Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In the dark

138 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb over 645 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, while over 700 million are without clean energy for cooking.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” said Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Akinwumi Adesina.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Congo Nationalism (1960)

Editorial from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa, it seems, is going to be in the news for a very long time. The latest trouble spot is the Congo, where, after the attainment of independence from Belgian rule, there were riots which apparently involved murder and rape. One news agency has described Luluabourg, in Kasai, as like a “sea of flames.”

As a complication, the province of Katanga has declared its intention of remaining separate from the rest of the independent Congo. Katanga is an area possessed of tremendous mineral wealth—uranium, diamonds, zinc, iron, cobalt and copper are all there. Prior to independence, these resources were extensively worked by the powerful Union Miniere. If Katanga succeeds in asserting its independence, Union Miniere will probably be able to continue its operations; when this possibility became apparent, the company’s shares soared. The Congo as a whole has not for a long time been a profitable source of investment for Belgian capitalists and one of the few chances of recouping some of their losses lies in dealing with a separate state of Katanga.

The wealth of Katanga is vital to the Congo: it was intended that it should make the largest contribution to easing the new State’s economic difficulties. This is the sort of situation which has thrown up many a nationalist movement. Now, M. Tshombe has used the arguments of his rival M. Lumumba to work a double trick upon him —to build nationalism within nationalism. Even so, Katanga may have a hard time if it loses the services of the port of Matadi. If westward of Katanga there is a hostile Congo, M. Tshombe’s government may be forced to seek an outlet for the province’s commodities through the east coast ports of Dar-es-Salaam or Mozambique. Perhaps this is the basis of the rumours of a proposed alliance between Katanga and Ruanda Urundi. [now Ruanda and Burundi]

The onlooking capitalist powers know that without Katanga, an independent Congo would be dangerously unstable. They also know that although this may suit some Belgian capitalists, it would not be acceptable to the other African states. Ghana is already showing a close interest in the dispute. Hence the concern of the United Nations and Mr. Hammerskjold’s warning of the danger of a war which may not he limited to the Congo.

All of this is sickeningly familiar. As the Congo struggles to establish itself among the other independent capitalist nations, so the problems of capitalism make themselves felt. The need to produce its goods as cheaply as possible and to sell them on the most favourable market —these will soon be the day-to-day concerns of the Congolese government and of any state of Katanga which may be set up. So also will the need to organise the most efficient exploitation of their workers. Already, the recent devaluation of the Congo franc is being interpreted as a measure to offset wage demands by the workers on the plantations. Doubtless, some of these workers will soon be organised into Congolese armed forces to protect the economic interests of their ruling class.

Much sympathy has been expressed for the victims of the riots and it is impossible to disagree with such sentiments. But this is not the first time that such things have been known in the Congo. It is only sixty years ago that the grisly excesses of the commissaries and agents of the Congo Free State were terrorising the natives. It is typically ironical that the victims of that savagery have not appreciated its futility and are consumed with the ambition for revenge. The Congolese, like so many others before them, have answered violence with violence.

The history of capitalism’s colonial powers is a horrifying story of brutal exploitation. Belgium has played her part in making that history. Yet the Congolese workers are wrong to believe that national independence is in their interests. As capitalism takes root in Africa, so will the social ailments of that system. The troubles in the Congo will probably be smoothed over but we know that they will be followed by others, perhaps somewhere else. For example, the Congo flared up just as the Nyasaland conference was nearing agreement in London. Where will the next eruption take place?

For this situation will last as long as the capitalist social system is in existence. The only way out is to establish Socialism, which will organise the world so that everyone, whatever their sex or colour of skin, has free access to the world's wealth and stands equally to the rest of humanity. There is no place for vicious exploitation in such a society.

That is the lesson for workers to learn, in Africa and all over the world.

Where are the Middle Class?

A handful of economists from international agencies and think-tanks began a discourse that then entered African and development studies. This, in turn, led to calls for policies to be redirected. Countries were urged to strengthen their middle classes. The leading proponents were the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) followed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The OECD’s view is evident in its Global Development Perspectives 2012 report and the UNDP’s in its 2013 Human Development Report. The main economists behind this push included World Bank chief economist Martin Ravallion, his former colleague, William Easterly, Nancy Birdsall from the Centre for Global Development in Washington, and Homi Kharas from the OECD Development Centre.

They define middle class as a group of people with a minimum of anything from US$2 to $10 monetary income/expenditure a day. Such a reduced approach misses much of what is required for a proper analysis of a class – its character, and its positioning in and impact on society. Rather, the discovery of the middle class was linked to its anticipated role in promoting social change to which those in the “business of development” could pin their hopes. This, however, shifts the debate away from the critical assessment of obstacles to development. It thereby gets in the way of a proper diagnosis of the real challenges to promoting more social equality and justice in some of the most unequal societies in our world.

Defining the middle class as a group of people with a minimum of anything from $2 to $10 monetary income/expenditure a day is itself fuzzy. With reference to the $2 threshold, the African Development Bank declared one-third – 300 million – of the continent’s population as middle class in 2011. A year later it adjusted its size up to 500 million. It considered this a key factor for development. It takes quite some fantasy to imagine how, based on the living costs in Africa’s urban centres, a $2-a-day threshold catapults someone from the $1.99 margin as criteria for poor into a middle-class existence.

It seems that all those not starving are nowadays considered “middle class”.

Limiting the debate to purely monetary categories also ignores a range of other important aspects. These include employment or social status, sources of income, lifestyle-related attributes, cultural norms, and religious or ethnic identities as contributing factors. Rigorously explored differentiations – not to mention any substantial class analysis – have been largely absent. This turns the “middle class” into a “muddling class”, devoid of any true meaning in terms of social analysis that seeks to identify a social agenda and the role members of society can play in transforming societies.

A closer look at the widely held assumption that middle classes by definition play a positive – meaning socially progressive – role is not convincing. History suggests a rather mixed balance, if not mainly opportunistic behaviour, of middle-class members. They usually do not tend to bite the hand that feeds them. The new Chinese middle class is anything but known for its opposition towards an authoritarian state. The Chilean middle class of the early 1970s in its majority did not side with Salvador Allende, but supported the military coup by General Augusto Pinochet. Politically, middle classes seem not as democratic as many of those singing their praises believe. According to a recent Afrobarometer survey, a majority of those with higher education argue that the less educated should not have the same say in democratic elections, as they would not know what is best for their country. In South Africa, the black middle class is no more likely to hold democratic values than other black South Africans. But it is more likely to want a government to secure higher-order survival needs over basic ones.

It is also dubious that African middle classes by their sheer existence promote economic growth. Their increase was mainly a limited result of the trickle-down effects of the resource-based economic growth rates during the early years of this century. Their position and role in society hardly has the economic potential and dynamics to induce further productive investment that contributes to sustainable economic growth. And there is also little evidence of any correlation between economic growth and social progress, as even a working paper of the International Monetary Fund admits. Even the African Development Bank concedes that income discrepancies as measured by the Gini-coefficient have increased, while six among the ten most unequal countries in the world are in Africa. Real sociopolitical influence is hardly owned by a growing middle class.

