Archive | Africa

Egypt: Sisi Drops a Depth Charge in Midst

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Egypt’s President Sisi Drops a Depth Charge in Midst of American Islamic Summit – Shames Supporters of Terrorism
21st Century Wire

Whatever criticisms may be justifiably levied at Egypt’s President Al Sisi, the speech he gave at the American Islamic Summit should go down in history as one of the bravest attacks on supporters of terrorism, whilst in their midst. The consternation of the primary terrorism creators and drivers, the Gulf State members, is palpable, as is the frantic tea-making and serving, as a distraction from the weight and power of Sisi’s words. Each barb hit home, Israel, Gulf States, the US, the EU, Turkey, nobody was omitted from the roll call of criminal terrorism support, sponsoring, promotion and funding.

Of course this speech was given zero air-time by western corporate media outlets, as it also exposed their promotion of the terror groups wreaking violent, murderous havoc across the region.

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Libya – Why Was Muammar Gaddafi Killed – May We Never Forget

NOVANEWS
Posted By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Based on a Skype interview with Alex Knyazev, Russia TV24

 

The Text below is the transcript of the interview between Alex Knyazev of Russia TV24 and Peter Koenig.  

Questions Russia TV24: What were the reasons Mr. Gaddafi was killed and NATO invaded Libya?

PK: Mr. Muammar Gaddafi was certainly not killed for humanitarian reasons.

Mr. Gaddafi wanted to empower Africa. He had a plan to create a new African Union, based on a new African economic system. He had a plan to introduce the ‘Gold Dinar’ as backing for African currencies, so they could become free from the dollar dominated western monetary system, that kept and keeps usurping Africa; Africa’s vast natural resources, especially oil and minerals. As a first step, he offered this lucrative and very beneficial alternative to other Muslim African states, but leaving it open for any other African countries to join.

At the time of Gaddafi’s atrocious murdering by Hillary Clinton, then Obama’s Secretary of State, and the French President Sarkozy, driven by NATO forces, on 20 October 2011 – Libya’s gold reserves were estimated at close to 150 tons, and about the same amount of silver. The estimated value at that time was US$ 7billion.

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It’s your guess who may have stolen this enormous treasure from the people of Libya. As of this date, it is nowhere to be found.

Gaddafi also wanted to detach his oil sales from the dollar, i.e. no longer trading hydrocarbons in US dollars, as was the US / OPEC imposed rule since the early 1970s. Other African and Middle Eastern oil and gas producers would have followed. In fact, Iran had already in 2007, a plan to introduce the Tehran Oil Bourse, where anyone could trade hydrocarbons in currencies other than the US dollar. That idea came to a sudden halt, when Bush (George W) started accusing Iran of planning to build a nuclear bomb which was, of course a fabricated lie, confirmed by the 16most prominent US security agencies- and later also by the UN body for nuclear safety – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Vienna. Washington needed a pretext to stop the Tehran Oil Bourse which would have decimated the need for dollars, and thereby most probably would have meant the end of the dollar hegemony.

Saddam Hussein had the same idea. He promised as soon as the murderous and criminal embargo imposed by the UN – of course dictated by Washington – would end in 2000, he would sell his petrol in euros. He was killed.

Gaddafi’s new plan for Africa would have meant an entirely new banking system for Africa, away from the now western (mainly France and UK) central banks dominated African currencies. -It could have meant the collapse of the US dollar -or at least an enormous blow to this fake dollar based western monetary system.

So, the Gold Dinar was not to happen. Anybody – to this day- who threatens the dollar hegemony will have to die. That means anybody other than China and Russia, because they have already a few years ago largely detached their economy from the dollar, by implementing hydrocarbons as well as other international contracts in gold or the respective local currencies. That alone has already helped reducing dollar holdings in international reserve coffers from almost 90% some 20 years ago to a rate fluctuating between 50% and 60% today.

Related imageThe also Washington / CIA induced “Arab Spring” was to turn the entire Middle East into one huge chaos zone- which today of course, it is. And there are no plans to secure it and to return it to normalcy, to what it was before. To the contrary, chaos allows to divide and conquer – to Balkanize, as is the plan for Syria and Iraq. One of the Washington led western goals of this chaos of constant conflict is to eventually install a system of private central banks in the Middle Eastern / North African countries controlled by Washington – privately owned central banks, à la Federal Reserve (FED), where the neocons, the Rothschilds and freemasonry would call the shots. That is expected to help stabilize the US dollar hegemony, as the hydrocarbons produced in this region generate trillions of dollars in trading per year.

Gaddafi also wanted to introduce, or had already started introducing into Africa a wireless telephone system that would do away with the US / European monopolies, with the Alcatels and AT and T’s of this world, which dominate and usurp the African market without scruples.

Gaddafi was not only the leader of Libya, he had ambitions to free Africa from the nefarious fangs of the west. Despite being called a dictator and despot by the west – they do that to anyone who doesn’t submit to Washington’s rules – he was very much liked by Libyans, by his people. He had a more than 80% approvalrate by the Libyan people. Libya’s oil fortune has allowed him to create a social system in his country where everybody would benefit from their land’s riches – free health care, free education, including scholarships abroad, modern infrastructure, top-notch technology in medicine, and more.

Russia TV24: Why the gold dinar would be unacceptable for the western leaders? Or not?

PK: Yes, the gold Dinar was totally unacceptable for western leaders. It might have devastated the US dollar hegemony, as well as Europe’s control over the African economy – which is nothing less than neo-colonization of Africa – in many ways worse than what happened for the past 400 or 800 years of murderous military colonization and oppression -which is by the way still ongoing, just more discretely.

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Look at the Ivory Coast 2010 presidential elections. Theirarguably ‘unelected’ President, Alassane Ouattara (picture on the right), was in a tie with the people’s candidate, Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo said he won the election and asked for a recount which was denied. Ouattara, a former IMF staff, was pushed in, basically by ‘recommendation’ of the IMF. He is the darling of the neoliberal international financial institutions – and is leading a neocon government – an economy at the service of western corporations. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they got. Modern colonization is well alive and thriving. I call this a financial coup, instigated by foreign financial institutions.

Image result for laurent gbagboMr. Laurent Gbagbo was accused of rape, murder and other atrocities and immediately transferred to the International Criminal Court (sic-sic) – what justice? – in The Hague, where he was waiting five years for a trial which started on 28 January 2016 and is ongoing. On 15 May 2017, it was extended at the Prosecutor’s request to collect further evidence. This by all likelihood is just a farce to dupe the public into believing that he is getting a fair trial. Already in hearings in 2014, Gbagbo was found guilty of all charges, including murder, rape and other crimes against humanity. Like Slobodan Milošević, he is an inconvenient prisoner, or worse would he be as a free man. So, he will most likely be locked away – and one day commit ‘suicide’ or die from a ‘heart attack’.  The classic. That’s how the west does away with potential witnesses of their atrocious crimes. End of story. Nobody barks, because the ‘free world’has been made believe by the western presstitute media that these people are inhuman tyrants. That’s precisely what the western media’s headlines proclaimed about Muammar Gaddafi: Death of a Tyrant.

On the other hand, in 2015, Ouattara was “reelected by a landslide”. That’s what western media say. Colonization under African ‘leadership’. He is protected by the French army.

Back to Libya: Take the specific case of France and West and Central Africa. The French Central Bank, the Banque de France, backs the West and Central African Monetary Union’s currency, the CFA franc. The West African Central Bank, for example, is covered, i.e. controlled, by about 70% of the Banque de France. Banque de France has an almost total control over the economy of its former West African colonies. No wonder, Sarkozy, a murderer and war criminal – sorry, it must be said, backed Hillary’s – also a murderer and war criminal, push for NATO to destroy the country and kill thousands of Libyans, including Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Hillary’s infamous words: ‘We came we saw he died’. And that she said shamelessly, jokingly, laughing. Would the term human being still apply to such a monster?

Russia TV24: What countries are mostly interested in the Libyan recovery and why? What are the chances for the economy of Libya to be repaired?

PK: Well, if anybody should be interested in Libya’s recovery it would be first the Libyans who are still living in Libya, because they are now living in a Libya of chaos and high crime, of mafia-economics, of tyranny by gang leadership. They certainly have an interest to return to normalcy. North African neighboring countries should also be interested in restoring order and rebuilding Libya’s infrastructure and economy, stopping the spill-over of high crime and terrorism. They have lost an important trading partner.

Of course, the rest of Africa, who have suffered from continuous colonization of the west, after Gaddafi’s demise, should also be interested in reestablishing Libya. They know,it will never be the same Libya that was there to help their economy, to help them prying loose from the western boots and fangs of exploitation.

And Europe -should be most interested in reestablishing order and a real economy in Libya- cleaning it from a murderous Mafia that promotes drugs and slave trade ending up in Europe. Libya today is one of the key hubs for the boat refugees from Africa to Europe.Instead of helping Libyans to come to peace within its borders and to rebuild their country, the European Commission launched in 2015 a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, targeting specifically Libya – destroying refugee boats, if they cannot stop them from leaving Tripoli, Benghazi and other Libyan Sea ports.

Of course, spineless Europe doesn’t dare saying they would like to remake Libya into a functional state.Libya is Washington’s territory – and Washington wants chaos to continue in Libya.As such Libya is a formidable ground for training and recruitment of terrorists, drug and slave trading; a country where crime prospers and the CIA takes their cut, as these criminal activities are directed by the CIA and their affiliates. The rest of the world doesn’t see that. For them it’s all the fault of the dictator Gaddafi, who thanks goodness was eliminated by the western powers, lords of money and greed.

Russia TV24: Decades ago Libya was very successful from an economic point of view. What main things could you remember?

PK: Libya was economically and socially a successful country, arguably the most successful of Africa. Prosperity from oil was largely shared by Gaddafi with his countrymen. Libya had a first-class social safety net, an excellent transportation infrastructure, free medical services, and modern hospitals,equipped with latest technology medical equipment, free education for everyone – and students could even receive scholarships to study abroad.

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Under President Gaddafi, Libya built friendly relations based on solidarity with other African States and was always ready to help if a ‘brother nation’ was in trouble. Gaddafi was a bit like Hugo Chavez in South America. He had a large heart and charisma, maybe not so much for western leaders, but certainly for Libya’s own population. Yet, he is accused of tyranny by the West, and is said to having financially supported Sarkozy’s Presidential campaign – Sarkozy, the very ‘leader’ (sic-sic),who then helped Hillary lynch Gaddafi. If that doesn’t say a lot about Europe’s criminal leaders – what will?

Muammar Gaddafi was accused by Washington – an accusation immediately repeated by the spineless European puppets, of being responsible for the December 1988 PanAm Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. More than 240 people perished in the crash. Not a shred of evidence was discovered that Libya was behind the plot. But it was a good reason to start a program of sanctions against Gaddafi’s regime. It was most likely a false flag. What interest would anybody have to bring down that flight, other than clamping down on an oil-rich country.

Russia TV24: Now we see oil production has grown to at least 50% of the 2011 level. Can we expect it to continue growing and affecting the oil market?

PK: Yes, Libyan oil production has increased to about 50% of its 2011 level. Libya is known for her high premium light petrol, commanding premium prices. It is a market niche which might well be affected by Libya’s stepped up production. But who really benefits from this production increase? – Most likely not the Libyans, but the international corporations, mostly American and French oil giants. They call the shots on the production levels. They are part of the international cartel of oil price manipulators, as are the Wall Street banksters,predominantly Goldman Sachs.

Russia TV24: The sanctions against Libya are lifted and all barriers for foreign investments have disappeared as well. Does it mean the county will face recovery soon?

PK: Sanctions may be lifted, but that does not mean that foreign investments will now flow to Libya. The country is still under chaos and disarray – and in my opinion will stay so in the foreseeable future. That’s in Washington’s interest.Investors are reluctant to put their money into a crime nest and a terrorist breeding ground which is working closely with Washington and its secret services – to provide terrorists to fight US-proxy wars around the Middle East, for example in Syria and Iraq – and now even in Afghanistan – and who knows where else.

Russia TV24:How do you assess the political situation in the country today?

PK: As much as I would like to end on a positive note, it is difficult. As long as the CIA, chief instigator of all wars in the Middle East, is using the purposefully created Libyan chaos to train and recruit Islamic State fighters, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups which vary only in name but have the same objective – namely regime change in Syria – prospects for a foreseeable bright future are dim.

Of course, a lot depends on the unpredictable Trump Presidency. Will he seek peace in the Middle East? – That would be the surprise of the Century – or will he continue on the track dictated by the Deep State (not least to save his skin) – continue destruction of the Middle East, Balkanization of Syria – all as a stepping stone to Full Spectrum Dominance – as is written in the American Bible – the PNAC – Plan for a New American Century – which outlines the ‘American Pax Romana’. They were the bloodiest 200 – 300 years of the Roman Empire. Here comes the positive note: It is unlikely that the American empire will last that long. It’s on its last legs.When it finally falters, Libya may recover, and so may the rest of the world.

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Apartheid in Today’s South Africa: The Corruption of A Dream

NOVANEWS
 

 

“Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” — Honoré de Balzac

The SASSA scandal currently unfolding is probably the most dramatic expression of how far the African National Congress (ANC) has traveled since its days of opposition to apartheid. [SASSA stands for South Africa Social Security Agency, which is the agency that pays social grants to about 17 million beneficiaries.] Under apartheid, ANC activists were associated with laying down their lives in defending and advancing the interests of the mass of the people – in particular the black working class. Today, the cadre of the ANC is associated with stealing from the mass of people they used to die for. It is now commonly accepted, including in the ANC itself, that the corruption and theft of public resources is not just an isolated problem in the ANC. The general South African public and the ANC itself now accept that the problem is deep and systemic.

In every newspaper, social media, and television platforms and in everyday conversation the corruption in the ANC is now standard diet, and therefore the SASSA scandal would seem to be just one other scandal among many. But the SASSA scandal, on the contrary, is important in one respect: it allows us the opportunity to develop an understanding of ANC corruption as being made up of different kinds. As a result of the political struggles in the ANC around which the SASSA debacle is unfolding, this scandal gives us an opportunity to look into a part of the ANC’s corruption that the mainstream and middle class press shies away from – the legalized corruption that the ANC has presided over for over 20 years.

Corrupt Alliance

The corruption of the President Jacob Zuma and Gupta family alliance (aka ‘Zuptas’) is clear for all to see – and it is clear to all but its beneficiaries, that it must be opposed and struggled against. What is equally clear is that Pravin Gordhan and the finance ministers that came before him have presided over the growing impoverishment of the mass of black working class South Africans. Under their watch, wealth has become more concentrated in South Africa and has remained deeply racialized. It is equally clear that the development of the black middle class has not moved beyond flashy clothes and flashy cars – under their watch this class remains as precarious as ever. It is also undeniable that there is really no serious black big bourgeoisie to speak off – except a couple of pin-up boys who are exceptions that prove the rule.

In the public domain – and in particular in the media – the focus has been on the most visible part of the problem: the Zuptas. Indeed, Pravin Godharn and his bloc in the ANC have been held up as models of good governance and clean government who will save South Africa from its ‘descent’ into a banana republic. No connection or relationship is established between the corruption of Zuma and his supporters in the ANC, and Gordhan and his “clean governance.”

Anti-Apartheid Struggles

In the course of the SASSA crisis it began to emerge that there may be deep interconnections between the corruption of the Zuma group and monopoly capital in the form of Alan Gray (owners of Net1 and Cash Paymaster). Note also that another Mr. Clean, ex-Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, booted out by Zuma on account of his commitment to “good governance,” has also ended up at Alan Gray. Ex-Minister Nene is no flash in the pan when it comes to the revolving door between government finance leaders and finance capital. We know that ex-Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is now one of the big chiefs at Old Mutual, that other giant of South Africa’s monopoly club. Soon after leaving the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni joined Goldman Sachs, the U.S. investment banking house notorious for its scandalous if legal behaviour all over the world. It also turned out that the bankers of SASSA are none other than the ‘white monopoly capitalist’ most hated by Zuma and his side-kick, College ‘Oros’ Maine – the Ruperts.

How did it come to pass that the most corrupt section of the ANC is connected in all these ways to “white monopoly capital”? Further, how do the “clean” politicians of the ANC also end up in the same bed of monopoly capital? Is there, indeed, a more than passing connection between corruption in the ANC and “white monopoly capital”? Is there a connection between the break up of the ANC currently underway and white monopoly capital?

In light of the SASSA crisis it is important to move beyond the smokescreens and hype put up by South Africa’s mainstream media and its analysts, and explore the deep connections between corruption and neoliberal governance (popularly known as ‘good governance’) that is promoted by Pravin Gordhan and his supporters.

Distribution of Wealth

The wealth of any society is distributed among its various social classes through a range of mechanisms. In capitalist society, the means and processes of the distribution of society’s wealth range from the division of wealth between wages and profits; the markets in which goods are bought and sold serve to distribute wealth between the classes; for example, in the agricultural commodities market the wealth is extracted away from the small farmers and other producers toward financiers who control the world’s global markets in agricultural commodities. The system of taxation in a country also serves to distribute wealth between the classes; and the way the government (in any country a key economic actor) produces, buys and supplies goods and services to the mass of the population also serves to distribute wealth between the classes. The entire capitalist economy is organized around the making of profit for the capitalist, the owner of factories, shops, mines and farms: the means of producing goods and services. The entire system, therefore, is essentially about the way the wealth that is produced is distributed among the capitalists, the middle class, and the working class or poor people in a country.

