DAVID A COMISSIONG:
LET’S HAVE A ‘PAN-AFRICAN COMMONWEALTH’
A call for the establishment of a ‘Pan-African Commonwealth or League of Nations’ comprised of all of the countries of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean that have been impacted by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was one of the main outcomes of an historic Seminar on African, Caribbean and Latin American unity that was held in St Vincent on the 5th and 6th of December under the auspices of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
This novel proposal was advanced by a Barbadian delegation consisting of Bobby Clarke and David Comissiong of the Peoples Empowerment Party, Trevor Prescod of the Israel Lovell Foundation and John Howell of African Reparations Inc., and was inspired by the intellectual work of the legendary Nigerian Pan-Africanist scholar who goes by the single name of Chinweizu.
In outlining the concept of an association of African, Latin American and Caribbean states that could be variously conceptualized as a ‘Pan African Commonwealth’, a ‘South Atlantic League of Nations’ or a ‘Pan-African Bloc of Countries’, Mr David Comissiong explained that the vast majority of the nations of the three regions are bound together by historical, racial, cultural, geographical and political factors.
In making the case for this new multi-national association of states, Mr Comissiong sketched the common history of European orchestrated slavery, forced migration of large numbers of African people, colonialism and neo-colonialism that has impacted virtually all of the societies of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and referred to the common interest that the people and governments of the three regions possess in pursuing ‘Reparations’ for the damage inflicted on them and the establishment of a ‘New International Economic Order’.
This proposal was unanimously endorsed by the participants in the St Vincent Seminar, and the next steps in the process of making it a reality are to place it before the governing bodies of the ‘African Union’ (AU), the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the ‘Bolivarian Alternative For Latin America’ (ALBA).
However, the ‘Pan-African Commonwealth’ was not the only idea that garnered the approval of the several Vincentian, St Lucian, Venezuelan, Surinamese and Barbadian delegates at the Seminar!
Indeed, in a declaration signed by some 20 leaders and activists of the Caribbean, the Seminar acknowledged the massive flaws inherent in the neo-liberal international capitalist system, and insisted that there is an urgent need for the nations of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to come together in solidarity and unity if they are to avoid the worst ravages of the diseased capitalist system.
The participants were very clear however that such efforts at unity have to go way beyond "the formal structures of government and state bureaucracies, into the realm of deep people-to-people contacts and relationships". And in this regard, they insisted that a much greater effort has to be made to implement comprehensive programmes of popular education and information dissemination that are designed to sharpen the intellect, critical consciousness and ideological orientation of our people.
The ‘Declaration’ also included a reiteration of "the longstanding clarion call of the progressive world community of nations and peoples for an immediate end to the criminal, illegal and immoral United States blockade against the Caribbean nation of Cuba". In addition, the participants unanimously confirmed their support of the recent declaration made by the ‘Union of South American Nations’ (UNASUR) for the South American region to be a zone of peace, and called on all of the nations of the world to respect the UNASUR declaration.
9 December 2009
DAVID A COMISSIONG
GAC_Canada@yahoogroups.com [mailto:GAC_Canada@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Cikiah Thomas
by Chinweizu Chinweizu
Hi David Commissiong:
I recall we met in Kampala in 1994 at the 7th PAC.
I have just seen your press release about setting up a Pan-African Commonwealth. Congratulations for taking the initiative again, like you did with the GAC. And since the press release mentions me as an inspiration for the project, I feel obliged to clarify what I have been calling for, and to ask some probing questions, lest you guys sink your efforts into bringing into being something inadequate to our needs in the 21st century. Surely, we don't need another jamboree outfit for Black heads of state, or another outfit that is structurally incapable of achieving the paramount goal of Pan-Africanism, namely the total liberation of Global Black Africa from all hegemonic and imperialist powers.
Before we can assess the desirability of this Commonwealth, we need to have a prospectus that clearly sets out its constituency, goals, and the various problems of its constituency that it shall undertake to solve, a prospectus that we all can study and help mature.
Here are some initial issues that come to mind:
If this is to be a Pan-African outfit, it cannot afford to repeat the parochialism of the 1960s when the OAU was formed without including the Black Diaspora in its constituency and its agenda. And without even including the interests of the Afro-Mauritanians and South Sudanese in liberation from Arab colonialism and enslavement. Today, we have a variety of situations and threats to different parts of Global Black Africa. Any new “Pan-African” organization, if it is to be adequate, has to be designed to help each part of the Global Black African constituency solve its peculiar problems using help from the other parts of the constituency.
