By Charles Onunaiju
RECENTLY, the term xenophobia, simply a hate for foreigners, people of other tribes, ethnic nationality, religion or even region, has entered popular consciousness due largely to orchestrated attacks against foreigners in South Africa by largely unemployed and angry youths. The twin evil to xenophobia, chauvinism which thrives on racial, tribal, ethnic and religious arrogance, is no less toxic. Both xenophobia and chauvinism are manifest bile of hatred and arrogance; but they are not autonomous human behaviour and disposition, rather are profound manifestation of social discontents.
The obvious crises of colonial domination were exclusion of indigenous populations from meaningful political, economic and social life and the obvious remedy was decolonisation. But the logic of colonialism was capitalist expansion from its metropolitan birthplace to the world peripheries, especially in Africa where it sought markets, raw materials and cheap labour.
The crises of contemporary State in Africa is unconnected with the fact that independence did not alleviate Africa’s backward role of a rudimentary capitalist artery, featuring essentially as a marginal and the weakest link in the global capitalist chain, which itself is experiencing rupture in its most advanced metropolitan enclave.
The promise of national liberation and independence in Africa is actually a new deal for the workers, peasants and professionals; but the economic structure directly to colonial domination did not transform to autonomous and independent development, the equivalent of political independence and, therefore, remained exclusionary of the vast majority of the African people. Today, the struggle for the small space of exclusionary capitalist development fuels hate among nationalities, breeds arrogance of one group against another and drives a wedge among groups who mutually trade blames for lost of shrinking opportunities.
The inabilities of various African regimes and governments to transit from the capitalist economic exclusion of the majority of the working population to non-capitalist inclusion resulted in the powerful social alienation that sweeps across the continent and creates in its wake of bile of inter-communal hate and hostilities with its more toxic transnational variant, popularly called xenophobia now. As capitalism enters a terminal crises and its global driver and outreach of imperialist domination, showing evident signs of fatigue for overreaching itself, Africa would consequentially boom in shocks and what is now known as xenophobia is an early sign of things to come.
Across Africa, neo-liberal reforms have come a full circle which while offering the state a marginal role in economic planning and definition of economic priorities, features the state only in the exclusive role of the guardian of private capital and its foreign speculators.
Because capitalist economic development narrowly focuses on the market, itself narrowly defined by the demands of monopoly finance capital, the broad range of opportunities naturally available from the expansive market of Africa’s growing demand do not feature in the policy framework of most governments in Africa.
The narrowing space of neo-capitalist economic order in Africa means that the broad mass of the working people, whose roles would have been indispensable in the expansion of the continent’s economic base, are currently out of sync with so-called “reality” of today.
Today, African governments are in the fore- front of the attack of organised labour and the dignity of labour. The brutal attack on organised labour and their trade union movements at the behest of monopoly finance capital erodes the critical and strategic base on which African economies would have taken off on value multiplying trajectories, with a reasonable possibility to absorb the army of youth entrants to the labour market. The ubiquitous call for entrepreneurship should naturally be supported with a framework of integrated national and regional economies in which synergy is created through inter-sectoral connectivity.
The offensives of African governments against working people through harsh labour laws, the most notorious being casualisation through which workers are vulnerable to the whims of employers, puts a lid on the creative productivity and consequently spike the economic bases for sustainable growth and inclusive development.
South Africa whose militant anti-colonial movement was most ferocious; having aroused the most wide-spread anti-colonial consciousness and conversely, the expectation that liberation would improve living condition was also more widespread. The wing of neo-liberal elite in the liberation movement allied to international finance monopoly capital triumphed over the most advanced vanguard whose finest and most charismatic representative Comrade Chris Hani was assassinated immediately after the collapse of apartheid. With an economic structure of neo-capitalism hardly weaned off from its apartheid strangle-hold, the mass of workers brought out and roused to anti- colonialism was immediately abandoned by capitalism.
Tragically, in the re-enactment of their traditional anti-apartheid militancy, the rudderless youths venting frustration at their miserable social condition and lack of opportunities, took to venting anger in the ogre of looting and vandalisation foreigner’s properties. As the so-called private capital compromises the integrity of the state in Africa through bribery binge that fuels corruption across the continent, the society stands at the cross-roads of deconstruction and possible melt down.
But the crises in Africa today is not just the failure of leadership, but the abysmal failure of the intellectual community to initiate a discourse, a fresh impetus, for socialist modernisation, with its prospects of inclusive and sustainable economic development and functional democratic participation.
The general perception at least in Nigeria that xenophobia is an organised and orchestrated attacks against foreigners and even tacitly approved by the government of South Africa is simplistic and misguided.
It is almost like the routine here, that alleged Fulani herdsmen are the bandits hacking down farmers, has the tacit support of the federal government. These tendencies are malaise of neo-capitalist economic order, whose key feature is exclusion and marginalization of majority of working people, whose struggle for slim opportunities result in reinventing themselves as primordial social categories in other to antagonize one another. The privileged elite and their private sector allies despite the sound bites of routine platitudes actually enjoy moderating bestial fisticuffs of people against themselves.