Theft vs. corruption

In any society there are people who steal something from others. Corruption, however, is not just theft (though in many cases it includes theft), but involves an illegal, hidden and unethical use of access to resources and power to transfer wealth and power to the benefit of oneself or for the benefit of one’s associates. Corruption can be done for a range of reasons, including for personal enrichment, enrichment of friends or relatives, and/or facilitating access to resources and power by yourself, friends and relatives. In the history of capitalism and in the formation of the capitalist class, corruption (and sometimes even more violent crimes) constitutes the most important way of creating wealth for a new capitalist class. In addition, as a result of the constant threat to the wealth of the capitalist resulting from competition and the instability of capitalism, capitalists must periodically engage in corruption – this illegal, hidden and unethical transfer of wealth and power – to maintain their wealth.

Legalization of corruption

In South Africa, for example, the wealth of all the rich white capitalists is founded on the theft of the land, the minerals beneath the land and other resources of the country. Also, it was founded on the exclusion from power of all social classes and groups from the black majority. During the process of the formation of the South African state in the early 1900s, the black middle class of the time – led by the ANC – attempted to get themselves included in the new power arrangements of the Union of South Africa, but this was rejected by the white capitalists and their colonial government in Britain.

An important step in the development of any capitalist class is reached when the wealth this class acquired by theft, corrupt and illegal means is transformed into legal wealth; when they write and rewrite laws to legalize their wealth. For example, the land that was stolen by white settler capitalists over many years in South Africa was legalized with the Land Act of 1913. The initial legalization of corrupt wealth requires that the capitalist class creates a range of laws that maintain this ill-gotten wealth. These laws include property laws and by-laws (in cities and municipalities), laws around setting up businesses, the organization of state policies and taxes that favour the reproduction and maintenance of that wealth, and so on. Meetings between individuals and corporations to organize this corruption are sometimes legalized – and this is referred to as “lobby-groups” and so on. In many countries, such as France, “lobbyists” get paid a lot of money and spend a lot of money (legalized bribery) to persuade those in power to act in the interests of certain power groups.

Power and corruption

Once a capitalist class or section of a capitalist class has legalized its corruption, it has an interest in ensuring that the corruption of competitors is not legalized. By keeping them illegal, the ruling capitalist group can obstruct, weaken, or punish at will its competitors. At times, it may “turn a blind eye” to this corruption as long as it does not threaten its rule. It can also periodically use this dark side of capitalism to strengthen its position without running a risk of becoming illegal – in other words the established capitalists can “outsource” corruption.

Because of their power these groups have created their own system of justice, in which they all agree to pay “traffic fines” for this corruption and theft. In South Africa recently, a number of banks agreed to pay “fines” for manipulating the rand. This parallel system of justice, which includes legal institutions like the Competition Commission, whitewashes corruption and allows powerful groups in society to evade the normal process of criminal justice. Along this line, think also of the bread cartel, which colluded to rob the poor of their already meagre wages and grants.

Distribution of Wealth and Corruption

Image result for ANC africaCorrupt groups in society – such as the ANC cadre or groups of new capitalists like the Afrikaner capitalists after 1948 – draw the wealth they transfer to themselves from different parts of society. There are four main sources of wealth, or circuits of wealth, from which the corrupt groups can steal. The first is from the capitalist class itself. There are many cases of this corruption in the financial markets, and daily we hear of reports of “insider trading,” which is corruption between and among financial market traders to steal from the capitalist class itself. The second is from the state. The third is to steal directly from the middle class, and fourth, they can steal directly from the working class. Corrupt groups focus on the lines along which wealth is distributed in society, where they “intercept” this wealth behind the scenes and direct it to themselves and friends. The wealth can be “intercepted” within the circuits of wealth of particular classes, as well as when wealth moves between the different circuits. Corrupt groups do not in general create wealth, they redirect it and consume it once it is produced.

The line of distribution on which corrupt groups focus depends on the power this group enjoys in society. For example, groups like investment banks and currency trading groups are able to redirect wealth that is circulating in the financial sector by corrupt means. As I have argued, they have created their own systems of justice to ensure that their corruption is legalized. In order for corrupt groups to intercept wealth from the capitalist classes and the middle classes, they need control of important institutions like banks and large corporations.

Weaker groups of emerging capitalists are forced to focus their corruption on less powerful groups in society – such as the working class. In order for them to intercept resources within the working class, and to intercept resources that move from the state to the working class, they need access to political office. Political office allows these groups to intercept transfers from the state to other classes as well, but their lack of power forces them to focus on transfers from the state to the working class.

The 1994 Transition Blocks Black Capitalists

A number of key agreements made during the negotiations before 1994 have come to block the formation of a new class of capitalists. Their elements were:

a. Constitutionalism and constitutional continuity

The constitutional and political settlement at the dawn of democracy constituted the first line of defence against the dangers that democracy posed to the wealthy groups in society – in particular to white monopoly capitalist interests. While not being the only elements of the settlements that served to block the redistribution of wealth, the ones we would like to highlight are:

  1. the transformation of South Africa into a constitutional state.
  2. the adoption of the concept or doctrine of ‘legal continuity’, which meant that all laws and agreements that were passed or entered into during colonialism and apartheid remained valid and could only be changed through the legal process.
  3. the new dispensation made it unconstitutional to punish anyone for any offence committed in the past if no law said it was an offence at the time.
  4. the capitalist corporations continued to be “juristic persons,” and this meant that all key rights conferred by the new constitution to protect people against abuses of apartheid (such as expropriation of property for very low compensation) also protected capitalist organizations.

The doctrines of constitutionalism, constitutional continuity and illegalization of retrospectivity were not enough to defend monopoly capital. Monopoly capital did not trust the new black elite as it was not always clear if the black political elite now in government would resist the pressure of their constituency to redistribute wealth. The capitalist class, through a range of means, intervened to create other lines of defence against the pressure for redistribution of wealth.

b. The capture of the ANC

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To protect the interests of monopoly capital, determined efforts were made to capture the ANC as an organization, and these efforts were already successful by 1992. In that year, the Mail & Guardian organized a retreat at Mont Fleurs outside Cape Town, where the consensus about a free market capitalist road began to emerge. Some of the people present were to be key in the adoption of free market economics or neoliberalism in post-apartheid South Africa. They included Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni, Rob Davies, Saki Macozoma, Jayendra Naidoo, and some of the biggest capitalists, Christo Wiese, Derek Keys and so on. It was these series of engagements that ended in the capture of the ANC by monopoly capital, and resulted in the adoption of “Growth, Employment and Redistribution” (GEAR) policy by the ANC in 1996.

c. Flags of convenience

Another line of defence put up by (white) monopoly capital was to ensure that key capitalist organizations are protected against the South African state – which was black and could not be trusted – by foreign governments. Following the ascent of Trevor Manuel to the Treasury, five of South Africa’s large corporations were granted permission to become “foreign companies” by shifting their “home” addresses to London and New York. This move allowed these companies to move their wealth overseas. By 2001 the companies were exporting more than R7-billion in profits made in SA overseas. The ‘flags of convenience’ of these companies meant that they were now protected against South African people by their new-found “parents” – the UK and U.S. governments. From being South African companies, they now became foreign investors in South Africa! While the big five companies expressed this process in the most visible manner, the strategy of ‘flying flags of convenience’, even without moving the primary listing to foreign countries, has continued. Today almost half of the biggest companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are controlled by foreign shareholders. Almost 75% of the companies have 30% or more of their stocks owned by foreign shareholders. This level of ownership is enough to control a company, and with the resources at the disposal of these foreign groups they are able to exert a major influence on the South African economy and on the South African state.

d. Privatization of state enterprises, or starving SOEs of investment

Wall number four was also put up, and this mainly involved pressure on the new South African state to privatize the key assets of the state. If privatization was not possible, the state allowed these assets to fall into neglect so as to allow the “private sector,” meaning the big capitalist, to create “new industries” to substitute the state industries. Private health is one such example – the decline of state health has led to the consolidation of the rise of private health.

The debacle around SASSA is another example of how the decline in the capacities of the state, a direct product of the neoliberal policies pursued by successive ANC administrations with the Finance Ministry at the vanguard, has led to the current situation in which a state organ cannot even process payments, notwithstanding the fact that the South African Revenue Services run an equally large, modern and sophisticated electronic system of filing and payments. Add to this that the entire Department of Home Affairs platform is now digitized and uses modern biometrics, and we can see how the SASSA crisis is one manufactured by vested interests.

Fortress Capitalism

These four lines of defence created a fortress around capitalist organizations and the privileged white middle class, and ensured that their wealth would be preserved. This defence of capitalist and white privilege and power ensured that any new group of black capitalists that wanted to become rich could only be rich on one condition: by the mercy of white monopoly capital. This is how many ANC cadres such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Patrice Motsepe became rich. This condition, however, was a recipe for conflict. Not only would the black working class grow restive over time, but the black middle class and the aspiring black bourgeoisie would have to find ways around these walls of defence. This battle was what set in motion the battle for the ANC.

This battle began to take shape around what was called “the class project of 1996” (a code for the capture of the ANC by monopoly capital and neoliberalism); the battle grew into the Polokwane project that brought together Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League, Zwelinzima Vavi and COSATU, the black petty bourgeoisie at the local level (mainly in the bureaucracy of the local state), and sections of the aspiring black bourgeoisie such as Tokyo Sexwale and Ramaphosa. At this point in the battle, people like Nene and Gordhan were part of this broad church.

Corruption and the battle for the ANC

The policies implemented by the government of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel blocked the emergence of a class of big black capitalists that could challenge white monopoly capital. The rich few blacks they produced were too dependent on white monopoly capital. Their policies also began to have a negative effect on the working class and the small and fragile black middle class. As unemployment rose and the black middle class struggled to survive, the tide turned against Thabo Mbeki’s leadership in the ANC, and he was overthrown at Polokwane in 2007 and recalled in September 2008. This overthrow of Thabo Mbeki was seen as the end of the “class project of 1996,” and a new regime at the Finance Ministry was thought to be at hand with the accession of Pravin Gordhan to the helm. It was not long before the Polokwane bloc came up against the many lines of defence put up by monopoly capital. It must be remembered immediately on becoming president, Zuma was on his way to London to meet “investors.”

Although this bloc had come to political office around the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation” based on the Freedom Charter – much as the Zuma bloc is now again trying to do – they had no real programme or plan on how to break through the stranglehold of monopoly capital and the defences it had put up over more than 20 years (1990 and before, to 2009).

Without any programme, the new Polokwane bloc could not break through three of the four lines of defence put up by white monopoly capital. The economic situation of the middle classes – their key constituency – had been deteriorating and their indebtedness had been rising in the 15 years or so of the new democracy. As an historical bout of bad luck would have it, they also came into political office against the backdrop of a global economic crisis. This meant that even the crumbs that had been dished out to the Tokyos of this world were drying up. Black participation in the JSE began to decline, monopoly capital and its international counterpart demanded fiscal discipline and austerity and the state as a redistributive mechanism was frowned upon even more by those who held economic power in society.

Thus the Polokwane bloc and the class it represented – the petty bourgeoisie, now dependent on their position in the state – had only one option to survive: through corruption, tenders and doing business with the state that employed them.

Earlier I argued that there are four sources of corrupt enrichment in capitalist society. Recall that I argued that the first line is to divert resources from within the capitalist class. The second was to extract resources from within the state through large state contracts. The third was to extract resources from the middle class, and fourthly, from the working class. Three of these remained blocked, and only one (extracting resources from state transfers to the working class) was now open for this class and the Polokwane bloc.

A new situation had arisen because in the Polokwane struggle monopoly capital and its allies in the ANC lost control of the ANC. The Polokwane bloc had breached one of the four walls of defence set up by capital – they had recaptured the ANC. This immediately opened up the possibilities of extracting resources meant for the poor working class communities, especially via the local state. The only option open to a weakened and defeated black middle class was to extract resources from the line that distributed resources from the state to the working class. At all levels of the state, but particularly at the local state, the new black elite has been extracting wealth for its consumption from resources meant for the working class and the poor. The scale of this corrupt extraction can be seen in the reports of the Auditor General year after year since the transition began. Billions and billions of rand are “lost” every year to “wasteful,” fruitless, and unauthorized expenditure. We can see this extraction from broken RDP houses, unfinished school buildings, pot holes on roads across the country, non-delivery of text books, waterworks that are sabotaged in order for fictitious tenders to be created, and the list goes on without end. The SASSA crisis currently unfolding represents a particularly ugly version of how this group is intercepting resources meant for the working class, but it is only the most visible one because it is now unfolding around a single date, April 1.

The control of the ANC by the Polokwane bloc, however, did not bring with it the power to breach the three other lines of defence set up by monopoly capital. The constitutional and legal defences are still intact, and litigation against the Zuma state has intensified at all levels. Also, massive capital flight and export continues, and various means are implemented to accelerate this. Lately, transfer pricing has become a favoured means to export profits to overseas destinations. The swindling of the middle class, especially the affluent white middle class, remains the preserve of big capital and its banks, which are jealously guarding the banking space for new entrants and find all manner of ways of collapsing upstarts that want to disturb the current division of the market into spheres of influence.

The struggle currently underway (Zuma vs. Gordhan) in the ANC owes its specific origins to a number of key developments since the victory of the Polokwane bloc. The basis of these developments is the fact that the Polokwane bloc had no real programme of how to confront monopoly capital. The rhetoric of the SACP and COSATU, themselves closet believers in neoliberal policies, was clearly not enough to confront the “beast” that is monopoly capital. Confronted with these defences, the bloc folded and fractured in a hundred different directions. Some of the key modalities of this fracture included:

  1. Zuma, who had no programmatic or political interest in the struggle against monopoly capital, went back to his old ways of responding to the intractable nature of the transition: petty corruption. Remember that before his rise to the throne, Zuma was facing hundreds of petty corruption charges. What the new situation opened up was more of the same: resource extraction of the pettiest kind. So followed Nkandla, a large dose of petty theft.
  2. The Treasury under Gordhan was recaptured by monopoly capital, as he was forced to continue dishing out all the neoliberal formulas of his predecessor, Trevor Manuel. The continuation of the Treasury’s orientation toward neoliberal economics of monopoly capital was facilitated by the difficult conditions of the global economic crisis on the one hand (he came into the Treasury just after the crisis), and the lack of any programme (besides rhetoric) on the part of the Polokwane bloc. Without any programme, the man who was going to put an end to the “class project of 96” had no clue on what was to be done – and when you don’t know you just keep going. Zuma’s propensity for petty corruption, his lack of any real ideas (big or small) on any issue and his patent helplessness in running the ship of state – all these facilitated Gordhan’s capture by monopoly capital.
  3. The entry, or rather re-entry, of sections of the Polokwane bloc that had pretensions to being big capitalists also dampened any appetite for a fight with monopoly capital. The likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, deeply indebted to monopoly capital, deeply intertwined with it (Lonmin) had no appetite for this fight and did not believe in radical economic transformation. The attitude of this faction was that it could be rich by being “clean,” and were clearly at odds with the Zuma group of petty thieves.
  4. Those who still believed in the rhetoric of the Freedom Charter, like Julius Malema and Irvin Jim, now came face to face with the fact that no amount of radical rhetoric can shift the entrenched nature of monopoly capital. They also came face to face with the fact that the Zuma section of the bloc and the Ramaphosas of this world had no appetite for the fight, and for the rhetoric as well. They split off from the Tripartite Alliance and the ANC, and went on to continue with their rhetoric and theatrics.
  5. In the course of all these struggles (the run-up to Polokwane and the immediate beyond), COSATU became less and less of a force to be taken seriously by the other factions in the Polokwane bloc. The Marikana massacre bled the key actor in the pro-Zuma blocs in COSATU – in particular the NUM – and with Numsa leaving the sorry state of COSATU is there for all to see.
  6. The South African Communist Party (SACP), as usual, puts its head in the sand, throws around a bit of rhetoric, and hopes that history will lead to socialism in the end. Caught between the petty corruption of Zuma and Gordhan’s shift to the right, the SACP defends Rupert (anything but the Guptas), likes the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation,” and in general swings wildly between the two main protagonists in the struggle of the excluded petty bourgeoisie against white monopoly capital.

These lines of fracture of the Polokwane bloc led to the alignments of factions in the ANC that are now playing out a new, and maybe last phase, of the disintegration of the ANC. In the immediate conjucture of the SASSA crisis, the alignments look like this:

In the corner of monopoly capital stands Gordhan. As the conjuncture of circumstances would have it, the SACP and COSATU stand in this corner. As a result of his anti-Zuma orientation, Julius Malema find themselves (temporary?) allies of Gordhan, and therefore of white monopoly capital. In the other corner stands (?) Zuma, his family, the consuming black petty bourgeoisie at the local level, and of course the Guptas.

