In a speech celebrating the life of Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, leader of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) who was assassinated by Portuguese agents on February 3, 1969, Amílcar Cabral, leader of the liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, described the role of indigenous culture in national liberation movements. His speech appears below. Ironically Cabral would be assassinated by Portuguese agents on January 20, 1973.
Translation by BlackPast.org. An alternative is also available from JSTOR.
- Colonialism’s Cruel Dilemma: Liquidation or Assimilation?
- National Liberation: Cultural Act
- The Class Character of Culture
- Defining a National Culture
- The Cultural Defeat of Colonialism
- Africa’s Cultural Wealth
- The Dynamic of Culture
- National Culture: A Condition for the Development of Struggle
- Armed Struggle: Instrument of Cultural Unification and Progress
- The Objectives of Cultural Resistance
- Closing Remarks
Colonialism’s Cruel Dilemma: Liquidation or Assimilation?
When Goebbels, the brain behind Nazi propaganda, heard culture being discussed, he brought out his revolver. That shows that the Nazis — who were and are the most tragic expression of imperialism and of its thirst for domination — even if they were all degenerates like Hitler, had a clear idea of the value of culture as a factor of resistance to foreign domination.
History teaches us that, in certain circumstances, it is very easy for the foreigner to impose his domination on a people. But it also teaches us that, whatever may be the material aspects of this domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent, organized repression of the cultural life of the people concerned. Implantation of foreign domination can be assured definitively only by physical liquidation 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, to paralyze, its cultural life. For, as long as there continues to exist a part of these people retaining their own cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation. At any moment, depending on internal and external factors determining the evolution of the society in question, cultural resistance (indestructible) may take on new forms (political, economic, armed) in order fully to contest foreign domination.
The ideal for foreign domination, whether imperialist or not, would be to choose
- either to liquidate practically all the population of the dominated country, thereby eliminating the possibilities for cultural resistance;
- or to succeed in imposing itself without damage to the culture of the dominated people — that is, to harmonize economic and political domination of these people with their cultural personality.
The first hypothesis implies genocide of the indigenous population and creates a void which empties foreign domination of its content and its object: the dominated people. The second hypothesis has not, until now, been confirmed by history. The broad experience of mankind allows us to postulate that it has no practical viability: it is not possible to harmonize the economic and political domination of a people, whatever may be the degree of their social development, with the preservation of their cultural personality.
In order to escape this choice — which may be called the dilemma of cultural resistance — imperialist colonial domination has tried to create theories which, in fact, are only gross formulations of racism, and which, in practice, are translated into a permanent state of siege of the indigenous populations on the basis of racist dictatorship (or democracy).
This, for example, is the case with the so-called theory of progressive assimilation of native populations, which turns out to be only a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question. The utter failure of this ‘theory’, implemented in practice by several colonial powers, including Portugal, is the most obvious proof of its lack of viability, if not of its inhuman character. It attains the highest degree of absurdity in the Portuguese case, where Salazar affirmed that Africa does not exist.
This is also the case with the so-called theory of apartheid, created, applied and developed on the basis of the economic and political domination of the people of Southern Africa by a racist minority, with all the outrageous crimes against humanity which that involves. The practice of apartheid takes the form of unrestrained exploitation of the labor force of the African masses, incarcerated and repressed in the largest concentration camp mankind has ever known.
National Liberation: Cultural Act
These practical examples give a measure of the drama of foreign imperialist domination as it confronts the cultural reality of the dominated people. They also suggest the strong, dependent and reciprocal relationships existing between the cultural situation and the economic (and political) situation in the behaviour of human societies. In fact, culture is always in the life of a society (open or closed) the more or less conscious result of the economic and political activities of that society, the more or less dynamic expression of the kinds of relationships which prevail in that society, on the one hand between man (considered individually collectively) and nature, and, on the other hand, among individuals, groups of individuals, social strata or classes.
The value of culture as an element of resistance to foreign domination lies in the fact that culture is the vigorous manifestation on the ideological or idealist plane of the physical and historical reality of the society that is dominated or to be dominated. Culture is simultaneously the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of said history, by the positive or negative influence which it exerts on the revolution of relationships between man and his environment, among men or groups of men within a society, as well as among different societies. Ignorance of this fact may explain the failure of several attempts at foreign domination — as well as the failure of some national liberation movements.
