|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.
This stratification itself is the product of the impact of capitalism on precolonial and colonial traditional societies. The most striking impact has been, if not to engender, then at least to exacerbate, the exploitation of man by man within African societies. Thus, at the time of independence, a fraction of the society occupied economically dominant positions, made up for the most part of those who had thrown in their lot with the colonial power. It got a share of the surplus labour extorted from the toiling masses and its political ambitions were strengthened. This fraction included essentially bourgeois strata, bureaucratic strata, and 'feudal' forces, which were usually agrarian and religious.
The bourgeois strata included essentially big traders acting as middlemen between big capital and the masses, and big planters in varying numbers depending on the geographical zone. The African industrial bourgeoisie was still practically non-existent (except for Egypt and South Africa?). The bureaucratic strata included the former African representatives in French metropolitan institutions (Assembly, Senate and even government), officials in the colonial administration and army, and paramilitary forces' personnel. The 'feudal' forces included essentially the religious forces that were sometimes very powerful in the rural areas, both economically and politically.
Alliances of interests generally brought these strata together; they dominated the political sphere at the time of independence even though latent contradictions existed, notably between the petty bourgeoisie of officials without an economic base and the bourgeois strata already possessed of solid bases.
At the other end of society, there was the other fraction which included the mass of small peasants, the small minority of the working class (except in a few rare countries which have marked peculiar features where it was already numerically important: Egypt, South Africa, but their independence does not date from the 1960s). Alongside these two groups of classes, there was the stratum of low-level employees, artisans, etc., the great majority of whom had no well-defined stable job.
The first fraction, dominant on the eve of independence, was often successful in securing the political support of the second to negotiate independence to its advantage. But this was not always without violent conflict.
In fact, there were sometimes sharp struggles within the first fraction despite alliances, which were sometimes only temporary, to determine which stratum would inherit from the colonial power. And these struggles were reflected at the level of the masses with the same intensity, more through manipulation than through class interest.
Thus, in many countries the petty bourgeoisie of officials which was to constitute the backbone of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie confronted bourgeois strata that had an economic base and were more closely linked to the colonial power.
Where this petty bourgeoisie succeeded in taking power it was in general to install a state-run economic system, the means of providing itself with its own economic base. Conversely, the trading bourgeoisies and their class allies generally pursued the same policy inherited from the colonial period, a liberal system which made no attempt to deck itself in an appearance of socialism.
The petty bourgeoisie, especially when it succeeded in mobilizing alongside it the broad masses on a radical platform, generally tried to secure a base for its regime, by, among other things, taking external trade away from the traders, nationalizing the economic interests of big capital, taking a whole series of measures which enabled it to claim to be socialist.
But historical experience has proved that, after a few years of management which amounted virtually to a private management of public property, it was transformed into a true bureaucratic bourgeoisie whose economic base was built up from control of the state and public property.
Like every bourgeoisie in an underdeveloped country faced with the omnipotence of big capital, it is condemned, in order to consolidate itself, to strengthen these links with the world market. Thus, the bureaucratic bourgeoisie always ends up entering the order of the world capitalist system just like any other bourgeoisie. Big capital is all the more ready to make a few concessions to it on statizations because it knows that it can always extract enormous profits from the countries controlled by the bureaucracies, and acquire economic positions out of all proportion to the slight concessions made.
Thus, in the long run, the bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the other commercial or agrarian bourgeoisies always end up looking for a deal, their interests coinciding in the alliance with big capital.
We feel that what has just been described can be said of all African bourgeoisies, and of their composition and sometimes of the way in which they came to be formed. Today they control most African states and manage them in accordance with their common interests.
The increasingly common interventions by the military on the political stage can only be interpreted as arbitrating within the bourgeois classes, or between the bourgeois classes and the radical intellectual petty bourgeoisie. These armies can neither have nor offer new solutions. Their political orientations cannot but be inspired by the lines followed either by the classic African bourgeoisies or by the radical bourgeoisies in transition.
In fact, the most important thing about African armies that seize power is that, in general, they are the product of the colonial system. They are linked either to the African bourgeoisies, or to the radical petty bourgeoisies. In any event, the army as a social group linked to a given class can neither imagine nor have a political line of its own that can be any different.