While the poor partly became a little bit less poor, the rich got much richer.

The celebrated growth of the African middle class(es) is also questionable. The UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report predicted that by 2030 80% of middle classes would come from the global South, but only 2% would be from sub-Saharan Africa. Recent assessments suggest that it is not the middle of African societies that expands, but the lower and higher social groups. According to a report by the Pew Research Centre only a few African countries had a meaningful increase of those in the middle-income category. Multinationals in the retail and consumption sector have already reacted to the dwindling purchasing power of the middle class. They have reversed earlier investments. The world’s biggest food producer, Nestlé, has reduced its presence in Africa by 15% of its employees.

If we are serious about the need for social change and transformation, we should be as serious about class analysis. The World Socialist Movement explains that the ‘middle class' is primarily a section of the working class. It may be popular to talk vaguely about various other 'classes' existing such as the 'middle class', but it is only two classes, working and capitalist, are the key to understanding capitalism.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Africa can change

"fine words do not produce food" Old Nigerian Proverb

It is vital that healthy ecosystems underpin human health, wellbeing, livelihoods, jobs and sustainable growth. Africa is facing a harsh reality that is exacerbated by climate change, poverty and conflict.

Data shows that one in every two people on the continent lives in extreme poverty.
In 15 years time, most of the world's poor will reside in Africa.
About 240 million people go to bed hungry every night
Malnutrition kills more than 50 percent of the African children who die before they reach the age of five

Imagine for a moment the pain of a mother who cannot feed her newborn daughter with the proper food she needs to live beyond the age of five. Imagine the mother who toils all day in the field but still goes to bed with a stomach aching from hunger because she cannot afford enough food to feed her family.

Now picture this: Millions of perfectly good, nutritious tomatoes rotting in the hot Nigerian sun. While 13 million Nigerians suffer from hunger and more than one million children suffer from malnutrition, the country wastes more than 50 percent of its annual tomato harvest. We cannot continue to let this happen.
This is not just a Nigerian problem. It is an African problem. Sub-Saharan Africa spends $35bn on importing food each year and the region loses a further $48bn from food that is wasted post-harvest because of poor roads, inadequate storage and poor access to markets These are enormous resources that - when added to the $68bn the continent loses each year due to depleted soils and degraded land - could be ploughed back into African economies to drive the transformation that the continent so badly needs. The resources saved could be used to empower more men and women, end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, combat climate change, create jobs and promote sustainable agriculture.

Africa's transformation lies in the continent's rich soil. Simply raising crop yields by 10 percent reduces poverty by about seven percent. Today, we already have the knowledge to do this. If we want to achieve food security we must ensure that we look after the vital ecosystems that allow us to produce our food. It means looking after our soils and our water sources. And it means sharing the knowledge and the technology that allows us to do all of these things. If we can do this - if we can optimise food production by embracing an ecosystem-based adaptation approach to agriculture - we can boost yields by up to 128 percent.

What is even better about this approach is that it does not require enormous resources. There is an ancient farming technique in West Africa called "zai". This simple technology - a circular depression is dug into dry soil and used to grow seedlings - can turn crusted land into nurseries by improving water retention. If properly executed, zai can increase yields by up to 500 percent in some of the trickiest terrains on Earth. We must also focus our efforts on improving every part of the food chain. We will have to improve our transport links and storage facilities so that we don't waste so much food after it is harvested.

As the continent continues to battle with climate change, we can no longer afford to play the proverbial fool for we already know that the continent's transformation lies in the richness of the African soil. And we already know how to harness this vast potential. So the time has come for us to put aside our fine words, pick up our tools and start to sow the seeds of the future we so desperately want.

Africa and Global Warming

Extreme heat that would be considered unusual today could become a yearly occurrence there by mid-century, one new study suggests, and the trend will emerge earlier there—and in the rest of the tropics—before it does in more temperate areas, another finds.
Global warming hits the African continent soonest and hardest. Africa looks to increasingly feel the sting of climate change through more frequent, widespread and intense heat waves.

The studies emphasize the undue burden that some of the poorest populations on the planet—often those that have contributed least to global warming—will face from climate change.

“They don’t have the capacity to respond to such heat waves,” lacking the kind of warning systems and regular access to health care that help those in wealthier countries cope, said Jana Sillman, a co-author of the first study, and a climate researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway. Many of these areas lack the resources to help people cope with extreme heat—such as reliable access to safe drinking water and cooling centers—and don’t always have the systems in place to warn residents that a heat wave is coming.

Because the tropics have less variation in their day-to-day and season-to-season temperatures, that means the trend of more extreme heat will emerge sooner and will reach higher heights than in more temperate locations. Those areas also happen to generally correspond to the regions where the world’s poorest and richest populations live, respectively. The tropics are home to some 4 billion people.

One of the new studies used climate models to link cumulative carbon dioxide emissions to extreme heat occurrence and showed that fewer emissions were needed to see an increase in the number of extremely hot days for the poorest fifth of the world’s population than for the wealthiest fifth. Among the most impacted regions were West Africa and the Horn of Africa. Sillman and her colleagues found that Africa is already seeing heat waves that are more intense, more frequent and that cover a larger area than ever during the last couple decades of the 20th century. And the models suggest that heat waves considered unusually extreme today could become a yearly occurrence by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed. By the end of this century, they could happen even more often, particularly in the tropics where there aren’t seasons like temperate areas. “The heat wave is not limited to the summer,” Sillman said.

Even though people living in tropical areas are more adapted to hot temperatures than those in more temperate climes, there is a limit to the human body’s tolerance of heat. The background warming of the planet means that heat waves now and in the future push closer to that limit than they once did, just as a rising tide lifts the height of the waves. The impacts to human health from such heat waves could be exacerbated by humidity. Though neither study incorporated this factor, other studies have shown that heat stress (a measure of both temperature and humidity) will increase in much of the tropics, including in places likely to see some of the biggest increases in population.

Intense heat can also affect the productivity of economies, particularly for work based outdoors like construction and agriculture. A recent U.N. report estimates that 1 billion workers in vulnerable countries are already subject to impacts from extreme heat and that lost work hours could deal a major blow to developing economies. Heat also affects the crops and livestock that people in many areas rely on for survival—drought and heat have led to severe food shortages in parts of Africa this year.

“The threat to Africa is multi-faceted. Threats to human health via heat waves is but one of them,” Michael Wehner, a climate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said. “Disruptions to agriculture, combined with a rapidly growing population in some countries is also of great concern.” Wehner was not involved with either study but has conducted research on heat extremes.
How much Africa and other precarious regions are impacted depends on how the world as a whole decides to respond to the threat of climate change, including whether countries stick to their commitments to the Paris climate agreement. With a certain amount of warming guaranteed, though, adaptation to future conditions will also be necessary.

