- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Africa 1960 - Our view
The Boycott (1960)
From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
IN April of last year, the African National Congress of South Africa launched a new campaign, calling for an economic boycott of all South African Nationalist (Government-supporting) firms. The aim of the movement is to hurt the South African Government economically, by hitting the farmers who in the main are Nationalist supporters, and thereby embarrassing the Government into altering their policy of Apartheid. With trade unions frowned upon and strikes by Africans, a criminal offence, non-white South Africans face real problems in putting pressure on Government, and the boycott was decided upon because it was a peaceful way of protesting against the Government’s policies.
From this relatively small beginning, the movement has spread to other countries. In Britain, the campaign to boycott South African goods has been taken up by the Liberal and Labour Parties, the T.U.C. and the Political Committee of the London Co-operative Society. Cooperative shops, however, have been advised by the Co-operative Union not to support the ban. The President of one Co-op. Society seemed to hit the nail on the head when he said that . . ." if the Society did boycott South African goods, their customers would only go to other shops for them.” (The Guardian. 27/1/60.),
Sir de Villiers Graaff, leader of the United (opposition) Party, in answer to the proposed boycott has called it “inadvisable, ineffective, and (it) would have dangerous consequences.” (Times. 4/1/60.) He went on to enumerate the reasons, starting by saying that such action would be regarded as interference with the internal policies of South Africa, leading to great resentment on the part of members of the South African public as a whole. “The question would then be asked,” he continued, “why South Africa should be selected for such treatment when the social systems and policies of many other countries must be equally, if not more, repugnant to British ideas. '
The British Press shows considerable sympathy towards the United Party, which they consider to be fairly liberal in its outlook, but the remarks of its leader are no different to those made in an interview by the late Mr. Strijdom. former Prime Minister in the Nationalist Government, on the general subject of Apartheid, in Ed Murrow’s documentary lilm African Conflict. They were typical remarks of a representative of capitalism or growing capitalism.
Although the boycott movement has gathered a large number of supporters, the movement’s leaders are not under any illusions about the results it might bring. Three of the boycott's chief supporters in South Africa have admitted that it might hit at South African non-whites first but, they say, the alternative is "a bleak prospect of unending discrimination.” (Guardian 8/1/60.) Neither do they think that the Government will change its policies overnight.
It is estimated that some £100m. worth of South African goods are exported to Britain every year. Of this, about £35m. is accounted for by metal imports and diamonds, which are not easily boycotted by individual workers. The remainder, £65m. consists of fresh and tinned fruit (totalling £40m.) and wine, tobacco, sugar, wool and leather making up the balance. (Tribune 29/11/59.) Various estimates have been given of the value of goods which will be lost by the boycott—between £2m. and £6m.
Although the boycott shows the extent of indignation against the South African Government’s policies of brutal suppression of the Africans, it cannot hope to have more than a passing effect on South position to African workers, as they enjoy a much higher standard of living, are apathetic to the lot of the Negro. They have never had it so good, generally speaking, and they are prepared to allow their consciences to rest while their black fellow-workers had never had it so bad.
The Africans form a vast, and mainly untapped, source of labour for the growing capitalism of South Africa. They are one of the most immature proletariats in the world, and their political disadvantages are immense, but they must eventually go through the stages of maturing into class-conscious workers. When they have reached this stage, it won't be necessary to boycott South African goods in order for them to live dignified, wholesome lives.
From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
In South Africa since 1948 the tide of. political events has been with the Nationalists. During the 12 years since that time, under three leaders—Malan, Strijdom, and now, Verwoerd—they have consolidated and strengthened their hold on the reins of Government. Since that time, against the hostility of the world's press and against the indignation of even the least liberally minded person, they have exerted political power with arrogant confidence and militancy.
A single word has dominated all political discussion related to South Africa since 1948—Apartheid. Nationalists didn’t invent the word, but in a political context they gave it a new meaning. In theory at least, the Nationalists are the architects and dedicated builders of Apartheid.
Yet even Nationalists have seen their , “cause” in various ways; to Strijdom, it had been a heaven-inspired dedication, the only political means through which the whites of South Africa could “survive.” Mr. Verwoerd, the present Prime Minister, has attempted to hide the crude body of Apartheid under a cloak of sophistication. With the best will in the world, he maintains, policies of integration could never work in South Africa. White and black are in every respect quite antithetical. In terms of race and social custom, morality and values, they each stand as the other’s opposite, and only policies which take these “facts” into consideration are likely to succeed in South Africa. One respects the separate properties of oil and water, he says, but only folly pours them into the same bucket and expects them to mix readily. Mr. Verwoerd appreciates like no other that oil must float on top of water.