Let us examine the nature of national liberation. We shall consider this historical phenomenon in its contemporary context, that is, national liberation in opposition to imperialist domination. The latter is, as we know, distinct both in form and in content from preceding types of foreign domination (tribal, military-aristocratic, feudal, and capitalist domination in the free competition era).
The principal characteristic, common to every kind of imperialist domination, is the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violently usurping the free operation of the process of development of the productive forces. Now, in any given society, the level of development of the productive forces and the system for social utilization of these forces (the ownership system) determine the mode of production. In our opinion, the mode of production whose contradictions are manifested with more or less intensity through the class struggle, is the principal factor in the history of any human group, the level of the productive forces being the true and permanent driving power of history.
For every society, for every group of people, considered as an evolving entity, the level of the productive forces indicates the stage of development of the society and of each of its components in relation to nature, its capacity to act or to react consciously in relation to nature. It indicates and conditions the type of material between man and his environment.
The mode of production which represents, in every phase of history, the result of the unceasing search for a dynamic equilibrium between the level of the productive forces and the system of social utilization of these forces, indicates the stage of development of any given society and of each of its components in relation to itself and in relation to history. It also indicates and conditions the type of material relationships (expressed objectively or subjectively) which exists among the various elements or groups constituting the society in question. Relationships and types of relationships between man and nature, between man and his environment. Relationships and types of relationships among the individual or collective components of a society. To speak of these is to speak of history, but it is also to speak of culture.
Whatever may be the ideological or idealistic characteristics of cultural expression, culture is an essential element of the history of a people. Culture is, perhaps, the product of this history just as the flower is the product of a plant. Like history, or because it is history, culture has as its material base the level of the productive forces and the mode of production. Culture plunges its roots into the physical reality of the environmental humus in which it develops, and it reflects the organic nature of the society, which may be more or less influenced by external factors. History allows us to know the nature and extent of the imbalances and conflicts (economic, political and social) which characterize the evolution of a society; culture allows us to know the dynamic syntheses which have been developed and established by social conscience to resolve these conflicts at each stage of its evolution, in the search for survival and progress.
The study of the history of national liberation struggles shows that generally these struggles are preceded by an increase in expressions of culture, consolidated progressively into a successful attempt to affirm the cultural personality of the dominated people, as a means of negating the oppressor culture. Whatever may be the conditions of a people’s subjection to foreign domination, and whatever may be the influence of economic, political and social factors in practicing this domination, it is generally within the culture that we find the seed of opposition, which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement.
In our opinion, the foundation for national liberation rests in the inalienable right of every people to have their own history, whatever formulations may be adopted at the level of international law. The objective of national liberation is, therefore, to reclaim the right, usurped by imperialist domination, namely: the liberation of the process of development of national productive forces. Therefore, national liberation takes place when, and only when, national productive forces are completely free of all kinds of foreign domination. The liberation of productive forces and consequently of the ability to determine the mode of production most appropriate to the evolution of the liberated people, necessarily opens up new prospects for the cultural development of the society in question, by returning to that society all its capacity to create progress.
A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign cultures. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.
The Class Character of Culture
On the basis of what has just been said, we may consider the national liberation movement as the organized political expression of the culture of the people who are undertaking the struggle. For this reason, those who lead the movement must have a clear idea of the value of the culture in the framework of the struggle and must have a thorough knowledge of the people’s culture, whatever may be their level of economic development.
In our time it is common to affirm that all peoples have a culture. The time is past when, in an effort to perpetuate the domination of peoples, culture was considered an attribute of privileged peoples or nations, and when, out of either ignorance or malice, culture was confused with technical power, if not with skin color or the shape of one’s eyes. The liberation movement, as representative and defender of the culture of the people, must be conscious of the fact that, whatever may be the material conditions of the society it represents, the society is the bearer and creator of culture. The liberation movement must furthermore embody the mass character, the popular character of the culture — which is not and never could be the privilege of one or of some sectors of the society.
