The International Relations of Production
Just as pre-capitalist Asia, America and Africa did not conform to the ‘Marxist’ concept of classes of Europe, but, according to Marx and Engels, were communally based despotisms, so much of independent Africa defies definition by European criteria. Instead of a bourgeois class there is communal property. But these combinations of bureaucracies and communal property are also found in the USSR, China and Eastern Europe; yet these are not capitalistic countries, for they have experienced unreversed social revolutions and have less than 10% of their economy in the capitalist world market. Independent, in contrast, is 100% in the capitalist world market; and this is a basic criterion. Secondly, and more importantly, there is imperialistic capital in all the independent African states, in the form of investments – on freehold and leasehold or in nationalized enterprises – or in loans. Thirdly, through foreign commerce and the Lomé convention, Africa is in a subject position, as a primary producer transferring ‘hidden surplus value’ by exporting raw materials to imperialist countries and importing their finished industrial products. Fourthly, these three economic criteria have political and cultural reflexes such as membership of the British imperialist Commonwealth (so named by the racialist Smuts himself) or the French Union, or cultural agreements with the former ‘mother countries’. And finally there is a foreign policy of ‘neutralism’ such as is not held by the USSR or any East European state except Yugoslavia, which is ‘transitional’ but not capitalist, by North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba or China. These are the basic criteria by which we can decide whether or not a former colony is capitalist or socialist. Neither the formal property relations, nor public declarations, are scientific judgements. Most imperialist states have had or have ‘socialist’ governments, which have waged many racialist colonialist wars, against Indo-China, Vietnam, the Mau Mau in Kenya and others. Nearly all African states declare themselves to be socialist or Marxist - ‘African’ Marxist as well as ‘scientific’ – as are nearly all independent Asian states. But the ultimate defining factor is the imperialistic nexus, and in terms of this criterion none of Africa is ‘socialistic’ yet, all the property forms and policy declarations notwithstanding.
A social, anti-imperialist revolution clearly involves the expropriation and nationalization of all imperialist property and investments. In much of Africa these reduces the social revolution to the expropriation of the small, inhibited, non-industrial, non-banking, non-exporting colonial bourgeoisie. But such a revolution is pathetic, meaningless, and would leave the entire imperialist domination intact. It would be meaningless to define as bourgeoisie the non-property-owning bureaucratic caste in Tanzania, where state officers may not own property in production, or shares, or investments, and thus cannot be capitalists. There are comparable restrictions on the bureaucratic caste in Ethiopia, in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique and similar trends in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. Since there is no real bourgeoisie in these states, expropriation would be meaningless.
A social revolution in Africa – South, East, West, Central as well as North – has these days to do not only with formal property relations but with the real economic domination of imperialism, including that of European South Africa. That is what must be abolished. When it has gone, no bourgeoisie can exist. There are only two types of capitalist state, the imperialist and the colony or semi-colony. Since no former colony in these days can do what the USA, Canada and Australasia did in the 19th Century – convert themselves from colonial to colonialist countries – the anti-imperialist social revolution in Africa would destroy the very foundations of capitalism. For without colonialism, its very base, capitalist cannot exist.
The social anti-imperialist revolution requires not only expropriation, where that situation arises, but attention to the newer forms of imperialism, the EEC Lomé Convention and loan-capital. It calls for a grand ‘Boston Tea Party’ all around Africa. Conversely, it calls for an end to all agreements to export raw materials cheaply, cutting Europe and North America off from those materials that Africa and Asia need for their own rapid industrialization. It means reversing the international social division of labour. It means annulling and cancelling the public external debt as a necessary pre-revolutionary step; had Lenin or Mao stood in awe before the external debt of the Czara or Chiang Kai-shek, there would have been no revolution in Russia or China. Foreign contracts would be under national control, at rates that did not reflect cheap labour, free from subsequent dominion by foreign tecnology, aimed at economic independence from tool-making and power machinery. But without an African Cuba – the dream of Che Guevara- without the permanent anti-imperialist revolution, ‘planning’ must fail.
