FROM THE WEB
Manning & the Law
CROSSING THE LINE
Corruption in U.S.
Activism Not a Crime
War in Arizona
James Patrick Jordan
Hyatt v. UNITE-HERE
Medicare for All
Chamber & Capitalism
Savage Imperialism 4
"No Progressive Champion"
CULTURE & FILM
The Gay Oscars
Saviors and Survivors
Zaps - 03/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The 50th Anniversary of Patrice Lumumba's Assassination
Malcolm X, speaking at a rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964, described Patrice Emery Lumumba as "the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent. He didn't fear anybody. He had those people [the colonialists] so scared they had to kill him. They couldn't buy him, they couldn't frighten him, they couldn't reach him." This was three years after Lumumba was assassinated by Belgian mercenaries in the breakaway state of Katanga (southern Congo).
Why was Lumumba killed? Because he was a relentless, dedicated, intelligent, passionate anti-colonialist, Pan-Africanist, and Congolese nationalist. He had the unstinting support of the Congolese masses and stood in the way of Belgium's plan to transform Congo from a colony into a neo-colony.
Until the mid-1950s, the nationalist movement had been dominated by the small Congolese middle class. It was not a radical movement. It was composed of clerical workers, mid-level army officers, supervisors, and so on who were getting a cut of the enormous profits Belgium was making out of Congo. They opposed direct colonialism in the sense that they disliked white rule and were sick of being second class citizens in their own country. However, the basic economic institutions of colonialism suited them quite well. They were scared by the Congolese masses—the peasants, the workers, who suffered in slave-like conditions and who bore the brunt of the famines and the genocidal actions of the colonizers.
The people wanted control. They wanted the Belgians out, not just moved from the front seat to the back seat. They didn't want white oppressors to be replaced with black oppressors. They wanted freedom, justice, democracy, nationalization, and self-determination.
Joining the nationalist movement around 1955, Lumumba quickly grew disillusioned with the middle class elite and addressed himself to the most oppressed sections of society—the peasants and workers of Congo who were radicalizing him. He developed a clear strategy for total decolonization to be brought about by mass political action. In 1958, he and others formed the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), which immediately established itself as the key organization in the struggle against colonial rule.
The Belgians and their friends in the international community were shocked by the pace of development of the nationalist movement. In the mid-1950s, Belgium—which had exercised a vicious, murderous, plunderous rule over Congo—was confident that it would retain its African colony for at least another century. However, by 1959, the MNC had gained such popularity and credibility that the Belgians knew their time was up.
But they had a backup plan: to replace traditional colonialism (white rule, backed by a military occupation) with neo-colonialism (black rule in white interests, backed by Belgian money, advisers, and mercenaries). That way, Belgium's theft of Congo's natural wealth—including massive reserves of coltan, diamonds, copper, zinc, and cobalt—would continue uninterrupted.
The Belgians decided to grant independence much sooner than anybody was expecting, in the hope that they would prevent the further growth of the nationalist movement; that it would be unable to develop a coherent organizational structure and would be heavily reliant on Belgium's assistance. However, Lumumba had rallied the best elements of the nationalist movement around him and had no intention of capitulating.
At the independence day celebrations on June 30, 1960, Belgian King Baudouin made it clear that he expected Belgium to have a leading role in determining Congo's future. In his speech, he chose not to mention such unpleasant moments in history as the murder by Belgian troops of 10 million Congolese in 20 years for failing to meet rubber collection quotas. Instead he advised the Congolese to stay close to their Belgian friends: "Don't compromise the future with hasty reforms and don't replace the structures that Belgium hands over to you until you are sure you can do better…. Don't be afraid to come to us. We will remain by your side and give you advice."
He and his cohorts were shocked when Lumumba, newly-elected as prime minister, took the stage and announced that "No Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it is by struggle that we have won [our independence], a struggle waged each and every day, a passionate idealistic struggle, a struggle in which no effort, privation, suffering, or drop of our blood was spared."
Clearly referring to Belgium, Lumumba stated that, "We will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches, but on the assistance of numerous foreign countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture of no matter what nature."
