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A Gramscian-Marxist Framework for the Study of African History: A Background Paper , African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific 39th Annual Conference – Perth – Australia – 5-7 December 2016 (Conference Paper)

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This paper will lay out the structure of a Gramscian-Marxist framework for the analysis of modern African history. This framework is built around core Marxist understandings of capitalist processes and class relations, with emphasis on the
   Africa: Moving the Boundaries Proceedings of the 39th  African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Annual Conference, 5-7 December 2016, The University of Western Australia. (June 2017) ISBN: 978-0-9942689-2-1 AFSAAP 2016 -60 A Gramscian-Marxist Framework for the Study of African History: A Background PaperDavid Alexander Robinson  Edith Cowan Abstract This paper will lay out the structure of a Gramscian-Marxist framework for the analysis of modern African history. This framework is built around core Marxist understandings of capitalist processes and class relations, with emphasis on the specifically Gramscian developments around the nature of the state, and ideas of hegemony, common sense, and the role of organic intellectuals. This also incorporates developing ideas in the area of Uneven and Combined Development, and insights from World Systems Theory, on how relations  between core and peripheral states also impact the underlying class dynamics. This framework creates a narrative of shifting power relations and ideological paradigms over the last century, which gives the necessary context for understanding recent events in African  politics. Thus a broad narrative of global history over this period will be presented, with specific reference to the African situation. This paper is intended as a broad background paper to Benjamin Hale’s paper, ‘ANC and Capital: Aspirations to Hegemony’. The paper is  published as part of the 39 th Annual African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Conference Proceedings 2017. Introduction Marxist theories of the international political system, and within it capitalist imperialism, attempt to elucidate the confluence of two patterns of social organisation and competition: economic and geopolitical. Economic structures and competition are characterised by class relations and transnational linkages, while geopolitical structures revolve around the political and military power of states, and their control of territory. Thus, the whole array of states, international organisations, corporations, non-state actors, and civil populations must be integrated into a coherent framework for a complete understanding. The Marxist political-economic premise that the actions of various actors are guided by the forces of the global capitalist economy, and the priorities of capital accumulation is foundational to this analysis. However, it has long been recognised that different players’ interests differ, both domestically and externally. Notwithstanding this, states are generally held to serve the interests of their domestic capitalist class, which constitutes the primary source of taxation revenue and employment for the national population. Conversely, popular political support for a ruling regime suffers if there is a fall in economic prosperity. Therefore, there exists no general conspiracy of government and big business, but a commonality of interests (Callinicos 2009). The complexity of these sets of relationships is magnified when trying to determine how they interact in the definition of the ‘national interest’. This complexity requires an examination of antagonistic relations between and within different sectorsof society, the relations between  businesses and workers, and the competing interests of different sections of the state. The global balance of economic and military power has emerged from the historically   Africa: Moving the Boundaries Proceedings of the 39th  African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Annual Conference, 5-7 December 2016, The University of Western Australia. (June 2017) ISBN: 978-0-9942689-2-1 AFSAAP 2016 -61 conditioned material realities of different sections of the globe. Marxists have detailed the concept of “uneven and combined development” to describe the interconnected fabric of societies at varying levels of development and their economic and geopolitical relations. Imperialism refers to the imposition of control and unequal relations on other areas, for the  profit of the imperial actors. The resultant developmental differences arise from uneven distributions of natural resources and localities’ particular histories. They are reproduced by the modernstructures of international relations and the global economy (Arrighi 2007; Callinicos 2009; Harvey 2003). While Marxists see capitalist political-economic processes as transcending national boundaries, it is also recognised that the combination of the real legal authority of nation-states and the material reality of localised networks of resources,  population, production and consumption, mean that coherent national economies do exist, and are heavily impacted by local histories, cultural values, and political beliefs. Furthermore, the natural interlinkages with neighbouring geographical entities mean that regional economies develop with their own characteristics, and consequently become features within the global dynamics of capitalism. This division of the world into regionally differentiated economic zones was particularly emphasised by Dependency and World-Systems Theorists, such as Immanuel Wallerstein. The more empowered regions of the global economy were dubbed as the “core”, and the disadvantaged areas as the “periphery”. The economic dominance of the core zones ensured a continuous influx of extracted value from the  periphery. The super-exploitation of people in the periphery through artificially low wages, allowed a maximisation of profits in the core capitalist economies. Historically, the core dominated in manufacturing, and the periphery was consigned to the production of raw materials and agricultural outputs. However, in recent decades there have been important shifts in this distribution of labour as domination by the core capitalist powers is challenged (Harvey 2003).For the most part, the stability of the global economic system and dominance of particular states are not maintained by open coercion, but through willing cooperation. The Marxistconcept of “hegemony” captures this complexity. As noted by Arrighi (1999) –  Whereas domination rests primarily on coercion, the leadership that defines hegemony rests