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Post-Apartheid South Africa

Reply to John S. Saul

John Saul has had an extensive and committed involvement with Southern Africa. His analyses are taken seriously in left circles in South Africa. Sadly, perhaps understandably, his most recent extended visit to this country has left him feeling deeply disappointed (“Cry for the Beloved Country: The Post-Apartheid Denouement,” Monthly Review 52, no. 8, January 2001, pp. 1–51). This sense of disappointment is rooted, I would guess, partly in the intellectual, organizational and even emotional energies that Saul, like many others, invested in the solidarity struggle against apartheid, and in legitimate expectations for a post-apartheid South Africa. There is also, and I want to underline my own empathy with his irritation on this score, a hint of personal hurt: “The most startling thing I personally discovered about the New South Africa is just how easy it has become to find oneself considered an ultraleftist!” (p. 1) This sense of disappointment, even of betrayal, is also present in many progressive circles within South Africa, and indeed among many cadres of our movement. Despite all of this there is, I believe, something seriously off-beam in Saul’s analysis | more…

Starting from Scratch?

A Reply to Jeremy Cronin

It is interesting that, on one of the two main fronts of inquiry opened up in my original essay, Jeremy Cronin professes—despite the wounded tone he adopts throughout and for all his talk about my “frozen penultimates,” “sneers,” and “derision”—to be in considerable agreement with me. This concerns my reading of the overall trajectory of socioeconomic policy that the African National Congress (ANC) government has adopted since 1994. As he puts the point, “Saul goes on to argue that the ANC liberation front has erred seriously on two critical fronts—the choice of economic policies, and the relative demobilization of our mass constituency (except during electoral campaigns). I agree with Saul on both counts.” Indeed, he adds, “I agree substantially with the broad analysis of the last twelve years or so in South Africa that Saul makes in his pessimism of the intellect mode,” including, it would appear, my criticisms of the “government’s macroeconomic policy (the Growth Employment and Redistribution framework—GEAR), privatization policies, excessive liberalization measures, the failure to mobilize our mass base, or concerns about the growing bureaucratization and the influence of an emerging black bourgeois stratum on policy”  | more…

October 2002 (Volume 54, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

In late August and early September a number of MR and Socialist Register authors (including Patrick Bond, John Bellamy Foster, Gerard Greenfield, Naomi Klein, and John Saul) participated in forums in Johannesburg related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. On August 24, they joined in a march led by antiprivatization activists from the black townships (in particular by Trevor Ngwane and Virginia Setshedi—whose role in the struggle in South Africa is discussed in Ashwin Desai’s new MR Press book, We Are the Poors). The march was organized to protest the arrest and jailing of political activists. The marchers lit candles and proceeded peacefully but were met within minutes by the South African police who exploded percussion grenades, injuring three of the protestors. The harsh and unprovoked actions of the police on this occasion pointed to the increasingly antipopular character of the South African state, which is imposing neoliberal economic policy on the society. It also underscored the repressive measures now commonly utilized at world summits in general. We will address the Johannesburg summit and the economic and environmental problems of southern Africa in an upcoming issue of MR | more…

Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the Power Politics of Bourgeois Democracy

Since February 2000, when president Robert Mugabe suffered his first-ever national electoral defeat—over a proposed new constitution—Zimbabwe has witnessed confusing debilitating political turmoil. A decade of economic decline, characteristic of the imposition of structural adjustment across Africa, preceded the rise of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Standards of living had crashed during the 1990s, the state withdrew—or priced at prohibitive levels—many social services, and the economy deindustrialized. State and private sector corruption were rife | more…

Sub-Saharan Africa in Global Capitalism

If we define sub-Saharan Africa as excluding not only north Africa but also bracket off, for the moment, the continent’s southern cone, dominated by South Africa, the key fact about the rest—the greater part of the continent—is thrown sharply into relief: after 80 years of colonial rule and almost four decades of independence, in most of it there is some capital but not a lot of capitalism. The predominant social relations are still not capitalist, nor is the prevailing logic of production. Africa south of the Sahara exists in a capitalist world, which marks and constrains the lives of its inhabitants at every turn, but is not of it  | more…

Mandela’s Democracy

In his speech from the dock, at his 1962 trial for inciting African workers
to strike and leaving the country without a passport, Nelson Mandela described
the initial formation of his political ideas:  | more…

Political Reawakening in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, is a post-nationalist politics propelled by progressive currents finally on the horizon? Has fatigue associated with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union’s (ZANU’s) malgovernance and economic mistakes finally reached a breaking point? If so, do these developments reflect a general dynamic in the broader social struggle against the globalized, neoliberal form international capitalism now takes? Will a new labor party emerge as the organizational basis for popular aspirations? | more…

We Are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa

We Are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa

When Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994, freedom-loving people around the world hailed a victory over racial domination. The end of apartheid did not change the basic conditions of the oppressed majority, however. Material inequality has deepened and new forms of solidarity and resistance have emerged in communities that have forged new and dynamic political identities. We Are the Poors follows the growth of the most unexpected of these community movements, beginning in one township of Durban, linking up with community and labor struggles in other parts of the country, and coming together in massive anti-government protests at the time of the UN World Conference Against Racism in 2001. | more…

Between Nuremberg and Amnesia: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa

The conscious crafting of an honest history by a state commission is a rare enough event to justify our calling your attention to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But this writing of history is incomplete, in the same degree as the process of change in South Africa. Certain brute facts are ignored and avoided, and this avoidance was the condition of the bargain accepted by the ANC. As per South Africa’s Freedom Charter, now it can in some meaningful sense be said that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.” But what belongs to whom is the question left unaddressed as the very condition of the transition negotiations, transferring its tension into all aspects of that transition, not least any permitted debate over present remedies for a history of injustice. | more…

Township Politics: Civic Struggles for a New South Africa

Township Politics: Civic Struggles for a New South Africa

This insider’s account of an extraordinary period of national political transition is also a primer on a new radical philosophy, the street–smart Marxism that developed in South Africa’s sprawling townships between 1985 and 1995 and rendered them ungovernable for the apartheid state. Mzwanele Mayekiso, a young leader of the “civics”—as South Africa’s popular community organizations are called—spent almost three years in prison as a result of the civics’ militant organizing. Here, he interlaces his personal story with caustic assessments of apartheid’s hand–picked township leaders, with rebuttals of armchair academics, and with impassioned but self–critical analyses of the civics’ struggles and tactics. He ends with a vision of an international urban social movement that, he argues, must be a crucial component of any emancipatory project. | more…