“Emissions reductions can ameliorate these increasing risks, but even in rather dramatic emission reduction scenarios, the change in heat waves is still very large,” Wehner said.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fleeing Eritrea

Leaving Eritrea without permission is a criminal offense. There has also been a noticeable increase in controls on the Eritrean side of the Sudan-Eritrea border in the last two months. People are being intercepted and sent back. Eritrean soldiers are instructed to shoot at anyone they discover trying to leave the country illegally, a policy that hasn’t prevented thousands from fleeing across the border every month. Eritrea’s stepped up border controls may be partly related to security concerns as it celebrates 25 years of independence, but that they were also about “trying to make themselves look like a good partner” to the EU. While the majority of Eritreans remain in camps in Sudan and Ethiopia, over 70,000 applied for asylum in Europe during 2014 and 2015, according to EuroStat figures.

Authorities in Sudan have launched a crackdown on Eritrean migrants - arresting those living in the capital, Khartoum, and intercepting hundreds travelling north through the country towards Libya, the launching point for smugglers’ boats heading for Europe.

Reports that 900 Eritreans were rounded up in Khartoum on Monday and that a further 400 arrested en route to Libya have been deported to Eritrea, come amid recent revelations in the British and German media that the EU is planning to deepen its cooperation with a number of African countries, including Sudan and Eritrea, to stem migration towards Europe.

A spokesperson with UNHCR’s office in Khartoum confirmed that a number of migrants, including Eritreans, had been intercepted in northern Sudan heading towards the Libyan border. Sudan has a prior record of deporting Eritreans without allowing them access to asylum procedures, a practice that UNHCR has condemned in the past as amounting to refoulement.

The EU has increasingly sought the cooperation of African states to control the flows of migrants headed for its shores by using the promise of aid and trade agreements. Critics argue that such policies have contributed to states viewing migrants as bargaining chips to be leveraged for maximum political capital with disastrous results for their safety and human rights. Der Spiegel and the New Statesman reported on a leaked plan to increase cooperation with African countries of origin and transit for migrants. The articles alleged that the EU plans to use funding from the recently launched Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to send equipment and vehicles to help Sudan police its border with Eritrea and to assist with the construction of two closed reception centres in Gadaref and Kassala. Eritrea would be given assistance to develop or implement human trafficking regulations. Europe’s engagement with Sudan and Eritrea, and other countries along the Horn of Africa to Europe migration route, dates back to the Khartoum Process, launched in November 2014. The Khartoum process risks legitimizing the governments of Sudan and Eritrea by treating them as partners in tackling irregular migration, when in fact those countries’ own policies are a major factor in driving migration and fuelling migrant smuggling and trafficking. Sudanese officials have repeatedly been accused of colluding with or turning a blind eye to traffickers who kidnap Eritrean refugees and hold them for ransom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fact of the Day (life expectancy)

A new report by the World Health Organisation released on Friday shows that Africa has registered an increase in life expectancy by almost 10 years over the past 15 years.

The average life expectancy of Japan is 86.8 years compared to Sierra Leone with the world's lowest life expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Communist Party of South Africa -1990

South Africa
Now that the Communist Party of South Africa has been unbanned, it is possible to discuss its mistaken policies openly in South Africa. We reprint below a letter published in the Johannesburg "Star" on 26 February.

In the article "Alone is my joy—after 40 years" [The Star, February 8), Joe Openshaw states: "After 1948 I ceased being an active communist but continued to have faith in the economic arguments propagated in ‘Das Kapital’ and in Marxism".

And he concludes: "The upheavals in the Soviet Union and in the communist bloc have shaken me, but joining the Communist Party seemed a good idea at the time. My conviction still is that socialism could work if not perverted".

The last point, "the perversion' of socialism”, has been the central deception of the Bolsheviks from before 1917: and their followers, as well as their mainstream opponents and detractors, have "gone along with" the distortions of Marxism, to support the introduction and development of state capitalism in Russia and elsewhere. The Leninists "adapted” Marxism to suit their programmes after the overthrow of Tsarist feudalism.

Joe, your "faith” in Das Kapital and Marxism is very sad, in view of the obvious fact that you have never understood either of these. Das Kapital defines capitalism as a system of commodity production based upon wage-labour and capital, whose purpose is the realisation of the surplus- value wrung from the working class and contained in all commodities. This system prevails in Russia and in all modern countries in this world.

Finally, Marxism does not propose or support minority and/or insurrectionary action for/by/on behalf of the world's working class, but insists on the need for the democratic self-conscious, political act of the said class—when sufficiently enlightened—to replace commodity production by production solely for use, freely and willingly, based on the new relationship of common ownership and control of social production by the whole of society; not by the state, which will no longer function.
Alec Hart 

Life expectancy doubled

Since the year 2000 life expectancy in Africa has risen by almost ten years. It has been rising almost twice as fast as the rest of the world and now the average person on the continent can expect to live to 60 years of age. 

The Two Africas

There are two Africas: one normally portrayed in the media, a land of poverty, disease and war. And another Africa: a vital, energetic continent of hard working men and women, a continent of humor and a continent of hope.

It is estimated that 70 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 30, and that 60 percent of the unemployed are also young people.

South Africa has the highest tuberculosis death rate per capita worldwide, followed by Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The situation is worsened by the high number of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR) in several countries. In addition, diarrheal and respiratory infections, malaria, measles and malnutrition represent big threats to children’s health. Malaria is the leading cause of death among children under five years old.

The continuing exodus of physicians and nurses to industrialized countries makes health problems even worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 23,000 health care workers leave Africa annually. Malawi, a country of 15.38 million people, has a severe shortage of doctors and nurses. There is only one doctor for every 40,000 people in the country, according to WHO.

Writer Paul Theroux, who has travelled extensively in several African countries stated, “I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pan-Africanism or pan-humanism? (2002)

From the February 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

When slave labour was no longer profitable as a result of the invention of machines, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished. This created a severe social problem as the ex-slaves could hardly fend for themselves. They became homeless, jobless and hungry. These problems forced them to become vagabonds, outcasts, "criminals", and (owning nothing in a society dominated by money and private ownership of property) an inferior class.

This sorry state of affairs culminated in the emergence of black (ex-slave) radicals such as Marcus Garvey who organised the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Other activists against the appalling situation of the black ex-slaves included W E B. Dubois; James Brown, who sang "say it loud, I'm black and proud"; and several groups of the Black Consciousness Movement which sprang up in the middle of the 20th century.

This wind of awareness and defiance that was blowing across the Americas and Europe naturally touched the black students from mainland Africa who had gone to the USA and Europe to study. Prominent among these were Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Leopold Sedar Senghor. These radicals together with others from the Caribbean like George Padmore were after to become the precursors of the Pan-Africanist movement. It was also known among in the French-speaking world as "Négritude".

