Marikan-a-rama.

August 20, 2013

In the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, a number of conspiracy theories came to light.

1. That the SAPS had deliberately arranged matters so that miners would be killed, to punish the miners for killing police officers earlier. This was plausible — after all, the police handled the matter so badly that it was tempting to believe that they were doing so deliberately, and the police do feel vengeful about people who murder cops. To find the truth of this, it would be necessary to closely and clearly question the police commanders involved concerning their plans and the execution of their plans, and of course get a general portrait of what happened from the large number of journalists and observers present, as well as from the miners themselves. In principle, the truth could be found.

2. That the SAPS had killed the miners under orders from Lonmin, in order to crush the strike. This was less plausible. It would also, however, be extremely difficult to test this in court, simply because one could be sure that no such orders would have been committed to paper.

3. That the SAPS had killed the miners under orders from the National Union of Mineworkers via the ANC, in order to crush AMCU. This was exceptionally implausible, and once again, one could be confident that no substantiating evidence would exist in any demonstrable form.

4. That the SAPS had killed the miners under joint orders from Lonmin, the ANC and the NUM in pursuit of neoliberal agendas, whatever those might be. This, which we may call the Gillian Schutte/Peter Alexander arglebargle, is pretty much meaningless, and unless someone came up with some confirming evidence of some kind, it is utterly untestable in any shape or form.

It should be pointed out, however, that any one of the latter conspiracy theories might have been correct, even though they were respectively a bit unlikely, very unlikely and virtually impossible. In South Africa it is often difficult to keep secrets; there is no culture of holding them and an extensive culture of cheque-book journalism and of eagerness to take money in exchange for secrets. Therefore, if there were any secrets to come out which might serve to provide plausibility for theories two to four, they should have come out by now, after a year of Farnham Commission.

What has come out, however, is essentially nothing. This is surprising. Commissions are, of course, likely to be appointed as temporising measures, and the Zuma administration does almost nothing except temporise, so this is temporising doubly damned. However, in order to pretend to be investigating something, most Commissions at least go through the motions of hearing evidence and attempting to process it in some sense. It has been claimed that the Commission is a cover-up. It is nothing of the kind, for it has provided no covering whatsoever — all the horrible, stinking evidence of the crime committed at Wonderkop remains there out in the open for all to see. But it makes no sense, since nobody is trying to make any sense of it.

One would have thought that Zuma would want to do something to create the illusion that he wanted to get to the truth of the matter. He went to the trouble of scampering out of the country on the day of the massacre, thereafter giving a speech about how shocked he was and how he felt the pain of those who had suffered. (If only he had!) And, surely, it would not have been so very difficult to throw a couple of police officers under the proverbial bus and thus show that people had been punished — as happened, for instance, after the great white Gupta-bearing bird flopped down at Waterkloof Air Force Base. But nothing like that has happened. It’s almost as if Zuma is too beholden to the cops, or as if there is just too much being covered up, for any investigation to take place.

Certainly it would have been possible for Judge Farnham to have asked coherent questions of the police and the other witnesses to discover if there was any pattern amidst the general incompetence, bungling and worthless leadership which they displayed. If necessary, journalists could have been subpoenaed (journalists have been extremely unforthcoming with information, considering the way in which they have fabricated and consolidated conspiracy theories, as if they are preserving all their material for their handlers in the various spy services in the imperialist countries). One expects trade unionists to tell lies, and certainly Joseph Mathunjwa is a past master of generating obvious bullshit, but even so, some of the unionists who survived the killings might not have been so completely coached that they could not have told a story which (analysed together with other stories) might have made some kind of sense. In which case, a real, meaningful narrative about what happened during the hour or so of the run-up to and the aftermath of the massacre might have come together, and that would have justified setting up the Farnham Commission, up to a point at least (and assuming that nobody in the Commission had been paid and that it had sat for only a week or so).

But none of this has happened. Well, perhaps Farnham has been bought off, or is as much of a corrupt dunderhead as most South African judges. But then, why could the celebrity lawyers for the miners or the purported civil society organisations not have managed this? It was obvious that the police were not giving away anything and that when police officers appeared before the Commission they were either telling obvious lies or were delivering an implausible narrative. It is not conceivable that the police had no proper plan, that they kept no proper record, that they had no clear agenda for their actions, that they had nobody in charge at crucial moments, that the leadership of the police cannot say why they deployed a kill squad rather than a riot squad — or rather, it is just conceivable that all this might be the case, but then it is inconceivable that no heads have rolled in response to this unbelievable ineptitude. The officer in charge of the Pistorius case was shunted aside for displaying incompetence, yet the Marikana case makes him look like Sherlock Holmes mingled with the Archangel Gabriel. The media has not picked up on this. Are they looking the other way?

