From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.1, Winter 1966, pp.10-15.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Southern Rhodesia’s declaration of independence from Great Britain November 11 did not catch any interested party by surprise. It was an event clearly forewarned by the appointment of Ian Smith, racist spokesman of Rhodesian white supremacy, as Prime Minister in April 1964. In August of the same year, the Rhodesian African Nationalist Parties were banned and their leaders confined to prison camps. Britain read these events correctly, and in October 1964 publicly warned Rhodesia that a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) would be considered “treasonable.”
Since the visit of British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, Arthur Bottomley, to Salisbury in February, Britain has been engaged in continuous diplomatic skirmishes with Rhodesia. On October 19, the Labor government announced that it had completed contingency plans to meet any decisions on UDI reached by the Rhodesian government. Speaking from their respective prision camps, Rhodesia’s leading black nationalists have warned of the consequences of UDI since their detentions; and in September of this year, African heads of state meeting in Accra, Ghana, deemed the impending declaration worth two committees, one of which issued a strong resolution, and the other, an announcement of “secret plans” for military retaliation.
Nevertheless UDI occurred. The political and economic forces which Smith hopes will allow a relatively smooth transition to Verwoerdian fascism have been given the unofficial stamp of approval by the world’s major powers. Wilson’s promise not to oppose Smith militarily has been fulfilled; and his promise of economic sanctions designed to hurt only those who support Smith in Rhodesia has been carried into effect.
November 20, the United Nations passed a strongly-worded resolution implying that Britain should take further economic sanctions, and a committee has been set up to contemplate carrying these out. The Soviet Union has “reluctantly” supported this resolution. The United States has enacted an embargo of Rhodesian sugar that will affect less than five percent of Rhodesia’s total exports.
Whatever immediate plans the Accra military committee developed, its desire to prevent the emergence of a new South Africa has been carefully weighed against Smith’s modern, helicopter-supplied and British-trained counter-guerrilla forces, particularly since there is no guarantee to them whatsoever, that Britain might not bring military forces to the aid of ... Smith’s regime.
Only the black worker in the larger Rhodesian towns has acted definitively. In the streets of Salisbury and Bulawayo, there have been large and militant demonstrations against Smith. Many black workers – facing dire reprisals – have walked off their jobs. Hundreds have been rounded up and imprisoned. Martial law prevails, while heavily armed police guard the streets and helicopters survey the land. A few acts of sabotage appear to have been committed, but it is well known that mandatory death sentences await even those who contemplate such actions.
Why is it then, that, the forces of the Anglo-American world have not found it possible to uphold the will of the black majority of this country against a handful of white racists? This is the question Rhodesia poses, and its answer is relevant both to Rhodesia’s future and that of Africa as a whole.
In order to understand the forces that made UDI possible, it is necessary to examine its history in the greater context of Rhodesian and African history. UDI must be seen as a particular step in the general unfolding of the struggle between the forces of white colonialism on one side and those of black African nationalism on the other. Further, it is important to remember that this struggle has been developing for a long period of time, and that in the course of this time there have developed significant, if temporary, counterforces, both within the white camp of colonial dominance, and the black camp of those struggling for freedom.
In fact, the present Rhodesian development is first and foremost the reflection of a disagreement within the camp of the white masters, about how best to maintain their cherished grasp on the fabulous wealth of all of Southern Africa. The seeds of this disagreement go back to the very origin of the colonial system in Africa, and in the case of Rhodesia, to the founding of this British colony in 1888.
In this year, emissaries of the British financier Cecil Rhodes, who had founded a diamond empire further to the south about a decade earlier, purchased the mineral rights to the kingdom of Lobegula, chief of the Matabele. This act, for the paltry sum of 110 pounds monthly plus rifles and ammunition, gave Rhodes’ British South Africa Company the key to fabulous mineral riches in the area. But it also planted within a black nation a nucleus of white adventurers who soon conquered the Africans, established white rule, and in the area later known as Southern Rhodesia, became the owners of vast plantations.
If we jump ahead six decades, we will find that Rhodes and his financial copartners were certainly the more fortunate of the colonists. When the British South Africa Company sold its mineral rights to one portion of this area, then having become an independent state and having reverted to its African name of Zambia, they reckoned up their profit on mineral royalties alone at $476 million.
But the white settlers, steadily reinforced by European immigrants, were gainers too, and it is to their present system of land-control that we must first turn our attention, because they are the bastion of the Smith government in Rhodesia.