It follows from the above that (other considerations aside) Pan-Africanism is a concept that is limited to black people – those on the continent and the ones in the Diaspora. In this regard, one can liken Pan-Africanism to other (albeit better organised) groups like Zionism, Pax Romana, the Arab League, etc. They are concepts and groups dedicated only to the interest of their members.

The colour smokescreen

As explained, the roots of Pan-Africanism can be traced to the conditions, the concrete reality of the newly-"emancipated" slaves in the Americas. Let us assume for the moment (despite all) that they faced those hardships "because of their colour". The question which readily comes to mind, now, is whether we can say it is the same scenario today. Are the causes of our problems today due to our colour? Of course not.

Consider the following cases. Mobutu allowed himself to be used by the Western powers to inflict untold suffering on the people of the then Zaire. Together with these powers he stole all the wealth of the country. In fact, it is said that he was richer than the state. There is also the case of Bokassa who squandered millions of dollars to crown himself emperor when at that time the ordinary people of Central African Republic could not afford one decent meal a day. In Angola, Jonas Savimbi and a few friends (UNITA) teamed up with Western businesses to visit a limitless insecurity on the poor people just to plunder the resources of the land. The story is no different in the case of Foday Sonko and fellow rebels in Sierra Leone; quite recently the chief whip of South Africa, Tony Yengeni, and a senior official of the ANC as such, was embroiled in multi-billion dollar arms deals. Yet South Africa is not at war; meanwhile, millions of ANC supporters do not have drinking water and electricity in their ghettos.

Moving outside the continent, what can Pan-Africanists say about blacks in the Diaspora like the US Secretary of State Colin Powell who ordered the US delegation to walk out of the Durban Conference on Racism because he and his capitalist colleagues would lose if reparations are to be paid to the victims of the slave trade? On the other hand, there are non-blacks who help in various ways many Africans. There are countless families in poor Africa whose survival depend on well-meaning and genuine Europeans and Americans.

But more importantly today, and even during the period of the "liberation" of the slaves and beyond, suffering in the form of insecurity, murders, poverty, illness, misinformation, boredom, exploitation, etc affected both blacks and non-blacks alike, from Africa, America, Asia to Europe. Therefore, we cannot be justified when our suffering is blamed on our colour and their colour. Colour is used as a smokescreen to conceal the real cause of discrimination. There is a deeper factor underneath the black/white ruse.

The world economic order

It was not by accident that the Europeans came to Africa. They were looking for trade routes to the East. They were pursuing their business interests. It was also not by mistake that they started the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They need cheap labour for their plantations. They were in business. It was again not out of humanitarian considerations that they stopped the slave trade and set the blacks free. Slave labour had become obsolete and a fetter on production. The Industrial Revolution had made it possible for machines to be used in the production process so slaves were no longer needed. Therefore, the real and fundamental cause of the problems of the "freed" slaves (which led to the rise of Garvey, Dubois, etc and Pan-Africanism) was the world economic order.

Interestingly the problems that these ex-slaves faced upon their "release from bondage" are still the same problems facing us – humanity as a whole – today. These are hunger, poverty, disease, insecurity, no job satisfaction and joblessness, etc. These problems are a direct result of the system in operation in the world.

This system is based on private ownership. This means that the means of production and distribution of the wealth (factories, land, transportation, etc) are owned by a minority whilst the majority own nothing. The few owners of the means of production determine what to produce. Since their primary objective is to make profits but not to satisfy human needs, they do not hesitate to produce goods which are not needed by people. For instance armaments and weapons of mass destruction, sophisticated security systems fancy goods, cigarettes, etc are manufactured in huge quantities because they bring in huge profits. Yet food, medicines, textbooks, shoes, housing, etc which are necessities are either in short supply or beyond the reach of the masses. This type of economic system (call it the money-system, the profit-system or the capitalist system) was responsible for the slave trade, colonialism and today's problems. With the majority having nothing and constantly under economic pressure, tension is inbuilt and can at the least prompting explode into real violence such as is happening in many countries including the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the US.

Which way forward?

One can clearly see from the above that Pan-Africanism can only be relevant if it seeks to address issues from a much wider perspective. Pan-Africanists have to transcend the narrow scope of seeing things from the point of view of colour. Today almost all countries are multi-racial. This is best articulated in the South African reggae star, Lucky Dube's song One people, different colours. Thus, to continue to harp on the "black race" is a matter of tackling the symptom and leaving the disease in fact.

Pan-Africanists must understand the profit system and learn to analyse issues from the angle of ownership to profit-making property. That is, from the angle of haves and have-nots. The world is divided into two antagonistic groups – the rich minority and the poor majority.
To be to achieve this, and even produce beneficial results, we need to acquire knowledge and live by it. This is tune with the socialist adage that "Practice without theory is blind and theory without practice is empty."

Acquiring knowledge means raising our consciousness. The highest level of consciousness is internationalism. Internationalists see every person as a person regardless of tribe or colour. And the cream of internationalists are socialist. Socialists do not consider the artificial boundaries dividing humanity as a barrier. Wherever they are is home.

However, it is not enough to declare oneself socialist. It is necessary to understand the theory of socialism and how to get the peoples of the world to live by it. This involves, first, the knowledge that society, as at present constituted, is divided into two opposing camps. On the one hand, there are the few privileged owners of the means of livelihood and, on the other, the majority who own nothing and so are forced to slave for the comfort of the propertied minority. The second phase entails striving for a society in which there will be common ownership and democratic control of the means of livelihood; free and equal access to the products of labour; and where, therefore, the concept and use of money (in all its forms) will cease to exist. This society is the socialist society.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

South Africa's Child Poverty

Over three million children under the age of six in South Africa live in poverty. Children who live below the food poverty line are not getting enough food to get their 2‚000 calorie a day nutrition they need.

Ghana and Poverty

Ghana's economy has witnessed steady growth over the last 30 years, economists say, but they have raised concerns over mounting inequality, which now sees the richest Ghanaians consuming 6.8 times more food than the poorest, up from 6.4 in 10 years ago.

Around a third of all national consumption is attributed to the wealthiest 10 per cent in the West African country, the poorest 10 per cent consume just 1.72 per cent, according to the Ghana Poverty and Inequality report produced this year.

The growth rate among the two groups has witnessed positive trends since 1990s, but the poor's growth rate has been lower than the wealthiest groups, Professor Andy Mckay from the economics department of University of Sussex, said. "Looking at consumption levels, we see that the gap between the poorest 10 per cent and the richest 10 per cent of the population has been on the rise and has also increased since 2006," Mackay said. "We also found that the average consumption of this wealthiest group increased by 27 per cent between 2006 and 20013, whereas for the poorest it only increased by 19 per cent, meaning growth for the richest group was over 1.4 times greater than for the poorest in this period." The increase in inequality, the report said, has dampened poverty reduction efforts.

