Don’t Lets Be Beastly To The Nazis.

December 25, 2012

C J Sansom’s latest, Dominion, is an object-lesson in how to get alternative history wrong.

Sansom is very good at representing lousy times. His long sequence of Shardlake novels which may be summed up as “Ooo, aren’t the Tudors ‘orrible!” certainly makes nobody want to live under Henry VIII’s rule (in the unlikely event of Bluff King Hal returning to office). And his representation of wartime Spain in Winter In Madrid reassures us that he can be rude about Catholics too. As a result, Sansom’s portrait of Britain in 1952 under the Coalition government is . . .

Well, it’s not too bad. The Coalition is, broadly speaking, the big parties who have sold out to foul ideology and become a bit odious, plus a small party which turns out to be odious from the ground up. So, a bit as if New Labour were to join Cameron’s Tories and then they were all to be Cleggulated.

But, in truth, everything bad is happening elsewhere. There’s trouble in Asia, where the British Army is crushing resistance, and there’s rumours of trouble in Central Africa, where the settlers are raising Cain, but no trouble at all in South Africa, where the apartheid regime is rock-solid in charge. So, actually, not very different from the way it actually was in 1952. At home, the kids are listening to American pop music and ripping it up and rocking it up, and otherwise the pipes are liable to burst sometimes, but everyone has a TV set – so in a way it’s rather like Britain in the late 50s rather than the early 50s.

So, what’s the difference? Basically, the difference is traceable back to Chamberlain’s resignation in May 1940; Lord Halifax has a rush of blood to the head and decides to accept the PM-ship, whereas in the real world he turned it down (probably because after the Norway fiasco he thought it would be a poisoned chalice), appointing Churchill as Minister of Defence and Lloyd George as Minister for Treason and Surrender. And, of course, after Dunkirk this government does indeed jack it all in, accepting Hitler’s generous peace terms.

So, basically, 1941-45 never happen, and Britain is – well, not immensely richer, because by June 1940 the Brits had bankrupted themselves. But they don’t spend four years devoting all their energies to weaponry instead of to infrastructure, and therefore British cities are a lot better off, it would seem. Also, they aren’t allied to America, so they don’t have to send troops all over the place pulling American chestnuts out of American-lit fires. On the other hand there’s no Attlee government, no National Health, no nationalized coal mines, so the working class is worse off.

But, frankly, Sansom doesn’t do this very well. Things are shabby, of course, and brutal in many ways, but he doesn’t make Britain in a Nazi world look either much worse or much better than Britain in the actual American world. Maybe he’s right to do this, but the whole point of an alternative history should be that things ought to look different, and frankly they don’t, so it’s a bit of a waste of space.

Sansom says he owes a good deal to Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Well, OK, but it’s worth pondering whether Fatherland was as good as Sansom thinks it is. Harris is always a good read, and it’s entirely possible that by 1963 the Nazi regime would indeed be breaking up under the stresses of its own contradictions. On the other hand, Harris’ work does fall under the spell of the notion that genocide is widely viewed as a bad thing. We are supposed to believe that once people discover, to their shock and horror, that the Nazis have exterminated the Jews, there would be this massive revulsion against them and the Nazis would be overthrown.

Yeah. Right. Just like once people discovered that the Americans had exterminated the Native Americans, the US government would be overthrown. It’s far more likely that by 1963 the kids all over Europe would be playing “Cops And Kikes”, with the cry “This time I get to run the gas chamber!”.

Sansom is pretty much aware that in the twenty-first century, morally speaking, the Western world seems to have suffered a renascence of Nazi attitudes. Exterminist attitudes towards political opponents are on the rise everywhere, almost invariably based in right-wing doctrines. Understandably, he doesn’t like this. But it’s far from clear that he is able to represent it in his book – although something he certainly gets right is the way in which, once the British government decides to round up the Jews, hardly anybody objects and most Britons either shrug their shoulders or murmur “Well, frankly, those people asked for it”.

A somewhat more relevant book, which Sansom doesn’t mention, is Deighton’s SS-GB, set only a few months after the British defeat (in Deighton, Britain is conquered rather than just surrendering to superior force) and in which Deighton manages to make things feel a lot grittier and scarier than Sansom manages. If Sansom’s book is like having a tooth out under anaesthetic, Deighton’s is more like the local vet coming in with a pair of pliers. Deighton, like Sansom and unlike Harris, sees the key to the future being nuclear weapons; in Deighton, the Germans have (implausibly) decided to set up their nuclear reactor on the English South Coast and the Americans must obtain the data in order to get anywhere (a notion which is not wholly implausible once one compares the primitive weaponry which the Americans came up with at the end of World War II, and the quantum leap they enjoyed once they made use of Nazi technology in the late 1940s).

