In Memoriam: Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye (26 Nov 1954 – 12 Sep 2009)

I recently came to learn about Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye through Dr. Robert Biel, a comrade of his, because of a new edition of “Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement” which Kalikot Book Series is going to publish in this coming year along with Kersplebedeb. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye was an important communist activist, thinker and poet who centrally participated in Black radical and anti-imperialist movements in Britain in the 1980s. For example, he helped found Black Action for the Liberation of Southern Africa (Balsa) which worked with the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania and the Pan-African Congress to break the stranglehold of Anti- Apartheid/SACP/USSR/white liberals. He was principally known as a poet and helped form the poetry and music collective African Dawn. They released a couple of LPs and were incredibly important in the development of a revolutionary culture.

His poems were extremely influential, although they have unfortunately been largely forgotten by subsequent generations. He usually employed the pen-name Ahmed Sheikh. His most famous poem was taken up as a kind of anthem by many in the PAC and BCMA. It is called, “Please do not call me South Africa”, and is available below with one other poem that I have been able to find online by him. In this second poem Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye draws for us a vivid picture of the revolutionary who is among the masses and notably includes the revolutionary Communist Party of Peru as such an example, alongside the Mau Mau and the Palestinians. However, his commitment was not to the radicalised and Black peoples resident in Britain. Rather, as is evidenced in video interview below, he continued to contribute back to people across the continent of Africa in true Pan-Africanist spirit.

For example, he was known to thousands of Eritreans for reciting poems in commemoration of Comrade Abdurrahman Babu (a leading African Maoist thinker and statesman from Tanzania who was also a strong advocate for the right of self determination of Eritrea) on Eritrean television. Apparently, when Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye was introduced, he stood there silently, looking at the audience. He broke his silence with the simple declaration, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye would never compromise on the rights for people to self-determine their own lives.

We ought not forget him as he served as a shining example of the revolutionary tradition and culture that we are perilously in danger of forgetting. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye’s death, definitely heavier than Mount Tai.

Please Do Not Call Me South Afrika

I am Azania land of black folks
Grain grown when stones were
still as soft as butter.
I am Azania land of Zenji
Truth made redudant
by the tyrant´s gang
I am Azania I ran wild and free –
I tamed iron long before the steel-ore
plunderer came.

I have seen kingdoms rise
I have seen kingdoms fall.
I once stretched my hands up to the coast of Somalia.
Deep deep by the great walls of Zimbabwe.
There my name is entombed.
I am Azania once land of hospitality.

I flung my arms to captain Diaz en Vasco da Gama
for I thought them lost.
We sang and ate, danced and laughed.
I had plenty to give for I knew nothing of their design.
Then one day, one infamous day in 1652,
the trecherous seas betched forth.
Three drunken ships at table bay
Dromedaris, Reiger, Goede Hoep.

As dusk was inching
We met
We clushed.
Their ribbs into our Assegais
my sons and daughters
fell too, in a hail of settlers´ bullets.
Battles of yesteryear are engraved in my memory.
I praise you sons en daughters of Thaba Bosio, Isandlawane,
Sandile´s Kap, Keiskamahoek, Bloodriver
I praise you all.

I am Azania – land of Black folk.
I bent but not break.
My name it self – a platform and programme
scattered the white mists over Kliptown.
I am Azania Mangaliso Sobukwe heard my call – then there was Sharpeville.
I am Azania the name reconcilled with itself in deeds of Bantu ka Biko

The name wrapt up a forest of black fists in Soweto.
I am Azania – battered flesh in the Bantustans,
Sturdy voices of Robben Island.
I am Azania – the mind vintilates
back its own breadth, sweat, tears en blood
trapped in gold particles.
I am Azania – mourn made murmuring
murmuring made cry, cry made shriek,
shriek drilling in the settlers´ears.

I am Azania – the feared black bull
in the tomentors dreams.
I am that black dot
on the boers white history books.
Black consciousness unbound only the pure I take for I have no time
I am Azania land of ZENJI – burning truth churns the tyrants- gang
truth made the dream and dream made the truth
Please do not call me South Africa.

