Kali Akuno is a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)
On Sunday, June 12th, 2005 the United States and Great Britain, on behalf of the G8 (which also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the European Union), agreed in principle to reconsolidate Afrika's so-called "debts" to the major imperialist powers and their financial institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, etc.). The reconsolidation has been praised the world over in the bourgeois and reformist press as a major advance in the "elimination of poverty" in Afrika. However, a closer look at this maneuver reveals that it is nothing more than a primary step in the imperialist scheme to redivide the spoils of the centuries long rape and pillage of Afrika and its peoples.
As everyone living in a capitalist society knows "there is no free ride", and the imperialists never give up anything for nothing. So, what are they trying to accomplish with this so-called “debt relief” maneuver? What are their goals and objectives? And how will these maneuvers affect the working and poor rural masses of Afrika? This article will briefly examine four of the primary objectives underlining this maneuver in the hopes of shedding some light on the aforementioned questions.
1. Redividing the spoils of Afrika to preserve US hegemony, satisfy EU profit realization, and contain Chinese expansion.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the major imperialist powers have engaged in a mad scramble for the control of Afrika and its resources. This scramble accelerated inter-imperialist rivalry in Afrika and resulted in a legion of proxy wars in the 1990’s, primarily between the US, France, the UK, and South Africa. These include the resource wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Angola, and the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi, and their continuance in the Congo.
This inter-imperialist rivalry substantially changed in character in the late 1990’s as China entered the game. China has maintained a political and economic presence in Afrika since the 1950’s. In fact, it played a rather reactionary roll in the mid-1970's in it’s support of UNITA in Angola, which was also supported by the CIA and the white settler regime of South Africa. However, China did not fully engage Afrika as an imperialist power, i.e. as a major exporter of capital, until the 1990’s. Like all of the western imperialist powers, China’s main interest in Afrika is the exploitation of Afrika’s material resources, particularly oil and natural gas. China is virtually dependent upon the western powers for its oil needs. China effectively entered the new scramble for Afrika in 1996 - 1997, when it signed a major oil agreement with the government of Sudan. This agreement is part of China’s strategy to rid itself of its oil dependency on the western imperialists to ensure greater control over its industrial economy and secure its ability to accumulate capital internationally. The western imperialists, particularly the US, are keen to control all of the oil interests of the world to maintain their control on the emerging capitalists of China (and India). By controlling this strategic resource, the western powers, through US lead imperialism, aim to maintain and perpetuate their control over the world-system.
This is best exemplified by examining the recent posturing of the US imperialists in regards to human rights in the Sudan relating to the conflict and crisis in Darfur. The US was quick to tag the killings in Darfur as genocide? Why, when they have made no such mention of an even more profound crisis in the Congo, where more than 2.5 million Afrikans have been killed since 1997 in large part by US backed forces from Uganda and Rwanda? The strategic reason is to eliminate the oil deals between China and the Islamic regime of the Sudan. To do this, the US government proposed an oil export embargo on the Sudanese regime in 2004 as part of its draft resolution on the Darfur crisis. The aim of the US is to terminate this oil deal via “regime change” through an internationally sanctioned occupation or through economic and political isolation to stimulate the Islamic regimes collapse. The charge of genocide in the Sudan was and is merely a masterfully crafted propaganda campaign and power play on behalf of US imperialism to control the follow of oil in the world market. The creation of such a state remains the aim however, as evidenced by the repeated attempts by the imperialists to broker peace through South Africa, the UN, and other international human rights institutions.
China accelerated the scramble game in December 2003 when it canceled of all the debts owed it by the neo-colonial regimes of Afrika. This unilateral move, plus other promises issued by the Chinese regime to open its markets to preferential trade with 34 Afrikan countries, combined with the pressure exerted from the reparations and debt relief movements forced the western imperialists to make this public relations maneuver and restructure Afrika’s debts.
