Posted by: exiwp | August 9, 1987

Liberating the Congo: on the Cutting Edge of the Class Struggle (1987)

By Jacqueline Salit
Practice, 1987

Practice Press is proud to publish the following interview with Serge Mukendi, representative to the United States of the Workers and Peasants Party of the Congo (POP), on the merger between the Congolese National Liberation Front (FLNC) and the Congolese National Movement Lumumba (MNC-L) into the FLNC-MNC/L and the transformation of that organization into the POP.

The MNC was created by Patrice Lumumba, the brilliant, charismatic populist leader who led the political struggle for independence from Belgium. Upon independence, Lumumba became the Congo’s first Prime Minister. But European and American military intervention, under the guise of a UN peacekeeping force, brought chaos to the country, and after a military coup staged by CIA operative Joseph Mobutu (now known as President for Life Mobutu Sese Seko), Lumumba was kidnapped and murdered under the direction of the CIA. The MNC-L, a broad-based organization with a broad political spectrum within its ranks, was suppressed hut was able to rally its forces in 1964 for two unsuccessful uprisings. One of these was led by Pierre Mulele.

Even as the masses of Congolese readied themselves to rise up against the U.S.-backed regime, Mulele realized that the low level of political consciousness, albeit militantly anti-European and anti-American, would render the uprising vulnerable as there was not a clear perspective on what it was fighting for; a return to pre-colonial days and tribal rule, bourgeois nationhood, or socialism. So Mulele set out to train a core of cadre around politico-military discipline, a pro-poor and working class political commitment to the Congolese nation as opposed to regional or tribal interests. But Mulele ran out of time. The rebellion he led—because the Congolese masses in the south/central Congo demanded he lead it—seized huge amounts of territory and routed Mobutu’s army. But, as Mulele had feared, it then lost direction, tribes turned against each other, and when Mobutu returned, backed by a large white mercenary force, he mowed them down, tribe by tribe.

Mulele himself went into exile. But two years later, he returned, following an offer of amnesty from Mobutu. Upon his return, Mobutu had Mulele murdered. The MNC-L was smashed, with its leaders and supporters seeking exile throughout central Africa, the Congolese diaspora. In 1968, anti-Mobutu forces who had found refuge in Angola formed the FLNC. At the time, Angola was in the throes of its own liberation struggle against the Portuguese colonialists, and in 1975 and 1976 the FLNC threw its armed forces into the Marxist MPLA’s war against a South African intervention, Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, Holden Roberto’s FLNA and Mobutu’s para-commandos, who were all backed by the CIA. The combined MPLA/FLNC forces won Angola’s independence, assisted at the end by the Cuban army.

In 1977-78, the FLNC returned its forces to the Congo, now known as Zaire, and led uprisings in those years. Especially in the 1978 uprising, the FLNC showed its clear supremacy over Mobutu’s army, but eventually had to retreat in the face of a force of U.S., NATO and Israeli troops. The FLNC finally realized that it was up against not only Mobutu, but the full force of U.S. imperialism, and this realization provoked a political crisis within the FLNC. Could it, in the face of such force, transform itself and the Congolese people sufficiently so as to be able to win this fight, or should it seek accommodation with Mobutu? One of those who insisted that the fight against Mobutu was a fight to the death was Serge Mukendi.

When the Congo achieved independence under Lumumba in 1960, Serge Mukendi was, at age 8, a member of the MNC’s youth organization. In 1964, the 12 year old Mukendi joined Mulele’s liberation army and, after that uprising was defeated, fought across the Congo for several years. In 1968, Mukendi went into exile in Angola and was a founding member of the FLNC, leading troops in both the Angola civil war and the 1977-78 uprisings in the Congo. Since 1979, Mukendi has been the U.S. representative of the FLNC, and now the POP. In the following interview, Mukendi discusses the struggle within the FLNC to continue the fight against Mobutu, its merger with an MNC reconstituted by Francois Lumumba, one of Patrice Lumumba’s sons—who was to prove a traitor to both his people and his father’s legacy—and the process that led to the creation of the POP. He also lays out some of the strategic issues facing the liberation struggle in the Congo and its relationship to those forces seeking to defeat South African apartheid and liberate the entire African continent.

