Roots of Transformation International

Roots of Transformation International (“Roots”), now an international non-governmental organization (NGO)

peace

Roots of Transformation International (“Roots”), founder, Carmen delRosaario, announced earlier today that Roots of Transformation International has been recognized as an international non-governmental organization (NGO).

She writes,

“Dear Friends,
I am happy to share with you that Roots of Transformation International (“Roots”) has been recognized as an international NGO, and it up and running! As many of you know, I have spent years reflecting and talking about creating Roots. This idea has been in the making for many years, and this idea is now a reality. 
Roots is committed to equipping people with the knowledge, wisdom, and tools needed to make decisions that will positively impact their futures- as individuals, for their families and for their nation. 
Roots is guided by knowledge and experience acquired from over 25 years working in different parts of the world, learning and sharing knowledge in diverse cultures and communities, working with men, women, and young people from all walks of life. The focus of Roots’ work is on how violence, including genocide, female genital mutilation, child soldier, sexual violence, racism and more affects the physical and mental health of so many people around the world. However, we do not stop there. The goal of Roots is to engage and empower individuals, families and communities to interrupt the cycles that perpetuate these forms of violence, starting with the self. 

DSC00577

Roots of Transformation working with men for non-violence in the DRC

According to a popular quote from Einstein, “the world as we have created it is a process of our thinking, and it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Roots is creating sustainable change in behavior by renewing individual, community and group minds.  For example, in my experience working on prevention of female genital mutilation with the people who cut the girls (sometimes as early as 2 months old), some of them are telling me that “well, they also did it to me” or “I want my girl to get married”, reasons based on a mindset that they have not themselves fully understood or agree with . I call this the cycle of knowledge, information, and practices that repeat from generation to generation, and which can be interrupted- not by simply telling or asking people to stop, but through transformational processes that result in people wanting and creating a different outcome for themselves and their children.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Carmen del Rosario, Founder, Roots of Transformation International

About Roots of Transformation International

Roots of Transformation International is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that facilitates organizational stability, change, and transformation by the renewal of individuals’ minds through individual and institutional capacity building. Roots works in collaboration and partnerships with a wide range of government, religious and civic organizations, as well as both national and international NGOs. These partnerships are the means to provide technical assistance and support to local communities by increasing their knowledge of themselves in a holistic manner; a tripartite definition of self as being (1) physical, (2) mental, and (3) spiritual. Roots is committed to equipping people with the knowledge, wisdom, and tools needed to make decisions that will positively impact their futures-as individuals, for their families and for their nation. 
At this point, Roots needs your help in order to continue this work. This Mother’s Day, please consider supporting Roots in our efforts to support hundreds of women and girls of all ages in their struggle to survive the consequences of female genital mutilation, and in our work to bring an end to this harmful practice.

There is no such thing as too small, even just $10 or $20 can go far in some communities.
With much appreciation,
Carmen” del Rosario
Donations can be made via PayPal

OCG encourages you to donate. No where else has the need for non-violence work and transforming the meaning of community taking a deep meaning in the lives of each citizen more needed.  Roots has been there fighting a culture of non-violence in communities struggling to survive the cultural remnants of war and genocide.

You can listen to Carmen delRosario sharing her passion and hopes for Roots (ROT) here:

http://bit.ly/ROOTSCarmendelRosario

03-29 Carmen

Farewell Brother Elombe φ The Pan-African Community Honors Elombe Brath

In Remembrance of Brother Elombe

Playthell Benjamin
Commentaries On the Times

Pleading the cause of African Peoples

Praise Song for a Tireless Pan-African Soldier φ

A more committed fighter for black liberation

Has yet to be born

And his mother is dead

Now that he has danced and joined the pantheon of honored ancestors

We shall never see his like again

For when the Gods fashioned Elombe Brath

They smashed the mold

I first met Elombe Brath at the Speaker’s Corner, which was at the intersection of 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in his beloved Harlem, 52 years ago. There was no state office building there at the time, and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. – for whom the building is named and whose statue now stands on that spot, – was alive and well and giving the southern redneck crackers hell…… in the halls of Congress. Where the State Office building now stands was Michaux’s book store – which displayed a sign over the entrance that announced: “The House of Proper Propaganda!”

There one could purchase every book on black history and radical political thought in print. It was a worthy annex to the Schomburg Collection, the largest collection of materials on the black world to be found anywhere. It was here that leaders of the newly liberated African nations and revolutionary movements fighting to rid Africa of all vestiges of European colonialism on the continent spoke to the people of Harlem.

Kwame Nkrumah, who led the first Ghana, sub-Saharan African nation to independence spoke there; Robert Mugabe spoke there just before he negotiated the independence of Zimbabwe at Whitehall in Britain, and the great Madiba, Nelson Mandela spoke there right after he was released from the prisons of the Apartheid South African government. Elombe was the Master of Ceremonies on that great day and he invited Duruba bin Wahad, an Afro-American revolutionary who had spent 27 years in the prisons of racist America, just as Mandela had done in South Africa, to speak.

This corner was also where home grown Pan-Africanist revolutionaries like Carlos Cook – who first tutored Elombe in Black Nationalism – “Pork Chop Davis,” Malcolm X, and Drs. Ben and John Hendrik Clarke held forth in grand orations that recounted the African past, envisioned the redemption of the motherland and called for a renaissance that would create a modern African culture capable of producing a mighty civilization that could defend African peoples against European domination everywhere. It was an incubator of revolutionary freedom dreams, a place where revolutionaries came for spiritual fortification and freedom highs.

It was here that a curious Vietnamese sailor – who visited New York on a French freighter and was chased uptown by white racist who told him his place was in Harlem – accidentally stumbled upon a rally where the great orator and Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey was holding forth. He was so inspired by what he witnessed on this corner that he went home and began organizing a nationalist movement in his country. When white folks heard of him again he had crushed the French army at Dien bien Phu, and was known to the world as Ho Chi Mien!

This is the corner where Elombe and I first met. I was up on a ladder, as was the custom at the time, running down an impassioned Marxist rap. Standing below me checking me out with a blasé stare was this sharp dude, a Harlem hep cat who looked to smooth to move. He held a stack of what seemed to be magazines under his arm, and he was accompanied by another dude fumbling with a camera who kind of favored him and I surmised that they must be related.

I thought I was really droppin science, the “Science of Society,” as I had been told by my political tutors – a very impressive group of older black radical leftist intellectual/activists that Queen Mother Moore had recently introduced me too. But when I came down from the ladder, the guy with the magazines said “Where you from Jack….that stuff you talkin went outta style in the forties here in Harlem. Revolutionary Pan-African Nationalism is what’s happenin now brother….you got to check out George Padmore Brother…Pan-Africanism or Communism!”

He introduced himself as Ronnie Brathwaite, and the other guy as his brother Cecil – they would later become Elombe and Kwame. Before I could recover from his cavalier dismissal of my speech, he dropped a copy of the magazine on me; which turned out to be a softback book of cartoons titled “Color Us Cullud.”

I took the book and when I got back to Philadelphia, where I was living at the time, I gave it a close reading and was thoroughly fascinated by its contents. To say that I had never seen cartoons of such power and irreverence is an understatement. I had seen scandalous cartoons before, such as the notorious “Tijuana Bibles,” which featured all of the most popular cartoons from the nation’s newspapers and animated shorts in the movie theaters that preceded the feature films, performing pornographic acts.

But these cartoons were irreverent in a different way: they were incendiary political statements. I can still remember some of those cartoons as if Elombe gave them to me yesterday, such was their power. In fact, one of his biggest fans was Malcolm X – even tho he took a little swipe at them too.

Although most people know Elombe as a tireless activist, compelling orator and walking archive of the African revolution who seemed to have the entire history of the modern African struggle against European colonialism neatly filed in his head, and could call it up in detail at will…the Griot of the African revolution. He was all that and more.

Yet Elombe was by training and sensibility an artist. He was the first person I ever met who viewed art as a potent weapon for liberation and knew how to wield it with the devastating effect of a Zulu warrior with an assegai. Since Elombe was a Black Nationalist he was naturally skeptical of, and even hostile to, the integrationist ideology that was the dominant trend in the mid-twentieth century.

He belonged to a tradition that had been the reigning ideology of black Americans in the mid-19th century, a time when secular black intellectuals like Dr. Martin Delaney and Robert Campbell as well as scholarly clergymen like Bishop Alexander Crummell and Edward Wilmont Blyden were all ardent nationalists and emigrationist that actually travelled to Africa on a mission of redemption. They were Pan-Africanists before the term was invented.

The great scholar on this subject, Professor Wilson Jeremiah Moses, tells us in his seminal book, “On the Wings of Ethiopia,” that Black Nationalist ideology was so pervasive during this period, when millions of Africans in America were regarded as livestock under southern laws crafted by slave masters, that it is virtually impossible to distinguish black Christianity from Black Nationalism.

This is the tradition that Marcus Garvey inherited and plugged into when he arrived in Harlem from Jamaica during the second decade of the 20th century, and explains why he was able to build a mass movement based on Black Nationalist ideology among the black minority in America and not in the West Indies where there was a black majority.

Elombe Brath belonged to this tradition and forged and ideology that was much like that of Kwame Nkrumah, who defined his philosophy of liberation as being part Garveyism and part Marxist. I think Dr. Clark pegged him just right when he said “Elombe is a good Garveyite and a middling Marxist.”

Hence Elombe’s political cartoons reflected his nationalist ideology and contempt for integrationist doctrine, just as Bishop Crummell expressed his contempt for integrationist in the 19th century by constantly referring to the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass as “that mulatto showman!” For instance, among Elombe’s drawings was a cartoon of SNCC activist marching with a big banner that read “Masochism is our Stick Baby!”

His thinly veiled reference to Dr. King as “Reverend Eat A. Chicken Wing,” or his series of caricatured images of Sammy Davis Jr. under the headline “Sammy Davis Jr. is a Race Man…racing after white women, racing after white society, etc were poignant statements that raised the art of the political cartoon to a high level.. It is a testament to the power of these images and their biting witty scandalous captions that I remember them so graphically after half a century!

It was Elombe’s remarkable understanding of the power of art to inspire and fuel a movement for liberation that led him, in conjunction with his brother Kwame, to found the African Jazz Art Society in 1956 and recruit the great Jazz artists Max Roach and Abby Lincoln – the First Couple of what would soon become the Blacks Arts Movement in the 1960’s – to join them in their effort to create and promote a revolutionary black art. There are some highly influential art movements whose origins can be traced to a particular time and place.

For instance DaDa, – a European art of random choice born of a loss of faith in organized modern technological civilization in the aftermath of the barbarism of World War I – can be traced to the Café Voltaire in Geneva Switzerland. And the Bebop revolution, in which Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Kenny “Klook” Clarke transformed modern western music, can be located in Minton’s Playhouse here in Harlem.

Thus the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, which changed the cultural consciousness of African Americans, began with the founding of the African Jazz Art Society in New York City. While others have emerged in popular lore as “The Father of the Black Arts Movement,” the real fathers of the movement are Elombe, Kwame and Max Roach. For the record, when these Brothers founded the African Jazz art Society, Leroi Jones, who would become Amiri Baraka over a decade later, was happily married to Hettie Cohen, living in Greenwich Village, and was a leading poet in the Beat literary movement.

By virtue of the fact that Elombe was an artist he saw the black struggle in visual terms, and he was well aware that black people everywhere were inundated with racist images designed to degrade us, to portray us as less attractive than the lighter races. If virtue itself was white, and God was a blue eyed white man with long flowing blond hair, then where does that leave those of us who are “of the deepest dye” – as the 18th century black scientist and designer of Washington DC Benjamin Banneker described himself in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, accompanied by a mathematical treatise, defending the intellect, indeed the humanity, of the African.

Elombe, like the great Afro-Brazilian scholar/activist Abdias do Naciemento, saw attacking the white standard of beauty as fundamental to the psychological liberation of black people who had suffered centuries of slavery and racial discrimination. Do Nascimento addressed the problem by organizing beauty contests for black women and mulatto women in Brazil, and The African Jazz Art Society, which combined jazz performances with exhibitions of visual art, added fashion shows by the Grandassa Models, stunning black women with Afro hair styles and Afrocentric clothing.

They would host shows with titles like “Naturally 63.” I remember when they came to Philadelphia to do a show and I thought I had stumbled into an African wonderland, where Black was unquestionably beautiful. It was a revelation to many people. Hence the slogan “black is beautiful,” natural hair styles and Afro-centric dress all started at the African Jazz Art Society, and spread across black America…and then the black world, like wildfire.

I know whereof I speak because I witnessed it! What is all the more remarkable is that Kwame and Elombe were teenagers when they first came up with some of these ideas. They began by promoting Jazz concerts in the Bronx and their first artist was the great Betty Carter – which is a demonstration of their exquisite artistic taste. And furthermore they did this without following the dictates of some well formulated theory, figuring it out as they went about. When they encountered obstacles they just improvised like the performances of the Jazz musicians they so admired.

Like Duke Ellington, who came to New York as an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn but found his greater calling in music, Elombe would find a greater calling in revolutionary struggle. And just as Duke’s training as a visual artist greatly influenced the character of his music, Elombe’s essential artist’s soul affected his approach to politics. Both Duke and Elombe were brilliant autodidacts, self-taught men who made highly original contributions in their chosen field of endeavor.

In this sense Elombe belongs to a larger tradition of the broadly learned activist autodidact. The tradition of Frederick Douglas, CLR James, J. A. Rogers, Hubert Harrison, John Hendrik Clarke, Queen Mother Moore, James Boggs, Harold Cruse, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, et al. Although Elombe never got a college degree, I don’t know any academic that had a greater command of the facts regarding the African liberation movement, and its relationship to the world revolutionary movements of the 20th century.

I say this having taught African history and politics in the WEB Dubois Department of Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts, alongside Chreif Guelal, who was a central committee member of the Algerian National Liberation Front, that fought and won one of the greatest revolutions in the twentieth century, and had served as an aid de camp to Dr. Franz Fanon, one of the most profound black revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century.

The liberation of African peoples is an amazingly complex subject that requires knowledge of European, Asian, and Latin American history and political affairs. The program Elombe hosted for many years on WBAI, “Afrikalidescope,” was a vital forum for serious informed discussion of African issues that has no counterpart in American media.

As an activist we can only marvel at the scope of his interests and the source of his energy. He was a soldier in the struggle 24/7. It is as if he felt that the weight of the entire black world was on his shoulders. I remember being at a party once and Elombe disappeared. When I asked where he was, somebody said “He’s probably in the bathroom holding a meeting!”