Perhaps what concerns the media, as it concerns the so-called Marikana Support Committee and all the other “civil society” nincompoops — including the lawyers — surrounding the massacre victims like leeches, is the other possibilities. What is the point of finding out what the police did wrong in a massacre in order to prevent future massacres? It is not the business of a modern political leader in South Africa to make life better for humanity. It is the business of a modern political leader to serve the interests of the global ruling class by undermining the African National Congress, and that’s all she wrote.

They have not, of course, managed to find any evidence substantiating their claims. The ignorant and prejudiced writings of Greg Marinovich in the right-wing Maverick webmag might have pointed to something, although all it really meant, had it meant anything (and we don’t know, of course) was that the police seemed to have deliberately killed people who were wounded. (But since R-5 bullets have unstable flight paths and move at more than a kilometre a second, it was perfectly possible that some of the people were dropped in unexpected places, far beyond where the police were aiming, assuming that they aimed at all which is a large assumption.) Anyway, nobody attempted to investigate this or look into it in any meaningful way, and certainly nobody brought the matter before the Commission or any of the legal teams for further study.

As for the claims about Cyril Ramaphosa, the less said about the claptrap spouted by Dali Mpofu the better. Not a word of the e-mails waved about by Mpofu (no doubt supplied to him by Lonmin) had anything to do with the Marikana massacre. Nothing, indeed, which has been presented by anybody has provided any substantiating evidence for any of the conspiracy theories which have been floating around. It’s almost as if these forces do not want to discuss the need for substantiating evidence — that what they want is what the media has provided, the automatic assumption that any mad fantasy which incriminates the ANC must be presented as if it were gospel truth on tablets of stone, and that the only voices which need to be listened to are the voices of the propagandists, repeating the same gibberish over and over, and their hirelings echoing it. It’s nice work if you can get it, telling unsubstantiated lies for cash, but it can’t be good for the spirit or the mind in the longer run — assuming that people like Peter Alexander possess such things.

The only thing which really needs to be said about the conspiracy theories is that if anyone had actually wanted to undermine AMCU, or privilege the NUM, or further the interests of the ANC, then they would certainly not have sat around for a month while AMCU slaughtered NUM and ANC members, then blazed away for two minutes, then run away and hid for a year. We have seen how the police have acted against trade unions when they wanted to act against trade unions. They systematically disperse their meetings, arrest their leaders, harass their membership, and this is invariably supported by the owners of the companies who provide information and, where appropriate, bribe people to turn their backs on the unions or denounce them, while the press bursts its banks with anti-union propaganda and the government tells soft lies. This is how it was handled in the 1970s and the early 1980s. This is what would have been going on if the conspiracy theories had embodied any sense, and if it had been, AMCU would have been a dead duck eleven months ago.

So it is obvious that the conspiracy theories, in their present form, make no sense. Indeed, in order to sustain themselves, the supporters of the conspiracy theories have to tell ridiculous lies (like Frankel’s claim that the media has been nasty to AMCU — in reality, the media has acted as AMCU’s PR agents while smearing the NUM, which was always an early indication that whatever the NUM were up to, AMCU were obviously the sweethearts of management). Of course, even these sleazeballs are less sleazy than the lawyers, who have talked their useless cronies in AMCU (and the pitiful miners who trail along behind, knowing that they have no real hope of benefit yet also knowing they have no altenative any longer) into pulling out of the Commission unless and until someone pays the lawyers more than the thirty million they have received already. (Imagine if someone had given R900 000 to each family of each victim, and the worthless lawyers, none of whom have performed tasks which a form III class project could not have handled without any teacher’s supervision, had been left to rot!)

We are wasting our time, of course. Nothing further of value will come out of this. And certainly nobody will look into the actual crimes of Lonmin. Those crimes were fomenting the crisis in the first place — so in a sense, if anyone were blaming Lonmin, they would be justified, even though for all the wrong reasons. However, nobody is blaming Lonmin when there is a convenient smokescreen called the ANC. Indeed, the ANC are in the pockets of the mining industry. But blaming the ANC and paying no attention to Lonmin is exactly like the feeble-minded children who believe that the puppets at a puppet-show are alive. So long as everybody agrees to cover up for the source of the problem — the capitalist system and its mineral-energy complex — or mention that source only to forget it the moment it raises its head, so long will we fail to address the issue.

And it seems that most of us are quite happy to see that failure continue.

Advertisements

Bad Fences, Bad Neighbours.

August 19, 2013

As this is being written, Zimbabwe is getting ready for an election tomorrow.

What’s going to happen in the Battle of Giants between the near-nonagenarian struggle hero, mass murderer and loudmouth, and the late-middle-aged philanderer, turncoat trade unionist, catspaw of foreign interests and loudmouth? Does anybody care sufficiently to show up to cast their ballots, which may be a little like casting a pebble into an infinitely deep pit?

