Professor Dani Wadada Nabudere (Rest in Peace)
THE MARCUS GARVEY PAN-AFRIKAN INSTITUTE (MPAI)
P.O. Box 961
The claim by Africans and people of African descent for reparations for the consequences of the slave trade, chattel slavery and colonialism is being resisted by the United States and Europe, the powers that benefited historically from the slave trade, slavery and the colonisation and plunder of the African continent. This resistance to African claims reflects the embeddedness of a system of exploitation, oppression and dispossession which the African people continue to experience under the Western capitalist system and its ideologies of racism that the perpetrators continue to practice against the African people. For centuries now, the Western and Arab world have regarded Africans as being sub-human and this was sanctified in their religions beliefs and social philosophies as well as economic arrangements.
This inhumanity accorded to the Africans in slavery and under colonialism was regarded as a state of inferiority on the part of the victims, which in turn was used to justify the feeling of superiority on the part of the perpetrators of this inhuman act. This erroneous belief and ideology was used to place Africans in positions of subjugation and to exploit their labour and natural resources. The self-serving belief and ideology became embedded and continues to bedevil the relations between these groups of humanity. The material gains that have been made by the perpetrators of the myths, which have given them the economic and military power to systemically and violently repress the victims through processes of racial profiling and mass discrimination, have become the very basis of modern Western civilisation which the Arabs have also emulated to their advantage.
This is why despite the accumulating evidence against the idea of racial purity; the perpetrators have through various attempts found new ideologies under which they continue to justify the enslavement of Africans. This also means that Africans, despite their tremendous attempts to overcome these dehumanising ideologies and powers exercised over them, have not succeeded in developing and updating counter-ideologies and strategies of resistance that can put this exploitation to an end.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine the diverse ways in which racist ideology continues to be manufactured for the subjugation of Africans in order to argue for new ways in which pan-Africanism can be enriched and revitalised in combating racism and oppression, not only for the Africans, but for the rest of humanity who continue to be oppressed and subjugated by these new forms of racism. In doing so, Pan-Africanists must not only devise theories but also strategies for overcoming the very basis of capitalist enslavement and to struggle for the emergence of a new humanistic world order.
To be sure, it is now widely accepted that racism is a distinctively European invention, which did not exist in the past, but which has persisted despite `scientific’ evidence. This has been so despite periods when the West appeared to recognise the social and moral effects of racism. This awareness of the effects of racism by the perpetrators of racism has also not come to them as a revelation from heaven or as a result of `reason.’ Indeed, rationality is the very basis on which racist ideology has been rationalised over centuries. The realization has been forced onto the perpetrators of racism throughout history by the concerted resistance of their victims. In many ways, therefore, the changes in the variations of racist ideology have tended to reflect these different phases of the struggle of those adversely affected by it.
In the current struggle against racism, the focus by the African peoples both on the African continent and those in the Diaspora is on the need for reparations against the consequences of slavery and colonialism. This is because a challenge to racism is most revealing when it is directed at the moral, religious, cultural and legal bases of its origin and hence its inherent inhumanity. This is why the power and determination to struggle is so much essential not only for those oppressed by racism but also for those who practise it to advance their material interests. The struggle against racism is therefore a humanising experience for all concerned.
In the World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia and Other forms of Intolerance (WCAR), we have to insist that the conference is the most significant development in the modern international relations in that for the first time, the Africans are able to raise their voice. International conferences have been used at various time to highlight issues of common concern to humanity. Many conferences, which have been held after World War II have raised issues of a general nature pertaining to the consolidation of colonial peoples’ gains against imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Others have focussed on single issues such as the environment, sustainable development, women in development, gender, child rights, etc. This is the proper time to resolve the issue of African reparations if society is to more a step further in creating a congenial atmosphere in which all human beings can live in peace and in equality.
Now in the age of economic globalisation dominated by the West, especially the United States, racism is being reinvented afresh in new forms of ideologies that can legitimise the new forms of domination and exploitation. It is this new racism that is providing the political justification for United States and European resistance to putting the issue of reparations for slavery and colonial injustices on the global agenda. But it is for the same reason that Africans in their resistance against this continued attempt to subjugate them must equally update their own ideological tools of resistance to deligitimize this new racist drive by the old and new masters.
In this paper, we try to trace these different stages of racist ideology and relate them to different forms of resistance by Africans. In this way, we try to focus on how we can face to the new racist threat by reinvigorating pan-African ideology and relating it to the imperatives of globalisation and the liberation of the African masses.
The Rooting of Racism in Christianity and Islam
The embeddedness of European and Arab racism must foremost be sought within their religious beliefs. Although both these world religions have sought to deny any racism within their official doctrines, there nevertheless persists a religious element in all the phases of racist justification. This may indeed be the result of the Janus-headedness of these religious doctrines and their understanding- which is a reflection of the material interests of the different social forces within those societies. In establishing a connection between religious belief and social theories of racism, it will be shown that these images of racial exclusion are interconnected with competition for world domination by the two groups of religious for believers. In the end both these cultural imperialisms came to manifest themselves as part of the economic expansion and colonisation of the “infidels” by both and in competition with one another.
A. Christian Racism
In dealing with the issue of Christian justification of enslavement, it must be remembered that for the Western world the values and norms, which inform their daily lives, is said to be rooted in the Greeco-Judae-Christian civilisations and heritages. This self-identity has its roots in the denial of their linkage to African origins of civilization [Diop, 1974]. Therefore in order to falsely assert that their civilisation has its origins in Greece, it became necessary to form negative views of the African continent and its peoples in order to assert their own originality and superiority over them.
In a real sense, the differences between Africa and Europe were religious. Martin Bernal has told the story of how the men of the European Enlightenment tried to undermine what the European Renaissance had tried to unearth: the superiority of African religions and philosophy over those of Europe. This struggle which led to the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake in 1601 for asserting the primacy of African `natural’ religion, was followed by the denunciation of Egypt by Newton who had at first accepted the superiority of Egypt over Europe [Bernal, 1987:24-28, 153-157].
This differentiation began to take root, as Goldberg has observed, in the mid-fifteenth century when the Pope in his Papal letters began to use the collective “we” in reference to Christian-Catholic Europe. This was the first time a self-conscious Europe as a collective social-consciousness manifested itself against the rest of the world. It was also the first time, as we shall see below, that the conceptual category “race” begins to appear in its modern usage. The concept of the Savage Man begun to appear to express the space between the civilised European and the “others.” The generic image of the savage was that of violence, sexual license, lack of civility and civilisation as well as an absence of morality or any sense of it. The savage was seen as a wild man full of sin and without reason, discipline, and culture. Goldberg comments:
“It follows that the primary forms of discrimination were against the non-Christian, or infidels: Those subjects who were seen to fail in constraining themselves appropriately would either have discipline imposed on them or be excluded from the God’s city. For example, the primary objection of medieval Christians to Islam was stated in theological terms – that is, in terms first of the absence of miracles from Muhammad’s experience in contrast to Christ’s, and second, in terms of the emphasis on the Trinity as basic to Christian theology and its denial in the Islamic. Similar sorts of distinction were seen to define the differences between Christian and Jew. These doctrinal differences, in turn, were taken by medieval Christianity as signs of cultural (or moral) incapacity of others to reap the fruits of salvation. In short, medieval exclusion and discrimination were religious at root, not racial [Goldberg, 1993:24].
From this state of mind, it became easy to equate old non-racial signification in Western metaphysics of evil as black and good as white (in the same way Africans looked at evil as white and goodness as black but not for purposes of domination) to link them to racial categories. The savage and the infidel could be “fought” and subjugated by the believers. The issue began to be defined in terms of religious “just war”, just as Islam defined the same situation as justification of “jihad.” In 1510 Aristotle’s doctrine of natural slavery in Politics was suggested as justification for use of force in Christianising the savages, in this case the American Indians. This imperial religious mission led to the Laws of Burgos against the “savages” who had resisted the use of force against them. These laws regulated the conditions of American Indian Christianisation, labour, daily treatment, and the use of reference of names.
From the seventeenth century onwards, the religious aspect of the differentiation began to take on a social defined differentiation as capitalist development began to entrench itself. In Goldberg’s words:
“Imperatives of European Empire and expansion entailed territorial penetration, population regulation, and labour exploitation. The institution of racialized slave labour . . . seemed necessary for exploiting the natural resources offered by the new territories . . . It is also important to notice that slavery turned also and fundamentally on the conception of indigenous peoples as a natural resource, as part of the spoils acquired in the victorious but just wars of colonial expansion” [Goldberg, 1993: 26].