JS: Over the last ten years, we have seen the development of a consolidated Marxist/Leninist leadership formation in the Congo growing out of the united front between the FLNC and the MNC-L and their eventual merger. What were the political struggles that led to the merger? In particular, what was the character of the political struggle between nationalism and Marxism?

SM: It started in 1978, when the base of the FLNC demanded discussions on all the issues that had arisen in and directly prior to the 1978 offensive. They wanted discussion around which direction we were going in; why particular mistakes were made in the struggle; why we hadn’t succeeded in freeing our country after 26 years. And there were questions about the political development of the organization itself. We raised questions about the dynamics in which our struggle had to be based, raised questions about the quality of the leadership, questions about the strategy and tactics we used. The base was in rebellion because the answers were not forthcoming, so we called for a congress to discuss all those issues. That was on the FLNC’s side.

At the Congress, we looked at the quality of the organization, its structure and the way we were organizing. The emphasis of the FLNC was on the military because there were many forces of occupation in our country and we saw that the solution could only come from armed struggle. When, as Marxists, we say we have to wage armed struggle, it means that we understand the laws of revolutionary war and the necessity for leading that struggle. But because of nationalist tendencies and political weaknesses, some of those in leadership of the FLNC were incapable of leading the struggle. Even though there were Marxists among the leadership, they were overshadowed because the majority were nationalists. And even though there was a party school to train cadres, they were trained in the wrong line, even though the line sounded Marxist. The cadre could not use their creative ingenuity to implement even the wrong line, not to mention the fact that they could not understand the content and requirements of the tasks of that particular period of the revolution. As a result we failed to liberate the country.

Theoretically, those who were Marxists, were Marxists of the highest level. But organizationally we were at the lowest level; our organizational structure did not correspond to the level of our theoretical development And when we talk about organization we are talking about cadre, because cadre are the cause and effect of organization. Cause, because they build the organization. Effect because the organization determines what they have to do and what they cannot do. Those were some of the issues which were raised.

Another issue concerned the fact that we were operating from a base outside of the Congo, constantly infiltrating people inside the country. It was more militaristic than revolutionary, because we were not organizing people to participate and support us.

So we began to engage the question: Why not build a political structure right there on the battlefield for theory to penetrate the masses? That way, when there are military clashes, the political structure is right in its midst, and even if the leadership is wounded or killed, the organization can continue the struggle. That was done, but it was not done properly. In some areas, where we did succeed in building such political structures, it was because of the quality of the cadre of the organization working there. But overall, the move to bring a political structure into the military situation was unsuccessful.

At that point we realized that all the Marxist elements in the FLNC had to get together and organize themselves to take over the direct leadership of the organization. That led to the elimination of many who had been leading members, because of the criteria according to which we were selecting people to the Central Committee. As the leading body of the organization, members of the Central Committee need to be leaders, and not wishy-washy. So we had to put out the old leadership and rebuild a new FLNC-led by Marxist Leninists. We did that in 1983, in Tanzania.

Marxist Leninist elements took over the leadership of all the institutions, including the army. When we did that we had the power to kick out many people. The President of the FLNC himself, Mbumba, was kept just as a figurehead, waiting at any moment to be dumped altogether. We kept him there for tactical reasons but he did not have power any more. Mbumba is a good soldier. But for overall leadership, he was not qualified.

JS: So, the tactics of the nationalists primarily emphasized military struggle?

SM: Yes. It was short-sighted in the sense that they didn’t pay more attention to the ideological training of our people. It was a struggle. You see, the party schools were in the hands of Marxists intent on training cadre, but the nationalists were saying, “Reading books is not our business for the moment. We will read later on. Then we will engage in the political struggle.” So we started to build another center of power to force them to comply with socialist objectives. It was a constant struggle, coupled with many intrigues. In that kind of situation, the Marxists are the first to be killed if they don’t pay attention. So it was a life and death struggle. The nationalists knew that the training of more competent cadre along Marxist lines would threaten their positions. To counter the growing influence of the Marxists, they engaged in many intrigues, including tribal divisiveness, to torpedo us. But they didn’t succeed because we were working our end around the army. We were the party school, and anyone who wanted to take any part or any action in a military direction had to come to the party school; it was only from the party school that you could be given a position as commander or allowed to participate in the field at all. So from the army we succeeded in taking over.

