Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Winds of Change (1960)

 News From Africa from the August 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

 All over the continent of Africa, Nationalism is on the march and the battle cry is “Independence.” Africans are demanding that political power be turned over to them. This, they say, would allow them to set about the problems of illiteracy, poverty and disease which the Colonialists have ignored or deliberately preserved. Offering this as the main reason for their Nationalism, they attract a lot of support and sympathy. What many people forget is that this newly won political power will be used to administer capitalism—with all the problems which white workers are already faced with.

 When political independence is procured, the new powers must try to develop the economy. They need all types of heavy and light machinery, electrical equipment, scientific instruments, chemicals, and all those materials which go into the making of the manufacturing industries. They look to this capital as a means of increasing the output of the workers and thereby causing more wealth to be produced by fewer workers in a period of time. As well as foreign investment they require foreign manpower in such fields as education, science, law and technology In colleges and universities all over the world there are African students learning such subjects as will befit them for their respective tasks under capitalism. This and a lot more has got to be done until such times as their workers produce enough wealth to enable the country to find most of its own finance for development. An African government having the welfare of the economy in its hands will often have to warn their workers against striking or asking for higher wages. They will also have to make the normal government appeal to work hard and save and so help the African capitalists to sell their goods as cheaply as possible to compete on the world markets against other national capitalists.

 Nigeria, Somalia, Congo, are all receiving independence this year, and Kenya and Tanganyika are not far behind. In all these countries there are the grovelling bands of prospective parliamentarians waiting restlessly to take over their appointed places as the “New Gov’ners” of the African working class. One thing Africa is not short of is leaders—they are ten a penny. Nigeria, which expects independence in October this year, has at least three political notabilities, one of whom has already been knighted for past service. This country should have no bother in attracting capital as it is considered to be “credit-worthy,” for these leaders have re-assured investors about the favourable political conditions in which their investments may flourish. Somalia and British Somaliland have gained their independence. Somalia has been under the jurisdiction of Italian trusteeship, granted by the United Nations. Now Italy is passing over the responsibility to one Abdullahi Issa, hoping quite naturally that he is the right man to protect any Italian interests which are left behind.

 As to Kenya, is it to be Jomo Kenyatta or Tom Mboya? What will happen to the European settlers of the White Highlands and the Asian merchants who are in a minority? Can they fit into the African scheme of things? If not, and they have to leave, should the workers of Asia and Europe shed any tears? Or better still, will the replacement of these Colonists by African farmers and merchants be a source of joy for Kenya workers? No, no and no.

 Shorn of the Nationalist pomp and false desires, the plain economic truth of this rapidly developing continent means power, position and privilege for those Africans who own the tools, instruments, machinery, transport and communications and all that is produced through them. These are the people who intend to employ other Africans in order that as much profit as possible will be made out of production, just like anywhere else in the world where there is production for sale. Capitalism, wherever it exists, is primarily concerned with the amount of rent, profit or interest it can generate.

 Africans, who under Colonial rule were always lamenting their oppression and exploitation, might have been expected, when they became independent, to seek a way of life in which no exploitation could take place. But, as Nkrumah has put it, the Africans must not do anything which might have an adverse effect on foreign investment and lead to a lack of confidence. So then, the supposed freedom of Africa is dependent upon the need for foreign capital. Thus countries which in recent times have thrown off the burden of foreign domination—India and Egypt— have found themselves as free as the horse is from the cart when tied up in the stable. And what has the independence of a country to do with the independence of the workers of that country?

 As the social and productive powers of the African workers increase so the surplus which they create will be the source whereby the under-developed will graduate to the developed, with banks, insurance offices, factories, stock exchanges, labour exchanges, and all the other features of a modern "civilisation.” Throughout all this development the workers must constantly seek to better their living conditions and like their counterparts throughout the world, organise themselves in trade unions. There is every reason to believe that these ambitious backward countries will break through the vicious circle of low output, primitive production and semi-starvation and become countries of full- blooded capitalism and nationhood.

 When this time comes they will have attained abundant production through modern scientific and technological methods. The African workers—the cause of all this greatness—will have a “wonderful” standard of existence just like you and I. This standard includes finding a job, being at the mercy of the boss, spending the best and major part of each day in an office, factory or some other workplace. All the wealth that he comes into contact with will not have been produced primarily to satisfy needs, but in the interest of buying and selling for profit. All this—and the scheming, working, waiting and wondering, which the working class of the world do throughout their lives, always with a hope of bettering their material conditions.

It will be this that the African, Indian, Egyptian and Chinese workers will be letting themselves in for when they seek to develop capitalism in their countries.

Joe McGuinness

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