BRICS and Africa, 1960-2013: The struggle to get out from under

BRICS leaders
By Gary Hicks
Apr 4, 2013

This past week the heads of state of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS, for short) met in Durban, South Africa. These four sub-continental nations constitute a conscious bloc of middle-developing countries that share an interest in working with one other, in order not to become individually beholden to the traditional European-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund. That shared interest has taken a major step forward in the projected establishment of a development bank, co-administered by BRICS. 

To say the least, international imperialism is in no way amused by these developments. They are particularly disturbed by the awesome role that Peoples Republic of China has played in bringing the other nations together. All of the non-Chinese BRICS members have both major export and import trade relations with China. In the particular case of Africa, most of that continent's fifty-plus nations enjoy relations with China through the Forum on China-Africa Commerce: FOCAC.

Urban and rural infrastructure is being built, very often not directly related to exports out of country, as was the case in colonial times. People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remember that a little over five decades ago, Belgium left their newly independent country with very few doctors and other experts. Today the Congolese like other African peoples notice that China is training managers and other workforce experts by the tens of thousands, either in the home country or in Beijing. Brazil and India are also present in Africa, but it is China that has gained the ire of U.S and other imperialist lands because of their no-questions-asked-no-strings-attached relations with these nations. All this concerning a continent whose material resources are scarcely beginning to be developed, and where China's trade policies threaten to allow Africa to develop as a continent in its own right. 

These newly developing relations are of a capitalist nature. They could not be otherwise given the global reality in which international trade takes place. Furthermore, China itself is in the throes of fighting for its socialist life. They, to steal a rhetorical flourish from another time, are testing whether their nation or any nation so conceived and dedicated can long endure.

There are incidents of worker exploitation and abuse, alongside the good news that Africa is developing its own working class. Political corruption and civil war exist alongside the fits and starts of development and processes of self-determination. The COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) invited the trade union federations and other workers organizations from the BRICS countries to discuss these matters. In addition, groundworks.org.za and others sponsored a series of plenaries and public marches under the theme "brics from below". These gatherings and demonstrations expressed concern for the varying forms of exploitation, oppression (especially of women), repression, disrespect for the environment, and a host of other causes of concern. The statements of both of these coalitions are reflective of a consensus amongst these forces concerning what the BRICS governments need to pay heed to, as regards the rights of their respective countries' working people. 

Deborah Braughtigam has monitored China-Africa trade relations for years by. Her website telegraphs no punches in identifying, analyzing, explaining, and interpreting the relations of China and most of the countries of the African continent. I also highly recommend her book on the subject, The Dragon's Gift. The Real Story of China in Africa.

The events of this past week have left a lot of people scratching their heads as to what the BRICS gathering is heralding. Will it become a center of politico-economic liberation from the likes of the World Bank and the IMF? Or will it become a new center for an updated scramble for Africa? Has China's international reputation been enhanced? Or has the past week added grist to the mill of suspicion as to China's intentions? Time will tell.

In the meantime, we who would develop an anti-imperialist view and practice must be governed by Malcolm X's maxim: that history is best qualified to reward all research. We need to get a basic understanding of the history of colonialism, neo-colonialism since the late 1950s and some introduction to the origins of the "generations of resistance" to colonialism, racialism, and their relation to imperialism.

This Al Jazeera video above is a very decent introduction to to post-1960s Africa until roughly now. C.L.R James's two-part speech on Pan Africanism given in 1973, works as an introduction to those small circles of African leaders of different ideological bents, who shaped much of post-1945 African leadership, both in the struggle to end colonialism, and trying to provide direction for the independent countries and the continent in the post-colonial period. Walter Rodney’s book (full text here) is in my estimation what some young people today call “da bomb”, but which most of us reading this would simply call awesome.  

More soon.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Gary Hicks reads and writes/publishes poetry, runs a venue in Berkeley, where he resides. He is also involved in researching materials on Peoples Republic of China, and particularly that country's growing relations with the African continent. Finally, he is slowly getting involved in housing issues in Berkeley.

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