Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Foundations and the South African Transition

Apartheid, pioneered in the U.S. South, became generally unacceptable when idealistic statements such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights received worldwide respect. South Africa required deft treatment. United States public opinion would support “authoritarian” anti-communist dictators, but apartheid was unacceptable to many here, black and white.

Our allies faced the same moralistic pressures from their citizens, and Third World countries were critical of close United States-South Africa relations. Unfortunately for liberal reformers, the leading South African opposition to apartheid was the African National Congress (although banned and exiled for many years); its major component was the South African Communist Party. The ANC Freedom Charter of 1955 stated its goal of creating a multiracial socialist South Africa, with land and resources reverting to the people. Eschewing this rosy future, many whites left the country, emigrating to Commonwealth nations or South America. This may have strengthened racist elements in the destinations, but it eased the situation somewhat in South Africa; those remaining were not such hard-core separatists.

The challenge for the Western elite was to disconnect the socialist and anti-apartheid goals. Foundations, along with covert and overt allies, aided in this process, partly by framing the debate in the United States. In 1978 the Rockefeller Foundation convened an 11-person “Study Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Southern Africa,” chaired by Franklin Thomas, President of the Ford Foundation, and including Alan Pifer, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Its mission “was to determine how the United States can best respond to the problems posed by South Africa and its dismaying system of racial separation and discrimination.” At the same time, it had to take into account the “full range of U.S. interests.”

The Commission had a large staff, and conducted extensive meetings in the U.S. with “representatives of civil rights, antiapartheid, religious, congressional, and student groups; university administrations, corporations, research and public policy institutes, and state and local governments; . . . and three former senior government officials: Henry Kissinger, Donald F. McHenry, and Cyrus Vance.” It traveled to South Africa and met with all elements throughout the country, and later conferred with interested parties in England, France, and West Germany.

The Commission’s Report, which became a major policy document in the U.S., concluded that there needed to be genuine sharing of political power, acceptable to all races. US strategic interests that must be protected included sea routes (for oil shipments); corporate investments; and access to minerals–not gold and diamonds–but chromium and ferrochrome, manganese and ferromanganese, platinum, and vanadium.

The Report warned of danger from the “growth of Soviet influence in the region, promoted by white intransigence in South Africa, growing political instability, rising levels of racial violence, and armed conflict.” It did not,  however, emphasize that the Communist Party, as a major partner in the ANC, was an internal threat to capitalism, rather than a “tool” of the USSR.  Soviet “philanthropy” was certainly helping the ANC, and was a major public relations benefit for the USSR vis a vis black Africa.

Among the Report’s recommendations was support for an arms and nuclear embargo. It advised against a general divestment process or economic sanctions. Corporations should be encouraged to improve black welfare and follow the Sullivan Principles, which was a pledge to promote equal opportunity in employment, decent pay, and human rights in general. At the same time, pressure should be put on the government to share power with blacks. U.S. private organizations were urged to “support organizations inside South Africa working for change, assist the development of black leadership, and promote black welfare.”

Foundations had been working for some time creating NGOs as alternatives to the liberation movement approach. The Ford Foundation promoted public interest law firms concerned with civil rights, which helped people to whom the apartheid laws were unfairly applied, and assisted black trade unions, especially those developing power in the mining industry. A Ford publication quotes Halton Cheadle, a partner in the largest human rights and labor law firm: “Only in unions have blacks had an opportunity to exercise democracy–the practice of electing your leadership and holding your leadership accountable.” It then notes: “Perhaps not coincidentally, the leader of the mineworkers union, Cyril Ramaphosa, was recently elected Secretary-General of the African National Congress, the nation’s oldest political party.”

Ford also gave grants to the South African Council of Churches, scholarships to enable blacks to become lawyers, and generally helped the moderate reformers. When the apartheid system finally collapsed, there were many human rights organizations in place to draft the new Constitution of 1996, which has a “state of the art” Bill of Rights. However, South Africa’s resource distribution has hardly been altered, socialism evaporated from the ANC leadership, and the new black governments are content to participate in the world market and its leadership institutions such as the World Economic Forum.

A South African scholar, Andrew Nash, has suggested that the ANC became a hegemonic force, which deflected or absorbed all criticism, arguing that there is no alternative to global capitalism. It used a “culture of human rights” to legitimate state power, and incorporated hierarchical tribal practices, harnessing the masses’ nostalgia “for a world in which personal ties of loyalty and obligation are not subsumed into commodity relations.” Furthermore, ANC leadership became increasingly comfortable and separate from the vast majority of impoverished citizens, as the black bourgeoisie settled into the previously white suburbs.

As in the 1960s U.S., “black power” was interpreted by some as “black capitalism.” Cyril Ramaphosa, the Ford democratic hero, headed a consortium of black investors that purchased “a large piece of the Anglo American Corporation” at discount prices.  Many such deals co-opted black leadership. They purchased support for the capitalist system in general, and also prevented the enactment of anti-business corruption legislation, as even The New York Times (September 1996) attested: “Black empowerment, South African style, has critics. Some say that in a nation where black unemployment is about 40 percent and laborers may earn $12 a day, the deals mainly enrich well-connected businessmen. Others call the deals cynical efforts by big business to buy the friendship of those in power.”

Joan Roelofs is Professor Emerita of Political Science, Keene State College, New Hampshire. She is the translator of Victor Considerant’s Principles of Socialism (Maisonneuve Press, 2006), and author of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press, 2003) and Greening Cities (Rowman and Littlefield, 1996). Web site: www.joanroelofs.wordpress.com On her site is the outline of an adult education course on “The Military-Industrial Complex,” with images, citations, and links. Contact: joan.roelofs@myfairpoint.net

This is an excerpt from Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism, SUNY Press, 2003. 
More articles by:

Joan Roelofs is Professor Emerita of Political Science, Keene State College, New Hampshire. She is the translator of Victor Considerant’s Principles of Socialism (Maisonneuve Press, 2006), and author of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press, 2003) and Greening Cities (Rowman and Littlefield, 1996) and translator, with Shawn P. Wilbur, of Charles Fourier’s anti-war fantasy, World War of Small Pastries, Autonomedia, 2015. Web site: www.joanroelofs.wordpress.com  Contact: joan.roelofs@myfairpoint.net

October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail