Conditions of the Congolese Revolutionary Movement


The revolutionary movement in the Congo is inseparable from an African revolution, which in turn is inseparable from the real global abolition of all class divisions, which are the fundamental divisions of a society that has now spread all over the earth, and from which come all the oppositions between nations and races. Thus, the Congolese movement must be firmly internationalist, and the complete enemy of all exploitation. It must recognize its friends and enemies everywhere in the world upon this sole real criteria, and combat all illusions.


The Congolese movement must thus ascertain and critique the real state of the world and the revolutionaries forces in it. These forces have suffered a half-century of defeat in the wake of the defeat of the Russian Revolution: the seizure of power by a self-avowedly communist bureaucracy that identified [itself] with the State so as to command and exploit the Russian proletariat. This bureaucracy liquidated the existing revolutionary workers movement in the industrially advanced countries. It objectively imposed this choice upon the movement: reformism in the service of national capitalism, or counter-revolutionary domestication in the service of the bureaucracy in Moscow.


It is because the revolutionary movement was vanquished in the advanced countries that the colonized and semi-colonized countries have had to fight against imperialism on their own. The only combatants on a piece of the total revolutionary terrain, they have only been partially repelled from it. In China, the struggle against American, European and Japanese imperialism has only led to a bureaucratic power on the Russian model. It is the delay in the industrialization of Russia -- and not strategic, revolutionary differences, [the appearance of] which are only cynical impostures, as the policies of the Chinese State demonstrate on every occasion that it finds profitable -- that today brings the Chinese bureaucracy into conflict with the Russian form (as well as causes the national struggles of the "great powers").


Where it has been able to modify its form of domination before the struggles of the colonized people have led to victorious armed clashes, imperialism has remained the master of the "de-colonized" countries. Senghor or Mba[1] replace a foreign governor, and there are changes in the details of the uniforms worn by the police, who are paid and organized by the same masters as before.


In many of the officially "independent" countries, a local dominant class is assured of a certain independent domination, but for itself. It is a mixture of bourgeoisie and bureaucracy (the bureaucrats direct the State, the economy and the political participation of the masses). From Nasser to Boudmedienne, from Soglo to Nkrumah,[2] one sees the diverse formations of a ruling class in the State. Class struggle that has been framed bureaucratically creates a separated leadership (as in Algeria and Ghana) that more or less collaborates with the local bourgeoisie. Or it entails the bureaucratization of societies in which the bourgeoisie is weak with respect to the army (as in Egypt). Or the traditional leaders seize hold of the new State bureaucracy, and thus tend to constitute a bourgeoisie, not for productive work, but for the organized pillaging of the country. It is thus a bourgeoisie that doesn't accumulate anything, but which squanders the surplus-value produced by local work and the foreign subsidies provided by the imperialist States that are its protectors. When the bureaucracy as such constitutes the dominant class, it accumulates capital, effectively industrializes [production], but according to its own interests. It appears as the under-developed version of the old European bourgeoisie.


All these powers pile up their lies, these so-called socialists. In this, too, they are an under-developed imitation of the bureaucracy that defeated the workers movement in Europe. The revolutionary movement in the Congo, as elsewhere, must speak the truth, which means the abolition of all power separate from society, because separate power is the root of ideology, that is to say, the lie. One must unreservedly denounce and transform the global reality.


The only one who is "under-developed" is he or she who accepts the image of the development of their masters. But the only universal human development in precisely the abolition of masters, [the creation of] the classless society. The Congolese movement cannot recognize any positive value in the social forms of their former colonizers, nor in the new forms of bureaucratic exploitation by those who speak of their liberation following the Russian or Chinese model. One must understand that the colonizers have themselves been colonized: amongst themselves [chez eux], in their own lives, in the midst of all of the powerful activity of the industrial societies, which can turn at any moment like an enemy against the masses of workers that produce them, but which will never master them, and are indeed mastered by them. One must also understand that the liberators of the Chinese type must themselves be liberated. The real revolutionary movement in Africa and elsewhere in the world will help them. One must admit straight off that nothing of what exists should be respected.


The weakness of all African revolutionary governments -- including that of Lumumba[3] -- is that it becomes independent from the masses of its own country long before becoming independent from foreign governments. In Africa, the State is an imported article. By entering the State, the revolutionary movement always separates itself from the masses that it claims to represent but, without the free activity of these masses, the country cannot reconstruct and defend a new form of free society against all the foreign exploiters who will utilize their forces to maintain the oppression that is useful to them.


A ruling class in the Congo (and possession of the State is a sufficient social base for such a class) will always be dominated by foreign power: subjected to the goals of global industry. The Congo is too rich to be abandoned by foreign exploiters (see the use of ore from Kivu and Katanga in the American "space industry"). The advance and the delay of the economic zones of the world are profoundly intertwined, each one supporting the others. All the forms of possible exploitation will thus be successively tried by diverse powers, and the Congolese will never be abstract "masters of themselves" (like English or Italian citizens with their political illusions) until they actually become their own masters. To be truly independent, they must be actually free.


The failure of Lumumba was not due to the "primitivism" of the State in the Congo, but on the contrary due to the best-possible wishes of the State, which was animated by a quite authentic passion for independence. It was too late for [Lumumba to practice] Jacobinism, the voluntarism of the State. The State was the trap in which Lumumba was caught. He discovered that, for Congolese radicals, the government is only a role that has no effective force. Lumumba believed he could govern, and could only manage to put these intentions into words. And he was killed for what he said. In memory of this deed, Lumumba's successors should destroy the State.