Enter the Guptas

The arrival of the Guptas on the scene (initially introduced by the Mbeki bloc), and their linking up with the Zuma bloc, has led to an intensification of hostilities in the struggle for the extraction of resources from the state. Up to then, there was no actor in the Zuma or Polokwane bloc more broadly, who had the appetite and resources to fight white monopoly capital. Also, up to then there was no actor that was involved directly in real production – people like Ramaphosa are stock millionaires, not real production capitalists.

The importance of the Guptas in this battle cannot be understated. The Guptas are providing four key elements that have been lacking in the Zuma bloc. First, as we indicated already, the Guptas are a producing capitalist group and not just a group of consuming individuals. Second, the Guptas have financial resources that can “take on” big capital in South Africa. Third, the Guptas have the organizational skills that come with organization of production, and they have had to “organize” the whole bloc, even to the extent of dishing out cabinet posts!

Fourth, if the Guptas succeed in making inroads into the circuits of wealth that run between the state and large capitals – the state enterprises are key in this circuit – they may well break into the heart of the circuits that run within the capitalist class itself. An important project of the Guptas will be that of having its own banking arm. This aspect of the project will also give it access to extracting wealth from the affluent middle classes, or in the beginning from the black middle classes. With the ability to issue loans to the middle class on a significant scale, and backed up by access to large state contracts – it will most certainly be game on!

In the short term, the most important strategic goal is to capture the Treasury, currently the most important bastion of monopoly capital within the state. A common error in the analysis of what is clearly an important strategic project for the Guptas – the capture of the Treasury – is that the Guptas only want to “loot.” Now, the idea of looting is always associated with corruption, in particular with consumption, and not production. This is a fundamental error of theory and analysis.

The Eskom contract around the Tegeta coal mining contracts is a classic example of the processes of the legalization of corruption. It therefore provides an interesting example of how monopoly capital and its “fourth estate,” the media, would cry wolf while they themselves engage in similar kinds of practices. The main purported “sin” of the Guptas is that they got “paid an advance” on coal that they did not have, and in turn used this advance to purchase the mine and later deliver the coal. Now, this kind of financial engineering is standard practice with the likes of Goldman Sachs (see Goldmans Greek debt swindle), derivatives of all kinds (remember that what triggered the global economic crisis was the housing loan derivatives), and in many cases straightforward theft of state resources.

If we leave the world of financial engineering (that is the legalized theft of social wealth) the Eskom deal is classic in another and more important sense. The formation of large capitals in South Africa was underwritten by massive state subsidies over several decades. And guess who was key in the provision of these subsidies? Eskom! For decades, while the black working class had no access to electricity, Eskom ran the lowest electricity price regime in the world for big capitals. A combination of cheap electricity (Eskom), cheap steel (ISCOR) with cheap labour was the recipe that created today’s white monopoly industries. The Tegeta deal is borrowing from an old book.

South African monopoly capital is aware of the threat posed by a victory of the Guptas: the Guptas may just succeed in legalizing their corruption alongside that of white monopoly capital. Sensing this, big capital and its allies are putting up a fierce resistance, and this threatens to break up the ANC completely. The battle for the Treasury expresses this issue most acutely, but the battle is equally acute across all the big state enterprises.

Public Opinion

Image result for gupta and zumaOf importance in this struggle will be the battle for the hearts and minds of the population. Who will be able to win the battle for public opinion? At this point in the battle the Guptas and Zuma (a minor player in this historical drama) have the odds stacked against them. Almost the entire media sings from the same hymnbook: the Guptas are corrupt, they are a danger to the “nation,” (here xenophobia even comes into it) and they should be denied citizenship, etc, etc. On the other hand, it is easy to mistake the noise of the media for real support for the Gordhan corner.

The Guptas may therefore be under siege, but they have a crucial trump card, so to speak. Although the Polokwane project has broken up, the systemic social, political and economic problems that brought it into being do not only still exist – they continue to deepen. The economics of austerity implemented by Gordhan continue to pulverize the black middle class and the black working class. The levels of indebtedness of South African consumers has been steadily rising, and the only remaining question is when the tipping point will be reached: when are we going to see large-scale and politically explosive defaults among the middle classes?

On the other hand, the ANC has steadily lost credibility in the working class, as shown by the local government elections of 2016. As a result of this, the working class has become a passive force, as shown by its stayaway from the August local government elections. A combination of pressures on the black middle class still dependent on the state and its tenders, and a passive working class mean that Zuma and his faction may have lost the battle for the media, but they remain firmly in charge of the ANC. Sensing this, Zuma and his faction have “conjured up the spirits of the past to fight their current battles”: they have resurrected the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation” that initially launched the struggle against the “class project of 1996.”

These layers of the ANC apparatus see Gordhan’s “clean government” crusade as directed against them. They see a repeat of the “class project of 1996,” and they are learning in the process not to depend on their traditional allies – the SACP and COSATU. Through its various factions in the ANC – in particular the Premier League – this group is digging in for a bitter fight for the ANC. This fight will break the ANC to pieces, but for this class there is no other option.

The consequence of this alignment of forces is that the Gordhan group has to try and launch assaults from outside the ANC. Thus the need for “stalwarts” and all kinds of “eminent persons” that appeal to the Zuma bloc to desist from the road of corruption. Their capacity to contest within the structures of the ANC has been considerably weakened by their association with monopoly capital and its vanguard in the person of Gordhan.

Free and Egalitarian South Africa?

June 26: Freedom Charter Day

At the heart of the Zupta versus Pravin battle is a battle between two kinds of corruption. On the one side is a corruption that has not yet been able to legalize itself, a corruption of excluded sections of the black middle class and those who aspire to be rich capitalists. At this point this corrupt faction steals directly from the poor, but it seeks to legalize itself and “play” in the greener pastures of corruption in the circuits of wealth that move within the capitalist class and the state itself. On the other side stand the front troops of legalized corruption – the corruption of white monopoly capital. Behind their appeal to the “rule of law,” to “clean government,” to “anti-corruption” stand the defence of privilege that has not only excluded aspiring black capital, but has produced a deep, structural and enduring poverty of millions of working class South Africans.

The prospects of a victory of monopoly capital, a Cyril Ramaphosa victory in the ANC, and therefore a recapture of the ANC is currently looking extremely slim. On the other hand, the Zupta bloc is facing formidable odds as it tries to breach the walls put up by monopoly capital. What South Africa may indeed be facing is what Marx called a “peace of the graveyard,” a common ruin of the contending classes.” With monopoly capital unable to flush the Zuptas out of the state, and the Zuptas not able to impose a deal that legalizes them as co-thieves of social wealth, we may see a ruin of all classes.

In this whole battle for Treasury and the state between Zuma and Gordhan, the real elephant in the room is this: how did it come to pass that almost 40 million South Africans are dependent on meagre grants handed out by the state? This is the real inheritance of Mbeki, Manuel, Nene and Gordhan and the big capitalist groups they represent.

Both the monopoly capitalists and the Zuptas have corrupted something very precious in South Africa’s history – they have corrupted a proud and militant tradition of struggle for social justice; they have corrupted South Africa’s dream of a free and egalitarian nation.

With a ruin of all classes increasingly looking likely, the only way out is for the working class to come out of its period of apathy – but this will constitute a whole new historical period.

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The Revitalization of Detroit: Disempowerment and Displacement Serve as Major Impediments

NOVANEWS
Prestige projects financed through tax captures and forced removals of African Americans breeds rejection of existing development models
 

On May 12 the much-heralded QLINE will be launched along Woodward Avenue in the city of Detroit.

This transportation vehicle looks like a hybrid of both a street car and an extended bus which operates on rails.

The project has been touted by the corporate media as the latest edition in a number of other business ventures which ostensibly represent the renaissance of the city.

However, if this effort had undergone any serious analysis, evaluation and debate among the people of Detroit it would have never been funded at the level of the official cost of $140 million. Any debate and electoral referendum in favor of the QLINE would have failed if the desire was to meet the needs of the people of Detroit.Image result for detroit qline

This QLINE scheme was ten years in the making when it was first broached in 2007 under the administration of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. There were persistent funding shortfalls until the federal government under the Department of Transportation, along with the State of Michigan agreed to provide assistance.

Nonetheless, it was the same federal government which reduced subsidies to municipalities in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession which brought massive cuts in public transportation services throughout the metropolitan Detroit area. The Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority (SMART) in response to federal cutbacks slashed routes which would take people from the central city to the suburbs and back. Within the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT), whole routes were eliminated and dozens of bus lines were rescheduled to run less frequently providing no services at certain times of the day.

Such a policy does not provide the people of the city, documented as being the poorest of any other major urban center in the United States, with the public transport needs to travel to work, for shopping, medical visits and other necessities. Most of the people who are new residents in the Midtown and Downtown areas of Detroit own automobiles or utilize Uber, Lift and Zipcar.

Image result for joe louis arenaIn addition to the QLINE, there is the new hockey and basketball arena owned by Ilitch Holdings through the granting of free land, massive tax breaks and the transferal of public revenue to private interests. The Ilitch operation located on the edges of downtown was a totally unnecessary project since Joe Louis Arena on the riverfront was perfectly suited for the same sports activities. Joe Louis Arena, named after the legendary African American boxing champion of the 1930s and 1940s, is scheduled to be demolished with its land turned over to a private bond holding group which was involved in the forcing of the City of Detroit into financial ruin.

To build the arena which is to be accompanied by another entertainment and housing district for the partaking of wealthy white residents who are expected to re-locate and frequent these establishments, thousands of people were systematically forced out of the area previously known as the Cass Corridor. The Ilitch Holdings arena-entertainment complex is uncritically praised as a hallmark of the commitment of the billionaire ruling class to the rebuilding of the city.

The City of Detroit’s first white corporate-imposed mayor in 40 years, Mike Duggan, announced in late April that there was a new acquisition of land in the Cass Corridor, now often referred to as Midtown by the local business and government-funded news outlets, to the tune of $77 million in investments to construct a housing complex. Undoubtedly, if the trend continues for Midtown and Downtown apartments, lofts and condominiums, the prices are far above the level of affordability for the majority of the African American people who constitute over 80 percent of the population.

Although the Duggan publicity narrative about the latest Cass Corridor/Midtown site is that the location is vacant after the closing years before of the Wigle Recreation Center, its abandonment being a manifestation of the economic and social downturn in Detroit, a group says that it has already rejuvenated the location through a sporting association.

Image result for wigle recreation center

According to the Detroit News,

“The site is the home of ‘the Wig,’ a DIY skatepark built by Community Push three years ago, when [Derrick] Dykas says the area surrounding the Wigle Recreation Center was in disrepair. At that point, the center had been shut down for almost a decade, and left in its place was tall grass and trash.” (May 1)

This same report goes on to quote this local activist as saying,

“When we came and started building, we were picking up dirty needles, condoms, and there were kids that were right out here playing on recess while there’s guys shooting up in the building next door,’ Dykas said, pointing to a school across the street. We got them out of here. We made this place safe again.”

Such an occurrence as this illustrates clearly that none of the projects being promoted by the leading corporate interests now effectively running the municipal government are designed to encourage African Americans, Latinos, Middle Easterners and working class people in general to remain in the city. At present tens of thousands of owner-occupied homes across Detroit and Wayne County are slated for tax foreclosure.

Moreover, there is no documented proof that the proliferation of a small number of prestige projects can actually generate sustainable economic growth. Beyond the construction of the arena and high-priced housing units how many people will be able to benefits from the profits gained through the exorbitant rents charged by the landlords who are given tax breaks in such operations?

Poverty and Displacement: By-products of a Failed Policy

Despite the propaganda of the Duggan administration and his corporate backers, Detroit is still the most underdeveloped major municipality in the United States. The decline of the automotive industry (1975-2009) and its subsequent packaged-bankruptcy and restructuring, has not benefited the people of Detroit as a whole.

Image result for mike duggan

Left: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

Car transportation was deliberately promoted in the city for decades. In 1956, the remaining street car lines which at one time had provided citywide and regional transportation links were pulled up at the aegis of the automotive industry. Nothing was ever implemented as an alternative for the needs of the working population and poor except the insufficient bus lines which have suffered from neglect and downsizing for years.

These factors are compounded by the predatory municipal lending practices of the financial institutions that ensnarled the declining population in unrepayable loans and interests-rate swap swindles. In 2013, under the undemocratic imposition of emergency management, the City of Detroit was forced into bankruptcy by a corporate law firm, Jones Day, in contravention of the electoral will of people throughout the state of Michigan.

Over 600 people with employment, residential and business interests in the city filed objections during the initial bankruptcy court proceedings before Judge Steven Rhodes in 2013. Yet Rhodes continued with the farcical process further transferring wealth from pensioners, the City of Detroit public assets and its homeowners to the same banks which engineered the economic crises.

Transportation, Housing and Education: The Keys to a People’s Revitalization

The Motor City Freedom Riders (MCFR), a grassroots organization which has advocated the development of a genuine regional transportation system in metropolitan Detroit, recently called for a demonstration on the opening day of service for the QLINE. MCFR will gather at the northern starting point of the QLINE on Woodward Avenue near Grand Boulevard early on the morning of May 12 to expose the utter waste of public resources and lack of practicability of such a venture.

In a May 2 statement issued by MCFR it emphasizes that,

“the region’s political and economic elite is breaking out the champagne to celebrate the QLINE, but they’ve shown little interest in a new push for real regional transit that will address the transit crisis and make a positive difference for bus riders and the broader public. If they refuse to act, we will…. The transit crisis is an issue which intersects with so many others: education, environmental health, access to employment, disability justice, economic development, climate change, racial equality, and independence for our elders, and so much more.”

When there is inadequate public transportation and a burgeoning housing crisis this can only lead to further population decline. During the census period of 2000-2010, the city of Detroit lost approximately 237,000 residents, one-quarter of its people. This was largely due to the elimination of industrial jobs and the targeting of the majority African American neighborhoods for predatory mortgage lending resulting in 100,000 foreclosures after 2006.

Image result for detroit moratorium now

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs has waged a campaign for the last nine years to halt both mortgage and property tax foreclosures in Detroit and around the state of Michigan. Federal Hardest Hit Funds, the pittance of the Congressional bailout monies allocated ostensibly to the people in late 2008, are not being utilized in Detroit to keep working families in the neighborhoods. These resources are misallocated for demolition purposes through the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), a supposed quasi-public entity which is under Department of Justice investigation based upon its corrupt practices. The Duggan administration has pressured the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to redirect all funds from the Hardest Hit program to demolition furthering the displacement of Black and working class people. (www.moratorium-mi.org)

A restructured K-12 educational system transforming the Detroit Public Schools into a Detroit Community School District has not resolved the deterioration which under state-control for more than a decade resulted in the closure of over 250 buildings and the elimination of thousands of employees. There are more for-profit charter schools providing largely sub-standard education to Detroit youth than the public system.

It is impossible to revitalize a municipality without quality education being available to the families living there. The majority of students attending charter and public schools come from households which fall below the poverty line.

Until the questions of housing, public transportation, education and water services are seriously addressed there cannot be a genuine reconstruction of the city of Detroit. As an edict of the Duggan administration’s policy, some 18,000 households are scheduled for the termination of their water services over the coming weeks.

The policy orientation of Duggan is weighed heavily in favor of the wealthy conglomerates controlled by the likes of Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske and the Ilitch family. The banks work in conjunction with the local capitalist class to perpetually disempower the African American majority.

This reality is mirrored across the U.S. where increasing amounts of the wealth of American society is utilized for the enrichment of the corporate elites. Only a redistribution of wealth and empowerment of the working and oppressed peoples will remedy the situation creating a viable system of living and governance in the urban areas.

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Trump Wants Regime Change in Syria, Extended US Led Wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan

NOVANEWS
 

In March 2011, Obama launched war on Syria to destroy its sovereignty and replace Assad with pro-Western puppet rule.

Trump upped the stakes. He escalated war, increased US terror-bombing, and doubled the number of US forces on the ground ahead of likely larger numbers coming.

His hugely dangerous war plan risks direct confrontation with Russia. Instead of governing responsibly, he’s recklessly risking possible nuclear war in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula.

In northern Syria, hundreds of thousands of civilians are threatened by US terror-bombing – targeting infrastructure and government sites on the phony pretext of combating ISIS America created and supports.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Staphane Dujarric issued a briefing on catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Yemen, Mosul, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the safety of over 400,000 Syrians in Raqqa.

Around 10 million Yemenis

“require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives,” he stressed. The country is “the largest food security emergency in the world…on the brink of (catastrophic) famine.”

Fighting and terror-bombing of Mosul continues, up to 400,000 displaced so far – in desperate need of aid. The lives and welfare of around two million Iraqis are endangered by ongoing conflict. The civilian death toll keeps mounting.

“(D)etainees in Afghanistan continue to face torture and ill-treatment in government detention facilities.”

America’s longest war continues endlessly with no prospect for resolution.

In South Sudan,

“lack of accountability for crimes perpetrated during the conflict remains one of the country’s biggest challenges.”

Syrians in and around Raqqa are exposed to daily ground fighting and US-led terror-bombing – including against infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques, markets and residential areas.

