Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Capitalist Crisis Intensifies Class Struggle and Social Unrest in Africa

World Capitalist Crisis Intensifies Class Struggle and Social Unrest in Africa

Economic meltdown breeds distress, strikes and armed resistance

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

In several regions of the African continent the world economic crisis is having a tremendous impact on the social fabric of various societies. Since late 2007 there have been tens of millions of workers and farmers that have been severely effected by unemployment, rising commodities prices, food deficits and the decline in material aid from the industrialized states. The failure of capitalist methods of production and distribution are clearly illustrated in the way in which former colonial countries have been devastated by the collapse of the financial and industrial centers in western Europe and the United States.

At the same time, the dominant imperialist power in the world, the United States, has continued to interfere in the internal affairs of developing states. Under the guise of fighting "terrorism", the Pentagon has formed the Africa Command (AFRICOM) which is seeking to develop and strenghthen "partnerships" with various governments on the continent. The rationale for such interference, says Washington, is to enhance the security capacity of African countries to fight against "Islamic extremism" and "piracy". Yet despite this purported desire to assist developing states, none of these military programs have improved the economic conditions in Africa.

In fact the economic crisis has affected the most vunerable sectors of African societies. Where there is greater industrialization, for example, in the Republic of South Africa, there have been wave of strikes and increased demands for higher wages and the nationalization of key industries. In countries like Kenya, where agricultural production and tourism have been highly significant within the national economies, the failure of crops and the threat of famine has created tension and civil unrest.

In Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, the continuing role of U.S. imperialism in its attempts to control and shape the political character of the burgeoning state, has created guerrilla resistance and mass dislocation. The oil-producing state of Nigeria in West Africa has undergone attacks on the petroleum industry prompting the government to launch a military offensive in the Niger Delta as well as an attempt to grant amnesty to members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Strike Season in South Africa

Beginning on July 27, a series of strikes took place in South Africa in the transportation, municipal and mining sectors of the economy. These work stoppages came in the aftermath of violent demonstrations in several townships the week before protesting the inadequate delivery of city services and the need for increased production of housing.

In Johannesburg, municipal workers gathered for a mass demonstration on July 27 where demands for a 15% increase in salaries were put forward to the government. The workers are asking for the wage increases to counter inflation which is a by-product of the deepening economic crisis.

According to the Globe & Mail "The South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, which say they represent 150,000 municipal workers, want a 15% wage hike to cushion their members as the country grapples with its first economic recession in 17 years. They have rejected an 11.5% wage increase. Annual inflation was 8% in May." (July 27)

SAMWU general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo, said that "Indications are that the majority of workers, if not 90% of them, are out on strike. Refuse collection is badly affected. Other services like electricity are also affected. Across all services within municipalities, the effect is visible." (Globe & Mail, July 27)

In addition to municipal and transport employees, workers in the chemical sector have also gone out on strike. In the gold and coal sectors, unions were scheduled to decide on July 28 whether to accept existing wage offers which would prevent strikes in the some of the world's largest mines.

Although the newly-elected African National Congress (ANC) governmental leadership under President Jacob Zuma was heavily supported by the trade unions and the South African Communist Party (SACP) because of the campaign's stated goals of directly addressing the conditions of the workers and poor inside the country, the economic crisis has prompted these same social forces to engage the bosses within industry as well as state structures.

The ANC Youth League raised the demand for the nationalization of the mining industry in an effort to save jobs and increase salaries and improve working conditions for employees. However, the Zuma government has rejected this appeal.

At the same time a campaign pledge by the ANC to create 500,000 new jobs is proving to be more difficult than anticipated in light of the fall in prices for exports and the impact this is having on industry as well as the government.

Kenya: The Threat of Famine Increases Tension

In the east African nation of Kenya, whose government is closely allied with the United States, the failure of agricultural policies has created serious food deficits inside the country. In the northern region, the situation has become acute causing conflicts over access to land for the grazing of cattle and water distribution.

The government of Kenya has dispatched hundreds of members of the security forces to quell conflict between groups in competition over resources within the pastorial communities around Isiolo. Recent reports indicate that 20 people have died in clashes.

According to the Inter-regional Information Network (IRIN), which is affiliated with the United Nations, "Tensions over water and pasture during a drought in the surrounding arid rangelands unusually spilled over into extensive rioting in the town of Isiolo on July 18." (July 23)

Various leaders from the areas around Samburu, Turkana and Borana, including Parliament member Raphael Letimalo, have demanded that the security forces confiscate hundreds of weapons that were earlier issued to pastoralists. The Kenya Red Cross Society has made an appeal to the government saying that hundreds of displaced persons are in urgent need of food and medicine. Those dislocated by the fighting are reported to be living in deplorable conditions.

