webGuinée/Economy/Victor David Du Bois/ The independence movement in Guinea: a study in african nationalism/Chapter II. — The Nationalist Revolution in Postwar Africa
Politique, société, économie
La première décennie du régime PDG
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
The independence movement in Guinea:
a study in african nationalism
Princeton University, Ph.D. Dissertation 1962
Political Science, international law and relations
University Mcrofilms, Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan 436 p.
Part Two — The Road To Independence
Chapter II. — The Nationalist Revolution in Postwar Africa
A number of oifferent causes, some of them of long standing and some quite recent, contributed to the spread of nationalism in Africa after World War II. An extraordinary amount of publicity was given the liberal principles of the Atlantic Charter and the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Much of this found its way into Africa. This and the frequent denunciations of colonialism by certain wartime leaders did much to arouse anti-colonial sentiments lone dormant among the indigenous peoples. Painfully aware of their subordinate status, Africans in great numbers began to look on independence as a right they could claim before long . This hope was strengthened when British territories in Africa were promised self-rule within a fairly short time. The British promise of independence for the Gold Coast especially in 1957 lent great impetus to nationalism all over Africa. The Gold Coast at once became the symbol of all Africa’s hopes of freedom from colonial rule. Few other events had so powerful an impact on postwar developments on the continent. Virtually overnight Kwame N’Krumah, Prime Minister of the Gold Coast, took on heroic structure and became the spokesman for colonial peoples throughout Africa. N’Krumah’s words, predicting the quick demise of colonialism, electrified the continent and caught the attention of much of the outside world. Nowhere were they more carefully pondered than in Guinea, which would soon be the first colony to break with France as the Gold Coast was the first to break with Britain .This political unrest was intensified by severe dislocations of the economy. Inflation and a shortage of consumer goods plagued French Africa all during the war years as a result of its separation from the metropole. These troubles continued long after hostilities had ended. They heightened the traumatic experience of life under the Vichy Government, which in the eyes of Africans personified the most oppressive aspects of colonialism .Further discontent was caused in some areas by the decline in liberties heretofore enjoyed by the indigenous peoples. In areas such as French West Africa, where the wartime colonial administration had been among the most severe, freedoms won by years of hard effort were allowed to wither away or were annulled by colonial authorities anxious to curry favor with Vichy by vigorously implementing its racist policies.The Moslem insurrection in Algeria in 1954 gave further impetus to nationalism in French West Africa. From the very start, the events there held the attention of French Africans below the Sahara. At first it was thought that the rebels would easily be defeated and French authority quickly reasserted. As the crisis deepened, however, and the French proved unable to crush the insurrectionists even with their vast superiority in arms and men, interest in what was occurring in the North heightened.This rebellion against French authority posed serious problems for African leaders outside Algeria. Some were simply unable to make a total commitment to one side or the other. On the one hand, they were loyal to France and in many cases identified with her; on the other hand, they were sympathetic to the Algerians as a brother African people fighting for independence. For such men as Leopold Senghor and Lamine Guèye of Senegal, Fulbert Youlou of the French Congo, and Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, the problem demanded considerable soulsearching. The idea of breaking with France — the country to which they were deeply attached and whose tribulations they had so recently shared — provoked in many of them a “veritable crise de conscience” not easily resolved.Younger and more radical groups, including Africans studying in Paris, showed unequivocal hostility toward France. Many of them used the Algerian situation as a sounding-board for personal grievances and for propagation of nationalist causes.The spread of nationalism in French West Africa received further support from the return of large numbers of African ex-servicemen from combat experience in Europe. In the course of this combat experience, Africans had fought and in many instances had been participants in victories over white men. The realization that the whites, whatever their supposed superiority, could be defeated, did much to increase the Africans’ confidence in themselves. No less important was the impact of this discovery on African intellectuals, one of whom warned the French that they should not presume Africans to be immune to the attractions of freedom:“When we helped drag you out from under the Nazi heel, we tasted the bread of liberty — and whatever you do — do not make the mistake of believing that one day you will be able to make us forget its savor.” .In addition to these political and psychological factors, nationalism received a significant stimulus from a sociological phenomenon to which Hodgkin and others have called attention — haphazard postwar urbanization . As Africans moved into the squalor of the “bidonvilles” — the shanty towns fringing West African cities — the powerfully