Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
WHAT follows is an attempt to examine systematically whether it seems possible for African developments to take place in harmony with the interests of our civilization. Will it be possible to establish a relationship with Africa that will avoid the difficulties that have arisen in the case of the Asian and Middle Eastern peoples?
Some word of caution is needed in approaching the various questions involved. One cannot easily categorize a whole continent, for the differences between its constituent countries are too many and too great. One has to resist the constant temptation to over-simplify. There is in the Assembly of the United Nations a group which seeks a short cut by the simple expedient of dividing Africa between those countries which are independent and those which are still subject to outside control. But such a simplification breaks down at the first realistic approach. Among the independent countries south of the Sahara there exists as wide a difference between the Union of South Africa and Liberia as there is between Ethiopia and Tunisia in the north. Among the dependent countries there is no common measure between political conditions such as those prevailing in Uganda and those of Angola. There are even more basic differences underlying those purely political factors which engage the first attention of the more cursory observer. There is a fundamental difference between the Bantu and the Negro peoples of the countries south of the Sahara, and there is a no less fundamental difference between the Bantu and Negro people of the South and the semi-Arabicized peoples of the North. The new Bureau of African Affairs recently established in the Department of State will indeed justify its creation if it begins by helping the American people to avoid thinking in terms of Africa as a whole and to learn to distinguish between the conditions in the diversity of countries of which the continent is composed.
That does not mean to say, however, that there are no common features observable among the changes which have occurred in Africa since the war. Evidence of one change in particular stands out almost everywhere and is for our present purpose of cardinal interest. Before the war the major concern of the student of African affairs centered on the policies of the different European Powers which exercised control in Africa and on the attitude of the European communities in those areas where they constitute factors of importance. Today the focus of interest has changed. We now see a wide range of countries in which the African himself has begun to take a more definite part in determining his destinies. But the picture is very varied in its detail.
In the Union of South Africa the material standard of African life is higher than in any of the neighboring territories, but it is dependent on the European economy for this result. Even from the African point of view, there can be no possibility of a complete physical separation of European and African spheres of settlement. It is equally difficult to envisage the development of two separate economies which would give to the African a standard of life comparable with that now open to him. At the best, therefore, the future for the African must lie in securing a larger share in the European economy and in the political life from which he is at present excluded, rather than in the substitution of an African form of rule.
In Southern Rhodesia the African is admitted to the franchise, but the franchise qualifications are at present such as to allow him practically no chance of securing direct representation in the legislature. In the British dependencies of Central and East Africa he has a substantial--indeed in some cases a majority-- representation in the legislature, and he now forms part of the ministries which are taking the place of the older executive councils. In the British West African territories his position is still stronger. Ghana now has complete independence under a purely African government. Nigeria, with a population greater than that of any other country on the continent, has a guarantee of achieving similar independence in 1959 or 1960, and meanwhile two of the three regions into which it is divided will acquire a status of self-rule. The circumstances which have prevented the more immediate grant of self-rule to a federal government of Nigeria are a common phenomenon. The prospect of the early transfer of power from an alien to an indigenous government has brought to the surface a series of internal differences of old standing which under an external control had been effectively relegated to the background. In Sierra Leone the final revision of the constitution is postponed for much the same reason as in Nigeria.
In French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa the emphasis lay throughout the prewar period on the traditional French concept of integration of the overseas territories with metropolitan France, rather than on the development of local institutions which might give birth to an aspiration for self-rule. The concept of integration regulated also the formation of the Union Française in 1946. But occasion was also taken to abolish the previous discrimination between the citoyens of French origin and the sujets of African origin. Both classes have since then joined in the election of an increased number of representatives to the parliament in Paris, and they are now predominantly African. An even more significant development followed in 1956. The loi cadre of that year provided for the creation of local parliamentary institutions, elected on an extremely wide franchise, and designed to occupy a position resembling that of the British colonial legislatures. Like them, they would supply the basis of a system of ministers exercising administrative functions and, like them, they would in the natural order of things comprise a considerable proportion of Africans.
There has not been a comparable development in the Belgian Congo, where the emphasis on the economic progress of the indigenous population has taken precedence over the granting of a political or administrative authority. It is significant indeed that neither the European residents of the Congo (who now number about 70,000) nor the African population have the franchise for representative institutions endowed as of right with legislative powers or exercising authority over the administration. The Portuguese hold even more strongly than the French to the concept of the unity of their overseas and metropolitan territories, but they do not on that account admit the African as such to share in the exercise of political power. He can, it is true, claim equal rank with citizens of Portuguese origin, but he must qualify for this privilege by proving that he possesses cultural and other qualifications enabling him to rank with Europeans. At present such assimilado form a very small proportion of the African population.
