Faïrouz ben Salah, founder & board member of Spring to Come
In preparation for a panel discussion ‘Tunisia is the way’ commemorating the five -year anniversary of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, co-sponsored by the Embassy of Tunisia in the Hague, I have been desperately looking for the ‘how to come successfully through a democratic transition period’ manual. I didn’t succeed. Bol.com couldn’t help me, unfortunately. I wished I had finished my political science study.
Relying on my own resources and rethinking the big and fundamental questions Leiden University has put on the agenda, I found myself confronted with fundamental questions. The title for example suggests an option, a choice between several ways, but for the majority of the people, Tunisia is the only way. For them, international comparisons are highly irrelevant. Moreover, the question arises; ‘the way to what?’
The introduction makes it clear that we are talking about a democratic transition, thus defining the uprisings as political in the first place. But is this so? To what extent is the outcome as the activists have striven towards?
The introduction seems to correspond with the dominant view in the beginning, especially in ‘our part of the world’, that the Arab region was entering a period of democratic transitions, which would take weeks or months in each country and remain relatively peaceful, ushering in a new regional era of electoral democracy.
From this still very popular perspective, the revolts were the result of a cultural and political mutation born of a new generation connected to global culture, thanks to the new information and communication technologies. According to this view, the uprisings were essentially, if not exclusively, a struggle for political freedom and democracy.
This vision is not completely off the mark, off course. But, I would like to add an other point of view to the discussion. I will try to show that the upheavals were social and economic rather than political. The uprisings and the aftermath have brought underlying social developments to a surface. I will emphasize that these developments are to a large extent similar to those in other parts of the world.
Since the start of the great financial crisis in 2007, western Europe seems to be in a continuing crisis. Apart from the financial crisis we were facing consecutively: a bank crisis, a Euro crisis, the Greek crisis, a sustainability crisis, an institutional crisis, a migrant crisis and nowadays people are talking about a refugee crisis.
I don’t want suggest that the current challenges are fully comparable or underestimate the major issues Tunisia has to deal with. Not at all. But I do believe that the long term developments have a common undertow, which I would define as the occurrence of new dividing lines in combination with a massive conflict of old powers.
This is not a historical exception. Worldwide there are, for example, many similarities in the feminist struggles during the 20 s of the previous century. The so called first feminist period.
On this point, I feel the need to make a strong disclaimer. I am not a sociologist nor a political scientist. Today I am sharing my personal observations.
Marcus Rolle & Alexandra Boutri
Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and the emergence of a new right-wing radicalism in both Europe and the United States signify fundamental developments in the political and ideological landscape of Western societies, while at the same time, there is a resurgence of extreme nationalism and authoritarian politics virtually all around the world. For an understanding and explanation of some of these disturbing developments and the alternatives available, we spoke to political economist C.J. Polychroniou, editor of a forthcoming book consisting of interviews with Noam Chomsky, titled Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change (Haymarket Books, 2017).
Marcus Rolle and Alexandra Boutri: Today’s political landscape in many advanced capitalist societies is marked by the rise of a new right-wing populism centered around anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia and extreme nationalism fueled mainly by the antiglobalization rhetoric of authoritarian political leaders. We’d like to start by asking you to put in context the contradictions of global capitalism and the emergence of what has come to be known as the “alt-right.”
C.J. Polychroniou: For quite some time now, there have been clear and strong indications across the entire political and socioeconomic spectrum in advanced Western societies that the contradictions of capitalist globalization and the neoliberal policies associated with them have reached an explosive level, as they have unleashed powerful forces with the capacity to produce highly destructive outcomes not only for growth, equality and prosperity, justice and social peace, but concomitant consequences for democracy, universal rights and the environment itself. Indeed, not long after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and its “communist” satellites in Eastern Europe — a development which led to such unbounded enthusiasm among supporters of global neoliberal capitalism that they embarked on an audacious but highly dubious course of (pseudo) intellectual theorization to pronounce the “end of history” — it became quite obvious to astute observers that the forces unleashed by capitalism’s inner dynamism and the dominant capitalist states, with the US imperial state at the helm, were more attuned to the brutalities of societal regression, economic exploitation, war and violence than to the subtleties of socioeconomic progress, geopolitical stability and environmental sustainability.
