Aims and Objectives During Zuma’s Decline.

October 19, 2014

Because of the extraordinary mendacity of the ruling-class propaganda organs, it is difficult for many to understand what is going on — which is, of course, the goal, since if you don’t know what’s happening you are unlikely to do anything effective about it.

What happened at Mangaung was that Zuma dealt with a nascent minor rebellion in his party using his customary method, which was purges, thus (as he thought) ensuring that he would not face the kind of serious rebellion which Mbeki faced in the run-up to Polokwane. Zuma’s purge was cheered to the echo by the ruling-class propaganda organs. Why? Obviously, because it favoured them especially.

The big change brought in at Mangaung was that Motlanthe was replaced by Ramaphosa, while Mantashe remained where he was. (As for other posts, they count for nothing, being dispensible.) Motlanthe had to go because he was concerned for the interests of the ANC — that after five years the country was increasingly unhappy that Zuma had broken all his promises and that Zuma’s socio-economic policies were destructive for the interests of the general public. Motlanthe feared that the ANC’s electoral support would continue to slide unless the ANC adopted newer policies, and also recognised that the ANC Youth League was clamouring for precisely those policies — which was why the Youth League had to go, as far as Zuma was concerned. Motlanthe was duly purged, the Youth League went, and the ANC’s electoral support slipped.

Ramaphosa, however, is much more a ruling-class man than Motlanthe, who has a certain loyalty to the ANC. Ramaphosa’s primary loyalty is to the mining industry and its white foreign barons. Therefore he is beloved of the ruling-class propaganda organs. This means there is a fundamental split between Zuma and Ramaphosa, one which cannot be bridged — because Zuma’s primary loyalty is to himself, to save himself from losing power and going to jail. Ramaphosa could initially be trusted to act against Zuma’s short-term enemies because this served the ruling-class agenda which Zuma was following. However, he has now become Zuma’s main enemy, and it is very difficult for Zuma to act against him since Ramaphosa is backed by Zuma’s principal backers.

This explains why the ruling-class propaganda organs are attacking Zuma with so much more energy than they did before Mangaung. Back then, Zuma was a stick with which to beat the ANC, but he was also the ruling-class puppet in government. Now he is an obstacle to the installation of a still more compliant ruling-class puppet. The object of the ruling-class is to foment hostility to Zuma to the point at which there is a palace revolution against him, presumably before 2017 when Ramaphosa will undoubtedly be installed as President of the ANC. Mantashe, Zuma’s grey eminence, has been promised the Deputy Presidency in exchange for stabbing Zuma in the back. Once Zuma is deposed, Ramaphosa will inevitably take over — and as a result of yet another destructive sequence of purges within the ANC, he will be in a very weak position, even more dependent on ruling-class structures than Zuma was. It’s a win-win situation.

The reason for all this is that Zuma is intensely unpopular, but also that policies which Zuma opposes are intensely popular. Therefore, the danger is that Zuma might be removed by force of popular hostility in order to install sound policies by force of popular acclaim. Putting Ramaphosa in place makes it possible to avoid this; the ruling-class can exploit popular hostility to Zuma and shout along with the crowds denouncing him, because they know that when he goes their man will smoothly step into power and the real reasons why the crowds were attacking Zuma will never be addressed.

All this means that those trying to bring about a better life for all in South Africa will have to be very careful indeed. The ruling-class is not stupid, or at least its agents are not, and blundering around behind them, which is the customary policy of the South African left, can only lead to disaster.

Things have become simpler, however. It now seems very unlikely that NUMSA will go ahead and set up its new political party. The reasons seem to be that NUMSA’s alliance with the Trotskyites was an opportunistic issue, in which NUMSA’s goal was to threaten the ANC with a walkout unless and until Vavi was reinstated. Now that Vavi has been reinstated the smoke which was coming out of NUMSA’s “locomotive of history” turns out to have been computer-generated, and neither NUMSA nor the Trotskyites have any real intention of moving down the tracks. It was all posturing from start to finish. It remains possible that COSATU might purge NUMSA or some of its leadership, in which case the posturing will start again — but such inconsistent behaviour is not going to win NUMSA any points with the public.

So we are left with the Economic Freedom Fighters as the only force resisting Zuma on any effective or principled level. The ruling-class propaganda organs have an ambiguous attitude towards the EFF; on one hand they are represented as a positive force because they are anti-ANC, but on the other hand they are represented as unseemly, undignified and unfit to take seriously, because they are not under ruling-class control and their agenda is as completely opposed to ruling-class desires as is the agenda of almost everybody else not on the ruling-class payroll. In other words they are a threat because they represent a far greater force than their showing in the 2014 election would suggest.

