are fundamentally fashioned against the collective will of the masses.
That Africa perennially lags behind despite being exceedingly endowed with an abundant richness of natural resources and brilliant minds is purely a myth imposed on Africa by racist, supremacist imperialists—and maintained by the indigenous parasitic looting class: the elite political, economic, religious, and social ‘leaders’ and ‘influencers’.
An attempt to dissect the status quo of unbridled and relentless oppression, exploitation, and dehumanization of African peoples on the continent and throughout the world is inescapably an unsettling journey into the painful history of imperialist domination.
A Brief History of Colonial Cultural Domination and Africa’s Inferiority Complex
Africa’s history is one informed by colonial domination and subjugation, and the effects of this dehumanizing historical truism are palpable today. This is not to exonerate the leaders of post-colonial Africa.
Rather, the complicity of Africa’s leaders, who are mostly presiding over reigns of terror that negate liberation principles, in perpetuating neocolonial hegemony is inexorably intrinsic to the miserable status quo that African countries grapple with. In such cleavages of domination—local and international—it is ineluctably vital to underscore the preponderance of imperialism when analyzing this malaise.
The central feature forming the crux of Africa’s seemingly unending problems is fundamentally rooted in ideas and myths. And these are directly and wholly attributable to the phenomenon of imperial domination.
What colonialism wrought on Africa was the wholesale change in the ways that African peoples governed themselves: means of production, ownership, property relations, food production, trade, political governance, spiritual beliefs and customs, social norms and practices, and judicial methods of dispute resolution.
And most importantly, the cultural domination that European colonizers imposed on colonized African peoples.
In National Liberation and Culture (Return to the Source), Amilcar Cabral writes, “History teaches us that, in certain circumstances, it is very easy for the foreigner to impose his domination on a people. But it also teaches us that, whatever may be the material aspects of this domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent, organized repression of the cultural life of the people concerned. Implantation of foreign domination can be assured definitively only by physical liquidation of a significant part of the dominated population.”
The conspicuous absence of a money economy meant that the above mentioned ways of governance—which were developing on their own in relation to specific contexts, time and space—was violently supplanted by primitive accumulation: the introduction of a money economy was in itself a triumph of the cultural domination of Western civilization.
A money economy eroded all intrinsic aspects of African life—cultures that were developing at their own pace. Africa had a history, but Europe’s cultural domination inculcated in the collective psyche of Africans that the continent had no history; that the arrival of Europeans suddenly thrust Africa into the realm of history.
Cultural Domination: Everything European and White is Good, Everything African and Black is Bad and Inferior
The money economy came with the classic colonial accompaniments: Christian religiosity, capitalist cheap labour, taxes, European lifestyles, European education, European laws and customs, and unrestrained exploitation and repression.
Underpinning this massive permutation was the implicit metaphysical myth (ideas not backed by any scientific proof but racist, imperial, and patriarchal attitudes) that Europeans are superior to Africans—that Africans are primitive, barbaric sub-humans who are inferior culturally and must thus be saved from their perceived and alleged inferiority by Western colonizers.
And this was done through a dehumanizing conflation of bloodshed, Christianity, deceit, greed, and European education touted as the immutable paragon of modernity. Cabral writes that with a “strong indigenous cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its penetration”.
This colonial paternalism, a raw manifestation of unashamed imperialism (the highest stage of capitalism) saw Africans in need of saving, yet without treating them as humans: hence, there was need to unleash brute force and pacify Africans with Christian religiosity as the ultimate determinant of “fine civilization”, i.e., belonging to a “human culture”.
In this regard, we see Africans defeated on an ideological plane via this cultural domination. Struggles for independence were essentially national collective resistance battles against this cultural domination. For it was this cultural domination that gave Europeans a sense of warped justification to commit egregious, horrendous atrocities of genocide against Africans: keeping them “racially inferior”.
Culture is the “fruit of a people’s history” and a determinant of that history: now, if that culture is conquered by foreign domination, we are left with a people devoid of identity.
The identity of the colonized becomes an appendage to the perceived cultural superiority of the colonizer—and it also follows that the culture of the colonized people does not totally die, and as such, it within this culture that “we find the seed of opposition”, which necessarily leads to the structure and development of the liberation struggle.
This is what Africa needs: to conquer its daily internal contradictions, be proud of its culture [history, values, norms, identity, and core principles and beliefs for collective prosperity], for leaders to commit class suicide; through this, the long-drawn march toward holistic liberation commences, as the shackles of cultural domination are cast asunder.
Remembering Amilcar Cabral: Why Ideology/Theory and Actual Struggle Against Cultural Imperialism Matter
Such concocted justification for racial superiority was the basis of all dehumanization—Africans living in squalid urban conditions and in unproductive rural areas, perennially chained to the bottom of the social, economic, and political hierarchy, treated as a people with no history and culture, and existing solely to fund Western capitalist profits.
This ineluctably brings the immortal and iconoclastic revolutionary leader Amilcar Cabral—he was the leader of the PAIGC which fought valiantly for the independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Assassinated on 20 January 1973, shortly before the total liberation of the two former Portuguese colonial territories, Cabral organized and led one of the most successful and effective anti-colonial struggles in history.
But this freedom could not have been achieved without Cabral’s revolutionary acumen in asserting that foreign domination exists first on an ideological plane through the destruction of culture and identity—and that any revolutionary struggle must involve revolutionary theory first; that those who participate in the struggle for liberation must be thoroughly immersed in theory to counter the ideas of cultural domination imposed on the colonized by the colonizer.
