Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Mugabe's Zimbabwe 30 years after independence David van Wyk The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) is a petite bourgeois nationalist organisation that came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, after elections following ...
    Posted 1 Mar 2011, 08:44 by Admin uk
  • South Africa Zuma's State of the Nation Address - the Myth of Social Partners by David Van Wyk on Thursday, 10 February 2011  Class conflict cannot be mediated. Nedlac is an attempt by the bourgeois state to blunt the class struggle in South Africa ...
    Posted 1 Mar 2011, 07:17 by Admin uk
  • Capitalism in Africa Capitalism in Africa         David van Wyk           What sustains the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What sustains the occupation of Palestine? According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (http ...
    Posted 21 Feb 2011, 01:14 by Admin uk
  • The World Cup - A Post Mortem David van Wyk Yes indeed it was great being with the crowds, blowing vuvuzelas, waving flags and watching every match on TV, at the stadiums or in bohemian restaurants. I ...
    Posted 18 Feb 2011, 12:33 by Admin uk
  • THE SOCCER WORLD CUP, CLASS, POWER AND POVERTY IN SOUTH AFRICA David van Wyk The ruling class in underdeveloped countries do not own significant means of production. In South Africa after 16 years of “democratic” transition and a variety of black ...
    Posted 18 Feb 2011, 12:34 by Admin uk
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Mugabe's Zimbabwe 30 years after independence

posted 1 Mar 2011, 08:44 by Admin uk

David van Wyk

The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) is a petite bourgeois nationalist organisation that came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, after elections following the Lancaster House Agreement that was signed with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party Government in Britain. This agreement was signed at the height of Ronald Reagan’s mission to roll back history.

The petite bourgeois leaders of ZANU mobilised the peasantry in remote rural areas during the second Chimurenga (liberation war). The working class was effectively ignored during the struggle. After 1980, the nationalist petite bourgeoisie easily dismissed the peasantry, and avoided dealing with the land question for the first fifteen years. The petite bourgeoisie was satisfied with replacing the white settlers, stepping into their shoes and continuing to exploit and oppress both the Zimbabwean working class and the peasantry on behalf of international capital. The nationalist petite bourgeoisie, in the prophetic words of Franz Fanon, “discovered its historic mission: that of intermediary” for international capitalism.

Whereas Hitler was the hammer with which international capitalism crushed the working class in Europe, Ronald Reagan was the steamroller that global capitalism employed to destroy working class organisations globally. Robert Mugabe was a key figure in Reagan’s mission in the Southern African context. In the first instance Mugabe ruthlessly destroyed his Soviet Union supported opposition in Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) by unleashing the notorious Fifth Brigade on Matabeleland in 1984 during operation Gukurahundi. Once he destroyed any potential nationalist threat to his dominance he proceeded to destroy the left – including attacking the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

At the height of these repressive actions, Mugabe was the darling of the Commonwealth, The United Nations and the World Bank and the IMF. So much so that Mugabe’s Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero chaired the IMF/World Bank Development Committee. Naturally the West and global institutions and organisations kept silent about Mugabe’s brutality then, Interestingly he favoured the Pan Africanist Congress over the African National Congress at the time, because of the latter’s historic ties with ZAPU, after all Chris Hani was involved in the famous Wankie/Whange battle between ZAPUs armed wing ZIPRA and the Rhodesian army in the 1960s.
In the 1980s several MK cadres found themselves at the wrong end of Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Their historical association with Zipra, ZAPU’s liberation army earned them spells in detention and torture particularly in Bulawayo during 1984. Although the ANC had a branch and offices Avondale in Harare, MK had to operate from clandestine safe houses.

Mugabe introduced one of the most stringent economic structural adjustment programmes (ESAP) under direction of the IMF and the World Bank. This Economic Suffering for African People as locals jokingly called ESAP destroyed the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), most other parastatals and Zimbabwe’s food security. Zimbabwe borrowed massively at the outset, figuring that repayments -- which required 16% of export earnings in 1983 -- would “decline sharply until we estimate it will be about 4% within the next few years”.
The first loan ironically was to completely reconstruct Zimbabwe’s power facility at Whange, the Power I loan was the first Bank energy loan to Zimbabwe after Independence in 1980. The loan was to the Electricity Supply Commission (ESC), which was later incorporated into a national power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

The main lender, the World Bank, concurred: “The debt service ratios should begin to decline after 1984 even with large amounts of additional external borrowing”. This was the economic equivalent of a sucker-punch, for in reality, Zimbabwe's debt servicing spiraled up to an untenable 37% of export earnings by 1987.
Loan conditions quickly emerged. By 1985, the IMF was pressuring Mugabe to cut education spending and, in 1986, food subsidies fell to two-thirds of 1981 levels.

The two global agencies advised Zimbabwe to switch from food crops to cash crops in order to pay off astronomical IMF and World Bank loans. Suddenly Zimbabwe experienced food shortages for the first time, and electricity power cuts became a daily occurrence. This happened soon after the World Bank and IMF became responsible for the micro management of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. One wonders if the ANC leadership in South Africa knew of this historical fiasco north of Limpopo before they entered into the recent loan with the World Bank to construct the Medupe Power Plant in Limpopo. Interestingly, then in Zimbabwe, as now in South Africa, the World Bank advised that “Electricity to ZESAs consumers was “far too cheap.”
The IMF and the World Bank effectively led Zimbabwe into bankruptcy and economic self destruction through the agency of the ZANUPF petite bourgeoisie.