The smart money claims that the two sides are neck and neck. Of course, the smart money is being paid out by the British Foreign Office through the Secret Intelligence Service and a network of southern African NGOs funded by Britain. You would expect, therefore, the smart money to be saying that the Movement for Democratic Change, the Western imperialist tool in the same way that Zambia’s Movement for Multiparty Democracy was a Western imperialist tool, is going to walk into power. Why aren’t they saying this? It might be a get-out-the-vote thing, believing that the MDC’s voters need to be reminded that they aren’t automatically going to win, so as to prevent complacent MDC voters from staying away in the end.

That isn’t very likely, however. The MDC’s voters are not complacent about anything. They believe that the 2008 election was stolen from them, and they are not happy about that. MDC voters are going to turn out in numbers, undeniably, without assistance from propaganda agencies. So, assuming that the MDC is popular with the majority — an assumption uncritically made by all allies of Western imperialism — the MDC ought to be going to win, unless the 2013 election is stolen, which isn’t very likely to happen even if 2008 was.

So then why does the propaganda predict that the MDC is not going to win outright? Presumably, we are being prepared for the probability that the MDC is not going to win, that it is going to lose. Thus those who predict a close race will not look too ridiculous, and will be able to claim that their side only lost because it was cheated, because the elections were rigged.

This, of course, is the whole problem with Zimbabwean elections. Ever since the West set up the MDC, they have insisted that the only sign that a Zimbabwean election is free and fair is an MDC victory. Anything else is simply evidence of the corruption of Zimbabwean society under the evil ZANU (PF). The obvious fact that a lot of Zimbabweans dislike and distrust the MDC, and vote for ZANU (PF) for want of anything better, cannot penetrate the skulls of people who believe the propaganda, and that’s a large number of people because there is almost nothing but propaganda available anywhere, whether on the Web or the official ideological state apparatuses.

It is quite understandable that the West wants to get rid of ZANU (PF). It is an old liberation party, and therefore has at its core some values, such as national independence and the service of the cause of the mass of the people, which are anathema to globalist imperialism. Of course, its core is rotten — though not quite so rotten as the core of the ANC. This doesn’t make it attractive to the West, however, it merely makes it vulnerable. Most of the other countries of southern Africa have fallen to Western control (although some, like Zambia, are kicking against the pricks) and in a sense the West just wants to collect the full set by installing its man Morgan Tsvangarai in State House in Harare.

Yet — and this is odd — this doesn’t seem likely to happen just yet. There has been a curious absence of the frenzied anti-ZANU (PF), anti-Zimbabwean independence, pro-settler propaganda which we saw in the last two elections, when for a month or so before the elections papers like the Sunday Times were splashing imperialist lies on every front page and the Mail and Guardian consisted almost entirely of material drafted by the SIS and by the MDC’s handlers. Why is this not the case now? The West’s agenda has not changed — if anything, it has become more extreme — so has Zimbabwe changed, or is it something to do with circumstances?

Well, Zimbabwe has changed a bit. Inevitably, the economy bottomed out and then began to improve again — it’s hard to prevent investment completely, at least within the SADC region. Furthermore, much of the problems in Zimbabwe’s economy related to trying to regain the support of the World Bank, and once Zimbabwe had done everything that was asked of it and the World Bank still refused to respond, there was no more reason for ZANU (PF) to continue ruining Zimbabwe for the sake of foreign plutocrats. In addition, the deal brokered by Mbeki in 2008 made a lot of sense in itself, and served to obscure and obstruct the consequences of the violent hostility between ZANU (PF) and the MDC, and at the same time reduced political tensions sufficiently so that ZANU (PF) became less paranoid and less likely to unleash state violence against its opponents. All this makes for less opportunity to foment violence and instability in the country.

It is worth wondering whether circumstances have also changed a little. For one thing, South Africa is now under the West’s thumb, meaning that having got the first prize in the region, they need not pay too much attention for the second prize. For another thing, the Tories are now in power in Britain — and, weirdly, they seem slightly less brutal and violent towards Africa than New Labour were, and less obsessed with imposing their will by violence at all costs — although the victims of their policies in Libya and elsewhere might find that a rather fine line to draw. Also, bluntly, they’ve got their own problems — which may also explain why they failed to capitalise on the chaos which erupted after the 2008 Zimbabwean election, and how they could not prevent Thabo Mbeki from saving the situation there, in his last success before he was erased.

In any case, the Western propaganda blasts against the Zimbabwean government have been curiously muted. Of course, the MDC claims that the elections are going to be rigged. In Africa, every losing party claims, preferably in advance, that there has been foul play — otherwise the party would have to acknowledge its incompetence and unfitness to rule. But there has been little or no bribery and bullying, and the whingeing of the usual suspects has been surprisingly restrained.

