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Selected Publications written or edited by William Minter

2011 - African Migration, Global Inequalities, and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots.
Current African Issues Paper for Nordic Africa Institute.


August 1, 2010 - Oped in Providence Journal U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs
President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world. Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an obstacle as well as a partner.


Spring, 2010 - Foreword to issue of Articulate - End "Aid," Invest in Global Public Goods
Let us agree that the "aid paradigm" is fundamentally flawed, in that it is based on a model of the rich "helping" the poor. But the paradigm advanced by free-market fundamentalism, that poor countries and poor people can and should lift themselves up by their bootstraps, without benefit of support from the wider society, is also fallacious.

April, 2010 - Zimbabwe: Demystifying Sanctions and Strengthening Solidarity, by Briggs Bomba and William Minter
In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community, both global and regional, has other tools as well.

October, 2009 - Africa: Climate Change and Natural Resources, by William Minter and Anita Wheeler
Africa will suffer consequences out of all proportion to its contribution to global warming, which is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy countries. But Africa can also make significant contributions to mitigating (i.e. limiting) climate change, by stopping tropical deforestation and ending gas flaring from oil production.

March, 2009 - Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa, by Daniel Volman and William Minter, for Foreign Policy in Focus html | pdf (283K)
Will de facto U.S. security policy toward the continent focus on anti-terrorism and access to natural resources and prioritize bilateral military relations with African countries? Or will the United States give priority to enhancing multilateral capacity to respond to Africa's own urgent security needs? If the first option is taken, it will undermine rather than advance both U.S. and African security.

February, 2009 - Inclusive Human Security: U. S. National Security Policy, Africa, and the African Diaspora, edited for TransAfrica Forum html (150K) | pdf (2.8M)
Fundamentally, it is necessary not only to present a new foreign policy face to the world, but to shape an international agenda that shows more and more Americans how our own security depends on that of others. The old civil rights adage that "none of us are free until all of us are free" has its corollary in an inclusive human security framework: "None of us can be secure until all of us are secure. "

April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice, pamphlet written for American Friends Service Committee html | pdf (379K)
"As the global economy drives global inequality, movement across borders inevitably increases. If legal ways are closed, people trying to survive and to support their families will cross fences or set sail on dangerous seas regardless of the risks. "

December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's Warriors," pp. 147-152 in African Studies Review html | pdf (70K)
"The books reviewed in this essay are a small sample of one genre of war literature: detailed accounts of battle from the perspective of those among South Africa's military veterans who have no question that they were fighting a just cause in defense of their country. "

Jan 31, 2007 - Oped in Providence Journal "Don't replay Iraq in Horn of Africa"
"Somalia is not Iraq, of course. ... But the similarities are nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation ... They disregarded Somali and wider African opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems."

Jul 8, 2002 - "Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order" (pdf)
"The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa."
In Science & Society, July, 2005

Jul 8, 2002 - "Aid—Let's Get Real"
"There is an urgent need to pay for such global public needs as the battles against AIDS and poverty by increasing the flow of real resources from rich to poor. But the old rationales and the old aid system will not do. ... For a real partnership, the concept of "aid" should be replaced by a common obligation to finance international public investment for common needs."
In The Nation, July 8, 2002, with Salih Booker.

Nov 3, 1992 - Oped in Christian Science Monitor "Savimbi Should Accept That Democracy Worked in Angola"
"Just one month after Angolans peacefully thronged polling stations in their first multiparty election ever, the conflict-battered Southern African country is on the brink of all-out war. ... The international community, including the US, has been unanimous, in urging Savimbi to accept the election results, but Savimbi and his close-knit group of top officers remain both unpredictable and militarily potent. The new conflict, which appears to the starting, will be hard to contain."

April, 1988 - "When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reconsidered", with Elizabeth Schimdt, in African Affairs html (97K) | pdf (3.4M)
"Sanctions, while not the only factor in bringing majority rule to Rhodesia, made a significant long-term contribution to that result. ... Moreover, more strongly enforced sanctions could have been even more effective. If Rhodesia's petroleum lifeline had been severed and if South Africa had not served as a back door to international trade, ... the country could not have survived for more than a matter of months."

1968 - "Action against Apartheid," in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in Political Conflict
"But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target [for anti-apartheid protests]. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally important.

Action Against Apartheid

by William Minter*

in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in Political Conflict. Richmod: John Knox Press, 1968, pp. 179-188.

