Pt. II: Africa, Obama and AFRICOM

US President Barack Obama recently made a visit to Ghana. In his first official trip to Africa, he left a strong impression on the world. An analysis of his remarks and policies regarding Africa itself is in order.

We have Obama’s most hard hitting remarks: Africa should stop blaming colonialism for its problems; Africa should stop relying on foreign aid and do for self. We also have Obama’s policy, a continuation of Bush era militarism in the form of AFRICOM, the US Africa Military Command. This policy presents the most severe plan related to structural readjustment.

Of course a direct link to structural readjustment and AFRICOM cannot be suggested without understanding the economic challenges faced by African states. The relationship of these states to capital has alienated them from the masses. Nigeria and Kenya, for instance, have felt snubbed because Obama by-passed them. At the same time, these countries have governments whih have failed to move their societies forward in a way that reflects the best use of their own natural and social resources.

This is not to say that Africa has to develop along Western industrial methods. However, it does mean that certain infrastructure deficiencies from health care to water purification and agriculture have gone neglected. This contradiction prevails in nearly all African states.

Nkrumah is very instructive on this period. When he described neo-colonialism as the last stage of Imperialism, his critique was mainly confined to conditions in our Motherland. Yet we now have to apply that analysis to the United States and its relationship to the world. The current president was elected because of his mantra of “change”. Increasingly, we see Obama as rescuing all the most odious forms of US political culture: militarism, international finance, and expansionism. Which means he represents just a mere changing of the guard.

AFRICOM is a plan to place military bases in Africa. Now Obama has already made comments about US policy, in comparison to Cuba. In those comments he compared Cuba favorably, noting that Latin American leaders have stated that while the primary form of aid they receive from the United States is weapons shipments, they really could not survive without the medical aid and physicians that Cuba has sent them over the years. Obama expressed his intention on changing that imbalance.

Africa, being a destitute region, has its share of problems. Parasitic worms plague people; women daily walk miles to carry drinking and cooking water home to their families; war, rape and AIDS have intensified during the post-colonial era. It does not seem as tho AFRICOM can provide any answers for African people.

Some folks might point this out as a form of selective memory but, clearly, the black prez suffers from Politically Acquired Ideological Deficiency Syndrome (PAIDS) as do many of his African counterparts.

The strategic importance of AFRICOM to the US does not concern the people of Africa, except to the extent that it will be imposed upon them. As an African born in America, my black consciousness is primary. It means more to me to see the rise of our people at home than the continuation of a durable Imperialism. The US continues to produce strong expressions of racism in media, in culture, economics and in politics. Police murders of blacks have become outrageous since the Obama election. Obama was elected because people, white and Latino and black, have become disgusted with the policies in American political life. Yet he has miserably failed to take any strident steps and turns away from this. His rhetoric often says one thing, as in the words he spoke to the Organization of American States, tho the policy continues to maintain the historical status quo.

Indeed, even his rhetoric often belies his genuine stance. Following his Ghana visit, Obama met with AIPAC (American-Israel Political Action Committee). Brother president did not tell them to stop blaming the Holocaust for their problems (?) nor did he suggest that Israel cease relying upon US foreign aid — which amounts to over half the US foreign aid budget — and do for itself. Still, that is what he said while in Ghana. Obama said Africans must stop blaming colonialism and begin to depend upon their own devices, even while pushing AFRICOM. His statements in Ghana are reminiscent of last year’s Fathers Day speech, wherein he castigated absentee fathers in the black community, while ignoring conditions like unemployment which cause social disintegration and black family instability.

While the US GDP is about $13 trillion, the current military budget is $969 billion. The US maintains 737 bases around the world. It seeks to ring bases around Africa (AFRICOM) to guarantee access to oil. By 2015, it is estimated the US will receive 25% of its oil imports from Africa, which has already become the main supplier to the United States. Other strategic resources that AFRICOM will defend include coltan, gold, platinum, diamonds, timber, agriculture, political allies and labor.
African does not need foreign troops on its soil. While Obama says stop blaming colonialism, he forgets how the former colonial powers have behaved in the post-colonial period. This involves the overthrow of Nkrumah, Azikwe, Tolbert and others. During this period, history records the overthrow and physical liquidation of Patrice Lumumba for the long-term destabilization of Congo for Imperialist interests. Agents killed Cabral, Neto and Mondlane in newly independent Portuguese colonies, severely the path of development for Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, respectively. Apartheid South Africa waged war against neighboring countries and its black population right up thru the Nineties, routinely invading Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Angola.