Ludo de Witte writes in The Assassination of Lumumba of this historic speech: "Lumumba [spoke] in a language the Congolese thought impossible in the presence of a European, and those few moments of truth feel like a reward for eighty years of domination. For the first time in the history of the country, a Congolese has addressed the nation and set the stage for the reconstruction of Congolese history. By this one act, Lumumba has reinforced the Congolese people's sense of dignity and self confidence."
The Belgians, along with the other colonialist nations, were horrified at Lumumba's stance. The Western press was filled with words of venom aimed at this humble but brilliant man who dared to tell Europe that Africa didn't need it. The French newspaper La Gauche noted that "the press probably did not treat Hitler with as much rage and virulence as they did Patrice Lumumba."
In the first few months of independence, Belgium and its Western allies busied themselves whipping up all kinds of political and regional strife. Pro-Belgium armies set up in the regions of Katanga and Kasai, declaring those regions to be independent states. This was, of course, a massive blow to the new Congolese state. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Belgians (along with their friends in France, the U.S., and the UN leadership) developed plans for a coup d'état that would remove Lumumba from power. This was effected on September 14, shortly after independence.
But even under house arrest, Lumumba was a dangerous threat to colonial interests. He was still providing leadership to the Congolese people and he still had the support of the majority of the army. Therefore, the Belgians connived with the CIA to murder Lumumba, who—along with three other leading nationalists—was assassinated by firing squad (led by white Belgian officials in the Katangan police force) after several days of beatings and torture. That Belgium is most responsible for Lumumba's death is proven in The Assassination of Lumumba. Furthermore, the UN leadership was complicit in the sense that it could very easily have put a stop to this murderous act.
When the news of Lumumba's murder broke, there was outrage around the world, especially in Africa and Asia. Demonstrations were organized in dozens of capital cities. In Cairo, thousands of protesters stormed the Belgian embassy, tore down King Baudouin's portrait, put Lumumba's in its place, and then proceeded to burn down the building.
Sadly, with Lumumba and other leading nationalists out of the way, the struggle for Congo's freedom suffered a severe setback which was not to be reversed for over three decades.
There are a lot of important lessons to learn from this key moment in the history of anti-colonial struggle, lessons that many people have not yet fully taken on board:
· Western governments and media organizations use every trick in the book to divide and rule oppressed people, to stir up strife, to create smaller states that can be more easily controlled
· Character assassination is used as a means of justifying interventions against third world governments. Just look at how they painted Aristide in Haiti or Chavez, Castro, and many others
· UN intervention often means intervention on the side of the oppressors
· The intelligence services use every illegal and dishonest means to destabilize and cause confusion
On the bright side, the past decade has been one of historic advances that point the way towards a different and much brighter future. The political, economic, military, and cultural dominance of imperialism is starting to wane. As Seumas Milne pointed out at the recent Equality Movement meeting, the "war on terror" has exposed the limits of Western military power. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has started to discredit the entire neoliberal model. The rise of China, the wave of progressive change in Latin America, the emergence of other important third world players all indicate a very different future.
In Congo itself, progress is being made—although it often seems frustratingly slow—principally because the West is still sponsoring armies in support of its economic interests. But, as de Witte writes, "the crushing weight of the [Mobutu] dictatorship has been shaken off." We can't overstate the importance of this step.
As we all move forward together against imperialism, colonialism, and racism, we should keep Lumumba's legacy in our hearts and minds.
Lumumba wrote in his last letter to his wife: "Neither brutal assaults, nor cruel mistreatment, nor torture have ever led me to beg for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head held high, unshakable faith and the greatest confidence in the destiny of my country rather than live in slavery and contempt for sacred principles. History will one day have its say; it will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris, or Brussels, however, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets.
"Africa will write its own history and both north and south of the Sahara it will be a history full of glory and dignity…. I know that my country, now suffering so much, will be able to defend its independence and its freedom. Long live the Congo. Long live Africa."
Carlos Martinez is a member of Beat Knowledge (www.beatknowledge.org).
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.