Imperialist exploitation, the transfer of surplus value from Africa to, mainly, Europe, will end. The transfer takes place in two major ways: first, through investments and loans. Loans, for example, enable European banks to give loans to African states – these loans never leave Europe, but go to multinationals and states which undertake construction and projects in Africa and earn super-profits by superexploiting African cheap labour. Most of the loans go to European salaries and wages, always 20 or more times higher than African wages, to the purchase of European steel and other products, to European shipping and air companies and insurance companies, and finally to the profits of the contractors. The African states, which have received no money except some for local wages and materials, then have to repay the loan with interest. They are left with some fixed capital installations – generally non-industrial, for European capital and labour agree not to export heavy machine industry, atomic power equipment, computer units, electronics to Africa. Africa remains unindustrialized, predominantly agricultural – the reverse of what its deserts and thin top-soil call for. The myth that Europe, with its rich top-soil, poverty in minerals and in water power, is made for industry and that Africa, with its poor top-soil and abundant minerals and water-power, is made for agriculture, has even been endorsed by Nyerere, whose Arusha Declaration of 1967 declares agriculture to be the base of Tanzania’s economy. The loan system preserves the fundamental world division of labour between industry and agriculture. It leaves Africa with a debt equal to a year’s production. The whole semi-colonial world today owes nearly 1,000 billion dollars to the advanced West. In repaying the capital and paying the interest Africa has become poorer and poorer, as its surplus value is drained off in debt and capital repayments.
Secondly, Europe imports African minerals and agricultural raw material crops at cheap labour prices, below their true value. Not that African productivity in mining and export farming is lower than European; for the most part different products are mined and grown, and figures for productivity are not comparable, but where they are, as in gold, copper, uranium and coal mining and oil and iron extraction and in the manufacture of textiles, car assembly, processing and even in certain heavy industry, African productivity is higher than European. Productivity and wages are unrelated quantities. The low selling price of African products has behind it 500 years of European undervaluing of African lives, African lands and African labour and wealth. Marx drew attention once to European undervaluing of American gold and silver. The undervaluing of African production in the pre-independence period was standard practice – used also for tax and customs evasion. But when the imported raw materials are sold as part of a European manufacture, they are sold at full world value. They are costed not at import but at world prices. The general rate of profit may be in the region of 100%, but the profit on the colonial products is 200%, even 100%, as shown by recent research into British imports of electrical products from Hong Kong. The surplus value transferred in this manner I have called ‘hidden’ surplus value: colonial imports to the imperialist countries make up about 10% of total national incomes, and the hidden super-surplus value some 10% or more, so that it comprises the entire declared surplus value in the gross national products of those countries. To this major element we must add the surplus value made either through direct investments or through the German-developed loan-contract system; and the Lome Convention guarantees to Europe a regular supply of cheap, undervalued raw materials and at the same time preserves the character of the independent African countries as primary producers and the colonialist world social division of labour. The combination of the two methods of super-exploitation, through loans and through undervalued imports, has frustrated every ambition of independence. About 10 years after most African states had won independence, Kwame Nkrumah declared them to be still ‘neo-colonies’ of Europe and the United States. And there is still the enormous capital market of Anglo-European owned South Africa, whose economy sprawls over the major area of sub-equatorial independent Africa with mining, banking, export, transport and other investments and operations, including the recruitment of cheap labour.
One third of independent Africa labours directly for this system of imperialism. The other two thirds is unemployed: its production counts for little; it is auxiliary to wages, helping cheap labour to survive, preserving the system of cheap labour with a pressure of mass unemployment a hundred times greater than any known in Europe. The capitalist system in Africa is not the same as that in Europe: it is the hell below heaven. But it is the heaven, not its hellish underworld, that the Solzhenitzins and other pro-Western defectors from Eastern Europe have seen. Over two-thirds of Africa’s production is drained away to Western Europe via the Lomé Convention, loan repayments and profits on investments. What is left is termed the gross national product. The bureaucratic castes and neo-bourgeoisies take at best an increasing (from nearly zero) share of this profit, but the major share goes aborad and the capitals of Europe hve ways of recovering the bulk of what even oil kingdoms keep, through property and financial investments which they and not the ‘sheikhs’ own and control and which give them access to Iran, Libya and other states. Nationalization has had the same effect. The giant multinationals of South Africa, Holland, America, Belgium, Britain and France that have been nationalized remain powers in their old states and, through ‘aid’, loans and 50-50 nationalization, also in the new states. This fusion of monopoly capital with independent states much weaker than this capital has been the economic-political basis of ‘African dictatorships’ which mask, and are inversions of, those European despotisms that underlie European democracy. It is this imperialistic totality, combined with the retribalization of indirect rule, that has produced the modern ‘African despotisms’.