In the thorough analysis of social structure which every liberation movement should be capable of making in relation to the imperatives of the struggle, the cultural characteristics of each group in society have a place of prime importance. For, while the culture has a mass character, it is not uniform, it is not equally developed in all sectors of society. The attitude of each social group toward the liberation struggle is dictated by its economic interests, but it is also influenced profoundly by its culture. It may even be admitted that these differences in cultural levels explain differences in behaviour toward the liberation movement on the part of individuals who belong to the same socio-economic group. It is at this point that culture reaches its full significance for each individual: understanding and integration into his environment, identification with fundamental problems and aspirations of the society, acceptance of the possibility of change in the direction of progress.
In the specific conditions of our country — and we would say, of Africa — the horizontal and vertical distribution of levels of culture is somewhat complex. In fact, from villages to towns, from one ethnic group to another, from one age group to another, from the peasant to the workman or to the indigenous intellectual who is more or less assimilated, and, as we have said, even from individual to individual within the same social group, the quantitative and qualitative level of culture varies significantly. It is of prime importance for the liberation movement to take these facts into consideration.
In societies with a horizontal social structure, such as the Balante, for example, the distribution of cultural levels is more or less uniform, variations being linked uniquely to characteristics of individuals or of age groups. On the other hand, in societies with a vertical structure, such as the Fula, there are important variations from the top to the bottom of the social pyramid. These differences in social structure illustrate once more the close relationship between culture and economy, and also explain differences in the general or sectoral behaviour of these two ethnic groups in relation to the liberation movement.
It is true that the multiplicity of social and ethnic groups complicates the effort to determine the role of culture in the liberation movement. But it is vital not to lose sight of the decisive importance of the class character of the culture in the development of the liberation struggle, even when class structure is or appears to be in embryonic stages of development.
The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizer not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population, notably the urban or peasant ‘petite bourgeoisie’, assimilates the colonizer’s mentality, considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behaviour of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds — of mental sets — is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reconversion — re-Africanization, in our case — may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.
However, we must take into account the fact that, faced with the prospect of political independence, the ambition and the opportunism from which the liberation movement generally suffers may bring into the struggle unconverted individuals. The latter, on the basis of their level of schooling, their scientific or technical knowledge, but without losing any of their social class biases, may attain the highest positions in the liberation movement. Vigilance is thus indispensable on the cultural as well as the political plane. For, in the liberation movement as elsewhere, all that glitters is not necessarily gold: political leaders — even the most famous — may be culturally alienated people.
But the social class characteristics of the culture are even more discernible in the behaviour of privileged groups in rural areas, especially in the case of ethnic groups with a vertical social structure, where, nevertheless, assimilation or cultural alienation influences are non-existent or practically non-existent. This is the case, for example, with the Fula ruling class. Under colonial domination, the political authority of this class (traditional chiefs, noble families, religious leaders) is purely nominal, and the popular masses know that true authority lies with and is acted upon by colonial administrators. However, the ruling class preserves in essence its basic cultural authority over the masses and this has very important political implications.
Recognizing this reality, the colonizer who represses or inhibits significant cultural activity on the part of the masses at the base of the social pyramid, strengthens and protects the prestige and the cultural influence of the ruling class at the summit. The colonizer installs chiefs who support him and who are to some degree accepted by the masses; he gives these chiefs material privileges such as education for their eldest children, creates chiefdoms where they did not exist before, develops cordial relations with religious leaders, builds mosques, organizes journeys to Mecca, etc. And, above all, by means of the repressive organs of colonial administration, he guarantees economic and social privileges to the ruling class in their relations with the masses. All this does not make it impossible that, among these ruling classes, there may be individuals or groups of individuals who join the liberation movement, although less frequently than in the case of the assimilated ‘petite bourgeoisie’. Several traditional and religious leaders join the struggle at the very beginning or during its development, making an enthusiastic contribution to the cause of liberation. But here again vigilance is indispensable: preserving deep down the cultural prejudices of their class, individuals in this category generally see in the liberation movement the only valid means, using the sacrifices of the masses, to eliminate colonial oppression of their own class and to reestablish in this way their complete political and cultural domination of the people.