IRIN reports that "At least 1,700 families were displaced in villages near Isiolo town following fighting between the Borana and Somali communities on the one hand, and the Samburu and Turkana communities on the other." (July 23)

A local police official Marius Tum indicated that the fighting was being fueled by local politicians. "The fighting was first triggered by the current drought but it seems somebody or a certain group of people are inciting these communities to continue fighting; it will not be accepted." (IRIN, July 23)

Despite the Kenyan government's close alliance with the U.S. under the leadership of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, this relationship has done nothing to improve the conditions of people in both the rural areas as well as the cities. Prime Minister Odinga recently delivered an address to the nation saying that food shortages will effect both the urban and farming areas.

At present the U.S. has warships stationed off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean to ostensibly fight "piracy" from the coastal areas around neighboring Somalia. However, very little assistance has been provided by the U.S. and the other imperialist states to deal with the growing problems of food deficits and the consequent famine.

Somalia: The Struggle Against U.S. Interference Continues

In the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, which shares a border with Kenya, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is being bolstered by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The AMISOM forces consist of 4,300 troops from the U.S.-backed states of Uganda and Burundi.

Fighting between the resistance forces of Harakat Al-Shabab Mujahideen and Hisbul Islam against the TFG and AMISOM is still causing the dislocation of people from the capital of Mogadishu and other areas of the central and southern regions of the country. Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni has stated recently that his country is willing to send more troops to back the TFG government.

In a report published by on July 25, Museveni was quoted as saying that "We can raise more numbers to help our brothers in Somalia to get peace. We have the manpower. What we need is equipment and money for bigger numbers."

Off the coast of Somalia, a flotilla of U.S., NATO and other warships are patrolling the waters in order to combat what the imperialist call "piracy" on the part of youth that have taken over cargo vessels that transport billions of dollars in goods and military equipment through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In April the U.S. Navy killed three Somali teenagers and arrested another after they undertook negotiations to return a cargo vessel captured with an American captain on board.

The U.S. wants to maintain a longterm presence in the region. In an Associated Press report published on July 27, military sources indicate that "The U.S. Navy is warning of increased pirate activity off the coast of Somalia due to the advent of weather more favorable to the sea-borne criminals. The Navy says high seas in the Gulf of Aden had resulted in fewer attacks in recent weeks." (Associated Press, July 27)

This same article continues by stating that "With the monsoon season ending in four to six weeks pirate activity is expected to increase, the Navy said in a statement Monday. The Navy advised mariners to use a designated corridor when transiting the Gulf of Aden. The corridor is patrolled by 30 warships, supported by aircraft from 16 nations."

U.S. military presence, both direct or indirect, has not brought stability or prosperity to the people of Somalia. As a result of the failure of the U.S. to control the political situation in Somalia, the government has focused attention on the Somali community in Minnesota, claiming that the resistance forces are recruiting youth to fight the TFG in Mogadishu.

Nigeria: U.S. and Western-based Oil Firms Under Attack

Over the last several months in the oil-producing west African state of Nigeria, there have been numerous attacks on the operations of the western-based petroleum industry in the Niger Delta region. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been offered an amnesty agreement by the government in an effort to halt the destruction of drilling equipment and the seizure of industry employees.

The Nigerian Federal Government has launched a major offensive against members of MEND over the last several months. One leading figure in the movement, Ken Niweigha, was executed by the Nigerian military in late May.

At the same time, using a two-pronged approach, the government has offered amnesty to Henry Okah, another MEND leader, who was extradited from Angola after escaping the country. Nonetheless, the offensive or the offering of amnesty, has not quelled the unrest in the oil-rich areas in the Niger Delta.

Other repressive government actions have also taken place in the northern region of Nigeria where police have reportedly killed over 100 people in northeast Bauchi state. According to a Reuters news agency report, approximately 70 people with guns and grenades destroyed a police station in the state's capital and later retreated after an intense gunbattle with security forces.

Bauchi police official Mohammed Barau described the armed group as members of Boko Haram, a local Islamic group that wants to implement sharia in Nigeria. According to Barau, "The situation is now under control. More members of the organization are being arrested." (Reuters, July 26)

The Need For a Break With Capitalism

Obviously the integration of the African continent with the world capitalist system has not brought economic development or social stability. Consequently, organizations representing the workers and farmers must look to alternative forms of ownership, production and distribution of the wealth within society.

The fact that Africa is dependent on the imperialist states for the export of raw materials and agricultural commodities in order to earn foreign exchange, places the continent and its people at the mercy of the imperialist states. With the western countries undergoing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the so-called developing states will sink deeper into poverty and social dislocation.

In the western imperialist states, the workers and oppressed are being told by the ruling class to wait for the capitalist system to rebound so that the economic conditions of the masses will improve. In the developing states, the governments and peoples are offered more failed models of "development" which increase their dependence on the industrial states who have nothing to offer their countries.

Only socialism offers a solution to both the imperialist countries and the former colonial and neo-colonial states. The wealth within society, which is created by the workers and farmers, must be distributed for the benefit of the majority. In order for their to be genuine economic growth and development during this period, the masses must be at the center of the decision-making process and the implementation of economic policy.

No comments: