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A Qualitatively Higher Level: The Leading Light Communist Organization, Unique Among the Crowd

A Qualitatively Higher Level: The Leading Light Communist Organization, Unique Among the Crowd

-Comrade Kwame Ato Asiedu

(llco.org)

February, 2017

Leading Light Communism is a great wave arising to save humanity. It is a wave that brings a new Earth in which there is no discrimination between people. It is at once the great revolutionary wave, and also the very science of revolution itself. Whatever a person contributes to serve the people and liberate humanity is entirely permissible in the LLCO. The Leading Light focuses its attention on the matters that affect the world’s oppressed and exploited majority, so that the people may rise up, and use their energies in the most scientific way to make revolution.

O you who are wise! Consider this carefully: Can an ordinary gun compare with the modern rifle? Should anyone maintain that our old style firearms are good enough for us, and that it is useless to import weapons which have been invented in modern time? Or should anyone ask, “We have always transported merchandise from one country to another on the backs of animals, why should we use the steam engine?” The LLCO is a modern revolutionary organization whose path to victory is better than all the old ways of social revolution. It is our revolutionary steam engine which will take us to the destination of total freedom!

Third World countries, in spite of their achievements and great expertise in science, industry, and art, are still living in poverty, disease, racism, sexism, and humiliating oppression. The LLCO is asking why these countries have been allow to be lag behind, neglected and abandoned, while the First World is allowed to grow richer at the Third World’s expense. Our Organization is here to equip the masses with the necessary tools for the betterment and liberation of humanity! The hearts of Leading Light comrades shine with brilliance on this world in darkness. We know what needs to be done, and we understand the requirements for revolution in the modern age. We devote all our energies toward the advancement of that revolution.

Are they equal, those who know and those who do not know? Is the light equal to the darkness? Leading Lights know the way to revolution in the modern world. Our Organization is the light that shines on the path to liberation. We are lamps of guidance among the revolutionary organizations still stuck in the past, and stars of good fortune shining from the horizon, guiding humanity to freedom! We are fountains of knowledge for those who lie in the depths of ignorance, unaware of the most advanced revolutionary science; fountains of life for those who are thirsty and wander in a wasteland of their defects and errors.

The Leading Light Communist Organization heralds the dawning of a New Power! We are shining symbols of the unity of Third World countries, fighting for the triumph of a global revolution. Leading Lights are skilled physicians for the ailing body of a world in pain; an antidote to the poison that has corrupted human society. Leading Light Communists guard humanity and provide impregnable sanctuary for the sorely distressed, the anxious, the tormented, and victims of ignorance! The LLCO is unique among all revolutionary movements! Let us all be a part of this great wave for the advancement of humanity! All of the masses of the Third World: Embrace the LLCO –we are here for you. With the Leading Light illuminating the path, we will save all of humankind from bondage!

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Corrupt Politicians, and the need for Youth Leadership

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Corrupt Politicians, and the need for Youth Leadership

–statement from Leading Light comrades in West Africa, to the Youth of the Third World

(llco.org)

Politicians in a neocolonialist false “democracy” are voted to power as a result of the promises they make to the electorate. Most promise to help develop their communities so that their people will have decent lives. The masses rightfully expect such politicians to fulfill their promises, even under bourgeois law.

After they have been voted into power, they organize local political parties in their various constituencies for those who helped during their campaign. However, instead of helping the masses, some rather live in affluence while the masses live in absolute poverty. They amass wealth from the state coffers and use them for their personal benefits, while these parties maintain this cycle of corruption at the expense of the people.

It seems like as soon as they come to power all that they want is to ride in a sophisticated land cruiser. They are in cars that are so expensive and sophisticated that the masses are shocked by their nature. And this is only one example of how many politicians use state resources to buy expensive things for their own enjoyment, instead of using the money to provide social amenities for the masses! This is an indication that they do not have ordinary people at heart but rather always think of themselves. My intention here is to criticize these corrupt politicians who take advantage of every situation to cheat the society. We, the masses, fail to criticize or point out the wrongs of the politicians for fear of intimidation because of the power they hold. The suffering market people in many of our Third World nations today have no choice but to continue selling his/her harvested produce or second-hand clothes in hope it will fetch them some incomes that will enable them to survive. They have no hope that the politicians will do anything to improve their conditions of life.

In light of this selfish behavior, let me chip in this—we must condemn the extreme and unreasonable lifestyle of selfish and corrupt politicians. Current policies and governments have taken us down the wrong path and it is only the youth of today can lead a global revolutionary movement to sweep away the neocolonialist exploitation and vices of present day political leadership from the Earth! In a nutshell, I would like to ask all that are witness to this unfairness, what kind of leadership do we want and how are we going to create a better society as youth of today? They say we are “future leaders”, but I don’t believe it. We must lead now and not wait for the future. We must be Leading Lights! So youth of today, lets get up, stand up, and organize. If we organize ourselves to construct our New Power all over the Third World, we can make a change and stop following corrupt politicians and their old power. We can and must a build an all-Third World party for the global poor and humble. A communist party with a line, leadership, and organization that is competent and committed to our needs.

Join and build the Leading Light Communist Organization today, and let us make a New Earth together, where everything will belong to everybody!

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The Loss of Our Dignity

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The Loss of Our Dignity

A Poem by Comrade Kwame Ato Aseidu

(llco.org)

O people of Africa…
How long will your torpor and lethargy last?
You were once the lords of the whole earth,
The world was at your beck and call.
How is it that your glory has lapsed
And you have fallen from favor now
And crept away into some corner of oblivion?
You were the fountainhead of learning,
The unfailing spring of light for all the earth.
How is it that you are withered now, quenched faint if heart?
You who once lit the world,
How is it that you lurk, bemused, in darkness now?

Why is it that a foreign people,
Who call themselves the “First World”,
Receive all of their wealth, culture, and knowledge from your own forbearance,
And that you, their blood, their rightful heirs, should go without?
How does it seen, when your neighbors are at work
By day and night with their whole hearts,
Providing for their advancement, their honor and prosperity,
That you, in your ignorant fanaticism
Are busy only with your quarrels and antipathies,
Your indulgences and appetites and empty dreams?
Is it commendable that you should waste
And fritter away the brilliance that is your birth right,
Your native competence, your inborn understanding.
We have digressed from our dignity!!

Open your mind’s eye,
See your great power in the midst of this present darkness.
Rise up and struggle, seek education, seek enlightenment.
Become Leading Lights for African Unity and complete liberation!
Let us build the New Power to restore our glory and dignity,
And let us liberate the whole Earth!

–Leading Light Kwame Ato Aseidu, LLCO Ghana

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Fidel Castro, Leader of Cuban revolution, passes away

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Fidel Castro, Leader of Cuban revolution, passes away

llco.org

On Friday the 25th of November, 7pm local time, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, passed away. Fidel Castro served as the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, when he stepped down due to health issues and his advanced age.  Fidel Castro was born on August 13th 1926, and experienced his youth through a period in which Cuba was a neo-colonial asset, a mafia state, and puppet regime of the United States. Although having failed a previous focoist uprising against the Batista dictatorship, with a only a handful of fighters, he led a successful guerrilla war against the Batista regime, with patriotic forces capturing the Cuban state in 1959. He led his country through the turmoil of the “Cuban Missile Crisis” period, and also during the so-called “special period” following the breakup of the social-imperialist USSR in the 1990’s.

We should not sugar coat, or have illusions about the nature of the Cuban state. Although it may share many similarities with past socialist experiments, Cuba is not a socialist society today. The socialism of the Cuban revolution stagnated following its embrace of the “international socialist [sic.] division of labor” of the then social-imperialist Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev. Throughout the Cold War, many nationalist and national-liberation forces claimed the “Communist” label, and used communist rhetoric in order to secure support from the Soviet Bloc. It is questionable whether Cuba was ever a socialist state, or whether it was a patriotic regime with social-democratic reforms backed by Soviet aid.  Where Che Guevara embraced the Maoist emphasis on independent socialist development and moving society away from the Law of Value, Castro unfortunately embraced the development model promoted by the revisionist-led Soviet Union.  It was Castro’s leadership during the so-called “special period” that partially corrected this error after the end of Soviet aid in the 1990s.  While this prevented Cuba from economic collapse and maintained its independence from the United States, it did not place Cuba on a path towards communism.

Regardless of the class nature of the Cuban state, Castro’s leadership kept Cuba mostly independent despite the full weight of US imperialism bearing down on him in the form of the Bay of Pigs invasion, naval blockades, and CIA assassination plots. His role as Leader of Cuba, especially during the post-Soviet period was not easy. He led the Cuban people on an anti-imperialist, internationalist path during a time of tremendous turmoil for left wing nationalist regimes in the third world. Although not a communist, he was a brave and principled friend of oppressed people around the world, especially on the African continent. In a pointed historical rebuke to the mistaken foreign policy of Maoists in China after Lin Biao’s demise, it was Fidel Castro’s Cuba that materially defended the MPLA in Angola against the reactionary UNITA/FNLA, who were backed by the United States and China. Leading Light Communists see the socialist development model of Maoist China as superior to Cuba’s integration with the Soviet empire. Nevertheless, there were key instances where Castro and the Cuban regime had a better record of international solidarity with the masses of the Global South than with China in the 1970s.

We hope that the Cuban people will stay true to the anti-imperialist path laid out by Castro during his leadership. Leading Light Communists salute Fidel Castro, and stand with the Cuban people in mourning his loss and celebrating his legacy.
Notes:

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/world/americas/fidel-castro-dies.html?_r=0

2. http://llco.org/summations-questions-answers/

 

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Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 3/3

Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 3/3
by Prairie Fire

(llco.org)  walter_rodney

“Capital was constantly in motion from the metropole to some part of the dependencies, from colonies to other colonies (via the metropoles), from one metropole to another, and from colony to metropole. But because of the superprofits created by non-European peoples ever since slavery, the net flow was from colony to metropole. What was called ‘profits’ in one year came back as ‘capital’ the next.” (212)

“[T]he development of Europe [is] part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped.” (149)

“[W]hat was called ‘the development of Africa’ by the colonialists was a cynical shorthand expression for ‘the intensification of colonial exploitation in Africa to develop capitalist Europe.’” (223)

The principal contradiction in the world today is between the exploiter and exploited countries, the First World against the Third World. A minority of countries are wealthy, while the majority are poor. Africa is continent rich in natural wealth, yet its people are impoverished and starving. Africa is  a whole continent of poor countries. Africa’s poverty is not a great mystery. Africa’s impoverished population is a result of hundreds of years  of underdevelopment inflicted by European and other imperialists. Europe developed, its populations grew wealthy, on the backs of Africa. Published in 1972, Walter Rodney’s classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa explains in great detail the economic history of Africa and those who exploited her.

Colonial and Neocolonial Plunder and Exploitation

Hundreds of years of slavery ravaged Africa to the benefit of Europe and North America. However, the rape of Africa did not end with the end of slavery. Europe, the United States, and other imperialists continued to reap tremendous benefits from the continued exploitation and oppression of Africa. The imperialists benefited through the direct colonization that Lenin famously described in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. The imperialists carved up Asia, Africa, and Latin America for themselves. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Africa. King Leopold of Belgium, literally, claimed personal possession of the Congo, as if it were his backyard. Different imperialists occupied different parts of Africa to directly manage the transfer of resources and labor from Africa to the imperialist countries. Later, especially after World War 2, after European armies had wiped each other out and Europe’s economies were in shambles, the imperialists changed the way they controlled their colonies; colonialism turned into neocolonialism. Instead of directly occupying their colonies, imperialists controlled them indirectly. They granted their colonies nominal independence, but continued to pull the strings from behind the scenes. The imperialists still channeled value out of Africa, but they did so using black-faced comprador regimes. They stole Africa’s resources and labor through a variety of mechanisms.

In the early and even through the mid-colonial period, straight-up plunder was more common. Europeans and other imperialists simply moved in and setup shop on the land of others. This was a pattern that occurred not only in Africa, but across the colonial world. However, as we move closer to the modern era, theft becomes more disguised and sophisticated. Land and resources are stolen, but the robbery is disguised under legalisms and unequal exchange, for example:

“During the colonial era, Liberia was supposedly independent; but to all intents and purposes, it was a colony of the U.S.A. In 1926, the Firestone Rubber Company of the U.S.A. was able to acquire one million acres of forest land in Liberia at a cost of 6 cents per acre and 1 percent of the value of exported rubber, Firestone’s profits from Liberia’s land and labor carried them to 25th position among the giant companies of the U.S.A.” (154)

This kind of grossly unfair acquisition of African land and resources continues today. Although, today, the imperialists are rarely as brazen as they were in the past. The imperialists have learned to disguise their theft, to carry out their theft in ever more complicated and sophisticated ways. Whether  one is looking at the brazen plunder and exploitation of slavery and colonialism or the more subtler oppression of neocolonialism, the system is set up to serve the imperialists, not the Africans.

African Muscle

Even after the end of slavery, the imperialists continued to reap the benefits of African muscle through super-exploitation in various forms. Even though slavery was officially ended, large-scale forced labor existed. Imperialists and their proxies drafted, at bayonet point, thousands of Africans into forced-labor projects. A white settler in Kenya, Colonel Grogan stated, “We have stolen his land. Now we must steal his limbs. Compulsory labor is the corollary of our occupation of the country.” (165) African states, under imperial direction, imposed forced labor to produce “public works” and cash crops. Taxes were one way to force Africans to work. Another way to force Africans to work was through “public works” projects: building castles for governors, prisons for Africans, barracks for troops, and bungalows for colonial officials. Much work went into producing roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure for the export of cash crops and other resources. (165-66) For example:

“Taking only one example from the British colony of Sierra Leone, one finds that the railway which started at the end of the nineteenth century required forced labor from thousands of peasants driven from the villages. The hard work and appalling conditions led to the death of a large number of those engaged in work on the railway.” (166)

The Portuguese and Belgian colonial governments were the most brazen in rounding up Africans for forced work for private companies under slave-like conditions. Portugal not only pressed Congolese into forced labor for capitalists within its territories, but also exported forced labor to capitalist projects outside its colonies. (166) This forced labor, in the end, did not serve to build up infrastructure to benefit Africans. Rather, it was aimed at producing infrastructure for colonial and neocolonial administration and infrastructure to better direct value out of Africa.

African “free labor” was brutally exploited also. Imperialists used their control of politics and economy to keep Africans laboring, paid only enough to keep them on the edge of survival. Europe and the imperialists profited while Africa labored and starved. Giant companies pulled massive numbers of African workers and peasants into a long chain of exploitation. (155) Rodney describes the typical situation for  African laborers, workers and peasants:

“By any standards, labor was cheap in Africa, and the amount of surplus extracted from the African laborer was great. The employer under colonialism paid an extremely small wage — a wage usually insufficient to keep the worker physically alive — and, therefore, he had to grow food to survive. This applied in particular to farm labor of the plantation type, to work in mines, and to certain forms of urban employment.” (149)

African labor was treated more harshly than labor in the imperialist homelands; African laborers were treated more harshly than European laborers in Africa also.

“Where European settlers were found in considerable numbers, the wage differential was readily perceived. In North Africa, the wages of Moroccans and Algerians were from 16 percent to 25 percent those of Europeans. In East Africa, the position was much worse, notably in Kenya and Tanganyika. A comparison with white settler earnings and standards bring out by sharp contrast how incredibly low African wages were… The absolute limit of brutal exploitation was found in the southern parts of the continent; and in Southern Rhodesia, for example, agricultural laborers rarely received more than 15 shillings per month. Workers in mines got a little more if they were semi-skilled, but they also had more intolerable working conditions. Unskilled laborers in the mines of Northern Rhodesia often got as little as 7 shillings per month. A truck driver on the famous copper belt was semi-skilled grade. In one mine, Europeans performed that job for 30 pounds per month, while in another, Africans did it for 3 pounds per month.” (151)

“[B]lack South African workers recovered gold from deposits which elsewhere would be regarded as non-commercial. And yet it is the white section of the working class which received whatever benefits were available in terms of wages and salaries. Officials have admitted that the mining companies could pay whites higher than miners in any other part of the world because the superprofits made by paying black workers a mere pittance… In the final analysis, the shareholders of the mining companies were the ones who benefited most of all. They remained in Europe and North America and collected fabulous dividends every year from the gold, diamonds, manganese, uranium, etc., which were bought out of the South African subsoil by African labor. ” (152)

“The fact is that the higher standard [of living] was made possible by exploitation of colonies, and there was no justification for keeping African living standards so depressed in an age where better was possible and in a situation where a higher standard was possible because of the work output of Africans themselves. The kind of living standard supportable by the African labor within the continent is readily illustrated by the salaries and the lifestyle of the whites inside Africa… Colonial governments discriminated against the employment of Africans in senior categories; and, whenever it happened that a white and a black filled the same post, the white man was sure to be paid considerably more. This was true at all levels…” (151)

African labor and resources were the basis of the whole colonial system in Africa. It propped up  the wealthy European capitalists and colonial administrators. It propped up the European, landed settlers, the plantation owners and settler farmers.  It propped up those African compradors willing to sell out their people to the imperialists. It also propped up a labor aristocracy from Europe who worked in Africa. The value and resources of Africans and other colonial peoples propped up the emerging First World as a whole. As Karl Marx pointed out a long time ago, the value that makes the whole system work can be traced back to labor. In today’s world, those who create surplus value almost exclusively reside in the Third World, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Monoculture and Export Economies