Sansom’s thesis is that the Nazis wouldn’t have got nukes. This is implausible, however; by the end of World War II the Nazis had a working nuclear reactor, ironically run by the Post Office. With a reactor they would at once have noticed that their understanding of neutron cross-sections (basically, the way in which atoms absorb neutrons, which determines how much fissionable material you must assemble for a critical mass) was wrong, because only a relatively tiny amount of uranium was needed to get a reactor boiling. Once you knew that it would be only a matter of time before you figured out how to calculate the size of a uranium A-bomb, and once you knew that your uranium details were wrong you’d probably figure out that you had your plutonium details wrong too, and lo, you’d start working on your bomb.

German engineering was always superior to American, so probably the Germans would have had the bomb at the same time as the Americans, and would also have been able to deliver it more effectively. (Incidentally, if the British had jacked it in in June 1940, the Americans wouldn’t have received British theoretical tech – particularly radar and nuclear tech – and the Americans might not even have been able to develop the bomb without the British “Tube Alloys” research on which it was based.) So that part of Sansom’s book rings false.

Another part which rings false is the idea that the USSR would have been able to hold off the Germans if the British had jacked it in. The grim fact is that if the British had surrendered, the Germans would have been able to deploy far more troops against the USSR and enormously more aircraft. As a result, they would certainly have taken both Moscow and Leningrad in 1941, which means, incidentally, that Stalin would probably have been killed, leading to immense factionalism in the Soviet capital of Kuibyshev. Which also means there wouldn’t have been the vast losses around Moscow that winter, and in 1942 they would have taken the Caucasus and the White Sea, cutting Russia off from the outside world except via the Trans-Siberian railway. And that means the USSR would have had no oil and the Germans would have been able to push on to the Urals in 1943 and take out what remained of Russia’s manufacturing industry, and the war would have been over bar counter-insurgency. Which would have been unpleasant, certainly, but nothing like what Sansom suggests.

The last thing which rings a little false is the idea that the Nazi state would simply disintegrate in the absence of Hitler. It’s impossible to be sure of this, but the Nazis would almost certainly have been very pleased with themselves after conquering Europe. It’s hard to believe that they would have fought among themselves on Hitler’s death, to the extent of allowing everybody to conquer them right back; that certainly didn’t happen in the Second Reich when Bismarck got the push, nor did it happen in the USSR when Stalin popped his clogs. It is true that there was utter chaos in the NSDAP in April 1945, but that was very largely because Hitler’s policies had turned to utter disaster, the national economy and society was in ruins, everybody was doomed and therefore there was nothing holding the state together other than Party loyalty. In Sansom’s world, the Nazis are on top of everything, they rule the universe, they have all the money and power that could be conceived of. Yet somehow at this point they begin slaughtering each other and the Russians swarm into Europe while Mussolini and Franco are deposed and butchered for no apparent reason.

Yeah, right. The problem with this vision is that the Bad Guys are perceived of as being necessarily unsustainable. They supposedly cannot do anything right, and nothing they create can last.

In which case, how the hell did they take over in the first place? Sansom can’t answer that. Perhaps the implications are too scary for him. And also for Harris, and also for Deighton. In reality, the most plausible answer is that the Bad Guys, given half a chance, would rule for a thousand years. Since Sansom seems to be dimly aware that the Good Guys have their Bad Side too – not that the war against the Nazis was worthless, but rather that the victors had a Nazi element which has periodically surfaced and become dominant. And maybe this is why everybody has so much difficulty coping with the period, and why even Sansom, possibly the best of the three writers, (although less of a historian than even Harris, let alone Deighton) can’t make it work.


After the World Ended. (I)

December 25, 2012

So, now we know. The attempts to remove the Zuma system from the ANC have failed one after the other. Polokwane was actually the last best hope, as the Creator always feared. Prosecuting Zuma was blocked by the control of the judiciary by Zuma’s backers. Splitting the ANC was only a little more effective than the (still more absurd) efforts of the PAC had been fifty years earlier. Trying to work within the system failed because Zuma has introduced the Führerprinzip into the ANC and all decisions are taken from the top down with the Brownskins reduced to simply acclaiming the decisions of the Divine Master.

If change cannot come within the ANC system, it follows it must come from outside the ANC system. Instead of simply turning the ANC into something like what it was before, we must change the system in order to exclude the ANC from power. Since the ANC is now poisoned beyond recovery by the corruption which Zuma introduced, we must replace the ANC with something which is not poisoned.

This seems, superficially, easy, so it is quite important to point out why it is much more difficult than it looks. The reason why it looks easy is that people placed in positions of authority for the specific goal of undermining public discourse have said that it is easy, and since we would all agree that this needs to be done, we wish to believe that they are telling the truth and know what they are talking about. Instead, they are ignorant yahoos, and are in any case deliberately lying for private gain and under the orders of corrupt people.

In essence there are two categories here: the Trotskyites who preach revolution, and the DA who preach electoral change.

Revolution is easy; you just overthrow the government, like was done in 1994. The Trotskyites have all read The History of the Russian Revolution, or at least have spoken to people who have, or maybe they have looked at the pictures in the Classics Illustrated version, so they have noticed that you say you wanna revolution, and said revolution arrives. Yay! That must be how the ANC did it. And, after all, there are people who are out there who are clearly pissed off, and that’s all you need, isn’t it?

Trotsky didn’t bother to write about the ninety years of revolutionary struggle which preceded 1905, because he was writing for people who understood revolutionary history. Unfortunately, today’s Trotskyites understand only revolutionary rhetoric and wordplay. Therefore, they forget about the forty years of revolutionary struggle which preceded 1990 and the four years of revolutionary struggle which followed it. They forget about this because they want to pose as revolutionaries – pitifully sticking their faces through cardboard cut-outs of Lenin on the armoured car – and don’t actually understand that there is a difference between posing and being. (Since they emerge from a tradition which insists that there has never been a real revolution because there has never been a revolution that they were in charge of, and which also insists that pretense and reality are exactly the same thing because Baudrillard said so, they can get away with this. After a fashion, they can.

In reality, though, launching a revolution in South Africa will be extremely difficult. It was a tremendous struggle to carry out even the partial revolution which South Africa accomplished in the period 1980-1994, and this revolution enjoyed some support from the ruling class. Against the hostility of the ruling class, and under the much less pleasant conditions of the present global order than those prevailing in 1980-94, it is all but inconceivable that this process should win. The Trotskyites are at best fooling themselves, but more probably they are trying to fool the public which might genuinely desire revolution.

None of this means that revolution is impossible. It will not, however, happen within the next decade, and it will require an immense conspiratorial effort which cannot be undertaken in public. Anyone wanting to do it is welcome to try.

Those who want change by means of elections appear much more likely to succeed. The DA has expended from little more than 1% of the vote in 1994 to over 20% of the vote now. It follows naturally that by 2034 or so they will command 400% of the vote. All hail the Powers that Be!

In reality, as the Creator has pointed out incessantly, the existence of an opposition party does not make it better than the government, and the grim fact is that the ANC has deteriorated as a party representative of the will and wishes of the people of South Africa, precisely in line with how it has become similar to the DA. We could, borrowing a phrase from the treacherous pseudo-intellectual babbler Jeremy Cronin, refer to the “Zillefication” of the ANC, a process which Cronin supports 100% because he is a glove-puppet of the corporate forces behind both Zuma and Zille.

More alarmingly, once there is little or no difference between the DA and the ANC in terms of policy, the only difference is in presentation. Since the DA must present itself as a white-supremacist party in order to appeal to whites (and to the coloureds who love being whipped by whites – a book about coloured voting politics ought to be called Fifty Shades of Brown) they simply cannot present themselves to africans who are not subordinated masochists, and most aren’t. The growth of the black middle class has provided the DA with a modest power-base in the African community, but it isn’t enough. So, it is extremely unlikely that the DA is going to double its vote-share within the next decade, and it must double its vote-share if it is to displace the ANC or at least reduce the ANC below the magic 50% mark.

In short, there is no existing party which provides a real alternative to Zuma’s ANC, and there is no existing party which can defeat Zuma’s ANC. Add to this the fact that there is no revolutionary movement capable of overthrowing the ANC and the conditions are hostile to the development of such a movement, and we can all sit down and have a good cry.

But after tears come action, at least after a fashion. If we want to change things, we will have to go ahead and create the conditions under which change can happen. We must, therefore, establish structures capable of facilitating change. Such structures can take various forms, but in order for them to succeed, it is absolutely necessary to identify what change is needed and how such change is to take place. It is also vital that a large minority of the population (at a minimum) identifies such change as necessary and is prepared to make sacrifices in order to accomplish it.

This is why bodies like Occupy failed; they were able to see that there was something wrong, but they thought that saying so was all that was needed, that the wave of mass revulsion against the prevailing corrupt system would sweep all before it. In reality, there was such a wave, but it was inchoate, and any attempt to turn such a wave into practical action came up against the deep-seated hostility to change which has been inculcated into all modern societies by the ruling class. Occupy, being dominated by fantasists and self-centred publicists, was unable to do anything about this or even acknowledge that it was a problem. Indeed, Occupy also suffered from the same kind of problem that South African Trotskyism suffers from – the belief that revolution is easy, and also the notion that it will happen without leadership. (It is interesting that the thing which most impressed the initial supporters of Occupy – the leaderless “General Assembly” – has been identified after the collapse of Occupy as the movement’s biggest stumbling-block, because it actually allowed noisy egomaniacs to dominate the movement and thus render it hostile to incomers and incapable of effective action.)