Most importantly, the MDC shows no sign of having anything to do. The farmers are resigned to not getting their farms back, and the MDC dare not pledge to restore them in any case for fear of losing vast support. The Zimbabwean economy is in a bad way, but the MDC cannot admit this because it is largely in charge of it — and yet the MDC’s biggest accomplishment was eliminating the national currency, which was necessary because it was useless, but which was a huge humiliation which the MDC must accept for its own if it is to take credit for what recovery has happened.

And, meanwhile, the MDC has virtually nothing to offer except more of the same. But nobody seriously claims that ZANU (PF) is going to offer anything particularly new. Hence, why bother to vote for the MDC if you’re going to get the same stew from the same pot as is offered by ZANU (PF)? And, if you think the MDC has plans which they aren’t talking about — which they almost certainly have — those plans consist of things which Zimbabweans don’t actually want, like mass privatisation and substantial dismissals of government workers. So those who believe what ZANU (PF) are saying have good reason to vote against MDC, while those who believe what MDC are saying have difficulty telling it and ZANU (PF) apart. The election itself has been as empty of any real policy debate as an American election.

So what can we learn from all this? Nothing much that is new. Of course, it is possible that if ZANU (PF) wins, it will save the country somehow, but not very likely. It is possible that if MDC wins, it will save the country somehow, but not very likely. It is, in fact, more likely that Zimbabwe will continue to muddle on its present course regardless of who wins.

Meaning that Zimbabwe is becoming a normal country, in the terms under which “normal” has meaning today — this being a sort of code word for decay and degeneration short of disaster. Which is, no doubt, pleasant for Zimbabweans who have experienced far worse over the last decade or so. But it’s sad for those who ever had hopes that Zimbabwe might be any kind of example for others to follow — even if it’s also sad for those who have been trying to ensure that Zimbabwe was becoming an example which nobody else would dare to follow.

 

A last appendix. The West’s hypocritical commentary about the Zimbabwean election looked all the more hypocritical when the West was demanding that everyone accept the results of the genuinely disgusting and ludicrous Malian election, held under foreign military occupation and involving a choice between two corrupt Western stooges.

The MDC failed to provide any evidence that the election had been rigged (or at least had been more rigged than the average African election). Eventually they even withdrew their last court challenge, which they certainly wouldn’t have done if they had possessed an effective case. What they are apparently hoping for is that the West will resume its economic offensive against Zimbabwe and destroy its economy again, thus making it possible for the MDC to gain votes. What is more likely is that the West will simply lose interest in Zimbabwe altogether, and that the MDC will become an irrelevance. In which case, one has to acknowledge that ZANU (PF) did the right thing at the right time, and that the critics of ZANU (PF) have been wrong throughout.

 


#ROYALBABYWATCH

August 19, 2013

The People’s Corrector grunted as he swung the plump, squalling royal baby in his right hand before the assembled crowd of eager, enthusiastic Londoners. He was sweating under the leather hood with all the effort which he had to undertake, and he had to do things properly under the keen gaze of the Lord Protector.

So he took a firm grip on both ankles of the royal baby and swung it in a long arc, over his head backwards  and then violently downwards to strike its skull against the granite block which, before the Revolution, had been part of a celebratory monument of the Old Regime’s power to drive the people to their deaths, called the Cenotaph for some reason. The baby, however, was of aristocratic stock, and so its skull was extraordinary thick, so its head did not fly apart as the People’s Corrector had planned. For a moment he trembled, thinking that the Lord Protector might imagine him a secret regiphile.

The New Model Peacekeeper on the scaffold beside him saved the day by silently handing him the twenty-four-pound sledgehammer normally used for smashing the femurs of former journalists. The People’s Corrector laid the comatose royal baby on the block, took two steps back in military style, and swung the sledgehammer with all his force accurately down on the royal baby’s skull, which shattered like an exploding hand-grenade, spraying royal blood, royal brains and bits of royal bone in all directions so that some of the people in the front row, delighted as they were (or were expected to be, anyhow) had to wipe gory fragments or droplets off their overalls. (The NMPs would make sure that no fragments were retained as relics — or, to be precise, would ensure that those who retained fragments as relics all ended up, being themselves relics of the old regime, in the Correction Camps jointly run by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Provision.)

That was more or less the end of the show, since the royal baby’s mother had already had the head struck from her body (by special permission of the Lord Protector, in the interests of women’s rights, the usual execution protocols had been waived), and the day before the royal baby’s father had been hanged, let down, disembowelled while still alive, and then torn in four pieces using the immense steam-driven winches and cables which stood proudly at the foot of the scaffold. The fragments adorned the Revolutionary Remembrance Wall, although the head was on a stick before People’s Correctional Centre no. 79 (formerly the Tower of London). The leading lights of the Windsor family, of course, were the ones dangling in chains high above the scaffold, making themselves manifest only by the stench and the occasional careless maggot which dropped from their rotting frames.

