“One of the things that are needed now, one of the main things, the center of my talk to you is the taking of power.” C.L.R James
Seven months after the heinous and brutal murder/assassination of Marxist historian and activist, Professor Walter Rodney, a lecture was organised by friends and colleagues in his memory at the University of California.
Rodney lost his life under tragic circumstances after he had been tricked into handling a device, which exploded and killed him instantly. Up to this day political activists in his native Guyana are convinced that his murder was plotted and executed by a military officer who was connected to the Burnham regime.
As discussed in the earlier post, Walter Rodney through his book, “How Europe underdeveloped Africa”, holds Europe directly responsible for the current state of Africa and the negative narrative it has spawned.
In his address during the memorial, Author and Historian, C.L.R James, discusses Rodney’s background, political activism and his work in relation to the revolutionary seizure of power, his failures and the best approach to taking power.
“He (Rodney) was able to look upon the revolutionary ideas, perspectives and analysis of the Caribbean as something natural, normal, fixed, written and beyond dispute. This is what sent him along the path he followed to Africa.”
While admitting that seizing political power was the ultimate objective of his Caribbean compatriots, he noted that there were fundamental errors in the approach adopted by Rodney towards the achievement of this objective.
“What did Rodney not know?” Rodney had not studied the taking of power. The taking of power has to become the common discussion among the Caribbean people and intellectuals so that all will know it; so that, as young people grow up and develop and begin to look at history, they begin to see not only what has been done, what we have achieved and what we have to do.”
Unfortunately for Rodney, because he had not been educated about how to seize power, he adopted an approach that had not been tested, hence his failure.
But C.L.R James is not the only person who has been damning about the failure of young revolutionary torchbearers of the 20th Century to wrestle power from the oppressive and stultifying clutches of imperialism
This is what Pankaj Mishra of the New Yorker, wrote about Franz Fanon in his review of “The Wretched of the Earth”.
“Sixty years after its publication, The Wretched of the Earth, reads increasingly like a dying Black man’s admission of a genuine impossibility of moving beyond the world made by White men.”
Against this depressing and disconcerting background what should be the new approach of the current generation towards dismantling the established structures of Africa’s underdevelopment in order to change the negative narrative about our beloved continent?
Why haven’t we been able to wrestle power from our oppressors after decades of resistance? It isn’t for lack of trying and so why has our condition as Africans gotten worse while Europe has prospered and continues to prosper at our expense?
Is it the case that like Rodney the current generation of political activists in Africa are merely familiar with ideas but unfamiliar with the rigour of revolutionary organisation?
Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah demonstrated how practical it was to mix ideas and revolutionary organisation in order to seize power by launching a series of nonviolent actions to put pressure on the colonial government to respond to the clamour for self-government in the Gold Coast.
In a far seeing political move Nkrumah abandoned the elites who did not agree with his radical and revolutionary ideas to “overthrow” the status quo (who brought him from the United States to join the independence struggle in the Gold Coast) to pitch camp with the masses to achieve the objective of ending colonial rule in the Gold Coast.
Seven years after launching these series of nonviolent actions in the Gold Coast, in 1950, Ghana became the first country in sub-saharan Africa to gain political independence from colonial imposed rule.
So here is an example of a leader who is skilled in the art of pitting the masses against the colonial government of the time and leveraging on same to seize power.
Nkrumah was so successful in stoking the fire of nationalism so well that it grew into a full blown inferno across Africa as nationalist movements sprung into action to demand the end of centuries of military conquest, political domination and economic exploitation by Europeans.
Unlike Rodney, Nkrumah organised right. He succeeded where others failed by being able to weaponize the power of the masses through effective organisation to confront the power of the colonial government, which ultimately led to the fall of the latter.
Nkrumah also succeeded in galvanizing support for the demonstrations because he was able to convince the masses that they were in direct mortal combat with the colonial government. This is where Rodney failed, according to C.L.R James.
Seizing power is an art that must be studied and not taken lightly. To succeed at this noble task like Nkrumah we must strive to mix revolutionary ideas with revolutionary organisation. This is the challenge this generation of Africans must be willing to surmount in order to change the narrative.