So what is needed is a much more traditional movement against the regime. In effect we need to go back to the past, back to the 1950s and 1960s, and study why movements like the Liberal Party and the Progressive Party failed, why the ANC was only partially successful and the PAC such a train-smash, and generally examine how people attempted to change the disastrous circumstances in which we found ourselves, both working within the system altogether in order to ameliorate it, working within the system in order to change it, and then challenging the system from outside. And all this is possible.

Just difficult..

Outrage Outage.

December 20, 2012

In the aftermath of international expressions of outrage over the situation in Syria, the Eastern DRC, South Africa, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Honduras, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Washington D C, Palestine and Zimbabwe, the release of vast stockpiles of outrage over North Korea has been seen by many as a potential tipping-point which could plunge the entire planet into an outrage crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

We spoke to the Secretary-General of the Bureau for Observing Outrage and Judging its Ultimate Meaning (BOOJUM), Sir Cholmondeley Wolverhampton-Plumvoice, ennobled by New Labour for his services to outrage prior to the invasion of Iraq, but more recently a strident critic of outrage abuse, in his agreeable office lined with authentic Damien Hirsts (insofar as a Damien Hirst is ever authentic).

INTERVIEWER: Sir Cholmondeley, very pleased to have you in command of the situation. You have been quoted by unnamed sources as saying that the situation is outrageous. Would you care to enlarge on that?

PLUMVOICE: Most certainly. The recent North Korean outrage outbursts – supposedly planned outrage releases, of course – represent a major threat to the environment, in my judicious and well-lubricated opinion, because of rising political temperatures.

INTERVIEWER: But such releases of outrage have been made for years without anyone noticing any effect, apart from on liberal websites and talk-shows which may safely be disregarded.

PLUMVOICE: Oh, absolutely. I must point out that there are irresponsible and responsible releases of outrage. Mine were all quite responsible, as when I exposed Saddam Hussein’s plot to bugger the Queen Mother to death with teleguided dildoes of mass destruction. However, if abused, the mass release of artificial outrage can lead to catastrophic consequences.

INTERVIEWER: What is artificial outrage?

PLUMVOICE: There is a natural and ecologically healthy level of outrage which serves to sustain the proper standing of serf and lord – I mean, citizen and duly elected political official! However, manufacturing and then releasing artificial outrage has the unintended consequence of raising the political temperature, partly because the act of manufacturing artificial outrage often itself causes vast amounts of natural outrage to well up from the depths, and these, added to the release of artificial outrage, can cause extremely dangerous disruptions to the natural order of master and slave.

INTERVIEWER: But what about the workers?

PLUMVOICE: What about the workers indeed, my good sir. The issue in North Korea is that vast amounts of artificial outrage had been manufactured in Japan and the United States for various reasons, and then stored ready for use. When the North Koreans provided the opportunity, by menacingly launching a weather satellite which might be used to beam bulletins about sunny skies over Pyongyang into the entire global political context and thus indirectly undermine the whole outrage economy in the region, the outrage managers released – quite inappropriately in my view – their entire stockpile over North Korea. Not only was this a huge waste of outrage, but the sheer concentration of artificial outrage in the region is gradually bursting its borders and generating all manner of wholly unintended consequences.

INTERVIEWER: But what is the difference between natural and artificial outrage?

PLUMVOICE: Well, it is natural for outrage to be naturally generated when the natural order of things is unnaturally disrupted – say, when a group of employees attempt to seek wages higher than is healthy for sound economic management. This is particularly applicable to things seen on television programmes or in tabloid newspapers – where one may see immense amounts of outrage generated by, for instance, the antics of paedophiles not officially endorsed by properly accredited authorities, or the bizarre behaviour of governments elected by people of unsatisfactory skin-colour or eye-shape. Unfortunately, however, such natural outrage suffers from the law of diminishing returns.

INTERVIEWER: Could you outline the law of diminishing returns?

PLUMVOICE: Without hesitation. There is a law which says that the returns diminish.

INTERVIEWER: What returns?

PLUMVOICE: The returns on provoking outrage. People gradually, it would appear – of course a great deal of research has been done into this by very good bearded researchers with Conservative Party membership cards – begin to feel less outrage than they ought to over the misconduct of officially approved social enemies. Gradually this outrage sometimes turns into acceptance, and this is why it is becoming less and less easy to arouse outrage over piccaninnies pushing excrement through letter-boxes or funny Frenchmen jabbering and gesticulating. Of course this is still possible, but less reliably so than in the past. Furthermore, various people – and we know exactly who they are and where they live – are inclined to claim that things happening a long way away to people of whom we know nothing are not tremendously important to them. Such an attitude could lead to the collapse of the entire system of outrage extraction, if it were to succeed. As you can imagine, a surplus of outrage could produce a crash in the commercial value of outrage, and the member-states of the Organisation of Outrage-Exploiting Regimes (OO-ER) could suffer socio-economic meltdown in consequence, since outrage is their only source of income and social stability.

