Jean-Paul Martin

The African Revolution

Toward the Independence and Unity of Negro Africa

(April 1959)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 6, Spring 1959, pp. 9–16.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In its turn, Negro Africa is passing through the bourgeois-democratic phase of its revolution before proceeding inevitably on to the proletarian, socialist revolution.

It is true that the question of a Negro African nation south of the Arab countries – from Egypt to Morocco – is complicated by the variety of races, dialects, beliefs, and customs. It is not difficult, however, for a Marxist to understand that what we are now witnessing is the emergence and formation of a sort of national Negro-African consciousness, embracing all the Negro-African peoples whose rudimentary tribal society has been subjected to capitalist penetration, bringing with it the break-up of existing forms and the birth of modern ways of living, whose characteristics are urbanization and even, in some places, intensive industrialization.

This African national consciousness now in process of formation rests on the following solid foundations: the common origin of the Negro-African peoples in a tribal society based on a subsistence agriculture, its structure almost everywhere analogous; many customs held in common, a type of civilization common to all these peoples and fashioned by their history, prior to the penetration of big capital beginning in the XVIIIth century; the level of living standards that the Negro-African masses have suffered, both during the terrible centuries of the slave trade and of forced labor, and at present with the mass impoverishment that brings in its wake speeded-up detribalization and their influx into the urban centres of Africa.

Within a common geographical framework, these economic, cultural, and social factors are now producing a kind of recasting and remingling of the Negro-African masses into a common national whole, awakening, across the tribal differences and vast trans-continental deserts, a common African national consciousness.

Granted, this is but the beginning of a process of which the meaning is clear to only a minority of bourgeois elements, petty-bourgeois intellectuals, and the students and young workers who are growing up in the towns. But to the extent that these are becoming, at a quickening pace, the new axes of reconstruction of African political and economic life, this awakening of consciousness by the urban elite will have profound repercussions on the Negro-African masses all over the continent.

The ideas of independence and Negro-African unity have become the force determining the political process under way in territories under not only French but also British, Belgian, and even Portuguese influence.

To understand the heightened rhythm and ebullient dynamism which typify the development of Negro Africa, events in this part of the world since the Second World War must be clarified.

Development’s Since 1945

Imperialist penetration of Negro Africa has decisively leaped forward since precisely this date, to the extent that Africa in its entirety has become the last economic and strategic reserve of imperialism in retreat. Capitalist investments in this part of the world, in the first post-war decade alone, have exceeded $6,000 million – as much as, if not more than, the total invested between the first discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1871 and 1945, The majority of these investments have been made in the mining areas: diamonds, gold, and uranium in the Congo, and so on.

It is the Southern part of Negro Africa, indeed, which has seen the biggest development, investments there absorbing around 20% to 30% of national income, and the economy increasing around 6% per year. Next come the British East African territories, with Kenya at their head. The least developed parts, where agriculture still predominates, are the West and Equatorial African territories, where investments have scarcely reached a level of 8% of the rather low national revenue.

Industrial production in South Africa in the decade after the war increased tremendously, nearly 30% per annum, only to fall, since 1955, to the nonetheless impressive rate of 20%. In Southern Rhodesia industrial production has trebled since the war. In the Congo it has more than doubled, with real bounds forward on the part of some private industries, such as textiles (where production has increased 600%) and chemicals (400%). Trade among the three Southern regions has likewise strongly developed, above all between South Africa and the Rhodesias.

The Eastern, Central, and Western parts of Negro Africa have undergone a less important development, for the type of capitalist exploitation, centred on agricultural production and the export of mineral wealth, has not succeeded in ensuring a rate of investment which would have permitted speeding up the industrialization of these countries, diversifying their agricultural economies, and thus lessening their close dependence on the price of a few materials in the world market.

Because of this, the social and economic situation in these territories, far from improving, has rather worsened – in spite of undeniable economic (including industrial) advances.

We shall take a look now at the economic situation in these territories and the effects of imperialist domination upon them, for this is the background to present political events.

Economy of Negro Africa

Despite their undeniable mineral wealth [1] and the big possibilities for industrial development through the application of hydro-electric power [2], the main revenues of the Eastern, Central, and Western parts of Negro Africa are drawn predominantly from agriculture.