In the general framework of contesting colonial imperialist domination and in the actual situation to which we refer, among the oppressor’s most loyal allies are found some high officials and intellectuals of the liberal professions, assimilated, people, and also a significant number of representatives of the ruling class from rural areas. This fact gives some measure of the influence (positive or negative) of culture and cultural prejudices in the problem of political choice when one is confronted with the liberation movement. It also illustrates the limits of this influence and the supremacy of the class factor in the behavior of the different social groups. The high official or the assimilated intellectual, characterized by total cultural alienation, identifies himself by political choice with the traditional or religious leader who has experienced no significant foreign cultural influences. For these two categories of people place above all principles or demands of a cultural nature — and against the aspirations of the people — their own economic and social privileges, their own class interests. That is a truth which the liberation movement cannot afford to ignore without risking betrayal of the economic, political, social, and cultural objectives of the struggle.
Defining a National Culture
Without minimizing the positive contribution which privileged classes may bring to the struggle, the liberation movement must, on the cultural level just as on the political level, base its action in popular culture, whatever may be the diversity of levels of cultures in the country. The cultural combat against colonial domination — the first phase of the liberation movement — can be planned efficiently only on the basis of the culture of the rural and urban working masses, including the nationalist (revolutionary) ‘petite bourgeoisie’ who have been re-Africanized or who are ready for cultural reconversion. Whatever may be the complexity of this basic cultural panorama, the liberation movement must be capable of distinguishing within it the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from the reactionary, in order to characterize the master line which defines progressively a national culture.
In order for culture to play the important role which falls to it in the framework of the liberation movement, the movement must be able to preserve the positive cultural values of every well defined social group, of every category, and to achieve the confluence of these values in the service of the struggle, giving it a new dimension — the national dimension. Confronted with such a necessity, the liberation struggle is, above all, a struggle both for the preservation and survival of the cultural values of the people and for the harmonization and development of these values within a national framework.
The political and moral unity of the liberation movement and of the people it represents and directs, implies achieving the cultural unity of the social groups which are of key importance for the liberation struggle. This unity is achieved on the one hand by total identification with the environmental reality and with the fundamental problems and aspirations of the people; and, on the other hand, by progressive cultural identification of the various social groups participating in the struggle. As it progresses the liberation struggle must bring diverse interests into harmony, resolve contradictions and define common objectives in the search for liberty and progress. The taking to heart of its objectives by large strata in the population, reflected in their determination in the face of difficulties and sacrifices, is a great political and moral victory. It is also a cultural achievement of decisive importance for the subsequent development and success of the liberation movement.
The Cultural Defeat of Colonialism
The greater the differences between the culture of the dominated people and the culture of their oppressor, the more possible such a victory becomes. History proves that it is much less difficult to dominate and to continue dominating a people whose culture is similar or analogous to that of the conqueror. It could be contended that the failure of Napoleon, whatever may have been the economic and political motivations of his wars of conquest, resulted from his ignorance of this principle, or from his inability to limit his ambition to the domination of peoples whose culture was more or less similar to that of France. The same thing could be said about other ancient, modern, or contemporary empires.
One of the most serious errors, if not the most serious error, committed by colonial powers in Africa, may have been to ignore or under-estimate the cultural strength of African peoples. This attitude is particularly clear in the case of Portuguese colonial domination, which has not been content with denying absolutely the existence of the cultural values of the African and his social position but has persisted in forbidding him all kinds of political activity. The people of Portugal, who have not even enjoyed the wealth taken from African peoples by Portuguese colonialism, but the majority of whom have assimilated the imperial mentality of the country’s ruling classes, are paying very dearly today, in three colonial wars for the mistake of underestimating our cultural reality.
The political and armed resistance of the people of the Portuguese colonies, as of other countries or regions of Africa, was crushed by the technical superiority of the imperialist conqueror, with the complicity of or betrayal by some indigenous ruling classes. Those elites who were loyal to the history and to the culture of the people were destroyed. Entire populations were massacred. The colonial kingdom was established with all the crimes and exploitation which characterize it. But the cultural resistance of the African people was not destroyed. Repressed, persecuted, betrayed by some social groups who were in league with the colonialists, African culture survived all the storms, taking refuge in the villages, in the forests and in the spirit of the generations who were victims of colonialism.
Like the seed which long awaits conditions favorable to germination in order to assure the survival of the species and its development, the culture of African peoples flourishes again today, across the continent, in struggles for national liberation. Whatever may be the forms of these struggles, their successes or failures, and the length of their development, they mark the beginning of a new era in the history of the continent and are both in form and in content the most important cultural element in the life of African peoples. The freedom struggle of African peoples is both the fruit and the proof of cultural vigor, opening up new prospects for the development of culture in the service of progress.
