The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers George Padmore 1931
With the exception of Abyssinia and Liberia, the entire continent of Africa is completely under the domination of various imperialist Powers, GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, BELGIUM and PORTUGAL control the largest and most important sections of the continent. SPAIN and ITALY also have smaller colonies in Africa. The Northern territories of Africa – EGYPT, MOROCCO, TRIPOLI, ALGERIA, TUNIS, etc., etc., are inhabited by Arabic-speaking peoples, while the remaining sections of the continent are populated by various black tribes, generally referred to as Negro or Negroid.
Black Africa can therefore be divided into South, East, West and Central Africa, in contradistinction to the North, which is referred to as Arab Africa.
In this chapter we shall briefly describe some of the most glaring conditions and forms of oppression of Negro toilers under various imperialist governments in Black Africa.
South Africa includes the Union of South Africa (which is a dominion of the British Empire), Basutoland, Bechuanaland, North and South Rhodesia, Swaziland and former German South-West Africa (a mandate under the Union Government), all of which cover an area about half the size of Europe. The Union of South Africa is the most important section in this part of the continent. It has an area of 471,917 square miles and is made up of four provinces: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State. The population, according to the census of 1921, was estimated at 1,519,488 whites and 5,409,192 non-whites. Of these non-Europeans there are 4,697,813 Bantu natives, 165,731 Asiatics (mostly East Indians) and 545,548 people of mixed blood.
South Africa is a country of tremendous natural resources. Gold, diamonds, coal, tin and other valuable minerals are found in abundance. Its agricultural and pastoral products are also of real economic importance. This is why the country was stolen from the natives and plundered by the Europeans.
Politically the country is under the complete domination of English and Boer imperialists who exploit the native population in the most brutal manner. In order to do this the South African bourgeoisie have imposed upon the native population what is known as the Reserve and Compound systems, together with a number of repressive anti-labour and racial laws.
The Reserve System is the policy whereby all of the best lands have been taken away from the natives and turned over to white farmers. The natives are then gathered together on tracts of unfertile territory specially reserved for them. Because of the unproductive character of the land they are unable to produce enough food to feed themselves, and therefore they are forced to go and work for the European farmers and industrialists.
The European population of 1½ million owns more than 80 per cent. of the land in the Union. The native population of 5½ million owns less than 20 per cent., the reserves scheduled under the Native Land Act of 1913 being little more than 12½ per cent. of the total.
The Native Land Act of 1913 had as its object to preserve the former status pending further legislation, with the promise that additional land for natives would be forthcoming. This promise has not yet been fulfilled. Purchase by natives, even in certain reserved areas, is allowed only by special permission of the Government. A special disability is that, owing to the restricted area in which purchase is even possible, prices are frequently raised against natives. Many owners willing to sell hold on until they get their price, knowing that natives cannot obtain land elsewhere.
In spite of statements to the contrary, figures show that existing native reserves are inadequate and overcrowded. The following figures represent the position at present:
The average density of population in the Union for all races was in 1926 14.64 per square mile.
The average density in typical native areas is as follows:
(a) Transkei – 58.59 per square mile; in one district, 102.91.
(b) Natal and Zululand (non-European) – 36.63. in the Inanda District, 150.
(c) In the Glen Grey District of the Cape, which is surveyed and which contains 8,000 allotments, there was in 1926 a waiting list of about 4,000 landless natives. Some of these are now provided for, and are paying a quit-rent high enough to cover amortisation of a purchase price rendered notoriously high by farmers who were able to hold out for their own price.
(d) Transvaal Native Areas – 70 to 90 per square mile.
(e) The Orange Free State provides 244.3 square miles for a native population of 440,000 in 1926, of whom far too many exist precariously in town locations, preferring these to the bad Conditions for labour tenants prevailing on European farms.
On the borders of the Union, in Swaziland, two-thirds of the land is owned by European concessionaries leaving 2,000 square miles for 120,000 natives, i.e., 60 per square mile (1926). The concessionaries provide a certain amount of employment, but wages are terribly low.
The many evictions and removals from European farms which followed the passing of the Native Land Act, 1913, led to further pressure on the Reserves; and to a drift to town slums and urban location.
Conditions of tenure differ in various parts of the Union. There is extreme insecurity of tenure on all farms, which affects nearly two million natives, who can never gain secure homes, even for old age, after a lifetime service.
The life of the black farm labourers is hardly distinguishable from serfdom. In return for cultivating a piece of land allotted to the native by the white farmer the blacks are made to pay exorbitant rent or otherwise work without wages for the greater portion of the year for his white master. No matter how badly the landlord treats his serfs they are not permitted to leave the farm, for the Masters and Servants Act, which governs the relationship between employer and employee, makes it an offence for a black worker to break a “contract” entered into with a white employer.
We are informed of cases where the farmers, when they need labour, offer liberal terms of employment, but when the natives have engaged themselves the farmers turn round and say the law does not allow them to make such terms and absolutely refuse to give effect to the contract. This often leads to criminal action, with the result that natives are either imprisoned or evicted from the farms.
The tendency is for these laws to be stiffened in their action against the native. For instance:
(1) In 1926 the “squatter” was brought even more under “control” by being made a “servant.”
(2) A new Bill designed by the Minister for Justice “proposes to add the possibility of lashes to fine or imprisonment as a punishment for breach of contract by a native.”
Because of the congestion of the Reserves which adds to the famine condition always prevalent thousands of blacks are forced to also migrate into industrial centres in order to find employment.
The following figures give an estimate of the number of black and white workers engaged in the basic industries in 1927:
|(4) Electric Power Co.||917,917||3,066|
According to the Johannesburg Joint Council, “these urbanised industrial natives are governed by the Masters and Servants Law which, in the Transvaal, is fifty years old.”
Under this law breach of contract of service is a criminal offence for the native worker, but not for the European employer.
Another law known as the Colour Bar Act (Mines and Works Act (1911), Amendment Act (1926)) gives power to close skilled occupation to natives. Its declared purpose is the segregation of natives in Reserves. (From 50 to 70 per cent. of the adult male population of the Reserves, and an increasing number of the women, are necessarily away from home at work for six or nine months per annum.) The general effect of the Act is to destroy all hope for the native to advance beyond menial labour, whatever his capacities may be, and to discourage the training of native labourers by employers.
Pass-bearing natives (i.e., the vast majority of the workers) are excluded from the working of the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924. That is to say, no native industrial organisation has the legal recognition accorded to European Trades Unions, and so far as the native worker is concerned there can be no such thing as collective bargaining, whatever his grievances may be.
The average wage for European workers in the coal mining industry is between 20 shillings and 24 shillings per day, while that of the natives is 40 to 50 shillings per month. The same disproportion in wages exists in other basic industries. A European worker gets an average wage of about 295 pounds sterling per year, while a black worker receives 30 pounds. Wages among black and white factory workers also reflect the same disproportion. For example, in 1924 there were 66,189 white factory workers in South Africa who received an average of 246 pounds per year. During the same period 116,699 non-Europeans were employed in factories at the rate of 48 pounds per annum. Exclusive of the exploitation of the black workers in the form of low wages, long hours, etc., the conditions under which the Negro workers are forced to work, especially in the mining industries, are most demoralising and devitalising. In the gold and diamond regions of the Transvaal, thousands of natives are housed in military-like barracks known as Compounds. These Compounds are kept in the most filthy and insanitary condition, which, added to the bad food, mostly maize with salt, supplied the men, contribute largely to tuberculosis and other social and industrial diseases. A few years ago the conditions were so awful that the death rate was exceedingly high. The bourgeoisie became alarmed over this rapid depletion of their black slave labour, so they introduced certain “reforms” in the nature of medical inspection. However, as late as 1927 there were 44,347 births recorded among the Europeans in South Africa, and 16,627 deaths, while among the non-Europeans there were 51,077 births and 45,219 deaths. In some industrial areas the native infantile death rate is 750 per thousand. These vital statistics are living indications of the difference in the standards of living which exist between the two races. During the period that the Negro workers are employed in the mines they are not permitted to leave the Compounds, which are surrounded by barbed wire fences with armed guards at the gates. At the completion of their terms of service each worker is forced to swallow a dose of castor oil which would make even Mussolini shiver. This is done for the purpose of purging out any diamonds which the native might have concealed in his system!
In view of the present economic crisis in South Africa, which has greatly affected the industrial life of the country, a committee was recently appointed by the Native Affairs Dept. of the Government for the purpose of investigating the labour situation and to find a solution for the unemployment problem. The committee estimated the native labour force at 644,000, in addition to which there are about 275,000 Negroes imported into the country from surrounding territories. This labour was largely utilised in agriculture and the lighter industries in the urban areas. As a result there was a general shortage of labour in the mines. In the Western and South-Western part of Cape Province the labour supply was inadequate, due to the wholesale migration of natives, who were running away from the brutal rationalisation methods to which they are being subjected in the industries in this part of the country. In view of this the committee recommended that immediate steps be taken to prevent the natives from running away and to supply the demands of the mining companies, which require a labour force of about 300,000 native miners. There are only 190,000 such miners in the Witwatersrand mining district. For the purpose of complying with the demands of the mine-owners, the Government is taking active steps to force the natives to remain in the mining areas. This is being done by re-enacting various anti-labour laws and increasing taxation.
In order to obtain the money to pay the Head and Poll taxes, the blacks are forced to put up with the inhuman conditions imposed upon them in industry. Furthermore, whenever they attempt to run away they are immediately arrested by the police and turned over to their employers. This is done under a system known as the Pass Law, which makes it an offence for a black Worker to walk the streets of any industrial city in South Africa unless he has a passport showing that he is in the service of some White capitalist. Through these czarist methods of police terrorism, millions of Negro toilers in South Africa are enslaved within their own country.
