Monday, April 28, 2008

UnFreedom Day

A belated post on South Africa Freedom Day

"...On Sunday it will be Freedom Day again. Once again we will be asked to go into stadiums to be told that we are free. Once again we will not be going to the stadiums. We will, for the third time, be mourning UnFreedom Day. Since the last UnFreedom Day we have been beaten, shot at and arrested on false charges by the police; evicted by the land invasions unit; disconnected from electricity by Municipal Security; forcibly removed to rural human dumping grounds by the Municipalities; banned from marching by the eThekwini City Manager; slandered by all those who want followers not comrades; intimidated by all kinds of people who demand the silence of the poor; threatened by new anti-poor laws; burnt in the fires; sick in the dirt and raped in the dark nights looking for a safe place to go the toilet...

...In our movement we have often said that we are not free because we are forced to live without toilets, electricity, lighting, refuse removal, enough water or proper policing and, therefore, with fires, sickness, violence and rape. We have often said that we are not free because our children are chased out of good schools and because we are being chased out of good areas and therefore away from education, work, clinics, sports fields and libraries. We have often said that we are not free because the politics of the poor is treated like a criminal offence by the Municipalities while real criminals are treated like business partners. We have often said that we are not free because the councillors are treated like the people's masters instead of their servants. We have often said that we are not free because even many of the people who say that they are for the struggles of the poor refuse to accept that we can think for ourselves...

...But freedom is more than all of this. Freedom is a way of living not a list of demands to be met. Delivering houses will do away with the lack of houses but it won't make us free on its own. Freedom is a way of living where everyone is important and where everyone's experience and intelligence counts..."

From PAMBAZUKA NEWS - Full article at link

Sunday, April 27, 2008

free access

“Cameroon could not only become self-sufficient but a major food exporter”

How to do this ?

Create free seed banks. “All the framers will have to do is come and get the seeds.”

Start handing out four to five hectares of fertile land to any farmer who can show that he or she is capable of using the land productively.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poverty knows no colour

"The problem of white poverty is a silent problem..." Flip Buys, general secretary of Solidarity said "...but it's not politically correct to talk about white poverty. We must break the silence, because poverty knows no color."

About 9 percent of South Africa's 48 million people are white. Solidarity, a union whose base is among white workers, estimates about 13 percent of working-class whites — some 247,000 people — earn less than 1,600 rand (about $200) a month.

Bethlehem , a collection of wooden shacks on the outskirts of the capital , has no electricity, running water or sewer service, and the people there eke out a meager living by selling vegetables they grow near their shacks.Such squalor was common for blacks under apartheid, and the vast majority of South African blacks still struggle to get by. But, while it is rarely discussed, white poverty is not new — Zuma told the Bethlehem residents he knew poor whites growing up in a working-class family in Durban.

Jackie Nel, a 53-year-old former government clerk who has been living in the settlement for a year, said there isn't any difference between black and white poverty.
"The whole of South Africa is struggling. The prices of food, petrol, kerosene are too high. Can't they (government officials) bring them down a little?" Nel , said.
Susie van Niekerk, a 73-year-old retired nurse who uses a wheelchair and has been living in Bethlehem since September, said she sometimes feels the plight of whites is ignored. But, she said, the government needs to do more "not only for white people, but for black people, too."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Idi Amin

Our companion blog Socialism Or Your Money Back carries a post from the archives of the Socialist Standard which is well worth re-posting .

The way to stop understanding of events is to show them as resulting from personal misconduct or mismanagement by those in charge. Had Hitler not been mad and bad, the Second World War would never have happened. Stalin's treacherousness made Russia what it is. But for a succession of weak and untrustworthy leaders, the Labour Party would have brought us all to the Promised Land. This view of history means we are perpetually invited to look at figures idiotic and corrupt, and put all the blame on them. Without doubt they are all as objectionable as stated, but that is not the answer. The high chairs in which these characters sit are provided by capitalism, and at some time of need each appeared to be the ideal occupant.

The special place of buffoon-turned-villain is held at present by President Amin of Uganda. Since his regime began it has been characterized by killings, culminating in the "Makerere massacre" of over 100 students in August this year. It has included the deportation of Asians in 1972, and a series of international incidents; in July there was a confrontation with Kenya, and on the 28th July Britain broke of diplomatic relations with Uganda. There have been attempts at uprisings and to assassinate Amin. On 1st August The Observer had an editorial headed "Getting rid of Amin".

