The Soviet Union and Black Africa

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Appel à contribution

In , when Lovett Fort-Whiteman, one of the first black recruits to the American Communist Party, ran afoul of the party bureaucracy in the U. R, where he had been living, he was arrested and was eventually sent to the gulag , where, two years later, he died from malnutrition.

The novelist Richard Wright, who was closely aligned with the American Communist Party early in his career, rejected it bitterly during the Second World War, convinced that it was merely using black people to its own ends.

Yet so intertwined were Communist and Soviet interests in matters of racial discrimination in the United States that the subject has spawned an entire subfield of African-American and Cold War history. That propaganda tradition of the old Soviet Union came back into view this week, after the Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports on attempted Russian interference in the Presidential election, which highlighted how those efforts targeted African-Americans.

According to one of the reports , produced by experts at the social-media research firm New Knowledge, in conjunction with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research, the Internet Research Agency, a company based in St. It created thirty Facebook pages directed at African-Americans that attracted more than a million followers.

Military influence and diplomacy

It created knockoff accounts, such as Black Matters, and outright false ones, such as Blacktivist, to amplify content that was primarily intended to sow dissension. Communist ideology, of course, was no longer part of the equation, but attempting to undermine American authority was: one objective appeared to be planting concerns about Hillary Clinton and racism as a means of depressing the black vote.

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, told me that activists had noted an uptick in fake content on social media but assumed that it was just standard Internet nuisance. Wendell Willkie, the Republican Presidential nominee, once observed that foreign policy is what a nation does at home and domestic policy is what it does abroad.

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This was essentially the message of civil-rights activists in the middle third of the twentieth century. Racism, they argued, may have succeeded in maintaining a racial hierarchy in the United States, but it was also a tremendous liability in international affairs. In , Walter White, who had just been named the national president of the N. Racial show trials were commonplace in the South, and each of them, he suggested, offered the party a bounty of propaganda opportunities. The paradox of wars, even cold ones, is that the victors often indulge in the luxury of forgetting, while the vanquished ruminate over every mistake and missed opportunity, in some corners for generations after.

Most Americans have moved on from the longest global conflict of the twentieth century, but for many Russians it still influences a great deal of how the nation sees its place in the world. Putin places a high premium on geopolitical relations and the pursuit of Russian assertiveness in the global arena. Russia is gradually increasing its influence in Africa through strategic investment in energy and minerals. Increasingly, the pressing question is: is the relationship between China and Africa as good for Africa as it is for China?

The same question applies to Russia-Africa relations. Key Russian investments in Africa are in the oil, gas and nuclear power sectors.

What the untold Soviet history of “Red Africa” reveals about the racism of modern Russia

These companies are mostly state-run, with investments often linked to military and diplomatic interests. Russia has also been reestablishing links with Angola, where Alrosa, the Russian giant, mines diamonds.


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Discussions between Russia and Angola have also focused on hydrocarbon production. Uranium in Namibia is another example. Shortly after that, nine weapons shipments arrived in the CAR. Interest in the country has focused on exploring its natural resources on a concession basis.

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Russia is the second largest exporter of arms globally, and a major supplier to African states. Over the past two decades it has pursued military ties with various African countries, such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Military ties are linked to bilateral military agreements as well as providing boots on the ground in UN peacekeeping operations.


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Russia has also been actively supporting Zimbabwe. Shortly after it was reported in that China had placed new generation surface-to-air missiles in Zimbabwe , Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that his country was pursuing military cooperation.

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Both Russia and China are keen to play a future role in Africa.



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