If we turn now to the broad masses, mainly the peasantry and the working class but also the middle strata that might join it, it cannot be said that since independence consciousness of common interests has strengthened as it has among the bourgeois strata and classes.
They are usually not organized on the basis of their own well-perceived interests. The result is that they act as a force to be manoeuvred and manipulated by ruling political parties that are generally bourgeois in nature. The political organizations that exist in this or that African country (usually, they are only single parties with every possible political language and contradictory political practices) and that claim to be Marxist and try to mobilize the masses so that they can liberate themselves and assume the historic tasks that fall on them are only tiny organizations with a very weak capacity for mobilization because of the petty bourgeois intellectual origins of the militants in these organizations
The classes in power really have no interest in seeing the masses organize themselves freely and develop their political consciousness clearly. It follows that the organizations that represent them officially are, in fact, simply links in the state structures.
And yet, peasantries, working classes, middle classes and petty bourgeois strata represent more than 97% of the population in most African countries. In many countries, the peasantry alone represents 80% of the adult working population. The characteristics of this key stratum naturally vary in detail from country to country, but it has many common traits.
If we leave aside the rural bourgeoisie that is very small in most countries, the differentiations among the peasants themselves are generally not very significant. The most typical feature of the African peasantry seems to be its excessive dispersal in often tiny villages. The consequence of this is that disseminating ideas among the peasants is not easy, which makes it difficult to bring them together in an organization independent of the political authorities and fighting for their own cause.
From that flows the lack of concern on the part of the authorities for their cause. This shows itself in illiteracy and in the inadequacy, even the total absence, of infrastructure in the rural areas. The peasants, the main producers of agricultural products, are the first ones to be affected by famine, malnutrition and poverty. It follows that a radical transformation in an African state ought to take as its starting point a radical change in the conditions of existence in the countryside. And that would require that the peasants be able to come together freely in a solid organization which would be a powerful force of dialogue and decision-making on all the great problems of the nation.
As for the working class, it is only really of any size in a tiny number of African countries. Where it is somewhat organized, their organizations do not escape the rule that in most countries all organizations are subordinate to political parties, to government: the trade unions and particularly their leadership, made up of aristocrats whose job is to muzzle the workers by stifling any incipient sign of combativeness, do not play their role.
As for the middle classes - the clerks, artisans, etc. - sometimes they are organized in trade unions that are independent of the workers' unions, sometimes they are simply integrated into these unions. Their possibilities of struggling are thus no greater.
Only the small intellectual unions of teachers or white-collar workers are frequently active and embark on large-scale actions against governments for their clearly understood interests. But without the active support of the rest of the mass of workers, their capacity for struggle has difficulty pushing the dominant structures in the directions of real and profound change.
Such, schematically, has been the evolution of class structures, types of organizations and forms of struggle in most African states since independence. It gives little ground for hope that, in the near future, there will be any marked improvement. But nor should it lead to total pessimism. The potential forces for change exist. They need to be able to act so as to take in hand their own fates and benefit from the fruit of their creative labour.
In order to reply to this question, we need to start from a simple observation: the incapacity of most ruling political classes to undertake a policy which would overcome the crisis and guarantee decent living conditions for all strata of the population. If such is the situation, it is not without reason. We think that it is essentially due to the level of consumption of these ruling classes and their vast expenditure which lead to a waste of national resources and the massive impoverishment of the vast majority of the population.
The policy that they have hitherto followed has not made possible national accumulation for investment to put all the nation's manpower to work. What is produced by those who work is diverted to minority interests whose national character is questionable. Only the popular strata can implement a national popular programme by putting an end to useless expenditure of dubious national interest.
In our opinion, these popular strata in most countries in Africa would include the peasantry (farmers, herders, fishermen), the working class, the intermediate classes, that is, employees, artisans, small traders, the petty bourgeoisie of officials in the administration, teaching, etc. The interests of these classes and strata are not always identical. But they can come together in the phase of constructing a national popular programme.
We believe that every possible pressure from all national and international agencies must be brought to bear for these strata to secure freedom of organization. This would be for them the first step to having real access to the structures of power. They will necessarily transform these structures since these transformations - transformations in depth - will be the condition for true and visible improvement in their own conditions of existence and, by the same token, the improvement of the conditions of existence of all strata of the population.
On the basis of their common interests, these popular strata could constitute a popular alliance bringing together their completely free autonomous organizations They are, we feel, the only ones likely to implement a national popular programme which could overcome the crisis. That naturally presupposes that they control every structure of power.
Although our work is mainly focused on agriculture, it is clear that an alternative to the crisis cannot rest solely on an agricultural programme. It must of necessity take into account all aspects of economic and social life. Thus, while stressing agricultural problems, we shall relate them to other economic sectors without whose transformation agriculture has no hope of truly developing to ensure food self-sufficiency for African countries. We have stressed sufficiently the failure of the development strategies hitherto pursued in the framework of the existing socio-political systems. Proposing a national popular programme that could constitute an alternative to these strategies can only emerge from a sustained work of reflection which must be the constant preoccupation of researchers, especially African researchers.
It would seem that among the political powers that be some are beginning increasingly to see the necessity of an alternative. The question is: will they be in a position to promote such a programme, given the powerful dominant interests that will oppose it? Whatever the case may be, in the Lagos Plan of Action adopted at the OAU's first economic summit in Lagos in April 1980, the OAU included some phrases that give the impression that it is increasingly realized that only solutions aimed at the real satisfaction of the basic needs of the inroad masses can solve the serious crises affecting Africa, which are only intensifying.
Thus, in chapter I of this programme, devoted to Food and Agriculture, it is stated: 'At the root of the food problem in Africa is the fact that Governments have not usually accorded the necessary priority to agriculture both in the allocation of resources, and in giving sufficient attention to policies for the promotion of productivity and improvement of rural life.' Such an admission is an advance over the usual blame attributed to natural disasters and the deterioration of the terms of trade, although of course these do play a part in the crisis as aggravating factors.
Again, in the introduction to the document, stress is repeatedly laid on the notion that Africa must cultivate the virtue of self-sufficiency. But there is a big difference between statements of principles and all-embracing policies designed to realize them, and one may doubt whether the move from the one to the other is possible in the socio-political conditions currently existing in most African states.
In the Lagos document, technical measures are proposed in all areas of economic life to achieve this self-sufficiency. But since the political conditions that would make the application of these measures possible are not mentioned, there is an obvious risk of remaining once again at the level of statements of good intentions. That being the case, when it comes to the content to be given to a national popular programme in the event of the broad masses holding the reins of political power, one can do no more than offer reflections since here too there is the risk of lapsing into utopianism by wanting to go into detail about the reorganization of a concrete society, starting from abstract a priori assumptions. But these reflections on a popular programme should make it possible to put forward a few general ideas which would be worth analysing further and eventually challenging through research, failing any possibility of concrete experimentation.
Thus, without falling into a pragmatism that totally ignores theoretical achievements capable of helping in the elaboration of a comprehensive policy directed towards the interests of the broad masses, we feel that experimentation and trial and error will play a not insignificant role in building up such a programme to bring closer socio-economic measures which quite often seem to be ruled out because of the whole heritage of the past. We shall thus be obliged to spend more time on the scale of the problems that will have to be faced than on the formulation of ready-made solutions.
Starting from this careful approach, we think that the first problem that ought to be examined - and which is both economic and political - is that of borders. We shall formulate it in this way: given that the political prerequisites, that is, the alteration of the internal relations of domination that exist in the various countries, were achieved, is it possible in the tiny confines of most African states to implement a national popular programme that calls for delinking from the world capitalist system? Explicitly, would it be possible for a small African state that fundamentally altered its socio-political structures to implement a comprehensive economic policy of independence breaking with the system and sustain this policy over time? What is quite clear is that the pressures from imperialism and other African states, especially neighbouring ones linked to imperialism, will be very strong. It will need a powerful mobilization of the entire working people of this country to be able to stand up to it.
The disappearance of borders, which are usually artificial creations corresponding to the interests of the colonial economy, is both an economic and a political necessity. The intra-African trade patterns that existed before the imposition of colonialism were disrupted and replaced by trade oriented towards the metropolis. Railways, ports and even the development of cities, were conceived in this perspective, leading to an unequal development between seriously underdeveloped countries.
In order to restructure the economies of most countries, borders that correspond to no socio-historical, or even ethnic and geographical, reality would have to disappear, even if gradually, and give way to viable economic units capable of resisting the assaults of imperialism. Of course, it is true that imperialism too sometimes makes similar suggestions, but it does so for its own aims designed to strengthen the dependency of several states brought together under its sway.
The creation of large economic zones transcending borders that should be challenged can therefore only be a popular achievement if it is carried out by alliances among popular strata which truly and effectively suppress artificial and anachronistic barriers that do not reflect the history of their people, and which would be brakes on the implementation of popular programmes in their respective countries. This would make possible the creation, between states embarked on a strategy of delinking from the world capitalist system, of the conditions for the implementation of a unified and coherent development plan, taking account of the economic potential of the various countries and their necessary complementarily. Thus, the way would be open to solid intra-African economic links and a collective autocentred autonomy.
The disappearance of the borders inherited from the colonial system can, in the framework of an alternative to the crisis, open up far-ranging perspectives for the economic development of Africa. But the OAU, as it exists, does not exhibit the least sign of embarking on this path because of the major contradictions running through it and the dominant class interests of the states belonging to it. Thus, the future of Africa to attain an autocentred collective autonomy of development can only be the work of popular alliances effectively controlling all powers, and on the lines that we have sketched out above.
This real unification, as opposed to unification that is simply a matter of diplomatic proclamations, would make possible the unification of African producers to face the demand of the market for the products that Africa is obliged to sell on that market. Indeed, delinking with the world capitalist system can in no way mean a total break with this system. It means that the socio-economic structures of Africa would no longer be organized and oriented in terms of the interests of this system as is currently the case, but in terms of the interests of the toiling African masses. It is through this true unification of producers that Africa would be able to have a considerable influence on the world prices of the raw materials that it supplies until it is able to realize the goal sought, which is the on-the-spot processing of these raw materials to meet the needs of African economies.
It is because they can provoke isolation and rivalry among countries producing cocoa, coffee, iron ore, uranium etc., that the developed countries control price-fixing on the world market. The existing governments, because of these rivalries, their attachment to personal power or even the vulnerability of many of them to corruption, simply play into the hands of the developed capitalist countries and the imperialist monopolies.
By adopting a monopoly situation for the various African commodities popular governments could, if not reverse the direction of dependence in Africa's favour, at least create a degree of balance between the various parties in the world market. African products could then be sold at prices close to their value, that is, taking account of the quantities of labour incorporated into them, which return to the labour provided in Africa its value, and taking account of all the factors that come into the fixing of prices as if these goods were produced in the developed capitalist countries.
The union of producers faced with the demands of the world market will only be fully effective if external trade - commodity imports and exports - as well as the import of capital are conducted exclusively by the popular government. That is essential in order to avoid big capital becoming involved in the economies by controlling important sectors.
With these basic conditions set down, there is still a need to reflect on the manner of reorganizing production and exchanges among the various sectors of the economy to achieve self-reliance, the immediate aim of which is food self-sufficiency.
In approaching this question, it cannot be forgotten that there are priorities to be realized and which are realizable once the political prerequisites have been realized. There is a need to:
- Raise agricultural production and productivity substantially and rapidly, with priority for food production.
- Ensure that the increase in agricultural production is accompanied by a substantial raising of the standard of living of the peasants in the countryside.
- Promote a selective industrialization coordinated with and sustaining the development of agriculture.
- Give the manpower in these industries wage levels that guarantee the full reproduction of their labour power and the upkeep of their family.
- Produce mainly for the domestic market in both agriculture and industry and be oriented wholly towards mass production.
It goes without saying that these, the most pressing, measures must be accompanied by other complementary measures guaranteeing their success. They include:
- Putting an end to the rural exodus and reducing urbanization to a level low enough not to hinder economic and social policy overall. This can be achieved by creating the conditions for a massive voluntary return to the countryside where development policy will be concentrated far more than in the towns.
- Completely transforming teaching and education to adapt them to new forms of development and to make them respond to these needs.
It would then be necessary to reflect on the sectoral and overall policies that would be needed to carry out these first urgent measures rapidly.
The new economic and social policy must be centred mainly on the development of the rural areas which have hitherto been bled white to be able to carry out policies linked to the interests of a few possessing classes and hence unpopular policies.
The starting point for a policy to develop the rural areas seems to lie in the peasants and the rural areas as a whole having the possibility of organizing themselves freely and independently. These organizations which would be created all over the rural areas must be able to enjoy full decision-making powers. The basic cell of these organisations in the rural areas might be the village, as Guy Belloncle suggests in his book La Question Paysanne en Afrique Noire (published by Editions Karthala).
However, it is important not to over-romanticize the traditional village structures. They sometimes involve ideologically-backed social relations that might constitute brakes on development. In fact, in most countries at the village level there exist lineage, tribal or caste relations solidly sustained by fossilized ideologies hostile to progress.
These outmoded relations must be undermined by organization and work; they often involve disguised or visible links of dependency that obscure and restrict 'democratic power structures', about which Guy Belloncle writes in the book mentioned above. It is then that true village communities could come into being shorn of age-old defects where, with the equality of all in decision-making eliminating the hierarchy of established authorities, they would reinforce the solidarity of all in the community as a whole. An organization thus built from the village upwards and spread to the whole countryside with strong structures could constitute the backbone of the new governments in countries where the rural areas are so dominant.
Being thus organized at the national level the peasantry, or more precisely the rural inhabitants, would actively participate in the preparation of the economic and social policy of the new governments and in supervising its implementation. The rural areas would be present at the highest level of the new political system through their leading bodies and their delegates, and at the base through the whole village community.
In many countries this reorganization of the rural areas would necessitate the amalgamation of numerous villages that are too small and too scattered. Through this amalgamation of villages to achieve a relatively large size, it is possible to realize a number of goals, the most important of which is certainly to shift peasant life and work from the narrow family framework to the village communal framework. At one stroke this would facilitate the circulation of information, be it political or technical. More egalitarian access to inputs and the means of production would be promoted. Access to the infrastructure of schools, health facilities and other basic services would be achieved much more cheaply.
The countryside must offer every facility to guarantee the total security of the rural worker and his family throughout their lives in the framework of the village community.
How can this be achieved on the economic level? We do not think there is any need to have recourse to vast sums of capital coming from abroad, which are swallowed up in endless studies for which the peasant has to pay but whose results he never sees.
Use must first be made of the immense resources of the rural areas, hitherto wasted, pillaged, misappropriated, taxed and transferred to the benefit of other social strata.
Access to land: First, access to land must be secured to all and be equitable for all. In countries where big landowners exist, all land will purely and simply be transferred to the village communities which will be responsible for their fair allocation while moving towards their collective development.
For land that requires irrigation, the labour could be performed by human investment by the village community, aided technically, where necessary, by the governing organs of popular power.
What must be avoided at all costs is big impressive dams built at the cost of millions of dollars borrowed from abroad, repayment of which mortgages national economic policy and is beyond peasant resources.
Production: On the level of production, with nothing ruled out, every product that can be a source of food must be sought out and developed: crop products and products of gathering. Research will be necessary into the conservation or processing of some of them. The fact is that it is not uncommon in the African bush and forest to see fruit trees bear their whole crop at certain seasons. These perfectly edible fruits finish up going rotten for lack of means of picking and preserving them.
Added to this is the tendency in some fairly well-off strata - except in periods of famine, of course - to consider some products as non-'noble', products of gathering in particular, whereas they may be very rich in calories and vitamins. There is work to be done to sensitive and to inform people so as to turn these into products of mass consumption, which would make it possible to enrich and vary diets.
As for cash crops not intended for consumption, like cotton, or which are not for everyday consumption, like coffee and cocoa, there can be no question of halting their production since they constitute important resources for countries and peoples. There will need to be studies of how to regulate production of them in terms first of the food needs of the population, and then of the demands of the international market.