It is nothing short of amazing that, working without any kind of foundation or philanthropic support, Elombe managed to carry on the work of providing support for leaders of African liberation movements exiled in the US. For half a century! Beginning in 1975 this work was conducted under the auspices of the Lumumba Coalition, an organization Elombe founded and named in honor of Patrice Lumumba, the assassinated leader of the independence movement in the Belgium Congo who became its first Prime Minister. Some of the African revolutionaries Elombe supported became important government officials after winning independence.

Thus he could have left the US and spent his later years as an honored guest in Africa, but he never abandoned our struggle. He visited Africa, basked in the abundant accolades, yet he always returned to the protracted struggle on the home front, much of it as a member of the December 12th Coalition, and remained a fighter until the end – a noble warrior carried out on his shield. Remarkably, commitment to the struggle for the advancement of the black working class seems to be encoded in the genes of this family.

In Barbados, the ancestral home of the Braithwaite family, Elombe’s cousin, Clenell Wickham, waged a long fight in behalf of black workers from his position as an Editor of the Herald, a local newspaper, during the era of British colonialism. Yet throughout his many years in the fight, Elombe maintained a job as a graphic artist at WABC television, where he was a strong union man and shop steward, going in to work on the graveyard shift after a day of movement activity.

He was there when Gil Nobel came to ABC to host Like It Is; he reached out to Gil and his contributions to the character of that show is beyond measure….and was responsible for much of its popularity among serious movement people. Elombe was responsible for virtually all of the coverage of African issues, after all before coming to ABC Gil was a newsman on black radio. He, like most of the black newsmen in major white media at the time, was hired as a result of the black urban rebellions when white reporters were afraid to go into black communities to cover the story.

Gil Noble had not spent his life dealing with African issues and radical Afro-American American movements like Elombe; hence Gil was mightily instructed by their association. The fact that both of them were Jazz lovers – Gil was a pretty good pianist – no doubt helped to cement their relationship.

Any remembrance of the life of Elombe must point out that, unlike all the so-called “revolutionaries” who claim they were too busy making the revolution to marry their baby’s mama and raise their kids, Elombe was a steadfast husband and father who along with his wife of many years, Helene Normsa Brath, a former Grandassa Model, raised seven sons in Harlem. His wife homeschooled some of them and they went on to college, none of them went to jail!

If this were his lone achievement in these trouble times, it would be worthy of sustained applause. My standards for heroes are rigorous; hence I have few of them. Elombe was at the top of my list, a hero worthy of our youths; the highest expression of manhood. A mighty tree has fallen in Harlem….and we are all poorer because of it. So I say to my departed comrade: Hail and farewell!

**********************

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

May 27, 2014

**Photos of Elombe by: Kwame Brathwaite

Photo of Kwame by: Playthell Benjamin

The Case for Reparations φ Ta-Nehisi Coates l The Atlantic

Atlantic Reparations

The Case for Reparations

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.

For the LIVE and Interactive article


Ta-Nehisi Coates

MAY 21, 2014

And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15

Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there iscommonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.

— John Locke, “Second Treatise”

By our unpaid labor and suffering, we have earned the right to the soil, many times over and over, and now we are determined to have it.

— Anonymous, 1861

I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”

Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law.

Clyde Ross, photographed in November 2013 in his home in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, where he has lived for more than 50 years. When he first tried to get a legitimate mortgage, he was denied; mortgages were effectively not available to black people. (Carlos Javier Ortiz)

In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state. “You and I know what’s the best way to keep the nigger from voting,” blustered Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi senator and a proud Klansman. “You do it the night before the election.”

The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants. Tools and necessities were advanced against the return on the crop, which was determined by the employer. When farmers were deemed to be in debt—and they often were—the negative balance was then carried over to the next season. A man or woman who protested this arrangement did so at the risk of grave injury or death. Refusing to work meant arrest under vagrancy laws and forced labor under the state’s penal system.

Well into the 20th century, black people spoke of their flight from Mississippi in much the same manner as their runagate ancestors had. In her 2010 book, The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of Eddie Earvin, a spinach picker who fled Mississippi in 1963, after being made to work at gunpoint. “You didn’t talk about it or tell nobody,” Earvin said. “You had to sneak away.”

When Clyde Ross was still a child, Mississippi authorities claimed his father owed $3,000 in back taxes. The elder Ross could not read. He did not have a lawyer. He did not know anyone at the local courthouse. He could not expect the police to be impartial. Effectively, the Ross family had no way to contest the claim and no protection under the law. The authorities seized the land. They seized the buggy. They took the cows, hogs, and mules. And so for the upkeep of separate but equal, the entire Ross family was reduced to sharecropping.

This was hardly unusual. In 2001, the Associated Press published a three-part investigation into the theft of black-owned land stretching back to the antebellum period. The series documented some 406 victims and 24,000 acres of land valued at tens of millions of dollars. The land was taken through means ranging from legal chicanery to terrorism. “Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia,” the AP reported, as well as “oil fields in Mississippi” and “a baseball spring training facility in Florida.”

Clyde Ross was a smart child. His teacher thought he should attend a more challenging school. There was very little support for educating black people in Mississippi. But Julius Rosenwald, a part owner of Sears, Roebuck, had begun an ambitious effort to build schools for black children throughout the South. Ross’s teacher believed he should attend the local Rosenwald school. It was too far for Ross to walk and get back in time to work in the fields. Local white children had a school bus. Clyde Ross did not, and thus lost the chance to better his education.

Then, when Ross was 10 years old, a group of white men demanded his only childhood possession—the horse with the red coat. “You can’t have this horse. We want it,” one of the white men said. They gave Ross’s father $17.

“I did everything for that horse,” Ross told me. “Everything. And they took him. Put him on the racetrack. I never did know what happened to him after that, but I know they didn’t bring him back. So that’s just one of my losses.”

Sharecropper boys in 1936 (Carly Mydans/Library of Congress)

The losses mounted. As sharecroppers, the Ross family saw their wages treated as the landlord’s slush fund. Landowners were supposed to split the profits from the cotton fields with sharecroppers. But bales would often disappear during the count, or the split might be altered on a whim. If cotton was selling for 50 cents a pound, the Ross family might get 15 cents, or only five. One year Ross’s mother promised to buy him a $7 suit for a summer program at their church. She ordered the suit by mail. But that year Ross’s family was paid only five cents a pound for cotton. The mailman arrived with the suit. The Rosses could not pay. The suit was sent back. Clyde Ross did not go to the church program.

It was in these early years that Ross began to understand himself as an American—he did not live under the blind decree of justice, but under the heel of a regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle. He thought about fighting. “Just be quiet,” his father told him. “Because they’ll come and kill us all.”

Clyde Ross grew. He was drafted into the Army. The draft officials offered him an exemption if he stayed home and worked. He preferred to take his chances with war. He was stationed in California. He found that he could go into stores without being bothered. He could walk the streets without being harassed. He could go into a restaurant and receive service.

Ross was shipped off to Guam. He fought in World War II to save the world from tyranny. But when he returned to Clarksdale, he found that tyranny had followed him home. This was 1947, eight years before Mississippi lynched Emmett Till and tossed his broken body into the Tallahatchie River. The Great Migration, a mass exodus of 6 million African Americans that spanned most of the 20th century, was now in its second wave. The black pilgrims did not journey north simply seeking better wages and work, or bright lights and big adventures. They were fleeing the acquisitive warlords of the South. They were seeking the protection of the law.

Clyde Ross was among them. He came to Chicago in 1947 and took a job as a taster at Campbell’s Soup. He made a stable wage. He married. He had children. His paycheck was his own. No Klansmen stripped him of the vote. When he walked down the street, he did not have to move because a white man was walking past. He did not have to take off his hat or avert his gaze. His journey from peonage to full citizenship seemed near-complete. Only one item was missing—a home, that final badge of entry into the sacred order of the American middle class of the Eisenhower years.

In 1961, Ross and his wife bought a house in North Lawndale, a bustling community on Chicago’s West Side. North Lawndale had long been a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, but a handful of middle-class African Americans had lived there starting in the ’40s. The community was anchored by the sprawling Sears, Roebuck headquarters. North Lawndale’s Jewish People’s Institute actively encouraged blacks to move into the neighborhood, seeking to make it a “pilot community for interracial living.” In the battle for integration then being fought around the country, North Lawndale seemed to offer promising terrain. But out in the tall grass, highwaymen, nefarious as any Clarksdale kleptocrat, were lying in wait.

Three months after Clyde Ross moved into his house, the boiler blew out. This would normally be a homeowner’s responsibility, but in fact, Ross was not really a homeowner. His payments were made to the seller, not the bank. And Ross had not signed a normal mortgage. He’d bought “on contract”: a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting—while offering the benefits of neither. Ross had bought his house for $27,500. The seller, not the previous homeowner but a new kind of middleman, had bought it for only $12,000 six months before selling it to Ross. In a contract sale, the seller kept the deed until the contract was paid in full—and, unlike with a normal mortgage, Ross would acquire no equity in the meantime. If he missed a single payment, he would immediately forfeit his $1,000 down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself.

The men who peddled contracts in North Lawndale would sell homes at inflated prices and then evict families who could not pay—taking their down payment and their monthly installments as profit. Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. “He loads them up with payments they can’t meet,” an office secretary told The Chicago Daily Newsof her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. “Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.”

Ross had tried to get a legitimate mortgage in another neighborhood, but was told by a loan officer that there was no financing available. The truth was that there was no financing for people like Clyde Ross. From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from “restrictive covenants” to bombings, to keep their neighborhoods segregated.

Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated “A,” indicated “in demand” neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked “a single foreigner or Negro.” These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion. Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage.

Explore Redlining in Chicago

A 1939 Home Owners’ Loan Corporation “Residential Security Map” of Chicago shows discrimination against low-income and minority neighborhoods. The residents of the areas marked in red (representing “hazardous” real-estate markets) were denied FHA-backed mortgages. (Map development by Frankie Dintino)

“A government offering such bounty to builders and lenders could have required compliance with a nondiscrimination policy,” Charles Abrams, the urban-studies expert who helped create the New York City Housing Authority, wrote in 1955. “Instead, the FHA adopted a racial policy that could well have been culled from the Nuremberg laws.”

The devastating effects are cogently outlined by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro in their 1995 book, Black Wealth/White Wealth:

Locked out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history, African Americans who desired and were able to afford home ownership found themselves consigned to central-city communities where their investments were affected by the “self-fulfilling prophecies” of the FHA appraisers: cut off from sources of new investment[,] their homes and communities deteriorated and lost value in comparison to those homes and communities that FHA appraisers deemed desirable.

In Chicago and across the country, whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport. “It was like people who like to go out and shoot lions in Africa. It was the same thrill,” a housing attorney told the historian Beryl Satter in her 2009 book, Family Properties. “The thrill of the chase and the kill.”

The kill was profitable. At the time of his death, Lou Fushanis owned more than 600 properties, many of them in North Lawndale, and his estate was estimated to be worth $3 million. He’d made much of this money by exploiting the frustrated hopes of black migrants like Clyde Ross. During this period, according to one estimate, 85 percent of all black home buyers who bought in Chicago bought on contract. “If anybody who is well established in this business in Chicago doesn’t earn $100,000 a year,” a contract seller told The Saturday Evening Post in 1962, “he is loafing.”

Contract sellers became rich. North Lawndale became a ghetto.

Clyde Ross still lives there. He still owns his home. He is 91, and the emblems of survival are all around him—awards for service in his community, pictures of his children in cap and gown. But when I asked him about his home in North Lawndale, I heard only anarchy.

“We were ashamed. We did not want anyone to know that we were that ignorant,” Ross told me. He was sitting at his dining-room table. His glasses were as thick as his Clarksdale drawl. “I’d come out of Mississippi where there was one mess, and come up here and got in another mess. So how dumb am I? I didn’t want anyone to know how dumb I was.

“When I found myself caught up in it, I said, ‘How? I just left this mess. I just left no laws. And no regard. And then I come here and get cheated wide open.’ I would probably want to do some harm to some people, you know, if I had been violent like some of us. I thought, ‘Man, I got caught up in this stuff. I can’t even take care of my kids.’ I didn’t have enough for my kids. You could fall through the cracks easy fighting these white people. And no law.”

But fight Clyde Ross did. In 1968 he joined the newly formed Contract Buyers League—a collection of black homeowners on Chicago’s South and West Sides, all of whom had been locked into the same system of predation. There was Howell Collins, whose contract called for him to pay $25,500 for a house that a speculator had bought for $14,500. There was Ruth Wells, who’d managed to pay out half her contract, expecting a mortgage, only to suddenly see an insurance bill materialize out of thin air—a requirement the seller had added without Wells’s knowledge. Contract sellers used every tool at their disposal to pilfer from their clients. They scared white residents into selling low. They lied about properties’ compliance with building codes, then left the buyer responsible when city inspectors arrived. They presented themselves as real-estate brokers, when in fact they were the owners. They guided their clients to lawyers who were in on the scheme.

The Contract Buyers League fought back. Members—who would eventually number more than 500—went out to the posh suburbs where the speculators lived and embarrassed them by knocking on their neighbors’ doors and informing them of the details of the contract-lending trade. They refused to pay their installments, instead holding monthly payments in an escrow account. Then they brought a suit against the contract sellers, accusing them of buying properties and reselling in such a manner “to reap from members of the Negro race large and unjust profits.”

WATCH VIDEOThe story of Clyde Ross and the Contract Buyers League

In return for the “deprivations of their rights and privileges under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments,” the league demanded “prayers for relief”—payback of all moneys paid on contracts and all moneys paid for structural improvement of properties, at 6 percent interest minus a “fair, non-discriminatory” rental price for time of occupation. Moreover, the league asked the court to adjudge that the defendants had “acted willfully and maliciously and that malice is the gist of this action.”

Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer appealing to the government simply for equality. They were no longer fleeing in hopes of a better deal elsewhere. They were charging society with a crime against their community. They wanted the crime publicly ruled as such. They wanted the crime’s executors declared to be offensive to society. And they wanted restitution for the great injury brought upon them by said offenders. In 1968, Clyde Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer simply seeking the protection of the law. They were seeking reparations.

