[DEBATE] : (Fwd) More on Margaret Legum
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Nov 3 12:13:45 GMT 2007
Journalist Margaret Legum passes away
Zahira Kharsany | Johannesburg, South Africa
02 November 2007 05:20
Margaret Legum, best known for her call to sanction apartheid South
Africa, died in Cape Town at the age of 74 on Thursday. She died of
complications arising from a cancer-related operation.
She leaves behind two sisters, three daughters, five granddaughters and
one grandson. She was widowed in 2003.
Legum, who studied economics at Rhodes University and Cambridge, was a
major advocate of social justice in South Africa. She lectured and
worked as a journalist, often writing for the Mail & Guardian while
residing in Kalk Bay in Cape Town.
She co-authored the book South Africa: Crisis for the West, which was
published in 1964. The book argued for economic sanctions to help bring
down the apartheid government. She and her husband, Colin, were banned
in from South Africa in 1962.
More recently, Legum had criticised the economic situation in South Africa.
"There is the growing understanding that South Africa ... is suffering
an economic decline, not of its own making. Our famous political
'miracle' is in danger of being undermined by the fact of our dependence
on world economic factors over, which we have little or no control
"I am outraged ... appalling poverty in the midst of unbelievable wealth
and potential plenty for everyone"
She also co-founded the South African New Economics Foundation (Sane).
Vanessa Witbooi, director of Sane, described Legum as a humble, vocal
and informed new economist.
"She led Sane with vitality, goodwill and intellectual incisiveness,
commitment and humour, qualities that she embodied throughout her life
of service for the cause of economic justice," said Witbooi.
Her granddaughter, Mariam Wheeldon, remembered Legum as an
extraordinarily engaging person who was "concerned about economic
justice and the poor".
Wheeldon said that Legum had a great love for poetry, so much so that
she published an anthology titled Learning to Saunter earlier in 2007.
Sean Jacobs’ blog
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I got the sad news from a friend in South Africa this morning:
'The indefatigable Margaret Legum died last night.'
Margaret Legum was a public intellectual, trained economist (she founded
the South African New Economics Network, a group committed to creating
'... a humane, just, sustainable and culturally appropriate economic
system' in South Africa), opponent to apartheid (as early as 1964 she
published a book that made the case for sanctions against apartheid
South Africa), former political exile, partner to the equally
indefatigable Colin Legum (he passed away in 2003) and poet (she
published Learning to Saunter early this year).
Condolences to her family.
A brief paper Margaret presented at CCS on 28 Feb 2006:
Capitalism In South Africa’s Political Economy
Capitalism, world-wide, is indeed in crisis, as it has been before.
have had their own characteristics. Today they are particular to today,
main reasons, all of them linked to technological advance:
· First, capital (money) has the unique capacity to travel – to desert one
country for another – virtually at will. That happened before, about a
hundred years ago, when, as now, governments opened their exchanges
for capital to move; but the technical means to move money globally and
instantaneously, by digital electronics, is new and more enabling to capital
owners. The result is that capital can call the shots globally: it can tell
governments what to do, and does so – without fail in its own interests.
No other factor of production – not labour or the natural resource base -
can move. Only capital has that leverage.
· Second, The historic link between capital and savings has been broken by
the way the banking sector creates new money through loans and
secondary financial instruments like hedge funds and other derivatives of
various kinds. Simply put, banks create new money and issue it into
economies without reference to savings. They make loans by reference to
profit considerations, not the level of savings, and those loans are made
from thin air. The result is that the total money stock circulating in
developed countries bears no relation to savings or the volume of goods
and services. In the UK, for instance it rose from £2.8bn in 1948 to
£586bn in 1996. The proportion created by government fell from 46% to
3.8% in that period; the rest is bank-created. It is a highly dangerous
bubble, creating ever-increasing debt in all economies, and inherently
unstable. It is not sustainable.
· Third, the digital revolution ensures that jobs are lost quicker than they
are created. The industrial revolution technology created new jobs in
manufacturing faster than it lost jobs through technology. Today, the
faster the capitalist sector grows, the more employment it loses. The
reason is simple: you cannot compete globally without top quality
technology, and that means shedding labour. At the same time that
technology multiplies the goods and services that it produces – which it
cannot sell, because joblessness creates lack of demand – so it chronically
‘over-supplies’ the market. There will never be ‘full employment’ in the
private sector again: jobless growth is inevitable in the capitalist sector.