To be sure, we now live in a world of unparalleled economic inequality coupled with massive economic insecurity and dangerously high levels of unemployment (especially among the youth), all while the depletion of natural resources has reached highly alarming rates and climate change threatens the future of civilization as we know it. All these developments are interconnected as they are fuelled by globalization’s imminent contradictions, but ultimately sustained by actual government policies and measures that cater almost exclusively to the needs of the wealthy and the concerns of the corporate and financial world. In the meantime, authoritarianism is reestablishing a foothold in many Western nations just as the social state is being reduced to the bare bone under the pretext of fiscal discipline.
Yet, despite poll results showing rising support for socialism in the US, especially among millennials, growing discontent with the current economic order has thus far resulted not in a new socialist era but in the rise of ultranationalist leaders like Donald Trump who deploy rhetoric shrouded in racism and anti-immigration sentiment.
In France, Marine Le Pen is playing on similar strains of xenophobia and ultranationalism, arguing that “division is no longer between left and right … but between patriots and believers in globalization.”
What is called the “alt-right” is in some ways a new phenomenon in the sense that, unlike conservatives and neoconservatives, the new right-wing radicalism belongs expressly in the “antiglobalization” camp. But the “alt-right’s” grievance is not with capitalism itself. Instead its adherents blame economic globalization and immigration for their woes. The strengthening of this right-wing antiglobalization movement was behind Brexit and Trump’s presidential victory and can explain the resurgence of authoritarian, xenophobic political leaders in countries like France, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Germany, to name just a few.
SAVUSA POEM Proceedings, Volume 1 – Rozenberg Publishers 2005 – ISBN 90 5170 587 5 – Soon complete online
Part I: – The history of the relationship between the Vrije Universiteit and South Africa
* Introduction – Gerrit Schutte & Harry Wels
* The Vrije Universiteit & South Africa: 125 years of sentiments and good faith – Gerrit Schutte
* The Vrije Universiteit and South Africa since 1972: Political and organisational developments – Harry Brinkman
* Can ‘new’ meet ‘old’? VU-South Africa, 1976-present: Development cooperation in Southern Africa – Kees van Dongen & Leo de Feiter
Part II: A ‘new’ science for a ‘new’ South Africa: four current academic projects
* A ‘new’ history for a ‘new’ South Africa – Gerrit Schutte
* ANNA and a ‘new’ lexicography for South Africa – Willy Martin
* A ‘new’ literature – Ena Jansen
* A new size of theology for a new South Africa – Bram van de Beek
Part III: A ‘new’ science for a ‘new’ South Africa: Reflections
* South Africa-VU: The meaning of traditions for future VU-policy in South Africa? – Carools Reineke
* Some trends in South African academic history: Changing contexts and challenges – Albert Grundlingh
* Political studies in South Africa. A personal perspective – Tom Lodge
* Stimulating research futures – Tessa Marcus
* International R&D cooperation with South Africa – Selected policy perspectives – Hendrik C. Marais’
* ‘New’ scientific practice in South Africa with special reference to land reform – Flip Smit
* The changing Higher Education landscape in South Africa – Daniel Ncayiyana
* Good neighbours and far friends; The Netherlands, Europe and South Africa – Peter Nijkamp
Gerrit Schutte & Harry Wels (Eds.)
Soon complete online. SAVUSA POEM Proceedings. Rozenberg Publishers 2005 – ISBN 90 5170 587 5
In 2005 the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) celebrates its 125th anniversary. It is a celebration in style: a yearlong programme which contains both scholarly elements – every faculty for instance has been asked to organise an international conference in a particular month of the lustrum year around a specific and fitting theme – and festive elements, like for instance an alumni-day ending with a concert of the world famous Portuguese singer Christina Branco. The celebrations are accompanied by the publication of a number of commissioned books about various historical aspects of 125 years of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. One of them is a study of the relations between the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and South Africa. This relationship dates back to the very beginning of the VU in 1880 – the year in which the First Anglo-Boer War started! The University History Committee asked historian Prof. G.J. Schutte to write this book, entitled De VU en Zuid-Afrika, 1880-2005.[i] The book has been published in December 2005.
