Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Karl Marx on Henry George


Marx to Friedrich Adolph Sorge
In Hoboken

Abstract


Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

[London,] 20 June, 1881

... Before your copy of Henry George [1] arrived I had already received two others, one from Swinton [2] and one from Willard Brown; [3] I therefore gave one to Engels and one to Lafargue. Today I must confine myself to a very brief formulation of my opinion of the book. Theoretically the man [Henry George][1] is utterly backward! 

He understands nothing about the nature of surplus value and so wanders about in speculations which follow the English model but have now been superseded even among the English, about the different portions of surplus value to which independent existence is attributed--about the relations of profit, rent, interest, etc. 

His fundamental dogma is that everything would be all right if ground rent were paid to the state. (You will find payment of this kind among the transitional measures included in The Communist Manifestotoo.) This idea originally belonged to the bourgeois economists; it was first put forward (apart from a similar demand at the end of the eighteenth century) by the earliest radical followers of Ricardo, soon after his death. 

I said of it in 1847, in my work against Proudhon: “We can understand that economists like Mill” (the elder, not his son John Stuart, who also repeats this in a somewhat modified form) “Cherbuliez, Hilditch and others have demanded that rent should be paid to the state in order that it may serve as a substitute for taxes. 

This is a frank expression of the hatred which the industrial capitalist dedicates to the landed proprietor, who seems to him a useless and superfluous element in the general total of bourgeois production.”

We ourselves, as I have already mentioned, adopted this appropriation of ground rent by the state among numerous other transitional measures, which, as we also remarked in the Manifesto, are and must be contradictory in themselves.

But the first person to turn this desideratum [requirement] of the radical English bourgeois economists into a socialist panacea, to declare this procedure to be the solution of the antagonisms involved in the present method of production, was Colins, a former old Hussar officer of Napoleon’s, born in Belgium, who in the latter days of Guizot and the first of Napoleon the Less, favoured the world from Paris with some fat volumes about this “discovery” of his. Like another discovery he made, namely, that while there is no God there is an “immortal” human soul and that animals have “no feelings.” 

For if they had feelings, that is souls, we should be cannibals and a realm of righteousness could never be founded upon earth. His “anti-landownership” theory together with his theory of the soul, etc., have been preached every month for years in the ParisianPhilosophie de l’Avenir [Philosophy of the Future] by his few remaining followers, mostly Belgians. They call themselves “rational collectivists” and have praised Henry George. After them and besides them, among other people, the Prussian banker and former lottery owner Samten from East Prussia, a shallow-brained fellow, has eked out this “socialism” into a thick volume.

All these “socialists” since Colins have this much in common that they leave wage labour and therefore capitalist production in existence and try to bamboozle themselves or the world into believing that if ground rent were transformed into a state tax all the evils of capitalist production would disappear of themselves. The whole thing is therefore simply an attempt, decked out with socialism, to save capitalist domination and indeed to establish it afresh on an even wider basis than its present one.

This cloven hoof (at the same time ass’s hoof) is also unmistakably revealed in the declamations of Henry George. And it is the more unpardonable in him because he ought to have put the question to himself in just the opposite way: How did it happen that in the United States, where, relatively, that is in comparison with civilised Europe, the land was accessible to the great mass of the people and to a certain degree (again relatively) still is, capitalist economy and the corresponding enslavement of the working class have developed more rapidly and shamelessly than in any other country!

On the other hand George’s book, like the sensation it has made with you, is significant because it is a first, if unsuccessful, attempt at emancipation from the orthodox political economy.

H. George does not seem, for the rest, to know anything about the history of the early American anti-renters,** who were rather practical men than theoretical. Otherwise he is a talented writer (with a talent for Yankee advertisement too) as his article on California in the Atlantic proves, for instance. 

He also has the repulsive presumption and arrogance which is displayed by all panacea-mongers without exception.

1. Marx is referring to Henry George, Progress and Poverty [available at Ludwig von Mises Institute — MIA].
2. John Swinton (1830-1901) — American journalist of Scottish descent, socialist, editor of several New York newspapers, friend of Marx.
3. Willard Brown — American journalist, socialist.
* GEORGE, HENRY (1839-97) American bourgeois economist, earlier a sailor, gold-digger and printer. He was the founder of the land reform movement.
** Settlers in New York State in the ’thirties and ’forties of the 19th century who refused to pay rent for their land and shot down the sheriffs’ officers who came to enforce payment. The no-renters numbered thousands and turned the scale at several elections.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Necessity for Higher Wages - Heiner Flassbeck



Mr. Flassbeck, former head of UNCTAD, says we're going into the Japanese scenario, a stagnation with a kind of deflation, because we have no purchasing power in the hands of the mass of the consumers

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Britain and the European Union - Bundesbank calls for wage increases in Germany



Prof. John Weeks and Prof. Trevor Martin discuss British PM David Cameron’s call for a referendum vote to decide whether the UK remains a part of EU, as stagnation continues in the Eurozone and bleeds into economic powerhouses like Germany.

Is the Bundesbank listening to Heiner Flassbeck in its call for wage rises ?



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reaganism and Thatcherism were Intellectually Dishonest - Heiner Flassbeck



On Reality Asserts Itself, Mr. Flassbeck, former director of UNCTAD, discusses growing up in a US dominated Germany and his opposition to the birth of neoliberal economics

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The BRICS: Yash Tandon asks tough questions – which we all need to ponder by Patrick Bond



In his May 21 article, ‘On sub-imperialism and BRICS-bashing’, contesting what I think are the tendencies in the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa nexus, Yash Tandon offers a chance to develop arguments further. He makes a few minor errors and misreads some arguments (Note 1). But he (‘YT’) asks some excellent ‘questions for further discussions.’ Right then, my (‘PB’) attempts at answers follow.

YT: 1. What is ‘the South African bourgeoisie’. Who are they? What is the source of their capital? Who owns and controls this capital?

PB: Three answers:

1) the biggest fraction remains white English-speaking, but it is an unpatriotic bourgeoisie which mainly took its money out of South Africa, forever, and which today from London, New York or Melbourne runs the global and domestic operations of Anglo, DeBeers, BHP Billiton, the other mining houses, Old Mutual and Liberty Life in insurance, SAB Miller beer, Didata info tech, Mondi paper, and a few others;

2) the next biggest is Afrikaner capital which decided to stay, especially the Sanlam empire; and

3) the other new black bourgeoisie includes Patrice Matsepe, Mzi Khumalo (in deep trouble for taking money out of the country illegally), Bridgette Radebe, Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa, Khulubuse Zuma and a few other billionaries, who are allied with both the first bloc of the bourgeoisie within BEE deals, and with the state and parastatals in tenderpreneur projects. All have subimperialist tendencies, but it is the first and third I’d be most worried about, given Pretoria’s military role in the Central African Republic and DRC, on behalf of ruling-elite cronies and a nephew of the president.

YT: 2. I have problems with Çagli’s theory too. Her analysis, as also Bond’s and Abbott’s, makes out every country that follows the neoliberal economic paradigm, and seeks market or an avenue for capital export to a neighbouring country a sub-imperialist. Thus, in their lexicon, Kenya becomes a sub-imperialist country in the East African region...

PB: Not so; Kenya may be an ally of the US, as are Uganda and Rwanda, but their own bourgeoisies are so unsubstantial in relation to competitors that conceptually, they deserve to remain within the periphery. Such differentiation is typically made based upon whether capital is accumulating in the home site, or being redirected to headquarter locations, e.g. the map at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-periphery_countries The reason that most of the African continent will remain on the periphery of the world economy (with SA the sole semi-peripheral site) is that notwithstanding ridiculous hype about ‘Africa Rising,’ the continent’s wealth is being vacuumed out to regional centres (especially Johannesburg) and world headquarters sites (e.g. London, New York, Melbourne, Toronto, Shanghai) by extractive industries corporations, commodities brokers and financiers.

