Uhuru! What I want to do now is have an introductory kind of discussion about something that we refer to as the National Question. The fact is that people talk about nations and nationality on a regular basis without giving any thought to what a nation really is.
If you ask the average person — even people who are suppose to be educated — what a nation is, chances are that for every person you asked the question, you will get a different answer, if you get an answer at all. Most of us haven’t even thought about the question of what a nation is.
If you look at African people anywhere in the world, you will see that we have a consciousness of ourselves, but it is a false consciousness.
For example, I can go to Miami, Florida, and if I ask for directions, an African will tell me that the Haitians live over here, but the black people live over there. This is the most bizarre, mind-boggling thing.
It is a form of philosophical idealism where an idea becomes more important than actual objective reality itself. I am looking at a person who is defined, generally speaking, as a black person, but this person is “Haitian.” This person can talk to me about another person who is a black person who is not a Haitian and there is an assumption of a distinct difference between us and it’s a false conscious and a false distinction.
So when I ‘m in Ghana and I go through the Elmina Castle, two things happen that are important. One, the Africans who have discovered the value of this thing as a tourist attraction, now charge as they go through this whole process where there is the “Door of No Return.”
These Africans have learned to do this in a very dramatic way. They know the impact that it’s going to have on me, so they actually rehearse it and are very dramatic with the way they take me through the Door of No Return.
One of the things that is interesting is they ask you when you come, “Are you from Ghana?” Africans from Ghana pay one price, and Africans who went through the Door of No Return pay a higher price.
So in Ghana, I go through this place where this guy has learned this dramatic delivery that’s designed to break me down and inspire all these emotions, and then I’m charged more for going through them.
The other thing that’s interesting about it is that when I go through there with Africans who are born in Africa or who live there, in general, they do not have the same experience from this that I have.
There is something wrong with that. There is a false consciousness and an assumption that slavery is something that happened to Africans who are not in Africa. But in fact, slavery is something that happened to Africa!
Slavery was an assault on Africa itself. There would not be any such thing as a Haitian, a black Brit, a Negro or any of this without Africa having come under assault.
There wouldn’t be any such thing as a Ghanaian or a Nigerian or even a Democratic Republic of Congo except for the fact that imperialism attacked Africa and created these artificial borders. And in these artificial borders are artificial nationalities and artificial consciousnesses — whether it’s Haitian, African-American or any other.
It’s an artificial consciousness that serves the same function as the borders. It functions to separate Africans from each other and to separate us from our resources that are in Africa and other places.
One reason that we are catching so much hell in Haiti is that there is not going to be a Haitian revolution that can be successful by itself. If Haiti is to have freedom it’s going to be because it is tied to International African Revolution!
And Africans around the world aren’t going to be able to fight for Africans in Haitian as long as they think of the Africans who live in Haiti as Haitians and think of themselves as something else.
We are one Africa, one nation dis persed around the world. Objectively speaking, every struggle that black people are involved in on earth — whether it’s in Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Haiti or here in the United States — is an attempt to resolve this contradiction that has been imposed on us by imperialism.
Someone has had control over every aspect of our lives for the last 500 years. That is the fundamental contradiction that we are confronted with.
European nation is new phenomenon
When you talk about a nation as a European phenomenon, you are talking about a relatively new concept. I know that there were huge territories of African people recognized as collective groups even as Europeans where struggling as these disparate warring tribes in Europe. That’s just objective reality.
However, the nation as a European phenomenon is recent. The Germans and the French and the rest of them like to talk about this glorious history, but it’s a myth.
There is a common collective consciousness that has emerged among white people generally speaking in the world over a period of time, and the development of this consciousness of sameness, of oneness has been tied to slavery, colonialism and the emergence of capitalism itself. This is where you begin to see the development of what we now call nations.
Nations were born out of this process of slavery, colonialism and capitalism. There was no such thing as a European nation. Even Norway and Sweden used to be part of this same territory. Did you know that?