Ever since Mugabe’s unholy alliance with global capital the people of Zimbabwe has had to suffer the impositions of the IMF and the World Bank, including the dismantling of Zimbabwe’s nascent manufacturing sector – the collapse of David Whitehead textiles, the destruction of Supersonic, the end of Bata shoes, reversing gains in local content of Land Rover which had 75% local content in 1980 and the general collapse of the motor vehicle industry, particularly Peugot, Citroen and Ford, with tens of thousands of workers becoming unemployed in working class areas such as Willovale and Chitungwiza. The World Bank and IMF advised that Zimbabwe should concentrate on its competitive advantage – cash crop production.

The peasantry was ‘advised’ to switch from food crop production to cash crop production – droughts in the late 1980s left even the usually resilient Zimbabwean peasantry starving. Land reform in the form of land invasions was but a system of reward for military generals, so as to minimize the risk of military coups, and ZANUPF cronies. Most recently Mugabe punished the working class in Harare for daring to vote against him by launching Operation Murambatsvina, “driving out the trash” by demolishing tens of thousands of houses in Harare’s working class townships.

It is against this background that workers and peasants should read Mugabe’s ‘land reform’ and his calls for economic indigenisation. Fanon noted that the nationalist petite bourgeoisie ‘constantly demands the nationalisation of the economy and of the trading sectors. This is because, from their point of view, nationalisation does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them nationalisation does not mean governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage. To them, nationalisation quite simply means the transfer into native (petite bourgeois) hands those unfair advantages which are the legacy of the colonial period.” In other words the nationalist petite bourgeoisie models themselves on colonial settlers and when in power behaves as colonial settlers would towards the working class and the peasantry.

The nationalist middleclass is too weak to address the questions of the national revolution and fears that the working class will drive the revolution in an uninterrupted way (Lenin) towards a permanent revolution (Trotsky) that will take matters to the logical conclusion of socialism. The national petite bourgeoisie and the weak national bourgeoisie therefore sell their souls to global capitalism, while mouthing the most radical slogans – they don red T-Shirts in township rallies on weekend and three piece suites during office hours, during ‘global conferences and at evening functions reassuring global capital of their loyalty while negotiating a piece of the cake for themselves.

Quoted reference: Fanon, F. 2001. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin.

South Africa Zuma's State of the Nation Address - the Myth of Social Partners

posted 10 Feb 2011, 14:57 by Admin uk   [ updated 1 Mar 2011, 07:17 ]

by David Van Wyk on Thursday, 10 February 2011 

Class conflict cannot be mediated. Nedlac is an attempt by the bourgeois state to blunt the class struggle in South Africa by creating the facade of cooperation between classes in an intensely unequal society. South Africa has the biggest gap between rich and poor people in the world. When the economy went into crisis the then denialist Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel denied the crisis for as long as he could so as to avoid remedial action, as a reult the country lost more than a million jobs in a short space of time. In the recovery that followed these jobs were never recovered and the economy reverted to jobless growth which means it reverted to the same situation that it was in before the crisis, minus the jobs.    


The swelling of the ranks of the reserve army of labour (the lumpen-proletariat) has increased the pressure on those with jobs as it has increased the levels of economic dependency on the working population. It has also weakened the bargaining power of the working class as the threat of increased unemployment, and the very existence of this huge reserve army of unemployed is used to blackmail and 'discipline the employed. Worse, the bourgeois media is blaming the employed and unionised workers for the unemployment in the country. This is an attempt to ratchet up the tension between organised workers and the unorganised unemployed and to divert attention from the super profits the capitalist class is making in South Africa. Angloplat for example boasts that 'headline earnings per share rose more than sixfold to 1935c in the year to end-December, from 289c a year earlier.'    


No wonder the CEO of Anglo can boldly proclaim against nationalisation and in favour of expanding operations. They know, and Zuma's address confirms this, that the old guard in the ANC will never kill the 'goose that lays the golden egg' in the words of a former Minister of Mining. The old Guard in the ANC are all wealthy shareholders in a booming industry. The same industry which is chasing communities off their land as quickly as the land is restored to them by the Department of Land Affairs. No care that this industry is killing South Africa's rivers and ground water. No care that this industry is poisoning our agricultural land and threatening our future water and food security. No care that this industry due to its peculiar history is keeping the country locked into a low wage, high unemployment trap. No care that this industry is preventing economic diversification and is the main reason why Asian countries who were far behind South Africa in terms of industrial development in the 1950s are today light years ahead of us.


Mr Zuma speaks of allocating R40 billion towards job creation. Will this R40 billion land in the pockets of the tenderpreneurs, in the pockets of cousins, grandsons and nephews instead of in the pockets of workers nows proudly employed.


Nothing in Mr Zuma's speech addresses the expansion of the productive capacity of the economy. We only have to drive through the industrial areas of our major cities to see the empty buildings the inoperational factories, the underutilised capacity. We only have to enter any township, or Yeoville or Hillbrow to see the wasted human resource capacity of this country - the millions of unemployed workers to realise that any claim of real economic growth is false. Economic growth only occurs when all unutilised economic capacity is fully utilised, and then new capacity, new factories, new farms, new economic activity is added. However when a former Bophuthatswana statistician is heading Stats SA any miracle is possible.


