The wealth and development of Europe came at the expense of the resources — both human and material — of Africa.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela made the following presentation at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday, July 23, 2006.
I want to thank all of you for coming out to this meeting. I think it’s important that we have this kind of discussion. The reason it is important is because it should be clear to everybody in the world that something extremely serious and extremely important is happening in the world today.
Just within the last several days we’ve seen the illegitimate white nationalist settler State of Israel attack Lebanon. Israel used the capture of two or three Israeli soldiers as an excuse for this attack. They are destroying Lebanon in an attempt to crush Hezbollah that is a leading resistance organization. And you see what the State of Israel is doing in Palestine.
You have a situation where the U.S. government, with other governments following its leadership, has determined to make it illegal for anybody to support struggles of national liberation by designating those struggles as being terrorists and putting them on a certain list.
The attorney general and the U.S. president have the ability to stick them on a list so that if you support those struggles that makes you supporting terrorism and subject to some form of detention or criminal punishment yourself. Now this is the crisis.
Imperialist crisis caused by resistance of colonized peoples
But the crisis didn’t just begin now. We live in a world that’s in transition.
This is a world that’s running away from the capacity of imperial white power to be absolutely certain of its own future because its future relies on its ability to be able to continue to suck resources from oppressed peoples around the world. This is the real origin of the crisis of imperialism.
The critical thing is the struggle of oppressed peoples taking back our resources. This is the thing that the whole capitalist system rests on.
Marx once said, “Wage slavery in Europe required as a pedestal slavery pure and simple in the new world.” What that meant is that all the capitalist relations and production rested upon a pedestal of the slavery of the rest of us.
This is where things are in the world today. Look at what’s happening in the Middle East. They talk about terrorism, which is nothing except a tactic of war. That’s all it is.
There’s nothing mysterious in all that. There’s never been a war where terrorism has not been exercised.
I mean you may be against war. That’s alright. But they talk about terrorism as though it’s some kind of mystery.
In our Party, we are opposed to individual terrorism not based on morality but on the fact that it doesn’t work. Even though we can be opposed to terrorism, to say somebody who is fighting to get your boot off their neck is a terrorist because they use some pliers to snatch off your toenails is missing the point. The people who are fighting back in the Middle East are fighting against the terror of white nationalist imperialism that has been impacting us for the last 500 years.
Even if I don’t agree with the strategy or tactics, my sympathy, my solidarity must be with the people who are trying to overturn not only an incident of terror but a life of experience of the terrorism that has been going on for four or five hundred years. That’s what you see happening throughout the Middle East.
Look at Latin America right now. Just a few months ago imperialists everywhere were gleefully and publicly anticipating the death of Fidel Castro. Remember that?
Now you’ve got Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, right? Chavez in many ways — even as he may or may not be as clear on certain questions as Fidel — represents a historically more significant force than Fidel.
Why? Because Hugo Chavez is somebody who stands up and talks about African blood running through his veins. He talks about being an “Afro-Indian.” The reality is the whole empire rests upon the oppression, exploitation and theft of resources from black people and the indige nous people here.
Chavez captured the oil and resources of Venezuela and began to use them not only for the people in Venezuela. He offered them up as a means for others to escape the grasp of imperialism.
Then in Bolivia, Morales came to power. Morales is a so-called “Indian.”
The crisis is really deepening now. When the indigenous peoples begin to take back our resources it challenges imperialism deeply.
Situation has worsened for Africans
The reality is that over the last 25 years things have gotten worse for Africa even as they have gotten better for other people. This is despite the fact that even some of the most rabidly anti-African forces on earth will tell you that Africa is the richest continent on earth in terms of natural resources.
Approximately 80 percent of the minerals necessary to keep the modern imperialist world functioning are located in Africa. More than 80 percent of the mineral coltan, which is necessary for cell phones and computers, is right there in the Congo where five million Africans have been killed since 1998.
Some of the best diamonds in the world come from Sierra Leone, and I can’t even begin to tell you the depravity of the forces that are at work at Sierra Leone depriving our people of these resources.
