The “Normalization” of South African Politics.

“Normalization”, or “Renormalization”, is a mathematical term used especially by physicists who are trying to get to grips with reality through mathematics. Very often in the mathematics of physical theories, mathematical terms and concepts are introduced which have no conceivable counterpart in the real world. When you have what looks like a useful equation which is rendered unworkable by the presence of these terms or concepts, you “normalize” the equation by getting rid of those terms or concepts, or by transforming the whole equation into terms more comprehensible, applicable, or commercially viable.

In other words you change the situation from one which you cannot control into one which you can.

For many years South African big business and its front-people has been calling for the “normalization” of South African politics. The reason for this is that big business is unquestionably in control of politics in every other developed country in the world (with a few doubtful Bolivarian exceptions). Therefore, South Africa should be utterly under the jackboot of big business, for this is “normal”, and this has led directly to all the triumphs of corporate neoliberalism which we see around us daily. (The Creator is about to listen to the news to hear the latest stock-exchange dead-cat-bounce puffed as the end of the “[

recession]”. Oh, it failed to bounce. Poor pussy.)Poor South African big business had it tough, for between 1910 and 1994 South African politics was dominated by Afrikaner nationalism of one brand or another, and Afrikaner nationalism was driven by Afrikaans-speaking workers and farmers who had no love for big business. Only once the racist brand of Afrikaner nationalism had failed in its mission of repression, had alienated the more stupidly racist of its followers and had thus been forced to bring English-speaking big business into the equation to sustain power, did big business have much influence, and that was only after the middle of the 1980s, when big business had to uneasily share power with the South African Defense Force.

But the logic of the collapse of Afrikaner nationalist politics was the collapse of the racist state on which it depended, and that meant the introduction of democracy. Which meant that big business was once again on the periphery of politics. “Normalization” for them now meant somehow breaking up the ANC, or alternatively, transforming it into a party of big business (for a one-party state is perfectly “normal” for big business, as has been seen in Latin America and the Far East). Ideally, though, what big business wanted was two parties of big business so that the public could pretend to have a choice of leadership every few years — the situation which prevails in most developed countries.

Well, isn’t that what we appear to have now? We have the Democratic Alliance, which has a new logo apparently modelled on a South African flag spilling out of a sewer pipe, which is entirely in the hands of big business. (They have recently announced plans to rent out the Cape Town police force which they control to big businessmen at very reasonable rates; in the most crime-ridden city in the country, it makes perfect sense to take police officers off the streets.) We have the Congress of the People, which has yet to announce any policy but which the Creator fears the worst for. And we have the African National Congress.

The media, which is controlled by big business, yipped continually about the ANC’s leftward shift while Mbeki was in power, but the moment that Mbeki was booted out, the yipping ceased. Instead, we have been told that everything is all right because there has after all been no leftward shift. It is difficult to believe that big business would tell us that the party in power had not moved left, if it had moved left. Big business is well aware of its immediate interests (though not of its long-term interests) but it is also well aware of what the people want. In consequence, big business wished to sell the Zuma faction of the ANC as leftists when in opposition, and now wishes to promote them as rightists while in power. In other words, appeal to the people when in opposition, appeal to the plutocracy when in power. This is the way the ruling class rules.

Recently there was a Communist Party rally in Mpumalanga. Theoretically, this could have been a great opportunity to press for socialist direction of the state; swingeing increases in taxes, massive infrastructure spending, tight regulation of capitalists. None of this was done, although the heads of COSATU and of the SACP were on the podium. Instead, the actual purpose of the rally was to promote Jacob Zuma, who talked about how the ANC was going to win the election with a big majority.

Duh. Mbeki did not talk about big majorities because he assumed they were going to happen. Before September 2008 the victory of the ANC was a done deal and the big question was how the ANC was going to use its victory; whether it would truly seek a better life for all (a phrase echoed in Zuma’s speech) or whether it would allow itself to be hijacked by greedy, selfish criminals. What Mbeki did, and you may say it was shameful, was to try to strike a balance between the crooks and the people, giving each a small slice. But now the people have been taken off the scales and the whole pie is in the hands of the crooks.

