A.S.I. 2004 CONFERENCE SUMMARY
SUMMARY OF THE AFRICAN SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE, 16 TO 18 JUNE 2004, LONDON
LONDON — Africans who attended the
July 17 and 18 Conference to Build the African Socialist International
(ASI) were from all over the world and they came to participate
in creating the international organization that will lead our revolutionary
struggle to overthrow neo-colonialism, defeat imperial white power
and liberate and unify Africa and African people worldwide.
From Europe we came from Spain, England and France. We came from the U.S. and Canada in North America and from Jamaica, Haiti, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. We came from all over Africa – from Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast in West Africa and from Congo Brazzaville, Congo Kinshasa, Uganda and Angola in Central Africa. We were also there from Zimbabwe and Azania (South Africa) in Southern Africa as well as from Kenya and Ethiopia in East Africa.
We were all there working in the process that would accomplish the historical task spelled out in the Main Resolution, the document authored by the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman, Omali Yeshitela, that was accepted by vote to provide the leadership for all our subsequent discussions and resolutions. This task, stated simply, is “to develop a single revolutionary organization of African socialists who are committed to the total unification and liberation of Africa under the leadership of the African working class and poor peasantry.”
The conference opened late on the 17th. This was due to contradictions among ourselves and a contradiction with imperial white power. The contradictions among ourselves involved poor organization and the fact that too often Africans, when we know that a meeting is to be daylong, will await the last minute to come to the meeting. This is due to the fact that during the most recent period of our struggle, too many of us have accepted the role of passive spectators to our struggle and do not expect to make decisions and participate ourselves.
The contradiction involving imperial white power revolved around
the fact that the British political police kidnapped the official
representative from Azania at the London airport and deported him
back to Azania after he refused to attend the conference as a spy
for them. Conference organizers spent at least 14 hours unsuccessfully
attempting to resolve this issue.
But the conference did go on, and by all accounts it was the most successful of the last four annual ASI conferences our Party has held in London. The conference opened with solidarity statements from comrades who had traveled from the U.S. for that purpose. The statements came from Ernesto Bustillos of Union del Barrio — a Mexican National Liberation organization headquartered in San Diego with whom the APSP has enjoyed a fraternal relationship since the 1980’s — and from Hector Muro of Mexicans United in Defense of the People (MUDP).
MUDP is located in Fallbrook, California
and sent a two-person delegation to the conference. MUDP is currently
working with the Party in producing a video documentary of the ASI
Penny Hess, Chairwoman of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, an organization of the APSP comprised of mostly North Americans or white people, provided the final solidarity statement.
The meat of the ASI Conference began with an overview by Chairman Omali Yeshitela who used the occasion to introduce the Main Resolution that would follow his presentation. The Chairman’s presentation was enthusiastically received by the conference attendees.
Commenting on the British government’s deportation of the South African or Azanian representative, Chairman Omali declared that the British government was correct in what it assumed the intent of the conference to be. “Our intent,” said the Chairman, “is to destroy imperialism forever… Our intent is to see that African people here and around the world will know freedom… Our struggle for freedom will mean the end of England as it has been known. So be it.”
The Chairman’s overview was to act as a kind of introduction of the Main Resolution because of concern that the conference attendees might find it uncomfortable to sit and participate in a reading of the resolution without a kind of prelude. However, the response of the audience to the reading of the Main Resolution that followed his presentation suggested otherwise.
The reading of the Main Resolution took from 45 minutes to an hour and was done by two people, a brother and sister, each of whom read half the document. The determination of the people to participate fully in the process was on full display with the mass turning of pages by the audience in unison with each page being turned by the person reading.
In calling for the creation of the African Socialist International,
the Main Resolution held up the Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA) of Marcus Garvey as the model to be emulated:
“We must be clear that the international organization necessary to liberate and unify Africa and our scattered nation is a political party in the form of the African Socialist International. With one party rooted in the African working class and allied with the poor peasantry we will have captured the best aspect of the Garvey movement of the 20th Century.
“However, unlike Garvey’s UNIA we will have an organization conscious of itself as a revolutionary instrument in the hands of the African working class. This will also distinguish our organization from such formations as those that have been characterized as ‘fronts,’ ‘people’s organizations,’ ‘congresses,’ ‘unions,’ ‘conventions,’ etc…
“Acceptance of the basic principles of this document by African militants and socialists create for us the ability to move forward with a call for the creation of the Founding Congress of the African Socialist International. At this congress leaders will be elected for our International, policies established and the line developed to guide our Party throughout the world.
“Everywhere there are Africans in the world who can unite with the line and policies of the International, local parties can be established which submit to the discipline of the International. The parties will have the right to create general programs specific to the conditions and immediate history with which they are confronted as long as those general programs are consistent with the line of the International…
“The political unity necessary to develop Africa and usher in a new era of prosperity that will lift our people out of the quagmire of poverty, ignorance and violence we have inherited from various colonialisms can only be acquired through the creation of a revolutionary African Socialist International. Only such an organization would have the ability to bring about the liberation and unification of Africa under the leadership of the African working class as its central aim.
“The African Socialist International will have the responsibility of fusing revolutionary consciousness as reflected in this document, with the struggles and movements of African workers and poor peasants. It will have the responsibility of forging an African Internationalist consciousness onto the workers and peasant movements, which will make it difficult for the neo-colonialists and imperialists to divide us according to region, religion or ethnicity.
“The African Socialist International will have the responsibility of functioning as the advanced detachment of the African working class in all countries. It will have the objective of leading the struggle to overthrow the neo-colonial states. It will replace the neo-colonial state power with revolutionary states organized as the workers and poor peasants in arms. The mission of the workers will include extending the revolution throughout Africa in concert with other African Internationalist-led workers and poor peasants in other neo-colonial states.”