The report also says child poverty is higher than the overall poverty and is also greater among farming households than any other group. This implied many rural children lacked access to good diet, education, health services and good drinking water. "We estimate that in Ghana, a child is almost 40 per cent more likely to live in poverty than an adult," McKay said, and "this inequality has risen substantially from the 1990s when children were only 15 per cent more likely to be poorer than adults."

The three regions in north of the country – northern, upper east and upper west – now have the highest levels of poverty. The upper west has the highest level of inequality and largest increase in inequality since the 1990s, while the lowest level of inequality is found in the greater Accra region.

Magic, murder and money in Malawi

Witchcraft is big business in Malawi and this is bad news for albinos. Since January last year, there have been 17 recorded ”ritual killings” of people born with albinism: an inherited genetic condition in which the body fails to produce enough pigment or melanin in Malawi, and 66 cases of abductions and other related crimes. Albinism affects roughly one in 17,000 people globally, but in sub-Saharan Africa, the incidence is higher, typically as common as one in 5,000. In Tanzania, it is one in 1,400. Amnesty International said in a statement earlier this year that "it is deeply worrying that there’s poor security for people with albinism in Malawi despite an increasing number of attacks against them”.

"Anyone born with albinism in this country is living in fear of attack, no matter how socially connected one is," said Chipungu, a 32-year-old civil servant, can't remember the last time he went out at night. 

People with the genetic trait often experience taunting and discrimination. They can be accused of being "ghosts" or “witches” or derided in other ways for somehow being less than human. There is also a belief in the magical properties of their bodies. Their "difference" supposedly boosts the efficacy of potions or amulets made from their hair, eyes, skin, limbs and organs. People born with albinism are hunted, killed and dismembered, or their graves dug up by criminal syndicates in search of their bones. The belief – common in so many religions – is that literal or symbolic cannibalism allows communication with spirits and deities, and is used by those wishing power and money. These "occult economies" – the use of magical means for imagined material ends – mirror the mysteries of the 21st-century market, where money flows seemingly abundantly and effortlessly. In the almost literal worshipping of wealth, people turn to familiar arcane forces for a helping hand. This ultimate commodification of the human body is big business. According to a 2009 report by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, an intact body of someone with albinism in Tanzania is worth around $75,000 – suggestive of a trade only affordable for the already rich and powerful, whose wealth is probably not based on productive labour.

According to the police in Dedza, central Malawi, two "albino hunters", arrested for the kidnapping and murder of 17-year-old Davis Machinjiri, had smuggled the body across the border to Angonia in Mozambique, where they had been promised $66,000 by "witch doctors".

Jeremiah Banda, a Malawian traditional doctor, believes the wave of killings has spread from Tanzania. "The use of albino body parts in magical medicine is common among East African traditional doctors, mostly those from Tanzania, where there is a belief that albinos possess special powers and their parts can bring good luck when used in magic concoctions," he told IRIN.

Malawian police also seem eager to externalise the problem. Following the arrest of 10 men in connection with the abduction and killing of a 25-year-old woman with albinism in Lilongwe, police spokesman Kondwani Kandiado said, "our current information indicates that there is a Tanzanian link in the recent wave of albino abductions and killings in the country". Body parts are bagged, transported and sold in "underground markets".

Speaking at the end of a week-long, fact-finding mission last month, the UN's independent expert on human rights and albinism, Ikponwasa Ero, said the situation in Malawi was an "emergency" and people with albinism were threatened with systematic extinction. "The situation is a potent mix of poverty, witchcraft beliefs and market forces, which push people to do things for profit," she said in an interview. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

AIDS still rife in Africa

Five million AIDS sufferers in central and western Africa have no access to treatment, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Wednesday, warning of a major treatment gap in the global fight against the disease.
In a new report entitled "Out of Focus", the medical charity said fewer than 24 percent of sufferers have access to anti-retroviral drugs in the two regions, where 2.3 percent of people have the disease.
Though well below Swaziland's 27.7 percent and South Africa's 18.9 percent infection rates, central and western Africa are still significantly above the world average of 0.8 percent.
Around 21 percent of people who contract the virus every year and around half of children born with the disease live in western and central Africa, the charity said.
And a quarter of global AIDS-related deaths occur the two regions, it added.
"Needs remain enormous in central and western Africa where three in four (sufferers) do not have access to anti-AIDS treatments -- that is, five million people," MSF medical coordinator Dr Eric Goemaere said in a statement.
Outlining obstacles to treating the disease, it pointed to limited access to medicine, high costs for the available treatments, problems with testing as well as the stigmatisation of sufferers.
The slow distribution of drugs, poor quality medicines and low standards of drug storage were also identified as problems.
Similar obstacles also contributed to the 11,300 deaths caused by the Ebola virus that ravaged the region from late 2013.
Most Ebola deaths occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"The global goal of dealing with HIV/AIDS by 2020 will not be met unless priority is given to the fight against the disease in western and central Africa, where the population living with HIV continues to suffer unnecessarily and die in silence," MSF said.

Kenya learns from Europe

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns. The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.” Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin. War-torn Somalia is facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation. The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water and destroyed schools and hospitals.

International human rights groups have lambasted the move. The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable. Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” She concluded, “Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option.”

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zambia's twenty years of one-party political dictatorship

From the year Zambia became independent on 24 October 1964 to 1972 Zambia was under a multi-party political system.What is called a one-party state only came into being in 1972 when UNIP president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda declared Zambia a one-party state at a state conference held at Mulungushi rock of authority. The veteran politician and president of the African National Congress Harry Mwanga Nkurnbula duly agreed and endorsed the creation of a single-party state in 1972.

The promulgation of a one-party state foreshadowed the introduction of the philosophy of humanism and the enhancement of the Emergence Power Act which banned political and public demonstrations of any kind. The reason why Dr. Kaunda introduced a one-party state was alleged to be the anxieties about tribalism and regionalism that had emerged during the 1967 UNIP general conference.

Dr. Kenneth Kaunda felt that a multi-party political system was a recipe for political instability and thus economic underdevelopment. The creation of a one-party state gave rise to the intensification of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia – Zambia became a hub of political exiles from these countries.

The political ideology of Leninism-Marxism was very attractive to some countries in
Africa that had recently emerged from European colonialism. Single-party political dictatorships appear in various styles – but are everywhere distinguished by the stubborn suppression of human rights and political freedom, every single party political dictatorship fashions a political ideology that defines its political and economic revolution. The political ideology becomes through time a cultural and nationalistic acronym – and inspires deep-rooted veneration and patriotism.

It is a fact that single party political dictatorship of the day have shown the audacity to carry out bold social and economic programmes that maybe impossible to implement under parliamentary democracy – the Soviet Union, Cuba and China are examples.