The US has had its own sordid background in Africa, hunting down Somali President Mohammed El Aidid and flying vicious sorties over Mogadishu neighborhoods. The US has sent gunships to Liberia and Sierra Leone. CIA agents have played a role in many coups in Africa. The US benefits from the destabilization of DRC, backing the occupiers of Eastern DRC, Uganda’s Yoweri Musaveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. The effects of a US military presence are already obvious to anyone with a critical eye.

The solution for Africa’s problems is not AFRICOM. It is not foreign aid. It is in what Kwame Nkrumah stated and so tirelessly worked towards, the unification of Africa under a singular socialist state. That is not on the agenda for the majority of African leaders, who seek to maintain their despotic grips on power to control fiefdoms for Imperialism. Such leaders maintain the status quo, with Africa remaining a begging bowl ravaged by guinea worm, schistosomiasis, AIDS, war, malnutrition, rape, and ignorance. Cheik Anta Diop, John Henrik Clarke and other great historians had great suggestions for redeeming our Motherland from the chokehold of capitalism. We have to accept their advice to free our people.

When Obama attended the OAS conference a few months ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave him a book, Eduardo Galeano’s prosaic, polemic tour de force, The Open Veins of Latin America. Had Obama read it, that would signify the beginning of real change in the United States White House.

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Nabudere: Helping Understand Our Condition

A Worldwide Crisis Based on Imperialism

Pambazuka News published an excellent article, “The Global Crisis of Capitalism and Its Impact,” by Professor Dani Nabudere, executive director of the Afrikan Study Centre in the Netherlands. In it, he discusses how the abstraction known as paper money, plus other financial instruments such as derivatives and futures, “have lost any relationship to the ‘fundamentals’ in the material production of the world economy.”

As in virtually every opinion coming out these days on the so-called financial meltdown, Nabudere’s work remains devoid of statistical data to back up his claims. This criticism also must strike at all opinions on the subject that I have developed as well. However, that does not mean such views derive from metaphysics, because ample facts on the history leading to this period have been well documented in newspapers, financial journals, criminal and civil courts, international treaties like NAFTA, and thru the policies of such bourgeois institutions as the Trilateral Commission, IMF/World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

Structural readjustment based on Africa’s relationship to international finance capitalism, Imperialism, continues to impose social upheaval thru out the Motherland. Former food staples such as maize, soy and sugar are now being grown for biofuel, triggering widespread food crises. Genetically altered crops are unfit for human consumption, and seed crops have become proprietary to stop self-reliance in its tracks. Sanctions against weak states like Zimbabwe severely undermine the population’s ability to eke out a living. This is the essence of social destabilization as a consequence of Imperialism’s globalized economy.

Whatever chaos goes on in Africa likewise gets duplicated in the US black community, altho at a more manageable level for the State. Black folks have lost more homes due to an inflationary rise in adjustable rate mortgages, the banks’ racist answer to the banned redline. Where armies press gang people into mines to pirate raw material at cut rate prices for companies in places like DR Congo, the US provides one million black prisoners as cheap labor for the industrial sector here. Police repression has not only increased since last November’s election, it has become bolder and outlandish, and with not one word of reform mentioned in the legislative corridors of this nation’s city councils, state assemblies, or Congress.

To make the point succinct, most minds are not in major dispute of the facts what has transpired over the last thirty or forty years. Few folks on the left disagree on the major economic and political trends. Nevertheless, all these facts do not make for an ounce of truth. That is, the facts in themselves demand an interpretation which serves the best interests of the masses, and gives them an ability to act decisively. This seems to be where most revolutionary theories diverge.

Nabudere’s article is an important piece inasmuch that it details many stages which brought us to this period. He talks about the collapse of the gold standard and the “over extension of credit”. This analysis of the credit “problem” continues to be seen as a major contributing factor for contradictions in capitalism. Nabudere accurately asserts the following:

…the US is increasingly unable to repay debts it has accumulated in its Treasury Bonds and Bills, in which the rest of the world have placed their reserves. Most African countries have millions of dollars in these US Treasury bills, which are held as the countries’ ‘reserves.’ China, India and Japan have trillions deposited in these ‘T’ bills and bonds This means that should the world economy collapse under pressure of ‘loose money’ wanting to be given a value (which they do not have) so that the holders of that ‘money’ can preserve their wealth, those holdings in US Treasury bills (or US debt to the rest of the world) will be lost forcing many weak economies to collapse along with it.