The following is a brief summary by Tymzo-shi, the Bantu writer, on the twelve “badges” of slavery which the Negro toilers are compelled to carry about with them:
(1) Identification Pass (Natal). This has to be carried by all natives in Natal for identification. It is a monthly document for which two shillings is paid per month.
(2) Travelling Pass. Carried by all male natives wishing to travel; in the case of rail a native has to produce this pass before a ticket is issued to him. Certain ticket issuers will demand also his poll-tax receipt. Thus the native is often embarrassed and does not know what form of “pass” is actually required before he may travel.
(3) Six Days’ Special Pass (Permit to Seek Work). When a native arrives in a town to look for work, or leaves service, he is given a six days’ “special” to seek work. After the expiration of this period and failure to get a job his “special” is again endorsed for another six days. Should he again fail to obtain employment, he is “ordered” to another area by the police.
The authorities do not care how he gets there. All they care about is that he has to go there or suffer arrest or imprisonment. This is one of the cruellest of the pass laws.
(4) Monthly Pass. This is a contract of service to be carried by all native labourers, for which the employer has to pay two shillings a month. On this pass are inscribed the worker’s name, father’s name, tribe, chief, place of abode, poll tax – whether paid or not, and scale of wages – whether daily, weekly or monthly.
(5) Daily Labourers’ Pass. This has to be held by all natives who carry on business. They pay two shillings per month, but the absurdity of the document is that while a native who carries on such private business of his own can issue “special passes” to other natives, he cannot supply himself with a “special pass"!
If he desires to go to another area, or to be out after 9 p.m., he has to apply to the Pass Office for his “special.” Suppose this man is a painter, and is called on Saturday afternoon to do an urgent job, he cannot get away before the Pass Office opens on the following Monday. By then his job has taken wings! Suppose his wife be so unfortunate as to give birth to a child after 9 p.m., he cannot leave his home to call the doctor or the nurse. If he does, he will be arrested and convicted, according to law.
(6) Day Special Pass. Every native who wishes to visit an area other than the one in which he resides has to carry a “special pass” stating how long he will be on such a visit.
(7) Night Special Pass. A native has to carry this if he wants to be out after 9 p.m. The employer can refuse to grant this pass if he likes – as many do – and the worker has either to go at his own risk or to go to bed.
(8) Trek Pass. This applies almost entirely to farm labourers when they leave one farm or district for another.
(9) Location Visitors’ Permit Pass. A native who visits any location has to get a permit from the Location Superintendent. If this official is against revolutionary organisations he refuses the permit should the visitor be an organiser or member of such bodies.
(10) Lodgers’ Permit. Natives are allowed to become residents of municipal locations only if they have paid from one shilling and sixpence to two shillings and sixpence per month “lodgers’ permit” for themselves and families. All natives over 18 years of age are subject to this tax.
(11) Poll Tax Receipt Pass. This is procurable on payment of one pound per annum in urban areas and one pound ten shillings in rural areas. The receipt has to be produced on nearly every occasion when the other passes must be shown to the police or other agents of the imperialists.
(12) Exemption Pass. This is the “Big Boss” of all passes. It is supposed to exempt the bearer from native law and all other passes, but it does not...Wherever the bearer goes he will still be asked for his pass like the native who has no such “exemption.”
Added to these repressive measures there are special laws which provide that every native must work 90 days every year free for a European capitalist.
“Justice” in South Africa can only be compared to “justice” in the Southern States of the U.S.A. Negroes are not only economically suppressed, but just because of this their political and social status is negligible. There is no law in South Africa which a white man is bound to respect if it applies to the Negro. If a white employer kills one of his Negro slaves all the court asks of him is a fine. But if the situation is the reverse then the Negro is made to pay the “full penalty of the law” with his life. Another method by which Negroes are misused is before the police courts. The magistrates make it a special point of duty to inflict severe punishments upon the natives. For example, just recently a South African magistrate fined a poor native worker £7 10s., with the alternative of six weeks’ hard labour, simply because the man forgot to carry one of the above described passes with him. In sentencing the Negro the magistrate said: “You think you are too swanky to carry Passes. All these rosettes and fountain pens of yours are used to attract attention. You dress yourselves as though you were earning £20 a month and not £2 10s. However, I never fail to make men like you remember occasions such as this.”
Politically, the status of the Negroes can be described as follows:
In the Cape, the franchise is based on the principle of racial equality. There is an educational test of a simple nature, and a voter must also have a property or wage-earning qualification. These tests do, in fact, exclude many native voters. The number of native voters is at present about 14,000 out of a total native population of 1,500,000, while of the coloured population (including Indians) of 435,000 nearly 27,000 are registered voters. In Natal, while the natives and coloured people may legally acquire the vote on certain conditions, in practice they are almost entirely excluded. In the Transvaal and Orange Free State the franchise is explicitly restricted to whites, all adult white males who are citizens have the right to vote. The Union safeguards the Cape franchise by making any alteration of it dependent on two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament, sitting together, but it provides that only persons of European descent shall sit in Parliament, and assigns to the Cape Province a proportionate representation in the Assembly on the basis of its European voters only. The coloured and native voters are left out of the reckoning. The South African Act thus marked a decided set-back to the principle of racial equality in political matters.
Efforts are now being made even to deprive the natives in the Cape Province of the vote and participation in the elections to Parliament.
The most glaring expression of social discrimination is in the disproportion of money spent upon native education. A special tax for native education is enforced in South Africa. The natives do not eject so much to this tax as such as to the principle upon which it is imposed; that is, that the native is the only section of the population specially taxed for his own education, whereas he has also to pay for the education of the European and coloured sections of the population. Even under the present conditions very little money is being appropriated for the cultural development of the children of native workers. For instance, the Bishop of Pretoria has recently been forced to state publicly that “more money was spent to build one high school for the white children of the bourgeoisie in the Transvaal than on the whole native educational system in the province.”
In this respect figures speak more eloquently than words; therefore, we will quote the report of the Native Affairs Commission (1923) which glaringly shows the disparity in the amounts levied in direct taxation on the natives and the proportions spent for the education of their children.
(1) Transvaal: Native population 1,219,845, or 72.34 per cent. of total population.
|Amount from Poll Tax||400,000||pounds sterling|
|Amount from Pass Fees||350,000||" "|
|Amount spent on Education||56,000||" "|
(2) Orange Free State: Native population 325,824, or 61.69 per cent. of total population:
|Amount from Poll Tax||86,000||pounds sterling|
|Amount spent on Education||5,000||" "|
(3) Natal: Native population total population:
|Amount from Hut Tax||270,000||pounds sterling|
|Amount spent on Education||32,000||" "|
(4) Cape: Native population 1,519,939, or 59.26 per cent. of total population:
|Amount from Hut Tax||175,000||pounds sterling|
|Amount spent on Education||170,000||" "|
All of the above described facts briefly portray the misery, degradation and want to which 5.5 million black toilers in South Africa have been reduced by means of arms, terrorism and bloodshed in the name of bourgeois democracy and the civilising mission of British imperialism.
The partitioning of East Africa was begun about 1884 and completed within ten years. By 1890 the territories now known as Uganda, Kenya and Nyassaland came under British domination, while Tanganyika fell into the hands of the Germans. Because of the territorial position of this once-German colony, which lies between Kenya and Uganda on the North, and Northern Rhodesia on the South, the proposed Cape to Cairo railroad, which has been the dream of British imperialists ever since the days of Cecil Rhodes and Chamberlain, met with set-backs.
The German imperialists at that time were the greatest rivals of the British. They vigorously opposed the idea of such a valuable commercial and military railroad passing through their territory. Thanks, however, to the last imperialist war, Tanganyika has passed into the hands of Great Britain under a mandate of the League of Nations. This now gives Britain a solid continuous expanse of territory extending from Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the North to the Cape of Good Hope in the South, and provides her with the possibility of effecting the railroad schemes as well as the establishing of air-routes.
The total area of the territories now comprising British East Africa is about 688,000 square miles, or seven times the size of England, with a native population estimated as about 10,957,634. There is also a European population of about 12,000, most of whom are farmers, Government officials and missionaries, as well as 67,978 Asiatics, chiefly East Indian and Arab traders.
The climate of East Africa, unlike that of the West Coast, enables Europeans to become permanent settlers in these colonies. This factor has greatly influenced the land policy that has been pursued by British imperialism in these territories. The plantation system has become the predominant form of agricultural exploitation in contradistinction to peasant production, which is widespread throughout British West Africa.
Thanks to German imperialism extensive plantations have been developed in Tanganyika by white capital and black labour. On the basis of this pre-war agrarian policy the British settlers have been able to continue the same plantation system, but their greatest difficulty today is the question of guaranteeing an adequate supply of labour. The same situation exists in Kenya, where the British colonial government, in order to solve the problem, has adopted the scheme of expropriating all of the fertile land in the highland regions from the natives, who have been driven into the barren lowlands.
It has been estimated that more than 10,000 square miles of tableland has been given to some 12,000 British farmers, while 5,000 square miles of unfertile territory has been set aside as Reserves for over 2,000,000 natives. In Kenya even this high-handed method of land robbery has not solved the labour problem. So, in order to find a way out, the Government has imposed special taxes known as the Head and Poll tax on the natives, along the same line adopted by the bourgeoisie of South Africa. It is hoped that in this way the natives will be forced to leave their Reserves and seek employment on the plantations of the Europeans in order to find the money to pay their taxes. Furthermore, whenever there is a great shortage of labour, taxes are increased until the situation is relieved. Natives who voluntarily go and offer their services to the whites are, however, exempted from paying the increase.
