In fact I joined the organization before 1970, when it took place officially, in Conakry. While completing my secondary education in Cape Verde and frequented the university studies in Portugal, I simultaneously mobilized Cape Verdeans and Guineans to join the national liberation struggle in liberal countries with a long tradition of receiving them as immigrants. The goal was to replace the colonial order with national freedom of choice in both territories.
Cape Verde has long recognized that although natural resources, emigration, foreign investment, and public development aid are necessary and likely to produce differentiated effects, none is on equal footing or constitutes a replacement for education, which is the most important isolated factor of economic growth, equity, social cohesion, and moral development. Along the same lines, the important role of education in solidifying democracy and freedom is a fact that is currently recognized.
My opinion is that the action and luck brought about the events of April 25th, 1974, in Portugal, a political coup born in Lisbon and African fronts. Negotiations replaced weapons, and Cape Verde became independent on the 5th of July, 1975. My deep involvement in the preceding events explains why I say that my country and I interacted for at least for four decades. I’m not allowed to regret it. Although our islands have since made progress, unfortunately it has not been toward equality of chances. The evolution has been in the opposite direction.
Yes, nationwide has made progress but some people have been left far behind, which signifies at least two things: i) the social differences are a sort of insurgents’ collective debt, that I assume, and ii) we have to play a positive role in the stability of the world we are not yet paying. A due balance between public and private responsibilities and a system of efficient justice would do a positive role. Through international relations, we need to create equal opportunity for all, as well as to fight against bureaucracy and corruption. As people say in the islands, responsibility has six syllables. Sure, one could argue that appraising words by their size is rather primitive, but the point remains.
New York has been bombed in 2001. You can’t visit the place without crying. In the Twin Tours’ Place you have today the most symbolic thing the mankind has been able to create, from the beautiful monument to the Tree of Survivor. Yes, people like us did that in New York. What could you imagine, if somewhere the decided to act in a tinny country, attracted by the US militaries or compounds? Let’s alone, we beg you.
Regarding the nature and extent of insurgent solidarity, a key concept is that of the Cold War. We were allowed to talk about the first, second, third and even the fourth worlds. This meant capitalism, socialism, the non-aligned, and the countries which were difficult to characterize, usually on the end of all lists. In PAIGC, we learned that solidarity meant opposition to violence and discrimination. We enjoyed discussing the bi-national experience of struggle for independence and development of Guinea and Cape Verde. However, it is clear that history unfolds in unpredictable ways.
Sonia Borges’ recent research is providing evidence that, in specific cases, we did not go straight from a colonial order to a post-colonial one, whatever post-colonialism means. Her coming book on militant education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness and Underground education structures in Guinea Bissau (1963-1978) is probably going to give a contribution to radically change the way in which we understand the creation of knowledge and view international relations, history, and the social sciences. It elaborates in great detail on the concept of Liberated Zones.
Colonialism had chosen its side by entering NATO. Our main source of financial, material and moral support was the second world, i.e., members of the Warsaw Pact. But there were many other solidarity committees spread all over the world. My own trajectory meandered through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands before finally reaching the African continent. Cabral himself claimed that he was an anonymous soldier fighting for human rights, thus signaling that the liberation of the continent was to come.
Solidarity networks at the national and international level had a considerable impact on the development of Cape Verde and its democracy as established in 1991 exists, even though the latter remains imperfect. In the early years of independence Cape Verde received aid from friendly countries in foodstuffs, which were marketed and the product of their sale was used for national reconstruction. That is, at the same time that families were being employed, roads, dikes, and other infrastructures were also being built. The national co-operative movement was also developed and hundreds of production and consumption cooperatives were created, which supported the family economy. Adult literacy was decisive for the development of the country: at the time of independence the illiteracy rate in Cape Verde was about 60% (sixty percent) whereas today it is 13% (thirteen percent).
The army was composed simply of armed militants and people. Peace was the aim. Security, civil administration, agriculture, health, education, and defense were the main activities in the liberated zones in Guinea-Bissau. Liberated zones were the land of dreams, which is a sort of utopian world that existed between 1963-1974 under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral (Abel Djassi), and inspired progressive changes in economic, social, and politic fields in Cape Verde since 1975. We do not have to forget that they owed their existence to the effort of PAIGC militants and people, to assistance from “socialist countries”, as well as to dozens of help committees located in nearly all countries of the globe, including the US and Scandinavian nations.
In the islands of Cape Verde we were able to expand our national resources and freedom even in the face of our imperfect democracy. The nation has been sovereign as of only 43 years. All nations experience crises but some suffer more deeply. I am confident that size does not matter much when it comes to development, but I believe that the pain is greater for the micro, small and medium states when the whole world finds itself in disarray.
So, please let the president of the United States and the principal institutions know that we need many things; it’s true, especially foreign investment. Nevertheless, if the condition sine qua non is the establishment of a military base, or something of the kind, we’ll say thanks, but no thanks: let us remain poor, respectable, and peaceful. I take this opportunity to send this message to every nation and world region. As it happens, this world will survive not by insurgent solidarity but rather by global solidarity. Is this a real possibility? Is there a link between liberated zones and universal solidarity? Is education, healthcare, productivity, and respect for identity the basis of lasting peace?
This was meant as a type of introduction to the liberation story of those two tiny nations, one which is considered an apparent success and the other a failure. We can discuss them, their liberated zones, and their theoretical meaning. Knowledge is more powerful than military might, at least in the case of Cape Verde. Would the leadership of this center be so kind as to consider the establishment of a permanent relationship with a university in Cape Verde? Please think about it. Insurgent solidarity must be reinforced and universalized because the egoism and the dominant powers do the same. Moral strength is the soul of the insurgent solidarity.
Public University of New York City
Center for Place, Culture and Politics
Spring 2018, annual conference on Insurgent Solidarities:
Histories, formations and futures
April 13th, 2018