To come to 1983 in Tanzania, it was there that the nationalists were completely defeated and we took over the FLNC. There were comrades who suggested that the FLNC, as of that moment, had to begin building a communist party because the organization was now in our hands. But others of us said that would be wrong; we said we had to call together other Marxists inside the country and outside the Congo so we could unite them all and build a vanguard party together.

As we were undertaking this work, the son of Patrice Lumumba, Francois Lumumba, who aspired to become the president of the country, revived the MNC-Lumumba. Since some elements of the remnants of the MNC-L had participated in the building of the FLNC, he caused many problems because some who had joined the FLNC went back to the MNC. But we said, “Fine. The discussion has to continue.” We put our position out and asked all Marxists, including those in the MNC-L to come. The new party could be called any name, we said. They could choose the name themselves as long as it was communist. We met in Libya. We talked. We signed a protocol which meant we had to work together with MNC-Lumumba, plus others that had come to join us.

JS: What was the politic of the MNC-Lumumba?

SM: Francois Lumumba was a nationalist and is still a nationalist. And he is still riding on his father’s record. But we found that there were many more Marxists in the MNC-L who started to engage in the same process we were in the midst of. They tried to throw Francois and the other nationalists out. When we saw that, we thought that the best thing would be to go and unite with them, because we are Marxists and the Marxists in the MNC-Lumumba are trying to throw out all the nationalists, so we can reinforce them so they can take over the leadership. That way the merger can grow and we can proceed to building the vanguard party.

The comrades in the MNC started to work on that. What helped them throw Francois Lumumba out was that it came out that he was meeting Mobutu, and his family was getting money from Mobutu secretly. We didn’t know that at first. We discovered Mobutu knew many things which were only talked about in secret meetings and we could not understand how they got out. This created some distrust between the MNC and us. We could not tolerate that situation at that moment, so the alliance was at its lowest point. There was no way we could continue.

JS: How did you find out what was going on?

SM: First we found out that Francois’ mother was helped by Mobutu to get out of the country. Francois Lumumba used to call Mobutu a “papa” (dad). An uncle was the liaison between Mobutu and Francois. It was through this uncle that Mobutu was helping Francois Lumumba with money. But while he was talking against Mobutu, he and his sister, part of the MNC-Lumumba leadership, were going back and forth between Mobutu and us. In this very confusing situation we found ourselves naked; someone could shoot at us. At the same time other comrades in the MNC-Lumumba were saying that they had to call a congress of MNC-Lumumba; at the congress they would decide everything.

Francois Lumumba then went and married a woman who was a member of Mobutu’s youth organization. She had formerly been a girlfriend of the man in charge of Mobutu’s intelligence operation. It became a network of conspiracy. Suddenly one comrade was kidnapped, then another. We didn’t know what was happening. We suspected that our own intelligence was defective, so we started looking around at our own people to clean ourselves out. We antagonized good comrades, thinking they were our enemies. It was a very confusing and painful situation. Mobutu’s people knew who was doing what and who to hit.

So comrades from MNC-Lumumba met and threw Lumumba’s son, along with many other people, out of the party. We then formed a genuine coalition. The class character of this coalition was reinforced. We signed a new protocol, but this time the protocol said that the purpose of the coalition was to transform itself progressively and constructively into a vanguard party. We could place our struggle in the dynamics of the communist forces fighting imperialism.

JS: The Marxists were the leadership of the FLNC at that point?

SM: Yes. Then the Marxists took over the MNC-L too. Nkito Kabongo, who became vice president of the coalition, was the president of MNC-L after Francois had been kicked out Kabeya Tchang was in the MNC-L. He is now a top leader of the POP.