stabilizing forces of home and tribal life were weakened if not paralyzed. Masses of migrant natives converged on the sprawling urban centers in search of wage-paying jobs. They found that employment was scarcer than they had imagined, and living costs incredibly high. The economic and social tensions caused by these conditions were easily exploited by fledgling nationalist groups. These groups were quick to pose as champions of the underprivileged African masses against the colonial administration. They deftly channelled the accumulated frustrations of the Africans into intensive membership drives for social or athletic ascociations. These societies frequently underwent a rapid evolution, becoming quasi-political organizations. In pursuit of nationalist political goals, the associations waged sustained campaigns for literacy and adult education and were an important factor in promoting social cohesion. From time to time ad hoc groups were improvised to press for specific social objectives.Although at first view many of these African associations appeared to lack sufficient financial resources and to have an ever-changing membership, they were important contributory agents in the nationalist movements. Based principally on tribal or ethnic affiliations, they attracted many members among the younger people who had recently arrived in the cities. New ideas, often political, were quickly disseminated among these migrants and invarie.bly found their way back to the hinterland through a spontaneous but most efficient system of communication between urban and bush elements. The new ideas won respectful attention even from those who had remained in the interior. Through their emphasis on the retention of such elements of African culture as tribal songs and dances, myths end moral beliefs, the associations encouraged a sort of tribal nationalism, easily converted to anti-colonialism, its natural antithesis.The rejection of the first draft of the new Constitution of the Fourth Republic by the National and Constituent Assembly on May 6, 1946, disillusioned many of the African deputies. They had thought the liberal provisions of that draft a justification of their faith in the postwar government. The resurgence of conservatism which this defeat implied greatly alarmed them. They perceived therein a determined effort of reactionary elements in France to retain firm control over Africa and to block the political and social reforms necessary for the improvement of living conditions in the colonies. The Africans now resolved to reorganize in defense of their own interests.The fragmented nature of the French party system resulted in an immobilisme which rendered Parliament unable or unwilling to cope with colonial problems. As a result increasing numbers of Africans became convinced that more radical measures would have to be undertaken if the territories were to wrest concessions from a reluctant Paris. Action of this sort, it was realized, could not be fruittful unless initiated from a position of strength, which could be attained only by the consolidation of the individualistic African organizations.Perhaps more than other parts of French West Africa, Guinea was caught up in the naticnalist ferment of the postwar years. Her susceptibility to this powerful new appeal derived from the same economic and social underdevelopment that afflicted the other territories of the Federation. French economic policy toward Africa had followed traditional colonial procedure: importation of raw materials and certain foodstuffs and exportation of manufactured goods.
Imposed on the colonies with only the slightest consideration for their sentiments, this metropolitan-colonial economic relationship has been very generally referred to by the curious name of the “Colonial Pact.” Terms were dictated by the ruling power and were tailored to its own economy. Little attention was paid to making Guinea economically viable as a territory. It soon became evident how inadequate this system was to cope with the economic problems of any of the Overseas Territories.
The outbreak of war in Europe, the occupation of France by German troops, and the ensuing isolation of the colonies brought numerous hardships to their inhabitants.
In Guinea, sources of capital were dislocated when many French-owned enterprises were forced to curtail production. Within a relatively short period, thousands either were thrown out of work or saw their incomes drastically reduced. The few economic gains which had been made over previous years were thus obliterated. This, quite naturally, increased African dislike of the colonial administrator.To these formidable difficulties was added still another, namely, the crushing tax load which the African population of the territory had long been obliged to bear.
In 1934, direct taxation was distributed as follows: Europeans, a head tax of 100 francs plus a 5 percent duty on movable property; Africans, a personal tax of 11 to 20 francs, plus a cercle (county) tax, and a tax on livestock (0.45 francs per sheep, 2.25 per head of cattle, 13.50 per horse) . For the year 1940, out of a total tax revenue of 81.4 million francs, the personal and head taxes furnished 35.9 million francs . The income tax, however, brought in only 1.3 millions. It should be noted that Africans paid this tax also, despite their having very small cash incomes. Various permits and licenses accounted for 4.1 millions and the land tax accounted for 700,000 francs. A total of 42 million francs was derived, thus, from direct taxation. The rest of the tax total (39.4 million francs) — almost half came from indirect taxation, passed on ultimately to the mass of consumers — overwhelmingly African.
