105. Robinson, as discussed earlier, speaks convincingly of the role of nationalism and nationalizing myths in securing class rule (though it needs pointing out that these myths are imposed through a process of class struggle--thus the importance of Linebaugh and Rediker). Yet as I have tried to show, a double standard is at work. Nationalism secures class rule for Europeans but not for Africans. For the latter, nationalism is self-knowledge not ideology. This essay has contested this view of nationalism. I would add here that the double standard is literally sanctioned by the doctrine of incommensurability, for if the two traditions are incommensurable (I put aside here the incoherence of the notion), there are indeed two standards (of evidence, of truth, of value).
106. In his preface, Robinson notes that "the shared past [which anchors the shared epistemology] is precious, not for itself but because it is the basis of consciousness, of knowing, of being." Later, he notes, speaking of black collective identity, that "The distinctions of political space and historical time have fallen away so that the making of one black collective identity suffuses nationalisms. Harboured in the African Diaspora there is a single historical identity which is in opposition to the systematic privations of racial capitalism" (Robinson p. 317)
103. For Robinson, it is implied that the journeys of C. L. R. James and Dubois through the Marxian tradition to the Black radical tradition is a journey, beyond the distorting veil of Eurocentrism, to black self-discovery. The problem here is not with self-discovery per se but ethnicized self-discovery. Though this formulation too would meet both Eagleton's and Mohanty's independent or realist epistemic criteria if the knowledge afforded by the black standpoint was rooted in a justifiable theory of interests. This theory of interests would be that the process of racializing subjects as black benefits whites, and thus for a racialized (black) subject to discover the black radical tradition is also to discover who benefits from racial oppression and how to oppose it. One's identity (as a member of the black radical tradition for example) is good not because it is good to discover one's blackness but because this process of self-discovery affords insight into universal, justifiable properties of well being suppressed by racism. This essay has argued both that Robinson's theory of interest and identity are false. That Robinson's black radical tradition is not rooted in good explanations of the social world, that his "shared epistemology" is not an epistemology at all but a nationalist mystification.
A prominent member of the NYM was Nnamdi Azikiwe. When he joined in 1937, he was elected into its Central Executive Council. In the same year he established the West African Pilot, which became an instant success with a wide circulation and an unapologetically anti-colonial stance. The paper’s editorials focused on the themes of colonial injustice, exploitation, and racism. With Lagos as his base, Azikiwe was the first prominent nationalist from eastern Nigeria and he was able to mobilize the Igbo elite in Lagos in support of the NYM. Azikiwe energized the nationalist movement in West Africa from 1934 to 1949, becoming the best known anti-colonial crusader and journalist. Articulate and indefatigable, “Zik”, as he was called by thousands of his admirers, employed oratory and complex diction to great effect. He himself experienced the dramatic changes of the colonial period. As a young boy, he grew up in an urban, heterogeneous setting. He disliked the treatment of his father in the Nigerian Regiment, and of himself as a clerk from 1923 to 1925. He struggled to reach the United States where he attended a predominantly black college as a poor student and observed racial discrimination and protests by African-American organizations. Even with two degrees, he could not secure a civil service job in his own country and had to go to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to establish the Accra Morning Post and publish his first book, Renascent Africa. In 1937 his newspaper published an essay by a labor leader, I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson, entitled “Has the African a God?” that criticized the colonial government in a way that it found libelous. Azikiwe was convicted, but later acquitted on appeal. He returned to Nigeria, where he became both a journalist and a nationalist.