That is why Basil Davidson is right in fixing chattel slavery with the Columbus project of colonisation and Christianisation, for in his words while he “raised crosses everywhere,” he was able to do so, with his eyes “on the material value of things even to the extent of seeing men as goods for sale.” Within a few years, he was engaged in the enslavement not only of Africans, but initially also of whites who had committed “sins” at home. He dealt with the Spanish government which made laws for the export of enslaved Africans to the countries “discovered” by him for the enrichment of the Catholic Church, the Spanish state, and the Spanish merchants who worked closely together in this enterprise and project.
It was this project that saw to the establishment of the “Triangular Trade” which began in 1515 with the first shipment of slave-grown West Indian sugar to Spain followed three years later with the first shipment of enslaved Africans from Western coast of Africa to the Caribbean not by way of Spain or Portugal (which were under the same Catholic crown), but directly from the African port of embarkation to the new territories. In this “Triangular Trade” Africa was linked to the economic needs of Europe through production in the New World.
There was nothing new in this. Europe had used the legitimation of `just war’ during the medieval period to enslave the people of pre-Christian Europe whom they came to call “Slavs” as well as those from Muslim lands in northern Africa as well as in Mediterranean Europe. From then onwards, there was no going back. Just like Islam, Papal prohibitions against the enslavement of Christians fell on deaf ears of the Genoese merchants who shrugged off the possibility of their excommunication for persisting in the trade [Davidson, 1994: 334-6]. Slavery had come to attain its own “independent set of logics, related to the intersecting with economic, political, legal, and cultural considerations . . . (and) with assumptions, concerns, projects, and goals that can properly be identified as their own” [Goldberg, 1993:27].
Once this determination became the overriding necessity for Europe, it became justifiable to sanctify their inhuman acts with another dominant religious dogma that shaped the motivation of the “explorers” and European missionaries. The invention of the “Curse of Ham” which had its origins in the Genesis of the Old Testament was said to have befallen the black people. According to this Biblical myth, which was reflected in the Babylonian Talmud, Noah had cursed Ham, his youngest son, to be the “servant of servants.”
Although there was no suggestion of colour, race, or ethnicity in this original “curse,” nevertheless by, what John Ralph Willis has called, “a strange migration of meaning,” the sense of darker hue was made to spring into this “rabbinical fancy.” It was thrust into the original theme by which the sons of Ham now became men of colour who were to be destined to a fate of servility. Even then, it was not the Africans were the subject of this fancy, but the Canaans with whom Africans had no connection. In this “flight of fancy” Noah is made to say:
“Now I cannot beget the fourth son whose sons I would have ordered to serve you and your brothers! Therefore, it must be Canaan, your firstborn, whom they enslave. And since you have disabled me . . . doing ugly things in the blackness of night, Canaan’s children shall be born ugly and black! Moreover, because you twisted your head around to see my nakedness, your grandchildren’s hair shall be twisted into kinks, and their eyes red; again because your lips jested into my misfortune, theirs shall swell; and because you neglected my nakedness, they shall go naked, and their male members shall be shamelessly elongated. Men of this race are called Negroes, their forefather Canaan commanded them to love theft and fornication, to be banded together in hatred of their masters and never to tell the truth [Graves & Patai, 1964:121].
While the original version of the “Curse of Ham” provided the pretext for the subjugation of Canaanites by the Israelis, its later elaboration in another age found ready application in the European and Arab mythology in which the African became the new victim. Isaac argues that these Hebrew myths were not to be found in ideological nationalism and scientific racialism. They nevertheless came to constitute “the root cause for centuries of distortions of many aspects of black culture and history and of a complex racial view that has given rise to formal prejudices against black people” [Harris, 1964: 86]. This is what Edith R. Sanders has called the “Hamitic Hypothesis” [1969:521-532].
For Western imperialism, this became the “cut-off” point is the slave trade and the later colonisation of Africa. According to Martin Bernal, this period saw the development of `scientific racism’ based on theories elaborated at the University of Göttingen in Hanover German from where they were later developed in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. According to his account, by the middle of the 18th century, a number of Christian apologists began to use the emerging paradigm of `progress’ under which racism based on colour was articulated along side the increasing importance of the American colonies “with their twin policies of extermination of the Native Americans and enslavement of African Blacks” [Bernal, 1985: 27].
In the African colonies, the British missionaries carried over these racist theories to explain the “backwardness” of the Africans and the need for their conversion from heathenism to a Christian life. One of these missionaries called Krapf, had argued: “The Hamitic race is sunk so low that the spiritual and temporal means must be applied at once and at the same time.” David Livingstone went a step further. In a letter addressed to Professor Sedgwick of Cambridge in 1858, in he revealed that his purpose of being in the Central African hinterland as economic one. He argued that this would benefit both the African and his own country resulting in “an English colony in the healthy highlands of Central Africa.”
The French Catholic White Fathers also pursued the same objectives as David Livingstone in creating French colonies in Africa. Cardinal Lavigerie, whose story Oliver has referred to as “like that of a street scavenger who made a great fortune out of what other men had thrown away”, founded a new missionary order which was sanctioned by Pope Pius IX in 1868. He set up his own Christian Communities based on self‑supporting “orphanages” in which ransomed slave children were taken in and “most quickly and easily populated” [Oliver, 1970:44‑47.] Lavigerie, like Livingstone, used his missionary cross to further the aims of French imperialism in Tunisia and soon alerted Pius IX to King Leopold’s African International Association, which was exploring Congo to establish “scientific stations” along the line of Cameron’s march from Zanzibar to Benguela.
The Belgian Christian missions worked closely with their colonial power in their advancement of the “civilizing mission.” It was enhanced by an interlocking structure of domination constructed by the trio: the state, the missions and the concessionaire corporations. The missions had as many if not more personnel as the state and were dominant in the sphere of cultural policy. The state and the corporations had the aim of capturing the bodies of the land and the bodies of the natives for their profit and domination while the Christian mission’s objective was to win the souls of the natives in the service of God and nation. In this mission they were acted as one body.
B. Islamic Racism
Islam on its part also began to internalise the benefits of “Curse of Ham” from the Christians. While for the Hebrew myth of Canaan and blackness became of functional use in Christian imperialism, for the Arabs among the sons of Shem (Sam) especially, blackness became a simile for the servile condition, which was used in Islam to subjugate women and children. Under this condition, a comparison was drawn between the domination imposed by a husband through which a wife was forced to surrender her sexual self with the sovereignty which the master established over his slave where by the slave was compelled to alienate his right to dispose what he produced. These situations were both cast in a servile condition, which originally legitimised the subjugation.
Slaves were classified as having no attachments of lineage or genealogy, which were held in high esteem by the Arabs themselves. That is why in the prophets Sunna (model), believers were expected to incorporate slaves into their kinship structure of ancient Arabia and their conversion into Islam through which they could obtain manumission [Willis, 1985:1].
Indeed, Muhammad the prophet of Islam himself was at one time a slaveholder and a practitioner of polygamy and concubinage. This aspect had an immense impact on the way Islam conceived of the female and the slave. This is attested to by the fact that slavery at first took the form of the exportation of women and children across the Sahilian shores of the Sahara through the commercial channels of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Women were seen as the vessels of male hubris. They formed the concubinage and also the circulating medium of foreign exchange. In the estates, they presided over the cultivation in the plantation estates and preparation of food for the master. They also took charge of the fabrication of clothing as well as the nurturing and upbringing of children. They could also be transported anytime to move with the master at his will. This is why in Jihad, captive women and children were taken to undertake these domestic chores.
Thus in Islam the servile estate was preordained in that some people were said to be predestined to servility. At the same time, the Janus-headedness of Islam showed its other side in the fact that the same Islam saw slavery as an aberration, which was condemned if the victim was a Moslem. At the same time conversion to Islam offered no automatic right to manumission, especially to black people despite their religious beliefs. Hence, according to Willis, in Islam slavery became “a simile for the heathen condition - a symbolic representation of the very antithesis of Islam [Willis, 1985: 4]. The fate of the infidel was fixed and conversion to Islam could only conspire to upset a preordained order. In time, it became a truism to say that the “cause of slavery is non-belief”, but this was a pretext because he who converted to Islam so long as he/she was a slave was not entitled to freedom in actual fact. Being black in addition to being a non-believer imposed a lifelong condition of servitude.
So while the fiction of non-belief continued to edge out the firm premise (of servile estate) upon which slavery in Islam was based, it provided a new firm basis on which the jihad was conducted. The succeeding centuries saw a widening doubt as the jihad was waged with the ghazwa, which was seen as an element of nomadic ethos linking horse warfare and chivalry (furussiya) with a disdain for labour in a kind of Muslim “triumphalism.” According to Willis:
“By the middle of the nineteenth century, . . . the western Bahr al-Ghazal had practically run out of anyone worth stealing. The Phoenix of human servility rose from the ashes of heathen rubble – the women and children who submitted to Islam and awaited their redemption.” [Willis, 1985:6].
With this the jihad had been transformed into a “foray of plunder” in which believers and non-believers alike fell victim. The pretext of non-believer began to cover a multitude of transgressions, as it had done for the Genoese Christian merchants. In the Western Sudan of West Africa where this arose, black Muslims became easy victims to this human plunder. This was the era of slave-dealers who emerged at this crucial time. A Moroccan historian Ahmad Al-Nasir al-Salawi condemned his countrymen for their indiscriminate enslavement of the people of Sudan, pointing out that they were among the best people in regard to Islam.
The reason for this change was to be found in the way the new Muslims regarded blackness. It was more his value as a commodity, which became another simile for servile condition and the “curse of Ham.” These latter became handy pretext for continuing the slave hunting but this was under new conditions of thriving commerce. The darker the mother, the lower the estate of the offspring and this is why Western Sudanese Muslims found themselves face to face with the new reality of Islamic belief practised by slave dealers.
What caused this belief was not Islam itself as such but a group of Muslims who benefited from the practice of enslavement of black people. The practice of enslaving other human beings for gain, generation after generation, had created a general belief that the reason for enslavement, according to the Holy Law, was that “a man should be black in colour and come from those regions,” which happened to be somewhere in Africa. This is how the “Curse of Ham” was now conceived for good profit to the enslavers. According to Al-Nasir, “This, by Allah’s life, is one of the foulest and gravest evils perpetrated on Allah’s religion, for the people of the Sudan are Muslims having the same rights and responsibilities as ourselves.”
But this was no longer valid to those Muslims who traded in blacks. Moreover, Al-Nasir did not see anything wrong in enslaving non-believers. According to Willis given this situation, “no rational refutation could hope to dissolve a simile shaped on the premise of racial superiority” [Willis, 1985:10]. But it was more than that. The colour black had become an economic commodity, which was essential to Arab and Western economic “progress” as well and in this both religions agreed despite their own doctrinal (and racial) differences.
This was the situation, which begun to unfold gradually as far back as 642 AD, as Islam began to establish itself on the African Continent. Arab countries were already comfortably engaged in colonisation and Arabisation in the north of Africa in the name of the Allah. They had already established profitable routes for the slave trade, which “opened up” this form of trade to Europe. South of the Sahara by the tenth century, Arabs and Persians had arrived on the East Coast, to be followed later by the Oman Muslims to the Island of Zanzibar. They intermarried with the local African coastal population and through this means they tried to Arabise the natives. But Arabisation was limited because the Arabs were more interested in the slave and ivory trade and their entry into the interior proceeded around the same time as the European missionary activity.
In fact it can be stated that the large scale Islamisation took a secondary place during the time the European missionary activity. Islamisation was also limited by the fact that in this early period, the Arabs were interested in enslaving the natives for export to their lands and other parts of the world as domestic servants. They could not engage in full-scale conversion because that would have precluded them from enslaving them, for the Koran prohibited, at this stage, the enslavement of Muslims.
As Hanson has noted, the initial converts to Islam were local merchants who shared a commercial ethos with foreign Muslims, as well as African political elites who adopted the religion of their partners to solidify ties with them. The ordinary African with his own beliefs resisted Islamisation and, remained faithful to the polytheistic beliefs of their ancestors. This enduring commitment to local traditions forced the political elites to maintain non‑Muslim symbols in their court ceremonies in order to claim authority over all subjects while at the same time maintaining their new found religion. Tolerance of local customs became a hallmark of most African states led by the new Islamic political elite in the savannah lands stretching just below the Sahara Desert, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea [Hanson, 1995: 102].
Three patterns are said to have characterized the interaction between African traditional states and Islam for about one century. The first was typical of small states and chiefdoms where political institutions remained embedded in the traditional kinship system. Here Islam had took a very low profile and Muslim clerics were instead incorporated into the African traditional system of administration in one of these states called Gonja. Here they were referred to as “ wives of the chief” to accord with local traditional customs and terminology. The clerics shared certain religious functions with the traditional priests and their advice was sought in chiefly affairs where they acted as the functionaries of the traditional authorities and not as carriers of an alien ideology.
The second pattern of interaction was in the large‑scale states or empires. Here the states that had an intensive Islamic influence because of external trade links with the north. In these states, one measure of the centralization of the state administration was the appointment of slaves to political, administrative, and military offices at the expense of the traditional elite’s. To the two orders of nobles and slaves, a third order of Muslims was added in the Habe kingdom of Zaria. Here Muslims were able to enjoy wider powers and influence including the carrying out of the ritual function of imam, the legal function of the qadi, and the scribal functions of the literate.
In the third pattern which emerged with the Islamic reformers fighting against traditional parochialism and particularisms, the militancy of the Islamic scholars led to tensions and in the post‑jihad period, led to the creation of “post‑jihad states.” This produced two revolutionary changes for Islam in these African states. On the one hand, Muslim scholars seized direct political authority to become rulers and the legitimacy of the state shifted from traditional heritage to the law of Islam.
Once this was achieved, the Islamisation process then became irreversible whereas during the earlier stages changing historical circumstances had brought about a backsliding from the second pattern to the first. Even here, there was a tendency for the process to slip back when in some emirates some of the former traditional administrative measures reappeared. However, this was checked by the adherence to the legacy of the jihad.
To some extent Robin Horton observes a similar pattern of Christian mission activity practised in the Kalabari region of Nigeria in the period 1866 to 1964. He notes four phases in the hundred years of its development. The first phase was the period where exposures to Christian concepts were introduced with little overt “conversion.” The second phase there was a continued exposure to Christian concepts, which was followed with widespread “conversion” to Christianity. He characterizes the third phase as “revolutionary Christianity” in which a CMS catechist Garric Braide from the town of Bakana broke away from his parent church and declared himself a reincarnation of the prophet Elijah. This challenge to the mainstream Christian Church set a trend for the emergence of the fourth phase, which Horton dates between 1918 and 1964, which was characterized by a recession of monotheism and a revival of traditional spirits gods [Horton, 1970: pp.202‑207].
All these periods of the encirclement and colonisation of African peoples were also phases of racist ideology on the part of Christian culture and Islamic religion since in Islam secularism was not accepted. In the Christian countries, after a period of doctrinal justification, racist ideology took on a more `scientific’ approach.
Both Christian and Islamic uses of racist ideologies have the same roots in their religions. Both are motivated by economic gain and political control. The purpose has been to weaken African peoples by encircling them and then gaining access to their natural and human resources. In many cases, they collaborated in the enslavement and colonisation such as in the Sudan in the British-Egyptian Condominium. Yet in other cases, their approaches have been contradictory and antagonistic.
Scientific Racism, Xenophobia, and its Ramifications
As we have already pointed out above, racism is not a naturally constructed phenomenon. It is an ideological construction, which is intended to justify a certain state of affairs and provide legitimacy to it. Basil Davidson has pointed out that in premodern European Middle Ages, the European looked at the foreigner as “different but equal,” which was reflected in the way European artists sculptured and painted African men and women at the time. However, he notes that distance between peoples also conditioned the way the Europeans and non-Europeans looked at one another [Davidson, 1994:318-21].
Equally, in the Arab world “blackness” was considered in the Abbasid period (750-1258 AD) to be distinctively beautiful and the African people were said to have good `virtues’ such as generosity, good manners, and oratory. Although Arabs were also said to have similar qualities, the Africans were in particular attributed with superiority in these qualities. A work written to record the virtues of blacks by one Al-Jahaz, who was himself an Arabised African and cited by Akbar Muhammad, details these qualities [Muhammad, 1985: 47-74].
To be sure, the concept race is a conceptual invention of modernity, which defines itself and gets refined and transformed theoretically and materially as modernity itself is renewed in the course of its development. As already indicated, the concept is deeply connected with capitalist development and is rooted in its materiality and social relations they represent. It also became the basis of European self-identification as the “West” against “the Rest”. Through its articulation in the natural and social sciences, it attained a legitimacy of its won as a racialised field of discourse, which in turn has influenced social and economic policy in the service of racialised social relations.
