John S Saul (2006): the Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa (Critical Essay) by Transformation

John S Saul (2006): the Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa (Critical Essay)

By Transformation

  • Release Date: 2007-09-01
  • Category: Social Science

Brief Description

John Saul's collection of essays on southern Africa from the past decade is organised into three main parts. The first part consists of some of Saul's reflections on capitalism, socialism and democracy in Africa. The second part considers the reasons for the failure of the various left or progressive state projects on the continent since the first years of decolonisation. The third part provides some more detailed insight into South Africa's own transition. Saul begins by outlining the history of what he calls the 'thirty years war for Southern African Liberation'. This starts with the banning of the liberation movements in South Africa and the rise of Tanzania as a base for launching armed struggles for liberation in the early 1960s, and ends with the liberation of Namibia and the unbanning of the South African liberation movements in 1990. He sets out his basic thesis here: that capitalism cannot deliver in Africa, either materially or politically, and that socialism--however unfeasible in may appear to be--is the only alternative. In sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa), Saul says, 'there is some capital but not a lot of capitalism. The predominant social relations are still not capitalist, nor is the prevailing logic of production' (17). Saul makes a powerful argument in this regard, showing that Africa is dominated by capitalism but that the vast majority of the population accrue very few of the material benefits of that system. This is a structural problem that cannot be resolved within a capitalist framework, especially where the ideologically dominant perception of Africa is that it 'is not so much a system of states, still less a continent of people in need of a better life, [but] simply a geographic--or geological --terrain, offering this or that opportunity to make money' (18). Saul does not hold out much hope for the survival of liberal democracy on the continent, given that 'the class and productive bases for a stable hegemonic bourgeoisie are just not there', and in reference to the debt that exploded following structural adjustment, 'democracy cannot sustain the debt, the debt cannot sustain democracy' (29).

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