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New Left Review I/213, September-October 1995

Norman Geras

Human Nature and Progress

In the same single issue early last year New Left Review carried two articles reminding anyone who might need reminding of some of the realities that disfigure the world we all inhabit. Colin Leys, commenting on a possible decline of the region towards ‘capitalism-induced barbarism’, wrote that ‘in sub-Saharan Africa most people are facing a future in which not even bare survival is assured. . .they are being made into “supernumeraries” of the human race.’ According to Leys, three hundred million (of five hundred million) human beings there are now living in absolute poverty. ‘When crops fail people die because there are no longer any food reserves or delivery systems, and when people fall ill they die because there are no longer any doctors or nurses or medicines to be had except on the black market, which is beyond most people’s reach.’ Without a radical change in the economic and political forces which bear on it, much or even most of Africa, Leys fears, is doomed to further ‘material and moral degradation and suffering’. [1] Colin Leys, ‘Confronting the African Tragedy’, nlr 204, March–April 1994, pp. 34–5, 44.

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