Saturday, June 28, 2008

Social Democracy for Africa? Part 4

Carried on from Part 3; also see: Part 1 and Part 2

Today, “Cold War-like” proxy battlegrounds are being prepared in Africa against emerging opportunistic bourgeois rivals from the East, notably China, to the big business interests of the major capitalist colonial economies. Earlier elsewhere (clickable), the present author said:

“With the growth of local industry through "protectionism" [and fueled by the Slave Trade, in the case of capitalist colonial economic powers], as was the case in the capitalist colonial economic powers, nations were able to develop sufficiently large home markets for their local industry, and only when they became large enough to compete globally, did governments relax "protectionism", but all the while doing everything possible to deter fledgling industries of the economically less advantaged nations from flourishing, by telling the governments of those nations to not resort to "protectionism" for the sake of "fair trade". The capitalist jargon for that concept is, “free-market trade”, wherein capitalist economic powers proceed to sell manufactured goods at competitive prices—facing virtually no trade barriers with the lifting of tariffs in the destination economies—and thereby crushing fledgling local industries therein, which are overwhelmed by unfettered stiff competition from bigger foreign corporations, while at the same time, buying cheap or free colonial-allocated land and exploiting abundant pool of “cheap” labor at what ultimately amounts to slave-labor wages. Variably, governments of those "less advantaged nations" of course cooperated accordingly, to the peril of their own economies—this seems to be the case for many economies in Africa.

Part of the reason [of the spineless compromise by ruling bourgeois African layers] had to do with military pressure from the capitalist colonial economic powers, and part of it had to do with debt-regime leveraging by those same colonial economic powers. When many of the formerly colonized regions of Africa got their so-called "independence", many of them also inherited debts incurred by their local colonial regimes. Moreover, as many sections of their societies were devastated by lack of social spending under colonial occupation, many of the "newly independent" African regimes had to borrow money, in many cases from the very same colonial regimes that they sought to free themselves from, for social reconstruction programs. As a result, many ended up incurring hefty debts, which former colonial regimes sought to exploit and use as economic leverage to place dictates on the "newly independent" and usually weak economies. The vehicles used to utilize debt-regimes as leverage, are the likes of IMF and World Bank. Political leverage was continued through the setting up of institutions like the United Nations, and the undemocratic and "permanent" membership of certain "wealthy" nations therein.”

Additionally, with respect to those debts, it is necessary to revisit how capitalist colonial economic powers begrudgingly gave out loans, and so-called financial assistance; In light of the Cold War, Ann Talbot spells it out:

“In this situation [Cold War environment] they realised that they must rely on the Pan-African movement to control the growing protests. The [British] Foreign Office pointed out that “Pan-Africanism, in itself, is not necessarily a force that we need regard with suspicion and fear. On the contrary, if we can avoid alienating it and guide it on lines generally sympathetic to the free world, it may well prove in the longer term a strong, *indigenous barrier to the penetration of Africa by the Soviet Union.*”

A necessary part of this perspective was to provide the independent African regimes with aid. “If Africa is to remain loyal to the Western cause, its economic interests must coincide with, and reinforce, its political sympathies; and one of the major problems of the relationship between the West and Africa will be to ensure an adequate flow of economic assistance, and particularly capital, through various channels to the newly emerging States. On any reckoning the amounts required will be considerable; and, if the Western Powers are unreasonably insensitive to the economic aspirations of independent Africa, the Governments of the new states may be compelled to turn to the Soviet Union for the assistance that they will certainly need...”

As already noted above, the capitalist colonial economic powers knew very well that governments of the “newly independent” states “certainly needed” financial assistance, given that they [the colonial regimes] were the ones responsible for total economic devastation in those states. So, it was up to them to jump in quickly to fill up the role that would have otherwise been open to the Soviet Union, given the colonial legacy of capitalist colonial economic powers. Today, China and others from the East seek to fill up the vacancy created by the demise of the Soviet Union in exploiting gaps in the capitalist colonial economic powers’ ever diminishing financial assistance to bourgeois regimes in Africa. The “free world” mentioned in the British Foreign Office’s statement is capitalist jargon for “free-market”, which entails privatization and deregulation of big business spanning the entire industrial sector and the agricultural sector, and even to social sectors, thereby “making the government as small as possible”— capitalist jargon for effectively reducing, if not eliminating, the role of government in consolidation of the aforementioned sectors via nationalization and spending on social welfare. As one might recall, the Soviets were relatively late in building up military bases in Africa, and started out largely with exploiting calls for assistance in the then emerging so-called “newly independent” African states. So, there is talk of the need for resurgent effort by the capitalist colonial economic powers to consolidate their role and presence in Africa. In the US for instance, presidential-hopeful Barack Obama says this:

“The Chinese are everywhere throughout Africa. They are building roads...bridges...government buildings...hospitals...We’re not doing that because we don’t think it is important and, over time, that’s going to have an enormous impact on us

But in all this, one aspect should not allowed to be lost; the opportunistic embracing of Pan-African nationalism by the capitalist colonial economic powers.

