Franz J.T. Lee, August, 2005
Dr. Walter Rodney, Amandla, Hamba Kahle! ... Power, Go Well!
As we know, this year is the 25th anniversary of the death of Dr. Walter Rodney, of one of the most promising contemporary world emancipators of African descent ... who was brutally nipped in the bud by a Maquiavellian dictator then clad in "cooperative socialist" clothing, and who was also of African descent ... that marks one of the sharpest (not "racial" or "racist") current social class contradictions in South America and the Caribbean.
Apart from the fact, that I met Walter Rodney personally, while teaching at the University of Guyana between 1977 and 1979, and that we had important political and revolutionary discussions concerning the African Revolution, the "race" and class struggle, and the then global anti-Apartheid liberatory struggle, yet, our academic and emancipatory acquaintance dates right back to 1972, when his famous classic, "Afrika: Die Geschichte einer Unterentwicklung" (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) was published by the leftist Wagenbach-Verlag in Berlin, in 1972.
This work was translated into Spanish and published in Mexico, under the title: "Cómo Europa subdesarrolló a África." Currently I am using it in my graduate and post-graduate university classes.
To develop a historic consciousness, to understand colonialism and imperialism, to study scientifically the black face of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, this book is simply indispensable. Also this is part of Petrocaribe, of solidarity with the impoverished peoples in Haiti, Martinique and elsewhere, who had given birth to such revolutionary giants like Walter Rodney, Eric Williams and Frantz Fanon.
At the beginning of the 70s, discussing various "Third World Theories of Underdevelopment", especially of Africa, in my classes at the Technical University of Darmstadt, West Germany, among others, next to Samir Amin, C. Leys, C. Mellassoux, C. Palloix and John Saul, Walter Rodney was imperative for us to understand the historic roots of European capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, of the coming into being of the world market, of the international division of labor, of the equal, unequal and combined, global, dialectical development of transhistorical, revolutionary and emancipatory processes.
This particular controversial work generated vivid discussions and it entered the world outlook of the radical European student and youth movements of that epoch; then, in the 1960's and 1970's, already very much occupied with global protests against the Vietnam War, furthering the anti-imperialist struggle, organizing the Class and Armed Struggle in Western Europe, supporting the guerrilla movements in Africa, the Middle East, Cuba and Central America, helping the Black Power and Black Consciousness movements, of Steve Biko in South Africa and of Malcolm X in the USA, and fighting against Racism and Apartheid in Southern Africa.
Also, in the tradition of Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, all over Africa, Rodney became known as a prominent Pan-Africanist and a staunch "Ujamaa" follower of African familyhood.
In this global context Walter Rodney entered the international panorama of permanent world revolution; he was void of any petty ad hominem vendettas, of nurturing "scape-goat" versions of "race struggles", of pursuing personal enrichment, power and fame.
In this revolutionary spirit, cultivating "non-racial politics", as such, I learned to know him six years later in Guyana, as co-founder of the Working People's Alliance (WPA), in the struggle for emancipation in Guyana and the Caribbean. In the daily, hot, tropical political heat of Georgetown, marching and fighting in Tiger Bay, strolling along the sea-wall, next to Father Morrison, to Cheddi Jagan, Roopnaraine, and many others, fighting against Burnham's PNC authoritarian dictatorship, we learned to know one another much better.
At the University of Guyana, by government intervention, where Rodney was refused to lecture, together with the then visiting African lecturer, Yolamu Barongo, we developed a "Political Science in Africa", later published by Zed Press in 1983, in which we gave Rodney his honorable revolutionary role as world-renowned African dependency political activist and revolutionary thinker.
As political scientist, Rodney was very precise in the usage of his concepts, of revolutionary terms and theory. As far as I know, he never participated in nonsensical discussions for hours without end, or in political rigmaroles and sophistry. In Guyana, as the common people themselves say: In local politics, Rodney could very well distinguish "fowl egg from fowl dung".
He was upright and straightforward, he called a spade, a spade, a fascist, a fascist, whether s/he was black, white or colored, whether Afro-Guyanese or Indo-Guyanese. He clearly had developed a historical class consciousness and knew that real, true, scientific, philosophical socialism was the only road left towards world emancipation for the colonial and neocolonial "damned of the earth" (Frantz Fanon).
This is why he had to be assassinated by the PNC Burnham regime, by its protected hit-man Gregory Smith, in the geopolitical interest of its then already traditional boss, of the North American CIA, that already at the end of the fifties blocked the "communist" Jagan from democratically coming into power, and that favored then already the fraudulent elections of "socialist" L. F. S. Burnham.
Rodney like Malcolm X knew that those whom the gods love, whom the poor people love, die young; running for office in the 1980 elections, Rodney was brutally assassinated by an officer of the Guyana Defense Force, Sergeant Gregory Smith, who acted as an agent and mercenary of the then governing People's National Congress.
Today, the following reflections describe the magnitude of the scientific wealth and political heritage, that Rodney left behind, that have to be preserved and enriched, by continuing his human, humane and humanist struggle against current global fascism in Guyana, the Caribbean, and on a world scale. Especially, more than ever, we urgently need a renaissance of Rodney's revolutionary práxis and theory in Guyana itself.
25 years later, his comrades and followers, all those who knew, read or studied his works should ask themselves: What key role did he play in our thinking (or in the thinking of our children or students), in our practical and praxical lifes, as an anti-imperialist, revolutionary advocate for human justice, social freedom and global emancipation?
Those current PNC and WPA parliamentary "backtrackers" on Rodney should remember the already classical truth of the stupid lambs that elect their own fascist butcher themselves.
Furthermore, faced by current North American and European global fascism, by the next Orwellian Global Conquest, so-called "Globalization", by the "war of ideas", by Newspeak, by a huge, coming, international Mental Holocaust, by "shock and awe", we should seriously reflect about how Rodney's writings on the "theory of development and underdevelopment" could be be used to inculcate critical knowledge, thinking skills and liberating, practical and creative paradigms, for the billions of dispossessed and disadvantaged in the USA itself, in Africa, Asia, in the Caribbean and elsewhere. In a nut-shell, we should ask: Why does Walter Rodney still live? Why do Bolivar and Jose Marti still live? Where and how do they still live?
Finally, today from Africa ... in Xhosa, in my mother tongue ... our eternal, emancipatory clarion call still be heard globally echoing: "Walter Rodney, Amandla, Hamba Kahle! ... Walter Rodney, Power, Go Well!"