Africa Does Exist: Amílcar Cabral at War


Who would not remember
That thunderous scream
—For it was yesterday
When I let out my scream of rebellion

Amílcar Cabral, ‘Who Would Not Remember’
(Translation by Gerald M. Moser).

Amílcar Cabral was shot dead at 1/2 past 10, on 20 January 1973. He was leaving the headquarters of the Afican Party for the Independence of Guinea & Cape Verde (PAIGC) in Conakry, Guinée with his wife, Ana Maria Cabral. Ana was then detained within the PAIGC jail. Cabral had led the PAIGC through 18 years of bitter struggle. The US Department of State said that under Cabral’s direction ‘the PAIGC developed into the most successful insurgent force facing the Portuguese.’ In the same document, they dryly note his support for the Soviet Union & the Cuban Revolution. (US Department of State, ‘Portuguese Guinea: The PAIGC After AmÍlcar Cabral‘.) He was 48.

Cabral’s life was that of a revolutionary, specifically that of an African revolutionary. His ideas &, more importantly, his practice have a powerful influence today. It has been argued, more than once, that his leadership of the PAIGC dealt a death blow to Portuguese Colonialism & Fascism, which rippled beyond his own Guinea-Bissau & Cape Verde. Fidel Castro, speaking in 1966, said that Cabral was ‘one of the most lucid and brilliant leaders in Africa’ (Victoria Brittain, ‘Africa: a continent drenched in the blood of revolutionary heroes‘, The Guardian (17 January, 2011).). What can be stated with absolute certainty is that his party led the most successful nationalist movement in Black Africa. It was the 1st to achieve independence by armed struggle.

In order to understand the thought & struggle of the PAIGC, I think it is important to meet Cabral on his own terms. At the same conference in Havana where Fidel paid homage to him, Cabral delivered 1 of his best known speeches, The Weapon of Theory. In this he says that, ‘national liberation and social revolution are not exportable commodities; they are, and increasingly so every day, the outcome of local and national elaboration’ (Amílcar Cabral, The Weapon of Theory (1966).). What he meant by this can be phrased simply: there is no blueprint for liberation. 1 tactic will not secure Revolution across the globe.

Cabral argued that it was 1st necessary to understand the Colonial contexts of both Guinea-Bissau & Cape Verde. He always considered the 2 areas as a single nation, as is reflected in The PAIGC Programme, which demands ‘economic, political, social and cultural unity.’ (The PAIGC Programme (1969).) However, the socio-economic relations of each area are quite different & the Portuguese ran them as separate colonies. The commonality came from an exceptionally high mutual emigration-immigration of the indigenous populations. Here, we will cover only Guinea-Bissau, as the PAIGC was never able to wage its struggle in Cape Verde.

On a wider contextual level, Patrick Chabal – to whom I owe a great deal of credit – argues that the ‘characteristics of Portuguese colonial rule are best understood through an analysis of the Portuguese state.’ The Fascist regime of Estado Novo was established in Portugal in 1926, with António de Oliveira Salazar at its head. Portugal was an isolated, underdeveloped European nation – its Colonial empire its pride & glory. Salazar implemented the 1930 Colonial Act, which underpins much of the strategy used in the modern administration of Portuguese colonies: direct rule, centralisation & a ludricrous “assimilation” policy. “Assimilation” refers to a process by which Colonial subjects could become Portuguese citizens. Assimilados always made up a statistically insignificant proportion of Colonial subjects. For example, the proportion of the Guinea-Bissau population to become assimilados in 1950 was 0.39%. (Patrick Chabal, Amílcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War (London: Hurst & Company, 1983), pp.16-17.)

Also worth noting is the attitude that the Portuguese took toward their African Colonies. Under the Estado Novo, the Portuguese never entered into negotiations with African nationalists. The Colonial war in Angola alone saw the deaths of 79,000 people – only 2,991 of them Portuguese. (Peace Research Institute Oslo, PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset 3.0 (October, 2009); Portugal Angola (January, 1993).) Salazar was particularly repugnant, infamously declaring that ‘Africa does not exist.’ (Cabral, National Liberation and Culture (20 February, 1970).)


“Portuguese Guinea”, as it was named in 1886, is a small territory of around 32,000sq-kms. It is smaller than Britain. Bordering the French Colonies of Senegal to the North & Guinée to the East & the South, the land is divided into 2 distinct areas. Along the coast, the land gives way to deep estuaries & rivers, bordered by mangroves & swamp forests. Inland stand savanna & forests, with some dense rainforests to the South. The coast is dotted by small islands.

