Friday, October 27, 2006


This year, 2006, has been election year for several African countries. It is therefore important that we take a serious look at the nature of this periodic event. Conventional wisdom has it that elections are indicative of how democratic country is. The real question, however, is how democratic the elections themselves are.

One of the cardinal points that underpin elections is that people are free to choose whoever they wish to lead them. As such, the constitutions of countries state that any citizen of a certain age can compete for the presidential seat. In practice, however, the people who can actually stand as candidates are very few. These tend to be the very wealthy individuals in society. They are mostly the heavyweights and leading members of political parties.

It is common knowledge that political parties are formed for the sole purpose of winning elections and assuming control of a country. Under the capitalist system, where money is everything, political parties cannot organize and mobilize support without funds. Therefore, those who have a say in a party tend to be the people who pump the most money into it. When the party wins an election and takes control of the state, those who have invested their money and resources into it, now consider it their turn to reap what they sowed. They will hope to recoup the wealth invested and make huge profits. In this sense, the issue of party politics and presidential candidature is big business. This is true of all capitalist parties and candidates. The only difference separating one from the other is in the name.

This fact can easily be gleaned from the opinions of the contending parties on what they refer to as “election issues”. The aspirants to the throne are undoubtedly aware of the ills affecting the society. What they do not know or pretend to be unaware of (in some cases) is how to do away with such problems. As a result they all keep repeating, albeit in different words, the same hackneyed pronouncements that former presidential candidates have always made. No one ever comes up with something new or revolutionary, which of course is not surprising considering the system they defend.

A typical example of this lack of difference between parties or their candidates, and consequently the absence of choice, was recently demonstrated in Sierra Leone. The vice president of Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Solomon Berewa, is the ruling party’s presidential candidate, as Ahmed Tijan Kaba is no longer eligible after having served two terms in office. Last September, a BBC correspondent asked the former how he would move the country forward if elected. His response was, not unexpectedly, as banal as any can imagine. He said among other things that he would make education affordable to all; that he would create jobs, and that he would go all out to attract foreign direct investments to revitalize the economy.

When Ernest Koroma, the flag bearer of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC), was asked a similar question, his response was the same! He would ensure that a high level of employment was attained; he would bring education to the doorsteps of the ordinary people and he would encourage private sector participation in the economy. These answers, puerile as they are, have always been the solutions proffered by every African aspiring presidential candidate for umpteen years now. And why not? They’re sure vote winners. Most people want to be better educated and have better jobs.

It is interesting to know that these kinds of answers are given when the presidential hopefuls are quizzed by the Western press like the BBC, CNN, VOA etc. and why should they not give such answers? They have to because they pander to the expectations of their masters in London, Paris and Washington. They must be seen to be loyal servants of the capitalist system. And so each candidate repackages, in loftier terms, the same bankrupt ideas that the Western capitalist experts made available to them as solutions to Africa’s problems.

On the other hand when they meet the electorate, during their campaign trips, it is a different scenario. Rubbishing opponents, mudslinging, lies and empty promises are what punctuate their speeches.

In conclusion, it is our firm belief that as long as we continue to live in this capitalist system, the “free choice” that is cited as one of the hallmarks of democratic elections will continue to elude us. Democracy under the capitalist system is democracy of the haves, the rich and wealthy. “Democratic elections” are never conducted under the money-dominated system. Democracy, democratic elections and free choice can only be meaningful to all humanity and in the interests of al as a whole when the money system is no more.



Zambians from different walks of life went to vote in another presidential and general election on 28 September. But to go and vote after every five years is a nasty thing to every person who lives in a society where this political freedom is an appendage to unexplained political and social forces beyond their control

And to those who lack political vision, nationalism conceived under state capitalism (self-reliance) seems to be the revolutionary way to arrest economic underdevelopment. Economic development minus a rise in people’s living standards shall keep on haunting many an African country. It is an economic misnomer that can only be resolved by the workers and peasants themselves.

Unlike the Western countries, where political campaigns are waged through bribing voters, in Zambia the strength of political parties is determined by ethnic and tribal loyalties. Parliamentary democracy entails the acceptance of political plurality and hence the readiness to resolve political antagonisms through open and democratic means (votes). It is the case that in Zambia the political and intellectual credibility of politicians are not taken into consideration by the voters, in the sense that people only vote for a political party to which they have close ethnic and tribal affinities. Thus the outcome of the general election can only be interpreted in terms of the existing ethnic and tribal patterns.

