Mbeki and human rights

Patrick Bond pbond at SPAMwn.apc.org
Fri Dec 17 22:57:01 MST 1999

What I like about this debate is that it's explicitly about power, and
there are plenty of concrete, not hypothetical applications. You
make many good points, Philip, and I concede my last argument
was muddled about strengthening int'l institutions, but I depart on

On 18 Dec 99, at 16:31, Philip L Ferguson wrote:
> It could be argued that you are comparing two very different
things.  There
> is actually a substantial difference between demanding
cancellation of the
> Third World debt - an anti-imperialist demand, at least potentially, and
> directed *against* imperialist institutions - and demanding
increased power
> *for* imperialist institutions, such as courts in Britain.
> I see the demand for the cancellation of the Third World debt as
similar to
> workers demanding wage rises - it ain't gonna change the world
or even make
> life all that much better than it is, but these are demands by the
> exploited and oppressed *against* the power of capital and they
open up the
> way for some improvements in life conditions and for further struggle.

If "the power of capital" is often -- in some cases, necessarily (e.g.,
SA during at least the first part of this century) -- exercised through
authoritarian or fascist states; and if specific rulers of those states
are (after sufficient slaughter of the left to be sure) dumped for one
reason or another (yes, we need some good debate on this list
about what was responsible for all the 1980s-90s "transitions" in S
& E Europe, L.America, East Asia and even Africa); and if there is
residual linkage between those rulers and the power of imperial
capital (eg, Swiss banking ties to Nazism or apartheid, or unpaid
debts left democrats by dictators), then demanding justice for
those rulers' legacy (and trying to jail them if they holiday in the
wrong place) is also, potentially, an anti-imperialist attack based
on "demands by the exploited and oppressed *against* the power
of capital and they open up the way for some improvements in life
conditions and for further struggle" as you put it.

That's what those Nigerian comrades are up to, as posted on the
other reply.

Then the question becomes tactical -- do we get any mileage out of
strengthening the Swiss courts by going to them to unveil
corruption in Lesotho dam projects, for instance (which was just
achieved a few months ago and has wonderfully revitalised our
languishing critique of capitalist/WBank dam-building for the benefit
of white, hedonistic Johannesburg water consumers)? If so, let's
go. If not (as our Alexandra township comrades learned from the
ridiculous World Bank Inspection Panel -- which rejected their 1998
claim against that Lesotho dam), then we use the experience to
delegitimise the double standards associated with imperial justice.

So yes, I'd say that an attack on Pinochet -- in English or Spanish
courts, and in the streets of Santiago -- is quite possibly (if we
make it so) an attack on int'l capital (ITT) and imperialism (Henry
K). And it SEEMS from this distance to open conditions for further
struggle by the Chilean left.

And so if Fidel gets kidnapped like Noriega to stand trial in Miami,
then I'll be the first outside the US embassy in Pretoria to get
arrested doing some cheeky things. While still hoping, in solidarity
with Chileans, that Pinochet goes to the dock.
Patrick Bond
(Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management)
home: 51 Somerset Road, Kensington 2094, Johannesburg
office: 22 Gordon Building, Wits University Parktown Campus
mailing address: PO Box 601 WITS 2050
phones:  (h) (2711) 614-8088; (o) 488-5917; fax 484-2729
emails:  (h) pbond at wn.apc.org; (o) bondp at zeus.mgmt.wits.ac.za

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