Today there are about 220,000 whites in this land of nearly four million blacks. Although Rhodesia’s wealth is small in comparison to the mineral giants that are its neighbors, it is the second largest producer of Virginia leaf-cured tobacco after this country, with a production in 1963-64 of 304 million pounds. Including additional exports of sugar, gold, coal, and rare minerals, Rhodesia realized a trade surplus of $95 million last year.
Britain’s Responsibility in Southern Rhodesia, a paper issued by the government of Ghana, summarizes the essential features of the system of white land ownership: The total acreage occupied by whites (41 million acres) is approximately the same size as that allotted to Africans (44 million acres).
The Europeans gave themselves the best and most fertile land, leaving scrub-land to the Africans. Only two percent of the European farms are less than 1,000 acres in size, and over 33 percent of them greater than 20,000 acres.
The amount of land legally allowed each African farmer is six acres maximum, but since about two million Africans live on reservations, where the soil is exhausted through excessive cultivation, lacks roads, irrigation and running water, the arable land on these six-acre plots may be only one-half or one-third the total size.
High-grade Virginia tobaccos are limited to Europeans alone; the European immigrant is given a minimum allocation of 750 acres, but he sometimes gets as much as 3,000 acres. Over one million Africans, forced off the poverty-stricken reservations, work on European farms, hired on terms often requiring long separation from their families.
Black city-workers have no civil rights. They are excluded from skilled industrial jobs and when they live outside the reservations, they do so only with the permission of their employers.
Statistics, however, do not tell the story as vividly as Smith’s constituents themselves. A candid glimpse of the Rhodesian ruling class may be seen in the press cables from Salisbury over the last several weeks. Wall Street Journal staff-reporter Ray Vicker, for example, visited a former manager of a South African mine named Harry Wells.
In 1949, Vicker writes in the Journal of Oct. 27, this “wavy-haired, handsome Englishman” had only $210 in his pocket when he drove into Rhodesia from South Africa as a 23-year-old.
“Today,” Vicker continues, “he owns a 6,600-acre farm, two clothing firms and other properties that make him worth over $2 million. His bougainvillea-shaded home, set on 22 acres amid a grove of pine and gum trees, boasts a 39-foot living room; outside are a 65-foot swimming pool, a tennis court and a barn housing eight polo ponies.”
Roger Elliot, correspondent for the Illustrated London News, stopped in at the more modest 2,000-acre tobacco farm of a fellow named Wally Hustler. Hustler is “a relaxed, genial man,” Elliot reported in the Oct. 23 issue, “past 50 now, who came up from South Africa in 1937, ‘without a sou in my pocket’ ...”
“A mechanic by trade, he wanted most of all to be a garage foreman. Instead, he drifted into farming, became manager of an 8,000-acre estate and in 1953 bought Squatodzi for 16,000 pounds. [1 pound has the value of $2.80 at the current exchange rate.] By ploughing profits back every year, he reckons he has made the place worth 35,000 pounds today ...
“Wally has played White Boss to 300 Africans,” Elliot continues, “including the wives and children of his workers. ‘ gave them everything – food, clothing, firewood, education, pensions, medicine, housing, and 4 pounds a month pocket money. I’ve got my own little country out here. My boys get everything from me but a kick in the pants.’
“In contrast to the two European-style bungalows where the Hustlers and Browns live, [Streth Brown is the farm manager] the native compound is a stretch of bare earth littered with bones, broken utensils, and rotten fruit. Along one edge stand the square concrete houses, three rooms apiece, that Wally built for the Africans ...
“The Africans had taken one look at them, then gone back to their smaller, home-made, thatched mud huts ... ‘Most of these young girls, from the age of eight onwards, are promised to teenage boys,’ explains Wally. “‘Streth’s cookboy, for instance, is paying one pound a month for that one. They’ll marry in a few years’ time, rear a few children, then the boy will get bored and start paying for another girl, or the girl will hitch-hike to Salisbury for a new life. Not many, though – we’re a very closed community ...
“‘There are only three things my boys worry about – beer, women, and more beer ... They’re the greatest twist dancers in the world ... But they’re the best workers in the world, too. I never have any labor troubles ...’”
Such a totally repressive society can only be maintained by the strictest “rule of law.” Any breach, that would allow the Africans, no matter how few, the advantages of a higher education – even a glimmer of freedom – must be plugged. All those lucky enough to get such an education in the past, if they have not become totally servile to their white masters must be confined ... if not slaughtered.
