Forwarded from John Enyang (reply to Mark)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jan 23 19:03:00 MST 2001

Hi Lou:
Please post this.

Mark Jones wrote:

>Ah, meet the new boss... same as the old boss, hey?
>No, that's not the future but the past you're revisiting. It goes back to
>the times of the first Venetian and Portugese gold and salve traders. No,
>it goes back to the first *Arab* gold and slave traders. No-one's
>reinventing the wheel, not in Africa anyway, where it continues to grind
>down the faces of the masses as it has done for 800 years and more. The
>people sitting astride this obscene wagon, axle-deep in blood, are not
>the foreigners but the chiefs and kings themselves.

Mark's bizarre assertions in his correspondence with Patrick Bond might
cause one to wonder whence Mark learned his African history.

Anyone with more than a rudimentary knowledge of the subject should
presumably be aware that chiefs, far from "sitting astride any obscene
wagon" for 800 years, were generally minor native functionaries (quislings
if you like) imposed by colonial administrators and subsequently adorned
with a fraudulent "traditional" authority. The king, like the African
chief of Mark's imagination, owes more to feverish Victorian colonial
fantasies and other persistent residues of 19th century views of the
native than to any historical or contemporary reality.

Yes, European colonialism has always found various uses for local
collaborators, but why Mark Jones, do you place so much emphasis on the
native chief supposedly mired in the blood of his people (an individual
who as we have seen, exists largely in your imagination), while scarcely
mentioning the fact that social relations in Africa have been completely
distorted by savage regimes of exploitation established, not by your
native chief, but by the very European colonial administrator? How do you
fail to mention that it was no native chief or king but King Leopold II
of Belgium, who established and profited from the regime of forced labour
under which 8 million inhabitants of the ill-named Congo Free State
perished so that the rubber industry of Europe might prosper?  How do you
attack that which in your ignorance you take for native society and yet
in doing so, minimise the disastrous role of imperial policies in creating
contemprorary realities?

I have only two more things to say on this question:

(i) Mark, if you can, why not show that you're doing more than farting in
the tub: name one, or perhaps two, of the chiefs and kings who "sit
astride the obscene wagon," give us a bit of background, and explain how
it is that these personalities come to play the decisive role in African
political economy -- over and above the British East Africa Company of
old, or the combined and individual might of De Beers, Anglo American
mining, British Petroleum, Chevron and Anglo-Dutch Shell today.

(ii) "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild is a well documented
and highly recommended study of the Congo Free State (published by

(iii) We can well do without yet more whitewashing of imperialism or the
kind of hoary and ill informed apologetics for racist oppression which
attribute the supposed misfortune of the victims to no more than their
own irredeemably bestial society.


J Enyang

Louis Proyect
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