It is true that the EFF behave in a self-indulgent way sometimes, as do almost all radical forces in South Africa. Notwithstanding, they are preparing their provincial congresses. Provided that this is not going to turn out as chimeric as NUMSA’s political party (or as the hilarious chaos of the ANC Youth League’s provincial congresses) the EFF will democratically legitimate its leadership within the next few months, resolve any problems with its structures, and put itself administratively on track towards contesting the 2016 municipal elections — elections in which it will very probably do a great deal better than it did in 2014, especially if it is able to exploit the incessant uprisings against corrupt and incompetent ANC municipal governments. (The DA has never been able to exploit these uprisings because it is terrified of such radicalism, but also because ultimately the DA supports corruption and incompetence when it favours ruling-class interests, as it does in municipal areas; the DA wants to cut subsidies to small black municipalities and bad service delivery provides a pretext for this.)

Therefore, the EFF may see itself a rapidly-growing force. But what is its objective to be? Its activities in Parliament have focussed on two important issues: attacking Zuma and attacking Ramaphosa. This may seem to be unduly personalised behaviour, but in the context it makes excellent sense.

Granted, Zuma and Nkandla are trivial matters in the great game of class warfare in which the EFF are engaged — but keeping Zuma weak is important because at the moment Zuma is the ruling-class agent securing elite control over the polity. Therefore there is no harm in attacking him on grounds provided by the ruling-class organs. Most particularly, there is benefit in attacking him within the context of the “parliamentary” and “constitutional” structures set up by the elite to prevent real political debate or progress. The EFF’s attack on Zuma through a defiance of parliamentary and constitutional rules calls those rules into question and thus calls into question the elite’s suppression of debate and dissent.

The same is true, even more so, in the EFF’s attacks on Ramaphosa. Once again it may be said that the EFF, like the “Marikana Support Committee”, is being unfair and even childish in linking Ramaphosa with the Marikana massacre. There is actually no evidence that Ramaphosa had anything to do with that massacre; he was out of government at the time, and nobody could seriously pretend that Ramaphosa had any influence over Lonmin’s platinum mining operations (or any other aspect of the mining industry — the influence is all the other way).

However, Marikana is in the news; for reasons of its own, the ruling-class decided to make an issue of it, and in the run-up to Mangaung, Dali Mpofu decided to attack Ramaphosa, using material presumably leaked to him from ruling-class sources. Possibly the elite wished to remind Ramaphosa that just as they were making him, they could break him, and therefore allowed Mpofu’s attacks to receive considerable uncriticised coverage. This, however, means that the elite cannot effectually challenge the attacks being made on Ramaphosa, which therefore leave him discredited in the public eye. (Not that this matters from the elite’s perspective, since it leaves Ramaphosa more dependent on them than ever.) Attacking Ramaphosa on this relatively spurious basis, therefore, serves to direct public hostility at Ramaphosa and thus makes it a little easier to mobilise support against him within the ANC — even though, of course, Mantashe can easily protect him against any hostility expressed through ANC structures.

But perhaps not so much as in the past. A Zuma-Ramaphosa battle would already be a bruising and damaging struggle. However, the ANC is much more fragmented than in the past. The provincial structures are chaotic. The ANCYL scarcely exists. The Women’s League is spayed, and the Military Veterans’ League, led as it is by a deserter who turns out to have been a former chef, is simply a joke. The SACP is insignificant, and COSATU deeply divided. Into all this potential conflict, throw a massive groundswell against Ramaphosa, and we have the possibility that in the run-up to the 2017 Conference the party might actually disintegrate. This, surely, is what the EFF is banking on — and provided that the EFF does well enough in the 2016 municipal elections (even just doubling its support-base might be good enough — two figures is always more impressive than one), it might be able to exploit the crisis and perhaps unite the bulk of the dissenting ANC supporters under its banner in a special general election and win a plurality. In which case, there might be hope.

The only danger is that the EFF might get bogged down in trivia — in focussing on Nkandla and Marikana, not as symptoms of what the government is doing wrong, nor as tools of political propaganda, but as ends in themselves. If it falls into this trap it will be doing the ruling-class’s work for it. We must hope that behind the scenes some serious political debate and analysis is going on, and that in the fullness of time, perhaps at the national conference, the EFF will provide a real revolutionary way out of our national crisis.


I Go Chop Your Naira.

October 19, 2014

Last April the globe was shaken to its foundations, or at least the roots of its bleached hair, by the news that Nigeria had finally Made It Big. Their economy had surged ahead of South Africa’s and become Number One in Africa. The Economist was delighted that “sluggish, complacent South Africa” had been defeated by the new go-ahead country. News24, never slow to attack South Africa on any basis, quoted a U.S. economist from Bumhole College, Colohoma, who explained that Nigeria’s triumph was entirely due to the fact that it had privatised its electricity generation (hint, hint, ESCOM).

