During his last visit to the US Amilcar Cabral asked the Africa Information Service (AIS) to organise a small informal meeting at which he could speak with different black organisations. The AIS contacted approximately 30 organisations and on 20 October 1972, more than 120 people representing a wide range of black groups in America crowded into a small room to meet with Amilcar Cabral. At the meeting, the vitality, warmth and humour of Cabral the person became evident to those who had not met him before.
'The problem of the nature of the state created after independence is perhaps the secret of the failure of African independence.' - Amilcar Cabral, 20 October 1972, New York.
I am bringing to you - our African brothers and sisters of the United States - the fraternal salutations of our people in assuring you we are very conscious that all in this life concerning you also concerns us. If we do not always pronounce words that clearly show this, it doesn’t mean that we are not conscious of it. It is a reality and considering that the world is being made smaller each day all people are becoming conscious of this fact.
Naturally if you ask me between brothers (and sisters) and comrades what I prefer then if we are brothers it is not our fault or our responsibility. But if we are comrades, it is a political engagement. Naturally, we like our brothers (and sisters) but in our conception it is better to be a brother (or sister) and a comrade. We like our brothers very much, but we think that if we are brothers we have to realise the responsibility of this fact and take clear positions about our problems in order to see if beyond this condition of brothers and sisters, we are also comrades. This is very important for us.
We try to understand your situation in this country. You can be sure that we realise the difficulties you face, the problems you have and your feelings, your revolts, and also your hopes. We think that our fighting for Africa against colonialism and imperialism is a proof of understanding of your problem and also a contribution for the solution of your problems in the continent. Naturally the inverse is also true. All the achievements towards the solution of your problems here are real contributions to our own struggle. And we are very encouraged in our struggle by the fact that each day more of the African people born in America became conscious of their responsibilities to the struggle in Africa.
Does that mean you have to all leave here and go fight in Africa? We do not believe so. That is not being realistic in our opinion. History is a very strong chain. We have to accept the limits of history but not the limits imposed by the societies where we are living. There is a difference. We think that all you can do here to develop your own conditions in the sense of progress, in the sense of history and in the sense of our total realisation of your aspirations as human beings is a contribution for us. It is also a contribution for you to never forget that you are Africans.
Does that mean we are racists? No! We are not racists. We are fundamentally and deeply against any kind of racism. Even when people are subjected to racism we are against racism from those who have been oppressed by it. In our opinion - not from dreaming but from a deep analysis of the real condition of the existence of mankind and the division of societies - racism is a result of certain circumstances. It is not eternal in any latitude in the world. It is not the result of historical and economic conditions. And we cannot answer racism with racism. It is not possible. In our country, despite some racist manifestations by the Portuguese, we are not fighting against the Portuguese people or whites. We are fighting for the freedom of our people - to free our people and to allow them to be able to love any kind of human being. You cannot love when you are a slave. It is very difficult.
In combating racism we don’t make progress if we combat the people themselves. We have to combat the causes of racism. If a bandit comes into my house and I have a gun I cannot shoot the shadow of this bandit. I have to shoot the bandit. Many people lose energy and effort, and make sacrifices combating shadows. We have to combat the material reality that produces the shadow. If we cannot change the light that is one cause of the shadow, we can at least change the body. It is important to avoid confusion between the shadow and the body that projects the shadow. We are encouraged by the fact that each day more of our people, here and in Africa, realise this reality. This reinforces our confidence in our final victory.
The fact that you follow our struggle and are interested in our achievements is good for us. We base our struggle on the concrete realities of our country. We appreciate the experiences and achievements of other peoples and we study them. But revolution or national liberation struggle is like a dress which must be fitted to each individual’s body. Naturally, there are certain general or universal laws, even scientific laws for any condition, but the liberation struggle has to be developed according to the specific conditions of each country. This is fundamental.
The specific conditions to be considered include economic, cultural, social, political and even geographic conditions. The guerrilla manuals once told us that without mountains you cannot make guerrilla war. But in my country there are no mountains, only the people. In the economic field we committed an error. We began training our people to commit sabotage on the railroads. When they returned from their training we remembered that there were no railroads in our country. The Portuguese built them in Mozambique and Angola but not in our country.