2. Comprehensively reorganizing the states in Africa to facilitate greater imperial control and capital penetration.
One of the primary goals of this debt relief maneuver is to create greater control mechanisms for imperialism to control capital and labor in Afrika. The primary control mechanism of capitalism is the state. The dictatorial neo-colonial regimes needed, created, and sustained by imperialism to contain the genuine revolutionary national liberation movements in Afrika during the cold war outlived their purpose after its end. With the effective defeat and rollback of the revolutionary national liberation and socialist movements in Afrika in the 1980’s (note that the imperialists unfailingly supported settler-colonialism in the form of apartheid in Azania, i.e. South Africa, until the collapse of the Soviet Union), the imperialists flipped the script on Afrika in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, and aggressively demanded that free-market, multiparty, parliamentary democracies be instituted to more effectively facilitate neo-colonial control and resource extraction. The imperialists used two interrelated strategies to create these new so-called “democracies” (US imperialism has employed similar neo-colonial “democratic” strategies for well over 100 years, in the Philippines, Cuba, Panama, etc.): 1) debt enslavement and structural adjustment programs (SAP), and 2) the force of arms, now called “regime change”.
The history and analysis of how the IMF, the World Bank, and the western imperialists use SAP’s to implement neo-liberal polices of privatization and deregulation to control Afrikan governments is well documented and will not be repeated here. What is not well known is how the imperialists have used proxy armies in conjunction with SAP’s to totally restructure the state in Afrika. Two interrelated examples best illustrate this strategy. The first example is the elimination of the Mobutu regime in the Congo (formerly Zaire). The second example is provided by the support and promotion of the new school dictatorial democracies of Uganda and Rwanda.
Since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba by the CIA in 1961, western imperialism, particularly the US, France, and Belgium, ardently supported the dictatorial regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. The US changed course in the mid-1990’s and decided that with the Cold War now over Mobutu had served his purpose. According to the US imperialists, Afrika now needed democratic regimes to further its development and realize its potential. These new democracies would be thoroughly opened to US corporate penetration, a fact that angered the European imperialists, particularly the French who are thoroughly dependent on Afrika for their imperial plunder. This policy shift on the part of the US led to an intense US-French inter-imperialist rivalry in the 1990’s. This rivalry lead to the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, with the French backing the established Hutu regimes and the US backing the Tutsi rebels who seized power after more than 1 million Afrikans were killed. The US extended this rivalry in 1996 when it urged and supported its puppet Ugandan and Rwandan regimes to invade the Congo (then Zaire) and overthrow the Mobutu government. They accomplished this feat by mid-1997, thus eliminating a critical sphere of French domination in Afrika and replacing it with a new American sphere (however the US and French imperialists basically patched their feud up at the 1997 G7 summit in Denver, Colorado). To date however, the imperialists have not been able to create the exemplary state they desire in the Congo, following the examples of Uganda and Rwanda, in large part due to the contradictions and competition for capital they unleashed amongst their Afrikan proxies for the material riches of the Congo.
Throughout the 1990’s, Uganda and Rwanda (Uganda in particular) were upheld as the shining stars of “progress, development, and rebirth” in Afrika by the US imperialists, in part for their full implementation of the policies and practices of the IMF and the World Bank. The other justification used by the imperialists to trumpet the alleged virtues of Uganda and Rwanda, are their alleged “good governance” policies. Although Uganda and Rwanda are virtual dictatorships, they are “democratic” dictatorships sponsored by the US imperialists, where demonstration elections have been held consistently since the mid-1990’s to give cover and legitimacy to the authoritarian regimes. The “good governance” policies of both of these governments are consistently being praised for upholding their alleged implementation of the “rule of law” in civil matters, their anti-graft and corruption measures, their respect and protection of private property, their privatization of nearly all social services, and the near total deregulation of their financial markets. These are all smoke screens however, as the real control mechanisms the imperialists have supported in these puppet regimes are the repressive apparatuses of these states: i.e. their military, police, and intelligence agencies. With these control mechanisms firmly in place the imperialists have been able to impose bourgeois structures on these nations to individualize, privatize, and commodify society to expand their holdings, secure their investments, regulate the market, and repress and control the working class (a point to be highlighted further below), and maximize their profits. These are the real “conditionalities” the imperialists desire to impose on Afrika and the rest of the indebted nations.
3. Exporting and transferring light assembly and manufacturing industries from Southeast Asia and South America to Afrika to exploit one of the worlds last reserves of non-unionized and relatively untapped labor.