About 90% of exports from Kenya and Uganda are of agricultural products (coffee, tea, and sisal from Kenya, cotton from Uganda). Cocoa accounts for 70% of Ghana’s exports, and groundnuts, palm-oil, and cocoa together contribute an analogous proportion to the exports of Nigeria and French West Africa.

An agricultural economy is frequently based on a single exportable product, making it extremely vulnerable to fluctuation in prices on the world market. The very high prices which these products commanded during the decade following the last war gave an unprecedented push to the development of a mercantile agricultural economy.

Production of the main agricultural products has trebled and quadrupled since the war. But the European planters have cornered the best land in most African territories, except in some parts of French West Africa, Ghana, Northern Nigeria, and Uganda, and to some extent now in Kenya, where production is mainly in the hands of small tenant farmers.

Through lack of sufficient investment and scientific methods of cultivation, the land remaining to the African farmers, particularly the vast reservations given up to African subsistence agriculture (about 70% of the total cultivated surface) has a very low – and diminishing – productive yield. The sun in tropical Africa exhausts these lands, and intense heat alternating with torrential rain ruins them for cultivation. Thus the indigenous agrarian economies seem caught in an insoluble dilemma: they cannot become productive without increased investment, but by themselves cannot produce the investment without which they cannot become more productive.

The bourgeois critics of the difficulties of native agrarian economies delight in highlighting the so-called defects of a tribal system of society and its consequences on the mentality and conduct of indigenous peoples, so as to blame them for the low rate of primitive accumulation. To listen to these critics, the difficulties standing in the way of further economic development of all Negro Africa arise mainly from the laziness and indolence of the “natives” and their swollen unproductive families, who gobble up the meagre income of those who get around to doing any work; and from land ownership in common, by the tribe or the kinship group.

This last argument seems more serious and deserves a closer look.

Farmers have the use of the land but no freehold rights. The Chiefs or elders allot to each family enough land for extensive cultivation on a lengthy shifting rotation which may include 5–10 years of fallow to 4–5 years of cultivation (and they may reallocate every year). [3]

Penetration by European exploiting capital, however, together with a continuous increase in the African population as a result of medical progress, the abolition of slavery, and the end of inter-tribal wars, have completely upset the “natural” balance of this system of exploiting the land.

The land available to a larger population was reduced in Kenya, Tanganyika, Nyasa-land, and in the French, Portuguese and Belgian areas by the alienation to European use – in most of these it was a small area, but in Kenya perhaps a fifth of the potentially good land, being unoccupied at that time, was taken. In South Africa 90% passed to European use, though much of it in areas not yet seized by the Bantu – and now some of it is being repurchased for the Bantu; in Southern Rhodesia, a country conquered by force of arms, 50% was taken. [3a] Before the imperialist penetration of Africa, the relative stagnation of African tribal society was due to – among other things [4] – the possibilities for extensive cultivation and tillage, given the vastness of the available land in comparison with a somewhat sparse population. [5] Today the poverty of the African peasants, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, springs above all else from the increasingly inferior status as farmers into which they have been thrust, both as regards quality and quantity of the land available to them and as regards methods of cultivation (fertilizers, machines, modern agricultural technique), in comparison with the merchant agriculture of the big European plantations and enterprises.

The remedy for this situation is certainly not the abolition of the system of tribal ownership of the land in common and its replacement by individual private plots, as argued by the apologists of capitalist exploitation. Such a “solution” could definitely profit only those who were the most favored from the point of view of having the necessary capital to acquire an area of land sufficient [6] for cultivation in a rational and productive way (fertilizers, machines, agricultural methods adapted to tropical conditions), while it would, by the destruction of the tribal communal subsistence economy, swell the mass of impoverished natives.

Aspects of the Mechanism of Imperialist Exploitation

At the moment, despite progress in the field of political administration which has found expression in the ever-increasing role of the African elite, nearly all economic and administrative organizations are in European hands. [7]

Mines, plantations, even trade in native agricultural products, scientific research and education, various key administrative offices – all these vital wheels of power remain to the Europeans. Moreover, the capital necessary for the mineral, agricultural, and industrial understruct-ure and development comes, in its decisive majority, from the European metropoleis – and recently, on an increasing scale, also from the United States, in the form of public and private investment.