Professor Suret-Canale points out that in 1951 the average annual income of the French West African was calculated at 10,000 C.F.A. francs 10. (but only 7,000 in Guinea), while that of the average European was estimated at 315,000 C.F.A. francs 11. This means, in effect, that the European, whose average income was approximately thirty-one times greater than the African’s, enjoyed a highly privileged tax position. At least 32 percent of the Guinean peasant’s money income would be drained away by the personal and head taxes and their adjuncts, by the dues and interest owed to the beneficent organizations (sociétés de prévoyance), and by levies exacted by the native chiefs and their retinues 12
From the remaining portion of his income, the Guinean would then pay a wide variety of taxes on consumer goods, taxes that accounted for almost one-half of the total territorial revenue (39.4 million francs out of 81.4 millions) 13. The oppressiveness of this fiscal system, which the French were either unable or unwilling to modify, contributed enormously to the Guineans’ fastgrowing disenchantment with colonial rule.
A significant step toward progress was taken in 1946 when prominent African leaders, some of them deputies in the Constituent Assembly, issued a manifesto proposing a conference of all African political, cultural, religious and labor organizations. A ready response was assured by the signatures of Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, Leopold Senghor and Lamine Guèye of Senegal, Yacine Diallo of Guinea, Fily Dabo Sissoko and Gabriel d’Arboussier of the French Soudan, Sourou Apithy of Dahomey, and Felix Tchicaya of Equatorial Africa 14.2. The Bamako Conference: Founding of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (R.D.A.)
The Bamako Conference (taking its name from the capital of the French Soudan where it convened) sat from October 18 to 21, 1946, and was one of the largest all-African gatherings ever held in French Africa. Eight hundred delegates from West Africa, Equatorial Africa and the mandated territories — over eleven of them from Guinea — represented a variety of ethnic and linguistic groups. The assembled for the avowed purpose of organizing a united African political movement. Most of the delegates did not know each other and only recently had become aware of more than purely local concerns. The realization that they had common interests lent an air of excitement and even expectancy to their meeting.
Houphouët-Boigny, one of the signers of the manifesto, held the conference spellbound with his impassioned oratory. He urged the fusion of all African interests into a single party (rassemblement), to effect “the union of Africans and their alliance with French democrats,” who together would strive for the realization of “a real French Union — that of different peoples free and equal in their rights and duties.”
The conference soon took on the air of extremism which was to characterize most of its proceedings: it denounced colonial rule and French monopolies and called for the participation of the African Continent in “the anti-imperialist struggle led by the people of the whole world.” 16
Until Bamako, political parties in Africa for the most part had been either local branches of metropolitan parties or narrowly based ethnic or regional groups.
The former reflected the fragmented party structure prevalent in France itself, the latter, the divisive propensities of ethnic groups in the territories. When the delegates acted on Houphouët-Boigny’s suggestion and set set up the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (R.D.A.), the first all-African inter-territorial political party, they rendered the Bamako Conference a historical event of the first magnitude and gave Africa a potentially powerful weapon to fight for its interests.
The French Communists sensed the enthusiasm of the African people for the new party and were quick to support it. Raymond Barbé and other French Communist leaders attended the Bamako meeting to study the possibilities of the new movement and to devise methods by which the Communists could gain control over it. In its early days after Bamako the R.D.A. profited greatly from Communist instruction in how to launch a mass political movement. Under Communist tutelage, it attacked the colonial regime at its most vulnerable point — the racial discrimination still existing throughout much of French Africa as proved by the continued existence of a double electoral college in many areas and by the evident inequalities in living standards of Europeans and Africans. The R.D.A. called for equal political, social, and economic rights for Africans and for the abolition of the double voting system. The extent to which the revolutionary slogans of the new party had caught on was quickly proved in the elections of November 1946, when no less than eighteen of its number were elected to the Consultative Assembly of the French Union.
However, the extremist policy of the R.D.A. — especially toward the colonial administration — quickly provoked a disconcerting development: the withdrawal from the movement of some of its most prominent members. Wariest of all were African Socialists, some of whom had signed the Manifesto and served on the coordinating committee which set up the R.D.A. So acute, indeed, was the Socialists’ suspicion of Communist maneuvers that two of the most distinguished of them, Yacine Diallo of Guinea and Lamine-Gueye of Senegal, did not even go to Bamako, and F.D. Sissoko, who did go and was elected Secretary-General of the coordinating committee, very soon resigned that office. Their withdrawal from the movement, although initially a blow to its claim of having the support of all responsible African leaders, failed to change the basic orientation of the R.D.A.’s policies and, indeed, forced it into closer collaboration with the Communists.
