Africa and the BRICS formation

What kind of development? – Published on Pambazuka News, by Horace Campbell, April 19, 2012.

The BRICS leaders have seen concretely that there is no alternative to moving from a unipolar world to a multipolar world that is based on mutual respect and an end to hierarchies … //


When the financial analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote their forecasts on the future of the BRIC economics in 2003, “Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050,” [6] it was not in their calculation that in less than ten years the capitalist system would be in deep crisis and that the societies of the European Union would be on their knees with emissaries seeking bailout from China, Brazil and even African states.    

At the time of the 2012 Summit the New York Times grudgingly reported that, “Last November, Mr. O’Neill predicted that the group’s combined economies, now worth almost $13 trillion, would double in the coming decade, eventually surpassing the size of the economies of both the United States and the European Union.” [7] Opportunistically, the leaders of Britain are jockeying for London to be an offshore center for trade in the Chinese currency. With the news of the collapse of the Euro spooking the bond traders in Europe, a few days ago the bank HSBC announced that it was about to sell bonds denominated in the Chinese Currency (RMB or Yuan). European capitalists from the London capital markets are no longer waiting for a neat change in the property laws inside of China which would guarantee holding large amounts of Chinese currencies and assets.

Today, the reality of a changed international system is evident and policy makers in all parts of the world are seeking to adjust to this new reality. Out of a force of habit from the past hundred years European and US policy makers seek to shape perceptions of the ‘emerging countries’ [8] and it is from their schools where there are scholars who pontificate on which society will be the hegemons in the next fifty years.

Students who start from realist theories in international relations have studied ideas of strength and power for so long that in their analysis and calculation, there can be no other possibility than a world where there is one or two military ‘superpowers.’ Whether it is Henry Kissinger who in his book, ‘On China,’ envisages the dominance of China, (as long as it takes the capitalist path) or Zbigniew Brzezinski who envisage a new alliance between China and the United States in a Group of Two (so that the present Chinese political leadership can deepen their alliance with the plutocrats of Wall Street), realism and realist doctrines echo across the globe. From the United Kingdom, British scholars and journalists pontificate on the rise of China arguing that China’s economic and political clout will only be realized when China embrace western ‘democratic’ values. [9] Robert Kaplan completes this realist tapestry by writing on the rivalry between China and the United States in the Indian Ocean. [10] From inside Chinese Universities and think tanks leading realist scholars such as Professor Yan Xuetong of Tsinghua University and Wang Yizhou, Vice Dean School of International Studies at Peking University ponder on the need for the Rise of China in order to end the dominance of United States or the U.S.-led world order.” These Chinese institutions now produce books and monographs on the Rise of China and fete scholars who write books such as that of Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. [11]

When I attended the 11th annual conference on Chinese diplomacy in Beijing last December, it was striking how much emphasis the realists were placing on the future relationship with the United States as if there were no other important regional formations. It was left to by Le Yucheng, Assistant Minister and Director Policy Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to highlight the new importance of BRICS for Chinese foreign policy. In his keynote address “Current International Situation and China’s Foreign Affairs” le Yucheng grasped the importance of BRICS and communicated this, especially in the context of financial crisis in Europe, the revolutionary change in Egypt and the diminution of the dollar. Thus far, because of the intellectual and political retreat from Marxism and Maoism in China, the political leaders have been supporting the ideas of Confucius, “that everyone should know their place in social hierarchies.” Many of the top intellectuals within the political establishment of China who seek to trace their lineage to their proper place in the social hierarchy of China prior to 1949 do not factor in the international crisis of capitalism in their analysis of the new global order.

It is in India where the perverse idea of social hierarchy has been institutionalized in a caste system to the point where these ideas hold back the full potential of all of the peoples of India. Realist scholars in India respond to the end of the US dominance by holding on to a vision where the ideas and policies of the United States can form the basis for an alliance between the Indian ruling class and the United States to ‘balance’ the rise of China. Although touted as a ‘rising economy,’ India has been the largest recipient of World Bank loans. This alliance between the Indian governing class and the Bretton Woods Institutions ensured that in his address to the BRICS Summit, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh said that, BRICS need to “expand the capital base of the World Bank and other Multilateral Development Banks to enable these institutions to perform their appropriate role in financing infrastructure development.” [12] There is a wider intellectual canvas in India with younger scholars recognizing the need to go beyond neo-realism in international affairs. There are major political and social struggles all over India with some of these struggles militarized. Scholars such as Sreeram Chaulia have written on need for the refinement of theories relating to South-South Cooperation. In the dominant centers of International Relations theories there is great fear of theoretical frameworks that start from a radical feminist perspective.

Russia has retreated from all ideas of building an egalitarian society and is now suspended between its socialist past and its oligarchic present. Russia is already in a formation with China called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and recently carried out joint military operations with China. Russia is one of the societies which is still reeling from destructive dismantling of the planned economy. [13] while in Brazil the intellectual struggles are as intense as the political struggles for democratization for that society to break out of racial hierarchies. Russian scholars have been very active in calling for a clear role for BRIC in articulating the construction of a new international order. [14] In the emerging global order, the majority of the peoples of the South are seeking new relations beyond the reproduction on new ‘superpowers.’ [15] Inside Brazil, the majority of the peoples are struggling for a form of democratization that repairs the centuries of destruction and genocidal economics. Foremost among these peoples are those of African descent at home and abroad who are seeking to move to a new philosophical basis for international politics, one that harnesses the resources of the planet to lay the foundations for peaceful relations. It is here where the philosophy of Ubuntu holds promise in proposing a different priority from the old ideas of strength, power, military might and the ‘development of the productive forces.’