A quick revisit at Cabral’s revolutionary theory and praxis (critical thoughts, reflections, and practice) point us to an inescapable truism: the only reason why Africa is seemingly behind today is because neocolonial imperial masters still manage to win over Africans on an ideological plane.
The racist-capitalist notions of superiority that informed colonial cultural domination have been re-packaged for the continued subservience of post-colonial Africa. The dearth of revolutionary theory and practice from Africa’s leaders—who are seized with maintaining the vested interests of private capital for their self-enrichment—exacerbates this regrettable state-of-affairs.
Trapped in individualistic consumerism and [populist] neoliberal ideologies of privatization, profit, deregulation, the reduced role of the state in the political economy (leaving predatory private businesses, local and global, the effective rulers of African and global trade and economies), foreign aid, and anti-unionism, Africa seemingly remains mired in unending cycles of poverty, inequality, hunger, and instability. But such a reality is not peculiar to Africa. This is what prevails across the whole world, from the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
Amilcar Cabral and the ‘Weapon of Theory’ – Why This is Important for African Freedom and Material Prosperity
If the fight for Africa’s prosperity—i.e., the total economic, political, social liberation and self-sufficiency of African peoples everywhere—is hinged on defeating Western cultural domination and all its purported ideas of success (Jesus, modernity, consumerism, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, etc.), it is of supreme importance to look at the unrivalled and immortal salience of Amilcar Cabral’s Weapon of Theory. Delivering a speech at the historic anti-colonial/anti-imperial 1966 Tri-Continental Conference held in Havana, Cuba, Cabral laid the basis on why ‘theory’ is the effective weapon for success in the actual struggle against domination. And this speech is relevant in our unprecedented times of neocolonial cultural domination.
He resolutely remarked:
On a Tricontinental level, this means that we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it. For us, the best or worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight. This is what we are doing, and this is what we will go on doing until all foreign domination of our African homelands has been totally eliminated. Our agenda includes subjects whose meaning and importance are beyond question and which show a fundamental preoccupation with struggle. We note, however, that one form of struggle which we consider to be fundamental has not been explicitly mentioned in this programme, although we are certain that it was present in the minds of those who drew up the programme. We refer here to the struggle against our own weaknesses. Obviously, other cases differ from that of Guinea; but our experience has shown us that in the general framework of daily struggle this battle against ourselves — no matter what difficulties the enemy may create — is the most difficult of all, whether for the present or the future of our peoples. This battle is the expression of the internal contradictions in the economic, social, cultural (and therefore historical) reality of each of our countries. We are convinced that any national or social revolution which is not based on knowledge of this fundamental reality runs grave risk of being condemned to failure.”
In the face of relentless neocolonial onslaughts manifesting predatory supremacist imperialism to the detriment of African peoples, the continent’s leaders and political parties—some which fought for and won political independence from colonizers—still fail the “battle against ourselves”. Whatever that is parroted by neoliberal/state capitalist Western or Eastern powers is adopted as official policy without addressing our own internal contradictions.
The fundamental question being: is there enough social democracy in Africa by ourselves, for ourselves, for our egalitarian prosperity. The leaders, and the citizenry at large—reflecting populist and reactionary brands of politics—are failing this daily struggle “against ourselves”. Without ever critically reflecting on our collective goals, aspirations, and concrete success at such, we continue building castles in the air as we aimlessly pursue vapid ideas and myths that everything from the West is good—without conquering this inferiority complex induced by pervasive cultural domination, it means our leaders still see foreign aid and “investments” as positive development! And that is why Africa seemingly remains behind, along with the oppressed of the world.
To show the truism of the above-mentioned argumentation, we quote Cabral’s Weapon of Theory again: “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.”
“Ideological deficiency” remains the bane of Africa. Where ideological robustness organically emerges, it is ruthlessly crushed by reactionary elite authoritarian leaders (key to note is that Africa’s authoritarian practices are a direct inheritance from colonialism).
Conclusion: The Betrayal of Africa’s Indigenous Parasitic Looting Class and the Need for ‘Class Suicide’
It is imperative to close off with Cabral’s concluding remarks from the Weapon of Theory:
To retain the power which national liberation puts in its hands, the petty bourgeoisie has only one path: to give free rein to its natural tendencies to become more bourgeois, to permit the development of a bureaucratic and intermediary bourgeoisie in the commercial cycle, in order to transform itself into a national pseudo-bourgeoisie, that is to say in order to negate the revolution and necessarily ally. In order not to betray these objectives the petty bourgeoisie has only one choice: to strengthen its revolutionary consciousness, to reject the temptations of becoming more bourgeois and the natural concerns of its class mentality, to identify itself with the working classes and not to oppose the normal development of the process of revolution. This means that in order to truly fulfill the role in the national liberation struggle, the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie must be capable of committing suicide as a class in order to be reborn as revolutionary workers, completely identified with the deepest aspirations of the people to which they belong.
This alternative — to betray the revolution or to commit suicide as a class — constitutes the dilemma of the petty bourgeoisie in the general framework of the national liberation struggle. The positive solution in favor of the revolution depends on what Fidel Castro recently correctly called the development of revolutionary consciousness. This dependence necessarily calls our attention to the capacity of the leader of the national liberation struggle to remain faithful to the principles and to the fundamental cause of this struggle. This shows us, to a certain extent, that if national liberation is essentially a political problem, the conditions for its development give it certain characteristics which belong to the sphere of morals.”