Relations between the R.D.A. and the Communists were more the result of expediency than of conviction.
Unable to win over African deputies who, like the Socialists, were closely bound to their metropolitan organizetions, the R.D.A. resorted to collaboration with any party which would agree to support its programs in the National Assembly. Of such a nature was Houphouët’s association with the Communists as he explained in March, 1948:
“It is correct to say that we are connected with the Communist Party, but that does not mean that we are Communists. Is it likely that I, Houphouët, a traditional chief, an African doctor, a big landowner, and a Catholic should be a Communist? But our connection with the Communist Party is valuable to us in that we have found in it a French parliamentary group that welcomed us in a friendly fashion, while others paid no attention to us. And with them, the Communists, we have been able to carry out plans dear to us. Each time that we, the R.D.A., work towards a project, we can count on 183 votes of the Communist Party. If in exchange we loan our votes to the Communist group, what is that to us? Whether France is governed by one group or another, it cannot disinterest itself from Africa. So we can see no reason why the representatives of the Ivory Coast should regret this connection.” 17
Collaboration of the R.D.A. with the French Communist Party proved advantageous in its early stages. Voting together in the National Assembly and in the Assembly of the French Union, the two parties were able to count on each other’s consistent and loyal support on issues of vital concern to them. It was precisely in this that the significance of their collaboration lay.
Gabriel d’Arboussier, Houphouët’s chief adviser, worked with Raymond Barbé, leader of the Communist Party in the Assembly of the French Union, to establish an intimate liaison between his party and its R.D.A. sympathizers.
But as the relationship developed, the Communists began to exert increasing pressure on the R.D.A. to adopt more extreme policies toward the metropolitan government than it had heretofore been willing to accept. Barbé exhorted the R.D.A. to wage a vigorous campaign against colonialism in all its forms. Further, in total disregard of the irrelevancy of the concept of the “class struggle” to the African scene, he called on the R.D.A. to organize a mass movement to overthrow the bourgeoisie throughout French Africa.
The inevitable outcome of this collaboration was to alienate still further the more moderate elements in the R.D.A. The colonial administration was openly hostile. In the growing influence of the Party it saw a threat to the political stability of all of French Black Africa. Recognizing this, Houphouët saw how far the R.D.A. had wandered from its original aim of devoting itself exclusively to social, political and economic reforms. He began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of the alliance with the Communists. At the time, moreover, expansion of R.D.A. influence began to meet with strenuous opposition from leaders in Senegal, French Guinea and in other parts of French West Africa, where local political leaders saw it as a threat to their own position. In view of these reasons, Houphouët decided that the disadvantages of collaboration with the French Communists now outweighed the advantages, and in October 1950 ties were accordingly severed between the two parties.
After his break with the Communists, Houphouët tried to negotiate a merger with the Indépendants d’Outre-Mer (I.O.M.) 18 but found the latter unresponsive even though the programs of the two parties were practically identical. I.O.M. leaders remained unconvinced that the R.D.A. had in fact turned over a new leaf, and hesitated to align their party with a group whose recent reputation of extremism might do the I.O.M. more harm than good in the forthcoming elections. In the legislative elections of June, 1951, the R.D.A. suffered a further setback when its strength declined sharply everywhere except in the Ivory Coast and the Soudan, R.D.A. strongholds for the past five years (1946-1951).
The political vacuum created by the decline of the R.D.A. after the 1951 elections was not filled by any party genuinely able to call itself an all-African movement.
In recent years the R.D.A. had been the greatest rival of the ethnic parties and had, indeed, quite eclipsed them. Heartened by its defeat in 1951, these parties now began to reassert themselves. In the territorial elections of March 1952 the R.D.A. recouped some of its strength, predictably in the Ivory Coast and in the Soudan. Elsewhere in West Africa, however, its influence remained effectively checked.
. See, for example, G.E. Ridinger, « Anti-Colonial Policies of F.D.R., » Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 70, March 1955, pp. 1-18.
