This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Africa - and World Peace
by A. Lerumo
"SALAAM!" is the traditional greeting in North Africa. Far in the South, the Basotho greeting is "Khotso!" Both words have the same meaning - "Peace!" Such greetings express the age-old long ing of the African people - like the common people of all countries - to live in peace and friendship among themselves and with the people of the outside world.
Yet, in modern times, our people have known little peace. Hardly a corner of Africa has not known the terror of invading colonialist armies, sent to seize our land and resources and to enslave our people. Even today, when through resolute struggle vast areas of Africa have been liberated from direct colonialist rule, the murderous slaughter of our people still continues, as by the O.A.S. in Algeria and the fascist Portuguese in Angola. In the South, the white colonialists maintain their rule in the Republic, in South West Africa, the Rhodesias and Mocambique only by the constant exercise and threat of armed violence. Sometimes this flares into gruesome massacres. Sometimes it shows itself only by the constant presence of soldiers and police, the stifling of all political freedom, the imprisonment, banning and exile of the peoples' leaders. But it is always there, overshadowing the lives of the people.
Colonial peoples are always at war it is the mode of existence of colonialism. For us, peace means and can only mean, not merely the absence of actual fighting at any particular stage, but the ending of colonial rule itself. Peace means freedom: freedom means peace. There can be no peace between the oppressors and the oppressed. Africa can only be at peace when the last vestige of foreign domination has been-removed from every inch of our Continent.
Abstract appeals for "peace" often fall on deaf ears among our people, because they fail to take into account these profound realities of the African situation. For too long have we heard talk of "peace" from missionaries and others - when what they mean is that we should submit to armed conquest and reconcile ourselves to enslavement. That we should lay down our arms while our oppressors retain and multiply theirs.
This pacifist advice to surrender to conquest has nothing in common with the message of the great and militant movement for world peace which has grown up in our times. Africa's support for world peace does not mean submitting to the imperialists. On the contrary, it means we must intensify our fight against imperialism, the main fomentor and instigator of war.
Some people incorrectly equate the call for the preservation of world peace with a suggestion that, in order to avoid conflict, we should maintain the status quo and avoid disturbing the established order of things. But this is a profoundly mistaken concept.
Let us ask ourselves who are the main fighters for preserving world peace, ending the cold war and achieving universal disarmament? They are precisely the vanguard of the movement for change and revolution throughout the world, the whole-hearted supporters of every struggle of colonial peoples for national emancipation and of the working class for the ending of the exploitation of man by man. They are the countries of the socialist camp, the world labour movement, the colonial fighters: sworn enemies all of the colonial system of imperialism.
Africa has great and vital problems of her own to be solved: the final extirpation of all forms of colonialism; the regeneration, unity and upliftment of our Continent. But, in tackling these problems it would be not only immoral but also foolish and impractical to turn our faces only inward and neglect the problems of mankind as a whole. What happens in the outside world profoundly affects and interacts with what happens in Africa. We cannot fulfil our own internal tasks unless we in our turn make our impact upon world affairs and struggle for the maintenance of world peace and the defeat of the criminal war plans of imperialism.
No one should be more conscious of the inseparable connection between our emancipation and the advance of the forces of peace and progress throughout the world than we Africans. As Dr. Nkrumah correctly said in his address to the Freedom Fighters' Conference at the end of May: "One great thing had happened in Europe which was having, and was to continue to have, its repercussions upon subsequent history throughout the world. That was the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which spread rapidly throughout the Czarist empire and, overcoming the imperialist intervention, gave birth in 1922 to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."
The historic victory of the Soviet workers in 1917 opened the floodgates of the world-wide anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolution. Following on this great victory, the Soviet Union was built up into a mighty industrial state, which defeated the tremendous war-machine of Hitler Germany which international imperialism had created with the specific purpose of destroying the Soviet Union. The socialist revolution spread in Europe and Asia to create a great socialist commonwealth of nations, comprising a third of humanity.
These were crushing hammer-blows at the seemingly impregnable fortress of Western imperialism. They did not destroy it, but they so weakened it that it was powerless to prevent the tidal wave of national liberation from sweeping throughout Asia and Africa and now beginning to engulf Latin America as well. These have been great and significant advances for the cause of African emancipation, for the overthrow of colonialism.
But we should not confuse advances, however great and significant, with final victory. The enemy, imperialism, has suffered set- backs. It has been forced to give ground, to make concessions. But it is regrouping its forces, seeking new forms of perpetuating its domination and exploitation. Under the direction of the government of the United States of America, the agent of American monopoly capitalism, the forces of world imperialism and colonialism are preparing a vast international conspiracy to destroy socialism, national freedom and democracy, to set back the clock of history, and subject Africa and other huge areas of the world once again to the chains of colonialism.
