“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused”.
This quote by Woodrow Wilson, that great liberal president of the United States who sought to found the League of Nations, in a lecture he delivered at Columbia University in 1907, clearly outlined the complete dedication of the West to the domination of world trade.
By the 1980`s the naked aggression of the West was reconfigured into what today is known as neoliberalism. David Harvey in his work A Brief History of Neoliberalism concludes that “the process of neoliberalization has, however, entailed much ‘creative destruction’, not only of prior institutional frameworks and powers , even challenging traditional forms of state sovereignty”
It was Kwame Nkrumah who in 1965 warned that the “essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it, is in theory, independent and has all the trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political system is directed from outside”.
Today in Egypt where almost 90 million people are facing the brunt of an economy and state in crises, the military, backed by and under the auspices of the United States, has engineered a social process that had thrown up the Muslim Brotherhood as the face of the new state. A popular uprising, largely leaderless, has been managed and engineered to maintain the status quo in which the American and Military interests are protected.
The Brotherhood, similar to the ANC in South Africa, had gambled that public office would secure sufficient leverage with which to bring about change in the ownership of the means of control, or in other words, the means of production through a bourgeoisie democratic revolution.
The economic agents, who shape the political discourse and economic trajectory of Egypt and South Africa, had also gambled that it would be able to manage the Brotherhood and the ANC, through a process of clientelistic corruption, coercion and strong arm tactics.
Both the military and the Brotherhood have failed miserably in Egypt, but the South African Project appears to have been much more successful.
Morsi and the Brotherhood, whose election was not popular, had overstepped the boundaries of its mandate from the people who voted for it and from those who did not, when it issued a number of decrees that gave him near-absolute power and which placed all of Morsi's actions beyond judicial review.
Josh Goodman and James Parks wrote at Breitbart that hailing Morsi as the democratically elected representative of the Egyptian people appears to be based on a rather loose understanding of “democracy.” The Brotherhood has been accused of bribing and intimidating voters and rigging ballots during the 2012 elections. The election suffered from abysmally poor voter turnout (43.4% of registered voters), which is especially troubling given the ostensibly historic nature of the race. Out of 23 million voters in the first round of elections, 12 million did not vote for either of the two candidates ultimately placed in the run-off vote.
It was no surprise then that there was once again a popular uprising in order to oust a brazenly opportunistic attempt by Morsi and the Brotherhood to assume absolute power.
The Military who was also struggling to maintain its control over Morsi, given that it was determined to hold onto power by any means, had seen an ideal opportunity to reconstitute its control via a different proxy and seized the opportunity to stage a “popular” coup.
That the military is an active, behind the scenes, agent has become abundantly clear throughout the unfolding crises. The Military had exercised a blatant power grab when it changed the constitution mid-election to limit the power of the newly elected President and then proceeded to, according to Daniel Pipes and Cynthia Farahat of the National Review Online,” engineer the Morsi victory”.
They expressed scepticism about the validity of the Egyptian election returns and suggested that “SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) exploits the Muslim Brotherhood and other proxies as its civilian fronts, a role they are happy to play, by permitting Islamists to garner an outsized percentage of the parliamentary vote, then to win the presidency. During the suspicious week-long delay before the presidential votes were announced, SCAF met with the Muslim Brotherhood’s real leader, Khairat El-Shater, and reached a deal whereby Morsi became president but SCAF still governs.”
The South African transition of political power had unfolded much more calmly and had managed to maintain all of the structural relations of an apartheid economy while forging powerfully new clientelistic relations. The manifestation of these relations, under the guise of BEE, have provided ample evidence of the extent, and when required, the brutal nature of the new bonds.
The ANC`s almost universal popular support at the time of the transition, while it should have led to more progressive alternative path to the structural apartheid economy, instead helped to cement and hide a capitulation to the economic agents who controlled the capital flows within a clientelist relation.
The document prepared by Pallo Jordan, titled the Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa or the Harare Declaration of 1988, set the following objectives: " the entire economy must serve the interests and well being of all sections of the population, the state shall have the right to define and limit the rights and obligations attaching to the ownership and use of productive capacity."
The subsequent negotiations around the transfer of power to the ANC apparently resulted in a cosy relationship with the World Bank and the IMF based on the idea of “Real Politik” and the false notion of collaborating for change from within the system of the Bretton Woods Institutions. These are the same institutions that instituted a process of what Ben Turok of the ANC, calls a "recolonisation of Africa "
In his book, The Evolution of ANC Economic Policy, Turock outlines that as early as 1992, the ANC agreed to send six South Africans to the World Bank for “technical" training. As a member of the IMF, South Africa subscribed to the 1977 Articles of Agreement under which the Fund has a mandate to oversee all the financial policies and performance of the country. In terms of this agreement the IMF visits annually to inspect records and accounts. Furthermore a confidential agreement was negotiated at the World Bank in 1995. According to the Minister of Finance in a parliamentary reply in 2006, the government subsequently loaned an amount of $302.8 million up to the period 2005.