The one-party political dictatorship introduced by President Kaunda in 1972 was not an outright rejection of Western political, religious, intellectual and cultural models. Zambia Army senior officers were sent at Sandhurst military academy in Britain and Zambia had diplomatic consulates in Western countries including Israel. But it was from the Soviet Union that Zambia was dependant for its much needed military hardware and logistics. The Soviet Union sold Mig 19 and 21 jet fighters in 1976 to help boost Zambia's airforce. Dr. Kaunda was a pacifist at heart and tried by all means to open political dialogue with the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Dr. Kaunda' s determination and support to the freedom fighters from Angola. Mozambique, Namibia. Zimbabwe and South Africa was motivated by selfish reasons and did not reflect the feelings and aspirations of ordinary Zambians – it resulted in political insecurity and economic hardships. The UDI government of Prime Minister Ian Smith in Zimbabwe imposed an oil embargo on Zambia. Zambia is a landlocked country and most of its trade routes passed through Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola. This meant that Dr. Kaunda had to find alternative means to ferry imports and exports now that the trade routes from South Africa were no longer available. The solution was proffered by the Chinese government which built the Tazara railway line from Tunduma in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. This was followed by the construction of the Tazama pipeline from the port of Dar-es-slam in Tanzania to Ndola in Zambia.

In 1973 at Matero conference in Lusaka Dr. Kaunda implemented the notorious Matero economic reforms that ushered in what has been known as a state command economy. The mammoth task of creating a state-oriented economy was resolved through the cunning acumen of Andrew Sardanis – a Cypriot businessman resident in Zambia. The industrial development corporation (INDECO), financial development corporation mines (FINDECO) were created. This outright nationalization of the private economic sector was dubbed Zambianisation to fit in with the ideology of “socialism”. But Zambia was a mixed economy to some extent in the sense that small-scale foreign owned private business existed side by side with parastatal companies. The parastatal companies had their own problems. Most of them proved to be inefficient in the long run.

Recruitment into the parastatal companies was riddled with corruption, nepotism, and tribalism. Workers in parastatal companies received low salaries and subjected to political brainwashing compared to those in the private sector.

In 1980, there occurred a first coup attempt to remove President Kaunda from power. A contingent of Congolese mercenaries was discovered at a farm in Chilanga owned by Aron Milner, a former foreign affairs minister in Dr. Kaunda's government. Among those arrested was a Congolese politician resident in Angola, Democritus Simba, and some senior military officers. Matters came to the head in 1986 when the towns on the copper belt erupted in public rebellion against the UNIP government of Dr. Kaunda.

Mobs descended upon the state-owned shops and looted them. In Kitwe and Lusaka, they were later joined by university students who went on a wild orgy, stoning private vehicles. Dr. Kaunda reacted swiftly and many people were rounded up and detained, including Zambia Congress of Trade Union president Fredrick Chiluba and a veteran politician Elias Chipimo (senior). Dr. Kaunda dispatched a battalion of commandos (red berets) to stop the disturbances on the mining towns. The riots were instigated by the shortage of mealie meal, cooking oil and soap detergents that could only be accessed in the state-owned shops. The shortage of mealie meal was mainly due to smuggling – mealie meal was being smuggled to the nearby Congo Democratic Republic (Zaire) where it was sold at exorbitant prices. Dr. Kaunda went on to confiscate private milling companies on the Copperbelt and placed them under the care of Mulungushi investment, a public corporation. The UNIP government introduced mealie meal coupons in order to make everyone afford to buy mealie meal.

The critics of the one-party state had their martyrs. In 1972 UNIP vice-president and freedom fighter Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe resigned and formed a political party called the United Progressive party (UPP). The UPP was banned. Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe met his political fate in Kitwe where he was cornered by some UNIP political militants and physically beaten up. In 1987, there was staged a second military coup to dislodge to Kaunda from power. Six army officers and three civilians were arrested in connection with planning to overthrow President Kaunda. General Christian Tembo, formerly head of the Zambian army and ambassador to West Germany, was arrested.

But the man of the moment was Lieutenant Mwamba Luchembe. He drove a battalion of armoured vehicles at the Zambia broadcasting corporation and took over the radio and television station. It was Mwamba Luchembe who announced on radio waves that the Zambia army had taken over power from Dr. Kaunda, The short-lived coup was peacefully foiled by the Zambia army and Mwamba Luchembe was detained.

In its 1988 report, Amnesty International reported that Musonda Chambeshi, Mario Malyo and Alfred Sakalauda were arrested for planning to revive the UPP on the Copperbelt.

Under the Preservation of Public Security Regulation, the police were not obliged to reveal reasons for detaining people awaiting trial. Medical neglect and harsh prisons conditions were the cause of deaths. It was true that by 1990 Dr. Kaunda was fully abreast with the altered political circumstances taking place in Africa and beyond. The decade of Leninism-Marxism was everywhere crumbling down.

In Tanzania and Malawi, both presidents Nyerere and Kamuzu Banda had bowed down to people's demand for political freedom and parliamentary democracy. In 1990, President Kaunda suspended the Emergency Powers Act that had been in place since 1972.

On 2 November 1991 the first ever multi-party general election took place and UNIP and its leader Dr. Kaunda received a vote of no confidence from the people of Zambia. Dr. Kaunda was defeated by the former trade unionist Fredrick Chiluba of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy.

After losing the presidential elections Dr. Kaunda hastily surrendered political power to Fredrick Chiluba in what has been dubbed a historical and peaceful transition of power.

Dressed in an immaculate safari suit and brandishing a white handkerchief, Dr. Kaunda was an impressive international statesman possessed with a rare gifts of oratory which at some occasions moved the audience to tears.

Indeed after having ruled Zambia for 27 years, Dr. Kaunda has been unreservedly accorded and bestowed with gallant medals of honour and respect despite having denied the people of Zambia the basic political freedom and human rights which they are now enjoying today.

Cephas Mulenga 
Chimwemwe Kitwe, 

"Democracy" comes to Liberia (1997)

From the October 1997 issue of the SocialistStandard

Towards the end of July this year, Africa’s oldest republic— Liberia—held its first free and fair elections since its birth in 1847.

As had been widely anticipated, Charles Taylor’sNational Patriotic Party won a landslide victory—the same Charles Taylor who attempted to take power by force back in August 1990 and whose efforts were largely responsible for the ensuing seven-year-long civil war that brought Liberia close to socio-economic destruction, a conflict as bloody as any West African state had witnessed since Biafra’s attempt to secede from Nigeria back in the 1960s.

For the superstitious, it is paradoxical that the number seven meant nothing but bad luck for Liberia, for this is how long their civil war lasted, and that the number 13 now holds out hope. This is the 13th attempt that Liberia has made at resolving the conflict since 1990—all past attempt, under the auspices of Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States), having gone up in flames.

