The challenges I left Wong’s book with were connected primarily to his section on Kwame Ture and Ture’s time in Guinea-Conakry working as a militant and Central Committee member within the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) and the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP). After becoming known internationally as the face of the U.S. Black Power movement from the late 1960s, Ture moved to Guinea-Conakry and he spent the last 30 years of his life working to build Pan-African capacity based on the concepts demonstrated in Kwame Nkrumah’s 1968 book “The Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare.” I would do absolutely anything to find analysis somewhere, anywhere, that spends time exploring the work Ture did in Guinea from 1969 to 1998 (the year he made his physical transition). I already possess much of that analysis because of my time as a cadre organizer within the A-APRP, but for the African masses in particular and humanity in general, Ture’s period living and working in Africa is left as an enigma. And, Wong’s book does nothing to contribute towards dismantling this information shortcoming. Had he, Pernel Joseph, or any of the scholars who chose to write about Kwame Ture after 1968 bothered to take time to examine his work within the PDG/A-APRP during that 30 year period (and not just consistently reduced Kwame to a 1960s Black power/civil rights celebrity), maybe we could learn more about the day to day work Kwame did in the PDG and the A-APRP to build up the revolutionary Pan-African cadre Nkrumah called upon him and all of us to do in the Handbook? Maybe Wong and others could come to understand the critically important work Ture contributed to in helping the PDG further define its relationship to the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC), and for those organizations to do the same with the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa), the Azanian People’s Organization (AZAPO), the A-APRP, and other Pan-Africanist formations operational throughout Africa and the African diaspora. Anyone who has engaged in organizational work focused around building ideological clarity and unity has to understand the difficulty in the work Ture dedicated his life to. And, those of us alive today, who have interacted with all of those Pan-African entities, and their efforts to further solidify their relationships, certainly can provide testament to the degree of difficulty and importance of that work, and the importance Kwame’s contributions made towards advancing that work.
Also, if Wong and others had been able to spend more time understanding that critical work Kwame Ture was engaged in, maybe that could have contributed to them developing a greater understanding of the government of Sekou Ture in Guinea, the PDG’s policies and practices, and an assessment and analysis of the PDG and Sekou Ture that extends beyond the same imperialist authoritarian depiction of Sekou Ture that has been dominant within the capitalist media for 50 years.
In Wong’s book, he repeats the accusations against Sekou Ture and the PDG about them being undemocratic and abusive towards the people of Guinea. And, I’m not here to try and diminish the mistakes the PDG made and/or explain them away. My writings on the subject, including the long review I wrote on Joseph’s 2014 biography on Kwame Ture entitled “Stokely – A Life”, have gone in great detail to acknowledge the errors the PDG made through its struggles with corruption, Camp Borio, etc. Still, Wong, acknowledges the challenges the PDG faced from imperialism’s efforts to constantly overthrow Sekou Ture as legitimate. As a result, a much deeper analysis of this history reveals several things. Instead of reducing the narrative to one of Sekou Ture being a dictator and the PDG being undemocratic, we instead choose to suggest that after 500 years of colonialism, African people have the right to learn how to govern in new ways, under new systems. To develop processes that function outside of the capitalist system that has clearly subjugated us. We believe the PDG attempted to do this and like any mass movement/efforts, it is going to take time to iron out the contradictions. Unlike the perfectionists from the white socialist/anarchist left – who have never recognized any of what was just written as it relates to African and other colonized people’s self determination (while they have also contributed even less of any substance to our movements, or even their own communities), we recognize that these new efforts at building socialist political parties, one party states, came with some great things and some very poor things. Like any assessment, it is from these things that we build from to improve and do better. This is what a true revolutionary process is going to look like, the process that it is. In other words, to suggest that there is only one standard for democratic development and anything that falls short of that standard in any way is undemocratic is absurd (especially if the model, as it usually is, for democracy is the Western capitalist model). Mobutu ensured there were absolutely no semblances of democracy in the Congo from 1964 through 1997 when he was finally forced from power. And, not only was there nothing within the Congo during that 33 year period that can even be mistaken for democracy, Mobutu ruled with an absolute iron fist while being 100% supported by imperialism. Meanwhile, Sekou Ture and the PDG made the Local Revolutionary Power committees, or PRLs, the central mechanism within the PDG from which the people of Guinea were to participate within their government. These PRLs, modeled after the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) in socialist Cuba, were set up all throughout Guinea to provide people with the vehicle to provide input and make local decisions on everything the PDG