Portugal initially colonised Guinea-Bissau in 1474. Primarily, the Portuguese were interested in securing slaves, initially to work on cotton plantations in the previously uninhabited Cape Verde islands. In the 26 years until 1500, it is estimated that some 150,000 slaves were taken from Guinea-Bissau. This represents an enormous plundering of human resources. Other than this, the Portuguese had very little interest in the country. They maintained forts around the port of Bissau to ward off other Europeans but, beyond this, only came to collect shipments of human-beings. (History World, History of Guinea-Bissau.) Following the end of the British slave trade in 1807, the Portuguese slave traders in Guinea-Bissau had a virtual monopoly on trade with Brazil. Although Portugal & Brazil agreed to end trading slaves by 1830, the trade only declined significantly in 1850 as a result of British pressure on Brazil. The last significant shipment of slaves from Guinea-Bissau reached Brazil in 1852. (W. G. Clarence-Smith, The Third Portuguese Empire, 1825-1975 (Manchester University Press, 1975), pp.30-31.)

Following the end of the slave trade, Portugal was not interested in Guinea-Bissau in any substantial way. In 1886, the division of Guinée & Guinea-Bissau was formally agreed with France. The Portuguese engaged in a series of military operations over the country to gain thorough control of its Colonial subjects. The Portuguese launched campaigns to subdue the various different ethnicities & tribes within Guinea-Bissau: the Manjacas & Felupes (1878-1880), the Fulas & Beafadas (1880-1882), the Balantes (1883-1885), the Pepeis (1886-1890), the Fulas of Gabu (1893), the Oinkas (1897), the Bijagos (1902), the Manjacas of Churo (1904-1906), the Mandingas of Churos (1914) & the Pepeis (1915). This is known as the “pacification campaign” & accounts for over 10 wars: a period of ‘protracted, often fierce and bloody battles’. (Chabal, p.19.) Even in this early stage of Colonial consolidation, the validty of Cabral’s characterisation of Imperialism/Colonialism as ‘a permanent state of siege of the indigenous populations on the basis of racist dictatorship’ (Cabral, NLC.) can be seen. The consolidation of Colonial rule by Portugal did not lead to the establishment of mass white settlements or the expropriation of land. Unlike in Angola & Mozambique, forced labour was extremely rare. For the most part, the Portuguese maintained Colonial rule in Guinea-Bissau via centralised taxation, aimed toward the production of food exports – especially that of groundnuts. (Chabal, pp.20-23.)

Guinea-Bissau had been plundered of its human resources in the period of slavery & had suffered violent repression. As Portugal had no interest in investing – nor in attracting foreign investment – the country remained considerably underdeveloped. In healthcare, this is particularly stark. By 1953, Guinea-Bissau had only 2 hospitals, with a total of 112 medical staff. Health expenditure per capita was lower than in any other West African country. Education paints a similar picture. Cabral estimated that only 14 Guineans ever gained access to higher education under Portuguese rule – of whom he was 1. (Jean Cluade Andréini & Marie Laure Lambert, La Guinée-Bissau d’ Amílcar Cabral à la reconstruction nationale (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 1978), p.132.) Only 4% of the province’s revenues went toward education. In the 1950s, 99.7% of the Guinean population was illiterate. (Chabal, pp.22-23.)

A final remark on the context of Guinea-Bissau. The economy of the country was, & remains to this day, predominantly agricultural. Until the advent of the nationalist war of liberation, waged by the PAIGC from 1962 onwards, the country was self-sufficient in food. This did not mean that it was economically independent: in 1960 the value of imports was almost double that of exports. An equally important point is that the agricultural produce of distinct areas allowed the Portuguese to deepen cultural divides already present in tribal culture. According to Cabral’s 1953 agricultural survey, the Fulas produced 43.61% of Guinea-Bissau’s groundnuts. (Cabral, ‘Recenseamento agrícola de Guiné: estimativa em 1953’, Boletim cultura da Guiné portuguesa, 11, 43 (July, 1956), pp.7-243.) In the same year, groundnuts accounted for 70% of Guinea-Bissau’s exports. The economic dominance of the Fulas created, in practice, a close tie with the Portuguese Fascists. Throughout the war they formed a section of society often allying with Portugal, what Cabral alludes to as ‘the group which we consider semi-feudal […] tied to colonialism’. (Cabral, Brief Analysis of Social Structure in Guinea (1969).) Sharpening these cultural divisions was an important tactic for Portugal.

