Wednesday, September 21, 2011

105. Neo-Colonialism the Last Stage of Imperialism by Kwame Nkrumah

Title: Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism
Author: Kwame Nkrumah
Genre: Political Non-Fiction
Publishers: PANAF
Pages: 283
Year of Publication: 1965
Country: Ghana


CAVEAT: This review has been delayed for several reasons. First it is to afford the reader enough time to think about the subject matter deeply and present it lucidly. However, after several days, it became clear that no amount of thinking would lead to a clearer review. Thus, to understand the wealth of facts and figures, of information within this pages, kindly get a copy. What is presented here cannot even be described as a pin-prick of what the book offers. The second reason is that today is Kwame Nkrumah's birthday. He would have been 102 years.

When Kwame Nkrumah published this book in 1965, it was banned in the United States. A year after, on February 24, 1966, he was overthrown in a coup d'tat, which according to declassified files or documents, was sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. During this period several African nationalists were assassinated. And the UN's attitude, especially in the Lumumba case, is there for all to see. Thus, even then, the UN has only worked to help a handful of countries and individuals. 

Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism is a step by step guide to unveiling, exposing, denuding, the factors, individuals, countries, and corporations working against Africa's development and unity. From chapters such as Africa's Resources, Obstacles to Economic Progress, Imperialist Finance, Monopoly Capitalism and the American Dollar, The Truth Behind the Headlines, The Oppenheimer Empire, The Diamond Groups, Mining Interests in Central Africa, Union Miniere du Haut Katanga, Economic Pressures in the Congo Republic, The Mechanisms of Neo-Colonialism, among others, Nkrumah sought to make the world know the kind of forces we are facing as Africans (and non-Africans) on the path towards development (and the people that rule our world).

Corporations, which stole Africa's resources from the beginning by making chiefs sign papers they know very well they cannot read and in most cases papers which talk of a different contract only to turn out that these chiefs have signed off their resources, have come to control Africa's extractive industries, or broadly, Africa's primary resources and have enriched themselves - creating empires - through colonisation. These corporations, even after independence, had done everything necessary to keep the status quo. Through  vertical and horizontal integrations they have formed monopolies that control the production of the raw materials, its transport outside the country, its transformation or value addition, its price on the international market and the manufacture of the finished products. In effect, they control the demand and supply of products. And consequently, prices.