When the elements sing

Hail the hurricane, hail the harmattan
Rejoice
Sing and dance with the whirlwind
I am one with nature
I sing of unrest
I sing of passion, of love
I sing of dawn
When the eye of the sky is crimson-red
The very colour of my dreams
I am one with nature
History, geography is on my side
My people too
Mountains, valleys, canyons
Where we ensnare and subdue
The enemy’s metal herd
I am one with nature
Don’t you know?
Ask the Palestinian
Ask the Eritrean
Ask the Mau Mao
Ask Sondero Luminoso in Peru
They will tell you that I am one with nature.
Listen and listen well
What does it say?
I am one with nature
I speak of crops and harvests
To feed the starving
Toiling multitudes
I grew up by the Nile
And spread across the globe
Do not ask me
What I have seen
What do you hear?
What do you see?
What do you feel?
Are you with me?
Are you with nature?
Are you with people?
Are you with people?
I am one with nature

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21 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye (26 Nov 1954 – 12 Sep 2009)

  1. Hi, there. Great article btw, very interesting. I was looking back over the older posts, and they are all of high quality. It is a shame that there hasn’t been a proper response from the RCP USA regarding your critique of their ‘new synthesis’. Regarding the Com.Surendra piece, apart from the ott trolling on it by a certain ‘robert’, one can’t help but notice one thing. Com Surendra looks just like a brown Bob Avakian. Does he adopt that look on purpose, to model himself on BA? There is something a bit comic about it, as there is with a lot of the stuff put out by the RCP USA ie Bob’s attempt at hip hop etc.

    look forward to more articles from you.
    D

  2. Hi WD,
    sorry to ask an off topic question, although your previous articles have dealt with this issue. What do you make now of the Nepali Maoists. Do you think this movement has a future, or has the sellout of Bhattarai/Prachanda, dismantling of the PLA, giving up base areas etc irredeemably damaged this movement?

  3. Hey WD,

    i don’t know if you’ve seen Kasama recently, but there was some kind of trolling campaign, which seems very similar to the one your site was subject to. someone pretending to be a supporter of the rcp usa to ridicule and sow division. Kasama seem to think it is the NSA. what do you make of this, as you’ve obviously suffered from a trolling campaign also.

    http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/on-sustained-trolling-campaign-against-kasama-project

    1. Hi James,
      I know very little about the trolling that Kasama has suffered (I really do not read Kasama as I do not find it to be particularly interesting), but the little I have heard from others makes me think that you are right that Kasama and I have likely suffered the same troll. I have no way of determining whether the person or persons who have done this in this are with the NSA. However, I do think that if indeed the troll is the same then I doubt they have anything to do with the NSA inasmuch that I really do not think that the NSA is really going to waste resources on trolling me and my blog. Perhaps, Kasama has articulated good reasons to believe that their troll is with the NSA.

      WD

    1. Hi Fish,
      I really wish I could attend. I think its going to be interesting. I doubt that it will be all that different from some of the debates I have heard Cornell West do with RCP supporters, but it will be “historical” given that it will be the first properly public Avakian event in many decades. Wish someone would bring me to NYC to see it!

      WD

    1. Hi Sushi,
      Thanks for sending this my way. I had not read it till you posted it, but it brought a real smile to my face. I am sure that the RCP(USA) thinks that this kind of propaganda is effective otherwise I would imagine that they wouldn’t print it. I do not think that this kind of propaganda is effective, and think that it likely causes more of an averse reaction amongst the very people that they seek to mobilise. Having said that however, I am sure that this kind of propaganda is likely effective amongst small groups of people who are similarly attracted to the arms of religious cults. Indeed, what I find most disturbing about this kind of propaganda is that it basically reintroduces the classical division of labour that characterises our society: Bob thinks, we do. All of this propaganda speaks to a desire to sustain an impoverished intellectual life in which one leaves the thinking to others, those special people of a different caliber, and one simply follows and does. Communism to me is much more than that.