Rhodesia’s whites have no recourse if they are to maintain their near-slave system of power, but to step up the repression of the blacks. Caught in the morning tide of African revolution, Rhodesia must back-track on the rights previously allowed blacks. In short, Rhodesia must now undertake what Verwoerd began about a decade ago: the re-tribali-zation of the Rhodesian black masses. In this process, UDI is a preliminary formality. Much more significant is the increase in political prisoners from several hundreds to many thousands in the course of less than two years; the enlistment of 215 African chiefs to the rolls of government salaries; and Smith’s Rhodesian-Bantustan plans.
In this desire, however, Smith and his cohorts are somewhat less ambitious than the descendants of Cecil Rhodes. On the one side is a narrow and short-ranged plan, which would do little else than fix Rhodesia at its present level of development, confined by the limitations of unskilled labor to farming and mining. On the other are the plans of London’s and New York’s modern-day Rhodes: a dream of extensive industrialization, conveniently located near sources of tremendous power and vast mineral deposits, encompassing a continent, so far at least, barely touched by modern technology. But this empire would require a base of skilled labor, a labor force technically and socially educated for the “benefit” of modern-day capitalism; and it is on this point, that Rhodesia’s present-day rulers not only disagree with their cousins in London. They stand in London’s way.
Before discussing this conflict, however, it is well to remind ourselves of what is at stake for the other side, the side of modern finance capital, for it is in this connection that Rhodesia is deeply interlocked with other African states.
Again we could return to Rhodes and the European entrepreneurs like him, who beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century laid stake to the mineral deposits of all-Africa. In fact, there have been few changes in the original pattern of ownership of these old colonial empires since that time, except that in recent years America has become a major partner (and we will return to this fact below).
However we can take advantage of two highly informative articles by Fenner Brockway in the January and May 1965 issues of Africa and the World, which describe in detail the present structure of corporate ownership of African minerals.
Brockway demonstrates that all the mineral wealth in central and southern Africa is owned by a handful of American, European and one or two African entrepreneurs, who maintain their control of this wealth through the interlocking directorates of ten major corporations, and over 100 subsidiaries of these corporations.
The two “kingpins” are the DeBeers Consolidated Mines which Rhodes founded in 1880, and the Anglo American Corporation which began as an associated holding company in 1917. Both have their headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. Both are virtually controlled by a single man, Harry Oppenheimer.
Comprising 22 separate corporations including all its subsidiaries, the DeBeers monopoly spreads through 10 African countries of which South Africa, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola and South West Africa are the major diamond producers. Owning both the mines and the diamond selling organizations, DeBeers markets about 80 percent of the world’s diamonds. In 1963 it realized a profit of close to $80 million.
The Anglo-American Corporation is more diversified. In its 1964 Annual Report, it lists 26 associated companies which may be broken down into five groups by the minerals involved:
- The gold mines in South Africa, (and Rhodesia, although these are “underdeveloped”);
- The diamond mines in South Africa and South West Africa where Anglo American and DeBeers interests intersect;
- The copper mines in Zambia (about 55 percent of Zambian copper);
- The rare mineral corporations of a) lead and zinc in Zambia; b) pyrite in Rhodesia; c) vanadium in the Transvaal; and d) iron ore in Swaziland.
- Coal interests in South Africa and Rhodesia.
A second sphere of control is that comprised by the Societé General de Belgique and Union Minière du Huat Katanga, whose interests and responsibilities are well known to students of Congolese politics. It is no exaggeration to say that the puppet Congolese dictators are “their men in the Congo,” that they are the murderers of Patrice Lumumba, and with the help of the US military, the financiers of the bloody mercenary campaign which massacred the Congolese liberation fighters in Stanleyville last fall.
Linking these last primarily Franco-Belgian interests with the Anglo-American-DeBeers network is Tanganyika Concessions Limited. This corporation holds about 25 percent of the shares of Union Minière, its headquarters are in Salisbury, and it owns 90 percent of the Benguela Railway, the economic life-stream of Angola, which carries Katanga minerals to ports in Lobito, and joins the Congo to South West Africa. The Chairman of Tanganyika Concessions, Captain Charles Waterhouse, is, of course, a prominent figure in British politics.
Two other corporations should be mentioned at this point: Consolidated African Trust, which is the owner of 60 percent of the diamonds in Ghana, and lies outside the DeBeers network; and American Metal Climax – one of America’s giant corporations, which is rapidly becoming a major holder of African minerals.
