DEMOCRACY IN FREEFALL: RESTORING OUR FREEDOM BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

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Mbeki had spent many of his years of exile in England, studying at the University of Sussex, then moving to London. In the eighties, while the townships of his country were flooded with tear gas, he was breathing in the fumes of Thatcherism. In , after a night of drinking Scotch with Mbeki and a group of South African businesspeople at a Zambian game lodge, Hugh Murray, the editor of a prestigious business magazine, commented, "The ANC supremo has a remarkable ability to instill confidence, even in the most fraught circumstances.

According to Gumede, Mbeki took on the role of free-market tutor within the party. The beast of the market had been unleashed, Mbeki would explain; there was no taming it, just feeding it what it craved: growth and more growth. So, rather than calling for the nationalization of the mines, Mandela and Mbeki began meeting regularly with Harry Oppenheimer, former chairman of the mining giants Anglo- American and De Beers, the economic symbols of apartheid rule. Mandela has in recent days sounded more like Margaret Thatcher than the socialist revolutionary he was once thought to be.

The ANC needed a completely new economic plan—something bold, something shocking, something that would communicate, in the broad, dramatic strokes the market understood, that the ANC was ready to embrace the Washington Consensus.

Now, under a new order of democracy, the party was opting to hide its economic plans from its own caucus. In June , Mbeki unveiled the results: it was a neo-liberal shock therapy program for South Africa, calling for more privatization, cutbacks to government spending, labour "flexibility," freer trade and even looser controls on money flows. The stock market loves overhyped, highly managed moments that send stock prices soaring, usually provided by an initial public stock offering, the announcement of a huge merger or the hiring of a celebrity CEO.

When economists urge countries to announce a sweeping shock therapy package, the advice is partially based on an attempt to imitate this kind of high-drama market event and trigger a stampede—but rather than selling an individual stock, they are selling a country. The hoped-for response is "Buy Argentine stocks! The Shock of the Base "The new convert is always more zealous at these things. They want to please even more," remarked the Durban-based writer Ashwin Desai when we met to discuss his memories of the transition.

In prison, he said, "if you please the warden more, you get a better status. And that logic obviously transposed itself into some of the things that South African society did. They did want to somehow prove that they were much better prisoners. Much more disciplined prisoners than other countries, even. After hearing years of testimony about torture, killings and disappearances, the truth commission turned to the question of what kind of gestures could begin to heal the injustices. Truth and forgiveness were important, but so was compensation for the victims and their families.

It made little sense to ask the new government to make compensation payouts, as these were not its crimes, and anything spent on reparations for apartheid abuses was money not spent building homes and schools for the poor in the newly liberated nation. Some commissioners felt that multinational corporations that had benefited from apartheid should be forced to pay reparations. In the end the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made the modest recommendation of a one-time 1 percent corporate tax to raise money for the victims, what it called "a solidarity tax.

But many of those who were directly involved in the process are deeply ambivalent.

The Polish Case

Then he goes to work in town, which is still largely white, in palatial homes. And at the end of the day, he goes back home to squalor?


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To hell with Tutu and the truth commission. If she had the process to do over again, Sooka said, "I would do it completely differently. Nelson Mandela has cited the debt burden as the single greatest obstacle to keeping the promises of the Freedom Charter. We are limited by the debt that we inherited. The fear is that even though there is a strong legal case that the debts are "odious," any move to default would make South Africa look dangerously radical in the eyes of investors, thus provoking another market shock.

AJCS ranked top think tank in the Gulf and fifth in the Middle East and North Africa in 2018

In , seeing the financial stress the new government was under, he and a group of South African activists decided that the best way they could support the ongoing struggle was to start a "debt jubilee" movement. Then there is the matter of where, precisely, the money is going. During the transition negotiations, F. This was an extraordinary demand in a country with no social safety net to speak of, yet it was one of several "technical" issues on which the ANC ceded ground.

Country celebrates 25th anniversary of first democratic election

The vast majority of the beneficiaries are former apartheid employees. And how do they raise the money for this generosity?

By stripping the state of its assets through privatization—a modern form of the very looting that the ANC had been so intent on avoiding when it agreed to negotiations, hoping to prevent a repeat of Mozambique. Unlike what happened in Mozambique, however, where civil servants broke machinery, stuffed their pockets and then fled, in South Africa the dismantling of the state and the pillaging of its coffers continue to this day.

The plan was for Parliament to relocate for the day from its usual commanding home in Cape Town to the far more humble surroundings of Kliptown, where the charter was first ratified. Mbeki would also inaugurate a new Freedom Charter Monument, a brick tower in which the words of the Charter had been engraved on stone tablets, and light an eternal "flame of freedom. Yet there was something strange about the event. Hoping to build on this powerful draw, Blue IQ determined that there was no better symbol of the South African triumph-over-adversity narrative than the Freedom Charter.