YT: 3. In Abbott’s analysis President Evo Morales becomes an ‘agent’ of sub-imperialist Brazil because he allows Bolivian resources to be exploited by the Brazilian oil giant, Petrobras. Applying the same logic, then, practically every head of state in Africa – from Haig Geingob in Namibia to John Mahama in Ghana - who have opened their countries to South Africa-based capitalist corporations, become, de facto, agents of sub-imperialist Jacob Zuma. But then who is left in Africa who is not either a sub-imperialist or an agent of sub-imperialists?

PB: How about the masses engaged in uprisings across the continent (assuming they count)? In a great many cases of environmental justice struggles against foreign capitalists that have been mapped out in detail by my colleague Khadija Sharife – who coordinated Africa reporting for http://ejatlas.org/ - it is evident that firms from the BRICS countries have recently joined imperialist-based TNCs as central targets of social protest.

YT: 4. It is obvious that in the conceptual framework of the sub-imperialist theorists there is simply no room for regionalism in Africa or regional struggles against the imperialist countries of the US and Europe.

PB: Not so; the progressive forces in any peripheral African country fighting against US or EU imperialism can fight harder and smarter if they know when and how the regional powers in BRICS are in bed with their enemies, as is the case on nearly all substantative matters ranging from world finance and trade to extraction and climate politics. Regionalism in Africa should be realigned, against the combination of US/EU/BrettonWoods/WTO imperialism and BRICS sub-imperialism – but that in turn will require quite strong progressive movements dislodging the pliant African elites now running the continent.

YT: Civil society organisations – such as the Southern and Eastern African Trade and Information Institute (SEATINI) and the human rights organisations in the region - have been carrying out a sustained struggle against the EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and have so far succeeded in holding back their governments to signing the EPAs. Should they stop doing their campaigns?

PB: Not at all. Richard Kamidza (whose PhD at UKZN this year tells much more about the laudable role Seatini plays) and I wrote about how encouraged we were by early signs of resistance to EPAs six years ago: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/letters/48819 These are the kinds of fights which should be strengthened, along with contestation of South Africa’s overwhelming trade dominance in Southern Africa, which has been responsible for so much deindustrialisation.

YT: 5. The one concept missing from the sub-imperialist literature is that of the ‘national question’... Is this an unjust struggle?

PB: Not at all, such struggles are still profoundly just, even where multifaceted national struggles were ostensibly ‘won’ in the BRICS through Brazil’s independence in the 1820s, the Russian revolution in 1917 and nationalist revivalism after 1990, Indian decolonisation in the late 1940s, the Chinese revolution in 1949, and South Africa’s ‘liberation’ in 1994. But there are remaining (and always reproducing) caste, racial and ethnic divisions within all these countries, just as within the imperialist powers. These remain ‘contingencies’ in their particularities because they are impossible to theorise within the general structure of imperialist and subimperialist power relations. But like the best theories of imperialism, these struggles would be reflected in the need for resistance to ‘accumulation by dispossession’ locally and globally. So if the mechanisms of super-exploitation are more extreme in the BRICS (as my article argues), that would include racism and other forms of national oppression which many millions of people continue to oppose. There is no contradiction in fighting the national question and opposing the tendencies to subimperialism which make that fight ever harder within the BRICS.

YT: 6. In terms of their analysis, there is just one legitimate struggle – that of the popular masses to rise up against the governments... Patrick would have us rise up against – among others - anti-US Evo Morales in Bolivia; popularly elected Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela; Zuma in South Africa; Mugabe in Zimbabwe; Museveni in Uganda; the sub-imperialist Chinese states of China and India; and of course, Vladimir Putin for his ‘blunt takeover of Crimea’.

PB: Because the first sentence above is incorrect, what follows is wrong. If you add to ‘the governments’ two other forces – big capital (local and global) and imperialism – then it would be correct. Then, if Morales or Rafael Correa make an alliance with Brazilian and Chinese capital to rip up indigenous territories; if Chinese diamond minining houses fund Zimbabwe generals and Israeli election-fixers make a mess of the 2013 elections; if Museveni is a durable US ally and if Zuma allies with the Pentagon to train US forces for future African invasions or sends his troops in to kill mineworkers on behalf of Lonmin; then yes, like there were major protests against Russian expansionism in Moscow on 1 May, it would be natural to expect popular uprisings. And in those cases, we should all be involved in solidarity.

YT: But would that not make us all de facto allies of the US and Europe in the ensuing post-Ukraine evolving scenario?

PB: The problem with this trick question is that it looks at the world only from above, as if there are two axes. There’s an entirely different plane missing in this question, which is the struggle below, often against both the neo-ColdWar forces. If we look at the world from below there’s a wonderful set of struggles that align the world’s progressive movement against both imperialism and sub-imperialism. One of those struggles is unfolding today, against the alliance between Sepp Blatter and Dilma Rousseff. Four years ago, an identical alliance proved exceptionally difficult for South Africa’s working class to contest, but now the Brazilian team is on the streets just like they were on June 2013, so let’s cheer them on and not be distracted by any accusations of de facto alliances, ok? The same goes for Marikana mineworkers against London capital and their Pretoria allies, in a desperate workers’ struggle over the spoils of platinum that is now five months old. In these cases it is easy to avoid being de facto allies of the US and Europe – precisely by allying with social activists fighting the BRICS governments in ways that also contest imperialism.

YT: 7. This raises larger geo-political issues, and the place of BRICS in the evolving scenario... [long and valid critique of US imperialism]... So the question: how does Africa position itself in this fast evolving geo-political situation?

PB: The current neo-colonial positioning of Africa’s top 1% lines up nearly perfectly with the interests of Washington, from the IMF and World Bank (evident in ‘Africa Rising’ celebrations) to the Pentagon (most African countries are Pentagon allies, sigh). There are occasional exceptions (e.g. Robert Mugabe at times, when defaulting on debt or redistributing white-owned farmland), but by and large the only genuine sustained opposition is coming through social struggle, not elite maneuvres.

YT: The sub-imperialist theorists are caught up in the exuberance of their conceptual creation.

PB: No, not our creation, but if the shoe fits, we should shine it for display, not so?

YT: They need to provide a better theoretical foundation of their concept. In my view, they have invented a category that simply does not exist. It is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces everywhere.

PB: It is excellent to spar with comrade Tandon, not for the first time. But I would suggest that if Yash doesn’t grapple hard with the full argument we have presented at Pambazuka in April 2014 (www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/91303), March 2013 (www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86651 ) and November 2012 (www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85609 ) – whether or not the semantics are compelling – he will be embarrassed by growing evidence of social struggles over ‘real issues’ caused by BRICS capitalists when they behave in just as exploitative way as the West. And those in struggle need his solidarity.

NOTE 1:

There are a few trivial corrections. First, Tandon claims ‘obvious contradictions’, specifically my recognition of BRICS’ ‘coherent strategy within the G20 to halt Washington’s threatened attack on Syria’ last September in St Petersburg. But this is not a contradiction; instead, it is what can be called a contingency, i.e., operating outside what a theory needs to explain. In the field of geopolitics after all, there are many contingencies. The Russian takeover of Crimea which led to Putin’s expulsion from the G8 in March, is another such contingency. Ukraine’s chaos was a welcome accident for Putin insofar as the opportunity for a landgrab immediately emerged. But like the Syria case, it wasn’t necessary to the reproduction of the imperialist system, in the way that the Copenhagen Accord or the G20 recapitalisations of the IMF were in 2009-12, for example. In these cases, the BRICS elites’ enthusiastic participation in imperialist rule was necessary to status quo regime maintenance, to the great detriment of BRICS citizenries and neighbours. The difference between necessity and contingency is captured in this sentence of mine: ‘However, everywhere else, the BRICS failed on nearly every count.’ It is entirely possible that the Russians and Chinese can heighten tension and shift from sub-imperialists (serving global capitalism and in the process, ecological destruction), to inter-imperialists. I fear that process, just as much as I fear the dying jerks of imperialism associated with US decline; indeed these could well be the same symptom. If that is the case, the BRICS project could move from sub-imperialism to inter-imperialism, but the possibility for progressive mobilisations from below would not necessarily improve.