In the book Prof. Schutte tells in detail the history of the relationship between the VU and South Africa. This relationship started 125 years ago, in 1880, as a result of the rediscovery by the Dutch of their Afrikaner broedervolk, and a kindred feeling of stamverwantschap (kinship) with the young nation of the Dutch Afrikaners, that was cherished for many decades. The Dutch ardently supported the Boer Republic’s struggle against British imperialism during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, and also the resulting movement for cultural, social and political emancipation of the Afrikaner people. For the VU academics, this affinity contained an extra value, that of sharing a common religion with the Afrikaners, a common Calvinist tradition and conviction. From 1900 onwards, the VU played an important role as alma mater for generations of Afrikaners, especially for theologians of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk and the Gereformeerde Kerk. The academic knowledge that was acquired at the VU, was used to develop the South African universities (Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom, and many more) and Afrikaner society and culture.
In about 1960, a new period in VU history was set in motion. A gradual movement away from Kuyperian tradition and the closed group of ‘Calvinists’ could be observed. Critical remarks were made with regard to Kuyper’s Encyclopedia, his philosophy of science, his political and social principles and practice (‘pillarisation’). A new stance was taken on the role of the Christian in society, also in matters of colonialism, racism and the relationship between the First and the Third World. The general western urge for democratisation in those years triggered a change in the ideas on academic education, research and academic policy. The VU, though known for its classical and sometimes patriarchical education system, had since its founding been conscious of its being indebted to the emancipation of the kleine luyden (‘common people’) and considered social awareness as a principle. Read more
Gerrit J. Schutte - Professor of History, Faculty of Arts, Vrije Universiteit
This academic year (2005), the Vrije Universiteit enjoys its 125th anniversary.[i] In 1879, a handful of orthodox reformed Dutch gentlemen founded an Association for the advancement of Christian Higher Education, and on 20 October 1880, Abraham Kuyper inaugurated the Vrije Universiteit, Academia libera reformata, by delivering his famous lecture on Sphere Sovereignty, Soevereiniteit in eigen kring.
Kuyper was never a very modest man, and he certainly was not inclined to be modest at that moment. The credits of the university he opened, were three faculties, five professors and five students. As an accomplished rhetorician he described it as onze kleine School, met den Universiteitsnaam zelve tot blozens toe verlegen (our small school, blushing to be called a university). This was not meant as an apology, but rather to make a Hegelian turn: the real credits of the VU were written in the Synod of Dordt, its claim to nobility was the courage and moral dedication of its supporters, and its worldwide value and importance (Kuyper 1880). In the Kuyperian world panorama, his University would become the intellectual centre of the international Calvinist world – the academic power-house for all the reformed churches, nations and societies in Europe, America, and the Dutch colonies in the East. And for South Africa, of course.
October 1880: this is also the month in which Piet Cronjé, on behalf of 127 Transvaler burghers, declared to the Landdrost of Potchefstroom that they would no longer pay any taxes to the British government, as that government had illegally annexed and stolen their country (Van Oordt 1898). His language was quite akin to what Abraham Kuyper had written as a commentary on Shepstone’s annexation of the Transvaal in 1877, when he stated in his daily De Standaard: robbery is a sin to the eyes of the Lord, even by a crowned robber.
As a journalist and politician, Kuyper followed the South African developments on a daily basis. He was well-informed about the South African situation. He had met personally with the rising star of the Afrikaner Movement, editor of Die Patriot, chairman of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners and founder of the Afrikaner Bond, the Revd. S.J. du Toit. And he was regularly informed by the Revd. Frans Lion Cachet, back in the Netherlands after a stay in South Africa for more than thirty years. Kuyper welcomed Paardekraal and the declaration of independence of the Transvaal Volk. He was very active in the Amsterdam Transvaal Committee and, in May 1881, became one of the founders of a countrywide, lasting pro-Boer organisation, the Nederlands-Zuid-Afrikaanse Vereniging (NZAV). The members of the NZAV consisted mainly of liberals and conservatives and some radicals, such as social-democrats and antirevolutionaries. In close cooperation with S.J. du Toit, now Superintendent of Education in the Transvaal, Kuyper tried to dominate the cooperation with the Transvaal (material aid, advice on the development of the new Afrikaner Republic, emigration), to protect the good orthodoxy of the Transvaalers against the ungodly Dutch liberals – as had happened in the 1870s, when President Burgers – a defrocked liberal DRC (NGK) dominee! – with the help of his liberal Dutch friends had tried to modernise the education and had made a mess of the Transvaal, only to prepare it for annexation by Shepstone! Read more
Harry Brinkman - Former Vice-Chancellor, Vrije Universiteit
In the long history of VU relations with South Africa the year 1992 provided a landmark: the VU came back to South Africa, as a partner of the University of the North (UNIN) in a big pre-entry science project funded by the European Union. UNIN is a so-called historically black university, founded under apartheid policy. In 1992 five VU specialists started working at UNIN, continuing till the end of 1998. After 1992 the cooperation VU-UNIN was extended to other fields, and UNIN is still a main partner of the VU in South Africa.
1992 was two years after the Wende in South Africa, President de Klerk’s transition speech in parliament and the release of his successor, Nelson Mandela, from prison. At last a new South Africa came in sight. The VU was the first Dutch university to re-enter South Africa.
Traditionally relations of the VU with South Africa were based on theology and philosophy. The VU that came back to South Africa in 1992, was a very different university, with strong expertise, many years of experience and a good reputation in development cooperation, mainly built up in countries in southern Africa outside South Africa since 1976.
That change in the VU interface with South Africa is the main theme of my presentation about the period 1972 till the present.
Point of departure in 1972
At the beginning of 1972 the situation at the VU with regard to South Africa had nothing remarkable:
* Contacts were maintained mainly by theologians and philosophers.
* The exchange of professors with the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, agreed on in 1958, had come to a standstill at the end of the 1960s.
* A general, strong uneasiness about apartheid policy in South Africa prevailed. VU theologian Professor J.H. Bavinck had been one of the first in the Netherlands (1953) to voice basic criticism. Traditional South African VU-partners in theology and philosophy had appeared to be pillars of apartheid ideology.
* With regard to development cooperation frustration was prominent. In the years after the 1961 VU-Corps congress it had been decided that the VU in view of its identity as a Christian university in the modern world would go for development cooperation. Consequently since 1967 a big effort had been made to support the new Université Libre du Congo at Kisangani. This university however had been nationalized and the VU start in development cooperation had turned out to be a failure, though experience had been gained.
* Apart from this, minds and time at the VU in the years before 1972 were fully taken up by tempestuous growth of the university, by building a big modern campus, by a new ecumenical codification of its identity as a Christian university, and by participation in the nationwide movement for democratisation of university governance. Read more
Kees van Dongen & Leo de Feiter - Director & Senior staff member CIS (Centre for International Cooperation), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
In his paper, Brinkman provides an overview of the roots of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s (VU) development cooperation activities in southern Africa in the second half of the 1970s. Upon cancelling the cooperation agreement with Potchefstroom University in 1976, the VU decided to develop links with other universities in the Southern African region. The idea was to aim at universities that were playing a clear role in the development of black leadership for the future of the sub-continent. As ‘black’ universities inside South Africa were also heavily influenced by ‘apartheid’ policies, the choice was made to look towards universities in surrounding countries. The first cooperation links were established with the universities in Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. As Brinkman also indicates, these new links fitted well into the new Dutch national policies for development cooperation, as they emerged during Jan Pronk’s first period as Minister for Development Cooperation in the 1970s. Pronk established a new funding channel for cooperation links between Dutch universities and universities in developing countries.
