Journalists and pundits and suchlike can exist outside the context of human reality. They are thus free to say whatever their paymasters desire them to say. Indeed, often they have to do this or they will lose their jobs. But besides, they are seldom troubled with consciences; there are few Robert Fisks in this world.
Political activists are a little different. Granted, political activism is often hard to distinguish from masturbation, especially if your political groupuscule is small and groupustular, which is very frequently the case. However, if you have been a political activist involved in the real world and not in the back-stabbing poisoned atmosphere of tiny “civil society” bullshitters (more about bullshit soon), you very probably have more notion of what is going on, more idea of what is to be done, than any pundit or academic or supposedly concerned intellectual.
The Creator has had the opportunity to hear from a few SACP members lately. These are, of course, the elite of the elite. That isn’t a joke. Granted a lot of members of the SACP in the early twenty-first century are sleazebags deluxe. However, in the days before the 1990s it took real ability and guts and determination to get into the SACP, and even then, as Harold Strachan discovered, it was painfully easy to get kicked out again. Also, if you were white, the chances were that joining the SACP was going to do but nothing for your overall career. So, all respect for such people.
And now that that’s over, consider Ben Turok.
Turok is a good man; a long-standing Party member and ANC MP and member of an impeccably leftist Cape Town Jewish family whose autobiography is amazingly polite to almost everybody. Like all Party members he doesn’t like Mbeki’s policies. However, his editorship of New Agenda magazine shows him to be a man without any radical rhetoric and sympathetic to, albeit critical of, many of the ANC’s initiatives under Mbeki.
Recently, however, he wrote a letter to the Cape Times in praise of the Zuma clique’s removal of Ebrahim Rasool as ANC Premier of the Western Cape. In this letter he made two remarkable allegations against Rasool; one that Rasool was violating the ANC’s non-racial policy by concentrating on coloured and african voters and neglecting whites — implicitly accusing him of racism — and the other that Rasool was responsible for the conflict in the Western Cape, and particularly for the breakup of Turok’s own ANC branch.
The first of these allegations is obvious hogwash. White voters in the Western Cape, like white voters everywhere in South Africa, violently oppose the ANC, as their newspapers tell them to. Nothing that Rasool could do would change that. African voters predominantly support the ANC, but there is a tradition of PAC sympathy which needs to be addressed, and there is a lot of suspicion of the coloureds who supported the UDF, so they need to be consoled and courted. Coloureds are divided in class terms, some supporting the ANC and some the DA out of past sympathies, and so they particularly need to be won over. Rasool’s skill in courting coloureds without alienating africans was what won the ANC the Western Cape in 2004, and many fear that Rasool’s successor, a colourless hack named Lynne Brown who was defeated by the ludicrous Peter Marais in the 2000 Cape Town Mayoral race, lacks that skill.
The second allegation is more complexly false. Although Rasool is Premier, he was defeated in the race for provincial leadership by Mcebisi Skwatsha, a man widely associated not only with Zuma, but with anti-coloured racism (which may have helped lose the 2006 Cape Town election). Thus Rasool is not the ultimate man to go to if you have problems in your branch. In addition, however, if you have problems in your branch, a competent branch executive should be able to resolve them without running whimpering to the provincial executive. Turok’s letter actually indicts his own executive — and indeed Turok himself for not recognising this.
The reason for Turok’s letter was simple: the Zuma clique’s ostensible reason for firing Rasool was the disunity in the province (which had been fostered by the Zuma clique to undermine Rasool, who was loyal to Mbeki). By accusing him of favouring race groups (the implicit anti-white slur was prudent if absurd, since he was writing to a white-read newspaper, even though Rasool is quite popular among whites who would never dream of voting for him), and of promoting disaffection (“unruliness”, as Turok put it), Turok was providing a paper-trail for the purge which would be much needed if Rasool chose to try to defend himself (in the end, he left with more dignity than Zuma or any of Zuma’s allies). On the other hand, if Turok couldn’t think up any reasons for purging Rasool better than these ones, it seems pretty obvious that there aren’t any such reasons.
But why was Turok doing this? Almost certainly out of loyalty. Turok may like the ANC, but his true love is the SACP. The SACP had already been engaged in a big Zuma-backed purge in the Western Cape, crushing the leadership of the Boland region and installing loyal Communists in charge there. The SACP backs Zuma to the hilt. It had decided that now was the time for the SACP to take charge of the whole Province, at least in theory, by getting Rasool out and Brown in. Obviously there was no reason, in terms of policy or organisational need, for doing this. It was also being done in alliance with some fairly disgusting people, and would certainly benefit the DA whose principles and policies Turok undoubtedly hates. But Turok apparently believes that whatever is good for the SACP is right, in the same way that a dedicated Zionist believes that whatever is good for Israel is right. Ultimately this simply blinds him to reality.