YT: Bond subjects the five – he calls them the ‘Fragile Five’ –

PB: Actually, the ‘Fragile Five’ as they are known in the Northern financial markets do not include China or, until March this year when it invaded Crimea, Russia.

YT: I don’t really know the origin of the term ‘sub-imperialism’. Patrick Bond traces it back to 1974.

PB: It’s an interesting history. Marini started using it in 1965 as a contribution to dependencia theory. In a much longer discussion of this topic for the forthcoming Encylopaedia of Imperialism (below), I trace the idea back to the components of South Africa before 1910 (i.e. colonies that were subimperial in that historical sense) and to the Comintern of the 1920 when the phrase ‘minor partner of imperialism’ was used to describe the Great Powers’ deputies.

YT: I carried out a quick literature survey, and I did not find many citations on the subject. In the Wikipedia, the most current citations refer mainly to Bond,

PB: I think that would be Google, as Wikipedia doesn’t have a page yet.

YT: BRICS are not the only sub-imperialists. There are others – such as Turkey and Iran.

PB: Here is a list dating to the 1970s, when the label was applied to ruling elites from regional power centres – including Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and Taiwan – which also served the military, extractive and legitimating interests of imperialism. However, this status needs regular revisiting especially because others in a similar role (e.g. Iran before 1979, Argentina before 1982) found the posture to be profoundly contradictory. Fred Halliday (1993) advocated the following concept of sub-imperialism: ‘(a) a continuing if partial strategic subordination to US imperialism on the one hand, and (b) an autonomous regional role on the other.’ The volatility intrinsic in this role reflects not the strength but rather the fragility of Washington’s agenda, namely, a ‘doctrine designed to create a structure of sub-imperial powers’, as Joseph Gerson and ‎Bruce Birchard (1991) explained. The term sub-imperialism has had other euphemisms, including the ‘semi-periphery’ coined by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974, 1997), which continues to be used by World Systems Theorists. Chris Chase-Dunn (2013) remarks ‘that the main function of having a stratum in the middle is to somewhat depolarize the larger system analogously to a large middle class within a national society.’ Alternatively, a ‘secondary imperialist’ role for Australia and Canada reflects a much different relationship to imperialism in these countries (Albo and Klaasen 2013). In the same spirit, the word ‘subempire’ refers ‘to a lower-level empire that is dependent on an empire at a higher level in the imperialist hierarchy,’ according to Chen Kuan-Hsing, referring to Taiwan (2010, p18). The literature on the topic is wide once we include all these other potential types, but the theoretical question of greatest importance is, whether sub-imperial processes are necessary for imperialism’s reproduction. At the point the G20 emerged in October 2008, I think the answer is affirmative.

More details about the concept follow.

***

SUB-IMPERIALISM

By Patrick Bond forthcoming in ‘The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism,’ edited by Immanuel Ness and Saër Maty Bâ

The label of ‘sub-imperialist’ states that accompany and extend imperialism was originally invoked by Ruy Mauro Marini (1965) to describe the Brazilian dictatorship’s role in the Western Hemisphere, and was then repeatedly applied during the 1970s when the Nixon Doctrine allowed Washington to outsource geopolitical policing responsibilities and accumulation opportunities to favored regional allies, mostly pro-corporate authoritarian regimes. The idea may be on the verge of returning to fashion, for the rise of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc represents a potentially important force that appears sub-imperialist insofar as it contributes to global neoliberal regime maintenance. Although some believe BRICS will have sufficient autonomy to become actively ‘anti-imperialist’ (Desai 2013, Escobar 2013, Keet 2013, Martin 2013, Shubin 2013, Third World Network 2013), at the level of global governance this bloc has tended to reinforce not challenge prevailing power relations, except in exceptional cases such as in 2013 when Syria was threatened with bombing by Washington and in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea after losing crucial influence in Ukraine. Like other more isolated states in prior epochs of service to imperialism, the BRICS accumulation trajectory, global geopolitical-economic-environmental strategy, hegemony over hinterlands and internal dynamics of class formation together suggest a pattern deserving the phrase sub-imperialist (Bond and Garcia 2014).

The debate about whether imperialism requires subimperial allies has waxed and waned for decades. In the Comintern era, the phrase ‘minor partner of imperialism’ described the great powers’ deputies. Since the 1970s, the label sub-imperial has been applied to ruling elites from regional power centres – including Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and Taiwan – which have also served the military, extractive and legitimating interests of imperialism. However, this status needs regular revisiting especially because others in a similar role (e.g. Iran before 1979, Argentina before 1982) found the posture to be profoundly contradictory. Fred Halliday (1979: p283) advocated the following concept of sub-imperialism: ‘(a) a continuing if partial strategic subordination to US imperialism on the one hand, and (b) an autonomous regional role on the other.’ The volatility intrinsic in this role reflects not the strength but rather the fragility of Washington’s agenda, namely, a ‘doctrine designed to create a structure of sub-imperial powers’, as Joseph Gerson and ‎Bruce Birchard (1991) explained.

The term sub-imperialism has had other euphemisms, including the ‘semi-periphery’ coined by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974, 1997), which continues to be used by World Systems Theorists. Chris Chase-Dunn (2013) remarks ‘that the main function of having a stratum in the middle is to somewhat depolarize the larger system analogously to a large middle class within a national society.’ Alternatively, a ‘secondary imperialist’ role for Australia and Canada reflects a much different relationship to imperialism in these countries (Albo and Klaasen 2013). In the same spirit, the word ‘subempire’ refers ‘to a lower-level empire that is dependent on an empire at a higher level in the imperialist hierarchy,’ according to Chen Kuan-Hsing (2010, p18).

These are ideas generally favored by left critics of imperialism. In contrast, the concept ‘middle power’ is so nebulous and non-threatening that its use by mainstream political scientists continues depoliticize the art of global geopolitics (Jordaan 2003). Finally, for historians (whether radical or mainstream), the age of imperialism was the era prior to World War I, replete with colonial relations and the scramble for parts of the world without strong states, especially in Africa, so the concept of sub-imperial powers – especially the British colonies that came to make up South Africa in 1910 – has occasionally been invoked in this context.

IMPERIALISM, CAPITALIST CRISIS, SUPER-EXPLOITATION AND REGIONAL HEGEMONY

The semantic differences are not important, compared to at least four core relations of sub-imperialism: to imperialism, to capitalist crisis tendencies, to super-exploitative processes and to regional hegemony.

First, to define sub-imperialism properly implies a coherent definition of the systemic processes of imperialism within which it operates. There are a variety of ways to understand imperialism, but the most durable appears to be the conception which Rosa Luxemburg (1968) set out in The Accumulation of Capital in 1913, stressing the extra-economic coercion associated with exploitation between capitalist and non-capitalist spheres under conditions of capitalist crisis (in contrast to other accounts of the era which hinge more upon capital export, formal colonial relations and inter-imperial rivalries). This is, for David Harvey (2003), a New Imperialism in which accumulation is increasingly based upon dispossession, and in which regional powers logically emerge to facilitate the process. This point deserves further consideration, below.

