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Victimhood, resistance unite Global South as it claims 'polar' position

 Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping during their meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2017. [AFP] 

Talk of multi-polarity, as an alternative to US ‘unipolar’ dominance that followed the end of the Cold War, is growing. Russia and China, two big countries under American pressure appear to lead the talks.

While Xi Jinping is the main player in China, Russia has a triumvirate of President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Dugin who Russians call ‘the Philosopher’, and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

All three have received pressure from the Conceptual West because of defending and promoting Russian interests the best way they know how. Russia is subsequently hurting from American imposed international currency restrictions that make financial interactions difficult and render credit cards virtually useless.

Desiring to reshape the world, they organised a multipolar pep talk in Moscow that involved many in the Global South. Somewhere in the discussions, however, the question of whether the Global South can constitute an envisaged ‘polar’ arose. Four things can be said about the Global South.

First, with the discarding of global power singularity, the search for geopolitical rallying points increases, but it is not clear who qualifies to be ‘polar’. Can the Global South be one of the rally points or ‘polar’ in a multipolar setting? And given the diversity of its members, where would that point be?

Besides Russia and China, should it be India or Brazil? Such questions, however, would be internal to the collective Global South, seeking place as likely geopolitical rallying point. This brings up the question of exactly what the Global South is or is not and the varieties of look downs that members have on each other. Even within the Global South, for instance, Africa’s place is often at the bottom. Reconciling the differences remains a challenge.

Second, the Global South is not a geographical concept. It is like two other terms that defied geographical limitations, the enslaving ‘Congo Basin’ and liberating ‘Non-alignment’. ‘Congo Basin’ referred to Tropical Africa, from Zanzibar to Senegal, in connection with the 1884/5 Berlin Conference on the Partition of Africa in which Euro powers partitioned the Congo and agreed on the rules of grabbing the rest of the continent. It required ‘effective occupation’ which meant conquests, land dispossessions, and cultural destructions.

Non-alignment referred to countries outside the Conceptual West doing two things; first they refused to take sides in the post-World War II American-Soviet Cold War. Second they stressed anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism because decolonisation was their priority but not the Cold War. The application of the concepts cut across geographical boundaries.   

Third, Global South is a geopolitical term referring to power relations and power play in the context of victimhood and resistance as the common feature across the geographies. As a concept of victimhood, in the last 500 years or so, Global South refers to peoples everywhere who were victims of Western imperial avarice. In those years, the Conceptual West robbed those in the Global South of virtually everything that matters, including heritage, sovereignty, identity, sense of legitimacy, and in Africa any achievements whether material or intellectual.

It is thus a term of collective victimisation that brings together all the people who the Conceptual West victimised, whether through military conquest, creation of poverty through economic sabotage and cultural destruction, political undermining, and intellectual suppression.

Fourth, Global South is a concept of resistance that embraces anti-colonial activism that manifested itself in the Haitian Revolution, the Mau Mau War, the Indo-China War, the anti-apartheid movement, and the on-going rumblings in the Sahel, which goes beyond individuals in challenging the system.

The resentment to the presumption that the Western way was the only way created general victimhood. It cuts across geography so much that countries North of the Equator qualify to be in the Global South while those in the South are part of the Conceptual West. Victimhood and resistance are thus common in, and unite, the Global South as it claims its ‘polar’ position.

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