Before going to the MNC, Tchang was part of another Marxist organization, led by Pierre Mulele. When Pierre Mulele was alive, he had started organizing the people based on Marxist Leninist principles. That’s how we met Kabeya. In the period that we started to get all Marxists to come together with the renaissance of MNC-Lumumba, he joined us to promote the organic unity of all the Lumumbist tendencies. Kabeya believed that when the organic unity was realized, we could take over the leadership. But at the same time things were developing quickly; the dynamics inside MNC-L were such that we couldn’t start that process. The organization was in such a state that any minute you could find yourself in danger of being killed by someone else in the organization. One brigade was rebelling against some authority somewhere and had built a center of power there and refused to take orders from any one. So we had to run from country to country where we were based, trying to set up meetings and work with the comrades to win some consensus. At that time I myself was in different countries telling the comrades there that we had to raise money to bring delegates to such meetings. We convened these meetings and there were very sharp differences, the Marxists on one side, the reactionaries on the other side. There were also internal settlings of accounts which we had to deal with. Mbumba, in an effort to make sure that he would win the presidency, was engineering intrigue and spreading rumors and lies to confuse people. We had to try and kick some of these people out.

There was even more intrigue when we found out that there were other people who also wanted this position. So in order for us to be in the position of strength that we wanted to be in and to keep Mbumba president of the organization but under control of the Marxists, we built our own center of power, so he could be there, but without any power. We did our homework, and it was we who prepared the congress. When the others found out that the situation was not what they had planned, they were no longer interested in contesting the presidency and the Marxists took over.

That was in 1983. We were able to make that move because when we started to organize and to restructure the organization and build the party school, it was the Marxists who were taking over responsibility and winning the base; but the reactionaries didn’t have time to do grassroots organizing. It reflected their weakness in the Congress and in the Central Committee that emanated from the Congress.

JS: Serge, in the period from 1978 to 1983, was the Marxist grouping in the FLNC relating to any elements of the international Left?

SM: Yes, we were relating to all the socialist countries. We related to all workers’ movements throughout the world. We built those links with the progressive countries in Africa and liberation movements throughout the world.

JS: How did the Belgian Communist Party relate to you?

SM: The Belgian CP was very supportive during that time. We were not letting the problem of our internal divisions be known. We kept the fight inside until we had the situation under control; it came to the point where we had to draw the line publicly. Meanwhile the internal war within the MNC-Lumumba intensified; they were at each other’s throats—Marxists and reactionaries. By uniting with MNC-L we strengthened the Marxists in that organization.

We started to merge all the mass organizations, all the structures, and we became one organization. At that moment we realized that all the Lumumbist tendencies were now led by Marxists. When that occurred we said, “Now that all our forces are under unified command, we have to crown this unity by launching more attacks under unified command.” One of the best places to attack was Kinshasa, the capital. We said, “This is how we will launch the cartel of the FLNC-MNC/L.” On March 27, 1984, we attacked the radio station, the TV station, the post office and Mobutu’s private resort area. The struggle for national and social liberation was under way. We started to put out more propaganda inside and outside the country so as to educate more people and to distribute it to all the combatants throughout the country.

JS: Is the army considered a mass organization?

SM: The army is part of the party. When we see a soldier, we see a civilian in a uniform; the civilian is a soldier on leave. There is no difference. If you recall the history of the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution you will remember that the party transformed itself into an army at one time. Then when conditions changed it went back to being a party. Our mass organizations are led by the party but are not part of it. Bringing the mass organizations together was just a step towards the building of unity of the FLNC-MNC/L cartel. We didn’t build the party for the sake of building the party. We built the party in order to resolve certain contradictions that the existing levels of organization did not resolve.

FLNC-MNC/L was the organization led by Marxists, but this organization was not Marxist. So we had to build the Marxist-Leninist organization, the party. A Marxist-Leninist organization has to be a concentrated consciousness of the proletariat at its highest level, the most comprehensive and mature level. So we started to recruit the more advanced comrades with whom we struggled to teach the correct line, and to put that line in the minds of our people, so they apply it in a creative manner. That is how we came to build the party school. The need for a party school is of extreme importance because we had a large number of well trained comrades who were theoretically more developed but needed to be able to apply their understanding in a creative manner. In order to be the vanguard of the working class, that class has to be with us. We have to organize it, to educate it and to transpose our structures throughout our country so the theory can penetrate the mass at large. It was through organized systematic political agitation that this work was mainly carried out. But agitation alone is not enough for the people to follow us. We have to build mass organizations, such as “Workers Resistance.”