But every class-conscious person understands and appreciates the fact that only the workers and peasants can change the biased and parochial historic condition. It is not the charismatic flamboyance of political leaders, nor the ethnic life blood of political parties that is at stake, but the social and economic system dependent upon the accumulation of profit through the intensification of poverty and misery.
Today the political opposition in Zambia is split into tribal factions. The FDD, UNIP and UPND have banded together and formed a new political party called the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The unexpected death of the late UPND president Anderson Mazoka has left a political vacuum in Zambia’s domestic politics that the UDA has come to replenish. It is without doubt that the UDA has been created through the political connivance of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who is nowadays dubbed the ‘father of Zambian politics’.
The ruling MMD (Movement for Multi-Party Democracy) is in command of the largest ethnic and tribal following, in Luapula and northern provinces. However, playing the dirty politics of poverty the MMD has lost working class political sympathy in the Copper Belt – where unemployment remains rampant. It may seem that the privatisation of the giant copper mining conglomerate (ZCCM) was a wrong political gesture by the MMD, because the backbone of Zambia’s economy is copper and nothing else.

Adding to the flames of political mediocrity was the former Minister without Portfolio, Michael Sata, who campaiged very hard on the Copper Belt. Sata has succeeded in creating a popular political party (PF) on the Copper Belt – especially among the disgruntled mining communities by promising that he would nationalise the mining of copper in Zambia if he won the general election.

In the event the presidential race was won by the outgoing president, Levy Mwanawasa, of the MMD who now starts a second five-year term. But it was a sad day for many people in Lusaka and the Copper Belt who had voted massively for Michael Sata, the leader of the Patriotic Front. He came second with 847,000 votes compared to 1,177,000 for Mwanawasa. Third, just behind Sata, was Hakainde Hichilema of the UDA.

The Patriotic Front received a large number of votes in Lusaka, Copper Belt, Luapula and Northern Provinces. It was mostly the workers, university students and the unemployed who voted for the Patriotic Front. But the overall result confirmed that people in Zambia still vote for a political party to which they have close ethnic and tribal affinities. Both the MMD and Patriotic Front lost heavily in Southern Province, the home ground of UDA Presidential contender, but did well in the tribal homeland of their candidates.

The defeat of Sata by Mwanawasa led to widespread riots in Lusaka, the Copper Belt and Northern Province and the result of the general elections have been rejected by both Sata and Hichilema. While Sata won the votes of many workers, the majority of votes for Mwanawasa were received from rural areas – from people who do not appreciate the economic and political implications of modern democracy.

Because the MMD government does not have majority support, it is very difficult to see what tactics President Mwanawasa will use to win the confidence of PF supporters on the Copper Belt and in Lusaka.

The general elections are over and a new government is in office. The workers and peasants remain where they have always belonged: on the leeward side. The general election has not changed the existing political and economic status quo, which will remain so long as the political struggle is waged through political betrayal and character assassinations, and not in the interests of the workers and peasants.

We in the World Socialist Movement are in support of working class political struggle on the principle of international working class solidarity. But we remain opposed to every other political party that aims to reform capitalism. We advocate a classless, moneyless and stateless society – Socialism – as the only alternative to capitalism.
Kephas Mulenga


Capitalism will not take us anywhere
The party political campaigns for next year’s general election have commenced early. With the elections well over a year away politicians, as usual, have positioned themselves in various camps and have begun allying themselves into competing coalitions. Increasingly nowadays, in Kenya's tribal and ideological politics, politicians group themselves together and divide the country into this or that tribal region, all in a bid to win votes.

The backward politics of this country can stem perhaps from the so-called founding fathers. During the clamour for independence, they divided the country into regions and classified people into tribes. Thus if a certain politician stands for election in a certain part of the country and doesn't hail from that tribal region, he/she can't get elected. People believe it's only one of ‘their own’ who can lead or do things better than the other candidates. The situation is exacerbated by the capitalist attitudes of all the leaders (both spiritual and political). They do not help at all. All the political class hankers after is power and power at all costs. They steal money from state coffers just to bribe and induce voters, most whom are poor, illiterate and easily bought.

The so-called spiritual leaders aren't any better. In their sermons they preach the gospel of giving (the more you give the more you get). What they fail to tell their adherents is this: the more you give, the poorer you get and the richer we will become and thus better placed to continue exploiting you and telling you that things have never been better.

Next year's general election will not be different from the ones which have come before. The same faces and characters that have been there since the 1960s are still to be found contesting elections. And none dares to carry the socialist message to Kenyans. It's only a small group of us, as determined socialists, who defy all the consequences and trudge on.

