The discreet charm of University investments in Apartheid

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The portfolios of blue chip stocks, owned by universities directly,finance the bloody subjugation of Blacks in South Africa.

But college students, with Blacks in the forefront, are assembling the largest campus mobilization since the anti-war movement and shaming the schools into divestiture of their economic ties to racist African regimes. From the Ivy League to state colleges, student coalitions have rocked the complacency of ruling Boards of Regents.

The academic establishment pontificates that “academic freedom depends on not being involved in political movements, no matter how worthy.” Few Boards have moved beyond hypocritical resolutions endorsing “enlightened” corporate investment policies.

But students insist that universities are the logical starting point for questioning this nation’s practices, and they point to the civil rights and anti-war movements as vivid illustrations.

Win Some, Lose Some

A remarkable victory was achieved in Wisconsin where universities were forced to divest because state law prohibits association with discriminatory agencies or companies.

The University of Washington, on the other hand, voted to retain its $2.4 million holdings in South Africa, promising to intervene as shareholders to advocate the ending of apartheid. A likely story.

The University of Michigan declined to divest its $38 million holdings, opting to ask corporations to commit themselves to equal opportunity in South Africa!

Repression Is Big Business

U.S. investments in South Africa total $2 billion and 375 U.S. corporations are located there. This scandal has provoked a nationwide outburst of protest, supported by many unions, churches, and community groups. Individuals and organizations are being pressured to withdraw funds from suspect banks.

A growing number of TV stations and newspapers are refusing to carry ads for the South African “Krugerrand” gold coins. And the Merrill, Lynch brokerage firm halted investment in the coins.

Finance Capital Is the Enemy

The divestiture movement occurs in a climate of economic cutbacks, tuition hikes, and backlash against minority, women’s and gay rights. But the new militancy of Black men and women students, after a period of dormancy, may well spark a new surge of broad-based protest that can roll back the conservative tide.

It is good to see students on the political warpath again, forging alliances with foreign students and community activists. Anyone challenging the practices of finance capitalism strikes a telling blow against imperialism and significantly bolsters international solidarity with Black Africa.

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