The methods by which international imperialism seeks to further this sinister conspiracy are plain for all to see: the "cold war" - that is, the fanning of anti-Communism and war hysteria; preparations for a third world war; formation of aggressive alliances- the massing of nuclear and other armaments; frenzied efforts to secure control - by economic penetration, by espionage, bribery, military threats, subversion, dollar diplomacy and every possible means, fair or foul - in every non-imperialist country.
This criminal conspiracy against humanity can and will be defeated. But it will only be defeated by the vigilance and active struggle for peace by the masses of the people of all countries, for peace and against the imperialists' war plans.
This is a struggle which vitally concerns the whole future of the peoples of Africa. It is a struggle from which we cannot and dare not stand aside. For to stand aside means to help the imperialists to help them fasten the chains around our own necks.
NOT "EAST' VERSUS "WEST"
Here in Africa one often hears, in one form or another, the argument: leave the rest of the world to fight its own quarrels while we stand aside. Let the "East" and the "West" fight it out, it is said. As between these "power blocs" we are neutral. We must not "commit" ourselves to either. Allied to this argument is a suggestion that as Africans we should not take part in the battle of ideas between capitalism and socialism or communism. They are condemned as "foreign ideologies".
It is natural and understandable that newly-independent African states should be jealous to preserve their independence from European control; that they should be unwilling to subordinate themselves to non-African groupings and alliances. But one must ask the question: who is asking them to do so ? Is it not the western imperialist countries which, even in this period of African independence, continue to put pressure on African states to stay in the British "Commonwealth" or the French "Union'; to permit European military bases on African territory; to enter as junior partners the cold-war European Common Market?
It is imperialism and no-one else who threatens the freedom and independence of Africa. Whether directly or acting through its Tshombes it is imperialism which murdered Lumumba and now threatens the life of imprisoned Gizenga; which is conducting a war of extermination in Angola; which from one end of Africa to the other is hard at work to buy African leaders so the imperialists can continue their profitable business in Africa of looting African resources and exploiting African labour.
As Comrade Ly Tidiane Baidy, a member of the Central Committee of the African Independence Party of Senegal, puts it in a special communication to this journal:
"Who gives arms to Portugal, to France and to the racialists of Pretoria to spill African blood? And for what reasons? Is it not the American, English and German imperialists, in order to defend their economic interests which are deeply involved.
"Who attacked Cuba and still tries to destroy her? "Who fought in Vietnam and in Korea? Who divides these countries into two parts and opposes their unification and national development? "Who caused the Congo tragedy? Who attacked Bizerta? "We could multiply these questions and we would see that always and everywhere it is the imperialists, led by the United States, who are behind these actions inherent in their economy based on war." How can we be "neutral" towards the "west", towards imperial ism - which is actually attacking us, which is actually everywhere in Africa in a state of war (declared or undeclared) with us? The concept of "rival power blocs" is a false one, spread by the propagandists of imperialist colonialism to cover up their sinister plot for the unleashing of a global nuclear war. Socialism does not need war; its world-wide victory will come about not by force of arms but by the proved superiority of the socialist way of life in providing the needs of the people in the field of peaceful economic and cultural progress.
The real issue, towards which Africans cannot be indifferent or "neutral", is that of war or peace throughout the world. In this issue we cannot stand aside as spectators or neutrals. We are actively involved, whether we wish it or not. And we must actively take sides - for peace, against imperialism and war.
STRIKE THE ARMS FROM THE HANDS OF THE IMPERIALISTS!
On the initiative of the representative of the Soviet Union, the United Nations has solemnly decided to adopt the goal of universal and complete disarmament. Even the representatives of the imperialist powers - standing in the searchlight of world public opinion - did not venture to oppose this resolution. They know that hundreds of millions of people of all countries demand an end to the fantastic wastage of human resources on arms, while the masses are starving, and an end to the nightmare threat of a nuclear world war.
The imperialist powers voted for the resolution hypocritically, with no intention of carrying it out. In fact they have consistently, since the resolution on disarmament was taken, continued to intensify war preparations in every way; to multiply their expenditure on weapons; to intensify nuclear tests and stockpile nuclear weapons; to carry out aggressive military operations such as the American intervention in Laos.
In the long debates on disarmament in United Nations sub- committees that followed, the imperialists have deliberately sabotaged any decision being taken, deliberately spun out the proceedings in procedural futilities and hair-splitting technicalities.