Mr Zuma boldly states that betwen 2010 and 2014 there will be hundreds of conferences and meetings in South Africa including that of the International Olympics committee and that this will translate into jobs in the tourism sector. Again this is adding nothing to the productive capacity of the country. No doubt the tourism sector growth will see a rapid increase in sex work, the drugs trade and alcohol and substance abuse. Fanon correctly refers to this neo-colonial obsession with prestige events and tourism as the prostitution of the national economy.


Instead of speaking about solving the housing crisis by means of state intervention on behalf of the homeless Mr Zuma takes the bankrupt banking based housing policies of Joe Slovo a step further. Where Joe Slovo handed RDP housing over to the banking sector, thereby emasculating the working class from class actions such as strikes because they would lose their RDP matchboxes if the missed bond repayments, Mr Zuma proposes rental accommodation for the transient semirural working class. Large parts of the working class is trapped into migrant labour, thanks to the mining industry which now gives its migrants a living out allowance and pretends that it no longer employs migrants. Having migrant workers rent accomodation makes it easier to evict them when they are retrenched during economic downturns. It also creates the possibility of growing a rentier capitalist class among the black elite. Thus strengthening the National Party ANC programme of building a black middle class as a buffer against socialist revolution!

Capitalism in Africa

posted 5 Nov 2010, 16:17 by Admin uk   [ updated 21 Feb 2011, 01:14 ]

Capitalism in Africa        

David van Wyk          

What sustains the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What sustains the occupation of Palestine? According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics ( almost 30% of its exports were diamond related (polished diamonds, jewellery, and unpolished diamonds). Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 the prices of copper and uranium have boomed. Copper is the base component of most munitions from bullets to shell casings, not to speak of electronics wiring. Coltan and tantalum are essential components of electronics and communications systems in use by NATO and the US army. 

Uranium prices spiked between March 2006 when George Bush announced his intention of realising a “complete victory” in Iraq and August 2007, when the US conventional military solution in Iraq petered out in the face of concerted guerrilla resistance to the occupation. The invading US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan use plutonium tipped artillery shells and a variety of munitions containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium munitions were first used by NATO forces in Kosovo, where according to Hari Sharma, “NATO is trying to save Kosovars, but if they leave Kosovo filled with
depleted uranium, it's not a happy situation. They [would be] poisoning them. If you are going to use depleted uranium in warfare, it's better to drop an atom bomb and kill 30,000 people instantaneously rather than killing them over 20 or 30 years.” The same and even more advanced munitions are being deployed in Iraq where Robert Fisk after the first invasion found, “In Iraq in 1997, I discovered monstrous births of deformed babies and old men who, amid the wreckage which the Allies had blasted with our uranium shells, told me of daughters with breast and liver cancer.”

Table 1. Known and Suspected Uses of DU Munitions in Warfare

Source: Dan Fahey: SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons.

I have just spent three months zipping in and out of the mining provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia and Zimbabwe, where I interviewed mine workers, trade union leaders and peasants.
There is a literal scramble for mining rights by global capitalist companies in these three countries. The most sought after minerals being copper, cobalt, uranium and coltan.

In the north eastern parts of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, both under the control of US proxy governments have carved out portions of the DRC using “rebel” armies (bands of armed terrorists) to lay their hands on DRC coltan. In the south eastern Katanga Province multinational corporations are raping the environment and the population in an effort to extract as much copper and uranium as they are able to in as short as possible a time and at as low a cost as they possibly could. Here they are in competition with Chinese companies feeding the booming Chinese economy.

It is interesting to note that the uranium that produced the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 came from Katanga province in the DRC.

On the Copperbelt in Northern Zambia and Katanga in South Eastern DRC; Marx’s labour theory of value, his theory of exploitation and of primitive accumulation and Trotsky’s theory of combined and uneven development is finding expression daily in the miserable conditions to which the working class and peasantry are being subjected. In this first article I will investigate the application of the labour theory of value and
exploitation in the context of Zambian mine workers.

I was told by a representative of the Zambian Chamber of Mines that the productivity of Zambian mine workers can be measured from the fact that a Zambian mine worker produces 16 tons of copper per worker per month. The most productive mine produces 22 tons per worker per month.

Underground mine workers in Zambia earn around US$357 per month. The current price of copper US$ 7500 per ton. This means that each worker produces US$120 000 per month (calculated at the average of 16 tons per worker per month), or a surplus of US$ 119 643 per month. Mine bosses claim that the costs of producing a ton of copper equals as much as US $ 5000 per ton. They grossly exaggerate the costs of production so as to evade taxes. But even if we accept these costs and note that the costs of production
is invested in labour power and means of production (technology), the ratio of surplus production over necessary labour is still excessive and exploitative if the net income of mining companies are US$2500 per ton after costs while wages are only US$357 per worker per month, because at 22 tons per worker each worker still produces US$40 000 per worker, which represents a surplus of US$39 643 per worker.

In Katanga there are also tens of thousands of artisanal miners, the lumpen proletariat, who unable to secure work in the mines, illegally occupy the concessions of major western mining corporations scratching in toxic mine waste and dumps for copper, uranium or cobalt. Kabwe in Zambia is considered to be the most toxic polluted town on the planet. The artisanal miners are tolerated because the multinational corporations can
exploit them even more than formal mine workers. The corporations deploy armies of negotiators and traders to vacuum up the concentrate from artisanal miners. Artisanal miners exploit family labour, do not require pensions or medical aid. Typically negotiators act like pimps for the artisanal miners, they take 70% of the price per ton, leaving the artisanal miner with a meager 30%. The negotiators then sell forward to traders who are usually the agents of multinational corporations. I was offered copper concentrate (unprocessed ore) at US$800 a ton by a trader. Imagine the pittance receive by the artisanal miner! This impacts particularly badly on women in Katanga and Zambia. I was told by a prostitute in Kolwezi that a woman in Kolwezi has the following choices in life, to break rock, to carry rock like a pack mule, to wash rock or to become a sex worker.
According to her thousands of young women die between the ages of 15 and 17 because of HIV/Aids, condoms are unheard of in Kolwezi.