Despite, and under cover of, African socialism and, more and more, of African Marxism, independence is the ultimate form of indirect rule fused with the ultimate form of monopoly capitalism, the imperialist, multinational companies and multinational treaties like the EEC. This reality was never the intention of African nationalism, socialism or Marxism, which aimed at freedom and self-determination. The converse has happened; the independence movements acted as catalysts in processes to which they were in principle opposed.
Sekou Touré and Senghor have reflected the underdevelopment of a colonial bourgeoisie in writing about the classless nature of African society and a Marxism without the class struggle, apart from that against imperialism. European Marxism, in contrast, self-interestedly undervalued imperialism and explained world surplus value more through ‘productivity’ in the ‘metropoles’ than through colonial superexploitation. The historic objectivity of these two leaders places them as the finest representatives of an African bourgeoisie which never had the chance to become a proper class. They represent the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ revolution in the age of imperialism as Robespierre and Cromwell, for instance, did in the age of feudalism.
Paradoxes and Accidents: the African Revolution
Given the special conditions in Africa (communal land, nationalization of foreign interests, a singularly weak bourgeoisie and a strong proletariat, it cannot be excluded that a few independent states may, like Cuba under Castro, become socialist countries without the political replacement of the bureaucratic caste. In the case of Cuba, a national bourgeoisie, after the defeat of the Batista regime, found itself impelled towards the Soviet Union by an error of American political strategy. This accident took Castro and Che Guevara from a bourgeois into a social revolution without being themselves overthrown by a Communist or other ‘workers’’ party, whose place was actually taken by their own party of revolt. China had its social revolution, under different post-war conditions, because the party of Mao turned away from its previous agrarian course on to one of agrarian revolution, and broke with Stalin over collaboration with America. Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Czechoslovakia had social revolutions as a result of the combination of resistance movements in semi-colonial countries with the Red Army’s crushing victories over Nazism, and East Germany and Poland became ‘socialist’ by force of the Soviet army’s victory and not by any internal resistance movement. North Korea and Vietnam went from national liberation to social revolution under ex-Stalinist parties. There are thus no golden rules for social revolutions, however deirable the Leninist rule may seem. What was once regarded as an exceptional path has become common. There is no reason why, in quite an enexpected way, through some ‘accident’ or other, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, the Congo or even Tanzania should not be transformed from a semi-colony, a member of some European Commonwealth or EEC convention, into a member of the ‘socialist bloc’.
Such accidental social transformations, however, cannot be the norm. In the case of South Africa, the Evian-Lisbon-Lancaster House type of ‘independence’ solution is ruled out by the social, economic and political structure of the country. It is a bastion of the West in minerals, gold, uranium: a third of the Western investments in, and 24% of the trade, 50% of the industry and 66% of the energy-supply of, all Africa are concentrated there; it is of great strategic importance militarily to NATO and the EEC, and ‘majority rule’ cannot be risked there. The five million Europeans will not give up their racial stance and privileges without a war. The non-Europeans possess no bourgeoisie in the reserves or locations, or indeed anywhere, strong enough to manage the vast imperialist mining, banking and industrial undertaking. There is a politically unbeaten proletariat, utterly non-‘European’, unclassical, totally revolutionary.
