The Radicalism of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has been universally praised by political leaders in ‘the West’ for his leadership of post-apartheid South Africa. However, Mandela’s relationship with ‘western’ governments hadn’t always appeared so harmonious. In 1980 conservative MP Teddy Taylor commented that Mandela “should be shot”, whilst as late as 1987 the ANC remained a “terrorist organisation” in the eyes of Margaret Thatcher. Characterisations such as these were partly informed by Mandela’s long held and vocal opposition to western imperialism in Southern Africa. In the 1950s, at the height of mass civil disobedience against oppressive race laws, Mandela vehemently opposed the involvement of both the U.S. and Britain in South African affairs. The piece, which appeared in the journal Liberation in March 1958 gives an indication of Mandela’s ideological anti-imperialism and raises questions over how Mandela as a global political figure is viewed today.

 A New Menace in Africa

by Nelson Mandela

A New Danger

Whilst the influence of the old European powers has sharply declined and whilst the anti-imperialist forces are winning striking victories all over the world, a new danger has arisen and threatens to destroy the newly won independence of the people of Asia and Africa. It is American imperialism, which must be fought and decisively beaten down if the people of Asia and Africa are to preserve the vital gains they have won in their struggle against subjugation. The First and Second World Wars brought untold economic havoc especially in Europe, where both wars were mainly fought. Millions of people perished whilst their countries were ravaged and ruined by the war. The two conflicts resulted, on the one hand, in the decline of the old imperial powers.

On the other hand, the U.S.A. emerged from them as the richest and most powerful state in the West, firstly, because both wars were fought thousands of miles away from her mainland and she had fewer casualties. Whereas the British Empire lost 1,089,900 men, only 115,660 American soldiers died during the First World War. No damage whatsoever was suffered by her cities and industries. Secondly, she made fabulous profits from her allies out of war contracts. Due to these factors the U.S.A. grew to become the most powerful country in the West.

Paradoxically, the two world wars, which weakened the old powers and which contributed to the growth of the political and economic influence of the U.S.A., also resulted in the growth of the anti-imperialist forces all over the world and in the intensification of the struggle for national independence. The old powers, finding themselves unable to resist the demand by their former colonies for independence and still clinging desperately to their waning empires, were compelled to lean very heavily on American aid. The U.S.A., taking advantage of the plight of its former allies, adopted the policy of deliberately ousting them from their spheres of influence and grabbing these spheres for herself. An instance that is still fresh in our minds is that of the Middle East, where the U.S.A. assisted in the eviction of Britain from that area in order that she might gain control of the oil industry, which prior to that time was in the control of Britain.

Through the Marshall Plan the U.S.A. succeeded in gaining control of the economies of European countries and reducing them to a position analogous to that of dependencies. By establishing aggressive military blocs in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the U.S.A. has been able to post her armies in important strategic points and is preparing for armed intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Europe, the Baghdad Pact in the Middle East, and the South East Asian Treaty Organisation are military blocs which constitute a direct threat not only to world peace but also to the independence of the member states.

The policy of placing reliance on American economic and military aid is extremely dangerous to the “assisted” states themselves and has aggravated their positions. Since the Second World War, Britain, France and Holland have closely associated themselves with American plans for world conquest, and yet within that period they have lost empires in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and they are fighting rear-guard actions in their remaining colonial possessions. Their salvation and future prosperity lie not in pinning their faith on American aid and aggressive military blocs but in breaking away from her, in repudiating her foreign policy which threatens to drag them into another war, and in proclaiming a policy of peace and friendship with other nations.

U.S. Offensive in Africa

American interest in Africa has in recent years grown rapidly. This continent is rich in raw minerals. It produces almost all the world’s diamonds, 78 percent of its palm oil, 68 percent of its cocoa, half of its gold, and 22 percent of its copper. It is rich in manganese, chrome, in uranium, radium, in citrus fruits, coffee, sugar, cotton, and rubber. It is regarded by the U.S.A. as one of the most important fields of investment. According to the “Report of the Special Study Mission to Africa, South and East of the Sahara,” by the Honourable Frances P. Bolton which was published in 1956 for the use of the United States Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs, by the end of World War II United States private investments in Africa amounted to scarcely £150 million. At the end of 1954 the total book value of U.S. investments in Africa stood at £664 million.