All males over the age of 16, as well as widows, are liable to the Head and Poll tax, which ranges from 10 to 16 shillings per annum. In 1924 the natives produced agricultural crops to the value of 546,000 pounds sterling. Yet they had to pay taxes to the amount of 876,000 pounds, of which sum 516,000 pounds was derived directly from Hut and Poll tax, and 250,000 from Customs. Thus the natives had collectively to go and earn 320,000 pounds from European employment in order to pay the Government. After securing their tax money they had to prolong their terms of “contract,” so as to get an extra amount of money to buy food and clothing.
According to Sir Percy Girouard, a former Governor of Kenya, “taxation is the only method of compelling the natives to leave their Reserves for the purpose of seeking work. Only in this way can the cost of living be increased for the natives. It is on this that the supply of labour and the price of labour depends.” This opinion was re-echoed by all of the European farmers who gave evidence before the Native Labour Commission in 1912, and as a result the Commission, which was composed of a British judge, three employees of the Government, two Christian missionaries and four representatives of European commercial interests, recommended that the natives be taxed on the one hand, their Reserves cut down on the other, and in this way force more and more of them to go into the labour market. As was to be expected, these recommendations have been put into effect.
In order to get the labourers in the East African colonies, two methods of recruiting have been resorted to: (1) official, and (2) private recruitment.
Through the former method, pressure is brought to bear by the Government officials on the chiefs, who are expected to supply a certain number of able-bodied men to work for the Government as well as for private individuals from time to time. With respect to the other system, the private recruiters are known as labour agents-quite a respectable term for slave dealers! After obtaining a licence from the Government, for which they pay a small fee, they are at liberty to go into any province and comb it for workers. These slave raiders are generally assisted by the native “touts,” who act as guides.
Labour bureaus have also been established in various parts of East Africa in order to facilitate recruiting. The largest of these agencies are the Fort Hall Recruiting Association and the Kisumu Labour Bureau, both of which are located in Kenya. Most of the large estates in East Africa are situated in districts far removed from densely-populated native areas, so that they are unable to obtain from local sources all the labour they require. The labour recruiter is therefore the link between the employer who needs labour and the natives in their villages.
All male natives between 1 and 50 are liable for registration. The percentage of those employed in Kenya in 1927 was 38.8. Next to the Belgian Congo, which is notorious for its brutality to the Negro workers, Kenya has more natives under European employment than any other country in Africa. Last year some 27,000 labourers were recruited in Tanganyika territory alone, for plantations and other big employers of native labour. About O Licensed recruiters were employed in order to secure these Labourers.
This system of forced labour is legalised by the Legislative Councils of the East African colonies. Violation of these slave laws amounts to a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment even flogging.
The first application of the official policy of forced labour for private purposes was in 1919. Prior to this time, native labour was exclusively used for Government purposes; as, for example, the building of roads, railroads, bridges and other forms of public undertakings. However, shortly after the appointment of General Northly, Governor of Kenya in 1919, the question of forcing the natives to work for private enterprises was raised in the Legislative Council in that colony.
During the course of the debate on this question, Lord Delamere, the leader of the European colonists, said: “We have got to come to legal methods and force the natives to work. I hope we may rely on the Government for assistance.” Speaking on behalf of the Government, Northly replied: “I believe that our duty is to encourage the energies of all communities to produce from these rich lands the raw products and foodstuffs that the world at large, and the British Empire in particular, require. This can only be done by encouraging the thousands of able-bodied natives to work with the European settlers for the cultivation of land.”
Later on the Governor, in a written communication addressed to the European Farmers’ Association, stated that the official policy of the Government was: “The white man must be paramount-for the good of the country and for his own welfare he (the native) must be brought out to work...Our policy, then, I believe, should be to encourage voluntary work in the first place but to provide by legislation to prevent idleness.”
A few days after this declaration had been published the Chief Native Commissioner for Native Affairs, in the name of the Government of Kenya, issued another infamous document known as the “Northly Land Circular.” It stated “that it is in the interests of the natives themselves for the young men to become wage-earners and not to remain idle on the Reserves for the large part of the year. The native authorities (chiefs and headmen) are therefore to exercise all lawful and proper influence to induce young men to go into the labour market. It is also their duty to encourage all unemployed under their protection to seek labour on the plantations.” The Circular further stated “that where farms are situated in the vicinity of a native area, women and children should be encouraged to go out for such labour as they can perform.”
Within a few months after these instructions had been issued to the native chiefs, 70,000 women and 150,000 children were assigned to European farms in Kenya. A campaign of recruitment spread like wildfire. Throughout Kenya Government officials organised labour armies of children and shipped them off to plantations. In Kyambu District the Commissioner issued a special circular appealing to the European planters, in which he announced that “I shall be glad if any coffee growers who may like to employ these children will write his name thereon, stating the number required, the time for which they may be needed."(Buell-"Native Problem in Africa.” Vol. I., p. 334).
In summarising the native problem in Kenya we see that the black toilers are under obligation by law to perform two duties: (1) pay taxes, and (2) render compulsory labour for public and private purposes.
Similar conditions as those in Kenya also prevail in Uganda, where the principal enterprise is cotton growing. This crop is cultivated on extensive plantations controlled by British finance-capital through the British Empire Cotton Growers’ Association.
Thousands of natives are recruited through the activities of the Uganda Planters’ Association, This organisation pays its white agents 6 shillings for each Negro captured. After a few thousands have been collected they are then shipped off to plantations where they are forced to sign “contracts” to work for a certain number of months, during which period they are held as virtual slaves under the supervision of European overseers who ill-treat these labourers in the most shameful manner.
Forced labour is still utilised for the construction of railroads and roads in most of the provinces of Uganda. The average wage for a labourer employed by the Government is between 12 and 18 shillings a month. This is much higher than in Kenya where wages range from 6 to 10 shillings. In addition, the natives are made to work one month without pay for commercial purposes. There are over 20,000 such labourers at present employed in Uganda.
The same situation exists throughout Tanganyika, where forced labour has reached a very high state of development thanks to German imperialism, which laid the basis for it in pre-war days. In Nyassaland, unless a native can prove that he has worked for a white man for a certain number of months every year, he is made to pay a double tax.
In the few skilled occupations in which natives are employed in Tanganyika, wages are seldom higher than 20 shillings per month. But as a general rule the scale of pay depends upon the character of the work and the supply of labour at the time of the undertaking.
In July, 1930, delegates representing various associations of employers met at Kitali in Kenya and approved the resolution fixing the minimum wage for the signing on of labourers at 10 shillings a month. A second resolution was adopted discouraging farmers from making advances to natives entering employment, and suggested that the maximum should be no more than 10 shillings. It was further agreed that, in view of the present agrarian crisis, no rise should be granted to the native labourer unless he completed six months’ employment at one continuous period in any given year, after which an increase of sixpence would be made if the labourer decided to remain the other six months of the year in the service of his employer.
As the workers in East Africa are recruited to a very considerable extent through native chiefs, it has become the policy of British political officials, such as District Commissioners, Superintendents of Police, etc., etc., to keep records of the chiefs and headmen so as to check up whether they are helpful or not. On the basis of this system, chiefs who fail to supply the allotted quota of men when called upon are either deprived of their chieftainship or otherwise a portion of their revenue is taken away from them until they comply with the demands of their imperialist masters.
The entire policy of British imperialism in East Africa has been fittingly summed up in the words of Sir Charles Eliot, the first Governor of Kenya: “The interior of the Protectorate of Kenya is a white man’s country, and it were hypocrisy to deny that white interests must be paramount and that the main object of our policy and legislation is to found a white colony.” (“East Africa and Protectorate,” pp. 105 and 310). This, however, was nothing original. It was merely the reiteration of Britain’s imperialist policy in Africa which was formulated by Chamberlain, who, addressing the House of Commons on August 6th, 1901, on the question of forced labour and taxation, said: “In the interests of the natives themselves all over Africa, we have to teach them to work...Suggestions have been made in the debate that it would be wrong to tax the natives. I do not agree at all. It would not for a moment be considered wrong to tax them on the ground that they were receiving benefits for which they pay their share of the cost. It is only suggested that it is wrong when there is the ulterior result that the native will have to work to obtain the money to pay the tax. Why should that which is right in itself be wrong because incidentally it will have a result which I venture to say is also right? For if by these indirect means we can get the natives to undertake industry, we shall have done the best for them as well as for ourselves.”
This policy has been consistently carried out by all of the Governments of British Imperialism, whether Conservative, Liberal or “Labour.”
In order to tighten up its stranglehold over East Africa, British imperialism intends to amalgamate the colonies described above into one East African empire, towards which objective the “Labour” Government has stated its policy in two White Papers published in 1930.
West Africa is divided into three parts under the domination of Great Britain, France and Portugal. Here we will deal with the British section, which comprises the colonies of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast and Gambia. Together they are about seven times the size of the United Kingdom with a native population of over 25 millions. Because of the tremendous economic importance of these colonies, we find the natives subjected to the same methods of robbery as in other parts of Africa. Up to a few years ago peasant production was widespread. This was due to the bad climate, which made it impossible for Europeans to settle there during the early days of colonization, as they had done in East Africa. Modern science and engineering has transformed these colonies. Finance-capital is pouring into industry and agriculture with the result that the natives have been more and more expropriated from their lands. The Government is aiding the capitalists by means of taxation.
Politically, the administration of British West Africa is in the hands of some 5,000 English officials, who rule directly, and in some instances indirectly (as in the case of Northern Nigeria), through native chiefs and petty black officials. The system of government prevailing throughout British West Africa can be placed under two heads: (a) Crown Colony, and (b) Protectorate.