Much of the copper, uranium, cobalt and coltan is sold forward to the military industrial complex in the West, and the miserable and poor conditions of Zambian and Congolese mine workers and their families translate into the misery of bombed Iraqi and Afghani civilians (collateral damage) and long term prospects of cancer and birth defects for decades to come, while European and US capitalists/shareholders laugh all the way to the

The World Cup - A Post Mortem

posted 15 Jul 2010, 02:05 by Admin uk   [ updated 18 Feb 2011, 12:33 ]

David van Wyk

Yes indeed it was great being with the crowds, blowing vuvuzelas, waving flags and watching every match on TV, at the stadiums or in bohemian restaurants. I also allowed myself to be swept along the torrent of jubilation and festivities. Yes it was great that South Africa could pull it off without incident. We said so after the Rugby World Cup (1995), after the World Conference on Racism in Durban (2001), after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Sandton (2002), not to talk of all the global cricket events. There was never any doubt that South Africa could pull this off, and earn browny points from the global neo-liberal ruling class. FIFA is after all a global transnational corporation which has commodified football and sells the privilege of hosting the event to the highest most malleable bidder. 

However, my cynicism remains about the comprador ruling class in South Africa, and about the event itself - we cannot run this country as an events and tourism, carnival destination. While sport and culture is no doubt important key questions that confront our society have to do with poverty, unemployment, housing, health, education, water, electricity, etc. rather than building sport and conference infrastructure.

As an internationalist and a communist I am also critical of nationalism and of nation building. I left this country in 1983 because I could not support the exclusive nationalism propagated by the white population. I am also not comfortable with the current nationalism parading as democracy. I remind myself of the German petite bourgeoisie who with the audacity of Hitler managed to grab power and set about settling historic scores with the working class and its organizations, the German Communist Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Unions and their newspapers - this settling of scores had the full support of global capital at the time - and Hitler was praised for creating jobs, for restoring German pride, for rebuilding the German nation. His reward was of course the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Hitler rallied the nation with much flag waving, marches and political theatre on a grand scale, but it was all a bankrupt façade. When he ran out of ideas he found a scapegoat for his own shortcomings - the Jewish population of Germany. 

With that awful era in human history in mind, I am not surprised that the poor in South Africa are resorting to xenophobia. They are told that they are part of the "Nation" that they must bury their class awareness, and assume a national consciousness instead, there are no exploiters or exploited now we are all part of the rainbow nation. So if a worker's poverty, miserable living and working conditions are not the result of exploitation, then what is the cause of his or her condition? If the unemployed squatter camp dweller is not the victim of an economic structure that immiserates him and assigns him to the lumpen proletariat, the reserve army of labour, then what is the cause of his or her condition? If it is not the uneven distribution of wealth and resources, if it is not that the priorities of the ruling class is with carnivalesque events rather than the revolutionary transformation of the economic base of the country, then what is the cause? Well the worker, the unemployed and the poor come to a simple conclusion - it is the presence of other workers, poor and unemployed who are not part of the nation - "they, the makwerekwere (foreigners), are stealing our jobs, our housing, our women, our opportunities." The class struggle is neatly averted and the poor are set in violent confrontation with other poor.

This is not really xenophobia in the true sense of the word, it is really a limited form of “Afrophobia”, because those targeted are Africans from other African countries, but not all Africans, only those who are poor, Somalis, Zimbabweans and Mozambicans who share the squatter camps. Then our Minister of Police and our President have the nerve to say that it is the rumours of xenophobia that is causing xenophobia. I have heard that one before - the minister of police in 1976 saying that the kids in Soweto are generally peaceful but they are acting up for the media - so let’s ban the media from Soweto. 

I visited Freedom Park squatter camp in Phokeng, in the shadow of some of the richest platinum mines in the world the day the World Cup started and noticeable was the absence of World Cup accessories such as flags, T-shirts and vuvuzelas. I interviewed members of the community, who do not have access to electricity, water or proper housing about their view of the World Cup. There was no FIFA fan park in Freedom Park. They felt extremely alienated/excluded from the event. I watched the Bafana/France match in a restaurant in Yeoville, a trendy middleclass suburb in the city centre. At half time everyone stormed out of the restaurant to go and blow their vuvuzelas in the Street. It was early evening. The street was packed with revelers of all races and creeds - and through this carnival of energy and colour walked three elderly domestic workers, humbly looking down, not wearing any cup paraphernalia, after a long day in the homes of their middle class madams, on their way to flag a taxi, probably back to Diepsloot or some other urban slum. The contrast stuck in my mind, I wish I had a camera with me.

Throughout the World Cup electricity supply commission (ESKOM) workers, and civil service workers threatened to strike for better wages. The bourgeois media accused the unions of being unpatriotic, business and political leaders begged the unions to be responsible and not te embarrass the “nation.” 

