LETTERS - FRFI 267 Dec 18/Jan 19

China and Africa

Thanks for Trevor Rayne’s excellent article, ‘China: on top of the world’ (FRFI 266). I’m writing to take issue with the section on Africa.

I agree with the general position, that China, though not yet an imperialist power, is certainly developing in that direction and as it does, it will be opposed militarily by the imperialists. I disagree with the general thrust of the section which gives the wrong impression of what’s going on and China’s role in Africa. The section mirrored imperialist media portrayal of China in Africa which is negative and misleading, betraying imperialist fears of competition.

Although the goal of all capitalists is exploitation and the maximising of profits, and China’s role will change in the future as competition intensifies, I think China is playing a positive role in that it is helping to develop the continent by building critical infrastructure, without which there can be no development.

Yes it is true that ‘China has overtaken Britain, France and the US as a trading partner with Africa and its trade is 4 times larger than the US Africa trade’. However, the stock of foreign direct investment in Africa is still dominated by the US, Britain and France. According to the UN (UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2018): ‘Multinational enterprises from developed economies (such as the United States, United Kingdom and France) still hold the largest FDI stock in Africa.’ The stock of Chinese FDI in Africa ($40bn) in 2017 is 4.6% of the total to the continent ($866.8 bn) (3% in 2013). Rising, but minor compared to the imperialists who hold 18.6% (Britain, US, France). With the role played by tax havens, these figures are not absolute, and the imperialists’ share could be much larger than official figures.

The second paragraph of Trevor’s article then says ‘Such funds are provided often in exchange for access to raw materials’, then goes on to talk about China extracting raw materials from the DRC and Zambia.

Academic researchers such as Deborah Brautigam have shown this to be exaggerated and a myth. Chinese investment in Africa is diversifying, both in terms of sector and location, away from the traditional recipients into countries that are not necessarily resource-rich and into sectors other than natural resource extraction. There’s a huge disconnect between the empirical evidence presented by these researchers and the narrative of the mainstream media which is repeated in Trevor’s article.

The section concludes with Angola accepting a Chinese loan in exchange for 40,000 barrels of oil per day. It’s important to remember that it was Angola’s decision to reject the IMF (a positive move) and turn to China to ask for these loans. They are not being forced by China to take the loans, the way the imperialists have operated in Africa and elsewhere. Angolan agency is left out, it is a passive subject in the narrative when this is not necessarily the case. Again the wrong impression of Chinese investment in Africa being focused on extracting raw materials, was given by this short section on Angola.




Response from Trevor Rayne

It is useful to discuss China and its growing role internationally. Charles has misunderstood some of what I was writing about China and Africa. I conclude that section with a quote by the Angolan minister who is grateful for China’s loan to Angola, when the IMF would not help. I also cite the example of China contributing roads, railways, hospitals, clinics, schools, and two universities to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Regarding Foreign Direct Investment in Africa: using United Nations figures from 2017 we see that China’s stock of FDI rises from 30% of that UK in 2011 to 73% in 2016; 31% of that of France in 2011 to 82% in 2016. For China compared to US it rises from 28% to 70% over the same period. At this rate China will soon be the biggest FDI holder in Africa. It is not minor. Regarding ‘extracting raw materials’, well, that is what mining does – extract. If we look at Brautigam’s own analysis, she says that between 2003 and 2011 just over half of China’s financing to Africa and Latin America ‘is in the form of resourced-secured finance, involving the export of oil, cocoa, platinum and diamonds’. She adds that ‘Chinese finance is generally not out of line with interest rates found in global capital markets’ (‘Bartering Globalisation: China’s commodity backed finance in Africa and Latin America’, Global Policy September 2014).

We welcome more discussion on China as the situation is fluid and is certainly not so easy to understand.


Teachers strike against academisation

Teachers at the John Roan secondary comprehensive school were due to go on strike on 22 November in their campaign against being made into an academy. Before the strike day their union, the National Education Union, received a letter from the Labour council in Greenwich threatening the union with a legal injunction if it intended to go ahead with the strike. The teachers called the strike off. John McDonnell says that Labour is opposed to academisation and that a Labour government would bring back schools that have been made academies to once again be under local authority control. How can this be when a Labour council threatens to use the law against teachers who resist academisation?