* William Minter is a former chairman of the Southern Africa Committee of NSCF, now [1968] a Frontier Intern in Tanzania.

The Southern Africa Committee of the NSCF (1) emerged out of a combination of events. Hank Crane, WSCF secretary for Africa, and Ken Carstens, a white South African now in exile, were present at several NSCF meetings and insisted that the issue should be given priority. This led in the winter of 1964 to the establishment of a committee, as well as to the passage of resolutions. The committee was given a mandate to study and act. But it was national in character, and finances made frequent meetings impossible. Therefore members of the committee based in one area - metropolitan New York - decided to create a really functioning local committee and to recruit others in the area who were interested. During the next two years this committee, together with a few scattered individuals and groups in other parts of the country, acted on behalf of the NSCF. Among other things, it studied, produced study materials, held conferences, helped organize demonstrations and other protests, and lobbied within the National Council of Churches for action on this issue.

The Information Gap

On November 11, 1965, the Smith regime in Rhodesia declared its independence, an independence designed to make possible continued white rule in that British colony. Amid cries for decisive action from African states and from Zimbabwe (Rhodesian) nationalists, Great Britain slowly began to apply limited sanctions. London's optimistic and deceptive prediction was that the Smith regime would soon fall. In this policy it was supported at the United Nations, although many felt it to be totally inadequate. The United States, too, instituted limited sanctions.

The members of the NSCF Southern Africa Committee felt that the response of the Western powers, and of the U.S.A. in particular, was not sufficient, and that neither the American government nor the American people were aware of the seriousness of the crisis. It was featured in the headlines for a while, but soon it was relegated to the back pages of even The New York Times. As one aspect of its work, therefore, the committee began to publish a bi-weekly news summary on Southern Africa, edited at first on a volunteer basis and later by part-time staff. Information was gathered not only from regular newspapers and magazines, hut also from direct contact with such sources as the nationalist movements themselves.

Approaching the Banks

During the first part of 1965, Students for a Democratic Society, a "New Left" political movement with full-time organizers paid on a subsistence basis, selected as one of its two action priorities the issue of U.S.A. economic involvement in the support of apartheid in South Africa. SDS took as its prime target the Chase Manhattan Bank, which functions as a leading member of a consortium that provides a revolving loan fund to the South African government and was instrumental in resolving the crisis of the South African economy after the Sharpeville incident. The initial action was to be a large protest demonstration in New York in March, and several staff members were assigned to do preparatory organizational work. The NSCF committee was one of a number of organizations invited to support the project, and it agreed to do so. However, many of our committee felt that the initial letter from SDS to the bank was not very tactful, and that attempts at negotiation should be made before a demonstration was held. Therefore, while plans were continuing for the demonstration a number of conversations were held with bank officials. These resulted only in making crystal clear the attitude of the bank: namely, that it was impossible, if not immoral, for bank officers to take into account anything other than economic criteria in the management of bank business. The argument that it would be in their long-range interest to support a more just society in Southern Africa was clearly not very convincing to them, in view of the more immediate profits available in the present and the still weak military capacity of the nationalist movements and the African states opposed to apartheid. Chase Manhattan also argued that the economic development they were promoting would benefit Africans as well as whites.

The NSCF committee then participated in the demonstration, helping to mobilize part of the 3,000 demonstrators. Following the demonstration, conversations with bank officials continued for some time, but once summer came and most university terms ended, the movement subsided. (2)

During the next academic year, several students at Union Theological Seminary in New York conceived of another form of protest directed at a similar target. First National City Bank was at least as much involved in South Africa as Chase Manhattan, if not more so, as Chase had recently sold its branches there to Standard Bank. Many Union and Columbia students, as well as faculty members and the institutions themselves, had accounts at First National City Bank.

The new approach began with talks with bank officials, student councils, the administrations and faculties of the seminary and university, and with students themselves Students and faculty were asked to sign a petition promising to withdraw their accounts unless the bank met certain demands by April 20. The many denominations and church agencies with offices at the Inter-Church Center (3) were also asked to withdraw their accounts. The student protest, which attracted some newspaper and radio-TV publicity, culminated in a march and the simultaneous withdrawal of accounts by seventy people. Others joined in the march, and still others withdrew accounts at later dates. The student council of Barnard College withdrew a $20,000 account. But the churches delayed: some meetings were held; committees were appointed; but little action was taken. The main result of the protest was to force a number of people to confront an issue which otherwise they would have avoided.