Through its renewal, capitalist modernity has also been able to renew its racialised discourse in justification of its existence and continuing globalisation. It is through a proper understanding of this ever-changing discourse and practice that pan-Africanists can sharpen their own tools of analysis in resistance against the ramifications of racism, which is targeted against the African peoples. At this very moment when racism has renewed itself in different ideological guises, it becomes important to understand the processes of its `scientific’ ordering and renewal.
The `scientific’ social ideology of racism was initiated by liberalism in Locke’s First Treatise on government in which he first rejects slavery but later in the Second Treatise specifies the conditions under which slavery could be justifiable. What is significant was that Locke went to the United States and became the secretary to the Carolina Proprietors (today South Carolina) and while holding that position helped to in drafting the colonies Fundamental Constitution of 1669. Under the Fundamental Constitution, citizens were given “absolute power over Negro slaves” and in the Instructions to Governor Nicholson of Virginia, which he drafted, it was pointed out that the enslavement of the Negroes was justifiable because they were prisoners of “just war” who had “forfeited” their lives “by some Act that deserves Death.” Under this after the event theorisation that based itself in religious doctrine, the slave expeditions of the slave merchants were legitimised, particularly those of the Royal African Company operating on the West Coast of Africa. These expeditions of aggression against the African people were now said by Locke to be “just wars” against `infidels’ justifying enslavement.
According to Goldberg, Locke’s theory was based on two premises, which he argues were not inconsistent, but which were widely held to be the basis of racial distinction. The first was that anyone “behaving irrationally” was to that degree “a brute” who could be treated as an animal or a machine. In this regard, rationality was a mark of human subjectivity and a condition for extending full moral treatment. In short, rationality and rational capacity set a limit to the natural equality of all those beings who were taken to be human. Locke argued that if an English boy was to classify a Negro he would fail to include him among the category of men. It followed that a Negro could be treated as chattel property and in their enslavement; they could justifiably be treated as brutes and animals [Goldberg, 1993: 27-29].
It can already be seen that classical (`scientific’) empiricism offered a fertile ground for the articulation of racist scholarship, which could justify itself not only on `scientific principle’ but also on religious doctrinal and legal grounds. From these it obtained not only a rationalised existence but also a moral grounding which was to persist behind the scenes of the racialised discourse. Goldberg in examining this evidence comes to the conclusion that the criticism we have made “tugs at the very heart of the Enlightenment rational spirit.” The rational, it turns out, “perhaps unsurprisingly, to be exclusively white, male, European bourgeois” [Ibid: 28]. It was in the seventeenth century that this empiricist subjugation of the “other” took root in western scholarship, which defined the classificatory order of human relations. The emergence of `the sciences’ such as biology and anthropology was the result of this new `specialisation’ of social science discipline or “order of things” [Foucault, 1974 ].
Anthropology became a “science of peoples without history” in which it focussed on establishing the physical grounds for racial difference in new `concepts’ such as `exotic,’ `native,’ `Indian,’ `oriental,’ `Negro,’ and `Jew’ along with epistemological subdisciplines such as `Sinology’ and modes of being such as `Negritude.’ As Bernal has observed, as Europe `demoted’ Egypt on the basis that `the nearer the better’ in preference to Greece, it argued that the countries of the East had had a civilisation, language, and culture whereas Africa to south, by contrast, was the “Old World of prehistory” which in time became a `mirror’ through which the West could look at itself. Through this `mirror’ it could identify itself and define itself as `civilised’ as it committed these crimes against humanity.
Basing itself on principles of utility, it alone defined what was `beautiful.’ `ugly,’ and what was `valuable.’ David Hume, for instance, drew out what distinguished between moral and physical determinants of national character. Under this racist theory, he insisted that national character was a function of moral causes and under this blanket `theory,’ he was able to categorise Jews as `fraudulent,’ Arabs as `uncouth and disagreeable,’ while modern Greeks (unlike the classical ones whom they admired and claimed to be their predecessors) were said to be `deceitful, stupid, and cowardly.’ This was in contrast to the ingenuity, industry and activity of their ancestors and the `integrity, gravity, and bravery’ of the Turks. Superior to all them were the English because in great part they benefited from their government mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and bourgeois democracy [Goldberg, 1993: 30-31].
Alongside `national’ differences, Hume also said that racial differences demonstrated that “all species of men” other than the whites and “especially the Negro” were “naturally inferior to the whites.” They had nothing to show for their accomplishment. This rationalisation was brought to new heights with Kant who even regarded the American Indian “Savage” as better then the Negro who needed “thrashing” to discipline. In Kant’s view, the fact that someone was black was clear evidence that he was stupid. This is what he called “common sense morality.”
Therefore, for the whole of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the natives of Africa and India were held to be less than full human beings and in many cases they were regarded as prehuman. It was on the basis of these inhuman analyses that European scholars built up their system of “Universal” moral values based on utilitarian principles, which ignored the contributions of other peoples. Under these polygenetic self-justifying claims, the arguments were constituted into a `scientific paradigm’ by the end of the nineteenth century, which dominated natural history, biology, and anthropology until Darwin’s theories rendered them obsolete. Now the notion of biologically determined racial differences were seen as lacking a scientific basis.
This is what now increasingly transformed the field of racist discourse into a racialised discourse-into a field of discourse made up of racialised expressions [Goldberg, 1993: 41-42]. Race became itself a discursive object of racialised discourse that increasingly differed from racism. This transformation made it easier for law, moral discourse, and the social sciences to incorporate racialised expressions while at the same time claiming to be antiracist. New forms of racist expressions were developed to mask race as a category of analysis. These analyses resorted to ahistorical `scientistic’ conceptual methodologies, which stipulated definitions of categories a priori on the basis of what a particular term ought to signify in relation to the conceptual scheme in which they could be made to make sense and then to look for empirical instances to exemplify the phenomenon thus defined [Goldberg, 1994: 61-62].
On the basis of this, it became possible to obscure realities and to create new forms of representation. Goldberg has traced the origin of the world `race’ to 1508 poem by William Dunbar in which he used the word to refer to a `root” which was part of an earlier derivative (1450) applied to herbs and plants. Later the word signified population groups in given geographic regions: “Races were taken, loosely speaking, as population groups of different roots, suggestively rooted in the geographic soils of different regions” [Ibid: 62]. This was part of the period of natural history in which, according to Foucault, “nature appeared sufficiently close to itself for the individual beings it contained to be classified and yet so far removed from itself that they had to be so by the medium of analysis and reflection.” And this was because at the time, “signs were then part of things themselves, whereas in the seventeenth century they become modes of representation” [Foucault, 1974: 128-29].
It was for this reason that the concept `race’ has been used in European literature to signify at different times: a “breed or stock of animals”  , a `genus, species or kind of animal’ , or a `variety of plant’ , and to `the great divisions of mankind’  and also to `a limited group of persons descended from a common ancestor’ . Later still, it referred to `tribe, nation, or people considered of common stock’ . This, according to Goldberg, already demonstrated that the conflation of the natural with the social kinds they promoted “were already well rooted nearly two hundred years prior to the Enlightenment.”
From these analogies to nature, the focus in analysis of race moved to pedigree of populations in which race was defined in terms of ancestral relatedness in the name of monogenism which considered all humans as traceable to a common Godly origin. For this reason, racial distinctions were ascribed to geographic, climatic, and social differences, which were used for a selective application of the prominent moral commitment to natural rights. This mode of looking at race prevailed until about 1800, but was soon challenged by adherents of “pre-Adamism” who claimed that the Bible represented only Jewish history. It was further argued that since the Jews had fallen from God’s favour, the Christians had come to prevail over the Jews as the chosen people. This approach was also subjected to attack along with religion as a whole by Reason. In 1800, Edward King, of the Royal Society had argued that the biblical interpretation and `scientific evidence’ had revealed that Adam was the genealogical father only of that species of humans who possessed the highest capacities of language and science. Goldberg has therefore argued that:
“Pre-Adamism thus constituted the hypothetical bridge between religious presumption and scientific theory, the break between the sixteenth century scriptural suggestion of monogenist origins and nineteenth-century polygenism. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the latter came to assume the modern hypothesis of natural history and anthropological science.” [Ibid: 64].