“We are one Africa, one nation disperse around the world. Objectively speaking, every struggle that black people are involved in on earth — whether it’s in Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Haiti or here in the United States — is an attempt to resolve this contradiction that has been imposed on us by imperialism.”
Portugal and Spain were part of the same territory. The French only started speaking French as a “national language” relatively recently .The ruling class in what they call Finland didn’t even speak the Finnish language. The Netherlands is a relatively recent venture.
I mention these entities for a number of reasons. With the emergence of the debate about nations, there have been various kinds of criteria that have been bandied about concerning what constitutes a nation. One of the criticisms that have been said of us is that we can never be one nation because there are so many languages.
This is nonsense because Belgium is such a place where they speak Flemish and French. Then, of course, in Switzerland, the languages are German, French and Italian. In all of these places, the consolidation of what they call national language is some that has happened recently.
I am saying this because people talk to us about nations and nationalism as if you’re looking at a static feature that is common throughout history, and these nations, as categorized as French and German, like to think of themselves as belonging to something going way back eons in history which is nonsense. This is a recent phenomenon.
One of the most popular definitions of the nation was put forward by the Bolsheviks, the Russian revolutionaries. This definition came from Stalin.
It was an active definition because it was also one that was grasped by peoples fighting against colonialism, struggling for what we call national independence. Stalin said that, “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make up manifested in a common culture.”
This is what he said a nation was, and it doesn’t take much to see that that isn’t true. It just isn’t true.
This is because part of what he said constitutes a nation makes the assumption of permanent features, and they are not permanent. They are not static. They are things that are transient realities.
He said, “a common, historically stable community of people.” Where can you find this?
He said, “on the basis of a common language.” What common lan guage? What common language has emerged and defined nations?
Then he said common “territory.” If a nation is common territory, does that include stolen territory that comes as a consequence of denying a whole group of people who are indigenous to a place of their own national identity?
Did white people become a nation when they stole parts of what’s called South Africa and called themselves Afrikaners? Were they really a nation there? Did it change with the end of what they call apartheid and they stopped being the Afrikaner nation and become part of some other kind of rainbow nation as Mandela and his other silly friends say?
In terms of “psychological make-up,” do people in Japan doing hip-hop and rap constitute part of a psychological make-up of their own nation? I’m saying this is nonsense.
Then of course, people who call themselves social scientists want to make sure you are convinced that nationhood has got nothing to do with race, ethnicity and what have you. But that’s not true.
I can say that’s not true without it being a speculative determination because we can look at history and see how what we call nations — particularly in Europe — actually came into being.
European nation consolidated at the expense of African nationality
The nineteenth century was characterized by European sociologists as an era of nation building in Europe. Of course, this was the period of the consolidation of capitalism that came out of slavery and colonialism.
I’m not speculating. You can actually trace the birth of capitalism from slavery and colonialism. This is the origin. The so-called primitive accumulation of capital that gave rise to capitalist production came from slavery and colonialism.
So here you have a process of several things happening. You have a common economic life among white people being born out of this process of capitalism. The consciousness of white people as a whole, generally speaking, is born out of slavery and colonialism.
The book “Overturning a Culture of Violence” has that title because the white nation was formed in violence. It was forged in the violence of slavery and colonialism. It was this process of slavery and colonialism that begin to undermine the fact that white people primarily defined themselves in relationship to each other.
With the advent of slavery and colonialism another kind of definition began to occur. White people then began to define themselves as “white!”
They called themselves Christians and their territory used to be called Christendom and then they began to define themselves as white! That is why we say racism is the ideological foundation of capitalism, but also the white nation, the nation of Europe, was founded as whiteness and as Christian.
That doesn’t mean that everybody who is a Christian is a part of the nation because you also have to be white. It also doesn’t mean that everybody who was white is a part of the nation because you also have to be Christian. That’s why they gave Jews hell throughout the European world and they’re now giving Turkey hell as it is trying to come into the European nation through the European Union.
“Why would I be in America fighting for a job when Africa is the richest continent on earth? Africa is so rich that even though it has been ripped off for the last 500 years they’re still taking the gold. They’re still taking the uranium and all the other resources and agricultural products as well.”
