In his critically acclaimed work, Confessions of An Economic Hit Man, Author John Perkins recounts a lesson he learned from one of his mentors in the profession. Perkins stated that his mentor directed him to a huge map hanging on a blackboard and pointed to the Country of Egypt, he asked:”now where is Egypt located?” Perkins responded like most would. “The Middle East?” No! His inquisitor shot back. Africa! “As Africa goes, so goes the world,” he answered. The statement would seem more fitting of a Pan African Nationalist than a predatory international economic saboteur. But the truth is often axiomatic regardless of political ideology.
If there was ever any precedent for such a proposition, it was the infernal atmosphere of The Cold War. And if there was ever any continent that shaped the ideological conflict between the U.S. & U.S.S.R. for control over mineral wealth, it was Africa. The Congo Crisis, The Angolan and Guinea-Bisseau War of Independence, The Ghanain Revolution, and countless others were shaped from the colonial wars of liberation with former European powers such as France, England, Belgium and Portugal. The newly liberated countries all of a sudden found themselves immersed in a global land grab rooted in all new economic ideologies of plunder. These countries while nationalist in political ideology were forced to choose cold war alliances for practical survival purposes.
Young African leaders like Patrice Lumumba bought into the national mythology created by a romanticized version of american history. This mythology hid the corpses of Haiti, Mexico, The Dominican Republic, China, and the Phillipines on the American march to empire. Lumumba’s righteously zealous tunnel vision for Congolese liberation, allowed the State to disguise its’ economic covetry of Congolese mineral wealth under the amorphous concept of democracy. It also made his subsequent assassination prophetically inevitable. In a coup orchestrated by his Former State Secretary turned Army Chief and backed by the C.I.A., Lumumba’s murder set in place an abominable kleptocracy that the Congo may never recover from. While his successor stole over 110 million dollars of the country’s treasury, it pales in comparison to transnational corporations and international banking establishments like the IMF and World Bank, who made looting as easy as walking into the store without a gun, and taking the money from the cash register. As a result, another American mark was chalked up on the Cold War Scoreboard for making the world safer for democracy.
While this outcome was lamentable in the Congo, elsewhere, results would be a little different. In the Angolan Republic, a fierce battle for liberty was underway as 3 major factions: MPLA, NFLA & UNITA waged war against the Portuguese as well as each other for control of the country. For eastern and western powers, the prize was the rich Angolan oil reserves. Initially, the Russians supported MPLA, but at key points in the conflict, the Russians proved to be militarily inept at fighting on African soil. And while MPLA head Agostino Neto was an adherent to socialist philosophy, he was no walking automaton from the Kremlin. Neto sought a form of socialism uniquely suited for the African context. These nuances are often obscured in discussions of 3rd World Nationalist Movements during the Cold War. It also implies a kind of false superiority on the part of both the U.S. and USSR by saying that Africans were duty bound to sit at the feet of western and eastern powers to learn how they could obtain their liberty. Russian military strategy and casualties among the MPLA rendered these assumptions anathematic to say the least.
While political pundits, know nothings, and talking heads often proscribe any socialist country as under the direction of Moscow, Socialist countries in Africa and South America saw themselves as autonomous countries that practiced socialism as a means of moving their economically backward societies toward parity with industrialized nations. Thus they sought independence through Nationalism not Communism. But in the hysteria of the Cold War, the truth, as they say, was the first casualty. However, it was also resurrected. Africans in the diaspora on another continent would immortalize this truth for posterity.
At the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro witnessed first hand the perils of leaving his country to the dictates of Moscow. He also saw an ugly truth. That while the Russians talked a good game, their real objective was civil relations with their rival. Therefore, they were not interested in going to the mat for the independence of colonized nations. This would explain their half measures; their reluctance to aid countries that were struggling against those countries in the western capitalist bloc; their fickle loyalties for countries that they perceived as taking to militant a stance toward countries allied with the United States. It should be said that the Soviet Union maintained these dangerous political gyrations even when they secured a full alliance with other socialist countries. And what is a full alliance you ask? Well, it’s when the Soviet Union provides economic and military assistance to the country in exchange for nearly total control of the political and social spheres of influence. Yep! that’s right! Socialist Loan Sharking.
Thus, when Angola’s Neto turned to Castro for assistance against the Portuguese and the other factions, they really felt each other’s pain. Reaching back into history’s cruel chance encounter of the diaspora, Castro saw a way to draw a silver line around a pitch black cloud. Castro sent 30,000 sons of Afro-Cuban slaves to defend their ancestral homeland. He also sent Doctors, Teachers, and Tradesmen to educate and teach the Angolans during their war for independence. He did this without the onerous loans of the IMF, or the remote controlled colonialism of Moscow. For the Cubans were like the Africans in that they foolishly believed that the people struggling for their independence should actually control their own country. Who knew! The injection of Cuban Soldiers into the Angolan War Theater drastically turned the tide. Not only did it drive back the Portuguese, but it stopped the bum rush of Apartheid South African troops that came to the aid of Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA faction.
Why a government whose political and social bloodline is the belief in the innate inferiority of Black Africans would aid a Black guerrilla army is another one of history’s most bizarre contradictions. Or is it? Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA was in fact an ally of the United States. The United States was a very ardent supporter and trading partners of the Apartheid Government of South Africa. But why would South Africa raid Angola? Simple. To excise the infectious pathogen of hope from the African spirit. South Africa felt that if African inspired insurrection was allowed to thrive in Southern Africa, then it might ignite protests all over the region. Thus, desperation, like politics, makes strange side chicks.
Africa, was the richest prize of the Cold War. With nearly 5 million casualties from the Cold War and subsequent internecine conflicts with US ally UNITA, the continent’s economy remains largely undeveloped in spite of significant improvements in major cities along sea and coast lines. It’s vast mineral wealth is still largely concentrated in the hands of transnational corporations from the western capitalist bloc, either through the maintenance of corrupt regimes, or austerity imposed privatization schemes of the IMF or World Bank. Which more than likely, was the true objective of the Cold War in the first place.
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosophere and the Chief Blogger at Power & Strategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the website or the You Tube Channel. Or become a Patron at PowerofStrategies@Patreon. Chess Players can also check out our online Chess Store at the website. Till Next Time, I’ll holla!