We appeal to the electorate to be wise and recognize that the system as it is designed at present can't help us at all. The country's resources will continue to benefit a minority and the majority will remain impoverished wage slaves as before. The only solution is to replace that system and put in place a society of production is for use and not profit, and in which money will not continue to rule the world. Only then will Kenyans feel they belong to a society of equals. If we follow that route, we'll be getting somewhere at long last.
Patrick W. Ndege. Nairobi


A Visitor’s Experience

Michael Ghebre lives in the UK. He was on holiday in Eritrea this year. Below is an account of what he saw in this relatively newly ‘independent’ country.

Everybody is afraid to talk politics in the coffee bar. The man sitting down opposite our table had heard that I was interested in talking about freedom and politics in post-independence Eritrea. Eritrea was liberated from Ethiopia some 15 years ago in 1991. Some of the people whom I spoke to were friendly but frightened in case someone from the state security heard them. Others were very suspicious of me. I do not know why they felt that way. I felt like a stranger in my native country.

Even the person I was talking to was also very scared because Eritrea is a police state and it is not uncommon to be arrested and imprisoned without any trial. There is no rule of law in Eritrea and if you are imprisoned you will be there most likely until you rot. It is even worse than the Dergue in Ethiopia. The people I approached to talk to did not like my questions. The social interaction between the government and the people is getting worse; the people are living under siege.

Outside the coffee bar, as I was going back to my place, I saw many kids walking on the street without any adult accompanying them. Nearly half of Eritrean population are children. Millions are orphans. They are economically very active and most of them work more hours than a full-time adult worker. They look after their little brothers and sisters; sometimes even their mothers. The majority of the children who live in the towns and cities are fatherless - their fathers killed in conflict. The government does not give out any money to these orphans. The kids are dependent on the goods they sell. But the police are not very kind to them. The police can often be found rounding up homeless kids in the capital. Any young adults who appear to be above 16 years old are also rounded up for conscription into the national service scheme (Sawa), which is compulsory for every Eritrean one they reach the age of eighteen.

Most children help themselves and their mothers by selling lottery tickets, tissues, chewing gum, and cigarettes and also by working as shoe-shine boys. The situation is desperate as there’s no help from the government or any other charity organisations. Some young girls are forced to sell their bodies for cash.

The Eritrean government doesn't accept any kind of charity from the donor countries. They adopted the system of self-reliance even when they were guerrillas during the war for freedom from Ethiopia. Today, no NGO is welcome into Eritrea; the government is very suspicious of any foreign aid. At the moment Eritrea is suffering from economic and political uncertainty. Many Eritreans are now living behind bars. The arbitrary detention by the government is common in every part of Eritrea. No one between 18 and 40 years is allowed to move from one place to another without an ID card.

Eritrea is the only country in the world that doesn't have any independent newspapers and no freedom of expression. For the last three years the Asmara University has been closed bringing higher education to a standstill. More than 30,000 students have been migrated to neighbouring countries, the majority of them to Ethiopia.

Thousands of people are arrested on suspicion of evading military conscription and held at Adi Abeto army prison. Conditions in this military holding centre are harsh, with severe overcrowding, little food and appalling sanitary conditions. Many detainees have reportedly been forced to sleep outside in very cold weather, with no blankets or shoes. Prisoners have no access either to their families or to lawyers; my cousin Mengisteab is one of them. Such unfortunates are thought to be at the risk of torture and ill treatment. Many prisoners have reportedly been shot dead. Eritrean security forces in the capital, Asmara, indiscriminately arrest thousands of youths and others suspected of evading military conscription. The arrests take place in the streets, shops and offices, at roadblocks and in houses.

From the days of the war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), national service has become full military service and has been extended indefinitely. Those who completed national service and pre-independence fighters are subject to recall as reservists or on special duties.

There is no exemption for conscientious objectors. Many young people have tried to evade military service and thousands have fled the country or deserted after being conscripted. The usual punishment for evading or escaping from military service is torture by beatings, being tied in painful contorted positions for days and indefinite detention without trial or charge. The pathetic irony it that for the millions of underprivileged in Eritrea, it is not enough that they live lives of abject misery – the government insists that they must defend with their lives their right to live in such wretchedness.


