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Re: African Keynesianism
by Patrick Bond
04 February 2002 07:15 UTC
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Hi Gernot...

----- Original Message -----
From: "g kohler" <kohlerg@3web.net>
To: <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2002 4:00 PM
Subject: African Keynesianism

> Canada, UK and others (but not impoverished and victimized USA, which
> suffers so much) are championing a "New Development Plan for Africa", to
> be taken up at the next G-8 meeting this year in Canada. In this context
> a note on:

shining not breaking the chains of global apartheid, is how we'd note that
New Partnership for Africa's Development! (were we at the WEF meeting on
Friday when Mbeki promoted it).

This is the topic of a book I'm doing some chatting about in London,
Amsterdam, Toronto, Ottawa, Washington DC and NYC during late Feb; e.g.,
check Democracy Now! on 1 March, or give me a note (pbond@wn.apc.org) if I
can help with info...

Regrettably it's definitely not

> African Keynesianism

No, Nepad amounts to warmed-over Wash.Con. Egged on by Wolfensohn, Kohler,
Clinton (May 2000, the G-8 (desperate for a frontman when hundreds of
thousands protest in Genoa), Mbeki and other venal elites have dressed up
conventional austerity policies, made infrastructure privatisation the
motor, added some idealistic ICT techno-determinism and some goo-goo
governance rhetoric (made moot by Mbeki's coddling of Mugabe)... and come up
with pretty much nothing of use for social/environmental/economic  justice.
(Beginning of a riff on this below.)

> If the US does not participate, the other rich countries could specify a
> string attached to the African Marshall Plan - "buy anywhere, except in
> USA".

Hey, if the masses of progressive US people call for sanctions against the
rouge Washington regime, you can bet that int'l solidarity will start in


 Thabo Mbeki and Nepad
 Breaking or Shining the Chains of Global Apartheid?

 by Patrick Bond

1. Introduction

This essay considers Thabo Mbeki's analysis of globalisation, strategy and
demands for global-scale and continental socio-economic progress, and
preferred alliances. These topics arise because of his stated intention, in
the October 2001 New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), to
establish a `new framework of interaction with the rest of the world,
including the industrialised countries and multilateral organisations'--one
that is sufficiently `radical' to lift African GDP growth to 7% per annum.
 It will be clear, both in excerpts from his speeches considered below and
from the New Partnership for African Development, that Mbeki's
approach is consistent with the broader problem of compradorism. As Mbeki
himself warned, `Our own intelligentsia faces the challenge, perhaps to
overcome the class limitations which [Walter] Rodney speaks of, and ensure
that it does not become an obstacle to the further development of our own
revolution.'  In this essay, I will arrive at the pessimistic conclusion
that the challenge has already been lost, judging by Nepad and related
international reform efforts. Mbeki and his main allies have already
succumbed to the class (not necessarily personalistic) limitations of
post-Independence African nationalism, namely acting in close collaboration
with hostile transnational corporate and multilateral forces whose interests
stand directly opposed to Mbeki's South African and African constituencies.
 In addition to Rodney, this premonition was recorded explicitly by Frantz
Fanon, in his chapter on `The Pitfalls of National Consciousness,' in The
Wretched of the Earth:

 The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of
intermediary. Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with
transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission
line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which
today puts on the mask of neocolonialism. The national bourgeoisie will be
quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie's business agent, and
it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner. But
this same lucrative role, this cheap-Jack's function, this meanness of
outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolise the incapability of the
middle class to fulfill its historic role of bourgeoisie. Here, the dynamic,
pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and of the discoverer of
new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies are lamentably
absent. In the colonial countries, the spirit of indulgence is dominant at
the core of the bourgeoisie; and this is because the national bourgeoisie
identifies itself with the Western bourgeoisie, from whom it has learnt its
  In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of the colonial country
identifies itself with the decadence of the bourgeoisie of the West. We need
not think that it is jumping ahead; it is in fact beginning at the end. It
is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the
fearlessness, or the will to succeed of youth.

But Mbeki and his internationally-oriented cabinet colleagues--especially
finance minister Trevor Manuel, trade and industry minister Alec Erwin and
their staffs--would no doubt object. They locate not only their own
(national) ambition but also the continent's potential transformation not in
lucrative personal accomplishments or Western-style bourgeois decadence, but
rather in the further integration of Africa into a world economy, they would
also concede, that is itself in need of better regulation and fairer
economic rules. The project, therefore, is to reform interstate relations
and the embryonic world-state system. As Nepad explains,

 While globalisation has increased the cost of Africa's ability to compete,
we hold that the advantages of an effectively managed integration present
the best prospects for future economic prosperity and poverty reduction...
The case for the role of national authorities and private institutions in
guiding the globalisation agenda along a sustainable path and, therefore,
one in which its benefits are more equally spread, remains strong... Africa,
impoverished by slavery, corruption and economic mismanagement is taking off
in a difficult situation. However, if her enormous natural and human
resources are properly harnessed and utilised, it could lead to equitable
and sustainable growth of the continent as well as enhance its rapid
integration into the world economy.

But to the contrary, the evidence thus far is that `equitable and
sustainable growth' and Africa's `rapid integration into the world economy'
are mutually exclusive. Although Africa's share of world trade declined
during the 1980s-90s, the volume of exports increased, while the value of
sub-Saharan exports was cut in half relative to the value of imports from
the North.  Such marginalisation occurred not because of lack of
integration, but because of too much, of the wrong sort. For while
integrating more rapidly into the world economy via `export-led growth,' as
demanded by Washington, Africa's ability to grow--either equitably and
sustainably, or even inequitably--actually declined, in comparison to the
period prior to structural adjustment.
 Thus, I argue below, the reform strategy will fail, although not because of
Pretoria's lack of positionality and international credibility to carry out
Nepad and win vague endorsements from global elites. After all, since 1994,
extremely talented politicians and officials from Pretoria have presided
over the board of governors of the IMF and World Bank, the Non-Aligned
Movement, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the
Commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity, the Southern African
Development Community, the World Commission on Dams and a host of other
important international and continental bodies.
 Instead, the failure is already emanating from the very project of
global-reformism itself, namely, its underlying philosophy and incorrect
analysis (Section 2), ineffectual practical strategies (Section 3),
uncreative and inappropriate demands (Section 4) and counterproductive
alliances (Section 5). Instead of leading the world, Mbeki and his Pretoria
colleagues run a different danger: treading a well-known, dusty path: a
post-colonial, neoliberal cul-de-sac of predictable direction and duration.
Moreover, notwithstanding mixed rhetorical signals, Mbeki and Nepad for all
effective purposes exclude (indeed, most often reject) alliances with
international social, labour and environmental movements who, in their
struggles for socio-environmental and economic justice, are the main agents
of progressive global change.
 Thus South Africa's post-apartheid government leadership will not achieve
its own limited objectives, much less the further-reaching transformation
required under current excruciating global conditions, and in the process
will continue alienating the poor and working-class base of Mbeki's African
National Congress (ANC). In concluding that Thabo Mbeki cannot establish a
new framework of interaction with the rest of the world, but can instead
merely front for a slightly modified residual version of `global apartheid,'
more hopeful analyses, strategies, demands, and alliances necessarily arise
as alternatives.

(Full paper available from pbond@wn.apc.org)

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