From the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received a long contribution from journalist Chido Onumah who is the co-ordinator for Nigeria of the West African Human Rights Committee. We publish below the key points together with our comments.
“Washington has been too willing to downplay democracy and human rights for the sake of natural resources or diplomatic alliances”, the New York Times wrote in its editorial of 20 March 1998. Clearly, nobody is better placed to serve this purpose of giving access to Africa’s natural resources and providing a base in support of US diplomatic alliances than the various mad men who have sprung up (often with the help of Washington) within Africa and much of the developing world.
The US supported Mobutu after killing Lumumba and scuttling Congo’s burgeoning democracy; and Mobutu provided a buffer against Washington’s longest standing bogeyman, the USSR. Today, the US has found it convenient to recant and is calling for democracy in the new Democratic Republic of Congo. On February 4 1966, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup. The result was the abortion of Ghana’s fledgling democracy. More than three decades after, the country is still grappling with the rudiments of democracy under a military dictator that is making a travesty of democracy, yet Washington is contented and applauding that “democracy is spreading”.
Just name it! Where has Washington stepped into that she has not messed up? The US-supported Marcos and his murderous gang; provided a slaughter slab for the butcher of Uganda, Idi Amin; aborted democracy in Chile and installed the hydra-headed monster, Pinochet; wrecked Haiti, courtesy of the Duvalier clan. In all these places, the US was looking for a mad man who would preside over the wholesale transfer of natural resources to America’s multinationals and do her dirty job in its so-called war with communism. Nothing mattered beyond the immediate economic and political gains of Washington. Not even the sight of mutilated bodies of defenceless and innocent kids who were victims of the dastardly actions of such scum as Jonas Savimbi and his cohorts who were armed and financed by the US could move her to change her position.
The American society is a predatory society and it can survive only by aggressively expanding and conquering new markets from which to extract profit. What Washington aims at creating in West Africa, as in other areas that are under its sphere of influence, is a club of IMF/World Bank puppets. The reason is simple. West African despots—as always quislings of America and her Western accomplices—who mutate into civilian presidents make all the difference between the acceptance or rejection of the West’s obnoxious economic policies and by extension, the survival or collapse of their businesses. The examples of Ghana, Burkina Faso and The Gambia are indicative of this trend. The IMF/World Bank and their host governments cannot be too sure what the “new man” would do (a case of the devil you know); so why not support a Jerry Rawlings, Blaise Campaore or Yahya Jammeh even where their transition to civil rule succeeds only in furthering neo-patrimonialism. As one of the puppets of international monopoly capital, Washington is sure Abacha will execute structural adjustment, devaluation, privatisation and such other infernal policies the IMF/World Bank may deem necessary to recommend for Nigeria’s underdevelopment. This support and manipulation of Abacha is necessary to prevent the toiling masses from uniting in a revolution that would threaten international monopoly capital.
The basic fallout of Mr Clinton’s visit to Africa is that the world would move into the new century with all the prejudices, including the onslaught of imperialism (courtesy of America) which have made the 20th century a nightmare. It is difficult to imagine what could be a greater threat to world peace in the new millennium than the American establishment which is nothing but a scourge. Fanon wrote that every generation must discover its mission. Africa’s emergent activists, from Cape Coast to Cairo, must enter the new millennium boldly determined to confront the monster of imperialism. Those who are ready to liberate Africa from the clutches of poverty, illiteracy and general underdevelopment and expand the frontiers of democracy cannot look up to the West, America particularly. They must be ready to struggle for these rights. Apologies from the great-grand-children of slave traders would not serve any purpose. In fact, the US has committed too many grave crimes against the African continent that apologies would only serve to obfuscate these crimes.
Imperialism is like the common cold; you either fight it or go to bed with it. There cannot be half measures or a middle course. This is a new era in which people, particularly exploited people, do not look up to any godfather. Certainly, the US will fail in Nigeria as she failed in Vietnam, Cuba and everywhere else she has sought to extend her bloody fang.
We fully accept that American foreign policy is determined by economic (trade, investments, raw materials) and strategic considerations, but so is that of every other capitalist country. To single out America for special opposition is to play the game either of other capitalist powers (such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China, etc) or of some would-be African ruling class.
We have to say too that we cannot accept that Ghana under Nkrumah or the Congo under Lumumba were examples of “burgeoning democracy”. Certainly, both Nkrumah and Lumumba were anti-US imperialism but they were not democrats either in practice or in theory. They favoured and tried to establish one-party regimes, on the model that then existed in Russia. In fact, they perfectly illustrate our point above about opposition to one particular “imperialist” power playing the game of its rivals—in their time, “anti-imperialism” was the ideology under which state-capitalist Russia sought to further its economic and strategic interests.
If we have put the word “imperialism” in the previous paragraph in inverted commas this is because we don’t accept Lenin’s theory of imperialism (which sees the struggle at world level as being between imperialist and anti-imperialist forces) with its implication that “imperialism” is something different and worse than capitalism. World capitalism, not the “imperialism” of particular capitalist powers, is the cause of the problems workers all over the world suffer from, and the solution to the problems of workers in Africa lies not in kicking American imperialism out of Africa but in uniting with workers in the rest of the world to replace the world capitalist system by world socialism. This is the aim of the World Socialist Movement.
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