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Amílcar Cabral et l’idée de la révolution anticoloniale

Introduction. Amílcar Cabral and the Idea of Anticolonial Revolution

Amílcar Cabral e o ideário da revolução anticolonial
Amílcar Cabral et la pensée de la révolution anticoloniale
Aurora Almada e Santos et Víctor Barros
p. 9-35


Cet article introduit le dossier thématique intitulé Amílcar Cabral et la pensée de la révolution anticoloniale. L’objectif principal est de décentrer le focus d’analyse classique du poids historique de la figure d’Amílcar Cabral en tant qu’individu vers une perspective qui prenne en compte la multiplicité des interactions et des connexions qui ont facilité ou conditionné le processus de la lutte de libération de la Guinée et Cap Vert, même si elles n’ont pas eu un rapport direct avec la figure d’Amílcar Cabral. Ce texte est structuré autour de trois axes. Le premier aborde le projet de la lutte d’Amílcar Cabral et du PAIGC, en le plaçant dans le contexte général et transnational de la vague de décolonisation. Le second identifie les différents axes thématiques qui ont été explorés dans la recherche académique et non-académique sur l’histoire de la libération de la Guinée et de Cap Vert, ainsi que certaines perspectives qui ont influencées la compréhension de cette histoire. Le troisième met en évidence la pertinence innovatrice de ce dossier thématique et la contribution de chacun des articles présentés.

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We would like to expresses our gratitude to Tatiana Neves and the Fundação Amílcar Cabral (FAC), in Praia city, Cabo Verde, for their invaluable contribution to this thematic issue, by providing the picture for the front cover. To Jairzinho Lopes Pereira from KU Leuven, we are grateful for his inspiring and incisive proofreading of the first version of this text. Many thanks also to the authors, anonymous reviewers, Cyril Isnart, Marie-Hélène Sa Vilas Boas, and the members of Lusotopie editorial board for their helpful contribution in the preparation of this thematic issue. The introduction of this thematic issue was supported by and contributes to the research project Amílcar Cabral: from Political History to the Politics of Memory (PTDC/EPH-HIS/6964/2014), funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and hosted at the Institute of Contemporary History – NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal.

  • 1 Pélissier, R. 1992, “Amílcar Cabral’s Revolutionary Theory and Practice: A Critical Guide, by Ronal (...)

Amílcar Cabral, comme Frantz Fanon, a ainsi suscité une formidable littérature à l’image du mythe qui s’est créé autour de lui.
René Pélissier1

1 Visions of the Empire and Waves of Decolonization

1Colonial empires and the anticolonialism that emerged as an open challenge to the colonial rule were never an isolated phenomenon, as the decolonization wave that occurred more vividly in the second half of the 20th century was not an isolated process (Elam 2017). The decolonization process had several ramifications and produced, at local, regional as well as at the transnational levels, different experiences and political subjectivities (Craggs & Wintle 2016, Kalter 2016, Wilder 2015, Sueur 2003). Historically, colonial empires, anticolonialism and decolonization were interconnected phenomena (Goebel 2017, Cooper 2014, Liauzu 2007). Different visions of empire corresponded to different ways of managing decolonization process. Additionally, decolonization and its aftermaths produced different ways of representing the post-colonial relations between the new sovereign states and their former metropolis. The case of Portuguese decolonization was no exception (Cahen 2013, MacQueen 2003, Maxwell 1995). The modern history of the Portuguese African Empire can help highlight such interconnectedness. The colonial empire was in Portugal a relevant reference in the definition of strategies of political and cultural legitimation, since the period of Monarchy, passing by the Republican regime until the end of the Estado Novo (New State) dictatorship (Alexandre 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, Newitt 1981). Justification and legitimation were part of any imperial power, as well as strength, seduction and fraud (Mbembe 2017, Kumar 2017, Fanon 2011, Césaire 2004).

