"Some Basic Principles of African Nationalism." Article by A. M. Lembede, in Inyaniso, February 1945

"Some Basic Principles of African Nationalism." Article by A. M. Lembede, in Inyaniso, February 1945

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"Some Basic Principles of African Nationalism."

Article by A. M. Lembede, in Inyaniso, February 1945

a) The Philosophical Basis: This can be stated by quoting the words of a famous American writer, Thompson, "The materialistic conception of History that conceives of Man as essentially an economic animal--Communism--and the biological interpretation that conceives of him as a Beast of Prey--Nazism-- are false. Man is body, mind and spirit with needs, desires and aspirations in all three elements of his nature. History is a record of humanity's strivings for complete self-realisation.

b) The Scientific Basis: Charles Darwin, the eminent and famous scientist, pointed out the profound significance of the law of variation in Nature. One can never find two leaves of plants that are exactly and in all respects the same, nor two stems, nor two flowers, nor two animals, nor two human beings, nor two nations. Each nation has thus its own peculiar character or make-up. Hence each nation has its own peculiar contribution to make towards the general progress and welfare of mankind. In other words each nation has its own divine mission. Think, for instance, of the contribution made by the Greeks (science and philosophy), Romans (law and politics), Jews (Christian religion and theology), French (modern democracy), English (spread of Western civilisation among non-Europeans through the world), Germans (modern science), Russians (modern economic theories), etc., etc., and Africans (?) ' Ex Africa semper quid novi' --From Africa always comes something new--said an ancient Latin writer.

c) Historical Basis: It was Paul Kruger who in the gloomy days of the Transvaal Republic said, 'Wie zich een toekomst scheppen wil, mag het verleden niet uit het oog verliezen.' One who wants to create the future must not forget the Past. These are words of deep human wisdom. We Africans have still to erect monuments to commemorate the glorious achievements of our great heroes of the past, e.g. Shaka, Moshoeshoe, Hintsa, Sikhukhumi, Khama, Sobuza, and Mosilikazi, etc. In their times and environment and under the circumstances in which they lived, these men served their people and did their duty nobly and well. 'Lives of great men all remind us'.

d) Economic Basis: The fundamental structure of Bantu Society is socialistic. There was for instance no individual ownership of land in ancient Bantu society. There were no landlords or the so-called 'absentee' landlords. Land belonged virtually to the whole tribe and nominally to the King or Chief. Socialism then is our valuable legacy from our ancestors. Our task is to develop this socialism by the infusion of new and modern socialistic ideas.

e) Democratic Basis: In ancient Bantu Society, the worth of a man was not assessed by wealth. Any man could rise to any position, e.g., of Induna or Captain or General by the virtue of the qualities of courage and ability which were possessed by such man. In our Councils of Khotlas any citizen could take part in discussions, and if a case was being tried, anyone could ask questions and cross-examine the accused.The main point is the assessment of human value by moral and spiritual qualities. This is a legacy to be preserved and developed and highly treasured in our hearts.

f) Ethical Basis: The ethical system of our forefathers was based on ancestor worship. People did certain things or refrained from doing certain things for fear of punishment by the spirits of dead ancestors. We must retain and preserve the belief in the immortality of our ancestors but our ethical system today has to be based on Christian morals since there is nothing better anywhere in the world. Morality is the soul of society. Decay and decline of morals brings about the decay and decline of society--so History teaches. It is only African Nationalism or Africanism that can save the African people. Long live African Nationalism!

Last updated : 31-Mar-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Mar-2011