Unknown numbers of civilians are being killed daily, perhaps thousands before the campaign ends.

According to Dujarric,

“(i)n past weeks, civilians have been exposed to daily fighting and airstrikes which resulted in an escalating number of civilian deaths and injuries…”

“Some 39,000 (were) newly displaced,” most in open areas without shelter or protection from fighting and bombing. Desperate people are without humanitarian aid.

Russia’s intervention in Syria improved conditions greatly for its people – liberated from hundreds of areas previously controlled by US-supported terrorists, provided with humanitarian aid by Moscow and Syria to sustain them.

Separately on Monday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on 271 Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center personnel – on the phony pretext of involvement in chemical weapons development.

Washington holds them responsible for developing the toxic agent used in Kahn Sheikhoun on April 4 – an incident  Syria had nothing to do with, a false flag irresponsibly blamed on its military and Bashar al-Assad.

Last Friday, Sergey Lavrov said Russia’s call for an independent, unbiased on-site investigation was “blocked by Western delegations without any explanations.”

“(O)bvious false information” is being used by America and its rogue allies to topple Assad – likely by escalated war, involving larger numbers of US forces.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, YemenComments Off on Trump Wants Regime Change in Syria, Extended US Led Wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan

America’s Imperial War Drive and the Contemporary African Crisis

NOVANEWS
From the Cameroon and Somalia to South Africa and Zimbabwe neo-colonialism remains a major impediment to genuine development and stability

Any reasonable observer of the United States ruling class discourse during April 2017 realizes that the imperialist war drive is still a dominant theme.

Many people were quite skeptical if not disbelieving of the campaign rhetoric of current President Donald J. Trump when he hinted at lessening tensions with the Russian Federation over the wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine. These decisions to embark upon a militarist approach to foreign policy is well entrenched in history.

After all the indigenous Native peoples were driven off their lands and systematic genocide remain the order of the day in light of the situation at Standing Rock as a stark example. Of course African people having been kidnapped into slavery and super-exploited for two-and-a-half centuries through involuntary servitude by the purportedly “enlightened and civilized” British, French, Spanish, Danish and Dutch ruling classes were essential in the transformation of the economic system of the West from feudalism and mercantilism into industrial capitalism and imperialism.Image result for atlantic slave trade

The Atlantic Slave Trade not only created the economic conditions for the rise of mass production utilizing steam technology, large-scale agricultural commodity exports and raw material extraction, it developed more effective means of generating surplus value through the advent of the mining outposts and plants where scientific manufacturing systems such as Taylorism and Fordism took capitalism to unprecedented levels of wealth generation. Although capitalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries expanded the capacity to generate wealth, it only intensified the contradictions between labor and the owners of production.

It was the global triangular trading system of slave labor, agricultural commodification and export for profit which fueled the economic imperative of colonial imperialism. Slavery was abolished beginning in the early decades of the 19th century only to pave the way for a more effective process of exploitation. Even though workers in the colonies both foreign and domestic were considered emancipated in fact they were enslaved through their dependence on meager wages needed to maintain an existence after the destruction of more traditional forms of farming and small scale commodity production.

The colonial project in the British colonies of the northeast and southeast as mentioned above was based on genocide and enslavement. The contradictions between the ruling classes of Britain and what became known as the U.S. was resolved through the so-called Revolutionary War, which some historian now realize was in actuality a counter-revolution to preserve chattel slavery, and the War of 1812, which solidified the quest for American dominance over areas south of the Canadian border.

Contemporary Instances of Imperialist Destabilization Efforts in Africa: The Case of Cameroon

For the purpose of this discussion let us first look at the current situation in the West African state of Cameroon. This is a country that garners almost no news reporting in the U.S. due to what is perceived as a lack of strategic interests.

Nonetheless, over the last several months a mounting struggle across the country has paralyzed the ability of the public sector to function in an efficient manner. The Cameroon crisis is almost completely framed by corporate media reports as a conflict between the French and English speaking regions of the nation. Two provinces are dominated by those who speak English while the other eight are largely under the influence of French language and culture.

Image result for paul biyaTeachers and civil servants went out on strike late last year in the English speaking provinces due to policies initiated by the government of President Paul Biya, who has been in office now for 35 years. Lawyers and legal workers objected to the imposition of French speaking judges in their court systems which created an untenable situation.

Later teachers in the English speaking provinces complained of the inadequacy of educational materials mandated by the French-oriented regime. Moreover, teachers were not being paid for their work and these factors precipitated a general strike among both educators and legal workers.

The Biya government responded by imposing draconian measures such as the termination of internet services in an attempt to make it more difficult to organize resistance. Just recently the government announced that it is reinstating connectivity to these provinces in the western region of the country.

This labor unrest eventually spread to the French speaking areas as well. Teachers in the other provinces went out on strike saying that in many cases they have not received a paycheck in as much as five years. Many teachers who graduated college and were hired as educators had not been able to collect one dime for their services.

Despite the efforts of the government and business press to frame the conflict as purely a sectional one, stripping it of its class and anti-imperialist dimensions, this has not been wholly successful. One of the leading football stars of Cameroon, the champions of the Africa Cup, openly expressed solidarity with the people of the English speaking regions of the country.

Nevertheless, how did this situation develop? Africa was subjected to imperialist divisions during the late 19th century.

There is almost no appreciation or acknowledgement of the role of Germany under Otto von Bismarck in the imperialist partitioning of the continent. The fact of the matter is the Berlin Conference was held there due to the important role of Germany in the colonial project.

In a series of three articles published recently by this writer, I have outlined the role of Germany in its genocidal and exploitative role during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Africa. These articles dealt with the demand by the Herero people of Namibia, formerly known as South West Africa, for the payment of reparations stemming from the genocide against the Namibian people during 1904-1907. Tens of thousands of Africans were slaughtered, forcibly removed from their traditional lands, starved and worked death simply because they revolted against the imposition of German colonialism in the final years of the 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s.

Image result for german imperialism africaAlso the Germans were involved in East Africa through the colonization of the area now known as Tanzania, then Tanganyika, along with Rwanda and Burundi. In Tanzania, the Maji Maji Revolt of 1905-07 against German imperialism prompted another genocidal wave of violence resulting in untold numbers of deaths through brute force, dislocation and systematic starvation. The people of Tanzania are now demanding reparations from the government in Berlin which is seeking to enhance its trade and political relationships with independent African states.

Cameroon was as well a German colony during this same period. Atrocities were committed through forced labor initiatives utilized to build railroads and agricultural commodity production. Those Africans who refused to cooperate were tortured and killed in the thousands.

All of these historical developments occurred decades prior to the holocaust in Germany, Poland and Hungary of the 1930s and 1940s under the Third Reich of Adolph Hitler. Yet the consciousness of people in the West, and even within Africa itself, is almost nil in this regard.

During the course of World War I, Germany lost all of their colonies in Africa. The imposition of the Treaty of Versailles negotiated by President Woodrow Wilson and the victorious European imperialist powers in the aftermath of the First World War did not bring peace to the globe but set the stage for the rise of fascism and the advent of World War II.

However, there has been no recognition of the colonial history of Cameroon in evaluating the contemporary political impasse. It is important to evoke the anti-imperialist and revolutionary national liberation history of Cameroon.

In the aftermath of WWII, there was a wave of anti-imperialist fervorinternationally. Africa did not escape this phenomenon. The Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) sought immediate national independence during the 1950s. Having met vicious repression on the part of the French colonialists, they embarked upon an armed struggle. Consequently, the UPC was targeted for liquidation by Paris.

Two of the leading figures in the UPC, Ruben Um Nyobe and Felix Roland Moumie were assassinated. Nyobe was killed on the battlefield in 1958. Moumie was later poisoned in Switzerland by the French secret police in 1960. The political forces which became the official government after independence in the early 1960s were willing to compromise with imperialism. Although Cameroon was further divided through the independence process, officially it is not supposed to be a francophone state.

Consequently, it is important to look beyond the headlines in order to understand the post-colonial conflicts in Africa. As historical and dialectical materialists we must uncover the truth through an examination of the social forces motivating existing contradictions both within the society as well as external influences.

Trump Escalates Imperialist War in Somalia 

Image result for us strikes in somaliaLate last month, President Trump issued another executive order on Somalia. The essence of the initiative was to purportedly relax restrictions on carrying out aerial strikes against Al-Shabaab fighters who have been in a war with the U.S. and European Union (EU) supported government in Mogadishu.

Washington has a long history of military and intelligence interference in the internal affairs of Somalia. In the last decade, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has engaged in targeted assassinations, training programs for the reconstructed of the Somalian National Army and the embedding of U.S. personnel within local state structures.

These policy efforts are bolstered by the presence of flotillas of warships off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world. The situation in Somalia manifested by the naval presence of the Pentagon and the EU in the Gulf of Aden is closely related to the imperialist war in Yemen, Syria and the entire region of West Asia.

The previous administrations of Presidents George W. Bush, Jr. and Barack Hussein Obama engaged in aggressive military and covert operations in Somalia. Since 2007, U.S. and British warplanes have staged bombing operations in various regions of the Horn of Africa state.

Therefore, the proclamation by Trump is merely a disingenuous approach to continuing the already existing war policy in the Horn of Africa. Additional Pentagon troops are being deployed to Somalia in a supposed bolstering of training operations in support of the recently-elected administration in Mogadishu.

In fact the role of the U.S. in Somalia over the last twenty five years has done more ensure that no real political settlement is achieved in the country. When any semblance of national unity and social stability is achieved it is immediately attacked by Washington. This holds true for successive Republican and Democratic administrations.

Somalia is an oil-rich nation where leading multi-national petroleum firms are engaging in drilling. Its natural resource wealth combined with the strategic waterways off the coast makes the nation an important focal point of imperialist intrigue on the African continent extending through the so-called Middle East.

Nevertheless, despite all of the natural wealth and imperialist funding of military operations, including the stationing of 22,000 African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops which are funded and trained by the imperialist states, the humanitarian situation in the country is worsening on a daily basis. Somalia has for nearly four decades suffered from periodic drought and famine. These problems have forced millions of its residents into neighboring states throughout Africa, the Middle East and even into Western Europe and North America.

The advent of colonialism scattered the Somalian people across five different geographic nation-states: British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, French Somaliland, Kenya and imperial Ethiopia under the monarchy. The maintenance of the status-quo under neo-colonialism is the driving forces by the U.S. support of military intervention by neighboring states such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Formerly French Somaliland, Djibouti, is now the largest base of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the continent. This geographically and populated small Horn of Africa state houses thousands of American and French troops at Camp Lemonier serving as an imperialist base for Pentagon and CIA operations across the region including Yemen.

With all of these resources flowing in from the West and its allies, why are the people in Somalia still under extreme duress? It is largely due to the real objectives of the imperialist states which are to ensure geo-strategic dominance and the exploitation of resources and labor.

In a report issued by the Inter-regional Information Network (IRIN) of the United Nations on March 28, it says:

“Six years after a famine killed a quarter of a million people in Somalia, the country is threatened with another. Famines only occur if political decision-makers allow them to; it is imperative that the right decisions are made now. But have we learnt enough from the mistakes of 2011? The context has changed since 2011. Somalia now has a functioning – if limited and fragile – state apparatus. Some of the areas worst affected by the last crisis have since received considerable resilience investment (although how far such programming has helped people prepare for or cope with the current crisis is not yet known).”Image result for famine in somalia

IRIN continues in this same article emphasizing:

“Food security, nutrition and health are rapidly deteriorating in affected areas of the Sool Plateau in the north of Somalia and in the ‘sorghum belt’ in the south. In late 2016, the deyr rains failed in the south and the earlier gu rains were well below average, bringing national grain yields to their lowest in a decade. Predictions for the coming gu season in the affected areas are not optimistic. Food prices are rising. The purchasing power of typical households has declined by 20 percent in some areas of the north and by as much as 60 percent in the hardest-hit areas in the south – repeating the dangerous pattern seen in early 2011. Large-scale livestock deaths are already occurring. The Shabelle River, which provides irrigation water and a livestock refuge in the south, ran dry at some locations in January and remains dangerously low.”

Such as profound contradiction of increasing U.S. military involvement and deteriorating social conditions are by no means an anomaly. This is the actual history of imperialism in Africa over the last six centuries.

Prior to the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism, the area now known as Somalia was very much a part of the world system extending from the Far East in Asia to the Indian Ocean basin. This trading network existed for at least a thousand years and was not disrupted until the rise of Portugal and Spain as the initiators of the triangular construct leading to involuntary servitude as an economic system.

In understanding this history it is quite conceivable that the system of imperialism can be overthrown and transcended. This basis for the establishment of an alternative economic method of organizing society, the relationships between states, and the priorities of production, has been set forth through socialist ideology.

This is the reason why imperialism declared war on socialism in its infancy following the Russian Revolution (1917) and the subsequent founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922) in 1922. Both the bourgeois liberal imperialists and their fascist counterparts longed for the destruction of the Soviet Union and the national liberation movements through the rise of the Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and Japanese expansionism in Asia. The breaking of the might of the Nazi military apparatus at Stalingrad and other key battles in 1942-43 has never been fully recognized by the educational modules that have achieved dominance in the U.S.

Then of course the efforts by both Italy and Germany to reclaim their imperialist ambitions during World War II led to some of the fiercest battles of the period being waged in the North Africa regions of Egypt and Libya in 1942-43. Ethiopia’s invasion by Italian imperialist fascism in 1935, are far as Africa is concerned, represented the beginning of the Second World War.

Even with the defeat of Italy and Germany in 1944-45 solidifying the resultant dominance of England, France and the U.S. did not lead to the abolition of colonialism. A Cold War beginning in 1947 was not merely designed to reverse the advances of socialism and national liberation in Vietnam, Korea and China. The Cold War represented the imperatives of the West to maintain its colonial hegemony among the immense majority of humanity in the oppressed nations of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition, the contradictions within the imperialist states themselves had reached unprecedented proportions prior to World War II. The Great Depression of the 1930s brought the capitalist system to the brink of collapse. Both the ruling classes of the U.S. and Britainwere forced through their desire for mere survival to adopt the Welfare State, incorporating elements of socialist “safeguards” toprotect the interests of the private ownership of capital and to ameliorate the antagonism of the nationally oppressed and the proletariat as a whole.

These dynamics on the part of imperialism are manifested in Africa through the crises in Somalia and throughout the continent in the present era. Drought and famine are spreading across the region at a rapid pace.

IRIN in this same above-mentioned report stressed:

“On the other hand, the current drought is more widespread than that of 2011. Global competition for humanitarian resources is fiercer. Parts of South Sudan have already been declared to be experiencing famine, and the situation there is likely to worsen substantially over the next four to five months, while Nigeria and Yemen also face the imminent threat of famine. Across the world, a record 70 million people are estimated to need emergency food aid in 2017. Yet there are fears some donors, notably the U.S., will significantly cut their aid budget this year, including for humanitarian assistance.”

The U.S.-based corporate and government-sponsored media never asks the simple question:

How is the renewed military build-up by the Pentagon in Somalia going to address the humanitarian crisis? Or what is the correlation between imperialist militarism and underdevelopment as represented by increasing poverty, dislocation, food deficits and political instability? Also what real impact does aid from the West actually have on the imperatives of self-reliance, self-determination, genuine independence and sovereignty and sustainable development?

We can only conclude based upon the actual history of Africa that what is described as “aid” is part and parcel of a reinforcement of the cycle of dependency stemming from centuries of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. The only real solutions must derive from the struggle of the masses against Western domination which can only be effectively realized through Pan-Africanism and Socialism in practice.

The Destabilization of South Africa, Zimbabwe and the SADC Region

Finally we must look at recent events in the sub-continent to get an even clearer insight into the African situation. The Republic of South Africa is the most industrialized state on the continent due in large part to the international division of economic power and labor.

During the 19th century, the struggle for the imperialist control of South Africa and the Southern Africa region intensified through the quest for control of its treasure trove of natural resources and arable land. The mining of gold and diamonds in South Africa and Zimbabwe thrusts these countries into the forefront of imperialist exploitation worldwide.

The complete rationalization of capitalist exploitation through the apartheid system after 1948 was by no means an aberration. This social pattern had been based on developments in the U.S. where the indigenous people were forced off of the most arable and mineral rich lands to make way for the settler-colonialists. Super-exploitation of the labor of Africans generated profits so enormous that the return on investments was unprecedented in comparison to any other period in world economic history.

A protracted struggle for national independence accelerated in the aftermath of World War II with the Rand Miners’ Strike, the development of the African National Congress Youth League Program of Action, the Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws, the creation of a Federation of South African Women, the advent of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the Congress of Democrats, etc.

By the period between 1976 and 1994, less than two decades, the African masses and their allies were able to force the racist apartheid National Party from power. The African National Congress, which had been labelled as communist and terrorist were able to construct a government that remains in power after 23 years.

In response to the national liberation movement in South Africa, occurring in conjunction with the overall African revolutionary struggle across the continent and the broader international community, the owners of capital sought to undermine the capacity of the ANC to effectively govern the post-apartheid state. Large scale disinvestment after the advent of the national democratic government was far more significant in real terms than the divestment movement which sprung up from the 1960s through the early 1990s, targeting the settler-colonial system itself and its enablers in the imperialist countries, mainly the transnational corporations and financial institutions based in the West.