      WD

      1. glad you enjoyed that. where does this kind of cult of personality thing come from. it is funny because the rcp usa are tiny, but i think if they had power, it would be scary. I must confess, when i look at the Sendero/Shining Path propaganda, i do not find it funny, but somewhat creepy. i really hope that ML/MLM groups drop this cult of personality shit. the funny think about Bob thinks are that his thoughts are not bad, some of what he says is interesting and worthwhile, but he is not that great either. this kind of stuff actually stops people from taking what he says seriously.

      2. Hi Sushi,
        Unfortunately there is a long tradition of this cult of personality within the communist movement. Indeed, the cult of personality, I think, was a particular ideological form that likely appealed to workers and peasants in many of the semi-feudal countries at a particular time (Russia in 1917, China in 1949 etc.) Of course, it was made easier because Lenin, Stalin and Mao had all indeed made great contributions to the well-being of the people, and the masses, often coming from a feudal mindset, were more than open to such forms of ideology. In fact, this kind of personality was even advocated by Machiavelli in The Discourses when he discusses Nero and the foundation of religion in the Roman republic at the time of Nero. I personally think that this kind of ideology has lost much of its initial purchase and many people like you in fact find it more creepy than revolutionary. Also, the cult of personality has helped foreclose debate within parties etc. I mean how the hell can one have a debate with Mao about tactics etc when he is widely regarded as “the great helmsman”? Most important Maoist parties today like the TKP/ML and the CPI(Maoist) reject the cult of personality. The RCP,USA thinks that this form of ideology is not only effective, but thinks that it is necessary to help develop the revolutionary movement in the USA. It seems to have wildly backfired and as you yourself state, makes it hard to take anything he says less seriously than it should. Having said that, I do not think much of the new synthesis and find it woefully inadequate.

  4. Hi WD,

    i also find the ‘new synthesis’ inadequate for what it claims to be. but part of the reason it is inadequate is that it claims too much, and fails to do what it claims. if BA and the RCP did not claim so much, then it would not appear as stupid and comic as it does. ie it is not really a new synthesis, it is just BA’s body of work, and its OK, just OK, not great not bad. other marxists do not claim so much for themselves, and thus do not attract the kind of abuse BA does, ie Alex Callinicos. his work is also OK, kinda interesting, but not groundbreaking. as he and the swp do not claim much, there is no reason to diss his work. its fine for what it is.

    the rcp on their website say ‘ down with the culture of snark’, referring I presume to things such as the Blob Avakian meme, the ‘doing the BAsics with Bob Avakian’ site which features funny photoshopped pictures of BA in unusual situations, and the youtube video with the Queen soundtrack and funny pics of BA. the reason for this kind of snark, i think, is because of the manner that the rcp promote BA. It is a legitimate counter reaction. i also think part of the reason that the rcp sometimes gets called a CIA front is because their whole thing comes across as so, well, weird.

    re- cult of personality – was there a cult of personality around Lenin before he got shot and became bedridden? It seems to me there wasn’t, but when he was sick it started. i could be wrong tho. I would be curious if there are any analyses of the cult of personality in the ICM that you know.

    1. Hi Sushi,
      I completely agree. I like your formulation: its simply inadequate because it claims too much and then falls short of said claims. Its true. Avakian definitely has a body of work which puts forward some interesting ideas and in some regards is actually quite useful to think out problems in relation to, however by no means is it the kind of monumental works that Avakian and his followers claim that it is. As the CPI(Maoist) said in Nepal in the seminar there, many years ago when Prachanda Path was being advocated for, let future generations decide whether a given body of work is a thought or ism. I think that this is likely the first time that Alex Callinicos has ever been compared to Bob Avakian, and I must admit that I feel a little embarrassed for Alex. He didn’t ask to me be dragged into this unfortunate comedy.

      Regarding the snark thing. Yeah, I have seen some of it. Didn’t see the youtube video. Am not sure its worth wasting my time? Did you read The Fire on the Mountain piece on this? http://firemtn.blogspot.ca/2014/10/in-defense-of-snark.html I think it was dead on I think that snark and comedy have an important cultural role to play in politics, and that the RCP,USA is being effectively caught flatfooted in the terrain of modern cultural politics. I think that they should have welcomed the snark and regarded it as the beginning of an interaction, rather than necessarily as a hostile attack. I think that we need to realise that the cultural terrain is a super-important one to win, and that they wont do it by being squarer than square. I know that many have remarked in the past that the RCP,USA has always struggled with cultural politics though. I definitely do not think that the RCP,USA is a CIA front. I think that they are honest comrades who have taken a very weird weird turn in their politics.