Afrika, although thoroughly integrated into the capitalist world-economy as a resource center, remains one of the world’s largest reserves of untapped and underutilized sources of labor, at least from a capitalist perspective. This is not to say that Afrika does not possess a working class. It does. However, the Afrikan working class is largely concentrated in resource extraction (various mining and lumber enterprises, etc.), transportation, and agricultural industries. Very little industrial manufacturing, either for international or domestic consumption, takes place in Afrika (with Azania/South Africa being the obvious exception with its major mining, automobile, weapons, and construction industries). Various capital interests amongst the western imperialist powers are now ready to change this historic utilization of Afrikan labor. A major objective of the G8 debt relief maneuver is creating the political and socio-economic conditions necessary to transform the Afrikan working class to further its exploitation.
The imperialist objective of transforming the Afrikan working class is to accelerate capitals global “race to the bottom”. This move is about punishing the international working class, particularly its Asian and South American divisions. Capital export to (East and Southeast) Asia and South America served as a major strategy of anti-communist containment during the era of the Cold War. This capital export, centered in export dominated manufacturing industries, transformed the working classes of these regions. Following the end of the Cold War, imperialism seized the initiative to tighten the screws on these labor pools (as it did all over the world in 1980’s and 90’s, even within the imperialist nations themselves) in an attempt to stop and offset the decline in the rate of profit. This squeeze led to the resurgence of working class resistance in Asia and Latin America in the late 1990’s. From capitals perspective, Asian labor is becoming too expensive and South American labor too unruly. Afrika is now being organized as a strategic leverage to discipline the international working class. Viewed comprehensively, Afrikan labor is the cheapest on the planet. It is also one of the most unorganized sources of labor. This coupled with the excessively weak and western dependent neo-colonial states that can offer no protection to labor, makes Afrika prime to serve as capitals next golden egg of exploitation and profit realization.
There is one major problem with this scheme however - Afrika’s devastating health crisis. Afrika suffers from several utterly debilitating epidemics, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Malaria, Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis. This is where the insidious humanitarian façade of the G8 debt relief scheme comes in. The G8 imperialists swear up and down that the debt relief maneuver will help Afrikan nations combat HIV/AIDS and other epidemic diseases by helping to eradicate poverty and enable nations to develop and implement comprehensive health programs. This is an inversion of reality if ever there was one. The reality is that for Afrikan labor to be exploited effectively, it has to have a minimum standard of fitness. If not for this fact, the imperialists could give a damn if HIV/AIDS continued to totally ravish Afrika. This is why the Clinton regime started to increase aid to Afrika for HIV/AIDS education and treatment and to make some substantive concessions on the pricing on US controlled HIV/AIDS medicines. This is also why the Bush regime has retained many of the Clinton initiatives, and started several of its own. The imperialists need Afrikan labor, they need it to be healthy enough to work, and they need their pharmaceutical monopolies to make a profit at the same time. If this weren’t their aim they would not have attacked the production of generic HIV/AIDS medicines from India, Brazil, and South Africa so hard and prevented their distribution and consumption throughout Afrika. But, with the implementation of the privatization conditionalities of the debt relief scheme, US and European monopolies will own, operate, and control the medical and pharmaceutical markets in Afrika. So, with this maneuver the imperialists will potentially accomplish two primary goals at once: 1) the accelerated extraction of value from the Afrikan working class, and 2) the realization of profit from Afrika’s health crisis and misery. Objectively, concern and compassion for the plight of Afrika and its people has nothing to do with this well crafted scheme of the G8.
4. Eradicating the Pan-Afrikan Reparations movement by pacifying one of its fundamental demands.
The Pan-Afrikan Reparations movement (for reparations for Afrikan peoples on the continent and throughout the Diaspora) shook the western (read the white European and North American) imperialists at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (UNWCAR) in August 2001 by linking with progressive and anti-imperialist forces from throughout the world to make the demand for reparations for the enslavement, profiteering and colonization of Afrika and millions of its descendents a global issue. Reparations have been a key demand of the Afrikan World Revolution for well over a century. Never before had this demand received as much solidarity and attention as it did at the UNWCAR. The western imperialists led by the US, did everything within their diplomatic power at the UN conference to silence and crush this movement. The imperialists clearly understand the strategic nature of this demand and how it threatens the very foundations of capitalism by rearticulating the historic transfers of wealth and the appropriation of value. Destroying this movement is a primary objective of the imperialists (even for the Japanese who remain terrified of being held materially accountable for their imperial crimes in East Asia during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s). However, given the broad international, class, and ideological character of this movement, crushing it by force is not a viable or strategic option (though there are exceptions, as seen in the 2004 US-French overthrow of the Aristide/Lavalas government in Haiti, which was done in part to stop the Haitian governments pressing demand of reparations and restitution from France and other western imperialists). Thus, the imperialists are employing their arsenal of “stealth” or “carrot” strategies and tactics to split and undermine this movement to achieve their ends.