“Workers Resistance” is a trade union which is a mass organization. It has the objective of organizing all workers in all factories and enterprises. They have to be trained ideologically, so their consciousness can be raised as near as possible to the level of the vanguard party, because we understand that the trade union is the school of socialism. After the workers are organized into trade unions, we assign the unions military tasks. The workers have to start to sabotage the factories where they themselves are working. We did the same thing with the peasants. We train them the same way and, at the same time, we assign them military tasks. They started to sabotage the plantations belonging to the big landowners, destroying the communications systems, making the countryside ungovernable and making it difficult for their produce to get from the countryside to the urban centers. And the most significant work is that of building unity between the worker and the peasant, which is essential to the victory of our revolution. We have built women’s organizations—The Union of Congolese Revolutionary Women—and the League of Youth in the Congo. Those are two organizations operating within all the schools—urban as well as rural areas. In the case of women, they also join the paramilitary. They are members of the militia along with the workers and the peasants and the youth. And they are attached to some hospital, to get medicine distributed to the needy ones, to the children and to organizers. Limited preventive care is given to people because they don’t work openly; they operate clandestinely, which increases the difficulties of their work. It is from the mass organizations that we recruit cadre into the party, and we have to make sure that their quality is high.

JS: The mass organizations are under the leadership of the party, the Marxist leadership, and you recruit the population into the mass organization?

SM: Yes. Even to belong to a mass organization you have to go to the party school. The school is to train cadre. At the same time, within each cell of the party and mass organization there is someone who is in charge of political education. Anyone who joins any cell, in his/her village, city, or wherever, he/she is, will be organized, educated and will fight. If anyone is in an area liberated by us, he/she will go to a party school there. If you are in an area controlled by the state, there are clandestine study groups. To join the party, two people have to guarantee that they know you, that you are a person of high moral quality who is ideologically sound and that you deserve to be part of the party. If a mistake is made, we go back to those people who recommended someone. By being so careful we make sure that the leadership is, in the end, communist. We fight hard for the hegemonic role of the working class. By that we mean the dictatorship of the proletariat in action and the class in the leadership. By doing that we identify any tendency toward opportunism or revisionism or any other tendency that may occur in our party and detect any infiltration.

This is how we are organized. Quantitatively we are small compared to what we were before the party. But the mass organizations are bigger. More importantly, with Marxists taking leadership, it means that we have continually raised the level of the mass organizations as near as possible to the level of the vanguard party. And we continue to build with all people in the country who are coming to join us. When you join any organ of the party, your work, your conduct, your ideology, your morals are evaluated. We evaluate your role in discussions, how you relate to other people, if you are fit to do certain work, etc. The comrades in your cell also evaluate you; when they decide you are fit to belong to the organ, or cell, in which you have been working, they have to get approval from a superior organ in the area to invite you. Even when you work in a cell, you don’t have the right to vote if you were not approved. You can still participate in certain work, because we want to train you. That’s very important. In our organization the cell is the central organ of the party. Political education is very important. Without that it would be very difficult to conduct this struggle at the present time because we have to have a particular social character, and a proletarian ideology. And we emphasize this because we know that in the military field we are over-trained. By itself the military element in the struggle is not enough because the class struggle is being waged politically, ideologically, economically, and militarily. If you wage the struggle on one plane and neglect the other planes then you weaken the struggle. This can mean, ultimately, the liquidation of the struggle. But even before that it will lead you to wrong acts which also weaken the struggle or liquidate the struggle itself. Our comrades are taking all this into account.

We wage the ideological struggle within the Central Committee as well. Everyone can be a member of the Central Committee. To be part of the leadership you have to be creative, you have to have a high level of morality, and you have to be able to exercise leadership. There are other things that go along with that: A leader has to be compassionate, has to have a high sense of self criticism and the political determination to correct her or his mistakes. Before, we were just going and knocking the mountain out. We had some success and all over the world people talked about our power, but it was just military success. In terms of political structures being built inside the country, we didn’t do much. As a result of that one dimensional view, The FLNC and FLNC-MNC/L did not succeed in freeing the country, in helping to free the people.

Now we have come up with a new military strategy, based on the necessary unity between urban and rural guerrillas, which means that we are taking into account the reality of the Congo. The country is very big. When you touch one point, the people who are a thousand miles away don’t know anything about what is going on. So you have to sensitize all the people at the same time to the importance of political structure. If we have just rural guerrillas, to whom do we leave the urban centers? To the enemies? When enemy forces land in urban centers, we cannot allow them to consolidate their positions. We want to keep them bogged down there. This allows us to create a new military and political situation in the countryside, as well as in urban centers. This is possible only by organizing people politically and ideologically in the countryside with rural guerrillas, who are also able to provide logistical support to the urban guerrillas. It makes it difficult for the enemy to overcome us. For all that to happen, we have to build unity between workers and peasants, to bring the hammer and the sickle together. Without that unity, it is very difficult even to assign them military tasks and have all of the people participate in the war. At the moment that occurs, then we can call this struggle a genuine people’s war because our people are, themselves, fighting for their liberation. We can then avoid arrogance from outside the country, telling people inside the country, “We come to liberate you” because there is no such thing. You cannot talk about liberating people in some restrictive sense; it is sheer arrogance. Because if you don’t want me to liberate you, I cannot liberate you. What we do is to fight together to liberate ourselves so that the working class will become the collective master of its own destiny. This is what we are doing at the present time.

JS: Could you talk about the extent to which the Congolese revolution is kept in the closet by the other liberation movements on the continent, both those that have succeeded and those that are still fighting?

SM: The Congo situation is delicate because of the situation in the Organization of African Unity, and the character of the countries that are liberated or independent. The OAU says that any member cannot interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Yet we see constant interference in the internal affairs of progressive countries. When it comes to waging a struggle against a reactionary country, including a struggle by its own population, then the spectre of interference by invisible scapegoats (Soviet Union, Cuba, etc.) gets raised. Often capitalist countries come to the defense of other reactionary countries, and they try to make it seem that it is a principled stand. That is one aspect of the problem.

Another aspect is the contradiction faced by liberation movements which are members of the OAU. Many retreat from the revolutionary stand because of their immediate self interest and not seeing the strategic interest of the African working class and revolution as a whole. If we say we are communists, we cannot stop struggling on all the fronts of the class struggle—ideological, political, economic and military. When we take any position, vis-à-vis any struggle, it stems from a class standpoint. From there, we ask ourselves, what are the interests of the proletariat in this? Is this good for it, or not? After all, we are fighting for them. Then the answer is clear and we support people’s struggles.

There are cases when we have to support the national liberation struggle of a particular people. We know that the national liberation struggle, or the national question itself, is a bourgeois concept. But we support the democratic content of it because we know that in this situation, like in the many countries that are fighting for their independence, there is a collaboration of bourgeois and working classes that can produce revolution. Mainly you see the bourgeoisie leading the struggle, but we can’t deny them the right to self-determination. We know that. But after that, there will be another stage. By supporting them we enthusiastically work for the emergence of the hegemony of the working class in that struggle. That is what we do. But there are many struggles, many movements, which don’t do that for various reasons. We cannot throw stones. What we have to do is approach the problem scientifically so that we do not confuse our enemies with our friends. This means that we can understand why our friends are acting this way in this particular period of time. Maybe if conditions change, they will come the way we want them to. The dynamic of the struggle in particular countries has much to do with that. So we have to work hard in order to strengthen the position of revolution by engaging comrades in real ideological struggle so that they can examine the position they are taking. Because if we are revolutionaries, there is only one stand to take—not just in talk but it must be manifest in practice. We don’t ask them for anything, just to get them to take the “correct” stand.

But we find that many people are playing both sides. They say, “You have to get aid wherever you can get it. even from the enemy as long as it helps your struggle,” thinking that the enemy is stupid, that he’s going to just give you this help, and say, “take this and go fight, my friend,” without getting anything out of it. This is a big mistake. This is how people end up compromising themselves.