You cannot simply belong to a nation because you feel an affinity, though consciousness is a factor. There are subjective factors that are truly important. Consciousness is a subjective factor.
Economic life is an objective factor. In this instance, the economic life around which a whole community developed was slavery, colonialism and capitalism. These are objective factors that contribute to giving definition to the European nation.
I didn’t say German nation, and I didn’t say French nation. I did it that way on purpose because I’m telling you that as social units, Germany, France and all the independent States are not nations among of themselves. They are simply means by which capital within the European nation itself has been organized. They are organized around particular States. Are you with me so far?
The forging of what is the European nation came at the expense of the consolidation of the African nation. The common consciousness and common economy of Europe was a consciousness and economy born out of capturing Africans and taking us away from each other. It was born out of a process that carved up African into these untenable entities that they are now. This is the process that gave rise to the white nation.
Does it make sense to you that France, for example, could build itself off of the economy created through expropriating value from Cameroon and Ivory Coast on the one hand, while Africans who live in Ghana, close to both of these places do not have the ability to exploit value from Cameroon or from Ivory Coast?
So here you have France emerging and consolidating itself as part of an overall nation, while Africans, even in Africa, cannot have the kinds of economic and other relationships with each other to make that kind of thing happen. Do you see what I’m saying?
African people are one nation, dispersal around the world
I’m telling you that we are one nation of people. Part of what defines the African nation is our blackness.
We have a common history, a common origin. Africa is our mother. She gave birth to all of us. That’s one of our common experiences.
Then there are subjective factors that constitute part of our nationality. Africans are people who experience our sense of sameness, even if we don’t call it African.
Look at Michael Jackson, for example. Michael Jackson wouldn’t have distorted himself in the fashion he did if he thought he looked like Mick Jagger. He did that because he experienced a sense of sameness with the rest of us. You with what I’m saying?
That sense of sameness is something that we experience when we look at an African from Haiti even though somehow we do this trick with our brain that helps us to ignore that that African is the same. We only do that after we here the African speak in French, but if that African spoke the same language we do, without an accent there would not be an assumption that we are different from each other.
We have a false consciousness. The reality is that each of us everywhere in the African world speaks a language that has been predetermined by our being separated from each other and Africa itself being carved up into these untenable borders.
Some people say there are so many languages in Africa, and they build institutions to try to unify the language of Africa. But languages are not unified in that fashion.
Why is it that Africa cannot have a unified language? Why is it that you will find an African in Cameroon or the Democratic Republic of Congo who will speak better French than he will likely be able to speak Twi from Ghana? Why is an African who lives in Namibia more likely to be able to speak German than he is to be able to speak the indigenous language of Zulu, which is right next door in South Africa?
It is because they are tied to the economy of these different countries. If Africa were able to destroy the borders and work toward a common economy you will have the unification of the language.
Language itself comes from the process of production. Human beings learned to speak in the first place because we had to communicate in order to produce what we needed to exist.
So if you want to deal with the language question the only school you need to go to is the school that teaches the science and art of revolution! That will unite Africa and African people. That’s it.
African nation must be consolidated through revolutionary process
The European nation was born, as I said, out of a process that gave rise to capitalism. This means that the European nations were bourgeois nations. They were nations of a bourgeois ruling class. That’s who shaped and defined it in every instance. Track it historically.
The white nation, Europe, was born as a bourgeois nation, but the African nation cannot be born and consolidated as a bourgeois nation.
Why? Because the imperial bourgeoisie has created structures that reinforce imperialism, and these are in all of these different national entities as they are called. The Ghanas, the Nigerias, the Haitis, all of this.
You see, it’s the petty bourgeoisie in every instance who provide what we usually call the leadership of these movements within these national borders. They cannot destroy the borders because as social forces, if they destroy the borders they destroy the basis of their own existence. They would die.
“We aren’t trying to make friends with any Uncle Tom on earth — whether he’s in power or out of power. Our objective is to fight Uncle Tom and Uncle Sam and all the imperialist forces around the world, and to do that, we have to have an organization of professional revolutionaries.”