The course of the revolution against racialism seems to be directed not to a Lancaster-Zimbabwean agreement, nor to a Pretoria-Bonn-Washington-London deal on Namibia, but towards a Vietnamese type of international confrontation, but one such as Vietnam never, even in the midst of the revolution and the napalm, knew. The southern arm of the EEC-apartheid ‘nutcracker’ will burst the shell of Sam Nijoma’s hopes for a really independent Namibia34, whose independence requires the repatriation of Angolan-Cubans, freedom for German capital, in particular, and the closing down by all African states of the guerrilla camps and bases of the ANC of South Africa. The EEC, Whitehall, Pretoria, the UNO, liberals, World Council and other Church bodies, social democracy and Eurocommunism, will try repeatedly to engage the liberation movement in political talks with the Quislings of apartheid. Talks such as these occurred in October 1979 when ANC leaders met Buthelezi’s ‘Inkatha’ (strongly backed by West Germany and USA parties and finance) and agreed on a ‘United Patriotic Front’ against the Pretoria regime which had, with the Thatcher government of the time, arranged this meeting with the foremost ‘anti-apartheid’ Bantustan-type collaborator with apartheid35, at the same time as Lord Carrington was, with the help of the ‘Front Line Presidents’ (of Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana) preparing the Lancaster House agreement for the continued economic dominion of British capital and settlers in Zimbabwe. While British capital’s private police murderously put down a massive African miners’s strike in September 1984, its two main political vehicles in South Africa – the Liberals and the Anglican Church – stepped up a proto-Lancaster House policy. Hence the opening up of the Oppenheimers’ Progressive party to non-Europeans in November 1984. Hence, too, the appointment by the Canterbury Church-within-a-State of one, Naidoo, as Cape Town archbishop, and of the avowedly anti-Communist 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tutu, founder, in 1983, of the Black Consciousness National Forum, as archibishop of the Golden City, Johannesburg.
While imperialism spreads the illusion of a ‘negotiated solution’, à la Lancaster House, for South Africa, NATO has rearmed South Africa as a member of the secret South Atlantic Treaty Organization (for which, inter alia, the British went into the Malvine or Falkland Islands in 1982). France, the USA and, since 1972, German firms, backed by the Socialist-Liberal Government of Schmidt and the government of Kohl, have made South Africa an atomic power, producing West Germany’s first A-bomb since President Carter informed the world of an A-bomb test on 22 September 197936. [South Africa has since disassembled its arsenal before joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty] Parallel with this EEC-NATO nuclear potential is a German-backed plan, first elaborated by Kauffmann in 1962, and refined by Natorp, Van der Ropp and other admirers of ‘Black Consciousness’ and of the apartheid principle, to partition South Africa into a consolidated Bantustan, to be known as Azania, including the Eastern Cape and Natal, and a ‘White’-Asian-‘Coloured’ South African Republic37. All this is very different to the process of constitutional negotiations used for the rest of Africa. The difference lies in the fundamental role of racialism as the cement of imperialism in South Africa, in the dual nature of the country as being, in Trotsky’s words, ‘A colony for the Blacks and a Dominion for the Whites’38, i.e. as being the only imperialist nation in Africa itself.
This dual character of the South African political economy locates it as a bridge between the imperialist ‘centre’ and semi-colonial ‘periphery’. It has its ‘West’ and its ‘South’ in juxtaposition with each other. Its conflicting ‘race’-class poles are inside one geo-state, as in the USA and, to a much lesser degree, in the EEC states with their relatively smaller ‘internal colonies’. This South African duality is an internationalization of the general international social relation of production: namely that the exploited/oppressed classes are in the semi-colonial ‘periphery’ and the exploiting/oppressor classes are in the imperialist ‘centre’. The conflicting classes belong, generally, to different nations, but in South Africa they belong to one race-class divided ‘nation’. The world-dominant capitalist system has a fundamental self-negating contradiction: the international nation-class relations of production, namely that ‘the world is divided into oppressed nations and ruling nations’39, form a barrier known as the ‘gap’ which obstructs the worldwide development of the forces of production. These forces are situated largely in the ‘West’. The semi-colonial ‘South’ pays tribute in labour and natural wealth to this ‘West’, but is itself starved of developed forces of production by the international division of labour, which itself is the most direct expression of the international class relations of production. This international contradiction of capitalism is largely internalised in South Africa. However, through its own Southern African Customs Union and virtual Common Market, South Africa has the same external contradiction between relations and forces of production as other imperialist powers have in relation to their respective spheres of influence.