The apologists of the “generous” aid allotted by the metropolitan imperialists to Negro Africa stress the importance of public investment devoted to the development of these territories, but naturally refrain from mentioning the absolutely fantastic profits still taken by capitalist private enterprise out of the “Black Continent.” [8]

Let us meanwhile see. from a closer angle just what is this “aid” given by the imperialist metropoleis to the “development” of Negro Africa:

The exploitation of the mineral and agricultural resources of the African territories in itself already requires great underlying public works: transport, electricity, administration, some health and educational services, for the maintenance and training of personnel for the imperialist enterprises.

In this field a big effort has been made, especially since the war, on the basis of which it is now considered possible to set going certain far-reaching schemes of industrialization. [9]

How has this effort been financed?

In the British African territories, the funds were raised locally and by metropolitan help as follows: half from local sources, a third from loans, and the rest by subsidy from the metropolis. A country like Ghana, however, has itself supplied 90% of the capital invested in its development. France claims to have invested an average of $150 million a year during this time, as against the $70 million which Britain spends in its territories. [10] Reinvestment of some part of the fabulous profits of local Belgian enterprise has made development of the Congo possible. France contributes $20 million a year to make up the dollar deficit on the foreign trade of her Negro African territories. On the other hand, these territories enable her to save between $100,000,000 and $200,000,000 a year by buying there for francs certain commodities for which she would have to pay in hard currencies elsewhere. [11]

Taking into account that public investment in these territories does not reach above 100,000 million francs a year, plus about 30,000 million privately invested, and that about half the total amount spent by the metropolis on its overseas territories comes back to it in the form of repatriated private capital [11a], it is not difficult to see that the balance of payments as between the metropolis and its African colonies is, in fact, highly favorable to the former. This furthermore explains the feeble economic and industrial development of the African territories as well as the derisory average income of their inhabitants: less than 100 metropolitan francs per day and “perhaps less when one takes account of the fact that the urban population is better paid.” [11b]

The greater part of public funds sent overseas by the metropolis, at the cost of the tax-payers, returns afresh to France in the accounts of private firms, big trading companies, or private individuals (wages, salaries, dividends).

The filtering pump which the franc zone constitutes has therefore the effect of transforming public capital into private wealth, without the overseas territories deriving from the capital provided by the French tax-payers any economic advantage in proportion to the importance of these sums: only a third of metropolitan public expenditure in Negro Africa goes to investment, and only a small part of this to the increase of production [11c] [our emphasis]. The part devoted to useful investment not only remains weak but “is in fact diminishing, both in relative and in absolute value.” [11d]

This makes the economic and industrial development of these territories absolutely impossible within the framework of their present colonial dependence and in face of a constant and noticeable increase in population. Under these conditions, the rate of primitive capital accumulation stands no chance of reaching the level of 15% – much less the 20–25% – of national revenue deemed necessary for any large-scale economic and industrial development of an underdeveloped country.

The Balance Sheet of Imperialist Exploitation

The transformation of the traditional tribal subsistence economy of Negro Africa into a broadly capitalist economy whose purpose is to export the mineral and agricultural wealth of the Negro-African territories; the absence of local industry and a local market sufficiently developed as yet to absorb productively the masses thrown upon it by the continuous detribalization; and to lessen the dependence of African economy on the fluctuation of prices in the world market – all these factors have produced a chaotic overturn of the old society, having as its predominating trait the mass pauperization of the African peoples.

A growing part of this population pours into the urban centres, reflecting the steady commercialization and industrialization of the traditional African economy. [12]

The fever of revolution now gripping the Negro-African masses, underlying the political events now tumultuously crowding upon each other, is the expression of the bursting of the old integument under the pressure of new economic forces still insufficient to permit social reconstruction and stabilization on a higher level.

These forces at their present level of development (that is, the level permitted by still dominant colonial domination) cannot satisfy the accumulated needs of the masses – either from the quantitative point of view (constant increase in population) or absolutely (because the Negro African masses, having seen the technique of modern urban living, demand the same standards as the privileged European minorities).

Hence the revolutionary crisis now spreading throughout Negro Africa, a crisis deepened by the facts that the post-war boom in the prices of raw materials and agricultural products was already over by 1957, and that world-wide political events – the struggles and victories of the colonial revolution, economic advance in the USSR, China, and the other workers’ states, setbacks and difficulties for imperialism – are transformed on contact with the colonial situation, into revolutionary energy which is penetrating even into the very subsoil of the jungles of tropical Africa.

