The European left has been so stung by the rise of nationalism and religious sentiment in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain that it no longer knows if it has a reason to exist.

The “New Left” has lost its way because it claims that “pacifism,” its traditional rallying cry, has been so defiled by what NATO did in Kosovo that it dare not lift its eyes. But this criticism of the bombing of Kosovo is in the mould of Cold War politics, of East against West.

The Western European left’s ideological umbilical cord was ripped out with Lithuanian independence and the demise of communism, as a system of government. By then the left had already witnessed the rise of nationalism among the Russians and minority ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. It would have saved face if the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s had managed to keep its revolution-prone proletariat under control and had not altered the course of historical materialism.

The European left has always played this game, shying away from an analysis of the real situation and opting for something manageable to avoid controversy, so believers could get on with their own lives. Africa’s leftwing activists, not the old clique of greedy feudalists mistakenly called nationalists by the West, have always labeled self-professed members of the European left as “liberals.”

In that sense, it meant those individuals who wouldn’t make their political positions clear over specific matters, or who refused to commit themselves to any line of action. For example, they failed to champion anticolonial and anti-imperial positions advocated by African liberationists. Instead, they saw the African left-wing as beer swilling, gun-toting rebels who raped women in the countryside.

That is why we had a long drawn-out war in Mozambique where land mines were planted by counter-revolutionaries like grain or rice seed. No word was heard from the European left about this. Nor did they say anything about Jonas Savimbi’s plunder of Angola’s diamonds and his destruction of the nation’s hopes for development, even though the West kept looking after him. Savimbi was a Cold War necessity for his masters, but did they know that he had a feudal mind of his own?

What about Mobuto Sese Seko, who the West claimed was the only person who could hold his country together; in fact, all he held together was a corrupt regime of plunderers. When Laurent Kabila took over Zaire, Europe’s left said he wasn’t worth his salt. Che Guevara had said so, so that was that — out with him.

Kabila emerged at the wrong time. The “approved” leader of East Africa was Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a self-proclaimed Marxist. Museveni proved that the United States wasn’t concerned with ideological orientation in the post-Cold War world since Africa was no longer a sphere for ideological competition.

The Cold War wasted Africa’s opportunity for planned development. Africa’s former colonial masters, through multinational corporations and monopoly capitalism, raided the continent for its primary commodities, and refused to transfer technology that would enable Africa to export manufactured products.

Clearly, when the bipolar world existed, the West ruthlessly exploited African resources: In retrospect, however, the so-called Cold War wasn’t about politics but about primary products and natural resources, of which Africa has an abundance.

Did the European left not see this?

The feudalistic presidents in Africa who constitute the West’s bourgeois comprador class are accepted with gloved hands and as heads of states, but if the West didn’t bribe them, would the developed world get what it wants?

If Europe doesn’t change the way it does business with Africa, change will not reach the villager who toils under hard conditions to repay debt owed to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is not an irony of history that technology in Africa is still at a basic level. Europe doesn’t want Africa’s processed and manufactured goods: It prefers to manufacture those goods and export the finished products to the Third World.

Though Africa owes the West billions of dollars, it should in fact claim reparations for slavery, colonialism and imperialism. Only then can there be talk about a real multipolar world.

Europe’s left should take up the message that is being repeated throughout the rest of the world: It is time to restructure the World Bank and the IMF as well as the United Nations.

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