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International Socialism, Mid-June 1974


Wenda Clenaghen

Neocolonialism in West Africa


From International Socialism, No.70, Mid-June 1974, pp.30-31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Neocolonialism in West Africa
Samir Amin
Penguin African Library, 70p.

THIS BOOK succeeds in showing how the small states of West Africa are as severely in the grip of Western Capitalism today as they were when they were colonised. Sections on the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea and Ghana are particularly good. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not mentioned, when – as the boom country of black Africa – it should be at the heart of the book.

Proof of the failure of growth plans, the increase in debt to the West, the inability to develop internal markets and to get away from mono-culture, abounds in frequent tables. Unfortunately much of the argument is somewhat buried by such statistics, making the book dull reading – a great pity given the potential popular readership of the Penguin Africa Library.

Amin attempts to explain the limited options for internal development in terms of the interests of dominant property-owning classes, and his attempt in this area is the best yet, but, irritatingly, he tends to pose important questions which he then fails to follow up.

The sections on Ghana are stimulating but provide no perspectives for the future. The author shows how the economy did benefit to some extent from the reinvestment of profits in nationalised concerns which would otherwise have been taken out by the West. But he ascribes the fall of Nkrumah and the failure of all development plans to

‘the indecisiveness of those in power and their refusal to break with social forces in the country that had been promoted by colonial development and have always been nostalgic for the colonial period.’

Nothing is said of Nkrumah’s smashing of the workers in the 1961 strike at Sekondi.

Amin’s conclusion is to look round for ‘other social forces which can conceive of a strategy beyond the narrow horizons of minor ex-colonial civil servants’. In looking around he ignores the West African working class which has proved itself in many a general strike. But to be fair he doesn’t nominate any other groups.

Instead he falls back on dreams – an iron and steel industry leading to shipbuilding, built with West African natural resources. The urban workers are the only class capable of conceiving such a strategy, which defies neocolonialism and also cuts across the national boundaries hi which all other classes have a competitive interest.

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