An essay by Njabulo Majola.
Even organisations that are seen by some as being part of the neo-liberal establishment such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NACCP), which receives millions of dollars in donations from white companies, have an opportunity to break with tradition and collaborate meaningfully with the radical black rights organisations.
After Trump’s victory and Italy's Matteo Renzi's fall, it seems as if neo-liberalism is on its knees because of its many failures, least of all to meaningfully improve the lives of black people all over the world.
Stephen Hawking, cites inequality as the most pressing problem facing the world right now. Many other progressive western thinkers such as Thomas Picketty and Noam Chomsky agree with him.
The problem with neo-liberalism is that it created a world system where political double speak (see Theresa May’s unbelievable evasiveness), hypocrisy, lack of accountability and persistent inequality are the order of the day.
The system has only benefited the top 1% (even after their complicity on the self-inflicted and predictable financial markets crash of 2008). The rest of the world has to make do with crumbs. The neo-liberal world order has failed dismally to deal with income inequality.
Institutions of the West such as the World Bank and IMF admit as much but continue to force democratically elected governments to implement draconian austerity measures that hurt citizens, while protecting financial institutions and further driving inequality.
In addition, Black people have not benefited from the neo-liberal economy. Make no msiatke, the neo-liberals have said all the right things. They coined terms such as Civil Rights and Affirmative Action. In South Africa they produced the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, and Black Economic Empowerment and personal property rights hewn in stone.
Yet, black people are still more likely to be poor, uneducated, arrested, shot and killed in the US where they are statistical minority. In South Africa, where they are in the majority, the face of poverty is overwhelmingly black. The economic levers of power are still controlled from Western capitals that still benefit from a colonial and extractive economy.
According to former South African president Thabo Mbeki, illicit financial outflows (a politically correct term used to sanitise wide scale looting and theft of African resources from the continent to the West,) are estimated to be around U.S. $50 Billion annually. Mbeki is the chair the AU’s High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Transactions.
The failures of the Brenton-Woods institutions are too many to mention. And too often African countries have been at the sharp receiving end of their devastating economic policies, as reported by London based World Development Movement.
Some Europeans and Americans have responded to the failure of neo-liberalism by shifting right.
Phakamile Hlubi, a journalist from South Africa who writes on international affairs writes,
“The fact that neo liberalism packages itself nicely as an integral part of democracy could pose a significant risk to democratic governments world-wide. As people are turning away from the failed trickledown economics of the Post World-War II establishment, and are rejecting the ‘financialization’ of the markets, the free market as one the pillars of western style democracy is rightfully under attack. Even Trump consistently attacked Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. The collateral damage might be the democratic values that are the bedrock of the internationalist agenda of human rights.”
These shifts to the right are always predicated on the usual issues that drive such movements such as a false sense of victimhood, where societal failures are blamed on the “other”. Minorities, women, the LGBTI community and immigrants – choose one or more or all - are used as scapegoats. Their rights, inevitably, are the first ones to come into question (Trump on Muslims, and France’s Le Pen in her own words). These movements are all driven by a white supremacist agenda.
“Over the last decade, there has been a perfect storm of events which has resulted in western democracies shifting decisively right. These include, most recently the US; the UK (Cameron’s landslide victory and Brexit); a whole host of EU countries (such as Poland, Hungary and Austria with right wing governments), others where the right wing has significantly grown (Netherlands, Switzerland, Bulgaria) or where it might be in power in the near future (most notably France). This shift has happened right under the noses of the western main stream media, which up until Trump’s victory, and for whatever reason, has simply failed to shine the spotlight on these regressive elements.”
And their failures are not just a threat to black people but to the democratic establishment itself. In fact, Slavoj Zizek argues that Capitalism and Democracy are destined to split.
This new world that is coalescing into shape presents real opportunity for black rights and nationalist organisations to join forces to fight a common enemy which has revealed himself to be the old foe: White Male Supremacy.
Under the neo-liberal establishment, the enemy was opaque. The political correctness of the establishment provided the smoke and mirrors to keep the target moving.
What is required now is a joint effort that will see collaboration between Africans in the diaspora and those on the continent to fight against our existential threat: white supremacy, now with a proponent in the most powerful office in the world.
An Internationalist Black Agenda must be formulated as a direct response to the disparate but fast strengthening alt-right movement. It should seek to protect the gains that black people have made world-wide but to also fight for the total and complete emancipation of all black people.
This can be done in a number of ways:
2. Technology and Reach
The alt-right movement cleverly uses the internet to reach its audience and completely bypasses the main stream media. Black organizations will have to adopt similar strategies to reach more people. Smart phone penetration is very high amongst Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. These Africans are a ready audience to receive the message. Black organizations will have to use all available means of technology to connect to as many black people as possible in order to truly canvas and represent their views.
3. Be wary of politics
There is world-wide fatigue with politics in general and the political class in particular. Black organizations will have to stay away from the political party structure as an agent of social change because its limitations have been laid bare. The party is prone to capture by elitist interests. Disapproving states (such as the imminent Trump regime) find it easier to paralyze movements if they have traditional leadership structures similar to political parties. Novel means to communicate directly to black people and to allow them to interact meaningfully with black organizations will have to be found. Frantz Fanon puts it succinctly,
“It so happens that when the people are invited to partake in the management of the country, they do not slow the movement down but on the contrary they speed it up.”
4. Stay relevant
Black organisations will have to find mechanisms to quantify and qualify the black experience in its totality while taking into cognizance the nuances and idiosyncrasies that are defined by locality. In doing so, they will have to actively engage black people to determine priority points of struggle, to alleviate day to day suffering while staying on course to the full emancipation of black people worldwide. Organisations will have to be visible on the ground and be at the coalface fighting for all causes. From the basics such as access to water and land, to saving black lives against trigger happy law enforcement authorities, as well as fighting for the rights of the LGBTI community and women. Structural elements that continue to transmute undue privilege to white people will have to be systemically dismantled in all sectors of society.
The Trump moment is a unique opportunity to change the world for the better. This is because the enemy has crystalized and is easier to target.
Now that the real West has revealed itself as anti-black, anti-women, anti-LGBTI and anti-poor, our focus should also be on collaborating to fix the Motherland: Africa.
The West is tired. Both Europe and, what French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre calls “the super European monstrosity that is America” are facing strong challenges to Western hegemony. European values, Sartre continued,
“begin to molt, and on closer scrutiny you won’t see one that isn’t stained with blood”.
The solutions for humanity’s problems will not come from the West, where most of them originate.
Africa has a wealth of age old wisdom to share with the world. From the rich cultural heritage and the mostly unstudied myriad of indigenous knowledge systems can come many solutions to our problems.
Africa can perhaps show the world a new way: an approach that is centred on harmonious co-existence with nature, and where human interrelations are based on the philosophy Ubuntu (loosely translated: I am because, you are).
That should be the real long term objective of black organizations. But it’s in the future.
Until then, black organisations must collaborate to fight, by all means necessary, for the total emancipation of all black people. Trump’s new world order presents the perfect rallying point.