This is the final in a series of articles that I published on the topic of Marxism in the Pan-African struggle. I want to begin this piece by stating that I have a great deal of respect for the Marxist tradition within the Pan-African movement. This is a tradition which has included Walter Rodney, Claudia Jones, Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel, Huey Newton, Maurice Bishop, and others. The Marxist tradition is also one which I am willing to defend because that tradition has made very important contributions to the global struggle. With that being stated, I am not a Marxist myself and here I will explain why.
In the first place, there is a question of the ideology itself. As I explained in a previous piece, there has been much debate about whether or not Marxism is Eurocentric. In my view, Marxism is Eurocentric. It had to be because it’s an ideology based on the ideas of European man who was writing about European society. Now, I did clarify that just because Marxism is Eurocentric does not mean that the particular methodology which Marx used could not be applied to other societies. This is typically what Marxists outside of Western European societies have done. They applied historical materialism to better understand their societies and their struggle against capitalist exploitation.
Walter Rodney was very clear on the fact that Marxism could not be applied wholesale to the African context without looking at the specific historical development of Africa. This is because Africa’s historical development was not the same as Europe’s. Rodney demonstrated in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and The Groundings with My Brothers that the communal aspects of African culture meant that class contradictions in Africa were not as sharp as they were in Europe. Rodney explained that the class contradictions in Africa really began to emerge during the slave trade and colonialism when European influences began altering social relations in African societies by replacing African modes of production with modes of production which served European interests in Africa.
This raises the question of whether or not one can still be (or should be) a Marxist if one is not applying all of Marx’s ideas. In fact, some socialists have rejected Marxism as an ideology for this very reason. John Henrik Clarke…