|The Crisis in African Agriculture - Studies in African Political Economy (UNU, 1987, 99 pages)|
|7: The alternative and its prerequisites|
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.