      There wasn’t a cult of personality before Lenin got shot. Rather, Lenin was considered one of many important leaders. He had a following within the party, but it was not loyal to him like a dog to the master. They were thinking people. There have been analyses of the cult of personality. The Peruvians of course analysed it positively. The Indians in a self-criticism document in 1980 addressed the question and concluded that the cult of personality around Charu Mazumdar was unhealthy, and that leadership should always be seen as collective. This is why GS Ganapathy does not have a cult of personality around him. But there have been numerous other analyses. I bet if you looked through the EROL archives you would more than a fair share. However, I think that I will make this point again: I have consistently argued that I would a return to the days when these people were not treated like prophets. I want to treat Marx, Lenin, Mao etc as people who I can argue with. I do not think that they were always right. I think that they made significantly important contributions in theory and practice, but now should be able to write a new balance-sheet of the history of communism, its successes and failures. Also, I think we need to expand the figures that we are discussing and exploring. It is one of the reasons I am definitely interested in the Historical Materialism journal, for all of its quirks, odd personalities and politics.

  5. i definitely agree with that. i do NOT believe that the rcp are a cia front, nor for that matter the sparticists. however, when dealing with extreme weirdness, and trying to understand it. it is something that comes to mind, perhaps rather too easily. the youtube video is short and worth watching, just over a minute. it does capture something about how the rcp usa comes across better than words or an article can. i mean, it captures my feelings and thoughts about the rcp in a way that more developed articles do not, the very fact that it is ridiculous. homemade youtube videos are also part of the new cultural terrain. i would want to say to rcp members to watch this, because this is how you come across to the outside world, whether or not you like it, as ridiculous.

    i feel kind of sorry for some of the longtimers in the rcp, who must know at some level that they are on a sinking ship and are for the most part honest comrades. i think its good the CPI Maoist do not use the cult of personality. I would be genuinely curious to know from the nepalese comrades who put forward ‘prachanda path’ their reasons for doing so. it seems ridiculous now, as from what i’ve read, prachanda is now widely despised and regarded as one of the most corrupted politicians in nepal.

    i wouldn’t compare alex callinicos with avakian, however, the scandal that has ripped the swp apart, over the rape allegations, are also curious in that the internet played a big role. i imagine in pre internet days, it would not have exploded in the same way. i’ve seen the historical materialism journal. my only gripe about it is that it is too academic, and reading the articles is often a bit heavy going.

    1. Yes, youtube videos are definitely part of the new cultural terrain. In this regard, the Maoist Third Worldists have been quite open to using it as a propaganda tool, although I doubt to much good effect when the line itself is so odd. I watched the video and its pretty funny, and definitely does capture how many people looking at the RCP,USA from the outside in feel. I think that at this point, the only RCP,USA members left are the kind who would look at this video and immediately conclude that it was a counter-revolutionary CIA-backed plot. And yes, I too feel sorry for some of the long-timers who likely have some inkling that they are on a sinking ship, however from what I understand, these long-timers probably have similarly drunk the new synthesis kool aid. I was wondering whether you had had a chance to look at the large posts I produced on the new synthesis? At some pt. I would like to do a proper study of Stefan Engels’ work because I know that they have made very grandiose claims about his theories as well.

      I think that the fact that the CPI(Maoist) does not have such a cult of personality allows them to have a more honest inner-party debate and dialogue. A cult of personality inhibits what Bordiga called organic centralism. Regarding the Nepalese comrades there is one statement regarding this. Com. Indra Mohan Sigdel, one of the more interesting theorists in that party, wrote an article reviewing his earlier writings on the Prachanda Path. Unfortunately it is not satisfactory inasmuch that it does not explicitly distance itself from the cult of personality as a whole. http://www.signalfire.org/2012/08/30/international-dimensions-of-prachandas-neo-revisionism%E2%80%93-basanta/