To the well-orchestrated applause of the crowd, the Lord Protector, Tariq Galloway, stepped down from his dais towards the People’s Transport, a two-wheeler drawn by three beasts of burden named David Cameron, George Brown and Anthony Blair, all shivering in the loin-cloths which they were forced to wear so as to expose the chancres caused by the syphilis with which they had been infected. Cameron and Brown were especially inconvenienced because Blair had had his eyes burned out with a red-hot poker, so that he was constantly trying to run in the wrong direction. As the People’s Transport moved off, the driver (mindful of his duties as an official of the Ministry of Education) thrashed their bloody backs with a razor-wire cat-o’-nine-tails. “Holla, ye pampered jades of Bullingdon!” he jeered. “What, can ye draw but twenty klicks an hour?”

They were on their way to the People’s Assembly in the Westminster Facility — formerly Westminster Abbey before all religious institutions had been abolished, and the site of the People’s Assembly while all vestiges of royalty were removed from the old People’s Assembly Building (formerly the Houses of Parliament) with its National Digital Readout (formerly Big Ben). The Lord Protector, in his infinite wisdom, had brought religion under the Ministry of Education and insisted that the worship of imaginary deities was a purely personal affair which could not be undertaken collectively. (Numerous former bishops, as well as Muslim clerics, had objected; their heads adorned various People’s Centres throughout the city. Their bodies had mainly been ground up and used to bulk out the Peoples Provisions fed to inmates of Correction Camps by the Ministry of Provision, although the Islamists had been fed to pigs, by special dispensation of the Minister of Provision, as a gesture in support of organic nutrition.)

As they rolled past the areas where Correction Camp inmates, under the supervision of small teams of heavily-armed New Model Peacekeepers, were demolishing symbols of the old order such as fast-food outlets and fashion boutiques, the NMPs ensured that a cheer went up, although it was feeble. Many of the inmates had A, B or C tattooed in red on their foreheads, indicating that before the revolution they had been advertisers, bankers or consultants, and since they had thus not worked for a living they were not eligible for food supplements such as slices of bread or sugar in their acorn coffee. At least, however, they were not monarchists, who normally did not live long enough to make it into Correction Camps. (In fairness, the Minister of Provision, Arthur Skargleton, had allowed repentant monarchists and members of former political parties to seek gainful employment in the newly-opened coal mines — by bailing out the old coal mines with buckets and opening up seams using repossessed car jacks, so that relatively few of them had survived, but their sacrifices had been noted with approval by the People’s Assembly and the Lord Protector who appointed it.)

And now that there was no more aristocracy, and now that the last Archbishop had been suffocated in the tumbling guts of the last member of the Royal Family, a better life for all was virtually assured.


A Faint, Feeble Glimmer.

August 19, 2013

Sampie Terreblanche’s Lost In Transition contains a faint element which should not go unrecorded. This is the notion that the South African revolution took place within a wider context — that of the seizure of power by the neoliberal plutocracy in the United States. It is therefore suggested in the book that the rightward shift of the ANC was driven by a rightward shift in the South African business community, towards becoming a neoliberal state controlled by a plutocracy.

This is important because it introduces elements of motive and agency into a left-wing political analysis. Unlike the mere partisan rants of Saul or Bond or their ilk, Terreblanche does not simply claim that the ANC is intrinsically evil. It might have desired to do something else, but it was co-opted, corrupted or compelled to do what it did. At the very least, this is plausible argument and consistent with historical fact.

From this, it is not obligatory to exonerate the ANC. Rather, it is advisable to analyse the situation and see whether anything could have been done, or could still be done, to counterbalance the power of capital in South Africa and elsewhere, and their agents of international imperialism. In other words, this makes a Marxist or at least socialist analysis possible, whereas the Saul-Bond position is no more than sectarian posturing empty of political or economic analysis and largely derived from right-wing or neoliberal sources. This is a quite ironic reversal of intellectual status, because most of Terreblanche’s analysis is actually plagiarised from a Trotskyite, namely Ben Fine, whose “mineral-energy complex” concept Terreblanche uses repeatedly without conspicuously understanding what exactly he is talking about. It’s also impressive because Terreblanche’s work has received a lot of media acclaim and public attention, so the fact that it is conspicuously superior in theoretical terms to the over-hyped pseudo-leftists who have been similarly acclaimed in the past might be deemed an improvement.

