March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
A great obstacle to capitalism in Africa is Dr. Verwoerd and his Nationalist Party of South Africa. Others are Sir Roy Welensky and the white Rhodesian settlers.
The conflict in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland mirrors that in South Africa. In both the white land-owners have the power in their hands: they regard the Africans as a subordinate race, to be denied land-ownership except in the most barren areas, to be kept voteless and illiterate, and to be barred as far as possible from the towns—all these so that they may continue to provide a reservoir of cheap farm-labour for the landowners. But the capitalists in the Federation (as in the Union) have very different views. They want an educated mass proletariat, living in the towns, to work their factories: and only the natives can provide it. The Ford Motor Company, which is to build a £2 million motor assembly plant in Salisbury, and the British Motor Corporation, whose £1 million factory at Umtali starts production in September cannot risk wasting their capital because their workers cannot understand modern machinery. And the mineowners of the Northern Rhodesian copper belt cannot put in new machinery to increase their profits if the mineworkers are unable to read the books of instructions. Here is the root of the struggle in the Federation, between the landowners on the one side and the factory—and mine-owners on the other.
Just as South Africa lays claim to Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, so the Southern Rhodesian settlers wanted to extend their reservoir of farm-labourers. This they did by federating with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, against the wishes of the vast majority of the inhabitants of those countries, where there are very few white settlers. Of course, the settlers do not support Federation unconditionally: they only want it if they are to be the governing aristocracy. So this leads to the contradiction—against the claims of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to secede, they say secession is impossible; and against the plans of the capitalist class to set up a capitalist democracy within the Federation, they threaten they will secede themselves. Within two days recently, Sir Roy Welensky, one settlers’ leader, said, “there could be no question of the (Monckton) commission recommending that any part of the Federation be allowed to secede” (The Guardian, 28/1/60); and Sir Edgar Whitehead, another settlers’ leader, said that “if the Governments of both Northern territories were operated on a nationalist basis by African nationalists,” then Southern Rhodesia itself would withdraw from the Federation (The Times, 30/1/60).
This is not to say that the capitalists do not want Federation: they do, for it has great economic advantages. But they are very dubious about a Federation run by Welensky and his settlers, who are indifferent or hostile to the development of capitalism. If they wish to establish a capitalist government, they will have to do it with the help of the votes of their black workers; for although in Southern Rhodesia “75 per cent. of the whites now live in towns, these towns have really grown out of the countryside and the new cities are only just acquiring a spirit of their own. It has been the white Southern Rhodesian farmer who has dictated the character of his country—and of the country’s politics”; the “white Rhodesians who live in the towns . . . still take their attitude from the farmer” (The Listener, 17/9/59). So the establishment of a democracy is essential if the capitalists are to take political power, to match their growing economic power. Hence what The Guardian (16/12/59) calls the “liberalism” of the large Rhodesian companies. The article goes on to say:
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance to Central Africa of the Big Four companies—Rhodesian Selection Trust, Rhodesian Anglo-American, Imperial Tobacco Company, and the British South Africa Company. They control the copper, coal, lead and zinc mining and tobacco processing industries; they own forests, ranches, citrus estates, merchant banks, and newspapers; they have made generous gifts to the new university college; they have provided large loans for the renovation of the railways, the building of Kariba hydro-electric dam, for large-scale agricultural research, and rural development.
“Of these four companies,” says the article, “Imperial Tobacco and the British South Africa Company are the less influential, and follow the lead of the other two." Of these other two, Rhodesian Anglo-American has as its chairman Harry Oppenheimer, who is one of the industrialists behind the new Progressive Party in South Africa; and the Rhodesian Selection Trust’s chairman is Sir Ronald Prain, who has just issued his annual statement, including his comments on the Federation:
I do not believe that the solution of Nyasaland’s problems,will depend entirely on economic aid . . . It is essential in the current environment of Africa that political development in all three territories should not lag too much behind economic development.
In other words—we capitalists have the economic power, so now we want the political power as well. This the capitalists can best get by giving the vote to the African workers, who (they trust) will vote for capitalism, just as workers do in democracies elsewhere. Sir Ronald significantly continues:
The Legislature is entirely European, a situation which appears inconsistent with Southern Rhodesia’s position as the leading territory of what is a multi-racial Federation. Some of the laws, too, such as the Land Apportionment Act. would appear to require urgent and drastic alteration.
This last sentence is a direct attack on the settlers. The Land Apportionment Act, which gives half the farmland to the Europeans, was called “the cornerstone of our society” by Dominion Party settler-M.P.s earlier last year. A blow aimed at this settlers' Magna Carta gives an unmistakable warning that the capitalists are not going to tolerate a settlers’ government for very much longer. This, indeed, has been increasingly obvious recently. In July the Rhodesian Selection Trust and Rhodesian Anglo-American “jointly announced that they would discontinue their annual contributions to Sir Roy Welensky’s Federal party funds”; last year, together with the British South Africa company, they contributed £5.000. And in November the Rhodesian Selection Trust decided to stop subsidising The Central African Examiner, a political fortnightly which started in 1957 “with the aim of giving ‘thoughtful support to liberal causes’ but which turned to comparing Sir Edgar Whitehead (another settlers' leader) with Abraham Lincoln at a time when Sir Edgar was promoting a harsh Preventive Detention Bill.”
Sir Ronald Prain went on to say:
The Europeans deceive themselves if they close their eyes to what is happening in the rest of Africa . . . (While) some African leaders are still held in custody, no country can feel it can he said to have yet solved the problems of a multiracial community.
As could be expected, the Rhodesian capitalists have plenty of friends in capitalist Britain. Like the great Rhodesian companies, the Labour Party (that old capitalists’ friend) wants the "political development” of the Federation, advocates the release of the African leaders, and attacks the settlers’ government. The Conservative Bow Group wants Dr. Banda (the African Nationalist leader) released, and the vote given to many more Africans (The Times, 4/1/60). An "Africa 1960” Committee has been formed, including two Conservative M.P.s, to support “a rapid and orderly advance towards self-government” in African territories (The Guardian, 12/1/60). The Conservative Mr. Justice Devlin and his Commission rejected the settler’s arguments on the necessity of jailing the Africans’ leaders in their report of July last year. The Nuffield Foundation has come down on the side of the big companies racial theories, and against the racial discrimination of the settlers, by offering £250,000 to the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland towards setting up a medical school at Salisbury providing there is no colour bar (The Observer, 31/1/60). Mr. Macleod (the Colonial Secretary) and Mr. Macmillan have both made it clear that the peoples of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would not be handed over finally to the Southern Rhodesian settlers until they themselves decided that they wanted to remain within the Federation (The Guardian, 8/1/60).
These examples could be multiplied indefinitely. But enough has been said to show that the great industrialists of the Rhodesias can look forward with confidence to the establishment of a capitalist democracy in Central Africa, in line with parallel developments in nearly every other African country. Then the way will be open for the workers, both of this country and of Central Africa, to devote themselves to the only struggle which concerns them, the struggle for Socialism.