The shrewder political observer knows that so-called Apartheid is a vicious and hate-filled lie. It is the rallying call which even in 1960 can muster the whole history and traditions of Afrikaners solidly behind the Nationalists. In Apartheid, Verwoerd and his colleagues have an emotionally-charged word upon which they successfully conduct their political campaigns. Certainly Apartheid was never an honest and practical policy. Nevertheless, pressed by intellectuals of the Nationalist Party, and the weight of their own propaganda, the Government appointed the Tomlinson Commission to recommend a practical way of putting Apartheid into effect. It was to work out a plan for removing eight million Negroes living in white areas into the already over-populated Negro reserves. In 1956 the Commission reported, and as an early start, envisaged that the Government should begin industries in the reserves with an assistance fund of £25 million. In the longer term, they recommended a 10 year plan costing £104 million. Yet even though many Nationalists were critical of the Commission’s report for not going far enough, the Government squashed all its key recommendations as being too costly, drastic and ambitious. '
Yet all this does not mean that the Nationalists have not been busy. Even from a liberal reformist standpoint, the Nationalists have shown themselves as one of the world's most reactionary Governments, struggling hard to hold the clock still, if not to move it back.
The turmoil of South African politics reflects not ’’race conflicts’’ but economic conflicts. Some Nationalist politicians may well feel heroically cast as the guardians of "white survival,” but to translate this into less romantic terms, and to judge them from the real social and economic effects of their policies, they are revealed as the political power of landed interests whose role is to maintain a cheap and abundant supply of labour in farming areas. This has necessarily brought them into conflict with urban industrial capitalists who complain that Nationalist policies are a fetter upon further expansion.
The most important legislation brought in by the Nationalists in recent years has brought about the removal of the Coloured voters from the Electoral Roll and the oppressive Pass laws. Also it included the Group Areas Act and the Bantu Education Act. With the removal of the Coloured voters from the Electoral Roll, the last vestige of democratic participation was taken from all who were not white. With the Bantu Education Act, the Nationalists stopped what formal education was being bestowed upon the Negro population, mainly through Church Schools. They clearly saw this teaching of the “three R’s” as being in the long term adjusted to the needs of a proletariat being slowly integrated into the labour force of a technical community. For decades, but particularly since 1945, the Negroes in South Africa, pushed by their hard conditions as agricultural labourers, have been emigrating to the towns. Seeing in these movements a possible threat to the farmers’ labour supply, the Nationalists, with the Group Areas Act and the Pass laws, have arrested the free mobility that African Negroes once enjoyed. It is now a criminal offence for a Negro to move into an urban area and stay there for longer than 72 hours.
Currently, the Government has brought in legislation to provide for eight "Bantustans.” These will be areas wholly given over to Negro population and, under the administration of the Negroes themselves, claim the Government, adding, of course, that all aspects of policy and the appointment of officials would be subject to government control. The proposals have been variously received. Nationalists claim them as the beginning of the real fulfilment of Apartheid—"a homeland in which the native people can live their own political, economic and cultural lives.” (Johannesburg Star, 16/2/59). The Institute of Race Relations charges the plan with being a means of dividing up the Negroes on reserves and holding them more widely scattered, in smaller units.
Of all the things that they might eventually be, the Bantustans will never add up to Apartheid in practice. The measures do not disturb the millions of Negroes who live outside the reserves and upon whose labour the South African economy has come to depend.
The complaints from capitalists have been many and almost daily a dark shadow of early economic ruin is drawn behind Nationalist policies. To the urban industrialists, so-called Apartheid means high wages to white semi-skilled workers, where Negroes would do the job more enthusiastically for a third the wage. It means enormous additions to industrial overheads especially for the provision of extra buildings and workshops, exits and entrances, toilets, canteens and washing facilities, all politically necessary but economically superfluous. It means only the weakest trickle of capital from abroad, whilst foreign investors, especially Americans, await a complete re-orientation of Government policy. Apartheid places the South African economy in a straight-jacket, whilst industrialists look on in bewildered frustration at seeing a vast reservoir of Negro labour being greedily retained as mere farm labourers.
In the modern world, all this stands as a unique situation born of a unique history. Today the Nationalists may wallow in the nostalgia of Boer tradition, couched as it is in bitter enmity for the Negro and the British, for the Boers suffered greatly from both the once proud Bantu and the more crafty British imperialists. It was the British who first seized from the Boers the Cape for use as a trade route and later, after winning the Boer War, seized the Transvaal and Orange Free State for control over the gold, diamonds and other rich mineral resources. Their anti-British attitudes are still obvious in recent legislation. God Save the Queen is no longer the official South African National Anthem, and many Nationalist leaders are ambitious for a republic.
The Afrikaners themselves are changing. Calvinist to the core, from their lofty tower of Dutch peasant morality, they always viewed money-making as sinful, especially the hungry and avaricious scramble after South African gold and diamonds. But today their agriculture is integrated into a world marketing system and the farmers themselves submit annual returns in which they necessarily calculate their financial return over and above their investment. Moreover, they have sunk money into canning plants and arc participating to an ever greater degree in the South African economy outside agriculture.
