World Perspectives 2016: Chapter IV.7. The Political Situation and Class Struggle in Africa

Note of the Editorial Board: The following document is an extensive study of the present state of the world economy and the global class struggle. It contains 55 figures, 9 tables and one diagram. The figures can only be viewed in the pdf version of the document here for technical reasons.

 

105.        Sub-Sahara Africa suffers in particular from the recent collapse of the prices of primary commodities and the slowing down of the Chinese economy. About 38.3% of all Sub-Saharan African exports go to China, India and Brazil. Fuels, including oil and coal, make up a large share of exports to these countries, accounting for approximately 55.6% of the region’s total export receipts in 2013, while non-fuel commodities, such as copper, platinum and gold, accounted for a further 24.8%. [1]

 

106.        Africa is of growing interest for the greedy appetite of the imperialist monopolies and Great Powers, since it is considered as a fast-growing market of 1.1 billion people which is expected to more than double and grow by about 1.2 billion additional persons by 2050. Furthermore, Africa is home to abundant and largely under-exploited natural resources, including an estimated 10% of the global reserves of oil, 40% of gold and 80–90% of chromium/platinum group of metals, as well as large-scale, vast areas of land, including around 24% – 600 million hectares – of the world’s arable land. [2]

 

107.        The continent has witnessed a tremendous increase (between 200–250%) of strikes and mass demonstrations since 2011 (see Figure 54). This represents, by the way, yet another global and highly progressive consequence of the Arab Revolution – despite its reactionary slander by many Stalinists and pro-Eastern social-imperialist eulogists. In most cases these were struggles for economic demands like wage increases and better working conditions, as well as demands for better public services (see Figure 55).

 

Figure 54. Public Protests and Violence by Non-State Actors in Africa, 1996–2014 [3]

 

Figure 55. Top Drivers of Public Protests in Africa, 2014 [4]

 

108.        However there have also been important revolutionary uprising against corrupt dictatorships – first in Burkina Faso in late November 2014 and in Burundi in May 2015. Given the lack of a revolutionary leadership, the ruling class has managed to suppress and channel these uprisings. [5] However, the combination of Africa’s rapidly-growing working class and youth, the aggravated social and economic contradictions, and the fact that it is becoming a target for the rivaling interests of the Great Powers (in particular the US, EU and China) are a guarantee that this continent will play a key role in the worldwide working class struggle in the not too remote future.

 

109.        South Africa currently constitutes the most important country of Sub-Sahara Africa. It too was negatively impacted by the slowdown of the Chinese economy as the Eastern Great Power has become South Africa’s largest trade partner. Furthermore, Chinese capital is an important foreign investor in the South African economy. In 2007, for instance, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China bought a multi-billion-dollar stake in the South African Standard Bank, constituting the largest foreign investment in South African history. [6]

 

110.        South Africa is home to a growing, self-confident proletariat with the historical experience of the decades-long struggle against Apartheid. Furthermore, South African workers gained important political experience with the treachery of reformist Stalinism and the popular front government based on the triple alliance ANC-COSATU-SACP. As a result, first we saw the heroic struggle of the Marikana miners in 2012, then the split of COSATU led by the biggest single union, NUMSA, and the formation of the so-called United Front which could constitute the basis for a new Workers’ Party. In October 2015, the students launched a wave of mass protests with the support of the NUMSA-led trade union alliance, and successfully defeated the plans of the Zuma government to abolish free education. Revolutionaries in South Africa should focus their work on the establishment of a democratic and militant, un-bureaucratized union federation, the overcoming of the limitations of the NUMSA and United Front leaders’ fixation on the Stalinist-inspired Freedom Charta and, most importantly, the formation of a new Workers’ Party, in which Marxists will fight for a revolutionary program.

 

111.        In Burkina Faso, millions took to the street in late October and early November 2014 against the pro-imperialist government of President Compaore. We witnessed a general strike as well as the parliament being set on fire by the masses, forcing the president to flee the country. Burkina Faso saw also one of the more organized protests in Sub-Saharan Africa, during the food strikes in 2008, as the trade unions organized a two-day general strike. Seeing how the huge majority of the more than 18 million Burkinabe are living on the edge of a subsistence economy, the country is not only one of the poorest in the world; rather Burkina Faso also demonstrates the extent of suffering that can be caused by a country’s domination by imperialism, distorting economy, and forcing it to become the second biggest producer of cotton in the African continent (after Egypt). The corrupt government which was led for 27 years by the same president, the weak economic base, the imperialist influence, and the high proportion of poor people is an explosive mixture which can lead to new mass uprisings in the coming phase.