“This is a world that’s running away from the capacity of imperial white power to be absolutely certain of its own future because its future relies on its ability to be able to continue to suck resources from oppressed peoples around the world. ”
Many of them are literally mercenary corporations. Some of them are fighting with the U.S. in Iraq right now.
These privately owned entities have been employed by different puppet governments in Africa to fight for them because the puppet governments cannot rely on their own people to fight and die for them because there’s no interest for the masses to do this. So, they employ these corporations from South Africa, England and the United States.
A lot of times you hear of a “contractor” getting killed in Iraq. A “contractor” is a mercenary that is employed by a private company to kill and do other kinds of things in Iraq. In Sierra Leone there are mercenaries corporations who have been given diamond mines as rewards for keeping the puppet government in power.
You have billions of dollars in diamonds leaving Sierra Leone, on the one hand. Going to Antwerp. Going to Tel Aviv. Coming here to this country.
But the people of Sierra Leone do not have electricity. They have to use generators. It’s one of the noisiest places in the world because in order to electrify their homes everybody’s got to have a generator.
There is no clean water in Sierra Leone. The sight of babies with boils on their heads and their faces is common because the water is unclean. The African who works in the mine to bring out the diamonds that end up here and other places is only paid 30 cents a day to do that. That is our reality. That is just one aspect of the reality in Sierra Leone.
Imperialism creates definitions to justify African misery
It is a reality that African people experience everywhere on earth. It is the truth that every African child in the world who comes to consciousness looks around the world and has to ask “Why is everybody who is black like me poor; suffering; dying an early death; has ignorance and violence imposed on our lives?” Every African who comes to consciousness has to ask this as compared to white people.
The answer that has been given and continues to be given even today — certainly I grew up with the answer and this burden — is that white people are more civilized than you. White people are thrifty and you are not. You don’t save your money. On Friday night you have big parties, etc., etc. ad infinitum.
This is the rubbish that we’ve been taught as history. This is the rubbish that has burdened all of us. White people believe that lie too, just like I believed it. I believed it because I didn’t have another explanation to help me.
What we believe informs us of what we have to do in order to be free. If we believe we are in the conditions we are in because we are not like white people and civilized, then the way we get out of here, according to that analysis, is to be more like white people. If you want to be free then you have got to be more like white people and everybody in the world knows that. Isn’t that true?
Even educated Negroes who are Heads of State in different places in the world believe that our freedom and our emancipation depend on how much we can imitate white people. Even Africans who are here believe this.
It’s not an uncommon thought; everybody knows that’s how you become free. That’s what pulling your pants up and walking a certain way is all about. “Act like white people, boy.” That’s the standard. You have got to be like white people.
They don’t say that anymore. But the inference is the same because the standard for civilized behavior is the behavior of white people.
European nation forged through slavery and colonialism
This is a fundamental question. But let me tell you that the thinking representatives of the white ruling class have come to understand that this era that we live in today is one where the question of national identity is fundamental.
You can go to ruling class publications to read about it. They’re not written for us. You can find them if you look for them in bookstores. Journals like Foreign Affairs, and other publications that represent the opinions of the thinking representatives of the ruling class, have been dealing with this question for a while.
The issue is that peoples around the world are struggling as nations to take back our resources.
But here is the contradiction. What we now recognize and consider a nation is something that emerged in Europe especially during the 19th century, which was recognized by European pundits as the era of nation-building in Europe.
There was a time when Europeans defined themselves primarily in relationship to each other. What we now call Europe was not something that was recognized as an entity until some time around the 17th or 18th century.
Prior to that, there was no such thing as Europe or Europeans. It was recognized as a place primarily of warring tribes of people constantly at each other’s throats. This is what it was.
They defined themselves primarily in relationship to each other. Slavery and colonialism gave rise to what we now know as capitalism. Capitalism consolidated the European consciousness or the consciousness of white people as white people, as “Europeans,” if you will.
“This is where we find the defining national consciousness of what we now know as Europeans. The ideological foundation of the European nation is comprised of Christianity and what we refer to as “racism” — its whiteness.”
I say European nation as opposed to French, German and the rest of it. The European nation was something that was forged through slavery and colonialism. The economic basis for the rise of the
European nation was slavery and colonialism. That was the thing that consolidated a specific economy that was actually a world economy where the primary forces involved in that economy are what we now call white people.