Africa’s Cultural Wealth
The time is past when it was necessary to seek arguments to prove the cultural maturity of African peoples. The irrationality of the racist ‘theories’ of a Gobineau or a Lévy-Bruhi neither interests nor convinces anyone but racists. In spite of colonial domination (and perhaps even because of this domination), Africa was able to impose respect for her cultural values. She even showed herself to be one of the richest of continents in cultural values. From Carthage or Giza to Zimbabwe, from Meroe to Benin and Ife, from the Sahara or Timbuctu to Kilwa, across the immensity and the diversity of the continent’s natural conditions, the culture of African peoples is an undeniable reality: in works of art as well as in oral and written traditions, in cosmological conceptions as well as in music and dance, in religions and beliefs as well as in the dynamic balance of economic, political and social structures created by African man.
The universal value of African culture is now an incontestable fact; nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that African man, whose hands, as. the poet said, ‘placed the stones of the foundations of the world’, has developed his culture in frequently, if not constantly, adverse conditions: from deserts to equatorial forests, from coastal marshes to the banks of great rivers subject to frequent flooding, in spite of all sorts of difficulties, including plagues which have destroyed plants and animals and man alike. In agreement with Basil Davidson and other researchers in African history and culture, we can say that the accomplishments of the African genius in economic, political, social and cultural domains, despite the inhospitable character of the environment, are epic — comparable to the major historical examples of the greatness of man.
The Dynamic of Culture
Of course, this reality constitutes a reason for pride and a stimulus to those who fight for the liberation and the progress of African peoples. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that no culture is a perfect, finished whole. Culture, like history, is an expanding and developing phenomenon. Even more important, we must take account of the fact that the fundamental characteristic of a culture is the highly dependent and reciprocal nature of its linkages with the social and economic reality of the environment, with the level of productive forces and the mode of production of the society which created it.
Culture, the fruit of history, reflects at every moment the material and spiritual reality of society, of man-the-individual and of man-the-social-being, faced with conflicts which set him against nature and the exigencies of common life. From this we see that all culture is composed of essential and secondary elements, of strengths and weaknesses, of virtues and failings, of positive and negative aspects, of factors of progress and factors of stagnation or regression. From this also we can see that culture — the creation of society and the synthesis of the balances and solutions which society engenders to resolve the conflicts which characterize each phase of its history — is a social reality, independent of the will of men, the color of their skins or the shape of their eyes.
A thorough analysis of cultural reality does not permit the claim that there exist continental or racial cultures. This is because, as with history, the development of culture proceeds in uneven fashion, whether at the level of a continent, a ‘race’, or even a society. The coordinates of culture, like those of any developing phenomenon, vary in space and time, whether they be material (physical) or human (biological). The fact of recognizing the existence of common and particular features in the cultures of African peoples, independent of the color of their skin; does not necessarily imply that one and only one culture exists on the continent. In the same way that from an economic and political viewpoint we can recognize the existence of several Africas, so also there are many African cultures.
Without any doubt underestimation of the cultural values of African peoples, based upon racist feelings and upon the intention of perpetuating foreign exploitation of Africans, has done much harm to Africa. But in the face of the vital need for progress, the following attitudes or behaviors will be no less harmful to Africa; indiscriminate compliments; systematic exaltation of virtues without condemning faults; blind acceptance of the values of the culture, without considering what presently or potentially regressive elements it contains; confusion between what is the expression of an objective and material historical reality and what appears to be a creation of the mind or the product of a peculiar temperament; absurd linking of artistic creations, whether good or not, with supposed racial characteristics; and, finally, the nonscientific or a-scientific critical- appreciation of the cultural phenomenon.
Thus, the important thing is not to lose time in more or less idle discussion of the specific or unspecific characteristics of African cultural values, but rather to look upon these values as a conquest of a small piece of humanity for the common heritage of humanity, achieved in one or several phases of its evolution. The important thing is to proceed to critical analysis of African cultures in relation to the liberation movement and to the exigencies of progress — confronting this new stage in African history. It is important to be conscious of the value of African cultures in the framework of universal civilization, but to compare this value with that of other cultures, not with a view to deciding its superiority or inferiority, but in order to determine, in the general framework of the struggle for progress, what contribution African culture has made and can make, and what are the contributions it can or must receive from elsewhere.