Unfortunately, there are immense problems here. One obvious problem is that the “mineral-energy complex” is an enormous oversimplification if one is talking about relationships between South African capital and the state. Undeniably the mining industry is extremely powerful and significant. It is, however, not the whole of the South African economy, and it is dangerous to simply assume that it is. Moreover, in the past the South African government was antagonistic to the mining industry. Meanwhile, the mining industry depended almost entirely upon the power grid and the rail network, both of which were controlled by the government. Terreblanche’s assumption that the mineral-energy complex is omnipotent seems nonsensical, and is certainly not substantiated by any actual argument or factual evidence.

There is also a problem with timelines which is rather significant. Most theorists agree with Hobsbawm  that the rise of neoliberalism happened in the 1970s, and many have traced its origins back even earlier. Therefore, when Terreblanche pushes it forward into the 1980s, ascribing it simply to Ronald Reagan, one perceives something odd. (After all, the Free Market Foundation had been set up much earlier by the mining industry to promote right-wing, anti-democratic, pro-plutocratic political activities. Moreover, the first key neoliberal act undertaken by the apartheid government — the privatisation of SASOL — happened before Reagan was elected.} Why should Terreblanche wish to do this, given that it does not derive from any of his sources?

There is another, perhaps more serious, problem. Terreblanche does not allow much time to enable the ANC to be captured, and also fails to note that the ANC was not actually in power between 1988 and 1994 — the period during which Terreblanche declares that it was turning South Africa into a neoliberal state. While this, again, does not make the ANC innocent, it becomes difficult to believe that Terreblanche’s analysis corresponds with reality. Although Terreblanche claims that the “secret” negotiations between big business and the ANC locked the latter into a neoliberal situation, in reality these negotiations were not so secret. Nor were the negotiations between the ANC and the white authorities at Codesa and after particularly secretive.

All this might just seem to suggest a few imperfections. However, these inaccuracies all seem to point in one direction. This is to reduce the culpability of the apartheid regime in introducing neoliberalism to South Africa and in assisting the big business community in its struggle to neoliberalise the post-apartheid settlement. This is, of course, understandable given Terreblanche’s own support for the old apartheid regime — and, though he denies it, his subsequent strong endorsement of the corporate community. So, very like the Trotskyites whom he attempts to transcend, a great deal of his narrative is not explication at all, but self-exculpation.

Another problem with these points is that they explain everything. Or, rather, though they give the illusion of agency and motive, this illusion is not substantiated by much. It is arguably true that the neoliberal revolution across the world was driven by forces based in the United States, but those forces are not simply President Reagan and his friends. Nor is it simply a matter of a small cabal of miners and smelters who control the government. And, of course, if the ANC were merely a front for this small cabal of miners and smelters, then there would be no point in denouncing them; one should instead focus on that cabal and work out ways of influencing them — whereas Terreblanche’s conclusion is instead that the ANC should do something differently. Also, of course, there is the question of why neoliberalism should particularly have appealed to the miners and smelters after 1980, but not substantially before. And there is the question of why the ANC fought against apartheid before 1990 and connived with something rather similar after 1990 — why not simply give in right from the start? All these problems are left in the air by Terreblanche, and can safely be left there because the bald statements he makes pointing fingers at the culprits are calculated to conceal the existence of the problems.

It’s understandable that Trotskyites ignore both the plutocracy and Western imperialism and place all the blame for absolutely everything on the ANC. By doing this they can pretend that if only the ANC were removed and they (or their friends in the liberal and corporate communities) were in charge, everything could be made all right without effort. They can also claim that they have always been right about everything (which is the only important thing to these narcissists). However, Terreblanche refuses to ignore these things — perhaps because he is unwilling to be quite as intellectually dishonest as the Trotskyites, which is saying something — and this places him in a difficult position.

If the ANC was originally intending to liberate South Africa, but instead was forced to pursue a different agenda by powerful domestic capitalist forces and by international imperialism led by the U.S. government, then it is not going to be easy to resolve the situation. It is all very well to say that this shows that the ANC was not wholly culpable in its behaviour; one could even argue (though Terreblanche, consistent with his own agenda, does not) that the ANC had little choice and made the best of a bad situation. The difficulty is that one now has to fight not merely with the ANC, but with the ANC (or at least the bulk of its captured leadership), the South African plutocracy, the global plutocracy and the forces of global imperialism. This is not a simple enemy — and part of the problem is that it requires anyone campaigning against this enemy to move beyond simple South African party politics into the arena of a struggle against the effects of capitalism on society at home and abroad. This, once more, is something which Terreblanche is unlikely to manage. Who would pay him?