Only the African working class can lead the movement to a genuine unification and liberation of Africa. This African nation will not be born as a bourgeois nation, but as a revolutionary nation. That’s the task of the African revolution.
Part of the need to consolidate the nation is the need for State power. It is State power that gives us the pledge of allegiance. It is in the process of consolidating State power that we create the flags and what have you. It is State power that creates the holidays and all designed to consolidate national consciousness and nationalism
Garvey understood it. He gave us our own flag, didn’t he? He gave us our own army. He gave us our own factories. He gave us our own steamship line, didn’t he? He did all this to hook the nation together. That’s what we have to do right now.
The task of the African Revolution, which is a revolution under the leadership of the African working class, is the struggle for the emergence of the African nation as a unified liberated Africa.
That’s what this struggle’s about. I don’t give a damn if no Negro is ever accepted by America. I don’t care if you have civil rights or not, except as the struggle for civil rights impacts on our ability to have enough democratic space to build the revolutionary movement to unify our Africa and our people.
Why would I be in America fighting for a job when Africa is the richest continent on earth? Africa is so rich that even though it has been ripped off for the last 500 years they’re still taking the gold. They’re still taking the uranium and all the other resources and agricultural products as well.
They’re doing more than that. They take our intellectual property. They take from us culturally. If it weren’t for Africa the only thing you’d have in the U.S. is elevator music, at best. You might not have any music at all, to tell you the truth.
So what we have to struggle for is our African nationality, and that’s why we’re building the African Socialist International.
There are all these people who call themselves Pan Africanists. We are not Pan Africanists. We’re African Internationalists. We’re not involved in some movement that assumes that you can get Negro heads of states together and that they’re going to unify Africa. They’re not going to unify anything but their bank accounts.
We are going to have to do this from the bottom up. So we are building an organization called for by Garvey and reflected in what Nkrumah died trying to do. But we recognize that if African people are going to make the struggle for a liberated, unified Africa, we have to build a unified revolutionary organization to do it.
Not just any kind of organization. To lead the revolution you must have a revolutionary organization.
A revolutionary organization has to be one that is willing to participate in destroying every aspect of imperialist or colonialist State power. If you ain’t interested in power, you ain’t interested in freedom. You’re just praying. You’re just hoping that the next person in power is going to do right by you.
The imperialists and the petty bourgeoisie are not interested in destroying State power. They want to come to power, but they want to use the same organs of power that were put there by the ones who preceded them.
That’s why none of these Uncle Tom, so-called revolutionary, neocolonial forces destroy the power of the pre-existing State. They try to incorporate it and use it for their own benefit.
But the State by its very definition is an entity that was born for the purpose of oppressing. The colonial State was born to oppress colonized people.
So if somebody comes to power in a colonial country and takes the same apparatus that the white folks were using as the State apparatus, that entity only has the capacity to oppress African people.
So we have to make a revolution by building an international revolutionary organization. We have to put revolutionary organization on the ground everywhere African people are in the world.
We aren’t trying to make friends with any Uncle Tom on earth — whether he’s in power or out of power. Our objective is to fight Uncle Tom and Uncle Sam and all the imperialist forces around the world, and to do that, we have to have an organization of professional revolutionaries.
We have to have people who have determined that no matter what occupation they may have, their profession is revolution. People who have decided that “my life, my future is dedicated to the liberation and unification of Africa and African people.”
We have to have people who will bet their future on the revolution, not on what they can get with their college degree. Not on the fact that I’m going to get a good job or a promotion later on down the road.
We have to have people who say, “I ain’t worried about that because the revolution’s going to solve all that.” We have to have people who can turn it loose, let imperialism go, let colonialism go, throw it out the window, and unite with the revolution.
When you do that you unite with the future. When you hold on to the other stuff you’re trying to hold on to the past. You’re trying to hold back the revolution.
Down with the past! Forward with the revolution!
One Africa! (One Nation!) One Nation! (One Africa!) Izwe Lethu! (I Africa!) Uhuru!