Recent Political Developments

The Accra Conference of last December has unquestionably given a new impulse to the African freedom movement. Since, there have been the conference of trade unions at Conakry and the setting up of the African Workers’ Confederation presided over by Sekou Touré, prime minister of independent Guinea.

But even in September 1958 the nationalist organizations of the “British” East African territories – Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nyasaland and the Sultanate of Zanzibar – held at Mwanza in Uganda, a meeting that was a sort of preparation for the Accra Conference.

A “Pan-African Movement for the Liberation of Central and East Africa” was set up, whose programme foresees:

the development of pan-Africanism, to free East and Central Africa from imperialism, white supremacy, economic exploitation, and social degradation; nationalist activities must be developed to win self-government and parliamentary democracy; programmes, tactics, plans, and efforts must be coordinated.

The Accra Conference was followed by important political developments in West as also in Central and East Africa. In the West, as Guinea consolidated its independence and stepped up its move for federation with Ghana, the first steps were taken towards a new “primary” federation, called Mali, which would group the territories under French control – Senegal, the French Sudan, the Upper Volta, and Dahomey. This federation, sabotaged by French imperialism and elements of the compradore bourgeoisie associated with Houphouet-Boigny, the RDA leader, has proved ephemeral.

It has just broken up (as has the RDA) to give birth to the no longer federative but unitary state of Senegal and the Sudan, and to the Party of African Federation (PFA), presided over by Senghor and by Mobido Keita, its general secretary.

The new party controls the legislative assemblies of Senegal and the French Sudan and is putting into practice, albeit in embryonic form, the “federal executive” project for all French West Africa, decided on at the Bamako Congress in September 1957, and obstinately sabotaged since then by imperialism and its associates.

After the formation of this new party, only the sections of Niger, Dahomey, and the Ivory Coast remained with the RDA controlled by Houphouet. These developments are certainly not the last on the road that leads inexorably to political independence for the countries still under French control in Negro Africa. In 1960 three more territories on the West African coast will reach formal independence: the Cameroons, Togoland, and Nigeria. So will Somaliland in the East. The trend towards formal independence with federative links will gather further speed throughout Negro Africa.

The Western coastal area has developed quickest politically. There are two reasons for this. Because of the climate the European population is small. And the coastal strip is relatively urbanized thanks to the commercial, industrial, and administrative activities centred there.

By contrast, Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa have experienced a less rapid political advance, for various reasons. In the South-East, more highly populated by Europeans than elsewhere, they have monopolized political power, putting obstacles in the way of African participation and a fortiori of the self-government demanded by the overwhelming majority of the Africans.

The champions of the “white man’s Africa” are, beside South Africa, Kenya and Southern Rhodesia. But these states until quite recently felt themselves somehow protected from African nationalism coming from the west, because they considered that they possessed a veritable cordon sanitaire with the Belgian Congo as its centre, and the Portuguese possessions of Mozambique and Angola as its western and eastern flanks, hence were preparing to bring under white control a whole chain of states and federations in the East and Centre of Negro Africa.

This ridiculous house of cards has collapsed after recent events in the Congo and Nyasaland. Like thunder out of a blue sky, the fury of the Negro masses erupted in Leopoldville, placing the political status of the Congo on the order of the day. Everyone sensed that the era of paternalistic Belgian colonialism has been irremediably ended.

The rapidity with which the Belgian government reacted has been remarked. Through the mouth of King Baudouin it announced that Belgium was ready to lead the Congo “towards independence, without delay but likewise without inconsiderate haste.” This means that Belgian big capital is not disposed to fight an “Algerian” war to defend the exorbitant privileges of some 85,000 Belgians and other Europeans living in the Congo in the midst of a population of about 12 million Africans seized by a fever for independence.

How much longer will the Congolese masses wait before imposing, in action, immediate independence for their vast and fabulously wealthy country? “The general atmosphere in Africa in 1960,” justly wrote The Economist on 31 January 1959, “may make it impossible for the Belgians to stick to their plan of moving ‘without inconsiderate haste’.” Congo independence will naturally shatter, in the very heart of Negro Africa, the last barriers in the way of political independence for this whole region.

Somaliland, under Italian mandate, will become independent in 1960 and serve as a pole of regroupment for the other Somali territories so as to form a “Greater Somaliland,” linked eventually with Arab Sudan and Egypt. Uganda, a territory still under British control, with a very sparse European population and some five million Africans, has a number of nationalist parties divided, not on the aim of independence, but only on the best way to win it. Tanganyika, another territory under British mandate, with about eight and a half million Africans to fewer than 20,000 Europeans, will not be long delayed in gaining independence.

