Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique

By Benita Parry | Go to book overview

Acknowledgements

The insistence in this volume that certain explanatory categories are indispensable to the analysis of colonialism and late imperialism (a capitalist world-system, uneven development, exploitation, inequality, injustice, conflict, class relationships, resistance and struggle) would have been redundant before the advent of postcolonial criticism and stems from my intellectual apprenticeship outside of academia. In the South Africa of the 1950s the minority white community, who in large regarded domination as a condition befitting the majority, were habituated to the ignominy of living within a wall built by a punitive state, reinforced by custom and maintained by law. But because even the most stringently policed boundaries can be crossed, one such escape route was found by those few white students at English-speaking universities concerned to meet the restricted intake from the oppressed communities. Within this last group were members of radical clubs and political parties. That such Marxist forums had existed in South Africa since the early 1930s was in part due to the very small number of Africans, Asians and Coloureds who had attended overseas universities and returned as doctors, lawyers, teachers and communists of one or other persuasion. This inadvertent process of radical politicization within an egregiously repressive society was paradoxically furthered by a white immigration policy that accidentally had admitted a scattering of left-wing academics and other professionals from abroad. Similarly, a programme for increasing the white population had extended citizenship to the numerous supporters of either Stalin or Trotsky entering without detection amongst the quota of European Jews of all classes allowed into the country. This convergence meant that South Africa was home to an intelligentsia in the very sense once used by revolutionary circles to name those who had constituted themselves as an intellectual and political vanguard.

And so it came about that one of the militant groupings ranged against the regime had links with the Third International, and another was affiliated to Trotskyism. About the Trotskyist tendencies it remains to be told how an association of such theoretical sophistication, high principle and austere political standards was overtaken by the Congress movement whose organizational skills and manifest ability to act ensured popular appeal, gained it recognition at home and abroad as the official opposition and culminated with its personnel forming the first post-apartheid government. Despite this, the thinking of the less prominent current, since relegated to a footnote in the official histories of South African resistance, survives in the critiques now being made of the neo-liberal doctrine and free-market practice to which the new South African state is ideologically and practically bound.

-ix-

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