Imperialists reconfigured African economies to suit their needs. The imperialists emphasized resource extraction and monoculture cash crops. This underdeveloped Africa and locked African countries into a world system where imperialists had the power:

“A further revelation of growth without development under colonialism was the over-dependence  on one or two exports. The term ‘monoculture’ is used to describe those colonial economies which were centered around a single crop. Liberia (in the agricultural sector) was a monoculture dependent on rubber, Gold Coast on cocoa, Dahomey and southeast Nigeria on palm produce, Sudan on cotton, Tanganyika on sisal, and Uganda on cotton. In Senegal and Gambia, groundnuts accounted for 85 to 90 per cent of money earnings. In effect, two African colonies were told to grow nothing but peanuts.”  (234)

The export economies of Africa produced terrible working conditions surrounding resource extraction and cash crop production. Imperialists made huge profits from the terrible conditions that surrounded the production of cotton, coffee, cocoa, peanuts, groundnuts, palm oil and other export crops:

“Peasants worked for large numbers of hours to produce a given cash crop, and the price of the product was the price of those long hours of labor. Since primary produce from Africa has always received low prices, it follows that the buyer and user of the raw material was engaging in massive exploitation of the peasants.” (160)

“The Ugandan farmer grew cotton which ultimately made its way into English factory in Lancashire or a British-owned factory in India. The Lancashire factory owner paid his workers as little as possible, but his exploitation of their labor was limited by several factors. His exploitation of the labor of the Ugandan peasant was unlimited because of his power in the colonial state, which insured that Ugandans worked long hours for very little. Besides, the price of the finished cotton shirt was so high that when reimported into Uganda, cotton in the form of a shirt was beyond the purchasing power of the peasant who grew the cotton.” (160)

“With regard to all peasant cash crops, the Produce Marketing Boards made purchases at figures that were way below world market prices. For instance, the West African Produce Board paid Nigerians a bit under 17 pounds for a ton of palm oil in 1946 and sold that through the Ministry of Food for 95 pounds, which was nearer the world market price. Groundnuts which received 15 pounds per ton when bought by the Boards were later sold in Britain at 110 pounds per ton. Furthermore, export duties were levied on the Boards’ sales by the colonial administrators, and that was an indirect tax on the peasants…” (169)

Infrastructure was made to serve the imperialists and the export economy:

“The combination of being oppressed, being exploited, and being disregarded is best illustrated by the pattern of the economic infrastructure of African colonies: notably, their roads and railways. These had a clear geographical distribution according to the extent to which particular regions needed to be opened up to import-export activities. Where exports were not available, roads and railways had no place. The only exception is that certain roads and railways were built to move troops and make conquest and oppression easier.” (209)

To orient everything toward export and control, peasants were shifted away from food production to monoculture cash crops and resource extraction. Cash crops for export makes giant profit margins, food and production for local needs doesn’t. Imperialism values profit more than people. Imperialists were not concerned if Africa was losing the ability to feed itself in places. Later, imperialists would be able to exploit the food crises in Africa that the imperialists themselves produced.  They would further make Africa dependent by providing them the “Greek gift” of relief aid. Imperialism helped destroy food production, then use the situation to further eliminate Africa’s ability to support itself.

The shift away from local production to export, be it agricultural or resource extraction, further underdeveloped Africa. It destroyed local markets and small production for African needs. It bended infrastructure development to serve exports, not internal development. It destroyed the environment by intensive farming methods that are not ecologically sound or sustainable. It pushed African peasants and workers into further poverty. It made African production even more dependent on world markets and the whims of imperialism. Africa’s economies were made especially fragile. Africa’s peoples became victimized by the shifting commodity markets and bust cycles.  This was especially the case after World War 2. Commodity prices never recovered to previous levels and Africans were left destitute. (158)

Monopoly and Finance

Imperialists used the modern institutions of finance and monopoly to ensure that value flowed from Africa into imperialist coffers. Imperialists contended against each other, as Lenin famously described. However, when they had to, imperialists united with each other against the African masses. The imperialists had a common interest in putting aside their differences in order to prevent socialist and national liberation movements from seizing power. They united to keep value smoothly flowing out of Africa. Imperial capital often merged in the exploitation of colonies. Rodney describes the case of Unilever:

“The composition of Unilever should serve as a warning that colonialism is not simply a matter of ties between a given colony and its mother country, but between colonies on the one hand and metropoles on the other. The German capital of Unilever joined the British in exploiting Africa and the Dutch in exploiting the East Indies. The rewards spread throughout the capitalist system in such a way that even those capitalist nations who were not colonial powers were also beneficiaries of the spoils. Unilever factories established in Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S.A. were participants in the expropriation of Africa’s surplus and in using that surplus for their own development.” (190)

The way that imperialists divided and controlled Africa was always shifting:

“Economic partition and repartition of Africa was going on all the time because the proportions of the spoils that went to different capitalist countries kept changing. Special mention must be made of the U.S.A., because its share of the benefits from Africa was constantly increasing throughout the colonial period… As time went on, the U.S.A. got an even bigger slice of the unequal trade between the metropoles and colonial Africa.” (191)

World War 2 was a turning point when the United States ascends on the world scene. Because European countries were so weakened after the war, the United States was able to edge them out. The United States became the dominant imperialist power worldwide and in Africa. (194) Of all the imperialist powers, the United States becomes the principal beneficiary of the post-World War 2 neocolonial order. “The U.S.A. was a worthy successor to Britain as the leading force and policeman of the imperialist/colonialist world from 1945 onwards.” (194) The United States continues to play the role today in Africa, and the Third World generally.

Modern financial institutions were also used to drain Africa:

“The commercial banks worked hand in hand with the metropolitan government and the Currency Boards to make the system work. Together they established an intricate financial network which served the common end of enriching Europe at Africa’s expense.” (171)

“In 1960, the Standard Bank produced a new profit of 1,181,000 pounds and paid a 14 per cent dividend to its shareholders. Most of the latter were in Europe or else were whites in South Africa, while most of the profit was produced mainly by black people of the South and East Africa. Furthermore, these European banks transferred the reserves of their African branches to the London money market. This was the way in which they most rapidly expatriated African surplus to the metropoles.” (161)

Massive capital left Africa. (153) Trading companies made tremendous profits with very little investment. (157) Exploitation increased through monopoly practices. (168) Unequal power resulted in imperialist domination of the market. Imperialists worked together to keep prices  low. This all results in forms of unequal exchange whereby African labor and commodities were undervalued due to imperialist practices. This enabled more and more value to leave Africa to Africa’s disadvantage. The imperialists were net beneficiaries and the Africans were losers in the global economic game.

Colonial Education, Geography, and Town Structure

Underdevelopment did not just affect the economic realm, but affected all of African society. Just as independent African production was destroyed in favor of the export economy, so too was independent culture and education. African culture and education was shoved to the side. Colonial education replaced traditional eduction. Instead of developing an African intellectual strata to serve Africa, the colonial education system created a class of imperial apologists and administrators. It created a comprador intellectual strata. (240) (260) The physical, civic geography was reconfigured just as the cultural geography was. Town geography, like all infrastructure, was redesigned to serve imperialists. Towns became centers of colonial administration and export, not centers of African cultural life or African political power. (232) All life in Africa was redirected to serve the needs of the imperialists, to serve the functioning of the system, to promote the smooth transfer of value out of Africa to the imperialists.

The International Division of Labor and Uneven Development

J. S. Mill described the relation between the imperialist countries and the colonies as akin to the relation between city and country. (177) Later, Lin Biao would describe the great split in the world as one between the global city and global countryside. Asia, Africa, and Latin America were underdeveloped while Europe, North America, and other imperialists reaped the benefits. Rodney describes the international division of labor and its effects:

“The international division of labor of the colonial period also ensured that there would be growth of employment opportunities in Europe, apart from the millions of white settlers and expatriates who earned a livelihood in and from Africa. Agricultural raw materials were processed in such a way as to form by-products, constituting industries in their own right. The number of jobs created in Europe and North America by the import of mineral ores from Africa, Asia, and Latin America can be seen from the massive employment roll of institutions such as steel works, automobile factories, alumina and aluminum plants, copper wire firms. Furthermore, those in turn stimulated the building industry, the transport industry, munitions industry, and so on. The mining that went on in Africa left holes in the ground, and the pattern of agricultural production left African soils impoverished; but, in Europe, agricultural and mineral imports built a massive industrial complex.” (180)

According to Rodney, another result of this international division of labor was that capitalism never created an African bourgeoisie in the traditional sense. Africa did not have African owned production of any scale. (216-217) This further hindered African development.

This pattern of imposing an international division of labor was not confined to the Western imperialists. The revisionist Soviet Union implemented similar policies to make their client states dependent on Moscow. This was a difference in outlook between certain “anti-revisionists” and the revisionists who followed Khrushchev. Che Guevara was reportedly critical of the path that led to Cuba’s dependence on the Soviet Union. Hoxha became angry with the Soviet revisionists when Khrushchev sought to reduce Albania to a fruit plantation for the Eastern Bloc. Hoxha split with the Soviets and charted a new course for Albania. The Chinese Maoists were the most vocal critic of dependence and imperialism in all its forms. This was part of the reason for the Sino-Soviet split. The international division of labor imposed on Africa by the imperialist hurt Africa to the gain of the imperialists.