 

112.        Nigeria has become the biggest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the country with the largest labor force in the entire African continent. In 2014 Nigeria had a GDP of 1,053 billion US-Dollars, much higher than that of South Africa’s equaling 707 billion US-Dollars. However the GDP per capita of Nigeria in 2014 was just about 3,298 US-Dollar which is much less than South Africa's (5,902 US-Dollars). Furthermore, Nigeria is currently experiencing a certain boom, with last year’s industrial production having grown by 6.8% while South Africa is close to recession and its industrial production declined by -0.2% during the same period. Nigeria has become an important semi-colony for the parasitic imperialist countries as its main exports are petroleum and petroleum products, which together constitute 95% of its entire export sector. We can also see a growing influence of Chinese imperialism in Nigeria, although the more dominant imperialist powers in the country are still several European imperialist countries as well as Japan. Labor strikes in Nigeria are increasing, and the past few years have witnessed a number of indefinite strikes by food workers, health workers, teachers and others. In 2012, the country even experienced a huge general strike. An important factor for the political situation in Nigeria is the reactionary forces of Boko Haram which is mainly attracting the poorer Muslim peoples of the north of Nigeria to fight against the corrupt government. However, the political leadership of Boko Haram is fighting not only the government but primarily the Christian population of Nigeria, which in both parts of the country – north and south – is on the average better off economically than the Muslims. Consequently, a reactionary civil war in Nigeria is a real possibility and, should it break out, would pose a real threat to the rise of a militant vanguard of the country’s working class. The next Great Recession will have a deep impact on Nigeria, and will likely lead to an explosion of labor strikes but may also bring in its wake the start of such a reactionary civil war. Therefore, the workers and oppressed of Nigeria must simultaneously fight against the corrupt government and the imperialist parasites on the one hand, and the growing reactionary forces of Boko Haram, on the other. To do so, the formation of a new workers’ party based on a revolutionary program is an urgent task not only for the Nigerian people but for the entire region.

 

113.        The Ivory Coast plays an important role in Sub-Saharan Africa because of its extraordinarily developed infrastructure, making it a vital base for the European imperialists, particularly France, in their West African business. As the Ivory Coast is a direct neighbor of Mali, it also constitutes an important strategic position for every military intervention undertaken by the imperialists in this region. This will continue to make the place, regardless of its relatively small population and labor force (similar in size to that of Burkina Faso), an important country for the western imperialists for the near future. The workers’ movement of the Ivory Coast is much weaker than those of other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the country has been shattered by repeated civil wars waged by rebel forces fighting the corrupt government, a long-time puppet of French imperialism. This strife actually led to a division of the country in 2004 after a two-year military conflict between the rebel-led north against the south of the country, the latter region being dominated by the pro-French government. The civil war ended in 2007 with the capitulation of the official leadership of the rebels but flared up again after the presidential elections in 2010/2011. This time the imperialist forces intervened immediately and pacified the country to secure the infrastructure which they need for their businesses. It was a bitter lesson for the anti-imperialist fighters to see the hero of the rebels from the civil war in the early 2000s, Laurent Gbagbo, become an unabashed lackey of imperialism after he came to power. However, the imperialists turned around and sacked him after the presidential elections 2010 by supporting Outtaras. Thus, here too, it is an urgent task for the workers and oppressed in the Ivory Coast to build a revolutionary workers’ party which can lead a consistent anti-imperialist fight. The next Great Recession and its impact on France may have severe consequences on the Ivory Coast since it may very well weaken the country’s traditional ruling power. Other imperialist forces are liable to exploit for their own interests a just fight in the future by the rebels against French imperialism or even intervene directly in the event that the rebels refuse to collaborate with the Great Powers.

 



[1] International Labour Office: World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2015, Geneva: ILO, 2015, p. 54

[2] African Development Bank, OECD and UNDP: African Economic Outlook 2015, p. xvii

[3] African Development Bank, OECD and UNDP: African Economic Outlook 2015, p. xv

[4] African Development Bank, OECD and UNDP: African Economic Outlook 2015, p. xvi

[5] See on this RCIT: Burkina Faso: Long Live the Popular Uprising! Down with the Military Regime! Advance the “Sub-Saharan Spring” to an Authentic Revolution of the Workers and Peasants! 4.11.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/burkina-faso-popular-uprising/; Johannes Wiener: Burundi: Support the Popular Uprising against President Nkurunziza! No to Any Military Coup d’État! Onward to a Government of the Workers and Peasants! 19.5.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/burundi-uprising/

[6] See Pádraig Carmody: The New Scramble for Africa. The BRICS powers aren’t anti-colonial counterweights. They’re looking for new markets and resources for their corporations, just like Western countries, Jacobin No.19 (Fall 2015), https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/china-south-africa-imperialism-zambia-brics-globalization/