If Zuma were really worried about winning the election, and he ought to be, then he would develop a set of policies which appeals to the people. Unfortunately, it seems that he can’t. As the Creator has pointed out, he’s had four years to do this in, and he’s had the benefit of the SACP and COSATU which have been challenging established policies for twelve years. Yet, somehow, this is not possible. The most radical actual proposals coming out of government since Motlanthe began warming Zuma’s Presidential throne have been presented by Trevor Manuel: modest boosts in the social grant and a slight budget deficit. Diddley-squat, in short.

So instead of presenting a draft manifesto which the people could warm to and which could be discussed and refined and ultimately fought for, Zuma’s cabal are inviting the public to write their own manifesto for the ANC. We may be absolutely certain that whatever goes into the manifesto will have no necessary connection with what the public calls for. It is also extremely probable that the “public” whose opinions are supposedly sampled will actually be Zuma’s nominees. All the same, the real problem is that Zuma and company are not so much showing democratic tendencies as they are ostentatiously taking their hands off the wheel. If anything goes wrong with their rule after 2009 they will simply be able to blame the people for the bad manifesto. (And, as Brecht suggested, Zuma and company may well seek to dissolve the people and elect a new one.)

But in practice what this means is that the ANC is officially abandoning control of policy. This also means that the SACP and COSATU, which hitherto were the drivers of calls for left-wing policy, have abandoned their claims to make such calls. (Oh, they continue to make such calls, but these are purely rhetorical nonsense for the consumption of fools; they have nothing to do with reality. They are not “normalized”. If the actual policies of the SACP and COSATU were “normalized” by translating the rhetoric into meaningful action, those policies would be inescapably neoliberal and violently anti-democratic.)

So, if the centre which is in control of things refuses to make policy, and the left has withered away completely, the only remaining element is the right, to be precise, the corporate right of big business. In other words, the ANC, in pursuit of electoral success, is moving sharply towards the right and away from popular control. “Populism” in Zuma’s terms, means fooling the public, like the “revolutionary” language of ideologically dead organisations such as the SACP and the ANCYL. This is particularly ironic because under Mbeki the ANC built up a gigantic war-chest which was supposed to make the party forever financially independent of outside forces. That was what Chancellor House, Kgalema Motlanthe’s darling, was supposed to be about. But now Zuma is sucking up to big business in exchange for cash. What does this mean? Has Motlanthe stolen all that money already? Or is Zuma just pocketing the donations supposedly made for the ANC? The Creator will not anticipate that any journalist will look into the matter.

So broadly speaking the DA is a big-business front, and the ANC has handed itself over to big business. There is as yet no sign that CoPe has any real concern with left-wing values; its concern for constitutionalism and democracy is extremely wishy-washy and leaves plenty of room for pseudo-liberal big business to endorse it. Nothing has been said about wealth redistribution, not even by Philip Dexter. So if the CoPe is in any way left of the ANC it is keeping very quiet about it — which is a bad sign indeed, since if it wanted to, it would. As a result of this, the most plausible anticipation is that the CoPe will not win massive public support outside disgruntled ANC activists and members appalled at Zuma’s dishonesty and criminality.

Hence we now have three big-business parties; one backed by white big-business, one backed by black big-business, and one apparently aspiring to be backed by black big-business. It looks as if these three parties will be the three biggest parties after the coming election. Yes, things have been “normalized”. Not so completely “normalized” as white big business (the dominant part of the ruling class) wants — ideally they would wish to see the DA in charge altogether. But for the moment at least, until the public can be persuaded to utterly lose faith in all political activity, go away and shut up, this process has reached its apex.

Which, no doubt, explains why nothing is being done to shore up the nation against economic collapse. The three main political parties’ constituencies are the millionaire ruling class. The millionaire ruling class is not worried about economic collapse because it intends to go to Dubai in its yacht. As for the rest of us, the fifty million inhabitants of South Africa as it really is, we can bugger off and read Polokwane resolutions for recreation. Or watch the way the three parties swell and shrink. But it will have no more meaning for the real world than it would if we were watching it happen on a video game.

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