When Will The Party End?

September 6, 2018

The State Capture Inquiry, that propaganda parade fronted by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo (ha, ha, a charade you are) is very largely a project on behalf of the South African Communist Party.

That is, a number of the witnesses, and all of the ones with genuinely damaging things to say about the conduct of the South African government, are members of the Party who are repeating the story which the Party was putting about, in alliance with other corporate front organisations, from about 2015 on, although it had been implicit ever since the Mangaung ANC Conference.

The story being told is that a single family of capitalists, fortuitously all foreigners and Hindu at that, was responsible for all the corruption taking place in South Africa under the Zuma administration. This is obviously very politically convenient for the SACP, because they can thus claim that the disasters wrought by the Zuma administration were not to be blamed on the SACP, because the SACP did not know about the Guptas when they installed Zuma in power.

This is, thus, the “state capture” story; a narrative intended to distract public attention from the generally corrupt condition of the nation — in particular, the way in which the ruling class and especially the oligarchy serves to manipulate and control the government — by focussing on a few designated spots of such activity. Does the SACP know what it is doing, or has it simply been fooled into doing this, perhaps by believing that “one has to start somewhere”, or “half a loaf is better than nothing”. (Depends on the condition of the loaf, of course.)

One should note that the SACP allowed its leadership to be given lucrative positions in government in defiance of its own constitution (that is, before the constitution was deliberately changed so that SACP leaders could give themselves lucrative positions in government). This means that by the standards of the founders of the SACP, the SACP had already become corrupted. (Even if one discounts Blade Nzimande’s theft of a business donation to the Party, incidentally, what is the Party doing accepting business donations? It would seem likely that the SACP heavily depends for its survival on gifts of money from capitalists, which means that it cannot possibly be a socialist organisation.)

So it is hard to believe that the SACP is innocent in this whole affair, or that it is accidentally collaborating with big business in order to further the interests of big business.

The SACP has long had a history of taking very firm public stands within the Tripartite Alliance. For instance, when Thabo Mbeki was President and oversaw an economic austerity programme called “Growth, Employment and Redistribution”, the SACP took a very strong line against this, condemning it as an undemocratically imposed neoliberal project and accusing all of Thabo Mbeki’s allies within the ANC of being agents of capital — the “1996 class project”, it was called, referring to Mbeki’s rise to being Deputy President, from being second fiddle to the racist reactionary F W De Klerk.

Then again, when Thabo Mbeki was battling with the international drug companies to try to force them to reduce the price of antiretrovirals before he would permit them to be disseminated free to HIV sufferers, the SACP took a strong line that the drugs should be disseminated free regardless of the cost to the government, and that there could be no delay in this and no time wasted in haggling with the international drug companies which were at the time sponsoring a massive campaign to undermine Mbeki so as to secure themselves the gigantic profits which would accrue from a South African treatment campaign using AZT at the 1999 price.

When Thabo Mbeki was trying to prevent Jacob Zuma from becoming President of the ANC at Polokwane in 2007, the SACP supported Zuma, on the grounds that Zuma was a left-winger whereas Mbeki was a reactionary stooge of capital. At the time one of the most strident supporters of Zuma was the ANC Youth League, who called on Zuma supporters to endorse the concept of nationalising the mining industry.

The nationalisation of the “commanding heights of the economy”, as the British Labour Party put it way back in 1946, was an obvious step in the direction of socialism, but surprisingly the SACP came out against it. They declared that the Youth League was simply hoping to seize the mines in order to loot their profits and assets, and that nationalisation was a dangerous and immoderate act. What the SACP demanded was instead that the government should oversee and regulate the mining industry and, by using legal tools, ensure that the fruits of that industry should be distributed for the benefit of all.

Another, less important but still significant, thing backed by the SACP was the issue of tolls on the Gauteng freeways. These freeways were upgraded in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, and it had been agreed that this would be financed by a complex electronic tolling system, to be administered, naturally, by foreigners, and largely enriching them — essentially a stealth privatisation of the roads. Right-wing libertarian racists and trade unionists combined to criticise this, and the SACP endorsed this criticism.