When the university spring term ended, it was decided that the protest should continue, that the committees established to study the question should not be allowed to collapse, and that attempts should be made to extend the protest to other parts of the city. During the summer, the American Committee on Africa, together with the NSCF, hired several staff to lay the groundwork for continuing action in the fall. The person hired by NSCF, a student who was active in the National Federation of Catholic College Students (now a member of the new University Christian Movement), worked on a subsistence basis, Influential sponsors were induced to lend their names to the protest, and contacts with individuals and organizations in other parts of the city were begun. The main strategy was to persist in requesting individuals and organizations to withdraw accounts from the banks involved, and thereby to confront the public with the issue of American involvement in apartheid.

Approaching the Churches

About the time of the Chase Manhattan demonstration the NSCF committee had promoted a study-educational conference on Southern Africa for NSCF. Following the conference, the National Council of Churches received an angry letter from a conference leader. The NSCF uses the accounting facilities of the NCC, and Gladstone Ntlabati, a student at Yale Divinity School, a native South African, and a member of the African National Congress, had received a check for his expenses drawn on Chase Manhattan Bank. He wrote to protest this hypocrisy. In turn, the NSCF was awakened to the fact that it had a responsibility to arouse its own adult associate, as well as to evaluate its own banking policies. A long series of discussions followed, with the NSCF suggesting various actions that the NCC should take: withdrawal of accounts, education of church people concerning the issue, more support to the Defence and Aid Fund for political prisoners, etc.

The NSCF committee has continued to press the churches on this issue, but it is sad to report that few concrete results have been achieved. A resolution an Southern Africa approved by the NCC was much strong~r than it would have been without NSCF suggestions. But for the most part, church leaders seem to use opposition to the more radical actions advocated by the NSCF as an excuse for no action at all.

From Conversion to Coercion

Of equal importance with the action taken by the NSCF Southern Africa Committee is what was learned in the process. Over the past two years there has been an evolution of thought which has substantially changed the theoretical context and the assumptions of the action.

Out of the initial study and research of the committee, there emerged a statement of position quite moderate and reasonable which (apparently) impressed some church leaders. Apartheid was condemned; our responsibility in relation to it was affirmed; and the rest was left open-ended. At that time, the committee was dealing with the old questions of political liberalism: the tension between persuasion (of the white South Africans) and pressure (economic) exerted against them. The committee was aware of the bankruptcy of the policy of persuasion, but was quite unwilling to give it up. In this way of thinking, talk about Christian reconciliation played a central role. Such thinking contributed to greater empathy and sensitivity vis-…-vis the people in South Africa, but made it difficult to formulate any meaningful political strategy, particularly one which involved overt conflict. Gradually a rather different set of assumptions about Southern Africa began to emerge. The negotiations with Chase Manhattan Bank awakened the committee to the stubbornness of U.S.A. economic interests there. A deeper study of U.S.A. policy convinced it that the U.S.A. government did not speak in good faith in its public position on Southern Africa. The Rhodesian UDI and subsequent official British and American hypocrisy about the effectiveness of sanctions added to the pessimism about U.S.A. government action- and led to a rejection of the view that armed revolutionary violence is always worse than the invisible violence of existing injustice and repression. Although the apparent weakness of the Organization of African Unity and the African nationalist movements led to pessimism about the effectiveness of organized violence in the foreseeable future, the eventual organization of Africans there for armed revolution was seen as the decisive factor, both on its own and because only when faced with such a crisis would the Western powers be likely to devote much attention to the repression in Southern Africa.

Thus from a "liberal" condemnation of the injustice and a plea to be "concerned," the committee moved to a pessimism about the existing powers in both Southern Africa and the Western world. It moved to an expectation and an acceptance of violent revolution as the probable end result of the existing conditions.

From "Crisis-Response" to Long-Term Strategy

There was evolution also in the committee's thinking about U.S.A. government policy and strategy for influencing that policy. At the beginning a "resolution-passing" mentality prevailed, and strategy questions as such received little attention. The strategy which eventually did evolve was that the U.S.A. government must be the primary target and that protests against economic involvement should be aimed at government action. The reason was simple: the chances of independent initiatives by private concerns for a more just society in Southern Africa are negligible.

But the question still remained: what action to take? Much of what the committee did can be seen as responses to crises isolated actions with little relation to a broader strategy (e.g., the news summary and the Chase Manhattan Bank demonstration).

When such "crisis-response" action seemed to have little effect, the committee was forced to ask somewhat deeper questions, e.g.: (a) What predictions can be made about future U.S.A. government policy toward Southern Africa? (b) What are realistic goals for those concerned to change this policy? (c) What priorities should be set for action now?