Brinkman identifies some themes in the history of the relationship between the VU and South Africa:
* The flourishing of development cooperation activities at the VU, particularly, but not exclusively, in southern Africa;
* The emergence of particular focal areas for development cooperation at the VU based on the needs of partner institutions;
* The return of the VU to South Africa after the Wende in the early 1990s;
* ‘New’ meeting ‘old’ in South Africa (and vice versa), in terms both of themes and of partner institutions;
* The challenges posed to universities because of the emergence of the ‘knowledge society’ and the consequences this may have for a traditional academic organisation.
The purpose of this paper is twofold:
1. To illustrate Brinkman’s themes in one particular focal area of development cooperation at the VU, namely basic science education;
2. To raise some fundamental issues regarding development cooperation in Dutch universities, the position of such cooperation at the VU, and its role in South Africa.
In the Netherlands, both the position of universities and the development cooperation policies have undergone fundamental changes over the decades since the 1970s, and particularly in the 1990s. The question raised here is whether ‘new’ can really still meet ‘old’, and what would be needed for that to happen.
Basic science education is only one of the focal areas in development cooperation at the VU. Other prominent fields of cooperation are in natural resource management (soil and water conservation, land reform, community based natural resource management, water harvesting, and land husbandry), in university management development, and in the use of ICT in higher education institutions.
In natural resource management, strong links also exist in South Africa, particularly with the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape. In university management development, there are cooperation links in South Africa with the University of the North and with North West University, and with the University of Pretoria (1999-2001). Some work in this field has also been done at the University of the Free State.
The choice of this paper for basic science education is explained by the fact that it has been the largest individual area of work over the decades, and that it most clearly demonstrates a few of the fundamental tensions regarding the relationship between universities and development cooperation. Read more
Gerrit J. Schutte, Professor of Arts, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Historians need not worry about a lack of work in the future. There is always a past in the future. And their duty is to study that past, sine ira et studio, as Tacitus put it nearly 2000 years ago. The study of history, as my colleague and eminent historian Van Deursen likes to say, is to do justice to the dead, our fellow men, and at the same time to always be aware of the Biblical warning: you will be judged by the same measure. Historiography is not about blaming the past for our contemporary problems, nor about finding arguments there to bolster our political or religious plicies and philosophies. Nevertheless, everybody agrees that the knowledge of history is useful. A society without history is like an individual with loss of memory, walking like a blind person on unknown territory, doomed to fall step after step. Everybody also accepts that historical knowledge changes; history is a never ending debate, as Pieter Geyl has taught. So we do understand and accept that a ‘new’ South Africa needs a ‘new’ history. Is there a place in that new history for the Netherlands, for Dutch historiography, for the historians of the Vrije Universiteit (VU)?
In the old South Africa, there was a place for the Dutch historians, a modest but constructive place. Cape history cannot be studied without the Dutch archives, nor without knowledge and understanding of Dutch history, society and culture; the same holds for important aspects of the history of the Boer Republics and the history of Afrikaner religion and culture (literature etc.). Three generations of Afrikaner academic historians either originated from the Netherlands or had studied there – to start with the first generation: Godee Molsbergen and the Flemish Blommaert, and later Dirk Bax; next, the generation of J.P. van der Merwe, F.J. du Toit and F.A. van Jaarsveld, and then the third generation: Hermann Giliomee, Ben Liebenberg, Piet van der Schyff and Fransjohan Pretorius, to name but a few. All this means, additionally, that in the old South Africa there was a modest place for a small number of Dutch historians, as a promotor, colleague, or critic. And sometimes as a supplier of commemorative articles, such as VU historians A.A. van Schelven and H. Smitskamp in 1952 – and myself too, recently, publishing an article on the relations between Abraham Kuyper and president Paul Kruger in Die Kerkblad. Read more