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Contributor: Victor Amokeodo
The Black Race* and the Perception of Communism

Perhaps, more than anything else, the fall of the Berlin wall marked the end of communism as a global force. The powerful ideology that once dominated the greatest nations on earth had finally fallen into disrepute. Fickle and fashionable supporters of the ideology hurriedly discarded their garbs of insincerity and screamed their undying belief in capitalism. More importantly for us - Black people - there was the rise of a new breed of black "yuppies" ("buppies" as they chose to call themselves) who extolled the virtues of free enterprise and had as their heroes such capitalist beacons as Margaret Thatcher, Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch. Today, it is seen as something of a sin to be associated with communism or its (milder?) variant, socialism. Where have all the many supporters of communism gone?

Some truths need to be told now, lest we - Black people - forget the hope and opportunities communism brought to us. The pre-colonial imperialist incursion into the "new world" was nothing but an extension of capitalism. The great search for profit led men like Columbus and Vespucci to far flung corners of the globe and the na?vety of the indigenous peoples provided the perfect opportunity for their greed to succeed. It was the struggle for wealth and profit that led the descendants of these men to push Black people into slavery.

There did not seem much chance of political, economic and intellectual freedom for the people of the Third world until communism came to challenge this great European greed. During the independence struggles of many African, Asian and Caribbean countries the communist bloc fought alongside them on most platforms - in the United Nations, on the economic front and in the battlefields where they provided many liberation movements with arms, ammunition, military and moral support.

Britain, France, Portugal and Belgium - the colonial powers of the time - did not want to lose their "assets". Belgian miners were busy cutting off the hands and feet of the Congolese people in the name of profit. The "recalcitrant" natives had refused to work for King Leopold for nothing. In Algeria, the people were massacred just because they wanted to rule themselves again and in Kenya the British exacted a heavy price from the "terrorist" Mau Mau and their sympathizers. Their offence? They wanted their freedom, their land and their pride back from the European invaders. They dared to try to destroy the empire of the British. And the Portuguese? Their actions against Africans are nothing but a study into brutality, barbarity, and injustice.

These are but just a small part of the terrible price Black people paid just to get their freedom; freedom that should never have been taken from them in the first place; freedom that was snatched in the name of capitalism. Recorded history can only present the events in an impersonal manner but let us for one moment reflect on the great personal anguish that must have befallen the many individuals who suffered from the greed of the marauding capitalist colonialist: The many Congolese who had their hands cut off simply because they refused to slave on their own land and exploit their own resources for the pleasure of King Leopold and his hypocritical citizens. And they called themselves civilised. They sat around big tables, waved important-looking documents and spoke noble sounding words and they thought that made them civilised; better than black people. Let us for once reflect on the great loss of the women mown down in the Aba riots of 1929. The Igbo women in what is now known as Nigeria had bravely stood up to the colonialist in protest against the tax laws for women. Taxing of women was alien to them. They were mown down by a people who back home treated their women as objects of frailty and adoration.

Let us not for once relax our guards in the comfort of false security. These evils took place in the 40s and 50s. Many of the men who committed these atrocities still live. Some of them are f?ted as war heroes and many Black people contribute to their comfort with "poppy appeal" donations. Yet, all of the prejudices which gave rise to these evils still thrive. The fifties is not a long time ago. For the Black man and woman, the price of freedom should be eternal vigilance.

Let no black person forget that all through the struggles of Liberation, the United States helped to frustrate UN attempts to give freedom to Africans. This was not surprising. They were castrating Black people back home. And did they not have colonies? Did they not have the Philippines? They spoke about freedom and equality but the "satellite countries" of Latin America were and remain under the unrelenting control of the US and its multinational corporations. These countries were run by dictators; puppets of the US. Legitimate governments were toppled and dictators imposed upon the people by the US simply because the elected governments did not toe the line. In Guatemala in 1954 the popular and democratically elected Yakobo Arbenz was overthrown by the CIA in a faked coup. More recently (1973) Salvador Allende of Chile was murdered by agents of ITT (International Telephones and Telegraphs) in conjunction with the CIA (just as the US oil companies in collaboration with the CIA assassinated Premier Mossadegh of Iran in 1953). At the same time, the harsh regimes of Samoza of Nicaragua and a series of dictators in EI Salvador were propped up by the US.

There was so much cruelty and injustice in Latin America, and at the bottom of the pile was always the Black people. Under the great Cuban dictatorship of Baptiste, before Castro, Black people had not quite thrown off the yoke of slavery. They were not allowed to aspire beyond being boxers, athletes or samba players. The treatment they had to endure makes our present conception of racism a joke. Fidel Castro's revolution changed all that.

Maybe the communist were not saints. Maybe they struggled alongside Black nations not because of a great love for black people but because of a hatred for the West (indeed they did sometimes have their own campaigns against smaller countries). But then the fact remains that regardless of the reasons for this they did so much for Black people.

And it is so easy to see why many emergent Black nations opted for communism or some variation of it - Ghana under Nkrumah, Guinea at independence, Angola under Augustino Neto and Samora Machel's Mozambique. Even great Black leaders across the Atlantic like Malcolm X endorsed the help of communists for black people. What was the attraction? The white people, beside whom they were supposed to sit, within the great capitalist institutions, debating great capitalist stratagems had shown themselves to be hypocrites. The US revealed itself as two-faced when overt CIA assistance for the Portuguese, against the Mozambiquean and Angolan liberation fighters, was uncovered at a time the US openly claimed to support the liberation movements.

The ANC was pushed into embracing communism. It had become disillusioned. The West was helping to prop up apartheid in spite of the transparent evil it stood for. And who can blame Algeria for supporting radical Third World causes all over the globe after having suffered at the hands of the French? The US and its partners in crime were busy installing dictatorships like Mobutu's all over Africa and the rest of the Third World when these countries were struggling to find their feet. And when Mobutu and his South African friends attacked the newly independent Angola, was it not the Soviets and Cuba who came to Angola's timely rescue?.

The West branded leaders like Colonel Gaddafi and Fidel Castro, who dared to stand up to them, as evil while at the same time dined with the Papa Docs, Marcoses, Pinochets, Mobutus and Samuel Does of the world. Men like Gaddafi and Castro had transformed their countries from chattels of western capital to proud, relatively developed countries. They had to burn the hands of the West in this process because there is no way the strength of the Third World countries would grow without there being a proportionate reduction in the strength of the major capitalist countries.

The truth is that communism in itself is not the great evil that it has been made out to be. It was abused. Many self-serving rulers did what they did under the pretext of communism. It is not communism itself, but the lack of democracy and oppression of the masses that bastardised Karl Marx's noble ideals. What Stalin and his kind did to their people in Marx's name was certainly the kind of oppression of masses that made Marx and Engels issue their Communist Manifesto in the first place.

But let us not deceive ourselves that it is a coincidence that throughout history, the further to the right a man's politics is, the more the likelihood of his being a racist sympathiser. The opposite can be said of the left. They have tended to champion the cause of Black people and oppressed minorities throughout history. Is that not enough for us to give it a respectable place in our minds?

It must have been obvious to many thinkers that the communist manifesto could not be achieved; that its aspiration - Utopia - could never be attained. Men would never be equals; man would always have the urge to dominate his fellow man; to have more possessions than his neighbour. But let no one for once deceive themselves that we will achieve freedom and prosperity under an almost wholly capitalist world. The fruits of capitalism are only for a few to reap and without another ideology to challenge it we - Black peoples and nations of the world - will forever remain hewers of wood and carriers of water.

* Race here is only descriptive and does not imply that there is more than one human race.
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