There are other conditions to consider as well. You must consider the type of society in which you are fighting. Is it divided along horizontal or vertical lines? Some people tell us our struggle is the same as that of the Vietnamese people. It is similar, but it is not the same. The Vietnamese are a people that hundreds of years ago fought against foreign invaders like a nation. We are now forging our nation in the struggle. This is a big difference. It is difficult to imagine what a difference that makes. Vietnam is also a society with clear social structures with classes well defined. There is no national bourgeoisie in our country. A miserable petit bourgeoisie yes, but not a national bourgeoisie. These differences are very important.
Once I discussed politics with Eldridge Cleaver. He is a clever man, very intelligent. We agreed on many things but we disagreed on one thing. He told me your condition is a colonial condition. In certain aspects it seems to be, but it is not really a colonial condition. The colonial condition demands certain factors. One important factor is the continuity of territories. There are others, which you can see when you analyse. Many times we are confronted with a phenomenon that seem to be the same, but political activity demands that we be able to distinguish them. That is not to say that the aims are not the same. And, that is not to say that even some of the means cannot be the same. However, we must deeply analyse each situation to avoid loss of time and energy doing things that we are not to do and forgetting things that we have to do.
In our country we have been fighting for nearly 10 years. If we consider the changes achieved in that time, principally in the relationship between men and women, it has been more than 100 years. If we were only shooting bullets and shells, yes, 10 years is too much. But we were not only doing this. We were forging a nation during these years. How long did it take the European nations to be formed - 10 centuries from the middle ages to the renaissance. (Here in the United States you are still forging a nation - it is not yet completed, in my opinion. Several things have contributed to the forming and changing of this country, such as the Vietnam war, though unfortunately at the expense of the Vietnamese people. But you know the details of change in this country more than myself.)
Ten years ago, we were Fula, Mandjak, Mandinka, Balante, Pepel, and others. Now we are a nation of Guineans. Tribal divisions were one reason the Portuguese thought it would not be possible for us to fight. During these ten years we were making more and more changes, so that today we can see there is a new man and new woman, born with our new nation and because of our fight. This is because of our ability to fight as a nation.
Naturally, we are not defending the armed fight. Maybe I deceive people, but I am not a great defender of the armed fight. I am myself very conscious of the sacrifices demanded by the armed fight. It is a violence against even our own people. But it is not our invention - it is not our cool decision; it is the requirement of history. This is not the first fight in our country, and it is not Cabral who invented the struggle. We are following the example of our grandfathers who fought against Portuguese domination 50 years ago. Today’s fight is a continuation of the fight to defend our dignity, our right to have an identity - our own identity.
If it were possible to solve this problem without the armed fight - why not?! But while the armed fight demands sacrifices, it also has advantages. Like everything else in the world, it has two faces - one positive and the other negative - the problem is in the balance. For us now, it (the armed fight) is a good thing in our opinion, and our condition is a good thing because this armed fight helped us to accelerate the revolution of our people, to create a new situation that will facilitate our progress.
In these 10 years we liberated about three-fourths of the country and we were effectively controlling two-thirds of our country. We have much work to do, but we have our state, we have a strong political organisation, a developing administration, and we have created many services - always while facing the bombs of the Portuguese. That is to say, bombs used by the Portuguese, but made in the United States. In the military field we realised good things during these 10 years. We have our national army and our local militias. We have been able to receive a number of visitors - journalists, filmmakers, scientists, teachers, writers, government representatives, and others. We also received a very good report about the situation in our country.
However, through the armed fight, we realised other things more important than the size of the liberated regions or the capacity of our fighters, such as the irreversible change in the attitudes of our men. We have more sacrifices to make and more attitudes to overcome, but our people are now accustomed to this, and know that for freedom we must pay a price. What can we consider better than freedom? It is not possible - nothing compares with freedom. During the visit of the special mission of UN to our country, one of the official observers, while on a long march, asked a small boy if he ever got tired. The boy answered, ‘I can’t get tired - this is my country. Only the Portuguese soldiers get tired’.
