Patrice Lumumba and the Permanent Revolution

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Friday 17th January 2014 marks the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, who after being beaten and tortured for days, was finally shot. The assassination was the work of US and Belgian imperialism with the United Nations playing a complicit role.

Lumumba led a movement for the liberation of the Congo and had a vision of national and pan-African unity, the vision that the African continent may one day write its own history. But from the point of view of international capitalism, the role of Africa was nothing more than to be a supine provider of cheap raw materials. Lumumba and his politics were therefore intolerable to the major capitalist powers.

Lumumba was not a Marxist. In essence he started out as a social-democrat, but he quickly realised that the only way meaningful change had any chance of success in the Congo was through the nationalisation of Congolese industry in order to take it out of the hands of predatory foreign capitalists. In coming to this conclusion Lumumba had, in practice, proved the correctness of the Marxist theory of the Permanent Revolution.

The theory holds that in economically backward nations the bourgeoisie are tied hand and foot to foreign imperialist interests and have no national bourgeois interests of their own. For this reason this class cannot carry out a bourgeois democratic revolution, the likes of which took place in France in 1789, because the rights to national independence, free and fair elections and so on directly contradict its interests as an agent of foreign imperialism. To win these basic democratic rights the working class can rely only on themselves and their power to transform society through proletarian revolution and a struggle for socialism.

You only need to look at the state of the Congo since Lumumba’s assassination to see the complete inability of the ruling class to free the country from the bloody grip of imperialism. Thanks to the Americans and Belgians (and the British too, as a recent BBC article has revealed) all the anti-imperialist uprisings in the Congo were crushed, and the honest Lumumba was replaced with the thug Mobuto whose legacy of pillage and plunder continues to define Congolese politics to this day.

The country’s vast mineral resources are being plundered by Belgian, French, and American companies. In 2008, 5 million people were slaughtered in the second Congo war, a war born out of the pursuit of precious stones for profit by foreign capitalists. There is no solution to this problem under capitalism. The Congolese working class must fight alongside the African, European, and American proletariat to end the horrors of imperialism across the world.

by Nigel Warren, QMUL Marxists