There is no doubt that the military constitute a vital force in today’s society. This fact is based on the conventionally perceived role they play in the lives of the populace. Being an armed section of a nation, the military have the primary role of defending the nation against external aggression. They are trained in modern warfare and furnished with whatever weapons the state is capable of procuring to enable them repulse the enemy as swiftly and as brutally as possible. But in times of peace, the military engage themselves in such occupations as the construction of roads, bridges, etc. They may also get involved in such varied tasks as relief work and evacuating victims in times of disaster. Sometimes they are sent abroad to help in keeping or ‘enforcing peace’ in war-torn areas. However, it is not uncommon for the military to intervene in the political affairs of a nation. In fact, the mere mention of the military, in most cases, evokes memories of brutalities in many a mind. They have carved a somewhat negative image of themselves as notorious perpetrators of insecurity and instability. This stems from their often violent and bloody uprisings and coups d’etat which they are prone to staging. In other cases, governments use them to unleash terror on striking workers or students on peaceful demonstrations.

Who are the military?
These conflicting functions that the military plays in society calls into question the real position of this tiny but important segment of the population. To understand the military and their real (not perceived) role, certain questions must be posed and answered. First and foremost, who exactly are the military and how did they come into existence? Simply put, they constitute a part of the coercive arm of the state. The other parts of this coercive arm being the police, prison officers, lawyers, judges, the courts and other paramilitary groups.

Every nation is made up of two basic classes. There is the class of owners and there is the propertyless class. By the ‘class of owners’ we mean that tiny group in society who own and control the means of production and distribution of wealth - factories, mines, land, railway lines, aircraft, roads, communication network, media houses, etc. On the other hand, the ‘class of workers’ refers to the overwhelming majority of people who do not own any of the properties mentioned above. They only possess their mental and physical abilities. The class of owners hires the latter to work on the means of production in order to create wealth. The owners then appropriate the wealth created (by virtue of their ownership) and pay the producers wages and salaries. As the class of owners are looking for ever more profits, then the less wages and salaries they are prepared to give out to the workers. But as the workers also need to have enough to clothe, feed, educate and shelter their families and indeed themselves, they demand more wages and salaries. This conflict of interests leads to a constant friction in society. So in order to maintain peace and security so that production can go on, the state emerged as a body standing above society and serving as an ‘impartial' regulator. Thus, it has the task of stopping the two antagonistic classes tearing society apart. It does this by using its three arms – the executive (the government in power), the legislature (the law-making body) and the judiciary (the body which dispenses justice). Now, it is to the judiciary that the military belong.

For or against
Having seen who the military are (a part of the state), one may now ask whether the state, and for that matter the military, is as neutral as it is claimed to be. In other words, are the military unbiased or are they on the side of the workers or on the side of the wealthy owners of the means of production? Here again, in order to do justice to the question, one must understand how the state is formed or who are chosen to represent the state. As has already been explained above, the state comprises the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive arm is the government in power. This government, under normal conditions, assumes power after having contested and won elections. But every mainstream political party is in reality owned by a few wealthy people who contribute huge sums to maintain the party and enable it meet the financial and logistical expenses of contesting elections. Therefore, the party in power (the executive) serves the wealthy owners, who are really in control. It is the same with the legislature. Only the rich owners of wealth are able to provide the funds to sponsor themselves or their stooges to get into the national assembly or parliament. The common people, the working class, only queue up on Election Day to vote for one group of wealthy individuals or another. The story is the same with the judiciary, the third arm of the state. This is peopled with individuals who have been privileged to attain the highest levels of academic achievement. They are, in the main, hands-in-glove with the few privileged wealth owners and leaders of society. Members of the judiciary are appointed to their positions mostly on account of their cordial relations with the leadership of the nation.

It follows, logically, that since the state apparatus is peopled with those in cahoots with the owners of the means of production and distribution, there is no doubt as to where the loyalty of the state lies in the conflict between these owners and the working class. At best the state is part and parcel of the privileged class and at worst it (the state) is controlled by this privileged few. Thus, the military, being an instrument of the state machinery has a historical role of defending the interests of the owning and ruling class against the interests of the working class.

The reality of the military
An honest analysis of the conventionally perceived role of the military, outlined in the first paragraph, clearly proves that the military stands solidly behind the owning class against the majority in the working class. For instance the issue of the military defending the nation in times of war only masks the reality. When a nation fights another nation it is always over sources of raw materials or markets for their finished products, or over trade routes, or even the strategic positions from which the same can be defended. The central issue is always wealth. And since wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few owners of the means of living, wars are fought in the interests of these owners. Wars are therefore not a matter of nations against nations but they are a matter of the rich of one nation against the rich of a competitor nation. Sadly, however, all wars are fought by the poor people of the belligerent nations and who have no stake at all in such wars.

