The fight against the coronavirus in Africa is a fight against imperialism. The ravages of centuries of imperialist domination has left the entire African continent vulnerable to even more suffering.
With the world economic crisis of 1974 and the later fall in commodity prices, many countries saw their economies shrink and their debts increase. The policies represented by figures such as Margret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA, resulted in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank moving in and imposing their ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ on these countries. These economic policies, far from benefiting the mass of people, were just another way of further liberalising the markets for the interests of multinational corporations.
In the past four decades, the so-called structural adjustment programmes of these institutions have set very narrow limits for public spending in these countries, leaving little funds for such ‘luxuries’ as healthcare. In return for loans, these countries in dire straits have been forced to carry out extreme austerity measures and wholescale privatisation of whatever public welfare there was. These ‘conditionalities’, as they are called, have also placed these countries in a debt trap which they will never escape as long as capitalism remains.
The IMF and World Bank programmes often imposed conditions that specify ceilings on the public sector wages, which forced government cuts to wages and workers in the healthcare sector. But the reduced wages and lack of job security often drove health workers to move elsewhere, producing a ‘brain drain’. These measures had a negative effect on the healthcare workforce, altering the quality and quantity of healthcare staff. In 2007, the IMF changed their wage bill ceiling policy in recognition of its adverse effects and have argued this issue no longer stands. Nevertheless, wage bill ceilings remain a persistent feature of recent programmes.
The IMF also endorsed so-called state retrenchment in the provision of healthcare, which is another way of saying that the state was forced to abandon these and other service sectors and leave them in the hands of western-controlled entities. In many cases, healthcare services are often administered by Western NGOs and international ‘aid’ organisations with African governments hardly playing any role. But what is often described as ‘aid’ to Africa is in fact part-and-parcel of the cycle of dependency on imperialism. These Structural Adjustment Programmes have been implemented as part of aid conditionality in Africa and Latin America since the 1980s.
The Fight Against Coronavirus is A Fight Against Imperialism
The crushing domination of imperialism means increased exploitation of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, making things such as pandemics, war, climate catastrophes, locust outbreaks and famine inevitable. Astronomical amounts of wealth are transferred from these countries to the imperialist countries. The domination of imperialism is now even greater than in the past. The old direct military-bureaucratic rule by individual colonial masters has been replaced by the domination by a handful of imperialist states through the world market.
The only way out of this barbaric nightmare for the 1.2 billion people in Africa is to struggle against imperialism. But the struggle against imperialism is the same as the struggle against capitalism as a whole. In Africa and elsewhere in the ex-colonial world, we see the true face of the system. It must be overthrown in a socialist revolution. This task falls on the shoulders of the working class, in particular those of South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. The special role of the workers in the collective production process means that the working class alone is capable of developing a socialist consciousness. The weak and degenerate bourgeoisie in Africa is too dependent on foreign capital and imperialism to carry society forward. It is tied head and foot, not only to foreign capital, but with the class of landowners, with which it forms a reactionary bloc that represents a bulwark against progress.
It is entirely possible for the proletariat to be victorious in an African country and, by starting with the bourgeois-democratic tasks of the revolution, immediately go over to the socialist tasks. But, in the end, the necessary condition for holding onto power is to extend the revolution to the advanced capitalist countries. The current crisis of capitalism is creating favourable conditions for the extension of the revolution throughout the whole world. Ultimately, the final victory against imperialism can only come about with the overthrow of capitalism in the imperialist countries.