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View Diary: Borrowing a page from the anti-Apartheid fight (102 comments)

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  •  But you're S.African history is completely wrong (3+ / 0-)
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    BlackNGreen, FrankAletha, MrJayTee

    My comment has nothing to do with the merits of taking your money out of large banks.

    But if you say, let's base this on history, especially the history of the divestment movement, and then get that history completely, completely wrong, you're kind of doing a disservice to history, to South Africa, to the ANC and the divestment movement.

    The divestment movement and its rationales were complicated and singular.  The point certainly was not to "cripple" the South African economy.  

    I could give a thumbnail sketch of why the ANC chose divestment as a strategy, although I suspect it might make a lot of DKers uncomfortable.  

    The ANC asked the international community to divest from South Africa because it had a very complex and sophisticated view of South African politics, which I'm not sure is transferable to other contexts.

    To simplify it greatly, the ANC and many internal critics, who were overwhelmingly Marxists and neo-Marxists were familiar with South African history and the strange relationship between its 1%, its captains of industry, mines and bankers, and the apartheid state which represented the bottom 50% or so of white South Africans.

    The idea was to split off the 1% (actually more like 20%) and form an alliance with them, which had existed previously, against the over protected white working class.

    Shortly after the end of the Boer War, after the mines restarted, the mine magnates decided to desegregate certain aspects of mining employment and allow black miners to work their way up into supervisory roles (the main criteria being whether one was allowed to obtain a "blasting certificate").  

    The mine magnates were overwhelmingly English speaking South Africans.  The workers were poor Afrikaners (Dutch speaking rural to urban migrants) as well as foreign immigrants from Australia and the US, other countries with white supremacy as policy.

    The white working class, under the leadership of several communist parties, rebelled.  This was not too many years after the establishment of the Soviet Union, and the white workers of Johannesburg declared a "Johannesburg Soviet."  The rebellion was called the "Rand Rebellion," and the slogan was "Workers of the World Unite and Fight for a White South Africa."

    The government of Jan Smuts crushed the rebellion, but after that, successive governments caved into white working class demands and instituted ever more stringent racial discrimination in employment in order to protect white workers.  The South African government relied on poor white voters and was explicitly Afrikaner nationalist, so it had to comply with the wishes of Afrikaner rural to urban migrants, as well as Afrikaners still on the farms who relied on black slave labor.

    The result was segregation and then an intensified form, apartheid.
    White labor was protected at great expense to the economy, but above all, at great expense to black workers.

    The ANC and other Marxists believed that apartheid was merely a means of creating cheap black labor for the capitalists and protected employment for the white working class, but that the capitalist class could be split off, if apartheid ceased being a bargain to them.  

    One way to make apartheid expensive was to get foreign companies to divest from South Africa, depriving the capitalists of investment, foreign exchange and technology.  An added benefit would be that the technology needed to run the system -- the computers that were used in the pass system, the motor vehicles and aircraft engines used in armaments industry -- would not be available.

    But the key thing to remember is that the ANC was not trying to destroy the economy -- but to get its mostly English speaking capitalists, managers and professionals to look at it rationally.  It would be cheaper to have 10 times as many potential supervisors if apartheid were gotten rid of.

    Because many of the ANC were Marxists and the partner of the ANC was the (reformed, non-racial) South African Communist Party, most of them strongly believed that South Africa needed a "bourgeoise democratic revolution" as a first step toward a longer term goal of creating a socialist economy.

    As for Naomi Klein, I've read what she has to say about South Africa, and frankly, she might as well be writing about Mars or Pluto.  Her knowledge base was approximately zero, and her thesis depends in part on Nelson Mandela being a sort of shell shocked zombie who didn't know a gun from a microphone after decades in prison.

    Well, Nelson Mandela was not a shell shocked zombie and was in fact extremely brilliant at being part of the team that managed the transition.

    •  Another insightful post. (0+ / 0-)

      Many thanks.

      Please start a regular series of diaries on African politics.


    •  thank you for your comment (0+ / 0-)

      I like Naomi Klein. I even had dinner with her, lovely lady.  But she does have a particular view and classically Canadian.  Candians love to stamp their feet at corporations until it bumps up against the Tar Sands revenues from Alberta.

      "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

      by TexMex on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 01:04:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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