2The waves of anticolonialism that gained momentum after the Second World War were not only intended to contest the idea of empire and the alleged European ‘civilizing mission’. The purpose was to end the European colonial and imperial rule in Asia and Africa (Thomas & Thompson 2018). The decolonization in the post-war was part of the global history of that period, characterized, for instance, by the emergence of new actors in the regional and international arena, and the Cold War rivalries (Shipway 2008, Thomas et al. 2008, Westad 2005). The decolonization of the European colonies in Asia and Africa was one of the most important historical process of the 20th century, because it turned the stage of contemporary world history (Getachew 2019, Duara 2004, Rothermund 2000, Betts 1998). Thus, investigating how the struggles for independence shaped the global historical context contributes to highlighting the role played by anticolonial organizations from the Global South in the emergence of a new world order. As Amílcar Cabral argued, “the people’s struggle for national liberation and independence from imperialist rule has become a driving force of progress for humanity. It undoubtedly constitutes one of the essential characteristics of contemporary history” (Cabral 1972: 39). In addition, the study of how the struggles for independence impacted the global contemporary history contributes to understanding the influence of the anticolonial organizations in the production of political subjectivity of the colonized peoples, as historical actors and the emergence of the new post-colonial states in the international arena.

3The Portuguese decolonization cannot be understood without an analysis of the phenomenon at the internal and external levels (Rosas et al. 2017, Jerónimo & Pinto 2015, Pimenta 2010, MacQueen 1997). The global historical context characterized by the dissolution of European colonial empires in the second half of the 20th century is quite relevant. Leaders of the Estado Novo regime, António de Oliveira Salazar (1933-68) and Marcelo Caetano (1968-74), refused the demands for independence and, as a corollary, the Portuguese Government maintained wars in Africa between 1961-74 against the liberation movements in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique. From this, the conclusion is that it is imperative to take into account several factors in the study of the Portuguese decolonization: the weight of the Portuguese late colonialism (Castelo 2007, Alexandre 2000b, 2000c, 1979, Neto 1997), the right-wing Estado Novo dictatorship regime (Rosas 2019, Léonard 2016, Pinto & Raimundo 2016, Torgal 2009), Portugal’s resistance against the wave of decolonization (Alexandre 2017, Pinto 2001), international pressure (Santos 2017, Rodrigues 2015, Reis 2013), colonial war in Africa (Cardina & Martins 2018, Meneses & Martins 2014, Amado 2011, Afonso & Gomes 2010, Souto 2007, Teixeira 2004), political pacts (Tíscar 2014, Lala 2007, Marcos 2007, Oliveira 2007, Telo 1996), and the Cold War context (Lopes 2014, Fonseca & Marcos 2013).

4This thematic issue on Amílcar Cabral and the Idea of Anticolonial Revolution does not contradict the notion that the research on Portuguese decolonization must consider several aspects. The purpose is neither to promote the eternal focus on the commonplaces regarding Cabral’s ideas, nor to revise his writings or confirm the validity (or not) of his proposals. The assumption is that there is a multiplicity of analytical itineraries through which we can still think about Cabral and situate critically, in time and space, his ideas. Like any other historical figure, Cabral’s actions and struggles can be investigated from different viewpoints, starting with the ways he constructed himself publicly as a political actor in the international arena.

5Cabral managed political communication strategies, transnational networks of solidarity “connecting the struggles” (Cabral 1973: 75), formal contacts and informal links. The reputation of his political leadership (fabricated by himself but also by others) has a historicity related to different factors, contexts and forms of interactions. Thus, one of the purposes of this thematic issue is to break with monolithic visions that often prevail in the history of anticolonialism and the struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde, based (solely and almost exclusively) in the figure of Amílcar Cabral. Although the history of the liberation of both territories is intimately connected to the leadership of Cabral and the war led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), the historical complexity of the facts cannot be elucidated only by the lens of Cabral’s individual assessment. It is important to approach the diversity of links that underpinned the path for independence.

