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Horace Campbell Wolpe Lecture: Pan-Africanism and the 21st Century African Revolution, 12 July

The Centre for Civil Society based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, invites you to the following lecture in the Harold Wolpe Lecture series entitled:

“Pan-Africanism and the 21st Century African Revolution”

Speaker: Horace Campbell (Professor-Syracuse University)
Date:Thursday: July 12, 5:30-7pm
Venue: Howard College Theatre, Howard College Campus
Queries: 031 260 3577/3195 or

(This is a public event and all are welcome; refreshments will be served at 7pm)

Horace G. Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in New York. His most important book - Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney - is in its fifth edition, and he more recently authored Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation. He edited the first issue of the African Journal of Political Science, on Pan Africanism in the 21st century, and was on the International Steering Committee of the 1994 Pan African Congress in Kampala. Campbell was educated in the Caribbean, Canada, Uganda and Britain, where his Sussex doctorate was on the Commandist State in Uganda. A Jamaican by birth, he was a member of the 1970s Dar Es Salaam school and active there in the debates on the transition beyond colonialism.

Review of Harold Wolpe Lecture, entitled: Pan-Africanism and the 21st Century Revolution delivered by Professor Horace Campbell, Syracuse University, USA at Howard College Theatre, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Reviewed by Segun Ige, UKZN

I approach this review with a bit of trepidation. First, the intersection of Pan-Africanism and revolution is somewhat new to me and secondly, I had just been introduced to the lecturer the preceding day. From all indication, Horace Campbell is a distinguished Professor of African Studies and well travelled in Africa. I shall speak to the lecture, the audience and the lecturer from a third party perspective and hope that at the end, I would have done reasonable justice to the review.

You enter Howard College Theatre that is already packed out with different kinds of people, from a year old to an elderly ‘gogo’; in high expectation of what was to come, then you hear in a high pitch voice: ‘What is the 21st century?’. . .and a series of other questions that crave definitive answers. One would expect this kind of question to be answered in retrospect as it is the norm. The seriousness with which Campbell wants his audience to approach the 21st century requires foresight and vision which can only be crystallised through probing reflection. In his attempt to answer the question, he differentiated between liberation and revolution and foreground his lecture on definitive intensification and resolve, that the retention of the word ‘revolution’ or ‘revolutionary values’ is apt for the African fight for perpetual freedom.

In his review of existing literature, and an attempt to provide a framework for his lecture, he discussed extensively works of critical revolutionary thinkers like Frantz Fanon and Walter Rodney. He also discusses at great length different revolutionary movements and revolutions that have occurred at different historical moments. For Campbell, these revolutions are underscored by certain ideals which are currently being interrogated. For Campbell, the concept of ubuntu—in its raw and unadulterated African conception— best encapsulates what he termed a philosophical proposition: ‘Africans are human beings’. This premise, a similitude of definitional fallacy, reiterates not only the equality of all persons including Africans, but also a challenge to Africans to ensure that they maintain their position in the 21st century. He argues, there basically needs to be a restoration of African values of oneness, love, sharing and hospitality.

In his discussion of positivism and Pan-Africanism Campbell seeks and/or has observed a gradual departure from what he termed ‘Great Men Syndrome’. According to him, previous revolutions have always surrounded great men coupled with a number of rituals like congresses and conferences. These so-called great men have later compromised the movement through commodification and inappropriate alliances when they attained positions of power. Freedom for him has become a commodity at the expense of welfare of the people that they should normally serve. Then comes the question: How do we begin to theorise revolution beyond positivism? This aspect becomes rather problematic or raises further questions. While a clear shift from great men syndrome is ideal, revolutions and movements have always been historically configured as something that must be associated with great men (cf Cassirer, Kristeller and Randall 1948: 1). Cassirer, Kristeller and Randall believe that movement would only attract interest and perhaps, attract reasonable attention from later generations if some great men and thinkers are produced during these revolutions. In the course of time the great men somewhat lose their identity as individuals and become historical artefacts and monuments of the revolution.

Campbell’s discourse on fractals is particularly interesting. First he draws the connection between African philosophical thinking and nature, and establishes its timelessness and ubiquity. In its practical application in some places, the conceptual extracts from fractal have helped in grass-root mobilisation, e. g. Zapatista in Mexico. Considering the human nature, Campbell’s concept of ‘human being’ can only be sustained in the human condition through discipline and strict maintenance of values that originally underpin the revolution. Civilisation sometimes makes certain noble values obsolete.

On values, Campbell seeks to promote Harriet Tubman principles, namely, self orgainsation, belief in freedom, spiritual depth, rights of woman, courage in the face of military, racial and class oppression, the promotion of the safety of self and others, and the establishment of peace and freedom through networks. Campbell’s pro-African feminist stance almost beclouded his intention to advocate for the ‘humanisation’ of the African male species. In some countries, the society’s drive to support feminist agenda has disadvantaged some men which has led to the establishment of an organisation like Memucan Men’s Institute, that seeks to promote the interest of men in society. This Campbell would refer to as counter-revolutionary.

Campbell’s message is clear, there is need for Africans to work towards the recovery of the dignity of Africans. In doing so, his constant appeal to revolution, and his reinvigoration of revolutionary values may have caused some misunderstanding for some people, especially when he made anaphoraic statement starting with the word ‘resist’, while for the sake of time, he would not have the chance to actually recommend in clear term his modes of resistance. The material is overwhelming and clearly, Campbell did not get through all the 62 slides that he has painstakingly prepared. Without the aid of slides, it was clear that Campbell possesses great competence in the chosen subject area. For the ‘gogo’ in the audience, she may only have picked what Campbell was trying to say through the translation which I assume was competently handled by Mr Mthembu.

The lecture was quite insightful and thought provoking. For me, it is an eye opener to an aspect of Pan-Africanism that one may have taken for granted, even though, according to him is already happening. Campbell’s revolution is not so much of violence or force, but the embracing of certain values that re-orientates our entire society towards sustainable development, growth and prosperity for all.

Cassirer, E, Kristeller, P. O. and Randall, J. R. (1948) The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

Horace Campbell
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