The pseudo-nationalism of Mobutu[4] is merely the demagoguery of a domestic servant to foreign power, whose masters have advised him to play the master. They are changing the names of the towns in the Congo, but they are not changing their owners.


The armed struggle of 1964, which was only repelled by the open intervention of Belgian and American forces that came to help the permanent mercenaries of a new colonization, did not know to organize itself as a revolutionary movement as well as it knew how to fight. It did not learn from the experience of Lumumba. It gave authoritarian power to leaders who, with the exception of Pierre Mulele,[5] played at governing and who didn't understand the nature of the governments that claimed to support them. Finally, they split up in exile. They had shared a power that was already separated from the Congolese base in struggle. They had begun the State's bad games even before they conquered their State.


The goal of the Congolese revolutionary movement is self-management, which appeared in a limited form after the first victories of the Algerian Revolution, and which Boumedienne[6] fiercely fought against. Self-management must be totally realized. It is the sole guarantee of independence. It and not the centralized State must surpass tribalism. Ever since Lumumba, who was disarmed in part by tribalism, emigration to urban life has increased the proportion of the population that has found itself living a de-tribalized life (the disappearance of Bakongo domination in Kinshasa, for example). On the other hand, each tribal representative has become a statesman. Representation has detached itself from its tribal base. It has become foreign. It must appear as foreign.


The workers in the cities must organize themselves in Councils, which must hold the totality of power forever. Their delegates, who must be revocable at any moment by the base that mandated them, along with those from the country sides, must create a permanent [form of] communication that will be facilitated by the fact that the self-management of the workers will not impose any rhythm of development intended to catch up with some foreign model, but will have the power to freely create all of social life from the existing base. If the Congolese workers directly possess their own labor power and all of the industrial resources of the country, they could indeed decide to cut production.


The question of economic development can only be posed with freedom of choice and in the framework of the worldwide revolutionary struggle. It is obvious that the portion of unpaid work placed at the disposal of a central delegation of the Councils must be used in the defense of the existing revolutionary situation, thus in the support of its propagation in all of Africa and everywhere in the world where it will appear on the same model.


The organization of coherent Congolese revolutionaries who defend these principles must itself be conceived in accordance with such principles. This organization must not recognize any "elite" and must be prepared to combat any social elite that would like to constitute itself upon it. The organization must refuse every separation between manual and intellectual labor, and it absolutely must support the radical equalization of the levels of life, with direct democracy in and around it. It will propose to organize the workers in the cities, and to employ modern forms of economic and political struggle (strikes, urban uprisings). It will absolutely condemn parliamentary representation, which is a comedy in Europe and an even worse comedy in Africa.


For the masses, the Congolese revolutionary movement must be, not only the model for organizing, but the model for the coherence of what they want, by drawing all the consequences of what spontaneously occurs. Socialism in Africa must certainly reinvent itself completely, not because this is Africa, but because socialism still doesn't exist anywhere else! Thus, it cannot define itself as African socialism.


This movement must declare that it desires the total de-Christianization of the country in the shortest possible time and without backsliding. Religion is an alienation everywhere. But in Africa it is an imported alienation, and thus a doubly foreign force. It is thus quite fragile. It will be dissolved easily.


The enthusiasm of the Congolese in 1960, which was called their lunacy, their desire to change life, was the revolutionary side of the independence movement, and its participation in governmental "rationality" had in fact been its illusion and its derisory failure. The Congolese revolutionary movement must not break up any community so as to industrialize a society of separated individuals; on the contrary, it must realize community at a superior degree, larger and richer. The movement [must] believe that festival, rest, dialogue and play are the principal riches of its society. It will want to develop such values, and to propose them as examples to revolutionaries in the technologically advanced countries.


The Congolese revolutionary movement must not hide the fact that, once victorious, it will never lay down its arms before the total liberation of South Africa takes place, thanks to boycotts, blockades or war. Just as it declares itself ready to fraternally welcome the revolutionaries of all countries, it also demands that the rest of the so-called civilized world be prepared from now on to receive the racist South African minority, which cannot in any case hope to remain innocently in the country that it has totally subjugated. Its dispersion will obviously be its only chance for survival.


The Congolese revolutionary movement of today cannot place itself in the history of negritude, because it enters into universal history. It is a part of the revolutionary proletariat that rises to the surface in every country. As such, it must combat [President Lyndon] Johnson and Mao. It must avenge Lumumba and Liebknecht, Babeuf and Durruti.

[1] Translator's note: Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906-2001) was a Congolese poet and President of the country, as was Leon Mba (1902-1967).

[2] Translator's note: Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt); Houari Boudmedienne (Algeria); Christophe Soglo (Benin); and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana).

[3] Note by Editions Gallimard: Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) was the Prime Minister of the Congo at the moment of its independence in 1960. He was assassinated the following year after Mobutu's coup d'Etat, which was perpetrated with the complicity of the mining companies in Katanga and the Belgian Army, supported by the United States.

[4] Note by Editions Gallimard: Joseph-Desire Mobutu (1930-1997) was the Chief of the Defense Staff in 1960. He overthrew the government of Patrice Lumumba and delivered him to him to his enemies. He took power in 1965 and would be chased out in May 1997, a few months before he died in exile.

[5] Note by Editions Gallimard: Pierre Mulele (1929-1968) was the Minister of Education under Patrice Lumumba. He conducted a guerilla campaign against the Mobutu regime. He, too, would be assassinated and, like Lumumba, his body was never found.

Written by Guy Debord, July 1966. Unpublished during Debord's lifetime, it was included in Oeuvres (Editions Gallimard, 2006). Translated from the French by NOT BORED! January 2010. Footnotes as indicated.

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