Amílcar Cabral was the leader of the national liberation movement in Guinea-Bissau, which sought to overthrow Portuguese colonialism.
He founded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in 1956, and in 1963 began a military campaign. Within two years, they had extensive liberated zones. On 20 January 1973, just months before the victory of the national liberation struggle, Cabral was assassinated with the help of Portuguese agents operating within the PAIGC.
This is an edited excerpt from ‘Tell no lies, claim no easy victories’. Cabral wrote it in 1965.
Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.
We should recognise as a matter of conscience that there have been many faults and errors in our action whether political or military: an important number of things we should have done, we have not done at the right times, or not done at all.
In various regions – and, indeed, everywhere in a general sense – political work among the people and among our armed forces has not been done appropriately: responsible workers have not carried or have not been able to carry through the work of mobilisation, formation and political organisation defined by the party leadership. Here and there, even among responsible workers, there has been a marked tendency to let things slide, and even a certain demobilisation, which has not been fought and eliminated.
On the military plane, many plans and objectives established by the party leadership have not been achieved. With the means we have, we could do much more and better. Some responsible workers have misunderstood the functions of the army and guerilla forces, have not made good coordination between these two and, in certain cases, have allowed themselves to be influenced by preoccupation with the defence of our positions, ignoring the fact that, for us, attack is the best means of defence.
And with all this as a proof of insufficient political work among our armed forces, there has appeared a certain attitude of ‘militarism’, which has caused some fighters and even some leaders to forget the fact that we are armed militants and not militarists. This tendency must be urgently fought and eliminated within the army.
If 10 men go to a rice field and do the day’s work of eight, there’s no reason to be satisfied. It’s the same in battle. Ten men fight like eight; that’s not enough. One can always do more. Some people get used to the war, and once you get used to a thing, it’s the end: you get a bullet up the spout of your gun and you walk around. You hear the motor on the river, and you don’t use the bazooka that you have, so the Portuguese boats pass unharmed. Let me repeat: one can do more. We have to throw the Portuguese out.
How to inspire the young
Create schools and spread education in all liberated areas. Select young people between 14 and 20, those who have at least completed their fourth year, for further training. Oppose without violence all prejudicial customs, the negative aspects of the beliefs and traditions of our people. Oblige every responsible and educated member of our party to work daily for the improvement of their cultural formation.
Oppose among the young, especially those over 20, the mania for leaving the country so as to study elsewhere, the blind ambition to acquire a degree, the complex of inferiority and the mistaken idea that leads to the belief that those who study or take courses will thereby become privileged in our country tomorrow. But also oppose any ill will towards those who study or wish to study – the complex that students will be parasites or future saboteurs of the party.
In the liberated areas, do everything possible to normalise the political life of the people. Section committees of the party (tabanca committees), zonal committees and regional committees must be consolidated and function normally. Frequent meetings must be held to explain to the population what is happening in the struggle, what the party is endeavouring to do at any given moment, and what the criminal intentions of the enemy may be.
In regions still occupied by the enemy, reinforce clandestine work, the mobilisation and organisation of the populations and the preparation of militants for action and support of our fighters.
Develop political work in our armed forces, whether regular or guerilla, wherever they may be. Hold frequent meetings. Demand serious political work from political commissars. Start political committees, formed by the political commissar and commander of each unit in the regular army.
Oppose tendencies to militarism and make each fighter an exemplary militant of our party.
Educate, learn, love
Educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate, little by little, the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered. Convince, little by little, in particular the militants of the party, that we shall end by conquering the fear of nature, and that man is the strongest force in nature.
Demand from responsible party members that they dedicate themselves seriously to study, that they interest themselves in the things and problems of our daily life and struggle in their fundamental and essential aspect, and not simply in their appearance. Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.
Responsible members must take life seriously, be conscious of their responsibilities, thoughtful about carrying them out and act with a comradeship based on work and duty done.
Nothing of this is incompatible with the joy of living, or with love for life and its amusements, or with confidence in the future and in our work.
Reinforce political work and propaganda within the enemy’s armed forces. Write posters, pamphlets, letters. Draw slogans on the roads. Establish cautious links with enemy personnel who want to contact us. Act audaciously and with great initiative in this way. Do everything possible to help enemy soldiers to desert. Assure them of security so as to encourage their desertion. Carry out political work among Africans who are still in enemy service, whether civilian or military. Persuade these brothers to change direction so as to serve the party within enemy ranks or desert with arms and ammunition to our units.
We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.