Under the former the legislative and executive departments of the Government are under the domination of administrators known as Governors, who are appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies with the approval of the Crown. Under the protectorate system the Governor has absolute power; however, the actual administration of government is carried on indirectly through native chiefs who are either appointed or approved of by the local administrators, known as Commissioners or Residents. The majority of these native chiefs are merely tools of the imperialists.
Neither of the two systems affords the toiling masses of African natives any voice in the political affairs of their countries. For example, the colonial parliaments known as Legislative Councils are composed largely of Government officials, such as the heads of various administrative departments of the State. The unofficial members are recruited from the British nationals, who represent banking, trading and shipping interests. Here and there one may find a few native members on the councils. These, however, are not the representatives of the working class, but of the native-petty-bourgeoisie and the landlord elements (chiefs and tribal headmen). Whenever the imperialists are opposed by bellicose chiefs or “left” petty-bourgeois intellectuals, they easily win them over by conferring a knighthood or some other form of imperialist decoration upon them, as well as appointing them members of the inner circle of oppressors by nominating them to seats on the various Legislative Councils.
By maintaining a majority of official members on the Legislative Councils, the governments of West Africa are always able to put through any enactment without popular opposition. However, when delicate situations arise, which require a certain amount of careful manoeuvring in order to hide the mailed first of British aggression, the local administrators use the chiefs as agents through whom they extort taxes and demand labour out of the workers and peasants.
This policy of operating through native chiefs has become one of the most effective methods of subduing the toiling masses of West Africa.
This form of Indirect Rule was first introduced in Northern Nigeria about 1900 by Sir Frederick (now Lord) Lugard, who at that time was the leader of the military expeditions which subdued the Fulani Emirates. Since then this policy has become the method of ruling throughout the Protectorate of British West Africa.
By annexing the lands, either as Crown Lands or Public Lands, the British administrators have completely reduced the Emirs (chiefs) to absolute dependence upon them, and as a result of this these black lackeys are now compelled to carry out whatever they are instructed to do. Their emoluments are entirely in the hands of the British overlords, who could depose them at will as provided for by the Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs Ordinance, thus bringing their parasitic existence to a premature end. In short, the whole policy of British imperialism in West Africa, like India, is to base itself upon the semi-feudal and other reactionary elements.
The principal functions which the native chiefs perform at present are those of labour recruiting agents and tax gatherers. Whenever there is a shortage of labour the foreign plantation owners and mining companies, as well as State Departments acting through the provincial governments, order the chiefs to provide the required quota of labourers. Thanks to the tribal institutions of the West African peoples, which generally conferred all sovereign power of the tribe in the person of the chiefs, and as such made them the custodians of all lands, they, especially in Nigeria and the Gold Coast, are still in a position to wield a great amount of influence over the broad masses. These renegades exploited their prestige to the fullest extent by issuing orders calling upon all able-bodied men to leave the villages and go to work for the Europeans.
In the territories where the peasants refuse to obey the chiefs, as has frequently occurred in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone and Southern Nigeria, the Government simply steps in and by levying direct taxes on native huts, landholdings, agricultural produce and live stock, achieve their objective, namely, driving thousands of Negroes into forced slavery annually. With respect to taxation in territories where Indirect Rule has been applied, the revenue is collected through native treasuries and divided between the chiefs, the tax collectors and the central government. Among the 10 million black Moslems of Northern Nigeria these taxes are known as the Hariji and the Gangali. The former is levied upon the farming population, while the latter is imposed on the pastoral tribesmen. The rate is about one shilling per head for cattle and sixpence for smaller animals.
In order to get the money to pay these taxes, the natives must do one of two things: (1) go to work for some foreign capitalist, or (2) borrow from the banks and native money-lenders. In this way the imperialists are able to create a “free” labour market and thereby get labour for their plantations and mines, while the Government gets its taxes and the banks and other usurious elements interest on their loans. This, in brief, gives us a classical picture of the way these capitalist blood-suckers exploit the West African masses. In order to help in robbing the peasants of their lands by means of expropriation and taxation, the British utilise the chiefs. As a reward for their services these lackeys are permitted to deduct a certain portion of the taxes collected.
In West Africa forced labour can be divided into two categories: (1) Forced compulsory labour for Government and (2) compulsory labour for private purposes. As far as the Africans are concerned, there is no difference between these two systems; for under both they are reduced to virtual slaves.
(a) Government Use. Thousands of able-bodied men are used by the Government, for constructing roads, bridges and railways. All the railroads of West Africa are built, owned and operated by the Government, which pays its labourers on the average of 20 cents per day. Besides these workers there are some 30,000 miners employed by the Nigerian Government in working its coal mines. They get 25 cents for underground work and 18 cents for surface work. Native labour is also largely used for porterage. It has been estimated that over 86,000 porters, as well as 206,000 coolie-labourers, are in the Government’s service in Southern Nigeria. Large contingents of porters are also employed in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone, and Gambia, where railroad and motor transportation is still in a backward condition. Porterage is one of the most devitalising forms of human exploitation, for the porters are made to carry heavy loads for hundreds of miles through dense forests and mud-covered roads.
(b) Private Use. The following interview of a Nigerian mine-owner, which appeared in the journal, “West Africa,” gives a clear-cut picture of the policy of the British imperialists towards native labour for private use. “They (the natives) are taxed annually by the Government, and in many cases they realise that the easiest way to pay such taxes is to work for the money required instead of selling goats or farm produce. The Government is certainly doing all it can reasonably be expected to do in assisting us in the matter of labour.”
The following figures represent the approximate number of natives employed in the basic West African industries: In the Gold Coast there are about 10,000 miners employed by the Ashanti Goldfields Co. and other foreign concerns. The average wage is about 20 cents per day for 10 or 12 hours. There are over 30,000 miners in the tin industry in Nigeria. They receive about 1 shilling per day for 12 hours’ work. Over 4,000 workers are employed in the manganese industry at the rate of 20 to 35 cents per day, while in the diamond mines the total number of workers in 1929 was 1,750. According to the census of 1921, there were 20,000 wage earners in Northern Nigeria and 62,000 in Southern Nigeria. There were also 3,000 natives employed in the native administration of the Northern Province, and 86,000 porters as well as 206,000 coolie labourers in the Southern Province. The Government railroads operating in Northern Nigeria employed 6,360 natives. There are some 21,000 Nigerians in the Government service of the Southern Province.
The average wage of these workers, according to the character of their occupation, is between 30 shillings and 60 shillings per month.
The Annual Colonial Report (1929) issued by the Sierra Leone Government describes the labour situation in that colony as follows: “Unskilled labour in the colony and protectorate is easy to obtain. The wages paid average about 1 shilling or 24 cents per day.
“There is in the protectorate a system of communal labour which is performed by the natives as a form of tax payable to the chiefs. Such communal labour is called up in accordance with native customs or works of a public character, e.g., road-making, construction of native-built (mud) houses, but a system of payment for such labour is now being gradually introduced.
“The demand for skilled labour is met by skilled artisans trained by various Government departments of missions.”
When the new harbour at Takordi in the Gold Coast was being constructed two years ago (1928), more than 6,000 natives were especially recruited from the villages and forced to do unskilled work.
The labour situation in West Africa has become such an international scandal that even the imperialists and their agents have had to admit its widespread practice.
For instance, Kathleen Simon, the wife of Sir John Simon, the British Liberal, in her book entitled “Slavery,” states that “ALMOST EVERY COLONISING GOVERNMENT TODAY IS EXACTING FORCED LABOUR FOR WHAT IT CALLS PUBLIC WORKS. VARYING PERIODS FROM 24 TO 60 DAYS A YEAR ARE EXACTED FROM THE FORCED LABOURERS; AGAIN, VARYING RATES OF PAY ARE ADOPTED. INDEED, IN A LARGE NUMBER OF CASES NO PAYMENT WHATSOEVER IS MADE.”
We again find a confirmation of this in the official report on West Africa of Mr. Ormsby-Gore, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Colonies, who, writing on the question of forced labour in the British West African Colonies, states “The supply of voluntary labour for the latter purpose (road and railway construction) has always proved inadequate in Nigeria, and recourse is had to compulsory or ‘enlisted’ – sometimes called political – labour for these essential public works and services. All the railways and most of the roads in Nigeria have involved the use of this compulsory labour.”
Domestic slavery existed in Sierra Leone up till recently. In 1929 the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone declared the institution of slavery illegal. But this was merely a political gesture, in order to create a mask behind which the representative of British imperialism at the League of Nations was able to manoeuvre during the inquiry held on slavery in 1930, when a commission was appointed to investigate slavery and forced labour in Liberia.
Within the past few years British capitalists have begun to develop large-scale plantations throughout West Africa. This has influenced the former land policy pursued by the Governments of the Colonies. The present tendency is to expropriate the lands from the natives and to turn the peasantry into a landless class of wage earners, enslaved on the plantations of the white overlords, as has been done in the East African colonies of Kenya, Uganda, Nyassaland and Tanganyika Territory, and the Belgian Congo.
In Nigeria the Government is working hand in hand with the British agricultural companies, which are dominated by the banks. The chiefs and the big native landlords are also giving active support to this new land policy, because their economic interests are identical with the foreign oppressors. They are the most reactionary elements throughout West Africa.