So we should not be expected that the book does not display any sign that Terreblanche supports these goals, or even understands that they arise out of his expressed principles. He simply says that the ANC should not have acceded to the demands of big business (although they were also the demands of the apartheid government, and if the ANC had not acceded to or at least compromised with those demands, apartheid would not have ended). He also says that the ANC should do things differently now, although he is conspicuously vague as to what they really should do. In short, he wishes to criticise the powerful without antagonising them, suggesting that they should behave, or at least posture, differently without losing power. This is more or less exactly what Zuma wants, and so it is hardly surprising that Terreblanche has not faced massive criticism from anybody. (Certainly not from the far left, whom one might expect to be annoyed at the way in which Terreblanche has walked off with their ill-fitting garments left by the riverside.)

One should not condemn Terreblanche unduly. It is important that he has brought a degree of reality into the origins of the problem, even if he abuses these origins and even if his analysis is as pitiful as virtually all South African political analysis is. It is, in fact, ironic that a man of impeccably right-wing historical connections should take a left-wing stance like this. All the same, it shows the temptations of bad analysis and prejudice — the way in which people can take convenient widely-disseminated myths and exploit them for their own purposes. It also shows how destructive such behaviour can be — since Terreblanche’s failure does not only show the bankruptcy of his beliefs, it also leads others astray courtesy of the hype which he has received.

What is needed, of course, is sound analysis. There is no sign that we are going to get this, even if people start from the correct premises. Premises are not enough; what is needed is sound theory and the capacity to self-criticise and acknowledge mistakes. These things are lacking in our contemporary culture of opportunism, disinformation and self-serving pursuit of intellectual celebrity status through the neoliberal-bought press.

 


Signing Off The Register.

August 19, 2013

It’s always much easier to criticize other critics than to perform criticism oneself. Therefore, it is the duty of a cultural and political critic to resist this tendency and to analyse actual culture and politics. Especially in the political field, where there are so many factions and where there is no utter certainty of rectitude, while at the same time decisions have to be made which really matter. Brett Bailey is not going to bring about the Revolution, but what if Julius Malema is? What would that mean?

But this is not going to be about that latter question (good luck to Julius, is the Creator’s private opinion here made public). It is instead about the fact that when critics of political and social reality go off the rails, they actually deserve to be criticized far more than they usually are. The reason for this is simple: they normally go off the rails either because they are being influenced (consciously or not) by powerful figures who are using them to mislead the public, or because they have stumbled into a fantasy la-la land where their delusions appear more valid than any concrete evidence. And, of course, as time goes by their delusions come to coincide with the whims of the powerful, and then they are perfect tools.

This was what irritated the Creator on flipping through the 2013 Socialist Register. It had billed itself as an analysis of the Occupy movement, and while the Creator never had any faith in that movement, it did seem time for a productive postmortem. Therefore the book was duly bought (at horrendous cost) and the Creator settled down to read it instead of the latest Fred Vargas, which is much more worth reading and shows that she is still very much on top of things and is still providing intriguing glimpses of medieval history alongside modern bloodbaths — even if her vision of the most weirdly staffed police station in Paris is (talkin’ to you, Fred!) getting a bit repetitive, as perhaps she realizes.

Not really a big mistake. The Socialist Register is an annual production by the Monthly Review, which is the premier Trotskyite publication in the United States. It therefore probably represents what the official American left, insofar as such exists at all, is thinking, insofar as it can think at all. Which proviso is, sadly, rather important.

The first portion of the book deals with Occupy, and the second with Syriza. Both are movements which arose directly out of the financial crisis and concern ways of challenging the effects of that crisis. They should, therefore, be movement which could be profitably studied so as to understand what to do, and what not to do, when confronting the capitalist state.

In the first portion, the analysis of Occupy is not an analysis at all. Instead, it is a fantasia. If Occupy had been what these essays claim it had been, it would have accomplished a great deal and would have survived, instead of accomplishing nothing and dying. Hence the essays virtually ignore the objective development of Occupy apart from acknowledging that it began as an anarchist movement (or at least, to be precise, as a movement which enjoyed terming itself anarchist and which adopted some anarchist tropes and modes of behaviour). This naturally throws the Marxists of the Monthly Review into some disarray, so their further response is to explain that the Occupy movement was about to become something else (which, of course, it never did).

Having fraudulently staked their claim to Occupy they proceed to give it a significance which it did not possess, suggesting that it was a new rebirth of leftist radicalism, even if along lines which even they do not altogether appreciate (a decentered, non-dogmatic and effectively vapid and empty pseudo-socialism along the lines of that envisaged by the ersatz “post-Marxist” leftist Laclau). It would seem that American Trotskyites have moved so far away from all practical roots, and are so terrified of taking responsibility for anything, that they can be fooled by such conspicuous claptrap.

