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Year 2001 Number 14, January 25, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

The British Government’s "Future for Africa"

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

The British Government’s "Future for Africa"

Workers Fight for the Lifeblood of the Black Country

Vigil Protest over Hospital Cuts

Solidarity with Turkish Political Prisoners

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The British Government’s "Future for Africa"

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced that Peter Hain, the government’s "Minister for Africa", will visit Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, three important countries in West Africa next week. On the eve of his West African trip Peter Hain developed a key note speech entitled "A Future for Africa" for the "Michael Scott Lecture" at the Africa Educational Trust last Tuesday.

Hain’s speech was full of what he attempted to present as humanitarian concern over what he referred to as "the plight of our African bothers and sisters". But his speech and imminent visit to West Africa are further evidence that it is the continued interference and meddling of Britain and the other big powers in the African continent that keep it impoverished and in a state of instability and conflict

Africa is now poorer now than it was 30 years ago with 40% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa existing on less than $1 a day. Average output per head of population is also lower now than 30 years ago, while Africa’s share of world trade has declined sharply. In all other social indices Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world. It is estimated that over 530 million people in the continent have no access to electricity for example.

This impoverishment is not just the legacy of Africa’s colonial past, in which Britain played a key role, nor can it simply be laid at the door of the African people and their governments. Peter Hain begins his argument by saying that in the 20th century the future looked bright for Africa, in that it had finally broken free from the shackles of colonialism and the divisive politics of the Cold War. He then takes to task those commentators who would write off Africa as "the hopeless continent", calling them the Afro-pessimists. This argument is shot through with chauvinism. Instead of writing off Africa and the African peoples as hopeless, it is the duty of all altruistic forces to assist and enter into partnership with the governments of Africa. This is how the argument goes. Then what is this assistance and partnership? It is integration in the global economy with international investment and capital; and it is also participating in the shared image of democracy that according to the Foreign Office is universal.

International relations should be based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit. But Britain has its own vision, of its own modern international role, which it is working to impose on the African countries and peoples. The African peoples did heroically break free from the shackles of colonialism with their own efforts in the 20th century. But the imperialist powers could not let the untold material and human resources of the African continent slip away from them. The current domination of the continent by the imperialist powers has meant disaster and misery for literally hundreds of millions of people.

It is in these circumstances that Peter Hain is demanding that Africa that should be more fully incorporated in the global economy and increased "international investment" be poured in to the continent to secure Africa’s future. To Peter Hain and the British government Africa is a vast market of 700 million people, an "area of potential" and an "essential provider of raw materials". The British government aims to capture these African markets and raw materials on behalf of the British monopolies and is engaged in a new "scramble for Africa" with all the other big powers. Through its policy of "backing success", "partnership with Africans", encouraging economic, political and governance reforms, "humanitarian concern", "supporting peacekeeping" and so on, it aims to continue its military, economic and political interference and intervention in the African continent. This is the future it envisages for Africa. Indeed according to the British government it is leading "the way for the developed world" in forging a "new partnership for Africa".

Peter Hain’s speech and his proposed visit to West Africa must therefore be seen in the context of the intense rivalry between the big powers, in Africa and their attempts to jockey for position and influence in key regions and states. At the same time it is clear that the African peoples and states as well as progressive people throughout the world are taking action to oppose the continued imperialist domination of the African continent. The British government is also trying to position itself to take account of this situation in the world. It is by no means insignificant that Peter Hain emphasises that there are "powerful self-interest reasons for action" if the African continent is "left behind as the rest of the world moves ahead with globalisation". The African people themselves are affirming their right not to be marginalised in the world, and Peter Hain’s "motive" in counting the "human cost" in Africa is to subvert this movement, and provide "humanitarian" justifications for intervention.

WDIE vigorously opposes the growing inter-imperialist rivalry on the African continent, and demands that the British government end its criminal interference in the affairs of the African peoples and governments. Working and progressive people in Britain must reject the updated version of the theory of the "white man’s burden" that Peter Hain is utilising to justify the attempt to mould Africa to the needs of international finance capital. It is necessary to settle scores with this notion once and for all in whatever form it presents itself and eradicate all traces of chauvinism from the workers’ and progressive movements.

Article Index



Workers Fight for the Lifeblood of the Black Country

The struggle of Chubb workers has immediately become a focus for the fight of workers throughout the Black Country. Their struggle against the closure of the historic Chubb Safes by the Swedish firm Gunnebo has become part of a general struggle against the demise of manufacturing throughout the Black Country and indeed the wider West Midlands.

Goodyear has already lost 215 jobs and Wolverhampton's Goodyear plant is under threat of total closure.

Tuesday saw the announcement of job losses at four Black Country businesses. Workers at Ductile Steel Processors in Willenhall, Newman Phoenix Drawn Tube at West Bromwich, and Newman Monmore Tube Products in Oldbury are all faced with redundancy.

Another Swedish owned firm in Walsall, Stirling Tubes, is planning to move its firm to Sweden with a loss of 139 jobs.

Kidderminster Sugar Beet is due to close next February. The Stourport Road plant of the landmark British Sugar factory has dominated the skyline for 25 years. It is the smallest of the nine British Sugar factories with 55 full-time and an equal number of part-time staff. One reason given for the closure is the consequence of exported capital, and the EC have directed that unrestricted imports of cheap sugar must be allowed. The entire sugar industry in Britain will be affected. Already the plant in Ipswich is closing soon and sugar beet processing at Bardney in Lincolnshire will cease except for liquid sugar.

The average worker at the Kidderminster plant is aged in his mid-forties. The plan is to bring in early retirement for the older workers and offer jobs to workers around the country.

Many workers in small industries around the Black Country are realising that the movement of capital abroad in order to maximise profits is a big problem. The giant conglomerates are responsible for the large-scale trend of disregarding the national economy by their arbitrary actions. Workers from industries, big and small, are making ties with each other to make their feelings known. They are uniting across the board from Chubb to Rover to Vauxhall as a class, which can only mean that they can come to the head of the nation and lead the change of direction required in the economy based on their own political programme.

Article Index



Vigil Protest over Hospital Cuts

Campaigners held a candlelit vigil on Tuesday evening to protest against the removal of a hospital's emergency and maternity services. The protest was held outside Crawley Hospital in West Sussex, on the eve of the maternity services' move to East Surrey Hospital, 10 miles away in Redhill. Accident and emergency and paediatric in-patient services will also be lost. The A&E department will be downgraded to a minor injuries unit and the hospital will lose about 280 beds.

Meanwhile, an investigation into the closure in 1997 of Edgware Hospital Accident and Emergency has revealed it saved £9 million less than originally estimated. A report by David Davis, chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, concluded that savings of £2.7 million were made, not the £11.7 million predicted.

Chris Bird, chairman of the Crawley Hospital Campaign, said: "What's being planned is the second-best option, because the funding is not there to build a new hospital. For people in Crawley, it will mean a journey of 10 miles to Redhill and for people in the Horsham area the distance is more like 20 miles.

"Accident and emergency at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath is also under threat and is undergoing a similar review process. If that goes, there will be no A&E between Brighton and Redhill - which is about 30 or 40 miles of motor-way." Nearly 3,000 people have signed letters of protest about the downgrading at Crawley.

A hospital spokeswoman said transferring maternity services to East Surrey Hospital was "the safest way to deliver a better quality of care to expectant mothers".

Article Index



Solidarity with Turkish Political Prisoners

Öztudak, the Freedom Prisoners' Solidarity Committee, is organising a demonstration on Saturday, January 27. The demonstration starts from Temple tube in London at 1.30 p.m.

On Tuesday, January 30, there will be a public meeting at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, beginning at 7.30 p.m. The speakers include: Harold Pinter, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John Foster, Helen Bamber, Detudak, Kazim Bayraktar, and Chris Bambery.

For further details contact Öztudak at 2a Belgrade Road, London N16 8DJ, tel: 020 7923 7847, or e-mail: oztudak@postmaster.co.uk

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