6Between the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, the PAIGC was not the only political force struggling to spearhead the demands for independence of ‘Portuguese Guinea’ and Cabo Verde archipelago. The party faced competition from political rivals (based in Senegal and in the Republic of Guinea) with different views about the independence of these two Portuguese colonies. This fact is important to understand the history of the independence demands for ‘Portuguese Guinea’ and Cabo Verde. It can help also to understand how the regional and international political contexts influenced the appearance of factions and how the PAIGC managed the competition and formed alliances (Sousa 2016). From this, it is crucial to investigate how PAIGC’s actions were shaped by different agencies, actors and circumstances. It is equally crucial to decentralize the approach from the weight of Cabral’s figure, to observe the historicity of the anticolonial revolution through the multiplicity of interactions and connections that made possible the accomplishment of some designs, as well as the complexities that influenced or inspired others.

7After 1963, when the PAIGC started the armed struggle, the military component had structural importance in the liberation struggle process. We endorse Patrícia Gomes and Mustafah Dhada’s claims according to which it is necessary to highlight the particularities that made the war in Guinea a specific case in the context of the liberation struggles in the Portuguese colonies (Gomes 2010, Dhada 1993). The PAIGC struggle was a liberation war with a strong political, military, and diplomatic component (Newitt 2017, Fistein 2014, Gomes 2008a, Dhada 1995). As Leopoldo Amado and Mário Beja Santos have demonstrated, it was also a fragmented war in space and time (Santos 2016b, Amado 2011). Such assertions suggest that the histories of the PAIGC struggle are diverse and their complexity makes it easier to refute linear interpretations. Events did not occur solely as consequences of decisions taken by Amílcar Cabral, since his plans were not fulfilled mimetically.

8One example was the famous Cabralian project of unity Guinea/Cabo Verde because the unity supposed much more than a political and military tactic to connect peoples from two colonies to fight the same imperial power (Pereira 2015, Cassama 2014, Ndjai 2013, Fernandes 2007, Ribeiro 1983). According to Artemisa Candé Monteiro, the Cabralian conception of unity was rooted in the Western tradition that aspires to join cultural diversities (Monteiro 2013). And, as António Tomás asserts, the idea of unity used to manage the war to liberate Guinea and Cabo Verde necessarily implied the harmonization of both populations. This was Cabral’s wish, but the reality was far from corresponding to this idyllic vision due to cultural differences among the populations of the two territories (Tomás 2018). Inhabitants from Guinea and Cabo Verde did not recognize reciprocally as one people (Monteiro 2019). Their colonial history was shaped differently since the beginning of the Portuguese colonization (Santos 2015, Silva 2010, Pélissier 2001). The history of territorial occupation and the Portuguese settlement, as well as the Portuguese influence in the social foundations of authority in both territories, was distinct (Silva 2016, Forrest 2002, Mendy 1994). Moreover, the inhabitants of Guinea and Cabo Verde did not have the same administrative statute within the Portuguese colonial empire (Monteiro 2017, Cruz 2006, Cardoso 1992).

2 Amílcar Cabral and the PAIGC’s Liberation Struggle: Status quaestionis

9What are then the main characteristics of the historiographical analysis of Cabral’s actions and those from the PAIGC? The scholarship on the liberation struggles in Southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau has been experiencing an analytical shift towards providing perspectives within the widest possible setting (Sapire & Saunders 2013). Many analysis emphasize the interplay between local, regional and global scales of action, departing from individual, nation-based studies (Sapire & Saunders 2013). Equally relevant, a range of studies have been engaging in a debate on national liberation movements covering different aspects, including leadership, ideology, discourse, diplomacy, transnational solidarity, international law, gender, and Cold War (Thomas & Thompson 2018, Fistein 2014, Shipway 2008, Thomas et al. 2008, Westad 2005). Even so, the main feature of the existing academic literature is the dispersion and imbalance of the research due to an overwhelming concentration of studies on the national liberation movements and their leaders.

10As the references compiled at the end of this introduction illustrates, the study of the struggle for independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde is consistent with such line of research. Because of the intimate connection between the PAIGC and Amílcar Cabral, the research has been discussing the liberation movement struggle and its Secretary-General’s role within a single analytical framework. The first contributions on the subject appeared when the liberation struggle was still taking place. In some cases, the contributions were based on in loco observations of scholars who travelled to the so-called liberated areas in Guinea (Rudebeck 1974, 1972, Chaliand 1967, Davidson 1969, Chilcote 1968). With access to first-hand information collected in the theater of operations, these studies lack, however, in historical perspective and present an uncritical account of the PAIGC and Amílcar Cabral’s accomplishments.