      Regarding Callinicos, the SWP and the rape crisis. That was some sad and sorry shit, and I would have really thought that the SWP would have dealt with it better. The manner in which they dealt with the very real and serious allegations demonstrates that they too effectively have the same kind political back-door machinations that bourgeois politics has come to be known for. I think that this kind of abuse will unfortunately happen in these kinds of organisations because people do not get rid of the habits learned in bourgeois politics, however, the test of a party is not whether an incident occurs but how its dealt with. The SWP basically exposed how politically bankrupt it. I definitely agree that pre-internet days this would have been very different and in this case I am glad that the internet exists. Indeed, I cannot think of a single party that has actually been able to properly use the internet in a dynamic and interesting manner. The RCP,USA website is a disaster and nearly unnavigable. The PCR-RCP website in many regards serves like a newspaper, which is fine, but does not capture the dynamism of contemporary internet activity. Kasama tried to be more dynamic but was unable to become more than simply a chat forum for a few people. The worst are groups like Revolutionary Organisation of Labour (formerly Ray O. Light) who do not even have a website. And one could go on.

      Are you involved in any kind of Maoist organising in your respective country? Have you produced any essays that one could look at?

      1. no, im not in a party nor written essays. I consider myself a socialist/communist, in that i’m generally for the working class. i’m less bothered by proper names such as Trotsky/Mao etc. if a trotskyist group can lead a revolution, i have no problem wth that.
        i’ve been posting on this and other sites just mainly because i feel that the left is kind of stuck,even tho there is a crisis in capitalism, the left doesn’t seem to have its act together to do much. I am interested in actual attempts at revolution more than theory, which is why i was interested in nepal, and india philippines, as well as venezeula, etc. part of the reason i’m not in a party is that many of the parties i’ve come across seem like sects and there is something about them that i can see wont work, altho i can’t pin what it is. i don’t want to write critical articles of parties for the basic fact that i respect the fact they are doing something, its just i have a doubt about how successful it is going to be. I respect the rcp usa also, but they have gone so far that a bit of fun can’t do much harm.

  6. I imagine you’ve seen the Blob Avakian meme generator:

    http://memegenerator.net/Blob-Avakian

    I think the rcp usa may think that this kind of thing is set up by the CIA because they have nothing in their theoretical arsenal, in the Bob Avakian toolkit, that can defend themselves against these kind of attacks. ie it is a kind of mockery i suppose, which is always hard to defend.

    1. Yeah I have seen it. I think the RCP,USA is ridiculous, however, I do think that the amount of energy put into ridiculing them could be better spent actually building something independent of them. I think its true, at least in part, that the RCP,USA like to decry this stuff as the activities of the CIA because of a kind of defensiveness, but it also speaks to a deep-rooted paranoia that I have seen exhibited by others from the ex-RCP,USA milieu. It also is combined with this feeling of extreme importance that the RCP,USA has endowed itself with.

  7. i dont know if you saw the Avakian/West dialogue. The RCP have scored another own goal. Avakian bombed, and was upstaged by a charismatic and intelligent Cornel West.

    1. I didn’t see it. I didn’t realise that there was going to be a livefeed otherwise I would have tried to, however, what I am reading on Twitter and Facebook seems to support your argument that Avakian bombed it. Seems like people were not ready to have Avakian go all Castro on them with a 3 hour speech. RCP(USA) folks have declared it a success which means that they of course will keep trucking on, whereas most people not around the RCP seem to be really turned off by what he had to say and to be honest what he has actually done. Several younger activists and politically-conscious people suggest online that Avakian’s attitude towards contemporary movements and knowledge of contemporary events that effect their lives was less than respectful and sometimes oblivious. Indeed, it seems like Avakian has not really realised how much the discussion has moved on in the US, but also more generally. I feel really conflicted about it. On the one hand, I want to write a new blog post on apriorism in light of this book I have been reading about the Lin Biao incident, but on another hand really feel like this debacle effectively is Avakian jumping the shark. To be honest, I feel like, in the context of this debacle, I have to radically revise something that I have been working on for a long while (a “manuscript” as it were) to place less emphasis on the Avakianists. Your thoughts? Should I write one last post about the new synthesis for old times sake?

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