I Demand A Better Future.

November 12, 2015

The current situation in South Africa gives very little scope for optimism.

Daily electricity blackouts are, of course, what we were warned against by the white right wing who claimed that the blacks would never know how to manage a complicated thing like a power plant. This seemed to come true when ESCOM engineered the Cape Town blackouts by sabotaging one of Koeberg’s generators while shutting down the high-tension line connecting the city with the rest of the grid. Duly Thabo Mbeki was blamed, who responded by authorising the building of Medupi and Khusile and signing a memorandum of understanding for the French to build new nuclear power plants. Then Thabo Mbeki was deposed, to the cheers of the ruling class, and suddenly all power outages stopped. And the French memorandum of understanding was repudiated, and meanwhile construction on the power plants languished (under Mbeki the Vukani power station had been built efficiently and on time, although it later transpired that ESCOM had sabotaged the coal silos) for the next five years, and now, supposedly, we have a shortage of generation capacity and regular blackouts and need to give ever more money to ESCOM. This is all Mbeki’s fault, we are reliably told.

De-industrialisation was what we were warned against by the Trotskyites who claimed that neoliberals would never want to see money wasted on manufacturing or job creation but would stuff it all into their pockets, or into low-wage, low-investment service industries, instead. This seemed to come true with the rapid decline of industrial investment in the late 90s and early 00s — although there was fairly rapid overall economic growth from the early 00s, after the end of GEAR, employment creation was slow and investment scanty. So everybody rose up in their majesty and protested against the neoliberal Mbeki, and all the Trotskyites cheered when Zuma replaced him. Subsequently we have had eight years of uninterrupted GEAR-style austerity, differing only from GEAR in the severity with which the national economic policy has put the brakes on economic growth and job creation and the extent to which the economic crisis has been used by the ruling class to enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else. It is hinted that this is all Mbeki’s fault, but the solution is at hand — installing Cyril Ramaphosa, the corporate crook, in a position to impose more severe austerity measures and thus rescue us all. It remains to be see if the Trotskyites will cheer when that happens.

Internecine conflict in the form of “service delivery protests” started in the last days of the Mbeki government. Those appeared to be organised by the local ANC branches, perhaps with the connivance and sponsorship of the Zuma clique, but they were represented then, and are represented now, as exasperation with the intolerable nature of the Mbeki government. They did not, however, cease, as one might have expected, when the Mbeki government was deposed. Instead, they accelerated, pastly because service genuinely deteriorated under Zuma, partly because discipline within the ANC collapsed under Zuma, and partly because these protests increasingly turned into festivals of looting and mayhem which eventually fed into the public resentment against unemployment and inequality which was in turn transformed into hostility to foreigners, who were supposedly employed and privileged, the facts which contradicted this notwithstanding. It is not clear whether this is still being orchestrated by the regime or not. However, King Goodwill Zwelethini, who is endorsed by President Zuma, has consistently promoted xenophobic violence in the good old Inkatha fashion. The ANC in the province, and key Zuma toadies like the Minister of Home Affairs and of State Security, have endorsed him. So effectively the government has given its imprimatur to the disintegration of South African society in an acid-pool of mob thuggery.

These are conspicuous matters — the failure of government service delivery, economic and social policy are unsurprising, and were predicted by all competent authorities (the Creator and, well, there must have been someone else) when Zuma took over. The question is not whether to be surprised by these developments. The question is whether anything can be done about them.

There are two factions within the ruling class, both of which are virtual factions — that is, they appear to exist, but their independent existence is not meaningful and they are really both identical. One faction supports Zuma and the ANC and wishes things to stay exactly as they are forever, perhaps by proclaiming Zuma as Life President and abolishing elections. The other cries out for change, which it represents as either removing Zuma from power within the ANC, or removing the ANC from power nationally. (In other words these ruling class factions purport to be, respectively, within and outside the ANC, although it is not clear whether this is really the case and it is in any case certain that the ruling class can slither into any political cracks like scorpions.)

But these are not solutions to any problem. They are simply occasions for the pretense of solutions. The former group pretends that all is well now and that thanks to the National Development Plan we will go on steadily towards greatness. The latter group pretends that all will be well the moment their favoured stooge replaces Zuma, after which, thanks to the National Development Plan we will go on steadily towards greatness. All of this is simply indecent camouflage for the real interests of the tiny and corrupt minority who rule this country as they rule all other countries associated with Western imperialist power.

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The Election Crisis (II): Over the Top.

July 11, 2013

Suppose, for the moment, that in the middle of 2014 the leadership of the ANC is looking at a strikingly poor showing in the late election. They have won, let us say, 57% nationally. In Gauteng they get, let us say, 55%. In the Northern Cape, 52%, alerting even the DA to the possibility that they might win if they put some effort into it. The mood in the National Executive Committee is glum. Even if outwardly optimistic, they know that unless they do something they will quite conceivably lose the next election and have to go into a coalition.