Now we can accelerate the progress of the liberation of the rest of our country. Each day, we get more and better workers. Now we need more ammunition in order to give greater impact to our attacks against Portuguese positions. Instead of attacking with 80 shells, we have to attack with 800, if not 2,000, and we are preparing to do this. The situation is now better in the urban centres. We are dominating the urban centres in spite of the Portuguese occupation. Links with our underground organisation in these centers are very good, and we have decided to develop our action inside these centres. We told this on the radio to the Portuguese. We told all the people because the Portuguese cannot stop us. We told them before they would be afraid, and they are. They are even afraid of their shadows.
Another very positive aspect of our struggle, is the political situation on the Cape Verde Islands. Some days ago, there were riots between our people and the police. This is a sign that great developments are coming within the framework of our Islands.
We have taken all measures demanded by the struggle, in the political as well as the military field. With the general election just completed in the liberated region, we are now creating our National Assembly. Naturally we are not doing a National Assembly like the Congress you have here (USA) or the British parliament. All these are very important steps in accelerating the end of the colonial war in my country and for its total liberation.
We have decided to formally proclaim our state, and hope that our brothers and sisters here (USA), our brothers and sisters in Africa, and our friends all over the world, will take the necessary position of support for our initiatives in the political field. In an armed fight like ours, all the political aspects have been stressed. They are stressed naturally when you approach the end. It is a dialectical process. In the beginning the fight is political only, it is then followed by the transformation into the armed stage. Step by step, the political aspect returns but at a different level, the level of solution.
I am not going to develop these things further, I think it is better if you ask questions. We are very happy to be with you, our brothers and sisters. I tell you frankly, although it might hurt my visit to the UN; each day I feel myself that if I did not have to do what I have to do in my country, maybe I would come here to join you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
CABRAL: I am at your disposal for any kind of question; no secrets, or ceremonies or diplomacy with you.
QUESTION: I am from Mali. I don’t know how comfortable you will be with this question, but given the nature of the fight you have been leading, are you satisfied with the type of moral, political and military aid you have been receiving from other African countries?
CABRAL: First of all, let me say to my brother that I am comfortable with any kind of question - there is no problem. Second, when one is in a condition that he has to receive aid, he is never satisfied. The condition of people who are obliged by circumstances to ask for and receive aid, is to never be satisfied. If you are satisfied it is finished, you don’t need aid. Third, we have to also consider the situation of the people who are helping us. You know the political and economic circumstances conditioning the attitudes of the African countries. It’s true the past decade of the 1960s was a great achievement for Africa - the independence of Africa. But we are not of this tree of independence of Africa. We must take our independence with force and our position is to never ask for the aid we need. We let each people give us aid as they can, and we never accept conditions with aid. If you give us aid like this, we are satisfied. If you can give more, we are more satisfied.
I have said to African heads of state many times that the aid from Africa is very useful, but not sufficient. We believe that they could do better, and so do they. Last June in the Rabat summit meetings (of the OAU) they agreed to increase their aid by 50 per cent. Why didn’t they do this before? We know that they had not only financial and economic difficulties, but political difficulties as well. In some cases, the difficulty was a lack of consciousness about the importance of this problem. But each day they are realising more and maybe when they fully realise the importance of this problem we will all be independent.
QUESTION: I would like to know what forward thrust your country would have in the absence of NATO support, that this country gives, and what the arguments are that the US offers for its participation in NATO which we all know is the conduit which supplies the Portuguese with their arms? This is something that we can take immediate political action on.
CABRAL: You see, Portugal is an underdeveloped country - the most backward in Western Europe. It is a country that doesn’t produce even toy planes - this is not a joke, it’s true. Portugal would never be able to launch three colonial wars in Africa without the help of NATO, the weapons of NATO, the planes of NATO, the bombs of NATO - it would be impossible for them. This is not a matter for discussion. The Americans know it, the British know it, the French know it very well, the West Germans also know it, and the Portuguese know it very well.
