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International Socialism, Spring 1960


Editorial Note

Africa: Change of Wind


From International Socialism (1st series), No. 1, Spring 1960, pp. 2–3.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg, with thanks to Paul Blackledge.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


How much of Macmillan’s now-famous “wind of change” is wind, and how much real change? A full answer is beyond our scope at present, but it seems necessary to make the following points.

Africa has now become the ideal home for foreign investments, having absorbed almost half of the total capital flow into the Commonwealth since the war (some £1,850m out of about £3,800m) compared with under one-third before (some £1000m out of about £3,100m). Although the traditional ‘imperialist’ investments in mining and trading still loom large, private capital has increasingly favoured manufacturing for local consumption. This partly explains why it has changed its form almost completely: before the first World War more than nine-tenths was held in ‘portfolios’ of shares in loans to Colonial and other governments; today the greatest share by far takes the form of direct investment in branches and subsidiaries of home companies.

One of the major consequences of this change is that political control of the State has become less material to the guardianship of investments: before, the Colonial Government was a major investment in its own right, today this is less so. Another major consequence is that foreign capital needs to shift away from the traditional pattern of operating for the world market within a foreign enclave insulated from the local subsistence economy, and towards greater local integration, a process in which the local market, local skills, local conditions and therefore local acceptance and cooperation are of cardinal importance.

This implies a shift in alliances and social base. It is becoming progressively less expedient for foreign capital to recruit its support from amongst the minuscule settler minorities, orientated towards the ‘mother country’ and separated from the local inhabitants. Something broader and more firmly-rooted is required, namely the local, African bourgeoisie or, since this is not the most conspicuous social land mark in the continent, its substitute – the new African state bureaucracy. This shift is not always easy. It’s not made in a blinding flash of enlightened self-interest. White settlers are still indispensable in some areas, and they can demand very high severance pay. The new black ruling class is impatient and often too demanding for foreign capital’s immediate comfort. Hola and Kenyatta are acute reminders of the obstacles in the way.

Nevertheless the shift must be made. The leaders of the African national movements have fastened on to a real trend within world capitalism; they are strong and confident. If British capital, the major foreign interest on the continent, tries to hold out, an alliance of the emergent African ruling class with the impatient US dollar, unhampered as the latter is by weak white allies, would reduce it influence to a shadow within a very short time. And then, there are Germany, Russia and ... British capital had better change its guard quickly before it is left none to change.

Macmillan, then, is bidding for an African social base to replace the settler. To succeed, he must split the African national movement into guardians of capital (British, local and other) and victims of capital, the growing Africa working class. His choice is clear. But which side of the split will Labour choose?

There is reason enough to fear the answer. Our official spokesmen have fought the African national movement time and again: Nkrumah was jailed, Seretse Khame exiled, strikers beaten and demonstrators shot ... the list is long. It would be tragic if this impressive record were to continue, if our gallant team at Transport House were to be seen to fight the Tories not over the rights of African workers to free trade-union organization, not over the rights of the African people to expropriate British capital in their countries, but over the right to lavish praise and entertainment on the up and coming minions of capital. Our job is with the other half of the split, the savagely-exploited working class in Africa: in the African Mineworkers’ Union and its imprisoned leaders in the East to the new workers, herded into subservient State-run unions in the West, from the tortured militants in the North to the sjambokked victims of Baaskap in the South. Let’s not lose sight of class essentials beneath the gooey slush of sentimentalism in this Africa Year.

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