Adrift in a Decolonizing World, the White Settler Makes a Final, Furious Stand
Anticipating a government plan to seize their farms for redistribution to landless blacks, white South Africans have begun shuttling ex-Israeli commandos into the country to train embattled farmers to defend their properties, some parcels of which have been in their families’ hands for more than a century.
The white farmers’ militant defiance is redolent of an old Cedric the Entertainer punchline– “I wish a kaffir would try to take my farm”–but this is no joke. South Africa’s black majority and heavily-armed white minority–especially the descendants of the Dutch and French Huguenots known as Afrikaners– both claim a kind of spiritual title to the land, and bloodshed will almost certainly attend any effort to expropriate property without compensation.
The Israelis who are lending white South Africans a hand, of course, know a thing or two about what it takes to dispossess a darker-skinned people of their ancestral lands; since emerging victorious in the 1967 Six-Day War with its Arab neighbors, Israel has illegally annexed more and more land, squeezing Palestinians into smaller and smaller slums, akin to South Africa’s all-black townships, or Bantustans, in a process that is similar to the gentrification that is reorganizing the American metropolis today.
Both the settler state of Israel and apartheid were created in 1948 and when the international community imposed sanctions on South Africa’s white minority government in the 1980s, Israel continued to sell goods, munitions, and even nuclear technology to the rogue regime. Conversely, South Africa’s black majority has long articulated its steadfast solidarity with the Palestinians, with no less an authority than the iconic Nelson Mandela asserting that the emancipation of black South Africans is incomplete without Palestinian sovereignty. His fellow Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has gone even farther with his assessment that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is actually worse than apartheid.
While Israeli soldiers are rushing to the aid of their fellow white settlers in Africa, so too are politicians in the U.S. helping Israel stare down the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which represents an existential threat to the state, much as an international embargo sparked the abolition of apartheid 25 years ago. Cynically branding criticism of Israel’s occupation as anti-Semitism, 27 states have approved either legislation or executive orders prohibiting state agencies from doing business with vendors who support BDS; in February the U.S. Senate passed a bill introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to extend the ban nationwide, a move the ACLU decries as a violation of the constitutional guarantee of free speech.
Rubio is also carrying water for the Trump administration’s plan to re-establish control over Venezuela’s ample oil supplies, which was nationalized by a socialist uprising of the country’s workers–the mostly Afro-Caribbean and mestizo populations who built the country–against the lighter-skinned European descendants who own the country. And just as white South African farmers have asked for Israel’s help in putting down an intifada of destitute blacks, the Trump Administration has asked Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to join the U.S. in recognizing Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president, even though his party boycotted the elections; two-thirds of voters cast ballots to reelect Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicholas Maduro, to a second term.
Bolsonaro is himself quite an interesting case. Four months into his presidency, he has already established himself as a Trump Mini-Me, with his rancid racist and misogynistic appeals, demonization of the poor, and cuts to social spending deepening the fissures in a country that abducted more slaves from Africa than any other country in the Western Hemisphere, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is wider than practically anywhere on earth.
What we are witnessing, from Ramallah to Rio, Capetown to Caracas, Green Bay to Gaza, is the white settlers’ last stand as the sun sets on a post-colonial order that has proven to be materially worse than the worldwide Kipling-esque kleptocracy it replaced. The 2008 financial crash that blanketed the world like soot from a nuclear fallout delivered a deafening final verdict on the neoliberal era inaugurated on September 11th, 1973 when Chilean troops stormed the presidential palace of the country’s socialist President, Salvador Allende, at Henry Kissinger’s behest:
Never has the global white settler elite seen its leadership so widely discredited, its privilege so openly challenged, its reputation so ignobly trampled, or a knavish, restless, mob quite so large, or angry, amassed as its gate.
“It wasn’t the indigenous or the Black population who should pay the bill,” Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio da Silva–commonly known as “Lula”– said in 2009 of the global financial crisis, “but those really responsible, the blue-eyed bankers.”
For the crime of being modestly responsive to Brazil’s Black population, Lula today sits in a jail cell, convicted of corruption charges that are almost certainly exaggerated if not fabricated entirely. Like Gramsci or other famous political prisoners of old, he is permitted limited contact with the outside world, his circumstances similar to that of Julian Assange, who earned the enmity of the global white settler class by exposing the state terrorism that is the rebar of monopoly capitalism’s international campaign of dispossession.
Consider, if you will, the almost complete lawlessness that led last month to the stunning images of British police officers frogmarching a visibly feeble Assange from Ecuador’s London Embassy. To surrender Assange to the British, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno took the extraordinary step of rescinding the citizenship of a refugee who had been granted asylum; authorities in the United Kingdom sentenced him to a year in jail for skipping bail in a Swedish sexual assault investigation in which no charges were filed and plan to transfer him to U.S custody when they are expressly forbidden from extraditing anyone to a country that has the death penalty; and the Trump administration is apparently hellbent on prosecuting Assange for publishing leaked information which some might refer to as standard journalistic practice.
Wholly bereft of new ideas, deeply insecure, morally bankrupt, and exposed as frauds, the global white settler elite is doubling down on the only tactic it knows–primitive violence– and closing ranks around each other in a dissonant bid to protect the tribal brand, elude accountability, and delay the inevitability of decolonization.
Africans refer to it as the last kicks of a dying mule and point to the final days of apartheid which produced a surge in violence and corruption as bankers, corporate executives and investors swindled one another to grab what they could before the system of racial privilege went belly up. That did not happen immediately, however; the Lords of capital persuaded Mandela and his comrades within the ANC that the best way to redistribute wealth from the colonizer to the colonized was by replacing industrial enslavement with financial enslavement. The result is that it’s been a quarter century since voters of all races went to the polls to vanquish apartheid and 90 percent of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of 10 percent of the population–overwhelmingly white–while 80 percent of the population–overwhelmingly Black–owns nothing at all according to a 2016 research paper by a graduate student at Stellenbosch University, Anna Orthofer. The official unemployment rate is 27 percent, higher than in the U.S at the nadir of the Great Depression. “The gap between black and white has just grown bigger and bigger,” 59-year-old Thamsanqa Mashigo told Associated Press reporter Andrew Meldrum ahead of the country’s May 8th election, in which the ANC is widely expected to record their lowest vote total since 1994. “And (after) 25 years, I expect(ed) it to be much better. The gap should have closed, not totally, but at least be on the right track.”
The same can be said in the U.S. where 156 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, 42 million African Americas own all of 1 percent of the country’s total wealth. Brazil’s recovery from its worst recession ever has been anemic, and Lenin Moreno’s collaboration with Trump is part of an effort by Ecuador’s white settler class to douse the fire next time in the form of an uprising by the country’s restive, and impoverished indigenous majority. And what is often left unsaid is that Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution was sparked by the state’s 1989 massacre of as many as 2, 000 workers protesting the abrupt advent of neoliberal price hikes and austerity policies.
Venezuela’s proletariat was merely the first to reject the satrap’s response to their demands, but like dominoes falling, one nation after another is reaching its tipping point, and realizing, finally, that the epochal disaster that has befallen us is not of our making. If it wasn’t clear to African-Americans before it certainly is now after the great heist that was subprime loans: our persistent grinding poverty is not attributable to our depravity but theirs, neither Eric Garner or Philando Castille was murdered because they didn’t pull their pants up, and the water in Flint was not poisoned because we name our kids Trayvon, Shaniqua or Mercedes.
We suffer mightily because someone has stolen all of our shit, and now we want it back.
A great reckoning is due.