Under anthropology race was treated in terms of origins, it emphasized biological inheritance and hierarchy over population pedigree. Distinctions came to be made on the basis of differentiated ordered, heritable qualities and dispositions. Thus we come to a period when race came to mean something quite different by the mid-nineteenth century when it was now characterised by `race consciousness’ as the main form of human differentiation. This was reflected in the over-emphasis of the concept population because to be a member of a population meant being identifiable with invariant, inheritable qualities, and characteristics. From hence, it was conceived that only `civilised’ people had the claim to self-determination, whereas `barbarous’ people lacked self-control and autonomy and therefore required to be directed. This was truly the age of modern European imperialism.
But this polygenist ascription, which led to ridiculous emphasis on the physical and biological differences, culminating in physical anthropology of cranical and facial measurements to establish racial distinctions was itself challenged on the basis of its aesthetic and value-loaded judgements. But what was significant in this attack was the emergence of a new notion of race based on breeding populations and human subspecies which in due course was also challenged by Darwin’s work, which conceived of species as breeding populations which were not fixed as the polygenists had argued. His argument was that species were breeding populations and that races were merely subspecies both of which were capable of evolution with the possibility that a subspecies could evolve into a separate specie. Under Darwin, evolution was conceived in terms of individual struggles and fitness for survival. Race became a fluid condition with no fixed and classificatory significance. If races existed at all, they differed in relative terms, depending for their homogeneity and stability upon the relative constancy of the genes in question [Goldberg, 1993:66].
In view of these developments in natural sciences, it became necessary for the social sciences to define yet new basis for a more refined racialised discourse to perpetuate the enslavement of Africans. Now the need was to colonise the Africans who had been left on the African continent. As Basil Davidson has observed:
“The point here is that the ideology of this justification grew and developed in the measure that the overseas slave trade from Africa became enlarged from a trickle to a flood. After that, moreover, it was enlarged again when the overseas slave trade, in itself the product of a protocolonial relationship between Europe and Africa, was transformed into the imperialism of the nineteenth century. Racism had been useful to the justification of mass enslavement. It was to be more useful to the justification of invading and justifying Africans in their own lands, Africans at home, at a time when invading and dispossessing Europeans in their own lands, Europeans at home, was stridently deplored as an act of barbarism . . . Anyone who cares to toil through the archives of the partition of Africa, and its consequences after 1900, when that partition was made more or less complete, will soon find reason to ponder all this. For the partition of Africa and other such activities in the history of modern imperialism all lead back to the birth of an instrumental racism ” [Davidson, 1994: 340-42].
The issue now was that the “racism” of superstition and of deviance,” became transformed into the racism of `hard cash.’ To achieve this, it became necessary to create a myth that Africans had no history and that it was Europe that brought them into the world of history. Hegel argued that Africans belonged to the world of childhood who had failed to develop into adulthood. He argued further that Africans did not form part of the history of the world. At the same time, attempts were made as Bernal has demonstrated to detach Africa south of the Sahara from the civilisation of Egypt and this arose out of a racially need to overthrow the hitherto accepted version of Europe’s civilising origin and process which constituted the “Ancient Model.” With this overthrow, an “Aryan Model” was articulated which placed Europe on top of the ladder of the civilising process with Africa being placed on the lowest rung of the scale [Davidson, 1994: 320-21, Bernal, 1987: 157].
Nevertheless, despite the fact that Darwinism demarcated a real watershed on the understanding of race, two divergences emerged. The first was the challenge to the scientificity of biological determination and inheritance of racial characteristics. The second was an attempt to find within Darwin’s explanations a justification for a newly defined racism. Different varieties of social Darwinism emerged in the process. Toynbee propounded one variety in support of a new racism in his History of the World. Jensen articulated the other variety of racism by justifying biological differences on the basis of heredity of IQ, while others have advocated blood distinctions with a Unitarianism underlying their positions. With these developments however, the challenge to the different understandings of the concept race has highlighted the need to explain why there has been persistence in these shifts, and what prompted the shifts.
In posing these questions, Goldberg argues that the explanations of race and racialised phenomena in the last hundred years have revealed two tendencies. The first accepts the standard biological sense of race as subspecies, which are genetically interpreted. The other tendency gives no independent content to the notion of race:
“It takes race as a social kind and interprets appeals to race as nothing other than a recourse to social considerations and relations, again like class and culture. If the first paradigm reifies race as unquestionable biological given, the second conceives race and racial characterisation as ghostlike. Lacking determining or motivational force of its own, any appeal to race as mystificatory, a form of (self-deceived) false consciousness or misleading ideology” [Goldberg, 1993: 69].
This is why the social discourse about race has shifted to concepts like class, culture and ethnicity. An `antiracist’ focus on class enables it to look at class as a status within the socio-economic system in which social standing in terms of wealth, education, linguistic capacity, and style of life, residential location, consumptive capacity and place in society are determined. The race of individuals is seen as being irrelevant to these rankings although it is equated with it. It is seen as part of the social formation of a country. Race disappears into the socially formed and materially determined class position.
But to obscure class in this way is also to obscure “race” because it ignores the very process of class formation that underlies the mode of production in a historically determined way in which `race’ becomes a factor. Therefore a clear understanding of how `race’ as an ideological concept is linked to class requires history of the development of the economic and social conditions under which the particular class configuration arose. While also class may leave unexplained the cultural relations that race expresses, the focus on culture alone is inadequate. In this connection the treatment of race as culture is also inadequate to obscure the phenomenon of racism. Its obscurantism is ephemeral.
Cultural conception of race has come to include the identification of a race with language group, religion, group habits, norms, customs, a typical style of behaviour, dress, cuisine, music, literature, and art. At bottom is identification with the norms an values of the group. This is not new but expresses a continuing crisis, which seeks to locate race in some kind of receptacle. Identification of certain racial groups with language goes back to nineteenth century when an attempt was made to link Indian Sanskrit with the European languages as mark of superiority of the “Aryans.” But according to Goldberg, this persistence has resulted in the cultural conception of race eclipsing all the other conceptions, including the biological one. This he says has taken place since the end of World War II and has become paradigmic in itself.
Goldberg cites Anthony Kwame Appiah as the most articulate representative of this biological based view. In his book entitled: In My Father’s House , Appiah accused Crummell of having used pan-Africanism to express racist ideologies. In fact he argued that such racism was “implicit” in pan-Africanism. Goldberg is right therefore right in criticising this approach when he pointed out that:
“Appiah insists that what differentiates ideas about race from earlier ideas about group difference and from claims about ethnicity is this: that necessary to the former, but missing from both of the latter, is a commitment to the view that common racial membership entails shared `biological heritable, moral and intellectual characteristics, not shared with members of other races. In turn, this commitment has entailed the widespread claim, not necessarily but as a matter of historical fact, that `some races were superior than others’” [Goldberg, 1993: 71].
Goldberg refutes this conception of race on the ground that the underlying reason why Appiah admits that claims of superiority are contingent features of race thinking “is that he wants to hold on to the undeniable point that cultural expression by the racially oppressed has sometimes also assumed racialised form, that the racially oppressed may assume racial self-identification not as a form of self-degradation but as a mode of self-advancement.” He goes on:
“Appiah wants to suggest that what separates such expression, which he benignly identifies with as a form of `racialism’, from the extremities of racist expression is not the mistaken idea about biological inheritance but insidious judgments of superiority and inferiority. What I obviously find questionable is the wider claim that the ideas about race are inherently committed to claims about biological inheritance, whether physical or intellectual or moral characteristics” [Ibid: 72].
Goldberg agrees with Stuart Hall, quite correctly, that in making new claims of self-identity, such cultural claims are quite distinct from any claims of biological racism based in culture because such claims by the racially oppressed emphasize self-construction “that is not just nostalgic but future oriented, not simply static but transformative, concerned not only with similarity and continuity but also with difference and rupture” [Ibid: 73]. Such fluid self-identities may be mistaken to be an expression of racism but Goldberg, as Stuart Hall also argues, such a nonbiological interpretation of race stands for historically specific forms of “cultural connectedness and solidarity, for what Appiah elsewhere acknowledges as `feelings of community’- the feeling of people with whom we are connected” [Ibid].
But there is a more fundamental reason why racists have resorted to culture as the real focus for racial expression. This has very much to do with the fact that when the countries of the “Third World” won recognition of their independence, it became necessary to discredit their achievements through new racialised discourse. This is because by winning their independence, their claim to cultural identity became possible and as such it threatened the racial superiority still embedded in the Western `scientific’ paradigm.
