This is the second in a series of reports by Political Dynamite writers from the 6 Billion Ways Conference on 5-6 March. The speakers in this session, entitled ‘Africa: From Charity to resistance’, were Patrick Bond (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Esther Stanford-Xosei (Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe), Nnimmo Bassey (Friends of the Earth International) and Firoze Manji, (editor of Pambazuka News) in the chair.
Capitalism has been spurred on by dispossession. Every accumulation of capital is not free, but a debt to that which has been dispossessed. Our capital accumulation is a blood debt. A debt that we’ve incurred through colonialism and resource exploitation.
It’s a shame Samir Amin could not attend this session on Africa; capital accumulation by dispossession was the underlying thesis of this discussion, with supporting evidence provided by Nnimmo Bassey and Patrick Bond. Introduced by Firoze Manji of Pambazuka Press, the session was a clear move away from the standard aid versus trade discussion, instead accepting that capitalism was the root of current social, political and environmental crises. In all senses, capitalism had exploited Africa, tearing its roots apart through enslavement of labour, the consumption of all natural resources and the continued robbery of human rights.
This crisis of capital is not new. Where growth had reached its peak in the late 1800s, drastic changes were made to ensure European hegemony. That change was the carving out of Africa – the slicing of homelands and peoples that resulted in blood, death and more blood. And it was black blood that was spilt, and that history is forgotten. All this for capital accumulation? If it can be said without connotations – the true time for change is now.
Nnimmo Bassey explained how it was in 1895 that the first Nigerian people were massacred for access to Palm Oil. Now, over a century later – there has been no change, except now it’s crude oil.
Even with postcolonialism, structural adjustment has ensured exploitation has been institutionalised. The state is merely the shoeshine boy for the corporation. Democracy is a farce – it is a ballot box dream where you think you have some choice, some power. We have sold out. We have sold our sovereignty to state power.
But we can win the war. The way to win any battle is through international solidarity. Because our struggles are the same. In Egypt, our struggle can be found within. The same in Tunisia and Algeria. We’re fighting for true sovereignty and democracy, all of us.
And it is the idea of capital accumulation that has blinded us. Even in the richest African national, wealth creation in real figures only shows that the average person is only paying for the resources they produce. Patrick Bond’s presentation was clear – capitalism has whiplashed so-called developing nations into paying a bill for a debt they never caused. And it’s a debt like bonded labour – there is no end to the payment and dependency.
There is a way out, and we’ve seen that way out in North Africa. This struggle has started well before the uprisings we see now. And it will still take time for that to come through. But we cannot let this opportunity to pass. We must work together on this – work with solidarity in our minds. Austerity and African exploitation are part of the same doctrine. And that is NOT our doctrine.
There is a better world and there are 6 billions ways to achieve that. Let’s use those ways together.
This post also appears at http://thetopsoil.org.uk/