Even today a major controversy has developed over the economic trajectory of ANC government policy. Since the world recession of 2008 and beyond, the South African people have loss millions of jobs inside the country. This is due to the shrinking of manufacturing and monetary markets increasing the cost of conducting commerce and prompting the closure of plants, mines and its concomitant impact.

These developments were compounded with the reaction of capital to the demands of the working class for a greater share of the profits accrued from the exploitation of strategic minerals, commodities and manufacturing production. The legacy of radical trade unionism is South Africa has roots which extend back for the greater portion of the 20th century to the present. Without the essential role of the South African working class, the overthrow of the apartheid system could have never been achieved within the existing historical framework.

The formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in 1985 placed tremendous pressure on the already beleaguered settler-colonial state and internal capitalist system which was dependent upon the investments from Wall Street, Washington and London. An organized working class union with a strong alliance with the national liberation movement and the South African Communist Party (SACP) signaled the potential for a genuine socialist construction after the demise of white minority-rule.

Since 1994, the Tripartite Alliance has been flexible and even conciliatory in its approach to the immediate need of preserving foreign capital inside South Africa. Yet this approach has not been met with reciprocity by the ruling class. Not only have the mine owners and other capitalists retrenched production facilities and markets as well as laying off many workers over the last several years, they have systematically resisted any mentioned within the public discourse of the necessity of wealth redistribution as a prerequisite for the realization of a people’s democracy.

The opposition parties which have sprung up to challenge the ANC on an electoral level are largely bankrolled by the capitalist class. The Democratic Alliance (DA) advocates policies of greater neo-liberalism which have not worked effectively anywhere in Africa or throughout the world. Another party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is led by Julius Malema who was expelled from the ANC several years ago. Although the EFF takes an ultra-left position in its rhetoric, objectively it has blocked with the DA which is in actuality a party of the white settler-class despite the Black figureheads who are ostensibly in charge of the organization.

A recent illustration of the role of international finance capital and its efforts to strangle the South African National Democratic Revolution was the revelations regarding the currency fixing carried out by some of the leading banks inside the country. This scandal is strikingly similar to the London Interbank Offering Rate (LIBOR) matter which gained considerable media coverage in years past. LIBOR was utilized to exploit working people utilizing insider information and informal negotiations to maximize the profits of these firms at the expense of the most vulnerable within capitalist society.

A report published by this writer in March says:

“In South Africa, it was revealed by an anti-trust agency that during the period where residents were negatively impacted by the uncertainty in the economy fueled in part by the fluctuating value of the rand, banks were profiting from these problems. These multi-national firms represent some of the largest of such entities in South Africa and the world. The South African Competition Commission cited the following companies in relationship to the currency fixing matter: Citigroup, Nomura, Standard Bank, Investec, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Commerzbank AG, Standard New York Securities Inc., Macquarie Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), ANZ Banking Group Ltd, Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays Africa (Absa), part of the Barclays Plc. Investec and Barclays agreed to participate in the probe. Nonetheless, Standard Bank, BAML, Nomura, Credit Suisse, ANZ and Standard Chartered have not gone on record as to whether they will cooperate in the inquiry.” (Global Research, March 16)

This same report goes on to stress that:

“These developments in South Africa and internationally illustrates that the economic system of capitalism is controlled by an ever shrinking group of financial interests who operate as a matter of policy in contravention to the majority of people not only within the western industrialized states notwithstanding throughout the world. As the African Union member-states face escalating economic difficulties a re-emergent debt crisis in looming. This burgeoning phenomenon of declining currency values and lack of credit availability portends much for the ability to strengthen both state and non-state structures in Africa. Escalating rates of poverty and lack of national and regional economic capacity will inevitably foster even greater dependency on the West and its transnational institutions.”

This is why the lessons of Zimbabwe and its land reclamation process are important. After two decades of independence from settler-colonialism, in 2000, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) government initiated a constitutionally engineered policy of seizing and redistributing millions of acres of land which rightfully belonged to the African people. The land was illegally confiscated by Cecil Rhodes and his class of settler-colonialists. In order to carry out this process it was necessary to politically enslave the masses through a colonial system of military and economic domination.  Sanctions were enacted against Zimbabwe not only by the former colonial power of Britain but also their erstwhile imperialist allies in Washington and Brussels. Zimbabwe is yet to recover from this economic war against social transformation yet the farmers are able to exercise a greater degree of self-determination and economic independence through land ownership. Studies conducted by the Institute for Development Studies in Britain confirm the positive impact of land reform which is sorely needed in South Africa and Namibia as well.

A recent summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) endorsed a regional industrialization program aimed at fostering such self-reliance and internal-centered development policy. Nonetheless, it will be a challenge in pushing forward with this process because it goes right up against the desire on the part of the former colonial and current neo-colonial powers which actively work against genuine independence and sovereignty.

Conclusion: The Need for an Anti-Imperialist Viewpoint

These examples of events on the continent bring attention to the cause of anti-imperialism in the U.S. We must be in complete solidarity with all anti-capitalist, socially progressive and socialist-oriented policy initiatives taking place in Africa.

The African states have an inherent right to shape their own governmental and societal structures free of imperialist influence. It is quite obvious that six centuries of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism has failed to bring real development to the people. Therefore, the importance of social transformation should be a priority of all modern-day anti-imperialist and solidarity forces in North America.

Note: This address was delivered at the Detroit branch of Workers World Party public forum held on Sat. April 22, 2017. The event examined various anti-imperialist struggles taking placed around the world from the Middle East and Africa to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Venezuela. Other speakers included the event chairperson Kayla Pauli of Workers World Party, Randi Nord of Workers World Party, Joe Mchahwar of WWP youth section, Tom Michalak of WWP read a paper prepared by Jim Carey of Geo-politics Alert and WWP, Yvonne Jones of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), and Martha Grevatt of the UAW Local 869, who is also a contributing editor for Workers World newspaper.

Posted in USA, AfricaComments Off on America’s Imperial War Drive and the Contemporary African Crisis

Africa in the 21st century: Legacy of imperialism and development prospects

NOVANEWS
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Jon V. Kofas
Some arguments made today on why Africa cannot catch up with the West were also made 100 years ago when Africa was under European colonization, with the colonizers blaming everything but imperialism as the root cause of underdevelopment. The world economic structure has not changed, no matter the rhetoric of globalization. Africa remains semi-colonial: increasingly dependent on developed countries for overvalued manufactured goods while exporting raw materials at prices determined by commodity markets in the West.
Abstract
This essay argues that Africa is undergoing changes in its economies in the 21st century, not only because of the role that China is playing but owing to intense competition from other Western countries and the Middle East. China’s role is within the capitalist world economy and within the patron-client model of integration that the Europeans followed after African countries achieved their formal independence from colonization. During the second half of the 20th century, northwest Europe remained the conduit for African integration into the US-centered global economy, despite the role of US-based multinational corporations. According to Pew Research Center polls of African nations, the issue concerning the vast majority of the people remains the gap between the rich and poor. This is directly related to the international competition for market share in Africa as well as the security issue intertwined with local rebels groups and what the US labels Islamic-inspired “terrorism”, or another form of guerrilla warfare. This essay examines many of these issues for a deep understanding of Africa today and its future prospects.
 
