AFRICANGLOBE – – AS a result of the protracted and arduous struggle of the people of Asia and Africa, scores of countries on the two continents have become independent in the 20 years since the end of World War II. The fact that so many in so short a time gained political independence—though in different degrees in different countries—is an indication of the momentous force of the postwar, particularly post-Bandung, national-liberation movement. This victory of the people’s revolution has markedly undermined the imperialist colonial system and laid the groundwork for the development of independent national economies in Asia and Africa. This is an event of historic significance.
The national-liberation movement has now entered a new stage in Asia and Africa. The people’s political consciousness has risen to new heights and revolutionary movements are surging forward as never before so that today the demand for complete elimination of imperialist domination and influence (including that exercised through local placemen) and realization of full independence, both political and economic, has become the ardent aspiration of the people of Asia and Africa. At such a time, it is all the more necessary to analyse the interrelation between political and economic independence. The present article is an attempt to do this.
The basic question in any revolution—and the national revolution is no exception—is one of state power. The primary task of all oppressed peoples and nations who seek liberation, therefore, is to overthrow imperialist colonial rule and to strive for political independence, However, it is far from sufficient merely to win political independence, which is only “the first step in a Long March.” After winning political independence, the Asian and African countries need to make full use of their political power to go on to win economic independence. Only thus will they be able to thoroughly rid themselves of imperialist control and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation and approach full independence. If, on the other hand, the Asian and African countries after their independence do not continue to carry forward the national-democratic revolution, do not take effective revolutionary measures and actively strive for economic independence, then they will not be able to win final, secure and full independence, and the danger exists that they will lose their hard-won political independence.
The political independence won by many Asian and African countries is far from secure and has to be consolidated. In the new conditions of the postwar period, the imperialist countries headed by the United States have adopted neo-colonialist tactics and are trying to maintain their colonial rule through hand-picked and specially trained agents. By forming military blocs, establishing military bases, setting up “federations” and “communities,” making use of “aid” and carrying out aggression and intervention under the aegis of the United Nations, these imperialist countries have sought to keep, and in some cases have succeeded in keeping, a number of newly independent countries under their control. Thus, while these Asian and African countries are allowed to have formal political independence, they are in fact still dependent on the imperialist countries economically or even politically.
Apropos this situation, Lenin’s warning more than 40 years ago is still relevant. In his Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions written in 1920, Lenin pointed to the need “constantly to explain and expose among the broadest masses of the toilers of all countries, and particularly of the backward countries, the deception systematically practiced by the imperialist powers in creating, under the guise of politically independent states, states which are wholly dependent upon them economically, financially and militarily….” Today, when neocolonialism—a type of colonialism far more vicious, cunning and ferocious than old colonialism—is seriously threatening the newly won political independence of the Asian and African countries, this warning has a special practical significance.
It is true that since winning political independence many Asian and African countries have made great efforts to develop their national economies and scored many successes in this respect. However, in a number of countries, their economic lifelines and economic sovereignty are still in the hands of foreign monopoly capital. In some countries, the situation is aptly described by the saying: “While the wolf has been driven out through the front door, the tiger has sneaked in at the back.” In many Asian and African countries, the imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists still retain, in varying forms and to varying extent, various economic privileges (e.g., the right to lease land, guarantees for the security of their investments and tax reduction or exemption for their enterprises, and the right to survey and extract mineral resources), and, by means of “aid,” impose on the recipient countries many unequal treaties which directly encroach upon their sovereign rights.
Even today, the monopoly capitalists of the imperialist countries still control a great many of the mineral resources and extracting industries of the Asian and African countries, as well as the production of a substantial share of their agricultural exports. The foreign monopolies have also grabbed vast expanses of Asian and African land. The big oil companies of the imperialist countries have leased some 729 million hectares of oil-bearing land from the Asian and African countries—an area which is about 72 per event of the combined home territory of the United States, Britain and France. Also under foreign monopoly control in some Asian and African countries are the main branches of industry, key branches of communications and transport, postal services, banking, the issuing of currency, customs, foreign trade and even internal wholesale or retail trade. Using their monopolistic positions in these fields, the imperialist countries have not hesitated to apply overt and covert pressure to force these Asian and African countries to comply with their will. This includes intervention, control and subversion to achieve their political ends. In these circumstances, how can these countries keep intact and consolidate their political independence?
The Asian and African countries’ economic backwardness and poverty are a legacy of prolonged imperialist colonial rule. An overwhelming number of these countries still retain a mono-crop economy or a lopsided economy which is distinguished by an over-development of the extracting industries. After World War II, this abnormal state has become still more aggravated in a number of countries because of intensified activities by old and new colonialists. In these countries, the output—in terms of money—of a few agricultural products and/or minerals often accounts for some 60 to 70 per cent of the total national output and 50 to over 90 per cent of all exports. Also, as many as 50 to 80 per cent of the labouring population in these countries are engaged in producing primary products. What is more, about three-fourths of the mono-products exported by these countries depend on some individual imperialist country as the buyer. At the same time these countries rely on the imperialist countries to supply them with most of the industrial goods needed for economic construction and to sustain the people’s livelihood. Still worse, they have to rely on the imperialist countries, primarily the United States, for such a vital commodity as food grain, which is a prime necessity for the people. Statistics reveal that in recent years Asian and African countries have been importing some 20 million tons of food grain annually.