II.  “A Difference of Kind, Not Degree”

According to the most-recent statistics, North Lawndale is now on the wrong end of virtually every socioeconomic indicator. In 1930 its population was 112,000. Today it is 36,000. The halcyon talk of “interracial living” is dead. The neighborhood is 92 percent black. Its homicide rate is 45 per 100,000—triple the rate of the city as a whole. The infant-mortality rate is 14 per 1,000—more than twice the national average. Forty-three percent of the people in North Lawndale live below the poverty line—double Chicago’s overall rate. Forty-five percent of all households are on food stamps—nearly three times the rate of the city at large. Sears, Roebuck left the neighborhood in 1987, taking 1,800 jobs with it. Kids in North Lawndale need not be confused about their prospects: Cook County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center sits directly adjacent to the neighborhood.

North Lawndale is an extreme portrait of the trends that ail black Chicago. Such is the magnitude of these ailments that it can be said that blacks and whites do not inhabit the same city. The average per capita income of Chicago’s white neighborhoods is almost three times that of its black neighborhoods. When the Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson examined incarceration rates in Chicago in his 2012 book, Great American City, he found that a black neighborhood with one of the highest incarceration rates (West Garfield Park) had a rate more than 40 times as high as the white neighborhood with the highest rate (Clearing). “This is a staggering differential, even for community-level comparisons,” Sampson writes. “A difference of kind, not degree.”

Interactive Census Map

Explore race, unemployment, and vacancy rates over seven decades in Chicago. (Map design and development by Frankie Dintino)

In other words, Chicago’s impoverished black neighborhoods—characterized by high unemployment and households headed by single parents—are not simply poor; they are “ecologically distinct.” This “is not simply the same thing as low economic status,” writes Sampson. “In this pattern Chicago is not alone.”

The lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago. The humiliation of Whites Only signs are gone. Rates of black poverty have decreased. Black teen-pregnancy rates are at record lows—and the gap between black and white teen-pregnancy rates has shrunk significantly. But such progress rests on a shaky foundation, and fault lines are everywhere. The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from 1955 through 1970 and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.

This is not surprising. Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strikes—a medical emergency, divorce, job loss—the fall is precipitous.

And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood. Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000. “Blacks and whites inhabit such different neighborhoods,” Sharkey writes, “that it is not possible to compare the economic outcomes of black and white children.”

The implications are chilling. As a rule, poor black people do not work their way out of the ghetto—and those who do often face the horror of watching their children and grandchildren tumble back.

Even seeming evidence of progress withers under harsh light. In 2012, the Manhattan Institute cheerily noted that segregation had declined since the 1960s. And yet African Americans still remained—by far—the most segregated ethnic group in the country.

With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating.

One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. (In 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, responding to violence among young black males, put the blame on the family: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.” Nutter turned to those presumably fatherless babies: “Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”) The thread is as old as black politics itself. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect. And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.

The Contract Buyers League’s suit brought by Clyde Ross and his allies took direct aim at this inheritance. The suit was rooted in Chicago’s long history of segregation, which had created two housing markets—one legitimate and backed by the government, the other lawless and patrolled by predators. The suit dragged on until 1976, when the league lost a jury trial. Securing the equal protection of the law proved hard; securing reparations proved impossible. If there were any doubts about the mood of the jury, the foreman removed them by saying, when asked about the verdict, that he hoped it would help end “the mess Earl Warren made with Brown v. Board of Education and all that nonsense.”

The Supreme Court seems to share that sentiment. The past two decades have witnessed a rollback of the progressive legislation of the 1960s. Liberals have found themselves on the defensive. In 2008, when Barack Obama was a candidate for president, he was asked whether his daughters—Malia and Sasha—should benefit from affirmative action. He answered in the negative.

The exchange rested upon an erroneous comparison of the average American white family and the exceptional first family. In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But they’ve won by being twice as good—and enduring twice as much. Malia and Sasha Obama enjoy privileges beyond the average white child’s dreams. But that comparison is incomplete. The more telling question is how they compare with Jenna and Barbara Bush—the products of many generations of privilege, not just one. Whatever the Obama children achieve, it will be evidence of their family’s singular perseverance, not of broad equality.

III. “We Inherit Our Ample Patrimony”

In 1783, the freedwoman Belinda Royall petitioned the commonwealth of Massachusetts for reparations. Belinda had been born in modern-day Ghana. She was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. She endured the Middle Passage and 50 years of enslavement at the hands of Isaac Royall and his son. But the junior Royall, a British loyalist, fled the country during the Revolution. Belinda, now free after half a century of labor, beseeched the nascent Massachusetts legislature:

The face of your Petitioner, is now marked with the furrows of time, and her frame bending under the oppression of years, while she, by the Laws of the Land, is denied the employment of one morsel of that immense wealth, apart whereof hath been accumilated by her own industry, and the whole augmented by her servitude.

WHEREFORE, casting herself at your feet if your honours, as to a body of men, formed for the extirpation of vassalage, for the reward of Virtue, and the just return of honest industry—she prays, that such allowance may be made her out of the Estate of Colonel Royall, as will prevent her, and her more infirm daughter, from misery in the greatest extreme, and scatter comfort over the short and downward path of their lives.

Belinda Royall was granted a pension of 15 pounds and 12 shillings, to be paid out of the estate of Isaac Royall—one of the earliest successful attempts to petition for reparations. At the time, black people in America had endured more than 150 years of enslavement, and the idea that they might be owed something in return was, if not the national consensus, at least not outrageous.

Click the image above to view the full document.

“A heavy account lies against us as a civil society for oppressions committed against people who did not injure us,” wrote the Quaker John Woolman in 1769, “and that if the particular case of many individuals were fairly stated, it would appear that there was considerable due to them.”

As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected. Quakers in New York, New England, and Baltimore went so far as to make “membership contingent upon compensating one’s former slaves.” In 1782, the Quaker Robert Pleasants emancipated his 78 slaves, granted them 350 acres, and later built a school on their property and provided for their education. “The doing of this justice to the injured Africans,” wrote Pleasants, “would be an acceptable offering to him who ‘Rules in the kingdom of men.’ ”

Click the image above to view the full document.

Edward Coles, a protégé of Thomas Jefferson who became a slaveholder through inheritance, took many of his slaves north and granted them a plot of land in Illinois. John Randolph, a cousin of Jefferson’s, willed that all his slaves be emancipated upon his death, and that all those older than 40 be given 10 acres of land. “I give and bequeath to all my slaves their freedom,” Randolph wrote, “heartily regretting that I have been the owner of one.”

In his book Forever Free, Eric Foner recounts the story of a disgruntled planter reprimanding a freedman loafing on the job:

Planter: “You lazy nigger, I am losing a whole day’s labor by you.”

Freedman: “Massa, how many days’ labor have I lost by you?”

In the 20th century, the cause of reparations was taken up by a diverse cast that included the Confederate veteran Walter R. Vaughan, who believed that reparations would be a stimulus for the South; the black activist Callie House; black-nationalist leaders like “Queen Mother” Audley Moore; and the civil-rights activist James Forman. The movement coalesced in 1987 under an umbrella organization called the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). The NAACP endorsed reparations in 1993. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a professor at Harvard Law School, has pursued reparations claims in court.

But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. “They have been taught to labor,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1891. “They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex‑slaves.”

Not exactly. Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.

Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

“It’s because it’s black folks making the claim,” Nkechi Taifa, who helped found N’COBRA, says. “People who talk about reparations are considered left lunatics. But all we are talking about is studying [reparations]. As John Conyers has said, we study everything. We study the water, the air. We can’t even study the issue? This bill does not authorize one red cent to anyone.”

That HR 40 has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential. If we conclude that the conditions in North Lawndale and black America are not inexplicable but are instead precisely what you’d expect of a community that for centuries has lived in America’s crosshairs, then what are we to make of the world’s oldest democracy?

One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s rendering has meaning to us. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If Thomas Jefferson’s genius matters, then so does his taking of Sally Hemings’s body. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge.

In 1909, President William Howard Taft told the country that “intelligent” white southerners were ready to see blacks as “useful members of the community.” A week later Joseph Gordon, a black man, was lynched outside Greenwood, Mississippi. The high point of the lynching era has passed. But the memories of those robbed of their lives still live on in the lingering effects. Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. We believe white dominance to be a fact of the inert past, a delinquent debt that can be made to disappear if only we don’t look.

There has always been another way. “It is in vain to alledge, that our ancestors brought them hither, and not we,” Yale President Timothy Dwight said in 1810.

We inherit our ample patrimony with all its incumbrances; and are bound to pay the debts of our ancestors. This debt, particularly, we are bound to discharge: and, when the righteous Judge of the Universe comes to reckon with his servants, he will rigidly exact the payment at our hands. To give them liberty, and stop here, is to entail upon them a curse.

IV. “The Ills That Slavery Frees Us From”

America begins in black plunder and white democracy, two features that are not contradictory but complementary. “The men who came together to found the independent United States, dedicated to freedom and equality, either held slaves or were willing to join hands with those who did,” the historian Edmund S. Morgan wrote. “None of them felt entirely comfortable about the fact, but neither did they feel responsible for it. Most of them had inherited both their slaves and their attachment to freedom from an earlier generation, and they knew the two were not unconnected.”

Slaves in South Carolina prepare cotton for the gin in 1862. (Timothy H. O’Sullivan/Library of Congress)

When enslaved Africans, plundered of their bodies, plundered of their families, and plundered of their labor, were brought to the colony of Virginia in 1619, they did not initially endure the naked racism that would engulf their progeny. Some of them were freed. Some of them intermarried. Still others escaped with the white indentured servants who had suffered as they had. Some even rebelled together, allying under Nathaniel Bacon to torch Jamestown in 1676.

One hundred years later, the idea of slaves and poor whites joining forces would shock the senses, but in the early days of the English colonies, the two groups had much in common. English visitors to Virginia found that its masters “abuse their servantes with intollerable oppression and hard usage.” White servants were flogged, tricked into serving beyond their contracts, and traded in much the same manner as slaves.

This “hard usage” originated in a simple fact of the New World—land was boundless but cheap labor was limited. As life spans increased in the colony, the Virginia planters found in the enslaved Africans an even more efficient source of cheap labor. Whereas indentured servants were still legal subjects of the English crown and thus entitled to certain protections, African slaves entered the colonies as aliens. Exempted from the protections of the crown, they became early America’s indispensable working class—fit for maximum exploitation, capable of only minimal resistance.

For the next 250 years, American law worked to reduce black people to a class of untouchables and raise all white men to the level of citizens. In 1650, Virginia mandated that “all persons except Negroes” were to carry arms. In 1664, Maryland mandated that any Englishwoman who married a slave must live as a slave of her husband’s master. In 1705, the Virginia assembly passed a law allowing for the dismemberment of unruly slaves—but forbidding masters from whipping “a Christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace.” In that same law, the colony mandated that “all horses, cattle, and hogs, now belonging, or that hereafter shall belong to any slave” be seized and sold off by the local church, the profits used to support “the poor of the said parish.” At that time, there would have still been people alive who could remember blacks and whites joining to burn down Jamestown only 29 years before. But at the beginning of the 18th century, two primary classes were enshrined in America.

“The two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black,” John C. Calhoun, South Carolina’s senior senator, declared on the Senate floor in 1848. “And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.”

In 1860, the majority of people living in South Carolina and Mississippi, almost half of those living in Georgia, and about one-third of all Southerners were on the wrong side of Calhoun’s line. The state with the largest number of enslaved Americans was Virginia, where in certain counties some 70 percent of all people labored in chains. Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves, and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected. In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery. By 1840, cotton produced by slave labor constituted 59 percent of the country’s exports. The web of this slave society extended north to the looms of New England, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where it powered a great economic transformation and altered the trajectory of world history. “Whoever says Industrial Revolution,” wrote the historian Eric J. Hobsbawm, “says cotton.”

In this artistic rendering by Henry Louis Stephens, a well-known illustrator of the era, a family is in the process of being separated at a slave auction. (Library of Congress)

The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together,” the Yale historian David W. Blight has noted. “Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” The sale of these slaves—“in whose bodies that money congealed,” writes Walter Johnson, a Harvard historian—generated even more ancillary wealth. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest. Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits. Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country.

Beneath the cold numbers lay lives divided. “I had a constant dread that Mrs. Moore, her mistress, would be in want of money and sell my dear wife,” a freedman wrote, reflecting on his time in slavery. “We constantly dreaded a final separation. Our affection for each was very strong, and this made us always apprehensive of a cruel parting.”

Forced partings were common in the antebellum South. A slave in some parts of the region stood a 30 percent chance of being sold in his or her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of interstate trades destroyed a first marriage and half of them destroyed a nuclear family.

When the wife and children of Henry Brown, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, were to be sold away, Brown searched for a white master who might buy his wife and children to keep the family together. He failed:

The next day, I stationed myself by the side of the road, along which the slaves, amounting to three hundred and fifty, were to pass. The purchaser of my wife was a Methodist minister, who was about starting for North Carolina. Pretty soon five waggon-loads of little children passed, and looking at the foremost one, what should I see but a little child, pointing its tiny hand towards me, exclaiming, “There’s my father; I knew he would come and bid me good-bye.” It was my eldest child! Soon the gang approached in which my wife was chained. I looked, and beheld her familiar face; but O, reader, that glance of agony! may God spare me ever again enduring the excruciating horror of that moment! She passed, and came near to where I stood. I seized hold of her hand, intending to bid her farewell; but words failed me; the gift of utterance had fled, and I remained speechless. I followed her for some distance, with her hand grasped in mine, as if to save her from her fate, but I could not speak, and I was obliged to turn away in silence.

In a time when telecommunications were primitive and blacks lacked freedom of movement, the parting of black families was a kind of murder. Here we find the roots of American wealth and democracy—in the for-profit destruction of the most important asset available to any people, the family. The destruction was not incidental to America’s rise; it facilitated that rise. By erecting a slave society, America created the economic foundation for its great experiment in democracy. The labor strife that seeded Bacon’s rebellion was suppressed. America’s indispensable working class existed as property beyond the realm of politics, leaving white Americans free to trumpet their love of freedom and democratic values. Assessing antebellum democracy in Virginia, a visitor from England observed that the state’s natives “can profess an unbounded love of liberty and of democracy in consequence of the mass of the people, who in other countries might become mobs, being there nearly altogether composed of their own Negro slaves.”

V. The Quiet Plunder

The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. Just as a homeowner today might subscribe to a magazine like This Old House, slaveholders had journals such as De Bow’s Review, which recommended the best practices for wringing profits from slaves. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.

Click the image above to view the full document.

“This country was formed for thewhite, not for the black man,” John Wilkes Booth wrote, before killing Abraham Lincoln. “And looking upon African slavery from the same standpoint held by those noble framers of our Constitution, I for one have ever considered it one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation.”