Is this a widespread problem? It would appear so. The Creator knows a couple of Commies personally, people who risked life and limb in the struggle to further the interests of the underground. It wasn’t their fault that the underground was riddled with police spies and led by incompetent clowns. Conversations with them was rather interesting. The Creator necessarily assumes that they weren’t saying everything that they thought, for of course they knew that the Creator had ceased to be a Commie a long time ago and was notoriously Mbeki-sympathetic. It was probably as much as their Party careers were worth to be seen with the Creator in public.
Well, both of them agreed that Rasool had to go; it was intolerable that someone so sympathetic to Mbeki could be permitted to rule. The first one mentioned the sale of the Waterfront to a Dubai consortium as the final straw. This seemed like an odd thing for a Commie to raise. The Waterfront is a luxury capitalist consumerist development which serves no purpose at all for 90% of the people of Cape Town and little enough purpose for most of the remainder — who have plenty of places to shop. The profits from the Waterfront, had they gone to rich South Africans, would surely have gone abroad anyway, so the sale to Dubai was hardly a real calamity.
Then the first one reassured the Creator that there was no question of supporting Zuma. That seemed odd, since this good Commie was obviously backing Zuma and all his friends to the hilt. What struck the Creator was that by saying “I don’t support Zuma” this Commie was escaping responsibility for the fact that the Party supports Zuma; was effectively arranging a divorce from the consequences of the Party’s actions, which have ensured the political supremacy of unproductive corporate capital of the kind which seemed so bad when Rasool was playing footsie with it. In short, it wasn’t just that this Commie had to be loyal to the Party, it was also that this Commie had to don blinkers whenever a fact arose which contradicted the Party world-view.
This is George Orwell’s doublethink, of course, combined with Orwell’s crimestop, which prevents you from completing a thought which would lead to unorthodoxy. Thanks to these simple techniques, the Party is always right. It has to be; a person who has spent twenty or thirty years working for the victory of the Party is not going to change horses in midstream.
The second Commie was a bit more passionate, calling for Mbeki to be tried for crimes against humanity on the grounds of his AIDS policy and his Zimbabwe policy (both of which, of course, Zuma supported; also, of course, the Party had no practical alternative to either policy). This was a helpful technique; if you hate Mbeki enough, you can justify almost anything as a replacement for him — although it’s usually a technique adopted by people outside the ANC, such as DA supporters or TAC members. This Commie also wanted to see Rasool out, because he was bad and corrupt and above all incompetent. Of course, his whole Cabinet would have to be got rid of, too. (Fat chance.) Then this Commie pondered; of course, there were a couple of good people in the Cabinet who perhaps deserved to be preserved. (Of course they were both Mbeki supporters; by the time the Creator left town, both were in line for the chop, while the ones who the second Commie had been denouncing with such vim, deservedly or not, were all staying on. Perhaps they really were incompetent, in which case it seemed that they were excellent Zuma material.)
Another thing which this person wanted was a second revolution, to clear away everything bad that had happened since 1994. This is not going to happen, of course — but it is a familiar echo of Trotskyite fantasising. How was a Party member sounding off like a Trotskyite? Perhaps because the Party now gets on very well with various Trotskyites, such as Achmat and Desai. But perhaps it was also because of intense frustration; the Revolution was won, but the Party was not in charge, and even now that the Party was in charge, this Party member knew perfectly well that most other Party members were a bunch of shitheads, that the ANC in the Western Cape was organisationally in tatters, and probably had an unspoken but shrewd suspicion that nothing was likely to weave it back together (there aren’t enough garment workers left any more).
What this person was doing was trying to avoid the issue through mental clutter. Having vast amounts of lumber in the mind made it impossible to tell exactly what was there. Thus problems could be hidden. Meanwhile this person was doing sterling work trying to straighten out a miserable district of Cape Town slumland — no doubt hoping to benefit the Party at the same time, but why not, if only the Party was trying to do such things?
The tragedy is, however, that all three people are admirable. All three are diligent, skilled assets to the nation. And all three are obliged to bullshit themselves into justifying what the Party is doing because the alternative is to have to face unbearable facts. Naturally none of them justified anything in terms of Marxism-Leninism, let alone basic socialism (though one is a great fan of Hugo Chavez — not that the Creator thinks that the Bolivarian Circles are themselves socialist). Perhaps the Party is not really socialist anymore. Perhaps, too, it is easy to see how the ANC has become so devastated when a the best and brightest members of a much smaller and more single-minded organisation have themselves so completely lost their ideological ways.