INTERVIEWER: And so where does this leave us?

PLUMVOICE: It obliges us to manufacture artificial outrage. This has to be done very carefully, in isolated areas under careful scrutiny. Some have even suggested that an international body be set up to monitor it, but of course this would only apply, in the customary fashion of international law, to countries lacking the capacity to manufacture artificial outrage – except outrage of kinds unacceptable to the civilized world.

INTERVIEWER: What kinds of outrage are unacceptable?

PLUMVOICE: Outrage over issues in the distant and forgotten past, or in faraway countries which unfortunately still exist and whose peoples have irrational grievances over such forgotten events. In these countries there are pools of glowing outrage lying around everywhere, but it is impossible to use this outrage for beneficial purposes because it seems only effective when directed against the civilized world – we technicians normally refer to this as “anti-outrage”, and possession of large stockpiles of anti-outrage is immediate justification for invasion, genocide and annexation of the offending country.

INTERVIEWER: So is this the source of the problem?

PLUMVOICE: No, we can easily deal with such countries as those. No, the source of the problem is the lack of domestic outrage management. What tends to be done is two things – to take action which accelerates the extraction of natural outrage, or to manufacture artificial outrage and add it to the natural outrage, which sometimes – not always, of course – stimulates a further outburst of natural outrage. Sometimes this leads to outrage feedback – the explosive proliferation of both natural and artificial outrage which potentially can get beyond control.

INTERVIEWER: Are you saying that outrage is dangerous?

PLUMVOICE: There are two dangers. Firstly, of course, excess outrage of the wrong kind – directed towards irrelevant or nonexistent things like supposed crimes committed by the racially superior — can lead to disaster, because it stirs up the lesser breeds. Secondly, because of the law of diminishing returns I mentioned, one can pour vast amounts of outrage into a suitable circumstance only to find that it provokes less and less satisfactory responses – indeed, as a result, more and more effort has to be placed into generating less and less outrage with less and less effect. This is the situation widely referred to as Peak Outrage.

INTERVIEWER: But surely this is not going to happen soon, if at all.

PLUMVOICE: That used to be so, but we have changed all that. Previous statements denying the existence of Peak Outrage are now inoperative, and today Peak Outrage is a legitimate talking point, though not, of course, among the great unwashed who must never know about it. If Peak Outrage is indeed a reality, we face the real possibility that outrage might no longer become an effective means of controlling the misbehaviour of the ignorant rabble.

INTERVIEWER: Good Lord! What could be done about that?

PLUMVOICE: The logical way to prevent this from becoming a problem for the lords of creation is to remove the feckless masses from the equation altogether.

INTERVIEWER: Whew! For a moment I was worried! So, how do you plan to do that?

PLUMVOICE: Obviously I cannot reveal everything at this stage, but we have all been working with great courage and tenacity, and a final solution is indeed at hand.

Mangaung, gaung, gone.

December 7, 2012

Since nobody else seems to be willing to explain Mangaung, the Creator will have to.

The fundamental task for the ANC is to serve the interests of the ruling class. Within that task, however, the fundamental goal for the leadership of the ANC is to preserve their jobs and access to public funds which they can pocket. These two problems conflict when elections come round, because too much stealing becomes conspicuous and this embarrasses the ruling class, who want to steal public funds without too much discussion of the matter (see the New Growth Path for details of how ’tis done).

This makes for several problems for Jacob Zuma. He is quite aware that his greed and corruption are embarrassments for the big business interests who put him in power. Not all of them, of course, but some of them. Meanwhile, some of the other big business interests who put him in power wish to exploit his greed and corruption in order to bring down the ANC and replace it with a white government (no doubt with a few black people sitting close to the glass front-door).

What Zuma therefore needed was to have absolute control of the ANC. Unfortunately, he had kicked out most of the competent leadership of the party and replaced them with untrustworthy sleazebags because those were the people who supported his coups. Therefore he had to find other untrustworthy sleazebags who could be installed to replace the original untrustworthy sleazebags if they stepped out of line. The constant danger was that the sleazebags might turn on him, and so he had to ratchet up fear and eliminate dissent and generally turn his party into something very like the SACP. In doing that, he had to rely on the SACP itself, which is like trying to ride across a river in an oil-drum full of puff-adders.

