Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories…

Lessons on political organization and the struggle against imperialism.


On January 20th in 1973, Amílcar Cabral — one of Africa’s foremost anticolonial leaders — was assassinated. Cabral fought for and built the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the resistance front that eventually won liberation in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, after the Carnation Revolution in Portugal brought the Portuguese empire to its knees. This revolution was itself largely spurred on by anticolonial struggles across the many fronts of the Portuguese Colonial War, including West Africa. Cabral didn’t live to see his homeland free from colonial occupation. But his resolve, vision, and ingenuity live on in the breaths of every person who stands up in opposition to endless colonial wars. 

As the struggle for Palestinian liberation continues, the example of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution is crucial history for socialists in the US to study. This bloodless coup, carried out by radical sections of the military, ended the dictatorship in Portugal and replaced it with a democracy. This democracy implemented immediate ceasefires along every front of the Portuguese Colonial Wars. In Cabral’s work, we see an emphasis placed on facilitating the mutiny of Portuguese soldiers against their own government, which ultimately was a key factor in liberating the colonized nations. 

Today, the US plays a crucial role in facilitating the genocide of the Palestinian people by the Zionist regime. Socialists in the US must develop a political strategy to end this support for the Zionist regime at home. This struggle, like the struggle against Portuguese imperialism, is twofold: one, to organize masses of people into a political organization that can express the demand for a free Palestine, and two, to expand political and economic democracy to enable those masses to shift the balance of power in government. Breaking the duopoly of our imperialist parties would result in reverberations in Gaza and everywhere around the world where the boot of the American empire stomps out struggles for freedom. 

Below, we have republished an essay by Cabral, which we hope inspires socialists in the US to reflect on what it took to win anticolonial liberation for Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. We owe it to the people of Palestine to win political power at home, in order to end our extensive military support for their occupiers. — Abdullah F.

Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories… (1965)

Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.

We should recognize as a matter of conscience that there have been many faults and errors in our action whether political or military: an important number of things we should have done we have not done at the right times, or not done at all.

In various regions — and indeed everywhere in a general sense — political work among the people and among our armed forces has not been done appropriately: responsible workers have not carried or have not been able to carry through the work of mobilization, formation, and political organization defined by the party leadership. Here and there, even among responsible workers, there has been a marked tendency to let things slide… and even a certain demobilization which has not been fought and eliminated…

On the military plane, many plans and objectives established by the party leadership have not been achieved. With the means we have, we could do much more and better. Some responsible workers have misunderstood the functions of the army and guerilla forces, have not made good coordination between these two and, in certain cases, have allowed themselves to be influenced by preoccupation with the defense of our positions, ignoring the fact that, for us, attack is the best means of defense.

And with all this as a proof of insufficient political work among our armed forces, there has appeared a certain attitude of “militarism” which has caused some fighters and even some leaders to forget the fact that we are armed militants and not militarists. This tendency must be urgently fought and eliminated within the army.

If ten men go to a rice field and do the day’s work of eight, there’s no reason to be satisfied. It’s the same in battle. Ten men fight like eight; that’s not enough… One can always do more. Some people get used to the war, and once you get used to a thing it’s the end: you get a bullet up the spout of your gun and you walk around. You hear the motor on the river and you don’t use the bazooka that you have, so the Portuguese boats pass unharmed. Let me repeat: one can do more. We have to throw the Portuguese out.

Create schools and spread education in all liberated areas. Select young people between 14 and 20, those who have at least completed their fourth year, for further training. Oppose without violence all prejudicial customs, the negative aspects of the beliefs and traditions of our people. Oblige every responsible and educated member of our Party to work daily for the improvement of their cultural formation.

Oppose among the young, especially those over 20, the mania for leaving the country so as to study elsewhere, the blind ambition to acquire a degree, the complex of inferiority and the mistaken idea which leads to the belief that those who study or take courses will thereby become privileged in our country tomorrow… But also oppose any ill will towards those who study or wish to study — the complex that students will be parasites or future saboteurs of the Party…

In the liberated areas, do everything possible to normalize the political life of the people. Section committees of the party (tabanca committees), zonal committees, regional committees, must be consolidated and function normally. Frequent meetings must be held to explain to the population what is happening in the struggle, what the party is endeavoring to do at any given moment, and what the criminal intentions of the enemy may be.

In regions still occupied by the enemy, reinforce clandestine work, the mobilization and organization of the populations, and the preparation of militants for action and support of our fighters…

Develop political work in our armed forces, whether regular or guerilla, wherever they may be. Hold frequent meetings. Demand serious political work from political commissars. Start political committees, formed by the political commissar and commander of each unit in the regular army.

Oppose tendencies to militarism and make each fighter an exemplary militant of our Party.

Educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered. Convince little by little, in particular the militants of the Party, that we shall end by conquering the fear of nature, and that man is the strongest force in nature.

Demand from responsible Party members that they dedicate themselves seriously to study, that they interest themselves in the things and problems of our daily life and struggle in their fundamental and essential aspect, and not simply in their appearance. Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.

Responsible members must take life seriously, conscious of their responsibilities, thoughtful about carrying them out, and with a comradeship based on work and duty done.

Nothing of this is incompatible with the joy of living, or with love for life and its amusements, or with confidence in the future and in our work…

Reinforce political work and propaganda within the enemy’s armed forces. Write posters, pamphlets, letters. Draw slogans on the roads. Establish cautious links with enemy personnel who want to contact us. Act audaciously and with great initiative in this way… Do everything possible to help enemy soldiers to desert. Assure them of security so as to encourage their desertion. Carry out political work among Africans who are still in enemy service, whether civilian or military. Persuade these brothers to change direction so as to serve the party within enemy ranks or desert with arms and ammunition to our units.

We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…

Republished from “Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories…” on

Amílcar Cabral (1924-1973) was a Bissau-Guinean and Cape Verdean revolutionary. Abdullah F. is a LA DSA member and member of DSA's Bread & Roses caucus.