The line from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore relates well to what's going on in Egypt, perhaps elsewhere in the region as well, saying: "Things are seldom as they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream."
Visceral street anger is real. What's orchestrating it, however, is suspect, especially its likely Washington impresario, implementing long-planned regime change for new faces continuing old policies, leaving deep-rooted hardships unaddressed. The script is familiar.
In his book "Freedom Next Time," John Pilger discussed Nelson Mandela's betrayal in post-apartheid South Africa, embracing what he called "Thatcherism," telling Pilger:
"You can put any label on it you like; you can call it Thatcherite, but for this country, privatization is the fundamental policy."
In 1990, two weeks before freed from prison, he was quoted saying:
"The nationalization of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC (and changing) our views....is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable."
In 1955, that view became ANC Freedom Charter policy. Its liberation struggle wasn't just political but also economic. White mine workers earned 10 times more than blacks, and large industrialists used security forces to enforce order by disappearing dissenters.
Post-apartheid, a new way was possible, Mandela poised to lead it by rejecting market orthodoxy for economic justice. In 1994, ANC candidates won overwhelmingly. Nonetheless, despite transitioning peacefully, betrayal, not progressive change followed. Black South Africans became predatory capitalist hostages. They still are, worse off now than under apartheid.
Even The New York Times noticed, writer Celia Dugger headlining on September 26, 2010: "Wage Laws Squeeze South Africa's Poor," saying:
"In the 16 years since the end of apartheid, South Africa has followed the prescriptions of the West, opening its market-based economy to trade, while keeping inflation and public debt in check (by following IMF diktats). It has won praise for its efforts," but at a price. "For over a decade, the jobless rate been among the highest in the world," exacerbated by the global economic crisis, "wiping out more than a million jobs."
Overall, the toll included:
-- double the number of people impoverished on less than $1 a day from two to four million;
-- unemployment doubling to 48% from 1991 - 2002, currently even higher;
-- two million South Africans losing their homes while the government built only 1.8 million others;
-- in the first decade of ANC rule, nearly one million South Africans lost farms; as a result, shack dwellers grew by 50%;
-- in 2006, 25% of South Africans lived in them with no running water or electricity;
-- the HIV/AIDS infection rate is about 20%; ANC officials deny its severity and do little to help; as a result, average life expectancy is lower than in 1990;
-- 40% of schools have no electricity;
-- 25% of people have no clean water, and most with it can't afford the cost;
-- 60% have inadequate sanitation, and 40% no telephones.
Post-apartheid came at a high price with political empowerment traded for economic betrayal, and no planned relief for millions of suffering South Africans, victims of predatory capitalism.
The Berlin Wall's fall should have been triumphant for millions. Instead it was tragic for Russia and post-Soviet states like Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and others.
In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, promising political and social change, but wasn't around long enough to lead it. He liberalized the country, introduced elections, and favored (then) Scandinavian-style social democracy, combining free market capitalism with strong social safety net protections. He envisioned "a socialist beacon for all mankind," an egalitarian society, but never got the chance to build it.
When the Soviet Union dissolved, he was out. Boris Yeltsin replaced him, supporting harsh Chicago School orthodoxy, masquerading as "reform." Former apparatchiks profited along with a new oligarch "nouveaux billionaire" class, strip-mining Russia's wealth, then shipping it offshore to tax havens.
Predatory capitalism devastated ordinary Russians, enriching a select few at their expense. The toll included:
-- 80% of farmers bankrupt;
-- about 70,000 state factories closed, causing an epidemic of unemployment;
-- 74 million Russians (half the population) impoverished; for 37 million of them conditions were desperate, and the country's underclass remained permanent;
-- alcohol, painkilling and hard drug used soared;
-- since 1995, HIV/AIDS increased 20-fold;
-- suicides also rose, and violent crime more than fourfold; and
-- Russia's population declined by around 700,000 a year before leveling off; unfettered capitalism killed 10% of it - a startling condemnation of how capitalist excess harms so many, including in other post-Soviet states.
Free Market Repression in Haiti
Except briefly in 1804 after revolutionary liberation turned slaves into citizens and during Jean-Bertrand Aristide's tenure as president, Haitians suffered harsh predatory capitalist exploitation, making it the region's poorest nation and one of the poorest globally. Even before the devastating January 2010 earthquake, followed by greater than ever depravation and raging cholera, its burdens included:
-- imperial control as a de facto US colony;
-- its ruling elite having dominant social and economic control; six families controllig the economy, media, universities, commerce and trade;
-- the region's most unequal wealth distribution and one the most unequal globally;
-- 1% of Haitians controlling half the country's wealth;
-- in contrast, over 80% enduring harrowing poverty;
-- three-fourths of the population living on less than $2 a day and over half (56%) less than $1 a day;
-- 5% of the population owning 75% of the arable land;
-- rampant unemployment and underemployment; two-thirds or more of workers with no reliable jobs, and most with them earn below-subsistance pay;
-- structural adjustments decimating the rural economy, forcing displaced peasants to cities for non-existent jobs;
-- public sector employment the lowest in the region at less than .7%;
-- life expectancy only 53 years; the highest hemispheric death rare, and infant mortality is double the regional average at 76 per 1000;
-- the World Bank placing Haiti in its bottom rankings based on deficient sanitation, poor nutrition, high malnutrition, and inadequate health services;
-- over half its people food insecure and half its children undersized from malnutrition;
-- more than half with no access to clean drinking water;
-- its bottom hemispheric ranking in health care spending with only 25 doctors and 11 nurses per 100,000 population and most rural areas with no access;
-- the highest HIV-AIDS incidence outside sub-Sararan Africa;
-- the region's lowest sweatshop wages for Haitians lucky enough to have work;
-- called "the Republic of NGOs," most exploit Haitians brutally for profit; and
-- its longstanding "restavec" system, entrapping hundreds of thousands of children in forced bondage;
Overall, America maintains imperial dominance, controlling Haiti's resources, its economy and politics. It exploits Haitians ruthlessly, strip-mines the country for profits, and installs new regimes no different from old ones.
The same story repeats globally, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, plagued by war, occupation, torture, oppression, appalling poverty and unemployment, no security, clean water, enough food, shelter, medical care or other essential services. US "liberation" brought millions of deaths, disease, hunger, depravation, and grievous unaddressed human suffering. Moreover, privation levels keep rising as well at home because Washington refuses to address them.
A Final Comment
Post-WW II decolonization produced neocolonial regimes, Cold War politics, the Non-Aligned Movement, emergent nationalism, ethnic conflicts, and American imperial dominance, distinguished by its:
-- abhorrence of democracy;
-- support for neocolonial strongmen, mostly police state dictatorships serving Western interests; and
-- use of direct or proxy belligerence for world capitalist enforcement, keeping the world safe for big money.
Old orders passed. New ones emerged. Everything changed but stayed the same, more than ever dominated by finance capital and monopoly corporations, controlling governments for their own self-interest at the expense of harshly exploited workers globally. As a result, today's world is characterized by instability, declining living standards, police state harshness, and enormous human suffering, especially in areas like the Middle East.
Across the region, people want it ended, pitting revolutionary populism against imperial harshness offering pretense, not change. As a result, expect new faces continuing old policies, yielding nothing unless sustained mass outrage persists. That's today's reality, resolution still in doubt, but odds always favor the strong.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.