It worked up to a point, however, because the SACP is itself so enfeebled that it cannot take charge of the ANC, as it discovered when it tried to take over the Western Cape ANC. Therefore it needs Zuma, and therefore Mantashe and Nzimande and Cronin because Zuma’s closest allies. Provincial parties began fighting among themselves so energetically that it became possible to use the conflict to undermine hostility to Zuma, with judicious interventions by national officers. The actual structure of the provincial ANC parties was so weak and so undermined that, exhausted, they very often allowed Zuma’s agents to control their elections and thus ensure that only pro-Zuma delegates would go to Mangaung. Where this couldn’t be done, the elections were delayed until the last moment while bands of centrally-hired thugs broke up elections which were in danger of going the wrong way. (It’s all rather like a Nigerian election in the 1960s, as reflected in Achebe’s A Man of the People.)

So Zuma could be reasonably sure that he had the party under control. Of course, this didn’t help him with the business community. They might still have undermined him — and since the whole ANC consists of people who desire bribes, the business community could have bought out the delegates and finished Zuma. Except that the business community had no idea of whom to install, since the ANC was in such a dismantled state that kicking Zuma out might lead to a complete collapse of national administration — and in that case the Army would have been the logical force to take power, rather than the DA whom the business community want in control. So Zuma, if he walked on eggs, could be reasonably sure of getting in — but he was painfully aware that he was in an unstable position. One thing which he could do was pander to the business community by purging Julius Malema, thus identifying himself as a reliable man of the extreme political and economic right, and at the same time sucking up to the SACP, who hated Malema because he kept reminding them of the awful lies they were telling.

That, however, led to some problems among Zuma’s top supporters within the ANC. They had always supported Zuma because he was pretending to be left-wing, and they wanted to pretend to be left-wing too, and thus retain popularity. As a result, people like Kgalema Motlanthe and Matthews Phosa decided to pretend to support Malema. They didn’t really support him (except in the most abstract sense) but they also, probably, didn’t want to see Malema thrown out without anyone in the ANC putting up a fight, because then Malema’s huge support-base would be alienated from the ANC (and Malema himself might go elsewhere instead of vainly hoping to restore his membership, and a completely antipathetic Malema would be a huge problem for the ANC’s support in the 2014 elections). Plus, since the media were all anti-Malema, Motlanthe and Phosa could put themselves forward as critics of the white establishment without loss.

But Zuma and his friends didn’t seem to see it like that. Suddenly, senior members of the ANC were saying things which could be interpreted as critical of Zuma’s policies! This could not be tolerated! These enemies of the sacred Zuma must go! And so suddenly Phosa found himself being sidelined, while Motlanthe learned from the corporate newspapers that Zuma was thinking of putting Nzimande in as his Deputy President.

That wasn’t going to happen. The business community would never allow a Communist to run the country. In addition, because Nzimande is universally despised in the Charterist community, he would have found it impossible to handle the Presidency — and Nzimande is not the kind of man who wants extra work. Basically, this was a stalking-horse, and it backfired with a mighty fart; Motlanthe began casting about for allies who would help him get rid of Zuma at Mangaung. Again, this doesn’t mean that Motlanthe wanted to get rid of Zuma; what it meant was, basically, that two could play at that game, Mr. Zuma, and if you don’t want trouble at Mangaung, you get your goddamn Hummer off my lawn.

But that was precisely what Zuma wasn’t prepared to do. It’s possible that he feared that Motlanthe was really campaigning against him, being a paranoid authoritarian as he is. It’s even more likely that he recognised that Motlanthe was liable to unleash forces which he wouldn’t be able to stop — because Zuma is so unpopular within the ANC that a Motlanthe bandwagon would roll on regardless of whether Motlanthe was pushing it or not. Hence, Zuma had to get rid of Motlanthe.

The problem was, of course, that getting rid of Motlanthe would make the Motlanthe bandwagon inevitable. However, that wasn’t really a problem — after all, the Mangaung election would be sewn up by Mantashe, not Motlanthe. But if Motlanthe went under the bus, who would replace him? This was a serious problem, because the alternatives were getting rather desperate; so many of Zuma’s nominees for the Cabinet had turned out to be such egregious failures or crooks or both that they were unsuitable, and the old guard of the Mbeki Cabinet could not be trusted because they hated Zuma so much. What was needed was someone who would look vaguely Presidential, who would not threaten Zuma in any way but rather do exactly as he was told, who would bring some political clout onto the ticket — and, of course, who was approved of by the white businessmen who were really Zuma’s backers.

In the end, there could be only one choice — step forward, Cyril Ramaphosa!

When Jonathan Shapiro began attacking Ramaphosa, it was obvious that he was in the running. There was no reason to undermine Ramaphosa if he was only a trade unionist; manifestly, the corporate forces backing Shapiro did not like the prospect of Ramaphosa in the Presidency, because he would keep the ANC in power and the DA out for longer. This explains the weird smear against Ramaphosa after the Marikana massacre (the claims by Dali Mpofu, failed ANC plutocrat turned worthless lawyer, that Ramaphosa was responsible) and the ensuing rather pathetic battle against the smear waged by the newspapers owned by the white people who back Ramaphosa (such as the Sunday Times).