So what, if anything at all, will they do?

Even at this stage, the ANC does not really face disaster. An identical decline in the party’s fortunes in 2019 would force the party into coalition at national level and in several provinces, but the coalition could easily be with parties which were small enough to be easily controlled. More to the point, coalition with other parties would not mean coalition with parties of different ideological persuasions, since no such parties exist in Parliament at the moment. Therefore, danger is not immediate.

Zuma could not become President again in 2019 in any case without violating the Constitution, and while he might not shrink from that he would probably be prepared to retire – he will, after all, be very old and arguably no longer capable of serving his foreign corporate masters. The real issue, however, would be 2017. Would he want to keep control of the National Executive Committee by running for President of the ANC again, and thus – possibly – hold onto indirect control of the government? Above all else, Zuma needs to ensure that he does not face charges for his crimes; whatever he does in the intervening period to protect himself against such charges can always be undone by an unsympathetic government, as Silvio Berlusconi has discovered in Italy.

The trouble is that Cyril Ramaphosa is Deputy President of the ANC. It is possible that he would want to become President, simply because it is quite clear that the President of the party has more power than the President of the country. It is also likely that many of the big businesspeople who installed Ramaphosa at the Mangaung conference would prefer to see Ramaphosa in full control of the party. Of course, some of these big businesspeople would actually view Ramaphosa as a problem, because he is seen (in the business community, if nowhere else) as a competent person, and therefore one who would improve the image of the ANC – whereas of course they would ultimately like their party, the DA, to take power eventually. As a result, the Ramaphosa factor, which supposedly was going to protect Zuma against the perils of Kgalema Motlanthe, may place Zuma in danger in any case.

Another trouble is that once it becomes clear that Zuma’s regime is in any kind of trouble, all the forces of destabilization which Zuma employed against his former opponents are liable to be unleashed against him. For instance, Zuma will have no more guarantees of patronage once he ceases to be President of the country. As a result, it is possible that competing candidates for the party and for the nation will be able to argue that they should be supported because they can give people jobs whereas he cannot. This was a major factor weakening Mbeki’s control. Meanwhile, there will be people who will want to see Zuma fall merely because of what happened to Mbeki – and they may be stronger than Zuma realizes, if only because his inclination is to avoid things which he does not wish to think about.

Hence, there will be a terrifyingly wide variety of dangers for Zuma to face, which cannot be evaded or resolved by telling lies or bribing or bullying people. So what can be done?

One alternative would be to try to appeal directly to the people, to win public support for Zuma and try to use this against his gathering enemies. This would be an almost ideal answer, but it’s hard to believe that Zuma or his allies could do this. In order to appeal to the people, Zuma would have to establish public trust by taking action which would actually serve their interests – and that would mean that the people whom he currently serves would become distrustful of him. In other words, for Zuma or his allies to try to establish themselves with the people they would first have to endanger their current position. Which could not be tolerated by their supporters – it would be an invitation to massive conflict within the ANC.

A simpler alternative would be to carry on as before. Zuma’s recent decision to purge some potential opponents, such as Baloyi and Sexwale, and replace them with compliant stooges, shows the kind of behaviour which could be expected – reshuffles of people whose disappearance would not antagonize wealthy white people or foreigners, their replacement with nonentities increasingly dependent on Zuma or his allies. That might seem to be the royal road to peaceful dominance. The trouble is, however, that the people whom Zuma has purged over the past two or three years have all been people who seemed submissive nonentities or reliable stooges. After all, Mbeki once considered Zuma a submissive nonentity and a reliable stooge – whereas he eventually turned out to be a rebellious nonentity who wished to be a reliable stooge for someone else, a fact which Mbeki only recognized much too late. Therefore, carrying on as before will probably not prevent catastrophe. After all, the more purges you conduct, the more enemies you create and the more allies you make nervous.

But if Zuma actually cannot reform and cannot carry on as before, then there is very little for him to do. Perhaps he can strive to transform the system into one more controllable – but in a sense he has already done that in a way which only works provided that the majority are prepared to accept the system. If the majority rise up and defy Zuma, he will be in very serious trouble indeed, especially because the more he dominates the ANC’s political system, the more he discredits it and the more likely mass demonstrations against it are likely to win support from disgruntled, disenfranchised members, branches and regions – a problem which pervades the system at the moment.

