Monthly Archives: May 2013

Brief thoughts on race and class in contemporary South Africa

On Facebook, Emmanuel Nuesiri asked me what I thought about an article recently appeared on the BBC documenting white Afrikaans poverty in South Africa (click here to read the article). This is what I replied:

There is a real risk in South Africa today that racial issues might be used to cover up for what the real “war” is, that is a class war with the vast majority of the population still largely disenfranchised from the formal economy and far from acceptable standards of living, while inequalities are on the rise.

South Africa became liberated at the height of the global capitalist dream, after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is clear now to most that the “free market” on its own was not going to empower most people anywhere on earth. The hope is that the tide will turn in the global mainstream (especially after 2008 global financial crisis and current Euro and American crisis), so that perhaps talking again about serious redistributive policies and diminishing inequalities through state intervention and regulation of the economy won’t be anathema.

If we don’t start talking about class and income inequalities seriously again, the racialisation of everyday discourse will tend to focus the attention on scapegoating one racial group or the other. This diverts the attention from the real threat: the highly unequal economic system which runs on very cheap labour and the resulting appalling living conditions of the majority of the populace, ever more so a vast reserve of cheap labour, disposable and reusable at the whim of flexible capital.

This is the legacy of settler colonialism that we need to tackle and radically change throughout southern Africa. Mixing and surpassing of racial difference in South Africa can only happen on a large scale if the entrenched inequalities are tackled head on, primarily as economic inequalities.


Rich people don’t create jobs

In an interesting 5 minute banned TED talk, entrepreneur Nick Hanauer debunks the mystique that rich people create jobs. I don’t agree with his praising of middle class consumption as the way forward, but find it great that finally a capitalist shows with a common sense argument why we shouldn’t buy into the myth.

Another question to ask would be: even if we put aside the mystique that capitalists create jobs, what kind of jobs are they actually “creating” nowadays? Is precarious cheap labour something capitalists should feel proud about? Does it justify a government of the economy that favours capital at no matter what?

Italy’s new government and the perpetuation of minority rule

I have written a commentary on Italy’s new government, published today by Al Jazeera. Click here to read it.

See below for a few extracts:

“[The new Prime Minister] Letta undoubtedly knows how to speak to European leaders in good “technocratese” about fiscal restraint and structural reforms. He is soberly pushing for growth measures at EU level and promised that Italian families that are struggling will be helped. Yet, the general feeling outside the circles of political power is that Italians have been cheated once again. For all the hype around the new government, the political agenda is still dictated by Brussels. Nor does this cabinet have any more democratic legitimacy than the previous unelected one.”


“Despite the political makeover, there is a strong continuity between the new and the previous government. Following Berlusconi’s resignation from premiership in November 2011, the centre-left and centre-right coalitions agreed to support an unelected technocratic government. Monti and his cabinet would take care of the economy. The political parties would work together to implement the necessary institutional reforms to make the political system more stable and responsive to the current environment.

By the time new elections were announced in December 2012, the parliament had yet to approve any institutional reform. MPs also failed to modify an absurd electoral law pushed by Berlusconi in 2005. If the winning coalition tops the polls by a narrow margin, the current system makes it virtually impossible for the winners to secure an absolute majority in parliament. The latter is needed to form an autonomous and stable government. This is exactly what happened in February this year.

It is unlikely that after a year and half of legislative standstill, Berlusconi and the Democrats will be able to work together on a shared agenda of reforms. There is a serious risk that in the next general elections Italians will vote without an electoral law that guarantees a clear winner and a lasting government.”


“Meanwhile, the 5 Star Movement continues to advance in opinion polls, rallying popular support for a radical overhaul of the current political order. As the old guard keeps on stalling in self-defence, 5 Star Movement’s chances of dealing the final blow to a moribund party system are on the rise.”