The Scream of Rebellion


You are alive—sleeping mother—
Naked and forgotten,
Beaten by the winds,
To the sound of unmusical music
Made by the waves that confine us…

Amílcar Cabral, ‘Island’
(Translation by Moser).

Enter Cabral.

The aim of this elaboration is not to provide a comprehensive history of the struggle for national liberation in Guinea-Bissau, but to provide an overview. In short, I will provide a brief history of the PAIGC & its struggle, whilst centring on 3 distinct moments: the formation of the PAIGC & the initial training of guerilla forces in Conarky; the Cassacá Congress; the practice of the PAIGC in the liberated zones. Each of these moments marks an important contribution on the part of Cabral. The idea is to provide a sense of the PAIGC’s war & Cabral’s leadership, not a strict history.

The PAIGC was founded in September, 1956, whilst Cabral was on a short visit to Guinea-Bissau. There were 6 founding members. (Chabal, p.54.) For the 1st 4 years of its existence, the party experienced slow growth. It centred its work around trade union activity, in the cities of Guinea-Bissau. This political work encouraged workers to organise themselves. A  strike in February, 1956, had set a precedent, claiming victory for dock & harbour workers & securing them a pay rise. However, by 1959, the Portuguese authorities suspected a link between union activity & the PAIGC. On 3 August, striking dockers were met by the police & the army. Bullets flew. At least 50 people were killed. This was known as the Pidjiguiti massacre. (‘Since Pidjiguiti we never looked back’, in Ole Gjerstad & Chantal Sarrazin, Sowing the First Harvest: National Reconstruction in Guinea-Bissau (1978), pp.35-38.)

Threatened with arrest, many party members were forced to flee. Cabral came back to Bissau & met with the PAIGC leadership on 19 September, 1959. The meeting was kept secret. This represented a break with the early tactics of urban agitation & the infiltration of legal organisations. (Cabral, Revolution in Guinea (London: Stage One, 1969), p.31.) Instead, the meeting agreed ‘to shift the focus of action from the urban centres to the countryside; to transfer to secretariat outside the country; and to prepare the liberation of the country by all means, including war.’ (Chabal, p.57. Italics in original.) Mário de Andrade, a PAIGC comrade, later admitted that in ‘the first analysis of the anatomy of our societies, we sought to discover at all costs the social component that determined history. This attitude was translated into the mobilisation of what we improperly used to call the “proletariat” of the urban centres.’ (Mário de Andrade, ‘Amílcar Cabral et la guerre de peuple’, Afrique Asie, 66 (23 September – 4 October, 1974), p.vii.) In a country primarily relaint upon a peasantry, at best in a semi-feudal period of development, this strategy was correctly viewed as impotent by the PAIGC leadership.

The initial training of guerillas took place from 1960 onwards, a steady flow of young Guineans in their late teens & early 20s. Few had been educated at all & substantial portion were illiterate. Cabral placed the greatest importance on political training; he took direct control of the preparation of these young cadre. For over 2 years, Cabral devoted almost all of his time to this basic training. (Chabal, pp.61-63.)

This education was an extremely difficult task & the method the Cabral went about it says a lot of his style of leadership. Most of the work lay in acquainting his trainees with the most basic political facts, sometimes even teaching them to write & read. Personal accounts of this period, from trainees, emphasise a direct & personal approach. Francisco Mendes, who later became a PAIGC commander & the 1st prime minister of independent Guinea-Bissau expresses this quite clearly:

‘This was Cabral’s greatest achievement: he understood that a struggle can only triumph when the militants clearly know what they want and the reasons for their involvement. Following that principle, he enquired about the social origins of all the young people integrated into the group and tried to turn each individual into a mobilising force against Portuguese colonialism.’ (‘Um encontro marcado em septembro de 1959. Recordações de Chico Té’, Nô Pintcha, II, 225 (12 September, 1976).)

Another, particularly striking, aspect of Cabral’s training regime was his focus upon practical education. This was expressed in extremely creative ways. Having studied the social characteristics, traditions, religion etc of a particular ethnic group in Guinea-Bissau, trainees were made to perform their politcal agitation in the form of theatre. (Chabal, p.64.) This captured a sense of the actual process of agitation, whilst simultaneously cementing Cabral’s strategy in the young recruit’s mind: the success of the PAIGC require integration of militants into the villages.