John Roan School is scheduled to be run by the University Schools Trust. This Trust

includes as partners XL Catlin, part of the XL Group, an insurance company set up in the Cayman Islands and now headquartered in another tax haven, Bermuda. The XL Group was bought up this September by AXA, the France-based finance and insurance multinational monopoly, which is primarily US-owned. Its directors are drawn from JP Morgan, HSBC, Rothschild, Virgin Money and so on. Another partner is Wates Construction, part of the Wates Group: ‘one of the largest family-owned construction, development and property services’ firms in Britain. Wates has contracts to renovate Millbank House for the House of Lords and for work on the Houses of Parliament. Wates is building the facility at RAF Marham which will house the new F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft. These partners appoint the trustees that run the Trust which will run the academy school. Greenwich council is serving them.


South London

Suspended from GMB for opposing IHRA

I was interested to read in your last issue that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is complying with the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism (‘Defend Palestine Solidarity: Fight back’, FRFI 266).

As soon as Labour adopted IHRA, I launched a ‘death-wish’ petition to Labour’s NEC, declaring Israel to be a racist endeavour. The petition, only to be signed by Labour Party members, invites expulsion if the NEC determine we are anti-Semites; if they will not, we ask that Labour abandon the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. So far 760 members have signed – readers who want to do so, may find the petition at tinyurl.com/israelihra and if they are ineligible to sign, they might consider donating to legal costs at tinyurl.com/legalihra.

This petition has predictably annoyed Labour’s mandarins; I am presently under investigation for anti-Semitism. The GMB union too has got involved; they have suspended me as shop steward whilst proceeding to a disciplinary hearing, as they too are bound by the IHRA.

I might have added that I have written to Scottish PSC on several occasions about my petition, seeking support – they, along with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, have ignored all my emails. I am truly a pariah. Only Labour Against the Witch-hunt, recently, gave me some limited support, and Jewish Voice for Labour (through its sister organisation, Free Speech on Israel) have agreed to write me a letter of support with regards to my disciplinary with GMB.



Nicaragua, Israel and the myth of ‘left anti-Semitism’

The current vicious witch-hunt against so-called anti-Semitism in the Labour Party calls to mind the other major smear campaign waged by the Zionists on this issue. Except that on that occasion, the target of the abuse dealt with it a lot better.

On 25 December 1978, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article titled ‘Mounting anti-Semitism in Nicaragua’, complaining that ‘the Sandinistas have turned…the entire Nicaraguan opposition into anti-Semites’. A letter to the newspaper a few days later explained what this was about. The Somoza dictatorship was doing its utmost to drown a popular insurrection in blood, and the bombs and artillery with which working-class areas were being razed to the ground mostly came from Israel. It’s hardly surprising the Sandinistas were hostile to Zionism.

But the plans of the Zionist state – and its US backers who had subcontracted the dirty work to it – went badly wrong in July 1979, when the Nicaraguan people inconveniently overthrew Somoza before he had finished paying for the weapons used to massacre them. The Zionists demanded that the new revolutionary government pay up. Daniel Ortega, already emerging as the Sandinista government’s most prominent figure, gave the only fitting response to this outrageous demand. Addressing the Non-Aligned Conference in Havana in September 1979, he said the Sandinistas had discovered, in Somoza’s archives, documents detailing the deal for Israeli arms shipments to the Somoza government. There was no way that they – the targets of this lethal cargo – would pay for any of it. ‘On the contrary,’ he stated, ‘it is Israel that owes a debt to our people’.

The Sandinistas didn’t stop there. They broke off diplomatic ties with Israel and handed over the Israeli embassy building in Managua to the PLO! Sadly, this is not an example I could see Jeremy Corbyn emulating if he ever comes to power.



Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 267, December 2018/January 2019


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