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, did a diligent job with this book in unmasking the demons against Africa's development and unity with hard facts. Appropriately, the book opens with 'Africa's Resources', where the author shows the volume of Africa's raw materials and those who control it. The chapter opens with the paradox that even though the continent is rich its resources go to enrich, mainly, non-Africans.
Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below her soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups of and individuals who operate to Africa's impoverishment. (Chapter 1, Page 1)
After the second World War, most African countries began the fight for independence and colonialism became unfashionable. In places where the granting of independence was resisted, the natives took up arms. As disaffection towards the colonial government increased, independence became the only way out. However, post-war European countries have seen a boost in their economies that would fall should total (economic and political) independence be granted. The colonialists in granting the independence fashioned out a systematic method of dominance that would still keep them in control of the resources that is needed to drive their economies back home. This burden of keeping growth and development in developed countries became a burden of developing countries:
It is the less developed countries that continue to carry the burden of increasing development of the highly developed. (Chapter 4, page 66)
This new form of control meant to grant quasi-political control (in terms of the physical head and not the politics), while keeping economic-control, is what the author refers to as Neo-Colonialism. 
Neo-colonialism is based upon the principles of breaking up former large united colonial territories into a number of small non-viable States which are incapable of independent development and must rely upon the former imperial power for defence and even internal security. There economic and financial systems are linked, as in colonial days, with those of the former colonials ruler. (Introduction, page xiii)
This system was much preferred even by the French who, granting independence to Guinea removed every single-piece of investment in that country including office equipment such as light-bulbs to prevent the remaining countries from fighting for independence. This is because with Neo-Colonialism, any social and economic failings and disaffection by the people in the 'independent states' are blamed on the government of these states. And these disaffection are easily created through influencing prices.
In neo-colonialist territories, since the former colonial power has in theory relinquished political control, if the social conditions occasioned by neo-colonialism cause a revolt the local neo-colonialist government can be sacrificed and another equally subservient one substituted in its place. On the other hand, in any continent where neo-colonialism exists on a wide scale the same social pressures which can produce revolts in neo-colonial territories will also affect those States which have refused to accept the system and therefore neo-colonialist nations have a ready-made weapon with which they can threaten their opponents if they appear successfully to be challenging the system. (introduction, page xiv)
From the control of raw materials, manufacturing plants, financial capital, finished products, markets for finished and raw materials, through mergers and acquisitions these individuals and corporations have gained enormous power against which neo-colonialist countries, with their small size and little income, can hardly work against or be victorious in any bargain. Capitalism's irony is that, even though it is supposed to be a free system that breeds competition, its practitioners have sought ways to be prevent that very 'advantage' from materialising through mergers and acquisitions, with the giants in the industry swallowing one another. With their control over different industries they control the pulse of most countries, the world even. Today, monopolies have been created for almost every type of industry. So that the mining of Gold is controlled by a few (mostly two) organisations which have shares in each others organisations. And so effectively are a single unit with multifarious appendages (like an octopus). These industrial monopolies have also become the properties of a few individuals, like a pyramid. What is frequently observed is that about five directors of five major corporations would also be directors in over two hundred other corporations in different industries, serving the same interest groups. From their control of industries and new-found raw materials they seek to
...deprive rivals of their use. The manipulation of artificial scarcity is another of monopoly's tactics for maintaining profits. For three years between mid-1964 the big copper companies were running at between 80 and 85 percent of capacity to keep up prices. Steel production, too, was held back to something like 80 percent of capacity.  (Chapter 4, page 62)
In countries where nationalists fight to gain control of these resources, secession is first advocated and then war is instituted. One only needs to look at the Congo DR, a country currently managed by mining corporations, to understand how this strategy works. Where investments are made, the enormous capital flight these corporations and countries embark upon leave the producing-country crippled.
Direct private American investment in Africa increased between 1945 and 1958 from $110m. to $789m., most of it drawn from profits. Of the increase of $679m. actual new money invested during the period was only $149m., United States profits from these investments, including reinvestment of surpluses, being estimated at $704 m. As a result African countries sustained losses of $555 m. (Chapter 4, page 62)
In Chapter 5, Nkrumah showed us 'The truth behind the headlines'. This chapter is dedicated to unravelling the goings-on behind news headlines. According to Nkrumah to 'really understand what goes on in the world today, it is necessary to understand the economic influences and pressures that stand behind the political events. So that an innocuous headline such as 'Morgan Grenfell participates in new French bank (Financial Times, London, 18 December 1962) has more to say than the headline.
Morgan Grenfell & Co. acts effectively as the London end of the important American banking house J.P. Morgan & Co. which, in 1956, already owned one-third of the British company. It should not, therefore, surprise us to learn that the new 'continental' bank in which Morgan Grenfell is participating is called Morgan et Cie; more especially, since 70 percent of the capital of 10 million new francs is held by Morgan Guaranty International Finance Corporation, and 15 per cent by Morgan Grenfell. What about the remaining 15 per cent? This is divided between two Dutch banks - Hope & Co. of Amsterdam and R. Mees & Zoonen of Rotterdam - with both of which the Morgan group has had close association over many years. This association has been drawn even closer by the acquisition in March 1963 of a 14 per cent in both of them by the Morgan Guaranty International Banking Corporation, a subsidiary of Morgan Guaranty Trust. (Chapter 5, page 70)
Using different methods and strategies we are made to accept that we are incapable of doing anything for ourselves. From the Hollywood movies the covert operations of their cultural attaches/ambassadors, peace corps, information services that publishes their own bulletins, the war against united Africa and against development is fought. Not long ago, the Chinese (and even Japanese) were looked upon as we are now; fastforward to today and China and America have mutual respect for one another. It is such examples that we can point at that shows that, at least, hope exist and that is what this book seek to provide: hope.

After reading the introduction of this 283-page book, France's intervention in Cote d'Ivoire - a country it has vested interest in in terms of its resources and financial capital - and US cum NATO assault on Libya would be clearer. Readers would no longer perceive these two events as interventionists but rather a calculated attempt to keep Africa 'apart' and its resources to them. For what would the newly-supported and installed government do when businessmen from these countries troop in to ask for mining and drilling concessions? Most at times, because the powerful families and corporations behind these wars also control the media, we are presented with falsities, half-truths, staged-news and complete lies about what goes on in these countries. Obama's call for military intervention to 'protect civilians' in Libya is a veil for his real intention. However, if we use blanket names such as America, France, Britain etc. we refuse to see the bigger picture. For behind these countries are multinational corporations, the empire of a few individuals, fighting to increase their control of the world's resources. So that the problem is not unique to only Africa but to other countries as well, even in Europe. These corporations, through lobbying, election funding, control over institutions, have infiltrated governments, placed their 'men' (bootlickers) in strategic positions and so are able to influence policies.

