|The Crisis in African Agriculture - Studies in African Political Economy (UNU, 1987, 99 pages)|
|7: The alternative and its prerequisites|
In the previous chapters we attempted to demonstrate, first through figures, what is today beyond any doubt: that African agriculture is in the midst of a serious crisis. We have demonstrated that the origins of this crisis go back to the earliest contacts between European capitalist economies and African precolonial, precapitalist economies. We recalled that the colonial period led to a disintegration of peasant economies, and stressed the fact that the first post-independence decade, through the policy of increased extraversion conducted by the newly independent states, precipitated the crisis by systematically orienting the national economies to the world market. We observed that the solutions to the crisis put forward during the second post-independence decade were useless and illusory. Finally, we tried to show that, throughout this period of domination which took various forms depending on the period, the peasantry, the basic productive force, bore most of the burden; and that it suffered and continues to suffer the exploitation of capital in various forms of subordination.
It is by looking at these facts that we can reflect on the possible alternative and the conditions for this alternative. It is obvious that solutions cannot be sought only at the level of the rural areas, non even only at the economic level. The crisis which we are living through is a political, economic and social crisis which calls into question the whole of the existing structures in African states, and the types of relations linking them to the world capitalist system.
By posing the problems thus, we are bound to place ourselves in the context of the class struggle at the national and international level which determines the policies thus followed. And without being thoroughly acquainted with the interests that bind these classes together or the struggles that their opposition arouses, it is impossible to pose correctly the problems of the alternative. These call for a clear view of the attitude of each class to the crisis which does not in reality affect everyone equally. Thus, in order to reflect lucidly and objectively about the alternative, it is essential to pose a number of problems, the terms of which situate the crisis and alone make it possible to envisage possible solutions.
In order to grasp these crucial problems, which necessarily bring into play class interests in contemporary African societies, it is necessary first of all to be able to appreciate the class composition of these societies. Without being fully informed of the social processes at work, one cannot know why this or that policy is carried out and persisted in, despite these negative consequences.
This, therefore, implies having a reasonably clear idea of the class nature of the existing political rulers who have a vested interest in the harmful policies hitherto pursued. Next, it is necessary to think about the popular class alliances that might lay claim to political power and carry out a different development policy. Finally, it is necessary to look at what other development policy the popular alliance could carry out. This can only be sketched out, given the great variety of situations in African states, the variety being linked to a whole series of economic, ethnological, sociological and other problems.
Hitherto, so far as we are aware, there has rarely been an analysis of the alternative in these terms, and that is so not because the need for such an analysis is not felt, but because its extension to Africa beyond the framework of a single country, given the numerous differentiating factors mentioned, makes it difficult to carry out. It is important to undertake such a study, however, even though it may suffer from inadequacies or weaknesses.