11Although this generation of scholars sympathetic to the liberation movement would continue for many years to dominate the contributions on the subject, after the independence new studies tried to offer different perspectives on the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde. These studies represented an improvement when compared to the early literature, which portrayed the PAIGC and the binational struggle for independence as free from tensions and competing opinions. Their narrative paid attention to the subject in the context of the assessment of the various factors explaining how and why the PAIGC was able to achieve independence for Guinea and Cabo Verde (Sousa 2016, Amado 2011, Gomes 2010, Borges 2008, Chabal 2002, Silva 1997, Dhada 1993, Mettas 1984). Sometimes the assessment was made through Amílcar Cabral biographies, contributing to shed light on different aspects of his life and leadership, as well as on cultural and political issues related to the liberation process (Sousa 2016, Santos 2014, Milani 2011, Tomás 2007, Andrade 1980). These publications brought new insights, challenging previous assumptions and highlighting the complexities and nuances involved in the PAIGC’s struggle.

12A review of the more recent literature on the PAIGC’s struggle for independence and Amílcar Cabral contributions shows in addition that the subject has been viewed by the scholarship from the perspective of the intellectual history and African critical theory. Among scholars championing such a perspective there is an inclination to frame Cabral’s intellectual life within the context of black radical tradition and to draw parallels with thinkers as Aimé Césaire, C. L. R. James, Cheikh Anta Diop, Chinua Achebe, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Senghor, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other political and intellectual figures from Africa, Pan-Africanism and the diaspora (Rabaka 2020, 2014, 2009, Simon-Aaron 2015, Bouamama 2014, Jeyifo 2007, Peterson 2007, Adi & Sherwood 2003). Scholars equally tend to perceive Cabral’s intellectual production through the lens of materialist and Marxist theories and class struggle (Dias 2020, Simon-Aaron 2015, Idahosa 2002), critics on colonialism (Abadia 2018, Villen 2013, Franco 2009), education and decolonizing consciousness (Milani 2016, Moraes & Moniz 2013, Romão & Gadotti 2012, Pereira & Vittoria 2012), post-colonial studies (Young 2001, Ashcroft et al. 1995, Williams & Chrisman 1994), decoloniality (Mignolo & Walsh 2018), epistemologies of the South (Santos 2019), among other currents.

13Moving the research even further, many studies bring into dialogue Cabral’s legacies and significance for the present times (Saucier 2017, Tomás 2016, Manji & Fletcher Jr 2013, Lopes 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, Fistein 2010, Fobanjong & Ranuga 2006, Forrest 2003, Chilcote 1984). Similarly, investigations have been exploring the genealogical analysis of Cabralian concepts and discussing Amílcar Cabral’s contributions to debates over culture, race, people, liberation, formation of political subjects, environment, modernization, modernity, etc. (Jones 2020, Lucas 2019, César 2018, Neves 2015, Jones 2015, 2010, Araujo 2005, Chilcote 1991).

14Researchers have also expanded their enquiry beyond the almost exclusive focus on Guinea, which prevailed for a long time in the studies of the independence struggle. For instance, the PAIGC initiatives to mobilize the Cabo Verdean society and its militants’ trajectories, political careers and recruitment are of particular relevance (Coutinho 2017, Kohl 2017, Pereira 2015). Conveying a different approach, other publications have searched for a more holistic framework, incorporating a transnational lens. The study of the PAIGC and Cabral’s agency in enlisting support against Portugal embodies such an approach, detailing the moral, political and material assistance received from governments, international organizations, personalities, groups of people, activists and a multitude of informal networks and solidarity movements established across the globe (Russo 2020, Barros 2019, Dallywater et al. 2019, Santos et al. 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016a, Schliehe 2019, Telepneva 2019a, 2014, Parrott 2014, Sellstrom 2002, 1999a, Eriksen 2000).

