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F.A. Ridley

Imperialism, Ousted from Asia,
Turns to Africa for Green Pastures

(15 August 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 33, 15 August 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

With the collapse of European imperialism in Asia, what we may term its centre of gravity has shifted to Africa. “The Dark Continent” has now become the last hope, “the brightest jewel” of European imperialism. We are all “Africa-conscious” nowadays! Conservative politicians now talk of “our solemn responsibility” towards our African fellow citizens – shades of the old slave-traders who first acquainted “us” with “our solemn responsibilities”!

Labor ministers go touting round the African continent as commercial salesmen. (The ex-Communist, Mr. Strachey, is the star turn in this new comedy.) His Majesty the King, no longer emperor of India, is photographed alongside of Negro potentates. Special African conferences are held in London to discuss the future of Africa.

The Fabian Society, the “Brain Trust” of the Labor Party, now issues pamphlets on our duties towards “our African fellow citizens.” By and large, the same phenomena can be witnessed in other imperialist countries “interested” in Africa. To be sure, “French Union” represents the opposite political number to the British Commonwealth where, as it has been shrewdly remarked, everything is “common” except the “wealth”!

Africa, The New “India”

All of which indicates that, as far as British imperialism is concerned, Africa has now become the “India” of the 20th century, Britain’s “brightest jewel.”

I should not be at all surprised if, one fine day, H.M. George VI finds Mr. Attlee or Mr. Churchill placing upon his august brow an African crown: “Emperor of Nigeria,” for instance, in lieu of his lost Indian Crown? For what India was to British imperialism last century, Africa is now. The West African emirs and sheikhs have succeeded the nizams and rajahs as the feudal vassals of the British crown.

And in her numerous African possessions, with a popu-afion larger than that of the British Isles, Britain hopes to find both the raw materials and the manpower which she has lost in India. Is the next step going to be the formation of a Negro army (already existing on a small scale) in place of her lost Indian army? France, next to Britain, the greatest African power, already possesses such an African army, and Britain may follow suit? ...

Broadly speaking, one can say that, politically, Africa is now on the threshold of nationalism, and seems destined to repeat in the second half of the 20th century the similar political evolution of Europe in the 19th century and of Asia in the first half of the 20th.

The current process of intensive industrialization which the Labor government, in particular, is, at present, busily pushing forward in British Africa, cannot fail to hasten the African political movement.

By and large, I would say that African nationalism is now in much the same stage of political development as was Indian nationalism in the early years of the Indian National Congress in the ’80s of the last century.

That, at least seems to be the case in British and French West Africa, and in Madagascar (the great African island), at present, the focus-points of rising African nationalism. Paris, where the “Color Bar” does not exist, and where African representatives sit in the French parliament, is already a hotbed of Negro nationalism ...

African Union for Imperialists?

However, the capital of the (non-Communist) world is now Washington, not London or Paris. And Africa undoubtedly falls inside the purview of the American strategists in the “cold war.” To prevent Africa, with its vast resources in raw materials and its 200 million colonial slaves, plus the Negro lands across the ocean (relics of the slavetrade) from falling into Communist hands, is a major objective of American post-war strategy.

We may, accordingly, expect to see arise a demand backed by Washington and Wall Street, for a military “African Union,” on the lines of European Western Union.

Both the European African powers, Britain and France, and their satellite states, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, and (if her colonies are returned?) Italy, and the native African states, Egypt, Ethiopia and Liberia, would be bribed, or coerced, into such a union; of which the already projected Pan-African Conference would be, presumably, the first-step.

The only snag in sight would seem to be the Union of South Africa under Dr. Malan, a semi-fascist state, loosely attached to the British Commonwealth (vide its recent nationality bill) and based on a herrenvolk racial theory of a super-Nazi type.

The racist Union could never accept the wholesale militarization of the African races which “African Union” would imply. An African army on the Indian model would represent a permanent danger to a fascist state, where the Negroes in a majority of four to one are held down permanently by the Iron Heel. Fabian and Fascist theories of colonization clash directly.

Africa, today, is the last refuge of imperialism, along with the island dependencies in Madagascar and in the West Indies. International socialists should therefore pay special attention to African problems upon which we are, in general, ill-informed. In Britain, we should bestow upon Africa the attention that India has exacted during its national struggles against imperialism in the recent past. We should study the African question carefully and scientifically.

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