We cannot talk of American participation in NATO, because NATO is the creation of the United States. Once I came here to the US and I was invited to lunch by the representative of the US on the United Nations’ Fourth Committee. He was also the deputy chief of the US delegation to the UN. I told him we are fighting against Portuguese colonialism, and not asking for the destruction of NATO. We don’t think it is necessary to destroy NATO in order to free our country. But why is the US opposing this? He told me that he did not agree with this policy (US support of NATO) but that there is a problem of world security and in the opinion of his government it is necessary to give aid to Portugal in exchange for use of the Azores as a military base. Acceptance of Portuguese policy is necessary for America’s global strategy, he explained.
I think he was telling me the truth, but only part of the truth because the US supports Portugal in order to continue the domination of Africa, if not over other parts of the world. I must clarify that this man left his position in the UN and during his debate in the US Congress took a clear position favourable to ours and asked many times for aid to Portugal to be stopped, but the government didn’t accept.
What is the justification for this? There is no justification - no justification at all. It is US imperialism. Portugal is an appendage of imperialism, a rotten appendage of imperialism. You know that Portugal is a semi-colony itself. Since 1775 Portugal has been a semi-colony of Britain. This is the only reason that Portugal was able to preserve the colonies during the partition of Africa. How could this poor miserable country preserve the colonies during the partition of Africa? How could this poor miserable country preserve the colonies in the face of the ambitions and jealousies of Germany, France, England, Belgium, and the emerging American imperialism? It was because England adopted a tactic. It said - Portugal is my colony, if it preserves colonies they are also my colonies - and England defended the interests of Portugal with force. But now it is not the same. Angola is not really a Portuguese colony. Mozambique is not really a Portuguese colony. You can see the statistics. More than 60 per cent of the principal exports of Angola are not for Portugal. Approximately the same percentage of the investments in Angola and Mozambique are not Portuguese, and each day this is increasing. Guinea and Cape Verde are very poor and do not have very good climates. They are the only Portuguese colonies. Portugal is, principally for Angola and Mozambique, the policeman and the receiver of taxes. But they will not tell you this.
QUESTION: My question concerns the basis of law you are using in your country. Are you using the laws of the Portuguese in terms of the National Assembly? What kinds of criteria are you going to use?
CABRAL: If Portugal had created in my country an Assembly, we would not create one ourselves. We don’t accept any institution of the Portuguese colonialists. We are not interested in the preservation of any of the structures of the colonial state. It is our opinion that it is necessary to totally destroy, to break, to reduce to ash all aspects of the colonial state in our country in order to make everything possible for our people. The masses realise that this is true, in order to convince everyone we are really finished with colonial domination in our country.
Some independent African states preserved the structures of the colonial state. In some countries they only replaced a white man with a black man, but for the people it is the same. You have to realise that it is very difficult for the people to make a distinction between one Portuguese, or white, administrator and one black administrator. For the people it is the administrator that is fundamental. And the principle - if this administrator, a black one is living in the same house, with the same gestures, with the same car, or sometimes a better one, what is the difference? The nature of the state we want to create in our country is a very good question for it is a fundamental one.
Our fortune is that we are creating the state through the struggle. We now have popular tribunals - people’s courts - in our country. We cannot create a judicial system like the Portuguese in our country because it was a colonial one, nor can we make a copy of the judicial system in Portugal - it is impossible. Through our struggle we created our courts and the peasants participate by electing the courts themselves. Ours is a new judicial system, totally different from any other system, born in our country through the struggle. It is similar to other systems, like the one in Vietnam, but it is also different because it corresponds to the conditions of our country.
If you really want to know the feelings of our people on this matter I can tell you that our government and all its institutions have to take another nature. For example, we must not use the houses occupied by the colonial power in the way they used them. I proposed to our party that the government palace in Bissau be transformed into a people’s house for culture, not for our prime minister or something like this (I don’t believe we will have prime ministers anyway). This is to let the people realise that they conquered colonialism - it’s finished this time - it’s only a question of a change of skin. This is really very important. It is the most important problem in the liberation movement. The problem of the nature of the state created after independence is perhaps the secret of the failure of African independence.
QUESTION: Looking at Africa geographically, where does the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde Islands (PAIGC) get most of its support, North Africa, or Sub-Saharan Africa, and in a broader sense, how does support from Russia and China compare?