Two days after the event the poor resumed their struggle. 12 schools in the North West Province closed over delivery protests, poor people taking to the streets of their villages and townships knowing that the only way to get the attention of the government they elected was to become violent. Solly Petwe, Provincial Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions) COSATU publicly announced concerns about World Cup tender irregularities in the North West Province. We still await the outcome of investigations into tender assassinations in Mpumalanga. Delivery protests also resumed in Mpumalanga. Immediately after the event Somalis and Zimbaweans started fleeing poor communities in the Western Cape, and Paul Verryn was threatened in the streets of Johannesburg, and Mozambican mine workers in Rhamaphosa squatter camp were threatened by locals.  

Xenophobia is the product of national consciousness, which in itself is a false consciousness designed to weaken workers and poor communities in their struggle with capital. 

In making these remarks I will be accused of being racist, because the capitalist ruling class has now created some space for a small number of black South Africans to join the ranks of capital. However, the vast majority of black South African class still make out the working class, the poor and down trodden, and the fact that our country has the dubious distinction of having the greatest gap between rich and poor in the world cannot and will not escape them forever. And when the poor rise up, how will our nationalist leaders deal with it? Will they follow the example of the prime nationalist figure in history, Hitler? Will there be a historic crushing of the working class and its organizations and leaders? The recent spat between Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU and senior leaders of the (African National Congress) ANC, whom he is accusing of corruption, would suggest to me that there are those in the leadership of the ANC who would find such an historic reckoning to their liking.


posted 8 Jun 2010, 07:16 by Admin uk   [ updated 18 Feb 2011, 12:34 ]

David van Wyk

The ruling class in underdeveloped countries do not own significant means of production. In South Africa after 16 years of “democratic” transition and a variety of black economic empowerment, affirmative action and affirmative procurement programmes, the major means of production in mining, manufacturing, agriculture, wholesale and retail and finance are still mostly either foreign owned or in white settler hands. Thus more than 70% of land is still white owned, the Department of Mineral Resources which sought to achieve a shift in the ownership of mines through the mechanism of the Mining Charter bewails the fact that it failed dismally to achieve even its limited objectives of transferring ownership in mining into black hands.

This demonstrates the incapacity of the national bourgeoisie to effect meaningful transformation in the context of underdevelopment. The historic compromise reached in 1993 that led to the first democratic elections in 1994 tied the petite bourgeoisie to a parliamentary game based on the Westminster model with a heavy dose of federalism. The “property clause,” binding the leaders of the new governing party to negotiating land redistribution and restitution based on “market-value” effectively rendered the petite bourgeois leaders of the tripartite alliance powerless and the economic base of the country untouched. Powerless economically, the political ruling class lacks any foundation from which to effectively transform the racially poisoned social relations and geographic spatial arrangements of Apartheid. The black and working class are still trapped in urban ghettoes called townships and informal settlements (squatter camps).  The white petite bourgeoisie long fled the inner-cities at a speed which only marginally surpassed that of their black class compatriots for the gated leafy northern suburbs and the heavily walled, electrified and security dominated golf estates in close proximity to sprawling malls. Earlier this year the President gave voice to his development model – a mall for every deeply impoverished rural village, to bring shopping convenience to the poorest of the poor.

The country was divided into nine largely ethnic “provinces” giving room to the aspirations of emergent Tswana petite bourgeois aspirations in the North West Province, Zulu petite bourgeois aspirations in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Sotho petite bourgeois aspirations in the Free State, Xhosa petite bourgeois aspirations in the Eastern Cape, etc. Instead of overthrowing the racial, ethnic and tribal divisions which constituted the social relations that emanated from the Apartheid division and exploitation of the working class, the post 1994 historic compromise simply refined Apartheid capitalism.

Since the national bourgeoisie lacks the economic means to secure its rule and throw a few crumbs to the poorest of the poor, it has instead become preoccupied with self-enrichment – not by expanding the economic base of the country, but through seeking to partner global capital in the exploitation of the resources of the country, through becoming the national facilitators for foreign capital, corrupting the term “nationalism” in the process and raising the phrase “foreign-investment” to the level of incontestable holy scripture. Forced to create “conditions favourable for foreign investment” the national bourgeoisie does not dare to impose taxes, decent and safe working conditions, or demand a meaningful stake of the profits generated by the mineral wealth of the country.

In the process of prostrating the country before global capital, so as to become partners in the plunder and pillage of South Africa and Africa’s national resources the national bourgeoisie through the agency of the state imposed a severe structural adjustment programme in the form of the Growth with Equity and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy, privatising hospitals, forcing the poor to pay for education and health allowing electricity, roads, transport (particularly the railways) and communication infrastructure to deteriorate – causing general stagnation, in pursuit of inflation and interest rate targeting.  In its first term of office the African National Congress, this (democratic) dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in an underdeveloped country such as South Africa drew its strength from a charismatic figure – the great leader. In developed capitalist countries the bourgeois dictatorship is founded on the economic power of the ruling class. In South Africa after 1994 the national bourgeoisie basked in the glory of Nelson Mandela. Mandela stood for moral power, and it was in his shadow that the weak South African national bourgeoisie decided to get rich.

The masses of the people of all classes were entranced by aura created around the person of Mandela, he came to be seen as a saviour and they spontaneously put their trust in this patriot. He embodied their aspirations for freedom, equality, justice and national dignity in the struggle against Apartheid. Once in power, Mandela seemed to be the symbolic leader, while Thabo Mbeki appeared to pull the strings – far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people with regard to housing, health, education, employment, land restitution and redistribution, the ANC quickly revealed its true purpose: to be the board of executives of that company of profiteers who were impatient for their rewards for having led the liberation struggle – the national bourgeoisie – and the phrase “I did not struggle to be poor!” has become commonplace as government tenders, mining and prospecting licences harvested from the geological reports of the Department of Minerals were appropriated in a corrupt orgy of feeding out of the state trough.