. Their claim rested on the Charter of the United Nations. The fact that the Charter was issued simultaneously in several languages gave opportunity for differences of interpretation which, though apparently minute, could cause serious misunderstandings. Thus the English text of Article 73 obliges memhers administering non-autonomous territories « to develop self-government. » The French text of the same article, however, merely obliges the administering powers « to develop their capacity to administer themselves » (développer leur capacité de s’administrer elles mêmes). These statements are plainly quite different in intent. The French version was not in conflict with the French Constitution of 1946 which made no specific provision for autonomy. But this clearly is not true of the English version. The Charter had been in force for more than a year when the Constitution was adopted. It is a matter of opinion whether the French or the English text of Article 73 gave a more accurate expression of the intentions of the Charter; however, the principles set forth in the English text were the ones most frequently alluded to in New York. There the reference to self-government and independence became increasingly frequent, and yearly debates in the U.N. General Assembly and Trusteeship Council had repercussions in West Africa. See René Massigli, “New Conceptions of French Policy in Tropical Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 33, No. 4, October 1957, p. 405.
. There was a fundamental difference in the two cases however. After Ghana won her independence from Great Britain, she became a member of the British Commonwealth after the 1958 referendum, Guinea’s break with France was complete.
. See Chapter 3, pp.48-51.
. Cited by Albert Tévoédjré, L’Afrique revoltée, (Paris, 1958), p. 37.
. Thomas Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa (New York, New York University Press, 1957; see also J. Richard-Molard, “Villes d’Afrique Noire,” Présence Africaine, No .15, Hommage à Richard-Molard (Paris, 1954); J. Lombard, “Cotonou, ville africaine,” Bulletin de l’I.F.A.N. (Institut Frangais de l’Afrique Noire), Vol. XVI, 3-4 juillet-octobre 1954; Georges Balandier, “Approche sociologique des ‘Brazzavi1les Noires’, Africa, Vol. XXII, 1 janvier 1952; J. Dresch, “Villes d’Afrique Occidentale,” Cahiers d’Outre-Mer, Vol. III, 11 juillet-octobre 1950; P. Mercier, “Aspects de 1a société africaine dans l’agglomération dakaroise,” Etudes Sénégalaises (Bulletin de l’I.F.A.N.), No. 5, 1954; R. Latenois, “L’urbanisme en A.O.F.: Dakar, Saint Louis du Sénégal,” Afrique Occidentale Française, Tome 2, (Paris, 1949); Y. Neufinck, “L’urbanisme à Dakar,” Chronique d’Outre-Mer, juin 1951.
. A broad analysis of the problem is provided in Kenneth Little’s « The Study of Social Change in British West Africa, » Africa, Vol. XXXII, No. 4, October, 1953; also, Daryll Forde, « The Conditions of Social Development in West Africa, » Civilisations, Vol. III, No. 4, 1953, p. 581; Georges Ballandier, op.cit., 1 janvier, 1952.
. Jean Suret-Canale, “Guinea Under the Colonial System,” Présence Africaine, Series No. 29, special edition on Independent Guinea, Vol. 1, n.d., pp. 21-62.
. Suret-Canale, ibid., citing Colony of French Guinea. Final Statement of Income and Expenditure. Financial Year 1940. (Conakry,Government Press, 1942).
10. Colonies Françaises d’Afrique (C.F.A.), the currency used throughout French Black Africa.
11. Suret-Canale, loc.cit. citing M. Capet and J. Fabre: “L’Economie de l’A.O.F. depuis la guerre,” Annales Africaines, 1957, pp. 135-194.
12. Note 77, ibid., p. 59.
13. Figure derived from subtracting all direct taxes from total revenue.
14. Le R.D.A. dans la lutte anti-impérialiste (Paris, 1948), p. 23.
15. Quoted by T. Hodgkin in West Africa, January 23, 1954, and cited by Thompson and Adloff, p. 85.
16. Quoted by T. Hodgkin in West Africa, January 23, 1954, and cited by Thompson and Adloff, p. 85.
17. Quoted by G. Monet in French Union Assembly debates, February 9, 1950 and cited in Thompson and Adloff, p. 87.
18. The Indépendants d’Outre-Mer (I.O.M.), was not a political party in the strict sense of the term. It was, rather, a grouping of French and African parliamentarians from all the Overseas Territories of French Black Africa, set up in 1948. Members of the I.O.M. retained their regular party affiliation but voted as a bloc on issues affecting the African territories.
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