The fact is that Amin's takeover in January 1971 was supported by Israel and favoured by Britain. A lengthy article in The Observer on 15th August recalled that the previous Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Milton Obote, had at the end of 1969 introduced a "Move to the Left" policy that was "Britain's reason for welcoming the coup d'etat 13 months later". On Amin's accession, the article went on: "The British Government was delighted...One of Amin's first acts was to de-nationalize the British businesses taken over by Obote." Israel viewed Uganda under Amin as as an ally against the Arab states. While these relationships lasted, Amin was presented as a not-umsympathetic clown; since they were reversed, the Ugandan regime has been shown as a reign of terror...

Amin's support in finance, arms and technical personnel comes from the Arab states, particularly Libya, which is in turn supplied by Russia. In the flare-up between Uganda and Kenya it was said that neither America nor Russia wanted to see a shooting war develop in this part of Africa and had advised caution to both sides and their neighbours. Nevertheless, the balance between Africa and Middle East states and the major powers which "handle" them is like that of the Balkan states and Europe before 1914. It is absurd to imagine that this position would be different if Uganda, Libya and other states had more amiable rulers. In some cases they had different ones, who were made unacceptable by the situation instead of the opposite happening....

The cause of war remains the same: conflicts among the capitalists of various nations over markets, trade routes and resources of production. Of course it is masked by diplomacy and and political motives. The last major war fought more or less openly for markets was World War I. The immediate factors in the modern world are control of strategic points and influence over particular sections, presented as a conflict between "ideologies". Ultimately, however, all wars are economic. The balance of power in Africa is between the growing and aspiring ruling classes of the states there, their deals for aid with bigger nations, and the bigger nations' own need for oil and minerals for commodity production.

In this balance, the grotesque Amin is entirely dependent on his sponsors. The continuation of the Kenyan oil blockade in July could have caused his downfall, and from the viewpoint of his Arab allies he is unreliable and disposable; no doubt their attitude is like Samuel Pepys's - "whether it will be better for me to have him die, because he is a bad man, or live, for fear a worse should come". Meanwhile, workers in Uganda and countless other countries not only under tyrannical regimes but have the prospect of being fodder for wars, in which the enemies are a matter of permutation. This is the result of production for profit. It does not have to go on."

R. Barltrop 1976

One People ,One World

Socialist Banner has previously directed attention to the anti-migrant tendencies in South Africa and once again we receive yet more reports of the same.

Socialist Banner can only agree with these statements made by a libertarian group in South Africa .

"No, Zimbabweans are not the reason why we have high crime rates and live in poverty! It is the capitalist system that needs starvation and unemployment to keep prices low, and it is the inequality generated by the capitalist system that drives people to crime! It is the ruling class and the government which protect capitalism. We should not attack people suffering from the same system we suffer from but the people who are behind it!...It is time to get rid of some of the myths that are around in South Africa: most criminals in this country actually are South Africans and not Zimbabweans or Congolese or whatever scapegoat you want to find! It is a myth in order to build a South African national identity but it is built on a lie...Other Africans for the first time in their life experience racism in South Africa, and this comes from both white and black South Africans...Xenophobia, meaning the fear of the foreign, is a sign of a society that has forgotten what its real enemy is: capitalism and everyone who supports this system (i.e. the state). It is as disgusting as racism to which it is closely related...The poor and working class people of this whole planet have more in common with each other than any working class does with its ruling class in any one country. To attack immigrants is to fight our own people instead of working together to build a better world.
We should be fighting for a world without artificial national borders between brothers and sisters in which no one is illegal!"

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Report on Mau Mau

Our companion blog Socialism Or Your Money Back carried this article

Jomo Kenyatta who was jailed on this day in 1953 following the first Mau Mau uprising the previous year, campaigned for the capitalist class in waiting, who finally achieved their 'independence' to start exploiting the vast majority of people in Kenya a decade later. Kenyatta was rewarded with the presidency in 1964.

In the July 1960 Socialist Standard FD Corfield's Historical Survey of the Origins and Growth of the Mau Mau received a scathing review as it pointed "..a sanctimonious finger of blame at almost everyone except the British Government and the narrow interests they represent..." Indeed, " an objective historical account of a particularly ugly piece of human history the report is useless and in every way unworthy of its title.."

