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12 September 1977: Steve Biko RIP

33 years ago thug South African police murdered anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko. He died in Pretoria prison at the age of 30.

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The South African anti-apartheid struggle is often invoked in com­par­i­son to the Pales­tin­ian struggle. The tra­jec­to­ries do parallel one another in places. But hopefully, not in others. The South African Gini co-efficient is off the scale. The anti-apartheid struggle triumphed by turning South Africa into a country where blacks, too, could dominate other blacks eco­nom­i­cally. One reason amongst many to frame Pales­tin­ian lib­er­a­tion within broader anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics, and not to pur­pose­fully cleave the movement from such politics.

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8 comments to 12 September 1977: Steve Biko RIP

  • I think this an extra­or­di­nar­ily cogent point, espe­cially in light of what happened in South Africa. One could say that there was a political victory, but none of the other anti-apartheid goals of co-equality mate­ri­al­ized. As you said, there was a rise of some blacks in the man­age­r­ial class that learned how to effi­ciently exploit their own people (with a familiar kind gentle face). I have dealt with this on my blog, and consider the course of the remedy for the Pales­tini­ans in danger because of the large economic gap which has been created, which shows no sign of being closed.

    Part of the ANC Charter:

    “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;

    The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be trans­ferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;

    All other industry and trade shall be con­trolled to assist the wellbeing of the people;

    All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to man­u­fac­ture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions…”


    “It is played up as a major victory, the over­com­ing of Apartheid in South Africa, but was it REALLY defeated? Perhaps in part, its most prominant feature, the face of Apartheid — the exterior, what attention was drawn to. You could call what happened in South Africa a “partial” victory, that is, in the political realm. However, in the all important economic well being of the majority in South Africa they still languish.

    You might ask — “but how can this be?” Did not Nelson Madella promise — with the ANC the RDP — recon­struc­tion and devel­op­ment programs? Well, they just dis­ap­peared early on after the “victory.” There were these amazing “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” gath­er­ings, spurred on by Tutu sporting “for­give­ness,” and zero pros­e­cu­tions for unbe­liev­able murderous activity of the white apartheid regime. The plight of the people worsens, it gets no better.

    After all of this study I asked myself “has no one else seen this?” South Africa is just another cog in the wheel of white supremacy, is no one aware? Sure enough, early on someone had covered it and left a large footprint — it was once again, John Pilger. Did anyone listen to him? No? In the late 1990’s he does this doc­u­men­tary “Apartheid Did Not Die,” that is so obvious and searing bringing out all of these points that have done nothing but gotten worse since that time. Even the little hope he tries to wring about the tiny houses sprouting up here and there, and medical clinics at the time have dis­ap­peared with few and far between, and people stacked upon one another hope­lessly dying, those lucky enough to be seen.”


    The title is not mine, it is John Pilger’s. This is what I fear in regard to the Pales­tini­ans (and mourn for in South Africa), and as you said Max — “One reason amongst many to frame Pales­tin­ian lib­er­a­tion within broader anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics, and not to pur­pose­fully cleave the movement from such politics.”

    • Peter Gelder­loos makes some inter­est­ing points related to your comment in How Non-Violence Protects the State, a fas­ci­nat­ing anarchist polemic against pacifism. Struc­tures of power must be destroyed, in one way or another, or forcibly replaced. Doesn\‘t mean killing people, but just being aware that power in cap­i­tal­ist society will morph into other forms to protect itself. Local struggles always must be oriented towards a specific point on the horizon. We forget, South Africa/Brazil redux.

  • A year into the ANC rise to power they signed for a World Bank/IMF loan. Mind you, none of the wealth of the nation was shared by the people of South Africa, it stayed in the hands of a tiny white minority (see above). So, in order to make “the dreams come true” a loan agreement was signed with the most oppres­sive and ret­ro­grade stip­u­la­tions, and plunged the people into debt without the means of extrac­tion, a program of “struc­tural adjust­ment.” All con­sti­tu­tional promises were off, every­thing was pri­va­tized. Apartheid polit­i­cally defeated, nothing changed. Few homes that were there, resulted in thousands of evictions. Now, everyone waits for a rev­o­lu­tion that did not is a worldwide war of global proportions —


  • “Struc­tures of power must be destroyed, in one way or another, or forcibly replaced.”

    Yes, I agree with this, on my site I have a series of articles which you could call “dis­man­tling” the current structure. The only thing one must keep in mind is that power does not willingly step down — or, as another has said, “you have to shake the apple tree.”

  • I concur with Vered, this is a point of utmost impor­tance. The late Giovanni Arrighi lived through this proccess in Africa in the 1960s, when national lib­er­a­tion movements adopted devel­op­ment plans devised by either the West or the USSR, and sometimes both.

    In this instance, Petras says that much the same has happened in South America as well. Regard­less of what one thinks about his analysis of the Lobby, he has, in my view, accu­rately described the extent to which Venezuela and Bolivia actually became more dependent upon the global neolib­eral economy by remaining resource suppliers without insti­tut­ing land reform. In Venezuela, par­tic­u­larly, this has been a grievous error, as the country must still import much of its food supply.

    Brazil, which you mention briefly, is a different case, one in which the rela­tion­ship of domestic capital to pro­duc­tion mirrors that present elsewhere, even if that capital is accu­mu­lated within pension funds. Lula’s acquiesce to the direc­tives of the IMF was ben­e­fi­cial for domestic capital, tool.


    “This report presents a detailed analysis of changes in both poverty and inequal­ity since the fall of
    Apartheid, and the potential drivers of such devel­op­ments. Use is made of national survey data from 1993,
    2000 and 2008. These data show that South Africa’s high aggregate level of income inequal­ity increased
    between 1993 and 2008.”

    “Trends in South African Income Dis­tri­b­u­tion and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid”

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