As their interests become more outrightly bourgeois, their morality and theology will inevitably adjust itself. At that time, the Nationalists will either have to go or will be forced to change fundamentally their political form. Recently reported splits among the leadership of the Nationalist Party indicate wide divergencies in ideology and the possible beginning of a change in outlook. In the long term, one can only think that the class line-up in South Africa will resolve itself into an uncomplicated division between capitalists and workers. When that time arrives, the hate and fanatic prejudices of the Nationalists which rub against the humanist sensitivities of reasonable minded people like salt in an open wound, wilt be swept aside by braver cries of one world, one people, one mutual interest.
Africa 1960 (1960)
From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the height of colonialism there were only two independent states in the whole of Africa. Of these one was the Union of South Africa, which represented a kind of indigenous colonialism, with the white minority ruling the black majority. That left Liberia, with its one million inhabitants, as the only native-ruled state. The rest of Africa's 230 millions were divided up into colonies which belonged to half a dozen Western European countries— Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy (Germany's colonies having been taken from her after the First World War, and distributed among the victors).
But now the position is revolutionised. By the end of this year two-thirds of the Africans will be under independent African rule (The Observer, 3.1.60); and other territories are more than halfway to independence. Of the Arab countries, Egypt, the Sudan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco have thrown off foreign domination. The extensive countries of what used to be French Equatorial and French West Africa are now independent, either inside or outside the French “Community.” In British West Africa, Sierra Leone has an elected African majority. Ghana is independent, Nigeria will be independent this year. Also becoming independent in the next few months are the Belgian Congo, and Somalia, on the Horn of Africa. Tanganyika will have self-government next year, and there are proposals for an elected African majority in Uganda.
How has this come about? The answer is, largely because of the development of commerce and industry in the colonies, which leads to the emergence of a native capitalist class. As The Observer (3.1.60) puts it: “New people are rising all the time. Among the Africans there are forceful, intelligent and sometimes brash young nationalists; traders, contractors and careerist politicians cashing-in on independence; serious, highly-principled young intellectuals and Civil Servants.” This native capitalist class, with its supporting politicians and intellectuals, is usually able (as in Britain) to get the mass of the people on its side against “the foreigner.” When this embryo ruling class reaches a certain stage of development, it becomes aware of the vast opportunities for profit there would be for itself if it could end colonialism and spread industry throughout the whole of its territory.
When this stage is reached, what is the attitude of the imperial power? Unfortunately for the imperialists, empires no longer pay, as John Strachey shows in his recent book. The End of Empire. At first they paid, and paid handsomely: but with changing economic conditions, and the increasing expense of the police forces and armies necessary to maintain imperial rule, they have not been profitable to the ruling class as a whole for some years. They still have strategic value, which causes all the trouble in, for example, Cyprus and Malta. But when these considerations can be satisfied, the crippling annual bills for the colonel-based armed forces must make any ruling class less enthusiastic about colonies. Secondly, capitalists and the supporters of capitalism always believe that their system is the best possible; to them, progress is synonymous with the establishment of capitalism. The setting up of another capitalist state seems to them a great step forward. Of course, no imperialist country will hand over power to a ruling class which would ally itself to a rival bloc; hence the British fight against the Malayan guerillas who would have taken Malaya into the Soviet camp, as contrasted with the subsequent handing over of power, after the defeat of the guerillas, to the present Malayan ruling class.
The rest of the capitalist world watches and applauds, partly because it sees its own capitalist ideals put into practice, partly to gain the friendship of the emerging states. Russia is always ready with its help to ex-colonial countries, as can be seen in its financing of Egypt’s Aswan Dam project. As for America, the Presidential candidates Nixon (on the Republican side) and Humphrey and Kennedy (on the Democratic) sent strong messages of support to the recent All-Africa People's Conference in Tunis (The Guardian. 28.1.60).
The greater part of Africa is now independent or well on its way to independence. The only colonies where no concessions have yet been made arc Angola and Mozambique, both belonging to Portugal; these are both less densely populated (having a combined population of only nine million) and less industrialised than most of Africa. Rut as trade and industry develops, these too will follow the same path.
Apart from that, the exceptions to the otherwise universal rule are to be found in the states which have a considerable white settler population—Kenya. Algeria and Rhodesian Federation. and South Africa. In all these states, the government is in the hands of the white landed interests, who regard the development of capitalism with distrust, and who want to keep the Africans as illiterate farm-workers. But the first three of these countries are still colonies, under the suzerainty of European powers. Britain and France are old capitalist states, and have no desire to maintain permanent expensive armies in their colonies in order to uphold the rule of a small minority of white farmers. As in their former “all-black” colonies, they want to set up these territories as independent capitalist democracies.