Of course, none of this has any impact on Ramaphosa’s prospects at Mangaung, because it’s all been fixed beforehand. (Unless the bought delegates don’t stay bought — but given the amount of money Ramaphosa has behind him, this is unlikely.) Essentially, it’s a winning situation for Zuma. Ramaphosa is a shoe-shine boy who has done nothing but obey other people’s orders ever since he countersigned the National Party’s Constitution in 1992-3 and then wrote it into the 1996 Constitution. He has zero support and zero credibility within the ANC. On the other hand, it’s been so long since he was in office that nobody really hates him any more (except for ideological reasons, and almost nobody in power in the ANC has an ideological perspective on anything). So this isn’t a bad thing, it means that he will take years to build up a power-base, and by then Zuma will be gone — one hopes.

Of course, he’s a right-wing neoliberal who’s completely in the pocket of the big business community who have been using him as a front-man for the last two decades, but so what? You say that like that’s a bad thing, Cde. Creator. The media are already stepping forward to assure us that Ramaphosa the Toad is the greatest thing since sliced bread, that after the next seven years of Zuma looting the Toadal One will use his magic superhuman free-market skills to make everything better again for us all (who earn over fifty million bucks a year, that is).

The only other danger is that once the fix is in at Mangaung, things will start to fall apart, because in the conflict-ridden ANC of today, nobody will have any reason to support Zuma after he’s shot his last bolt. And Ramaphosa will not be a friend to Zuma any more than he has been a friend to anyone else in the ANC. It looks like being an interesting seven years. To watch from a safe distance, that is.

Continental Blowback.

December 7, 2012

One of the remarkable developments in Africa since the end of the Cold War has been its ideological absorbtion into the Western imperialist system. This wasn’t at all new — recall how Israel was used as a device to penetrate African governments and take them over in the 1960s, before the October War upset the applecart — but it went into crescendo mode after 1991, particularly in the Great Lakes region at first. One response to this challenge was to set up the AU, which at the time seemed to be a really, really pitiful entity aimed at pretending that Africa was in any way capable of unity, but which in retrospect looks like a smart idea to try to institutionalise hostility to Western imperialism. Another was the South African arms deal, which was opposed in South Africa entirely by those who supported Western imperialism and therefore wanted South Africa to be too militarily weak to do anything to resist it.

Well, those hopes and dreams all faded even before the Mbeki presidency was eliminated. One by one, the major nations of Africa have queued up to become satellites of the United States. In West Africa, Nigeria (doubtless fuelled by Shell) clamoured to assist Britain and the United States — and eventually France — in their efforts to install puppet regimes in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. In East Africa and the Horn, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia jostled with each other to see who could commit the worst violations of internationa law in serving American imperialism in Somalia, while the AU cheered them on.

One could argue, of course, that they had little or no choice in this matter. The AU took a stand against NATO’s aggression against Libya in 2011. Not a firm stand — given that various AU countries offered basing or overflight rights to NATO countries, and given that South Africa had voted for the aggression in the UN Security Council, the AU’s stand was about as firm as undercooked blancmange, though considerably less tasty. Nevertheless, it was a stand, which included calls for negotiations between rebels and government. It accomplished precisely nothing, and might have been expected to accomplish nothing; the AU simply does not have the power to stop NATO once it gets going. On the other hand, the AU does sometimes show that it has modest power — for instance, in stopping South Sudan’s crazy aggression against Sudan earlier this year. In the end, nothing is lost by being true to your principles, except the Western money flowing into your Cayman Islands bank account in exchange for betraying them. For most African political leaders, that is a big enough loss.

Anyone who is sane can see that Western intervention tends to have catastrophic consequences. This might seem to be a good enough reason for opposing Western intervention; South Africa, for instance, in the past, opposed Western intervention in Zimbabwe because we wanted to see that country continue functioning for our own purposes, and seeing the West kick it to pieces for ideological reasons was not in the interests of our business community (even though it was the local business community that was shrieking for the crucifixion of Zimbabwe). However, the more powerful countries in Africa have tended to be willing to throw weak or distant countries under the bus, on the assumption that this would have no painful consequences in their own countries.

But just how true is this?

