(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from The Struggle is My Life by Nelson Mandela, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for November. The book contains his writings and speeches in the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa, from the time he joined the African National Congress Youth League in 1944 to his release from 27 years of incarceration in 1990. The piece below is from an article he wrote in March 1958, titled “New Menace in Africa.” It takes up the growing threat posed by U.S. imperialism to the mass struggles against colonial rule that had won political independence for many countries in Africa. Copyright © 1990 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY NELSON MANDELA
Quite naturally the colonial peoples all over the world have in various ways waged ceaseless battles against foreign domination. In many areas this battle has been decisively won whilst in others it still rages. The imperialist countries have been driven out from practically the whole of Asia and the Pacific regions. China, India, Ceylon, Burma and the United States of Indonesia have won their national independence. In Africa a large number of territories have thrown off the imperialist yoke and are now independent states. Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Ghana are no longer dependencies of foreign powers. In Algeria, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda self-government in the near future is anticipated. All over the world the people are astir and the struggle for political progress is gathering momentum by the day. Imperialism has been weighed and found wanting. It has been fought and defeated by the united and concerted action of the common people.
Whilst the influence of the old European powers has sharply declined and whilst the anti-imperialist forces are winning striking victories all over the world, a new danger has arisen and threatens to destroy the newly won independence of the people of Asia and Africa. It is American imperialism, which must be fought and decisively beaten down if the people of Asia and Africa are to preserve the vital gains they have won in their struggle against subjugation.
The two world wars, which weakened the old powers and which contributed to the growth of the political and economic influence of the USA, also resulted in the growth of the anti-imperialist forces all over the world and in the intensification of the struggle for national independence. The old powers, finding themselves unable to resist the demand by their former colonies for independence and still clinging desperately to their waning empires, were compelled to lean very heavily on American aid. The USA, taking advantage of the plight of its former allies, adopted the policy of deliberately ousting them from their spheres of influence and grabbing these spheres for herself. An instance that is still fresh in our minds is that of the Middle East, where the USA assisted in the eviction of Britain from that area in order that she might gain control of the oil industry, which prior to that time was in the control of Britain… .
Imperialism in disguise
American imperialism is all the more dangerous because, having witnessed the resurgence of the people of Asia and Africa against imperialism and having seen the decline and fall of once powerful empires, it comes to Africa elaborately disguised. It has discarded most of the conventional weapons of the old type of imperialism. It does not openly advocate armed invasion and conquest. It purports to repudiate force and violence. It masquerades as the leader of the so-called free world in the campaign against communism. It claims that the cornerstone of its foreign policy is to assist other countries in resisting domination by others. It maintains that the huge sums of dollars invested in Africa are not for the exploitation of the people of Africa but for the purpose of developing their countries and in order to raise their living standards.
Now it is true that the new self-governing territories in Africa require capital to develop their countries. They require capital for economic development and technical training programmes, they require it to develop agriculture, fisheries, veterinary services, health, medical services, education and communications. To this extent overseas capital invested in Africa could play a useful role in the development of the self-governing territories in the continent. But the idea of making quick and high profits, which underlies all the developmental plans launched in Africa by the USA, completely effaces the value of such plans in so far as the masses of the people are concerned. The big and powerful American trade monopolies that are springing up in various parts of the continent, and which are destroying the small trader, the low wages paid the ordinary man, the resulting poverty and misery, his illiteracy and the squalid tenements in which he dwells, are the simplest and most eloquent exposition of the falsity of the argument that American investments in Africa will raise the living standards of the people of this continent.
The American brand of imperialism is imperialism all the same in spite of the modern clothing in which it is dressed and in spite of the sweet language spoken by its advocates and agents. The USA is mounting an unprecedented diplomatic offensive to win the support of the governments of the self-governing territories in the continent. It has established a network of military bases all over the continent for armed intervention in the domestic affairs of independent states should the people in these states elect to replace American satellite regimes with those who are against American imperialism. American capital has been sunk into Africa not for the purpose of raising the material standards of its people but in order to exploit them as well as the natural wealth of their continent. This is imperialism in the true sense of the word.