by Kirk Helliker & Peter Vale, Paper presented at XII Annual Conference of the International Association of Critical Realism Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 23rd-25th July 2009
Although increasingly hidden by the incarnation of capital and the national project, South Africa has a long and deep-seated association with Marxism. This intellectual project, including the critical moments in its rise and demise, is the central focus of this article. The argument is simple, almost linear: South Africa’s interest in Marxism – especially Western Marxism – was abruptly truncated. There has been an unravelling of interest in Marxism since the end of apartheid: this we regard as a retreat. The generalised condition of retreat has stunted the possibility of an engagement with building a socialist alternative that once appeared to be ingrained in the struggles which raged during apartheid’s endgame.
Two immediate reasons explain this outcome. First and foremost, South Africa’s relationship with the world and the process of its domestic transformation has been predicated on the purported benefits to be derived from neo-liberal globalisation. Secondly, and more importantly for our purposes, the intellectual-activists that helped to deliver sharp blows in apartheid’s final years have become distanced from radical forms of praxis, including being drafted into the direct service of the new state. In what follows, these two responses are interrogated in some detail.
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