There were, however, a few problems identified. While the Economist explained that hordes of foreign companies were investing in Nigeria, it failed to explain that two of the ones it cited (SABMiller and Shoprite) were South African companies (ignoring another, MTN). It also noted that the Nigerian government was incapable of collecting taxes (although the Economist‘s neoliberal philosophy does not see that as a problem). Nigerian society is of course deeply corrupt and the economy largely runs on oil. But who worries about such issues when the economy is surging with a tremendous surge, like the effects of the world’s biggest suppository?

Or is it?

The CIA World Factbook gives Nigeria’s 2013 GDP as $502 billion. The World Bank says $522 billion. The United Nations says $262 billion. These are supposedly experts, and yet one body gives a figure twice as big as the other. In contrast, the South African 2013 GDP ranges between the World Bank estimate of $350 billion and the UN’s $384 billion. That’s a range of only 10%. It seems, then, that the figures are unreliable. Perhaps this explains why Nigerian GDP inflates and South African GDP deflates according to the degree of US control of the observer.

The 2013 revenues and expenditures are probably more measurable. In 2013, according to the CIA, South African revenues were $88 billion, expenditures $105 billion. (Oddly enough, Wikipedia’s figures for 2011 are, respectively, $102 billion and $118 billion; reflecting a dramatic fall in currency value in two years.) In 2013, according to the CIA, Nigerian revenues were $24 billion and expenditures $31 billion; the 2011 Wikipedia figures are $23 billion and $31 billion, suggesting that Nigeria’s much higher inflation rate than South Africa’s, and the even more dramatic fall in currency value there, is not being accommodated. Or perhaps Nigeria’s figures are guesstimates. Who can say? By these figures Nigeria’s tax revenue is somewhere between a third and a quarter of South Africa’s — although its budget deficit manages to be about half of South Africa’s. How does a country so much richer than South Africa acquire so little revenue from its wealth?

Nigeria’s sudden surge is supposedly due to “telecoms, banking and the Nollywood film industry”, according to the Economist. These were apparently not counted in the economy previously. Apparently, Nigeria didn’t count its banks and its phone companies and its movie industry as part of the economy. But banks are the ones who are employed to do the counting. Nigeria is extremely, and unjustifiably, proud of its horrible film industry. Thanks to South African investment, Nigerian telecoms have been growing rapidly (though sending income to Johannesburg rather than to Lagos). It’s not credible that a country which seriously wished to assess its national income would ignore these elements. This suggests that the surge in economic clout is essentially smoke and mirrors. (Banks are very well equipped to rig the system, while telecommunications were the source of the fraudulent dot-com boom, and of course movies are all about illusions.)

Nigeria is a significant country. Its population is over three times South Africa’s. It therefore has great potential to overtake South Africa. However, by global economic orthodoxy its economy ought not to be growing, because that orthodoxy says that corruption and protectionism prevent economic growth, and Nigeria has both. Realistically, with such an insignificant government revenue the government can do little to stimulate economic growth. But in the first decade of the century, according to a wholly unreliable website called indexmundi (let us pretend that such a website is reliable, for it probably presents the picture which big business and NATO approve of), there was an astonishing surge in Nigerian growth:

 

Year Growth rate
2001 8.164
2002 21.177
2003 10.335
2004 10.585
2005 5.393
2006 6.211
2007 6.972
2008 5.984
2009 6.96
2010 8.724
Average: 9.051

 

That’s impressive. It’s odd, though, that it swings so rapidly from 21% down to 10% and then to 5%, and then back up — almost as if the figures were being manipulated. There are other useful figures — the naira/$ exchange rate, which is hard to fiddle, and the inflation rate, which is easily fiddled, and which most countries underestimate. (Starting with 1999, the last year when the official exchange rate was pegged at 21.89).

 

 

Year Naira to dollar Inflation rate Decline in Naira
1999 21.89 (88-90 PM) 6.618
2000 85.98 (105.00 PM) 6.938 ~75%
2001 99-106 (104-122 PM) 18.869 ~19%
2002 109-113 (122-140 PM) 12.883 ~6%
2003 114-127 (135-137 PM) 14.033 ~11%
2004 127-130 (137-144 PM) 15.001 ~2%
2005 132-136 17.856 ~4%
2006 128.50-131.80 8.218 ~-4%
2007 120-125 5.413 ~-2%
2008 115.50-120 11.581 ~0%
2009 145-171 12.543 30%
Average inflation 11.814

 