American Metal Climax owns 46 percent interest in Roan Selection Trust, the rival copper producer to Anglo American in Zambia. Its highly placed board of directors includes A. Chester Beatty of London, who is chairman of Consolidated African Selection Trust, linking it to the diamonds in Ghana; Arthur H. Dean, an influential American politician, once the US delegate to the Geneva conference on disarmament; and Gabriel Hauge, the president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust, America’s fourth largest bank.
Even this brief glance, which is by no means complete, illustrates the important points relative to financial interests in Rhodesia: First, the owners of Rhodesian minerals – which is only a small part of their empires – are also the owners of the mineral wealth of the other white-supremacist regimes in Southern Africa, that is, South Africa, and its colony South West Africa, the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, and the British protectorates; and they are the owners of the minerals in the newly independent nations, particularly important in this respect being the Congo and Zambia.
Second, these empires are highly centralized, allowing them to correlate their activities in all African countries with the utmost attention to their long-range interests not in any single country, but in Africa as a whole. And third, these empires are important and integral parts of the world-capitalist system, of immediate concern to Britain, America, France and Belgium more than to the Smiths, Verwoerds and Salazars.
To keep their empires intact, first of all, and to develop them under politically stable conditions – these are the imperialists’ aims.
How to do this? Certainly not by imprisoning the most educated Africans, and reducing the rest to the level of social barbarism. In his 1965 Chairman’s Statement to the board of the Anglo American Corporation, Oppenheimer stated:
“In Rhodesia, too, there has been a marked economic recovery and a good deal of new development has taken place. The Anglo American Corporation Group has followed up its investment in the large scale irrigation scheme [$700 million] at Hippo Valley ... The amalgamated company, Anglo American Corporation Rhodesia Limited now holds most of our investments in Rhodesia and is well placed to play an important part in the development of Rhodesia in the fields of mining, timber, citrus and finance. Active prospecting work was continued ... and two small mining prospects are at present being opened up and several others are being examined.
“Although the economic position in Rhodesia has improved considerably, it cannot be regarded as satisfactory because the inflow of capital from outside, which is so necessary to a country at Rhodesia’s stage of development, is not taking place, and as a result, investment is lagging. This may be attribtued very largely to the political uncertainty ...”
But this is not the case for all of Africa, and here we must take up a most important point passed over several paragraphs before. That is the differences between the African states marked out for future exploitation. A pertinent example is Zambia, formerly, Northern Rhodesia.
Zambia, the second wealthiest country in Africa, produces about 16 percent of the western world’s copper and contains about 20 percent of the world’s known copper reserves. Like the other countries in central and southern Africa, its population of a little less than 3 million, is predominantly black. Like the others, too, the vast majority are rural poor. Their estimated average per capita income is about $25 a year.
What is crucial about Zambia, however, at the present moment of history, is that it has a black government within the framework of the world capitalist system. Even this limited freedom, of course, was not handed ready-made to the Zambian masses; it was won over years of struggle against the British colonial masters, and recently under the leadership of Zambia’s president, Kenneth Kaunda.
When the Salisbury whites joined forces with Britain to mold the federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963), whereby the white-supremacist structure could include the mineral wealth and black labor of Northern Rhodesia, it was men like Kaunda, under the slogan of “one man, one vote,” who fought to break up the federation and who achieved Zambian independence in 1964.
But Kaunda is not a socialist, and never had any desire to move against the powerful British-American trusts. “We have no intention of ‘taking over’ the mines,” Kaunda writes in Some Personal Reflections, Africa’s Freedom, 1964. “On the contrary, we want to encourage private enterprise and investment and only where the private sector cannot operate will the Government provide the structure of development.”
The point was not missed in London. When Zambia became free, Britain helped the new government purchase the mineral royalties that had been owned by the British South Africa Company since 1888. But that is where they stopped. The copper companies, as shown above, remain in the hands of the Anglo American Corporation and Roan Selection Trust; and not only this, but since independence, these companies have realized all-time-high profits. Jan. 25, 1965, in a half-page advertisement in the New York Times, Anglo American boasted a $1.4 billion investment program in Zambia.
This, by the way, is no accident. The war in Vietnam has produced a world-wide copper shortage, driving copper consumption up from 3.9 million tons in 1959 to 5.3 million tons in 1964.
It is therefore not a secret, and the reasons are obvious, that London would prefer Zambian-type governments to the systems of white-supremacy in Southern Africa. Finance capital knows no color-bar. But history cannot be neglected, and it is precisely at this point that Britain’s reactionary policies of a colonial past catch up with her liberal dreams of a neo-colonial future.