So much for the situation in the countries conventionally distinguished as lying south of the Sahara. The circumstances of the northern areas have lately been the subject of so much notice in the press of the world as to justify much less attention here. It is enough to recall that between 1951 and 1956 Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and the Sudan gained recognition as sovereign states. Italian Somaliland will become an independent state in 1960. Algeria is still in the throes of an open conflict which is basically due to conditions which had their origin at a period when there existed for many purposes a discrimination between the French settlers, numbering some one and a half million, and the Moslem population, numbering roughly 8 million in all.
Looking at the continent as a whole we see that there is thus a marked diversity in the progress made by Africans in respect of political status. But even where advance does not appear to have been substantial there is now evidence of what can best be described as a rising spirit of Africanism. This term seems to be more appropriate than that of "nationalism" in this connection, for many of the countries of Africa are artificial creations possessing no inherent unity or common history, and owe their existing form mainly to the competitive rivalries of the European Powers at the time when they established their protectorates over them. But the spirit of Africanism has not always manifested itself in a coherent form nor has it a common objective. Africa has not experienced a unified form of administration such as that of British India, which gave to a number of diverse peoples a cohesion that made it possible for Indian nationalists to organize a continent-wide campaign with a single objective.
In Africa, moreover, political aspirations are not born of the soil but emerge from contact with liberal European thought, and their objective tends accordingly to be conditioned by the philosophy of the colonial Power with which they have been in closest contact. The African of the British Protectorate of Uganda may well look forward to a régime of self-rule under a purely African government. The African of Senegal, on the other hand, may prefer to see a future in a progressive integration with the French Union and its institutions. The African of the Belgian Congo or Mozambique may aspire to see a time when by a process of immatriculation in the one case, or inclusion in the ranks of assimilado on the other, he can gain parity with citizens of Belgian or Portuguese origin. We cannot, in short, predicate that the aspirations of the African will always be political self-rule in the shape in which we see it established in the Sudan or in Ghana. We can, however, predict with certainty that it will manifest itself with increasing force in an assertion of the rights of Africans and in demands for the improvement in one form or another of their political and social status. With the expansion of economic opportunities we may look to see a general emergence of that middle class which has always taken a part in British West Africa not unlike that which it took in heading the liberation movement in British India. We may be sure also that the spirit of Africanism will continue to gain in strength from the stimulus received both from international opinion and from pressure applied by the leaders of the new independent states in Africa.
There are some competent observers who hold that the spirit of Africanism exhibits itself most fully not in projects of political advance but in the revival of the tradition of tribalism. They point out that while in Asia the indigenous peoples have readily grouped themselves in large political formations, the tribe remains today the institution which has most consistently commanded the loyalty of indigenous Africa. They reinforce their argument by quoting instances such as the strength shown by the Mau Mau movement in Kenya, or the stand made by the Ashanti in Ghana or the Buganda in Uganda for the constitutional recognition of their individual position. No one can doubt that the tribal tradition will continue to exercise its influence in indigenous Africa. There are, however, important areas in which the tribe has ceased to hold the allegiance of tribesmen, partly because some governments (as, for example, in the Union of South Africa or in the French dependencies) have refused to accord recognition to the local traditional authorities, and partly because economic changes have led to a widespread migration of tribesmen to labor centers and the rapid growth of urbanization. Even where the tribe still remains as the most significant of the institutions of African society the future seems actually to lie not with traditional authorities but with those educated elements which alone seem capable of creating and controlling political organizations on an effective scale.
Does the position thus described support the assertion, now made with so much confidence, that the rule exercised by colonial Powers is reaching its end? Here again we must resist the temptation to undue simplification. There are, of course, important areas, as for instance the Union of South Africa, where this question is entirely out of place. At the other end of the scale, there are a number of British territories in which the European settled community is relatively small, and where we may safely assume that the British Government will follow the precedent set in the case of Ghana and where (as the decision regarding the future of Nigeria shows) the progress towards self-rule is now likely to be materially accelerated. But there will remain a number of British dependencies in East and Central Africa (of which the Rhodesias, Kenya and Tanganyika are typical) where the most crucial of the functions retained by the colonial Power is to stand as arbiter between the conflicting claims made by European, Asian and African communities to share in representation in the legislature and in the executive authority which is now becoming its natural corollary. We have, since the war, seen a continuous process of upgrading the part to be taken by the indigenous population; and this process will inevitably be quickened. But it is not likely that Britain will readily relinquish the position of arbiter until a stage has been reached in which the different communities can be trusted to adjust their respective parts in the legislative and administrative fields without her intervention. In this connection a crucial interest attaches to the effort being made in Rhodesia to work out a viable interpretation of the principle of "partnership," for on this hangs the decision whether the Federation can succeed in its ambition to secure dominion status.
