Burning Spear News
Historical basis of the African nation state
"Kwame Nkrumah memorial in Accra" by jbdodane is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Editor's note: This Point of the Spear is reprinted from An Uneasy Equilibrium by Chairman Omali Yeshitela, Chapter IV: The question of the nation.
An Uneasy Equilibrium is the Political Report to the Sixth Congress of the African People's Socialist Party, published by Burning Spear Publications in 2014 and available at burningspearmarketplace.com
Our discussion of the African nation and its definition, resting on a real, material basis, must serve African development. The research and writings of Cheikh Anta Diop demonstrate quite scientifically the cultural unity of Africa going back through millennia.
Diop authored the book, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy & of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity, that today remains the standard for investigation of ancient Africa by any serious historian.
Below we examine a quote extracted from Diop’s otherwise deeply scientific work. Here he not only explores the spiritual aspect of African identity, but he also compares it to that of Europe.
This is because the discussion of characteristics specific to national identity always distinguishes one people or nation from an “other.”
The nation cannot be defined by measuring itself against itself. If there is no “other,” there is no logic for the “nation.”
The “white man” needed the existence of the “black man” to achieve his identity. So it is with nations.
Of course, the problem for the European nation is that it resulted from a false, self-serving European definition of the African. Since this false definition was the basis upon which the sense of white sameness, necessary for the definition of the European nation is anchored, the ability of the African to successfully achieve self-definition marks the beginning of the end of a crucial subjective factor necessary for European national coherence.
Diop’s works place significance in what he characterized as the Southern or Meridional cradle of human development versus the Northern cradle, and how the differences in material conditions peculiar to each of them contributed to shaping the worldview and character of their respective inhabitants. This is Diop’s summation that contributes to defining the national character of African people as compared to Europeans:
In conclusion, the Meridional cradle, confined to the African continent in particular, is characterized by the matriarchal family, the creation of the territorial state, in contrast to the Aryan city-state, the emancipation of woman in domestic life, xenophilia, cosmopolitanism, a sort of social collectivism having as a corollary a tranquility going as far as unconcern for tomorrow, a material solidarity of right for each individual, which makes moral or material misery unknown to the present day; there are people living in poverty, but no one feels alone and no one is in distress. In the moral domain, it shows an ideal of peace, of justice, of goodness and an optimism which eliminates all notion of guilt or original sin in religious and metaphysical institutions.…
The Northern cradle, confined to Greece and Rome, is characterized by patriarchal family, by the city-state…; it is easily seen that it is on contact with the Southern world that the Northerners broadened their conception of the state, elevating themselves to the idea of a territorial state and of an empire. The particular character of these city-states, outside of which a man was an outlaw, developed an internal patriotism, as well as xenophobia. Individualism, moral and material solitude, a disgust for existence, all the subject matter of modern literature, which even in its philosophic aspects is none other than the expression of the tragedy of a way of life going back to the Aryans’ ancestors, are all attributes of this cradle. An ideal of war, violence, crime and conquests inherited from nomadic life, with as a consequence, a feeling of guilt and of original sin, which causes pessimistic religious or metaphysical systems to be built, is the special attribute of this cradle.
However, notwithstanding the usefulness of the works of Diop and similar scholars, all of which had to battle against hundreds of years of European prejudice disguised as scholarship to reach the light of day, our discussion of the African nation will revolve around the same time period to which the birth of the European nation belongs.
It is clear from what has already been revealed in this Political Report that there is a direct causal relationship between the existence of the European nation and the aspirations of Africans to consolidate the African nation.
Like the European nation, the emergent African nation is a response to necessity. We are facing the historical requirements for advancing and developing Africa and African people, whose generally oppressive conditions of existence derive from the stuff resulting in the emergence of the European or “white” bourgeois or capitalist nation.
One People! One Party! One Destiny! addressed this necessity. It raises the issue of the consolidation of the African nation as a practical political problem that we must solve to forward the national liberation of our people from imperialist domination worldwide. African Internationalism is a theory of practice, as exemplified by this passage:
An African Internationalist investigation...leads us to conclude, among other things, that key to the liberation of African people is the defeat of the parasitic stranglehold that has been imposed on us by imperialism.
Moreover, as African Internationalists we recognize that Africa has been under some kind of attack for millennia, but that our struggle today is contextualized by the fact that the world economy that gives life to our oppression is a capitalist economy.
Our struggle is not fueled by a subjective need for vengeance against every group that has historically attacked Africa. This means that the struggle must be waged against the capitalist social system that is the basis of our exploitation and wretched conditions of existence today. Our struggle for the unification and emancipation of Our Africa and our people is also a struggle against capitalism.
Hence, our struggle, if it is to be fought to its successful conclusion, must be led by the African working class. It must result in the establishment of a united, socialist Africa responsive to the needs of African people worldwide.
African Internationalism teaches us that slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism, along with African disunification and dispersal, provided the material basis for the European bourgeois national consolidation, the sense of white sameness resting on the pedestal of the oppression of African and colonized peoples.
Hence, we understand that a key function of the revolutionary struggle for the permanent defeat of imperialism and to liberate Africa and her scattered children is the reunification of African people worldwide into a revolutionary, proletarian nation.
“It is slavery that gave the colonies their value; it is the colonies that created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large scale industry.” These words by Marx recognize the role of the plunder of Africa in the establishment of capitalism and carry within them the suggestion of what it will take to destroy the capitalist world economy. The African who gave value to the “colonies” is now the oppressed and exploited inhabitant of the colonies that are sometimes incorrectly referred to as nations.
Our conditions of existence in the “colonies,” and elsewhere in this world of imperialist- created borders are centered in and derive from the conditions of existence in Africa that are the consequence of the primitive accumulation of capital, the “original sin.”
Our revolutionary struggle for liberation, unification and socialism in Africa, throughout the “colonies” and other areas of the world to which we have been forcibly dispersed in the construction of capitalism, will prove to be as significant in the defeat of the capitalist social system as the slave trade was in its advent.
The socialist liberation and unification of Africa and African people under the leadership of the African working class will be the central factor in the defeat of world capitalism and will provide the material basis for the advent for world socialism.
African Internationalism, which demands the total revolutionary liberation and unification of Africa and African people worldwide under the leadership of the African working class, is informed by this scientifically sound dialectic.
Hence, the African Internationalist struggle for the liberation and unification of Africa and African people is at the same time the key factor in the achievement of socialism as a world economy. It is the way forward for those Marxists and other socialists who are confronted with the false conundrum surrounding the question of “socialism in one country.”
As capitalism was born as a world economy with its basis in the enslavement and dispersal of African people, leading to [as Marx wrote] “considerable masses of capital and labor power in the hands of producers,” so, too, will socialism be born as a world economy in the process of reversing the verdict of imperialism.
Hence, socialism will not be born in one country, but in many countries that are tied to the defining economy of a liberated and united Africa and people under the revolutionary leadership of the African working class.
This is why a fundamental task of the African revolutionary is the consolidation of the proletarian African nation.