Sunday, September 12, 2010

Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral

Of the great world revolutionists and strategists of guerrilla warfare in the 1950s and 1960s, few if any were more deeply affected by poetry than Cabral (1924-1973), the leader of the movement to liberate Africa's Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands from Salazarist Portugal's fascist colonialism. A student in the 1940s, Cabral was an impassioned reader of the works of Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor's anthology of the new black poetry: "Things I had not even dreamed of, marvelous poetry written by blacks fro all parts of the French world, poetry that speak of Africa, slaves, men, life and human hopes . . . Sublime . . . infinitely human . . . The book brings me much [including] the certainty that the black man is in the process of awakening throughout the world." (Cabral, Unity and Struggle).

A poet himself -- one who, indeed, identified his very being with poetry, Cabral affirmed the practice of poetry as an essential part of what he called the re-Africanization of the mind. Only by freeing the colonized peoples from imperialist domination, he argued, could they re-become Africans.

An agronomist by profession, Cabral also developed a profound and radical ecological perspective, rare among the Marxists of his time (or ours).

by Amilcar Cabral

History teaches us that, in certain circumstances, it is very easy for the foreigner to impose his domination on a people. But it likewise teaches us that whatever the material aspects of this domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent and organized repression of the cultural life of the people concerned. Implantation of domination can be ensured only by physical elimination of a significant part of the dominated population.

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 to paralyze 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 fully to contest foreign domination . . .

Study of the history of liberation struggles shows that they have generally been preceded by an upsurge of cultural manifestations, which progressively harden into an attempt, successful or not, to assert the cultural personality of the dominated people by an act of denial of the culture of the oppressor. Whatever the conditions of subjection of a people to foreign domination and the influence of economic, political and social factors in the exercise of this domination, it is generally within the cultural factor that we find the germ of challenges which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement.

Unity and Struggle
As published in Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora
Edited by Franklin Rosemont and Robin D.G. Kelley (2009)
Winner of the American Book Award 2010

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