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Radical Republicans attempted to reconstruct the country upon something resembling universal equality—but they were beaten back by a campaign of “Redemption,” led by White Liners, Red Shirts, and Klansmen bent on upholding a society “formed for the white, not for the black man.” A wave of terrorism roiled the South. In his massive historyReconstruction, Eric Foner recounts incidents of black people being attacked for not removing their hats; for refusing to hand over a whiskey flask; for disobeying church procedures; for “using insolent language”; for disputing labor contracts; for refusing to be “tied like a slave.” Sometimes the attacks were intended simply to “thin out the niggers a little.”

Terrorism carried the day. Federal troops withdrew from the South in 1877. The dream of Reconstruction died. For the next century, political violence was visited upon blacks wantonly, with special treatment meted out toward black people of ambition. Black schools and churches were burned to the ground. Black voters and the political candidates who attempted to rally them were intimidated, and some were murdered. At the end of World War I, black veterans returning to their homes were assaulted for daring to wear the American uniform. The demobilization of soldiers after the war, which put white and black veterans into competition for scarce jobs, produced the Red Summer of 1919: a succession of racist pogroms against dozens of cities ranging from Longview, Texas, to Chicago to Washington, D.C. Organized white violence against blacks continued into the 1920s—in 1921 a white mob leveled Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street,” and in 1923 another one razed the black town of Rosewood, Florida—and virtually no one was punished.

A postcard dated August 3, 1920, depicts the aftermath of a lynching in Center, Texas, near the Louisiana border. According to the text on the other side, the victim was a 16-year-old boy.

The work of mobs was a rabid and violent rendition of prejudices that extended even into the upper reaches of American government. The New Deal is today remembered as a model for what progressive government should do—cast a broad social safety net that protects the poor and the afflicted while building the middle class. When progressives wish to express their disappointment with Barack Obama, they point to the accomplishments of Franklin Roosevelt. But these progressives rarely note that Roosevelt’s New Deal, much like the democracy that produced it, rested on the foundation of Jim Crow.

“The Jim Crow South,” writes Ira Katznelson, a history and political-science professor at Columbia, “was the one collaborator America’s democracy could not do without.” The marks of that collaboration are all over the New Deal. The omnibus programs passed under the Social Security Act in 1935 were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life. Old-age insurance (Social Security proper) and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics—jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible. The NAACP protested, calling the new American safety net “a sieve with holes just big enough for the majority of Negroes to fall through.”

The oft-celebrated G.I. Bill similarly failed black Americans, by mirroring the broader country’s insistence on a racist housing policy. Though ostensibly color-blind, Title III of the bill, which aimed to give veterans access to low-interest home loans, left black veterans to tangle with white officials at their local Veterans Administration as well as with the same banks that had, for years, refused to grant mortgages to blacks. The historian Kathleen J. Frydl observes in her 2009 book, The GI Bill, that so many blacks were disqualified from receiving Title III benefits “that it is more accurate simply to say that blacks could not use this particular title.”

In Cold War America, homeownership was seen as a means of instilling patriotism, and as a civilizing and anti-radical force. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist,” claimed William Levitt, who pioneered the modern suburb with the development of the various Levittowns, his famous planned communities. “He has too much to do.”

But the Levittowns were, with Levitt’s willing acquiescence, segregated throughout their early years. Daisy and Bill Myers, the first black family to move into Levittown, Pennsylvania, were greeted with protests and a burning cross. A neighbor who opposed the family said that Bill Myers was “probably a nice guy, but every time I look at him I see $2,000 drop off the value of my house.”

The neighbor had good reason to be afraid. Bill and Daisy Myers were from the other side of John C. Calhoun’s dual society. If they moved next door, housing policy almost guaranteed that their neighbors’ property values would decline.

In August 1957, state police pull teenagers out of a car during a demonstration against Bill and Daisy Myers, the first African Americans to move into Levittown, Pennsyvlania. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Whereas shortly before the New Deal, a typical mortgage required a large down payment and full repayment within about 10 years, the creation of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in 1933 and then the Federal Housing Administration the following year allowed banks to offer loans requiring no more than 10 percent down, amortized over 20 to 30 years. “Without federal intervention in the housing market, massive suburbanization would have been impossible,” writes Thomas J. Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. “In 1930, only 30 percent of Americans owned their own homes; by 1960, more than 60 percent were home owners. Home ownership became an emblem of American citizenship.”

That emblem was not to be awarded to blacks. The American real-estate industry believed segregation to be a moral principle. As late as 1950, the National Association of Real Estate Boards’ code of ethics warned that “a Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood … any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values.” A 1943 brochure specified that such potential undesirables might include madams, bootleggers, gangsters—and “a colored man of means who was giving his children a college education and thought they were entitled to live among whites.”

The federal government concurred. It was the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, not a private trade association, that pioneered the practice of redlining, selectively granting loans and insisting that any property it insured be covered by a restrictive covenant—a clause in the deed forbidding the sale of the property to anyone other than whites. Millions of dollars flowed from tax coffers into segregated white neighborhoods.

“For perhaps the first time, the federal government embraced the discriminatory attitudes of the marketplace,” the historian Kenneth T. Jackson wrote in his 1985 book, Crabgrass Frontier, a history of suburbanization. “Previously, prejudices were personalized and individualized; FHA exhorted segregation and enshrined it as public policy. Whole areas of cities were declared ineligible for loan guarantees.” Redlining was not officially outlawed until 1968, by the Fair Housing Act. By then the damage was done—and reports of redlining by banks have continued.

 

More

None

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Teaching Peace in Violence-Torn Regions of Africa φ Carmen del Rosario, Anti-violence Educator and Activist φ LIVE 10 pm ET 3-29-14

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

Teaching a New Peace in Africa and Hoping to Change a Nation

Guest:   Anti-Violence EducatorActivist Carmen del Rosario
Founder, Roots of Transformation

 

03-29 Carmen

Saturday, March 29, 2014 10 pm ET

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat

Web location:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

“When I dare to be powerful– to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” – Audre Lorde

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Carmen del Rosario

Carmen is a highly driven and motivated, partnership, and programme management professional with over 20 years of professional experience working in the field of violence against women and children with government and development organizations, community networks and institutions in the US, El Salvador, Rwanda, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Congo (RDC) and Liberia

Ms. Carmen Del Rosario served as the Director of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Domestic Violence Program for 10 years. Del Rosario was a pioneer in developing strategies to engage boys and men in positive ways to prevent violence and to promote healthy relationships. In the year 2000, under her leadership, de Domestic Violence Program received funding from the CDC to develop , implement and evaluate a five years demonstration project working with men as fathers.

Over the past eight years Carmen has been working in East Africa, (Tanzania) Central Africa (Eastern Congo) and West Africa (Liberia), developing, coordinating and implementing programs to respond to survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Women’s Empowerment Program as well as prevention initiatives with men from different background; these include, refugees’ men, religious leaders, traditional leaders, the police, and the UN peacekeepers. Carmen has developed intervention and prevention programs providing technical support to capacity development of the implementing partners in partnership with government, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and INGO.

ABOUT ROOTS of TRANSFORMATION

Roots of Transformation, is a non-government grassroots organization working toward the prevention of VAWC by catalyzing changes in communities and by supporting organizational sustainability. The organization works to prevent violence by addressing its roots causes, such as traditional gender roles, and the imbalance of power between women and men.

 Mission

DSC00577Roots of Transformation is committed to equipping people with the knowledge, wisdom and tools needed to make decisions that will positively impact their futures, the future of their family and their nation.

BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE BLACK

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves”

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat

Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

Community Forum

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters

Web   –  OCG Blog  –  OCG Pinterest   – Visit our OUR COMMON GROUND Tumblr Page

Facebook

“Speaking Truth to Power and Our selves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chathttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

Did He Jump or Was He Pushed? – The Mandela Years in Power

WEEKEND EDITION DECEMBER 6-8, 2013
Did He Jump or Was He Pushed?

The Mandela Years in Power

by PATRICK BOND

The death of Nelson Mandela, at age 95 on 5 December 2013, brings genuine sadness. As his health deteriorated over the past six months, many asked the more durable question: how did he change South Africa? Given how unsatisfactory life is for so many in society, the follow-up question is, how much room was there for Mandela to maneuver? South Africa now lurches from crisis to crisis, and so many of us are tempted to remember the Mandela years – especially the first democratic government – as fundamentally different from the crony-capitalist, corruption-riddled, brutally-securitised, eco-destructive and anti-egalitarian regime we suffer now. But were the seeds of our present political weeds sown earlier? 

The critical decade was the 1990s, when Mandela was at the height of his power, having been released from jail in February 1990, taken the South African presidency in May 1994 and left office in June 1999. But it was in this period, alleges former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, that “the battle for the soul of the African National Congress was lost to corporate power and influence… We readily accepted that devil’s pact and are damned in the process. It has bequeathed to our country an economy so tied in to the neoliberal global formula and market fundamentalism that there is very little room to alleviate the dire plight of the masses of our people.”

Given much more extreme inequality, much lower life expectancy, much higher unemployment, much worse vulnerability to world economic fluctuations, and much more rapid ecological decay during his presidency, how much can Mandela be blamed? Was he pushed, or did he jump?

South Africa won its democracy in 1994. But regardless of the elimination of formal racism and the constitutional rhetoric of human rights, it has been a “choiceless democracy” in socio-economic policy terms and more broadly a “low-intensity democracy”, to borrow terms coined respectively by Thandika Mkandawire for Africa, and by Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora for many ex-dictatorships. Nelson Mandela’s South Africa fit a pattern: a series of formerly anti-authoritarian critics of old dictatorships – whether from rightwing or left-wing backgrounds – who transformed into 1980s-90s neoliberal rulers: Alfonsin (Argentina), Aquino (Philippines), Arafat (Palestine), Aristide (Haiti), Bhutto (Pakistan), Chiluba (Zambia), Dae Jung (South Korea), Havel (Czech Republic), Mandela (South Africa), Manley (Jamaica), Megawati (Indonesia), Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Museveni (Uganda), Nujoma (Namibia), Obasanjo (Nigeria), Ortega (Nicaragua), Perez (Venezuela), Rawlings (Ghana), Walesa (Poland) and Yeltsin (Russia).The self-imposition of economic and development policies – typically at the behest of financial markets and the Washington/Geneva multilateral institutions – required an extraordinary insulation from genuine national determinations: in short, an “elite transition.”

This policy insulation from mass opinion could only be achieved through the leadership of Mandela. It was justified by invoking the mantra of “international competitiveness”, and it initially peaked with Mandela’s 1996 Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy. Obeisance to multinational corporations helped shape the terrain on the platinum belt that inexorably generated the Marikana Massacre in 2012, for example. In the South African case, it must be stressed, the decision to reduce the room for maneuver was made as much by the local principals as it was by the Bretton Woods Institutions, other financiers and investors.

South Africa’s democratization was profoundly compromised by an intra-elite economic deal that, for most people, worsened poverty, unemployment, inequality and ecological degradation, while also exacerbating many racial, gender and geographical differences. In the pages below we can review most of the critical choices and outcomes from 1994-1999. These confirmed the late-apartheid turn to neoliberal economic management, and amplified that turn in the context of world neoliberal hegemony until – and beyond – the 1998 East Asian crisis. To understand why requires combining analysis of the changing structure of capital – especially its worsening unevenness and financialisation – with study of divisions within the subordinate classes. This will in turn set the stage for considering a variety of public policies adopted immediately after formal apartheid ended, many of which reflected more continuity than change.

Ending the apartheid regime was one of the greatest human achievements of the past century. However, to promote a peaceful transition, the agreement negotiated between the racist regime and Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) allowed whites to keep the best land, the mines, manufacturing plants, and financial institutions, and to export vast quantities of capital.

For there had been only two basic paths that the ANC could have followed. One was to mobilize the people and all their enthusiasm, energy, and hard work, use a larger share of the economic surplus (through state-directed investments and higher taxes), and stop the flow of capital abroad, including the repayment of illegitimate apartheid-era debt. The other, which was ultimately the one chosen, was to trudge down the neoliberal capitalist path, with merely a small reform here or there to permit superficial claims to the sustaining of a “National Democratic Revolution.” Because the latter path was chosen, we start by consider the economic barriers to deepened democracy, before proceeding to the economic outcomes, followed by a discussion of social policy patterns, the commercialized state, environmental concerns and the reactions of civil society.

mandela

In one of the last public photos released of Nelson Mandela (29 April 2013), he sits with successors in the African National Congress leadership, each disgraced by scandals linking SA politics to crony mining capitalism: Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa and Baleka Mbete.

Economic barriers

The neoliberal path was prefigured in the transitional years. The white ruling bloc’s political strategy included weakening the incoming ANC government through repression, internecine township violence, and divide-and-conquer blandishments offered to leaders by way of elite-pacting. The initial softening up process entailed Mandela’s controversial talks-about-talks with National Intelligence Agency director Neil Barnard in prison and the Afrikaner intellectuals’ and English-speaking business leaders’ approaches to exiled ANC leaders during the late 1980s. The unbanning of the ANC allowed many of the pacting processes to come above ground, through methodologies such as “scenario planning” promoted first by Shell Oil and then Anglo American, Nedbank and a variety of other corporates during the critical 1990-94 period.

Another crucial force in the battle for hearts and minds at that time was the World Bank. Along with International Monetary Fund (IMF) visits and a 1993 loan, the Bank’s Reconnaissance Missions fused with neoliberal agencies’ strategies during the early 1990s to shape policy framings for the post-apartheid market-friendly government. These were far more persuasive to the ANC leadership than the more populist ambitions of the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). This was ironic, for the Bank and IMF had a regrettable history in South Africa:

 • the Bank’s US$100 million in loans to Eskom from 1951-67 provided only white people with electric power, but all South Africans paid the bill;

• the Bank refused point-blank to heed a United Nations General Assembly instruction in 1966 not to lend to apartheid South Africa;

• the IMF provided apartheid-supporting loans of more than $2 billion between the Soweto uprising in 1976 and 1983, when the US Congress finally prohibited lending to Pretoria;

• the Bank lent tens of millions of dollars for Lesotho dams which were widely acknowledged to help apartheid South Africa “sanctions-bust” financial boycotts in 1986, via a London trust; and

• the IMF advised Pretoria in 1991 to impose the regressive Value Added Tax, in opposition to which 3,5 million people went on a two-day stayaway.