In Kenya, the brutal repression of Mau-Mau in 1954 has not prevented the 62,000 European settlers from “[acquiring] the mentality of those who live on the slopes of Mount Etna. They now know that there is a great deal of lava about but hope the eruption will not come in their life time.” (The Times, 27 January 1959) A pious hope, needless to say, in danger of being shattered by the onrushing wave of pan-Africanism throughout Negro Africa.

The tension reigning in Kenya between the small European minority, which has monopolized political power and rules through a white terror, and the mass of the some six million Africans, is extreme, subject to a sudden explosion at any moment.

Surrounded by the Congo, Uganda, Somaliland, and Tanganyika, territories gripped by nationalist fever and promised complete and rapid independence, Kenya is totally cut off from the “white” states to the south, and is bound sooner or later to pass under the political control of its African population. Then, it is to be hoped, the hour of avenging justice will sound for the particularly despicable colonizers of this martyred African territory.

In East Africa, the Europeans are an isolated minority, almost besieged in the middle of a huge African population. In Central Africa, the position of the Europeans is perceptibly different.

In Southern Rhodesia, the white supremacist regime is based on a European population of 207,000 against some two and a half million Africans. In Northern Rhodesia there are 72,000 Europeans and 2,220,000 Africans. But in Nyasaland, on the other hand, the third territory in the Central African Federation, the European population is an infinitesimal minority among 2,500,000 Africans. In round figures, about 300,000 Europeans to more than seven million Africans.

Owning the best land, and with heavy investments in the very rich mines of the area and in the various industries being developed, the settlers in these territories have a natural tendency to imitate the ultra-racialist policy of their South African neighbor, which assures them absolute political control of the Central African Federation. The latter was created in 1953, and Nyasaland was obliged to join despite the unanimous opposition of its African population.

Since then the African nationalist leaders have on several occasions asked for: (a) immediate secession from the Federation, which is dominated by Europeans; (b) internal African self-government, either under the control of the Colonial Office or in an African-dominated Federation with Tanganyika and eventually Uganda.

Sir Roy Welensky, Prime Minister of the Federation and spokesman of the racialist European settlers, is pressing, on the contrary, for Dominion status (like South Africa) for the Federation in 1960, so as to pursue his policy of racial oppression without hindrance. Thus Nyasaland, at the beginning of March, became the scene of the most serious agitation by the Negro masses that Africa has experienced since the Mau-Mau resistance in Kenya.

The movement began when the government of Southern Rhodesia, on the pretext of an imaginary “plot,” declared a state of emergency and arrested the leaders of the African National Congress, including Dr Hastings Banda, the organization’s head. [13]

Following this act, bloody repression by the white authorities and African mass resistance spread like a prairie fire throughout the Federation. Fear of “the whip hand from Salisbury,” fear of white oppression, have strengthened the determination of the African masses not to allow the installation of a new hell like that existing in South Africa.

This latter country, the champion of white supremacy, has at the same time served as a stimulus to the pan-African nationalism which has developed as a reaction against the monstrous apartheid policy of the Union. This policy, however, faced by a constantly increasing African population, despite the extent of European settlement (one European to every three Africans), is heading towards a total impasse. For the African population forms the essential part of the labor force upon which the upbuilding and expansion of the country’s economy depends.

Latterly the new ultra-reactionary Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd introduced the “Bantu Self-Government Bill,” abolishing the symbolic representation of Africans in the House of Assembly and creating eight native “states” under the suzerainty of the Pretoria government. This “solution” means in effect partition of the country, while depriving the very numerous African population of the towns of any participation in political administration.

It only remains to say a few words about the Portuguese territories – Angola in the East, Mozambique in the West. These still suffer a hateful pre-capitalist exploitation, forced labor being the rule both for public works and in private enterprise. But the number of political prisoners languishing in the mediaeval prison island of Sâo Thome, off Angola, as well as several recent demonstrations, attest the irresistible strength of the national movement which is now rising, reaching into every corner of even the most backward parts of Negro Africa.