The standard of living of the agricultural workers is much lower than those engaged in the mining industries and transportation. For example, there are more than 20,000 labourers on some of the plantations in the Cameroons. The average wage is 10 cents for labourers and 30 cents for native overseers and foremen. Thousands of natives are also employed by European timber concessions in the Benin-River Territory. These workers are mercilessly exploited by the contractors who force them to work six months at a time before they are entitled to receive pay. During this period the workers are advanced the worst quality food in the company Stores and at the end of six months the total of the advances made is deducted from their pay. As the result of this system the workers invariably find themselves indebted to the companies, which compel them to work another term under similar conditions. This system of peonage is most widespread among the timber regions of Southern Nigeria and the Cameroons.
The agrarian crisis, intensified by the monopoly role of finance-capital in agriculture, is creating universal pauperisation of the peasantry. Thousands of peasant producers have already abandoned their farms without any means of livelihood. If we take the Conditions of the Gambian farmer to illustrate the point, we at Once see the desperate economic position of these Africans. The average peasant cultivates 1 to 2 tons of ground nuts per year, which fetch £5 per ton on the local market, thus making a total income £7 10s., while his living expenses amount to the following: rice during planting season, £1 16s.; ground nut seeds for planting £1 4s. Hut tax 4 shillings, poll tax 6 shillings. Cost of living for 365 days at 1 shilling per day £18 5s., making a total of £21 15s. for living expenses as compared to an income of £7 10s. Thus the West African peasant’s expenses exceed his income by £14 5s. annually. In order to augment the family budget and make ends meet the entire family – father, mother and children, are forced to seek employment in the open labour market, which is unable to absorb them today. The alternative is to fight for the overthrow of imperialism or to starve. The toilers are beginning to follow the road of struggle which we will describe elsewhere.
What with the tremendous fall in prices of farm products, increase in value of manufactured commodities and imported foodstuff, additional taxation and the application of more ruthless methods of usury by the banks and money-lenders, general discontent is being created among the toiling masses of West Africa. This has already led to an open revolt in Nigeria in December, 1929, during which 30,000 peasant women made an attack on the British bank and trading companies in the south-eastern province of that country.
The French possessions in Black Africa are:
(1) French Equatorial Africa, commonly known as French Congo. This comprises one of the largest colonial possessions of French imperialism. It covers an area of 975,635 square miles with a population of 3,127,707 (census 1926). The Europeans number about 2,502. These are largely political administrators, soldiers, missionaries and representatives of mining, agricultural and other commercial interests of the French bourgeoisie.
The territory was divided into three colonies up to 1919.
|(1) Middle Congo||120,331||212,035||261,447||118,862||106,409||698,753|
In 1920 the Chad Territory, which was formerly a part of Ubangi-Shari, was made a separate colony. It covers an area of 495,414 square miles and has a population of 923,611 natives, composed of the following: men, 331,011; women, 317,259; boys, 116,491; and girls, 158,850.
The principal towns of French Equatorial Africa are Libreville in Gabun, Brazzaville in Middle Congo, Bangui in Ugangi-Shari and Fort-Lany in Chad.
Administration. The entire Equatorial region is under the administration of a Governor-General, assisted by a secretary-general and a council. The Government has its headquarters at Brazzaville. Each of the four colonies described above is under the direct supervision of a Lieutenant-Governor, who has financial and administrative autonomy over the colony of which he is in charge. The Lieutenant-Governors are all directly responsible to the Governor-General of the entire territory.
(2) French East Africa. The French possessions of East Africa are:
(a) The Island of Madagascar, which covers an area of 241,094 square miles with a population of 3,621,242. This includes the inhabitants of the islands of Mayotte and Comoro, two other possessions under the domination of France. The racial composition of the population is made up as follows: 18,040 French; 11,359 Europeans other than French; 3,591,943 Malagasy natives. Of the native population in 1925, 1,024,109 were males; 1,177,726 females; 1,374,266 children under the age of 15.
Administration. Madagascar is ruled by a Governor-General, together with an economic and financial council, composed of 24 French and an equal number of natives. The French members are the representatives of commercial, agricultural and industrial companies with interest in the islands, while the native members are the representatives of the chiefs of the villages, who elect them to the council.
(b) Mayotte and Camoro Islands. These have a combined population of 119,305, including 804 Europeans. Mayotte alone covers an area of 140 square miles and has a population of 12,674 (Census 1925).
(c) Reunion. This island has been in the possession of France since 1643. It covers an area of 970,000 square miles and has a population of 186,637, of which 180,694 are French, 628 East Indians, 1,963 natives of Madagascar, 1,626 Chinese and 411 Negroes.
The administration is in the hands of a Governor, assisted by a privy council and an elected counsel-general. The island is also represented in the French parliament by a senator and two deputies.
(d) French Somaliland. This is on the African mainland between the Italian colony of Eritrea and British Somaliland, in the north-east of the continent. It has an area of 5,790 square miles and a population of 56,059, the majority of whom are Negroes. In Djibouti, the seat of Government, the population is 8,366, of whom 345 are Europeans (190 French) 3,428 Black Somalis and 238 Sudanese, 356 East Indians, 109 Jews, 3,336 Arabs and 208 Donakils. The total non-European population is about 8,012.
Administration. The territory is administrated by a Governor, assisted by a council.
(3) French West Africa. The French West African possessions are as follows:
|(c) Ivory Coast||121,590||1,410||204||1,722,931||1,846,135|
|(e) French Sudan||60,331||1,453||336||2,633,163||2,995,283|
|(f) Upper Volta||142,820||388||37||3,259,722||3,402,967|
|(i) Dakar and Dependencies||–||2,488||718||36,946||40,152|
Administration. All of the above territories are administrated as a single political unit under a Governor-General, assisted by a council. The Government has its headquarters at Dakar. Each of the colonies is under the direct supervision of a Lieutenant-Governor, who is responsible to the Governor-General. Strong military forces are maintained throughout the territory. At present there are about 15,000 natives and 3,000 European soldiers, together with an armed police force of 5,000.
(4) Mandated Territories. The former German colonies in Central and East Africa which were captured during the war and placed under Class C mandates by the League of Nations gave France the larger portions of Togoland and Cameroon. The other portions of these colonies were assigned to Great Britain.
(a) French Togoland lies between the British colony of Gold Coast on the West and the French colony of Ivory Coast on the East. The total area of the entire territory of Togoland is 33,700 square miles. France administers two-thirds or 21,893 square miles of this territory. The entire population is about 726,208, of which number 245 are Europeans.
(b) French Cameroon. The French portion of Cameroon covers an area 166,489 square miles. The population is 1,874,683, of whom 647,341 are men, 690,866 women, and 548,886 children. The Europeans number 1,570 of whom 1,233 are French citizens.
Now that we have described the distribution of the French colonial empire in Africa, it is necessary for us to examine the economic and social conditions of the native population in these territories. The conditions of these masses are determined by the economic needs of French imperialism at this present state of the world capitalist crisis, which is beginning to affect the industrial life of France itself. What are these economic needs? Briefly, (1) the development of colonial markets in order that they might be able to absorb some of the over-produced commodities of the French industries (2) the creation of greater opportunities for the investments of French finance-capital, and (3) to increase the cultivation of certain agrarian products in order to make France independent of other raw producing countries. Coupled with this economic factor, is the military. We shall attempt to show that in both these respects – economic and political – French imperialism has subjected the black population in its territories in the most brutal form.
In order to carry out its “civilising” mission two methods are applied by French imperialism: (1) expropriation of the peasantry from the land and (2) compulsory labour. By means of expropriation the Government accomplishes two purposes at the same time. On the one hand it has been able to grant great concessions to French companies for the development of cocoa, rubber, cotton, etc., etc., and on the other-to provide these plantations with cheap labour.
The workers that are assigned to the plantations are organised into squads and sent into the forest to collect rubber, monioc and other produce, for which they are paid at the rate of four and five francs per month. Each worker is allotted a certain task and failure to accomplish this within a specified period of time means flogging and sometimes death, for the lives of the Africans arc entirely in the hands of the European overseers.
In those regions of West Africa where the climate serves as a barrier for permanent colonisation of the agents of French imperialism, the plantation system gives way to peasant production. This, however, does not prevent the French imperialists from robbing the natives. This is accomplished through taxation. The peasants are forced to work season in and season out in order to find money to pay the tax gatherers. The chief allies of the imperialists are the native chiefs, who take a percentage of the taxes paid in to the Government treasury.
The standard of life of the natives in these colonies is very low, due largely to the miserable wages paid to them on their plantations. Those who still “own” lands are also hardly better off. What with the primitive methods of cultivation, to which are added frequently droughts, and the invasion of insect pests and taxation, these toilers are unable to provide enough nourishment for themselves, This widespread condition of malnutrition produces great apathy, and leads to diseases and epidemics. Their French masters nevertheless declare these black slaves the laziest beings in creation and have no hesitancy in “rationalising” their labour power by means of the whip. It is no uncommon sight to see thousands of natives toiling under the most devitalising tropical weather, hot sun or heavy rains, and standing over them armed guards with whips made of animal hide.
It has been estimated that the French colonial mining companies produce minerals valued at more than 100 million francs a year. France gets from her colonial mines about 10 per cent. of her whole production. 90 per cent. of this amount comes from North Africa and Indo-China. French West Africa nevertheless possesses a tremendous abundance of mineral wealth. So in order to develop these resources the French Minister for the Colonies has embarked upon a new policy in West Africa. In order to induce the French bankers to invest their money in the development of the mineral resources of the Equatorial region the Government has pledged itself to undertake the recruiting of labour by its own agents so as to supply the various concessions held by the French companies. On an average between 800 and 1,000 workers are delivered to the companies every month. Thanks to this assistance by the State the French companies, despite the present world crisis, are able to declare millions of francs profit every year. For example, the Equatorial Mining Co., which had a capital of 7,500,000 francs when it began operations five years ago, has now increased it to 20 millions of francs. The same thing can be applied to the mining company of the Congo, which has increased its capital from one million to 23 millions within a decade, The Shangha Oubanghi Co., which had a capital of 12 million francs in 1911, increased the sum to 26 millions within ten years. There are about 40 such companies operating in the Equatorial region, all of which are making tremendous profits as a result of intensive exploitation of the labour power of the blacks.