In the French territories the question must be viewed from a different angle. It may be some years before the indigenous population, now so widely enfranchised, can show whether it prefers closer affiliation as part of the Union Française (which will connote the retention of some measure of central control) or the development of local legislatures on a scale which will embrace the essentials of self-rule. With the enactment of the loi cadre of 1956 France has entered on a course from which she will now find it difficult to turn back. It will be the vote of the Africans of French West and French Equatorial Africa which will decide their own constitutional future. It may be assumed that circumstances are unlikely to create any such large-scale conflict of community interests as has resulted in the open clash in Algeria. In the whole of the French territories south of the Sahara the European population, only a small part of which is permanently settled, numbers less than 100,000 against an indigenous population of over 25,000,000. Supporters of the French concept of colonial rule can claim that some indication of the trend of African thought on the issue of integration can be found in the fact that in the recent election to the local assemblies held under the loi cadre Africans voted for the inclusion of a noteworthy number of the local French residents among their representatives.
The factors that bear on the future of the Belgian and Portuguese dependencies are more illusive. In the relatively short period of her colonial history, Belgium has not evolved any clear concept of the goal of colonial policy, but though she is likely to be liberal in other respects, she will clearly be chary of encouraging political institutions which may minister to a spirit of separatism. Indigenous opinion in the Congo is not so far vocal, nor has it developed the same organizations for self-expression as in the British and French territories. But it cannot be long before the striking growth of urbanization during the postwar years will produce groups concerned to press for the grant of increased consideration of African rights. Nor will it now be possible for the Belgian Government to disregard the strength of the influences originating outside the colony which are pressing in the same direction. In the Portuguese territories the general standard of education is relatively low, and the recognition officially given to the creation of a class of assimilado is tending to deprive the indigenous African population of its natural leaders. There may therefore be an extended period before the choice between further integration with metropolitan Portugal and the development of institutions of self-rule becomes a live issue for the indigenous population of Angola and Mozambique.
It is natural to ask at this stage how far the situation has been affected by the spread of Communism in Africa. In estimating the truth of an assertion made by Vice-President Nixon following his return from Africa that the continent has become a priority target for the Communists, it is proper to draw a distinction between Communism as a domestic political movement and the Soviet Union as an international political force. There is no evidence that Communism has so far been a serious subversive threat in Africa. The Union of South Africa has helped to confuse the issue by its Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, which was a weapon frankly devised to aid the policy of apartheid; it went so far as to include in the definition of Communism those actions which might promote hostility between non-Europeans and Europeans. There can be no warrant for claiming that Africa has today a place in the front line of the world's fight against Communism, nor is there ground for urging that America should on that account bestir herself to assist Africa to gain independence of colonial rule. On the contrary, the premature removal of colonial rule might well create a vacuum which would be an invitation to Communist activity. It is significant that both in India and in Indonesia Communism has now attained a strength which it never showed during the period of British or Dutch control. That is not so much due to ideological reasons as because the removal of external control opens a field for domestic differences in which Communism may find a fertile ground for its activities.
There was undoubtedly a period when the position occupied by the African peoples justified the outside world in exhibiting an interest in them based largely on ideological grounds. But today the conditions are changing. The African is beginning to show an increasing responsibility for his own future. It is true that in the Union of South Africa his activities in this direction are severely restricted, but the conditions prevailing in the Union have no close analogy elsewhere. The Nationalist doctrine of segregation does not of course represent an end in itself. It is basically the result of a conviction that unless white supremacy is safeguarded at every conceivable point, any advance made by Africans may threaten the maintenance of the high standards of living which the white community has established for itself. Whatever view one may take of the ethical aspects of this belief or of the steps taken to translate it into action, there is some measure of practical logic in it, and it seems likely to prove strong enough to stand up against an expression of adverse opinion by the outside world.
The future may, however, hold two possibilities. The advance made by the native population may be such as will mitigate the fears felt by the white community for the maintenance of its standard of living; and it is proper in this connection to point out that in spite of the very obvious weighting of the social and economic services in favor of white interests, the Union spends more per head on educational and health measures for non-Europeans than any of the countries south of the Sahara. Alternatively (and this seems more likely), it is possible that the hand of the white community may be forced by conditions arising within its own economy. In the Union the advance made by the manufacturing industry is such that its contribution to the national income now exceeds that of either the agricultural or the mining industries, and non-white labor has made very notable advances in semi-skilled employment in it. Its further progress in this direction may well create a situation in which the white community will not find it possible to maintain the barriers which it is seeking to erect in order to maintain its social and political supremacy.
