May 25 is celebrated throughout the African Diaspora as African Liberation Day (ALD) and African countries commemorate it as Africa Day.
Founded in 1958 as Africa Freedom Day and changed to ALD in 1963, this day was inspired by the popular struggle of African people throughout the world to free themselves from oppression and exploitation. ALD mainly focuses on the plight of continental Africa.
A Ghana conference in 1958 was significant primarily because it marked the end of pan-Africanism as a Diaspora-led movement. In the words of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, the conference had “returned home.”
The conference was attended by representatives of nationalist movements, independent African states, and many in solidarity from around the world. It pledged solidarity and garnered support for all liberation movements on the continent. ALD continued over the decades as a forum of pan-African solidarity in an era when political independence and ending apartheid were focal points of continental African struggles, a heightening U.S. civil rights movement, and Caribbean political independence.
It speaks to the great success of this phase of struggle that today most African countries have attained political independence. Apartheid in South Africa and Pretoria’s occupation of Namibia are no more.
Today, the main problem facing post-colonial Africa is that of political liberation absent of economic and social emancipation.
ALD and the pan-African movement that inspired it are not monolithic. There are distinct and varying political tendencies within. Those of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Nkrumah and continued by the South African liberation movement are class-based.
Henry Winston, former Communist Party USA chairman, wrote that by “blurring class distinctions … with regard to the oppressed peoples and their oppressors” neo-pan-Africanism diverts the black liberation struggles in Africa and the Diaspora.
Likewise, imperialism has attempted for decades to distance African liberation from the struggle for socialism. However, the critical role played by the socialist countries, particularly Cuba, in the liberation of African countries from colonialism and apartheid is hard to ignore. So too is the central role of socialist and communists in African liberations struggles. And, many African states owe their independence to military aid and other assistance from socialist countries.
Today, capitalist globalization is causing tremendous hardship for Africans. Mass poverty, corruption, civil wars and AIDS are all symptoms of the new forms of colonialism and imperialism.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) has put out the challenge for ALD to be a day in which Africans seriously reflect on progress made toward the goals that the heroes and heroines of the continent have set for Africa — national liberation and genuine social emancipation of African people.
“It is a challenge to advance the struggle to resolve the class, national and gender contradictions in an interrelated manner,” the SACP has said, “to free our continent from the shackles of imperialism.”
A concern of African countries for many decades is the negative perception of Africa and African struggles in the capitalist media. This found expression in the international community in the struggle for the New International Information Order advanced primarily by the Non-Aligned Movement and socialist countries. This is as true today as it was more than half a century ago, which attests to the need for a reinvigorated African liberation movement that the SACP is advocating.
The imperialist-dominated news sources give the perception that nothing positive is taking place on the continent. A recent study of coverage of African affairs in five prominent U.S. publications found that it concentrates on bad news to the exclusion of positive developments. The survey found that there is little mention of the fewer civil wars, South Africa’s economic growth or increased access to education, for example. The panel of 11 former African presidents reported that “disasters [dominated], while transitions to democracy in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and elsewhere were ignored.”
With the metamorphosis of colonialism into neo-colonialism (political independence without economic independence) many see the danger of re-colonialism. Pan-Africanism and ALD is, therefore, more than ever a necessary tool of international solidarity in resisting the re-colonization schemes of capitalist globalization for the true African liberation.