15Other than these aspects, the existing literature tends to approach specific topics such as the PAIGC’s educational system in the so-called liberated areas. Again, the war was still in progress when the first publications started to appear and these pioneering works laid the ground for the subsequent studies (Borges 2019, Cá 2005, Bélanger 1980, Rudebeck 1974). The research on specific topics has pushed the historical inquiry into new directions, to assess in what extent women impacted the liberation struggle and their multi-dimensional roles within the PAIGC (Galvão & Laranjeiro 2019, Coutinho 2017, 2012, Gomes 2015, 2013, Urdang 2013, 1979). Another trend is to look at how print media from Western and Eastern countries contributed to give visibility and expand the liberation movements and, more particularly, the PAIGC demands (Telepneva 2019b, Santos 2010). Finally, a reference should be made to the inclination to bring into conversation the discussion on how cinema helped to translate into images and to vindicate internationally the PAIGC message regarding the armed struggle and the state-building programs in the so-called liberated areas (Laranjeiro 2019a, Laranjeiro 2019b, Silva 2018, Cunha & Laranjeiro 2016).2

16Many of the publications about the PAIGC and Amílcar Cabral are byproducts of Master thesis and PhD dissertations written by scholars of different academic disciplines and affiliated with institutions in Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Brazil, United Kingdom, United States, etc. Nowadays we can witness a renewed scholarly attention to the subject as reflected by the research project Amílcar Cabral: from Political History to the Politics of Memory hosted by the Institute of Contemporary History – NOVA University of Lisbon between 2016 and 2019. Sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) grant PTDC/EPH-HIS/6964/2014, the project aimed to study Amílcar Cabral’s contribution for the creation of the political subjectivity of the populations of Guinea and Cabo Verde, the process of construction of Cabral as an international political actor and the representations of his life and work. Consisting of several publications and a website, the outputs of the research project are likely to continue in the future to shape the scholarship on the complex history and legacies of Amílcar Cabral (Jones 2020, Barros 2019, Laranjeiro 2019b, Lopes & Barros 2019, Sousa 2020, Telepneva 2019a).3

17Based at the University of Coimbra, the research project CROME – Crossed Memories, Politics of Silence. The Colonial-Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times, sponsored by the European Research Council (ERC), also conveys the promise of new findings on the study of the binational struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde.4 Ongoing since 2017, the project engages with the hypothesis that the colonial war, the colonial legacies and the anticolonial struggles triggered memorialization and silencing processes which have their historicity. Since it will compare the production of memories in Portugal and the Portuguese former colonies, including Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde, probably the research project, which will end in 2022, will enlarge our knowledge on how the PAIGC’s struggle for independence and Amílcar Cabral’s pivotal role is perceived by the citizens of the states they helped to create.

  • 5 Fundação Amílcar Cabral 2005, Cabral no Cruzamento de Épocas: Comunicações e Discursos Produzidos n (...)

18Beyond scholarly analysis, the struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde and the figure of Amílcar Cabral has been the subject of interest by journalists and diplomats (Lopes 2016, 2012, 1996, Oramas 1998, Castanheira 1995, Ygnatiev 1975). Memories of PAIGC’s militants and Amílcar Cabral close associates add to the existing publications, being a testament on how the struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde has stimulated political, theoretical, and cultural writings (Pereira 2016, Cabral 2014, Fortes 2013, Medeiros 2012, Pereira 2002, Martins 1990, Querido 1988, Cabral 1984). Likewise, the two volumes published respectively in 1984 and 2005, composed by speeches and testimonies delivered during the Amílcar Cabral International Symposium, in Cabo Verde, proves the range of the interest towards the PAIGC’s founding leader and the movement struggle.5

  • 6 Part of Cabral letters were recently performed by actors from a theater group named UmColetivo. On (...)
  • 7 Urban art portraying Cabral’s image through various graffiti can be found for instance in the walls (...)