The main contention of the report is that leading Africans, and in particular Jomo Kenyatta, encouraged by sympathy from many outside sources, and unwittingly aided by the facilities provided by a "liberal" government, perpetuated rebellion as a manifestation of their personal malevolence.
The report says, "Without the freedom afforded them by a liberal government Jomo Kenyatta and his associates, would have been unable to preach their calculated hymn of hate." Mr. Corfield is completely convinced that the government of Kenya was pre-occupied with "...the material progress of the peoples of Kenya." He says, "One has only to read the annual reports of the provincial commissioners to realise the immense efforts made by officials and unofficials to raise the material and moral welfare of the Africans."

These are the terms in which the report ignores the naked and cruel self interest of the white landowners' mission in East Africa. For a rational society of controlled purpose to be confronted by a primitive social grouping over which it held immense technical superiority would involve problems of a most delicate sociological nature. Its approach would be scientific procedures, its motives would be humanistic. But when the envoys of European propertied society landed in East Africa to preach the Gospel of Self Interest and predatory exploitation they were interested only in smashing the social organisation of the African inhabitants and making them servants and labourers. Here surely was the bed rock basis of the Mau Mau violence. Mau Mau, though loathsome in form, arose inevitably from the indignities, the injustice and the sheer primary poverty of the African's plight. This is well known and the evidence for it is even contained in the government's own Colonial Publications.

In contrast with the hypocritical Corfield report the African Labour Efficiency Survey, 1949 is a realistic appraisal of the problems of making the African a more efficient and effective wage worker.
In viewing the East African situation (in 1947) it says, "The East African comes from a tribal economy in which his human needs of sustenance can still very largely be met...He has not, to any significant degree, been bent under the discipline of organised work. In his primitive economy, the steady, continuous labour is carried out by women. In respect of the few working activities which in the past occupied him he was free and independent. Though the tasks he performed were prescribed by tribal law and custom, he could do them in his own way and at his own speed, for him time had no economic value. The work he did for others was not for wages, but was one of the duties arising out of his relationship with his fellows. He gave satisfaction by his work and derived a measure of contentment from it. In these circumstances he was willing to do what was required of him. To work steadily and continuously at the the will of another was one of the hard lessons he had to learn when he began to work for Europeans."

Even so, the report reveals the positive measures taken by the Kenya Government to coerce Africans into seeking wage employment.
In the first instance the Kikuyu and other East African tribes were enclosed within small reserve areas which to an agricultural people was disastrous. In the terms of the report, South Nyeri, one of the three component districts comprising the Kikuyu reserved lands, had a population estimated in 1944 to be 542 to the square mile. This population density is probably among the highest in the world. As well as this the Government instituted a hut tax and poll tax, payable only directly in cash. Thus within two simple but brutal measures the authorities began to reduce the African from a dignified tribesman with a stake in his community to a dispossessed wage worker forced into white landowners' service or into industrial undertakings.

The report dwells in some detail on many reasons for the African workers' so-called inefficiency, including lack of education and poverty. It says, "Perhaps in some respects the greatest handicap is physical and arises from malnutrition." On the question of wages this report is equally forthright, " is clear that the wage plan does not ensure wages adequate to enable an African residing in any of the towns to bring up a family." Again: "It is therefore with more confidence that the whole survey team, including the medical and nutritional investigators, record their reasoned observation that they found much discontent concerning wages in relation to cost of living."

Apart from laying bare the ruthlessness of of British Colonial policy, even in modern times, the report contained a disquieting warning. Quoting a doctor who lived in East Africa for two decades it said "A doctor....can assert that the cause of the poor work output is more mental than physical. Malnutrition and disease play their part but, sitting and talking with the workers in their homes, one became aware of a very grave discontent which, unless constructively guided and relieved, may well threaten civil peace."

It was the violent repression that Mau Mau provoked that enabled British interests to finally destroy the Kikuyu and other tribal structures. The way is now clear for the rapid conversion of East Africans into wage workers. Mau Mau retaliation was bloody and horrible, primitive political struggles often are, but undoubtedly British colonial policy first provoked the violence.

P. Lawrence

Monday, April 07, 2008

Africa's Chinese strikers

Labor conflicts involving overseas Chinese workers have become more frequent in recent years due to the increasing flow of Chinese nationals to foreign labor markets .