Samuel Huntington’s in 1989 wrote an article in International Affairs, which was expanded into a book by the same title: The Clash of Civilizations. In these publications, Huntington noted the decline of Western Civilization and the resurgence of indigenous cultures all over the world. He acknowledged that culture “almost always follows power” and that as the erosion of Western cultures deepens, indigenous, historically rooted mores, languages, beliefs, and institutions [will] re-assert themselves”. It is in this context that he acknowledges Africa to be a civilization with a question mark! But he acknowledged this fact because he wanted to find new ways of discrediting non-Western societies in order to re-strengthen the Western civilisation [Huntington, 1996:19, 45,91].
The shift in the racist discourse from biological determination to culture therefore reflects this “paradigmic shift” which recognizes culture as the new terrain of struggle in response to the use to which culture had been put in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and apartheid. To use culture for racist purposes is therefore to try to “turn the tables” upon the more positive use of culture for transformation. This is why in his latest book co-authored with Lawrence Harrison entitled: Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress , Huntington argues that cultural values are the main determinants of economic and political performance and that it is culture which explains why underdevelopment has persisted in Africa. Huntington therefore recommends that for Africa to progress, it must first “structurally adjust” its cultures. This is the new line of racial attack that looks non-racist but carries forward all the remnants of western racist culture of domination and exploitation of Africans.
Nugngi wa Thiongo has argued that the ideology of racism has become a weapon for mental and spiritual domination and subjugation of peoples, which comes wrapped up in many forms and disguises that include religion, the arts, the media, culture, values, beliefs, and even feelings. He adds that racism is one of the most devastating of all ideological weapons wielded by imperialism today because it is meant to safeguard the entire system of exploitation of the many by the few within and among nations. He cites five interlinked features as being responsible for this state of affairs in which racism becomes the centre-stage.
First, racism obscures the exploitative relations of the system between the wealthy few and the vast majority of the poor. It also obscures the reasons behind the vast gaps of wealth that exist between the rich capitalist nations and poor nations of Africa, Asia, and South America. It creates a situation where the exploited majority who produce the wealth enjoyed by the few become subservient and ever grateful to the rich for the “assistance” given to them. It also obscures the origin of this wealth, which was produced by slave trade, slave labour, and colonialism by creating a belief that Europe developed because it is exceptional and superior.
Second, it obscures these social relations in order to divide and rule those they exploit by creating the illusion that capital is `national.’ The objective is to divide labour so that it is only able to see itself through `national,’ religious, racial, and tribal enclaves. Little privileges are dished out to produce and maintain this division so that workers of a certain religious, racial, or tribal grouping are given better treatment than the others through differentiated pay, entitlement to promotion, housing, or job security. This is sometimes done on the basis of differences in skin pigmentation, or even mode of speech and accent, which creates the basis for discrimination, and marginalisation of the less privileged in this racialised hierarchies of power relations in which some workers become labour aristocrats against the rest.
Thirdly, it legitimises the existence of outposts of racialised polities such as that, which was perpetuated in South Africa under apartheid. This system was supported by all the advanced capitalist nations because they had invested heavily in South African mines and industries which exploited cheap labour based on a regional network in which the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were involved. European colonial enclaves in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, etc. were made to continue long after the political independence of most of Africa. They were maintained on this political-military alliance against the oppressed in these countries. This necessitated a protracted period of armed struggle to defeat it.
Fourthly, the obscurantism leads to exploitation for purposes of making super-profits from those who are exploited. It enables the white workers to be exploited in the same way by creating the illusion that they are superior to the workers in the colonies. The super-profits obtained also enables their further exploitation and a continuous system of production that seeks profits all over the globe to the detriment of the peoples in those countries where capital appears as a liberating force.
Fifth and finally, racism imposes oppression through violent means as the norm. The use of the military and police forces against those who are dominated is justified through the ideology of racism. It numbs human sensibilities and a feeling for other people. This numbing of sensibilities was well illustrated in the film about Gandhi where police brutality was exposed in colonial India during the `salt revolt.’ In the film, Gandhi advises those involved in the revolt to go out to demonstrate only in the later afternoons in order to make it easier for the police to do their work. The idea was that this would make them a little humane since they were perceived by Gandhi to be victims in the system of violence.
Hitler used the same ideology of racism against Jews in order to dumb the human sensibilities on the part of the Nazis towards Jews. Today, the police in the USA, Britain, and other western countries profile dark-skinned people, most of whom are Africans, for violent repression and criminalisation. Institutionalised racism follows the same logic so that when racism is practised in schools, hospitals, and other public places those practising this form of racism are themselves victims of this insensibility. They have become insensitive to racism in their consciousness in personal relations, feelings, attitudes, values, outlooks, self-perception, and the perception of others so that every act of daily living is cast in a racist mould. It is therefore no wonder that racism has become an aspect of western culture and so it is not difficult to see why western ideologues try to legitimise it as a cultural phenomenon attributable to all humanity!
Most of the xenophobia in Europe today is focused on cultural differences as the basis for discrimination against non-Europeans immigrants in European society. The politics against immigration now revolves around the issue of culture. In 1978 during the general election that brought the Conservatives to power, Margaret Thatcher campaigned on the basis of the fear that Britain was being `swamped’ by immigrants from the New Commonwealth, especially Pakistan who had `different cultures.’ She made no reference to biological superiority as such. Recent studies done in Denmark, France and German also reveal the same trend. In Denmark the argument of the new racists is that the cultures of the Turks, Africans, and the people from Asia are “too different” from the Danish culture and that integration in such conditions is “impossible.” Thus instead of the “vulgar” biological arguments, the European racists have resorted to `nicer’ and more `cultured’ and `polite’ argument about cultural difference. This is the newly culture-coded `new racism.’
The same arguments have moved to the ethnic identity. This is because ethnicity is one form of cultural identification and distinction. Therefore an attempt is made to equate ethnicity with a claim to cultural identity on the basis of ethnic descent relations. Those who use racist connotations argue that ethnicity is rooted in inheritance and descent whereas those who argue for ethnicity on the ground of cultural content, do so in terms of cultural identity. Anthony Smith has argued that there are differences in the use of ethnicity between the premodern and modern uses and that ethnicity has been behind the formation of modern nations. He however argues against the `primordialism’ and `modernism’ behind most of the arguments on ethnicity [Smith, 1987: 1-4, 69-70, 77-78].
I have myself argued against the `neo-traditional’ use of African culture and traditions for the purpose of domination, exclusion, and domination in favour of the more positive use of culture by advancing the concept of post-traditionalism to distinguish it from neo-traditionalism, which is oppressive [Nabudere, 2001]. This is perhaps the same thing that Stuart Hall means when he speaks of cultural self-construction that is oriented to the future, not simply static but transformative, concerned not only with similarity and continuity, but with difference and rupture [Goldberg, 1993:73]. Thus a truly antiracist use of culture must deplore the use to which racist expression is made to hide behind racist and exclusionist notions of culture and ethnicity in order to discredit them as a powerful of resistance that Cabral indicated.
Pan-Africanism and Resistance
Pan-Africanism was conceived and developed as anti-imperialist ideology of the African people. This is how it came into being historically. As we have already indicated above it came into being when the African people in the Diaspora become conscious of themselves as Africans poised against a racist society, which had enslaved them. It was a response to the oppressive European race consciousness, which was conceived for the purposes of enslavement and exploitation. As Vincent Bakpetu Thompson in his analysis of African Unity has demonstrated, the resistance to imperialism and racism was born within the struggle to develop a pan-African ideology. He adds that there were three factors, which made this articulation of pan-African ideology possible. In Thompson’s own words:
“These factors, three in number and interlinked, lay behind the various resistance movements and organizations, which sought to restore the status of Africans in Africa as well as those in the Diaspora who have sought to rise from centuries of the degradation which began with the transatlantic slave trade, a trade based on labour shortage on the plantations of the Caribbean and the Americas. The slave trade may therefore be regarded as the first factor in point of time; European imperialism in Africa (often called colonialism) the second. Racism and race consciousness resulting from the first two factors combined to give us the third of the basic factors which have moved Africans at home and abroad to rebel against the conduct of western European” [Thompson, 1969: 3].
Thompson adds that these factors help to explain why in its evolution, pan-African activity has been at times stormy and militant. He also points out that despite these stormy struggles, imperialism and racism remain dominant factors today. This assessment of Thompson is as true today as it was when he wrote it in 1969. The persistence of imperialism and its servant racism are therefore factors, which need to be explored and examined in order to spell out new directions in the struggle against it in new conditions.