19In addition, the compilation of the ultimate booklist on the PAIGC struggle and Amílcar Cabral includes publications designed to bridge the gap between the scholarly findings and the non-academic audience. An example is the short biography of Amílcar Cabral for the English-speaking world published in the United States by the Ohio University Press (Mendy 2019). Along the same lines, in Cabo Verde a cartoon A Turma de Cabralinho e o Búzio Mágico (Pereira & Silva 2019) and the book Eu, Amílcar (FAC 2019) introduced Amílcar Cabral and the Cabo Verdean history to children. Another example can be found in two recent editorial projects that revealed Cabral’s intimacy to the public, namely through the publication of some of his private letters and postcards (Cabral et al. 2018, 2016).6 Besides these initiatives, the figure and the writings of Cabral has been arousing interest in the literary field and artistic production (Cabral 2018a, Cidra 2018, Melo & Cavia 2016, Santos, et al. 2013, Barros & Lima 2012, Gomes 2008b, N’dumbe III 1976).7

20It should be pointed out that private entities are involved in the attempt to surpass the barriers among academia and civil society, keeping alive the interest in Amílcar Cabral and the history of PAIGC. Among these entities are worth of mention the Centro de Intervenção para o Desenvolvimento Amílcar Cabral (CIDAC),8 in Lisbon; the Fundação Mário Soares (FMS),9 also in Lisbon and where the Amílcar Cabral Archive is housed; and above all the Fundação Amílcar Cabral (FAC),10 in Praia city, Cabo Verde. Concerned with the preservation of the memory and legacies of Amílcar Cabral, the Fundação Amílcar Cabral has distinguished itself for the release of historical sources, namely the Cabral writings, to help reconstruct the trajectory of the struggle for independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde. Furthermore, the foundation has been engaging scholars in the organization of conferences and publication of books and papers.11 One of its last initiative was the submission of an application requesting Cabral’s writings to be listed among the UNESCO’s Memory of the World.

3 Thematic Issue and Dimensions of the Debate

21In the view of the ongoing interest in the study of the struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde, why this thematic issue? While much has been written, most studies fail to break the many historiographical silences still existing around the subject as the following examples illustrate (Borges 2019: 16). One aspect which has been neglected is to bring the PAIGC and the various national liberation movements from Portuguese colonies into the same comparative framework. The comparative analysis is valuable since the liberation movements shared the goal of national independence, developing common strategies through direct and indirect interactions. The exchanges and interdependencies created by these movements demand comparison beyond the national level (Sousa 2016).

22Similarly, only occasionally the literature has been trying to read the PAIGC struggle for independence together with the actions of the national liberation movements in Southern Africa. The resistance to apartheid in South Africa, the efforts to achieve majority rule in nowadays Zimbabwe, and the campaign for the independence of Namibia, although separated by geography and their distinctive contexts, overlapped with the PAIGC struggle. Nonetheless, the framing of the PAIGC struggle against Portuguese colonialism in the regional context remains an unexplored field since most of the studies have a singlecountry perspective.

23Scholars who concentrate on the transnational dimension of the struggle to end Portuguese colonialism often neglect the African post-colonial states contributions. The relationship of Western and Socialist countries with the PAIGC is better documented in academia (Telepneva 2014, Stephens 2011, Sellstrom 2002, 1999b). Most studies on African solidarity pays attention to specific countries and the Algerian support to the liberation movements is the most well-researched case-study (Quemeneur 2017, Byrne 2016, Connelly 2003, 2001). Only recently studies have tried to offer insights on the making of several African countries – Egypt, Ghana, and Tanzania – as arenas of connectivity for the PAIGC and other liberation movements (Dallywater et al. 2019).

24Likewise, the actions of several non-governmental organizations and support groups from civil society – such as the Chicago Committee for the Liberation of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and the Mozambique, Angola, and Guine Information Centre, just to name a few – has not been studied. There is little information about their origins, the evolution of their activities, the options they made regarding the PAIGC or the extension in which they impacted the public opinion and the government policies in their home countries.

25Histories of Guinean and Cabo Verdean independence rarely opens a window to capture grassroots stories, individual experiences of less-well-known combatants and militants who acted clandestinely, dissident voices, and competing anticolonial organizations. The almost exclusive focus on the PAIGC and Amílcar Cabral disregards the experiences of other anticolonialists, who do not get to speak or air their views, and remain bystanders in their history. It has been difficult to reconcile the top-down with the bottom-up approach and to depart from the tendency to attribute an active role only to a very narrow group of players.

