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Publication Details

Reference
Bond, Patrick  (2003) Potentials for African Anti-Capitalism: Uneven Development and Popular Resistance. RAU Sociology Seminar Series (Third Term) 25 July: 1-24.

Summary
Potentials for African Anti-Capitalism: Uneven Development and Popular Resistance

‘South Africa is what she is today because, driven by the spirit of human and international solidarity, you, the peoples of the world took a stand and said that apartheid in South Africa will not pass!’ With these words, Thabo Mbeki welcomed dignitaries to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002: ‘Our common and decisive victory against domestic apartheid confirms that you, the peoples of the world, have both the responsibility and the possibility to achieve a decisive victory against global apartheid.’1 In this paper, I address some perpetual tasks to help assure that at least my own compass is pointing to the left: renewing an analysis of the problem of imperialism; tracking indicators of growing momentum and ideological maturity within, specifically, the African left; enquiring into the most appropriate scale politics for resistance; and updating the ways in which new opportunities are opening in constructive areas of struggle. The people I turn to for encouragement are not only the usual suspects--
independent leftist activists, organisers and intellectuals--but also veterans of conservative institutions: Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and even former World Bankers who have seen the light. More durably, to root the work in political-economic theory, I mainly turn to Rosa Luxemburg and contemporary writers in her tradition. Though best known as a German revolutionary killed by social-democratic competitors in 1919, Luxemburg’s intellectual work was stellar (even if flawed in some areas). She played a central role in interpreting an earlier version of global apartheid--which she and her contemporaries (Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Hilferding, Bernstein, Bauer) simply called ‘imperialism.’2 To begin, however, consider the array of global forces that we are presented with. At least five categories that describe ideological positions have emerged and solidified since the late 1990s, and their beliefs, contradictions, institutions and leading personalities remain relatively coherent. From left to right, they are: 1) Global justice movements; 2) Third World nationalism; 3) the Post-Washington Consensus; 4) the Washington Consensus; and 5) the resurgent right wing. The five currents are recognisable by: a) their political-economic agenda; b) leading institutions; c) internal disputes; and d) some exemplary public proponents. Table 1 is self-explanatory, although several obvious caveats apply, not least of which is the highly subjective snapshot nature of such an exercise. The ideological currents are rough approximations, sometimes proudly worn as labels, sometimes not. Many individuals move not merely rhetorically, but also substantively, from one camp to another e.g., Joe Stiglitz has moved left over time; Lula has moved right). Some, like Thabo Mbeki, are in more than one camp at once, and their posturing depends in part upon their ‘scale’ of politics (international, continental, national or local).

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