The Technological Revolution

Africa’s contribution to European wealth was far greater than mere monetary returns. The slave trade represented a huge brain drain on Africa. When an African was moved to the New World, Africa not only lost that slave, but all of their descendants. Just as the slave trade represented a brain drain of historic proportions for Africa, the wealth that flowed to Europe and other imperialists snowballed in its effects too. The technological revolution and development of skills within European and other imperialist countries was aided by the exploitation of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

“The colonial system permitted the rapid development of technology and skills within the metropolitan sectors of imperialism. It also allowed for the elaboration of the modern organizational techniques of the capitalist firm and of imperialism as a whole. Indeed, colonialism gave capitalism an added lease of life and prolonged its existence in Western Europe, which had been the cradle of capitalism.” (175)

“Profits from African colonialism mingled with profits from every other source to finance scientific research. This was true in the general sense that the affluence of capitalist society in the present century allowed more money and leisure for research. It is also true because the development of capitalism in the imperialist epoch continued the division of labor inside the capitalist metropoles to the point where scientific research was a branch of the division of labor, and indeed one of its most important branches. European society moved away from scientific research as an ad hoc, personal, and even whimsical affair to a situation where research was given priority by governments, armies, and private capitalists. It was financed and guided. Careful scrutiny reveals that the source of funding and the direction in which research was guided were heavily influenced by the colonial situation. Firstly, it should be recalled that profits made by Europe from Africa represented investable surpluses… These investment funds acquired from the colonies spread to many sectors in the metropoles and benefited industries that had nothing to do with processing of colonial products.” (174)

The imperialist countries were already on the way toward a great scientific and technological revolution when they began colonizing Africa and other parts of the world. However, the value from Africa gave a boost to the development of imperialist countries. The effect was that more and more value and time could be directed toward technological advance and perfecting the advanced organizational techniques of high capitalism. Thus the wheels of European and American discovery were greased with African blood. Europe’s “progress” snowballed.

Safety Valve

The colonial and neocolonial world served an important function in the world system. Not only was it the main source of labor and resources, it also served as a kind of safety valve. Problems could be shifted onto Asia, Africa, and Latin America in order so keep the social order functioning in the imperialist homelands:

“Over the last few decades of colonialism, colonial possessions served capitalism as a safety valve in times of crisis. The first major occasion when this was displayed was during the great economic depression of 1929-34. During this period, forced labor was increased in Africa and the prices paid to Africans for their crops were reduced. Workers were paid less and imported goods cost a great deal more. Workers were paid less and imported goods cost a great deal more. That was a time when workers in the metropolitan countries also suffered terribly; but the colonialists did the best they could to transfer the burdens of the depression away from Europe and onto the colonies… The second major occasion on which the colonies had to bail out the metropoles was during the last world war. As noted earlier, African people were required to make huge sacrifices and to supply vital raw materials at little cost to the metropoles. Africa’s military importance was also decisive.” (195-196)

By shifting the burden onto the colonial and neocolonial world, the imperialists were able to prevent antagonistic contradictions from arising within the imperialist countries themselves. The contradiction between the capitalists and the workers of the imperialist countries was transformed from an antagonistic one to a non-antagonistic one. This was so much the case that eventually the imperialist working class becomes functionally indistinct from the imperialist bourgeoisie. They become part of the imperialist bourgeoisie. What makes this possible is the exploitation and oppression of Africa and the Third World generally. Imperialism abroad results in social peace in the imperial countries.

Social Democracy and Bourgeoisification

The great exploitation of Africans by imperialists created value that was then channeled in ways that benefited Europeans and other imperialists. Within Africa itself, the super-exploitation of Africans led to the rise of a class of Europeans who worked in Africa, but nonetheless received benefits from colonization. This settler working class often received such high benefits from super-exploitation that they ceased being exploited at all; they entered the labor aristocracy on the backs of Africans. This same effect was seen on a global scale. Workers in the European and imperialist countries often received such a large share of super-profits in the form of inflated wages and other benefits that they ceased to be exploited; they ceased to be proletarian, ceased to be a revolutionary agent.

“Wages paid to workers in Europe and North Africa were much higher than wages paid to African workers in comparable categories. The Nigerian coal miner at Enugu earned one shilling per day for working underground and nine pence per day for jobs on the surface. Such a miserable wage would be beyond the comprehension of a Scottish or German coal miner, who could virtually earn in an hour what the Enugu miner was paid for a six-day week. The same disparity existed with port workers. The records of the large American shipping company, Ferrell Lines, show that in 1955, of the total amount spent on loading and discharging cargo moving between Africa and America, five-sixths went to American workers and one-sixth to Africans. Yet, it was the same amount of cargo loaded and unloaded at both ends… The point here is merely to illustrate how much greater was the rate of exploitation of African workers.” (150)

African labor and resources financed social democratic reforms for European and other imperialist settlers living in Africa. The colonial and neocolonial states disproportionately allocated social services to non-Africans. (206-207) The state provided more for non-Africans: more hospitals, more access to water and sanitation, more access to electricity, more education, etc. This translated into a greater standard of living for imperialist populations in Africa. For example:

“In Algeria, the figure for infant mortality was 39 per 1,000 births among white settlers; but it jumped to 170 per 1,000 live births in the case of Algerians living in towns. In practical terms, that meant that the medical, maternity, and sanitation services were all geared toward the well-being of settlers.” (207)

This disparity of lifestyle between settler and African is repeated throughout Africa. (208) There was a great contrast between the imperialist, settler populations and the indigenous African populations. So great was the difference that the imperialist, settler working class in Africa showed little interest in aligning with its super-exploited African counterpart. The white workers living in Africa benefited so much from the imperialist system that they had more in common with their own imperialist bourgeoisie than with the African workers. They ceased to be exploited and eventually became part of the bourgeoisie themselves.

A similar process happened at the global level. The social democracies and liberal capitalisms of Europe and North America were built on and maintained though the subjugation of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And it wasn’t just those countries that directly participated in imperial rule. “[Imperialism] allowed the participation of all capitalist nations. Therefore, lack of colonies on the part of any capitalist nation was not a barrier to enjoying the fruits of exploiting the colonial and semi-colonial world, which was the backyard of metropolitan capitalism.” In other words, even though countries like Sweden were not always directly involved in imperialism, their relationship to other imperialist powers allows them to benefit indirectly. (190) All of what would become the First World benefited from imperialism. So much did the First World benefit that the First World working class became thoroughly bourgeois, reaping the benefits of high income, cheap commodities, social democratic benefits, the welfare safety net, etc.  — all based on exploitation of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Even though Rodney recognizes the bourgeoisification of the First World working class, he fails to understand the magnitude of the problem. Even though his entire work points toward Third Worldist conclusions, Rodney still holds out for an impossible alignment between the First World working bourgeoisie and Third World workers. Rodney is just not able to fully escape First Worldist dogma. In typical First Worldist-style, he even attributes lack of solidarity with Africa to false consciousness and lack of education of First World workers. (199-200) He is not able to make the jump to Leading Light Communism. This mistake may have been somewhat justifiable in 1972 when Rodney wrote, but no thinking person can mistake the thoroughly reactionary nature of First World workers today.

Theory of Productive Forces

Rodney’s inability to break with First Worldism is linked to another problem in his work. Rodney is somewhat critical of Marx’s model for the evolution of modes of production, largely derived from Marx’s analysis of Western Europe. Yet Rodney does not go far enough in breaking with the Theory of Productive Forces, technological determinism, and the teleology that is emphasized in revisionist readings of Marx’s work. Although Rodney states otherwise on occasion, he largely seems to think that a big part, perhaps the principal part, of underdevelopment is lack of industrialization and lack of technology. While it is certainly true that this characterized much of the underdevelopment of Rodney’s day, since then we have seen more and more industrial production moved to the Third World. Underdevelopment today does not necessarily mean lack of industrialization just as development should not be equated with industrialization. Today, parts of the Third World are highly industrialized. Even so, the populations of the Third World see few benefits from this industrialization. Value flows are still directed away from the Third World masses. Also, the First World has become de-industrialized. More and more First World people are employed in management, distribution, and services. They consume yet produce very little. First World economies are giant “mall economies.” People are employed at the mall. Goods and services are exchanged. Yet there is no production going on. It is not as though they produce the clothing in the back of Macy’s. The value that allows the mall to function is being produced outside the mall, in the Third World. Even though some Third World economies have become diversified, they are still configured to serve the imperialists.

