South Africa’s new anti-Western foreign policy

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The ANC must be congratulated for the care with which it prepares its members for important policy discussions of the kind that will soon be taking place at its 2015 National General Council. The NGC is the most important ANC meeting between National Conferences. It gives the organisation an opportunity to consider progress made with the implementation of policy since the preceding National Conference and to develop proposals for new policies at the next National Conference – which will take place at the end of 2017.

The NGC documents are not light reading. They encompass more than 200 pages and cover virtually every aspect of policy. For the most part, the NGC documents are fairly workmanlike – and avoid wild ideological prescriptions – although there are the predictable references to the radical implementation of the second phase of the National Democratic Revolution – and requirements for fundamental changes in rural land ownership.

The exception is the chapter on foreign relations.

The nature of the problem is indicated, right at the start, by the ANC’s characterisation of itself as “a revolutionary national liberation movement which is an integral part of the international revolutionary movement to liberate humanity from the bondage of imperialism and neo-colonialism.”

Why does it still regard itself as a national liberation movement – when it is the elected government of a constitutional democracy? What is “the international revolutionary movement”? What on earth is “the bondage of imperialism and neo-colonialism” in a world in which the last empires and colonies disappeared 40 years ago? Hello – its 2015 – not 1848 or 1917.
According to the NGC documents “imperialism has plunged humanity in a perpetual socio-economic crisis. The high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, diseas and underdevelopment confirm our long held view that the capitalist market economy cannot resolve its own contradictions”.

In fact the 70 years since the end of World War II, which have been broadly dominated by what the ANC calls the capitalist market economy, have seen more progress than any other period in the history of mankind:

• Despite the wars in the Middle East the 15 years since 2000 have been the most peaceful in human history;
• More people are now living in freedom than at any other time (except in the countries that the ANC now wishes to emulate);
• Between 1950 and 2011 global life expectancy rose from 47 to 70 years – and infant and maternal deaths dropped by half;
• Between 1980 and 2013 the UN’s Human Development Index improved from .559 to ,702 on a scale in which 1 represents the highest possible development;
• The percentage of the world’s population living in absolute poverty, defined as an income of less than US$ 1,25 per day, declined from 40% in 1980 to only 14% in 2013.

The NGC documents adopt an overtly hostile stance to the west and particularly to the United States. They claim that the US has declared a cold war against China and Russia. It is trying to destabilise China by portraying it as the world’s worst polluter; by supporting ‘counter-revolutionaries as human rights activists’; and by trying to sweep up animosity in East Asia to Chinese territorial claims in the China Sea.

The United Stsates is also trying to destablise the Russian government by staging counter-revolutionary protests and marches. “The war taking place in Ukraine is not about Ukraine. It’s intended to target Russia.”

The ANC goes on to claim that “Washington’s sponsored destabilisation is not limited to Russia and China. We see it unfolding in the streets of Latin America, including in Venezuela which the US has strangely declared a threat to its national security; in the Middle East and in African countries with the sole intention of toppling progressive, democratically electer governments.”
The ANC adulates Cuba: “We will always be inspired by the role of Cuba in the struggle for internationalism and solidarity. Its role in the struggle for the liberation of the African continent against imperialism and colonialism will always be treasured.”
So, the ANC is unequivocally aligning South Africa with dictatorships and is adopting an openly hostile stance against the West – and particularly against the United States.

Where does all this come from?

In all likelihood, South Africa’s new international orientation has its roots in the growing influence of the South African Communist Party in the direction of the National Democratic Revolution and in ANC policy in general. The NGC documents follow the lead provided by the SACP’s “Going to the Roots” document earlier this year and by the views expressed at its recent Third Special Congress in which it called for “partial delinking from the Western imperialist economic centres” with a view to “thus creating real possibilities for radical economic transformation in our country”. The SACP also calls for the ‘delinking’ of the poor in South Africa from monopoly capitalism (wahtever this means).

The ANC clearly wants to take South African foreign policy in a new and radical direction. Before it embarks on this course it should give careful consideration to the fact that ‘imperialists’ are by far the largest investors in our economy – with over 2 000 European companies operating here. Does it really want to alienate them?

Despite the growing importance to South Africa of our trade with China – our trade with the EU and the US is far larger. Does the ANC really want to jeopardise this trade – particularly when there is absolutely no need to choose between trade with China and the West?

Finally, in our new society the Constitution – and not the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution – is supreme. Foreign policy should reflect the values in the Constitution – and not the universally disproven jargon of Marxism-Leninism. This means that we should find our friends among the democracies of the world – rather than among the dictatorships that the ANC is now seeking to embrace.

– By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation