Before I commence my analysis, I want to clarify the significance and signification of the title of this paper. The title of this paper is divided into two parts. The first part is called “the nature of the struggle today” which is the title of a piece written by Sobukwe which was publicised in the Africanist. The second part is “an African-cantered Education” and is a call or a plea made by the proponent of Black Power, namely, Amos Wilson. The combination of these two parts explains the meaning of “a Pan -Africanist Black Power Analysis”.
I have now clarified the political implication of the title of this paper. The content of this paper is centred on the contrast between Sobukwe’s political analysis and the implication of a philosophy of education, as well as the political analysis of the Congress Alliance as reflected in the Freedom Charter and its implication for a philosophy of education.
The primary function of education is to solve a particular society’s prevailing problems. This premise underlies the fact that all educational systems are reflective of the dominant political system.
The only way to adequately comprehend the essence and origin of the dominant political system is delving into its history. In other words, there is a mutually reinforcing relation between education, politics and history. Usually education seeks to promote the interests of the ruling group in the prevailing political system. And underlying this cultural project of Power is the distortion of history of both the dominant group and the dominated group. The dominant group will usually utilize history as an ideologico-political weapon to falsify the consciousness of the dominated group, as posited by Amos Wilson.
The dominant group comprehends fully the fact that in order to maintain its power, it must have a clear cultural project which must be institutionalised in order to attain what Gramsci designates cultural hegemony. Thus, part of this cultural project is to propagate an illusion of the separation between society and institutions of education. In other words, the fundamental objective of an illusion of the separation between society and institutions of education is to create the fallacy that societal problems are separate and different from educational problems and challenges.
Sobukwe and the Political philosophy of an African-centred Education.
In the piece called “the nature of the struggle today” Sobukwe makes it clear that the national struggle is one of the restoration of land to its rightful owners. In this national struggle the combatants are not merely blacks and whites but take on the concrete historical form of the conqueror and the conquered, the invader and the invaded, and the dispossessor and the dispossessed.
I have mentioned in the beginning of this paper that the primary function of education is to solve a particular society’s problems. And on the basis of this premise, I have alluded to the fact that I disagree with the ideological fallacy of the illusion of the separation between institution of education and society. Of course what amounts to a society’s prevailing problems and the solutions thereof is influenced to a great degree by the prevailing political system and the nature and ultimate objective of the struggle.
Sobukwe also went on to mention the important fact that in the national struggle, whites seek to maintain and retain the spoils passed on to them by their forefathers (.i.e. the initial conquerors, invaders and dispossessors) while Africans pursue the overthrow of the foreign yoke and the reclamation of the land of their fathers. For the purpose of this paper, I want to glean and distil two fundamental issues from what Sobukwe said in his piece which I just alluded to. And these two fundamental issues are the restoration of the land to its rightful owners and the task of whites which is the maintenance and retention of spoils passed on to them by their forefathers and for the Africans which is the overthrow of the foreign yoke and the reclamation of the land of our fathers.
I want to utilise these two fundamental issues as the primary premise of an African-centred education. I have already alluded to the fact that all educational systems are reflective of the prevailing political system. The prevailing political system is one of Neo-liberal White Supremacy and the current educational system is reflective of this political system, and not only in terms of the commodification of education but also in terms of the kind of knowledge that is produced and disseminated in the educational system. The current educational system is fundamentally structured in terms of Neo-liberal economics and is grounded in the Euro-centric value-system.
My explication in this regard will entail drawing a clear connection between an African-centred education, de-colonisation and the restoration of Black Power. In terms of Sobukwe’s piece, the first fundamental issue is land dispossession, which is colonial conquest and the need to restore the land to its rightful owners, which are the Africans. Or the indigenous people of Azania.
So, because all educational systems seek to solve society’s prevailing problems, as far as the Africans are concerned the prevailing problem is land dispossession that is white settler colonial conquest. We don’t need Marxism to know that land dispossession leads to societal inequality and the domination of one group by another. Remember, in the beginning of this paper I posited that there is a clear relation between education, politics and history. When did the prevailing problem of land dispossession as far as the Africans are concerned start? As far as Sobukwe is concerned, the prevailing problem started in 1652 and not in 1913 and 1948. I have said that the prevailing problem of land dispossession leads to societal inequality and domination.
On the basis of this premise, I want to pose a very important question, which is, can a member of a society riddled with and grounded in inequality receive equal education? From the perspective of an African-centred education this is a clear impossibility. I will shortly demonstrate why this is the case. To avoid confusion, I want to provide a synoptical analysis of the relation between Sobukwe’s piece and the essence of an African-centred education.
In relying on Sobukwe’s piece, I have identified two fundamental issues which are land restoration and the two different tasks of whites and Africans given the history of land dispossession that is white colonial conquest. On the basis of these two fundamental issues, I posit that in terms of an African-centred education the prevailing problem for Africans is land dispossession. With regard to the two different tasks of whites and Africans given the history of land dispossession, I postulate that the main objective of an African-centred education is revolution; that is the overthrow of colonial White Supremacy.
Amos Wilson argued that as far as the current educational system is concerned; whites are educated to preserve White Power, thus their education is conservative. This means that the fundamental objective of this conservative education for whites is the conservation of White Supremacy. Amos Wilson’s argument is clearly related to the task which Sobukwe identified with whites, that is the maintenance and retention of the spoils passed on to them by their forefathers. And when I posited that the main objective of an African-centred education for Africans is revolution, this is in line with the task Sobukwe assigned to Africans which is the overthrow of the foreign yoke and the reclamation of the land of our ancestors. I now turn to the last part of this paper.
The Dialectics of Struggle and Education.
I have clarified the relation between Sobukwe’s political analysis and its political implications for the philosophy of education; that is the two fundamental issues I have extracted from Sobukwe’s piece as well as their relation to the essence of an African-centred education. Dialectically speaking, this is the anti-thesis of the current educational system, which is the problematic thesis, I seek to negate. The current educational system which is the thesis I seek to negate is based on the political analysis of the so-called Freedom Charter. In terms of this document of the Congress Alliance “south Africa belongs to all who live in it both black and white”.
It is obvious that by “south Africa” this document and its drafters imply the land. The statement “both black and white” attempts to erase the historical contradiction of colonial conquest. Because, logically speaking, the land cannot without a foolish contradiction in terms belong to both the conqueror and the conquered. Thus, on the basis of this opening statement of the so-called Freedom Charter, I draw the inference that this political analysis leads to the illusion of Liberal non-racialism. I posit that this is political philosophy of the “non-racial post-apartheid education”.
In terms of this non-racial post-apartheid education, the problem in south Africa was the exclusion and the violation of the rights of blacks by a white-minority Apartheid regime. The Apartheid regime is regarded as run by “bad whites” and that their time has expired with so-called “first democratic elections in 1994”, when blacks and whites voted in the common-voters roll. Thus, Apartheid was defeated and now we have or are in a post-apartheid constitutional dispensation characterised by the illusion of the “born-frees”.
Of course this is a ridiculous illusion which is predicated on the Democratisation paradigm which gives primacy to Apartheid’s violation of the ‘human rights” of blacks rather than colonial conquest which began in 1652. What is the end-result of this non-racial post-apartheid education? The answer is both simple and topical, which is Integrationist Transformation rather than a Black power-based African Nation. Biko critiqued artificial Integration long before this current political and educational disaster. In other words, post-apartheid non-racial rainbow nation means that whites with power have integrated blacks without power whose elites consists of “black managers of White Power”.
Let us not make a mistake here; White Power is still intact, despite contrary intellectual house-negros’s discourse. What those who deny the continuing existence of White Power confuse is the form or modality of Power and its substance. In other words, Power can exhibit itself in two forms or modalities, which are the spectacular form and the disguised form. The metamorphosis from spectacular and crude form to a disguised form does not mean the demise of Power. On the contrary, it means that Power is dynamic, thus it adjusts itself in accordance with its interest and self-preservation in the face of resistance. In other words, it means that Power has become so sophisticated that it is hard to detect it, thus one chooses to deny its existence. So the distinction between the substance and essence of power and its form or modality is very pivotal.
This is a dialectical conceptual analysis of Power. When you concretise this conceptual analysis through historical analysis in the south African context. One realises that Apartheid was crude and spectacular White Power which was reflective of Afrikaner Nationalism, and that during the so-called Codesa the same White Power made a “transition” from its spectacular and crude form to its more sophisticated current disguised form or modality. Power is not static, on the contrary it has to be grounded in motion and change if it is to survive for a long time.
White Power in south Africa is more than 3 centuries, it took this kind of dynamism in the form of change from one modality or form to another for it to survive this long; despite constant resistance on the part of the indigenous people. Thus, for those of us who don’t suffer from the illusion of post-apartheid rainbow nation, the form of White Power through integration of black managers as democratically elected black-government and not black State is clear. You cannot have a State without land but you can have a government without land.
As Amos Wilson posited, the main strategy of Imperialism is the recruitment of certain members of the oppressed and dominated group, which is the black elite. White Supremacy around the 1980s and 1990s disguised itself by making “inessential” concessions such as the right to vote. This did not destroy White Power but merely facilitated what Ramose designates Timocracy through what he aptly calls Economic Sovereigns (i.e. Multinational Corporations, Rating Agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and IMF).
The concession of the right to vote did not lead to democracy as such, but rather led to business-managed democracy under Capitalism as the dominant mode of production and Elite politics which is the dominant mode of politics in line with Capitalism. In terms of this Elite politics the fundamental objective of politics is the advancement of the interests of the Elites be it the black ones or the white ones, in the current stage of White Supremacy it is the combination of both Elites. Those outside the circle of the Elites, despite messages to the contrary, only benefit “incidentally” from this kind of politics.