These pre-Zuma stances were, of course, debatable, and a cynic might notice that they were all ways for the SACP to get favourable headlines in reactionary newspapers, and win kudos from ignorant international leftist celebrities, without actually committing itself to any positive policies; also, that the SACP’s stance in all these cases was actually endorsed by big business. Still, it was possible to see these as principled left-wing stands within the narrow framework of the SACP’s ideological position.

But then came the SACP-backed coup against Mbeki in 2008, and the rise of SACP members into posts where they could actually implement the policies which they had been clamouring for. To the cheers of the pharmaceutical industry’s front-men, SACP member Barbara Hogan was elevated to the position of Health Minister. In this post she did essentially nothing. Eventually a crisis arose; as a result of provincial budget mismanagement, the hospitals and clinics in the Free State began running out of antiretrovirals. This was the moment at which Hogan could show her commitment to serving the suffering HIV-ridden masses regardless of expense. Instead she pranced about in other provinces on pointless photo-opportunity hospital visits, as the Free State victims sickened and died. Eventually even Zuma could take no more and shifted her sideways into Public Enterprises, where she did considerable damage before being sacked altogether.

Meanwhile, SACP member Pravin Gordhan was elevated to the position of Minister of Finance. He was a lot more energetic than Hogan — he speedily imposed an austerity programme which was far more savage in its reduction of public spending than the decade-earlier GEAR had been. GEAR had been introduced during a period of economic boom (as Keynesian economics recommended), while Gordhan’s austerity was introduced during a period of slump (as nineteenth-century classical economics recommended). So Gordhan’s policies, unlike Mbeki’s, led to the steady collapse of the South African economy and particularly of state revenue (a process which was naturally blamed on the restructuring of SARS and ultimately on the Guptas).

Neither Hogan nor Gordhan were criticised by the SACP in any way even though both of them effectively repudiated the declared policy of the party. Instead, Hogan was married off to the senile Ahmed Kathrada so that she could manipulate him in his last years to attack the ANC and promote the interests of the SACP-favoured Raaphosa, while Gordhan was solidly supported by the SACP and became one of its key allies in promoting the interests of big business.

Eventually Zuma fell, and once again SACP members were rewarded for their support of corporate interests by being installed in Cabinet positions. Nzimande had previously distinguished himself by his contempt for students and his hostility to reducing university fees while he was Minister of Higher Education, a post from which he was removed because of his ineptitude and apparent corruption. Now Ramaphosa rewarded him with the lesser post of Transport Minister, in which position Nzimande rapidly concluded that e-tolls administered by foreigners were a good thing, and selling South African transport services to foreign corporate entities was a sensible idea. Naturally he was not criticised by the party for this.

A slightly more important post was the Ministry of Mineral Resources, in charge of mining, to which the SACP’s boss fixer (and former right-hand corruptionmaster of Zuma) Gwede Mantashe was elevated. Nobody would have expected him to nationalise anything. All the same, it was slightly surprising when he came forward to declare that the “Mining Charter”, which had been a political football for some time (partly intended to enrich a handful of black people in the Ramaphosa manner, partly intended to cosy up to trade unions by pretending to protect mineworkers from exploitation and ill-treatment) would henceforth not be implemented, just as the foreign-owned mining companies and their tame media outlets have been demanding. In other words, Mantashe was declaring that there was absolutely no need to oversee or regulate the mining industry, for the fruits of the land should properly accrue to some of the richest people in the world who happen to be sponsors of the SACP and, by implication, Mantashe’s pals.

So, putting it all together, the SACP is so heavily implicated in state capture in its own right — never mind the state capture carried out by the administration that it helped to install — that the idea of having the SACP testifying about the horrors of state capture could only have been dreamed up either by someone who is having a huge laugh at the expense of everyone in South Africa with an IQ above single figures and anyone who has any sense of human decency at all, or by someone who is mechanically devoted to making use of the most corrupt people in the nation to cover up for the corruption of all the other corrupt people.

Which is actually rather clever, but hardly human either. The only question about it is how long the SACP can continue to exist under these conditions. The reptilian aliens who make up its leadership, of course, don’t care. But is there nobody else around who can notice that the Communist Party has no Communism and that the Party is no fun any more?

 

 

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Zimbabwe Goes To The Po.

September 6, 2018

For several weeks before the Zimbabwean election, South Africans were told a) to be very excited about the Zimbabwean election because it was a New Dawn for that unhappy country, and b) to be prepared to be outraged about the Zimbabwean election because it was going to be rigged by the evil ZANU (PF) party.

Then came the election, and South Africans were told a) to be very excited about the Zimbabwean election because someone very like Cyril Ramaphosa had won the election, which was obviously a New Dawn, and b) to be outraged about the Zimbabwean election, because someone very like Cyril Ramaphosa had won the election by using the evil ZANU (PF) party to rig the election.

Even by the remarkably low standards of South African political propaganda, even by the exceptionally contemptible conduct of South African political propaganda over Zimbabwe, this is all something to be embarrassed about. However, South Africa’s political propagandists are immune to shame and incapable of learning anything.

So, what did happen? And why did the South African propagandists, along with many other related propagandists all across the West, find themselves obliged to make such idiots of themselves?

Obviously, the Movement for Democratic Change (which is not a movement and has no plans for any democratic change) claimed that the election was rigged. That is the custom, in the United States as much as in Africa. Naturally they did not have to provide evidence, since the exercise was not aimed at proving anything but at whipping up violent passions in the minds of their partisans and thus providing source material for video propaganda to be used by their patrons in the NATO countries. This proves nothing.

Obviously, the NATO and South African media (and therefore the oligarchy, by extrapolation) was more sympathetic to the MDC than to ZANU (PF). That was obvious from all coverage and commentary. For instance, there was a completely unchallenged and endlessly-repeated declaration that the Presidential election had been close (unlike the Parliamentary election which was an unquestionable landslide for ZANU (PF). In reality, the ZANU (PF) candidate led over the MDC candidate by a margin of 10%, a greater margin than in any American Presidential election since 1972, so all the commentary, including the legitimation for the court challenge, was based on lies.

Yet the sympathy did not extend to any support; indeed, the only evident external support for the MDC’s pathetic legal attempt to reverse the verdict of the voters was from the South African Economic Freedom Fighters, who had historically been supporters of ZANU (PF). (Obviously the MDC’s legal battle, like its election campaign, was financed by a mixture of NATO governments and oligarchs, but that doesn’t alter the fact that those governments and oligarchs did not go out of their way to help the MDC win.) Many outsiders, including Cyril Ramaphosa who is usually considered a friend of the oligarchs whenever he can be, went out of their way to urge the MDC not to resist.

There is, of course, the outburst of street violence which followed the MDC’s defeat. Such political violence is often associated with NATO-supported projects to install NATO-friendly governments, as in the “Arab Spring”, the Ukrainian and Armenian coups, or the “colour revolutions” of the George W Bush era. It is thus not surprising that ZANU (PF) took the violence quite seriously, and, sidelining the riot police (who were perfectly capable of handling whatever the MDC threw at them) sent in the Army to send a clear message that any such activity would be met with an extreme response.

At the same time, this showed that the ZANU (PF) President, who had originally been installed by a military coup, was happy to continue giving the military credit for his continued control of the country — and therefore, to keep granting the generals the high status which they expect. It is often claimed that ZANU (PF) is a fig-leaf for military control; there is a degree of truth in this although it shouldn’t be taken too far; the military and the politicians cooperate in dividing up the national cake. Also, the strong military involvement in politics, which has only grown stronger (but not unmanageable, as in many African countries) since the downfall of President Mugabe, is more or less a guarantee of continuity; if the MDC had won either of the elections, they would still have to accede to the policies of the military, which are more or less in line with ZANU (PF).

The conclusion to draw from all these things is that the Zimbabwean election was not really considered important by the oligarchs of the West. It’s quite possible that after two decades of socio-economic war against Zimbabwe, they are satisfied that its status as whipping-boy and example of the horrors befalling any African country which dares to challenge white predominance is satisfactory. Also, the overthrow of Mugabe took away the emotional need which white Westerners have for a feeble demon whom they can proclaim to be the enemy of all humanity and launch a crusade against. (Besides, they have been focussing all their energies on Assad and Putin and Trump, and it would take time to build up Mnangagwa to anything like the same status.)

Arguably, both ZANU (PF) and the MDC are in the same boat, being both committed to subordinating Zimbabwe to foreign interests. Under current circumstances, they have essentially no choice; Zimbabwe can’t continue running on empty forever, it isn’t capable of internally generating the capital which it needs for resurrecting its economy, and nobody is going to give Zimbabwe money for free. Therefore, one might even argue that the military coup, brutal and appalling and undemocratic as it was, might have been the force which cut the Gordian knot and gave Zimbabwe a potential future — for under Mugabe, stiffly committed to indigenisation and independence as he was, Zimbabwe would always have been trapped in the grim socio-economic circumstances imposed on it by international financial interests, no matter how much Mugabe’s government twisted or turned.

So the West no doubt feels that it doesn’t really matter much who wins the election. Zimbabwe will have to turn to foreign plutocrats in order to survive. If foreign plutocrats are to do anything for Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe will have to privatise, Zimbabwe will have to surrender all say over its land and minerals and labour rights. There is no alternative; Zimbabwean workers have essentially no power, because the MDC first absorbed all the trade union activists and then allowed the trade unions to collapse (because the MDC was working for people who wouldn’t need trade unions once they took over). Meanwhile, the collapse of the economy means that everybody had to work for peanuts and everybody had to accept whatever job came to hand — and where is organised labour then? So at least the MDC has accomplished something.

The only trouble for the West is that it may be mistaken in its belief that Zimbabwe is going to fall into its lap like a rotten-ripe plum. Zimbabwe is certainly going to fall into someone’s lap. South Africa has neither the energy nor the will to seize the opportunity and buy the country out from under its people, as would certainly be possible (and, from the point of view of South Africa and Africa, would probably be the best solution). Europe and the United States don’t have either the money or the attention-span to do anything like that — and anyway are always unwilling to spend money now in anticipation of profit later. So, most likely, Zimbabwe is going to become a satellite of China.

Which is not terribly surprising, Zimbabwe having had good relations with North Korea for all of its existence. However, the West will be surprised because the West vaguely believes that Africa is anti-Chinese — because all the people in Africa whom the West pays to tell lies to their brethren are anti-Chinese. Meanwhile, perhaps the Chinese will not be as bad towards Zimbabwe as the British were towards the inhabitants of the nations which were eventually forced to become Rhodesia. Or maybe they will be just as bad. Imperialism is imperialism, no matter who is yanking the chain.

Still, at least the people who have spent the last fifty years fucking up Zimbabwe, oppressing its inhabitants and slaughtering anyone who resists the oppression — these people in the City of London and down Wall Street and in Washington D C will not find themselves benefiting from the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis. It is a small part of the way in which those of us who have grown weary of being expected to bend over so that the NATO countries can more conveniently kick us in the pants, are glad to be kicked by someone marginally less vicious and with considerably less odious a history.

Perhaps it is the most we can expect.


Throwing BRICS at Them.

September 6, 2018

Recently South Africa celebrated the Tenth BRICS Summit, an opportunity for the leaders of four major manufacturing countries outside the G7 to enjoy a holiday at the state’s expense at a plush hotel in Sandton, while the leader of the host country had a chance to pretend that the Summit was something worth doing, and the American-dominated local media had a chance either to circle at Ramaphosa’s haemorrhoid vein like horse-leeches, or to shout American-sponsored ooga-booga rubbish about the Yellow Peril and the menace of Ernst Stavros Putin.

