•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Africa Liberation Day 2011: Imperialist wars threaten continent

Published May 21, 2011 7:34 AM

Memorial to Dr. Kwame Nkruma
in Accra, Ghana.

On May 25, people all over the world will recognize the 48th anniversary of Africa Day — also known as Africa Liberation Day. On that date in 1963 the Organization of African Unity was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with more than 30 member states. In 2002, the OAU was transformed into the African Union, with a commitment to establish stronger institutions aimed at fostering economic development, political unity and full equality for women.

Although 1963 represented a watershed in regard to the liberation struggles of peoples of African descent on the continent and throughout the world, the specter of neocolonialism was very much in evidence. Just three years prior to the founding of the OAU, imperialist intervention in Congo illustrated that the independence movement would be forced to defend itself against post-colonial efforts aimed at continuing political and economic domination.

It would not be until 1994 that the last vestiges of white minority political rule would be eliminated, with the ascendancy of the African National Congress to power in the Republic of South Africa.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist countries two decades ago, Africa has been forced to grapple with its own challenges aimed at genuine national self-determination and independence amid a renewed push by the imperialist states, led by the U.S., to accelerate the rate of exploitation of the continent and its resources.

Over the last two decades the U.S. has escalated its military involvement on the African continent. In 1992, the George H. W. Bush administration sent thousands of marines into Somalia under the guise of providing humanitarian relief. In 1998, the Clinton administration would bomb a pharmaceutical plant at al-Shifa in Sudan, Africa’s largest geographic nation-state.

Also in 1998, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright encouraged the Western-backed regimes of Uganda and Rwanda to militarily invade the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which had recently overthrown the neocolonial puppet, Mobutu Sese Seko. The result of this adventure would be millions dead in a war that lasted until 2003 and drew in the progressive governments of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola in defense of the DRC.

In 1996, the U.S. encouraged and coordinated its Ethiopian client-regime to intervene in Somalia in order to stop the Union of Islamic Courts from taking over that Horn of Africa country and exercising political independence. The resistance forces reconsolidated under the banner of al-Shabab and are still battling military forces supported by hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars annually.

The formation of the Pentagon’s Africa Command (Africom) in 2008 put the continent and its supporters on notice that the imperialists would intensify their quest for further domination of territory, waterways, labor and resources. These efforts were enhanced by the establishment of a U.S. military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti and war “games” conducted in various regions throughout continent.

An even more dangerous situation began on March 19 when U.S./NATO forces began bombing the North African state of Libya and providing material and political assistance to anti-government rebels who have consistently refused, along with their imperialist backers, to enter into negotiations for the cessation of hostilities.

The war in Libya has spread to the border areas with Tunisia and Egypt as well as the Mediterranean Sea, where refugees die every day from thirst and starvation. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans, along with guest workers, have fled the country — many to Europe, where they meet vicious racial discrimination and exploitation.

Africa and the global class struggle

The U.S./NATO intervention in Libya must be viewed within the context of the popular uprisings that have swept various states in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. Catching imperialism off guard, the rebellions and strikes in Tunisia and Egypt led to the departure of longtime Western-backed puppet leaders in Tunis and Cairo. Yet the revolutionary struggles in both Egypt and Tunisia have still not reached fruition. The most principled elements within the democratic and workers’ movements call for deeper reforms to bring about the transformation of these neocolonial client states.

Absent the seizure of power by the workers, youth and farmers of Tunisia and Egypt, the existing regimes, even without their longtime dictatorial leaders, are being used by the imperialists against the people and government of neighboring Libya. The Tunisian government has allowed the anti-government rebels in Libya to utilize border areas in their imperialist-backed war against Tripoli, and Egypt has sent special forces into eastern Libya to assist in the U.S./NATO war of aggression.

With the political situation in Tunisia and Egypt still unresolved, it is not surprising that recent demonstrations in Tunis have called for a “second revolution” and that in Cairo the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist character of the weekly demonstrations has increased. In Egypt, a new coalition of left organizations has been formed to advance the class character of the struggle.