Note that Kwame Nkrumah, in this book, did not speak against foreign investment. What it is against is exploitation and the overarching objective of these investors to make super-normal profits while impoverishing the countries in whose land the resources are.
While foreign private investment must be encouraged, it must be carefully regulated so that it is directed to important growth sectors without leaving control of such sectors in foreign hands.
Nkrumah propounds African unity as the solution. A united African would have the economy, the resources and trading amongst itself would become a force to reckon with. China's importances stems partly from the size of its economy. But it is this unity that is being fought from all sides with all manner of weapons to the extent that we have, today, African leaders who prefer to live in countries whose GDP is ten times less than a corporation working in their boundaries. Others who just want to be 'presidents'. Similarly, the Angolophone-Francophone colonialist blocks has done little to aid unity. In fact, every attempt at uniting is hampered by these blocks using baits such as aid (which only serves as a revolving credit, taking ten times more from the 'aided' country than was given), debt-cancellations, and the like. But then again, the book proffers hope and rightly so for this is their last gasp for breath.

This is a book that everyone must read. Especially so if you are an African. It aims to give facts and figures rather than dazzle you with exquisite prose; yet every topic has been painstakingly explored to its logical roots. This should be a required-reading for every African leader (Presidents, Head-of-States, Military/Rebel Leaders, Juntas etc.) and also for anyone who wants to enter into governance. Like I earlier said, this review could not do justice to the volume of information in the book's pages. Thus, it would be better for one to read the book for himself/herself to really grasp what Kwame Nkrumah is talking about. What makes this book worth the read is that the very same 'demons' unveiled as hampering Africa's development are the same problems we are grappling with. Some derided his method of solving it, yet they have come up with no better solution. Recent events on the continent and in the world at large is enough to show that nothing has changed. If anything at all, the wheels have been oiled and the spinning is faster. Would the recently-discovered oil lead to development? 

To end this incomplete review, remember that:
The change in the economic relationship between the new sovereign states and the erstwhile masters is only one of form. Colonialism has achieved a new guise. It has become neo-colonialism, the last stage of imperialism; its final bid for existence, as monopoly-capitalism or imperialism is the last stage of capitalism. And neo-colonialism is fast entrenching itself within the body of Africa today through the consortia and monopoly combinations that are the carpet-baggers of the African revolt against colonialism and the urge for continental unity.
And in order to halt this foreign interference in our affairs
... it is necessary to study, understand, expose and actively combat neo-colonialism in whatever guise it may appear. For the methods of neo-colonialism are subtle and varied. They operate not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres.
Before you become complacent of this, ask yourself what would happen to us if we should run out of these natural resources? Or if substitutes are found as they are being considered for diamond, rubber, crude oil and others? Development is now.
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Brief Bio: Kwame Nkrumah (21 September 1909 - 27 April 1972) was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966. Overseeing the nation's independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unityand was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. (Read more here)

ImageNations Rating: 6.0/6.0
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Quotes for Friday from Kwame Nkrumah's Neo-Colonialism the Last Stage of Imperialism (I)
Quotes for Friday from Kwame Nkrumah's Neo-Colonialism the Last Stage of Imperialism (II)

5 comments:

  1. What an amazing man Kwame Nkrumah was! Great review, Nana. I would be getting the book. I remember studying Nkrumah in African history at school and later in African literature references at University. Every African must get this book, read it and weep! Nothing has changed since the book was written. If anything the well oiled wheels (of neo-colonialism) are spinning faster like you said. And that is very sad indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks AO. I am happy you agree every African must read this book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, sounds really fantastic! I want to read this book and hope I can find a copy of it somewhere! Thanks for the really great review. So hard to review some of these books isn't it, because they just have so much that is fantastic in them to share!

    So, do you think you will read more nonfiction now? :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Amy, yes this is an important book for me and many other individuals.

    Yes, I'll be reading at least one non-fiction every month.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I need to get this book. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete

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