And, of course, there were protests. Some were more or less sensible, like the Muslim protest against the anti-Muslim policies of the vicious fundamentalist Indian Prime Minister Modi. Some were unknowable, like the protests against kibitzing Turkish President Erdogan. (Were they justly protesting against his oppressive rule, or against his vicious prejudice against Kurds, or were they American-sponsored ooga-booga rubbish about Erdogan’s successful pushback against the attempted American coup and his decision to abandon the American attempt to overthrow the Syrian government?) And then there was the SAFTU protest against BRICS existing at all. Since this was the only one purporting to come from the left, this is the only one really worth paying attention to for its own sake.

What was the protest about? It relates closely to the South African Trotskyite campaign against BRICS, spearheaded by Patrick Bond and his tea-girl Jane Duncan, both with lucrative Gauteng university gigs and who essentially say the same things. SAFTU’s political advisers are all Trotskyites and generally acolytes of Bond (or whoever is behind him). Their line on BRICS, therefore, is that it should not be supported or endorsed because it is a front-organisation for imperialism and plutocracy. To this Greenpeace, which is run by an acolyte of South African Trotskyism, adds that BRICS is a plot to impose fossil-fuel electricity on the world.

Is this true? The BRICS countries all espouse capitalism, and they are all powerful relative to many or all of their neighbours. As capitalist countries they are plutocratic countries, since capitalists inevitably have political power, and as strong countries they are imperialist countries in the sense that they are trying to build up their influence over their neighbours. But the problem with this analysis is that every country in the world at the moment is capitalist; even Cuba has renounced communism. On the grounds which SAFTU puts forward, it would be as easy to denounce Lesotho or Nepal as to denounce the BRICS countries. So in an important sense, the Bond line is simply a cheap shot of abuse employed by exploiting confusion over Marxist terminology.

Let’s, however, be a little more specific. Firstly, what is BRICS? It’s basically a salon des refúses. In the late 1990s the West wouldn’t allow China or Russia in their economic club, and also alienated both countries by their attack on Serbia (in the case of the Chinese by actually bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade). So that stimulated the two to get together, which was beneficial for both, especially after the American puppet Yeltsin died of alcoholic complications, because China had lots of money and Russia had lots of technology left over from the collapse of the USSR, and they both had an interest in resisting American imperialism in their neighbourhoods, which overlapped in the Far East and Central Asia.

But obviously working together wasn’t enough after the Bush regime took over and made it clear that American power would be used to prop up the global imperialist system without any of the concealments which the Clinton administration had tried to set up. That was potentially humiliating for the RC alliance, so they sought out allies. Fortunately, at the time India and Brazil had nominally leftist governments — very nominally in the case of the Indian Congress Alliance — and they were amenable to getting together with Russia and China so long as it didn’t close the door on keeping their American connections. That was the BRIC; meanwhile the ANC in South Africa had always had good relations with Russia, and cultivated friendly relations with China which was becoming a major mineral consumer, so joining in and forming BRICS made a lot of economic and political sense.

The point about BRICS is that it is based on three continents which aren’t North America or Europe, and therefore has the potential to mobilise a coalition against the NATO/European Union/British Dominions coalition which makes most of the trouble in the world today. However, it’s mostly an economic cooperation bloc, with its own development bank to facilitate activities in Latin America, Asia and Africa where most of the world’s economic action is taking place. It even wants its own investment ratings agency, which is mainly a propaganda stunt (since the BRICS bank has its own capacity for identifying profitable investments) to undermine the absurd and obscene power of the American-controlled investment ratings agencies.

All this means that BRICS is very similar to — and essentially modelled on — the international financial agency set up by the U.S. and its satellites to police global inequality and channel wealth into the pockets of the elite. That seems to confirm the suspicions of SAFTU and the Trotskyites.

Actually, though, it doesn’t. BRICS isn’t a centralised global empire along the lines of the United States. It’s basically a club for countries which would rather get on with their own development and not be bullied by the United States.

Russia certainly wants to have strong influence over its neighbours, and neighbours who behave in a hostile fashion in alliance with the United States, like Ukraine and Georgia, tend to get hammered — but neighbours who aren’t hostile, even when they’re allied with the United States, don’t get hammered. The Russians didn’t invade Armenia when that country threw out its President who had been schmoozing with the Russians — they just went and schmoozed with the new President.