In the case of Kenya, the Colonial Secretary Mr. Macleod reiterated the aim of the British government as being “ to build a nation based on parliamentary institutions and enjoying responsible self-government” (The Times, 21.1.60). and refused to grant the settlers’ demands that they should continue to have the exclusive right to run the government. Group-Captain Briggs, the principal settlers' leader at the recent Kenya constitutional conference in London, described Mr. Macleod’s proposals as “shocking," and went back to Kenya before the conference ended.
As for Algeria, not even open rebellion by the settlers could shake President de Gaulle’s decision that the colony must be granted self-determination, based on the wishes of all its peoples. In the Rhodesian Federation, the Southern Rhodesian settlers fear a similar outcome; both the settlers’ parties, the United Federal Party and the Dominion Party, have recently threatened to secede from the Federation—obviously hoping that if they surrender Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to those who wish to establish capitalist democracy, they will be allowed to keep “their” Southern Rhodesian black farmworkers. Even in South Africa, where the whites are twenty per cent, of the population (twice as high as anywhere else in Africa) there are increasing fears for the future. Mr. Macmillan, in his speech to members of both houses of the South African Parliament, told them bluntly he could not support their racial policies, and is reported to have warned Dr. Verwoerd. the Premier, that Britain can no longer support in the United Nations South Africa’s contention that the apartheid question is her own domestic concern.
End of an era
So the curtain is falling on colonialism in the last continent where it still had a firm hold. Now there are few countries left in the world which are not driving ahead with industrialisation, under a capitalist ruling class. And as the debris of one historical epoch is cleared away, the stage is set ever more unmistakably for the next act. Capitalism, and the working class which it exploits, are set still more squarely face to face. Socialism, even more than ever before, has become the one genuine political issue confronting the working class.
Editorial from the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
In writing on Africa, more than one historian has drawn attention to an important factor dominating the history of the continent up to the second half of the 19th century—its isolation. For instance, Alexander Campbell, writing in his book Empire in Africa, likens it to a gigantic saucer rimmed with mountains and sealed for thousands of years from nearly all human contact with the outside world. Most of the rivers there are not easily navigable for more than a short distance from their mouths, owing to rapids and falls. The outstanding exception is the Nile, but even this has cataracts in its middle and upper reaches which prohibit navigation. This discouraged settlers from trying to penetrate the interior and acted also as an obstacle to any native attempts to “break out.”
Conditions of existence must have been grim indeed. In the equatorial regions there was swamp and thick forest to face, whilst elsewhere natives scratched a bare, living out of large areas of desert and bush. The African was subjected to a wide range of climates, most of them hostile; and in general, the soil was harsh and unrewarding. Harassed further by pests and diseases of all kinds, and the ravages of the tse-tse fly, it is little wonder that he remained “backward" for so long. Doctor Livingstone found people who were unaware of the name of a hill or tribe less than twenty miles distant. Hardship, isolation and fear were the lot of the native, and tribal life was hedged round with restrictions and taboos.
Today, we see a very different picture. Africa has been through a period of intensive development over the past sixty years. The older capitalist powers carried out extensive colonisation during the “scramble” of the latter 1800’s, but now, rising nationalist movements are beginning to challenge the power of such as Britain. France and Belgium, and in some areas have actually won independence.
The latest of these is the Belgian Congo, which we are told will become independent in June.
This does not mean, however, that foreign capitalists are losing interest in the areas where political control has been relinquished. Heavy investment has been taking place, and indeed has often been welcomed by the new African governments. In Ghana, for example, the greater part of the £342 millions expenditure during the five year plan is to be met by obtaining capital from overseas. As recently as September 1959, a report issued by H.M. Stationery Office gave news of the favourable investment prospects in Ghana. Further north in Egypt, the Russians have financed the Aswan Dam construction, whilst in Algeria hundreds of millions of pounds have been sunk in oil and industry since General De Gaulle became President of France. Here, the battle for control goes on with increased fury, as will have been seen from recent newspaper reports.
With the rise of nationalist feeling, and the breakdown of the old tribal loyalties, a new oppressed section is appearing—the African wage worker, having largely the same problems as his brothers and sisters elsewhere. He has exchanged his white oppressors for those with darker skins, who are ruthlessly determined to develop the new states as rapidly as possible along modem capitalist lines. Like most workers, he has yet to lose his racial prejudices. He has still to realise that “black” capitalism has about as little to offer him as “white” capitalism.
The message of Socialism is world wide however. It reaches across the artificial national boundaries erected by man. and is as much for the ears of the African workers as for others. This month, therefore, we are devoting most of the space in our journal to articles dealing with Africa and its problems, in an attempt to keep clear the real issue facing workers in that continent —as in all other continents—Capitalism, or Socialism.