February 11, 2009

Cabral: Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories…

Filed under: manifesto,testimonies — newritings @ 12:36 pm

Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories (1965), by Amilcar Cabral, is a gem of revolutionary sayings. Often quoted by many South Africans and activists worldwide, but rarely read in its entirety. For this reason, we have typed it up, dusted it off the shelves and reproduced here for your study.

I read this essay first from Revolutionary Thought in the Twentieth Century which was compiled and edited by Ben Turok, and it remains a personal and political inspiration. Cabral was a revolutionary leader of PAIGC in the movement in Guinea-Bissau. As an Agronomist he used his access to learn and develop strategies for national liberation.

Cabral ironically (or is it more correct to say polemically (?)) says that we are not fighting for ideas, but for material goods, and to live better and in peace — words loaded in ideas not only in the head but for the heart and soul, the stomach and the full being. The “ideas” embedded in his famous lines, revolutionary quotable quotes if you like, is what many who strive for justice truly commit to when they do battle against coporate greed, and unaccountable governments everyday.

Read, think, and act diligently in pursuit for justice and a better life, and as Cabral would say: “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…”

stamp_amilcar_cabral1 Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories

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 co-ordination 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 defence…

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 … – 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, and 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 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…

Amilcar Cabral



  1. Hey family!! amazing the above lines… I had heard a lot about Amilcar, but I really didn’t know whether he was from Ethiopia or Mali. This text is full of ideas, I wouldn’t know how to begin writing all the things that come to my mind after reading it, but it reminds me to the “Art of War” of Sun Tzu… but it’d be better to say that his ideas spread the Humanization of the Art of War. Anyway, there’s one quote I like to use and apply, and doing a little contribution to comrade Cabral ideas (even though I had much ignorance about them), I always try to remember: “Never stop learning, never stop learning…”

    Comment by Hernán Cortés — February 11, 2009 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

    • He is neither! He is half Cape verdian and half Guinea-Bissau!! You should really read a little about his biography.

      Comment by Raquél Dos Santos — July 6, 2011 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

  2. […] By baringo lo encontré. o mejor, lo encontramos… bueno, en cualquier caso, Hassen lo puso en su blog, junto con otros escritos de Amilcar Cabral. a ver si un dia de estos me animo y lo traduzco al […]

    Pingback by tell no lies, claim no easy victories - revisited « girafas se escribe con j — March 3, 2009 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  3. […] of the GDR (1978) showing Amilcar Cabral, leader of the independence struggle in Guinea Bissau. Found here. Tagged with: Africa, African Politics, Conflict, Drug Trade, Guinea Bissau, Latin America, War […]

    Pingback by Regime in Guinea-Bissau, Built on Coke, Looking for New President « Africa: Politics and Societies South of the Sahara — July 19, 2009 @ 9:31 am | Reply

  4. this is great.

    Comment by J Rev — September 10, 2010 @ 7:17 am | Reply

  5. […] strategist and philosopher, Amilcar Cabral (here I quote the first and last few sentences of this famous statement): Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in […]

    Pingback by Is the ANC really beyond redemption? « Nic Borain — October 12, 2010 @ 6:28 am | Reply

  6. Sorry Herman, But Amicar was borned in Guine Bissau, and his parents were Capeverdeans, and he also grew up in Cape Verde Island.

    Comment by Djecy Ramos — January 20, 2011 @ 3:51 am | Reply

    • Sorry Djecy but you are wrong as well. Cabral was indeed born in Guine-Bissau but only his father was Capeverdean; his mother was from Guine-B.

      Comment by Rilda Almeida — October 23, 2012 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  7. can i please get the updates and scripts of this Africa’s greatest philosopher Amilcar Cabral.

    Comment by george johnson — November 9, 2011 @ 4:10 pm | Reply

  8. Dear Reader/Comrades/Citizens of the World

    I believe there is a central message in Amilcar Cabral’s texts, practice …practice…practice of the theory and thoughts is more than critical, it is about life, death, porverty, starvation and deprevation. However, the ideas and engagment coming from most of the writers seems to be rooted into who is this Cabral. I think primarily his thoughts are universal and as such his citizenry.

    How do we take the trodden beyond the theoretical (read to the elevation of duty needing to be done and the political work demanding our role) and into engagement with challenges of our world. The struggles of the peoples of North Africa, how do they find meaning in changing thier destiny. The struggles for peace in the Middle East, how do they find meaning in lifting the masses of those regions from proverty, fear and ignorance and the rule of the elite (read elite in any classical meaning).

    Amilcars’ words, as he suggests, must not be words for the sake of it, merely generating paper, but how the expirience and the transaltion of that must find meaning in chagning the conditions of peoples all over the world. He might have mentioned and contextualised this in Africa. The reality is that his message is universal. Let us keep the meaning of his words, or say, the meaning of his practice to today and to the univeral and international requirements of the of what needs to be done.

    Comment by Mosheledi Papane — December 15, 2011 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  9. […] “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…” Amilcar Cabral: tell no lies, claim no easy victories […]

    Pingback by Amilcar Cabral – Tell no lies, claim no easy victories « African Heritage — January 20, 2012 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

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    Comment by MMA Strength — February 1, 2012 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  11. Dedication beyond compare, a lecture by a master tactician, after reading I just feel positive to confront the before us today with great alertness and care

    Comment by borokolo — May 18, 2012 @ 9:28 am | Reply

  12. he is cape verdean who born in guinea bissau, and grown up in bafata. Than he went for college in portugal and met few other students from cape verde and around and start his own parliament PAIGC

    Comment by carlita lubrano — November 30, 2012 @ 10:42 am | Reply

  13. ..I swore to myself that I have to give my life, all my energy, all my courage, all the capacity that I have as a man, until the day I die, in the service of my people in Guinea and Cape Verde. My contribution serving the cause of humanity, to the extent possible, is for the life of man to become best throughout the world. This is what my work is.
    Amilcar Cabral

    Comment by Tony — February 27, 2013 @ 2:56 am | Reply

  14. nither did we fight for a black president ,if we still own 5%b of the economy in 19 years of democracy are we going to celebrate the black leadership while we r suffering.

    Comment by noble son — March 12, 2013 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  15. This is important for Africans to study this important figure of the people. A real revolutionary to the struggle of African masses

    Comment by Lesego — April 15, 2013 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  16. Reblogged this on [Modern Times].

    Comment by aboriginalpress — February 12, 2014 @ 5:17 am | Reply

  17. Reblogged this on micheloblog.

    Comment by michelosimuyandi — May 18, 2014 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

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