It has also been mentioned that in times of peace the military are deployed in construction. The roads, bridges and other infrastructure they help to provide are not intended to benefit the masses. Given the fact that society as at present constituted is run in the interests of the owning classes, all undertakings on the part of the state aim at enhancing the profit prospects of the wealthy. Thus, even in times of peace, the role played by the military is still anti-working class. And this is manifest in the ease with which the military is unleashed on workers when they embark on an industrial action to demand better conditions of service. Even harmless school children, demonstrating peacefully over one issue or the other, can be brutally massacred by the military when given orders to do so by the powers that they serve. And if the international role they play in the various peacekeeping missions is critically examined, the fruitlessness of that role cannot be missed. Apart from the numerous reports of such peace keepers getting involved in widespread looting, rape and sexual abuse they, in all cases, only add to camouflage the real essence of war. Peacekeeping forces have been in the Middle East for umpteen years now, yet that region remains volatile and insecure. It is the same in the Horn of Africa and the Congo Basin, which have known no peace since the early days of independence.

A positive role

This being the situation on the ground, the next is question whether the military can play a positive role in society. The answer obviously is both yes and no. Depending on how the military see this class-divided society, they can either live up to the expectation of their class or they will continue in this present unenviable “killing” profession on behalf of the capitalist class. If the military accept the present unjust world economic order and think they can reform it by going to war or indulging in peace keeping abroad or by repairing bridges and roads at home, then they will be choosing to continue along the negative path. But if they understand the world economic system in operation today and strive to change it, then they will be charting a positive course. So what is the current economic arrangement like? Though this has been referred to earlier in this write-up, more light will be thrown on it.

Society is locked in a continuous battle with itself: the few who own and control wealth against the majority who produce the wealth but own nothing. In other words the current material productive forces are in conflict with the relations of production. Material productive forces refer to the elements actually involved in production, such as workers, land, factories, mines, transportation etc. The relations of production are somewhat more difficult to explain. They involve such things as production costs, who owns the material productive forces and who owns the results of production. Currently, the relationship between people on the one hand and land, factories, mines, transportation, etc on the other, divides people into two groups. One group owns those things. The other group must use its physical and mental ability to turn raw materials into finished products. Workers produce everything from food to education, from automobiles to hammers, from houses to hospitals, and from shopping malls to factories. They even produce the weapons used to kill each other in wars.

Those who own the means of production (basically the material productive forces excluding workers) determine when, where and how production takes place. If a factory decides to shut down, the workers have no say in the matter. If the owners of a soap manufacturing company in The Gambia, for instance, decide to move their factories to Nigeria or Ghana, it is their choice. They own the means of production. If the owners of a soft drinks processing plant believe that they cannot sell their product for a profit, they have the right to shut down the plant. That right is theirs even if the processing plant produced all the soft drinks in the world. Profit trumps human need every time in capitalism.

Those who own the factories own the products of the factories. The owners may have never been on the same continent as the factory but they nonetheless own everything produced in the factory. Those who do the actual work have no legal right to the products they have produced. Those who own the means and the products of production and who control production are the capitalists. Those who do the actual producing are the working class.

Humanity has developed the ability to produce to a level which easily enables the planet’s real needs to be met.. But the current relations of production dictate who eats what, who sleeps where and at what price. Capitalism cannot accommodate necessary production. By and large, people do not go hungry, walk barefooted or die of curable illnesses because there is no food, shoes or medicines, but because they are, from the unalterable perspective of capitalism, unworthy: they cannot buy the food, pay for shoes or procure medicines. They do not have the finances to purchase what the capitalist sells, so they do not present as a market.

If the military were to understand the world as explained above, they would be in a position to throw their weight behind their historically determined class – the exploited class; to be in a position to stop serving the interests of the master class, to stop fighting their wars, to stop breaking strikes and attacking peaceful demonstrators. Were this to happen, then the military could be seen to be playing a positive role in society.


It is very disheartening to see people making money out the predicament of others. But to extend such a callous activity to helpless and innocent children is despicably wicked. Sadly though, it happens on a daily basis. At the beginning of this October, Plan International, an NGO based in the UK, started such a villainous programme of child exploitation. It launched a children’s rights campaign as part of the activities marking the 10th anniversary of its existence in Cameroon. The programme, they said, would run for one year through radio broadcasts.

During the launching ceremony, children were paraded in front of the local and international media and encouraged to say whatever they could about their “rights”. Some gave accounts of the suffering they are going through whilst others shyly made simple statements like “I have the right to go to school” or “I have the right to eat”. Plan International is not a new entrant in this humanitarian business. Moreover, they know very well that in spite of their desire and efforts (along with those of a thousands other NGOs) to solve the injustices in society, the situation on the contrary, gets worse and worse.

