1970s >> 1976 >> no-863-july-1976

50 Years Ago: How Exploitation In Africa Began

In the case of Africa, “philanthropy” and missionary effort formed a very convenient cloak for the hungry figure of capital seeking its constant quarry, profit. It had been, to some slight extent, forestalled by the Arab colonies which had existed for centuries on the East Coast, in perpetual conflict with the Portuguese adventurers. The Arab power was founded upon chattel-slavery, and its periodical incursions among the natives of the interior had for their prime object the recruiting of the slave markets. To supplant the Arabs and establish the European method of exploitation, it was necessary to stamp out the slave trade. Gunboats and railways drove the dhows and caravans of the votaries of Allah from the field of commerce, and the blessings of Jehovah were invoked upon the process. The conflict of material interests was disguised by the contest between Jesus and Mahomet.

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The Arabs chastised them with whips, but the Europeans introduced economic scorpions in the shape of reserves, to which the natives were confined, coupled with taxation upon the hut or the head. In order to find the money with which to pay the taxes, the natives slowly but surely find their way from the reserves to the plantation and township, as these arise, there to labour for the profit of the invaders. The sudden raids of the chattel-hunters gave way to the permanent exploitation of the whole population.

(From an article Capitalism in the Tropics by E. Boden, Socialist Standard, July 1926.)