CABRAL: We don’t like this division of Africa. We have the support of the OAU for some years now. We have the total support of OAU. All African countries support PAIGC, no exceptions of any voice against us. And through the OAU, the liberation committee gives us financial help. There are some African countries, maybe not more than the fingers on the hand, that help us directly also. With them we have bilateral relations. Some are in the north, others in the west, and others in the east.
About China and the Soviet Union, we always had the support of the socialist countries - moral, political and material. Some have given more material support than others. Until now the country that has helped us most is the Soviet Union, and we have said it many times before at all kinds of meetings. Until now they’ve helped us the most in supplying materials for the war. If you want to verify this you can come to my country and see. This is the situation.
QUESTION: My question is about the role of women. What is the nature of the transformation from the old system under imperialism?
CABRAL: In our country you find many societies with different traditions and rules on the role of women. For example, in the Fula society a woman is like a piece of property of the man, the owner of the home. This is a typical patriarchal society. But even there women have dignity, and if you enter the house you would see that inside the house, the woman is the chief. On the other hand, in Balante society women have more freedom.
To understand these differences you have to know that in Fula society all that is produced belongs to the father. In Balante society all that is produced belongs to the people that work and women work very hard so they are free. It is very simple. But the problem is about the political role in the fight. You know that in our country there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element. On the Bijagos Islands they had queens. They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens. The religious leaders were women too. Now they are changing.
I tell you these things so that you can understand our society better. But during the fight the important thing is the political role of women. Yes, we have made great achievements, but not enough. We are very far from what we want to do, but this is not a problem that can be solved by Cabral signing a decree. It is all part of the process of transformation, of change in the material conditions of the existence of our people, but also in the minds of the women, because sometimes the greatest difficulty is not only in the men but in the women too.
We have a big problem with our nurses, because we trained about three hundred nurses – women – but they married, they get children and for them it’s finished. This is very bad. For some this doesn’t happen. Carmen Pereira, for instance, is a nurse, and she is a member of the high political staff of the party. She is responsible for all social and cultural problems in the southern liberated region. She’s a member of the executive committee of the party. There are many others too, trained not only in the country but in the exterior also, in foreign countries. But we have much work to do.
In the beginning of the struggle, when we launched the guerrilla struggle, young women came without being called and asked for weapons to fight, hundreds and hundreds. But step-by-step some problems came in this framework and we had to distribute, to partition the war. Today, women are principally in what you call the local armed forces and in the political war - working on health problems, and instruction also.
I hope we can send some of our women here so you will be able to know them. But we have big problems to solve and we have a great problem with some of the leaders of the party. We have (even myself) to combat ourselves on this problem, because we have to be able to cut this cultural element, with its great roots, until the day we put down this bad thing - the exploitation of women, but we have made great progress in this field in these 10 years.
QUESTION: Comrade Cabral, you spoke about universal scientific laws of revolution. It is very clear that in this country, we too, are engaged in some stage of development of a revolutionary struggle. Certainly, one of the most controversial aspects of our struggle is the grasp of these scientific universal laws. Would you, therefore, talk about your party’s understanding of revolutionary theory, particularly as related to Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, and the anti-colonial wars of national liberation? So I wonder, would you speak on this problem?
CABRAL: You see, I think that all kinds of struggles for liberation obey a group of laws. The application of these laws to a certain case depends on the nature of the case. Maybe all these laws are applicable, but maybe only some, it depends. In science you know water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. It’s a law. Naturally, with the condition that we are speaking in centigrade degrees, this is a specification. What does it mean if we are measuring Fahrenheit - it’s not the same. And it is also only at sea level. When you go into the mountains this law is not true. It is sometimes more complex.
It’s the same in the field of the scientific character of the liberation struggle. Cuba, Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and so on. Sometimes you can even explain conflicts between their people because of the different nature of their struggle, dictated by the different conditions of the countries - historical, economical, and so on.
I have to tell you that when we began preparing for our struggle in our own country, we didn’t know Mao Tse-tung. The first time I faced a book of Mao Tse-tung was in 1960. Our party was created in 1956. We knew less about the struggle of Cuba, but later we tried to know the experiences of other peoples. Some experiences we put aside because the difference was so great that it would waste time to study them. We think the experiences of other people are very important for you, principally to know things you should not do. Because what you do in your country you have to create yourself.