It was obvious that the ANC ,the World Bank and IMF were involved in a very cosy relationship, prompting the Business Day to note that Trevor Manuel's speech at an international conference in 1993 " was a testament to the role the World Bank has played in preparing the ANC to run the South African economy". It is no surprise then that ANC economic policy has mirrored World Bank and IMF policy almost to the letter and in many instances has gone beyond the minimum prescriptions of their policies.
The support of the IMF and WB allowed the ANC to negotiate and secure a range of lucrative business dealings which saw it deploy high ranking members onto boards of major corporate companies, acquiring shares and accumulating wealth in the name of BEE and economic progress.
This was however no free lunch, and the ANC was expected to maintain the trajectory of neo liberal accumulation in favour of Capital. The success of this project became clear, when South Africa emerged as the most unequal country in the world based on the Gini rankings. The brutal nature, both in terms of its socioeconomic costs and its eventual brutal massacre of 34 people on the Koppies of Marikana, was soon exposed for the world to see.
Like in Egypt where the military has not hesitated to gun down its citizens in protection of its neo liberal agenda, the South African Government had acted with a determinedly murderous response to the most strategically important challenge to the status quo since the 1990 accommodation with capital.
The connection between Cyril Ramaposa, The Minister of Police and Lonmin became abundantly clear when Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the 200 mineworkers who were arrested by police, revealed the email correspondence at the Farlam commission of inquiry into the Marikana massacre. In one of the emails to Lonmin's chief commercial officer, Albert Jamieson, Ramaphosa wrote: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such. There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”
This email was sent exactly 24 hours before police fired live ammunition at the workers, killing 34 and injuring 78 others.
The emails show that Ramaphosa warned Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to come down hard on striking miners; how mining bosses lobbied him to “influence” Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu; and how he advised Shabangu that her “silence and inaction” about the happenings at Lonmin were “bad for her and government”.
Both Egypt and South Africa thus share a similar history albeit within different contexts. The use of democracy as a means to control and access economic rent and to aid the accumulation strategy of the neo liberal project remains key features of both countries. That these “deep state” features exist is hardly up for question anymore, save of course, from those who benefit from the political patronage of the status quo.
Our countries share another unfortunate challenge. The progressive forces in both Egypt and South Africa, while active and engaged, have failed to provide an alternative to the people of their country, especially within the bourgeoisie democratic space.
Pham Binh, writing in Comment Middle East, says that in Egypt, “despite the dizzying array of new and growing parties on the Egyptian landscape, the working and toiling classes do not have a party or a political instrument of their own with which to fight for and in the democratic revolution against the other classes. Without its own party, the working class is impotent politically and is drawn in tow behind the parties and politics of other classes, hence why the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys strong support in white-collar unions, hence why the workers’ candidate in the 2012 presidential race, Khaled Ali, received only 134,000 votes while the bourgeois radical Hamdeen Sabbahi received 4.8 million votes”.
This scenario is all too evident within the South African context as well. Ignoring for the moment the claim of the bourgeoisie parliamentary terrain as a viable vehicle to bring about concrete structural change and preferring a grassroots movement approach to change, one sees a similar scenario unfolding in South Africa. Over the course of the last decade South Africa has seen a range of protests which points to a growing discontent of the working classes throughout South Africa. According to research conducted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) entitled, South Africa`s Rebellion of the Poor, protests have grown by an enormous 279% between 2004 and 2012.
The research however points out that these protests are not necessarily linked in any direct or overtly political way. While these may not be intentional political revolts, they are potent working class revolts around issues affecting the working classes in a particular way
Communities all over the country are starting to organise themselves into various types of adhoc structures, which are increasingly engaging the state at local level. Many of these protests, 40% according to the UJ study, turn violent. Many of the groups who lead these protests are a loose amalgamation of people, mostly unemployed and mostly women and according to the UJ study most of them do not exist for very long. After the initial spurt of energy has been released, these groups find it difficult to mobilise and organise into structures.
The adhoc nature and the increasing rate of protests might seduce some into inserting a radical nature into these protests, and certainly the growing violent nature of the protests might add gravitas to that conclusion, but the UJ study found that occasionally, but not in all cases, “defecting” to the DA, or voting for the DA, was seen as a strategy to force the ANC to accede to their demands.
The lack of organisation at a regional and national level, as communities have proven that they are very capable of organising at a local level, has direct implications on the final outcomes of the community struggles and the policy and implementation at a national level.
The failure by the left in Egypt and South Africa to form a united front to the neo liberal project has dis-empowered the working classes and has allowed economic agents, intent on forming new alliances with the Neo Liberal Project, to hijack popular discontent.
The left and the working classes specifically, will have to coalesce around a national programme if it hopes to bring about societal change.
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