Distinguishing the ASI from efforts by traditional Pan Africanists, the Main Resolution went on to state:
“Those of us committed to the creation of the African Socialist International refer to ourselves as African Internationalists. We distinguish ourselves from Pan Africanists. This is because Pan Africanism is a broad concept that embraces almost anyone, whatever his ideology, who chooses to be so defined. The African Revolution cannot be fought to a successful conclusion without a revolutionary worldview in possession of a single, disciplined, revolutionary organization guided by revolutionary theory.
“The creation of such an organization is the primary task of our times. It would reaffirm the strategic objective of liberating and unifying Africa under the leadership of the African working class aligned with the poor peasantry, while allowing the various Fronts of our revolution around the world to develop tactics and strategies for local struggle consistent with our general strategic objective.”
Acceptance of the Main Resolution was nearly unanimous. The two exceptions were from a young Pan Africanist who had some differences with our characterization of Pan Africanism and one other brother who, while expressing general unity with the work of the African People’s Socialist Party and the ASI process, arrived late and had not read the Main Resolution.
However, this critical vote accepting the Main Resolution represented a turning point for the ASI building process. Up to now the ASI effort was simply a project of the African People’s Socialist Party, albeit one that the Party had for many years attempted to enlist others to participate in. The fact is that the mandate for the work to build the ASI came from a resolution of the First Congress of the APSP held in 1982.
Now, with the vote from the Conference to Build the ASI — attended by Africans from around the world, many of whom with no previous contact with the APSP — the work to build the ASI had become the property of the international African community. And, throughout the conference, participants constantly referred to the document in defending their position or the ASI process itself.
Following the vote to accept the Main Resolution, the conference heard reports from representatives of various areas of the world where Africans are located and struggling. The first was from Angola. This report was rather spontaneous because the official presenter from Angola, Sister Maria Teresa Santana, had fallen seriously ill just before the conference and could not attend. The second report was from Equatorial Guinea. Both reports were enthusiastically received. The conference attendees were especially impressed with the Angola report, provided by two teenagers, one of whom declaring that he dared not tell his parents that he was involved in the conference.The report from Equatorial Guinea was fascinating because of our general ignorance about the place and its history. It is the only Spanish speaking West African neo-colonial territory and its tremendous oil wealth, while enriching the ruling elite, does nothing to help the impoverished masses. On the next day, Sunday, the 18th, reports were made from Azania, Congo Kinshasa, Ivory Coast, Uganda, British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti, Spain, the U.S. and England.
Not all of the reports were accepted by the audience without struggle. The Uganda representative, from the Uganda People’s Congress, Dr. Milton Obote, started his presentation defensively, declaring himself to probably be one of the petty bourgeoisie described in the Main Resolution. He was also seriously challenged from the floor by a young brother from the Democratic Republic of Congo who attempted to force him to defend his definition of himself as a Pan Africanist, given the history of Pan Africanism in its struggle against Garvey and its pitiful history in Africa.
There was also some controversy surrounding the report from Ivory Coast when the presenter advised against a resolution demanding the removal of French troops currently occupying Ivory Coast. The troops are protecting French interests against the interests of the U.S., which is rebel forces to challenge the current neo-colonial government in power.
These reports were accompanied by questions and discussions by the audience and followed by a plenary process that resulted in a resolution establishing a secretariat based in Spain with the primary responsibility of taking the ASI information to the more than 135 million Spanish speaking Africans around the world.
Other resolutions condemned the overthrow of the Haitian government by the U.S., with French complicity, and demanded the U.S. and France to return elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power. The Haiti resolution also demanded that France pay restitution to Haiti for the millions of francs extorted from the poor people following the Haitian revolution that successfully ended slavery and established the first workers’ republic in history in 1804. The resolution also demanded that the U.S. pay restitution for the gold stolen from the Haitian treasury by the Marines when they ended their 19-year occupation in 1934.
One of the most important resolutions passed was the one that established the process that would lead up to implementing the founding of the African Socialist International itself. This resolution called for the mass distribution of the conference document, the Main Resolution, throughout the African world along with a call to all those who can unite with it to come to a meeting in London in January 2005. The London meeting, currently scheduled for the anniversary of the murder of Congolese martyr Patrice Lumumba, would be used to form an Interim Committee with the responsibility of establishing a date and organizing the Founding Congress of the ASI.
The ASI Conference was closed by an electrifying and mobilizing presentation by Chairman Omali Yeshitela that exposed the deeply felt sense of progress experienced by the attending Africans. It was clear that Africans were tired of just meeting for meeting sake and felt a great sense of accomplishment and ownership of the process to build our revolutionary organization to fight for and win our liberation as a nation dispersed throughout the world.However, while it would be impossible to overstate the political significance of the conference, it would be an error not to mention the life-changing experience provided by the conference for many, if not most, of the conference attendees. The conference provided all of us Africans an opportunity to view the world and our struggles differently.
We left unable to feel our struggle as an isolated one regardless of where we are located. We moved the idea of African unity beyond the theoretical stage by meeting with each other and sharing our experiences. We overcame what we had previously thought of as the barrier of language, and discovered that the idea of some cultural gulf separating us is nothing but a myth created by our white power imperialist enemy and reinforced by the African petty bourgeoisie created in the image of its white master.
We left the conference certain that Africa will be free, and along
with her scattered children, will be united once again. We knew
this with certainty because we were determined to build the organization
that would be the vehicle to make it happen.
The conference ended with repetitive chants of “Africa”! and the slogan appropriated from the once revolutionary Pan Africanist Congress of Azania: “Izwe Lethu I Afrika!” Africa is Our Land!