With that in mind, it launched a project to transform Kliptown into a Freedom Charter theme park, "a world-class tourist destination and heritage site offering local and international visitors a unique experience"—complete with museum, a freedom-themed shopping mall and a glass-and-steel Freedom Hotel. What is now a slum is set to be remade "into a desirous and prosperous" Johannesburg suburb, while many of its current residents will be relocated to slums in less historic locales. What sets this particular project apart is that, in Kliptown, the foundation on which the entire trickle-down apparatus rests is a fifty-year-old piece of paper that called for a distinctly more direct road to poverty elimination.

Redistribute the land so millions can sustain themselves from it, demanded the framers of the Freedom Charter, and take back the mines so the bounty can be used to build houses and infrastructure and create jobs in the process. In other words, cut out the middleman. Those ideas may sound like utopian populism to many ears, but after so many failed experiments in Chicago School orthodoxy, the real dreamers may be those who still believe that a scheme like the Freedom Charter theme park, which provided handouts to corporations while further disposessing the neediest people, will solve the pressing health and economic problems for the 22 million South Africans still living in poverty.

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How to Stop a Democratic Free Fall When Populists Are in Power

Perhaps the best measure of the betrayed promises of freedom is the way the Freedom Charter is now regarded in different parts of South African society. Not so long ago, the document represented the ultimate threat to white privilege in the country; today it is embraced in business lounges and gated communities as a statement of good intentions, at once flattering and totally unthreatening, on a par with a flowery corporate code of conduct. But in the townships where the document adopted in a field in Kliptown was once electric with possibility, its promises are almost too painful to contemplate.

Many South Africans boycotted the government-sponsored anniversary celebrations completely. Never before had a government-in-waiting been so seduced by the international community.

Reward Yourself

When he pointed out that South Africa wanted to do nothing more radical than what Western Europe had done under the Marshall Plan after the Second World War, the Dutch minister of finance dismissed the parallel. But the economies of the world are interdependent. The process of globalization is taking root. No economy can develop separately from the economies of other countries. Even Russians had seen the neo-liberal light—at the time the ANC was in its heaviest negotiations, Moscow was in the midst of a corporatist feeding frenzy, selling off its state assets to apparatchiks-turned-entrepreneurs as fast as it could.

If Moscow had given in, how could a raggedy band of freedom fighters in South Africa resist such a forceful global tide? That, at least, was the message being peddled by the lawyers, economists and social workers who made up the rapidly expanding "transition" industry—the teams of experts who hop from war-torn country to crisis-racked city, regaling overwhelmed new politicians with the latest best practice from Buenos Aires, the most inspiring success story from Warsaw, the most fearsome roar from the Asian Tigers.

At least one credible study has found that the cutoffs outnumber the connections: the government says it has connected nine million people to water, the study calculated ten million disconnections. A "technical" accounting change in switched the state pension fund from a "pay as you go" system, in which benefits are paid from contributions made in any given year, to a "fully funded" system, in which the fund has to have on hand enough capital to pay out 70 to 80 percent of its total liabilities at any given time—not a scenario it will ever face.

As a result, the fund ballooned from 30 billion rand in to more than billion rand in —certainly qualifying as a debt shock. What this means for South Africans is that the huge pool of capital administered independently by the pension fund has been cordoned off and placed out of reach for spending on housing, health care or basic services. The pension agreement was actually negotiated on the ANC side by Joe Slovo, the legendary leader of the South African Communist Party, a fact that continues to be a source of great resentment in the country today.

Martin J. Simple majority rule was actually delayed until Until then, executive power was shared among all the political parties that won more than 5 percent of the popular vote. Moyiga Nduru, "S.

2. The End of History and the Birth of the Digital World

The rand recovered slightly by the end of the day, closing 7 percent lower. Thomas L. Stephen F. Follow her on Twitter: NaomiAKlein. This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover. Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks.

We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Home Subscribe Donate. About Us Key Staff Testimonials. Search form Search. Published on. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, declared that he prioritized getting money out of politics over any other policy, since breaking that corrupt bond would liberate government and allow it to work for the middle and working classes.

Those elites and the great majority of Americans with a four-year college degree are comfortable with globalization, growing international trade, and immigration. They do not fully understand that most working people of all races believe government and elected leaders have an obligation to control immigration. Six-in-ten voters believe immigrants strengthen our country, but they also think borders should be real and citizens should matter more than non-citizens. They worry somewhat about competition for jobs, but even more about access to schools, housing, and health care, all desperately short of resources.

President Obama and Democrats gained majority support in the country for comprehensive immigration reform because their plan involved increased enforcement on the border and in workplaces along with giving the law-abiding, taxpaying undocumented a path to citizenship after paying a fine and learning English. This reform allowed the Administration to manage immigration and build a framework for increasing entry numbers in the future, but they also showed that they were serious about border control and citizenship.

President Obama did not allow undocumented immigrants to gain subsidies under Obamacare, and he deported more undocumented immigrants than any other President. He took a lot of heat from activists, but the Democratic Party was probably the only center-left party in the advanced world trusted to address immigration, and that is probably still true today.

Voters made clear they want an economy, society, and government that works for them.