"How is it that we, a people deprived of everything, living in dire straits, manage to wage our struggle and win successes? Our answer is: this is because Lenin existed, because he fulfilled his duty as a man, a revolutionary and a patriot. Lenin was and continues to be, the greatest champion of the national liberation of the peoples."
These were the words addressed to the delegates attending the seminar on "Lenin and National Liberation" held at Alma Ata, capital of Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan, in 1970 by Amilcar Cabral, Secretary-General of the PAIGC, who met his death on 20th January 1973 at Conakry, Guinea, at the hands of a traitor, Innocenta Canida, an agent of the Portuguese colonialists who had infiltrated into the ranks of the movement three years ago.
These words reflect the revolutionary thinking and life-work of this utterly dedicated patriot, outstanding African revolutionary of our time and the father of the new independent sovereign State of Guinea in the process of birth. It was the cognition of the scientific theory of revolution, of Marxism-Leninism, to which he was introduced by his contacts with the Portuguese Communist Party during his student days in Lisbon which was to combine within him, in the words of the statement of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party, "a deep understanding of the processes of the African revolution with an untiring devotion to practical struggle."
Whilst eschewing dogma, he continually stressed the need for a firm political and ideological base for a revolutionary: "If it is true that a revolution can fail even though it is based on perfectly conceived theories -- nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory."
Cabral was above all a man of action. Born on September 12, 1924, at Bafata in what was then the Portuguese West African colony of Guinea, he spent part of his youth in Bissau, the capital. He was able because of his family`s relatively comfortable position, to go to secondary school and then to the University of Lisbon, where he qualified as an agricultural engineer in 1951. Returning to his country he served for two years in the colonial administration as an agronomist which provided him with ample opportunity to learn at first hand of the dire poverty and intense suffering of his people, especially in the countryside. His experiences made him more determined than ever to find ways and means of working for the freedom of his country and delivering his people from the yoke of colonial bondage. This inevitably led him into bitter conflicts with the governor of the colony and he transferred himself to Angola.
There in 1956 he helped to form what is now the most important national organisation of Angola, the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). In the same year he also became one of the founders of the African Party of Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands and was its leader until the time of his assassination.
Under his leadership the PAIGC mobilised the country's patriots to struggle for the freedom of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands, created the people's army and led the national-liberation war against the Portuguese colonialists. Cabral knew and understood his enemy well, and every phase of the struggle was carefully planned and action meticulously organised. The cadres of the PAIGC were given political education as well as military training and he stressed always "that we are armed militants and not militarists."
The race question
Cabral saw the task of the national liberation movements as not merely to usher in Black rule replacing white faces with black ones; it was not only to raise a different flag and sing a new anthem but to remove all forms of exploitation from the country. "Bearing in mind the essential characteristics of the present world economy, as well as experience already gained in the field of anti-imperialist struggle, the principal aspect of national liberation struggle is the struggle against neo-colonialism." Cabral was careful to distinguish the colour of men's skins from exploitation and repeatedly emphasised that the struggle was against Portuguese colonialism and not against the Portuguese people. He made it clear that:
"We are fighting so that insults may no longer rule our countries, martyred and scorned for centuries, so that our peoples may never more be exploited by imperialists not only by people with white skin, because we do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men's skins; we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by black people."
Though the focus of Cabral`s activity was always the struggle against Portuguese colonialism, he was an internationalist and saw his people's struggle as merely one front of a common international struggle against imperialism which "is trying simultaneously to dominate the working class in all advanced countries and smother the national liberation movements in all the under-developed countries."
The historic role which the socialist community, as an integral and powerful part of the world anti-imperialist front, is playing for peace, independence and socialism was clearly understood and recognised by Cabral. At a conference held in Dar-es-Salaam in 1965, Cabral had said:
"It is our duty to state here, loud and clear, that we have firm allies in the socialist countries ... Since the socialist revolution and the events of the Second World War, the face of the world has definitely changed. A socialist camp has arisen in the world. This has radically changed the balance of power, and this socialist camp is today showing itself fully conscious of its duties, international and historic, but not moral, since the peoples of the socialist countries have never exploited the colonised peoples."
He had very close association with the Soviet Union which he visited on many occasions and made a major contribution to the promotion and strengthening of friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and the Soviet Union, between the PAIGC and the CPSU. Speaking as the head of the PAIGC delegation at the Joint Meeting in the Kremlin dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the USSR, Cabral said:
"Availing ourselves of this opportunity we want to express on behalf of our people fraternal gratitude to the Soviet people, the CPSU, its Central Committee for the versatile assistance you render us in our bitter struggle against the Portuguese colonialists, against the war and genocide, for independence, peace and progress of our African Motherland."
The assassin's bullets struck down this great African leader just as preparations were going ahead for the convening of the National Assembly in the early part of this year for the adoption of the Constitution and the official declaration of the new independent sovereign State of Guinea. This foul deed was engineered by the Portuguese colonialists with the nefarious aim of sowing confusion and disruption among the ranks of the PAIGC and of causing disunity among the national liberation movements of Southern Africa.
It shows that the evil triumvirate of Caetano, Smith and Vorster will stop at nothing to stem the irresistible advances of the courageous and steeled guerrillas and brave freedom fighters of Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa in their noble struggle to free the whole of southern Africa from national, racial and social oppression.
In our own country, South Africa, Vorster faces the ever growing tide of indignation and resistance of the Black masses against apartheid tyranny and especially of the bulk of the Black working people against the whole of the inhuman cheap-labour system and starvation wages.
In spite of the use of the deadly modern weapons of war, terror and devious manoeuvres, the colonialist and racialist regimes are doomed. The new State of Guinea shall be a reality, the whole of southern Africa shall be freed.
However, the struggles ahead call for, on our part, ever stronger unity and organisation of masses, ever greater vigilance against the manoeuvres and machinations of the enemy, ever more determination and will to sacrifice in our efforts to exterminate the forces of oppression and win final victory.
By the death of Amilcar Cabral, Africa has lost one of her great revolutionary leaders. We, the fighting black people and all the revolutionaries of South Africa, salute this indomitable fighter. We shall see to it that the cause - which is also our cause - to which Amilcar Cabral devoted all his energies and ultimately gave his life, will triumph.
4 From: African Communist, No. 53, second quarter 1973