If, therefore, in spite of the fruitlessness of their efforts to turn the situation around, Plan International and their ilk are still on the scene parading innocent kids in front of TV crews, then there may be some hidden agenda they are pursuing. Now, it is well known that NGOs solicit funds from the wealthy to carry out their activities. They normally draw up project proposals describing the problem at hand, how it can be redressed and at what cost. This proposal is then sent to potential donors who would provide the funds to sponsor the project.

It is this money, given to assist the vulnerable in society, which these volunteers use to pay themselves fat salaries and acquire their four-wheel drive vehicles. Thus, set up in the name of helping victims, NGOs end up enriching themselves at the expense of the victims. Those children in Cameroon who were shown to the whole world are, in reality, victims of the exploitative activities of the wealthy donors. Plan International and co, then come in to throw dust into the public eye and cover up the real cause in return for the crumbs falling from the dining tables of the wealthy donors.

These so-called humanitarians are therefore willing accomplices in the creation of hungry, homeless and deprived children. The organisers of that 10th anniversary celebration in Cameroon are actually exploiting the misery of those Cameroonian kids so that their own children can have the best education, three square meals, decent clothing and comfortable homes to live in.

The hypocrisy in all this diabolical pretence is the fact that the so-called benefactors know only too well that they are addressing the symptoms of a malaise whilst leaving intact the real causes. The plight of these unfortunate children cannot be wished away through radio broadcasts. Many people cannot even listen to such broadcasts as they do not own any sets or they are too busy trying to eke out a living.

The only way that Plan International can ensure that the rights of not just children but the masses of suffering and exploited people of this unjust world (and who also do not have any rights), is to be honest to themselves and humanity. But they cannot as long as they live in this socio-economic system where lies and subterfuge are the order of the day. The driving force behind the relations between people in today’s world is money and profits. Ours is a world in which people’s real needs come a poor second to wealth creation. This is the result of a divided and diametrically opposed society.

We have, on the one hand, the class of owners of wealth. This class, though in the minority, own and control the resources of the world – factories, land, railways, aircraft, the media, etc. As a result of their economic power, they also control over all aspects of life including the debate over human rights. They have an exclusive monopoly over all the rights that one can think of. This is so because “might is right” and they have the might by virtue of their ownership of the means of living. On the other hand, there is the class of have-nots. This class is the disinherited class that owns no property. Members of this majority class are employed to work on the resources of the minority owning class to produce more wealth (profits) for the owners. The workers are then paid just enough wages to keep themselves in a fit enough state to carry on being exploitable Consequently, this poor, ownerless class has limited, if any, rights at all. And the staff of Plan International, if they are reading this article, will confirm the fact that all the children they lined up on that day to demand their rights, were those from the class of have-nots, not the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful. Some of them may have even been orphans whose parents succumbed to premature deaths as a result of the excessive exploitation by Plan International and their masters in the privileged class.

Thus, as long as the sources and means of human existence are owned and controlled by a minority in society, such injustices as the denial of people’s rights will continue to blight our society. It is only when the current social and economic arrangement of society is done away with and replaced with a society of common ownership democratic control that we can have a world where everyone will have equal rights and justice.


Recent events on the world stage, not least the latest meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, seem to suggest that the noose is fast tightening around the neck of world capitalism. The vociferous pronouncements of the “Green” parties and groups, the massive demonstrations against the wars in the Middle East, the pitched battles between protesters and security forces at the meeting grounds of the G8 summits and World Trade Organization gatherings, and the latest bold attacks on George Bush, the chief representative of the international capitalist clique by his fellow national presidents, point to what appears to be the beginning of the end of the capitalist domination of the world.

To try to establish whether or not these outbursts signify a sort of real threat to the present world economic arrangement, we need to consider certain historical facts and also to situate the actions of these rebellious voices in their appropriate contexts.

US hegemony
In the first place, it must be pointed out the target of the protesting groups is mostly American capitalism plc. But the US authorities knew long ago that such dissenting voices would not only come but would be louder and louder with time. The government is fully aware of the disastrous impact of its policies on the masses of people all over the world. Noam Chomsky, in the book Year 501, makes a startling revelation from a secret Pentagon document which was formulated by Paul Wolfowitz and Lew Lebby and presented to Vice President Dick Cheney. One section of the document states: “The US must hold global power and a monopoly of force. It will then protect the new order while allowing others to pursue their legitimate interests as Washington defines them. The US must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership, or seeking to overturn the established political order, or aspiring to a larger regional or global role … we will retain the pre-eminent responsibility for addressing those wrongs which threaten not only our interests but also those of our allies and friends. The US alone will determine what those wrongs are and where they are to be selectively righted.”