JS: Has there been any response from other forces to the development of the POP?

SM: There are many responses inside the country since the Workers’ Resistance started to do its work in the factories. In terms of other countries, all the progressive countries have saluted the development. Also many revolutionary movements in Africa have recognized that it was a major step forward in the struggle. Because in Africa at the present time there is no liberation movement struggling for independence, for national liberation and social liberation that has transformed itself into a party of the working class before liberating the country. If you look at all these movements, it is after liberation that they became the so and so labor party. In Ethiopia, 10 years after the revolution, they built the party, a worker’s party. There are only a few liberation struggles throughout the world that were led by communist parties: Viet Nam, for instance, and the Soviet Union. In Cuba, Marxists were in the leadership of the July 26th Movement. After liberation they built the Communist Party of Cuba. At the same time, the volume of theoretical material in Africa is very small. We want to fill that vacuum by producing theoretical material that can help forces in Africa and throughout the world to understand the dynamics of our struggle and also contribute to Marxist theory to enrich it with our experience, and to strengthen the struggle in Africa. Through a strategy of continentalization of the struggle in Africa, we have to wage every struggle at a continental level. That means we have to unite ourselves with and fight alongside of genuine communist forces in the common interest of all continents and unify them under the banner of socialism and ultimately communism. We discussed this with many forces. Some avoid the question or say, “That’s a good idea,” but don’t do anything about it because of their nationalistic interests. We have said, “We are ready to apply the continentalization strategy as we were among the first to fight the colonial powers. We were the first to take up guns against neo colonialism. We are willing to share whatever resources, including human resources. We are ready to subordinate our national interests to the interests of socialism, but not to the policy of any single party.” This is what we told many of them. There is ambivalence on their part because of the social character of those organizations. There are Marxists in them, but there are also many petit bourgeois nationalists disguised as Marxists.

JS: When Patrice Lumumba came to power, there wasn’t a party organized?

SM: There was not a Marxist party, as such, when Lumumba won with a big majority. There was a broad front of progressive forces. There were many other small progressive groupings that supported him because they saw that he had a social vision, an outlook of the world that was good for our people. Later on, we found that even the people who supported him had a social vision that was limited. In the ‘60s, that vision was correct. When the situation changed and things became much harder, it was a time for them to renew their commitment to the struggle. Instead, they started to regress and fell into the bourgeois camp, because in the beginning they were not revolutionaries. Some who were at pre-Marxist level developed into full Marxists and helped to redefine the content of the struggle, and the others joined the reactionary camp.

JS: They didn’t become nationalists?

SM: They were nationalists. But that doesn’t change the fact that when you fall from a pre-Marxist level, you become reactionary. The reactionaries are nationalists. Mobutu is a nationalist. Ronald Reagan is a nationalist. You see progressive nationalists and reactionary nationalists! If you are a revolutionary nationalist, you have to move into transcending the narrowness of nationalism to become a Marxist and embrace internationalism. If you are going to build socialism, you have to build internationalism. But excuse me for using the terminology “progressive nationalist” and “reactionary nationalist.” It is just to illustrate some tendencies that manifested themselves at that juncture.

JS: Is there a voice of the Congolese struggle in the form of a newspaper?

SM: Our newspaper is called “Les Damnes de la Terre” or “The Wretched of the Earth,” a newspaper with a format that reflects the character of our communist party, different from UHURU which was the newspaper of FLNC-MNC/L. We want to publish it in our different national languages. There will be a part in French, and from time to time we will have some articles translated into English. But the bulk of it will be in French and the national languages.

Many people have asked me, “Why did you change the name of the party?” But the name isn’t the issue. What we did was to transform or to build off what existed. That question was put to me by a journalist in Washington, D.C. recently. I said we didn’t change the name just for the sake of changing the name. We changed the name because we changed the character of the organization. Because for us the POP is a party which represents the consciousness of the working class at the highest level, the most comprehensive and mature level. It’s true; there is a change of name. But the change of character is the most important thing to understand.

Jacqueline Salit is the Executive Editor of the National Alliance and a member of the Practice Editorial Board.

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