If We Must Win: A Love Letter to My Little Brother

Politics and Society

If We Must Win: A Love Letter to My Little Brother

When we study and organize, we win. When we don’t, we will be eaten one after another, and the dream that once was of a winning mass of oppressed people will give way to a scorched earth and darkened sky.



Peace. As all addresses should begin.

This is for you. A letter, an epistle, a scroll in a bottle. Whatever you want to make it, be the alchemist. I believe you have it in you — a brainy child who grew up at the edge of the world, in the backwaters of empire. But hold this close to your heart and be courageous as you go through this love letter. I trust you’ll be able to since you are the most brilliant and baddest little brother in the world — word to George and Jonathan Jackson.

The other time, you asked me what imperialism and capitalism meant. What are these words that make up most of my writing and speech? You seemed enthralled by their sheer power when they drop in a conversation, and asked you did, waiting patiently for an answer. I tried answering, but we were at the hospital looking after one of our own, and as such I was distracted and couldn’t provide the needed answers. Later I would answer them, and you were happy to get it. You read Fanon and Huey P. recently and you came running to me with ideas. You believe in our triumph — our proud walk to naked glory. I do too, and that makes the two of us in a world of eternal pessimism.

You asked why we aren’t winning; we, the righteous impoverished billions of the earth. How a few control the many, with the simple yet sophisticated mind of a young, up and coming rebel to this world order. Remember that day we stood by the road watching folks pass by and we wondered together how, for example, a few white people controlled Azania (South Africa) with an iron fist till 1994 (and how they still do)? How that even happened?


All answers fell short, and our tongues fell silent as we contemplated the gravity of oppression and the numbers, algorithms, and formulae that abounds it all. But we quickly agreed that there are always answers; they may lie beyond us, and only the brightest of us able to divine them, but they are there. We agreed on a scientific analysis of our shared condition – here is an attempt then. Fulfilling the role, not of a big brother, but of an older comrade in this struggle of ours.

We are not winning because we are disorganized. Remember the fishmeal company debacle in that hometown of ours? How we still couldn’t win, even after all those years of fighting the evil corporation with our many bodies? We lost because we are disunited and undisciplined before the forces that oppress us. We must now recognize how they made up for their lack of numbers through their organization, whiles we are still the many and yet still lacking in organization. You might quickly argue, however, that we, the oppressed, have so many organizations, that our spaces are saturated with these so-called revolutionary movements that claim to be the vanguard here with solutions there. Let’s step to the next problem in the equations and metrics of our failure, for what we have is a few organized elements and a mobilized many. The two are vastly different.

We lack ideological clarity. It is said all successful revolutions succeeded on the basis of a revolutionary theory. What happens, then, when we don’t understand our own theory? What happens when we settle for hype, soundbites, and clout in place of serious and rigorous study? Today we are faced with a mass of organizations with cadres who can’t, in simple terms, explain the edifice of our shared conditions, who are either too caught in Eurocentric explanations of reality or in metaphysical ruminations that have no bearing on the concrete expressions of the material conditions of our people. Remember when we agreed that if we [had] studied the conditions of the fishmeal factory, we would have realized that it must be attacked from the area of the productive forces, from the vantage point of the workers who themselves live in the town with us? We could only come to this analysis when we had a proper theory merged with an organized front.

Can you imagine such a decadent stage in our struggle where knowledge and study are scoffed at as petty bourgeois tendencies? Do you remember when I told you how when Kwame Ture first went to Guinea Conakry to join Nkrumah and offer his services to the African Revolution, the first thing the Osagyefo gave him was books to read and analyze? He didn’t tell him to go get a gun or go get the masses in an organization – all those came later. The first edifice to build is the knowledge that leads to a scientific outlook and understanding of the world. The history of our struggles are littered with such stories, tales of learning, and knowing before doing.

We talk too much about practice that we forget the imperative necessity of study. If we don’t clearly understand what we are up against, what we want to build, and who we are going to build with, then we can’t win any struggle with lasting gains. Theory breeds clarity, and that leads to an organized front that will not be destroyed by any storms that come along. There are individualist, liberal tendencies everywhere in our movements because our outlooks, which are informed by the bourgeois system, remain the same. Only work-study and rigorous discipline is the antidote to those reactionary vices. I hope you remember that and, as you organize, also create a systematic study that will lead to ideological solidity for the victory of the people.


Our struggle goes on as we march to the drumbeat, unhesitating and angry, defiant and proud, into the future. We must be sober and levelheaded, calculating and studious. We must tighten and fortify our ranks against any tendencies that aren’t about building new worlds. You and I, coming from where we came from, know we must create a newness in this lifetime. Our focus must be to win. We must take power. Ours is not a struggle for crumbs, but the whole goddamn bread loaf and the table too, all in the spirit of Fanonian decolonization to redo the cocktail party list and at last inaugurate a new world order built on the carcass of capitalism and its beneficiaries. We can’t postpone the struggle to some indefinite time, and we can’t keep repeating slogans like “if we don’t win, our children will.” We are in a precarious moment where there might not even be children if we don’t win this future today. We must win so there will be a world that can have children and apples, flowers and chairs in it.

I hope you read this, reflect on it, and act on it. This was an attempt at understanding our pain. Walking a mile with you and near-arriving at conclusions that must be expanded and worked on at every historical juncture. When we study and organize, we win. When we don’t, we will be eaten one after another, and the dream that once was of a winning mass of oppressed people will give way to a scorched earth and darkened sky as we witness a somber apocalypse dubbed as a homecoming.

Alieu Bah is a writer and organizer at Mwamko.

This article originally appeared on Mwamko and it is republished here with the permission of the writer. No changes were made to the original article.


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