Problems and Prospects for the African Revolution

The irresistible movement towards African independence and unification is in the hands, for the time being, of leaders and parties ideologically, if not socially, bourgeois in character. This is inevitable in the first phase of the developing African revolution. The general staffs of the African nationalist parties contain a mixture of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intellectuals [14], educated in the imperialist metropolitan capitals – Paris, London, Brussels, Lisbon. Sometimes there are also among them some trade unionists and even ex-Communists. The Houphouets, Mamadou Dias, Senghors, Keitas, Sekou Tourés, Nkrumahs, Abubakrs, Awolowos, and Azikiwes et al., in French and British West Africa, and the Mboyas, Kianos, Bandas, Nyereres, Kasavubus et al., in Central and East Africa, are men of this stamp.

The ideology they hold in common – though in varying degrees – is pan-African nationalism; that is, the counterposing of the African masses, without distinction of class [15], against European colonialism. Pleading the limited development of native bourgeois structures among a great mass of poor farmers and workers, these leaders and their parties in general reject the class struggle and seek only the creation of the bases for capitalist development under African control.

Pushed by the movement of the African masses in search of a new social equilibrium, conscious of the weakness of imperialism and the economic potentialities of Negro Africa, encouraged by East-West antagonism, these leaders strive for the elevation of the African elite to undisputed political control, in economic partnership with imperialism.

So as to bargain for this status from a position of strength, they are led to erect against imperialism federated or even unified groups of states bigger than the territories created artificially by the imperialists – the more so in that this tendency towards unification also corresponds to the wishes of the African masses and to the imperative requirements of any real economic development.

The imperialists, with rare exceptions, seem to have understood that it is impossible to perpetuate their direct control over the Negro African countries. Accordingly, so as to preserve their advantageous economic and strategic positions in this part of the world, they encourage the role of the African bourgeois elite. By so doing they reckon they can polarize pan-Africanism and deflect it from an alliance with Arab “neutralism” still recently too much drawn into the Soviet orbit, and from Communist influence. American imperialism is the boldest bidder in this game. The part played by its representatives at the recent Accra Conference and the friendly relations linking it with Nkrumah, champion of pan-Africanism against Communism, have been only too well noticed. Nkrumah’s ideological adviser, George Padmore, has not failed to goad him in this direction.

But the course of the African revolution will show, as in the case of the Arab revolution it is already being demonstrated, that the historic task of unifying the Negro nation now in formation can be carried through only by a new leadership, socialist and working-class in character. Negro-African unification will prove to be, above all, the deepest desire of the African revolutionary masses; whereas the various African elites, of a bourgeois social character, will turn out each to have their special narrow aims, each differently linked with imperialism, mutually antagonistic and organically incapable of accomplishing this historic task.

Moreover, the industrialization and economic development of Negro Africa is a task which cannot be fulfilled by capitalist methods. On the basis of its existing colonial economy, and the parsimony and “strings” with which the imperialist powers dole out their aid, Negro Africa will not be able to effect the primitive accumulation of the necessary capital for a genuine industrialization on a big scale within the relatively short available time.

In fact, like the other underdeveloped areas, Negro Africa faces rather the possibility of economic retrogression, with whatever advance is made in absolute terms remaining too little and too late in comparison with the increasing size and needs of the population, and the progress of the advanced countries. The gap between it and them, far from steadily diminishing, is more likely to become greater.

The solution would be quite different within the perspective of a socialist revolution under working-class leadership. The problem of primitive accumulation would be resolved by the nationalization of the surplus-value at present extorted by imperialism, by putting millions of people now in process of pauperization into productive work, and by the disinterested help of the workers’ states. A bold agrarian reform, backed by help from the socialist state, would allow rational cultivation of collective land, of the tribal areas, and of the expropriated and nationalized European plantations. New land would be reclaimed by clearing the jungles and establishing irrigation works.

This is the perspective by which Negro-African revolutionary Marxist cadres working in the various nationalist organizations and the trade-union movement must be oriented. While giving critical support to the bourgeois African organizations to the extent that they lead an effective struggle against imperialism, and for independence and unification, these Marxist cadres have the duty of preparing the formation of autonomous working-class parties, inspired by the programme of the Negro-African socialist revolution.

Left centrist formations and a growing trade-union movement already exist in West Africa, constituting the embyros of the proletarian class parties of tomorrow: the UPC in the Cameroons, the PAI, the dissident PRA in Senegal (which has broken with Senghor), the trade-union militants in Guinea.

