Written: March 1959
Source: Socialist Fight, Vol. 2 No. 3, March 1959
Africa is on the march. In one country after another the African peoples are beginning to revolt against the chains imposed on them for generations by the imperialists of Britain, France and Belgium. The Belgian Congo, the Congo Republic and now in Nyasaland the people of the Central African Federation have moved into action in riots and demonstrations. The Central African Federation is dominated by the white settlers, especially those of Southern Rhodesia. They live on exceptionally high standards, while the mass of the black people live in slums and shantytowns and earn barely enough to keep alive.
The whites are aiming to achieve Dominion status by 1960, for the Federation, so that they will be able to pursue their repression and exploitation of the Native population without any hampering trammels of public opinion in Britain.
Now troops have been sent from Salisbury to break a strike of the 6,000 workers on the Kariba dam in Northern Rhodesia. They earned 4d. an hour plus rations and accommodation. The workers were demanding 1s. an hour but were only promised an increase of 2d. The troops have broken the strike and 200 of the “ringleaders” have been victimised.
In Nyasaland the Africans are demanding an end of the Federation, which ties them as a reserve of cheap labour to the white supremacists of Southern Rhodesia. Instead they want independence for Nyasaland. The African National Congress of Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia has been leading the struggle of the African peoples for equality and freedom.
Now in Nyasaland the struggle has erupted into violence. Troops white and black from Southern Rhodesia have been flown into Nyasaland to restore “order.” White territorials have been called up in readiness to take action. The troops fired on demonstrating Africans, killed two and injured one at Lilongwe on February 24th. Meanwhile in the Northern province of Nyasaland, the Africans, under the leadership of the Congress, have driven out the police and security forces. They have captured the airfield at Fort Hill, and by placing barrels and other obstructions on the landing field, made it impossible to land troops.
This was just the opportunity that the settler controlled government of Southern Rhodesia has been waiting for to “teach the Africans a lesson.” They have declared a state of emergency, which amounts virtually to a state of martial law. Five hundred leading members of the Southern Rhodesian African Congress have been arrested simultaneously while in their beds like Hitler rounding up his opponents.
Sir Edgar Whitehead, the Prime Minister of the Federation, has openly indicated that these steps have been planned as long ago as December. The Government of Southern Rhodesia is planning to introduce legislation to make it possible to detain people longer than the 30 days allowed under the Emergency Regulations.
The whites in Southern Rhodesia have been purchasing arms, alarmed at the feeling among the Africans. Thus the hypocritical talk about “Co-partnership” of the races is revealed as the partnership of the horse and its rider. The real power politically and economically remains in the hands of the white capitalists.
The Central African Federation, if the settlers have their way, will be a Dominion practicing the evils of white domination while pretending to stand for African advancement. Nyasaland has a Population of 2,700,000 Africans and only 7,000 Europeans. The African majority must have the right to move out of the Federation which restricts their rights. At the same time British workers should demand that full adult suffrage should be introduced into Northern and Southern Rhodesia without restrictions on the rights of the black majority.
The Labour Movement has a responsibility for what is happening in the Central African Federation. The membership must demand that the Movement stand for the principles to which it is committed. They must fight for the unconditional right of self-determination for the peoples of Africa including the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. The Tories in Parliament have refused to give a pledge rejecting Dominion Status—for the benefit of the Europeans in 1960. The Labour Movement must redouble their struggle against this barter in human flesh. The dominant settlers have connections with the ruling clique in Britain, and with “high society.” All the more must the British workers offer the hand of friendship to the African peoples who are fighting the same enemy.
No matter what the immediate result of this outburst in Nyasaland, settler rule and imperialist domination in the Central African Federation as in the rest of Africa are doomed. The awakening of the African peoples following that of the Asian peoples in the long run will prove irresistible.