Two Chinese workers were killed and four were injured when the strikers, reported to number between 100 and 200, confronted Equatorial Guinean security forces who intervened when the protesters tried to stop other Chinese colleagues from working. Equatorial Guinea's government has imposed a news blackout on the incident and the small country's tightly controlled media have made no mention of it. Government ministers reached by telephone by Reuters declined to answer questions about it.
China has withdrawn more than 400 of its workers from Equatorial Guinea
A senior government official said Equatorial Guinea's authorities had asked China to withdraw the workers involved in the labour dispute.

"We do not want strikes in our country. We asked the Chinese ambassador ... to find other workers," the official said.

China invests heavily in development projects in resource-rich African countries. Large oil and gas deposits were discovered in Equatorial Guinea in the mid-1990s and in 2004 the country was listed as the world's fastest-growing economy, though it ranks near the bottom of a UN human development index.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nature's Exploitation

To meet the worldwide demand and the regulation that, from next week, petrol and diesel sold in Britain must be mixed with bioethanol or biodiesel as part of a drive to cut the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the Mumias Sugar Company in Kenya is planning to plant 20,000 hectares of the Tana delta to grow sugar cane for biofuels and food. The £165m project, including an ethanol refinery and food-processing plant, promises to create thousands of jobs in an area dominated by traditional cattle herding, small-scale rice and subsistence farming. The scheme would destroy the wetlands - home to 345 species of birds, including the threatened Basra reed warbler, the Tana river cisticola, and 22 species of waterbirds such as slender-billed gulls and Caspian terns, which are so numerous there they are considered 'internationally important' to the global populations.
In the Tana delta, the two main worries are that monoculture planting would replace a large area of rich and diverse habitat, including unusual but unprotected Borassus palm savannah, and that irrigation for the new plants would use up to one third of the available water, claims the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has taken the unusual step of protesting directly to the Kenyan government. Local campaigners say that Kenya's National Environment Management Authority is expected to approve the scheme. Mumias is also only one of a handful of schemes proposed in the delta, including commercial rice-growing and cattle breeding.
If approved, large areas would become 'ecological deserts', destroying wintering grounds for birds and the bugs they feed on, and dams would divert water essential to wildlife and cattle herders during the dry season, warned Paul Matiku, executive director of campaign group Nature Kenya. Matiku is also worried about water diversion causing soil erosion, pollution harming fish stocks and damage to the nascent tourism industry.

'This development would be a national disaster, wreaking havoc with the area's ecosystem and spelling the end for wildlife across much of the delta.'

The plans submitted by Mumias suggest about half the crop could be used for food and half for biofuel, primarily to sell in Kenya. But high prices for biofuels overseas could force Mumias to sell to European and US buyers, said Paul Buckley, of the RSPB.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as the crisis in world food prices threatens to trigger global instability. Last week former Labour Environment Minister Elliot Morley called for the government to delay the new biofuel requirement until 'comprehensive certification and assessment schemes are put in place', echoing criticism by the Environment Department's chief scientific adviser, Professor Robert Watson. The chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, has also spoken out against the risk of biofuels, especially of growing corn for ethanol in the US. British consumers should be protected by 200 pages of regulations governing the sustainability of biofuels; however, critics claim that indirectly British demand will suck in supplies from other markets, which would then be forced to turn to new suppliers like Mumias. Farmers are also clearing new land for displaced food crops. British regulations also rely, for the first two years at least, on embarrassing retailers by forcing them to publish details of where they buy their biofuel, but there is no punishment for buying from sources that cause damage to habitats, soil or water.

The Tana river delta, teeming with birds and home to hippos and crocodiles, lions and elephants, are more than 4,000 miles from Britain. But this patchwork of savannah and mangrove swamp on the east coast of Africa is the latest victim of the British thirst for biofuels.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Food for thought

As a result of the protests reported here Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has cancelled custom duties after a second day of violent protests against rising food costs. Mr Gbagbo also cut taxes on basic household products .

But let no-one be under the mis-comprehension that tampering with the effects locally will solve the problem .

The head of the World Food Programme warned rising food prices had helped create a "perfect storm", leaving more people hungry than ever before. "The cost of our food has doubled in just the last nine months," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "We're very concerned about our operations."

Sheeran also confirmed what Socialist Banner keeps repeating - that capitalism is a "can't pay, can't have" system of society regardless of need .

"We are seeing more urban hunger than ever before," she said. "Often we are seeing food on the shelves but people being unable to afford it."