Part I: Structural obstacles to development and social justice
Decades after the decolonization of Africa and after Frantz Fanon (Wretched of the Earth) depicted the social, economic, political and cultural problems associated with the legacy of colonialism there has been no structural change in the political economy of the 54 African nation-states any more than in ending endemic poverty as the UN and other organizations have been promising for decades or closing the rich-poor gap. It is misleading and a remnant of imperialist political labeling to lump all African countries under one category, just as it is misleading to place all of Latin American countries in a single category, although they do have common characteristics and a common legacy of colonialism and the current reality of foreign control of resources and market share.
There is a huge difference between South Africa now part of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) economy, and Somalia ranking as one of the world’s poorest nations with political instability and dim prospects for economic growth. It is just as difficult to make comparisons between Islamic North Africa with sub-Sahara Africa, despite political instability that is a common characteristic in most as the continuation of foreign economic dependence after the end of colonial rule. With this caveat in mind, for purposes of this very short essay I will address some common features and note differences as well in development models.
Apologists of capitalism argue that Africa’s current problems are strictly cyclical because the prices of metals, oil and other commodities, especially coffee and cocoa, have been declining amid a deflationary international climate. While it is true that the slowdown in commodities demand in China has obviously impacted Africa, the majority of the people were not better off when prices were rising. Regardless of capitalism’s expansion and contraction cycles, from the 1950s to the present, living standards for the African people have not improved, no matter the lofty claims from Western governments, NGOs and other organizations about helping Africa become self-sufficient.
In the second half of the 20th century, Africa’s division of labor and national institutions – everything from military to banking and foreign trade – was largely determined by the core countries – US and northwest Europe – with the considerable assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and its affiliates, African Development Bank and a number of United Nations agencies, and of course, the explosion of NGOs some of which are fully funded by governments trying to peddle political and economic influence. In short, the external mechanisms of Africa’s dependence became stronger and more solidified in the last six decades than they were during the era of colonial rule.
In fact, there has been a downward trend in living standards for the vast majority of Africans from 1990 to 2015, despite the remarkable uptrend cycle in commodity prices and massive new investment from China. This is evident by examining all indicators from life expectancy to access to clean water and sanitation. There are those who point to periodic drought primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia; local wars and rebel conflicts in the drought-stricken countries as well as others especially where Muslims have influence such as Sudan, Nigeria, and Libya.
Besides endemic poverty that creates fertile grounds for Islamic or community inspired rebel movements throughout many parts of the continent, the population explosion, corrupt politicians, contraband and informal economy, absence of infrastructural development, and modern technology to help the continent achieve capitalist development comparable to that of the West are obstacles to progress. It is noteworthy that some of the arguments made today on why Africa cannot catch up with its Western counterparts were also made one hundred years ago when Africa was under European colonization, with the colonizers blaming everything but imperialism as the root cause of underdevelopment.
One cause for the systemic underdevelopment of Africa has been and remains that more capital flows out than comes in, invariably foreign loans having the role as catalysts to the process of de-capitalization. The cycle of public foreign debt and de-capitalization continues across the continent under the watchful eye of the International Monetary Fund and foreign financial institutions that represent big banks in the US and Europe and large corporate interests.
It is, indeed, a monumental step forward that Africans have served as heads of the United Nations and in key positions of international organizations. From a symbolic perspective, it was great to see Kofi Annan as the UN secretary-general, but was Africa better off when he left the UN than when he came in; or was there any structural change in the political economy of the entire continent from Egypt to South Africa, from Nigeria to Kenya? Inordinate dependence on the foreign–dominated and outward-oriented primary sector of production owing to failure to diversify the economy remains the major obstacle to raising living standards.
Many observers of the African political economy argue that there have been success stories, among them South Africa freeing itself from white minority political rule though keeping white minority economic hegemony. With the exception of Israel and rightwing elements in the US, the entire world celebrated the end of South Africa’s apartheid a generation ago. Nelson Mandela became a symbol of freedom and self-determination for Africans. However, high unemployment, low living standards among blacks, lack of upward mobility, and the rich-poor divide persist, with the country occupying the world’s last place for life expectancy.
Although South Africa was on its way to catching up with Brazil, India and Russia, enjoying 38 per cent GDP growth in the last decade, this was not indicative of social mobility but rather capital concentration. In 2015, South Africa suffered unemployment at the same level as Greece that has been under IMF-EU austerity since 2010. Socioeconomic and political conditions are worse in the rest of Africa, and this includes Muslim northern Africa that has suffered US-NATO direct and indirect military interference in its social uprisings during the Arab Spring revolts that once represented the promise of a democratic Africa free of dictators linked to large domestic and foreign capitalists.
Judging from the unemployment statistics in Africa’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, both dependent on extractive industry exports, there is not much difference between them, with all of those natural resources, and Greece suffering five consecutive years of IMF-EU-imposed austerity and downward socioeconomic mobility. One could argue that 26.4 per cent unemployment for South Africa and 24 per cent for Nigeria are understandable owing to the cyclical nature of the commodities market – both gold and crude oil are sharply down from their highs, along with all commodities. However, the core issue is not capitalism’s cyclical contraction, but the high levels of structural unemployment and underemployment in the continent’s richest countries, as well as the vast income gap between the very few wealthy individuals and the vast majority of the masses.
Obstacles to development account for a division of labor that has remained about the same in the last half-century. This is despite reductions in extreme poverty (under two dollars a day category) in the last two decades. By all indications, globalization has accounted for the downward mobility of most Africans, although this may not be as clear when looking at GDP statistics of certain countries, including South Africa and Nigeria. The world economic structure has not changed, no matter the rhetoric about globalization and neoliberal policies uplifting all economies across the world. Just the opposite, the overall economic picture of Africa is one of steady decline since the 1980s. The continent’s share of global trade was 3.1 per cent in 1955 and in 1990 it was a mere 1.2 per cent.
Largely because of China as a major new player in the region’s trade, there was a rise after the recession of the early 1990s, but this too was limited to the primary sector of production. The China factor did not help the continent lift its GDP amounting to under $300 billion in 1997 while the debt was $315 billion. This allowed the IMF to impose austerity and neoliberal measures of privatization, corporate tax reductions, and trade barrier removals that further weakened the national economies. The austerity measures not only prevented upward socioeconomic mobility, but actually drove more people into lower living standards.
In December 1993,UN secretary-general Boutros-Boutrros Ghali argued that the solution for Africa’s socioeconomic problems rested with greater integration. In an essay on this issue, Robert J. Cummings noted that: “From the 1950s to the present, more than 200 organizations have been founded on the continent of Africa for the purpose of fostering regional and sub-regional integration and economic cooperation. The performance record of these myriad organizations historically have not been sterling.” (R. J. Cummings “Africa’s Case for Economic Integration” (www.HU Archives.net )
The efforts on the part of the UN, World Bank and other Western institutions and governments to forge African integration have not altered the dependent structure of the economy based on the primary sector of production nor have such efforts resulted in higher living standards and upward social mobility despite some reduction in poverty in the last two decades. Integration on the patron-client model is at the core of neo-colonialism in Africa and favors the multinational corporations, thus perpetuating external dependence and underdevelopment.
The most significant challenge for Africa in the next few decades will be to transform itself from a largely “dependent outward-oriented” economy (primary sector production exports) providing cheap raw materials for the advanced capitalist countries to an inward-looking (producing to meet domestic demand through import substitution industrialization) integrated via an intra-continental model and developing more equitable terms of trade with developed countries. The uneven terms of trade, the inherent lower value of African exports vs. its imports from the developed countries has been and remains a core problem in development.
To achieve the goal of self-sufficiency Africa would need more than NGOs and UN intervention that only target emergency areas during war and famine. Africa would need more than China funding infrastructural development intended to accommodate extractive mining and agricultural regions, and more than regional integration that the World Bank has been advocating and without success by its own admission, and only intended to strengthen the role of multinational corporations trying to dominate key sectors of the raw materials economy.
In the absence of a systemic political change, just as took place in England (1689) and France (1789) that paved the way for economic modernization, Africa cannot achieve its goal of self-sufficiency no matter the rhetoric by politicians on the continent or Western organizations like the World Bank and corporations employing the self-sufficiency rhetoric but operating as imperialists not much different in results than the colonialists of the 19th century.
Part II: China’s economic role in Africa
Is China threatening to displace the Europeans from Africa at some point in the second half of the 21st century, as the mass media in the US has been hinting since the global recession of 2008? Or is EU-Chinese capital so intertwined that what may be counted as China’s market share in Africa could very well be yielding profits for French, British and German multinational corporations? If capitalist China is such a threat to the West, why has the very Western World Bank been collaborating with China on a number of fronts? Is it merely the fear of the US that China as the inevitable number one economic power in the world will corner the most abundant and cheapest markets in Africa?
In 2010, Wikileaks published the US concern about China helping to develop the infrastructure strategically in those countries in Africa where it plans to do business. Two things alarmed the US: a) no strings attached to infrastructural development, at least no direct strings as the US and EU always impose on the recipient country; and b) the clever way the Chinese are including the World Bank and European governments and EU-based multinational corporations. In short, China’s multilateralism as a strategy of securing market share has been upsetting to American unilateralists who see a fiendish plan that would entail Africa transferring its historical dependence from the West to East.
Another issue regarding China is the scope of its role in Africa in 2015, considering that the Western media present it as hegemonic and potentially threatening to “US and Western interests”, thus invoking national and trade bloc capitalism as a populist tactic. In reality, as we will see below, China currently has a small role while the Europeans, US and wealthier Gulf Arab states enjoy the lion’s share of the market.
What has alarmed the Western capitalists and politicians is the reality that African exports to China went from a mere 1 per cent of world share in 2000 to 15 per cent in 2012, and are likely to continue rising for the indefinite future. Despite the inevitable cyclical economic slowdown in China, it is just as inevitable that by the 2030s we can safely predict much closer trade, investment and overall economic dependency of Africa on China. This in itself poses not just a threat to Western capitalism but to Western geopolitical designs on a continent very rich in natural resources. Because the US does not compete with China in Africa using the same tools of economic integration, about the only response the US has is to flex its military muscle and secure as much as it can for US-based multinational corporations.
Before we assume China’s role is benign, the issue of China as the panacea for Africa is one that many have emphasized, given that European and US economic, military and political roles throughout Africa have not resulted in improvements as judged by standards the West has been proclaiming – democracy, freedom, economic development and higher living standards. Some observers in and outside of Africa believe that China’s integration model, which starts with infrastructural development that would help the domestic economy as well as forge greater regional integration while stimulating the export sector, is promising. After all, the European imperialists had done nothing but pillage Africa from the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 15th century when the Portuguese landed until the more subtle late 20th century policies of assisting corporate exploitation of natural resources. Moreover, if China is so well integrated into the global economy and it is helping to forge a new integration model in Africa, this presents new opportunities for African counties, at least for those rich in natural resources.
The bottom line is whether China will help Africa develop or merely perpetuate underdevelopment as did the Europeans and the US. Underdevelopment is a process, just as development, that takes place amid domestic and international political economy dynamics. Development is not a matter of a country having a surplus labor force, or having near self-sufficiency in minerals and raw materials, or enjoying an infrastructure that can accommodate rapid development to buttress the capital-intensive export sector mostly of extractive industries. Africa is one of the richest continents on the planet in natural resources and it certainly has a surplus labor force at the lowest cost on the planet in comparison with the other continents. Can Chinese investment do something with these cheap assets to help itself while also helping Africa?
In order to secure a segment of Africa’s natural resources for its own growth and development at the lowest possible cost, China has been investing in the continent and counting on it for rapid export growth in the 21st century. Despite its rich resources and new investment from China as well as Gulf Arab countries, Europe and US, the persistence of underdevelopment in Africa defies logic at least on the surface beyond the GDP growth numbers and marginal decline in extreme poverty. Why is there reason to believe the Chinese will change a history of five centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism?
One could argue that the structural causes have everything to do with the corrupt and incompetent political regimes combined with the uneven development complicated by the periodic famines and droughts in a number of sub-Saharan regions. Another argument that the apologists of globalization and neoliberal politics make is that Africa has not fully integrated into the world capitalist economy, leaving much of its productive capacities underutilized or outside the domain of international trade owing to persistence of tribalism. Is Africa’s problem underutilization of natural resources, or uneven terms of trade, chronic exploitation of low labor values, massive capital concentration in the hands of very few comprador bourgeoisie linked to foreign capital, and of course corrupt politicians that foreign corporations bribe to secure contracts?
Another issue that Western analysts are constantly making is that there is instability owing to civil conflicts in a number of countries, from Sudan and Nigeria to Central and East Africa where rebels are an obstacle to stability and development. In the Islamic countries north of the Sahara, there is the instability caused by jihadist elements as there is in the East; activities which also impact Africa more broadly. However, jihadist conditions, as we will see below, are of fairly recent origin and even so a reaction to neo-colonial conditions, among other causes related to tribal and religious differences. If we were to sum up, the Western analysts conclude that the fault for the absence of development in Africa rests squarely with internal dynamics and has absolutely nothing to do with Western imperialism as a chronic presence.
When we examine the lofty promises of growth and development by the UN, World Bank and Western governments whose only interest is to assist corporate control of Africa’s resources and market share the result is that by 1995, 25 per cent of the people in the sub-Sahara region had no job and were homeless. Even more alarming, Africa’s agricultural growth rates have been declining since 1965. From an annual average of 2.2 per cent (1965-1973), to 0.6 per cent (1981-85), per capita food production continued to decline throughout the 1980s and 1990s, necessitating four times as much food aid. Why is anyone surprised that there is the level of rebel activity, including jihadist as of late, when the question really ought to be why is there not more such activity given these conditions that people in the West would not tolerate and demand change?
There are those who argue that China’s presence actually helps to tame the sociopolitical mood throughout the continent. China is investing in everything – hydro-power, dams, water and sanitation, ports, railroads, roads, mining, timber, fisheries and agriculture. At the same time, France and the rest of Europe as well as the US and the rich Arab countries have been competing with China and want to maintain their market share. What exactly this entails for the people of Africa and the development model that would eventually lift the majority of the people from abject poverty is another story.
The Chinese are not in Africa to lift living standards for the population but to strengthen their global competitive position. China will need Africa’s raw materials, everything from foodstuffs to minerals, in order to remain a global economic power in the 21st century. China accounts for about one-fifth of the planet’s population, but it only has six percent of the planet’s water and nine percent arable land, forcing its government to look outside its borders to sustain its growth and development. Just as Africa provided cheap raw materials and cheap labor for Europe and the US from the era of colonialism until the rise of China as a global economic power, in the 21st century it will play a similar role with China competing for Africa’s cheap raw materials and labor. Investment has risen from a mere $210 million in 2000 to $3.17 billion 2011 and it is expected to skyrocket.
Africa is the world’s fastest growing continent for foreign direct investment (FDI), but it starts out at such low levels that it can only go higher. While historically FDI went primarily to the extractive industries, there is new emphasis on manufacturing, with energy as a key industry where revolutionary methods could make a difference in bringing electricity to more people than ever and make manufacturing even cheaper. The continent’s global share of FDI rose from around 3 per cent in 2007 to 5 per cent in 2012, a period of global recession. But among the top 25 countries in the world with the highest incoming FDI, Africa is nowhere to be found; and if it were not for South Africa, the continent as a whole would be at the very bottom along with some of the Eurasian countries. As miraculous as it may appear, China’s share of overseas direct investment in Africa is a mere $26 billion, while France and UK continue to lead in this category. On the other hand, few would argue that China is poised to impose economic hegemony of some type over Africa under an integration model presumably better than what the French and the British had imposed after decolonization.
By extending concessional loans – more generous terms and longer term – to the tune of $10 billion amid the global recession of 2009 to 2012, China bought itself enormous influence without literally dictating terms down to the minute detail as do the IMF and World Bank. Chinese President Xi Jinping doubled the concessional loan commitment to Africa from $10 billion to $20 billion in the 2013-2015 period, and the Chinese Export-Import Bank announced an ambitious financing program of $1 trillion by 2025; something that could be scaled back owing to the slowing Chinese economy in 2015.
Although Africa accounts for such a small percentage of Chinese global investment, Africa has been a top foreign aid recipient. Aid donors have always used it as a policy instrument and leverage in every respect to influence not only investment and trade policy of the aid recipient but defense and foreign policy as well. In providing various types of aid to Africa, from medical and humanitarian to debt relief and development, China is in fact investing in good will diplomatically as well as economically for the future market share that it wants in Africa.
Can we expect from China what we have seen on the part of the European and US companies in Africa since the 1960s? From the early 1960s to the present, large foreign companies secure public financing for privately operated projects that have been uneconomic across Africa. However, the foreign firms risk no capital of their own because their loans to finance their operation are guaranteed by their governments or development banks, as are interest and profits. Because most of the investment is invariably in mining and commercial agriculture, involving multinational companies like Monsanto, the Carlyle Group, Shell, and other Wall Street and EU giants, the goal is to strengthen the export sector by taking advantage of cheap labor without much benefit for the broader economic diversification in a continent desperate for greater self-sufficiency.
Although China has followed this pattern, its focus on developing the infrastructure in a number of African countries has the potential of laying the foundations for a sustainable diversified inward oriented economy. After all, China has provided assistance for schools and some textile factories, but it often labels loans as “aid”, and most of its investments go to those countries rich in natural resources.
Foreign investment in Africa under terms no developed country would permit is virtually unregulated, thus constituting a drain of natural resource wealth. Suffering the lowest labor values on the planet, Africa attracts foreign capital investment because it is the next frontier to realize high profits. Moreover, foreign capital flows because foreign businesses demand that African countries provide local financing under government-guaranteed loans and very generous terms that include profit repatriation, liberal terms on the environment, and minimal labor protection.
According to the World Bank that has partnered with China on many projects, the goals in Africa include (i) accelerating industrialization and manufacturing; (ii) making special economic zones (SEZs) and industrial parks work; (iii) infrastructure and trade logistics, including regional integration; (iv) creating the conditions to accelerate responsible private sector investment, (v) skills development for competitiveness and job creation, and vi) improving agricultural productivity and expanding agribusiness opportunities.
These are indeed lofty goals, and one could argue that all countries undergoing industrialization had to suffer, so must Africa, despite its unique relationship with industrialized nations. If we analyze each of the above points that the World Bank has outlined, we conclude that the goal in Africa is to create a climate conducive to foreign corporate investment under the best possible terms. There is nothing about protecting workers’ rights, collective bargaining, livable wages, appropriate affordable housing, hospitals and schools, and above all under a political regime that respects human rights and civil rights pursuant to principles of social justice. The only concern of the investors, governments, and international organizations assisting them in Africa is the investment itself not the social, cultural, economic and political welfare of the people.
Part III: The new scramble for Africa, narcotics and human trafficking
There is a 21st century version of “the scramble for Africa”, a continuation of what started in the 19th century (1880-1914) by the Europeans who pillaged the continent’s resources, systematically exploited its people, caused community and regional wars, destroying its culture; and all of it by invoking social Darwinism and other Eurocentric theories, including ethnocentrism and ‘exceptionalism’, to justify white hegemony. The new round of neo-colonial race to carve up Africa’s lucrative agricultural lands, mineral wealth, fishing rights within its territorial waters also extends to its geographical location that makes it so convenient for South American cocaine trade through West Africa and heroin-cannabis trade through East Africa.
According to the World Bank (September 2010), more than 110 million acres of farmland (the size of California and West Virginia combined) were sold during the first 11 months of 2009. This was all in a mad rush of foreign private and government investors to secure cheap land (and labor to work the land), and all during the most serious economic recession in the postwar period. Between 1998 and 2008, the World Bank provided $23.7 billion for agribusiness around the world, much of it in Africa promoting what it calls ‘efficient and sustainable’ agriculture. Along with the erosion of subsistence farming that sustained families, there is the corresponding erosion of subsistence fishing owing to competition from European and Asian commercial fishing operations in coastal Africa. All of this is an integral part of the corporate control of Africa with the support of governments in the advanced capitalist countries and with the backing of the IMF and World Bank Group’s subsidiary agencies like the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
In 2010 the IFC invested an estimated $100 million in agribusiness in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with merely $18 million per year in the previous decade. Naturally, IFC and World Bank investments which run into the billions focuse solely on corporate agriculture that displaces the small farmer. This despite the advice from experts in sub-Saharan countries who argued that the best use of farmland is to distribute it to villagers (about 12 hectares per family) and give them the means to cultivate it to end hunger while also generating a potential surplus for trade. Foreign-owned agribusiness backed by their governments and international financial organizations such as the IFC produce commercial crops for export, while the native population remains poverty-stricken. It should be noted that foreign aid for Africa’s agriculture dropped by 75 per cent since 1980, thus creating the need for private foreign investment in the sector. This is all in the name of furthering the goals of privatization that Western neo-liberals push across the world with devastating consequences for workers and peasants.
In the last one hundred years, agriculture in the industrialized countries has undergone a revolution that has resulted in just a small segment of the labor force earning its living from farming, animal husbandry and fishing. Technology and science applied to the sector has raised production and made agriculture less labor intensive just as specialization and concentration has resulted in higher productivity. Modernization of the primary sector of production entails that large commercial operations in the primary sector of production, backed by favorable government policies, have taken over the sector that requires expensive agrochemicals and machinery, and a distribution network to secure steady profits. In Africa’s case, only large invariably foreign-owned commercial enterprises are able to operate under this model of development, forcing the small farmers and peasants into poverty.
With each recessionary cycle more small farmers in Africa and around the world are squeezed out of business, while neo-liberal apologists not just in the corporate boardrooms and the media, but in government and UN continue to sing the praises of large scale commercial operations as the panacea for capitalism. The transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture first in Western Europe and then in US freed the surplus labor force for the manufacturing and service sectors of production. In the case of Africa, however, there is no manufacturing or service sector large enough to absorb the surplus labor force that is uprooted from subsistence farming and animal husbandry.
The assumption by governments, banks, and mainstream economists is that commercial agriculture in the form of agribusiness is a necessary development of modernization. Another assumption is that only large-scale agribusiness, which is subsidized by government and international organizations like the World Bank and IFFC among others, can meet the world’s rising food demand while keeping costs low. After all, manufacturing is just around the corner for Africa, although it promises to be the kind of manufacturing we have seen in Bangladesh and other south Asian countries, where living standards are very low and working conditions very poor.
Given the trend toward corporate agriculture, in the last fifteen years, governments and private firms from around the world have been investing in sub-Saharan Africa because corporations chase the highest return for the lowest possible investment under the most favorable conditions to capital possible. Besides agribusinesses acquiring more land, banks, hedge and pension funds, commodity traders, foundations and individual investors have been buying land as part of portfolio investments for an average of $1 per hectare. This is in an attempt to cash in on low-cost land and labor amid a growing demand for raw food products and bio-fuels.
The EU is hoping to reduce carbon emissions by using at least 10 per cent bio-fuel of all fuel products by 2020. The US is aiming to reduce its foreign dependence on oil by 70 per cent in the next 15 years. With the help of the World Bank and IFC, the EU and the US have been looking to Africa – more than 700 million hectares appropriated for agribusiness – as the continent to invest in bio-fuels; this at a time that the Europeans have also been eyeing Africa as the next frontier for solar energy. Latin America is also a target for bio-fuel and other agrarian investment, but Africa offers even more attractive prospects in part because of the Arab and Chinese interest as well.
In the past decade, India, China, Japan, and Arab countries have joined the 21st century scramble for Africa, in some cases because governments are concerned about soil, water, and natural resources conservation in their own countries. Private investors and governments are aggressively seeking to partition Africa’s rich agricultural land as the cost of agricultural commodities is expected to rise once the current recession ends. Saudi Arabia has set aside $5 billion in low-interest loans to Saudi agribusinesses to invest in agriculturally attractive countries. Another reason for the new scramble for Africa is because of what the UN Food and Agricultural Organization calls ‘spare land’, areas not under cultivation, or underutilized.
Developed countries have used Africa for its raw materials and as a consumer of imported manufactured products and foreign business services, but not as roughly equal trading partners as is France and Germany. Rather, Africa has been the victim of unequal terms of trade, and external control of its key extractive sectors. In short, Africa remains semi-colonial and continues to become increasingly dependent on developed countries for overvalued manufactured products and services while exporting raw materials at prices commodities markets in the West determine based on speculative interest.
One is favorably impressed by the rhetoric regarding “sustainable development” that the media, governments, the World Bank and even corporations promise as though such development translates into social justice. After all, the hypocrisy of corporate responsibility regarding the eco-system has been exposed repeatedly not just by oil companies operating in Nigeria, but even by Volkswagen as its flagrant scandal regarding emissions manipulation proved in October 2015. The EU and US quest for bio-fuel development in Africa, and for that matter in Latin America, has nothing to do with ‘sustainable development’ or engendering greater ‘self-sufficiency’ or helping to ‘develop’ Africa – rhetoric that the UN, World Bank, western governments and multinational corporations are using to make ‘the new scramble for Africa’ more palatable to the world. The rhetoric is obligatory to placate the masses to retain their trust in the corporate world.
Will the people of Africa solve the chronic problems of poverty and disease as a result of the exploitation of land and labor to satisfy the demand for food and bio-fuels in Western nations? Africa’s food requirements will double in the next two to three decades, a point that foreign agribusinesses, governments and IFC and World Bank are using to justify the commercialization of agriculture under foreign ownership. In the process of the neo-colonial land-grab, evictions of peasants and small farmers, entire villages uprooted, civil unrest, and citizens’ complaints of ‘land grabbing’ have been common. Protests owing to social injustice do not stop governments from approving agribusiness deals backed by powerful forces. One common justification used for the new scramble for Africa is that the acquired territories are not utilized or ‘wasteland’. Governments often do not charge agribusiness for the water they use. Just a single agribusiness belonging to an Arab investor in Ethiopia, for example, uses as much water as 100,000 people – water of course is the most precious commodity in many parts of Africa. This is the reality of agribusiness and its role in drought-ridden East Africa.
One reason for the rise of the informal economy that includes everything from hand-carved wood statues to cocaine from Colombia and heroin from Afghanistan using West and East Africa as hubs before sending the product to Europe is that the neo-liberal model of development has failed. In fact, it has failed so miserably that young impoverished Africans join rebel groups inspired by radical Islam or community loyalty. At the same time the combination of rebel activity, and violence linked to narcotics as well as human trafficking and weapons, also linked to radical Islam and tribal allegiances in some cases, is a reflection of a neo-colonial system, no matter the lofty claims by Western governments, NGOs, media, the UN and World Bank that they are looking after the interests of African people.
Narcotics trade in Africa
Africa’s structural problems have contributed to a thriving narcotics trade through the Western and Eastern areas because of geographical considerations. Given that in sub-Saharan countries the percentage of labor force involved in agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries ranges from 50 to 75, the result of agribusiness is to create a larger percentage of wage laborers instead of engaged in the subsistence economy. A percentage of this population will choose to make a living in illegal activities – human trafficking, weapons, and narcotics trade; others in piracy, still others in the thriving teenage prostitution business that has a ready market around the world.
All of this is an integral part of an informal economy that according to the African Development Bank contributes 55 per cent of GDP in the sub-Sahara region and accounts for 80 per cent of the labor force. “Nine in 10 rural and urban workers have informal jobs in Africa and most employees are women and youth. The prominence of the informal sector in most African economies stems from the opportunities it offers to the most vulnerable populations such as the poorest, women and youth.”
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been warning for many years that a number of West and East African countries are now immersed in the international drug trade, a reality that has consequences for criminal activity and the overall subterranean economy and politics of Africa. Because the drug trade is so lucrative, the income it generates is often larger than the entire GDP of some African countries. This is the case with Guinea-Bissau where the cocaine trade amounts to more than $2 billion and where violent crime in this former Portuguese colony has been rising steadily. The situation is not very different in Senegal where the airport at Dakar has been used to transport cocaine from Latin America to Europe.
While West Africa is a hub for cocaine from Colombia and Peru, East Africa is a hub for heroin and cannabis coming to the region from South-East and Southwest Asia by air and sea, often onboard vessels that transport legitimate commodities, and often owned and operated by European shipping tycoons and of course European banks to launder drug money. A number of Greek shipping tycoons have been linked to the illegal narcotics trade in Africa, but they invariably enjoy European connections for distribution and laundering of enormous amounts of money considering the street value is 20 times higher than its original value when the products land in Africa.
While the drug trade may appear that it is outside the mainstream of economic activity, it actually operates under the same laws of capitalism and in practice under similar routines. The laws of supply and demand apply as does the cooperation of government, albeit at a sub-level of illegality through bribery no different from when a multinational corporation bribes officials. Moreover, just as the extractive industries drain Africa of capital so does the narcotics trade. People involved in this business are in fact businessmen running operations of an illegal product but observing all other rules of the market within which they operate and which makes no distinction between drug money and corporate money. The bottom line for Africa is that both the corporate and drug businesses result in taking capital out of the area and leaving behind all the social and political problems.
The process of de-capitalization, especially amid recessionary cycles in the world economy as in the current case of depressed commodity prices, only increases the problems with the informal economy that is a mere extension of the overall outward-oriented dependent economy and a colonial remnant that gives rise to illegal activities. East Africa around the Gulf of Aden is already the pirate center of the world, and this in addition to the weapons and human trafficking trade. Everything from illegal handicraft items to diamonds and gold are illegally traded. West Africa is slowly transforming itself into the new world center for South American narco-traffickers. Guinea, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Senegal are among the most significant intermediary narco-traffic countries linked to the Colombia-Venezuela coca trade.
In the absence of official cooperation, everyone from custom officials, port authority, police, army and navy, all the way up to cabinet officials, the drug trade would not be possible. In short, the drug trade in Africa is an integral part of the political system and informal economy that enjoys protection from a wide variety of players. This makes transport low-risk in comparison with the Caribbean. With Russia as a new player in the international drug trade and oligarchs behind the regime, the activity has increased in the last decade.
During the “just say No!” campaign of the Reagan era the US had the highest per capita use–US population was around 4 per cent but consumed 25 to 40 per cent of the world’s illegal drugs–and this is not to say that a legal pill-for-everything panacea in the US is not at its root a cultural trait. Today, however, both UK and Spain surpass the US in per capita use of cocaine, and both countries along with Portugal and France are the major destinations for coca that comes from Latin America through West Africa.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Somalia, currently in the process of establishing a central authority, is host to widespread illegal transactions, including drug and arms trafficking. There are two important international airports in the region, servicing the capitals of Ethiopia and Kenya, which are used as transit points for drugs. Both airports have connections between West Africa and the heroin producing countries in South West and South East Asia. There is also an increasing use of postal and courier services for cocaine, heroin and hashish.
Heroin trafficking from Pakistan, Thailand and India to East Africa has been rising in the last two decades. Some of this heroin finds its way to West Africa that also exports to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya through Ethiopia. Increasing numbers of Tanzanians and Mozambicans are involved in the trafficking of heroin from Pakistan and Iran, given the limited options in the formal economy. West African and East African drug syndicates are inter-connected as they are to smugglers from Latin America and South Asia, reflecting high level of organization.
Considering that multinational corporations from Shell Oil to Siemens have a long history of bribing African officials as they do non-Africans, narcotics traffickers’ mode of operation is no different than that of “legitimate” businesses. And if the opportunity presents itself to make a living why is “dirty money” any less valuable than “clean money,” the latter of which seems to be less than $500 a year for most Africans? Judging on the basis of postwar recessions when per capita income has dropped as much as 50 per cent, this means that in this current crisis Africa will not only suffer greater impoverishment than the rest of the world, but its economic problems will cause more ethnic and community conflict, more epidemics, more intra- and inter-continental emigration, and more political turmoil than any developed nation can expect.
Such a climate is ideal for more piracy, more weapons and narcotics transfer, more human trafficking, and all of it part of the colonial and neo-colonial legacy of outward oriented economy benefiting the developed countries. Though the continent is in need of debt-relief and development assistance for the short-term, the solution for a small segment of unemployed and destitute young Africans is drugs, guns, and human trafficking that generates money, although most of that money does not stay in the region and creates violence that disrupts legitimate economic activity.
Conclusions
The social fabric disrupted yet again by ‘the new scramble for Africa’, continued political instability is a guarantee as much as a rise in crime and social unrest. Amazingly, the same institutions that contribute to Africa’s devastation claim that they are acting in the name of progress, sustainable development and efficiency, helping to raise productivity and exports, to create jobs by bringing foreign investment,’ etc.; the modern versions of “The Whiteman’s burden”.
The ‘politically palatable’ rhetoric of ‘efficiency and sustainability’ has resulted in an outward-oriented agrarian sector catering to foreign markets instead of inward-oriented economy designed to meet the rapidly rising population’s food needs. In 16th century England, farmers switched to animal husbandry owing to rising demand for wool textiles. Peasants starved as the cost of grain increased, thus “sheep ate people”. In this century, ‘agribusinesses will be eating Africans’.
Apologists of agribusiness justify their support by various arguments including ‘no country has developed’ with two-thirds of its labor force living off the land and dependent on extractive industries. It is an interesting coincidence that just as sub-Sahara Africa has been targeted by drug lords in the last few years, it is also targeted by corporate farm investors whose mode of operation is to use the low-valued land and labor and corrupt public officials in order to serve foreign market demands. Rural poverty will rise as a result of foreign corporate investment in African agriculture. Will the ‘new scramble for Africa’ by corporate investors and drug lords result in the elimination of famine and disease; will it result in higher rising living standards for the native population, or will it be another form of neo-colonialism in the name of progress?
Using the pretext of “terrorism”, a guerrilla movement under the flag of jihadists in recent years, the West and pro-West regimes default all problems on such fanatics in Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Niger, Cameroon, Mali, Uganda and Mauritania. In other words, the US and its European partners would have the public believe that for decades when there were no Islamic jihadists, sub-Sahara Africa under colonial and neo-colonial rule enjoyed social justice and upward social mobility under democratic regimes. Even more insulting is the implication that the Islamic militants are the cause and not the symptom of Western exploitation of Africa and that if they are eliminated the continent would have no problems. As counterproductive as jihadist warfare has been, and as futile in achieving its goals, it is not the cause but one more symptom of the neo-imperialist structure in the continent from Libya to South Africa, from Nigeria to Kenya.
Besides defaulting Africa’s problems on Islamic ‘terrorism’, there are also the advocates of the neo-Malthusian theory – too many people too few resources, rather than unequal income distribution. It is true that drought is a cyclical natural disaster in parts of Eastern and Southern Africa and generally a problem in a few other parts as well. However, does drought justify Malthusianism and does it explain structural impediments to African development? This is not say that a form of managed population control is not desirable, but this is a matter of resources and education for the general population.
Uniting and organizing at the grassroots to end racist neo-colonial exploitation whether in the form of the formal economy based on mineral and agricultural exports or in the informal economy that includes narcotics is the only solution for Africans. Working toward sustainable development can only come from indigenous movements that first change the externally-dependent political regimes and then undertake to change the social order that would engender economic growth under an inward-oriented model. Given the deep historical ethnic antagonisms in Africa for which westerners are partly to blame, and the even stronger western neo-colonial foundation the prospects of any of this taking place in the forthcoming decades is highly unlikely. Africa will remain the continent of contradictions with the world’s poorest people, but some of the world’s richest natural resources.

