Sobukwe Shukura is a member of The All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP)
The All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) had a slogan in the 70’s and the 80’s: “Smash the Democratic and Republican Party”. We have today a more appropriate line calling for the dismantling of all bourgeoise parties globally. The AAPRP believes these capitalist parties cannot be redeemed. Some have mistakenly understood this to mean the AAPRP is against left participation in elections. Not only is that not true, but the AAPRP has supported many of our revolutionary PanAfrican and other Socialist alliances in their bid for power through the electoral process in Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Azania/South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Zimbabwe etc. The AAPRP is not an electoral party at this stage. We are committed to organizing for PanAfricanism and bringing together revolutionary African organizations globally in the fight against our common enemy – imperialism.
“We must understand the politics of our community. And we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what (role) politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature? We will always be misled, lead astray, or deceived, or maneuvered into supporting someone politically, who doesn’t (have) the good of our community at heart. So, the political philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that we will have to carry on a political program of reeducation: to open our people’s eyes; make us (become) more politically conscious, politically mature; and then we will, whenever we get ready to cast our ballot? That ballot will be cast for a man (person) of the community, who has the good of the community at heart.” Malcolm X The Ballot or the Bullet Speech Transcript – Malcolm X – Rev We are sure with a close examination of Malcolm X’s now famous speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” he was clear that the ballot is a tactic not a principle. The ballot is a tactic like armed struggle or nonviolent direct action, (strikes, marches, sit-ins, etc.). Malcolm X said ‘by any means necessary’ in his 1964 speech given at the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. We might say today by “All Means Necessary”. Kwame Ture and other members of The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members said often that Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council saw non-violence as a principle and not a tactic (“Eyes On Prize Interviews” Judy Richarson’s Question 27 to Kwame Ture). If you see non-violence or violence, armed struggle or electoral politics as principles they become ends in themselves and not merely means to an end. Let me be clear here that the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party sees voting and electoral politics as a tactic and a means in a strategical process toward power. All strategy and tactics of any political party or formation must be guided by an ideology leading to clear objectives. That objective for the AAPRP is: One unified Socialist Africa. The objective of those in power is to stay in power, all others are seeking to either share or seize power. The objective of Neo-colonial, Settler and Capitalist parties is to maintain power. Therefore, all their organizational energies are used in this manner. Even the way they organize elections and election processes are designed for them to stay in power. “Revolution is a science. It is not about feelings or sentimentality but what we call a dialectical & historical analysis of history. It requires having clearly defined goals and objectives based on the scientific analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the people and the enemy. It is about developing and implementing a winning strategy and making adjustments when strategies fail and/or become obsolete.” “Pan-Africanism and International Solidarity: Two Complementary Elements of the A-APRP” AAPRP-International.org The bourgeoise capitalist democratic state is designed to keep capitalism in power. Since capitalism represents a minority of the population and not the people’s interests, the only way it can stay in power is by keeping the people divided and powerless. In the first so-called modern democracies like the United States in 1776, only rich white land owners could vote. Every other sector of the society including Africans, workers and women got the vote by shedding their blood in the streets. Today after over almost 200 years, U.S. Settler Capitalism uses white supremist strategies to divide the electorate and suppress the vote. For working class people in the U.S. there is no mass party that represents either their economic interest or principally their social interest. The questions of race, gender, religion are used to mobilize the people but not to organize them. Africans (people of African descent) in the U.S. fought and died for the right to vote in the U.S. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers, working in the voting campaigns in the Southern United States saw that the Civil Rights movement had no strategy on how to use the vote for gaining political power beyond increasing Africans in the U.S. with the vote numerically, to just vote and elect more “Black People” to the same racist capitalist system. From then up to now, there are only the two, racist settler-capitalist parties, the democrats and the republicans, that have locked down the electoral process. The young SNCC workers helped to form alternative parties including the “Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party” and “Lowndes County Freedom Party (Black Panther Party)” in the sixties. The “Black Panther Party”, known for its symbol, was able to register and increase people of African descent voting numbers in their local area. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) fielded a slate of alternative delegates to the Democratic Convention and challenged the all-white slate that was chosen without the participation of the African (Black) population. The Democratic Party refused MFDP delegates and offered them only one seat which MFDP refused. Ideologically though left of the Settler-regime, neither of these formations had socialist ideologies and those forces from them who didn’t move on to left organizations, became Democrats. Almost 90 percent of the African elected officials belong to the democratic party. Although some reforms have been made, the African people have very little power in the Democratic Party per their numbers. Indeed, the numerically smaller Zionist lobby yields much more power than Africans in the Democratic Party. The call for Black Power, a slogan raised by SNCC, sparked an important debate over the use of the vote as a tactic for electoral influence verses using it to gain political power. Using the vote to gain political power requires a revolutionary political party or front of parties with a mass character, organizing workers, women, youth, peasants, etc. The socialist and communist parties in the U.S. have only been elected as mayors, congressmen, senators and so forth in their individual capacity. The power of Communists in the United States was gutted in the 1940’s under the “McCarthy Internal Security Act” that expelled communists from the industrial unions. The U.S. Unions of today are largely aligned to the Democratic Party and their Capitalist and Imperialist foreign policies. The closest leftist ever to becoming a U.S. President was Social Democrat, Bernie Sanders, who ran as a Democrat. Today the left organizations have no collective electoral front or collective strategy and individually these Parties have never gotten more than 3% of the vote. We make these observations because of the undue influence the bourgeois form of so called “democratic elections” dominate the discourse of the neo-colonial state in Africa and the world. These capitalist elections promote form over essence, the individual over the collective and a horse race instead of the battle of ideas. There is in essence a one-party state in the U.S., Australia and Israel