The global political situation has deteriorated to the point at which a few hundred disorganised students squatting in a park can be seen by serious aging radicals as evidence of revolutionary consciousness. Such radicals are truly desperate in the face of the enormous hegemony of privileged wealth. It is understandable but not sensible; we know, and have known all along, that much more is needed than a nebulous consciousness that something is wrong and a vague idea of who is responsible. The absence of any idea of what needs to be done or how to do it has flung the global Left into despairing confusion.
And this is entirely deserved, since the global Left has for forty years traded on the assumption that it would never be confronted with an actual situation in which it would be required to do something to save the planet. Now that we are faced with massive evidence that the capitalist elite are indeed wrecking civilisation and threatening the survival of our species, just as the global Left has been rhetorically claiming for most of that period, the global Left is magnificently unprepared, unready, and unwilling to take any action.
It is, however, interesting that the actions of those few hundred disorganised students, multiplied a few score times across the United States and the planet, have led in many places to violent repression. Gas bombs, stun grenades and shotgun-launched plastic projectiles were supposed to be the repressive tools used in places like South Africa. Using them on the children of the petit-bourgeoisie in the metropole is in fact natural, but still comes as a shock. The theorists of repression who have covered the massacres in Africa and the Middle East without a blink reel back in horror when mild terror is unleashed in their neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, the plutocracy’s intelligentsia devote massive efforts either to demonising these pitiful protestors as if they posed a real threat, or to struggling to co-opt them for their own purposes (which also suggests that they pose a real threat — for if they were not potentially powerful, they would not be worth co-opting).
All this suggests that the plutocracy, rightly or wrongly, feel themselves much less secure than they have appeared. Perhaps this is the psychological impact of discovering that their own lies about their brilliance and justified authority, which they peddled for so long that they came to believe them, are not true. Now that they know that they hold power through force and bribery — that they were not using force and bribery simply to overcome the wrong ideas of their enemies, but in order to overcome the correct ideas of their enemies — they are perhaps beginning to wonder if force and bribery will prevail in the face of truth and justice. As represented by a handful of lithe tattooed teenagers waving a banner.
This is curiously evident in South Africa. There are two prominent politicians in South Africa who enjoy the special attention of the media who are controlled by the plutocracy. These are, of course, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema. What we ought to notice about these two politicians is that they are both highly dubious figures in many ways. Zuma is certainly a criminal, and Malema, who reputedly enjoys an affluent life-style well beyond his earnings, may well be corrupt, or have been corrupt in the past — although one ought to ask whether a member of the ANC Youth League from the second-poorest province in the country is likely to have attained a level of significance, in terms of corruption, worthy of any serious attention.
The media representation of these two politicians has been mildly interesting. Zuma’s treatment has been complicated. His obvious unfitness for the Presidency of either the ANC or the country, and his notorious criminality, make him easy targets for criticism. But this criticism, if unleashed, would swiftly tear him down, and the plutocracy does not wish to see Zuma torn down. So the media encourage us to acknowledge Zuma’s actual nature only in the background, or on rare occasions when Zuma is perceived as doing something of which the plutocracy disapprove. The media’s audience loathe the ANC, of course, but they are encouraged to be tolerant of Zuma — and this seems to have been successful, for white South Africa is the only South African community which has any liking for the man. Meanwhile, Zuma’s artificial Teflon coating enables all of the rot and filth of Zuma to slide off onto the ANC and the other members of the government (many of whom, of course, contribute considerable stinking slime of their own).
