Failure of African intellectuals: Part 1 – Unravelling Marx

karl marx

Contemporary African intellectuals are playing a large role in the underdevelopment of Africa. Put more clearly, the failure of contemporary African intellectuals  has played a major role in the underdevelopment of contemporary Africa.

In the pre-Independnece period, there were many African intellectuals whose instinct was to be entirely sceptical about any aspects of the Western narrative. This scepticism can be seen in how Eric Williams made the effort to look at the pattern of the British slave trade, how CLR James rewrote the history of Haitian revolt, and how Cheikh Anta Diop attacked the received history of ancient Egypt/Nubia. A subsequent generation was neutered by means of the incidental effects of structural adjustment in Africa on one side and the co-option of Black Academy in the US on the other. Black intellectuals in the US were bought by the offer of entry into academia. While portraying themselves as ‘protesters’ and the children of MLK, they in fact bent both knees before the academic establishment.  An embarrassment is the sight of Cornel West grovelling before Harvard Philosphy dept on Youtube when he expected to be granted tenure by them, in fact giving them a complete absolution from racism until they rejected him. In fact Harvard philosophy dept curriculum is full of racist philosophy.

Both in Africa and Black America contemporary academics pander to the taste of the establishment in pursuit of acceptance. This has been disastrous for both Africa and Black America. Exactly how this came to be will be explained in a short series.

Unravelling Marx

Many African scholars treat Marxist texts as if they were naughty books in the hands of pre-teens. This body of the economy thus revealed was treated as accurate  and unchallengeable. This attitude is deplorable.

Let us revisit the emergence of Western imperialism which generated a model of the economy that is concealed and later is calle capitalism when part of the system remains concealed.

On the arrival of Columbus and friends in the Americas and the depletion of South American population and gold, a new cycle merged. A previously poor country with assets A could, with military superiority, invade country B and exterminate the local population. This had been European experience in Crete and particularly with the Canary Islands, where the local population was exterminated under plantation production. Previously this would be considered foolish as taxation of the local population was the source of wealth. But in this cycle, the wealth is used to fund warfare to bring another population to the plantations. Now this new population set to producing goods would produce more wealth which could be divided between consumption and further investment in warfare to acquire more population and more lands. 

Up until this time, warfare was restricted by the costs. But for Europeans, they could fund invasions with the super profits acquired by previous conquests. The soldiers used would be local soldiers attracted by the high pay. This put the defenders in an unviable situation. Europeans could incur costs apparently indefinitely and refresh their treasury while the defender lost wealth as the war proceeded. Western historians can be bought to tell a story that focuses on the ‘conquering personality’ of Europeans. This was of course, a misdirection. The role of brutality is also not generally explained. The aim was to take over entire continents and if the population could be depleted, then it would be simple to take over what remained. The opium wars were not just about profit but also about wasting the population of China such that it would become available for complete conquest and subsequent elimination.

It could be argued that greater profits could be made from treating the slaves better in the New World,  but that would miss the point. Denuding the population was a major motivation. As Kant put it, white people needed to wipe out all other races.

In Marx’s concept of capitalism, it emerges entirely within European history. This is Marx following Hegel’s racist view of history that nothing useful ever came from outside Europe. But if genocide and funding wars were essential parts of this new system, the entirely internal story would conceal much. This new system not only needed enslaved labour, it could not function without militarily imposed prices. The standard story of capitalism assumes free markets in labour when patently this was not the case. The fear of other Europeans was that  the Spanish might use their new wealth to engage in endless wars of conquest in Europe and this led to a competition to acquire other lands of conquest. Competition among Europan powers led to competition over the technology of war. If Nazi Germany had conquered Russia its wealth and resources would have made it unassailable and its conquest of Britain would be a minor exercise. A question never asked is whether European ‘capitalism’ could survive at free market prices.

This model of genocidal capitalism requires a constant search for new lands to conquer. Under standard Marxism, this is capitalism’s search for new markets. This makes no sense. A search for new markets does not require genocidal killing of new populations. This model would typically involve enslaving one population, say spice islands, and selling the produce to other Europeans. The market would be  Europe and this would engender an understanding that genocide against each other should not be tolerated as it would lead to an end of the market. In Nazi eyes, genocide against Slavs was entirely acceptable.  But the consequence of a Nazi victory would be its ability to enslave all other Europeans. A war among Europeans destroys the market, which is only resuscitated by US funding. Post WW2, France and Britain seek to re-establish themselves in colonial operations. However, were Europe to do this, it could become independent of the US, so the US brought that escapade at Suez to an end. Eventually, a modus operandi was arrived at where Europe became a US proxy with apparent independence and an allowance from the master.

Even in the time of Adam Smith, there were attempts to ‘abstract’ from the actual conditions of production of wealth. Adam Smith cites in chapter 1 of ‘Wealth of Nations‘ that the meanest European labourer is better attired than the wealthiest African king due to the division of labour. Originally Adam Smith had written ‘Indian prince’ but later changed it to ‘African king’. This argument was clearly nonsensical as there was no basis for suggesting there was no division of labour either in India or Africa. This is largely overlooked in economics courses because it would reveal the non-abstract aspects of Adam Smith theory.

A proper understanding of ‘genocidal capitalism’ would reveal that state competition was always critical, and state funding always central to the development of genocidal capitalism. So-called free market capitalism of individuals only existed in the imagination of Western academics.

The role of the US government in reining in the largest multinational corporations and forcing divestments from Russia (which did not happen with Nazi Germany), the inability of German corporations to prevent the closing of their gas supplies,  reveals the utter lie of the dominance of corporations. Any corporate capture of a state does not deny the dominance of the state but in fact, reinforces it. If corporates can capture a state, they can also lose it.

Western slave systems were notorious for not accounting for the costs of land and labour and endlessly depleting land, inevitably seeking more ‘undepleted’ land. One could say that progressive aspects of capitalism allowed labour to reproduce itself, whereas Western slave systems tended to wipe out the labour source, often deliberately.

This reimaging of genocidal capitalism put genocide up front on the birth of the system and also explains how it must fail as the future potential gains of winning an inter-European conflict become so great that it will fund a continuation of conflict beyond the present bankruptcy of the competing parties.

By abstracting from the real world, Western economics misdescribed genocidal capitalism as a formal system that could in theory, be applied everywhere. Once conceived of as genocidal capitalism, any claim to be universal withers away.

Contemporary African intellectuals failed to reexamine any basic concepts of western thought.

3 April 23