This twofold contradiction of South Africa takes the form of conflicts between the European ‘race’-class with both its internal and its external non-European cheap-labour antithesis: the racially oppressed in South Africa and the exploited and dependent neighbouring peoples of Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and even Zaire, Tanzania and Kenya. This proletariat-peasant antithesis, in the context of an impending Guevarist awakening of Africa, is the nemesis of ‘White’ South Africa. It is bound by its very mode of existence to be the major force in the resolution of the irreconcilable conflict between relations and means of production in Southern and thence in most, if not all, of Africa. As the experience of Guinea, Mozambique, Angola and Ethiopia has confirmed, neither ‘aid’ nor economic planning – which, at best can be a holding operation for the Permanent Revolution in Africa – can secure independence and transform it into socialism. This permanent revolution is the ‘nation-class’ struggle against the international relations of production.
When the illusions have been dispelled by the anti-imperialist and international nature of the final ‘solution of the South African problem’, when the tears have dried and the clouds lifted over this seemingly inevitable clash of classes and nations, Africa may well not recognize itself in any Africanist mirror; certainly not in any European one. Certain it is, at any rate, that every concept and practice of tribe and race, from Crummell to Black Consciousness, will have long been sloghed off by the actual struggles of the liberation movements. Certain, too, that the communal society that will emerge will be a non-racial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and non-European one. It will de-Europeanize also Europe, help to reagriculturalize, deindustrialize and humanize it, closing the material and cultural gap. No one can say whether this will happen before the year 2000. History, however, has shown often enough that novelty can very quickly be born out of conflict in Asia.
34. Sam Nujoma, interview, Panorama, Milan, 12 Marxh 1984, pp. 113-4.
35. ANC statement by O. Tambo, 5 November 1979; The Star, Johannesburg, 3 November 1979; The Guardian, 7 November 1979. The meeting was between ‘Inkatha’ and ANC executives and agreed to parallel action ‘regardless of secondary differences’. (O. Tambo, circulated press statement, London)
36. ‘Atombombe mit Deutscher Hilfe?’, Der Spiegel, 29 October 1979, with photograph of Palindaba A-plant; H. Jaffe, ‘Una Bomba “Made in Germany”’, Panorama, Milan, 19 November 1979. On earlier German work: ‘Going Nuclear’, in Economic and Political Weekly, 29 January 1977; ‘South Africa’s Mysterious A-Plant’, in Herald Tribune, 7 May 1977.
37. Details of the West German Partition Plan in H. Jaffe, Germania, op. cit.; and H. Jaffe, Storia del Sudafrica, op. cit. The German plan has the support insied Botha’s cabinet of at least two policy=making members; the German plan was worked out in Bonn’s Stiftung Wissenschaft Und Politik, in the Aussenpolitik journal, and by Frankfurt and traditional Hamburg African-Studies centres. Von Der Ropp’s contacts with Black Review and other Black Consciousness’ bodies was paralleled by meetings with the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1976. The German plan rejects the separate Bantustans as well as the ‘liberal’ solution of ‘one man one vote’ (subscribed to by the EEC and by Kissinger-Mondale onlt after Soweto, 1976).
38. L. Trotsky, ‘Letter to South Africa’, reproduced in Workers Voice, Cape Town, 1944. (Trotsky wrote two letters, the one referred to being April 1935. They were written to the Lenin Club and Workers Party, Cape Town. Like Engels (in articles on Morocco, 1957 and to Storckenberg, 25 January 1894) and the 3rd International ‘Resolutions on a Black State’ in America and South Africa, but unlike Marx and Lenin, on the evidence, Trotsky accepted the concept of ‘race’ and wanted the ‘Black race to ascend, hand in hand, with the White race, to new cultural heights’. The New Era Fellowship, during the rise of the Non-European Unity Movement, rejected the concept of ‘race’ which B.M. Kies described as a ‘myth’ in his Contribution of the Non-Europeans to World Civilization, Cape Town, 1953.
39. V.I. Lenin, speech, 6 December 1920, in Collected Works.
Hosea Jaffe - A History of Africa (1985)