International debt relief has been one of the central reformist demands of the reparations movement since the 1970’s. In fact, the Non-Aligned Movement under the leadership of Cuba’s Fidel Castro first raised this demand to an international level in the early 1980’s. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s the imperialists thoroughly rejected and denied any substantive engagement with this demand. However, in the face of an emerging radical reparations movement in the 1990’s, the imperialists began to co-opt the demand for debt relief to offset the demand for reparations and contain the initiative within the standard mechanisms of capital transfer within the world system. Together with the G8’s "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa" initiative of last year (a cultural occupation and counter-insurgency plan), the G8 deal is a means of crushing the initiative of Pan-Afrikan radicals and revolutionaries by dividing the radicals advancing reparations from the reformers only advocating debt relief who are more than willing to entertain and legitimize the debt relief scheme. This is the strategy most recently employed by comprador government representatives within the World Social Forum, who have worked to narrow the issue and undercut its force among NGO and social-democratic led activists throughout the world. The imperialists figure that by restructuring Afrika’s debts they will eliminate the material conditions that presently legitimize the demand for reparations in the eyes of the world’s masses and thus confine the demand to the extreme margins of political contest within the Pan-Afrikan movement and the world system itself. What they fear is the masses of the world working in political solidarity in acknowledgement that Afrika owes no debt to the imperialists, rather it is Europe and North America that owe Afrika. With its debt relief scheme the imperialists are banking on the reformers clustered in the Make Poverty History campaign, the World Social Forum, and the NGO industry to quell the demand for reparations and thus effectively silence this radical movement.
Forward! Revolutionaries and anti-imperialists everywhere must reject and expose the deceptive "debt relief" maneuvers of the G8 to continue the imperialist plunder, exploitation, oppression, and neo-colonial domination of Afrika and its children throughout the world. Non-Afrikan anti-imperialists and revolutionaries must strengthen their solidarity with the revolutionary Pan-Afrikan movements in Afrika, the Americas, and Europe to extract reparations from the imperialists and in the process relegate the capitalist mode of production to the dustbin of history where it belongs.
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7. “What is Neo-Liberalism: A brief definition”, by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, at http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/econ101/neoliberalDefined.html .
8. “Africa in Crisis” by editors Zack-Williams, Frost, and Thomson, published by Pluto press in 2002. 9. “Structural Adjustment: The SAPRI Report. The Policy Roots of Economic Crisis, Poverty and Inequality”. The Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN), published by Zed Books in 2003. 10. “The War Economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, edited by Sagaren Naidoo for the Institute for Global Dialogue in 2003 at http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:tFCiCr2Ra0cJ:www.igd.org.za/pub/OP/OP37Chap1Naidoo.rtf+the+overthrow+of+Mobutu&hl=en .
11. “Bearing the brunt of the Asian economic crisis: the impact on labor rights and migrant workers in Asia”, a report by Human Rights Watch issued in 1998 at http://www.hrw.org/reports98/asialbr/. 12. “African Voices on Structural Adjustment: A companion to Our Continent, Our Future”, a 2002 publication of IDRC (International Development Research Center) at http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-9309-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html. 13. “Bush accuses Europe of starving Africa”, by Chris Talbot, July 2, 2003, at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jul2003/gmf-j02.shtml.
14. “Bush’s tour and US imperialisms design’s on Africa”, by Chris Talbot, July 15, 2003 at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jul2003/afri-j15.shtml.
15. “Clinton AIDS deal snubs Bush plan”, April 7, 2004 article by Sarah Boseley from the Guardian at http://www.guardian.co.uk/aids/story/0,7369,1187130,00.html.
16. “India changes patent law to meet WTO treaty, making new medicines less available to most citizens, other countries”, article by John S. James December 31, 2004 from AIDS.org at http://www.aids.org/atn/a-408-04.html#. 17. “The World Crisis: its economic and social impact on the Underdeveloped Countries”, specifically the “Epilogue” chapter, written by Fidel Castro, published by Zed Books in 1984.