To sum up briefly, the tentative answers were these:

(a) As tension increases in Southern Africa, the U.S.A. will be forced to respond, and it will become more deeply and obviously involved in the conflict. This is unlikely to be involvement favoring in a clear-cut way either the whites or the Africans. Rather, one may expect a search for "Tschomb‚s" to bring about a semblance of majority rule with Western-style "law and order" (and economic interests) safeguarded. We have come to assume, then, that the U.S.A. role will be ambiguous, even in a crisis, and that African movements will have to establish independent power to safeguard their interests. The main task presently of those in the U.S.A. who support a more just policy is to shape public opinion.

(b) The opportunities for mobilizing public influence on U.S.A. foreign policy exist primarily during crises, for it is very easy for those not directly concerned to avoid a foreign policy issue when it is not in the headlines. This means that a realistic goal is to prepare a constituency (e.g., a movement or a group of persons especially concerned and informed about Southern Africa) for the time when the issue will be in the public eye. It also means demanding specific changes in policy now, but with the expectation that even if small changes are made the basic issue will remain.

(c) How then does one act now in terms of the above goals? The first priority is to get local groups to function. Their action should consist of both education and direct political action. Education may mean conferences, seminars, teach-ins, publications, etc. Raising money for aid of political prisoners and liberation movements is useful both as an educational method and a first step in action. More overtly, political action focuses on immediate specific goals, such as U.S.A. economic and political disengagement from support of minority rule in Southern Africa and U.S.A. adherence to United Nations General Assembly resolutions. Political pressure should be brought to bear through letters, visits to congressmen, petitions, canvassing, etc. But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally important. It should be kept in mind throughout that for long-range results the key factor is making the constituency aware: not only the students, but also potentially sympathetic sections of the population Negroes, churches, liberal segments of the middle class, etc.

Movement-Building

Another trend of thought in the committee is connected with the changes which the NSCF-UCM is undergoing right now. The NSCF was a federation, distant from the grass roots, and therefore the committee did not have a constituency that could act. Like many other organizations, it was a prisoner of the "mailing-list" mentality . the notion that once materials have been prepared and mailed, action automatically results.

The importance of grass-roots movement-building cannot be too strongly emphasized. The UCM as a whole must give priority to this, and those concerned with Southern Africa must build up a special constituency, a committed group within the UCM who will take this issue as a priority. Such movement-building is difficult work, and given present conditions, it is unlikely to make a great impact on official U.S.A. policy. But without attention to this task, political action is almost certainly doomed to ineffective, feeble gestures. The usefulness of what we have learned for students in other nations will vary from place to place. In some cases it will be very small. It has most relevance in other developed or industrialized countries that are linked to South Africa.

In other parts of Africa, the most helpful contribution which SCMs can make to a solution in Southern Africa may perhaps he to participate actively in nation-building, for until the member nations of OAU are stronger internally, its resolutions are likely to have little effect. African SCMs need to be well informed on the technical dimensions of the problems of Southern Africa which means study and research. There is also a need for honest encounter between other Africans and those from the southern tip of their continent. The African Movements can also play a very helpful role by pressing the Movements in the developed nations - particularly in the West - to deal with the problem of continuing external support of the South African economy.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the general point that if a student group begins to take political action seriously, it needs to develop an over-all view of the problem with which it is dealing (an ideology, a social scientific model, a systematic prediction about the future course of events, etc.). It also needs to develop a comprehensive, carefully planned, long-term strategy. Both must be flexible, and there is always the danger that the group will become the captive of its thought categories. Nonetheless, students too easily fall prey to simplistic analyses and "crisis-response" strategies, which are haphazard and superficial. This is the far greater problem.

Notes

(1) Until September 1966, the national Student Christian Movement in the U.S.A., which was a member of the WSCF, was the Student Christian Federation. It has become the University Christian Movement.

(2) SDS, which had been the main force involved, did not know what to do next; it turned to other, more immediately pressing issues, such as community organization in urban ghettos and protest against the war in Vietnam. The NSCF committee found it difficult to continue the protest on its own. [Update 2008: The reference to 3 000 demonstrators is probably a typographical error for 300. The New York Times (March 20, 1965) gave the figure of 400.]

(3) The Inter-Church Center, located at 475 Riverside Drive, New York, is the headquarters of the National Council of Churches and many church boards and agencies.