in the sense that the major competing parties support settercapitalism. The neo-colonial states in Africa were formed by collusion with local opportunist elites and coercive forces from imperialist states. Imperialism will support multiparty, one party, or an autocratic state if it meets its interests, for example by their historical support of the one-party state in Kenya and now the multi-party state in Kenya. History actually shows that for the oppressed, a socialist one partystate has advanced the people’s interest more rapidly than the multi-party model. Russia, China, Ghana, Cuba, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau advanced in all the social fields for instance education, health care as well as women’s and worker’s rights under a one-party state. Multi-Partyism in Africa took two forms: First, people’s defense against neo-colonial capitalist one-party states and semi-feudal regimes, and secondly by the imperialist imposed multipartyism to destroy the power of one-party socialist governments and to retard cohesion among ethnic groups and other social strata. Guinea Conakry under the African Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) banned parties based on ethnicity or religion. This is to point out that in neo-colonial and former colonial states in general and in Africa in particular, we are fighting both internal contradictions micronationalisms, semi-feudal traditions and external contradictions of foreign finance (IMF, Barclays Bank, Foreign/Settler controlled industries and land), and military apparatuses that occupy the state (AFRICOM, NATO, Israel Security Firms). There are many examples of left fronts formed to take power through electoral politics like Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, some formed during the revolutionary process and others after the execution of an armed struggle in the context of Algeria, Tanzania, Cuba. There are parties that came to power in Africa using elections that then proceeded to embark on building socialist societies after taking power including Ghana and Guinea Conakry etc. The critical process for Left participation, we reiterate here, is that there must be a revolutionary strategy. What are the forces in tension? Is the left unified? Are the left parties or fronts unified around a common ideology or platform? If the state is neocolonial, are there nationalist parties that want to free the state from foreign economic domination? Is there a land question? What is the strength of labor? What is the strength of women and youth movements and organizations? Do you have more chances of victory on the local level? Are there seats on the national level? Is this a campaign of exposure for your organization and your platform? Most of all, can you build a left party/front that can distinguish itself ideologically and politically from the ruling class agenda? Many Left powers have simply been absorbed by the state. The current election in Kenya is largely a collaboration between the same ruling elites. The 2022 election started in Kenya in 2018 and to date there is no Left candidate or coalition built yet capable of changing the old guard on the presidential or national level. The Communist Party Kenya recently announced their decision to form a coalition with several coast parties and made overtures with other like-minded parties. There is some value in this even if the effort yields few electoral votes in the 2022 election. The bigger challenge is building a nationwide left peoplecentered coalition that is at a minimum anti-neocolonial and anti-patriarchal. The Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah said in a speech at the Organization of African Unity in 1963 the following about national independence. “On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.” Kwame Nkrumah (Read Entire 1963 OAU Speech)
Revolutionary Pan-Africanist and socialist internationalists must look at elections as a tool to advance people’s democracy; popular democracy that strengthens mass participation not only in elections but participation in the political life of the society. Their goal must again be organization not just mobilization. There must be popular political education like in Venezuela around the constitution for instance, while recruiting and increasing ideologically trained cadre in the party/parties. Amilcar Cabral said, one of the greatest weaknesses of national liberation parties and organizations has been the lack of constant ideological training. Revolutionaries must also be honest about their own strength and the strength of the other political forces before competing for office. Sometimes a campaign against neo-colonial elections can be just as effective in organizing the people’s political power. For revolutionaries, every election in Africa and the world is our concern because each election either advances, retards or supports the current status in the fight against imperialism. Africa is under neocolonialism today; neo-colonialism is imperialism and no state alone can defeat imperialism. Summarily one ethic group or sector cannot defeat a neo-colonial state. Achieving Africa’s sovereignty is based on our struggle for pan-African working-class organization, locally, continentally and internationally. Many errors have been made by the Left in our election strategies emerging from colonialism. The mass parties in Azania/South Africa gives us a good example here. The national liberation parities in Southern Africa particularly Azania/Southern Africa had a mass character bringing together workers, youth, women and a revolutionary PanAfrican/Socialist intelligentsia. They waged political struggle using armed struggle, strikes and marches, garnering Pan-African and other international support. The freedom fighters from the Southern African Region had support bases throughout the continent from Ghana and Guinea Conakry to Libya and Tanzania and received material from the OAU African Liberation Committee. The Cubans sent tens of thousands of troops to Angola alone. Liberated states like Guinea Bissau Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe fought together against the remaining Settler-Regime in Azania/South Africa. The three major liberation forces of the African National Congress (ANC), Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania and Azanian People’s Organization could not achieve a revolutionary front before going into the elections in 1994. This lack of an African Left front gave more negotiating power to the minority settler-class parties supported by global capital. The ANC negotiated away three of their main political positions before the elections. 1) They would not disarm until liberation was won; 2) The resources would be nationalized and 3) the elections would be based on one person one vote. The ANC was the majority party in 1994 and still is but other parties are gaining ground like the left leaning “Economic Freedom Party” and the right “National Alliance Party”. There is a growing class struggle inside and out of the ANC coalition. Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) expelled the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) from the trade union federation, sparking formation of Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP). There is renewed energy among the youth calling for more socialist policies. The pressure to address land reclamation, neo-colonial corruption and white settler-capitalism (who controls 70% of capital in South Africa) is driving the discussion. If the left parties consolidated in Azania/South Africa it would be a major blow to imperialism on the continent.
I note four things in conclusion:
1) Left Parties need a common electoral strategy.
2) Left parties need a national coalition/front of workers, women and youth
3) Left parties need a developed propaganda machine capable of waging ideological struggle nationally and internationally
4) Left forces in Africa have to unite organizationally across the continent building an “All-African Committee for Political Coordination” leading to a continental wide socialist political party.