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50 Years Ago

More Trouble in Africa

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was set up in 1953, it was known to be against the wishes of most of the African population in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. They did not want to be taken out of the control of the British Colonial Office to be handed over to domination by the white settlers, whose attitude, as shown particularly in Southern Rhodesia, is much like that of the South African Government. Opponents of Federation, including the British Labour Party, foresaw that tension would increase and were not surprised by the recent disturbances in which a number of Africans were killed by Government forces. Among the Africans the idea of early independence for Nyasaland has been given a powerful stimulus, associated by some of them with more ambitious ideas of a wider nationalism, taking in all Africa.

Are they right? Will “independence” make them better off and happier? Their African leaders tell them there is no doubt about the matter. And it is quite obvious that most Africans would prefer to put up with a lot of inconvenience, even hardship, to escape living under a government which operates or tolerates a colour bar against them. Africans are only behaving like other people, for history is full of examples of resentment of, and revolt against, the imposition on subject groups, or racial, national, religious and language barriers. And because it has happened so often we have plenty of information about its consequences: nobody need please ignorance.

What then has national independence done for the mass of the population, whether we take the European nationalist movements of last century, such as the Italian struggle against Austria or the Balkan countries’ struggles against Turkey, or the quite recent new States set up in former Colonies? Without going into details we can say that national independence is good for local politicians, lawyers, army officers, manufacturers and business men; it opens up careers and money-making opportunities for them, as also for local holders of government civilian posts who may have found their advancement hindered while a foreign administration had control. Sometimes the achievement of national independence helps to speed up industrial development where this has been deliberately limited by the governing Power and may make it rather easier for workers to form trade unions.

(From front page article by ‘H’, Socialist Standard, April 1959)