Thabo Mbeki came to be seen as the fierce defender of the interests of this new class who have hijacked the state for the promotion of self-interest. His contact with the masses became completely unreal, he came to be seen as aloof and arrogant as he resolutely joined the side of the exploiters – out went the left of centre Reconstruction and Development Programme, in came GEAR and a panel of international economic advisors that included the who-is- who of global capitalism. Roads and infrastructure deteriorated, health facilities crumbled, health services collapsed, education went into a crisis, the inner cities where the poor are concentrated crumbled into ruins, squatter camps mushroomed, crime spiralled out of control and the gap between the rich and poor rapidly escalated. Human right and dignity became commodities available only to those who could afford to pay for such luxuries.

Since the national bourgeoisie became preoccupied with filling its pockets as quickly as possible, the country sank into stagnation. In order to hide this regression the national middle class has become obsessed with the carnavalesque, much like Marie Antoinette in France, or the Tsarina before the 1917 revolution in Russia, the South African bourgeoisie can find nothing better to do than to engage in grandiose projects and glittering conferences and events such as the cricket, rugby and soccer world cups, environmental conferences, conferences against racism, conferences about poverty and unemployment, HIV/Aids conferences.... all talk and little substance, plenty of colourful t-shirts, caps, conference bags and sumptuous meals. To host all this requires the erection of grandiose conference centrums, prestigious stadiums, glamorous hotels, expensive railway lines and speedy trains from the airports to such facilities. Massive investments in prestige by a middleclass not founded on any productive economic base – a perpetuity of tenders to the construction and event management companies of families and friends. No new factories, no substantial economic growth, such complex tasks is the preserve of “foreign investors.”

Thabo Mbeki was shown the door by the angry working class members of the ANC at the last ANC conference at Polokwane. To be replaced by another “great leader”, Jacob Zuma who captured the imagination of the masses by his humble working origins, his grassroots charisma and ability to engage with ordinary folks on the ground. Unfortunately Jacob Zuma is a man for all seasons and all classes, and what he promised the workers ranged in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), seems to be very different from the commitments and reassurances he is constantly making to global capital in Washington, London, Paris and Tokyo.

The FIFA world cup should be seen against the background of a meagre impotent national bourgeoisie prostrating itself at the altar of global capital. The national bourgeoisie is boasting of its own organisational capacity in pulling of the first African World Cup, predicating its right to rule on this performance, coaxing the working class and the poor to join the celebrations in expectation of great things to result from it; harshly disciplining the working class for escalating service delivery protests and strikes in the run up to the event. The secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelenzima Vavi has committed the most treacherous of sins by suggesting corruption in high places, for this he has earned himself a threat of disciplinary hearing by the very individuals he is accusing, and a death threat letter.  No doubt the national middle class will expect the hungry, the poor, the exploited and downtrodden to feed of fond memories of the event once it is past. They are hoping that sport will become the opium of the masses. FIFA seems to have extracted a heavy price for this momentary shot in the arm for the national bourgeoisie.

FIFA has already realised R25 billion in marketing and media revenue and has increased its income by 50% since the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It squeezed the following concessions from its national managers – the South African ruling class:

  • FIFA and FIFA designated sites, its subsidiaries and foreign football associations would be exempted from paying income tax, customs duties and value added tax. The country will lose tens of millions of rand in potential revenue.
  • FIFA employees, delegates, their commercial affiliates, licensees, host broadcasters and merchandise partners are exempt from work permit requirements.
  • FIFA commercial affiliates, licensees, host broadcasters, broadcast rights agencies, merchandise partners and service providers will not be taxed on profits made during the World Cup.
  • FIFA commercial affiliates, licensees, host broadcasters, broadcast rights agencies, merchandise partners and service providers will have unconditional visas and relaxed customs and check inn procedures.
  • Hospital beds, intensive care units and ambulances have been reserved for FFA and its foreign visitors, with R 700 million being spent on preparing health and emergency medical services for the event. These facilities are kept under lock and key and will only be activated once the event commences. This in a country where infants die in alarming numbers in poorly equipped and staffed maternity awards, and where HIV/Aids infection is among the highest in the world.
  • The South African Football association has had to provide FIFA with two limousines, 300 cars, numerous busses and two private jets.
  • FIFA will have full intellectual property rights emanating from the World Cup and the South African parliament was forced to pass legislation that would severely restrict local “entrepreneurs” from benefitting from the event at all – and a brand policing unit has been set up to enforce this.
  • All restaurants, bars or entertainment facilities within a 1km radius of any hosting stadium will not be allowed to trade for one hour before any match, during any match, or for an hour after the match has finished. If foreign visitors thought that they were going to enjoy a South African experience in terms of food and drink they are sadly mistaken.

    South Africa has reportedly already spent R63billion on the event, and most commentators agree that the country will benefit very little from it, if at all, save for fond memories which will become the stock for self congratulatory speeches by the leaders of the national bourgeoisie for decades to come. The working class and the poor will wonder how come the once revered leaders of the liberation struggle allowed the country to be screwed over – and when the peer past the fortified gates of the golf estates, patrolled by private security companies whose forces outnumber the South African police by three to one, they might grasp the answer – a bankrupt middleclass unable and unwilling to take the country into a meaningful and revolutionary transformation that will answer all the key questions that confronts this society.