The Negro-African revolution is distinguished by a tendency to leap over stages. It will not be long before revolutionary Marxist parties place themselves at the head of the Negro-African masses and advance with giant strides towards the Socialist Revolution.

April 1959


1. Gold, manganese and bauxite in Ghana; tin and columbite in Nigeria; chrome, diamonds and iron in Sierra Leone; iron in Guinea and Liberia; bauxite in the Cameroons; copper in Uganda, etc.

2. Negro Africa possesses two thirds of the world’s potential power in the hydro-electric field, its reserves being valued at 200 million kilowatts.

3. The Economist, 13 December 1958.

3a. Ibid.

4. Another reason is to be sought in the relative isolation of the African population from each other, separated by distances and by various geographical obstacles.

5. “Whenever economic problems gathered to a point of crisis which might elsewhere have induced a change in economic relations – and hence a growth towards higher forms of social organisation – the Bantu (Africans) simply moved to new lands, warring if necessary with others who stood in their way.” (Basil Davidson: The African Awakening)

6. Which, bearing in mind the geographical conditions and tropical climate, must be more extensive than elsewhere, allowing for conservation of the soil, rational rotation, etc.

7. Who number about half a million as against some 100 million Africans in Central Africa (not counting South Africa).

8. Basil Davidson in his now well known book, The African Awakening, cites several examples of what he calls “the astronomical takings in Africa” before and after the last war, the dividends of several mining companies reaching 50 to 100, 200 and even 300%. “During the years of mining boom, after the Second World War,” adds Davidson, “profits rose to heights never reached before. Even the original plundering of India clinks like small change in comparison with this,” etc.

9. The planned exploitation of very rich iron deposits at Fort Gouraud in Mauritania; phosphates at Taiba in Senegal; bauxite at Los and Boke in Guinea; the Volta River project in Ghana; the Ingu Zone project in the Belgian Congo, etc.

10. By contrast, the share of private capital from Britain is considerably greater than that of French private investors.

11. Enquiry by G. Mathieu in Le Monde, 22, 23, and 24 September 1958.

11a. Ibid.

11b. Ibid.

11c. Ibid.

11d. Ibid.

12. In 1953 the total number of Congo Africans living permanently “hors chefferis” – outside the tribal areas – rose to about two and a half million, or roughly a quarter of the country’s whole population.

The post-war rhythm of development of the towns in Negro Africa is particularly impressive. To quote a few examples: the native population of Leopoldville jumped from 16,701 in 1923 to 46,884 in 1940, reaching 96,116 in 1945, 118,710 in 1948, 244,000 in January 1953, and about 400,000 at the present time. Elisabethville, Stanleyville and Coquilhatville have experienced a similar rate of expansion. Nairobi in Kenya has had an increase in population from 53,000 in 1945 to 95,000 in 1952. The countryside south-west of Douala is emptying into the town.

Intensive urbanization is a phenomenon common to the whole of Negro Africa, where millions of people are flowing towards the growing commercial, administrative, and industrial centres. Yet it is hard to imagine the living conditions of most of the inhabitants of the “native quarters.” Let us again take the example of Leopoldville, where a big effort has been made to improve the “native quarter.” In the old native city, the average density of population is 302 per hectare. In the whole quarter there is not a single storeyed house: that means that more than 300 people are living in a space 100 metres square. During 1954 and 1955, no house was built for a rent lower than 300 Belgian francs a month. But the great majority of workers do not draw more than 1,000 francs per month, and though, with a reasonable wage, one-third spent on rent may not be excessive, on a starvation wage of this sort decent lodging is completely beyond the native workers’ reach.

13. The national movement in Nyasaland evolved following the significant rebellion of Africans between January 23 and February 4, 1916, initiated by the Reverend John Chileinbwe, a local clergyman. (See Independent African, by Shepperson and Price, Edinburgh University Press, 1958.)

14. Intellectuals always play a big role in colonial and undeveloped countries because of frightful mass illiteracy. According to UNESCO statistics, illiteracy is 95–99% in French Africa; 85–95% in Tanganyika and Nigeria; 75–80% in Ghana and Kenya; and nearly 100% in the Portuguese possessions.

15. Sekou Touré recently told a correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune that there is “only one class of Africans.”

Pablo Icon
Michel Pablo
Marx Icon
Marxist Writers’

Updated on: 30 January 2016