The problem with moral indignation

Patrick Bond pbond at
Tue Dec 7 00:43:29 MST 1999

Hear, hear.

On 6 Dec 99, at 14:20, Louis Proyect wrote:
> Unless I'm way offbase, it seems to me that the number one task in South
> Africa is to break through the illusions in the ANC program, which in many
> ways is Kerenskyism/1999. You sneer at the talk of nationalization when it
> is this very sort of topic that is swept under the rug by people like Thabo
> Mbeki. It would seem to be the number one job of Marxists in South Africa
> to find a way to break through reformist illusions, rather than to adapt to
> them which talk about the need of clean water, etc, absent of any
> engagement with political economy.

And of course there's also a major project underway here to talk
about free (decommodified) water and electricity THROUGH an
engagement with political economy, led by the excellent municipal
workers' union.

> In reality, the blather being put
> forward by Mick Hume is virtually identical not only to the ANC top
> muck-a-mucks but also what a Blairite just wrote in the latest Newsweek:

In reality, it's worse. The ANC/Alliance leadership's discourse
(blather) is far left of, and far less optimistic/cynical/confused than
Seattle-hating Hume. (True, the ANC's game then becomes "talk
left, act right.") Here's a sample comparison:


It is the best of times to be alive. Ever.
Mick Hume
The next person who says that the twentieth century has been the worst
era in human history should be made to spend the whole of the year 2000
going round on the London Eye, the non-stop big wheel by the Thames.
When they are at the top of that visionary machine, looking down on a
city that is a living monument to modern civilisation, perhaps they might
see things a little more clearly. At the very least, the Jeremiahs will be
turning their own stomachs instead of mine.
There have been plenty of setbacks and tragedies over the past century,
and there is no shortage of problems left to deal with in the world today.
But for all that, the fact is that people now are living longer, healthier and
wealthier lives than ever before in human history. And if we were to raise
our sights a little, we could be doing a lot better yet.


ANC/Alliance official discussion documents:

     The present crisis is, in fact, a global
     capitalist crisis, rooted in a classical
     crisis of overaccumulation and declining
     profitability. Declining profitability has
     been a general feature of the most
     developed economies over the last 25
     years. It is precisely declining
     profitability in the most advanced
     economies that has spurred the last
     quarter of a century of intensified
     globalisation. These trends have
     resulted in the greatly increased
     dominance (and exponential growth in
     the sheer quantity) of speculative
     finance capital, ranging uncontrolled
     over the globe in pursuit of higher
     returns ...
          As the depth and relative durability
     of the crisis have become apparent, the
     dominant economic paradigm (the
     neoliberal "Washington Consensus") has
     fallen into increasing disrepute... The
     dominant assumption in the 1990s has
     been that alignment with globalisation
     would guarantee economies more or
     less uninterrupted growth. The paradigm
     of an endlessly expanding global
     freeway, in which, to benefit, individual
     (and particularly developing) economies
     simply had to take the standard
     macroeconomic on-ramp (liberalisation,
     privatisation, deregulation, flexibility and
     a 3 per cent budget deficit) is now in

ANC Alliance, `The Global Economic Crisis
and its Implications for South Africa,'
Discussion Document, Alliance Summit,
Johannesburg, 24 October 1998.

     If in the past the bourgeois state
     blatantly represented the interests of
     private capital, today its enslavement is
     even the more pronounced, with its
     policies and actions beholden to the
     whims of owners of stupendously large
     amounts of capital which is in constant
     flight across stocks, currencies and
     state boundaries. More often than not,
     governments even in the most advance
     countries assert their role in the
     economy merely by "sending signals to
     the markets," which they can only
     second-guess. If in the past, the Bretton
     Woods Institutions (the IMF and World
     Bank) and the World Trade Organisation
     pursued the same interests as these
     powerful corporations and governments,
     today their prescriptions are turned on
     their heads as "the animal spirits" sway
     moods in a set of motions that have no
     apparent rhythm or logic.
          Yet there is rhythm and logic. It is
     the logic of unbridled pursuit of profit
     which has little direct bearing to
     production ...
          What this in fact means is that, in
     terms of the broad array of economic
     and social policy, information and even
     political integrity, the state has lost
     much of its national sovereignty. This
     applies more so to developing
     countries. While on the one hand they
     are called upon to starve and prettify
     themselves to compete on the "catwalk"
     of attracting limited amounts of foreign
     direct investment, they are on the other
     hand reduced to bulimia by the vagaries
     of an extremely impetuous and
     whimsical market suitor!

ANC, `The State, Property Relations and Social
Transformation,' ANC Discussion Document
(mimeo) reprinted in the African Communist,
4th quarter 1998.

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