The most likely response is a weak combination of all these things – unsuccessful attempts to win public support, unsuccessful attempts to bribe or bully allies into subservience, unsuccessful attempts to change the system into one less subject to control by others. The fact that all these attempts are likely to fail does not mean that Zuma will be defeated, but it does mean that any counter-attack against an almost inevitable challenge to Zuma’s authority (in the almost certain event of a substantial decline in ANC support) would have far less weight than the Polokwane stitch-up or the September 2008 purge of Mbeki’s supporters.

It would, however, have weight. One possibility might be that the first challenge to Zuma would fail – that it would fail to gain traction within the spineless National Executive Committee, or would fail to get any support from the provinces and the metropoles, so that even if the NEC were against Zuma, Zuma could appeal to a real or purported mass support base and attempt to overawe them. In which case, Zuma would be in a position to launch yet another purge, which he would be forced to go ahead with – but this would simply place him further out on a limb, with many of his supporters now facing the axe. Also, his supporters in the media and the big business community would undoubtedly begin to wobble, wondering if they were backing the right horse. Ultimately, the danger might then be that Zuma would be a weakened leader, one who was forced to pretend that he was strong, and to throw weight around which he actually did not possess.

However, if Zuma’s opponents succeed, what then? Then, presumably, there would be a lot of unhappy Zuma supporters around. Zuma would want to take revenge if he could, and equally presumably, forcing Zuma out would so disrupt the ANC as to make it difficult for members of the ANC to prevent him from doing them immense damage, either indirectly through Zuma supporters or directly through the immense amount of damaging information which Zuma possesses and can use against his opponents. After all, Zuma’s defeat would also mean the defeat of the security services who desperately want to retain their power and job security. There would be a lot of powerful people desiring either to see Zuma back in power, or else to see Zuma’s successors weakened.

Meanwhile, the people who had removed Zuma would not have done this because they particularly wanted to pursue a specific ideology which challenged his. Mostly, they would have removed him out of greed, desire for revenge, or fear that he and his allies might threaten them in some way. This is not a stable basis for building a coalition. There is actually no firm alternative to Zuma in the way that Zuma provided a spurious firm alternative to Mbeki. Hence, any post-Zuma administration within the ANC and within government would be extremely vulnerable – and would be conscious of this fact, meaning that it would be continually paranoid and self-justifying, and therefore eager to conceal its existing flaws as well as any new flaws which developed.

Thus, given the probability that the ANC will trip over its untied shoelaces in 2014, the likely consequence of this happening will be an intensification of the present problems of the ANC – weak and unpopular governance and a lack of coherent goals. This is rather unfortunate, because about that time (looking at watch) South Africa should be facing some really serious economic – and therefore, social – problems.

 


Getting It Right Next Time (1I): No We Can’t!

December 17, 2011

Having established that it is theoretically possible to set up a social system whereby, even if the ruling class survived, their power could be curtailed if not completely abolished — what is stopping us from doing this? One reads the post and reflects: this is Utopian. Never happen. The ruling class would never surrender its powers, and if supplanted by the bureaucracy, the bureaucrats would do exactly the same. The people are sheeple who will never dare to challenge their masters. Until the proles become conscious they cannot revolt, and until they revolt they cannot become conscious. We are doomed. Let’s sit around and watch Top Billing.

Why does one think in that particular fashion?

Well, one reason is that we are told to. There has probably never been a time in South Africa’s history when official public utterance has been so profoundly hostile to idealism of any kind. The Mail and Guardian is probably the nearest thing South Africa has to a “liberal” newspaper, and this newspaper’s coverage of COP17 was not only steeped in petrochemical corporate waste, it was peppered with disdainful references to the Democratic Left and “greenies”. Now, it is true that the Democratic Left and the Greens are mostly dodgy charlatans, but next to the kind of scum that bobbed about at COP17 they are paragons of integrity and realism. The Creator is no great fan of Patrick Bond, but when Bond appeared on AM Live to face the corporate stooges rooting for COP17, he ran rings around them partly because he knew what he was talking about, and partly because he was ready and able to tell the truth as he saw it, whereas the rest of the commentators were only concerned with how to go about telling lies effectively.

This vast network of right-wing propaganda exists almost entirely for the purpose of forcing lies and logically false concepts into the brains of the public. These lies and logically false concepts are generated and encouraged by the ruling class. They control the media and the punditocracy, and therefore they can ensure that virtually everything the average person hears is, subtly or crassly, made up of ruling-class propaganda. It is part of the air we breathe.

If you sit down and analyse it, of course, you can easily find falsehoods. Most propaganda is relatively easy to expose — it ain’t rocket science to do so. However, it takes work to do this, and one has to have some incentive to do that work. Most people are unwilling to do the work because they have no incentive. If they like what is going on, most of the propaganda is tailored to tell them that what is going on is good. But if they don’t like what is going on, there is propaganda tailored to show them a way of opposing what is going on in a superficial way without actually opposing it in a profound way. (Thus the Mail and Guardian‘s attacks on environmentalism and democratic socialism were carried out in the name of support for freedom, justice and the salvation of the planet, just as the butchery of Libya was carried out in the name of human rights.)

