Capitalism in Africa

posted 5 Nov 2010, 16:17 by Admin uk   [ updated 21 Feb 2011, 01:14 ]
Capitalism in Africa        

David van Wyk          

What sustains the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What sustains the occupation of Palestine? According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics ( almost 30% of its exports were diamond related (polished diamonds, jewellery, and unpolished diamonds). Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 the prices of copper and uranium have boomed. Copper is the base component of most munitions from bullets to shell casings, not to speak of electronics wiring. Coltan and tantalum are essential components of electronics and communications systems in use by NATO and the US army. 

Uranium prices spiked between March 2006 when George Bush announced his intention of realising a “complete victory” in Iraq and August 2007, when the US conventional military solution in Iraq petered out in the face of concerted guerrilla resistance to the occupation. The invading US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan use plutonium tipped artillery shells and a variety of munitions containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium munitions were first used by NATO forces in Kosovo, where according to Hari Sharma, “NATO is trying to save Kosovars, but if they leave Kosovo filled with
depleted uranium, it's not a happy situation. They [would be] poisoning them. If you are going to use depleted uranium in warfare, it's better to drop an atom bomb and kill 30,000 people instantaneously rather than killing them over 20 or 30 years.” The same and even more advanced munitions are being deployed in Iraq where Robert Fisk after the first invasion found, “In Iraq in 1997, I discovered monstrous births of deformed babies and old men who, amid the wreckage which the Allies had blasted with our uranium shells, told me of daughters with breast and liver cancer.”

Table 1. Known and Suspected Uses of DU Munitions in Warfare

Source: Dan Fahey: SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons.

I have just spent three months zipping in and out of the mining provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia and Zimbabwe, where I interviewed mine workers, trade union leaders and peasants.
There is a literal scramble for mining rights by global capitalist companies in these three countries. The most sought after minerals being copper, cobalt, uranium and coltan.

In the north eastern parts of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, both under the control of US proxy governments have carved out portions of the DRC using “rebel” armies (bands of armed terrorists) to lay their hands on DRC coltan. In the south eastern Katanga Province multinational corporations are raping the environment and the population in an effort to extract as much copper and uranium as they are able to in as short as possible a time and at as low a cost as they possibly could. Here they are in competition with Chinese companies feeding the booming Chinese economy.

It is interesting to note that the uranium that produced the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 came from Katanga province in the DRC.

On the Copperbelt in Northern Zambia and Katanga in South Eastern DRC; Marx’s labour theory of value, his theory of exploitation and of primitive accumulation and Trotsky’s theory of combined and uneven development is finding expression daily in the miserable conditions to which the working class and peasantry are being subjected. In this first article I will investigate the application of the labour theory of value and
exploitation in the context of Zambian mine workers.

I was told by a representative of the Zambian Chamber of Mines that the productivity of Zambian mine workers can be measured from the fact that a Zambian mine worker produces 16 tons of copper per worker per month. The most productive mine produces 22 tons per worker per month.

Underground mine workers in Zambia earn around US$357 per month. The current price of copper US$ 7500 per ton. This means that each worker produces US$120 000 per month (calculated at the average of 16 tons per worker per month), or a surplus of US$ 119 643 per month. Mine bosses claim that the costs of producing a ton of copper equals as much as US $ 5000 per ton. They grossly exaggerate the costs of production so as to evade taxes. But even if we accept these costs and note that the costs of production
is invested in labour power and means of production (technology), the ratio of surplus production over necessary labour is still excessive and exploitative if the net income of mining companies are US$2500 per ton after costs while wages are only US$357 per worker per month, because at 22 tons per worker each worker still produces US$40 000 per worker, which represents a surplus of US$39 643 per worker.

In Katanga there are also tens of thousands of artisanal miners, the lumpen proletariat, who unable to secure work in the mines, illegally occupy the concessions of major western mining corporations scratching in toxic mine waste and dumps for copper, uranium or cobalt. Kabwe in Zambia is considered to be the most toxic polluted town on the planet. The artisanal miners are tolerated because the multinational corporations can
exploit them even more than formal mine workers. The corporations deploy armies of negotiators and traders to vacuum up the concentrate from artisanal miners. Artisanal miners exploit family labour, do not require pensions or medical aid. Typically negotiators act like pimps for the artisanal miners, they take 70% of the price per ton, leaving the artisanal miner with a meager 30%. The negotiators then sell forward to traders who are usually the agents of multinational corporations. I was offered copper concentrate (unprocessed ore) at US$800 a ton by a trader. Imagine the pittance receive by the artisanal miner! This impacts particularly badly on women in Katanga and Zambia. I was told by a prostitute in Kolwezi that a woman in Kolwezi has the following choices in life, to break rock, to carry rock like a pack mule, to wash rock or to become a sex worker.
According to her thousands of young women die between the ages of 15 and 17 because of HIV/Aids, condoms are unheard of in Kolwezi.

Much of the copper, uranium, cobalt and coltan is sold forward to the military industrial complex in the West, and the miserable and poor conditions of Zambian and Congolese mine workers and their families translate into the misery of bombed Iraqi and Afghani civilians (collateral damage) and long term prospects of cancer and birth defects for decades to come, while European and US capitalists/shareholders laugh all the way to the