|FOR WORLD SOCIALISM|
For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to "civilise" Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people. Africa has now become the ideal home for foreign investments. Although the peoples of Africa now live in new nations that, after years of struggle, have achieved political autonomy, many are still the victims of overt and brutal subjugation.
The dominant mode of thinking in Africa today is inherited from the colonial masters and is given currency by the state apparatus. Not surprisingly, therefore, the very concept of class is ignored or mystified. It is not surprising that socialism has been enemy number one for so many African states. The African ruling class use their state power against socialist ideas, against the material interests of the working class, and against the political unity of the African peoples. None of the “progressives” veterans of “national liberation” would dare to urge a unity of the African workers and the building of a genuine socialist society. The money economy which has been introduced into Africa has created a landlordism which has benefited only a few. Africans must unite to protect their land rights.
Although most Africans are poor, the continent is potentially extremely rich. The mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. The forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. All wealth, however, arises from the application of labour power to the earth’s natural resources. The less the capitalist has to pay for labour power, the more surplus value will he derive from the commodities produced. The predominance of cash crops, such as cotton and cocoa; the consequence of this for the Africans is semi-permanent famine and devastation of the agricultural lands. Britain, France, et al. have alsolost no opportunity to exacerbate and, even, to create tribal rivalries, in keeping with the colonialist maxim of “divide and rule.”
In South Africa the Bantu peoples, were forced by the ruthless oppression of insatiable capitalism to become the wage slaves. For a long time there was a great shortage in the supply of such labour. The Bantus were not willing to slave either for the mining magnates or for the huge landowners. And naturally, so long as they possessed a bit of land themselves there was no pressing need for them to do so. To remedy this, one of the first acts of the South African ruling class was to create a strata of landless natives. The Native Land Act of 1913 was passed, which prohibited natives from purchasing any land outside a tiny area, despite the fact that huge tracts of land remained uncultivated. The Reserve System resulted in all of the best lands being taken away from the natives and turned over to white farmers. The natives are then gathered together on tracts of unfertile territory specially reserved for them. Because of the unproductive character of the land they are unable to produce enough food to feed themselves, and therefore they are forced to go and work for the European farmers and industrialists. But even this did not achieve the desired result of forcing the natives to work for the whites, and many a native remained on the small Land Reserves who could usefully be exploited. To force them out of the Reserves the Government imposed a poll tax of £1 per head per annum, payable in cash. In order to obtain the money to pay the Head and Poll taxes, the blacks are forced to put up with the inhuman conditions imposed upon them in industry. Furthermore, whenever they attempt to run away they are immediately arrested by the police and turned over to their employers. This is done under a system known as the Pass Law, which makes it an offence for a black Worker to walk the streets of any industrial city in South Africa unless he has a passport showing that he is in the service of some White capitalist. This at last forced the penniless natives to go to the white masters in order to earn the necessary cash to pay the tax. The life of the black farm labourers was hardly distinguishable from serfdom. In return for cultivating a piece of land allotted to the native by the white farmer the blacks are made to pay exorbitant rent or otherwise work without wages for the greater portion of the year for his white master. No matter how badly the landlord treats his serfs they are not permitted to leave the farm, for the Masters and Servants Act, which governs the relationship between employer and employee. Under this law breach of contract of service is a criminal offence for the native worker, but not for the European employer. Another law known as the Colour Bar Act (Mines and Works Act (1911), Amendment Act (1926)) gives power to close skilled occupation to natives.
Why do we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance? Drought and famine, for instance, are not merely 'natural phenomena' arising out of the failure of precipitation from on high. The incapacity to prevent or deal with drought and famine and the fantastic hardship which ensues are all related to the socio-economic structures of neo-colonial Africa.
Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Africans have, already begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes. It goes without saying that all of the institutions of socialism must be rooted in and appropriate to the society to which they are applied. The machinery through which the administration must stay close to the people and the people close to the administration will differ according to the history, the demographic distribution, the traditional culture (or cultures), and the prevailing international political and economic environment in which it has to operate.
Capitalist history taken as a whole, is designed to serve the needs of capitalist profit. Their studies of African history have aimed at justifying exploitation and degradation. They have excused the slave trade and slavery and the present position of black people as outcasts in capitalist society, on the ground that the African had shown himself incapable of developing civilization, that he lived a savage and barbarous life, and that such elements of culture as Africa showed in the past and shows today were directly due to the influence of Arabs and Europeans. All of this is lies. For too many white liberals, the African peoples, are a backward race, a child be laughed at or wept over, to be helped and prodded, steered and curbed, but not enrolled as friends and fellow-workers in a common cause with ourselves – the cause of social democracy. Africans are going to strike blows for freedom, against the capitalist system of exploitation, in alliance with the white workers of the world.