With regards to military pressure on bourgeois regimes in less economically advantaged economies, this has particularly increased since the demise of the Soviet Union; the US has particularly become more ruthlessly reckless in its foreign policy, upon assuming the role of “sole superpower”. With respect to uncooperative bourgeois regimes of minor economies, the approach usually goes like this:

*First economic isolation and [double-standard] propaganda against the regime, to energize local dissident political elements [usually by propping up "western"-friendly bourgeoisie elements] and instill popular uprising which would collapse the regime; if that doesn’t work, then:

* paramilitary action via covert coup or assassination attempts; and if that doesn’t work, then:

*full blown military action to toss out the regime.

These steps can be seen in the example of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, a former “Western stooge”, when he was compelled to make the “wrong decision” in attaining more capital. One or the other of these steps now seem to be under play or is under way in Zimbabwe, in attempts to root out another former unwavering “Western stooge” turned “anti-western“ tyrant: Robert Mugabe, who also made the wrong “decisions” in an attempt to attain capital for his crumbling economy, brought about by his resolute subservience to IMF and World Bank instructions.

On this point, again Talbot chimes in:

“While relations were often tense between the new Pan-Africanist leaders and the West, there was a general recognition that their apparently socialist policies, particularly the provision of welfare measures, were the price to be paid for preventing a further upsurge of popular protest and strikes.

Pan-Africanist leaders were able to maintain a certain ability to maneuver because of the Cold War, which allowed them to extract more concessions from the West than would otherwise have been possible. But if they overstepped a fine line they could find themselves victim of a Western backed coup, as did Nkrumah, or even of assassination. The Belgian, British and US governments all concluded that Patrice Lumumba had to be murdered when he called on the Soviet Union to send troops to support his government in the Congo. Others such as Nyerere survived because they proved their usefulness to the West in the Cold War. Whatever befell them later does not alter the fact that these “African Socialists” were put in power by the colonial regimes because of their ability to prevent a genuine socialist movement developing in Africa.

The power-aspiring bourgeois figures who joined popular anti-colonial uprisings by self-appointing themselves as the articulators of popular dissent, were able “to prevent a genuine socialist movement”, precisely because they sought to draw phenomenal personal wealth within the framework of the socio-economic order set up by local colonial regimes by way of shallow populist rhetoric of Pan-African tinged “nationalism”; they didn't seek doing away with the said socio-economic order. It is no wonder then, colonial drawn political boundaries have virtually been left untouched by bourgeois regimes in “newly independent” African states; this even as they speak of “Pan-Africanism” and “African Union”. So, in this day and age, when one sees ruling African bourgeois give unfettered access to big business interests of capitalist colonial economic powers, it must be understood that they do so, with the understanding that a thin layer of the African bourgeois also benefits from this, at the expense of the African proletariat. This brings us to the importance of mass popular anti-colonial uprising in compelling local colonial regimes to issue symbolic “independence”:

“With the end of the Cold War the West has been emboldened to pull the plug on the policies that its aid has financed in Africa. Yet there remains a certain anxiety in Lancaster's mind. She implicitly recognizes that it was the growth of strikes and social movements that obliged the colonial powers to grant independence. The “African socialists” [Lancaster’s jargon for the African bourgeois] she condemns played a vital role in containing this development within the framework of nationalism. She expresses the concern that in dispensing with Pan-Africanism, the West may have replaced “an economically unsustainable development model with one that could eventually prove to be politically unsustainable if the pace of economic progress failed to accelerate.” With an instinct for the interests of the ruling class, she is aware that the real threat to corporate profits came not from the Pan-Africanists, but from the African working class and impoverished masses—and can do so again.” - Ann Talbot