on the capacity of the dominant group to present itself, and be perceived, as the  bearer of a general interest. … Hegemony is … the additional power that accrues to a dominant group by virtue of its capacity to lead society in a direction that not only serves the dominant group’s interests, but is also perceived by subordinate groups asserving a more general interest. (p. 26) Hegemony, ‘depends on the capacity to articulate and orient common sense at the national and global levels through powerful international institutions and material capabilities…[and] relies both on coercion and consent’ (Dafour 2008, p. 456). From the 1970s onwards, neoliberal economic policies became increasingly important in structuring global common sense and guiding the aims and processes of international institutions and relations. Harvey (2005) argues that neo-liberalism, ‘proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade’ (p. 2). The state should establish the right conditions for security and the operation of the market, and beyond that have little involvement in the operations of society. Bond (2006, p. 11) records that internationally, a ‘Washington Consensus’ developed to emphasise the priorities of: ‘fiscal discipline’; ‘reordering public expenditure priorities’; ‘tax reform’; ‘liberalising interest   Africa: Moving the Boundaries Proceedings of the 39th  African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Annual Conference, 5-7 December 2016, The University of Western Australia. (June 2017) ISBN: 978-0-9942689-2-1 AFSAAP 2016 -62 rates’; ‘a competitive exchange rate’; ‘trade liberalisation’; ‘liberalisation of inward foreign direct investment; privatisation’; ‘deregulation’, and; ‘property rights’. According to Bond, ‘African structural adjustment programmes followed this set of strictures quite loyally from the early 1980s, leading to systematic macroeconomic instability’ (ibid.). Arguably, in the continuing globaleconomic turbulence that began with the 2008 economic crisis, there is what Gramsci (1932) would call an “organic crisis” within global political institutions, shifts within the sediments of “common sense”, and cracks in the structures of global hegemony. The Rise of Capitalist Imperialism and Western Hegemony Historically, capitalism as a system emerged through the processes of European imperial domination. Karl Marx argued that –  The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the absrcinal population, the turning of Africa into a commercial warren for the hunting of black skins signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitiveaccumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre. (in Bond 2006, p. III) The processes of “capitalist imperialism” emerged during the mid-19 th Century. Callinicos (2009) and Harvey (2003) arguethat by the 1850s and 1860s a true global capitalist economy had taken shape, drawing the globe together through the new technologies of communication and transportation: the telegraph, the railway and the steamship. Across Europe the bourgeois class exerted increasing power over state apparatuses, and various revolutions, civil wars and state formations marked the overall transformation of global class configurations. By the 1870s, European states were driven by capitalist logic, dominated by the search for profit and the need to reinvest surplus capital. Failure to satisfy these conditions often resulted in economic crisis and stagnation.Investment and market development in Africa, Asia and Latin America thus expanded dramatically from the late 1800s, and inter-state rivalry for influence rapidly evolved into a grab for colonies –such as the Scramble for Africa from 1884 onwards  –and eventually into the first World War. Consequently, Smith (2006) argues that –   No longer could geographical unevenness be passed off as an accident of historical geography, the result of being outside the project of civilisation… The dynamics of unevenness were now increasingly recognised as internal to the dynamics of capitalism itself…Whatever historical remnants of pre-capitalist societies…were now enveloped, appropriated and soldered into a larger global capitalism. Unevenness now  primarily emanated from the laws of capital themselves rather than from the archaeology of past social and geographical difference. (p. 185-186) This envelopment of the world involved the embedding of regional developmental differences between core and periphery, and the delineation of a fixed hierarchy of races to  justify this –often supported by interpretations of newly emerging evolutionarytheory. According to Wallerstein (1989), Africa’s incorporation into the world-economy was a slow  but steady process that had commenced by the late 1700s. Incorporation involved the mobilisation of significant local production processes as part of the global division of labour, and the formalisation of local political structures into nation-states bound by the practices of the global interstate system. However, by the beginning of the 19 th Century, the continent had  been affected, directly or indirectly, by the loss of population and lasting social and economic   Africa: Moving the Boundaries Proceedings of the 39th  African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Annual Conference, 5-7 December 2016, The University of Western Australia. (June 2017) ISBN: 978-0-9942689-2-1 AFSAAP 2016 -63 effects of war associated with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This left a legacy of political fragility in many areas (Ajayi 1989). Given the European demand for cash crops such as palm oil, peanuts,sisal and rubber, Africa’s internal network of trade routes increasingly became conduits of wealth and firepower, and channels of ideology distributing European religious and political ideas. For Berman (1998), the structure of the colonial state radicallytransformed the organisation of African societies and contributed to the formalisation of ethnic communities and modes of ethnic political mobilisation. By structuring the field of individuals’ social, economic and political choices, the colonial state helped shape the scope of ethnic politics in various areas, and the despotic bureaucratic and coercive systems of managing national populations and production that would later be taken over by local post-colonial elites (ibid.).For South Africa, incorporation into the world economy accelerated due to the Napoleonic Wars as Britain hastened their delivery of new British colonists. Through the development of sheep-rearing in the Cape Colony and sugar production in Natal, Southern African colonies  became partof the international division of labour. This also led to conflict with the pre-existing African and Afrikaner populations, and the expansion of European influence into the interior through the Great Trek. British governments srcinally declined to face the costly exercise of subduing the whole of Southern Africa, with its African states and Boer Republics. However, from the 1870s onwards, Europe’s new internal drive to invest, and local discoveries of diamonds and gold, led to the British expeditions to conquer the region (Bhebe 1989). British economic interests also demanded the transformation of the region’s African population in order to secure vast supplies of the labour they required. An economy  based on mining and plantation crops required the creation of a local working class, and labour was eventually drawn from across Southern Africa. Politically, the British worked to ideologically mobilise the white settlers of the region, to articulate a story of unified white supremacy in order to guarantee thesecurity of British interests in the region. As Rodney (1989) noted –  The combination of European capital with coerced African labour registered a sizeable surplus in products destined for European consumption and export. Crops and minerals were exported and the profits expatriated because of the non-resident nature of the capital in the mining and plantation companies and the import/export houses. However, some of the accumulation was reinvested. This allowed Southern African capital to grow to massive proportions… Mining dominated the post-war economies of Southern Africa, and came close to transforming the whole region into a single colonial economy. … the process of monopolization and cartelization assured the hegemony of large-scale capital in the then Union of South Africa, South West Africa and the Rhodesias. (p. 339-340) As the global hegemon, Britain had established an international network of pre-capitalist colonies and dependencies to which it marketed its industrial wares. The emerging hegemon,the United States, developed its power in competition against other advanced capitalist economies. Its negotiated hegemony amongst other industrial powers relied on the support for international institutions that managed inter-capitalist relations. America’s vision was transnational, rather than focused on protected imperial networks, and its strength lay in an economy based on mass-production, organised by multi-branch private corporations, and supplying a continental domestic economy –isolated from threats and competitors by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, while US capitalism would eventually establish global   Africa: Moving the Boundaries Proceedings of the 39th  African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Annual Conference, 5-7 December 2016, The University of Western Australia. (June 2017) ISBN: 978-0-9942689-2-1 AFSAAP 2016 -64 hegemony without formal territorial empire, it mobilised enormous military power and used it to intervene throughout the world. The US emerged from Second World War as an overwhelmingly dominant power. It developed its martial forces and a global network of military bases. Its industrial economy was rejuvenated, and its currency was supreme. In the face of the Soviet Communist enemy, the US presented itself as a global defender of freedom and private property, and American power as central to European collective security through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).As states across the world became independent through decolonisation, the US and Europe based their relations with them on  privileged trade deals, patronage, corruption and covert subversion. Institutionally, an international framework would manage and stabilise trade and economic development through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank of Settlements (IBS), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). During this period, Western states did not engage in direct exploitation of Third World labour as First World investment increasingly avoided poorer countries. The main source of enrichment was the extraction of cheap raw materials, particularly minerals and oil. The workers, peasants and urban poor of the developing world were progressively marginalised from the global economy. Many developing states looked to import-substitution to assist industrialisation, generally requiring large loans to fund their huge investments in heavy industries. However, they would eventually find that industrialisation would not allow them to catch up with the income and wealth of the West, or the political power associated with it (Arrighi 2003). Indeed, World Bank President Robert McNamara acknowledged that high rates of growth in low-income countries had –  …left infant mortality ‘high’, life expectancy ‘low’, illiteracy ‘widespread’, unemployment ‘endemic and growing’ and the distribution of income and wealth ‘severely skewed’. Although for most of the 1970s the income of many Third World nations increased in absolute and relative terms, the welfare of their populations continued to improve at a slow pace, if at all. (Arrighi 2003, p. 322) Throughout this period, the US and key allies maintained their control over global resources through military intervention or the support of anti-democratic factions. A key trend-setting intervention was the 1953 British and American coup in Iran, which overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mosaddeq when he acted to nationalise Iranian oil resources and undo the exploitative relationship imposed on the country while under British domination. The instalment of the Shah of Iran as the unchallenged dictatorial authority secured new oil contracts for American companies and transformed Iran into a pillar of American influence in the MiddleEast for the next 25 years (Engerman 2009; Harvey 2005). This would soon be followed by the overthrow of the left-leaning government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, to protect the plantations of the United Fruit Company from nationalisation and the Americas from “communist influence”.By the early 1970s, the rising influence of radicalism in Chile, demonstrated in electoral support for the Marxist President Salvador Allende, led the Nixon administration to politically and economically undermine the country,before eventually supporting the military coup of General Pinochet in 1973. During his years as a US-supported dictator, the Pinochet regime murdered more than 3,200 people, imprisoned at least 80,000 people, and forced tens of thousands to flee the country to avoid  political persecution (Weiner 2008; Klein 2007).However, escape to neighbouring countries often brought no solace, as more than 100,000 Latin Americans were affected by the US-
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