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Remembering South African struggle hero Chris Hani: Lessons for today

NOVANEWS
Carlos Martinez

South African communist leader Chris Hani was assassinated by white racists 27 years ago, removing him from the scene during the nation’s transition to Black rule. Hani fought careerism and corruption in the revolutionary movement. Today, the tradition of internal debate that Hani promoted has become eroded, and criticism keeps being silenced as sowing disunity.

The “what if” game is popular with the media and the commentariat in South Africa. A popular example is “what if …” South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani were still alive.

What, for example, would he say about the SACP’s tripartate alliance partner, the African National Congress? What would he say about the state of the alliance after recent calls by both partners, the SACP and union federation Cosatu for President Jacob Zuma to step down?

These questions are being asked again on the anniversary of Hani’s assassination by two rightwing extremists on April 10, 1992.

But such use, often by the liberal media, of Hani’s name (and those of other fallen cadres of the liberation movement) is problematic. It seeks to isolate Hani from the movement that produced him, presenting him as an exception it can then appropriate.

Hani’s name is also regularly invoked by the SACP and the ANC come election time. Many campaign posters call on supporters to “Do it for Chris Hani”. Here, the summoning of Hani’s memory has become little more than empty rhetoric.

A more useful exercise may be to reflect on Hani’s life, actions and beliefs, and their significance for today.

A popular hero

In his book “A Jacana Pocket Biography: Chris Hani” historian Hugh Macmillan argues it was Hani’s physical and moral bravery, his compassion and humanity that made him a “popular hero” — the words used by French philosopher Jacques Derrida to describe Hani in his Spectres of Marx lecture.

Hani helped build a culture of internal criticism in the ANC. In 1969 he and six other commissars and commanders of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s military wing, signed what became known as the “Hani memorandum”. The memorandum outlined the “frightening depth of the rot in the ANC”, accusing its leadership of careerism, corruption and persecution by the party’s security.

Hani’s memorandum was the catalyst for one of the most significant events in the history of the ANC in exile, a conference in Morogoro, Tanzania. But it was viewed as treacherous by some within the leadership, particularly those it had criticised. Hani and his comrades were expelled from the ANC and only reinstated after the Morogoro conference.

Russian scholar Vladimir Shubin has argued that it was largely thanks to the memorandum that the delegates to the conference included rank and file MK members and not just the leadership.

The Morogoro conference opened ANC membership to non-Africans. It also adopted the important “Strategy and Tactics” document. This provided — for the first time since the ANC’s banning in 1960 — a systematic assessment of the conditions of struggle and an overall vision for defeating apartheid in a time of deep political demoralisation.

The conference was a moment of self-reflection. It helped the ANC to overcome the state of crisis and demoralization that had set in.

The ability of the leadership of both the ANC and its closest ally, the SACP, to reassess circumstances, interrogate these and themselves, and learn from past mistakes to overcome difficult moments is one of the most important lessons from their history. This tradition of internal debate has become eroded, and criticism keeps being silenced as sowing disunity.

Disrupting notions of masculinity

A famous quote by Che Guevara states that “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” Leaders like Hani were moved to act by their hearts as well as by reason. The decision to join the liberation struggle was one of reason — a conscious rejection of apartheid oppression and inequality. But it was also a choice informed by “revolutionary love” or a “love for the people” — shaped by a sense of justice and by compassion, as well as by a vision, the ability to imagine a different future.

As struggle veteran and public intellectual Raymond Suttner points out in Recovering Democracy in South Africa, what is new and alarming about many of the ANC’s current leaders is their callousness. The plight of the poor no longer evokes compassion or empathy from a government that is supposed to represent them.

Both Suttner and Macmillan also highlight Hani’s commitment to disrupting notions of heroic masculinity. In his book Macmillan tells the story of one of Hani’s comrades, Thenjiwe Mtintso, who credited him with introducing her to the gender content of the liberation struggle when she arrived in exile.

Hani’s concern with gender issues can also be seen in his reaction to the abuse of women in MK camps. He introduced a rule that prevented officers from forming relationships with new women recruits.

By looking at the life of people like Hani South Africans can recover the possibility of alternative and gentler types of masculinity to the prevailing models of patriarchal, machoist, militaristic and violent manhood.

Communist for life

At the time of South Africa’s transition to democracy Hani decided to resign from ANC structures and concentrate his efforts on building the SACP. He understood that there would be a need to build the party for it to be a truly democratic and democratizing force in a post-apartheid South Africa intent on taking the struggle of the working class and the poor forward.

While the SACP would have to redefine itself in the new South Africa, Hani believed that it should be the main agent of change. That’s where his loyalty to the party was rooted.

Hani was not a communist in passing. He immersed himself completely into the liberation struggle. And it was “a communist as communist,” to quote Derrida again, that his assassins were out to get.

The story of his life –- and that of many others –- is exemplary of this total commitment and willingness to sacrifice one’s life for an ideal. It was ideas, a political project and the movement that counted –- not individuals, because no one would have made it on their own.

This may be difficult to imagine in today’s society where individualism and self-interest reign supreme and personalized politics has become the norm. But it was by doing things with, and for others, as part of a collective movement that people like Hani found their self-realization.

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Did Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand rescue Somali drought victims?

NOVANEWS
UN

Somaliland is not only a pioneer as a cashless country but as one of the leading markets in mobile banking platforms in Africa. The phenomenon is not only revolutionising the people’s concept of money but also the way urgently needed assistance is provided to affected people in emergency situations.

When disaster hits somewhere in the developing world, the conventional wisdom is to look to international humanitarian organisations for assistance. But not anymore. Not if one takes the recent drought that devastated Somalia as any indication. Instead of the humanitarian organisations, it was the Somali Diaspora remittance and modern mobile money transfer technology that teamed up to provide urgently needed relief aid to the tens of thousands of nomadic people that lost their livelihoods.

In a scenario that is reminiscent of Adam Smith’s metaphor of the “invisible hand” which explains how free market dynamics make things happen for the greater good of society, the victims of Somalia’s recent drought saw that invisible hand come to their rescue through ZAAD, the mobile money transfer service, provided by the local telecommunications company, Telesom.

While local authorities of the self-declared state of Somaliland, where ZAAD service is based, were stretched beyond their capacity to shelter, feed and provide water to the thousands of people displaced by the drought, and the international community was procrastinating in their response, it was ZAAD, which means “journey provisions” in both Somali and Arabic, that inadvertently came to the comfort of the people through its unique and highly efficient mobile-to-mobile money transfer system.

It was during a conversation with a friend in Dubai that I realised just how vital this service is in saving lives. He had received a call from his nomad relatives who informed him that they had moved from Somaliland’s hinterland across the border to Ethiopia in search of water and fodder for the remaining herd of their livestock. As soon as they reached their destination they called him for help and having a ZAAD account on his phone he immediately transferred cash to them from the comfort of his office. The family had, without stepping out of their camp, ordered water and food over the phone from the shops of the nearest village and paid for it by phone transfer.

This was help arriving expediently and with dignity. No bureaucracy, no complicated logistics, no fees to the beneficiary at the receiving end, no standing in dehumanising lines for food distribution, no poverty-porn photos or pity charity of malnourished children, no stereotyping of Africa as a famished and wasted continent through a single story as so poignantly noted by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “They make one story become the only story.”

While technology pundits talk about the possibility of a cashless world, ZAAD Service has already made that futuristic phenomenon a reality in Somaliland, that peaceful part of Somalia which was lately in the news due to DP World taking over its port of Berbera in the Gulf of Aden. Somaliland is not only a pioneer as a cashless country but as one of the leading markets in mobile banking platforms in Africa, a phenomenon that is not only revolutionising the people’s concept of money but it also the way urgently needed assistance is provided to affected people in emergency situations.

According to Telesom, which prides itself on being the world’s first fully owned African company to provide mobile money, more than 30% of Somaliland population use this transformative service, a fact that has been recognised by Bill Gates of Microsoft and international finance and development institutions for its innovation and customer reach.

People of all walks of life use ZAAD in their daily transactions from purchasing groceries, selling merchandise, paying taxi fares and medical fees in private clinics. Workers even get their wages through mobile money. The youth also use the service by paying school fees and a host of other activities through Aqoon Maal, “harvesting knowledge”, a service particularly designed for them,

It is however the rural and nomadic people that find this service such a precious lifeline. They receive and pay money by using this God-sent service without the need to travel distances. Any person coming from the town can bring them their provisions as long as they have paid for it through their mobile phones. While most people in the developed world use mobile phones for information and entertainment, the mobile phone has become a survival device for the pastoralist people in Somaliland and other east African countries like Kenya. And when the drought devastated their livelihood and killed almost all of their livestock which are comparable to their bank accounts, it is their mobile phone accounts that they depended for survival. Just like my friend in Dubai, thousands of other Somalis in the Diaspora provided much needed cash to their relatives wherever ZAAD service was available in the Horn of Africa.