Second, as a result, capitalist crisis conditions become evident within the sub-imperial economies just as they are in the imperialist, even when accumulation is moving ahead at an apparently rapid clip. Overaccumulation of capital is a constant problem everywhere, often rising to crisis stage. As a result, in several sub-imperialist countries there are powerful impulses for local capital to both externalize and financialize. Judging by Harvey’s criteria of seeking ‘spatio-temporal fixes’, the BRICS offer some of the most extreme sites of new sub-imperialism in the world today. These crisis conditions are particularly important because in the contemporary period, they have shifted what had earlier been nationalist (or even ‘state-capitalist’) power relations imposed by patronage-oriented states, towards the neoliberal public policies practiced elsewhere. They also entail intensified uneven development combined with super-exploitative (and often extra-economically coercive) systems of accumulation, as well as economic symptoms of imperialist desperation, especially financialization.

Third, sub-imperial regimes expand these same neoliberal practices for use within their regional spheres of influence, thus legitimating the Washington Consensus in ideological and concrete terms, especially by facilitating multilateral trade, investment and financing arrangements. Indeed, sub-imperial powers often promote neoliberal institutions even when complaining (sometimes bitterly) about their indifference to poorer countries, and they sometimes establish new ones that have similar functions in regional terms. This in turn often permits the sub-imperial power to act as a regional platform for accumulation, drawing resources from the hinterland and marketing exports that typically destroy hinterland productive capacity and economic sovereignty. Usually the benefits are manifold, including trade surpluses with the hinterland (where the latter often supplies crucial raw materials on advantageous terms), the opportunity for profits to be accumulated within the sub-imperial power’s financial centres, and the expansion of influence via a strengthened economy especially where trade is conducted in the sub-imperial power’s currency. All of this logically entails a regional gendarme role, a division of policing labour that allows the world capitalist system to continue with expansion of contracts, their enforcement and the extraction of adequate flows of materials (as well as workers) from distant sites that remain critical to the smooth functioning of the world division of labour.

Fourth, as Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros (2011, p19) put it, imperialism’s relations with sub-imperial allies always entailed ‘the super-exploitation of domestic labour. It was natural, therefore, that, as it grew, it would require external markets for the resolution of its profit realisation crisis.’ Concretely, to take BRICS as an example, super-exploitative relations are witnessed in the way that Chinese households are torn from rural land during the ongoing urbanization process, and in the broader context in which rural people require special work permits to live in cities, where they are paid much lower wages. Such super-exploitative relations are then readily transferred to the international scale, where China’s role has been even more predatory than Western corporations, backed by its support to local dictators (e.g. the case of Zimbabwe where Chinese military and Zimbabwean generals conjoined as the Anjin Corporation in the world’s largest diamond fields, with a resulting Resource Curse as extreme as any in contemporary Africa) (Maguwu 2013).

Likewise, South Africa’s historical mode of apartheid super-exploitation – termed ‘articulations of modes of production’ by Harold Wolpe (1980) – exemplified the most extreme internal dimension of sub-imperial accumulation. Migrant male workers from rural Bantustans as well as regional hinterlands as far north as Malawi long provided ‘cheap labour’, thanks to black rural women’s unpaid reproduction of children, sick workers and retirees generally without state support. This was not merely a matter of formal racial power. The expansion of the South African migrancy model much deeper into the Southern African region in the wake of apartheid’s early 1990s demise occurred notwithstanding tragic xenophobic reactions from the local working class. The August 2012 Marikana massacre of striking migrant platinum mineworkers at Lonmin was another example of how far the regimes’ policing function would go internally so as to defend the profitability of multinational extractive corporations (Saul and Bond 2014).

But it is the inexorable regional-hinterland expansion of these processes that compels sub-imperial states to follow the logic of imperialism. This is recognized by professional geopoliticians of capital, such as the Texas intelligence firm Stratfor (2009), in an internal memo (as revealed by WikiLeaks): ‘South Africa’s history is driven by the interplay of competition and cohabitation between domestic and foreign interests exploiting the country’s mineral resources. Despite being led by a democratically-elected government, the core imperatives of South Africa remain the maintenance of a liberal regime that permits the free flow of labor and capital to and from the southern Africa region, as well as the maintenance of a superior security capability able to project into south-central Africa.’ The ability to move up-continent was questioned in March 2013, however, in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui after authoritarian ruler Francois Bozize was ousted by guerrillas. More than a dozen South African soldiers were killed, according to interviews of surviving troops in Johannesburg’s main Sunday newspaper, while ‘protecting belongings of… businesses in Jo’burg... We were lied to straight out... We were told we were here to serve and protect, to ensure peace’ (Hosken and Mahlangu 2013). The protected Johannesburg capitalists included firms linked to the ruling party (Amabhungane 2013).

DYNAMICS OF IMPERIALISM AND SUB-IMPERIALISM

These latter relationships, in which capitalism both exploits and corrodes non-capitalist relations through extra-economic coercive techniques, were theorised originally by Rosa Luxemburg and have been revitalised as an explanatory system by David Harvey under the rubric of accumulation by dispossession. In other words, there are theoretically derived processes which explain the logic of imperialism and sub-imperialism together, even if contingencies may change the geographical place, shape and scale at which these processes unfold.

Luxemburg’s (1968, 396) Accumulation of Capital focuses on how capitalism’s extra-economic coercive capacities loot mutual aid systems and commons facilities, families (especially women’s role in social reproduction), the land, all forms of nature, and the shrinking state:

“The relations between capitalism and the non-capitalist modes of production start making their appearance on the international stage. Its predominant methods are colonial policy, an international loan system – a policy of spheres of interest – and war. Force, fraud, oppression, looting are openly displayed without any attempt at concealment, and it requires an effort to discover within this tangle of political violence and contests of power the stern laws of the economic process.”

Her core insight (1968, 397), as distinct from framings by Lenin, Bukharin, Hilferding, Hobson and others of her era, was to show that ‘Capital cannot accumulate without the aid of non-capitalist’ relations and ‘Only the continuous and progressive disintegration of non-capitalist organization makes accumulation of capital possible.’ This process, in which ‘capital feeds on the ruins’ of the non-capitalist relation, amounts to ‘eating it up. Historically, the accumulation of capital is a kind of metabolism between capitalist economy and those pre-capitalist methods of production without which it cannot go on and which, in this light, it corrodes and assimilates.’

This process is amplified during periods of desperation intrinsic to capitalist crisis, Luxemburg (1968, 76) observed, drawing on Marx’s classical theory about ‘perpetual overproduction,’ characterized by ‘the ceaseless flow of capital from one branch of production to another, and finally in the periodical and cyclical swings of reproduction between overproduction and crisis.’ At that point, Luxemburg (1968, 327) insists, the core countries reveal ‘the deep and fundamental antagonism between the capacity to consume and the capacity to produce in a capitalist society, a conflict resulting from the very accumulation of capital which periodically bursts out in crises and spurs capital on to a continual extension of the market’ (see Bond, Chitonge and Hopfmann 2007 for Southern African applications).

With the current renewal of this process – crisis, extension of the market, and amplified capitalist-noncapitalist super-exploitative relations – serving as the basis for renewed imperialism, Harvey (2003) adds a new layer to this argument:

“The opening up of global markets in both commodities and capital created openings for other states to insert themselves into the global economy, first as absorbers but then as producers of surplus capitals. They then became competitors on the world stage. What might be called ‘sub-imperialisms’ arose… Each developing centre of capital accumulation sought out systematic spatio-temporal fixes for its own surplus capital by defining territorial spheres of influence.”

