Dark side of capitalism
Shalini Rawat

Decolonisation and Empire: Contesting the Rhetoric and 
Reality of Resubordination in Southern Africa and Beyond
by John S. Saul. Three Essays Collective.
Pages 201. Rs 200.

‘ON s’engage, puis on voit’—We engage, then (only do) we see. It is no coincidence that the line from the conclusion of the book should be the opening line of the review. It is only those who engage themselves in the fundamentals that affect our lives notice that the forces which fashion the world around us wear mere masks of benevolence.

Africa has been out of sight as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Though its nations won independence, colonialism entered from the back door and most of its countries and peoples are worse off than ever. Writers like Saul, ever the conscience-keepers for the rest of us who never seem to have the will for it, have the unenviable task of making the rest of the world think about a continent that doesn’t matter.

The book describes the never-ending spiral of struggle against market-driven measures to make the residents of these poor countries become paying customers. Apartheid, ostensibly, does not exist and yet the ‘free market economy’ has created newer images of Africa in our minds. Unemployed, single mother, wave upon wave of epidemics of diseases eradicated elsewhere, emaciated men and women, children with bloated bellies, tribal and ethnic conflicts, the tightening noose of AIDS—all these constructs have come together to form the collective identities of the African nations.

Saul, having first-hand experience of the place, is competent in questioning the politics that has made it the battleground it is today. While simultaneously examining case-studies of countries like Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania, he puts forward in clear terms the dilemma of all these newly-liberated countries which are left "`85to adapt (themselves) to the imperatives of a global market-place, one that is woefully imbalanced but is said, nonetheless, to carry, now quite spontaneously, the key to the betterment of the condition of all!"

Although socialism offers no solutions, Saul lambasts ‘thinkers’ like Ferguson, Colin Gray and Deepak Lal et al who openly advocate giving the role of global peacekeeper to a nation widely perceived to be a global bully—the USA. He argues against "employing the mechanisms of debt and the ‘appropriate’ international institutions to force economies to be ever more open to, and defenceless against, the law of the market and global corporate power—both to continue the exploitation of Africa but also, paradoxically, to marginalise it".

In paying tributes to the great visionaries Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel, he provides the spark that can keep the fires of resistance and hence, revolution, burning. The struggle against apartheid is no longer relevant because the challenges to the independence of Africa are even greater. But the lessons from previous resistances and revolutions must not be forgotten.

The book is another dent on the myth about a manna called capitalism. With better editing of the (sometimes overlapping) essays and lectures that largely comprise it, the book could have been crisper.