So the naira roughly halved in value between 2000 (when its value collapsed by 75%, to what the black-market value had previously been) and 2009. Not exactly Zimbabwean-scale collapse, but unimpressive by any standard. And, with an average inflation of almost 12% (if Nigeria is like every other country in the world, this is doubtless an underestimate), one would expect an even greater fall; doubtless some currency juggling was keeping the value of the naira higher than it deserved to be. But, compared to South Africa, Nigeria’s performance is pitiable. Such comparisons are never made, even though virtually all the unjustified praise of the Reserve Bank relates to currency value. Instead we are constantly told how terrible our country’s inflation performance is and how weak and unstable our currency is. If such things are really important, Nigeria ought to be in the toilet instead of having stellar economic growth which, somehow, nevertheless, does not lead to the country looking any richer than it ever did, or being able to build its own infrastructure or win a war against raggle-taggle insurgents in the north-east.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Predominantly, that we don’t know whether South Africa or Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa, and we have no means of finding out because the sources of information are unreliable. However, it looks very much as if the South African statistics are more reliable than the Nigerian, and therefore as if South Africa might still be ahead (whatever that means — probably very little). After all, the surge is supposed to have happened at a time when the world’s economy was in a weak position, while West Africa was in economic and political chaos as a result of the Ivory Coast and Libyan wars, and Nigeria itself was engaged in a rapidly-expanding war in its north-east. This is a surprising occasion for an economic surge coming from nowhere and driven by no sign of substantial investment.

Why, then, was there no scepticism whatsoever about the rise of the Nigerian colossus? There seem to be two reasons. One is that the South African media and its attendant pundits have no desire or will to challenge Western propaganda, and the West persistently wishes to attack South Africa — as with the recent ludicrous fuss about the supposed refusal of a visa for the Dalai Lama, which led to the cancellation of a loathesome conference (of “Nobel Peace Laureates”, i.e. of psychopaths, mass murderers and useful idiots of Western imperialism) which had been set up for the specific purpose of being cancelled, so as to smear South Africa and China. (Similarly with the smear campaign against Russia launched with the false claims about Russian nuclear power plants being built in South Africa, which the Leader of the Opposition shrieked about as if Kremlin agents were waddling around Pretoria with fur hats and snow on their boots.)

Another is that the South African establishment has a great deal of disdain for South Africa, and therefore loves to find material to use against it. The apparent goal of the South African establishment is to make South Africa more like Nigeria — with a weak government, an all-powerful corporate elite, gigantic inequality and total subservience to Western capitalist imperialism. It is nice that they have found such an example to emulate, especially since the black South African bourgeoisie has bought into the whole horrid mess.

All sane people can do is hope that in the real world things will be different.


Christian Imperialists Advise Arabs On Religion, Nationalism.

October 19, 2014

LONDON AND WASHINGTON: The rulers of the Christian Empire engaged in a holy war against Islam have offered divinely-inspired advice to their Muslim enemies on how to conduct religion and warfare.

“You people don’t understand Islam,” says British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has never read a word of the Qur’an, let alone prayed to Allah. “Islam is a religion of absolute, submissive non-violence. Mahound, or whatever the name of your false prophet is, said quite clearly that Muslims have a duty to bend over and allow Christians to fuck them in the bum whenever demanded. It says so in that book thingy that you people seem so excited about and that our soldiers like to piss on in front of you.”

Cameron, whose religion is divided over the question whether all homosexuals and feminists should burn forever in an imaginary torture chamber, added that he was horrified by the cruelty of Muslims. “I am utterly appalled,” he explained. “by the fact that you seem to be cutting off the heads of people you consider to be agents of countries which are bombing and shooting you. That is no sort of way to behave. You ought to blow people to bloody fragments from a discreet distance, as our dear friends the Israelis do. And of course you should only do that when we tell you to do it.”

“You got that about right, boy,” said the multimillionaire U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was once opposed to war but has abandoned his principles for political gain. “You dirty sand-niggers have no respect for cultural diversity and that’s why we have to kill you. We, on the other hand, are prepared to accept people from any cultural or racial perspective, no matter how inferior, so long as they are psychopathic homicidal sadists and jump when we snap our fingers.

“Some people in Iraq and Syria are killing people without asking permission first. That’s undemocratic, and it’s America’s duty to spread democracy and show our commitment to human rights by killing people. Or freely rounding them up, throwing them in democratic jails without trial and torturing them into accepting civilised values. My commitment to freedom and democracy is so great that I’ve been ordering any number of military dictators and absolute theocratic monarchs to crush the people of Iraq and Syria, and given enough bombs and mercenaries we should be able to destroy Mesopotamia in order to save it. There is light at the end of the tunnel!”

Kerry’s nominal master, President Barack Obama, a former Professor of International Law whose current position is that international law does not apply to the United States and that the laws of the United States should not be considered binding on any act of the President or his minions, agreed. “Kill them all and let God sort it out,” said Obama, once mistakenly believed to be a Muslim and hence supposedly committed to non-violence. “And by God, I mean, of course, Wall Street.”