Black Consciousness Must Evolve - and Pan-Africanism Is Critical for That

Cape Times (South Africa), September 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Black Consciousness Must Evolve - and Pan-Africanism Is Critical for That


BYLINE: Bennie Bunsee

Black consciousness undoubtedly played a great role in the post-Sharpeville liberation struggle. For the first time in the history of our struggle, there was an attempt to bring black peoples (Africans, Indians and coloureds) together in one political organisation.

This contrasted with the ANC's separate multi-racial organisations, which Robert Sobukwe described as racialism multiplied, and which, as Mac MacMaharaj pointed out in his recent book, he questioned. Post-apartheid, the ANC would incorporate them.

The Black Consciousness Movement initiated the modern trade union movement, the Black Allied Workers' Union (Bawu). It also gave rise to a thriving art and literary creations and carried out extensive community work. It was a dynamic and energetic movement of young people that moved towards the formation of the Black People's Convention, and later under Azapo, the National Forum. It was suppressed in the infancy of its development.

But despite its positive role, the BCM had certain ideological weaknesses. It could have overcome them as it developed organically, which was restricted under apartheid conditions of brutal suppression. One such weakness was the relationship between the political nomenclatures black and African. While these are sometime used interchangeably, the usage of black lacks a certain historical preciseness that African/Africa has.

Black is a response to whiteness. It thus has a certain negativeness. It is not a positive thing in itself, for itself. Europeans do not refer to themselves as white people. They are Europeans or described positively in terms of their nationalities.

The usage of black lacks the historicism of Africa/African, which dates to many centuries back (Africans were the first race from which all races evolved). It is associated with countries of Africa, African identity, culture, civilisation, arts, world outlook, customs, religion, and most importantly, the unified struggles of millions of Africans on the African continent to regain their sense of self-determination from centuries of oppression, slavery, colonialism, imperialist domination and racism.

This unity is expressed in its various Pan-African Congresses from the 19th century to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity. The African peoples are not yet free from the fetters of these forms of domination that still exist in various forms. It is only on the basis of this historicism that ideology can be formed to guide the tactics and strategy of advancement.

The historicism and historical approach of the African civilisations is crucial to their future. Without a sense of history, a nation and peoples lose their identity and sense of being. This historicism not only sees liberation as a political act, but embraces various other issues from the language question, land, culture and traditions, civilisational responses, nativist art and culture, to a media that expresses its hopes, aspirations and frustrations, and an economy that serves its interests.

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