Again in 1998, a US government document entitled “The Long-Term Plan”, reported, among other things, that “The US will remain a global power and exert global leadership. Widespread communications will highlight disparities in resources and quality of life, contributing to unrest in developing countries … The gap between the ‘haves and have-nots’ will widen, creating regional unrest. The US will remain the only nation able to project power globally”.

Now, with all of this in their minds, there is no doubt that the US capitalist class, via its executive in government, would have put in place contingency plans to counter any imagined threats to their profit interests from any corner of the globe. And surely, this is what George Bush promised in his State of the Union address in January, 2002. He announced a hike in US military spending and pin-pointed countries such as Iran and North Korea as forming an “axis of evil”. This was later followed by remarks made by Dick Cheney to the effect that the US was considering military action against 50 countries around the world and that the fight could go on for half a century.

So for the US, the noisy protests, the massive demonstrations and the fulminations of the likes of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, are dramas that they knew would unfold. And since to be forewarned is to be forearmed they will see them as no immediate threat to their hegemony.


As for the war of words at the UN General Assembly, there was nothing anti-capitalist about it. On the contrary, it was merely part of the in-fighting among differing factions of the capitalist camp - a kind of family feud. The leaders of USA (and the West in general), Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea, etc are all branches of the same tree. They are members of the international cabal that represent the real rulers of the world – the owners of big business, none of whom have anything in common with the suffering masses of their respective countries. On the one hand, George Bush and his counterparts in the West, on behalf of their wealthy sponsors, are using every means at their disposal to loot the oil resources of the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America and Africa. On the other hand, Chavez, Ahmedinejad, Bashar Al Assad, Bin Laden, Hassan Nasrallah, etc are fighting back to protect the precious resource which they also, in association with the local capitalists, are intent on looting. It must not be forgotten that people like Bin Laden are millionaires and at one time rubbed shoulders with Western leaders and the international business community. Again, how does Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbullah get the funds to keep a private army or to finance the reconstruction of the homes of the populations of southern Lebanon? Therefore the scenes that were created at the UN General Assembly were a kind of “Battle of the Titans”. It is a case of Western capitalists encroaching on the sphere of economic influence of indigenous capitalists of the areas of concern.

In essence, therefore, there is no noose tightening around the neck of the capitalist system. If anything at all Chavez, Ahmedinejad, Bin Laden and company are seeking fair play in the capitalist game. They seek an improvement in the conduct of capitalist business which will enable each group of capitalists to exploit its poor without any hindrance. Thus, whilst their words are well-sounding, they do not seek the overthrow of the capitalist system.

Revolution not reform
With regard to the “Greens” and the other protest groups including the leftists, their actions would have been meaningful and thus added some pressure on the noose around the vampire’s neck if they had expressed ideas as to an alternative system to replace this money-driven one. However, form their pronouncements, leaflets and other documents, it is clear that they are merely asking for reforms within the profit system. They do not seek its abolition. For instance, all the protesting crowds, and even the participants at the WTO meetings, ever demand is fair trade, removal of subsidies for farmers in the West, so that other farmers in Africa and other parts of the world can compete favourably in the world market and get their share of the profits.

What these people do not understand is that capitalism is a profit-driven system which only obeys the forces of the market. It does not operate according to the wishes of people. It can therefore not be reformed; it has to be completely thrown out. And that is why the previously referred to events do not constitute a threat to the status quo. There are only two sure ways of tightening the noose that will strangle capitalism. One is to understand how capitalism operates and how its replacement, socialism, will operate. The other is to willingly become active in the campaign to abolish the current system and to replace it with a system of common ownership and democratic control of the earth’s natural and industrial resources.
S. N.


Writing in the Ecologist magazine at the height of the Make Poverty History campaign last year, Dr Vandana Shiva (an Indian author and environmentalist) said, "by robbing the poor of their resources, livelihoods and incomes. Before we can make poverty history, we need to get the history of poverty right. People don't die for lack of incomes. They die for lack of access to resources.”

According to Dr Shiva, what makes poverty is that people are no longer able to live "off the land"; instead they are forced into becoming consumers. "People", she says, "no longer have access to resources such as water and land because these have been appropriated and/or destroyed by mega corporations and industrial agribusinesses. Poverty is a final state, not an initial state of an economical paradigm, which destroys ecological and social systems for maintaining life, health and sustenance of the planet and people."