Nigeria  has helped out Western imperialism in Ivory Coast and is proposing to help it out in Mali — and has also probably been a silent partner in the British attacks on Liberia and Sierra Leone. As a result, Nigeria enjoys a good deal of political endorsement. British and American media outlets are always willing to give Nigeria a favourable representation as the new glorious leader of Africa. However, apart from the obvious fact that the Nigerian government is a hideous corrupt mess and that none of the obvious problems of the criminal petrostate and the resistance to the petrostate have been solved, and apart from the ongoing organised crime crisis which tears southern Nigeria to pieces, much of northern Nigeria is in a state of virtual anarchy owing to the Islamic insurgency there which has only been encouraged by the ambiguous on-off support which Islamic fundamentalism has enjoyed from the Abuja government, and by the brutal, clumsy and apparently completely ineffectual attempts at repression which have been imposed there.

Of course, it is quite likely, given conditions in Nigeria, that the northern Islamist movements would have taken up arms sooner or later. However, the general corruption of the state, its reluctance — refusal, actually — to create any real sense of nationalism, encourages the pursuit of confessional identity as the only viable alternative to greed and subservience to foreigners. (Significantly, a major concern of the northern Islamists is xenophobia, and especially anti-Western attitudes. Of course, the local wars have not thus far been predominantly aimed against Islamists — though the proposed invasion of Mali in order to reinstall a neoliberal government is being sold as an anti-Islamist operation. However, since the Nigerian government is lining up with the same Western governments which are butchering Muslims across the oil-rich world, it is easy to see how Islamists in Nigeria can spin their resistance to the neoliberal government as a kind of counter-Crusade.)

The Malian operation will add fuel to this fire — and, of course, Mali’s travails arise directly out of the Western aggression against Libya, which was backed by South Africa and not seriously opposed by any African country, so this is yet another example of how African leaders’ failure to live up to their purported ideals makes the position of those leaders more difficult.

On the other side of the continent, Uganda and Kenya are in a rather similar position. Uganda has been the spear-carrier for American imperialism in the continent virtually since Museveni took over — no doubt his successful takeover, so heavily promoted by the Western media, had some or other Western support, just as was the case with his blood-drenched predecessor Idi Amin. It has served as a base for the invasions of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as for the destabilisation of the Sudan. Most recently it has provided troops for the suppression of the Somali liberation war. One would expect that Uganda would receive some credit for all this, especially since the natural response of the Sudanese was to foment a resistance war in northern Uganda. However, the West is cutting back on its support for Uganda, just as the West is also denouncing Rwanda (having belatedly discovered, after eighteen years, that Kagame’s tribalist military dictatorship is unprepossessing, perhaps because the West would rather do a deal with the corrupt but pliable government of the DRC than with the corrupt and stroppy government of Rwanda). Uganda has not suffered very seriously, but it has suffered for its behaviour.

Kenya, meanwhile, waddled happily into the Somali war like Louis Napoleon staggering goutily into war with Germany. Apart from the fact that its troops are bogged down in an endless campaign in that hostile desert, the Somalis have decided to launch respond much as the Sudanese did, by encouraging rebellion within Kenya. It transpires that northern Kenya is virtually lawless — not a pleasant thing to be reminded of, given that the Kenyans are heavily dependent on tourism and the illusion of peacefulness which that requires. Therefore, the Kenyan military decided to sort out the problem by murdering a popular cleric in the North, thus cementing Islamic support for the Somali resistance. As a result there is a very small-scale urban guerrilla war going on, mainly involving civilian murders, which the Kenyan government is incapable of responding to. Meanwhile, up north, the cattle raiders recently wiped out more than a platoon of police who had been sent to wander around and pretend to combat them. How did these cattle raiders get access to military-grade weaponry?

All this suggests that helping out Western imperialism has presented a few problems for the governments of the countries which do it. The reason is simple — the West is chiefly concerned with installing puppet governments in countries which have natural resources which Western imperialism wishes to control. This is only to be done easily in weak, unstable states, of course, such as Somalia and Ivory Coast. Using local countries as military proxies means that this can be done with minimal cost to the imperialists. Unfortunately, however, the cost for the proxies is maximised, because the imperialists can walk away and the proxies cannot. Also, such wars generate refugees which flood across the region and the proxy country can hardly justify closing its borders to them — but the refugees know that the proxy country has attacked them, and regardless of their religion or politics they tend to be hostile to it. Hence the action inevitably destabilises the proxy. Because the imperialists are not interested in spending money on maintaining stability in the region, they are not going to help the proxy fight its battles once the puppet government has been installed in the invaded country, and unfortunately the proxy country probably already has deployed its best troops and secret police in the invaded country to cope with the resistance . . .

It would seem, therefore, that the long-term consequence of imperialist intervention in Africa is remarkably similar to imperialist intervention in Mesopotamia and Central Asia; a growing hostility to imperialism across the entire region, which is initially expressed in hostility to imperialist agents. In other words, the world is becoming more dangerous and violent because of the greed of the Anglo-American imperialists and their satraps.

So what else is new, then?