In South Africa Britain has not allowed just several months or a year of white-supremacist rule, but decades; and the South African state is in delicate balance. It depends for labor on the equally repressive colonies of Angola and Mozambique, which Portugal has contracted to supply at the rate of about 150,000 black men a year.
Beneath the South African surface, is the mass-fabric of black revolutionary opposition. In Angola and Mozambique, black revolutionaries are fighting the NATO-armed Portuguese colonialists at this very moment; and just one year ago, US-financed US-armed, and US-flown white mercenaries slaughtered thousands of Congolese revolutionaries. The continent is scarred with heroic revolutionary blood, and it is seething with mass revolutionary ferment.
London’s problem in Rhodesia is not only to develop a sympathetic black leadership, but to do this without unlocking the door to a highly unsympathetic black revolution which would consume the entire network of their white mineral empire.
In its November 13 issue, the British financial weekly, The Economist, spelled this out in so many words:
“Throughout, Britain should make clear its eventual aim for Rhodesia. This is to reach majority (that is, African) rule there. But it should be made quite plain that when Britain regains control over its colony’s destiny it will not hand power over immediately; rather it will go for a slow version of the stage-by-stage advance that, in neighboring countries, has produced such conservative regimes as those of Dr. Kaunda and Dr. Banda. Neither of their African regimes is a threat to the security of Mozambique or South Africa ...”(Emphasis added)
In this light, London conceived a scheme for Rhodesia which was different from Smith’s to be sure, but could hardly be mistaken for supplanting white rule with black. What Britain’s Prime Minister Wilson proposed was that Rhodesia revert to its 1961 constitution, the details of which were described in the Supplement to British Record No.19, Nov. 24, 1965, printed by the British Information Services:
According to the constitution, “the Legislative Assembly consists of 65 members of whom 50 are returned predominantly by ‘A’ roll voters and 15 predominantly by ‘B’ roll voters. The franchise under the 1961 Constitution is wider than previously. However, it depends broadly on the possession of certain economic and educational qualifications, the qualifications for the ‘A’ roll being higher than those for the ‘B’ roll. Europeans predominate on the ‘A’ roll, Africans on the ‘B’ roll.
Registered voters on April 30, 1963 were as follows:
In other words, the whites would remain in strict control. Commanding only 5 percent of the population, they would control 50 out of 65 seats in the legislature. Forty percent of the whites would be allowed to vote; less than one half of one percent of the blacks.
With a long-run view towards neocolonializing Rhodesia, Britain could see her way to allowing these concessions. Smith, however, could not. White supremacy cannot allow equal status even to one black out of four million. As in South Africa, Smith hopes to maintain his rule through bribery of the tribal chiefs, who would have complete authority over subjects – but no power whatsoever in parliament.
But Rhodesia’s black nationalists would not accept Wilson’s plan either. There are two African nationalist parties in Rhodesia: apparently the larger, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo, was founded in 1961; the second, a 1963 split-off of the first, is led by Ndabaningi Sithole, and is called the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Both leaders, and many of their followers, are presently confined to prison camps.
Whatever their differences (and these have not been accurately reported in the western press), what unites Rhodesia’s African leaders is their refusal to step one inch in the direction of cooperating with any form of continued white rule. The National Democratic Party, which was ZAPU’s predecessor, fought the 1961 constitution on the program that Africans should boycott the elections, to avoid giving the whites even a pretense that they favored eventual majority rule. That party was banished, leading to the formation of ZAPU; now ZAPU and ZANU are banished, but the Africans’ position has not changed.
In January of this year, New York Times reporter Robert Conley visited Nkomo at the Gonakudzingwa detention camp; this is the most recent statement of his views that we have, at a time when there were already 1,936 Africans imprisoned according to the Rhodesian government itself.
“You must expect massive bloodshed,” Nkomo told Conley Jan. 15, “because of what the Government does. The people are determined not to be ruled by a white minority again ... No one ever sits down and plans violence,” he continued, “they are pushing us into it. We just want to be free.”
In February, Arthur Bottomley, and in October, Harold Wilson, went out of their ways to speak to Sithole and Nkomo, undoubtedly attempting to persuade them to become the champions of Britain’s plan. One needs little imagination to guess the fees London offered for such a service. The Africans refused while their followers demonstrated in the streets. “Before Mr. Wilson left Salisbury,” the Times reported Nov. 30, “he said Rhodesia’s blacks needed time and experience before they would be ready for responsibility.”