Our world

Our world is different than Rodney’s. Yet there are still many similarities. There is still a great divide in the world between rich and poor countries, the exploiter and exploited countries, the First and Third Worlds. However, this divide takes ever new forms. Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for the most part, are still controlled by the imperialists. The vast majority of humanity in the Third World barely survives while the First World grows fat. Production is more and more socialized. People on different sides of the globe can be involved in the same production process. There is more and more globalization. Yet distribution remains private and grossly unjust, First World countries reap the benefits of Third World production. Productive powers increase over time. Yet the basic needs for the vast majority of humanity in the Third World are not met. Marx famously said that philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it. Understanding the world is the first step toward making real change. Without science, practice is blind. Rodney’s work, even though it has certain shortcomings, still stands the test of time for the most part. It is still an important contribution to Marxism. It is a good place to start one’s journey toward the fourth and highest stage of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism.

Sources

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 2/3

Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 2/3
by
Prairie Fire
(llco.org)  walterrodney2

In order to understand why Africa is so impoverished and powerless today, one has to examine the history of power and economy. Development, underdevelopment and power are intertwined. Africa today is a product of its past, just as the imperialist world is also a product of its past.  Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a classic work on the political economy of Africa. Even fifty years after it was written, it, for the most part,  stands the test of time. Rodney’s work is a proto-Leading Light Communist one that describes in great detail how Africa’s poverty and underdevelopment is a result of imperialism.

The slave trade… Africa loses

The slave trade played a huge role in the development of Europe and the United States.  It also played a role in the underdevelopment of Africa. Even though the transatlantic slave trade ended in the nineteenth century, its effects are still with us. It is not enough to understand the slave trade as morally reprehensible. Similarly, moral indignation is not enough to understand global exploitation and inequality today. Humanism is not enough, then or now. It is necessary to understand these things scientifically. There are sharp dividing lines. There were real winners and losers in the transatlantic slave trade. Europe, the United States, and their African compradors were the winners, the African peoples were the losers. According to Rodney:

“When one tries to measure the effect of European slave trading on the African continent, it is essential to realize that one is measuring the effect of social violence rather than trade in any normal sense of the word. “ (95)

Millions of Africans were turned into slaves, most going to the New World. It was one of history’s greatest human catastrophes. Millions of deaths were a direct consequence of the trade in Africans. Deaths during the middle passage ranged from 15 to 20 percent, according to Rodney. (96)  According to Rodney, no reliable estimates exist for the total number of those enslaved. Rodney does provide a telling table for world population (in millions) at the time:

rodg

A quick look at the chart shows the impact of slavery on the African continent. The rest of the world’s population grew by leaps and bounds, while Africa’s population, in comparison, was relatively stagnant due to slavery. “[O]n every other continent from the fifteenth century onwards, the population showed constant and sometimes spectacular natural increase; while it is striking that the same did not apply to Africa.” (97) Around the same time, population growth had played a role in the development of Europe; population growth was a key factor in creating the workforce for early capitalism. In Africa, the loss of population due to the slave trade hindered healthy socioeconomic development, both directly and indirectly.

Slavery resulted in a massive loss of both labor power and brain power. The African labor force was robbed of able-bodied and thinking men and women. (96) This loss of people tends to snowball over time because Africa did not simply lose a person when a slave was transferred to the Americas, Africa lost their descendants also — descendants today who are no longer African in any real sense. Out of this exodus, the Black nation would be formed in North America. Nonetheless, this exodus of people also represents a snuffing out of brain power in Africa. Millions of people taken from a population equates to less technological innovation and discovery. Slavery not only stole African muscle, but also represented a brain-drain of epic proportions. By contrast, Europe was leaving the medieval period behind, entering the post-Renaissance and entering the industrial revolution. Europe was advancing, Africa declining.

“The connection between Africa and Europe from the fifteenth century onwards served to block this spirit of technological innovation [in Africa] both directly and indirectly.” (105)

“The European slave trade was a direct block, in removing millions of youth and young adults who are the human agents from whom inventiveness springs. Those who remained in areas badly hit by slave capturing were preoccupied about their freedom rather than with improvements in production.” (105)

“[E]enslavement was causing these people to lose their battle to tame and harness nature.” (98)

The slave trade also resulted in the loss of traditional social cohesion. Slavery spread social violence within Africa, European violence and African violence. More often it took the forms of kidnappings and raids, rather than regular warfare. It undermined traditional cohesion between African societies and within African society. Stability was undermined. Chaos snowballed as the violence of slavery penetrated deep into African society:

“A chain reaction was started by European demand for slaves (and only slaves) and by their offer of consumer goods — this process being connected with divisions within African society.” (79)

Europe remade Africa according to Europe’s design:

“One the other hand, there were European countries who decided on the role to be played by the African economy; and on the other hand, Africa formed an extension to the European capitalist market.”  (76)

Integration of African economies into the European system through the slave trade did not help Africa develop local industries or develop technology. Europe flooded the African market with finished goods. The trade goods that Africa received in exchange for slaves destroyed local industry.  (101) Prior to the slave trade, Africa had booming industries, sometimes even exporting products to the Arab world. For example, with the introduction of the slave trade, Africa ceased exporting cloth.

“When European cloth became dominant on the African market, it meant that African producers were cut off from the increasing demand. The craft producers either abandoned their tasks in the face of cheap available European cloth… or they continued their tasks in the face of cheap available European cloth, or they continued on the same small hand-worked instruments to create styles and pieces for localized markets. Therefore, there was what can be called ‘technological arrest’ or stagnation, and in some instances actual regression, since people forgot even the simple techniques of their forefathers. The abandonment of traditional iron smelting in most parts of Africa is probably the most important instance of technological regression.” (104-105)

Even today, Western charities have destroyed indigenous textile manufacture by dumping used clothing on Africa. Local manufactures are put out of business. The access to European finished goods became a kind of crutch. Africa ceased producing for herself. This resulted in further technological stagnation. There was no impetus for industrial development since Europe was providing finished goods to Africa. Instead, what little capital existed was redirected toward plunder, the capturing of humans for trade, or toward resource extraction. J. S. Mill commented on the relation of England to her colonies: “the trade of the West Indies is hardly to be considered external trade, but more resembles the traffic between town and country.” (82)

It was not just the coastal areas that were affected. All of Africa suffered. Not only did social violence stretch inland, but economies of the interior were reconfigured to serve the slave economy. (100)

“European trade goods percolated into the deepest interior, and (more significantly) the orientation of large areas of the continent towards human exports meant that other positive interactions were thereby ruled out.” (100)

Rodney quotes another researcher:

“‘What would have been Britain’s level of development had millions of them been put to work as slaves outside of their homelands over a period of four centuries?’ Furthermore… one could speculate further on the probable effects on their development had continental Europe been enslaved. Had that been the case, its nearest neighbors would have been removed from the ambit of fruitful trade with Britain.”  (101)

Few aspects of African society were untouched by slavery. The effects of slavery were profound and far reaching. There were many African attempts to resist the institution and its effects. Even though many African leaders saw the terrible effects of slavery, they were unable to resist as individual states:

“Once trade in slaves had been started in any given part of Africa, it soon became clear that it was beyond the capacity of any single African state to change the situation. In Angola, the Portuguese employed an unusual number of their own troops and tried to seize political power from Africans. The Angolan state of Matamba on the river Kwango was founded around 1630 as a direct reaction against the Portuguese. With Queen Nzinga at its head, Matamba tried to coordinate resistance against the Portuguese in Angola. However, Portugal gained the upper hand in 1648, and this left Matamba isolated. Matamba could not forever stand aside. So long as it opposed trade with the Portuguese, it was an object of hostility from neighboring African states which had compromised with Europeans and slave trading. So in 1656, Queen Nzinga resumed business with the Portuguese — a major concession to the decision-making role of Europeans within the Angolan economy.” (80)

In isolation, it was virtually impossible for any regime to resist the slavers and their allies. Isolated According to Rodney, African societies did not have the ability to take on the imperialists and their allies. This is why many African revolutionaries to this day push for pan-African or regional strategies against imperialism. This isn’t to reject “socialism in one country,” as the Trotskyists do. One can embrace a pan-African strategy while still recognizing that the liberation of the whole of Africa will happen in steps. Some countries will be liberated before others. To expect Africa to be liberated at one time would be a utopian and Trotskyist dream, not material reality. Nonetheless, there is much to recommend  scientific, stageist, regional or pan-African strategy.

