From the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a country in Africa which has so much liberty that it is actually called Liberia. It should of course have been christened Tyrannia so similar is it to the other “independent” states of Africa (and so independent that it almost belongs lock stock and barrel to Firestone Tyre of America). Its tyrannical ruling class is not however composed of indigenous blacks but of the descendants of former slaves who returned to Africa after the American Civil War and proceeded to make virtual slaves of the entire black population.
In many ways, Liberia has served as a prototype for the dozens of “liberated” African hell-holes which have emerged since the end of the Hitler war. The sufferings of the mass of the people in the countries that were formerly parts of the European imperialist empire are such that most people do not even have a glimmer of understanding of what goes on there. Oh yes, we all know about the slaughters in Uganda by the minions of the murderous Amin, and perhaps many people became aware that innocent black workers and peasants were butchered at will by another megalomaniac called Emperor Bokassa in a former part of the French empire called the Central African Republic. But there arc numerous other appalling regimes which have busied themselves in murdering thousands of their own populations in countries that arc barely even names in the West.
Who knows where to find Ruanda or Burundi or Upper Volta on the map (assuming you know they exist in the first place)? Who then knows that countless numbers of innocent men, women and children have been drowned in rivers of blood whose sources are their own black ruling classes? In case anyone imagines that the rulers of other African states view these events with horror, just ask the question: Now that Amin and Bokassa (to name but two) have been overthrown, what has happened to them? They are alive and well and living in other African states, enjoying the wealth they accumulated through the sweat of their black subjects. It is significant that these murderous robbers enjoy the protection of their fellow African rulers—and, let it not be forgotten, of their friends—their former European masters like President Giscard who brazens out the scandal of the diamonds he got from Bokassa—with the help of the French Communist Party which says such things don’t matter!
In fact, there is not a square yard of freedom from Cairo to the Cape (ironically there might prove to be a change in that regard in, of all places, Rhodesia, but more of that below). The facts are clear; nationalism, whether it be African, Basque, Irish, Scottish or Welsh, is a trap for the working class. It is a delusion that the workers’ wage-slave status will be different if the slaveowners are changed from white to black or from Castilian to Basque. So that all the sacrifices and all the misery that were endured to get rid of the hateful British imperialism in, say, Uganda, have merely served to change white tyrants for black ones—who in many cases proved even more monstrous. Those British leftists who backed anti-colonial movements thirty or forty years ago show not the slightest understanding of, let alone remorse about the grisly results. Fenner Brockway (now My Lord, if you please), who was formerly young and stupid and is now old and stupid, makes it clear whenever his voice is heard that he remains proud of his efforts to foist the likes of Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kaunda upon the suffering African people.
To add to the horror of it all, pseudo-socialists like Brockway and similar people in the Labour Party and other so-called leftist organisations, not only besmirched the name of socialism by supporting these appalling nationalist movements, they still lend their names to the preposterous claim that these countries are socialist. Socialism, however, can only be brought about by the conscious understanding and support—freely and democratically given—of the majority of the working class. That understanding is a long way from being evident in countries like Britain, where the workers have a chance to register it freely if they were so minded. The notion that the majority of workers in places like Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Libya, have had an opportunity to discuss and debate the issue of capitalism or socialism and have freely and democratically elected socialists to their parliaments, is clearly absurd.
In all these countries the regimes are tyrannies, where there is no possibility of free socialist parties being allowed to propagate their views. Where, indeed, opponents of any kind are intimidated, gaoled or killed. The white regime in South Africa is undoubtedly obnoxious, but the leftists (including such organs of the capitalist press as the Guardian, the Observer, the New Statesman, Tribune) who spend so much time screaming against that regime, carefully overlook that there are more blacks rotting in the dungeons of Nyerere’s Tanzania or Mengitsu’s Ethiopia—two countries which vie for the honour of first place in Amnesty’s lists of murderous regimes—than South Africa has ever had.
In Rhodesia, at the time of writing, an election campaign is proceeding and—give or take a few murders—it seems that a number of parties, black and white (but of course all capitalists of varying hues) have the opportunity to state their views and canvass votes with all manner of reformist promises, just like good old Britain (they even vie with one another about curing unemployment just like our own con-men). Yet whether any semblance of democracy will exist when the elections are over must be gravely in doubt. The apparent leader in the race for power is Robert Mugabe, who has the impudence to call himself a Marxist (which is echoed by all the ignorant press here). This man has been running a guerrilla army for some years based in Mozambique and his ideas are so full of democratic freedoms that not only does he murder the supporters of opposing parties and even of allied leaders of the so-called Patriotic Front; he even kills and imprisons his own party members who happen to disagree with him. Lord Soames, the temporary British governor, has twisted Mugabe’s arm to release over seventy of such victims from his prisons in neighbouring Mozambique (another Marxist state, of course!). This item was referred to in a leading article in the Guardian (Jan 20). What the leader omitted to mention was that Mugabe only agreed on condition that they arc not allowed to move freely inside Rhodesia during the election campaign (even though some of them are candidates!). In other words, he keeps a private prison and will hand over the victims on condition that they remain chained and gagged. So if he is like this with his own party members before he attains power, the imagination boggles at what kind of hell he will visit on the country if elected in place of the previous incumbent, Bishop Muzorewa. King Stork for King Log!
Finally, we must refer to a recent (January 28) article in the Guardian: President Machel of Mozambique has “advised” (quotes in original) the “Marxist” Mugabe “to send envoys to South Africa to spell out a policy of peaceful co-existence and non-interference. And Mugabe’s vice president of ZANU-PF, Simon Muzenda, is expected to fly to the parliamentary capital of Cape Town soon to add his avuncular charm to such tidings.” All this without a blush in the great “liberal" paper which screams its head off about a team of bone-headed rugby players going out there to play games. One almost feels more at home with the right-wing rugby corespondent of the right-wing Sunday Telegraph, John Reason, who, asked by a BBC twit about the reactions to the rugby tour of the Organisation of African Unity, replied: “Might as well worry about Idi Amin. He was their chairman recently”.
L. E. Weidberg