This has resulted in the wholesale depopulation of villages. The Government is therefore attempting to introduce Indo-Chinese workers to relieve the pressure on the natives. But these imported workers are also beginning to join with the blacks against their overlords. Recent unrest among these Asiatic workers has compelled the French to curtail immigration. Those that are already in Africa are now being repatriated to Indo-China.
Finance-capital is rapidly pouring into the development of railroad construction in French Equatorial and West Africa. The railroad development in these countries is being pushed forward with phenomenal rapidity. The economic reasons for this have already been enumerated above. However, it is necessary to emphasise the military aspect of these undertakings, because it shows the workers in France, as well as the blacks in Africa and the entire international proletariat, the imminence of another imperialist war, and a war against the Soviet Union. What do the acts in Africa show? Four missions have recently carried out investigations on the possibilities of constructing a great railroad across the Sahara, from Algeria on the Mediterranean to the Niger River in Equatorial Africa. With the completion of such a railroad the report submitted to the Minister for the Colonies points out that half a million black soldiers could be transported quickly to the Mediterranean for service in Europe in the event of war or a proletarian revolution in France. The Commission further pointed out that the route to be undertaken should be over the western route because it was cheaper than the central and eastern schemes earlier proposed. The cost will be from 3,180 million to 4,185 million French francs. The railway should be built and worked by the Conipagnie Nationale du Chemin de fer “Trans-Saharien,” of which the French State, the French African colonies, the French railway and steamship companies, the North African Railways should be the shareholders for one-third, and the public the remainder. The Company’s capital should amount to 150 million francs and 4 per cent. bonds should be issued, guaranteed by the French State.
According to the Paris Depeche Coloniale et Maritime, M. Doumergue, the French President (and a former Colonial Minister) delivered at Algiers, during his visit in 1930, a speech foreshadowing the construction of the “Trans-Sahara Railway” in the near future.
The Depeche Coloniale et Maritime “attaches much importance to this statement.”
Furthermore, it is no accident that this Trans-Sahara railroad project was inaugurated by Tardieu at the time when he was Minister of Public Works. Today this fascist minister occupies the Premiership, in which capacity he has assured his imperialist masters that no stone will be left unturned to push forward the railroad plans.
Another important railroad project recently carried out by French imperialism is the building of the Congo-Atlantic railroad from Brazzaville to Pointe Noire. In order to accomplish this project thousands of natives are being forced into service, hundreds of miles away from their homes. The line is 520 kilometres and will Cost 1 milliard francs.
This is one of the most disintegrating influences on the tribal institutions of the natives. Between the years of 1921 and 1925 the territory of the Upper Volta furnished the railways with nearly 49,000 labourers. In 1924 the Upper Volta colony in addition employed 312,814 natives for other purposes. Because of the great difficulties which the Government experiences in recruiting these labourers, due to the low wages and high death rate, the most brutal methods are resorted to.
Londres, the French journalist, in his book “The Land of the Black,” describes the method of railroad construction in Equatorial Africa as follows:
“I have seen how railroads were built in other places. I have seen how special equipment and materials were prepared beforehand for the laying of the road. But here the Negro is used instead of machinery, instead of everything else in fact. He takes the place of the machine, the motor-lorry, the crane. And were it only possible he would be used instead of explosives too!
“In order to shift a barrel of cement weighing 260 lbs., the Batignolle Construction Co. uses as its equipment a stick and heads of two Negroes. I found here two other very modern instruments-the hammer and the pick. In Mayombi we intend to dig a tunnel with these instruments!
“The Negroes died like flies. Of the 8,000 that came to Batignaloes only 5,000 were soon left, and then 4,000 and later 1,700. New recruits had to take their places. But what was happening among the Negroes?
“As soon as the whites made preparations for the road the cry of ‘Machine’ went up everywhere (this is how the Negroes call the railroad). The Negroes knew that the whites had gone to find more people to build the railroad. They ran away. ‘You yourselves taught us’ -they told the missionaries- ‘that we must not commit suicide, but to go on the “machine” means death.’ They sought refuge in the forests of the Chad Coast in the Belgian Congo. In districts that were once inhabited by man the recruiting agents found only the chimpanzee. Can you build the railway with monkeys? We started to hunt the Negroes. Our men caught them as best they could with the help of lassoes, etc. We put ‘collars’ on them, as they are called here. The human material recruited in this way was not of the best...The death-rate increased – ‘We must reckon with a loss of six or eight thousand people,’ said Governor General Antonette, ‘or give up the railroad.’ But the number of victims was greater. Today it already exceeds 17,000, and there is still about 200 miles to go!...We are woodcutters in the human forest.”
Work away from home is one of the most disintegrating influences on the tribal institutions of the natives. Between the years of 1921 and 1925 the territory of the Upper Volta furnished the railways with nearly 49,000 labourers. In 1924 the Upper Volta colony in addition employed 312,814 natives for other purposes. Because of the great difficulties which the Government experiences in recruiting these labourers, due to the low wages and high death rate, the most brutal methods are resorted to in order to force them into service. The healthiest and most able-bodied men and women throughout the entire Equatorial territory were commandeered for railroad work, which is done without the aid of machinery, and as a result the mortality is exceedingly high, as the workers cannot stand the intensive rationalisation, speed-up, poor quality of food and unsanitary conditions under which they are forced to live. It has been estimated that over 25,000 natives have already perished on the Congo-Ocean railroad.
The population of French Equatorial Africa has decreased from 7,500,000 to 2,500,000 within a period of 10 years. The causes for this are largely due to forced labour conditions and the intensive militarisation of the youth. Thousands of able-bodied men die annually from consumption and other diseases contracted while serving in the army in France. The natives are not only unaccustomed to the European climate, especially its rigorous winters, but they are housed in unsanitary barracks and provided with the cheapest quality food.
The history of Belgian colonisation and exploitation in Africa is notorious. As oppressive as other imperialist countries have been in Africa, Belgium has surpassed them in its brutality to the native population. It is therefore necessary for us to give a brief sketch of the Congo and its historic background in order that readers might be better able to appreciate the way in which the country has been robbed and the natives enslaved.
The Belgian Congo is one of the largest colonial possessions in the world. It covers an area of 918,000 square miles, which is about eighty times the size of Belgium. The native population, which is chiefly of the Bantu stock, numbers about 8,500,000. The white population in 1927 was 18,169, of whom 11,898 were Belgians, 844 English, 443 Americans, 1,368 Portuguese, 981 Italians, 128 Russians (Whites), 138 Swedish, 523 French, 317 Dutch, 228 Swiss, 478 Greeks, 127 Luxembergers, 34 Danish, 31 Norwegians, 320 Spaniards and 622 of other nationalities. The colonisation of the Congo began in 1876 as a personal venture of Leopold II. With all the hypocrisy and lying characteristic of the imperialists the Belgian monarch assured the world that his interest in the Congo was to “open to civilisation the only part of our globe where it had not yet penetrated.” Furthermore, the Congo mission promised “to protect the natives in their moral and industrial well-being, to advance science and education, spread the Christian religion, abolish slavery and the slave trade.” Let us see to what extent these imperialist robbers have fulfilled their pledge to the natives.
A few years after Leopold turned his attention to Africa he discovered that the country possessed tremendous natural resources. His first act was to declare this vast territory his personal property, and in order to exploit the resources he entrusted the country to number of concessionaries, reserving for himself half of the stock in each Congo Company. The concessionaries divided the territory into provinces which were administrated by the directors of each company. They adopted a uniform policy of taxing the natives, not in money but in produce. While there was abundance of ivory and rubber to be had, blacks were made to supply the labour. Armies of men, women and children were mobilised and dispatched into the forests to collect these products. In order to see that the work was effectively carried out a native army was organised under European officials. Failure to bring in the allotted quantity of ivory and rubber resulted in a punishment by flogging. As the natives were forced to work in the jungles unarmed, and a great distance away from their villages without any provisions of food or shelter, they died out like flies. This situation became so disgraceful that other imperialist powers, seeking an opportunity of gaining some of the African spoils, demanded Leopold to let them share in the exploitation of the Congo. As a result of this pressure Leopold granted four major concessions to French, English and American capitalists in 1906. The American Congo company exploited rubber; another company minerals in Katanga; a third inaugurated a railroad project, while a fourth concern interested itself in mining and agriculture. After Leopold had indebted himself with over 20 million dollars and guaranteed that the sum of 50 million francs be paid him in addition to 45 million francs, which he promised to use “for the embellishment of the cities of Brussels and Antwerp,” together with an annuity to his royal successors, he turned the Congo over to the Belgian State. Thus ended the humanitarian project of Leopold and the first phase of the enslaving of the Negroes of the Congo.
Beginning where Leopold left off, the Belgian bourgeoisie vied with each other in annexing as much of the territory as possible. Aided by Social Democracy, they assured the Belgian workers that the Congo was overflowing with richness of every sort; it is the biggest reservoir that the country can have at its disposal. Without it Belgium would stifle. Having bribed the upper strata of Belgian workers into support of their imperialist schemes by assuring them that their standard of living would be raised in proportion as the country is developed, they set about the re-organisation of the Congo. It was placed under the administration of a Governor-General and the supervision of a Minister for the Colonies and a council of 15, The minister and 8 members of the council are the special appointees of the King. The Governor-General is assisted by a number of Vice-Governor-Generals who administer various sections of the Congo. For administrative purposes the Belgian Congo is divided into four provinces: (1) Katanga (capital Elizabethville); (2) Congo Kassai (capital Leopoldville); (3) Equator (capital Coquilhatville); and (4) Eastern (capital Stanleyville).
A military force of over 20,000 native soldiers under 198 European officers and 228 European non-commissioned officers are stationed throughout the Congo. Natives are made to serve in the army for seven years. The Government also maintains an armed territorial force of 10,000 men. In this way, whenever the toiling masses revolt against the brutal oppression imposed upon them, the military forces are called in to suppress the uprisings. The policy of the Belgian Government in the Congo is one of armed imperialist dictatorship.
The second stage of exploitation began after the war. The Belgian bourgeoisie by turning its attention to the Congo was able to recuperate the economic life of the metropolis which had passed through the devastating effects of the war. In order to stimulate national interests in the Congo, King Albert paid a visit to the country in 1930, on which occasion, true to the traditions of Leopold, be said in his public speech that “the Congo is an integral part of our country. Belgium is conscious of its high mission of civilising the Congo and in its own interests must not neglect any means nor retreat before any sacrifice in order to assure the progress of this splendid colony.” Albert need not have any fears about the “civilising” mission of his bourgeoisie. For we can already see the extent to which these exploiters have ravished the country. For example, the Union Mine Company of Katanga, according to the Boston News Bureau, is one of the largest copper producing mines in the world, surpassing Chile, which has hitherto been the greatest copper producing country in the world, by 2,436,500 pounds. This copper has been produced by an army of native miners amounting to nearly 20,000. These workers, like the agricultural labourers, are recruited through force. The entire male population of the villages are drafted into labour battalions at the point of the bayonets of Belgian and native soldiers and marched to the various mining camps. There they are compelled to work for a certain number of months for wages which average between 4 and francs per month. Out of this miserable pittance the workers are compelled to provide their own food. Housed in vermin-infested shacks, they soon become infected with disease, to which large numbers of them succumb. Because of the terribly low wages for which these miners work, the representatives of the company of the recent Copper Conference held in America in 1930 were able to assure the delegates that, despite the tremendous fall in the price for copper, the Belgian Company can continue to defy world competition and make money. The profits of this company increased £2,700,000 in 1929 as compared within £2,260,000 1928. Exclusive of copper mining, tin, gold, diamond, coal and radium industries have reached a high stage of development. The industrial proletariat is estimated at about 500,000. A large number of these Workers are also permanently employed on the railroads, which are by far more highly developed than those in Belgium. For instance, the Bengula-Katanga railroad employs about 60 white workers and 10,000 Negroes. The Francuki-Bikama railroad, over which a large percentage of Congo copper is transported to its European market, has a staff of 260 whites and 6,000 natives. There are at present 8,000 natives employed in the construction of a new line on the Matadi-Leopoldville railroad.
Hundreds of natives are also employed on the docks as stevedores, sailors, boatmen, while the majority of the labour for the electrical and power stations in the Congo are Negroes. As a result there is quite a large body of skilled native labour in the basic industries of the country.
In the sphere of agriculture, Belgian and other foreign companies have invested millions of pounds. For example, one of the biggest concerns is the Huileries du Congo Beige, a branch of Lever Brothers and United Africa Company. It holds monopoly of the palm oil industry with plantations and factories in Leverville, Alberta and Elizabetha, which employ over 30,000 natives at the rate of four francs per day.
The whole project of industrialisation in the Congo has created a serious problem, for the population is underfed, without necessities, and therefore unable to survive the intensive application of rationalisation. In order to fight against the inhuman conditions imposed upon them, the workers have attempted to organise and take up the offensive against the imperialists, but in most cases these strikes have been suppressed.
The Belgian Mandate. After the war, Belgium secured a mandate over the densely inhabited highlands of Urandi-Ruanda, which was a part of former German East Africa. Belgium demanded this booty as a reward for her participation in the last imperialist scramble or colonial markets.
Since Belgium has assumed administration over this territory the natives have lived in a state of perpetual hell. All their lands have been stolen from them. What remains is insufficient to provide food. As a result famines are sweeping every year over the country, claiming hundreds of victims. The natives, faced with the situation of struggling for actual existence, revolted against the Belgian Government, under the slogans of “Land – or death to every white man.” But the Belgian troops suppressed the uprisings. A wholesale slaughter took place. The troops shot down over 40,000 natives. They burnt down the natives’ huts; hundreds of thousands of Negroes fled to the colony of Uganda, but the British Government ordered the soldiers of the King’s East African Regiment to arrest the refugees and deliver them back to the Belgina Government, which shot every one of them. According to the official report of the Congo medical service for 1930, the Roman Catholic missionaries, known as the White Fathers’ and Sisters’ station, in the Ruanda district were forced to attend to 806,429 natives who were wounded or ill as a result of the famine and punitive measures carried out by the Belgian Government. A description of the uprising which took place in Ruanda will be given in the next chapter-dealing with struggles.
Portugal was one of the oldest colonising powers in Africa. Her possessions in this part of the world are:
|(a) Cape Verde Islands||1,480||149,783|
|(c) Principe and St. Thomé Islands||360||59,005|
(1) Military Rule. Mozambique, or Portuguese East Africa, is divided into three political units: (1) the Province of Mozambique, (2) the territory under the Mozambique Company, and (3) the territory under the Nyassa Company. Each of these provinces or divisions has its own Governor, together with a council composed of Government officials and representatives of various commercial and agricultural interests. Cape Verde and the other islands are administered by Governors assisted by local councils.
Portugal maintains military forces in each of her colonies. There are about 4,000 native and Portuguese soldiers in Mozambique; 5,000 in Angola, of which 3,602 are natives; 135 natives soldiers and 20 white officers are stationed in St. Thomé, while 247 soldiers, of whom 143 are natives, are garrisoned in Guinea. With the aid of these military forces Portugal enslaves the black population in her colonies.
(2) Slavery on Cocoa Plantations. Historically speaking, the Portuguese imperialists were among the first slave traders in Africa. True to their traditional occupation, they are still the vilest Oppressors of Negroes in Africa. The worse forms of slavery exist in all the Portuguese possessions, especially on the islands of St. Thomé and Principe, as well as on the mainland colonies of Angola on west and Mozambique on the east coast.
(a) St. Thomé and Principe. These two tiny islands situated off the coast of West Africa are of tremendous importance to Portuguese imperialism as raw material producing countries. Over £1,500,000 worth of cocoa is exported from these islands to Europe annually. There are no peasants on the islands, for years ago the Portuguese have completely annexed all the lands, which are con-1 exceedingly fertile, and have converted them into extensive plantations. As the imperialists and their families do not work on plantations themselves, it has been necessary to provide labour do the cultivation. Portugal, like other colonial exploiters, naturally resorted to forced labour. But as the indigenous populations of these islands are small, the labour supply was very limited. They, however, soon found a solution. The plantation owners, most of whom resided in Europe, compelled the Portuguese imperial Government to instruct their representatives in Angola to cooperate with the colonial planters to force the blacks to go to the islands to work. This the Government willingly consented to in order to enable the home bourgeoisie to develop raw materials independent of their rivals in other imperialist countries.
Labour agents who are nothing else but slave raiders are permitted to go throughout Angola and recruit as many Negroes as the plantations need. These slave dealers are always escorted by soldiers, so that when the natives resist the bayonets are always at hand to bring pressure to bear on the poor unarmed blacks.
(3) Corruption of Officials. The slave trade has reached tremendous proportions in Angola. Today there are special recruiting companies with regular agents throughout the country. Government officials also actively participate in this human traffic. It is a well-known fact that Portuguese officials vie with each other to go out to Angola in order to enrich themselves on the spoils of the slave trade of the Negroes.
Professor E. A. Ross, an outstanding American sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, who investigated conditions in the Portuguese territories, describes the corruption among the European officials in the following way: “The Colonial service is far less a career than formerly and the official is much keener to make money quickly. This latter observation is emphatically confirmed by a thoughtful merchant in one of the towns. In his judgment none of the Portuguese office-holders come out with any other thoughts than gain. Neither officials nor traders create anything; they only squeeze...Why should they look ahead and plan to promote the economic upbuilding of the country? They do not care for the country, they never expect to settle there. They care not even for the future of the Government which they represent. Their controlling thought is to make money before another is given their place. They realise it is theirs ‘to make hay while the sun shines.’”
Referring to the actual method applied by officials in robbing workers, Dr. Ross says: “In practice forced labour works out as follows. A labourer works for the coffee planter, and at the close of his term of service the planter says, ‘I can’t pay you anything, for I have deposited the stipulated wage for you with the Government; go to such and such an office and you will get your pay.’ The worker applies there and is told to come around in a couple of months. If he has the temerity to do so, he is threatened with the calaboose (prison) and that ends it. It is all a system of bare-faced labour stealing. They think that the planter has really paid for their labour, but that the official does them out of it.”
(4) Methods of Recruiting Labour. Over 80,000 natives have been exported to the islands within a period of ten years. After the slaves have been collected in gangs in Angola they are chained around the neck and marched for hundreds of miles from the interior to the coast, where they are auctioned off to the plantation owners, after which they are packed together on the filthiest ships and taken away to St. Thomé and Principe. Some ships take as many as 800 during a single voyage.