Harvey (1992) identifies ‘a cascading and proliferating series of spatio-temporal fixes’ to persistent economic crisis, which are invoked so as to extend capitalism geographically and across time, usually facilitated by dramatic financial expansion. The role of banks in core and even sub-imperial countries is to indebt poorer countries so that they can be wedged open for the sake of liberalised trade and investment or simple resource extraction. Expansion of the credit system is also the traditional way to address overproduction of goods, as debt allows these to be mopped up in the present with a promise to extract further surpluses to pay the price in future. According to Harvey (2003: p134), these fixes do not result in crisis resolution, but instead, lead to new contradictions associated with uneven development:

“increasingly fierce international competition as multiple dynamic centers of capital accumulation emerge to compete on the world stage in the face of strong currents of overaccumulation. Since they cannot all succeed in the long run, either the weakest succumb and fall into serious crises of devaluation, or geopolitical confrontations erupt in the form of trade wars, currency wars and even military confrontations.”

The territorially-rooted power blocs generated by internal alliances (and conflicts) within national boundaries, or occasionally across boundaries to regional scale, are the critical units of analysis when it comes to fending off the devalorization of overaccumulated capital. By uncovering these units, it is feasible to root a durable geopolitical theory appropriate for understanding contemporary imperialism. Sub-imperial states are critical transmission belts, in part because the opening up of global markets in both commodities and capital created openings for other states to insert themselves into the global economy. But the sub-imperial elites are rarely patriotic, for they maintain their own personal (and sometimes corporate) accounts in the metropole, leading Harvey (2003: p196) to remark,

“The benefits of this system were, however, highly concentrated among a restricted class of multinational CEOs, financiers, and rentiers. Some sort of transnational capitalist class emerged that nevertheless focused on Wall Street and other centres such as London and Frankfurt as secure sites for placements of capital. This class looked, as always, to the United States to protect its asset values and the rights of property and ownership across the globe. While economic power seemed to be highly concentrated within the United States, other territorial concentrations of financial power could and did arise.”

The BRICS reflect this new relationship, for as Brazilian president Lula announced in 2010, ‘A new global economic geography is born.’ However, relying upon financiers such as Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill (originator of the ‘BRIC’ meme in 2001) to codify economic power is risky. What appeared as a strong bloc of BRICS countries at a leadership summit in March 2013 became, within four months, the core of the ‘Fragile Five’ countries, leaving O’Neill to remark that only China deserved the ‘building-block’ BRICS designation (Magalhaes 2013). India, South Africa and Brazil lost vast amounts of their currency values and funding flows once financial capital left these markets in search of the dollar safe-haven once the US Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy – ‘Quantitative Easing’ – began to be ‘tapered’. The same experience of massive capital outflow hit Russia in early 2014, first because of the loss of regional power signified by Ukraine’s government overthrow, and then when Moscow began a blunt takeover of Crimea, Western sanctions threats crashed its stock market.

So notwithstanding the validity of the general approach Luxemburg proposed, in which ongoing capital accumulation entails imperialism reaching into the terrain of extra-economic coercion, this is not a stable outcome. Each situation must be evaluated on its own concrete terms. Dating at least a half-century to when the idea of sub-imperialism was introduced, in Brazil, the concrete settings are vital because contingencies arise that may divert from the twin logics of capital and expanding territorial power relations.

CONCRETE SUB-IMPERIAL LOCATIONS

The new concentrations of southern power began to be evident by the 1960s when new alliances strengthened in the Cold War context. In his pioneering writing about Latin American geopolitics dating to the 1960s, Marini (1974) argued that 1970s-era Brazil was ‘the best current manifestation of sub-imperialism,’ because of regional economic extraction, export of capital typically associated with imperialist politics, and internal corporate monopolization, including financialization.

There are three additional roles for these regimes, today, if they are to be considered sub-imperialist. One is ensuring regional geopolitical ‘stability’ in areas suffering severe tensions: for example, Brasilia’s army in Haiti and Pretoria’s deal-making in African hotspots like South Sudan, the Great Lakes and the Central African Republic. The Israeli and Saudi Arabian roles in the Middle East are comparable, and white-ruled South Africa was, likewise, a Western sub-imperial outpost during the Cold War, what with liberation struggles raging in surrounding countries during the 1960s-80s. Extra-economic coercion in support of raw material extraction is a common feature of this power, when in many cases the role of regional gendarme is not just ‘peace-keeping’ but transferring surpluses from the hinterland to the sub-imperialist capital city, and often from then to the imperialist headquarters, as is especially evident for contemporary South Africa (Bond 2006a, Bond 2006b).

The second is advancing the broader agenda of globalized neoliberalism, so as to legitimate deepened market access. This occurs insofar as most sub-imperial powers are enthusiastic financial backers of the main vehicles for global economic governance, especially the Bretton Woods Institutions and World Trade Organisation. For rhetorical purposes the sub-imperial powers’ foreign, trade and even finance ministries may be less than flattering about global governance, and in the case of the BRICS in 2013-14, may even launch new multilateral initiatives with the stated aim of challenging power. But standing by the IMF even in times of crisis – e.g. the institution’s recapitalization in 2009 and 2012 occurred with notable BRICS support ($75 billion in coordinated aid in the latter case) – reflects the overall role that sub-imperial regimes play: to lubricate, legitimize and extend neoliberal political economy deeper into their regional hinterlands.

The same has been true in the single most important long-term global governance challenge, climate management, where the BRICS (without Russia) lined up as critical allies within Washington’s ‘Copenhagen Accord’ strategy in 2009, both avoiding emissions cuts and promoting the further financialization of the climate strategy through extended carbon trading (Bond 2012; Böhm, Misoczky and Moog 2012). (Later, Russia cemented this function by raising its own greenhouse gas emissions dramatically and then reneging on Kyoto Protocol commitments and withdrawing from the main climate treaty.) This role of propping up global economic and environmental malgovernance often benefits home-based corporations in the sub-imperial countries, but it is also a marker of cooperation and collaboration with the imperialist projects of core countries’ multinational corporations and states.

Another example of where this was not only helpful but necessary was the World Trade Organisation, which in earlier manifestation several BRICS countries had sought to revitalize as early as the 2005 Hong Kong ministerial summit. Free-trade corporate expansion and ongoing self-interested protectionism prevail in an often uneasy mix in sub-imperial economies, but BRICS counterhegemonic activity in the WTO has occurred well within the broader agenda of neoliberalism. According to one of the coordinators of the Our World is Not for Sale civil society network (James 2013), the mid-2013 promotion of the Brazilian ambassador to the WTO – Roberto Azevêdo – to become the body’s director-general was debilitating for resistance by the South’s ‘G-110’ bloc. The cancellation of Europe-South African Bilateral Investment Treaties by SA trade minister Rob Davies was considered to be an inspiring case of standing up to the West, but as an exception which proved the rule, and it also confirmed Pretoria’s defense of regional domination against EU intrusion into its immediate hinterland, the Southern African Customs Union. For at the end of the day, in December 2013, Azevêdo was able to arrange a WTO ministerial agreement that put the organization back on track – a notable accomplishment given the failure of his predecessor, Pascal Lamy who hailed from (and invariably supported) the European Union during prior failed efforts.

In this context, what may emerge from the networking of the sub-imperialist elites, as witnessed in the BRICS bloc in its initial formation period, 2008-14, is an agenda that more systematically confirms super-exploitative practices within their hinterlands. Just as the political carving of Africa in Berlin at the 1884-85 conference hosted by Bismarck drew boundaries mainly benefiting extractive enterprises – mining houses and plantations as well as construction firms associated with capital accumulation in England, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany – BRICS appears to follow colonial and neo-colonial tracks. Identifying port, bridge, road, hydropower and other infrastructure projects in the same image, the BRICS 2013 Durban summit had as its aim the continent’s economic carve-up, unburdened – now as then – by what would be derided as ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights, with more than a dozen African heads of state present as collaborators. The New Partnership for Economic Development and African Peer Review Mechanism were often alleged to serve as African homegrown policing mechanisms for such infrastructure, but were generally ineffective (Bond 2005, 2009).