    Sources used:

    Fanon, F. (2001) The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin Classics

    Farber, T. (2010) “Hooked on Sport” in Sunday Independent, Johannesburg p. 25

    Rademeyer, J. Prince, C. Lombaard, A.(2010) “Fifa’s great SA rip-off,” and “How SA sold out’”Johannesburg, p.1 and p.2.

Africa – A Marxist Analysis

posted 5 May 2010, 06:02 by Admin uk   [ updated 5 May 2010, 06:04 ]

David van Wyk 

It is important to utilise the tool of historical materialism in the analysis of the position of Africa in the global context. To this end we must understand the role that Africa has played, and continues to play in the global capitalist economy. Where Marx’s analysis differs from that of neo-liberals and Stalinists is in his insistence on perceiving the development of capitalism beyond the limits of the nation state and pre-empting the formation of a global capitalist ruling class – hence his missive that workers know no country, and that workers of the world should unite, that they have nothing to lose but their chains.

The earliest forms of global corporations had their focus as mercantile firms on global expansion. Thus mercantile firms such as the Dutch East India Company, The British East Africa Company, the British South Africa Company, Cadbury etc. realised early on that control of the global sources of raw materials, minerals, spices and agricultural produce was essential to their national status in a period of intense competition in Europe. These sources of raw materials were in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Where the great mercantile empires of Spain and Portugal lost their advantage in this global competition was the dominance of their parasitic nobility and the catholic church, and the relative weakness of their emergent bourgeoisie. Holland, France and England on the other hand benefited from rapidly emerging and revolutionary middle classes that could move the economic foundations of their countries beyond mercantilism towards capitalist production. Take the manufacturing of cloth for example instead of importing it from Asia, the English manufacturing classes copied the production methods of the cloth industry in India and then revolutionized production in places like Manchester, thus destroying more archaic methods of cloth production in India turning that country into a supplier of raw materials and cotton plantations while creating conditions of mass production in England itself. These processes are described in detail by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto and in Capital Volume 1.

Similar processes were at play in Africa. Walter Rodney describes how the coastal African populations were turned into commodity traders dealing in exotic goods from the African interior including gold and ivory, but most importantly in the commodity trade of human beings. Tens of millions of the economically most able Africans were traded from both e African West and East Coasts to supply plantation labour in the Caribbean, and in North And South America. A central analytical concept in the Marxist armoury is that of primitive accumulation. In describing how the capitalist class originated Marx coined the concept of primitive accumulation, of which vestiges still remain with us to this day – the drug dealer and the pimp being primary examples. The Kennedy clan in the United States accumulated their initial capital through bootlegging, during the prohibition period – a good example of primitive accumulation. In more developed capitalist countries primitive accumulation is less pronounced occurring on the seedy edges of  the economy. In the African context primitive accumulation played a major part of the accumulation process from the early mercantile period in which the slave trade was the dominant trade, throughout the colonial period when the plunder of Africa’s raw materials and minerals fuelled the industrial revolution in Europe, to the present when embarrassed by accusations of racism and oppression.

In understanding the complex realities of Africa the concept of primitive accumulation needs to be explained in further detail, and it is important to involve Leon Trotsky’s concept of combined and uneven development in this explanation because it captures the way in which primitive accumulation in Africa happened in ways that are different from the trajectory followed in Europe.

