Chapter 6: Questions of History

Ain’t no Black or White

…There are those who have justified colonialism. They argue that, having freed the slave, the problem was to train the African whose prosperity rested in agriculture. As a result, colonial governments had to concern themselves not merely with land tenure, irrigation and famine relief but also with rent fixing, money lending and agricultural cooperation. Their functions increased with the new possibilities of agriculture and the application of new knowledge in relation to health. In effect, Africa could not have developed without European capital and skill.

Albert Serraut, French Colonial Secretary of State in ninety thirty five exposed the falsehood of this justification of the ‘white’ man’s burden and civilising mission. He highlighted the objective of colonisation as nothing but an enterprise of individual interests, a one-sided egotistical imposition of the strong upon the weak.  He put it in even stronger terms in Paris at the École Coloniale: “What is the use of painting the truth? At the start colonisation was not an act of civilization, nor was it a desire to civilize. It was an act of force motivated by interests. An episode in the vital competition, which, from man to man, from group to group has gone on increasing; the people who set out to seize colonies in distant lands were thinking primarily of themselves and were working for their own profits and conquering for their own power.”

This admission summarises European exploitation of Africa – an objective which led to the search for increased supplies and new commodities for a world market to further the development of capitalism and its most important feature, monopoly. The economic structure introduced by Europeans was for the purpose of exploiting the wealth of the colonies, which though beneficial to their interests, resulted in the gradual deterioration in the living standards of African people…

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