However, it is also critical to concede that the forms of BRICS sub-imperialism are diverse, for as Moyo and Yeros (2011: p19) remark,

“Some are driven by private blocs of capital with strong state support (Brazil, India); others, like China, include the direct participation of state-owned enterprises; while in the case of South Africa, it is increasingly difficult to speak of an autonomous domestic bourgeoisie, given the extreme degree of de-nationalisation of its economy in the post-apartheid period. The degree of participation in the Western military project is also different from one case to the next although, one might say, there is a ‘schizophrenia’ to all this, typical of ‘sub-imperialism’.”

In sum, the recent period has reignited a fruitful debate about the concept of sub-imperialism and about transitions from sub- to inter-imperialism, and perhaps also one day to anti-imperialism. However, the most critical factor in making this debate real, not just a struggle over semantics between impotent leftist intellectuals, is a different process entirely, one not contingent upon rhetoric from above, but upon reality from below. Reality from below is increasingly tense in each of the main sub-imperialist powers currently seeking unity, the BRICS.

In each, a series of class, social, ecological and political battles has begun to unfold, sparked by unusual events that to the surprise of most commentators, took on national importance: public transport price increases and excesses associated with World Cup hosting in mid-2013 (Brazil); a democracy movement in late 2011, freedom of expression battle involving a risque rock band in 2012, gay rights in 2013 and anti-war protest in 2014 (Russia); a high-profile rape-murder in late 2012 and municipal electoral surprise by a left-populist political party in late 2013 (India); an ongoing wave of rural anti-displacement, local-ecology, anti-corruption and labour protests that number more than 200,000 annually (China); and a massacre of mineworkers in mid-2012 amidst a general uprising of poor people against lack of access – or overpricing – of municipal services (South Africa).

All such struggles are impulsive and impossible to predict, but much deeper class struggles against super-exploitation, ecological destruction and neoliberalism are unfolding constantly in each site. The challenge for BRICS critics from below is to link and internationalise as quickly as possible, because their interests and campaigning analyses, strategies, tactics and alliances have many points of overlap – with each other and with the world’s progressive forces. Only then will a genuine global anti-imperialist project become possible, i.e., when anti-sub-imperialists of the world also unite.

* Patrick Bond’s new co-authored book (with John Saul) is ‘South Africa – The present as history’(James Currey and Jacana publishers, 2014).

ENDNOTES:

Albo G and J Klaasen (2013) Empire’s Ally, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Amabhungane (2013) Is this what our soldiers died for?, Mail&Guardian, 28 March. Available at http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-28-00-central-african-republic-is-this-what-our-soldiers-died-for

Böhm S, Misoczky M & Moog S (2012) ‘Greening capitalism? A Marxist critique of carbon markets’, Organization Studies, November 2012, 33, 11, p.1629.

Bond P (2005) Fanon’s Warning, Trenton, Africa World Press.
BondP (2006a) Talk Left Walk Right. Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Bond P (2006b) Looting Africa. London, Zed Books.
BondP (2009) Removing neocolonialism’s APRM mask: A critique of the African Peer Review Mechanism. Review of African Political Economy, 36, 122, 595-603.
Bond P (2012) Politics of Climate Justice, Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Bond, P, H Chitonge and A Hopfmann (2007) The Accumulation of Capital in Southern Africa, Berlin, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Bond, P and A Garcia (2014) A BRICS critique, Fortaleza, Tensoes Mundiais.

Chase-Dunn, C (2013), Contemporary semiperipheral development, University of California-Riverside Institute for Research on World-Systems Working Paper 78, http://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows78/irows78.htm

Desai, R (2013) The Brics are building a challenge to western economic supremacy, The Guardian, 2 April.

Escobar, P (2013), Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa: BRICS go over the Wall, Asia Times, 27 March.

Gerson, J and B Birchard (1991) The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign U.S. Military Bases. Boston, South End Press.

Halliday, F (1979), Iran: Dictatorship and Development, New York, Penguin Books.

Harvey D (1992) Limits to Capital, Chicago, Chicago University Press.
Harvey D (2003) The New Imperialism. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hosken G and I Mahlangu (2013) ‘We were killing kids’, Sunday Times, 31 March.

James D (2013) personal correspondence, 19 November.

Jordaan, E (2003), The concept of a middle power in international relations: Distinguishing between emerging and traditional middle powers, Politikon, 30, 1, 165-181.

Keet, D (2013), Perspectives and Proposals on the BRICS for and from popular Civil Society Organisations, Economic Justice Network, November.


Kuan-Hsing, C (2013) Asia as Method, Durham, Duke University Press.

Luxemburg, R (1968, 1913) The Accumulation of Capital, New York, Monthly Review Press.

Magalhaes L (2013) China Only BRIC Country Currently Worthy of the Title -O’Neill. Wall Street Journal, 23 August. Available at http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-308220/

Maguwu, F (2013), Marange diamonds and Zimbabwe’s political transition, Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, 8, 1, 74-78.

Marini RM (1965) Brazilian interdependence and imperialist integration. Monthly Review 17, 7.
Marini RM (1974) Subdesarrollo y Revolución, Mexico City, Siglo XXI Editores, translated at http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/bt280210p.html#_edn13

Martin W (2013) South Africa and the ‘New Scramble for Africa’: Imperialist, Sub-imperialist, or Victim? Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, 2, 2, 161–188.

Moyo S and Yeros P (2011) Rethinking the theory of primitive accumulation. Paper presented to the 2nd IIPPE Conference, 20−22 May 2011, Istanbul.

Saul, J and P Bond (2014) South Africa – Present as History, Oxford, James Currey Press.

Shubin, V (2013) BRICS viewed from Russia, Pambazuka News, 20 March, Available at http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86658/print

Stratfor (2009), Monography for comment: South Africa, 5 May. http://search.wikileaks.org/gifiles/?viewemailid=951571

Third World Network (2013) Whither the BRICS? Third World Resurgence 274, June. Avialable at http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/resurgence/2013/twr274.htm

Wallerstein, I (1974) Semi-Peripheral Countries and The Contemporary World Crisis. New York City, Academic Press.
Wallerstein, I (1997) The Capitalist World Economy. New York City, Cambridge University Press.

Wolpe H (Ed) (1980) The Articulation of Modes of Production. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Source : http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/92085

The BRICS a response to Yash Tandon by Mike Davies

Yash Tandon opens with a semantic discussion, initially querying the credentials of the term “sub-imperialism”, but ending with an explicit and snide attack on theorists for having an “exuberance of their conceptual creation” to discredit the term. This is disingenuous at best – a term is useful or not, irrespective of its historical antecedents: a neologism may offer a clarity denied to worn-out words whose meaning is obscured by over-usage. The historical roots of the term ‘sub-imperialism’ may be of interest to lexicographers but irrelevant to the legitimacy or otherwise of an argument.[1]

One may make a semantic critique of “sub-imperialism” as a definitional category. It implies an imperialism that roots itself in an archaic sensibility. While many governments demonstrate an imperialistic arrogance in their foreign policies, imbued with a notional self-righteousness, I would think it more useful to seek a neologism that incorporates but does not echo the Age of Empires which one hopes is behind mankind. Perhaps the old term “sub-hegemon” might be better although it lacks the “layering” implied by “sub-imperialism.”