After all, isn’t that what Pan-African solidarity is about?
However, judging from the press release, this Pan-African Commonwealth is going to be concerned with securing reparations only for the western diaspora. If so, what is Pan-African about it?
What of the interests of the eastern diaspora? Or of the continental Black Africans?
What, in particular, of the interests of the Darfurians, the South Sudanese and the Black Mauritanians in their long struggle for liberation from Arab colonialism and enslavement?
What of the indigenous Fijians in their struggle to prevent political domination by the immigrant Indians?
What of the interests of the West Papuans in their struggle against Indonesian annexation?
What of the interests of the Black Australians?
What, if I may ask, is Pan-African about this proposed Commonwealth if it ignores such parts of Global Black Africa and their interests?
Or has Pan-Africanism ceased to be about the total liberation of the peoples of Global Black Africa?
Here also are some initial questions that need wise answers:
Who are we—the Global Black Africans? And what are our plans and ambitions for ourselves for this century?
Where is our own exclusive interstate organization? For us only?
Before seeking alliances, shouldn’t we create our own home organization, for us alone? Our home base as it were?
What is a black African state? A country with a black majority in the population? A country in which the state apparatus is in the hands of its black population?
Which states are they?
Would the USA qualify just because it has a sizeable captive black African population, or because a blackface now resides in the white house?
What are the plans and ambitions of the ALBA states with whom, from the Press Release, we may be making alliances?
As the Chinese sage Sun Tzu pointed out some 25 centuries ago: “one ignorant of the plans of neighboring states cannot make alliances with them.”
We must bear in mind that one of the fundamental errors of Nkrumah’s generation when they formed the OAU in the 1960s was that they did not find out about the plans and ambitions of the Arab states with whom they went into alliance in the OAU. And even now, many Pan-Africanists don’t know, and don’t want to know, these Arab ambitions in Africa! We cannot afford to be naïve yet again.
How will this new outfit tackle Global Black Africa’s naiveté, weakness and lack of geopolitical purpose? After all, we must articulate a geopolitical purpose other than unity. Unity is not enough. We must insist on an answer to the question: unity for what? We must always bear in mind that we can achieve unity-in-captivity, and that’s hardly what Pan-Africanism is aiming for. So, lets spell out what our liberated condition would look like and how this new outfit proposes to bring it about.
Will the agenda of this Commonwealth, unlike the OAU/AU, include, in particular, the liberation of Black Africans from Arab colonialism and enslavement?
Needless to say, for it to merit the Pan-African name, it has to openly concern itself with the interests and struggles of all the subsections of the Global Black African constituency.
Honest and correct answers to such questions would, I think, help to improve the proposal.
I have no doubt that other readers of the press release will raise additional issues and questions for consideration.
All in all, I would suggest that, instead of implementing new interstate initiatives without first thoroughly debating them, we take the next few years to rigorously think through and debate what we have done or failed to do in the last 50 years. After all, Pan Africanism since 1958, with its ill-conceived OAU and AU has failed us. It has not liberated us from the neo-colonialism and imperialism of the Europeans, let alone from Arab colonialism and enslavement. Why don't we first learn from its failures before setting off in some new direction whose constituency and goals we have not thoroughly studied? We can't afford to get it wrong again. The world is moving on and getting more dangerous for Global Black Africans.
Black World League of Nations I & II .docPlease find attached my original proposal for a Black World League, in two parts: the 1994 proposal that I handed out as a flyer in Kampala; and the earlier 1985 argument for it, that is reproduced in my 1987 book, Decolonising the African Mind. Of course, the basic proposal is still valid and the Black World League is even more urgently needed. But if I were making the case for it today, I would take into consideration the lessons that we should have learned since 1994. I will update the case if required.
But let me urge you to set up a forum where a re-examination of Pan-Africanism for the 21st century can be conducted in detail, with particular attention to its constituency and its goals in the world of today. Maybe your outfit in Barbados can organize a journal or website, perhaps along the lines of Pambazuka, for conducting this re-examination of our situation and possible ways forward.
In the service of global Black Africa,