Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Africa and the reality of capitalism (1998)

 From the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa, a continent with virtually all the resources it takes for development, is the worst hit by hunger, starvation, armed conflicts, instability, displacement and abject poverty. Politicians, jockeying for the little resources left by the capitalist class, display the politics of hide-and-seek, repression and oppression.

This is mainly because of the system that encourages capital accumulation and profit-seeking. The cumulative effect is flagrant corruption, deprivation, wastage and impoverishment which intensifies underdevelopment.

Worst of all, as Africa is helplessly dragged into the global free trade championed by the IMF and World Bank, Africa’s natural resources are further exposed for deep exploitation by international capitalism, which deteriorates the woes of the already impoverished African working class. This shows that the objective conditions of African socio-economic formations do not favour capitalism.

Capitalism and imperialism are perceived as the major cause of the current underdevelopment in Africa. Capitalist development has tended to reinforce the exploitative dependence that enables underdevelopment to persist. The fact remains that Africa will never witness any meaningful development under capital accumulation and market profit-seeking which breed dissension, division, greed, selfishness, tribalism, ethnic chauvinism and the like.

Recently, after the just concluded 22nd ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, one African president identified division and the exposure of the region’s economy (market) to the Western capitalist class as the major source militating against the development of the region. But this is the base of capitalism—market profit-seeking and exploitation. It is not enough to identify these problems but more so to resolve them by helping to abolish the system that creates them.

The African working class have the cards in their hands for socialism if only they want it. Indeed, African conditions have revealed capitalism in its harshness and brutality: inequalities are too glaring. In the face of extremities of want and a meagre surplus, it is difficult to sell the idea that those who are in positions to accumulate should take what they can and leave the rest to suffer what they must. Africa’s ruling class has run out of ideas for fashioning and inspiring a functional development strategy, limited as it is by the constraints of working with ideas compatible with the maintenance of the existing property relations.

The evils of capitalism are conspicuous in Africa and Africans have lost confidence in capitalism, exemplified by the renewed springing-up of working-class consciousness in South Africa, The Gambia, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and others but are choked by the external forces of capitalism. Again, another problem of the state of the development of productive forces in Africa is that it turns even the best of intentions into caricature. The lack of the development of the productive forces appears to encourage political authoritarianism and reduces “Socialism” to the management and redistribution of poverty.

But underdevelopment will surely persist if the existing capitalist relations of production are maintained, and if the dependence of Africa on international capital continues. Therefore, the overturning of the existing relations of production is necessary for overcoming underdevelopment. Socialism is inevitable if development is desirable.

It is obvious that in the event of protracted futile developmental efforts, the politics of anxiety has become institutionalised and increasingly the ruling class is displaying signs of paranoia while the subordinate classes have become frustrated, demoralised and available for induction into extremist movements as in Algeria, Senegal, Burundi, Rwanda and the like. The ruling class is fast psychologising failures which lie in the economic sphere.

The fact is that Africa has less hope of development if the property relations of production and distribution and the market system continue. The reverse is the solution—socialism abolishing capital accumulation and market profit-seeking and embracing production for need. The time is now to co-operate with fellow workers all over the world to establish global socialism.

JohnBull Nwarie

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