Primitive accumulation, involves the transformation of pre-capitalist (‘communal’ and/or feudal) agrarian relations of production to capitalist ones, and the formation of a capitalist class. As Marx is often quoted, capitalism emerges from its preceding modes of production with ‘blood dripping from every pore.’ None the less capitalism is perceived by Marx as a revolutionary development in these early stages as it sweeps away any fetters that might obstruct the revolutionary development of the forces of production and the creation of conditions suitable for socialist revolution, in this sense it becomes its own grave digger.
Some have referred to this process as an articulation between capitalism and pre-capitalist modes of production. The process of primitive accumulation is by no means ‘natural’ or spontaneous: state force and many other ‘non-market’ modalities are necessary. Once the bourgeoisie gains control of the state and converts it into an instrument for its own class power, it ruthlessly applies the various apparatus of the state towards attaining its class objectives.
At the Berlin Conference of 1884 competition between the national ruling classes of Europe for African resources became so intense that it was realised that the only way to avoid open warfare between European powers over this matter a gentlemanly conference could settle the biggest land grab in human history. Thus the second step in the process of primitive accumulation was initiated, alienating the African population from the primary means of production, the land.
It is important to note that in Europe the process of primitive accumulation was driven by the national bourgeoisie of each country, and it was intended to drive the serfs and peasants off the land, into urban areas and capitalist factories, leaving the land open for the reorganisation of agriculture, and turning the population of Europe in proletarians, people with no means of production other than their ability to work, their labour power which would hence forth be sold on the labour market.
In Africa the process of primitive accumulation was not driven by a local emerging capitalist class, instead it was driven by the capitalist ruling class in the colonial power itself, hence the relevance of Trotsky’s concept of combined and uneven development. Thus the African colonies became locked into the economic structure of the colonial power, with no room for development of an indigenous African capitalist class. In most African countries the indigenous African population was allowed to become clerks and messengers in the colonial administrative structures, those who were effectively proletarianised were driven into mines and plantations producing raw materials and minerals for the European economies of the colonial powers. Countries like Great Britain developed a corps of professional “foreign service” administrators in the form of “native commissioners” and colonial “governors” to administer those countries where conditions were not suitable for large scale European settlement, mainly because of tropical diseases such as malaria. In areas where large scale white settlement could take place such as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and British East Africa (Kenya) the British government encouraged emigration so as to relieve pressure “at home” caused by the contradictions of Capitalist development such as unemployment, labour militancy etc. In these countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya) a small settler capitalist class did begin to emerge much along the lines of Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand).
In the rest of Africa capitalist class formation was weak and the emergence of ‘war-torn Africa’ suggests a permanently stalemated process of violence in some regions. At other moments, the process of primitive accumulation speeds up in a very uneven and contradictory way (Trotsky) – also probably with violence. The process is always quite unique in spite of its structural base. Many of its variations can be attributed to the historically specific ways in which a combination of externally ‘imposed’ and internally developing capitalist social formations ‘articulated’ with pre-existing modes of production. One may say that primitive accumulation always has ‘twists in its tail’ and the ideological perspectives accompanying and contesting it will add many twists to its tale.
In African settler-colonial societies (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya), primitive accumulation has identifiable and comparable characteristics—race and the agrarian question.   Capitalist agriculture has been dominated by white settlers who carried out their process of primitive accumulation by forcibly taking ‘native’ land and denying African farmers not merely commercial opportunities, but also a chance to become capitalist land owners. Much of the land alienation also has to do with the presence of ‘strategic’ minerals (strategic to global capitalism). Give the current minerals commodities boom with the price of platinum exceeding US$ 2000 an ounce, and gold coming close to US$ 2000 a second wave of primitive accumulation is taking place with global mining corporations such as Barricks, Angloplatinum, BHP Billiton and a host of “new entrants’ from Canada, Australia, Russia and China scramble for mineral rich land and pushing indigenous communities off in often very violent manner, buying off the comprador bourgeoisie with shareholding and board positions to partake in the rape and pillage of their own countries.
The Berlin Conference of 1884 ignored the complex ethnic, cultural, and language realities of Africa and arbitrarily divided the continent between the European powers. This created optimal conditions for capital accumulation as the indigenous populations could be divided and ruled within a geographically defined area, privileging some ethnic or language groups over others, thus obstructing the development of class consciousness amongst workers. This also prevented the emergence of national bourgeoisies who could effectively challenge the capitalist ruling class of the colonial power, and therefore obstructed effective state formation.
In many instances those who were privileged by the colonial power along ethnic or language lines during the colonial period and had better access to educational opportunities and were utilized to administer the colonies emerged as the natural inheritors of the position of managers of the economy and the state rudimentary state apparatus that was left behind at the end of colonialism. The economy was of course locked into the global division of labour constructed during colonialism so much so that people still speak of Francophone Africa, Lusophone and Anglophone Africa referring to those economies and countries that historically fell under the British Empire, the Portuguese empire and the French Empire. The state managers involved are intricately related to and often part of the bourgeoisie emerging in the process of primitive accumulation.  They have complicated alliances with myriad international classes, groups, and agencies. They often condemn their objective allies: hence the many contradictions of ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric from those on the periphery of global capitalism who, on close analysis, collude with their ostensible enemies.
The historical development of powerful working classes (such as in South and Southern Africa) often has a strong relationship with indigenous bourgeois democracy, and vice versa. The strongest democratic countries thus also have high levels of social democracy, thus confirming Marx’s insistence on the introduction of universal suffrage (see the Communist Manifesto).
Democratization trajectories often lead to violence as opposition is repressed and fights back. Opposition forces also make counterintuitive class alliances with international forces and ideologies seeking to play of fractions of international capital against each other.  Thus Frederick Chiluba in Zambia was a trade union leader leading a working class based opposition movement against the regime of Kenneth Kaunda, yet Chiluba was quick to adopt stringent structural adjustment and neo-liberal policies for Zambia. In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC had its roots in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, yet the party seems to be espousing a neo-liberal ideology. Such developments indicate the continuing legacy of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism as well as the combined and uneven nature of a capitalist development that was imposed rather than home-grown.
Trotsky developed his theory of permanent revolution, as a response to the Menshevik/ Kautsky stagist theory of revolution which portrayed Marx’s theory of social development as a simplistic and unilinear/evolutionary process from simple to complex. Trotsky shows that through the imposition of colonial rule as a result of imperialism colonised countries experience a complex combination of different stages of historical development. Trotsky’s intervention reinserted the dialectic into the debate on development showing that because of the impact of colonialism through imperialist expansion history develops through sudden leaps and contradictory fusions, thus some societies are able to jump certain stages, or in other instances to be held back due to the fusion of earlier and later developmental stages. Thus the articulation of modern industry with pre-capitalist modes of production creates objective conditions for the proletariat rather than the national bourgeoisie leading both national democratic tasks and the socialist revolution simultaneously. This is particularly true where the national bourgeoisie is weak/ poorly formed, or relatively powerless vis-a-vis global capitalism.
It is against the background of these contradictions and realities that any Marxist revolutionary development must take place in Africa, noting the intricate manner in which the African political and economic realities are interwoven with global capitalism, and noting the need for international working class solidarity South Africa with its well developed and organised working class , combined with its sub-imperial role on the continent represents the bridgehead for socialist revolution in Africa.

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