|EVO MORALES (BOLIVIA), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega ((Nicaragua), and Fidel Castro (Cuba): Do they represent no more than opposition to American hegemony in the hemisphere or a resurgence of socialism as a model for human development? Traditionally, the United States has suppressed, using all means, benign and evil, any and all cases of experimentation with political models besides its own in this hemisphere. It has not been a mere quest for political hegemony. It has been to obliterate and forestall what Noam Chomsky calls “demonstration effect” — to inhibit the creation of a successful and contrarian econo-political model in this region.What we are witnessing in Latin America is not disconnected from events elsewhere in the world, as regards the health and vigour of socialist ideology.Take Asia. Since 1979, the world’s fastest and consistent GDP expansion has been China’s. Vietnam has posted comparable and equally consistent performance. All are led by communist parties.
From 1991, India, once hobbled for decades by what became known pejoratively as the Hindu rate of growth (3.2 per cent GDP which was barely ahead of the population growth), has witnessed phenomenal growth. But India’s Congress Party and long-time ruler did not abjure Pandit Nehru’s socialism.
Russia has consistently posted 5 per cent GDP annual growth, a 40 per cent growth in five years, $30 billion FDI to the non-oil sector, and, for good measure, $221 billion listed in London stock.
Some of the most successful Chinese companies are cited in Fortune 500, but they remain firmly State-controlled. Some are now listed in Western capital markets with vast investments in, of all places, private equity!
In fact, the world’s most successful investor, Warren Buffet, actively invests in some Chinese State-controlled entities!
The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1991. In the West, this was celebrated, as marking the formal global death of socialism and its various variants.
Did we prematurely bury socialism? And, what filled the vacuum?
It is said that Reaganomics as inspired by Milton Friedman, did. Reagan’s ideological successors, the neo-cons, later conjured up something called “compassionate conservatism”, a real oxymoron, if ever there was one. And the evidence is uninspiring.
True, the global economy has witnessed unprecedented performance since the 1990s. But it is the contribution of socialist management which has been more phenomenal.
WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE impressive performance and attraction, of socialist managed economies? It is said that they have integrated capitalist thinking within their socialist model and that the credit is owed to this capitalist orientation. Fine.
But earlier, we were told that the fatal fault with Marxist-socialism was its rigidity and incapacity to be transplanted in certain environments, and that it is essentially undemocratic.
Well, Morales, Chavez and Vladmir Putin were democratically elected and we have witnessed peaceful and regular leadership changes in the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy.
It was also said that the public corporation is the sole engine of capitalist success and that the State is incapable to run successful world class enterprises. There are, today, hugely successful Chinese companies which are State-owned.
The lesson seem to be that first, socialism is resilient and adaptable. Secondly, capitalist globalisation is least capable of addressing the most pressing needs of humanity as listed in the UNDP human development indexes, and is susceptible to inequity and inequality.
Third, in looking for relevant and sustainable models for economic development, we should eschew theoretical/ideological fundamentalism.
Socialism is not faultless. But it has now demonstrated wealth-generation capacity. And, above all, a sense of equitable distribution of its proceeds.
The lesson for Africa from all that is this: Africa needs to develop greater self-confidence and self-belief and capacity to choose a social model that is relevant to its reality. This task precedes futile efforts at renaming the OAU and the puerile search for a continental government.
If large parts of Asia, and, increasing portions of Latin America, are finding value in remodelled socialism, why are we so intimidated?
We are too fixated on one paradigm. Are there no alternative models for social organisation and development (other than capitalist globalisation) most suitable to our unique circumstances?
China is currently Africa’s largest investor and trading partner and has pledged to double trade with Africa to $100 billion by 2010, dwarfing the US and Europe. Western critics ascribe China’s Africa interest as driven by resource extraction needs and dalliance with illiberal regimes.
Compare this with the long history of Western brutality, rapacious exploitation, bondage – including slavery – colonialism, (plus apartheid), globalisation, aid-dependent penury and moral righteousness!
Africa must draw the correct lessons from current history and responsibly choose the means to belong to a respectable 21st century status!
Major Oswago is a lawyer and management consultant.