Subsequently, lending and policy advice by the Bretton Woods twins included:

 • Bank promotion of “market-oriented” land reform in 1993-94, which established such onerous conditions (similar to the failed policy in neighbouring Zimbabwe) that instead of 30 percent land redistribution as mandated in the RDP, less than 1 percent of good land was redistributed;

• the Bank’s endorsement of bank-centred housing policy in August 1994, with recommendations for smaller housing subsidies;

• Bank design of South African infrastructure policy in November 1994, which provided the rural and urban poor with only pit latrines, no electricity connections, inadequate roads, and communal taps instead of house or yard taps;

• the Bank’s promotion of water cut-offs for those unable to afford payments, opposition to a free “lifeline” water supply, and recommendations against irrigation subsidies for black South Africans in October 1995, within a government water-pricing policy in which the Bank claimed (in its 1999 Country Assistance Review) it played an “instrumental” role;

• the Bank’s conservative role in the Lund Commission in 1996, which recommended a 44 percent cut in the monthly grant to impoverished, dependent children from R135 per month to R75;

• the Bank’s participation in the writing of the (ultimately doomed to fail) Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy in June 1996, both contributing two staff economists and providing its economic model to help frame GEAR;

• the Bank and IMF’s consistent message to South African workers that their wages are too high, and that unemployment can only be cured through “labour flexibility’;

• the Bank’s role in Egoli 2002, including research support and encouragement of municipal privatisation in Johannesburg (and many other cities and towns); and

• the Bank’s repeated commitments to invest, through its subsidiary the International Finance Corporation, in privatised infrastructure, housing securities for high-income families, for-profit “managed healthcare” schemes, and the now-bankrupt, US-owned Dominos Pizza franchise.

So even without going through the process of lending to transitional South Africa, until the IMF’s $850 million loan in 1993, the Bretton Woods Institutions had enormous influence. The Bank carefully recruited ANC officials to work with them in Washington during the early 1990s, and also gave substantial consultancies to local allies in South Africa. But notwithstanding all the political maneuvers associated with the rise and fall of personalities, blocs and ideas during the 1990-94 era, perhaps the most important fusion of the old and new occurred on the economic terrain five months prior to the April 27, 1994 democratic election, when the “Transitional Executive Committee” (TEC) took control of the South African government, combining a few leading ANC cadre with the ruling National Party, which was in its last year of 45 in power.

Thus, even as racist laws were tumbling in parliament and as the dignity of the majority black population was soaring, the TEC accepted, on December 1, 1993, an $850 million loan from the IMF, signed first by subsequent Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. It was ostensibly for drought relief, although the searing drought had ended 18 months earlier. The loan’s secret conditions – leaked to Business Day in March 1994 – included the usual items from the classical structural adjustment menu: lower import tariffs, cuts in state spending, and large cuts in public sector wages. In addition, Michel Camdessus, then IMF managing director, put informal but intense pressure on incoming president Mandela to reappoint the two main stalwarts of apartheid-era neoliberalism, the finance minister and central bank governor, both from the National Party.

So it was in May 1994, just after the ANC won an overwhelming victory, Mandela announced a “Government of National Unity” (GNU) which included FW De Klerk’s National Party and the Zulu-nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party. This was justified to an adoring society desperate for reconciliation, because highly creative vote tallying gave the National Party just over 20 percent and Inkatha 10 percent of electoral support and denied the ANC the two-thirds which Mandela himself had stated would be an adverse outcome, insofar as it would dent investor confidence to know the Constitution might be alterable. The subsequent roles of DeKlerk (an honorary-type deputy president) and Inkatha’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi (home affairs minister) were relatively unsubstantial, and the NP dropped out of the government in 1996 without much notice, and within a decade had dissolved as a party, folded into the ANC by DeKlerk’s successor Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

By mid-1996, with neoliberal economic policy in place, the elite transition was cemented and only provincial power shifts – from Inkatha to ANC in 2004 in KwaZulu-Natal, and from ANC to the Democratic Alliance in 2009 in the Western Cape – disturbed the political power-balance arrangements established in 1994. The ANC continued to receive between 60 and 67 percent of the national votes, and Mandela continued to be venerated after he departed the presidency, for having guided the “miracle” of a political solution to the surface-level problems of apartheid.

However, seen from below, the replacement of racial for what we might term “class apartheid” was decisive under Mandela’s rule. The behind-the-scenes economic policy agreements forged during the early 1990s meant the Afrikaner regime’s own internal power-bloc transition from apartheid “securocrats” (e.g., defense minister Magnus Malan and police minister Adriaan Vlok) to post-apartheid “econocrats” (such as finance minister Barend du Plessis and Reserve Bank governor Chris Stals). This was matched by a similar process of deradicalisation in the ANC.

There, party managers led by Mbeki – soon to be Mandela’s first deputy president – renamed the ANC Department of Economic Planning to the Department of Economic Policy and Trevor Manuel was appointed to lead it in 1990, replacing a man (Max Sisulu) with more Keynesian leanings. Along with Tito Mboweni and Maria Ramos (his future wife), Manuel ensured that a small group of neoliberal managers were gradually brought into the Treasury and SA Reserve Bank. The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and SA Communist Party (SACP) offered similar pragmatists who – no matter their personal predilections and internecine conflicts – could be trusted to impose neoliberal policies, including future trade minister Alec Erwin, Reconstruction and Development Programme minister Jay Naidoo, housing minister Joe Slovo, transport minister Mac Maharaj, and minister-at-large Essop Pahad. This politically-fluid group of change managers within the ANC-Cosatu-SACP Alliance had become trustworthy to the Afrikaners and English-speaking businesses.

In addition to the 1990-94 dealmaking and ideological panel-beating, various other international economic constraints were placed on the New South Africa. A few weeks after liberation in May 1994, when Pretoria joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade on disadvantageous terms as a “transitional” not “developing” country, as a result of pressure from Bill Clinton’s White House, the economy’s deindustrialization was guaranteed. In January 1995, privatization began in earnest, with Mbeki facilitating the sale of a few minor parastatals but with much bigger targets looming.

More rapid financial liberalization in the form of the abolition of the Financial Rand exchange controls occurred in March 1995, in the immediate wake of Mexican capital flight that destroyed the peso’s value. Without capital controls, the Reserve Bank lost its main protection against a run on the currency. So when one began 11 months later, the only strategy left was to raise interest rates to a record high, resulting in a long period of double-digit prime interest rates.

The most important post-apartheid economic decision was taken in June 1996, when the top echelon of ANC policymakers imposed what Finance Minister Manuel termed a “non-negotiable” macroeconomic strategy without bothering to properly consult its Alliance partners in the union movement and SACP, much less its own constituents. The World Bank contributed two economists and its econometric model of South Africa for the exercise, known as “Growth, Employment and Redistribution” (GEAR).

With Mandela’s approval and Mbeki’s formal ideological U-turn – “just call me a Thatcherite,” he pronounced to journalists – GEAR was introduced in the wake of the long 1996 currency crash to promote investor confidence. The document, authored by 17 white men using the World Bank’s economic model, allowed the government to psychologically distance itself from the somewhat more Keynesian RDP, a 150-page document which in 1994 had served as the ANC’s campaign platform, and which the ANC’s civil society allies had insisted be implemented. An audit of the RDP, however, showed that only the RDP’s more neoliberal features were supported by the dominant bloc in government during the late 1990s.

The constraints would tighten in the years after GEAR codified liberalization as the official ideology. Successive Reserve Bank governors loosened exchange controls even further, and finance minister Manuel let the capital flood out when in 1999 he gave permission for the relisting of financial headquarters for most of the largest companies on the London Stock Exchange. The firms that took the gap and permanently moved their historic apartheid loot offshore include Anglo American, DeBeers diamonds, Investec bank, Old Mutual insurance, Didata ICT, SAB Miller breweries (all to London), and Mondi paper (to New York).

It is here that the core concession made by the ANC during the transition deal was apparent: acquiescing to the desire by white businesses to escape the economic stagnation and declining profits born of a classical “overaccumulation crisis”, in which too much capital piles up in a given territory without sustainable ways to increase consumer purchases of goods, employment of idle labour, new investment of fixed capital, or value production to undergird financial speculation. Put simply, big business wanted out of South Africa and as part of the deal for the transfer of power, Mandela gave the nod to the extreme capital flight which today, leaves South Africa as amongst the countries most adversely affected by a current account deficit.

A symptom of that crisis, through the mid-1990s, was declining corporate profits. The profit rate had followed the downward slide from 1960s levels which were amongst the world’s highest, to extremely low rates by the 1980s, as University of Cape Town economist Nicoli Nattrass has documented. (The falling profits trajectory closely followed those of the world’s largest firms, in the United States.) But by the late 1990s, mainly through disinvesting from South Africa, the major Johannesburg and Cape Town conglomerates found overseas avenues and reversed the downward profits slide. By 2001 they were achieving profits that were the ninth highest in the industrialised world, according to a British government study.

Perhaps the three most critical processes in shifting resources to capital after apartheid ended were 1) the demise of the sanctions-inducedlaager – and its associated inward-oriented economic policies – so that business elites could escape the saturated South African market, 2) the deregulation of a variety of SA industries, and 3) the waning of the 1970s-80s rise of black militancy in workplaces and communities. There was a steady shift of the national surplus from labour to capital after 1994 (amounting to an eight percent redistribution from workers to big business in the post-apartheid era), with the major decline in labour’s share – a full five percent fall – occurring from 1998-2001. These processes confirmed the larger problem of choiceless democracy, in which the deal to end apartheid on neoliberal terms prevailed: black nationalists won state power, while white people and corporations would remove their capital from the country, but also remain welcome for domicile, and enjoy yet more privileges through economic liberalization.

Economic outcomes

In the controversial words of one observer, “I am sure that Cecil John Rhodes would have given his approval to this effort to make the South African economy of the early 21st century appropriate and fit for its time.” That was Nelson Mandela in mid-2003, when launching the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation in Cape Town. “Fit for its time” meant the Minerals-Energy Complex and financial institutions at the South African economy’s commanding heights were given priority in all policy decisions, as had been the case over the prior century and a third, along the lines Rhodes had established. The results, explored in coming pages, include:

• the most profitable, fast-growing sectors of the SA economy, as everywhere in the world during the roaring 1990s, were finance, insurance and real estate, as well as communications and commerce, due to speculative and trade-related activity associated with neoliberalism;

• but the context was stagnation, for overall GDP/capita declined in the late 1990s, and even in 2000 – a growth year after a mini-recession in the wake of the Asian crisis – there was a negative per person rate of national wealth accumulation recorded by the World Bank (in its book Where is the Wealth of Nations?) if we subtract non-renewable resource extraction from GDP so as to more accurately reflect economic activity and net changes in wealth;

• labour-intensive sectors such as textiles, footwear and gold mining shrunk by 1-5 percent per year (gold hit its low point of $250/ounce in 1998 after peaking in 1981 at $850/ounce), and overall, manufacturing as a percentage of GDP also declined;

• private gross fixed capital formation was a meager 15-17 percent during the late 1990s, only picking up to higher levels after 2004;

• the sustained overaccumulation problem in highly-monopolised sectors continued, as manufacturing capacity utilization continued to fall from levels around 85 percent in the early 1970s to 82 percent in 1994 to below 80 percent by the early 2000s; and

• instead of funding new plant and equipment in this stagnant environment, corporate profits were redirected into speculative real estate and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange which by the late 1990s had created the conditions that generated a 50 percent increase in share prices during the first half of the 2000s, while the property boom which began in 1999 had by 2008 sent house prices up by a world record 389 percent (in comparison to just 100 percent in the US market prior to the burst bubble and 200 percent in second-place Ireland over the 1997-2008 period).

The transition is often said to be characterized by “macroeconomic stability,” but this ignores the easiest measure of such stability: exchange rate fluctuations. The currency crashes witnessed over a period of a few weeks in February-March 1996 and again in June-July 1998 exceeded 30 percent, and both led to massive interest rate increases which sapped growth and rewarded the speculators. Another four such crashes of more than 15 percent within a few weeks occurred in the dozen years after 2000.

These moments of macroeconomic instability were as dramatic as any other incidents during the previous two centuries, including the September 1985 financial panic that split big business from the apartheid regime and paved the way for ANC rule. Domestic investment was sickly (with less than 2 percent increase a year during the late 1990s GEAR era when it was meant to increase by 7 percent), and were it not for the partial privatization of the telephone company (disastrous by all accounts), foreign investment would not have even registered during Mandela’s presidency. Domestic private sector investment was net negative (below replacement costs of wear and tear) for several years, as capital effectively went on strike, moving mobile resources offshore as rapidly as possible.

Recall the mandate for “Growth, Employment and Redistribution”. Yet of all GEAR’s targets over the period 1996-2000, the only ones successfully reached were those most crucial to big business: reduced inflation (down from 9 percent to 5.5 percent instead of GEAR’s projected 7-8 percent), the current account (temporarily in surplus prior to the 2000s capital outflow, not in deficit as projected), and the fiscal deficit (below 2 percent of GDP, instead of the projected 3 percent). What about the main targets?

The “G” for growth was actually negative in per capita terms using GDP as a measure (no matter how biased that statistic is in a Resource Cursed society like South Africa). The driving forces behind South African GDP were decreasingly based in real “productive” activity, and increasingly in financial/speculative functions that are potentially unsustainable and even parasitical. The contribution of manufacturing to GDP fell from 21.2 percent in 1994 to 18.8 percent in 2002, although the crashing rand helped push the mining sector up from 7.0 percent to 8.1 percent over the same period, while the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors ranged between 3.2 percent (2000) and 4.0 percent (1997). Most tellingly, the category of “financial intermediation” (including insurance and real estate) rose from 16 percent of GDP in 1994 to 20 percent eight years later.

The “E” for employment was the most damaging initial result of South Africa’s embrace of the neoliberal economic approach, for instead of employment growth of 3–4 percent per year promised by GEAR proponents, annual job losses of 1–4 percent characterized the late 1990s. South Africa’s official measure of unemployment rose from 16 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2002. Adding frustrated job-seekers to that figure brought the percentage of unemployed people to 43 percent. Meanwhile, labour productivity increased steadily and the number of days lost to strike action fell, the latter in part because of ANC demobilization of unions and hostility to national strikes undertaken for political purposes. These happened regularly, e.g. repeated national actions against privatization, but were “set-piece” in character, entailing no fundamental disruption of power relations.