Kaunda, of course, has taken the British, not the African side in the struggle, but he is in a precarious position. On Nov. 17, the Wall Street Journal reported Kaunda as having described Rhodesia’s nationalists as “idiots.” “The Rhodesian African leaders,” he was reported to continue, “have betrayed the human race just as much as Smith has.”
Kaunda’s invitation in late November to the British to protect the Kariba Dam does not reflect serious fear on his part of sabotage by the Rhodesian whites. Smith has said more than once that he welcomes the intervention of British forces in Zambia. After all, what are Smith’s trump-cards? They are not that Smith could refuse to allow the Zambian industries power, or the Zambian copper-mines access to railroads. On the contrary, these facilities in Rhodesia only mean that Anglo American and American Metal Climax will keep pumping funds into Rhodesia – no matter who is in power.
The British sanctions do not pose an immediate threat to Smith. Before UDI, Smith removed all the funds he needed for foreign exchange from London banks and put them in Zurich; the funds remaining in London are there to pay British companies Rhodesian debts, and these are not frozen. This year’s tobacco crop was sold before UDI, and tobaccao merchants have not been sitting idly by. Arrangements are being made with French, Dutch, and other traders to handle next year’s crop. On the question of the oil-embargo, presently before a UN committee, The Economist stated definitively Nov. 20, “without physically checking tanker traffic at Beira, no oil embargo would work.” South Africa, of course, is on Smith’s side. Verwoerd stated:
“The Republic cannot participate in measures such as boycott movements. Its declared policy has always been, whenever boycotts have been directed against it, that boycotts are in principle wrong and that retaliation by the institution of a counter-boycott would not even be considered. The Republic can therefore not take part in any form of boycott ...
“In conclusion, it is considered necessary to make it clear – also on behalf of South Africa – that with respect to color policies, there is no similarity between the policy of separate development of the Government of the Republic [Apartheid] and the policy of partnership as applied in Rhodesia in terms of the Constitution granted by the British Government to Rhodesia in 1961.” (Information Service of South Africa, Business Report, Vol.5 no.35, Nov. 19, 1965)
There can be little question but that the status quo is on Smith’s side. Britain has not been able to find any “moderates” in the Rhodesian prison camps who might be groomed to follow the path of a Kaunda, and besides, this is a long-run process that once started, might not be containable at the “conservative” rate which British financiers would urge. There is the pertinent example of the Congo, where the first tastes of political democracy did not produce a Kaunda, but a Patrice Lumumba, and one should not give strong odds against the possibility that Britain might not allow even a Kaunda, so close to the borders of South Africa. (When the federation broke up in 1963, British troops were sent to Southern Rhodesia.)
Kaunda’s invitation of troops to the Kariba Dam, therefore, can only be regarded as a smoke screen which gives Kaunda and Wilson a shortrun cover against those who, however sincerely, have demanded British troop intervention. But Britain’s record is too clear on this point for there to be any doubt about how these troops might be used.
Black Africans have seen British troops in Africa, all right. They saw them rushed into Aden; they remember the concentration camps in Kenya; they know that the fateful American planes which dropped Belgian machine-gunners on the city of Stanleyville took off from British African possessions.
There can be no question which side British and American forces would take if it came to a showdown; and this is the crux of the problem for African revolutionaries. The Congolese lesson is important. Lumumba’s followers were right: In order to remove the vice of colonialism once and for all from Africa, it would be necessary to take up arms against the aggressor, whether he came under the guise of the United Nations, or as white mercenaries with American arms and airplanes. But they were not ready; the Congolese Liberation Front did not have the organization and the program, and the unity of Africa behind it, that was necessary to rally the African masses against the imperialist overlords, and to sustain a battle to the finish.
It is this difficult question which the Rhodesian situation now poses to the vanguard of African revolution. Rhodesia, for them, as for western finance capital, cannot be divorced from the whole arena of exploitation in Southern Africa. To resist Smith now, it is evident, would mean to take on Anglo-American imperialism in a bloody battle to the finish over the question of who is to rule Africa in the end, black man or white?
Is black Africa ready? This is the weighty variable that is being thrashed out from Accra to Dar-es-Salaam, and from South Africa’s Robben Island concentration camp to Gonakudzingwa; and it is there, not in London or Salisbury, that the decisive answers will be made.
Last updated on 9 June 2009