Unlike the conventional way of waiting for humanitarian aid through slow moving bureaucracies of UN bodies and international organisations, it is the mobile money transfer that came faster to alleviate the suffering of the people. This innovative service also proves the often neglected hidden power of immigrant communities in stepping into the void created by retreating donor-fatigue organisations and providing both emergency and long term assistance to their loved ones back home. It seems every immigrant who risked her or his life to cross the oceans and survived the ordeal has now saved a whole family with the meagre money they earned.

It is feasible therefore that soon immigrant remittances empowered by modern technology may overtake foreign aid for African countries. And while foreign aid was often marred by corruption, immigrant remittance goes directly to the beneficiaries without any middle man to siphon off their share. Hence, its relief impact is immediate and effective. Too, this Invisible Hand technology empowered remittance disproves the fallacy of the fear of immigrants as an economic burden on their adopted countries because the remittances the immigrants send from their hard earned money to their home countries could save significant funds that donor countries use to provide as humanitarian assistance to African countries.

Obviously the mobile money service, whether it is ZAAD or otherwise, and the mobile phone technology it uses are a business made for profit. The objective behind the innovation of the services was purely for giving a competitive edge to the company and realising growth for the business owners. But true to Adam Smith’s metaphor it is the Invisible Hand that made this modern technology solve a centuries old problem of how to move humanitarian aid quickly to victims of disaster areas.

It is a development for which the Somali people who benefited from this service at their hour of need are grateful. For they know now that if they considered their livestock as their bank accounts in the past, today they have another more reliable account in their pockets that can save both their lives and their livestock.

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Caribbean reparations movement must put capitalism on trial

NOVANEWS
Clutch Magazine
From chattel slavery to the current period of neocolonial flag independence, the Caribbean labouring classes have yet to exercise substantive power over the political institutions that govern their lives. A system of popular assemblies with the capacity to challenge the authoritarian liberal capitalist democracies for power would be one of the best expressions of reparatory justice in the Caribbean.
Why is the reparations movement in the Anglophone Caribbean not putting capitalism on trial in its campaign to force British imperialism to provide financial compensation for its industrial and agricultural capitalists’ enslavement of Africans? To what extent is capitalism such a sacred spirit or god whose name should not be publicly called in order to avoid attracting its vindictive and punishing rebuke? Are the advocates of reparations truly convinced that British imperialism’s payment of financial compensation for the enslavement of Africans would end the economic marginalization of the labouring classes who are toiling under capitalist regimes throughout the region? Why are we willing to place racism or white supremacy in the dock but not its creator – capitalism?
On 17 December 2007, the United Nations’ General Assembly passed a resolution that made March 25 the annual commemorative International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This day should be used as a rallying point by people of good conscience to press the former major slaving states such as Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden to pay reparations for their participation in the economic exploitation and racist dehumanization of enslaved Africans. The General Assembly’s initiative is an acknowledgement of the over fifteen million Africans who landed in the Americas and the over thirty million captives who died during the process of catching and delivering them into the Holocaust of Enslavement.
Capitalism and slavery in the Caribbean
A key goal of all yearly progressive remembrance activities in the Caribbean and elsewhere should be to educate or remind people of the fact that capitalism was the primary force behind the extraction of the labour power of enslaved Africans. Of equal importance is the need to etch into the consciousness of the public that white supremacy or racism was simply an ideological tool used by the capitalist enslavers and various European states to morally justify the enslavement of Africans. Racism was deployed by these early capitalists and their respective national states to mask the purely economic motivation behind the development of an enslaved labour force.
In the seminal and classic book Capitalism and Slavery that was written by the late historian and statesman Dr. Eric Williams, he states that the brutal, exploitative and exacting labour condition of white indentured workers served as the template for the institution of African enslavement or slavery:
“Here then is the origin of [African] slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had not to do with the color of the laborer but the cheapness of the laborer…. The features of the man, his hair, color and dentifrice, his “subhuman” characteristics so widely pleaded, were only later rationalizations to justify a simple economic fact: that the colonies needed and resorted to [African] labour because it was the cheapest and the best. This was not a theory, it was a practical conclusion deduced from the personal experience of the planter.”[1]
Williams asserts that slavery, as “basically an economic institution,” gave birth to racism. He further states that “Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan.” Racism or white supremacy is now an autonomous system of oppression that intersects with patriarchy and capitalism to create differing degrees of labour exploitation within the ranks of the working-class.
The point that should be centred in the minds of revolutionaries and radicals in the Caribbean is that capitalism, the architect of racism, is still negatively impacting the lives of the working-class descendants of enslaved Africans as well as the societies that were built by their exploited labour. The late revolutionary, organic intellectual and historian Dr. Walter Rodney convincingly argues and documents in his ground-breaking text How Europe Underdeveloped Africa that capitalism was the main contributor to the stagnation of Africa’s economic development (see Chapter 4 – “Europe and the Roots of Africa’s Underdevelopment – To 1885).
Rodney’s indictment of capitalism and its retardation of the potentiality of the greater portion of humanity (the labouring classes) should be duly noted by the reparations activists or advocates who are playing footsie with capitalism:
“… the peasants and workers of Europe (and eventually the inhabitants of the whole world) paid a huge price so that the capitalists could make their profits from the human labour that always lies behind the machine. That contradicts other facets of development, especially viewed from the standpoint of those who suffered and still suffer to make capitalist achievements possible. This latter group are the majority of [humanity]. To advance, they must overthrow capitalism; and that is why at the moment capitalism stands in the path of further human development. To put it another way, the social (class) relations of capitalism are now outmoded, just as slave and feudal relations became outmoded in their time.”[2]
Dr. Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, has written an excellent and easily comprehended book, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide. It is a must read for people who would like to understand the basis of the claim for reparations from Britain for its role in the enslavement of Africans and genocide against Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, Britain’s Black Debt has placed the misbegotten child of capitalism – racism- on trial, but not the inherently exploitative and soul destroying parent – capitalism. If we are going to throw the book at capitalism for chattel slavery, we are morally and politically obligated to do the same for the wage slavery of capitalism under which the Caribbean working-class is currently being exploited.
Caribbean states and reparations
Today, we are witnessing the unconscionable, but politically understandable behaviour of the neocolonial states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in divorcing their call for reparations from measures aimed at throwing capitalism into the cesspool of history. These member states of CARICOM are all committed to the implementation of social, economic and political policies that have enshrined capitalism in the region.
They are interested in reparations as a way to deal with their balance of payment, budgetary and development challenges as seen in the call for debt cancellation, technology transfer and a formal apology and not statements of regrets in this regional body’s Ten Point Action Plan for Reparatory Justice.
While these governments are acting like capitalism was not the real culprit behind the economic exploitation of enslaved Africans, progressive civil society groups and individuals who are advocating for reparations should not be silent or conveniently forgetful of this historical fact. We should expect the liberal petite bourgeois or middle-class reparations advocates to not indict capitalism. Their class interests and aspirations are totally immersed and dependent on the continued existence of capitalism. The petite bourgeois elements, unlike the labouring classes, display high levels of class consciousness and the former group tends to allow its class interests to guide its thoughts and actions.
However, radical and revolutionary reparations activists and supporters have no business not putting capitalism on the stand in their activism and general public education initiatives. As political activists who are committed to ending inequity and exploitation that are rooted in the social, economic, political and cultural structures of society’s principal institutions, they should know that capitalist economic relations and practices are a major source of oppression.
As such, they ought to educate the public on the reality that the capitalism that exploited the labour of enslaved Africans is the same capitalism that exploited them as wage slaves after the end of slavery. Capitalism is still exploiting Caribbean workers and taking the lion’s share of the profit that comes from the labour power of the working-class.
CARICOM’s ten-point reparations proposal is implicitly using the societies in the global North as the model of social and economic development. The mature capitalist societies in North America and Europe are characterized by widespread income inequality and concentration of wealth as well as the political marginalization of the working-class. How can such societies in good conscience serve as the standard of social, political and economic development for the Caribbean?
Reparatory justice for social transformation and dual power
In the Caribbean, the revolutionaries and radicals must advance a reparations agenda that demands Britain/Europe’s financial compensation for the economic exploitation and racist dehumanization of enslaved Africans. It has been estimated that Britain’s reparations payment to Africans in the Caribbean would be in the region of £7.5 trillion.[3] The £20 million paid to the enslavers of Africans after the 1838 abolition of slavery in the British Empire would be worth about £200 billion in today’s currency.[4]
The proposals below ought to be a part of the Caribbean reparations movement’s programme and be seen as a part of the general class struggle. The neocolonial Caribbean states do not need the immediate payment of reparations to undertake some of these demands. The social movements in the region must organize around these demands as a part of a dual power strategy or infrastructure of dissent or anarchist transfer cultures[5]:
Promote labour self-management and economic democracy: The governments in the Caribbean must capitalize national and regional worker self-management and entrepreneurship Funds from allotments out of the respective annual national budgets. These funds would be controlled by progressive civil society forces. These financial resources would be used to finance and support worker cooperatives and other labour self-managed companies as well as the work of the support organizations and structures that are necessary to ensure the viability of the workers’ ownership, control and management of their workplace.
It would be the duty of the revolutionary and radical organizers to ensure that a critical mass of the worker-cooperators embrace labour self-management as a part of the class struggle and the fight for socialism. The worker’s democratic control of the workplace combined with popular assemblies would be the laboratory or training ground for the self-management of the future stateless, classless and self-organized (communist) society.
Include labour self-management in school curriculum: The governments in the Caribbean should restructure the curriculum and place at its centre knowledge of the oppressive nature of chattel slavery and wage slavery as systems of labour extraction and exploitation. Of equal importance is the strategic need to adequately educate the students in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions about workers’ control, ownership and management of the workplace.
Further, the students would be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to collectively self-manage worker cooperatives and other worker self-managed companies. We must challenge the public education curriculum that prepares learners, at public expense, to work in capitalist enterprises. The worker self-management ideas and practices should be integrated throughout the curriculum.
Develop comprehensive land reform programme: According to  Tony Weis in the paper “Restructuring and Redundancy: The Impacts and Illogic of Neoliberal Agricultural Reforms in Jamaica”, “Jamaica’s landscape still bears the scars of the most ferocious form of agricultural production ever devised, as plantations kept their vice-like grip on the best land after Emancipation in 1838, with all subsequent distribution programmes only ever acting on the margins of these inhumanly constructed yet sacrosanct institutions.”[6] The preceding state of affairs is essentially the situation in the rest of the Anglophone Caribbean.
The governments in the Caribbean must undertake a comprehensive land reform programme that puts flat, arable land in the hands of the labouring classes. Enslaved Africans and indentured South Asians and the Indigenous peoples worked the land and their descendants must now exercise stewardship and control over it.
In order for them to take land out of the capitalist speculative market and to end the idea of the ownership of land by individuals, these governments must create the legislative framework for the establishment of community land trust (CLT). CLTs are structures that are used to protect land from the rise or fall in the value of land based on speculation or the whims and fancies of capitalist demand and supply of land and housing. The access to land should be based on the right of collective use or usufructuary rights and not the right of private ownership. Each generation should be the steward of land and not its owners as under capitalism.
Create a cooperative housing programme: The condition of a large proportion of the housing stock in the Caribbean is an assault on human decency, especially for those who live in urban squatter settlements or overcrowded, ill-repaired housing in urban and rural communities. The state must create national funding programmes to support the development and maintenance of cooperative housing by the people through their organizations.
Cooperative housing is a way to engender popular, democratic and collective control and management over the housing by the people who live in these units and to undermine the idea of housing as a tradeable commodity. The members of cooperative housing would have security of tenure but would not be able to pass on the property to their heirs.
Establish working-class friendly labour laws: The system of chattel slavery in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas was a very vile form of labour exploitation. The slave masters did not simply exercise power over the labour power and the fruit of the labour (profit) of the enslaved African workforce. These capitalists also owned the enslaved Africans.
The brutal legacy of exploitation of African workers continued after Emancipation in 1838. In the Anglophone Caribbean of today, progressive organizations ought to develop broad national and regional campaigns to force these neocolonial governments to create worker-friendly labour laws that make it easier for workers to join or form trade unions. Severe or prohibitive fines must be levied against employers who violate the rights of workers to form or join trade unions. It is hypocritical of governments to demand reparations from British imperialism for slavery, while facilitating the exploitation of workers through laws that titled against the power of workers in the workforce.
The rate of unionization is very low in the Caribbean and it must become a priority of progressive social movement organizations, socialist organizations, the revolutionary petite bourgeoisie and trade unions to push for legislation that will give workers a greater level of bargaining power in the workplace-based class struggle.
Establish popular, democratic and horizontal assemblies of the oppressed: The revolutionary and radical forces in the Caribbean’s reparations movement must work with other progressive forces throughout society to establish a federated system of popular, democratic and horizontal assemblies of the oppressed. These assemblies would function as the direct democratic structures of political self-management that seek to approximate the communist self-organizing concept of “the administration of things and not the governance of people.”
The assemblies would be the local, regional and national organs through which the labouring classes discuss, plan and determine their economic and social priorities. The masses would implement their main concerns through their alternative and oppositional institution as well as organize and impose them on existing and domination economic, social, cultural and political institution. In this contestation for power, the people’s organizations would use all available and ethical means to advance their liberation.
Perry Mars documents in his book Ideology and Change: The Transformation of the Caribbean Left that a section of the The Left in the Caribbean has a tradition of using or advocating the deployment of assemblies to connect with the people: “What these parties have in common is their strong advocacy of what are called variously ‘people’s parliament’ or ‘people’s assembly’ representing mass democratic participation in grass roots self organizations.”[7]
Further, The Left sees assemblies as political instruments that compensate for the fact that the liberal capitalist democracies in the region are not responsive or represent the needs of the people. Assemblies should not be used as consultative or information-sharing bodies by nationalist and socialist revolutionaries or radicals.
These political assemblies are supposed to be proactive and positive structures that familiarise the people with the idea and practice of shaping all decisions that impact their lives. Mars notes that in the Caribbean “The problem with the ‘people’s assembly’ is that the implementation does not necessarily eliminate the tendencies towards political centralization and elitism as far as leadership of the movement is concerned.”[8]
From the period of chattel slavery to the current period of neocolonial flag independence, the Caribbean labouring classes have yet to exercise substantive power over the political institutions that govern their lives. A system of popular assemblies with the capacity to challenge the authoritarian liberal capitalist democracies for power would be the one of the best expressions of reparatory justice in the Caribbean.
Conclusion
The struggle for reparations in the Caribbean should become a site of the class struggle and organizing the people for socialism or communism. Capitalism must be put on trial for aiding and abetting the enslavement of Africans and genocide against the Indigenous peoples.
The proposals that are outlined above for adoption by the Caribbean reparations will not become a reality in the absence of national campaigns that organize the people into their self-organized class-based and other popular organizations. We are seeking to build a counterhegemonic force or alternative power bloc to contest the existing forces of domination and to advance the long-term struggle of putting them out of business.
The neocolonial governments have jumped in front of the reparations bandwagon and are trying to set the agenda. It is incumbent on the popular forces to organize the people in order to wrest the agenda setting initiative from the state and impose their programme of action on the state through the organizing of the labouring classes and other oppressed groups within its ranks.
It is critically necessary for the organizers who are organizing the people from below to do everything possible to utilize all available opportunity to build the capacity of the oppressed to challenge and undermine the existing white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist political order. It is for this reason that a dual power strategy must build the embryonic economic, social and political structures of the future socialist society, while engaging and contesting the existing institutions of power.
It is in this light that the development of worker self-management over their workplaces and the establishment of a system of popular assemblies as the seat of working-class political power become necessary. The reparations movement can play an important catalytic role in helping to ideologically prepare the people for the completion of the Second Emancipation in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas.
* Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is a writer, organizer and educator. Ajamu is a lecturer in the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of the West Indies.
[1] Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (London: Andre Deutsch, 1964), 18-19. Available online at: https://urbanartiphax.com/ebooks/files/Eric-Williams-Capitalism-Slavery.pdf
[2] Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974), 10. Available online at: abahlali.org/files/3295358-walter-rodney.pdf
[3] Hilary Beckles, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2013), 175
[4] Ibid., 144.
[5] Jeff Shantz, Re-thinking Revolution: A Social Anarchist Perspective, Philosophers for Change, Accessed on April 6, 2017, https://philosophersforchange.org/2012/03/07/re-thinking-revolution-a-so…. Shantz is opposed to using the concept “dual power” but his preference for “infrastructure of dissent” or “anarchist transfer cultures” is not a variance with a dual power strategy that focuses on self-organization of the working-class and oppressed identity groups within that class.
[6] Tony Weis in the paper “Restructuring and Redundancy: The Impacts and Illogic of Neoliberal Agricultural Reforms in Jamaica”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 4, no. 4, (October 2004): 463.
[7] Perry Mars, Ideology and Change: The Transformation of the Caribbean Left, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), 113.
[8] Ibid., 113.

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