Finally, the “R” – redistribution – benefited corporations most because a succession of finance ministers lowered primary company taxes dramatically, from 48 percent in 1994 to 30 percent in 1999, and maintained the deficit below 3 percent of GDP by restricting social spending, notwithstanding the avalanche of unemployment. As a result, according to even the government’s own statistics, average black African household income fell 19 percent from 1995–2000 (to $3,714 per year), while white household income rose 15 percent (to $22,600 per year). Not just relative but absolute poverty intensified, as the portion of households earning less than $90 of real income increased from 20 percent of the population in 1995 to 28 percent in 2000. Across the racial divide, the poorest half of all South Africans earned just 9.7 percent of national income in 2000, down from 11.4 percent in 1995. The richest 20 percent earned 65 percent of all income. The income of the top 1 percent went from under 10 percent of the total in 1990 to 15 percent in 2002, (That figure peaked at 18 percent in 2007, the same level as in 1949.) The most common measure, the Gini coefficient, soared from below 0.6 in 1994 to 0.72 by 2006 (0.8 if welfare income is excluded).

In sum, the acronym GEAR might have more accurately been revised to Decline, Unemployment and Polarization Economics. A great many South Africans were duped by Mandela’s persuasiveness into thinking that the economy Cecil Rhodes would have found “fit for its time” would somehow also fit the aspirations of the majority. The big question was whether a variety of social protests witnessed after apartheid by civil society – many groups associated with what was formerly known as the Mass Democratic Movement – would shift social policy away from its moorings in apartheid white privilege and instead towards a transformative approach empowering of poor people, women, youth, the elderly, the disabled and the ill.

Social policy in philosophy and practice

The biggest social policy challenge was the use of state patronage to demobilise South Africa’s once-formidable mass movements. Mandela had already, in 1992 after the Bisho massacre and in 1993 after the Hani assassination, taken upon himself to cork the anger building below. At the opening of parliament in 1995, Mandela inveighed, “The government literally does not have the money to meet the demands that are being advanced.” As for social policy, “We must rid ourselves of the culture of entitlement which leads to the expectation that the government must promptly deliver whatever it is that we demand.”

The first programme along these lines was Operation Masakhane, “Let’s Build Together,” a campaign that Pretoria used to link improved state services – although the initial allocation was just R700 million – to resident payment of rent/service bills. Notwithstanding advertisements by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, its failure coincided with rapid increases in water and electricity prices that were required by the 85 percent cut in central-to-local state operating subsidy funding transfers, leaving municipalities bankrupt just at the stage they were taking on vast numbers of new residents.

Previously, the apartheid-era “Black Local Authorities” had mainly been funded by Regional Services Councils, and the 1995-96 municipal elections were meant to legitimize the increasingly decentralized municipalities that combined white and black residential areas for the first time. But even that combination was suspect, because white, Indian and “coloured” councillors were overrepresented due to ward-based voting. Thanks to the compromised Interim Constitution of November 1993, 50 percent of the municipal council seats were allocated to that odd combination, while 50 percent went to African townships, serving to break the unity of combined “black” politics. Moreover, the Interim Constitution permitted veto power over planning and budgeting with just a third of a council’s seats, again reinforcing residual white power and making rapid change impossible.

These compromises of the Interim Constitution, approved by Mandela, meant that prospects for a genuinely democratic local government were reduced to an even lower-intensity level than earlier. In 2000, just after Mandela left office, the municipal demarcation exercise reduced the numbers of local authorities from 843 to 284, which had the effect of increasing the geographical requirements for service delivery in Bantustans and other poor areas to untenable distances, thus reducing the possibilities for meaningful local democracy.

By 2002, the result of these shifts of responsibility – “unfunded mandates” – was that service charges on water and electricity consumed 30 percent of the income of those households earning less than $70 per month. An upsurge of disconnections resulted, with an estimated 10 million people losing service; 60 percent of these were not reconnected within six weeks, indicating that poverty was to blame, not the so-called “culture of nonpayment” that had allegedly resulted from effective anti-apartheid activism. The worst disconnection rate was for fixed telephone lines, where of 13 million people connected for the first time, 10 million were cut, as prices per call soared since the partial privatization of Telkom resulted in the demise of internal cross-subsidies as the new Texan and Malaysian investors attempted to maximize profits during the late 1990s. Reflecting the cost-recovery approach to service delivery and hence the inability of the state to properly roll out and maintainthese functions, the category of GDP components known as “electricity, gas and water” fell steadily during the Mandela years, from 3.5 percent of the total in 1994 to 2.4 percent in 2002.

One reason for lack of capital investment was lack of return on investment, as the state became increasingly commercialized, thus slowing the rate of electrification in rural areas and even to outlying schools, for example. The 1998 national electricity policy called for Eskom to apply cost-reflective pricing policies, which meant much higher charges to poor people, especially those who during the 1980s and early 1990s had fought successfully for a nominal township service charge (often as little as $3 per month).

Recognising how vital it was to provide cheap electricity and water, the RDP had, in sharp contrast, endorsed the progressive principle of cross-subsidisation, which imposed a block tariff that was to rise for larger consumers. This would have consciously distorted the relationship of cost to price and hence sent economically “inefficient” pricing signals to consumers. In short, the RDP insisted, poor people should use more essential services (for the sake of gender equity, health and economic side benefits), while rich people should save the environment by cutting back on their hedonistic consumption.

The neoliberal critics of progressive block tariffs correctly insisted that such distortions of the market logic introduced a disincentive to supply low-volume users. For them, the point of supplying any good or service was to make profits or at minimum to break even in narrow cost-recovery terms. In advocating against the proposal for a free lifeline and rising block tariff, a leading World Bank expert advised the first democratic water minister, Kader Asmal, that privatisation contracts “would be much harder to establish” if poor consumers had the expectation of getting something for nothing. If consumers weren’t paying, the Bank suggested, South African authorities required a “credible threat of cutting service”. This was the logic that began to prevail during Mandela’s years in power.

In 2000, the next water minister, Ronnie Kasrils, promised to finally implement a free basic water policy. This led the authors of the Bank’sSourcebook on Community Driven Development in the Africa Region to lay out a typical neoliberal policy for pricing water: “Work is still needed with political leaders in some national governments to move away from the concept of free water for all.” Later the Bank claimed that the 1995 advice it gave Asmal was “instrumental in facilitating a radical revision in South Africa’s approach to bulk water management” – and the revision away from the microeconomic mandate for Free Basic Water (FBW) was just as critical.

When the FBW step was finally taken by Kasrils, the commercialization instinct was already thoroughly accepted by municipal government suppliers. As a result, FBW ended up being delivered in a tokenistic way and, in Durban – the main site of FBW pilot-exploration starting in 1997 – the overall real cost of water ended up doubling for poor householdsin the subsequent six years because the FBW was so small, and because the second bloc of water was priced so high. This price hike had the direct impact of causing a decline in consumption by poor people, by one third, during that period’s pandemics of cholera, diarhhoea and AIDS when more water was needed the most, especially in the city with the world’s highest number of HIV+ residents.

Matters were even worse in rural South Africa. After a 1994 White Paper was adopted by Asmal which prohibited subsidies on operating and maintenance costs, his officials began a major capital investment roll-out of community water supply projects featuring communal standpipes at an average distance of 200 metres from residences. Despite the array of problems associated with collecting payment for water from communal standpipes, the principle of full payment for the operating, maintenance and replacement costs was insisted upon. Once projects were built, especially by Mvula Trust and other non-governmental suppliers, communities were meant to receive no further support. Inexorably, extremely serious problems arose in the community water supply projects.

Where monitoring and evaluation did take place, there were varying estimates about project sustainability, but most were desultory. Even the pro-government Mvula Trust acknowledged that roughly half of the projects it established failed because of inability to maintain the system. The main reasons for unsustainability of a water system invariably included genuine affordability constraints. There was also an unwillingness to pay for communal standpipes, as they were often not viewed as a significant improvement on existing sources of water. Other important reasons for failure include poor quality of construction, areas within communities without service and intermittent supply.

Reflecting the rise in capital expenditures and subsequent decline in maintenance across the terrain of social policy, government’s “general services” role in GDP rose from 16.2 percent in 1994 to 17.3 percent in 1998, but fell back to 15.8 percent by 2002. On the one hand, state fiscal support for the social wage increased a bit, and recipients of existing apartheid programmes were broadened to include all South Africans. But this expansion wasn’t necessarily a commitment to either social democracy or the “developmental state” that was talked of through the 2000s, given how little the fiscal commitment represented in absolute and relative terms.

 

There were some who argued that these shifts were profound, including Stellenbosch University professor Servaas van der Berg. He insisted that between 1993 and 1997, social spending increased for the poorest 60 percent of households, especially the poorest 20 percent and especially the rural poor, and state subsidies decreased for the 40 percent who were better off; together by counting in non-pecuniary support from the state, Pretoria could claim a one-third improvement in the Gini coefficient. Hence the overall impact of state spending, he posited, would lead to a dramatic decline in actual inequality.

Unfortunately, van der Berg (a regular consultant to the neoliberal Treasury Department) made no effort to calculate or even estimate state subsidies to capital, i.e. corporate welfare. Such subsidies remained enormous because most of the economic infrastructure created through taxation – roads and other transport, industrial districts, the world’s cheapest electricity, R&D subsidies – overwhelmingly benefits capital and its shareholders, as do many tax loopholes.

Moreover, at the same time, the size and orientation of social grants were not particularly satisfactory, for according to University of KwaZulu-Natal researchers Nina Hunter, Julian May and Vishnu Padayachee, “The grants do not provide comprehensive coverage for those in need. Unless they are able to access the disability grant, adults are largely excluded from this framework of assistance. It is only possible for the Unemployment Insurance Fund to be received by the unemployed for a maximum of six months and then only by those who were registered with the Fund, for the most part the formally employed.”

There were other problems: means-testing was utilized with the inevitable stigmatization that comes with a state demanding proof of poor people’s income; cost-recovery strategies were still being imposed, by stealth, on recipients of state services; the state’s potentially vast job-creating capacity was never utilized aside from a few short-term public works activities; and land and housing were not delivered at appropriate rates.

Moreover, according to Hunter, May and Padayachee, Pretoria’s spending on public education was definitely not “pro-poor, since the share going to the poor and the ultra-poor was substantially smaller than their share of the population. In South Africa, education should be free, but in practice schools require school fees and other costs (such as uniforms, school books and stationery, transport to school) are making it increasingly more difficult for the poorest to access basic education.” Indeed, in a 2001 state survey, it was revealed that 35 percent of learners dropped out by Grade 5 (worse than neighboring Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland) and 48 percent left by Grade 12. The state schools were in terrible shape, with 27 percent lacking running water, 43 percent without electricity, and 80 percent without libraries and computers.

On the brighter side, gender relations recorded some improvements in those early years, especially with the inclusion of reproductive rights in health policy, albeit with extremely uneven access. But one measure of women’s poverty in the 1994-2002 period – a $1/day income or below – showed a rise from 10.1 percent to 11.1 percent. Women were also victims of other forms of post-apartheid economic restructuring, with unemployment broadly defined at 46 percent (compared to 35 percent for men), and a massive late 1990s decline in relative pay, from 78 percent of male wages in 1995 to just 66 percent in 1999.

One reason was that contemporary South Africa retained apartheid’s patriarchal modes of surplus extraction, thanks to both residual sex discrimination and the migrant (rural-urban) labour system, which is subsidized by women stuck in the former bantustan homelands. These women were not paid for their role in social reproduction, which in a normal labour market would be handled by state schooling, health insurance, and pensions. This structured superexploitation was exacerbated by an apparent increase in domestic sexual violence associated with rising male unemployment and the feminization of poverty. Women also remained the main caregivers in the home, there again bearing the highest burden associated with degraded health.

With the public healthcare services in decline due to underfunding and the increasing penetration of private providers, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, and AIDS became rife, all far more prevalent than during apartheid. Life expectancy fell from 65 at the time of liberation to 52 a decade later. Diarrhea killed 43,000 children a year, as a result mainly of inadequate potable water provision. Most South Africans with HIV had, until the mid-2000s, little prospect of receiving antiretroviral medicines to extend their lives.

The 1997 White Paper for the Transformation of the Health System did at least set out the following national objectives: “(a) unify the fragmented health services at all levels into a comprehensive and integrated National Health System (NHS); (b) reduce disparities and inequities in health service delivery and increase access to improved and integrated services, based on primary health care principles; (c) give priority to maternal, child and women’s health; and (d) mobilise all partners, including the private sector, NGOs and communities in support of an integrated NHS.” Four programmes received strategic focus: free health care, the clinic building and upgrading program, HIV/AIDS, and the Primary School Nutrition Programme.

And there was indeed some progress to report because most importantly, perhaps, the national Department of Health committed in 1994 that Primary Health Care (PHC) would be free for pregnant women and children under age six, and in 1996 expanded the commitment to assure all South Africans would not pay for “all personal consultation services, and all non-personal services provided by the publicly funded PHC system”, according to government’s Towards a National Health System statement. Indeed there was a major budget shift from curative care to PHC, with the latter projected to increase by 8.3 percent in average real terms annually. Closures of hospital facilities in several cities were anticipated to save money and allow for redeployment of personnel (although they also affected access, since many consumers used these in lieu of clinics).

But other areas of implementation – the District Health System especially for rural areas; clinic building; free primary health care, maternal and child health and reproductive rights; child nutrition; staffing – relied not only on provincial departments taking the vast bulk of resource, planning and implementation responsibilities. At a micro level, the rapid establishment of a District Health System was also required.

Personnel constraints were also severe. On the one hand, transformation of Department of Health senior management was relatively rapid, with a reduction in the number of white male managers from 99 percent in 1994 to 50 percent in 1997. But of great concern was the difficulty in staffing new clinics (particularly those in isolated areas). There were serious shortfalls in medical personnel willing to work in rural South Africa, requiring two major programmatic initiatives: the deployment of foreign personnel (especially several hundred Cuban general practitioners) in rural clinics; and the imposition of a two-year Community Service requirement on students graduating from publicly-subsidised medical schools.

Yet if the personnel issue remained a barrier to implementation, regrettably the Department of Health was ambivalent about mobilising civil society in areas where Community Health Workers could have supported service delivery. The RDP had suggested that “Communities must be encouraged to participate actively in the planning, managing, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the health services in their areas”. But Community Workers were excluded in the policy documentRestructuring the National Health System for Universal Primary Health Care, denying the system a potential source of both enthusiastic people and community eyes and ears.