It also forged a particular consciousness. With the advent of slavery and colonialism, particularly colonialism giving rise to capitalism, Europeans no longer identified themselves primarily in relationship to each other but primarily in relationship to the rest of us. You with me?
European nation defines itself as Christian and white
This is where we find the defining national consciousness of what we now know as Europeans. The ideological foundation of the European nation is comprised of Christianity and what we refer to as “racism” — its whiteness.
It is not enough to simply be a Christian to be in the nation. Because if you look around the world there a lot of Africans and other people who are Christians who are not accepted as part of the European nation. If you don’t believe it, go anywhere in the European world today and see what they are doing with the so-called “immigrants.”
No matter what contributions we’ve made to the creation of the economy of Europe, we are catching hell every place. We’re stuck in prisons and being brutalized everywhere.
Being Christian isn’t enough. You also have got to be white to be a part of it. But being white is not enough either. You have got to be Christian to be a part of it. That’s why Jews are not accepted as part of the nation.
No matter how much the Turks get on their bellies before imperialism begging to be accepted as part of the European Union (EU), they will not be accepted because they’re Muslims. The ideological justification for going out and attacking the rest of us was to take Christianity to us. Wasn’t it? What we now call Europe used to be called Christendom.
Here you have the emergence of the white nation, the European nation. I say it’s the European nation that’s revealing itself more and more every day even as they struggle to create the EU. The U.S. is a part of the European nation.
I say European nation, as opposed to German or French nation, because all you see in places like Germany and France are the manifestation of what we call the State. The State is a particular kind of organization that emerges when there are contradictions in society between haves and have-nots.
When you have those kinds of contradictions, you have to have the police, the army, the military and all that kind of stuff. This is not a static question. What was the nation yesterday is not necessarily looking the same way today.
Capitalism emerged as pirates and bandits got rich off Africa’s stolen resources
The whole question of the nation is in a state of transition. This is fundamental to African people, because the idea of the nation emerged in European history at a time that was critical to solve problems of European society as it was developing.
Before capitalism, before the advent of whole new social forces in Europe that overthrew feudalism, you had the kings and nobility that dominated everything and controlled everything by virtue of force of arms inside that European society.
With the advent of capitalism, a new social force was on the rise creating new movements and then these forces were being restricted from emerging in a good way because of feudalism. Because the kings and the nobility had controlled everything, you had to be born into a certain class in order to be able to advance under feudalism.
And so now you had this new force that’s becoming rich off the slave trade. It was becoming rich as pirates and bandits who were stealing gold and silver from all around the world. It became richer and then introduced development and transformation in Europe.
The industrial revolution itself was born off slavery. It was born off what they stole from the Americas and other places. This is the thing that threw Europe and white people before everybody else.
It advanced them more than anybody else. They advanced because of the gold and silver, because African people were working for free creating all this value for them.
So you had new forces emerging that were challenging the king, the queen and the nobility for authority in the social system. The kings and queens could no longer be used to control people since people now had social mobility. The people could go out and sell the value of their labor power.
You needed a new system at work to make the people loyal to the new ruling class to create the concept of being one people. The existence of the State is really important for that.
You have a flag that people identify as their own flag. You wax nostalgic, you shed tears, you go out and kill because of your flag. It’s as though there is some kind of connected history there when in many instances they didn’t even speak the same language in most of these places that we’re talking about.
“This white nation, this European nation, was born as a capitalist nation, a bourgeois nation, a reactionary repressive nation from its inception. …[T]he same process that gave rise to the European nation disintegrated and attacked the consolidation of the African nation. ”
In what was called Paris most of the people didn’t even speak French. Did you know that? It was of course the conquest of State power that helped to forge a single consciousness.
The pledge of allegiance and all of the holidays from Thanksgiving to Cupid are designed to unify the whole group of people into one. It was in order to solve this problem in society that the concept of nations became necessary.
The process that consolidated European nationhood disintegrated consolidation of African nation
This white nation, this European nation, was born as a capitalist nation, a bourgeois nation, a reactionary repressive nation from its inception. But you and I are stuck because the same process that gave rise to the European nation disintegrated and attacked the consolidation of the African nation.
