Marx’s Bicentennial via post-colonial Africa (May 23)


May 5, 2018 was the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. Opinion writers observed his bicentennial by praising Marx’s ideas or condemning communist regimes.
Those in praise suggested “the left” are in agreement that Marx’s thesis—capitalism is driven by class struggle which the ruling-class minority exploits the working-class majority—is correct. And since racial and sexual oppression have been added to the dynamic of class struggle, social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo owe “an unspoken debt” to Marx.
The condemners simply highlighted the millions of people exterminated, imprisoned, and starved to death in order to enforce egalitarianism in places like the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
But there’s a bloody trail that owes “an unspoken debt” to Marx in post-colonial Africa, too, but these horrors are never mentioned alongside Stalin’s prison camps or Pol Pot’s killing fields.
Why not?
Because “neocolonialism” is blamed for sabotaging all economic advancements on the African continent. But this ignores the fact that after independence, Marxism/socialism was embraced by African leaders because they associated market systems and democracy with colonialism.
Economist George B. N. Ayittey chronicled the exploits of these “Black Bolsheviks” in his book called “Africa Betrayed.” Ayittey wrote: For many countries independence meant only a change in color of the administrators from White to Black. The new leaders began to act like the colonialist and, in some places, the new leaders were worse.
The constitutional democracies installed after independence in Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia quickly degenerated into one-man dictatorships. As a result, a proliferation of socialist ideologies emerged throughout Africa, which was characterized by heavy state intervention in all aspects of daily life and government regulation of economic activities.
In Ghana, president Kwame Nkrumah (known as the father of African socialism and winner of the 1962 Lenin Peace Price) declared the opposition newspapers as well as its strikes and boycotts, which were constitutionally guaranteed, illegal, and incarcerated opposition to his policies.
Tanzania president Julius Nyerere rejected, not just capitalism, but a money system. Nyerere stated a money system encouraged a “relentless pursuit of individual advancement” which ran contrary to his national philosophy of Ujaama. (Familyhood or socialism in Swahili.) In 1973 Tanzania’s government conducted a massive resettling program to create “communal villages.” Peasants were loaded into trucks and forced to new locations. Many died in the process. To prevent the peasants from returning to their old homes, the Tanzanian government bulldozed the abandoned buildings. By 1976, 13 million peasants had been forced into 8,000 cooperative villages, and government regulations required all crops to be bought and distributed by the government. It was illegal for peasants to sell their own produce.
Guinea’s president, Sekou Touré, established a Marxist regime and declared unauthorized trading a crime. Police roadblocks were set up across the country to control internal trade. The state set up a monopoly on foreign trade, smuggling became a crime punishable by death, and private farmers were forced to deliver annual harvest quotas to “local revolutionary powers.”
And in 1974 Mengistu Mariam overthrew the government in Ethiopia. Thousands of dissenters labeled “counterrevolutionaries” were shot dead in the streets and more than 30,000 people were jailed. In 1975 Mengistu nationalized all land under the land reform act and relocated 34 million people into state-controlled communes guarded by Mengistu’s military. In 1977 the Soviet Union provided arms to Ethiopia (on credit), and Mengistu bombed, shelled, and slaughtered civilians at will.
In 1984 while thousands of Ethiopians were starving to death throughout the famine-stricken country, Mengistu spent more than $10 million to redecorate the statues of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
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