China certainly wants to have control over the traditional Chinese imperial domains as of about 1800, and also wants to have strong influence over its neighbours and reliable access to natural resources across the world. That’s imperialism by some definitions, but it’s a long way away from colonialism. The Chinese aren’t occupying the planet, nor are they waving nuclear weapons at anyone who disagrees with them, nor do Chinese gunboats sail to surround any nation-state which declares itself independent of Chinese control.

As for India and Brazil — we can leave South Africa out of the equation since they aren’t an independent state and don’t really have any influence over the BRICS agenda, they’re just the token black sitting in the front office — they just want to get on with their own affairs and would like to have good political and economic relations with America and China and Russia. If the latter two want them to belong to BRICS, so long as they can get something out of it, well and good. The idea that they automatically must do whatever China or Russia tell them is ridiculous as well as supported by no evidence.

So — why waste time on attacking BRICS? Obviously the BRICS countries deserve criticism for their behaviour, but they do not deserve any special criticism. The Greenpeace criticism, for instance, ignores the obvious fact that China is the world’s largest manufacturer and employer of renewable energy systems. Criticism of India for its ill-treatment of minorities in the service of the extractive industry is just — but the same thing happens in North America, South America, Africa and Australia. If we want to protest against such things, we don’t have to wait for the BRICS conference — we can all traipse off to the Botswanan or Canadian Embassies.

The specific critique of the BRICS countries by the South African Trotskyites is particularly interesting. The critique of South Africa, naturally, comes from themselves, but the critique of India comes from Arundhati Roy and her chums in the Indian far left. Meanwhile, the critique of Brazil seems to come from the Workers’ Party there. (This is a bit odd, because the South African Trotskyites fell over themselves to proclaim that the coup against the Workers’ Party government was nothing to make a fuss about — and of course the current Brazilian government, like the Ramaphosa and Modi governments, is hardly a bedrock sympathiser of whatever BRICS stands for.)

But it’s when you get to the Eurasian heartland of BRICS that you find something interesting. The criticisms of China and Russia are straight outta Wall Street and Foggy Bottom. Instead of specific complaints like the Indian military occupation of Kashmir or the Brazilian jailing of President Lula, you get flabby stuff about worker rights and military aggression relating directly to the legitimation of U.S. military and economic campaigns against China and Russia, campaigns which specifically serve U.S. imperialism and thus exemplify the problem which BRICS was set up to deal with.

This strongly suggests that the South African left’s problem with BRICS is not simply that it exists, or that it is “sub-imperialist” (as Bond discovered in a memorable misrepresentation of Luxemburg’s theorising). The problem is that it challenges U.S. imperialism, and the specific campaign against BRICS is therefore a campaign against resistance to imperialism. On one hand, the “sub-imperialist” pretense is a claim that supporting BRICS is not actually anti-imperialist because China and Russia are secretly working for America and serving the Washington Consensus, and on the other hand, American propaganda is employed to proclaim that, anyway, the core of BRICS is a menace to our way of life and we must all band together against it in support of Gott und Vaterland. It’s about the most bizarre employment of Trotskyism that’s been seen since South African Trotskyites banded together to support Jacob Zuma.

But it’s also a clear indication of how the left has corrupted itself into acting against its own interests. Obviously, BRICS is not an “emancipatory project” (as the former Bond shoepolisher Richard Pithouse put it) if by “emancipation” you mean freeing the workers from the capitalist yoke, but it is certainly a project aimed at emancipating nation-states from U.S. imperialism, which is the current global problem, and also at emancipating governments from neoliberal strangulation — and these are valuable projects even if they won’t bring the millennium. Misrepresenting BRICS by pretending that it has claimed to be a revolutionary transformative movement, which it has never done, is naturally a part of the reactionary propaganda which the left is serving. As such, the left is allowing itself to be used by those who have destroyed it, as if in a kind of Stockholm syndrome, or a masochistic desire to be beaten some more.

Or maybe they’re just being paid by the CIA. Take your choice.