Malema’s treatment has also been complicated, but less so. Zuma’s criminality and self-indulgence are represented as the natural, understandable urges of a primitive uneducated black person. (They are therefore much preferable to the urges of an advanced educated black person where those urges do not coincide with the will of the plutocracy.) Malema’s severe criticism of the enemies of the ANC, his hostility to personal attacks on himself and political attacks on the Youth League, and his self-indulgence and narcissism, are represented as the diseased, incomprehensible urges of a primitive uneducated black person. They are, therefore, a threat which must be prevented at all costs, because they cannot be understood or controlled. Malema, oddly enough, is the “wit kaffir”, as opposed to Zuma who is represented securely in the light of “ons ken mos hierdie mense”. It would thus appear that although the actual behaviour of the two is not dramatically different (though Malema is much less obscene), and the symbolic representation is strikingly similar, the conclusions which the plutocratic hegemony wish us to draw are simply poles apart.
This is particularly obvious in recent weeks. Zuma’s activities have been banal; obeying the orders of a couple of court-cases arranged by enemies of the ANC, and firing people whose corruption has been exposed in the press and highlit by the toadies of the plutocracy — these are not courageous or imaginative actions. Yet these actions have been toasted by the press. “The President is back!” trumpetted one weekly. There have been yards of speculations about whether the glorious energy of the President, so cleverly targeted towards the wise and just activities invariably called for by the plutocratic hegemony, are aimed at promoting Zuma’s image within the ANC and thus securing for himself a place in Heaven thanks to victory at the 2012 ANC National Conference.
In contrast, Julius Malema, refusing to be silenced by the trumped-up charges laid against him at the ANC’s National Disciplinary Committee (undoubtedly charges derived ultimately from the will of multinational mining corporations) organised and led a massive march from Johannesburg to Pretoria calling for job creation, nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, and wholesale wealth redistribution. This was met by the loathing and distaste of virtually all the media, who, generally speaking, proclaimed that it was simply impossible that Malema could be supporting such things, and thus he was obviously only pretending to support them, when really, behind the scenes, he was a firm supporter of the plutocracy whose media were denouncing him. (Of course, the plutocracy which owns the media is white, whereas the plutocracy within whose membership the media places Malema is an imagined black plutocracy which white racists imagine to run the country, a sort of melanin-enhanced Elders of Zion.).
In the background of the treatment of Malema, however, was a significant strand of nervousness. Some of the media commentators strayed from the path far enough to admit that Malema had a point (while simultaneously insisting that he was a vile individual fit only to be killed). They also acknowledged that Malema was undoubtedly doing himself some favours by taking such a sane and sensible and popular political stand (although carefully arranging polls to prove that Malema was becoming unpopular — yes, very likely that a man makes himself unpopular by taking popular stands in defiance of tyrannical power). Sexwale, the second most important black toady of white plutocratic power (above him, in terms of the corporate hierarchy as well as white authority, is of course Ramaphosa) supported Malema at the disciplinary hearing; Ramaphosa wrote an article explaining that while Malema is of course odious the things which he is complaining about are valid (though they will be best solved by placing all wealth and power in white hands). Evidently, the South African plutocracy is strangely scared of something, and it certainly is not the handful of white ninnies and corporate hacks who dutifully turned out for the local #OCCUPY.
The issue is, surely, Mangaung. Zuma has done so much for the white plutocracy, and now, damn it, there is to be a democratic election for the Presidency! What if it were actually democratic, and someone contested it? What if the person elected proved not to be Zuma? Then the white plutocracy would have to get going on trying to bring this person under control — and how would it do that? What if it didn’t completely — or didn’t at all? Horror!
So the press has to be told to boost Zuma and demonise Malema, and so the whites who read the press swallow what they are given and vomit it up again, in a circular path of coprophagy and kakocracy. But the controllers of the press, and even some of the journalists whose brains are not yet destroyed by drugs and tedium and frustration, are painfully aware that if Zuma loses they need a foot in the enemy’s camp. And they don’t know where the enemy’s camp is.
It must be hard to be in the plutocracy at the moment. It must be confusing, and disturbing, and worrying, to think that there are people out there who want to take away their unearned wealth. And furthermore, to think that there might be other people out there who are helping them grab their unearned wealth, and such faithful servants might someday no longer be available. How painful. How immiserating.