The slave trade… Europe and the United States win

Africa lost out from her interaction with Europe and the United States. The imperialists reaped tremendous benefits from the trade in humans. There were very direct benefits from the slave trade. Cheap labor in the Americas was one. Africa became a market for European consumer goods. The great English sea ports rose as part of the trade. Twenty percent of French trade was based on the slave economy of the West Indies. (85) Even more importantly, the slave trade sped up the rise of capitalism in Europe and the United States. (86) Value from the slave trade was injected into early capitalism and the early industrial revolution. Thus capitalism began to fan out from Europe. Rodney describes how slavery was key:

“American economic development up to mid-nineteenth century rested squarely on foreign commerce, of which slavery was a pivot. In the 1830s, slave-grown cotton accounted for about half the value of all exports from the United States of America. Furthermore, in the case of the American colonies of the eighteenth century, it can again be observed that Africa contributed in a variety of ways — one thing leading to another. For instance, New England trade with Africa, Europe, and the West Indies in slaves and slave-grown products supplied cargo for their merchant marine, stimulated the growth of their shipbuilding industry, built up their towns and their cities, and enabled them to utilize their forests, fisheries, and soil more effectively. Finally, it was the carrying trade between the West Indies slave colonies and Europe which lay behind the emancipation of the American colonies from British rule, and it was no accident that the struggle for American independence started in the leading New England town of Boston. In the nineteenth century, the connection with Africa continued to play an important role in American political growth. In the first place, profits from the slave activities went into the coffers of political parties, and even more important the African stimulation and black labor played a vital role in extending European control over the present territory of the United States — notably in the South, but including also the ‘Wild West,” where black cowboys were active.” (87-88)

Even though slavery was a boost for early capitalism, it eventually became a fetter, according to Rodney:

“Slavery is useful for early accumulation of capital, but it is too rigid for industrial development. Slaves had to be given crude non-breakable tools which held back the capitalist development of agriculture and industry. That explains the fact the northern portions of the U.S.A. gained far more industrial benefits from slavery than the South, which actually had slave institutions on its soil; and ultimately the stage was reached during the American Civil War when Northern capitalists fought to end slavery within the boundaries of the U.S.A. so that country as a whole could advance to a higher level of capitalism.

In effect, one can say that within the U.S.A. the slave relations in the South had by the second half of the nineteenth century come into conflict with the further expansion of the productive base inside the U.S.A. as a whole, and a violent clash ensued before capitalist relations of legally free labor became generalized… even in Europe there came a moment when the leading capitalist states found that the trade in slaves and the use of slave labor in the Americas was no longer in the interests of their development. Britain made the decision early in the nineteenth century, to be followed later by France.” (87-88)

Although Rodney does not hold the old Communist Party, USA position that the American Civil War was a conflict between a feudal Southern order and capitalist Northern one, he sees it though a similar prism. According to Rodney, the conflict is one over the organization of production, a conflict between a lower and higher kind of capitalism. His view is a kind of return to the teleological productionism that is critiqued in the earlier part of this review. By contrast, Andre Gunder Frank sees the war as a conflict between an American production-oriented system and a European export system, a conflict repeated throughout the Americas. J. Sakai sees the conflict as the clash between two types of settler empires, two ways of organizing national oppression. Such interpretations need not necessarily contradict each other. Any complex social phenomena like the American Civil War will be over-determined. Any complete explanation will be complex and somewhat open-ended. Regardless, Rodney is spot on: slavery greased the wheels of early capitalism, even though capitalism later abandoned it.

Slavery is not ancient history

“Development means a capacity for self-sustaining growth. It means that an economy must register advances which in turn will promote further progress. The loss of industry and skill in Africa was extremely small, if we measure it from the viewpoint of modern scientific achievements or even by standards of England in the late eighteenth century. However, it must be borne in mind that to be held back at one stage means that it is impossible to go on to a further stage. When a person was forced to leave school after only two years of primary school education, it is no reflection on him that he is academically and intellectually less developed then someone who had the opportunity to be schooled right through to university level. When Africa experienced in the early centuries of trade was precisely a loss of development opportunity, and this is of the greatest importance.” (105)

“[T]he European slave trade was economically totally irrational from the viewpoint of African development.” (100)

Slavery’s effects are still with us. The slave trade pushed Europe and America forward. And it held Africa back. Slavery helped shape global power. Slavery contributed to the great global divide that we see today between the poor and wealthy countries, between the Third and First World, between the exploiter and exploited nations. This global divide is the principal contradiction. Africa is a giant in waiting. A whole continent of brutally oppressed and exploited peoples. Our revolution will come from the darkest places. When Africa wakes, when she picks up the banner of the Leading Light Communism, we will see a storm. As comrade Lin Biao said, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the Asian, African and Latin American populations who make up the vast majority of humanity.

Sources

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 1/3

how-europe-underdeveloped-africa-walter-rodney-paperback-cover-art

Review of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Part 1/3
by Prairie Fire

(llco.org)

Walter Rodney was a writer and activist who was influential in the anti-imperialist, the Black Power, and socialist movements across the Black and African worlds. In 1980, Rodney was assassinated in his homeland of Guyana by a car bomb while participating in local politics. Rodney is probably best remembered as the author of the very influential How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Published in 1972, Rodney’s book has become a classic work on the political economy of Africa and underdevelopment generally. Rodney has a place alongside writers like Andre Gunder-Frank, Samir Amin, Malcolm Caldwell, Arghiri Emmanuel and similar theorists who have studied modern imperialism and underdevelopment. This tradition foreshadows the development of Leading Light Communism. Even though almost four decades have passed since its publication, the book is a must-read for those seeking to understand the poverty of Africa and the wealth of Europe and North America. It helps us understand how the wealth of First World countries is a result of poverty in Third World countries. Rodney’s work is an important forerunner of  the political economy of the Leading Light Communist movement.

Africa prior to large-scale European contact

Imperialism is not just about armies, labor and gold. Imperialism has a cultural dimension. When one part of the world systematically oppresses another, it changes not only the material make-up of those societies, it also affects the cultures. It is a kind of master-slave dialectic writ large, on a global scale. Part of this relation is the need by the oppressors to see themselves and their victims as different than they really are. To justify their inhuman acts, imperialists must invent narratives where they are not the villain. As part of this, imperialists often portray Africa prior to large-scale European contact in the fifteenth century as an uncivilized jungle. They portray Africans as barely out of the forest, as akin to wild animals, as apes. The most extreme version of the racist and imperialist narrative not only exonerates European slavers, but turns them into heroes. Slavers tamed apes into men, or at least two-thirds men. Plantations were not akin to concentration camps. Rather, the plantation was one big happy family. The master was kindly and paternal to his  darker “children.” So goes the myth, the lie, of the gentile South. Some have even claimed that not only that Blacks deserve no reparations, but Blacks should be thankful  to the United States that they were saved from eternal African night. This kind of narrative, and similar and subtler ones, rest on the myth that Africa was hopelessly backward prior to large-scale European contact. Rodney thoroughly refutes the myth. He demonstrates that Africa had a long and rich tradition of civilization prior to widespread contact with Europe. Although Africa’s development was not the same as Europe’s, Africa had long been developing just fine:

“Africa in the fifteenth century was not just a jumble of different ‘tribes.’ There was a pattern and there was historical movement. Societies such as feudal Ethiopia and Egypt were at the furthest point of the process of evolutionary development. Zimbabwe and the Bachwezi states were also clearly on the ascent away from communalism, but at a lower level than the feudal states and a few others that were not yet feudal such as those in Western Sudan.” (68)

Rodney states:

“It can be said that most African societies had not reached a new stage of society markedly different from communalism.” (69)

Early European travelers to Africa were often impressed with what they saw. Rodney quotes an early Dutch traveler who visited Benin:

“The town seems very great. When you enter into it, you go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes street in Amsterdam…

The king’s palace is a collection of buildings which occupy as much space as the town of Harlem, and which is enclosed with walls. There are numerous apartments for the Prince’s ministers and fine galleries, most of which are as big as those on the Exchange in Amsterdam. They are supported by wooden pillars encased with copper, where their victories are depicted, and which are kept carefully clean.

The town is composed of thirty main streets, very straight and 120 feet wide, apart from an infinity of small intersecting streets. The houses are close to one another, arranged in good order. These people are in no ways inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness…” (69)

Obviously, there were great differences between Holland and Africa too. However, it is pure racism to portray Africa as barbaric and uncivilized prior to large-scale European contact. Such racist conceptions are not based in reality. They are part of a complex, evolving, and often contradictory narrative that has been used for hundreds of years to justify the plunder and exploitation of Africa by Europeans and other imperialists. Similar tales have been used to justify the imperial conquest of the Americas and Asia.

While pointing out early Africa’s accomplishments, Rodney does not understate the differences between Western Europe and Africa. Rodney does not exaggerate the development of Africa prior to the fifteenth century. Rodney could not be further from contemporary Afro-centrists who wildly falsify history in order to claim Africa as the center of virtually all great advances. Rodney is a scientist, not a story teller and myth maker. He is part of the Marxist tradition. He does does not romanticize pre-colonial Africa. Rodney is no utopian longing for a return to a “golden age” that never existed. Rodney points out that African societies had their own contradictions, configurations and distributions of power.

