Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 26 January 2011

50 years ago: Congo's independence leader assassinated

ON 17 January 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected prime minister of the newly independent republic of Congo, was assassinated at the hands of Belgian officers and troops of president Moise Tshombe of the secessionist area of Katanga. News of his assassination sparked mass protests around the world.

Chris Newby

In recent years it has been revealed that US president Eisenhower had instructed his aides to liquidate Lumumba and a top secret CIA unit was given the task of eliminating him.

Why was Patrice Lumumba so feared by western imperialism that they felt that they had no other option than to murder him?

For nearly 80 years Congo had been brutally ruled, first by the Belgian King Leopold II as his own personal fiefdom and then as a Belgian colony. Congo is an area rich in natural resources, particularly in Katanga, and these have been used to accrue massive profits for big business.

By the 1950s mass struggles were developing against imperialism. This led to the election of radical nationalists such as Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in 1957 and in 1959 the Cuban revolution. These events no doubt had an effect on Lumumba. In 1958 he jointly founded the main party of national liberation the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC).

On 4 January 1959, at a mass demonstration in Léopoldville (the capital of Belgian Congo), troops opened fire on demonstrators killing hundreds. This gave further impetus to the growing nationalist movement. Belgium's rulers were desperate to maintain control of their economic and political interests in Congo and moved to talks for an independent Congo in the hope that a compliant government would head off the rising tide of protest.

In the elections in May 1960 the MNC won an overwhelming victory with Lumumba being elected as prime minister. It was clear from his statements during the elections and at the swearing in of the new government (quoted below) that Lumumba was not going to be the puppet of the Belgian government:

"No Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle... Together we shall establish social justice and ensure for every man a fair remuneration for his labour... We shall see to it that the lands of our native country truly benefit its children."

Lumumba was voicing the hopes and aspirations of the masses that after decades of repression and terrible living conditions, they would at last begin to see real improvements and have a real say in how their lives would be run.


Although not a socialist at this stage, Lumumba was moving leftward. There was a fear by imperialism that a Lumumba government, with the support of the masses, could move in the same direction as the Cuban revolution and break with capitalism.

Moreover, a government carrying out measures in the interests of the masses would give a massive boost to the struggle against imperialism.

Unfortunately, despite his personal courage and his popularity, Lumumba had not built a revolutionary socialist party that could have led a mass movement to repulse the interventions of imperialism.

Recognising this threat to their power, imperialism, particularly Belgium, took measures to undermine the Lumumba government with military and financial support given to Tshombe when he declared independence. They also heavily backed the compliant president of Congo, Kasa-Vubu, who dissolved parliament and had Lumumba kept under house arrest.

Lumumba escaped but was eventually captured and then assassinated through fear that even under arrest he would be a beacon to the masses. The CIA was also heavily involved alongside Belgian imperialism in backing Mobutu the military commander-in-chief and eventual dictator responsible for the massacre of thousands.

What these events also underline is the role that the United Nations plays as a cover for imperialism. They refused to intervene against Belgian troops propping up the Katanga regime and backed Kasa-Vubu against Lumumba.

Today, Congo is portrayed in the media as a 'failed' state ravaged by civil war, ignoring the destabilising role of imperialism in the country's history.

However, what the independence struggle around Lumumba shows is the potential in Congo to build a movement capable of challenging imperialism and capitalism but it also underlines the importance of building a strong revolutionary socialist leadership of that movement capable of carrying through the struggle.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 26 January 2011:

Socialist Party youth and students

Fight for jobs and education

Where next for the student movement?

Education Maintenance Allowance days of action 18 and 19 January

No to sky-high youth unemployment!

Socialist Party news and analysis

Warning: Government health 'reforms' can seriously damage your health

Phone hacking and media spin - the murky world of Andy Coulson

Food price hikes fuelling unrest

Fight the Con-Dem 'bosses' charter'

RMT leader slams anti-union laws

Marching against council cuts

Socialist Party workplace news

Hampshire: Battling to defend jobs

Second show of strength by Medirest workers

BA workers vote to fight on

DWP contact centre strike

National Shop Stewards Network

NSSN anti-cuts campaign launched

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) conference

International socialist news and analysis

Irish government collapses: United Left Alliance offers real alternative

Tunisia: Protesters demand real democracy and social change

50 years ago: Congo's independence leader assassinated

Socialist Party schools features

Tidemill school - victory for parents

Save Our Schools

Bankers' "Free school" excludes poorer pupils

Socialist Party review

Britain's Banks: Too Big to Save?


Three decades of 'reform' and 'flexibility'

Stop the mental health service cuts


Home   |   The Socialist 26 January 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleNew Ebola threat

triangleHiroshima - 70 years on

triangleThe 'Kony 2012' phenomena


triangleTories sinking in Wales but no enthusiasm for Welsh Labour

triangleScotland and coronavirus - a catalogue of government failure

triangleUnion independence must be maintained - a reply to the TUC

triangleLeicester Socialist Party: Scottish Independence - what do socialists say?


triangleBooks that inspired me: The Fire Next Time

triangleYemen's desperate civil war fuelled by imperialism and regional powers

triangleIraq - a brutal legacy of imperialist intervention


triangleHillingdon Hospital corona outbreak: workforce not to blame

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party - For a future worth fighting for


triangleBelgium: Movement against climate change grows




Hong Kong

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights


South Africa

South Africa: Building jobs and living wage campaign



France: 20,000 rally against Paris's killer gendarmes



Black and white youth rise up against racism - US protester speaks to the Socialist



USA - another cop killing of unarmed black man sparks widespread protests



Outrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd


Hong Kong

Chinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests



Economic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon



Trump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race



India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus



Trump puts profit before safety (again)



US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide


May Day

A CWI May Day 2020 statement



Irish police use Covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers' protest



US private healthcare system in meltdown

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020