In 2011 South Africa was invited by China to its summit on the Chinese island of Hainan and South Africa became the fifth member of BRIC. When South Africa became the full member there were a number of choices before the South Africans, either reproducing realist ideas that South Africa was the strongest economy in Africa, a regional hegemon and hence logically entered the club of the ‘emerging powers’ or pushing for BRICS to engage questions of peace, health and the environment to break the preoccupation with ‘trade and development’ It was the South African struggle that popularized the ideas of Ubuntu but since the coming to power of the African National Congress (ANC), the political leaders have embraced the ideas of capitalist development while posturing as defenders of African freedom. The memory of the self-organization of the popular classes in the anti-apartheid struggle is still fresh in the minds of the people so the political leadership cannot jettison the ideas of African liberation. More importantly, it was this anti-apartheid struggle that gave birth to new forms of internationalism.
Thus, while progressive Pan Africanists hail the emergence of BRICS as a possible alternative to neo-liberal hegemony, the planet will not have shaken the shackles of oppression by opposing US financial dominance and replacing it with multilateral neo-liberal cooperation between rising capitalist states in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The progressive African point of view on the emergence of BRICS is now being demanded as more and more there are initiatives coming from BRICS such as the formation of a development bank.



The African peoples have a clear sense of the need for a new Development Bank to supplant the IMF but this financial institution cannot be based on the ideas of Walt Rostow or Henry Kissinger. Samir Amin was very clear as to the new kind of social transformation that must be in tandem with this ’development.’
“Development cannot be reduced to its apparently major economic dimension- the growth of GNP and the expansion of markets(both exports and internal markets)- even when it takes into consideration the ‘social’ dimensions (degrees of inequality in the distribution of income, access to public services like education and health). ‘Development’ is an overall process that involves the definition of political objectives and how they are articulated: democratization of society and emancipation of individuals, affirmation of the power and autonomy of the nation in the world system.” [22]

This was the principle of development and social progress as it was articulated by the Bandung project. Imperialism fought to roll back this project of the autonomy of societies and nations in the world system. It was in Africa where this counter revolutionary energy was fed by white supremacy so Africans will strategize for the building of a new international system. This system cannot be based on a Confucian principle of hierarchies or an Indian caste system. In the medium term, if BRICS is to be the anchor of a new social order, it must have a strategy for a phased expansion.

Africans will support BRICS while they are fighting against oppression at home and abroad. Africans welcome the idea of linking up with the bank of the South in so far as it is in Latin America where the struggles against neo-liberalism and racism are most advanced. In Argentina the radical initiatives in relation to an assertive role of the Central bank and the nationalizing of foreign oil companies is now making headlines. The struggles of African descendants in Latin America have brought issues of racism and racial discrimination out in the open. It is in Brazil where the African descendants constitute the majority of the population where this struggle is most intense. The fight against racism in Brazil is going on at the same time when Africans are working hard to strengthen the African Union. It is the convergence of these two struggles which will influence the outcome of Dreaming with BRICS the path to 2050. In this way the future of BRICS will be linked to a multipolar world that is against all forms of oppression. This would expose the caste systems of Russia, China and India and be pushed by the same alliance that promoted Ubuntu in the African Liberation struggles.

Ubuntu emphasizes linked humanity and our intrinsic connection with a complex universe. The processes of ‘development that we have seen over the past thirty years have reinforced the forms of production and consumption that is speeding the destruction of the planet earth. Although in the communique the leaders of BRICS affirmed the concept of a ‘green economy,’ the language of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘economic growth’ point to the old forms of economic industrialization that has brought the world to a tipping point. The carrying capacity of the planet cannot sustain a mode of capitalist economic development that mimics the forms of human organization of Western Europe and North America. China and India argue that they are developing countries in fora that deals with climate change but want to continue the destructive forms of economic management. Ubuntu opens the space for us to understand how different parts of the universe fit together, with an understanding that “everything is connected to everything else.” As temporary inhabitants of the physical space on earth, we begin to appreciate the reality that the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the cooperating systems (atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere).

We are entering the era of the bio-economy and the idea of a BRICS development bank must have as its first priority the health and safety of the planet and the health and safety of humans everywhere.

(full long text).


BRICS: …  is an international political organisation of leading emerging economies, arising out of the inclusion of South Africa into the BRIC group in 2010. As of 2012, its five members are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.[2] …

BRIC: … is a grouping acronym that refers to the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which are all deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development …

Ubuntu (philosophy): … is an African ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. Some believe that ubuntu is a classical African philosophy or worldview[1] whereas others point out that the idea that ubuntu as a philosophy or worldview has developed in written sources in recent years.[2] The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa …

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