The most severe blight on South Africa’s post-apartheid record of health leadership was, without question, its HIV/AIDS policy. This could be blamed upon both the personal leadership flaws of presidents Mandela and Mbeki and their health ministers, and upon features of the socio-political structure of accumulation. With millions of people dying early because of AIDS, and approximately five million HIV+ South Africans by 2000, the battle against the disease was one of the most crucial tests of the post-apartheid government.

Pretoria’s problem began, arguably, with Mandela’s reticence even before 1994. As he told one interviewer regarding hesitation to raise AIDS as a social crisis,

“I was very careful because in our culture you don’t talk about sex no matter what you do.” He remarked on advice he received in Bloemfontein by a school principle after asking her, “Do you mind if I also add and talk about Aids?” As Mandela recounted, “She said, ‘Please don’t, otherwise you’ll lose the election.’ I was prepared to win the election and I didn’t talk about AIDS.”

If Mandela was too coy, and prone to accepting quack solutions like the industrial solvent Virodene proposed by local researchers – and apparently financed with Mbeki’s assistance – then Pretoria’s subsequent failure in the early 2000s to provide medicinal treatment for HIV+ patients led to periodic charges of “genocide” by authoritative figures such as the heads of the Medical Research Council (Malegapuru William Makgoba), SA Medical Association (Kgosi Letlape), and Pan Africanist Congress health desk (Costa Gazi), as well as leading public intellectual Sipho Seepe. Beyond the oft-cited peculiarities of the president himself, there were three deeper reasons why local and global power relationships meant that the battle against AIDS was mainly lost in the first years of liberation.

One reason was the pressure exerted by international and domestic financial markets to keep Pretoria’s state budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP, as mandated in GEAR. As evidence, consider the telling remark of the late Parks Mankahlana, Mbeki’s main spokesperson, who in March 2000 justified to Science magazine why the government refused to provide relatively inexpensive anti-retrovirals (ARVs) like Nevirapine to pregnant, HIV-positive women: “That mother is going to die and that HIV-negative child will be an orphan. That child must be brought up. Who is going to bring the child up? It’s the state, the state. That’s resources, you see.”

The second structural reason was the residual power of pharmaceutical manufacturers to defend their rights to “intellectual property”, i.e., monopoly patents on life-saving medicines. This pressure did not end in April 2001 when the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association withdrew their notorious lawsuit against the South African Medicines Act of 1997, which permits parallel import or local production, via “compulsory licenses”, of generic substitutes for brand-name anti-retroviral medicines.

The third structural reason for the elongated HIV/AIDS holocaust in South Africa was the vast size of the reserve army of labour in South Africa. This feature of the socio-political structure of accumulation allowed companies to readily replace sick HIV+ workers with desperate, unemployed people, instead of providing them treatment.

In 2000, for example, Anglo American Corporation had 160,000 employees. With more than a fifth HIV+, the firm began planning “to make special payments to miners suffering from HIV/AIDS, on condition they take voluntary retirement.” Aside from bribing workers to go home and die, there was a provisional hypothesis that “treatment of employees with anti-retrovirals can be cheaper than the costs incurred by leaving them untreated.” However, in October 2001, a detailed cost-benefit analysis showed the opposite. As a result, “the company’s 14,000 senior staff would receive anti-retroviral treatment as part of their medical insurance, but the provision of drug treatment for lower income employees was too expensive.”

This remark summed up so much of post-apartheid South Africa’s approach to poor and working-class people: human expendability in the face of corporate profitability.

Commercialisation of the state

It is important to add that the government’s regular claim of “insufficient state capacity” to solve economic, social and environmental problems was matched by a willingness to turn resources over to the private sector. If outsourcing, corporatization, and privatization could have worked anywhere in Africa, they should in South Africa – with its large, wealthy markets, relatively competent firms and advanced infrastructure. However, contrary evidence emerges from the four major cases of commodification of state services: telecommunications, transport, electricity, and water.

In the lucrative telecommunications sector, 30 percent of the state-owned Telkom was sold to a Houston–Kuala Lumpur alliance in 1996. The cost of local calls skyrocketed, leading the vast majority of new lines to be disconnected. Meanwhile, twenty thousand workers were fired. Attempts to cap fixed-line monopoly pricing by the regulator were rejected by the Texan-Malaysian joint venture via both a court challenge and a serious threat to sell their Telkom shares in 2002. As a result, Telkom’s 2003 Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange raised only $500 million, and so, in the process, an estimated $5 billion of Pretoria’s own funding of Telkom’s late 1990s capital expansion evaporated. A pact on pricing and services between the two main private cellular operators and persistent allegations of corruption combined to stymie the introduction of new cellular and fixed-line operators.

In the field of transportation there were a variety of dilemmas in the first years of democracy associated with partial privatizations. Commercialized toll roads were unaffordable for the poor. Air transport privatization led to the collapse of the first regional state-owned airline. South African Airways was disastrously mismanaged, with huge currency-trading losses that continued well into the 2000s, and an inexplicable $20 million payout to a short-lived US manager. The Airports Company privatization led to security lapses and labour conflict. Constant strife with the ANC-aligned trade union threw ports privatization into question. The increasingly corporatized rail service shut down many feeder routes that, although unprofitable, were crucial to rural economies.

As for the electricity sector, Pretoria announced in 2004 that 30 percent of the Eskom parastatal (the world’s fourth largest electricity producer) would be sold. That position shifted after a Cosatu protest, and soon state policy was to allow 30 percent of generating capacity to come from new Independent Power Producers. Meanwhile, still anticipating deeper institutional privatisation, a corporatizing Eskom fired thirty thousand electricity workers during the 1990s. While a tiny pittance was invested in renewable energy, the state expanded spending on nuclear energy research. This occurred first through pebble-bed reactor technology in partnership with US and British firms and then after that investment (in the range of $2 billion) was written off, ordinary nuclear reactors were authorized that were estimated to cost $60 billion or more. At the same time, tariffs for residential customers rose much higher as cross-subsidies came under attack during the late 1990s, and the process would intensify dramatically a decade later.

As a result of increasingly unaffordable tariffs, Eskom slowed the extension of the rural electricity grid, while millions of people who fell into arrears on inflated bills were disconnected – leading to massive (often successful) resistance such as illegal reconnections. With TB and other respiratory illnesses reaching epidemic levels, those who did not reconnect their electricity illegally were forced back to paraffin or coal fires for cooking, with all the hazards that entailed.

The drive to privatize was not only manifest at national level. Virtually all local governments turned to a 100 percent cost recovery policy during the late 1990s, at the urging of central government and the World Bank, largely to prepare for a wave of water and solid waste commercialization. Attempts to recover costs from poor communities inflicted hardships on the most vulnerable members of society, especially women and those with HIV+ family members susceptible to water-borne diseases and opportunistic AIDS infections.

Although water and sanitation privatization applied to only 5 percent of all municipalities, the South African pilot projects run by world’s biggest water companies (Biwater, Suez, and Saur) resulted in a number of problems related to overpricing and underservice: contracts were renegotiated to raise rates because of insufficient profits; services were not extended to most poor people; many low-income residents were disconnected; prepaid water meters were widely installed; and sanitation was often substandard. It was simply not in the interests of Paris or London water corporations to provide water services to people who could not afford to pay at least the operations and maintenance costs plus a profit mark-up. Cost-recovery policy applied in northern KwaZulu-Natal led to the continent’s worst-ever cholera outbreak, catalyzed by mass disconnections of rural residents in August 2000, for want of a $10 per household connection fee, which forced more than a thousand people to halt consumption of what had earlier been free, clean water.

For the 10 percent or so wealthiest whites and a scattering of rich blacks who, throughout, enjoyed insulation from crime and segregation from the vast majority, lifestyles remain at the highest level in the world, however. This was evident to any visitor to the slightly-integrated suburbs of South African cities. The residential “arms race” – private security systems, sophisticated alarms, high walls and razor wire, gated communities, road closures and booms –left working-class households more vulnerable to robberies, house-breaks, car theft and other petty crime (with increases of more than 1/3 in these categories from 1994-2001 and only slight declines since), as well as epidemic levels of rape and other violent crimes. In sharp contrast, escalating corporate crime (including illicit capital flight) was generally not well policed, or suffered from an apparently organized penetration of the South African Police Service’s highest ranks, especially during the reign of Jackie Selebi as police commissioner.

Racial apartheid was always explicitly manifested in residential segregation, and after liberation in 1994, Pretoria adopted World Bank advice that included an avoidance of public housing (virtually no new municipal or even cooperatively-owned units have been constructed), smaller housing subsidies than were necessary, and much greater reliance upon banks and commercial developers instead of state and community-driven development. The privatization of housing was, indeed, one of the most extreme ironies of post-apartheid South Africa, not least because the man taking advice from the World Bank, Joe Slovo, was chair of the SA Communist Party. (Slovo died of cancer soon thereafter and his main ANC bureaucrat, who was responsible for designing the policy, soon became a leading World Bank functionary.)

With privatization came more intense class segregation. By 2003, the provincial housing minister responsible for greater Johannesburg admitted to a mainstream newspaper that South Africa’s resulting residential class apartheid had become an embarrassment: “If we are to integrate communities both economically and racially, then there is a real need to depart from the present concept of housing delivery that is determined by stands, completed houses and budget spent.” His spokesperson added, “The view has always been that when we build low-cost houses, they should be built away from existing areas because it impacts on the price of property.” However, the head of one of Johannesburg’s largest property sales corporations, Lew Geffen Estates, insisted that “Low-cost houses should be developed in outlying areas where the property is cheaper and more quality houses could be built.”

Unfortunately it was the likes of Geffen, the commercial bankers and allied construction companies who drove housing implementation, so it was reasonable to anticipate no change in Johannesburg’s landscape – featuring not “quality houses” but what many black residents term “kennels.” Several hundred thousand post-apartheid state-subsidized starter houses were often half as large as the 40 square meter “matchboxes” built during apartheid, and located even further away from jobs and community amenities. In addition to ongoing disconnections of water and electricity, the new slums suffer lower-quality state services ranging from rare rubbish collection to dirt roads and inadequate storm-water drainage.

Ecological decay and Resource Curse

The story is the same when we consider the environment, for South African ecology degenerated in many crucial respects – e.g., water and soil resources mismanagement, greenhouse gas contributions to global warming, fisheries, industrial toxics, genetic modification, the early manifestations of Acid Mine Drainage – in the years immediately after apartheid. Official research conceded this point by 2006, when theEnvironmental Outlook report acknowledged “a general decline in the state of the environment.”

For example, in spite of water scarcity and water table pollution in the country’s main megalopolis, Gauteng, the first two mega-dams within the Lesotho Highlands Water Project were built during the late 1990s, with destructive environmental consequences downriver, and the extremely high costs of water transfer deterred consumption by poor people in Gauteng townships. One result was the world’s highest-profile legal case of Third World development corruption.

Another result was the upsurge of social protest in which Africa’s main “water war” – between Soweto residents and their municipal supplier outsourced to a Paris water company, Suez (whose construction subsidiary was one of the firms prosectured for corruption in Lesotho) in the early 2000s – can be traced to the higher prices and commercialized system that protesters objected to. The wealthiest urban (mainly white) families continued to enjoy swimming pools and English gardens, which meant that in some of the most hedonistic suburbs water consumption was 30 times greater each day than in low-income townships (some of whose residents continue doing gardening and domestic work for whites).

Rural (black) women still stand in line for hours at communal taps in the parched former bantustan areas. The location of natural surface and groundwater remained skewed towards white farmers due to apartheid land dispossession, and with fewer than 2 percent of arable plots redistributed by 2000 (as against a 1994-99 RDP target of 30 percent), Pretoria’s neoliberal land policy had conclusively failed.

Other examples of residual apartheid ecology could be cited, including numerous unresolved conflicts over natural land reserves (displacement of indigenous people continues), deleterious impacts of industrialization on biodiversity, insufficient protection of endangered species, and state policies favoring genetic modification for commercial agriculture. Marine regulatory systems became overstressed and hotly contested by European and East Asian fishing trawlers, as well as by local medium-scale commercial fishing firms fending off new waves of small-scale black rivals.

Expansion of gum and pine timber plantations, largely for pulp exports to East Asia, remained extremely damaging, not only because of grassland and organic forest destruction – leading to soil adulteration and far worse flood damage downriver, as Mozambique suffered in 2000–2001 – but also due to the spread of alien invasive plants into water catchments across the country. There was a constructive, high-profile state program, “Working for Water”, that slowed but did not reverse the growth of alien invasives.

Thanks to accommodating state policies, South African commercial agriculture remained extremely reliant upon fertilizers and pesticides, with Genetically Modified Organisms increasing across the food chain and virtually no attention given to potential organic farming markets. The government’s failure to prevent toxic dumping and incineration led to a nascent but portentous group of mass tort (class action) lawsuits. The victims included asbestos and silicosis sufferers who worked in or lived close to the country’s mines.

Other legal avenues and social activism were pursued by residents who suffered persistent pollution in extremely toxic pockets like South Durban, and just south of Johannesburg, the industrial sites of Sasolburg and Steel Valley. In these efforts, the environmental justice movement almost invariably fought both corporations and Pretoria, which from 1994 downplayed ecological crimes (a Green Scorpions anti-pollution team did finally emerge but with subdued powers that barely pricked). Indeed by 2012, South Africa was recognized as the fifth worst environmental performer out of 132 countries surveyed by Yale and Columbia University ecologists. Moreover, the South African economy’s contribution to climate change was amongst the world’s highest – twenty times higher than even that of the US – when carbon intensity is measured (CO2 equivalents emitted each year per person per unit of GDP).

One immediate problem that was obvious to even the World Bank by 2000, was the way South Africa’s reliance upon non-renewable resource extraction gave the country a net negative per capita income, once adjustment to standard GDP is made. The typical calculation does not take into account pollution or depletion of minerals, and once such corrections are made, the South African Gross National Income per person in the year 2000 of $2837 would be reduced to -$2 per person in total wealth (including “natural capital’). This decline appears largely due to non-renewable resource depletion, which amounted to 1 percent of GNI in 2000.

Using quite conservative ways of estimating the “natural capital” in South Africa in 2000, with rural land valued at nearly $1900 per person, minerals at around $1100 and timber at $300, South Africa relied a great deal more on intangible capital ($49 000) and the urban built environment ($7 300). In fact, neither of these grew sufficiently to offset the shrinking natural capital, wear and tear on manufacturing and costs of pollution. A 2011 edition of Changing Wealth of Nations calculates a 25 percent drop in South Africa’s natural capital mainly due to land degradation. By 2008, according to the ‘adjusted net savings’ measure, the average South African was losing $245 per person per year.

