Exploitation: a case of money, not melanin

Posted on July 26, 2019


I will be in Ireland in August, ten years to the month since the much hailed “Celtic Tiger” economy started to unravel. It did so amid the stench of corruption and underlined how dangerous it is to welcome corporate pirates with “investor friendly” policies.

Less than a year before the Irish economic bubble burst, free marketeers everywhere were hailing the low tax regime and other inducements that had created in the Irish republic “one of the best business environments in the world”. Even the authoritative Le Monde newspaper in France hailed Ireland as a European style “American dream”.

In many ways, it was: it boosted the wealth of a few local wealthy people and greatly enriched a group of global corporates. It was a time of tax dodges, backhanders and extravagant expense that could more than rival a Gupta wedding. And all, basically, at a cost to the working people of Ireland.

Yet even as the global economic crunch loomed large, the solution to already stuttering economies continued to be seen as globalised free marketeering: an open door for investors. Today, similar — often the same — “business friendly” recipes are widely being touted for South Africa.

This brought to mind the comment made in 2015 by civil engineer, businessman and former uMkhonto weSizwe commander Stanley Manong in his myth busting autobiography, If we must die. He noted “Those who plan the future do not have a right to forget the past.”

Yet our would-be and actual political and economic planners not only seem to forget — or ignore — the past, many of them create or accept a distorted history which they project onto the present. One persistent and vague item of propaganda was also bequeathed to such bigots by the discredited and now collapsed Bell Pottinger publicists: White Monopoly Capital.

WMC is said to be at the root of all our ills. Not capital and capitalism; not even monopolies. Skin colour — the amount of melanin — is the deciding factor. But capital doesn’t give a fig about melanin; the only colour of real interest is the colour of money.

It’s the same the world over, although there are variations on the theme. Social and economic problems are most frequently blamed on “scapegoat” groups, often distinguished by “race”, religion or ethnicity.

In some cases, accompanied by different levels of demagoguery, these planners come to political power. The “developed world” has the likes of Donald Trump in the US, Boris Johnson in Britain and Matteo Salvini in Italy; in other regions, Narendra Modi in India, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Win Myint in Burma qualify.

For all their populist rhetoric — of the Left or Right — what they promise is to usher in a better alternative to the painful and insecure present. Yet in all these cases, the poor, whether working or unemployed, continue to suffer, some perhaps slightly less than others.

This is a situation described by the radical Irish writer and political activist Eamonn McCann as “tuppence ha’penny looking down on tuppence”. In other words, by giving marginally higher starvation wages to one group, the higher paid see themselves as superior to the more lowly paid and so support those who exploit both groups.

In the case McCann referred to, it was exploited Protestant workers in Northern Ireland looking down on marginally more exploited Catholic workers. This form of economic and social segregation was a system employed even more brutally and efficiently in South Africa, with a caste hierarchy based on the fallacious concept of race.

Today, as the South African economy continues to falter, the “race” — the colour — card is being played again with something of a vengeance; even colonialism is promoted as an historic white versus black issue.

What this reveals is that the past is again being ignored. Which makes a visit to Ireland even more pertinent since Ireland — home of mostly melanin deprived people — was the first British colony in the 20th century to win independence through armed struggle. That was in 1922.

It should also, perhaps, not be forgotten that the first indentured labourers — slaves — shipped to work on imperial Britain’s plantations in the West Indies, were Irish. The making of money and not melanin clearly being the root cause of exploitation.