To credit Nabudere for his clear and lucid explanation I have labored, under my limited expertise, to demonstrate that paper money has essentially no value, that it represents value as objectively as any elected official represents democracy, and that when people get it thru their heads how the abstraction benefits only a handful of private owners and bosses the people will understand precisely how capitalism exploits them.

Still, the credit issue remains one that most people attribute as the primary contradiction, rather than seeing the crisis as a primary feature of capitalism itself. For instance, the US economy experienced economic crises more often than stability in the 1800s, my apologies for not documenting the source. In fact, until Roosevelt no effective management of the economy existed. While Wilson invented the modern business model, the economy as a whole required decades to stabilize. The credit regime does not appear to be the fundamental problem here; rather it seems to be a lack of liquidity due to the rich having concentrated even greater wealth into their hands over the last thirty years.

Mental_floss documents six crises which predates the current global one. The Irish potato famine caused widespread starvation in that country because of monoculture. On hyperinflation, compared with Zimbabwe — a microstate which does not even have an industrial sector — in November 1923 in Germany, one US dollar equaled 4.2 billion marks, and even daily staples had to be purchased with wheelbarrows of cash. On the Great Depression, founder of the Chicago School, Milton Friedman later stated that liquidity had been frozen; in any event, by 1932 the economy contracted by 31%, and 13 people million became jobless, a quarter of the workforce. Before the 70s oil crisis, Mental_floss says that Saudi crude cost $1 per barrel to pump out of the sand, but it rose to $10 per barrel following the Yom Kippur War, due to an Arab League embargo. (Why they haven’t embargoed following the recent Israeli strikes on Gaza is an enigma.) Then, in the curious case of the Asian flu, the collapse of the Southeast Asian “tiger” economies of Thailand, The Philippines, Malaysia and South Korea was due in part to financial speculation on their currencies in the interconnected global economy. Finally, Mental_floss touches on the then-bright star of the IMF, Argentina, which underwent runaway inflation in 1992 and going on to default on $140 billion in debt in December 2001.

Showing these crises do not seem to justify the position that I have taken. But they show that capitalism is a system filled with crises. It shows that capitalism is unstable, that it creates instability, and that is the character of any system built upon exploitation and oppression. At any rate, whether the illiquid situation has foundered upon overextended credits or an increased concentration of wealth at the top, or a combination of factors, the masses must become organized around their own political self-determination and collective self-reliance.

Anticipating this period, I wrote “A Dying Imperialism” in early 2007. In that essay, I made these observations:

Recognizing Imperialism’s weak links and how it shifts focus away from pressure provides both strategic and tactical objectivity for revolutionary organizing. Of course, economies remain strong within the Imperialist centers themselves; the United States continues unchallenged as the top industrial sector on the planet. But with relative class peace within the US, a critical problem in social relations is unavoidable. The ecological crises combined with mounting competition for monopoly control of strategic resources, especially petroleum, highlight the basic anarchy in bourgeois relations. Also, America’s domestic colonies, the Ghetto and the Barrio, still struggle valiantly against the bourgeois class peace. Furthermore, the parasitic, multi-national occupation of Iraq presents a long-term disaster for the coalition leaders, the utmost striking failure in international policy. While America seeks military domination as part of its New World Order, that strategy only compounds antagonisms between this country, its competitors, and anti-Imperialist states.

The great professor Nabudere, who has international acclaim as a Pan Africanist thinker, offers a strong critique of capitalism. He says that it is erroneous to conclude that capitalism has the ability to reinvent itself. He condemns the “financial oligarchy” in its efforts to have the State take over their worthless credit instruments and have the producing classes bear their own burdens.

Yet with the new presidency of Barack Hussein Obama, the class peace has become amplified. If capitalism concentrates wealth and power into the hands of the few, then racism is class oppression concentrated as well and for the same purpose. Neo-colonialism, being the dilution of the concentrated class question (racism), appears to operate as a strategy for heading off the dilution of wealth. The only way wealth can be diluted is to redistribute it. But wealth dilution is still capitalist distribution, and neo-colonialism still is the final stage of Imperialism. It can only remain a brief matter of time before Keynesian economics and Obama politics compound into another crisis for a system which by its character must necessarily collapse.