‘Cabral made us play a game. One by one, we had to pretend, in front of him, that we were going into a village to talk to the homen grande [chief]. Everybody else would watch. If it was not right, if there was anything wrong about it, Cabral would make us start all over until we found exactly the right openings and the right arguments.’ (Interview with Antonio Bana in Gérard Chaliand, Armed Struggle in Africa (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969), p.74.)

The purpose of these processes was, for Cabral, exceptionally clear. The principles of organisation, political consciousness etc imparted by Cabral’s training, he explicitly viewed as alien from the class basis of Guinea-Bissau. At a conference in May, 1964, he articulated that the purpose of this training was to implant ‘a mentality which could transcend the context of the national liberation struggle […] what you might call a working-class mentality.’ In essence, this means that Cabral saw his instruction as creating a proletarian ideology in the mind of a non-proletarian, semi-feudal class: ‘In fact we managed to inculcate these ideas into a large number of people – the kind of ideas, that is, which there would be if there were a working class.’ (Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, p.55.)

In addition to this, ideological & political preparation, the young recruits also underwent military instruction abroad, ‘most notably [in] China, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.’ (Chabal, p.63.)

cabral 2

This initial force of cadre was used to agitate amongst villages, mostly between 1960 & 1962, simultanaeous with the education process. Chabal correctly asserts that this reflects a key conception in Cabral’s politics, that for Cabral ‘the key to a successful people’s war was proper political mobilisation – namely the acquisition of active political support from the local population.’ (Chabal, p.68.) This political agitation took the form of going from village to village, to gain sufficient support from the local population to initiate armed action. The PAIGC leadership did not want to initiate armed conflict before they were ready. The initial progress of this work was slow, but by 1963, the PAIGC had been able to extend its presence from the Senegalese to the Guinéen borders along the North-South axis to the east of Guinea-Bissau. (Cabral, ‘Le développement de la lutte da libération nationale en Guinée “portugaise” et aux îles du Cap Vert en 1964’ (Conarky, 17 March, 1962), p.2.) The PAIGC found particular support amongst the Balantes. James Cunnigham argues that this is because the ethnic group was forced to trade through “concessionaires”, which no other economic grouping was. This provided unfavourable trading circumstances for Balante rice growers, relative to any other socio-economic grouping in Guinea-Bissau. (James Cunningham, cited in Chabal, pp.69-70.)

By late 1962, the PAIGC was under considerable stress to launch its military offensive. A number of self proclaimed PAIGC groups, made up of fresh Balante recruits had already engaged in action. The Portuguese, following the conclusion of mass-military intervention against the Angolan uprising, strengthened their military presence in Guinea-Bissau considerably between 1961 & 1962. Internal & external pressure was mounting, leading the PAIGC to launch full-scale military action in the South during the last part of 1962 & in the North in 1963. (Chabal, pp.72-75.) Military expansion was rapid: by July 1963, the Portuguese Defence Minister, General Manueal Gomes de Araujo, admitted that the PAIGC had ‘penetrated a zone equivalent to about 15 per cent of the province.’ (Cited in Chabal, p.58.) By the end of 1963, the PAIGC claimed that 1963 that 1 3rd of the country was liberated & could be kept under their permenant control.

This put considerable strain on the loosely organised party. The PAIGC had operated by placing faith in its recruits, allowing them to operate in essential independence. Membership was an open-door process. This led to enormous difficulties in organisation & the growth of 3 political trends, contrary to the interests of the national liberation struggle: militarism, which advocated an approach of terrorism both toward the Portuguese & the indigenous Africans; localism, which consisted in refusing to expand 1’s interests beyond an immediate village etc; cultural factors, which occasionally undermined the struggle. Cabral noted that, ‘After a year of armed struggle, the party was already sick.’ (Cabral, ‘Fizemos o Congresso de Cassacá para pormos o partido no caminho certo’, Nô Pintcha, II, 137 (17 February, 1976).) The Cassacá Congress was held in February, 1964, to combat these trends.

The Congress was a decisive moment in the party’s historical development. Not only were 2 of these 3 tendencies effectively quelled (the problem of localism retained influence until military circumstance made it fundamentally impossible to operate in such a way), the party was reorganised in a centralised fashion. Cabral, echoing Lenin’s understanding of political movements, was also able to give a renewed primacy to the political struggle, above exclusively military considerations. He, like the Bolshevik leader, gave politics ‘primacy over economics’ & other concerns. (Daniel Bensaid, “Leaps, Leaps, Leaps”: Lenin and Politics (July, 2002).)

Militarism was destroyed & actively crushed. Cabral stated that ‘those who were found guilty [of military terror] were taken prisoner at the end of the Congress and we sent for those who had not come. They resisted and they were liquidated.’ (Cabral, ‘Fizemos o Congresso de Cassacá’.) Execution was, in point of fact, the only viable tactic for the destruction of the trend. Many of the local guerilla leaders guilty of militarism came to the Congress with armed escorts & a still greater number of militarists resisted PAIGC orders with armed force. The execution of these commanders, where removal otherwise was not possible, allowed the party to install politically conscious leaders in guerilla groups, during a perpetual war against Portugal. (Chabal, pp.78-79.) This was absolutely necessary & was an important moment for progressive forces within the PAIGC.

The problem in regards to cultural factors was handled with elegance. In order to explain this, we will need to consider a concrete example. Many comrades within the party still held onto a belief in the irán, the spirit which inhabits the forests in Guinean folklore. There were a great many instances where guerillas refused to enter or cross these “holy” places. Militarily, this was a disaster – the forests being the best cover for PAIGC combatants. Cabral, rather than to make a nonsense of the irán, a belief which large sections of the population was unwilling to give up, responded thus:

‘Many of us believed that we should not go into some forests because of the irán. But today, thanks to the many iráns in our country, our people understand, and the irán understands, that the forest is for man, and no one fears the forest any more. Even in Cobiana forest we are safe because that irán is a nationalist. He said very clearly that the Portuguese must leave, that they have nothing to with our country.’ (Cabral, Alguns princípios do partido (Libson: Seara Nova, 1974), pp.70-71.)

This demonstrates an incredibly perceptive approach to leadership. It is a concrete example of what Cabral means in National Liberation and Culture, when he writes: ‘we may consider the national liberation movement as the organized political expression of the culture of the people who are undertaking the struggle.‘ Not only would the reification of the irán in a nationalist sense combat the military problem, it would give a renewed impeteus to the struggle itself. The very forests were in support of the PAIGC.

The conclusions of the Congress are emphasised in Cabral’s, now famous, Tell no lies, Claim no easy victories. Chabal offers a correct conclusion on the significance of Cassacá:

‘With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see that the Cassacá Congress was the most important test of Cabral’s leadership. His success was largely due to the personal loyalty of the party leadership and many of the key military commanders in the field; his ability to use popular support to neutralise those guerillas who had alienated the local population; and his determination to break the militarist tendency at all costs. His vision and leadership during the crisis ensured that the party remained united and that long-term goals were not sacrificed to short-term military gains.’ (Chabal, p.83.)

amilcar cabral

The war progressed well & rapidly. As early as July 1964, the PAIGC had effectively liberated 45% of Guinea-Bissau from Colonial rule. The remainder of the war can be divided into 2 periods. Until 1969, the PAIGC followed a dual tactic: consolidation of power in the liberated areas & the extension of the war to all parts of the territory. By 1969, with the Portuguese occupation reduced to a presence only in cities & forts, the PAIGC pursued a policy of resconstruction of the liberated areas. For the last 2 years before his eventual murder, Cabral devoted all of his attention to this construction, planning ahead to the post-Colonial state. (Chabal, p.90.) It is this latter period that I will now, briefly, describe. The glimmer of the new society promised by the PAIGC under Cabral’s leadership played an extremely important role in the victory of the nationalists. Cabral consistently argued this, stating that with ‘hospitals and schools we can win the war’. (Cabral, cited in Chabal, p.114.)

Economic reconstruction focused primarily upon agriculture. As early as the 1950s, in his work as an agronomist Cabral had denounced the cultivation of Colonial export crops. He argued that this cultivation led to the ‘progressive decrease of the possibilites of exploiting the land, to the lack of cultivable soil, to a decrease in fertility, to soil destruction through erosion and laterisation and, consequently, to the deterioration of the already precarious economic situation of the indigenous peasant.’ (Cabral, ‘Queimadas e pousios na circunscrição de Fulacunda em 1953’, BCGP, 9, 35 (July, 1954), pp.627-643.) When considering the economic reconstruction in the liberated zones he insisted that villagers should cease production of Colonial exports – groundnuts, for example – & to cultivate food. (Chabal, p.110.) It would be easy, given Cabral’s statements in the 1950s, to see this as a matter of practicality. This would ignore a central conception of the PAIGC leader, often overlooked because of its correspondence with Marxist-Leninist thought. Cabral believed that ‘the basis of national liberation, whatever the formulas adopted on the level of international law, is the inalienable right of every people to have its own history, and the objective of national liberation is to regain this right usurped by imperialism, that is to say, to free the process of development of the national productive forces.’ (Cabral, TWT.) The economic resconstruction of agriculture is part of this in the context of Guinea-Bissau.