Whether Liberia is entering a new and real period of "relative” democracy is anyone's guess. For one thing, ethnic and factional tensions are still simmering and only half of the 60,000 combatants of the recent conflict have handed over their weapons to Ecomog—the joint West African peace force that has supervised the country during the elections. For another, both the US and Nigeria want to lay before the world a "peace’’ they helped to orchestrate— Nigeria's General Sani Abacha because of next year’s elections in Nigeria and the US because of their failure in Somalia and elsewhere to finally shed what may be seen as US responsibility to its former colony.

There is another reason for viewing Liberia's newly-won ‘‘democracy’’ as illusory. Namely that for many voters. Taylor was a pragmatic choice. Most of Liberia’s largely illiterate population still view Taylor as a powerful demagogue, holding him in fear and awe and seeing him as possessing the keys that can both open the doors to further destruction or reconstruction. In this light it is easy to see why Taylor's vote could well have been premised on the assumption that had he lost he could have used those same keys to Liberia’s detriment.

Critics have suggested that Ecomog—charged with monitoring Liberia’s first six months of democracy—are more interested in the lucrative spin-offs their stay will bring (access to resources such as timber, rubber and diamonds) than the peace they are supposed to watch over.

And neither will the US be turning down the opportunity to make a few quick dollars.They have indeed several geo-political interests in Liberia such as the world’s largest rubber plantation set up by the Firestone Rubber Company in 1926 and an Africa-wide communications network that from a US viewpoint can only be of use to serve the capitalists back home.

As always, bourgeois democracy comes at a high price to African countries and Liberia is no exception. Over 150,000 lost their lives in the recent conflict and the country’s economic and physical infrastructure has been decimated. Further upset is undoubtedly on the horizon as Taylor, sitting in his Executive Mansion faces the pressure from a population’s high expectations.

As can be expected, a fraction of what is required will only ever be delivered to those Liberians in greatest need. The real winners, in time-honoured tradition, will be those Liberians and foreign investors who own and control the means for producing and distributing wealth.

The greatest and saddest irony is that 150 years after Liberia was declared a republic (26 July 1847), a colony founded for freed slaves, the country is still inhabited by slaves, albeit wage slaves, and the only real freedom they can enjoy is that involving the sale of their physical and mental abilities to the highest bidder in order to survive.

In a country ranked 158 on the United Nations Human Development Index of 174 countries, with an unstable ruling class and an unpredictable leader at the helm of a society ravaged by poverty and war, democracy has a somewhat hollow sound.
John Bissett

Friday, May 06, 2016

Maternal mortality

 Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.

According to the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of abortions worldwide are unsafe, and about 98 percent happen in the developing world.
The United Nations and African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has asked Sierra Leone "to respect its obligations under international and regional human rights law by ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for women, including maternal healthcare and access to all methods of contraception".
The ACHPR has also launched a campaign asking those African countries that haven't already done so to decriminalise abortion.
Dr Rowland Taylor is an obstetrician gynaecologist at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, in Freetown.
He says that, on average, two women a week come in to see him with complications resulting from an unsafe abortion.
Treating post-abortion complications can be expensive, he says, particularly in the most severe cases.

In contrast, he says, safe abortions using manual vacuum aspiration can be a relatively simple procedure once somebody is trained in the method.

One of the main side effects women experience after an unsafe abortion is bleeding. Parts of the foetus are often left in the uterus. Sometimes, Taylor says, he has to open the abdominal cavity due to infection and some complications can even lead to infertility.
It is, he stresses, a public health issue that has nothing to do with religion or ethics.
He recalls one nursing student who came in after an unsafe abortion.
"She was bleeding from her vagina and the blood was black," the doctor recalls.

"That's the first time I've 
ever seen someone bleeding with the blood black. She died in front of my office door. Her head just slumped back in her wheelchair. She was 24 years old."

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Letter from Ghana (1988)

From the April 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Having now lived in Ghana for more than two months it is time to try and fit this totally new experience together with the socialist ideas I used to discuss (what seems like such a long time ago) at weekly meetings of The Socialist Party in Bristol. I came to Ghana with VSO, not so much to make a great contribution to the world's problems but for personal reasons. I wanted to travel to a third world country not as a tourist but to work. I wanted to change from the nine to five job that I had had in England for the last twelve years. So I ended up becoming a trainer with Ghana's National Service (not a military service but a compulsory community social service). training school leavers and graduates to do Primary Health Care, which largely means health education, in rural districts.

I now live in a very rural district myself in a pretty basic way. 1 live in a small village in the chiefs compound - no electricity and having to boil river water to drink, defecating in a pit (quite a luxury here) down a path which has to be carefully inspected for snakes.

I am sure that all of us advocating world socialism would find it useful to travel and live in the third world for a while to begin to understand some of the enormous problems facing the case for world socialism. We have to understand that the vast majority of the world's people come from very different starting points, not just geographically but differing social, economic and political structures and. most importantly, different ways of seeing the world.

The difference I think is most important here in Ghana has to do with people's sense of their own powerlessness. A terrible brand of fundamentalist Christianity has been laid on top of already existing traditional beliefs in the powers of ancestors and gods over the details of people's lives. Here is just one example: last week I was waiting for my Twi lesson and my teacher did not turn up (Twi is the local language). He is a trained teacher teaching at the local village school and I had just seen him the day before. He had not come, I was told, because his sister-in-law was very ill - someone had put a curse on her and he had to take her to the other side of Ghana to see a famous fetish priest.

One of the things I first noticed in Ghana was the absence of the political posters or graffiti that you see in so many foreign countries. Instead, everywhere are slogans about the power of God. the need to accept God's will and not to put your trust in humanity. In a country where the vast majority of people only live just above subsistence level there are perhaps many reasons why people do not concern themselves with national politics. When people here think of improving their material conditions it is in terms of managing to make a little more money by selling in the local market or by doing a deal with a friend rather than joining up with a group of people who advocate more radical change.

The Ghanaian government, the PNDC or Provisional National Defence council, under J.J. Rawlings is claimed by many to be a great improvement over previous governments and over many others in Africa. However, no elections have been held since he came to power in 1981. although this is supposed to be a transitional stage and local elections are to be held in October 1988. But candidates are to stand in their own right only and no parties are allowed. Candidates will be elected on the basis of local projects they propose - a new school or a new health centre perhaps. None will be seeking a more radical change. Since I have been here I have heard no one question this absence of political parties and in fact voter registration, which is to end at the end of this month. November 1987, is still at very low levels.

As far as I can discover new reformist policies in health, education and social services are in theory in the direction of greater fairness but there is no money to finance them. The poorest families still have to pay for schooling and medicines for their children. Of course this will change under socialism. Health care and education, as with everything else, will be freely available according to need, not ability to pay. However strongly I have argued in the past that a socialist system is both desirable and possible, I have had trouble enough to persuade my English friends. Here, I feel, it is even harder. 'Socialism', as it exists in this part of Africa, is the top-down imposed variety and often associated with the Eastern bloc or Libya.

