What is it like, this paper of the rising continent? Is there anything fresh about it? Hardly. Here are all the well-known features of the less-respected and therefore well-established British journals. Consider the advertisements. A Negro woman applies, with a fetching smile, the same brand of skin cream as a million budding English roses. Successful men (Negroes, sitting at many-telephoned desks) underline their success with the right shoe polish. And here is the father and wife and picaninnies, beaming vigorously and full of a popular laxative. Detergents and blood tonics jostle on the page with disinfectants and pep-pills.
There is an interesting article alleging the existence of slavery on the Spanish-held island of Fernando Po, in the Gulf of Guinea. This article reproduces a poster issued by the Anglo-Spanish Employment Agency, which promises a life of sophisticated leisure on Fernando Po. the poster sketches a Negro in traditional pukka-sahib garb, complete with topee and carrying an umbrella! A few pages are taken up with a chillingly meticulous description of the procedure followed in executions in James Fort Prison, Accra, including pictures of a doctor and a priest leaving just after a hanging. There are comic strips (one of them about a Negro boxer taking on a Chinaman in, of all places, Switzerland), some tit-bits, jokes, and a mystery story.
A heartbreak column is run by Dolly. A young man complains that his girl-friend drinks heavily, swears at him, has secret love affairs. Dolly's advice, If the girl is given to having secret affairs, forget her, . . . as such a situation is not a desirable one” To a teacher who has fallen for one of his pupils she says: “To have an affair with one of your pupils would be abusing your position. Maybe when she has completed, yes. ” And there is the usual heavily guarded reply to the anonymous, desperate one whose problem cannot be discussed in the column, but who had better tell her mother.
Many African nationalists think that the developing independent states of Africa will throw up some vague and far-described moral and cultural superiority over their European counterparts. Drum gives the lie to that. Apart from the black faces and crinkly hair of its illustrations, it would not be out of place in the hands of any typist on the rush-hour tube to the West End. Capitalism always must fill the workers’ leisure with the inferior and shoddy, for to encourage them to think is dangerous. Hence the growth of die trash-press in this and other countries.
Now capitalism, lured by the markets and minerals, is developing in Africa. The markets it will exploit and the minerals develop. It will bring industrial organisation and the harsh, acquisitive sophistication that we in England know so well. That is in the future. For the present, if a reading of Drum is any guide, it has already brought, among other things, constipation and rheumatism, indigestion and neurasthenia.
(Thanks to Socialist Standard Past and Present Blog for tracking down this classic)