Some of the pieces on Occupy do point out (albeit never centrally) the core failures of the movement. Among these were: the lack of ideological grounding; the absence of any meaningful or attainable demand; the active rejection of any attempt at recruiting support or building an organizational base; the openness to agent provocateurs and corrupt entryists (such as the so-called Black Bloc). All these weaknesses were mere minor contributions, of course, to the core problem that Occupy’s entire tactic and hence reason for existence was direct confrontation of the capitalist state’s authority through violation of its laws. Hence Occupy could be destroyed at any time and its refusal to seek support was actually a desire to be destroyed – as usual, the irresponsible left wished to be stripped of access to responsibility.

Not unlike Trotskyite positions the world over, of course.

The pieces on Syriza were less jabberingly nonsensical, although they were absurdly over-optimistic. (It has to be emphasized that Syriza lost the general election, even if it did grow to become the second-largest left party in post-war Greek history, and comprehensively failed in its mission of obstructing plutocratic imperial control of Greece.) Here, interestingly, the fantasy became stronger the further away from the action people were (whereas in the Occupy articles people engaged in Occupy were almost as deluded as those watching it from a distance). The core fantasy was, of course, that Syriza could somehow take power without a real struggle against the repressive forces of capital.

Meanwhile, all that Syriza actually was, was a union of left forces – including some dissidents from former established left parties like PASOK, the socialist party turned Graeco-Blairite, which were now (as of 2012) utterly bankrupt. This union happened to win so much political support that it gained almost as many votes as PASOK once had. Of course, as even PASOK’s leaders pointed out, this was not a stable situation. Although none of the writers focus on this, it is clear that the struggle was not so much for socialism, as against the surrender of Greek sovereignty demanded by the EU – and hence, that Syriza’s capacity to unite the left depended on an extraordinary situation.

It is true that in other areas such situations also existed, and were not taken advantage of – for instance, in Germany, where Die Linke sputtered and failed, or in Italy. There are pieces on both countries, but neither of them seriously explains why right-wing pro-plutocratic and anti-democratic parties were so much more successful than left parties. There are vague suggestions around what had gone wrong with the Italian Communist Party in the 1970s and 1980s, but nothing more specific about the more recent failures of the Italian Left – possibly because these failures are unambiguously products of the failure of a political movement dominated either by Trotskyism or by the “social movement” pseudo-radicalism of the 1980s.

Apart from these, there are some rather vague notes on feminism – usually acknowledging that socialist feminism has been virtually destroyed, but yet again without saying what tactical, strategic or ideological failures have led to this destruction. There are also two pieces attempting to give historical surveys of the American and European Lefts, both of which leave out far more than they include and also appear to make highly problematic analyses of what they do include. Perhaps most bathetic of all, John S Saul recycles his usual anti-ANC propaganda, heavily dependent on right-wing and neoliberal posturing and containing virtually nothing addressing any event since 2000, ostensibly to show how revolutions can be co-opted. (Since Saul actually provides no evidence that there was a South African revolution in the first place – he denies any revolutionary status to the ANC and pretends, without any excuse, that the UDF was separate from the ANC — and his analysis lacks any substance or coherence, one must assume that this chapter was included in deference to Saul’s immense and wholly unjustified status within the diminishing band of North American Trotskyites.)

It is worth acknowledging that there are a couple of good pieces amid the bad. Significantly, these pieces are not written by North Americans, nor precisely by Trotskyites. One is written by an Italian unionist who argues against the position which the book largely defends – the position he calls “altermondialism”, under which it is not necessary to build a revolution through a revolutionary party, because capitalism’s contradictions will do all that for us and it is only necessary to await and then exploit the collapse – or even wait for capitalism to morph into socialism. (Implicitly, this is the position of the Occupy movement – though definitely not that of Syriza.) His position is that if you want to redistribute wealth and build socialism you have to acknowledge the existence of classes, and hence you will have a fight on your hands against the ruling class. Almost nothing among the North American or British analysts acknowledges this obvious point.

Another is written by an Argentinean educationalist who simply points out that it is not enough to posture and gesture; if you want to change society you have to take power, and to do this you need a party and a revolutionary movement. Without strategy and tactics (in the Occupy fashion again) you are unable to do anything efficacious. This contradicts most of what had been said elsewhere in the book – or, more precisely, it represents taking a stand on the subject based on a realistic analysis of the facts on the ground, whereas most of the commentators in the book refuse to take a stand but instead present a fantasized representation of carefully-selected facts, opinions and falsehoods in order to support a preconception.

Perhaps one reason for this problem is the prevalence of academics in the book. Of course there is no reason for an academic not to study politics. However, it is not enough to understand the world; it is also important to want to change it. It may be this very lack of desire for real change, coupled with an eagerness to posture and to construct pretentious edifices of unfounded rhetoric, which separates these academics from the world and enables them to live in a Trotskyite fantasy of self-fulfilling defeat.

Remember, these are the best and brightest of the Monthly Review’s Trotskyites. In the name of Lev Bronstein, what can the worst be like?