Monthly Archives: June 2015

Dear Juncker, don’t blame Syriza

From BBC Greece crisis live coverage

“EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker expressed concern about exactly how well-informed the Greek people were about proposed reforms, ahead of a referendum. ‘What do the Greek people know about our (the EU’s) flexibility and determination to help them? What do they know about the details of our common proposals? What do they know of this latest offer we published yesterday? …It would be advisable for the Greek government to tell the truth to the Greek people instead of simplifying the message.'”

Dear Juncker, European technocrats have consciously decided to keep Greeks and other Europeans misinformed, for many years now – claiming that only ‘enlightened’ experts working in Bruxelles could truly understand and decide over economic matters affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Can you seriously blame Syriza for that? The way your Commission has conducted its business up to now is part of the problem, not the solution.


Expansionism and xenophobia: the new South African consensus

After Zuma criticised other African nations rehashing neocolonial stereotypes about corruption and ‘failed states’, he now signs deals with his African neighbours from the Southern Africa Development Community to absorb jobless South African graduates. Only a few months ago, he and many other national leaders have openly stated that African migrants are not welcome in South Africa – an intention clearly supported by military operations to deport ‘illegal’ migrants in the midst of xenophobic attacks.

It is unlikely that Zuma and his allies have changed their minds. They quite possibly feel that South African graduates are entitled to work in other African countries, while the opposite is put into question. Of course the droves of white South Africans who have moved in the last decades to other African countries for business – from mining to construction, from supermarkets to junk food chains – have already asserted their ‘privilege’. They actively participate in the building of enclave economies where technical and managerial cadres pay themselves exorbitant salaries while exploiting workers, who are paid at much lower level than their South African counterparts. Meanwhile, just as South African apartheid regime used to do with his dependent countries (Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana), the growth of South African business is usually at the expense of local companies, put out of business by cut-throat competition and left alone by neoliberal government policies ‘opening up’ national economies to foreign investment. Needless to say, South Africa is in good company, with Western and Asian investors participating in the same destructive game.

Despite the intense racial conflict at home, the expansionist South African project into the continent marks an interesting kind of ‘multi-racial’ nationalist consensus at the top. At the expense of the rest of Africa, which is exploited as a growing market for South African business and skilled labour force, while foreign Africans have become dispensable labour within South Africa. And at the expense of the vast majority of South Africans, who see no benefit from the supernormal profits made abroad by a small class of capitalists and managers. When disenfranchised workers feeling the hit of the structural decline at home challenge the system – see Marikana – their massacre is covered up as ‘accidental’. Even the xenophobic crowds encouraged by the justificationist rhetoric of some government leaders are quickly disciplined through military force, after they carry out their ‘dirty’ deeds.

Make no mistake: pinning this solely on Zuma and the ANC would be unfair, and politically naive. There is a clear, if tacit, consensus across the national mainstream: the DA, the main opposition party – and its most powerful supporters, the white elites controlling top business – are in full agreement with the ANC leadership on the basic tenets of the expansionist post-apartheid state. Whenever serious threats to state rule and big capital interests arise, order should be restored. At all costs, as Marikana and the migrants’ pogroms painfully remind us.

White womanhood and the reproduction of whiteness

I came across an insightful article by Cecily Jones on colonial race ideologies and the centrality of gender in the reproduction of whiteness. This is a neglected aspect in debates around race and racism, in fact a common argument by many liberals remains that people are ‘free’ to marry (hence socially reproduce) within their own racial (or ‘cultural’) group, and that should not be of concern in a ‘multi-racial’ society – in other words, this narrative claims that this has to do with socio-cultural preferences, and does not by itself produce racism and racial inequality.

This perspective can be easily shown as problematic when one considers some of Jones’ observations on colonial Caribbean society:

“… while white males of all stations freely appropriated and exploited the sexuality and reproductive labour of African women, they rigorously enforced prohibitions against relationships between ‘their’ white women and all black males.

This regulation of white colonial womanhood became the essential aspect upon which whiteness would stand or fall. Sexual relations between white females and black males posed a profound threat to the racial social order. Colonial law dictated that, for unfree individuals, children followed the legal status of their mother. This ensured that African women’s bodies were the literal embodiment of unfreedom, while white wombs served as the incubators of freedom. As white males could not imagine a future population of free coloured people, they secured both their own patriarchal power and white supremacy through the regulation of white female sexuality.”

The context of former British settler colonies in Africa is different, especially when colonialism was not preceded by slave trade. Yet, in these societies white womanhood was, and in many ways still is, key in the reproduction of whiteness. This is something that liberal discourse often tends to miss in favour of a focus on race and racism as produced by prejudices and beliefs as rhetorical devices, rather than social practices involving marriage, relationships and other social institutions.