The general laws are very simple. For instance, the development of the armed fight in a country characterised by agriculture where most, if not all, of the population are peasants means you have to do to the struggle as in China, in Vietnam or in my country. Maybe you begin in the towns, but you recognise that this is not good. You pass to the countryside and mobilise the peasants. You recognise that the peasants are very difficult to mobilise under certain conditions, but you launch the armed struggle and step-by-step you approach the towns in order to finish the colonists.
For instance, this is scientific: in the colonial war there is a contradiction. What is it? It is that the colonial power in order to really dominate the country has to disperse its forces. In dispersing its forces it becomes weak - the national forces can destroy them. As you begin to destroy them they are obliged to concentrate, but when they concentrate they leave areas of the country you can control, administer and create structures in. You can tell me its not possible in the US, the US is not an agricultural country like this. But if you study deeply the conditions in your country maybe you will find that the law is applicable. This is what I can tell you because it is a big problem.
QUESTION (continued): I’d like to rephrase part of it. What I am trying to get at is how, in setting up a cadre training school that you set up in Conakry, did you access the revolutionary experiences of countries I mentioned? The point I am trying to drive at is not the form of waging a revolutionary struggle. I understand the differences in concrete conditions. I want to know how one moves through a colonial or a semi-feudal conditions into socialism (clearly the dominant revolutionary experience in the world). How were you able to set up a training program in which cadres were exposed to this information?
CABRAL: In the beginning we established in Conakry what you call a political school of militants. About one thousand people came from our country by groups. We first asked: Who we are? Where are we? What do we want? How do we live? What is our enemy? Who is this enemy? What can he do against us? What is our country? Where is our country? We asked things like this, step-by-step explaining our real conditions and explaining what we want, why we want it and why we have to fight against the Portuguese. Among all of these people some, step-by-step, approached other experiences. But the problem of going from a feudal or semi-feudal society or tribal society to socialism is a very big problem, even from capitalism to socialism.
If there are Marxists here they know that Marx said that capitalism created all the conditions for socialism. The conditions were created but never passed. Even then it is very difficult. This is even more reason for the feudal or semi-feudal tribal societies to jump to socialism - but it’s not a problem of jumping. It’s a process of development. You have to establish political aims based on your own condition, the ideological content of the fight. To have an ideology doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to define whether you are communist, socialist, or something like this. To have an ideology is to know what you want in your own condition.
We want in our country this: to have no more exploitation of our people, not by white people or by black people. We don’t want any more exploitation. It is in this way we educate our people - the masses, the cadres, the militants. For that we are taking, step-by-step, all the measures necessary to avoid this exploitation. How? We give to our people the instrument of control, the people to lead. And we give to our people all possibility to participate more actively each day in the direction of their own life.
Naturally, if an American comes he may say you are doing socialism in your country. This is a responsibility for him. We are not preoccupied with labels, you see. We are occupied in the content of the thing, what we are doing, how we are doing it, what chances are we creating for realising this aim. There are some societies that passed from feudal or semi-feudal stages to being socialist societies. But one of their specifics was having a state imposing this passage. We do not have this. We have to create for ourselves the instruments of the state inside our country, in the conditions of our history, in order to orientate all to a life of justice, work for progress and equality. Equality of chance for all people is the problem. The problem of equality is equality of chance. This is what I can tell you. This is a big discussion, philosophical if you want something like this.
QUESTION: What direct relationship does the OAU have with your party? You mentioned the OAU several times and I heard some things about the OAU, but I wanted to know whether or not it has been helpful to you, and if it has, in what ways?
CABRAL: Yes, they are good relations. Now we can even tell that we are nearly members of the OAU, because at the last summit conference in Rabat, they admitted the recognised liberation movements, like my party, to participate in the debate concerning their own cases. The relations are very good. We have the help of the OAU - not enough we think, but they are trying to increase this help and we think that in our own case, maybe next year, we will be a member, a full member of the OAU.
QUESTION (continued): Why? Do you see it as the organisation for Africa?
CABRAL: A real organisation for Africa? It depends. Now at this stage of the revolution in Africa, the OAU is a very good thing. It is such a good thing that imperialism is doing its best to finish it. Naturally, maybe for your ideas the OAU doesn’t answer well, doesn’t fully correspond to your hopes. Maybe you are right, but this is not the problem. In the political field, you have to know at each stage if you are doing the possible or not, and preparing the field for the possible for tomorrow or not. This is the problem.
QUESTION (continued): Yes, but how was it created and how is it being supported?
CABRAL: Oh, that’s a very big matter. You don’t know how it was created? They met in May 1963 in Addis Ababa, and they established a charter.
QUESTION (continued): Who is supporting this organisation?
CABRAL: Who is supporting it? The states - the African states? Yes, the African states. The imperialists - no, you are not right. You are not right, my sister. We can tell that some of the African states (interrupted)
QUESTION: (continued): If there is such an organisation why are we still where we are? It is just the leaders that elect to go there, not the kind of people like yourself, who are coming down to the masses and speaking the truth. These are neo-colonial leaders.
CABRAL: No. But that is not the problem. You are confused. You are making a mistake. One problem is the problem of the OAU. The OAU is an organisation of African states, it’s true. Are imperialists supporting the OAU? On the contrary, they do their best not to because there is a potential danger for them. The other problem is: are these African states all really independent? Some of them are neo-colonialist, but you have to distinguish this thing in order to do something. If you confuse all - it’s not possible.
QUESTION: (continued): But brother, why is it that each time the question of Pan-Africanism is brought to the discussion most of them take different views?
CABRAL: Oh, yes. You see you cannot demand all the African states to agree immediately on Pan-Africanism. Even if we discuss Pan-Africanism you would be surprised. I am for Pan-Africanism. I am for African unity. But we have to be for these things and do them when possible, not to do it now. You see, my sister, you here in the US, we understand you. You are for Pan-Africanism and you want it today. Pan-Africanism now! We are in Africa; don’t confuse this reaction against Pan-Africanism with the situation of the OAU. I can tell you, the head of state in Africa I admired the most in my life was Nkrumah.
QUESTION (continued): He was the only one. He was the father.
CABRAL: Nkrumah was not the father of Pan-Africanism. An American, Du Bois, was the father, if you want. Pan-Africanism is a means to return to the source. You see, it’s a very big problem. It’s not like this. Nkrumah told me in Conakry - unfortunately he is not alive, but I am not lying, I never lied in my life, he was one of my best friends, I’ll never forget him and you can read my speech at his memorial - you see he told me, ‘Cabral, I tell you one thing, our problem of African unity is important, really, but now if I had to begin again, my approach would be different.’
Unfortunately, I am leaving, but if I would like very much to speak with you in order to show you Pan-Africanism is a very nice idea; but we have to work for it, and it is not for me to accuse Houphouet-Boigny or Mobuto, because they don’t want it. They cannot want it! It is more difficult for some heads of state in Africa to accept African unity as defined by Nkrumah than it is for them to come here to the most racist of the white racists and tell them to accept equal rights for all Africa. You see, more difficult. It’s a great problem, my sister. And we think on this problem every day because our future concerns that.
We have a meeting at half past seven with the chairman of the decolonisation committee. We have to go there. It is about 20 minutes from here. I am late.
QUESTION: When will we see you again?
CABRAL: Again? I never know. It is difficult for me, but I hope in two years. Also for some of you, if you want, you can come to my country and see me and see our people.
CABRAL: By paying the fare. (laughter)
QUESTION: What are some of the specific financial and political things we can do to further the struggle?
CABRAL: Personally I don’t agree with this question. I think that this meeting is a meeting of brothers and sisters. You represent several organisations. I am very glad because we want your unity. We know it’s very difficult - it’s more difficult to make your unity than Pan-Africanism maybe. But we would like you to consider this meeting a meeting between brothers and sisters trying to reinforce not only our links in blood, and in history, but also in aims. I am very glad to have been here with you and I deeply regret that it is not possible to be with you longer. Thank you very much.
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* Amilcar Cabral was secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde Islands (PAIGC). He was born in 1924 and assassinated on 20 January 1973.
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