did. This was proven by the decisions made at the PDG’s party congresses, much of which reflected direct input from the people through the PRLs. There is absolutely no evidence that the PDG controlled PRLs on a national level. In fact, there is plenty of evidence of the PRLs tremendous, although not perfect, influence throughout the country. So, the suggestion that the PDG was undemocratic doesn’t make sense. If that were the case it would make no sense for them to place as much emphasis on the PRLs as they did. Instead, they could have just done as Mobutu did, and not even pretended to be democratic. Clearly, their intention was to create a people state. Now, the question of whether they were able to accomplish this is a different discussion and to that question, of course the answer is no, but an assessment for the reasons why the PDG fell short requires much more of an analysis than that provided by Wong, Joseph, and others writing about Sekou Ture and Guinea. Within the A-APRP we have always engaged in that assessment. And contrary to Wong’s statements about Kwame Ture’s unwillingness to criticize the PDG, I have sat in too many meetings throughout the U.S. and Africa, with and without Kwame Ture, to know that his criticisms of the PDG and its shortcomings in figuring out effective methods from which to root out corruption and elevate its democratic principles into wider practice were well established, before and after Sekou Ture’s death. Wong praises the PAIGC, and its founder Amilcar Cabral, for their work, which Wong identifies in contrast to the PDG, in working to develop more democratic structures throughout Guinea-Bissau. That deeper analysis I mentioned that Wong could have engaged in could have possibly led him to understand that a lot of what he is praising within the PAIGC is a reflection of the process we are engaged in to build Pan-Africanism. Both Kwame Ture and Amilcar Cabral were students of Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Ture. Were it not for Sekou Ture and the PDG, Cabral would not have had a base from which to build the PAIGC that Wong praises. Without Sekou Ture and the PDG, Kwame Ture would not have had a base from which to develop and probably most importantly, Nkrumah would not have had a base to produce some of his most important contributions to Pan-African work taking place today. Cabral, and Kwame Ture, were co-founders of the A-APRP. And, Kwame Ture’s work within the PDG and PAIGC, and the A-APRP’s continued work within the PAIGC and PDG since Kwame Ture’s physical transition, are reflections of the lessons learned from not only Sekou Ture’s PDG, but Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party and Kwame Ture’s Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Black Panther Party.
A single life that is adversely impacted is too many, but whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, we have to learn to crawl before we can walk, and errors can and will be made. Where these writings always fall short is that they are consistently unable to determine the difference between terrible errors based on inexperience and lack of political education, and practices that result by design to keep people oppressed. None of these writers can ever produce any evidence (they don’t even try to make the argument) that Sekou Ture and the PDG benefited financially, etc., from the errors they made. That’s why its difficult for us to understand why Wong and others, when assessing Sekou Ture and the PDG, seem to believe that their errors are not distinguishable from those made by imperialism and neo-colonialists.
Ironically, Wong uses Walter Rodney’s correct class critiques of Nkrumah and Sekou Ture’s governments (in Ghana and Guinea respectively). Then, Wong later states that Rodney himself acknowledged that Nkrumah’s analysis after being removed from power in Ghana (and becoming co-president of Guinea), addressed the results of those contradictions.
Its interesting to wonder what would have happened with the PDG in Guinea had Ghana, Mali, the Congo, and other potential progressive and Pan-African entities in Africa not been sabotaged, leaving Guinea isolated? Wong’s assessment of Guinea becoming “pro-imperialist” towards the end of Sekou Ture’s life doesn’t consider that possibility. What we do know is that when imperialism achieves that isolation on its enemies, and then imposes sanctions and other methods designed to turn the people inside against the government, as was the case in Guinea, a simple explanation that the regime turned “pro-imperialist” is insufficient. During the time of the early 80s when Wong claims this was happening, Guinea and the PDG was hosting A-APRP delegations, building with the PAIGC, MPLA, etc., and doing everything to support the anti-apartheid struggle in Southern Africa. All things that were certainly not designed to make the U.S. and imperialism happy. In 1982, when Sekou Ture came to the U.S., one of the major examples Wong and others refer to in order to suggest that Sekou Ture, in seeking U.S. financial investment (after years of declining it), was softening, Sekou Ture took action during that trip that actually solidified his position as an anti-imperialist. He took the unprecedented step, during a state visit to the U.S. of appearing at an event at Howard University in Washington, D.C., as the keynote speaker for the A-APRP. This is clearly not an action someone would take if all they are trying to do is appease imperialism. In fact, no other world leaders outside of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Kwame Nkrumah (and maybe one or two others), have come to the U.S. and done anything similar.
Overall, Wong provides an informative book that everyone should read, but like everything, do so with a critical eye. If nothing else, it demonstrates the importance of political education more and more.