Amílcar Cabral, Historical Materialism, and the “Peoples without History”

"In a speech delivered to the First Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America held in Havana in January 1966, Cabral posed the question: “does history begin only from the moment of the launching of the phenomenon of class, and consequently, of class struggle? Cabral raised this question because he is concerned with the fact that maintaining the thesis that the existence of classes is a necessary condition for the existence of dynamic social processes logically commits one to excluding several peoples from the historical process, provided that one accepts that at least some societies were classless until they came into contact with European imperialists. The latter is an assumption that is shared by Cabral and his interlocutors. Of course, in order to understand what Cabral is asking here we have to understand what is meant by the word ‘history’ in this context. I think that if one takes into account the Marxist polemical context that Cabral is wading into with this speech, and his attempt to develop a version of historical materialism that would be suitable for conditions in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, one would be justified in thinking that Cabral is referring to a process of social development (or even progress). In other words, the question at hand is not whether peoples without classes have a past, they obviously do."

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