Although methodologies are subject to debate, the overall message is fairly straightforward, namely that even relatively industrialised South Africa is dependent upon natural resources, which makes the proper calculation of income and genuine “wealth” an increasingly vital task. The more platinum, gold, coal and other metals being dug from the soil, the poorer South Africa becomes.

Social unrest

The question raised by the failure of Mandela’s government to solve all these foundational problems is whether matters could have been different if activists and leadership had agreed on a strategy of transformation based on popular empowerment, as well as renewed international solidarity to change global power relations. To some extent, many of the policy papers drafted during the second half of the 1990s contained rhetoric promoting popular participation, but these were consistently undermined by the harsh realities of power relations experienced in every sector.

To some extent, too, the rise of international solidarity was another critical factor, so very important in apartheid’s fall, with such great potential to address South Africa’s external economic constraints. For example, poet-activist Dennis Brutus and Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane founded Jubilee South Africa in 1998, and argued that the $25 billion in debt that the Mandela government allegedly owed Western banks should be repudiated. They made the case for default on grounds of “Odious Debt”. Yet on that point, and many others, post-apartheid foreign policy did not return the favour of anti-apartheid solidarity.

There were other examples of Pretoria’s anti-solidaristic foreign relations, in which democrats and social justice activists suffered because of elite links between the ANC and tyrants: the Indonesian and East Timorese people suffering under the corrupt dictator Suharto, Nigerian democracy activists who in 1995 were denied a visa to meet in Johannesburg, the Burmese people (thanks to the Myanmar junta’s unusually friendly diplomatic relations with Pretoria), and victims of murderous central African regimes which were SA arms recipients. The National Conventional Arms Control Committee reported that from 1996-98, undemocratic regimes like Colombia, Algeria and Peru purchased more than R300 million rand worth of arms from South Africa. Pretoria’s support for tyrants in Swaziland and Zimbabwe were the most extreme cases, especially after Mbeki took power in 1999 and democrats rose to challenge tyrants.

Instead of combating adverse global, regional or local power balances, Mandela’s government generally legitimized the status quo. The occasional exception – his outrage at the execution of Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa – proved the rule; the unanimous backlash against Mandela by other African elites convinced Pretoria not to side with democratic movements. Only Palestine solidarity was durable, but this only after Pretoria’s pro-Zionist (black) ambassador was replaced in the early 2000s. And because the post-apartheid era’s internal social unrest festered, one result was amongst the world’s worst cases of xenophobia.

But while the ANC was coopted into a local (Bantustan elite) role in managing global apartheid, the internal struggle against injustice started from day one. By 1995, Mandela pronounced, “Let it be clear to all that the battle against the forces of anarchy and chaos has been joined,” referring to the rumble of mass actions, wildcat strikes, land and building invasions and other disruptions. Thus, while often dismissed as Mandela’s honeymoon period, the 1994-99 phase of post-apartheid capitalist consolidation included anti-neoliberal protest by trade unions, community-based organisations, women’s and youth groups, Non-Governmental Organisations, think-tanks, networks of CBOs and NGOs, progressive churches, political groups and independent leftists.

To illustrate, the initial 1994 upsurge of confident liberatory shopfloor, student and community wildcat protests gradually subsided, yet sustained critiques of macroeconomic and microeconomic policies were periodically recorded against the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank and Minister of Trade and Industry, for:

* leaving Value Added Tax intact on basic goods;

  • * imposing sometimes draconian fiscal conservatism;

  • * amplifying tax cuts favouring big firms and rich people;

* repaying apartheid-era foreign debt;

* restructuring the state pension funds to benefit old-guard civil servants;

* letting the country’s largest corporates shift their financial headquarters to London;

* liberalising foreign exchange and turning a blind eye to capital flight;

* granting permission to demutualise the two big insurance companies;

* failing to more aggressively regulate financial institutions;

* not putting discernable pressure on the Reserve Bank to bring down interest rates;

* advancing legislation that would have transferred massive pension fund surpluses (subsequent to the stock market bubble) from joint-worker/employer control straight to employers;

* making deep cuts in protective tariffs leading to massive job loss;

* giving out billions of dollars worth of “supply-side” subsidies for Spatial Development Initiatives, considered “corporate welfare’;

* cutting decentralisation grants which led to the devastation of ex-bantustan production sites;

* generating merely tokenistic attempts at small business promotion;

* lifting the Usury Act exemption (i.e., deregulating the 32 per cent interest rate ceiling on loans); and

* failing to impose a meaningful anti-monopoly and corporate regulatory regime.

These are merely a few of the late 1990s economic policy grievances that attracted critique from radical civil society activists, along with campaigns in a variety of other sectoral development fields: land reform, water, energy, housing, welfare, education, local government, environment, defense, policing, foreign affairs, labor, broadcasting, health, transport, public works, public services, justice, public enterprises and sports. Some of these concerned mid-1990s governance debates during the chaotic transition, especially given the truncated nature of municipal democracy described above.

The state soon turned to the task of systemicatic demobilisation of community groups that had played such an important role in destabilizing apartheid. One example was the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco), which the ANC began to fund by the late 1990s, leading to a much denuded institution. After all, it was in the urban sphere where most such struggles unfolded (although in 2001 a “Landless Peoples Movement” briefly arose).

There, capital began to earn a status as the ANC’s ally of deracialisation. The most important voice of business was the Johannesburg-based Urban Foundation, later renamed the Centre for Development and Enterprise, which attempted to win civics to their position. One of its leading strategists, Jeff McCarthy, had argued that winning civics over to a “market-oriented” urban policy would “hasten the prospect of alliances on broader political questions of ‘vision’.”

In other words, a consensus on urban issues would then form the basis for a new post-apartheid political order. The option of joining up with this political-economic project was perhaps the most important choice that civics faced in the short- and medium-term. Until 1994, the civics were resolutely anti-capitalist but after demobilisation began in earnest in the wake of the country’s May 1994 liberation, Sanco turned to a corporatist relationship with the ruling party, leading in the late 1990s to a revival of the civics under a new guise, more commonly referred to as the “new social movements”.

These new movements started off in Durban at the end of Mandela’s reign, when ANC stalwart Fatima Meer – for a long period, Mandela’s official biographer – came to the mainly Indian suburb of Chatsworth to gather votes for the ruling party ahead of the 2000 municipal election. Along with local charismatic intellectual Ashwin Desai, she very quickly realized that ANC elites were the main opponents of poor and working-class Chatsworth residents, and switched sides in 1999.

A few months later, in Soweto, Trevor Ngwane did the same, moving from regional leader of the ANC and Johannesburg City Councilor, to the main face of left opposition. After being fired from the ANC because he opposed water commercialization, he organized the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee and then the Anti-Privatisation Forum in 2000. In Cape Town, the Anti-Eviction Campaign appeared soon afterwards.

Critical civil society of this sort was meant to be nurtured, according to official documents such as the 1994 RDP: “Social Movements and Community-Based Organisations are a major asset in the effort to democratise and develop our society. Attention must be given to enhancing the capacity of such formations to adapt to partially changed roles. Attention must also be given to extending social-movement and CBO structures into areas and sectors where they are weak or non-existent.”

This did not happen, as an enormous funding boost meant for civics and other CBOs in late 1994 was diverted by Roelf Meyer and Valli Moosa of the Ministry of Constitutional Development into advertising (by Saatchi&Saatchi) the state’s unsuccessful Masakhane campaign, aimed at getting poor people to start paying for state services they had boycotted payment for during apartheid. Perhaps the most charitable interpretation of the state-society relationship desired by the ANC can be found in an important discussion paper circulated widely within the party. Author Joel Netshitenzhe insisted that, due to “counter-action by those opposed to change,” civil society should serve the ruling party’s agenda:

Mass involvement is therefore both a spear of rapid advance and a shield against resistance. Such involvement should be planned to serve the strategic purpose, proceeding from the premise that revolutionaries deployed in various areas of activity at least try to pull in the same direction. When “pressure from below” is exerted, it should aim at complementing the work of those who are exerting “pressure” against the old order “from above.”

However, by the late 1990s, Pretoria’s neoliberal policies had severely deleterious effects on urban South Africa, and resistance began rematerialising. Because of a simultaneous political break from the African National Congress, the most substantial community groups that formed the Concerned Citizens Forum of Durban in 1999 and Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum in 2000 were mainly disconnected from the Sanco civics, even if many of their leaders (like Meer, Desai and Trevor Ngwane) had been forged in the earlier round of urban struggles.

For many, the traditional goals of socialism via state power remained intact, a point reiterated by the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee and Anti-Privatisation Forum, for example.

Still, as the first Mandela moment of post-apartheid South Africa passed, something bigger began to jell around 1999, when social movements emerged to offer radical challenges to the status quo, including the Treatment Action Campaign with their stunningly successful single-issue concerns about AIDS medicines, and the new urban social movements with their much broader potential but much greater disappointments. It is, in their wake, that the traditions of Mandela can best be recalled: full liberation, even if as President there was less socio-economic and environmental progress than there should have been.

To solve South Africa’s vast problems – not least of which is being both a major victim and a major villain when it comes to climate change – will require a major overhaul of every system in our lives here: production, consumption and social reproduction, energy, transport, agriculture, disposal, financing and everything in between. What is Mandela’s legacy, if not cementing the worst features of these systems, aside from beginning to undo their correlation with racism?

The solution to the problems that Mandela left behind will only come when a democratic society votes for a political party – probably the oneafter the ANC fully degenerates and loses power, perhaps in 2019 after six more years of destruction under Jacob Zuma’s rule – to overturn all these inheritances of apartheid capitalism. And then, an eco-socialist and feminist perspective within a strong but loving state will be vital.

No one said it better than Mandela himself, when in January 1990 he wrote to the Mass Democractic Movement: “The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”

Getting to that place is harder, given the legacy of the 1990s. Ironically, though, to transcend the society he has left us, the memory of Nelson Mandela will inspire many.

And in one way or another they will always ask, when reminded of the problems caused by the “devil’s pact,” was he pushed or did he jump? Perhaps he did both.

Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban: http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za.

OUR COMMON GROUND 2013 Season Begins February 2, 2013

 

2013 Season

 

 

OUR COMMON GROUND BEGINS THE 2013 BROADCAST SEASON’

SATURDAY, February 2, 2013   10 pm ET

 

 

SPEAKING TRUTH

 The 2013 SEASON

SATURDAY   February 2, 2013    10 pm ET

 

PhotoFunia-a349

 

saturdays

We hope that you will join us as we kick off our 2013 Season of LIVE Broadcast. This season, we focus on poverty, hunger, homelessness, prison and prisoners and mental health in Black America. Advancing our VOICE and our WILL. Building solutions in the context of respect for our people’s HISTORY and HOPE. Constructing the path for new law, new public policy and reparations in an on-going dialogue transforming our thinking and our living. It’s what we do on OUR COMMON GROUND.

 

 

OUR COMMON GROUND premiering the 2013 Season of LIVE Broadcasts February 2, 2013 – 10 pm ET

Live and Call-In

Broadcasting BRAVE BOLD and BLACK

Celebrating its 28th Year of Broadcast Excellence

Continuing the Legacy of bringing to our audiences the best of informed analysis, discourse, ideas, solutions to the pressing issues of Struggle of Black People.

OCG Meeting House Studios

“Where Friends come to Meet with Comrades”

Extraordinary Scholar and Author, Dr. Tony Martin Now an Ancestor l February 21, 1942 ~ January 17, 2013

Dr. Tony Martin Now an Ancestor

 

Professor Tony Martin dies at 70

Trinicenter.com Reporters
January 17, 2013


Professor Martin has written, compiled or edited 14 books including Caribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present (2012) published by Pearson Education; Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist and Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1, Or, A Tale of Two Amies (2007), Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (1983), and the classic study of the Garvey Movement, Race First: the Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (1976).
Dr. Tony Martin, former Professor Emeritus at Wellesley College, has passed over tonight, January 17th 2013 in Trinidad & Tobago at West Shore Medical Hospital. Trinidadian-born Dr. Martin taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, the Cipriani Labour College (Trinidad), and St. Mary’s College (Trinidad). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, Brown University, and The Colorado College and also spent a year as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad.

His work on Marcus Garvey was featured on the curricula of many African studies programmes around the world and he was a well-known lecturer in many countries.

Share your views here…

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Tony Martin is Emeritus Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, where he taught from 1973 to 2007. Now an Ancestor

Dr. Tony Martin is Emeritus Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, where he taught  from 1973 to 2007. Prior to coming to Wellesley, he taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, the Cipriani Labour College (Trinidad), and St. Mary’s College (Trinidad). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, Brown University, and The Colorado College. He also spent a year as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad.

Professor Martin has authored, compiled or edited 14 books. His most recent isCaribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present (2012) published by Pearson Education. Earlier works include  Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist and Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1, Or, A Tale of Two Amies (2007), Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (1983), and the classic study of the Garvey Movement, Race First: the Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (1976).

Martin qualified as a barrister-at-law at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn (London) in 1965, did a B.Sc. honours degree in economics at the University of Hull (England), and the M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Michigan State University.

Martin’s articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as the Journal of Negro History; Journal of African American History; American Historical Review; African Studies Review; Washington Post Book World; Journal of Caribbean History; Journal of American History; Black Books Bulletin; Jamaica Journal; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; and many others.

His writings can be found in several reference works and encyclopedias, including the UNESCO General History of the Caribbean; the Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyAmerican National Biography; the Encyclopedia of African American Business History; International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences; and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. He has received numerous academic and community awards, including a grant from the American Philosophical Society. He has reviewed articles and programs for scholarly journals, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Austrian Science Fund. His biographical listings can be found in Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in the World; Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers; Personalities Caribbean; Who’s Who Among African Americans; and elsewhere. He has been a reviewer and consultant for publishers and has served as an expert witness for Congressional hearings.

Martin is well known as a lecturer in many countries. He has spoken to university and general audiences all over the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and England, as well as in Africa, Australia, Bermuda, and South America. In 1990 he delivered the annual DuBois/Padmore/Nkrumah Pan-African lectures in Ghana. In 2004 he was one of the principal speakers at the First Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora, which was sponsored by the African Union in Senegal.

Learn more about Dr. Tony Martin at his Official Website

Dr. Martin became an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice in 1989. His voice is deep and important. We are proud of his association and support of our programming. We expect that he will be an ancestral guide to our mission.