Since then the American government has mounted a terrific diplomatic and economic offensive in almost every part of Africa. A new organisation for the conduct of African Affairs has come into existence. The Department of State has established a new position of deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs. The Bureau of African Affairs has been split into two new offices, the office of Northern African Affairs and that of Southern African Affairs. This reorganisation illustrates the increasing economic importance of Africa to the U.S.A. and the recognition by the governing circles of that state of the vital necessity for the creation and strengthening of diplomatic relations with the independent states of Africa. The U.S.A. has sent into this continent numerous “study” and “goodwill” missions, and scores of its leading industrialists and statesmen to survey the natural wealth of the new independent states and to establish diplomatic relations with the present regimes. Vice-President Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic party candidate for the American presidency in the last elections, and scores of other leading Americans, have visited various parts of the continent to study political trends and market conditions. Today, American imperialism is a serious danger to the independent states in Africa, and its people must unite before it is too late and fight it out to the bitter end.

Imperialism in Disguise

American imperialism is all the more dangerous because, having witnessed the resurgence of the people of Asia and Africa against imperialism and having seen the decline and fall of once powerful empires, it comes to Africa elaborately disguised. It has discarded most of the conventional weapons of the old type of imperialism. It does not openly advocate armed invasion and conquest. It purports to repudiate force and violence. It masquerades as the leader of the so-called free world in the campaign against communism. It claims that the cornerstone of its foreign policy is to assist other countries in resisting domination by others. It maintains that the huge sums of dollars invested in Africa are not for the exploitation of the people of Africa but for the purpose of developing their countries and in order to raise their living standards.

Now it is true that the new self-governing territories in Africa require capital to develop their countries. They require capital for economic development and technical training programmes, they require it to develop agriculture, fisheries, veterinary services, health, medical services, education, and communications. To this extent, overseas capital invested in Africa could play a useful role in the development of the self-governing territories in the continent. But the idea of making quick and high profits, which underlies all the developmental plans launched in Africa by the U.S.A., completely effaces the value of such plans in so far as the masses of the people are concerned. The big and powerful American trade monopolies that are springing up in various parts of the continent and which are destroying the small trader, the low wages paid the ordinary man, the resulting poverty and misery, his illiteracy and the squalid tenements in which he dwells are the simplest and most eloquent exposition of the falsity of the argument that American investments in Africa will raise the living standards of the people of this continent.

The American brand of imperialism is imperialism all the same in spite of the modern clothing in which it is dressed and in spite of the sweet language spoken by its advocates and agents. The U.S.A. is mounting an unprecedented diplomatic offensive to win the support of the governments of the self-governing territories in the continent. It has established a network of military bases all over the continent for armed intervention in the domestic affairs of independent states should the people in these states elect to replace American satellite regimes with those who are against American imperialism. American capital has been sunk into Africa not for the purpose of raising the material standards of its people but in order to exploit them as well as the natural wealth of their continent. This is imperialism in the true sense of the word.

The Americans are forever warning the people of this continent against communism which, as they allege, seeks to enslave them and to interfere with their peaceful development. But what facts justify this warning? Unlike the U.S.A., neither the Soviet Union, the Chinese People’s Republic nor any other Socialist state has aggressive military blocs in any part of the world. None of the Socialist countries has military bases anywhere in Africa, whereas the U.S.~. has built landing fields, ports, and other types of strategic bases all over North Africa. In particular it has jet fields in Morocco, Libya and Liberia. Unlike the U.S.A., none of the Socialist states has invested capital in any part of Africa for the exploitation of its people. At the United Nations Organisation, the Soviet Union, India, and several other nations have consistently identified themselves unconditionally with the struggle of the oppressed people for freedom, whereas the U.S.A. has very often allied itself with those who stand for the enslavement of others. It was not Soviet but American planes which the French used to bomb the peaceful village of Sakiet in Tunisia. The presence of a delegation from the Chinese People’s Republic at the 1955 Afro-Asian conference as well as the presence of a delegation from that country and the Soviet Union at the 1957 Cairo Afro-Asian conference show that the people of Asia and Africa have seen through the slanderous campaign conducted by the U.S.A. against the Socialist countries. They know that their independence is threatened not by any of the countries in the Socialist camp, but by the U.S.A., who has surrounded their continent with military bases. She communist bogey is an American stunt to distract the attention of the people of Africa from the real issue facing them, namely, American imperialism.

The peoples of resurgent Africa are perfectly capable of deciding upon their own future form of government and discovering and themselves dealing with any dangers which may arise. They do not require any schooling from the U.S.A., which – to judge from such events as the Little Rock outrage and the activities of the un-American Witch-hunting Committee – should learn to put its own house in order before trying to teach everyone else.

The people of Africa are astir. In conjunction with the people of Asia, and with freedom-loving people all over the world, they have declared a full-scale war against all forms of imperialism. The future of this continent lies not in the hands of the discredited regimes that have allied themselves with American imperialism. It is in the hands of the common people of Africa functioning in their mass movements.

 Article transcribed by N. Grant.


About perspectivesonafrica

Research and news about Africa
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