African women in the struggle for the liberation of African people

The question of African women and our role in the struggle for national liberation has always been a crucial one. Many contradictions related to this question can be traced back to what is called the feminist agenda.
From time immemorial, African women have taken part in every form of reproducing life and civilization.
Ever since this trajectory was disrupted by the attack on Africa and our people, African women have struggled on the frontlines for our liberation.
Although they are often only mentioned in footnotes of history books, African women such as Harriet Tubman, Queen Nanny of the Maroons and many more fought for the liberation of African people by any means necessary.
As we make up the majority of the African working class population, African women are the ones who bear the brunt of the exploitation and oppression of our people by parasitic capitalism.

Feminist agenda divides African nation, serves imperialism

Although feminists claim that there are various forms of feminism, we understand that placing the struggle for gender equality before the struggle for national liberation is a false objective that supports a colonial logic of divide and conquer.
Under bourgeois feminism we become agents of the oppressor’s system because we place symptoms of this system (violence within the African community) before the root of the contradiction (colonial violence against the African community).
The fact that feminism is a tactic to divide us becomes clearer when we examine how this ideology is used to legitimize imperialist attacks in the form of military interventions.
On a large scale, feminist appeals and the call for “women’s rights“ are embedded in imperialist attacks against colonized peoples.
The attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali are mainly legitimized by the imperialist system with a “save the colonized women from the colonized men“ logic. This demonstrates how we are used against each other to serve the interests of imperialism.

Global sisterhood?

The idea of a global sisterhood, of women in general, who experience the same sort of oppression and who should therefore unite in the struggle against gender oppression is an idealist assumption. It lacks a materialist analysis of parasitic capitalism.
European women, although experiencing gender oppression, always benefit from the attacks by the parasitic capitalist system on all colonized peoples around the world, including colonized women.
All European women sit on the pedestal of enslavement, genocide and colonialism, no matter if they are from the European bourgeoisie, working class or peasantry.
What European women call patriarchy is bound to Eurocentrism. After all, European women have more power than the majority of colonized men in the world!

Colonized women challenge white feminism

Many struggles by colonized women have exposed that the European feminist agenda only speaks for a minority of women, namely European women.
The forms of violence that are imposed on colonized women have nothing to do with the socio-historical reality and experience of European women.
Black feminism, on the other hand, claims not only to end gender inequality but acknowledges the root oppression of African people and its resulting effects on us.
Black feminists, however, who claim that their struggle is against oppression in all forms, tend to lose sight of these forms of oppression and even position them as intersectional to each other.
As a result of this, black feminism offers no meaningful criticism or analysis of imperialism itself and therefore plays into the hands of the oppressing system.
When approaching the question of the oppression of African women, it is crucial to distinguish two broad forms of violence imposed on African women that are profoundly different, although rooted in the same system.

Horizontal violence and vertical violence

Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and the African Socialist International (ASI), has through the theory of African Internationalism defined two forms of violence imposed on us.
They are rooted in the same parasitic system but have to be distinguished when it comes to the question of struggling against parasitic capitalism and colonialism.
Chairman Omali defines vertical violence as a form of violence perpetrated directly by the colonial state’s coercive institutions: police, schools, courts, prisons, etc.
Horizontal violence is a military tactic used to impose violence on an oppressed group of people by containing them in a constant state of poverty and repression, so that they lash out against each other, thus forwarding the agenda of the oppressor.
It is here that both the European feminist agenda and that of black feminism, lose sight of the essential question of our national oppression, and therefore play into the hands of the colonizers.
Violence against African women coming from the system and the colonial state’s coercive institutions—violence from the police, schools, courts, prisons, the army, economic exploitation via the international division of labor of colonized people all represent forms of vertical violence.
Violence such as sexual or domestic violence and economic exploitation coming from within our own colonized community represent forms of horizontal violence.
Both types of violence result from colonial domination over our lives.
To say that colonial violence against African women is a specific form of violence would be redundant. Even though there are differences in the types of colonial attacks that African men and women experience, this already implies that each form of these attacks is specific in itself.
Highlighting violence as a specific form when it comes to the oppression of African women leads to a contest to see who is oppressed the most. And this draws focus away from the fact that all of these attacks are rooted in a capitalist system, which has manipulated and exploited African people from the very beginning.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela has pointed out that horizontal violence represents a tactic of imperialist power. This is a tactic to keep a colonized community in a constant state of destabilizing poverty—poverty not only in a material sense, but in every sense, including the relationships between each other and even the relationship one has with oneself.
In The Wretched of the Earth, Franz Fanon showed that colonized communities tend to commit violence that should be directed at the oppressor, against their own colonized community.
This tactic keeps colonized people from recognizing how to overcome our oppression through a revolutionary struggle for national liberation. Horizontal violence is established so that the colonized stays “in his place and does not go beyond certain limits.“ (Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 52).
Horizontal violence includes all forms of violence within the colonized community—sexual, economic, physical, domestic violence. Violence between African men is also a form of horizontal violence.
Engaging in horizontal violence makes us complicit with the oppressive system as it plays into the imperialist system’s tactic to divide and rule us.
Besides violence between African men, domestic violence, or violence by African men against African women is also horizontal violence. African women can also engage in acts of collaboration with the colonial state against African men.
Solely concentrating on horizontal violence will never free us and keeps the status quo intact
While it seems necessary to struggle against forms of horizontal violence within our community we can not lose sight of the vertical violence that is imposed on us by the imperialist state. Vertical violence keeps us in a constant state of poverty that enhances forms of horizontal violence.
We are convinced that solely struggling against forms of horizontal violence will never liberate Africa or African people around the world.

African women join the struggle for national liberation

Putting the issue of horizontal violence in the context of colonial violence, the African People’s Socialist Party is convinced that our struggle is not only for social justice within our communities. We must struggle primarily to overturn parasitic capitalism and colonialism.
At the same time we commit ourselves to the relentless struggle for the rights and dignity of African women. We demand the recognition of African women as equal partners and leaders in the struggle for the emancipation and unification of Africa and African people worldwide.
There will be no African liberation without the liberation of African women.
At the same time African women cannot fight a liberation struggle separate from the broader liberation struggle of Africa and African people!
Assata Shakur said, “Sisters. Black people will never be free unless black women participate in every aspect of our struggle, on every level of our struggle.”
Brothers, black people will never be free unless black women are fully accepted as equal partners in the liberation struggle and in building the African nation and beyond!
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