We have in analysing the persistence of racist ideology above, shown how the concept race and its expression in the social sciences has followed the path of capitalist transformations. Over time, racism has been built into the body politic of modern imperialism. The refutation of biologically determined racism did succeed in dislodging it. On the contrary, as Goldberg has argued, it merely helped to turn it into a “ghostlike” phenomenon fully embedded in the dominant culture of exclusion and exploitation. This is fact in the very purpose of ideology, which is meant to obscure reality. It therefore follows that a successful struggle against the enemy must depend on how successful the pan-African intellectuals are able to sharpness their tools of analysis to combat racist ideology in whatever forms it may appear.
Thompson in his analysis also pointed out that pan-Africanism was only possible as an ideology because of committed intellectuals who had links to the struggle of the African peoples both in the Diaspora and on the Mother Continent. The grievance and struggles of the masses were an important factor, but he points out that these struggles could not have achieved their objectives without this committed intellectual body of Africans. These “positive factors” were in the formative years dominated by a body of intellectuals and “budding” intellectuals” in the USA, West Indies, Britain and France where the struggle against racism was sharpest. According to Thompson, these Africans “spent time researching into Africa and `Negro’ history and thus aided the establishment of useful principles and clear perspectives (which) helped to unmask the shortcomings of the colonial system and so facilitate a coherent and consistent onslaught on the system” [Ibid: 32].
In the second phase between 1935 and 1945, Thompson adds that the growth of pan-Africanism was profoundly influenced by Marxist socialism, the Gandhi philosophy of passive resistance and peaceful protests as well as the growth in the assertion of, and the appreciation of, traditional African cultures and eclecticism applied to ideology, culture, and institutions. This phase also therefore saw the beginnings of the implanting of pan-Africanism on the African continent with the struggle for Ethiopian independence. This phase has therefore a number of continuing elements in the articulation of the programmes for the achievement of African independence and the restoration of its humanity, which Europe tried to deny them. In summing up the experiences of the earlier phases in the development of pan-Africanism, it will be necessary to re-examine these programmes and see to what extent these have been achieved for we cannot develop pan-Africanism further without such a summing up of experiences.
The third phase in the evolution of pan-African ideology was the 1954 Manchester Conference, which focused on the problems of colonialism in Africa. This conference was significant because for the first time it linked the intellectual capacities of the Africans on the African continent and those in the Diaspora. This phase led directly tot the struggle against colonialism for political independence beginning with the independence of Ghana in 1957. The independence of the Arab-occupied areas of Africa had occurred earlier in 1954 in the case of Egypt and 1955 in the case of Sudan. It took wars of national liberation for Kenya and Algeria to gain their independence. Nevertheless, this phase of the struggle soon manifested its inherent weaknesses in the fact that imperialist powers still continued to exert power through the inherited post-colonial institutions under neo-colonialism. Kwame Nkrumah clearly saw the limitations of this phase when he wrote his: Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism.
The fourth phase combined a number of struggles both on the African continent and in other parts of the world. These revolutions included the delayed anti-colonial wars of national liberation in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau and South Africa-the last bastion of European imperialism, the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, the fight for women’s rights, an intensification in the struggle by the youth for a freer academic atmosphere and the struggle for the environment. These struggles raised new elements for the agenda of liberation and these new elements were brought out well in the writings of Fanon and Cabral. Both emphasized the importance of culture in the liberation process which Cabral called the “practice of freedom.” This demonstrated the importance of culture, which although touched on in the second phase was not fully mobilised as a factor in liberation, and therefore its achievement remained at the level of rhetoric and mobilisation of singers and dancers for the neo-colonial leaders.
Kwesi Prah in his essays entitled: Beyond the Colour Line , reveals in one of the essays on Ras Makonnen-one of the important pan-African leaders of the time- that having played a significant role in the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity and after he had left Ghana after the coup, Makonnen decided to settle in Kenya. In Kenya he set up an African Cultural Holiday Village in Mombassa which was to act as cultural home for all Africans in the Diaspora.. However, according to Prah, Makonnen became “perturbed” by the results of African independence: In his own words:
“African unity remained elusive. Too often, he felt excessive materialism, pomp, and circumstance had become overriding preoccupations of independent Africa [Prah, 1998:: 23].
Thus, it can be seen that one of the elements, which had contributed to the emergence of pan-Africanism about our awareness of African culture, also remained elusive. For the intellectual representatives of imperialists, the issue of culture became important one in the articulation of new racist ideology. For African intellectuals, only a few saw culture as an important component of liberation. This is why Fanon’s work and that of Cabral were important in reminding us of the importance of culture in the liberation struggle. Cabral pointed out that all peoples always exist within the confines of their specific histories and cultures that disclose and are disclosed by their lived actuality.
Understood in this context, culture becomes a vital and enduring force, which sustains and creates new conditions for self-definition and identity in an ever on-going way. As Cabral saw it, culture constituted the most important element in the African people’s resistance to European colonial rule. Culture was also a humanizing force both for the Africans who were oppressed and also for the oppressor who got liberated from oppression by the culture of resistance.
For Cabral, liberation was only possible in the present context of colonial violence on the basis of the colonised taking up “new political, economic, and armed forms” of resistance to overthrow the rule of the oppressors. These new forms became necessary because of the intervention of external forces that had influenced the evolution of the colonial society. Speaking on the occasion to pay homage to the great Mozambican revolutionary, Edward Mondlane, Cabral had said:
“In fact to take up arms to dominate a people is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least to neutralize and paralyse their cultural life. For as long as part of that people can have a cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation. At a given moment, depending on internal and external factors determining the evolution of the society in question, cultural resistance (indestructible) may take on new (political, economic and armed) forms, in order to fully contest foreign domination” [Cabral, 1980: 140].
Having an eye on the internal contradictions brought about by the colonial rule, Cabral argued that within the movement for liberation from colonialism there were different classes and groups created by the colonial experience in his country. He noted that imperialist capital had imposed new types of relationships on indigenous society, the structure of which had become more complex. These new relationships had stirred up, fomented and poisoned social conflicts that had been introduced together with money and the development of internal and external markets. As a result new elements in the economy had emerged. It had also brought about new “nations” from human groups or peoples who were at different stages of historical development [Cabral, 1973:58].
As a result of these developments, there had emerged a Westernised urban-based assimilado - the natives who had been assimilated to the culture of the colonialists and who could appreciate the positive value of “universal history.” These individuals, however, found themselves in a “cultural limbo,” unable to be fully integrated into the culture of the coloniser. In his view these individuals had to “return to the source” of their cultures by reorienting themselves to reclaim their African heritage. It is through this act of “returning to the source” that they can be re-Africanised and be part of a revolutionary movement to liberate their countries. It is also through the act of “fusing” their new cultural attributes with those of the rural people, whose culture is barely touched by the coloniser’s culture that a new “synthesis” of culture can emerge.
This synthesis strengthens the movement for liberation for the re-Africanised and westernised African brings with him some attributes that can be positively utilised in the war against the enemy. Serequeberhan summarises the situation as follows:
“The Westernised urban natives who join the anti-colonial eruption do so by rejecting the assimilation, their cultural indigene, and successfully indigenize themselves into the historicity of their people. In fact, as we have already seen, the reclaiming of one’s indigenousness is, for the Westernised native, the originative moment of his anti-colonial commitment. It is a moment of a historical and existential decision, at which point the assimilado begins the cultural and historical metamorphosis that will positively reimmerse him into the historicity of the indigenous folk” [Serequeberhan, 1994:107].
In trying to reconstitute their own Africanness, the enslaved Africans who live in the Diaspora also struggled to reunite with their African cultural roots a continent away. They were able to do so through recollections of their African identity, despite the fact that they were so removed from it, having no contact at all, unlike the assimilados and évolués who lived on the African continent. They were able through these means and their own creativity in the new situation to create a “New World” of their own with a specifically African cultural flavour.
Despite the fact that they had lived a new historical experience of their own as an enslaved people away from their own culture, they were nevertheless able to feel a common cultural consciousness of being Africans. In this way, they were able to identify themselves as being part of a wider African culture and heritage that they had left behind them when they were enslaved, which made them distinct from other cultural groups in the Diaspora.
Globalisation, Culture, and liberation
In appreciating Thompson’s point about the persistence of imperialism and racism, we have to concretely locate this phenomenon in the way world capitalism is able to reproduce and maintain itself under different conditions. It is clear that after independence, imperialists were able through the structures of social relations within the post-colonial political economy, to reassert their interests. By relying on the new African social forces that had been created and socialised within the colonial economy and institutions, they were able to set up new agencies for the continued control of African resources. Africans were therefore recruited into this programme of the enemy resulting in them abandoning the liberation programme. In these conditions, pan-Africanism could not be developed further as Ras Makonnen was able to observe at first hand.