They have felt safe to do all this and get away with it because, unlike the vote in the General Assembly, the issues are more com- plicated; because their powerful propaganda resources can cloud the proceedings with lies and distortions; because they think the people of their own countries and the former colonies, which still have press and radio communications dominated by reactionary pro-imperialist interests, can be easily bluffed into believing that it is the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries who are res- ponsible for failures to reach agreement. But in the long run these stalling tactics cannot succeed.
The very same pressure of world public opinion that forced the imperialists to commit themselves to the principle of disarmament can be mobilised to force them to implement that principle.
In order for this to be done, it is necessary for the peoples of all countries, including those of Africa, to show a very much more vigorous interest in what is at stake than they have so far done.
Some of our people take a lukewarm attitude towards this question of disarmament, because they imagine in a confused way that it means the fighters for national liberation should lay down their arms while their oppressors remain fully armed.
But a moment's serious consideration will show us that the very reverse is true. When we speak of universal disarmament we are thinking in the first place of the dismantling of the enormous military machines of the great industrial powers, compared with which the armed forces of the liberation movements and the newly-independent countries, with their small industrial potential, are negligible.
It is not because of superiority of weapons that the national liberation movements of Asia and Africa have won one victory after another against imperialism; it is because of the justice of their cause, their skill, knowledge and determination, and their overwhelming mass support. That is how guerilla armies, whose own weapons have been far inferior, have managed to overcome imperialist troops armed with automatic weapons, armoured cars, tanks, warplanes, and all sorts of other equipment which the guerillas lacked.
Universal disarmament would enormously benefit the cause of African and other colonial peoples strugglng against imperialism and colonialism. It would mean that the imperialist bases at Bizerta and elsewhere in Africa would have to be liquidated. It would put an end to the vicious aggressive designs against Africa being plotted by Pretoria, Salisbury and Lisbon, which are arming to the teeth with the willing assistance of the United States and its NATO partners.
It is today only by its military preponderance that imperialism is able, either openly or behind the scenes, to continue to dominate Africa, to play - with the help of its African agents - its old game of divide and rule, to prevent our people tasting the fruits of independence in the form of rapid development and advance of living cultural standards.
Universal disarmament would not weaken the cause of Africa. On the contrary, it would enormously strengthen it. It would strike the weapons from the hands of the imperialists.
PEACE IS OUR NECESSITY
More and more Africans are realising that the winning of formal political independence is only the first step towards the regeneration of Africa. As J. M. Kariuki writes in a powerfully-worded plea for socialist advance (Kenya: Two Paths Ahead, in the Voice of Africa, April, 1962):
"Political power is essentially a means, an instrument in the hands of a people whioh entitles them to make decisions regarding their future development. If we are to inherit a government unable to make the vital decisions necessary for our economic development . . . it will be a shallow victory indeed, the victory of a man who spotting a great feast ahcad, is satisfied with a dry bone thrown by the wayside.... Those who have thrown us this bone will chuckle to themselves, knowing that the real victory was theirs, while our people will face perhaps another decade of poverty and deprivation."
Independence must be won, but once it is achieved, gigantic tasks still remain. To overcome the terrible ravages left behind by colonialism, the backwardness, disunity, poverty and disease, we must move swiftly and work furiously, with ruthless disregard of private privileges and vested interests. So long as we lag behind the highly-developed countries economically, educationally, politically, so long will the New Africa not be truly free, but will remain an easy prey for imperialism and the subtle snares of neocolonialism.
Can we overcome that lag? Can we pool together and harness the mighty resources of the whole continent to raise its people's standards of living, technology and culture to the level of the highest in the world of today? And can we accomplish these huge tasks in the very shortest period of historical time?
The answer is: yes, we can do all these things. But in order to accomplish them, many things are necessary. Our working people must not leave the leadership of the New Africa in the hands of bourgeois nationalist politicians who cannot see further than the enrichment and aggrandizement of privileged individuals and classes. We must not be misled by empty slogans about "foreign" ideologies, but make full use of the brilliant light cast upon our problems by the most advanced scientific ideology - the sharp weapon of Marxism-Leninism which is not the property of any one continent or country, but of the working people of the whole world.
Above all, to accomplish its historic destiny and to contribute its full measure as an equal and honoured partner in the new world that is a-building, Africa needs peace, here and throughout the world. Peace is our necessity.
The prevention of a new world war, the achievement of an enduring peace and universal disarmament, the diversion of the enormous resources now squandered on war preparations to human welfare - including genuine assistance and reparations to the hundreds of millions of victims of colonialism - these goals are in the most vital and urgent interests of the people of our continent.