Many people are quick to point out that corruption, wars and leadership ineptitude are the main cause of poverty in Africa. But problems are rooted in centuries of injustices and exploitation. Nobody can run away form the stark fact that slavery, the scramble for Africa, colonialism, apartheid, western-imposed economic "reform", unfair trade policies, and foreign debt, have all contributed to poverty in Africa. These have greatly contributed in bringing the people to their knees; stagnated or hindered development and fuelled conflict. This history of poverty is the history that they want to make history, not poverty.

Take the case of African debt, for example. The IMF and World Bank, hand-in-glove with G8 governments and western corporations, have always demanded that to qualify for loans or debt relief, African countries have to follow to the letter western prescriptions on privatisation and restricting budget allowances on public utilities such as water gas, electricity, transport, hospitals and schools - the very pillars on which good standards of living are gauged in capitalism. Contrary to the promised benefits, privatisation has pushed up costs in all of those essential services beyond the reach of most Africans. This has meant that governments can neither expand nor improve on all these services; hence there are no books, no new schools, no medicines, no new hospitals, etc. Instead, there is a constant shortage of water and electricity supply. It also means governments cannot employ or pay more doctors, nurses, teachers, or buy much-needed medicines.

Global capitalism sees Africa as a source of raw materials and a ready market for the finished products of the West. Comparatively few industries and factories have been established in Africa. As a result, factory workers constitute only a tiny fraction of the total workforce, thus limiting the size of the ‘industrial proletariat’.

On the other hand, in the rural areas where the majority of the population are found, the dominant labour process is still, to a degree, feudalistic. Individual farmers own their means of labour, hoes, machetes, and such other simple traditional implements and each family works on a small plot of land.

As the dominant worldview in any given society has been the view of the ruling elite, there is little wonder that in rural Africa, conservative traditional beliefs (in the power of the gods, the fetish priest, the chiefs etc) still hold sway. In the same vein whilst some in the urban areas (the relatively better paid workers) are slaves to the delusion to achieve and "make it", most think that they have been "divinely" destined to live in misery and must patiently wait for the day of deliverance and reward in the “after life”.

This unique production process has led to the creation of a rather disproportionate and disparate working class that includes street hawkers, petty shopkeepers, casual workers, prostitutes, seasonal agricultural labourers in the rural areas and a large reservoir of the unemployed and underemployed.

When considering the level of class-consciousness in Africa, note must be taken of the misrepresentation of socialism by the continent’s early advocates of “socialism". These individuals, influenced in the main by the then USSR, thought that was socialism in practice on the African continent. But as the soviet system was only another version of capitalism, a distorted idea of "socialism" was spread in Africa. This "Marxism-Leninism", as it was popularly known, had nothing to do with the self-emancipation of the working class that Marx taught. Instead, this soviet distortion taught that power could only be captured on behalf of the workers, as they were incapable of the feat, by small conspiratorial group of professional revolutionaries who alone were capable of understanding socialist ideology.

In Africa, the capitalists, afraid of the liberating potential of an enlightened people, have deliberately limited access to a decent education. Apart from a good education being a commodity available only to privileged elite, the course content of education in general has been so designed as to produce school leavers whose academic worth and capability is deplorably second rate. Even for the few who are privileged enough to have access to education, they read nothing but misinformation and distortions that are intended to hold back intellectual development in general and political awareness in particular.

Most people in Africa spend all their time looking for the next meal. The very disturbing problem is of material insecurity. Even for a majority of the literate the decision to buy, for instance, a newspaper is at the risk of foregoing a meal. People are so hungry, so tormented by war and instability that a conscious involvement in the class struggle is out of the question. Such a situation of ignorance and extreme poverty has become a convenient breeding ground for religion. And as religion feeds on ignorance and despair these poor souls, having lost all hope, turn to the myriad religious groups that abound for "comfort". Western capitalists, needless to say, generously sponsor these groups precisely because they are aware of the power of religion to blunt the revolutionary potential of the dispossessed, and of religion's ability to grease the machinery of exploitation.

Make no mistake about it, Africa is a land abundantly rich in natural resources – any other advanced continent with similar resources would be considered the number one superpower and a force to be reckoned with – and resources sufficient enough to meet more than the needs of the continent’s real needs. At the moment these resources are not the common property of the people of Africa, but owned and controlled by a minority elite with interests opposed to those of the majority. Poverty in Africa can be eradicated, though never via the myriad prescriptions provided by Western organisations and those who offer capitalist remedies. Freedom from poverty and equal access the benefits of civilisation is possible, but only on a continent where workers have at last united, and determined, with their fellows around the world, to fashion a system in their own interests. – a world where there is no private control and ownership of wealth production, where the world’s natural and industrial resources are the common property of all and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit.
Kephas Mulenga