INTERNAL IMPERIALISM IN ZIMBABWE

However a primary objection to the term is that it establishes a false dichotomy by simplistic reductionism that marginalises the nuances of power at the national, regional and global levels. Is the Mugabe regime’s exploitation of the Marange diamond fields not a form of internal imperialism whereby resources are appropriated by the centre at the expense of the periphery?[2] The regime uses military force as well as opaque partnerships with external corporations while practising blatant corruption as a few of its tools. Mugabe as a proto-Leopold is not an untenable image, underpinned by helicopter gunships maintaining a monopoly of primitive accumulation.

Africanists often use this tactic of reductionism to present a simplistic dichotomy between the ‘bad’ West and the ‘good’ South that ignores the agency of local elites in the global South or anti-elite activities within Western states. Thus, for example, we see claims that Cleopatra was ‘black’ as if this re-casting is a triumph for Africa while ignoring the brutalities of pharaonic rule.[3]

Tandon then dismisses critics of the BRICS sceptics for shallowness and ‘distraction[4]’ as if his ex cathedra pronouncement is sufficient argument to dismiss the typology. He further undermines his own argument by personalising these critics as Patrick Bond and his acolytes: such ad hominem attacks are the most base of false refutations since they insinuate an unspoken illegitimacy that appeals to people’s personal regard or not for Bond and his students.

While he claims that arguments based on ‘empirical observation’ are ‘inadequate’, or, worse, non-sense, unless ‘located in some theory’, I would suggest that verified observation is the foundation of the scientific process, that, rather than squeezing the data to conform to a pre-determined theoretical straight-jacket, the honest analyst derives theory from observation and interpretation. However such undergraduate perplexity about deductive versus inductive reasoning should not intrude into grown up journals

The tactic of claiming that Bond’s arguments ‘resonate’ with “some parts of the popular media in Africa as also in the West”, that Bond makes ‘journalistic forays’ is a poor attempt to delegitimize by association. Placing inverted commas around the word 'authorities' implies a dismissal of their legitimacy and Tandon wonders “if they would support Bond”. A more honest approach would be to examine the substance of Bond’s use of these references and directly answer the merits or not of such references.

Tandon poses some ‘questions for further discussion’ accusing Bond et al yet again of ‘empiricism’. While a network analysis of the SA elite would be useful, its omission is hardly an indictment. Tandon dislikes the idea of a hierarchy of sub-imperialism - perhaps he missed the “big fish eat little fish” story in kindergarten – and proceeds to belittle the hypothesis with ridicule, plaintively asking “who is left in Africa who is not either a sub-imperialist or an agent of sub-imperialists?”

IGNORING THE COLLUSION OF AFRICA’S COMPRADORS

But the real reason I suspect Tandon is so vociferous is the inconvenience Bond’s analysis creates for his faux pan-Africanism, for the delusion that local elites are in some way spearheading an indigenous Southern anti-imperialism. They are not: Africa’s leaders are colluding with the world’s political and economic hegemons to maximise their own interests, no less in the 21st century than in the 18th.[5] Does Tandon really think the EPAs are entirely one-sided creations that have no buy-in from African elites?

He conflates an imaginary class of elite warriors with the real struggle waged by activists to the detriment of the latter. Our struggles will be more successful if we address the national class question honestly, acknowledge the comprador factor, and build genuine trans-national people-to-people solidarity to confront and neutralise these local agents.

He lapses into a thoroughly disreputable device – “the people” – to justify a simplification that we are all one in the struggle, a reductionism that marginalises and trivialises the internal dynamics of our countries. Just ask a survivor of Operation Murambatsvina living in a ‘temporary camp’ outside Harare for the last 9 years who is the architect of her suffering or who are her comrades in the struggle for security and dignity. Tandon finds such nuances ‘dis-empowering’ – I find his simplification dis-empowering because it reduces our struggles to a North-South dichotomy. Regionalism as practised in Africa is an elite project that generally excludes ordinary people. Cosying up to national elites is a dangerous game for activists who face co-option or irrelevance as a result.

“NATIONAL SELF DETERMINATION” IS A WORN-OUT DEVICE

At one point Tandon realises he is stepping into dangerous territory and covers himself (“This is not the place for an elaboration of this”) but is he really raising the bogeyman of “national self determination” in Africa? I doubt it, for this is one thing that will keep us mired in the kind of internecine warfare that Europe lived through for centuries. Are groups like the Mtakwazi Liberation Front in Zimbabwe or Uganda’s LRA a valid expression of this struggle? A progressive would seek to transcend ethnic and historic divisions through a genuine regionalism that is based the interests of working class people and peasants rather than national elites. And isn't “self-determination” a worn-out device yet, one that masks the rise of national elites who have perpetuated the authoritarianism of the colonial State?
He implicitly recognises Bond’s radicalism but can only use “the friend of my enemy is an enemy” argument. Is Tandon really a friend of Mugabe, Museveni and the other ‘Big Men’ in Africa who have ruthlessly entrenched their own power at the expense of the basic rights of citizens? Some of us can multi-task though, and oppose both global imperialism and local tyranny.

ENDNOTES:

[1] In fact even a cursory online search pushes back the term’s origin e.g. Roberts A. D (1962) The Sub-Imperialism of the Baganda The Journal of African History Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 435-450

[2] Or even an ‘under-development’

[3] E.g. Diop, Cheikh Anta (1974) The African Origin of Civilization. Chicago, Illinois: Lawrence Hill Books

[4] Not just once but twice : “Otherwise their critique is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces” and in the following paragraph “It is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces everywhere.”

[5] E.g. the posturing of Mugabe is a rhetorical device that creates a veneer of legitimising anti-imperialism that masks the ruthless primitive accumulation going on in Zimbabwe as part of a new class project.

*Mike Davies is a Zimbabwean researcher and activist. He is the Interim Coordinator for Southern Africa of the International Alliance of Inhabitants - a global solidarity network of local activists fighting evictions. He also is a researcher for the Research and Advocacy Unit and was chair of the Combined Harare Residents Association from 2002 to 2008.

Source: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/92503

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

South Africa: On Sub-Imperialism and BRICS-Bashing by Yash Tandon

Critics of the BRICS base their arguments on empirical observations. But they need to go further beyond this and provide a deeper analysis of their theory of sub-imperialism. Otherwise their critique is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces

Pambazuka News 673 (April 2014) carried nine articles on 'sub-imperialist' BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Three of the articles are by Patrick Bond and four by his present or past students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre (UKNC) for Civil Society of which Bond is the Director. This essay focuses on the paper by Bond - 'BRICS and the tendency to sub-imperialism' - that is a little better grounded in theory than the others.

I argue that Bond and his colleagues are inventing a category that simply does not exist. It is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces everywhere. I write in the hope that others might feel inclined to join in this debate.

BRICS-BASHING

I will focus on the 'theory' angle. There are several empirical observations made by Bond, but they make sense only if properly located in some theory. So I will ignore several obvious contradictions in his empirical observations. For example, he credits the BRICS for their 'coherent strategy within the G20 to halt Washington's threatened attack on Syria last September.' But this was quickly negated by the following: 'However, everywhere else, the BRICS failed on nearly every count.'

Bond's main thesis is that BRICS are simply posturing to be anti-imperialist, but are themselves imperialist - or to use his words, that they have a 'sub-imperialist or inter-imperialist positioning that belies anti-imperialist posturing'.

Three countries - China, Russia and South Africa- are particularly targeted for Bond's critique. He talks of China's 'investment invasion of Africa'; 'South African capital's drive to accumulate'; and Russia's 'blunt takeover of Crimea'. I know that these and several such phrases have resonance in some parts of the popular media in Africa as also in the West. But leaving aside journalistic forays, it is necessary that we undertake a serious analysis of the theory behind this outburst of BRICS-bashing ... and its political implications.