The crisis of the post-colonial states represents the effects of that abandonment of the pan-African agenda by African intellectuals and political leaders. In order to develop new directions, it becomes necessary to refocus on what went wrong and to use that experience to build new directions for a renewed pan-African agenda. It means interrogating and problematising the ideologies of the post-colonial elite and the `nation-building’ project, which has been taken over and turned on its head. It means understanding the processes of neo-colonisation- how these processes emerged and how they were implemented with the participation of the African elites.
This by implication means the study and exposure of the processes of the globalisation of capital through the different phases and how pan-Africanism has fared under these phases side by side with new theories of racism, which were advanced to achieve imperialist hegemony. This understanding has now to be tackled from a cultural angle.
Globalisation has to be seen as a process of the unfolding of a western cultural agenda within which racism under different guises has been part. It means the unravelling of western scholarship in order to show how this scholarship has been used to enslave us by making us to accept the western cultural version of modern developments. This is an interrogation of the Eurocentric hold on African intellectuals and scholarship in African universities. It means interrogating the ideologies of nationalism of post-colonial African leaders in order to show how these ideologies and those of `neo-tribalism’ and `neo-traditionalism’ were able to divide the African people making it impossible for pan-African unity to be achieved. It has also to investigate how best we can overcome Eurocentric racist scholarship, African petty-nationalism and its ideologies and put forward a new strategy which will help the African people to liberate themselves in unity.
This means unmasking the “hidden agenda” of racism and its agencies. This can be done if we effectively present an Africanist version of globalisation in which the African people have played a positive role despite attempts to enslave us. This challenge will reveal the cultural strength of the African peoples, which they have maintained through their languages and traditions. A people cannot have a culture if they do not have a language of their own.
In interrogating the post-colonial order, it will be demonstrated that Europe was able to assert her hegemony under neo-colonialism because it managed to hijack the cultural agenda of pan-Africanism. It did so by ensuring that languages of state remained European languages, while African languages were marginalised and disorganised into `tribal’ languages and dialects by missionaries African languages were marginalised so much so that there is no official African language in the OAU or the African Union today.
This clearly is what Prah has called “the missing link” in African liberation [Prah, 1998}. In a paradigmic statement about the tasks ahead of us, Kwesi Prah with great insight and intellectual clarity has pointed out that:
“If the problem of the twentieth century has been the problem of the colour line, the 21st century, takes us beyond the colour line into a new world where cultural existence and democracy determine how we survive together as humanity in a shrinking global village. The Pan-Africanist position needs to define its grounding in historical and cultural terms which are emancipatory for mass society, and which in the object does not contradict or deny the rights of other peoples” [Prah, 1998: 83].
He goes on further to argue that the most potent idea for African emancipation is the Pan-Africanist position:
“If Pan-Africanism is to meet the evolving challenges of our times, it needs to go beyond crass reproduction of former views, some of which are today contextually and sociologically irrelevant. The view here is African emancipation, development, democracy and unity, lies with the recentering of African languages at the heart of African endeavours at social transformation. African progress must be culturally reconstructed on the basis of indigenous heritage. African languages are at the core of African culture, and culture is the source and essence of identity, not colour” [Ibid: 70-71. Emphasis in the original].
Africans of Afrocentric persuasion in the US, are somewhat pursuing a similar path of inquiry in their search for a `New World Order.’ In their view, the search for a New World Order places African people and their dreams at the centre of the new world. John W. Smith, writing on this issue has argued: “This opting for a more Afrocentred view of life is more than a fad; it is a way to create a New World Order through culture and communication”. Through this, the Africans can claim “a larger world view which combines the African world view joined to their American experience." [Smith, 1998: 108-111]. It is these groundings that we must discover in the study of the relationships between the Africans on the Mother Continent and those in the Diaspora.
But it has to be realised that this agenda cannot be achieved unless the African intellectuals focus their efforts at re-energinising African cultures and societies from a grassroots level where such emancipatory transformation is most required. This cannot be done unless we undertake our historical task of working out new strategies for renewing pan-Africanism for without pan-Africanism as the ideology of liberation, it is impossible to overcome racism and imperialism.
Just like the intellectuals of the first, second, and third phases of pan-Africanism, our task is to research into the workings of western society and how it has sustained itself up to now to tighten their grip on the African masses, using some of the post-colonial elites to accomplish their objectives. This research and analysis should unmask these strategies in order to re-strengthen the African masses in their liberation both in the Diaspora and on the Mother Continent.
The new tasks are therefore the standardisation and harmonisation of African languages into clusters with high levels of mutual intelligibility is the one sure way of uniting the continent. Such standardised and harmonised languages will make it possible for Afrocentric scholarship to develop and for research in all fields to be carried out on African languages. It will also enable the development of science and technology in African languages to emerge and through it to emancipate the masses through social-economic transformation by learning new techniques for the transformation in their lives. This means that the African leaders and the African masses will be able to communicate through their Mother Tongues and understand one another instead of the present situation where leaders think and work out policies in foreign languages and are unable to translate them into intelligible policy measures which the African masses can understand. Kwesi Prah has embarked on this work and more of us should join him in this endeavour.
The second ideological task, which will strengthen pan-Africanism, is in the arena of political transformation. A reinvigorated pan-Africanism must think through the need for a political reimagining that must be undertaken if the African state is to be recreated that has its historical and cultural roots in African achievements. As Cheick Anta Diop has correctly pointed out, Africans were the first human beings to develop political institutions and that it is these institutions that Europe emulated through Greece. Marx points out that Plato’s Republic was in fact modelled on the Egyptian system. It failed because it lacked cultural and spiritual underpinnings, which the Africans had been able to develop alongside the model.
It follows that the crisis of the post-colonial state can only be overcome if a new model of African state is created as the crisis unfolds and as the post-colonial states collapse on their weight of oppression and despotic rule which was emulated from the European feudal absolutist state. Crawford Young has argued that these authoritarian characteristics of the post-colonial stat emanate from the European colonial state. The colonial state imported the concept of the sovereign as that of an absolute ruler, which was represented in the colonial state of “Bura Matari.”, It is this power that is behind the crisis of the African post-colonial state [Young, 1994: 278-82]. Such a re-imagined African state will have to overcome all the divisions that imperialism put in the way of the unity of the African people through the policy of `divide and rule.’ The African intellectual has therefore to address the following issues.
Firstly, is the role of culture, especially language, in political development of the African continent? Cabral speaks of the liberation process being a `practice of freedom’ and such practice has to be based on a synthesis of a people’s culture through practice. This practice of freedom must begin with the way African intellectual relate to the African masses and this they cannot do unless they understand their culture and their languages clearly. The intellectual must be organically linked to the masses through the practice of strengthening their cultures and knowledge through their languages.
Secondly, the African intellectual must address the issue of ethnicity and disabuse it of the racist, exclusionist components that the African post-colonial leaders, following their masters, have attached to it. We have shown that the racists and their agents have manipulate the ethnic identities of people in the form of `tribalism,’ `neo-tribalism,’ and `neo-traditionalism in order to infuse it with exclusionist meanings and practices of `sharing the national cake’ when exclusion of the masses has been the dominant concern. We must draw a distinction between neo-traditionalism, which the imperialists exploited through “customary law” and `Native authorities,’ and post-traditionalism which is a synthesis of the practice of people’s culture, which has updated itself through contact with other cultures. This has to be developed further through cultural communication and exchanges with other peoples.
The combination of the two tasks enriched by the infusion of the standardising of African languages will produce a new political map on the continent that will reflect the ethno-linguistic characteristics of the African people. On the basis of such a cultural-linguistic map, it should be possible for new African states to be formed, which will reflect the true cultural heritages of the African people and their political achievements. The approach the African leaders have adopted in dealing with ethnic identities has been negative because they have confused `tribalism’ with ethnicity, which is a genuine demand for inclusion through equality and autonomy based on democracy rather than through inclusion through violence. The pan-African map of federated states would give meaning to such development. Even where separation has been demanded, such claims have not been treated democratically. A reinvigorated pan-Africanism has to resolve the issue of identity along side the practice of democracy and freedom in order to meaningfully resist imperialism and racism based on exclusionist ethnocentrism.
Paper prepared and submitted to the CASAS/NGO Forum Panel at the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia, and Other forms of Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, 29th-31st August, 2001.
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