A swell summarization; Pan-African “nationalism”, as has other forms of nationalism, has ended up disarming the African masses while leaving the socio-economic order set up by local colonial regimes intact. With its promises of a revolutionary development for the African proletariat, it actually ended up being counterrevolutionary. Notwithstanding its all-inclusive catchphrase, “Pan-Africanism” in Africa has largely taken the shape of nationalism at state level as opposed to continental-wide level; that is to say, ‘nationalism in one country’. This can be readily seen from the fact that colonial-drawn political boundaries have virtually been left untouched, since the so-called “independence” of African states. This was also a sure sign, that Pan-Africanist led regimes could be counted on in maintaining colonial hold on the territories without overt colonial military presence. What colonialism did, was that it ‘proletarianised’ African masses into the modern working class within the capitalist framework. This unintended outcome of capitalist colonialism was to also become its major threat; the African working classes expanded in the aftermath of the World War, as opposed to the vice versa, and the rural areas were bridged with the urban centers even more so. The result was that, with evermore repressive exploitation by local capitalist colonial regimes, the African proletariat grew more and more radicalized, leading to growing mass anti-colonial uprisings, not unlike other mass uprisings seen across Europe and elsewhere at beginning of the 20th century, in the aftermath of the first World War.

Today, some fervent capitalist apologists claim that the problem with Africa, is that Europeans didn’t colonize it long enough, and interestingly enough, the capitalist colonial regimes actually intended to remain there much longer, if not indefinitely, but it was the tenacity of the African working class to be free that earned them “independence”, which turned out to be “token independence” thanks to the high-jacking of popular anti-colonial movements by bourgeois “Pan-Africanists”. So, the main problem with Africa, is precisely that it was colonized and raped by European capitalist colonial economies and that bourgeois “Pan-Africanists” derailed mass African movements, by high-jacking them and subordinating them to colonial socio-economic order, and in doing so, helping Europeans to continue raping and exploiting Africa; the problem is not, as colonial apologists like Lancaster say, i.e. due to “African socialism” a capitalist jargon for bourgeois “Pan-Africanism”or innate inability of Africans to govern by themselves. The problem was and remains that the bourgeois “Pan-Africanists” rescued European colonialism from genuine social revolution of the African proletariat. So, capitalism has definitely been a disaster for Africans. We’ve also gone through in great length, how the revolutionary social democracy plan put in place in the October Russian revolution aftermath had digressed into a counterrevolutionary formthat is, Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’ [the anti-thesis of Marxist thought] bureaucratic apparatus, ultimately brought about by the defeat of the European working classes, who were just weakened by the Great War and deteriorating economic situation. The Stalin bureaucratic apparatus’ relative isolation compelled it to turn to more opportunistic and counterrevolutionary antics both in Russia and abroad, thereby discrediting the communist apparatus to broad masses, including those in Africa. So, obviously Stalin’s brand of socialism proved to be a disaster as well, and this brings us right back to the question posed: what about “social democracy” based on Marxist thought, which means ultimately doing away with statehood/nation-state, and political dictatorship of the working proletariat?

When asked for a viable alternative solution for the cause of the working proletariat, opponents of social democracy are hard pressed to come up with one that precludes well, either capitalism or social democracy. Human social evolution culminated into consolidation of hierarchical society under centralized ruling system, and interestingly enough, the earliest attested hierarchical-structured complexspanning a large territorybrought under central-governing to be deemed a true nation state, took place on the northeast corner of the continent. But human social evolution is ongoing, and has not stunted or reached its final course upon attaining the modern industrial social structure, as capitalist apologists like to rationalize. The industrial revolution which was fueled by the Slave Trade and led to colonialism, created the modern industrial working class out of the working masses of both feudal or semi-feudal social structures and other pre-existing forms of socio-economic order.

With the rise of the modern working proletariat, and with the ever acute social contradictions of bourgeois socio-economic apparatusdominated by capitalism in the global network, a new workers’ mass movement had emerged by the turn of 19th century, and especially in the aftermaths of the first and second World Wars. On and off stabilization of capitalism and Stalin's betrayal of socialism have in some ways delayed successful workers’ revolution towards a social democracy path, but as globalization progresseswhich at the moment serves to do away with national political boundaries only for big businessworking classes across the globe get more and more alert to their common socio-economic hardships. The communications revolution only speeds up this process. This coupled with globalization, as the system develops, will facilitate faster-paced and wider ranging spread of organization-effort campaigns for the working class, for thus faras history has shown time and againworking class organization in a single country often leads to unionism, which doesn’t have enough clout, is susceptible to bourgeois infiltration and is quickly brought under bourgeois handle...because of both the proletariat's insufficient understanding of the precise nature of the complex socio-economic apparatus of which the waged worker is a small part, and lack of genuine workers’ political party. Be as it may, from the African working proletariat [as with any other] standpoint, the only way to find out the benefits of a social democracy governed from a purely materialistic standpoint [as opposed to idealism which breeds reaction through sectarianism; government should be separated from religion, just as science has], is to give it a shot, allow it to blossom and ultimately do away with the concept of statehood, which almost always guarantees counterrevolution!

—Quotes, courtesy of