The result is that all enterprise competes for a larger share of a
shrinking market; and growing numbers of people are excluded from
participation, either as consumers or as producers. That is not
· Fourth, there is a current and accumulating crisis in the environment -
resulting from the over-use of fossil fuels and their effect on climate
change, together with the fact that those fossil fuels are not renewable and
are running out. That means that even if ‘growth’ were benign – did not
result in job loss – it cannot continue without killing the way that the
planet has sustained people for millions of years. The result is that
capitalism’s reliance on growth to prevent financial collapse and keep
the market expanding is a hiding to nothing.
The result of all this is that capital (money) is sucked up to the
richest segment of
the population. Capital owners have increased their share of global
over 100% in the past two decades. Everyone below the class that lives from
profits and financial bonuses is becoming both absolutely and relatively
Worse, that money is in effect hoarded at the top. \Most of it is not
the real economy where employment and goods are created; but in the
the financial markets. It travels the world trading in shares, bonds,
and latterly property. But putting these billions into these sectors,
the owners of
capital ensure that their prices continue to rise – until of course it
Meanwhile it is more profitable to play with money in that way than to
into the competitive world of production.
New economics points out that the always tenuous connection between money
and the real economy has been completely broken. Money – the means of
– is being monopolized within the financial sector. People are poor not
they cannot contribute but because they do not have access to money.
That is a
systemic problem, and not a human one. Money – always tending to the
– becomes more useless and destructive the more global is becomes. The
is not sustainable.
What is the future, given this latest version of capital accumulation
positioning in a dangerous world? One thing is certain: the globalised
competitive market in trade and capital is unsustainable, and the longer
not only the worst the suffering it causes, but the more difficult the
something more sustainable. There are a number of possibilities.
· The best is that a peaceful way will be found to restore a structured
for people to influence and contest the use of power by government for
different ends. What that means is the restoration of effective democracy.
We do not have that now, even in countries where ‘free and fair elections’
are held, because whoever wins is held to ransom by the owners of
capital. So there is little point in voting, and turnouts sink globally.
Governments need to be able to respond to the wishes of electorates to
create developmental, equitable and sustainable economies. They need to
be able to finance employment in the public sector – where people and
their skills are desperately needed – without having capital desert on the
grounds that governments should not be active in the economy. As Guy
Mhone pointed out, governments must get involved actively and critically
in development. It is obvious. Only the self-serving ideological rhetoric of
the financial sector and big business – small business can be constructive
in this arena – prevents us from understanding that dynamic. That is
because the media are part of the financial and multinational business
empires, and seldom question its ideology. The new economics movement
globally works to change macroeconomic theory and practice, so that the
market mechanism can become benign and promote progressive
· There will be a gradual de facto localisation of economies as people and
communities struggle to escape the suction of the globalised economy.
There are plenty of signs of that happening already – food gardens, local
cooperatives, local currencies, the use of local renewable energies and
local transport systems like bicycles. In that scenario livelihoods will
replace jobs as means of income; but they will be prosperous livelihoods
creating and benefiting by local demand related activity. Export-led
growth will be a thing of the past. Exports will be only one way of selling;
the local will be more common, more practical and less damaging to the
environment. In the end that is the way that human being like to live.
Whether it is happening fast enough to forestall what will otherwise be a
nasty crash is moot. The global new economics movement works at this
level on the ground.
· There will be a financial crisis of some kind, which will destroy the
the financial sector. Who knows what will come out of that. It will
certainly involve all of us, because sadly most of us are buttoned in to
banks and insurance, even if only through pensions and cheque accounts.
· There will be a class revolution, an uprising of the masses. Again, I find
that outcome difficult to predict. Historically it has resulted in some
pretty authoritarian and conflictive leadership. I do not personally
welcome the prospect for that reason, but it may be different in the
Either way it will be much contested. None of it can happen peacefully
tasking on the financial sector, and they are capable of battle royal.
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