In the other countries of Africa south of the Sahara there is, it is true, still a considerable proportion of primitive peoples, and there are many regions in which education is still at a very elementary stage. But there are also many where an increasing body of the population are coming under the influence of an African leadership which every year shows itself more independent and more assertive. As experience in Asia shows, that is a feature which is likely to grow with astonishing rapidity, for the following acquired by indigenous leaders is the result of emotional impulse rather than of any calculation of advantage or disadvantage to the people most concerned. The personnel available for the exercise of indigenous leadership will increase rapidly with the extension of academic education. South of the Sahara the British have since the war created four colleges of full university status, and the French and Belgian territories will each have two institutions of a comparable standard. Political development will be further quickened by the growth of urbanization. A few years ago it was estimated that 27 percent of the indigenous population of the Union and 20.5 percent of that of the Belgian Congo could be described as urban.
If, therefore, Africa now has need of external aid, it is not so much in the ideological field as in measures designed to raise the standards of life of the indigenous people. It is characteristic of Africa that it has, as compared with Asia, shown itself to be far more dependent on external sources for the organization of the social services or the supply of capital for economic development. Here again the Union is in some measure an exception. In the seventies of the last century, the diamond industry began to provide the basis of a modern financial system; and in the eighties, diamonds supplied the initial capital for the development of the gold mines, besides serving to attract the interest of foreign investors in the openings provided by the Rand. Public finance continues to be mainly sustained from internal sources, and external debt has in recent years amounted to less than 6 percent of the total. But no other African territory can at present supply as much as half of its public loan finance from internal sources and there are many in which the part so provided remains negligible.
Private capital investment has, broadly speaking, been directed mainly to the development of mineral resources, but these are widely scattered, and there are large regions of Africa which have no minerals. Investment in industrial undertakings is practically limited to the few countries in which the European community has developed a manufacturing industry, as most notably in the Union of South Africa, the Belgian Congo and, more recently, Southern Rhodesia. There are a certain number of agricultural or forest enterprises which have attracted external capital, as for instance the plantations of sisal in East Africa, of palm oil in the Belgian Congo, or of rubber in Liberia, but considerations of land policy now seem likely to restrict the expansion of this type of undertaking. Indigenous Africa would seem likely to provide little field for the investment of external private capital (other than in mining development) until the expansion of public services produces a general improvement in the standards of African life and creates an effective demand for consumer goods.
In the earlier period of colonial history, policy did not contemplate the grant of financial aid by the metropolitan country to a dependency. Colonial loans might be guaranteed, but direct grants-in-aid were normally confined to occasions of public calamity or the like. During the inter-war period, however, the growing realization of the part to be played by a modern state in promoting the social welfare of its public was projected also into the colonial field, a development which was signalized most noticeably in the terms of the British Colonial Development and Welfare Acts of 1940-1945, which provided some $605,000,000 in free grants to the British Colonies. In the postwar years this new light on colonial rule, now reinforced by the recognition given to the need for raising the standards of life in the underdeveloped countries throughout the world, resulted in a systematic preparation of five-year or ten-year plans for the development of the dependencies of the different colonial Powers in Africa. The cost of the plans for the British dependencies was estimated roughly at $780,000,000; that of the plans for the French territories was of much the same order; the estimate for the Belgian Congo was somewhat above this amount; that for the Portuguese territories amounted to $222,000,000. In each case the cost was to be met from colonial revenues or loans, aided by direct contributions from the colonial Powers. In the British dependencies, for instance, the contribution amounted to roughly 18 percent of the total cost.
In the long view, the most effective method by which the outside world can assist the indigenous peoples of Africa appears to be the grant of aid to the governments concerned, either by way of state loan or by the direct supply of technical personnel. It must, however, be prepared to face the possibility that the progressive increase in the element of African control may seriously imperil the political and economic stability which the régime has acquired under colonial rule. In the study of African affairs today there is everywhere evidence of a standing difference of approach. On the one side is the idealist, convinced that the African needs only to be free in order to play a worthy part in a brave new world. On the other side is the colonial administrator, warned by his old-world experiences of the dangers inherent in economic inexperience and political immaturity. Somewhere between these must lie a middle path; but it is not always easy to recognize it.
America Can Help, But It Needs the Right Partner