This portion of reconstruction was difficult. Despite surplus production in certain areas, which allowed the PAIGC to feed less self-sufficient areas & the armed forces, & even to export rice from 1968 onwards, the fundamental problems remained unresolved. No significant structural change occurred in the traditonal patterns of cultivation. Production was not modernised & crops were not diversified to any notable degree. Increases in rice production & the ability of the PAIGC to feed all those in the liberated zones were the main achievements in this area. (Chabal, p.111.)

Progress was far more pronounced in the realm of education & healthcare. As early as 1964 there were 4,000 students in aproximately 50 schools across Guinea-Bissau. By 1971, this had grown to 14,531 students across 164 schools – with roughly 89 pupils & 56 teachers in each school. Internatos – essentially boarding schools – were introduced in 1970. (Chabal, pp.115-117.) Whilst progress in healthcare was slower, by 1971 the PAIGC had 18 doctors & 20 medical assistants in its own ranks, alongside 23 foreign doctors sent as aid & 335 nurses. Healthcare took the form of “health brigades”, reminiscient of China’s “barefoot doctor” movement, which toured the country providing healthcare wherever needed. In 1964 the PAIGC did not have a single doctor. (Chabal, pp.119-121.) Both of these improvements represent enormous achievements, given the deprivation of Guinea-Bissau in regards to these assets under Colonialism.

Cabral: Keep Your Course

The assassination of Cabral in 1973 was a last attempt to destroy the liberation struggle: a conspiracy to seize leadership of the PAIGC & divert it. It was unsuccessful. A few months later, the party went ahead with the planned declaration of independence.

Cabral’s contribution to the liberation war of the PAIGC & to the international struggle against Imperialism was, above all else, a concrete 1. The struggle waged by the PAIGC is a powerful example of the power of the oppressed & of the vanguard party in leading their struggle. His innovative, discursive & flexible form of leadership by many counts was fundamental to the struggle against Portuguese Fascism, both in Guinea-Bissau & across all of Africa. This is to say nothing of his abilities in international diplomacy.

Nor is this to diminish Cabral’s theoretical contributions. To me, Cabral is clearly a Marxist. More than this, he belongs to the theoretical continuity of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Guevara & Castro. This trend, I would argue, possess several pronounced characteristics. Foremost, it is against the mechanical application & understanding of Marxism in any form. With this go several considerations: the primacy of politics &, within this, an understanding of agency; the development of tactics on a contextual-materialist basis; a deep, powerful understanding of the role that organisations & even individuals can play in shaping Revolution. What wider, theoretical points Cabral made – particularly in The Weapon of Theory – are equally as concrete as his practice; they are the concrete expressed as abstract, taken out of form & realised as general social relations – in a word, concrete theory.

I would also argue that what was lost with Cabral’s assassination was the possibility for Socialist construction in Guinea-Bissau in the immediate sense. Again, there is ample evidence for this. Cabral’s understanding of Socialist development was that it requires the development of the social means of production, creating a set of general relations qualitatively different to that experienced. In the context of Guinea-Bissau, this meant the development of agriculture – diversification etc – & not a leap to industry. This task was not adequately taken up by any section of the PAIGC leadership other than Cabral.

These points will, undoubtedly, be hotly contested – Tricontinental Marxism generally is. I will not undertake an argument upon this here. Instead, I think Cabral’s contribution can be summarised in 2 points. To me, these reveal the power of his concrete theory & practice.

There was not a revolutionary class in Guinea-Bissau. In his training of the initial wave of guerillas, he created a section of society with a revolutionary ideology. In a sense, he created a revolutionary class.

There was not a national culture in Guinea-Bissau, Colonialism stopped the indigenous people’s historical development before this developed. In his universalising & nationalising of the irán, Cabral was creating a national culture.

It is perhaps best to let Cabral finish in his own words:

Keep your course, Brother:
In the unequal fight you shall write your Poem,
and you shall leave to the world, to the Universe,
The labor of a Love.—

For tomorrow, on the conquered plain
Of the redeemed,
The liberated land,
Men, united as brothers, shall reap
The savory Bread.

Amílcar Cabral, Untitled
(Translation by Moser).


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