26The dominant discourse has been produced by privileged political actors that can place and disseminate their views on the liberation struggle in the public sphere through different channels. This fact has influenced the knowledge production concerning the subject and the public perception of the history of the liberation struggle. The attention given to PAIGC and Cabral has produced a bias in terms of gender representation, due to the central place of male combatants in the dominant narrative and the secondary role attributed to women in the public memory and official history of the struggle for independence.

27Significantly, the existing publications leave practically unanswered the question on how the PAIGC and, by extension, Cabral’s ideas and practices were, due to the complexities of the independence struggle, an experimental process in development (Borges 2019). Scholars have yet to explore with further details the conflicts between ideas and practices, taking into account the tensions and difficulties, as well as the inconsistencies and ambiguities in implementing the movement and Cabral’s decisions. Such an approach opens the opportunity to chronicle for instance how the PAIGC rejected colonial ideas but, simultaneously, was compelled to put into practice many of the Portuguese techniques (Borges 2019: 18).

28What rises from these silenced topics is that there is still room for research and to write a more comprehensive history of the struggle for the independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde. Thus, how this thematic issue on Amílcar Cabral and the Idea of Anticolonial Revolution builds on the existing literature? What do we stand to learn from these four papers? The thematic issue explores Cabral’s ideas, his actions and the affinities with his ideas. The title of the thematic issue includes the word ‘idea’ (and not ‘theory’) and this choice deserves a brief explanation. The word ‘idea’ offers great possibilities to integrate different levels of discussion, taking into account the diversity of themes included in the Cabralian corpus. Such a corpus constitutes more of a set of ‘ideas’ and arguments related to different situations, rather than a ‘theory’ outlined as a system of specific concepts, created to structure the explanation of a phenomenon.

29The thematic issue, as the remaining existing literature, reveals the difficulty of making a study that separates the PAIGC liberation struggle from the figure of Amílcar Cabral (Borges 2019: 16). The papers give balanced and critical appraisals, revealing different complexities and aspects of the struggle for independence. Having as starting point the disciplines of Philosophy, History, and Literature, the narratives are supported by evidentiary basis collected in the Amílcar Cabral archive, published sources, memories of former PAIGC militants and literary works. The specificity of the contributions exposes the diversity of ideas and arguments that shaped the vast repertoire of Cabral’s writings, although the authors do not center the analytical focus only on Cabral agency.

30The article of Mamadou Kabirou Gano analyses one of the political and moral complexities of the anticolonial revolution: how to overcome the apparent antinomy between ethical principles and the use of violence? In other words, how to reconcile the invocation of values with the use of violence? As Gano highlights, Cabral was not alone in examining violence in the anticolonial revolution context. Before him, Frantz Fanon wrote on this subject, stressing that colonialism was ‘violence à l’état de nature’ that could only be yield in face of much greater violence (Fanon 2011: 470). Gano’s article identifies the moral and political tensions related to the use of violence by the PAIGC in the struggle context, and scrutinizes Cabral’s ideas to emphasize its nuances and differences.

31Departing also from Cabral’s ideas, Abel Djassi Amado singles out the PAIGC’s actions, presenting the liberation struggle as a multifaceted phenomenon. The article authored by Amado contributes to illuminate the PAIGC’s main strategies and processes of diplomatic communication and engagement towards the states of the communist bloc. Amado adds another perspective to the current understanding that the PAIGC struggle for independence was conducted on several fronts and with different actions that transcended the military operations. Managing strategies to court allies and different kind of support was, undoubtedly, one of the PAIGC’s goals as evinced by its ‘congratulatory’ diplomacy analyzed in the article.

32In contrast to linear interpretations, José Augusto Pereira’s article portrays the PAIGC struggle for independence as an irregular, fragmented, and complex process. While studying the PAIGC’s plan to carry out armed struggle in Cabo Verde and the difficulties encountered by the movement to mobilize the local population for independence, Pereira enhances the perception that the liberation struggle was shaped by various circumstances. From this perspective, the article raises a set of questions for further research, in particular whether the constraints faced by the PAIGC in the archipelago was or not one of the possible factors to explain the failure of the Guinea/Cabo Verde unit project after independence?