Bond subjects the five - he calls them the 'Fragile Five' - to an indiscriminate collective clobbering. He quotes numerous 'authorities' - among them, Rosa Luxemburg, David Harvey and Sam Moyo.

I have a fairly good knowledge of the writings of these, and I cannot but wonder if they would support Bond's rather generous amplifications of these to bolster the case about BRICS acting as 'sub-imperialists' on the African continent.

ORIGIN AND MEANING OF THE TERM 'SUB-IMPERIALISM'

I don't really know the origin of the term 'sub-imperialism'. Patrick Bond traces it back to 1974. He says: 'In his pioneering writing about Latin American geopolitics dating to the 1960s, Marini (1974) argued that 1970s-era Brazil was "the best current manifestation of sub-imperialism," because of regional economic extraction, export of capital typically associated with imperialist politics, and internal corporate monopolization, including financialization.'

I carried out a quick literature survey, and I did not find many citations on the subject. In the Wikipedia, the most current citations refer mainly to Bond, and a recent (December 2013) paper by [url=file:///D:/1 Tandon/C WRITINGS/8 Blog - global intifada/2014/0422 %2310 On sub-imperialism/. http:/www.systemiccapital.com/subimperialism-the-u-s-and-brazil-in-morales-bolivia/]Michael Abbott[/url] - 'Sub imperialism the U.S. and Brazil in Morales' Bolivia' - where Abbott describes President Evo Morales, as an 'eager' agent of Brazilian sub-imperialism through collaborating in exploiting the Amazonian forest resources.

However, I discovered that the most erudite and theoretically sophisticated paper on the subject is by the Turkish scholar Elif Çagli. In a paper 'On Sub-imperialism Regional Power Turkey', (2009) she explores the term at great length using Marxist categories of analysis.

Çagli argues that under globalisation capitalism has moved to a new stage of imperialism, where the law of 'uneven and combined development' has created a three-tier hierarchy of states: between the imperialist countries at one end and the neo-colonies or 'semi-colonies' on the other are located the middle level 'sub-imperialist' countries.

The BRICS form the core of this in-between category.

But BRICS are not the only sub-imperialists. There are others - such as Turkey and Iran.

She has an interesting and in-depth analysis of the contradictions between the 'old' and the 'new' Turkish 'bourgeoisie' - the old under the army tutelage and the new based on Islamic circles.

But despite the populist rhetoric of the 'new' bourgeoisie, they are even more of a 'sub-imperialist' in the region than the 'old' bourgeoisie, and they have embraced the neo-liberal economic agenda with greater zeal than the 'old' bourgeoisie.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION

1. There is an obvious need for further elaboration of the theory of 'sub-imperialism'. In the UKNC discourse the analysis is entirely empiricist. It is important for Bond and his colleagues to undertake a deeper analysis - like Çagli - of what they might describe as 'the South African bourgeoisie'.

Who are they?
What is the source of their capital?
Who owns and controls this capital?

2. I have problems with Çagli's theory too. Her analysis, as also Bond's and Abbott's, makes out every country that follows the neoliberal economic paradigm, and seeks market or an avenue for capital export to a neighbouring country a sub-imperialist.

Thus, in their lexicon, Kenya becomes a sub-imperialist country in the East African region - it exports both goods and capital within the region. But then what about Uganda?

It exports Chinese-made 'sub-imperialist' goods to Rwanda and the DRC, as well as acting as conduit for Chinese capital in the region. Does that make Uganda also 'sub-imperialist'?

Or is it now a 'neo-colony' of China?

3. In Abbott's analysis President Evo Morales becomes an 'agent' of sub-imperialist Brazil because he allows Bolivian resources to be exploited by the Brazilian oil giant, Petrobras. Applying the same logic, then, practically every head of state in Africa - from Haig Geingob in Namibia to John Mahama in Ghana - who have opened their countries to South Africa-based capitalist corporations, become, de facto, agents of sub-imperialist Jacob Zuma. But then who is left in Africa who is not either a sub-imperialist or an agent of sub-imperialists?

4. It is obvious that in the conceptual framework of the sub-imperialist theorists there is simply no room for regionalism in Africa or regional struggles against the imperialist countries of the US and Europe. I find this most disempowering.

For the last almost 30 years some of us have been actively engaged in battling against Europe's attempt to impose a totally iniquitous 'Economic Partnership Agreements' (EPAs) on our countries - among them, for example, that our countries stop all domestic production and export subsidies. The latest deadline for signing the EPA is October 2014.

If we fail to sign it, Europe will impose sanctions on Africa. Civil society organisations - such as the Southern and Eastern African Trade and Information Institute (SEATINI) and the human rights organisations in the region - have been carrying out a sustained struggle against the EPAs and have so far succeeded in holding back their governments to signing the EPAs. Should they stop doing their campaigns?

5. The one concept missing from the sub-imperialist literature is that of the 'national question'. This is not the place for an elaboration of this.

All I can say is that it is not to be equated with national autarchy; it is about the people of a 'nation' to want to determine their own destiny.

This has been the struggle in Africa since the 1884-85 Berlin conference that arbitrarily divided up the continent among imperial countries.

In recent years, even some 'nations' in Europe - such as the Scottish and Catalonian peoples - are also seeking national self determination.

 Is this an unjust struggle?

6. In terms of their analysis, there is just one legitimate struggle - that of the popular masses to rise up against the governments in their countries, in their regions, their local agents, and the entire imperialist global system.

Patrick Bond recommends that this should be done 'as quickly as possible'. This is what he says: 'The challenge for 'BRICS -from-below' critics is to link and internationalise as quickly as possible, because their interests and campaigning analyses, strategies, tactics and alliances have many points of overlap - with each other and with the world's progressive forces. Only then will a genuine global anti-imperialist project become possible, i.e., when anti-sub-imperialists of the world also unite'.

With this sweeping global strategy, Patrick would have us rise up against - among others - anti-US Evo Morales in Bolivia; popularly elected Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela; Zuma in South Africa; Mugabe in Zimbabwe; Museveni in Uganda; the sub-imperialist Chinese states of China and India; and of course, Vladimir Putin for his 'blunt takeover of Crimea'.

But would that not make us all de facto allies of the US and Europe in the ensuing post-Ukraine evolving scenario?

7. This raises larger geo-political issues, and the place of BRICS in the evolving scenario. For forty years in the 1950s to 1980s NATO was supplying arms to apartheid South Africa and to Portugal to deny self-determination to its African colonies.

During those decades it was the USSR and China that had come to their aid. Of course, things have changed. China and Russia are not the same. But NATO remains more or less the same.

NATO unleashed the nearly 15-years war against Afghanistan leaving a trail of destruction and mayhem - like in Iraq. Age-old religious dissensions and economic frustrations in Libya, Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic - among other countries - have been exploited by the west for its geo-political and economic interests.

This is not to mention Iran which has been under US sanctions now for over three decades since the collapse of the US-backed Shah regime in 1979; and Palestine which has been ghettoed for 60 years ever since the founding of the state of Israel.

Further afield, the US has increased its military presence in the Pacific and has warned China against interfering with the 'freedom of navigation' in the South China Sea.

In South America, the US has been financing - like in Syria and the Ukraine - dissident elements in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. So the question: how does Africa position itself in this fast evolving geo-political situation?

These are difficult and complex issues.

The sub-imperialist theorists are caught up in the exuberance of their conceptual creation.

They need to provide a better theoretical foundation of their concept.

In my view, they have invented a category that simply does not exist.

It is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces everywhere.

Yash Tandon is from Uganda and has worked at many different levels as an academic, a teacher, a political thinker, a rural development worker, a civil society activist, and an institution builder.Below is a speech by Yash Tandon on the Financial Crisis in 2008.