Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Another Colonial Plot (1959)

The Passing Show column from the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

In Nyasaland the Governor proclaims a state of emergency because, he says, a plot by. the Africans to massacre the whites has been discovered. Southern Rhodesian security forces have been drafted into the country. There are three million Africans in Nyasaland, a sea of Negroes in which are scattered a handful of whites, no more than eight thousand all told. Despite this enormous disparity of numbers, the number of whiles so far killed as a result of the “massacre plot” is—none. But more than forty Africans have up to now been slain by the security forces.

The disturbances in Nyasaland originated in the desire of the Southern Rhodesian ruling class for aggrandisement. In Southern Rhodesia, the situation is much like that in South Africa. The white farmers and planters insist on "apartheid’’--although they don’t call it that. Hotels, restaurants, schools, are run strictly on racial lines. Political power lies in the hands of the whites. Theoretically anyone can vote, but the great majority of Africans are barred because they must pass a means test before they can exercise the franchise. If too many Africans apply for enfranchisement, then the means test can be stiffened—this, says a writer to the Manchester Guardian (March 11th, 1959) has been done twice in the past.

The devil they know
But the parallel with South Africa goes further than this. Successive governments of the Union, while pressing the desirability of keeping whites and blacks apart, nevertheless regularly, demand the handing over of Bechuanaland. Basutoland, and Swaziland—although these three territories together would add nearly a million Negroes to the population of South Africa. What the white South Africans want is not separation, but white domination: and so it is in Southern Rhodesia. Fcderation—which is in fact rule by Southern Rhodesia—was imposed on Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland against the wishes of the great majority of the Africans living in those countries. Many Nyasas travel far afield to find work: they have seen the subjection of the Africans of Southern. Rhodesia to the whites, and they don’t like it.

Not British
These developments have aroused much uneasiness in Britain. Modern capitalism demands educated workers; at school the worker learns enough arithmetic and English to labour at his employer’s bench or keep his employer’s books. Capitalism also demands enfranchised workers; the worker who votes from time to time —whether in Britain. America or Russia believes he is ruling himself, and this encourages him to think that the prevailing economic system is fashioned in his interests, fhc Southern Rhodesian ruling class, whose power is based not on industry but land, has shown itself hostile to both of these requirements. Hence the divergence of views between Britain and Southern Rhodesia. Sir Robert Armitage, the British-appointed Governor of Nyasalund, has been markedly less active in the latest developments than Sir Roy Welensky, the Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister of the Federation, and Sir Edgar Whitehead, the Premier of Southern Rhodesia itself. In Southern Rhodesia, where there had been hardly any civil disorder reported except some stone-throwing by strikers, a state of emergency was declared on February 26th. On the same day in Nyasaland, where the trouble was, a spokesman of the Government "said, “there was no question of a situation requiring a state of emergency in the protectorate" (Manchester Guardian, February 27th, 1959): the Nyasaland state of emergency was not in fact declared until March 3rd.

As in South Africa, the inevitable industrialisation of the country will settle these problems as capitalism wants them to be settled.. Socialists can leave capitalism to get over its own difficulties, and concentrate on the spread of Socialist ideas.

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