Imperialist and productivist metaphysics

In the Manifesto, Karl Marx describes the development of Western European society, and the world, as a march from primitive communism to slave society to feudalism to capitalism to communism. Although in other writings Marx sometimes postulated other modes of production like the “Asiatic mode,” some have held that this march, this pattern of development, is inevitable and universal. Often such claims are made with little concrete investigation into the particularities of development, especially outside of Europe. Such an outlook is often useful to so-called Marxists who apologize for or even openly align with imperialism. Unfortunately, these pretenders find some support for their reactionary views in certain aspects of Marxist tradition, especially those works that overemphasize the  development of the  productive forces as the driving force of history. Maoists criticized certain aspects of the tradition as the Theory of Productive Forces, a revisionist theory.

First Worldists, chauvinists and racists often say that imperialism, despite itself, is good for the backward parts of the world because it brings technology, it modernizes, it sweeps away primitive and feudal fetters on development. Thus they invoke Marx to echo the slaver narrative. This revisionist train of thought is common, in varying degrees, to a number of revisionists from Kautsky, Trotsky, Khrushchev, Liu Shaoqi, and Deng Xiaoping. It is even found, although usually  to a lesser degree, in Marxists who are upheld by the revolutionary tradition. By dogmatically clinging to such a Euro-centric and teleological scheme, one easily becomes an apologist or open advocate for imperialism. This kind Marxoid imperialism is sometimes referred to as social imperialism. Social imperialism is especially common to those claiming to be Trotskyists. It is no secret that today’s Neo-cons have Trotskyist origins. Even First Worldist onetime Maoists have taken this kind of view. Bill Warren of BICO fame and the “Strange Times Maoists” have such a view. Some of those in the long defunct RIM did too. The argument goes or implies something like this: Imperialism is positive because it brings capitalism, thus opening the possibility of socialism. Imperialism is a progressive agent of history according to this teleology. This view says there is only one road to socialism, the European road through European-style capitalism. This kind of First Worldist revisionism is especially unscientific considering that the “advanced” First World countries, in Europe or elsewhere, do not even have a proletariat and have never experienced anything even close to a socialist revolution — unless you count the imposition of people’s democracy on eastern Germany by the Red Army as a revolution. The First World should not be considered developed, but parasitic and maldeveloped in a sense. The reality is that proletarian revolution has only occurred in what Lenin called the “weak links” of the world system. This is what Lenin meant when he said the storm center of world revolution was headed east. In agreement with Lenin, Mao said the East Wind prevails over the West Wind. And it was Lin Biao who said the whole cause of world revolution hinged on the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Rodney is part of this emerging Third Worldist thought, he correctly points out that Africa does not fit neatly into the Euro-centric teleology that underlies much First Worldism and social imperialism:

“Both Marxists and non-Marxists alike (with different motivations) have pointed out the sequence of modes of production noted in Europe were not reproduced in Africa. In Africa, after the communal stage there was no epoch of slavery arising out of internal evolution. Nor was there a mode of production that was a replica of European feudalism…The assumption that will underlie this study is that most African societies before 1,500 were in a transitional stage between the practice of agriculture (plus fishing and herding) in family communities and the practice of the same activities within states and societies comparable to feudalism.”  (38)

This isn’t to say that real trends and patterns are absent from social development. And certain social development presupposes certain conditions exist. One cannot simply jump to communism or even socialism. Rodney’s survey of African development shows that the complexity of the real world often escapes vulgar simplifications. Yet Rodney does not end up in idealism or anarchist utopianism or epistemological skepticism. In this respect, Rodney shares much with Mao at his best moments. Mao too did not embrace the idealist position that rejects the idea that revolution and development happens in stages. However, Mao too understood that development did not always fit into such a linear straight-jacket. Mao recognized that building socialism in the Third World would mean taking a path that did not match up exactly with the scheme Marx originally predicted for Europe. Mao built off Lenin’s understanding that imperialism was a real game changer across the world. Imperialists imposed a socioeconomic configuration on China that Maoists variously call, depending on what aspect they want to emphasize, “colonialism” or “semi-colonialism,” “semi-feudalism,” “comprador capitalism,” and “bureaucrat capitalism.” These are the terms that Maoists have used to describe the underdevelopment that has been imposed across the “global countryside,” the Third World. Mao saw that imperialism altered the mode of production, the political development and cultural life of the exploited countries for the worse. The imperialists often enter into an alliance with the most backward segments of the indigenous populations, the comprador capitalists and feudalists. In some cases, colonialism even imports and imposes feudal institutions alongside capitalism as in parts of Latin America. Thus imperialism does not develop a poor country, it underdevelops. Imperialism is thoroughly reactionary. This is why Lenin identified imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism. Capitalism was no longer progressive in the world. This is why Lenin called it moribund and decadent. Mao’s answer to this was to find another road to socialism. Mao united all the popular classes under proletarian, communist leadership in a people’s war against the two mountains of imperialism and feudalism, for New Democracy and national liberation. This laid the groundwork for socialist revolution. Mao’s theory of New Democracy proposes a different sequence of development than the traditional euro-centric one. This was one of Mao’s greatest theoretical accomplishments. It was Chen Boda and Lin Biao who universalized this aspect of Mao’s work. Mao’s road was not simply socialism for China, but rather Mao’s contributions applied far beyond China.

Mao, at times, challenged the metaphysical and teleological model in general. At their best moments, Maoists in China understood that there is nothing inevitable about social evolution or progress toward social revolution. The claim, common within the revolutionary tradition, that the victory of the proletariat is inevitable and an absolute law of history is metaphysical and teleological hyperbole. Stalin once stated that the proletariat will eventually row the boat to the shore of communism even without communist leadership. This kind of statement is an expression of a very teleological and metaphysical conception of progress and revolution. Mao recognized that all social development is transitional, but in a different way.  Mao did not see socialism as a static affair. Mao said that there is nothing worse than a stagnant pond. Nor did Mao see socialism as calmly marching toward communism. Mao understood that socialism could only be understood as a transitional society in flux,  filled with violent ruptures, life-and-death clashes and antagonistic contradictions. “Never forget class struggle!,” Mao warned during the Cultural Revolution. Because of the transitional nature of socialism, because of remaining inequalities in power and remaining reactionary culture, a new bourgeoisie arises within the Communist Party and state. This new class seeks to restore capitalism. Thus class struggle still exists under socialism. Counter-revolution is always a danger. Socialism does not inevitably transform into communism. Rather socialism can transform back to capitalism. There is nothing inevitable about victory. The proletariat could row Stalin’s boat in circles until the end of time. This is one reason why scientific leadership is key. This is why Maoists emphasized the subjective aspect of struggle. This is why Lin Biao raised the slogan of “Politics in command!” as part of his Four Firsts campaign around 1959. Later the slogan was transformed into “Mao Zedong Thought in command!”

Science learns. Even though socialism has been lost everywhere, the knowledge of that experience survives in the form of the highest stage of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Even though we lost the Soviet Union, China and other other progressive experiments, Leading Light Communism has preserved the lessons of the revolutionary experience of the last century. The next time we take power, the proletariat will be able to march further toward communism. This is one reason it is so important to struggle against revisionism, especially First Worldism. The last two revolutionary waves are defeated. The Bolshevik revolution was defeated after World War 2 and the Maoist revolution in China was defeated in the 1970s. We stand like Lenin before 1917. There are no socialist states. We stand before the next upsurge, the next wave of revolution. We need to continue the breakthrough of the Leading Light. Part of this is educating the people in  real Marxism. Works like Rodney’s are very advanced, even by today’s standards. They need to be popularized again as part of this struggle. This is part of putting “Leading Light Communism in command!”

Sources

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Reparations demanded for eco-destruction of Africa

Reparations demanded for eco-destruction of Africa

(llco.org) water-shortage

At a forum in Burkina Faso’s capitol Ouagadougou, African Union officials have demanded billions of dollars in compensation from the countries of the First World. The AU officials demand reparations for the damage done to their continent by climate change, pollution, and ecological disasters caused by the First World. Earlier, in December, AU official Jean Ping stated, “We have decided to speak with one voice” and “will demand reparation and damages.”

Even though the Third World accounts for only a third of greenhouse gasses, it will suffer 80 percent of the damage resulting from climate change. According to Ping, the state of Texas alone “with 30 million inhabitants creates as much greenhouse gases as the billion Africans taken together.” According to experts, parts of Africa are some of the areas the most affected by pollution, climate change, and damage caused by global warming.

Imperialist countries have a long history of damaging African eco-systems. For example, recently, the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia is linked to the destruction of the Somali coastal areas and traditional ways of life.  According to Januna Ali Jama, a Somali spokesman, the actions of the Somali “pirates” are in response to “the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years.”

The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) reported that rusted containers of toxic waste were found washed up on the Somali coastline after the 2004 tsunami. A UNEP spokesperson said that the containers were smashed open by the waves of the tsunami. The UNEP spokesperson said that the “frightening activity” of dumping had been going on for a decade. He stated that hundreds of Somali residents had become ill, suffering mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments due to the dumping. “European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.”