So you have a situation where a conference in Berlin, Germany in 1884-85 gave different parts of Africa to different white people. They carved out these territories that they call African “countries” or “nations.”
So, you have Africans who instead of consolidating ourselves into one nation were being shipped out from Africa and spread all over the world. We were working for white people and white power. Our consciousness and identity were created by some other force.
So, for example, in this place in
West Africa they call Cameroon, they say we have a Cameroonian nation. Now that’s bizarre because Cameroon is a place where the Portuguese found a lot of shrimp when they first arrived there. The name Cameroon comes from the Portuguese word for shrimp. So you have all these Africans walking around calling themselves “shrimp.” [laughter]
You have the Ivory Coast on the West Coast. When Europeans got there they found a lot of ivory from the elephant tusks. They needed the ivory from the elephant tusks to make piano keys and billiard balls. So they called the place the “Ivory Coast.” So you have all these Africans walking around calling themselves “elephant tusks.”
Marcus Garvey was an incredible leader who built an organization with a membership of millions of Africans around the world. He set out to liberate and unite Africa and was attacked by W.E.B. DuBois’ Pan-Africanist Congress. DuBois worked with the U.S. government to destroy Garvey.
The reality is they are not elephant tusks or shrimp and we are not Americans of any sort either. We are one people that have been dispersed around the world. We are a dispersed nation of African people.
We have a problem to solve just like Europeans had a problem to solve that gave rise to the European nation. And our problem is the emancipation of African people worldwide. We don’t have a problem just in America.
Slavery is not something that happened to black people in America. Slavery was an attack on Africa. It was an attack on Africa!
They went to Africa, kidnapped human beings and those of us who survived ended up here or in Haiti. There are 140 million Africans in what they call South America and the Caribbean. All of them are just as confused as we are about who we are.
Sometime you should look at the map of Africa, and you see these little entities — these little tiny things that they call nations.
Go to Namibia. I met the founding president of Namibia a few weeks ago. Namibia is huge. It’s rich in diamonds and other resources but there are only 1.8 million Africans there!
Go to someplace like Equatorial Guinea where there may be a million people at most there. They’re called a nation. Go to a place like Congo, which is the size of India, territorially. India has a billion people. Only 50 million African people live in Congo.
Go to Angola, which is the fourth largest territory in Africa, and you will find only 13 million Africans there. Thirty-eight of the so-called “States” in Africa have less than 10 million African people in them.
Africa’s future is hinged on its unification
We are one people but we can not win as long as we allow somebody else to define who we are. So, as opposed to recognizing ourselves as Africans, we are African-Americans. We are Negroes. We are black Brits. We are Afro-Germans. We are Haitians. We are Jamaicans. We are all these other kinds of things that keep us impotent and unable to engage with imperialism.
China is poor. It doesn’t have all these natural resources but it’s growing rapidly and it’s powerful, because when the European Union wants to deal with China it deals with one China.
But when somebody comes to deal with Africa they deal with 55 different African entities. Then they deal with the Negroes in America and the Haitians over here and the Jamaican’s over there. As rich as Africa is, it will remain poor until we come to understand who the hell we are and unite to take it back. We must unite to take it back because the imperialists are ripping us off one by one.
We don’t even have a national economy. We can’t even have a planned economy. We can’t even have a national economic strategy, because Ghana has one. And Sierra Leone has one. And Sudan has one and then, of course, Jessie Jackson has one. (laughter)
Marcus Garvey worked to build one liberated Africa and Dubois’ Pan-Africanist Congress worked to stop him
This is the contradiction that confronts us. We need one Africa, one nation. The process that we’ve been engaged in is to build what Garvey tried to create.
Of course, Garvey built the most magnificent expression of the desire of African people to be one people and to be free in our Africa that has ever been created. Before the era of emails and web pages and cell phones and all this other stuff, Garvey built an organization of African people from six to eleven million members and supporters strong.