The average price for a strong adult Negro is between £30 to £35. Boys and girls fetch about £15 to £20. The lot of these miserable beings is beyond description. To avoid the charge of exaggeration we will quote evidence from the writings of bourgeois travellers who have visited Angola and investigated conditions. Mr. Joseph Burtt, a representative of the British chocolate manufacturers, the Cadbury Company Ltd., is describing the misery of the natives during their journey from the hinterland to the coast, says: “A dealer once admitted that if he got six out of every ten natives to Bihe he was lucky, but sometimes only three survived the journey. This was due not only to the physical strain of tramping nearly seven hundred miles under miserable conditions, but to the fact that the captives were often so hopeless that they refused to eat. Many who were seen to be of no value received a mortal wound, or were left to die of hunger. Cases of incredible cruelty were constantly witnessed. It was not long before we found skeletons and shackles. These shackles are blocks of wood, in which an oblong hole is hewn to admit the hands and feet. A stout peg is then driven through the side, dividing the ankles or wrists, and making withdrawal impossible. They vary in size and shape. I saw some intended for women’s hands, with a fork for the neck. A long heavy pole is sometimes used, and must be a terrible instrument attached to the neck. In the gully of a dry stream-bed, where we stayed to rest, a few yards from where we sat, and under the side of an overhanging rock, we saw the decomposing corpse of a man. Hard-by lay a small basket, a large wooden spoon, a native mat, a few filthy clothes. The dead man lay on his back, with his limbs spread out, probably as he had died, left hopelessly weak by a gang going down to the coast. Another skeleton lay within a few yards, making five we had seen in a few hours’ march.”
Mr. H. W. Nevinson, another investigator, writes: “The path is strewn with dead men’s bones. You see the white thigh-bones lying in front of your feet, and at one side, amongst the undergrowth, you will find the skull. These are the skeletons of slaves who have been unable to keep up with the march, and so were murdered or left to die.”
Some years before the war a very interesting case known as Cadbury against Standard Newspapers Company Ltd., in which Cadbury brought an action for libel against the newspaper company, came up before the Birmingham Assizes. In the course of the trial evidence was given to the effect that the Cadbury Company was offered the sale of a cocoa plantation in St. Thomé and among the assets included in the property were “200 black labourers, for £3,555.” This glaring fact again indicts the Portuguese imperialists and their apologists. They were selling human beings at £18 per head!
Lord Carson, one of the lawyers engaged in the case, in describing the situation in the Portuguese colonies, said: “Slavery! Have you ever heard at any time of the world’s history (and that is a broad statement) of worse conditions of slavery, have you ever heard of conditions more revolting, more cruel, more tyrannous and more horrible than what has been deposed to as regards the slavery in San Thomé? Men recruited in Angola, women recruited in Angola, children recruited in Angola, torn away against their will from their homes in the interior, marched like droves of beasts through the hungry country, and when they are unable to walk along for a thousand miles to the coast, shot down like useless dogs or useless animals, and the others brought down to be labelled like cattle and brought over to San Thomé and Principe, never again to return to their homes. Three and a half years’ life at the start until they are acclimatised is an average life of these people, and when their children are born, just as the calves of a cow or the lambs of the sheep, they become the property, not of their parents, but of the owners.”
Angola. What exists on the islands also prevails on the mainland of Angola. Forced labour is also used on the sugar cane plantations for private purposes as well as for road and railway construction and other forms of public works. It is no uncommon sight to see hundreds of men and women, as well as children between the ages of 12 and 15, working on the roads under soldiers and armed overseers. Even skilled artisans are under compulsion to work for wages fixed by the various employers’ associations supported by the Government. At the present scale of wages a skilled worker has to labour four months in order to get enough money to pay his taxes. The labour situation in Portuguese West Africa has become such a scandal that even an openly imperialist controlled body like the League of Nations has been forced to make a protest to Portugal as a gesture of support to the memorandum addressed to that body by the workers of Angola. The memorandum states that: (1) owing to the miserable wages fixed by the Government on the one hand, and the high taxes imposed upon the workers on the other, the Government has been compelled to use force to get skilled labourers to work for the imperialist concerns; (2) that on account of the unsanitary condition of the ships used to convey natives from Angola to San Thomé and Principe Islands, hundreds of these poor victims die during the mid-passage.
To these charges the Portuguese Minister for the Colonies, Brigadier-General Eduardo Marquis, makes the impudent excuse that “of course there may be misuses in our colonial administration, as there are in all other colonial administrations, but the Government does all that is possible to avoid them.” What a defence for slavery!
The following excerpts from the report of Professor Ross confirms the truth of the abuses to which the natives are subjected:
(1) “Six years ago ten men from his village were taken away on a train by soldiers to work and they have never been seen since.”
(2) “Another (native) testified that six years ago twenty-five or thirty men from his village were taken to San Thomé and had never been heard from since.”
(3) “The village chief declared that eight years ago the officials took from his people eighty-four persons and forty-four from the people of the adjacent chiefs. Nothing has been heard from them nor of them. He supposes that they are at San Thomé. After three years the two chiefs were called by the local authorities and told to be patient. ‘We will send for these men and have them brought back.’ But none have ever come back.”
(4) “Four years ago a large number who were tax delinquents were sent to San Thomé and have never returned.”
(5) “They (the natives in Village No. 5) state that six years ago five requisitioned by the Government from this village were taken to San Thomé and never came back.”
(6) “We met here the chief of five villages, including this one, with a total population of about 2,500. Six years ago a hundred of them were taken away to San Thomé and none ever came back.”
Similar conditions as those on the west coast exist in Mozambique in East Africa.
In 1928 the British South African Government signed a treaty with Portugal known as the Mozambique Convention. By the terms of this treaty South African capitalists especially the mining companies are entitled to import Negroes from the Portuguese Colony of Mozambique to supply the labour force in the mines. The reason why the mine operators had to turn to Portuguese East Africa was because the white South African farmers by imposing certain restrictions on the native labour prevented an adequate recruitment of Negroes within the Transvaal. Since the Convention has come into existence, thousands of blacks have already been imported into the Union and enslaved in the mines. The terms of treaty provide for the employment of Portuguese Negroes in the Transvaal mines as follows:
The conditions under which these slaves live are vile beyond description. For as badly off as the indigenous population of South Africa is, the Negroes brought in from the Portuguese territories are a thousand times worse. They are made to work for about a year and a half, after which time they are so broken in health because of the absence of normal living conditions, together with bad food, that they are no longer able to work. They are then loaded into freight trains and shipped back to Mozambique and a new contingent is then recruited and brought to take their places in the mines.
British imperialism cannot escape its responsibility for this state of affairs. It is not only morally, but legally responsible for this situation as well as slavery in West Africa, for according to the terms of an agreement entered into between Great Britain and Portugal, England has assumed the responsibility of protector and defender of the colonial possessions of Portugal against foreign enemies.
However, neither the British nor Portuguese Governments or their colonial officials will ever remedy the present situation. For this is the only way in which imperialism draws super-profits from colonial exploitation. Only the organised might and revolutionary forces of the millions of natives in these Portuguese colonies will be able to drive these imperialist oppressors away from the plantations into the sea.
(a) Spanish. The area and population of the Spanish colonies in Black Africa are as follows:
|(1) Spanish Guinea||10,036||140,000|
|(2) Fernando Po and Annobon|
|(3) Corsico, Great and Little Elobey||795||22,846|
The population of Fernando Po alone, the most important of the islands, is 20,873, of whom 300 are Europeans, including 30 British. The administration of the Spanish colonies is under a Governor General assisted by sub-governors for various political units.
(b) Italian. Exclusive of Tripolitana and Cyrenaica in North Africa, Italy controls the black territories of Italian Somaliland and Eritrea in North East Africa.
(1) Somaliland covers an area of 190,000 square miles and has a population of 900,000, of which 1,000 are Italians and the rest natives. The colony is ruled by a Governor who resides at Mogadiscio, where he is assisted by a Secretary-General and a military commandant.
(2) Eritrea extends over an area of 45,754 square miles and has a population of 402,793 natives. There are also 4,000 Europeans of whom 3900 are Italians. The administration is conducted by a Governor, who resides at Asmara, a city with a population of inhabitants including some 2,500 Europeans. A military garrison of about 5,000 native troops under the command of some 200 commission and non-commissioned Italian officers is maintained in the colony. There is also an armed police force stationed in the most important centres.
Labour Conditions under Spanish imperialism are no better than those found in other parts of Africa. For example, thousands of natives are recruited from the Negro republic of Liberia and shipped to the Spanish island of Fernando Po to work on the Cocoa plantations under conditions similar to those in the Portuguese colonies. The recent International Commission on Slavery which investigated forced labour conditions in Liberia discovered that there existed an agreement between the Liberian and Spanish Governments, whereby slave dealers were permitted to hunt down Negroes in the interior of Liberia and export them to Spanish colonies. The Spaniards paid the Liberian officials a special tax on every Negro shipped out of the country. Very few of the labourers ever returned back to Liberia. Those who did not die during their period of “contract” were left stranded on the island, and having no money to pay their passage back home were forced to renew their agreement with the planters for another period of years. This process is repeated from time to time until the poor victim is relieved by death.
In the Italian colonies fascism rules with all the bloody ruthlessness that labour is subjected to in Italy. By means of bayonets and machine guns the population in Somaliland is forced to work for their dictators. A whole tribe was removed in 1930 from one section of the country to a new region in order to isolate them from neighbouring tribes whom it is charged they were contaminating with ideas of revolting against the Italian military regime. In order to solve the unemployment problem in Italy, the Government is annexing the lands from the tribes and turning them over to Italian colonists, who are being encouraged to migrate from Europe and settle in Africa instead of foreign countries. Through this policy Mussolini is conserving Italian manpower under the banner of fascism so that in the event of war he could utilise these white colonists together with the native population as a colonial army for European or African campaigns.