The liberation movement must, as we have said, base its action upon thorough knowledge of the culture of the people and be able to appreciate at their true value the elements of this culture, as well as the different levels that it reaches in each social group. The movement must also be able to discern in the entire set of cultural values of the people the essential and the secondary, the positive and the negative, the progressive and the reactionary, the strengths and the weaknesses. All this is necessary as a function of the demands of the struggle and in order to be able to concentrate action on what is essential without forgetting what is secondary, to induce development of positive and progressive elements, and to combat with flexibility but with rigor the negative and reactionary elements; and finally, in order to utilize strengths efficiently and to eliminate weaknesses or to transform them into strengths.
National Culture: A Condition for the Development of Struggle
The more one realizes that the chief goal of the liberation movement goes beyond the achievement of political independence to the superior level of complete liberation of the productive forces and the construction of economic, social, and cultural progress of the people, the more evident is the necessity of undertaking a selective analysis of the values of the culture within the framework of the struggle for liberation. Now, the negative values of culture are generally an obstacle to the development of the struggle and to the building of this progress. The need for such an analysis of cultural values becomes more acute when, in order to face colonial violence, the liberation movement must mobilize and organize the people, under the direction of a strong and disciplined political organization, in order to resort to violence in the cause of freedom — the armed struggle for national liberation.
In this perspective, the liberation movement must be able, beyond the analysis mentioned above, to achieve gradually but surely as its political action develops the confluence of the levels of culture of the different social groups available for the struggle. The movement must be able to transform them into the national cultural force which undergirds and conditions the development of the armed struggle. It should be noted that the analysis of cultural reality already gives a measure of the strengths and weaknesses of the people when confronted with the demands of the struggle, and therefore represents a valuable contribution to the strategy and tactics to be followed, on the political as well as on the military plane. But only during the struggle, launched from a satisfactory base of political and moral unity, is the complexity of cultural problems raised in all its dimensions. This frequently requires successive adaptations of strategy and tactics to the realities which only the struggle is capable of revealing. Experience of the struggle shows how utopian and absurd it is to profess to apply without considering local reality (and especially cultural reality) plans of action developed by other peoples during their liberation struggles and to apply solutions which they found to the problems with which they were or are confronted.
It can be said that at the outset of the struggle, whatever may have been the extent of preparation undertaken, both the leadership of the liberation movement and the militant and popular masses have no clear awareness of the strong influence of cultural values in the development of the struggle, the possibilities culture creates, the limits it imposes, and above all how and how much culture is for the people an inexhaustible source of courage, of material and moral support, of physical and psychic energy which enables them to accept sacrifices — even to accomplish ‘miracles’. But equally, in some respects, culture is very much a source of obstacles and difficulties of erroneous conceptions about reality, of deviations in carrying out duty, and of limitations on the tempo and efficiency of a struggle that is confronted with the political, technical and scientific requirements of a war.
Armed Struggle: Instrument of Cultural Unification and Progress
The armed struggle for liberation launched in response to the colonialist oppressor turns out to be a painful but efficient instrument for developing the cultural level of both the leadership strata in the liberation movement and the various social groups who participate in the struggle.
The leaders of the liberation movement, drawn generally from the ‘petite bourgeoisie’ (intellectuals, clerks) or the urban working classes (workers, chauffeurs, salary-earners in general), having to live day by day with the various peasant groups in the heart of rural populations, come to know the people better. They discover at the grass roots the richness of their cultural values (philosophic, political, artistic, social and moral), acquire a clearer understanding of the economic realities of the country, of the problems, sufferings and hopes of the popular masses. The leaders realize not without a certain astonishment, the richness of spirit, the capacity for reasoned discussion and clear exposition of ideas, the facility for understanding and assimilating concepts on the part of population groups who yesterday were forgotten, if not despised, and who were considered incompetent by the colonizer and even by some nationals. The leaders thus enrich their culture — develop personally and free themselves from complexes, reinforcing their capacity to serve the movement in the service of the people.
On their side, the working masses and, in particular, the peasants, who are usually illiterate and never have moved beyond the boundaries of their village or region, in contact with other groups lose the complexes which constrained them in their relationships with other ethnic and social groups. They realize their crucial role in the struggle; they break the bonds of the village universe to integrate progressively into the country and the world; they acquire an infinite amount of new knowledge, useful for their immediate and future activity within the framework of the struggle; and they strengthen their political awareness by assimilating the principles of national and social revolution postulated by the struggle. They thereby become more able to play the decisive role of providing the principal force behind the liberation movement.
As we know, the armed liberation struggle requires the mobilization and organization of a significant majority of the population, the political and moral unity of the various social classes, the efficient use of modern arms and of other means of war, the progressive liquidation of the remnants of tribal mentality, and the rejection of social and religious rules and taboos which inhibit development of the struggle (gerontocracies, nepotism, social inferiority of women, rites and practices which are incompatible with the rational and national character of the struggle, etc.). The struggle brings about other profound modifications in the life of populations. The armed liberation struggle implies, therefore, a veritable forced march along the road to cultural progress.
Consider these features inherent in an armed liberation struggle: the practice of democracy, of criticism and self criticism, the increasing responsibility of populations for the direction of their lives, literacy work, creation of schools and health services, training of cadres from peasant and worker backgrounds — and many other achievements. When we consider these features, we see that the armed liberation struggle is not only a product of culture but also a determinant of culture. This is without doubt for the people the prime recompense for the efforts and sacrifices which war demands. In this perspective it behooves the liberation movement to define clearly the objectives of cultural resistance as an integral and determining part of the struggle.
The Objectives of Cultural Resistance
From all that has just been said, it can be concluded that in the framework of the conquest of national independence and in the perspective of developing the economic and social progress of the people these objectives must be at least the following:
- development of a popular culture and of all positive indigenous cultural values;
- development of a national culture based upon the history and the achievements of the struggle itself;
- constant promotion of the political and moral awareness of the people (of all social groups) as well as of patriotism, of the spirit of sacrifice and devotion to the cause of independence, of justice, and of progress;
- development of a technical, technological, and scientific culture, compatible with the requirements for progress;
- development on the basis of a critical assimilation of man’s achievements in the domains of art, science, literature, etc., of a universal culture for perfect integration into the contemporary world, in the perspectives of its evolution;
- constant and generalized promotion of feelings of humanism, of solidarity, of respect and disinterested devotion to human beings.
The achievement of these objectives is indeed possible, because the armed struggle for liberation, in the concrete conditions of life of African peoples, confronted with the imperialist challenge, is an act of insemination upon history — the major expression of our culture and of our Africanness. In the moment of victory, it must be translated into a significant leap forward of the culture of the people who are liberating themselves.
If that does not happen, then the efforts and sacrifices accepted during the struggle will have been made in vain. The struggle will have failed to achieve its objectives, and the people will have missed an opportunity for progress in the general framework of history.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in celebrating by this ceremony the memory of Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, we pay homage to the politician, to the freedom fighter and, especially to a man of culture. Culture acquired not only during the course of his personal life and in the halls of the university, but culture acquired mainly in the midst of his people, in the course of the struggle for the liberation of his people.
It may be said that Eduardo Mondlane was barbarously assassinated because he was able to identify himself with the culture of his people, with their deepest aspirations, in spite of all the attempts or the temptations to alienate his African and Mozambican personality. Because he forged himself a new culture in the liberation struggle, he fell as a combatant. It is obviously easy to accuse the Portuguese colonialists and the agents of imperialism, their allies, of the abominable crime committed against the person of Eduardo Mondlane, against the people of Mozambique and against Africa. They were the ones who in cowardly fashion assassinated him. However, all men of culture, all those who fight for freedom, all spirits afire for peace and progress — all the enemies of colonialism and racism — must have the courage to take upon their shoulders their share of the responsibility for this tragic death. For, if Portuguese colonialism and imperialist agents can still liquidate with impunity a man like Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, it is because there is something rotten in the heart of humanity: imperialist domination. It is because men of good will, defenders of the culture of peoples, have not yet accomplished their duty on this planet.
In our opinion, this is the measure of the responsibilities of those who listen to us in this temple of culture in relation to the movement for liberation of oppressed peoples.