No Fist is Big Enough to Hide the Sky

Decolonization struggles against the Portuguese are often thought about as Angola and Mozambique, far less does one hear about Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Basil Davidson brings first-hand experience of that struggle, for which he was praised by none other than Amilcar Cabral himself in the Preface. The book, "No Fist is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: The Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, 1963-74" (1969, with additions in 1981) by Basil Davidson, offers insight into the struggle against Portuguese colonialism, and anti-colonial struggles generally. The book is not a history, nor it is an analysis of deconolization (as Fanon has done). It is more of a travel diary and set of reflections, supported with documents and quotes from the leaders of the struggle.

What can be learned from the movement of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC)? From Davidson:

  • "Genuine revolts against an established order begin with necessity. The penalties of guerilla warfare can be accepted, can be justified, only when they are suffered as part of a necessary self-defence. This is a hard lesson that has nothing to do with revolutionary verbalism. A few leaders many understand, from the start, this necessity to use violence both in self-defence and as the only means of opening the door to a better future. But they remain powerless until and unless large numbers of people also feel and acknowledge it. Only then can the bitterness and hope take fire." (p. 9)
  • "one cannot make the revolt first, and think about the revolution afterward. All anti-imperialist revolts take a revolutionary direction. That is their nature. But only those come to fruition which realize, in the course of the struggle, a complete integration of military and political effort within a framework of thought and aim that is revolutionary. Another principle, flowing from the first, is that methods, structures, and objectives must be profoundly and increasingly democratic. Here there can be no question of a group of leaders or fighters, no matter how devoted and sincere, 'making the revolution' on behalf of others. Unless and until the mass of people actively and continually participate in changing their own lives, there will be no change, or none of any value. Not until the farmers in the villages and hamlets embrace the revolution as their own work, as their own thing, does success become possible." (p. 21)
  • "the central concept of national liberation was to be defined not so much as the right of a people to rule itself, but as the right of a people to regain its own history: 'to liberate, that is, the means and process of development of its own productive forces'. So, 'in our thinking, any movement of national liberation which fails to take account of this basis and objective of national liberation may well be fighting against imperialism, but will not be fighting for national liberation'." (p. 53)
  • "'We want no volunteers', Cabral said to me on this point, 'and we shall turn them back if they present themselves. Foreign military advisers or commanders, or any other foreign personnel, are the last thing we shall accept. They would rob my people of their one change of achieving a historical meaning for themselves: of reasserting their own history, of recapturing their own identity'" (p. 62)

It is well worth reading in full.

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