Third World peoples suffer to maintain the First World standard of living. Third World peoples suffer not only in terms of economic exploitation, gender, and national oppression, Third World peoples also have their environments destroyed by the First World. Massive reparations are owed to African peoples and Third World people as a whole. However, settling the accounts with the First World will not come about through empty declarations by international organizations or from charity. The only way that Third World peoples will receive justice is by taking it, through global people’s war by the global countryside against the global city. Justice will only come about when socialism is imposed on the First World by the Third World by the New Power of the Leading Light.

Sources:

1. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091011/wl_africa_afp/africaclimateenvironmentwarmingunau

2. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/imperialists-are-the-real-pirates/

Africa in crisis

Africa in crisis.. hundreds of millions lack access to water, suffer from “sick water,” and food shortages

(llco.org)  HUNGER-Starving-Child-5

Africa, especially West and Central Africa, is in crisis. According to a recent UNICEF report, more than 155 million, roughly 40 percent of the population in West and Central Africa, lack access to potable water. This region of Africa is the worst affected in the world. Worldwide, 18 percent lack access to drinking water. In addition, 291 million people in West and Central Africa lack access to sanitation. This region has the highest under-five mortality rate of all “developing regions” at 169 deaths per 1,000. The First World does not lack for water, sanitation or food. It is rare for even the poorest in the United States to lack the basics required for survival. However, lack of access to the basics is a problem that affects billions in the Third World.

According to another recent U.N. report, more people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war. An estimated 2 billion tons of water waste, including fertilizer run-off, sewage, and industrial waste, is being discharged every day. This causes the spread of disease and destroys eco-systems. “Sick water” is tied to 3.7 percent of all deaths globally. More than half of the world’s hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water-related illness. Once again, nearly all the victims of this problem are peoples of the Third World. Even though First World peoples are the main beneficiaries of the Third World production that causes “sick water,” they rarely suffer any of the negative effects. Third World people suffer in order to sustain the First World, consumer lifestyle.

“Sick water” is also tied to the spread of dead zones in the oceans. Dead zones are oxygen-deprived regions where oceanic life dies. Not only does the First World standard of living condemn billions in the Third World to living wretched existences, First World consumption threatens the global eco-system. If oceans die, so too will all life on Earth.

Nine drought-affected African countries are meeting to try to find ways of managing scarce water resources and reducing food shortages. Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal have had falling food production connected to water problems. Food supplies are critically low in Niger and Chad, leaving millions of people vulnerable.  Achim Steiner, the U.N. Undersecretary General and executive director of UNEP:

“If the world is to thrive, let alone to survive on a planet of 6 billion people heading to over 9 billion by 2050, we need to get collectively smarter and more intelligent about how we manage waste, including wastewaters.”

Steiner is correct that survival requires a more rational management of the global economy. The problem is that capitalism is incapable of rising to the challenge. Capitalism is a system that places profit above human needs. These problems are a result of what Karl Marx identified as the anarchy of production under capitalism. Capitalism produces for the market, it does not produce to meet the needs of the vast majority. Gross global inequalities and systematic violence that affects billions are  part of how capitalism functions. Capitalism is only able to reproduce itself because billions in the Third World suffer. Capitalism does not function despite this mass suffering in the Third World, it functions because of it. By contrast, socialism places people above profits. Under socialism, the global distribution will be one that is more rational and egalitarian. The First World itself will be abolished under global socialism. Under socialism, the few will not benefit at the expense of the many.

Notes.

1. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100322/wl_africa_afp/africasaheldroughtfaminefarm
2. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100322/wl_africa_afp/africahealthwater
3. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100322/ap_on_re_af/un_un_clean_water
4. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100321/wl_africa_afp/chadafricafooddroughtwaterenvironment

[Again on] The High Cost of Living in the Third World

[Again on] The High Cost of Living in the Third World

(llco.org) ghanapoverty

It is considered an intuitively self-evident idea among most people in the developed nations, whether they are intellectuals or otherwise, that the difference in income between those nations and the underdeveloped ones can be explained away by noting that the costs of living in the Third World are lower than in the First. This is generally seen as a truism, supported by the experiences of many a tourist from the developed world when visiting popular destinations in the underdeveloped parts, such as Egypt and Mexico, and then noting the extraordinarily low prices for basic products in these countries. Surely then with such low prices, the lower incomes must have been compensated for, so the common people in such nations are, in terms of living standards, not that much poorer, according to the norms they are used to?

Yet this idea is wholly false, as can be demonstrated by some simple calculations. Of course the relative costs of living and incomes vary by nation and also within nations, yet it is possible to give some examples that’ll show how much the difference in incomes translates into differences in living standards. The cost of living in the underdeveloped world is in fact higher than in the developed world.

The price of bread in Ghana is 0.6 Cedi (this is the minimum price guaranteed by the state), which is $0.46. The American price of bread is $1.28 (given as average price in an article in the Boston Globe, dated 09-03-2008.). The average daily wage in Ghana is $1. The minimum hourly wage in the United States is $6.55 (federal minimum); assuming eight hours of work, we get $52.40.

Now all you need to do is calculate how many local loaves of bread one local day of work is worth, to compare. We see that one day of work buys the American minimum income worker $52.40/$1.28 = almost 41 loaves of bread (40.94). One day of work for a Ghanaian average worker buys him $1/$0.46 = a little over 2 loaves of bread (2.17). Therefore, the cost of living (expressed in bread) is much higher in Ghana than in the US.

But, it will be objected, there is more to living costs than merely food prices. In the parts of the world where it’s the common staple food, bread may serve as an acceptable proxy for food costs, but another major expense is the costs of housing. What of this?  First off it must be noted that in terms of housing comparisons, they’re much more difficult to make fairly. Bread is essentially the same everywhere, but housing can vary enormously. Not just because of the differences in amenities common in the housing units, but also because of the differences in land prices, due to the influence of land rent. This in turn is affected by a great many variables, from effects of crime to proximity to work and urban areas, as well as environmental factors and so on.

Yet we need not despair for our analysis entirely. The LA Times fortunately has some information in their article of 26-03-2007 on the slum living of illegal immigrants near Los Angeles. They give the example of a family which earns $10.000 a year and pays $360 a month in rent. I’m not sure if this is household income, but I think so. Rent then is 43.2% of their income for the equivalent of an illegal hovel. From Kenya we have info on slum living, assuming the source is accurate, from a Pambazuka News article of 03-07-2007 by Humphrey Sipalla. The cost of rent is given here as KES 2,693 monthly, which is at current exchange rates $34.26 (this just to give an idea). According to the article, this represents 22% of their income, I assume this also applies to households. If this is accurate then the housing cost in a Kenya slum is just under half of what it is for illegal immigrants in California (22% versus 43%). But it would have to be 1/20th, i.e. much cheaper, to remove the difference in living costs altogether. Of course rents account for differences in costs as mentioned, but comparing Nairobi to the Los Angeles area seems to me not so unfair as to undo that entirely.

We may conclude then from this example, comparing the expenses in major cities in the United States (for average people and poor people respectively) with the living costs in food and housing in Ghana and Kenya respectively, that the common idea of the living costs being much lower in the underdeveloped world is wholly false. Indeed it makes that appearance because the prices, when valuta are calculated according to exchange values on the market, are indeed significantly lower in the Third World – the bread in Ghana costs one-third of what it does in Boston. However, our naive friends in the developed world forget that the incomes in the underdeveloped world are so much lower than theirs, that 1/3rd of the price is for them over 20 times the relative cost.

On a final scientific note, it must be taken into account that there is good evidence that the currencies of underdeveloped nations are undervalued by exchange rates in comparison to their value in terms of purchasing power. The nominal exchange rate of 16-01-2009, which is the one that I have used, is likely (as any nominal exchange rate) to undervalue the currencies of underdeveloped nations compared to their purchasing power. This has no particular implications for the living cost comparison I have undertaken, but it does affect international trade between, say, Ghana and the United States. It means Ghanaian wages as well as prices are undervalued compared to American ones in the exchange rate, causing the terms of trade to tilt strongly in favor of the United States. Gernot Köhler’s research, described in “The Structure of Global Money and World Tables of Unequal Exchange”, in: Journal of World-Systems Research 4:2 (Fall 1998), p. 145-168, indicates in the appendix that the estimated loss as percentage of GNP (PPP) on the part of Ghana and Kenya is respectively 30% and 35%. If currencies were equalized according to PPP, the relative value of the Cedi would be much greater, increasing the relative price of food in Ghana compared to the United States, but also increasing the relative value of the wage. This would not of itself necessarily alter the proportion between wage and food costs within Ghana (aside from changes in the market caused by changes in international trade in the longer run, which are outside the purview of this article), but to a significant degree it’d remove the false impression on the part of citizens of developed nations about the low costs of living, because they’d experience much higher prices in Ghana.