Socialists maintain that the experience of capitalism as a member of the working class leads people to question the system. But here the subsistence farmer will not experience capitalism in the same sort of way. Although big business affects them - world cocoa prices, the cutting down of their forests for timber export - the connections are not clearly seen and most people's economic worlds revolve around their own small-holdings and market trading.

The women that I live with make peanut toffee and buy long bars of soap which they cut into pieces to sell. They sell to friends and relatives and one thing that 1 have come to understand is that buying and selling is about the best fun they have in their lives. There is none of the English embarrassment about money — several times people have quite unashamedly looked in my purse and cheerfully commented "You've got a lot of money in there”.

At the village level people do have experience of rich people. The chiefs of villages, especially if they have large farms, may be rich but their households, such as the one where I am living, may be filled with relatives who have almost nothing. In Ghana the chief's money is passed around when he dies - in ways that are studied by anthropologists - to his sister s sons.

Also I notice great divisions between the sexes and their roles. But even so this is not clear-cut for, although women do not own the land, they are involved in trading and as traders can become rich and powerful. In the household however, women work, cooking, caring for children, while the men sit chatting and drinking together, waiting for their food to be brought to them. I have talked to women about these hard-and-fast sex roles which seem, from my position, to mean a lot of hard work and drudgery for women and they smile at me good naturedly for having such strange ideas.

So the question I keep asking over and over again is. what needs to happen before people react to inequalities and oppression and begin to realise the possibility of a better world which they can bring into existence themselves? I wish I knew for Ghana and I wish I knew for Bristol - and whether the answers are different.
Naomi Roberts

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Mau Mau - Book Review (1953)

 Book Review from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

A man who was born and reared amongst a primitive people, who speaks their language fluently, who has been accepted and initiated into a high and respected rank in their community and who is a student of anthropology, such a man is in a remarkably good position to write of their history and social organisation. Mr. L. S. B. Leakey has all these qualifications to write of the Kikuyu people of Kenya and the Mau Mau organisation that has developed amongst them.

Mr. Leakey spent a number of years, working with Kikuyu elders, compiling a very lengthy and detailed book on these people, but the book has not yet found a publisher. Last year Mr. Leakey wrote a shorter book, now published by Methuen and Co. under the title “Mau Mau and the Kikuyu,” for 7/6d.

Since September, 1952, when the Kenya Government declared a state of emergency, the press in this country has told us of the murders and terrorist tactics perpetrated by Mau Mau without giving us much of an inkling why an erstwhile peaceable people have suddenly resorted to these measures, and for what object.

Mr. Leakey does not seek to explain the trouble in Kenya merely by reference to the present set-up. He takes us back to the misty origins of the Kikuyu tribe and traces their history briefly from those times to the present day. He leans very much to the idea of “the white man’s burden” and tries to whitewash the activities of the white colonists and their governments, a task which he obviously finds difficult.

Before their contact with white men the Kikuyu were an agricultural people living in the highlands of Kenya with a favourable climate and a fertile soil.
“. . . by the closing decades of the nineteenth century the early travellers and explorers of Kenya, describing Kikuyu land as they saw it. used such terms as ‘ as far as the eye could sec it was one vast garden.” (page 7)
Their social organisation was simple but highly effective. Land was held by families and sub-clans, the sub-clan being a sort of extended family. They had no chiefs; the head of the family was the senior man and the head of the sub-clan was an elected man chosen for his wisdom. But these heads had no arbitrary powers and any trading in land could only be done through consultation with the elders. Tenants on a piece of land did not claim property rights but only the right to cultivate it, and could be called upon to give it up subject to certain compensations.

The social administration was on a tribal basis and tribal councils were democratic. The marriage customs, education, religion and the system of magic were complicated but fitted in with the social conditions prevailing. Theft and immorality were practically unknown. The fear of social ostracism was sufficient to deter any possible wrongdoer. The religion, like all religions, was steeped in superstition but was peculiarly adapted to the conditions under which the Kikuyu lived.

Then came the white man at a time immediately following a tragic period in the history of these people, when they had been decimated by plague, famine and epidemics. The rest of the story is the age old one of the breaking down of primitive social organisation, the expropriation of the land and the creation of an army of wage workers with all the evils that capitalism brings in its train. The missionaries attacked the tribal religion and broke down the system of native education in favour of Christianity and capitalist ethics. The capitalist government took over the functions of the tribal councils. Many of the Kikuyu were rendered landless and reduced to abject poverty with none of their old security of livelihood.

Mr. Leakey tells us in simple words of the results:
“At the same time the temptation to steal has increased a thousandfold. The needs of young men and women in the olden days were small, and they were met without difficulty by their own families. Young men, seeking to enhance their reputation with the girls, did so by deeds of bravery, by excelling at dancing, by being such good organisers or speech-makers that they were chosen by their fellows as leaders. Today, a young man, after initiation, feels that in order to make an impression with the girls, he must dress well in European clothes, must have a bicycle with a pillion to take his girl friends for rides, and so on. As he often cannot earn enough to fulfil this need for exhibitionism of the average courting male, the temptation to steal becomes measurably greater." (page 79)
Unemployment and hunger also drive these people to steal, and the breakdown of the tribal moral code removes the fear of social ostracism for theft. As the author tells us, under the old tribal conditions, thieving “ just wasn’t done.” Now it is.
“Under present day conditions, too, it often happens that the difficulties which face a young married couple are much more serious than in the olden days, and the circumstances are far less conducive to a happy marriage, so that many of these marriages break up. The woman is far from her people, and if she leaves her husband she often does not return to her home, but may join the ever increasing number of prostitutes in the towns or else make a semi-permanent liaison with some man to whom she is not married, either by native law and custom, or by Christian ceremony, or by ordinary civil marriage." (page75)
So with drunkenness, bribery, corruption and the rest. A few Kikuyu have become very wealthy, the majority have sunk to poverty that they never knew before.

Out of all this grew the Kikuyu political organisations; the Kikuyu Central Association, the Kenya African Union and finally Mau Mau. They threw up such men as Harry Thuku, Peter Koinage and Jomo Kenyatta. The suppression of the K.C.A. drove its members underground and gave rise to the present terrorist movement.

This is a useful, topical and easily read little book. The reader will find in it, not only the story of the Kikuyu but also the story of all primitive peoples when capital permeates their society. Despite the author’s reformist conclusions and his feeble apologies for the actions of capitalist governments, we can unhesitatingly recommend this book.

“The Naked and the Dead,” by Norman Mailer was reviewed in The Socialist Standard in the July, 1950 issue. It is a very gruesome and ugly war bode of World War II with the scene laid in a tropical jungle island. We have nothing to add to the previous review. But it may interest readers to know that a cheap edition (by Allan Wingate, 8/6d.) is now available. Of its kind it is good.

W. Waters