Inputs and improving techniques: This is one of the most difficult problems to solve since the inputs are not, generally, produced on the spot and their cost on the world market is high and rising sharply from year to year. Imports of them must thus be reduced and limited to what is strictly necessary given the very limited resources of national economies and the impact of their cost on peasant resources. While imports of them must be limited, it is not, however, possible to do without inputs to improve productivity and considerably reduce extensive agriculture, which is a source of rapid deterioration of soils.
A solution must be found to the dilemma that consists in having recourse to the world market, whereas the goal is to delink from this market, and the need to modernize agriculture.
That is where the strategy of industrialization in Africa should be mainly concentrated, putting itself at the service of agricultural development.
A host of industries would be established throughout the rural areas of Africa which could meet agriculture's need for inputs of all sorts; the making of ploughs, carts and seeders, the production of fertilizers insecticides, selected seeds, etc.
Here more research needs to be devised and carried out so that the products of these industries do indeed correspond to the particular characteristics and natural conditions of African agriculture. African peasants have had enough of the unfortunate experience with imported technology, that, in addition to its high cost, was sometimes ill-adapted to their working conditions and their natural environment. In order to limit the damage and reduce dependence, we think that the technical conception of these industries necessitates the collaboration of artisans, peasants and technicians trained in rural technical institutes, and the help of other underdeveloped countries that have registered striking successes with this sort of experience. We are thinking in particular of certain countries in Asia which were absolutely determined to free themselves from the tutelage of imperialism, to put an end to their domination and dependence.
Organization: We have already discussed at length the crucial need for powerful well-structured organizations of the peasantry as the prerequisite of rural development, and we must now reflect on the forms that these organizations might take to be able to put into effect the strategy that we have just outlined.
It might, for example, be possible to conceive a union of rural cooperatives which would have as its basic cell the whole village community united in a co-operative. The village co-operative would look after all the problems of the village community, even if the community were composed mainly of peasants in the vast majority of cases. What we mean is that it would be responsible also for solving the problems of herdsmen, fishermen, artisans, etc., in order to coordinate the activities of different groups of producers and create social harmony within the village community.
The co-operative will thus have a very extensive field of action. It will be responsible for the collection and marketing of the products of the whole village community. It will create distribution circuits and control the credit system. Thus, it will facilitate and ensure balance in the exchanges between producers at the local level. In the same way, it will be the sole intermediary in exchanges between the village and the world outside the village, especially exchanges with the Co-operative Union. This will purchase its products and sell it the inputs and other products that it needs. A profit margin will be allowed the co-operative. Its profits will go into a loan account and be used for public works in the village community.
It must be laid down that the main aim of the loan account is to strengthen solidarity within the community. Its prime purpose will thus be to help its members in difficulties: peasants who lack machinery, herdsmen needing watering troughs, etc.
The co-operative, with a mainly economic function, will be under the control of the village assembly which will have a much more political function. The village assembly will be able at any time to check the management of the co-operative and it will transmit directives to it to meet the needs of the community. In addition, the assembly will undertake and sustain the political, economic and social mobilization of the community. Gradually, it will seek the means to move from family to communal labour and farming in more and more areas.
The strategy for the urban areas will be closely related to the rural development strategy, so that the two strategies are mutually reinforcing for a harmonious and balanced development.
To date, industrialization has affected only the urban centres in most countries. That encourages the rural exodus, even though the supply of industrial jobs is low and in no way corresponds to the numbers involved in the exodus. That is due to the policies which are currently being pursued and which manifestly lack imagination.
What is needed in most cases is to devise the conditions for a movement in the opposite direction. What is needed is to initiate and encourage an urban exodus so as to reduce considerably the population of the towns. A well thought out policy with a variety of axes might make it possible to attain that objective. A complete decentralization of the industries currently concentrated in the towns, sometimes even in the capital alone, could be a major axis.
The goal of industrial production must be twofold. First, the production of agricultural inputs through a host of small local industries scattered all over the country. Second, the processing of the raw materials which an expanding agriculture supported in that way could produce to ensure that these industries run at full capacity.
Without going into too much detail, it is reasonable to think that the small production industries could, for technical matters and management, come under the basic structures while the relatively heavier processing industries could mainly come under the central government. Thus, processing industries, like mining industries, would be nationally owned, whereas small industries which will initially include a not insignificant amount of crafts, would be owned by the basic structures.