“Of course, Garvey built the most magnificent expression of the desire of African people to be one people and to be free in our Africa that has ever been created. Before the era of emails and web pages and cell phones and all this other stuff, Garvey built an organization of African people from six to eleven million members and supporters strong. ”
It was everywhere on earth. His organization published a newspaper in three languages. He built recording studios, the African Factories Corporation and a steamship line. In a matter of three or four years, Garvey was able to do that.
It was one organization, not a whole bunch of organizations. It was one organization in the form of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the African Communities League.
Then of course you had a situation where Garvey was attacked by everybody who was opposed to a free Africa. That included the U.S. government, the British, the French, all of the imperialist powers, as well as sectors of the African petty bourgeoisie here, specifically and particularly the NAACP and W.E. B. DuBois. DuBois actually created the Pan-Africanist Congress for the purpose of opposing and destroying the Garvey Movement.
I’m not speculating here. I’m talking about the documents and the letters that were written.
Today people talk about Pan-Africanism. I’m not a Pan-Africanist. I want to tell you that. They talk about the great Pan-Africanists and they name Garvey and Nkrumah and DuBois, but Garvey was not a Pan-Africanist. Pan-Africanism, as an active political expression, was created for the purpose of destroying the Garvey Movement.
If you research the history you will see that DuBois himself said that the Pan Africanist Congress has nothing to do with that “Africa for Africans” movement. He said, “Don’t confuse us.”
“We are not the same thing,” he would say. In August of 1921, at the convention of UNIA held in New York City, Garvey himself passed a resolution repudiating the Pan-Africanist Congress and W.E. B. DuBois and other people like him because he said they were not for the struggling peoples of the world.
Of course it was true. All of them together were able to destroy the Garvey Movement. But I’m telling you that what made it easier for the U.S. government to destroy the Garvey Movement was the attack on Garvey by the African petty bourgeoisie — forces like DuBois and others who called themselves progressives. But they all saw assimilation with white people and white power as a solution to the problem of African people.
Under DuBois and the NAACP there was the assumption (that was taken into the Pan-Africanist Congress) that there was a talented ten percent of African people. This assumption was anti-working class. They said that the talented tenth should be the ones that provided the leadership for the rest of us ignorant masses. This was their politic from the inception of Pan-Africanism.
In many ways, Pan-Africanism has not changed. By 1945, of course, George Padmore joined the Pan-Africanist Congress. They had the Pan-Africanist Congress in Manchester in 1945.
Padmore wrote his book, Pan-Africanism or Communism, that made it quite clear, among other things, that Pan Africanism had to be perceived as an alternative to Communism or in other words to the African workers coming to power over their own lives. Padmore said it.
He warned the imperial powers that they should unite with the attempt of the Pan-Africanist Movement or African people would turn to Communism or turn to a movement that places power into the hands of the African working class. That’s what Pan-Africanism or Communism was all about. So they all got together and they destroyed the Garvey Movement.
It took Garvey’s arrest and deportation from the United States for the Pan-Africanist Movement to ever become anything other than just a handful of Negro intellectuals. It took that.
It was just a handful of Negro intellectuals until Garvey was arrested and deported, and he was dead in 1945 when they had the Pan-Africanist Congress in Manchester that sort of gave a life to the Pan-Africanist Congress.
We must build a single African revolutionary organization to consolidate the African nation
I wanted to say that these are important issues that are taken up by the book One Africa! One Nation! We are about creating a revolutionary organization of African people worldwide and we are currently working in South Africa and in Namibia. We have forces who are engaged in Congo.
We are working in West Africa, from Liberia to Sierra Leone to Gambia to Ghana to Cameroon to Nigeria, which Chinweizu called “Nigger Area.” Nigeria is not a legitimate name either. It’s one of the names that imperialists gave us.
We have to build this movement and build a movement based on Garveyism. We need to build an organization that meets the requirement of this era in which we live and recognizes the critical questions of class contradiction not only in the world, but class contradiction within the African world itself.
The issue that we are confronted with is consolidating the African nation. This is a nation that will be consolidated under the leadership of the African working class.
It is a nation that can only be consolidated in opposition to the imperial white nation. As opposed to being a bourgeois or capitalist nation, it will be a nation of the African working class and therefore a revolutionary nation. Uhuru!! [Applause]