An example will be how the combination of both the White-master Elites and the Black-slave Elites use Welfarism to regulate the resistance and anger of the black people outside the circle of the Elites. In other words, the provision of social grants is presented as the generosity of the government while in actual fact it is a form of political management of the rage on part of blacks outside the Elite circle as a result of White domination. After all, the main objective of the recruitment of the black elites was not for them to have power but to be managers of the power they don’t have. To paraphrase John Henrik Clarke, “powerful people never recruit powerless people to take away power from them”.
I have thus far demonstrated that the opening line of the so-called Freedom Charter and the resultant non-racial post-apartheid education leads to the conservation of White power in the form which Nkrumah designated Neo-colonialism. This kind of education by propagating the fiction of non-racialism glosses over the asymmetry of power between blacks and whites. This fiction of non-racialism falsifies the consciousness of blacks and leads them to be deceived by a sophisticated White Supremacy. It reduces the issue of colonial White Supremacy to issue of social inequality and thus promotes the fallacy that the prevailing problem is one of lack of access to education and employment.
Of course this kind of a fallacy is in line with Liberal cultural Individualism. This type of Eurocentric value-system which is the hallmark of the current educational system propagates the fallacy that the main of education is jobs or employment. This of course leads to the breeding and grooming of a conservative black elite and middle-class. They are conservative because they want to be employed by white multinational corporations which are nothing but contemporary plantations, and as a result thereof conserve white Economic Power and white domination.
And servile because as a result of not pursuing self-sufficient industrialisation, as promoted by Booker T Washington and Marcus Garvey, these blacks maintain the fundamental relation of power between whites and blacks by being servants for whites. Instead of pursuing independent industrialisation as explained by Cheik Anta Diop in Essays on African Renaissance and in Black African the Politics of a Federated Sate, they indulge in revolting and excessive xenophilia (fascination and obsession with what is foreign, in this case European commodities and knowledge) by conspicuously displaying and consuming the latest commodities produced by the White–slave masters.
To pursue self-sufficient industrialisation they will have to restore land to the indigenous people, that is restore their ownership and full control of the means of production without which there is no basis of Black Power. What is the ultimate political aim of an African-centred education? As I stated earlier, it is mainly to destroy White Power and thus restore Black Power. Suffice it to say that White Power and Black Power are mutually exclusive. In other words, an African-centred education leads to De-colonisation. By De-colonisation I mean fundamentally restoring land as you cannot fully De-colonise knowledge without the necessary resources and change in the fundamental relation of power between blacks and whites. In other words, there is a clear connection between loss of land and sovereignty as well as epistemic domination.
While practically speaking I fully support the creation of independent institution of knowledge production and dissemination, ultimately the indigenous people have to fully take over in order to restore Black Power. With full restoration of Black Power no pockets of White cultural power should be allowed to exist as these pockets will preserve Whites and White power in an African Continent. Of course capacity-building can only be created through independent institution-building in preparation for the ultimate full takeover to restore Black Power to the total exclusion of White Power. After all in order to both restore and conserve Black Power we have to train our own black leaders and intellectuals, as that which you don’t control can be used against you. In this case we need to fully study Booker T Washington as well as Marcus Garvey, in order to comprehend the basis of self-reliance and self-actualisation.
The connection between institution-building in order to concretise and actualise Lembede’s Africanism should be heeded through the advice of Bobby Wright. He posits that “in fact black groups in United States and South Africa are enslaved rather than being oppressed and exploited in that their life sustaining institutions are controlled by whites’. In this regard we can concur with Kwame Ture when he states that power begins at the level of conception but I will add a rider and say that it is concretised through institutions. Sociologically speaking we can say that the primary aim of institutions is to preserve systems of power. Thus, institutions can also be used to destroy systems of power.
Colonisation mainly colonises the land and the mind and knowledge of the colonised. Thus the fundamental basis of White Supremacy is land that is the control and ownership of the means of production and the means of communication. The control and ownership of the means of production is the source of the wealth which is generated and used to fund knowledge production and thus attain cultural hegemony. This means that to de-colonise education within a system of White supremacy is a naïve contradiction in terms. What you can do is to transform education through the integration and assimilation of the knowledge in a manner that is not pernicious to White Supremacy.
This transformation project can even be funded by White Supremacists. An example of curriculum integration is teaching Biko as a ‘human rights activist” as opposed to a black radical thinker who sought to destroy White Power which he called ‘the totality of white power’. In other words ironically speaking you can “integrate” Biko into the existing educational system. In a nutshell, the main objective of an African-centred education is De-colonisation, meaning land restoration, thus the facilitation of the the control of knowledge production, for a Post-conquest Black Power Nation. As soon as Black Power is restored the fundamental aim of an African-centred education will be to conserve Black Power against re-conquest by White Power. Philosophically speaking De-colonisation is a process while an African-centred education is a project which will outlive De-colonisation in order to impeded or prevent re-colonisation. And this is the essence of the Dialectics of political struggle and education.
By Masilo Lepuru