The creation in the rural communities, of vital infrastructure (in education, health, sport, etc.), linked to the development of small rural industries might halt and even reverse the rural exodus. The great mass of the urban unemployed of rural origin, who suffer from malnutrition and poor health, would surely return to the countryside where they would henceforth be guaranteed a job and all the material and psychological conditions that provide a family with security. In addition, the costs of building this rural infrastructure would be very low, far less than the costs of the excessive luxury that marks some sectors in most of our cities.
The marginalized urban craft sectors could be grouped together and properly structured in order to meet urban demand efficiently, and so greatly reduce imports. We are thinking, among others, of the construction sector, furniture manufacture, etc. They could thus constitute a real industry and guarantee regular work to those working there.
The central authorities have an important role to play in the reorganization of these sectors and in facilitating the acquisition of some machinery.
The activities of countless petty traders which often conceal hidden unemployment must be rethought. Increasing the number of people's shops in the towns catering for all everyday consumer products might make it possible to recycle a good proportion of these semi-employed people.
The administration should be as decentralized as possible. In addition, to avoid the plethora of officials barricaded in their offices in towns, the teaching profession must be entirely reformed, eliminating all the sequels of the colonial period so as to adapt it to the new economic and social realities.
The training of cadres at all levels cannot remain unorganized. It must be strictly planned so as to respond to the needs of the rural and urban economies and the services essential to them. Thus, teaching and training will be mainly directed towards the productive system.
This problem is the key one and one that is difficult to resolve because of the numerous dangers to be avoided; risk of bureaucratization, lack of congruence between decision-making centres, decisions emanating from the base structures, and provisions adopted by the central authorities of the popular alliances. We shall simply put forward a few thoughts. First, the question may be asked whether the plan will be simply indicative (in which case the state intervenes in the economic arena in only a limited way), or binding (the state then has a very extensive field of action). We think that the strategies sketched out can only be developed in the framework of a binding plan. This binding plan must, however, be sufficiently flexible for the base structures to retain considerable initiative. But it is absolutely necessary that the state established by the popular alliances intervene and coordinate minutely all economic activities: budget, investment, income distribution, wages, prices, etc. This is necessary so that all social strata may receive fair rewards for their labour and so that all can enjoy their full rights. This plan should aim to reduce considerably the capitalist sectors that would remain in this transitional economy, and subject them to strict control.
The problem of employment and the fixing of prices and wages must be settled by the central bodies in terms of the necessary transformation of the structures of the economy and improving the living conditions of the whole population. At the relatively primary stage reached by most African economies, there does not seem to be any need for complex models based on very detailed economic calculations in order to prepare a completely coherent plan taking account of the various imperatives. Trial and error and intuition will still have an important role to play in the success of a plan which, to repeat, cannot but be holistic and centralized, contrary to the catalogues of projects that are currently presented in most countries as being plans.
For its financing, the plan must rely predominantly on domestic resources. This is necessary to ensure economic independence and will be made possible through the systematic elimination of waste of all sorts, and the end of prestige expenditure that is as useless as it is costly. Given the high level of corruption among some highly paid strata in Africa, there will certainly be reason to investigate fortunes, especially large fortunes, to retrieve illicitly acquired gains for the benefit of the nation and the people. That said, the question of financing the plan remains to be solved. Given the nationalization of external trade and the steep reduction of imports, customs receipts will be very severely limited.
We believe that the investment funds should come mainly from taxes paid by state and private enterprises and from a wealth tax. A subsidiary source will also be taxes paid by workers based on their income and the standard of living to be guaranteed them. In addition, funds could come from income from exports of resources that would have to be exported, either because they could not yet be processed on the spot or because their supply exceeds domestic needs.
Finally, to encourage and sustain the sectors vital for the transformation of structures and begin true development, the fixing of prices and wages will play an important role both in allocating manpower suitably and in controlling consumption.
To summarize, we have here simply put forward a few ideas that are the conditions of, and may make possible, a true alternative to the present crisis situation. It all calls for a vast effort of organization and thought. It goes without saying that success can only be assured by a strong mobilization of the mass of workers freed from exploitation and oppression, and giving free rein to their creative initiative.