ILRIG 15th Annual Globalisation School
Are you confused about what is going on in the world? So am I. So is everyone. This is the underlying and continuing reality of a chaotic world-system.
What we mean by chaos is a situation in which there are constant wild swings in the priorities of all the actors. One day, from the point of view of a given actor, things seem to be going in a way favorable to that actor. The next day the outlook looks very unfavorable.
Furthermore, there seems to be no way in which we can predict what position given actors will take on the next day. We are repeatedly surprised when actors behave in ways that we thought impossible, or at the very least unlikely. But the actors are simply trying to maximize their advantage by changing their stance on an important issue and thereby changing the alliances they will make in order to achieve that advantage.
The world-system has not always been in chaos. Quite the contrary! The modern world-system, like any system, has its rules of operation. These rules enable both outsiders and participants to assess the likely behavior of different actors. We think of this adherence to the rules of behavior as the “normal” operation of the system.
600 workers who were fired by PepsiCo are taking matters into their own hands and occupying the factory in Buenos Aires.
If the name PepsiCo is not familiar, surely a few of its trademarks are: PepsiCo owns nearly all the brands we expect to see in any general store around the world, including Pepsi, Lay’s, Quaker, Dorito, Starbuck’s Ready-to-Drink, 7UP, Cheetos, Aquafina, Mountain Dew, Gatorade and Tropicana. The sheer corporate strength of the second largest food and beverage company in the world makes the struggle of over 600 workers in Buenos Aires against a PepsiCo snack factory both an uprising against great odds and an inspiring stand against corporate dominance.
On June 20, 2017 PepsiCo announced the relocation of its snack production from Vicente Lopez in Buenos Aires to a factory in Mar del Plata, a city over 250 miles south of the Argentinian capital. 691 employees arrived to work to find a sign on the closed entrance announcing the relocation of the factory, in which only 155 of them would be offered jobs in the new location. In the following days, workers voted in committees to take over the plant, blocking the entrance to the factory and demanding their jobs instead of the compensation PepsiCo offered.
The end of Apartheid overwhelmed mass political activity
During the struggle against Apartheid ordinary people were highly involved. Highly inspired by an ideal of a democratic order, individuals involved themselves in mass activity. The mass democratic movement, though coordinated at national and regional level, was deeply rooted in township neighbourhoods. Street committees and civic associations played a vital role at local level.
The grassroots organizations have slowly faded away, and in many cases have also been actively demobilised, after the fall of white minority rule. Popular participation in the social and political life of our communities was soon replaced by trappings of regular elections. Voting has been structured to take place nearly after every two years. It has shifted our focus from active involvement in politics and issues affecting us. We have now placed our hopes in political parties and charismatic personalities. Our aspiration for social equality has been quelled to a large extent. Democracy is no longer regarded as a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Freedom for Dinah and Sipho, Justice for Papi!
The Boiketlong Four
In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.
Evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was shaky and state witnesses either couldn’t identify the four accused or place them at the scene at the time. To convict them the state used the 1973 apartheid law of so-called ‘common purpose’, meaning they were found guilty simply because they were leaders of the community; even though no evidence conclusively connecting the four with the burning of the councillor’s house or cars was presented. At least one of the four, Dinah Makhetha, was not even present at the time.