Amílcar Cabral was the complete revolutionary: an astute theoretician, fierce fighter and gracious politician (with a professional background as an agronomist to boot). Part of a generation of anti-colonial leaders who were “gone too soon”—which include the likes of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and Samora Machel—Cabral succumbed to a similar fate, and was assassinated by collaborationists on January 20, 1973 at the young age of 48.
Cabral led the liberation struggle which culminated in the full independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde from Portuguese rule in 1975. A co-founder of the Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC, or African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), Cabral not only played an integral role in its successful armed struggle which caused some to dub Guinea-Bissau “Portugal’s Vietnam,” but also steered its ideological orientation and the development of its guiding, revolutionary theory. Cabral famously urged his party—and indeed all of us—to “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…”
Given the historical rarity of his ability to blend theory and practice, of his sensitivity to the particular and the universal, and of his devotion to the national and international, it is no wonder then that Cabral is an enduring inspiration for Africans plus non-Africans alike, including our dear friend and comrade, the late Michael Brooks (1983-2020). Michael’s famous exhortation to “Be ruthless with the system, be kind with the people,” reads like a Cabralian phrase par excellence. We’ll be thinking of Michael during this episode, who six months ago also left us too soon.
Joining us then to discuss Cabral’s legacy are António Tomás and Ricci Shryock. António is an anthropologist, trained at Columbia University and currently teaching in the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. Using newly available archival resources, António has just written a new biographical study of the life and thought of Cabral, called Amílcar Cabral, the Life of a reluctant nationalist (forthcoming, 2021). We’d like to ask António questions like, why was Cabral a reluctant nationalist? It is this and many other elements of his social and political thought (such as his belief that Portuguese could be an African language), that make Cabral a useful thinker for many of the dilemmas around identity, class and culture that persist in post-colonial states today.
And then, speaking of post-colonial states today– what has become of Cape Verdean and Guinea Bissauan politics after independence, and after Cabral? This is a much neglected question that we hope Ricci can enlighten us on. Ricci is a journalist and photographer living in Dakar, Senegal, covering West and Central Africa. She is also part of Africa Is A Country’s inaugural class of fellows, working on a project about the role of women in Guinea-Bissau’s liberation war—another neglected topic, and another thing we hope Ricci can enlighten us on.
If you missed last week’s episode (our first episode of 2021), we were joined by Achal Prabhala and Indira Govender to discuss the politics of vaccines—who’s making them, how are they being distributed, who’s afraid of taking them and why. It was extremely helpful for anyone as confused as we were by the quick-pace of vaccine-related developments, in a climate of so much disinformation.