33Additionally, Renata Flávia da Silva explains how Amílcar Cabral’s ideas found space in the literature to, besides challenging Portuguese colonial discourse, convey guidelines for the construction of a new social order after the independence. Silva analyzes the fictional representation of Cabral’s idea about the forging of a New Man in the works of the Angolan writer Pepetela, underlining its permanence and/or rupture in As aventuras de Ngunga (1976) and Se o passado não tivesse asas (2016). The article elucidates Cabral exchanges and interdependencies with the remaining Portuguese colonies, as well as the relationship between his legacies and the construction of the Lusophone Africa post-colonial states.

34Overall, this thematic issue contributes to a more situated understanding of Cabral’s ideas and the heterogeneity of actions, time, and space of the PAIGC liberation path. Each contribution shows that we must break with the teleological ways of interpreting the historical processes of the liberation struggle for independence by asking critical questions. In observing the post-colonial trajectory of the states that emerged from the anticolonial struggles, it’s difficult not to ask what was done with Cabral’s ideas? What can we learn today from his anticolonialism? How can his anticolonial struggle help us to imagine and (re)create new political forms of emancipation? It is equally relevant to ask: how to connect struggles and (re)think new perspectives capable of generating New Women and New Men? The gap between Cabral’s promises of anticolonial revolution and the post-colonial critique makes all these questions relevant.

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1 Pélissier, R. 1992, “Amílcar Cabral’s Revolutionary Theory and Practice: A Critical Guide, by Ronald H. Chilcote”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies Vol. 25, Nº. 1 (1992): xii.

2 For films and documentary projects on Amílcar Cabral see for example:,;

3 The publications of the project are listed in:

4 See

5 Fundação Amílcar Cabral 2005, Cabral no Cruzamento de Épocas: Comunicações e Discursos Produzidos no II Simpósio Internacional Amílcar Cabral, Praia, Alfa Comunicações; AA. VV. 1984, Continuar Cabral. Simpósio Internacional Amílcar Cabral, Cabo Verde, 17 a 20 de Janeiro, Praia, Edição Grafedito/Prelo-Estampa.

6 Part of Cabral letters were recently performed by actors from a theater group named UmColetivo. On this topic see: Accessed in 16 March 2020.

7 Urban art portraying Cabral’s image through various graffiti can be found for instance in the walls of the Cova da Moura neighbourhood, in Amadora, and Quinta do Mocho, in Sacavém, Portugal; in Praia city, in Cabo Verde; and in Bissau, capital of Guinea-Bissau.

8 See:

9 See:

10 See:

11 The publications of Fundação Amílcar Cabral (FAC) are: Cabral, A. 2019, A Luta Criou Raízes: Intervenções, Entrevistas, Reflexões, Artigos, 1964-1973, Praia, FAC; Fundação Amílcar Cabral 2019, Eu, Amílcar, Praia, FAC; Osório, O. 2018, Emergência da Poesia em Amílcar Cabral, Praia, FAC; Fonseca, L. et al. coords. 2016, Por Cabral, Sempre. Fórum Amílcar Cabral 2013: Comunicações e Discursos, Praia, FAC; Cabral, A. 2015, Cabo Verde: Reflexões e Mensagens, Praia, FAC; Idem, 2014, Pensar para Melhor Agir: Intervenções no Seminário de Quadros, 1969, Praia, FAC; Idem, 2013, Unidade e Luta, Volume 1 – A Arma da Teoria e Unidade e Luta, Volume 2 – A Prática Revolucionário, Textos coordenados por Mário de Andrade, Praia, FAC; Andrade, M. de 2011, Amílcar Cabral: Ensaio de Biografia Política, Praia, FAC.

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Aurora Almada e Santos et Víctor Barros, « Introduction. Amílcar Cabral and the Idea of Anticolonial Revolution »Lusotopie, XIX(1) | 2020, 9-35.

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Aurora Almada e Santos

Instituto de História Contemporânea, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal

Víctor Barros

Instituto de História Contemporânea, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal

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