Africa - After The G8
By Ba Karang
6 December 2005
The African struggle against colonialism was a struggle for the total liberation of the continent. Many great thinkers, such as Frantz Fanon, knew that the struggle will go through various phases, but Fanon insisted that the native elite was too lazy to try to understand the nature of the national economy, and thus was unable to come up with any other alternative but to follow the pattern of the colonial economy. Perhaps, in this respect, the only exceptional was Amilca Cabral, the leader and founder of PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) In the serious attention he gave to liberation theory and understanding the socio-economic relationship of the African masses to the colonial economy and their desire for total freedom, he concluded that without the total breaking down of the remnants of feudal economic relationship and colonial economic patertten, the masses would continue to be economically backward. The US Marxist-Humanist, Raya Duyaveskaya, also noted that the post colonial African leaders, were weighed down by the consciousness of technological backwardness and in this way found themselves allying with either the East or the West, thus alienating the masses and falsely grounding the revolutions. She argued that African leaders, not knowing that neither Russian state capitalism, nor Western private capitalism had enough capital for themselves, let alone to export to the third world, by their own action produced an impasse in the African revolutions.
At every turning point in the history of the struggle of the African masses for total freedom, the African working class played a vital role, even though it is small in number and underdeveloped, in a continent where the majority of the workforce are producers of export oriented cash crop product. The unique positions of the African working class placed them in direct contact with the colonial master - as dock workers or mine workers. This gave them a special position in the struggle for the liberation of the continent. Trade unions were part of the nationalist movement, playing at times a direct role in the formation of many of them. What was also very crucial was their long standing demand to be an independent movement.
The post colonial African economy was an export oriented economy. In this way it was never in control of its own product. Prices were fixed by the international market and whether they liked it or not, producers had to sell at that price. The post colonial African countries were more concerned with having access to the capital from the West. Instead of restructuring their own economies to suit the realities of their country and people, they began looking for economic relationship of convenience with the West.
As the situation was taking a new turn in the West and East, where economic growth and the need for more profit demanded the expansion of activities, international instituations began to be restored to suit the situation. By the mid 1970s, the international financial institutions had already taken control of the economic restaructuring in many of the countries in the continent. Thus, propped up by the Cold War, both the West and East were pouring economic loans into the continent as a means of buying political loyalty. As a result, by the 1990s, African states was paying 160 billion dollars more than they were borrowing.
The reality today of the African masses and the working class is a serious political nightmare. The trade liberalisations, privatisations and deregulation have meant the almost disintegration of the African society. Today even in South Africa, according to the World Bank, 34 % of its population are living under 2 dollars a day. This seriously challenges the G8 myth that global trade will lift more than 540 million from poverty in the next 10-15 years.
Organisations like WTO are playing the leading role in the rapid concentration of world wealth in the hands of the International corporations of the North, and the marginalisation of the African people.
But all of this is not happening without resistance from the African masses. The African working classes have long been resisting international capital, as if they knew, from pre colonial era to the post colonial era, that the only way the movement can survive is through a consistent and persistent struggle against capital. As said earlier, the working class plays a leading role in the emancipation of the African people from the yoke of colonialism and continues to battle the neo-colonial African regimes’ restructuring programmes to appease global capital. As privatisations brought about more struggles to escape absolute poverty, the neo-colonial regimes become more and more fascist. Trade Unions were forced underground, as the rights of workers were violated and Union leaders imprisoned. But the regimes could never reach their goal of silencing the workers.
By the 1980s the African Trade unions were leading the pro-democratic and anti-capitalist movement in the continent. Many dictators lost political power during this period, which unfortunately never moved to the next stage of total liberation.
In Uganda, the working class took to the streets to fight against the regime of Milton Obote. Benin saw the fall of Mathew Kerekou; other dictators in other Francophone countries were also ousted. In Senegal a mass uprising forced government to make concessions. In Liberia, the rice riots eventually led to the temporal fall of the America-Liberia ruling class. The decade long struggle of the Ogani People of Nigeria, has resulted in the deaths of over 18,000 people. The banning of the Gambia Workers Union and the National Labour Congress of Nigeria were all as a result of workers’ struggle against the brutal implementation of conditionality dictated by international capital.
This is the very reason why NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) has never been popular with grass roots organisations and the labour movement in the continent. It never took into consideration, the historical struggle of ordinary Africans and the working class against global capitalism. It could not do so either; for NEPAD is the product of the African elite in collaboration with transnational corporations.
Transnational Corporations are not interested in the ever growing poverty of the African people and their agenda has always been open and transparent. A look at these facts might help to shed some light.
Direct capital flow into the continent on average of 2% between 2003 2004 compared to 4. 4% in 1970s. Even though that it is said that 2004 saw 18 billion dollars of direct capital investment in the continent in 2004, the fact is that ten of the recipient nations have large amount of petroleum and other mineral deposits. Of the $15 billion invested in mining, 48 % was invested in South Africa and 7% in Ghana. The increase in investment in the mining sector was as a result of the deregulations, privatisation and trade liberalisation in the mining nations, as well as cuts in income tax, attacks on workers rights etc.
The export of gold from Ghana between 1990 to 2003 rose three times and overall tax earned by the Government was only 5% of the total value of exports, which was $46.7 million out of a total of 893.6 million. And in Tanzania, gold exports rose from less than 1 % of export revenue to over 40 % in 2003. Notably six of the major mining companies earned $890 million between 1997 to 2003, out of which the government earned only 86.9 million, contributing only 2% to the National GDP.
When governments are forced to take loans by international finance institutions to finance the retrenchment of workers, as in Nigeria, one wonders whether the removal of 7000 Dimka people in Sudan from their villages to give way for the construction of oil pipelines was a form of creating statistics to prove economic growth, free trade liberation.
The African working class is facing a serious problem. On a daily basis their numbers are decreasing, and there is the creation of mass unemployment, price rises of basic commodities and stagnation of wages.
The talk about democracy is not the same as the liberation of the African people. The talk about democracy is about the retrenchment of African workers, the destruction of villages, etc. It could not be otherwise because it is about bourgeois democracy and this suits to a great extent the African elites and fascist “Democratic” leaders.
In the present discussions of the African poverty, none can claim to have been consulting the very people who are affected; no doubt, because capitalism is more concerned with profit than what poor farmer thinks of his/her poverty.
On the US Growth and Opportunity Bill, pass by the US congress, William Gold , speaking at the conference in the Nairobi, Kenya conference, organised by the Brussels based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions(ICFTU) said that the Bill increased trade preference for African textile and other exports to the US, but linked this to eligibility criteria such as cuts in cooperate income tax, privatisation of public enterprises, control of government consumption, elimination of restriction on foreign investment. There was no recognition of the basic rights of workers and sustainability of the environment.
It is no accident that Andrew Kailebo, the General sectary of ICFTU, Africa, found it difficult to understand how they could possibly accept a situation were workers are not allow to join a Union, where young women are not allow to become pregnant. But this is the simple truth, the right of the workers to be human is never the subject matter, even their existence is not a worry. For this reason the African working class and ordinary masses, who have no social net service guarantee or any pension guarantee in most cases, have no other choice but to fight. And any social, political movement that fails to take into consideration the long struggle of the African masses against capitalism, in all its form and their desire for a better society will fail to win their support.
6 December 2005