DECODING CORPORATE CAMOUFLAGE: U.S. Business Support for Apartheid by Elizabeth Schmidt

DECODING CORPORATE CAMOUFLAGE: U.S. Business Support for Apartheid

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Sullivan Principles--a code of corporate conduct for American multinationals operating in South Africa--are viewed by their sponsor, a black minister on the GM board, an an exercise in pragmatism that could eventually make a significant contribution to the non-violent eradication of apartheid. Africanist Schmidt, however, seeks to discredit the Sullivan Principles, largely on grounds that their purpose ""is reform, not radical change."" The code, to which 138 of 300-odd U.S. concerns with South African connections have subscribed since its 1977 inception, has six primary provisions: desegregation of all workplace facilities; equal employment opportunity; non-discriminatory pay scales; training programs to school non-whites for better positions; promotion of non-whites to supervisory posts; and a commitment to improve the off-the-job lot of non-white employees. In a point-by-point review, Schmidt charges that few of the signatories, which employ less than one percent of the nation's non-white labor force, are anywhere near reaching the goals spelled out in the guidelines. Further, she asserts, the Sullivan Principles ""camouflage corporate collusion with apartheid,"" observing that endorsers play strategic roles in the Republic's economy, notably through the computer, motor vehicle, and petroleum industries. Schmidt also accuses U.S. banks of being inordinately generous in their South African loan policies at critical junctures--i.e., after Sharpeville and Soweto. The author offers no remedy for the putative ineffectuality of the code, which she taxes signatories with using to deflect criticism from Stateside human-rights and shareholder groups. However, the appendices contain statements from indigenous organizations--e.g., the banned African National Congress--calling for disinvestment by offshore firms. This topple-the-temple approach is opposed by many moderates, and Pretoria has instituted exchange controls that make it virtually impossible for departing corporations to injure the South African economy. While the author disregards these facts of business life, she does document the plight of 22 million blacks, mixed-blood coloreds, and Asians who have been denied human as well as civil rights by a government that represents fewer than 5 million whites. One side in an ongoing debate--forcefully presented.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Institute for Policy Studies