The growing interest in left politics was seen on May Day. “Red flags were waving yesterday as thousands of Egyptians celebrated Labor Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Workers from different factories across Egypt, the newly founded Federation of Independent Labor Unions as well as several leftist parties rallied to celebrate their new freedoms. ... Although leftist groups have been a central part of the opposition movement, it is unique that they can rally so openly for their cause. The workers’ demands during the May Day demonstration included the raising of the monthly minimum wage, salary increases 1,500 percent higher than what exists at present and the nationalization of major industries inside the country.” (Al-Jazeera, May 2)

In South Africa, with an even larger organized working class than Egypt, two recent developments illustrate the central role of trade unions in the struggle for genuine liberation on the continent. Members of the National Union of Mineworkers, in a protracted labor dispute with the Canada-based Eastern Platinum’s Crocodile River mining project, have occupied two facilities demanding decent wages and better working conditions.

Canadian television reported that workers “drove through a security gate and proceeded underground to damage electrical and pumping equipment at the Zandfontein and Maroelabult mines, according to the company. Roughly 180 members of the NUM then occupied the mines to protest failed negotiations. ... The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which was called in to negotiate with the workers, has accused mine management of racism, union bashing and unfair treatment of pregnant employees. The revolt follows a first-quarter 2011 loss of $5.6 million for the company.” (CTV.ca, May 12)

In another development, the union federation COSATU, with more than half a million workers, issued a statement May 13 opposing the proposed merger of South Africa’s major retail company, Massmart Holdings, with the U.S.-based Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart has the reputation of being anti-union and in the process denies workers their rights. Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa gives workers the right to fair labor practices, to form and join a trade union, to participate in the activities and programs of a trade union and to strike.”

Socialism and African liberation

These efforts by the workers, revolutionary youth and progressive states in Africa have attracted the hostile attention of U.S. imperialism and its allies. In Zimbabwe the decade-long land redistribution program and the economic indigenization plans to place Africans in control of the major industries within the country has prompted Western destabilization efforts as well as sanctions.

Following its Sept. 1, 1969 revolution, Libya nationalized the oil industry and removed the U.S. military presence. The Libyans also forced Italy, the former colonial power and now one of the imperialist states joining in bombing Libya, to apologize for its earlier occupation and pay reparations. Libya has supported national liberation movements throughout the world, including those operating inside the U.S. and Europe.

Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the modern state of Ghana and a leading advocate in the struggle for liberation and socialism in Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, pointed out when he was president of this West African state, “We have embarked on the socialist path to progress. We want to see full employment, good housing and equal opportunity for education and cultural advancement for all people up to the highest level possible.” (Africa Must Unite, 1963)

Moreover, Nkrumah stressed that to achieve genuine liberation and socialism the workers, youth and farmers must be organized into a revolutionary party. Nkrumah identified the organized working class as the foundation for the building of a revolutionary party committed to building socialism and African unity.

According to Nkrumah, “The growth of this new African trade unionism is linked up with the future of Africa. Such a dynamic force, allied to political action, is the surest means to routing out of our continent the last remnants of colonialism and exploitation, since it will stimulate the effectiveness of the nationalist movements.” (Africa Must Unite)

The Pan-African revolutionary theoretician and practitioner goes on to point out, “Just as political independence could not have been attained without the leadership of a strong, disciplined party, so Ghana’s economic independence and the objective of socialism cannot be achieved without decisive party leadership. I am convinced that the Convention People’s Party, based as it is on the support of the overwhelming majority of the people, is best able to carry through our economic plans and build a socialist state. ... It is entirely Ghanaian in content and African in outlook, though imbued with Marxist socialist philosophy.” (Africa Must Unite)

Consequently, the struggle against neocolonialism and imperialism will be won through the development and strengthening of a revolutionary party based on socialism and rooted in the working class. This belief has been tested in all revolutionary movements in the modern period, from China to Cuba, and will also hold true for all working people throughout the world.