The consequence of this is that most people are insensibly drawn towards the dark side of politics. They are presented with easy targets to blame, simple positive symbols to endorse, and reassurances that all will be well if they don’t ask questions and instead follow semi-divine leaders whose names begin with Z. As a result, trivial acts or even hostile acts can be spun into acts of immense significance which serve, supposedly anyway, to placate and demobilise the public and thus discourage them from taking any kind of action to protect themselves.

Take, for example, events around “Reconciliation Day” 2011. The concept of the “Day of Reconciliation” is a very Mandelaite concept. The lamb is urged to trustingly wander into the wolf’s den in a spirit of reconciliation. The fact that fresh lambs are required for the purpose on a regular basis is represented as a sign that reconciliation is obviously working– since increasing numbers of the grass-eating community are getting together with the lamb-eating community in a spirit of benefit — perhaps not mutual benefit, but definitely advantageous for a significant number of the participants!

It kicked off with the rebuilding of the gallows at Pretoria Central, changed into a museum with plaques bearing the names of all the political prisoners executed there. (One hopes that it will be well-enough guarded so that the plaques will not end up in a scrap-metal yard, like most metal which the government places in the public domain.) That wasn’t such a bad idea, although rather ghoulish, and rather spoiled by having President Zuma speaking at the dedication of the museum, to illustrate that all those heroes had died in vain.

But then Zuma, freshly back from a state visit to Mozambique where he lamented the fact that South Africa is no longer dominating the colonial penetration of that country’s economy, bounded across town to Freedom Park, which is on a hill overlooking the Jacaranda City. And there he celebrated Reconciliation Day by opening an access road linking Freedom Park, the underfunded monument to the victory of the anti-apartheid movement, with the Voortrekker Monument, the overstuffed monument to the theft of the land by armed whites and the enslavement of the people who lived on that land, which was constructed by the people who went on to build the racist apartheid regime. And Zuma said that this access road showed that reconciliation was important, that it was vital to bring everybody on board and not to ignore anybody.

In other words, the colonial and apartheid regimes are not only a part of our history (which they are, of course) but are also as deserving of celebration as are the people who struggled to overthrow those regimes. This is the position being taken by the President of the African National Congress in the ninety-ninth year of the ANC’s existence, and the seventeenth year of its victory.

Zuma is, thus, wishing the actual purpose of the struggle out of existence while simultaneously identifying himself with that same past struggle which is mysteriously given a positive connotation even though without its purpose the struggle had no meaning.

And this is how the bullshit factory functions. When one has devoted one’s life to a particular goal, it is difficult to acknowledge that the goal, having been met, has been moved away again and sold off to foreign organised criminals. Therefore, liberals tell themselves that the Democratic Alliance is liberal, that the press is free, that the judiciary is independent, and that South Africa’s ruling class is a cabal of black businessmen led by Julius Malema. Charterists tell themselves that the ANC is revolutionary, that Zuma is a much-maligned elder statesman and patriot, and that South Africa is on the developmental road towards building a better life for all while uniting Africa in the spirit of Franz Fanon. These things are not true, but people wish to believe them, since otherwise, O God, we shall have to start all over again from scratch, the prospect of which is unbearable.

Such people are terribly easily fooled into joining the chorus of blank-minded propagandists who work for these factions, and of course there are the other choruses of people who are promoting consumerism, neoliberalism and all the other evils of multinational globalised financialised capital which we all know about but are not permitted to discuss.

And so we are tempted into buying into passivity, which means believing that we cannot actually change anything for the better ourselves, but must instead wait for someone else to change things for us. Again, the people who are planning to change things for us are not our friends, but they assure us that they are our friends, and therefore we accept this, because the alternative is to accept that we are trapped in a nightmarish world where our enemies are in charge and we must overthrow them in order to protect ourselves — which takes us right back to the apartheid era, only worse because the apartheid government was so alienated from the general public, and even foreign states paid lip-service to its loathesomeness, whereas the modern Zuma regime has considerable public support in South Africa and has almost unswerving propaganda support from the West.

There are, of course, distant voices telling us that things are not what they seem. However, many of these voices are deranged or are agents of special interests whose goals are not to help us, but to help themselves. When George Monbiot speaks out in support of fast-breeder nuclear reactors as tools to save the planet, we are at best puzzled. Isn’t Monbiot supposed to be a radical enemy of the establishment? Then surely the vast multinational corporations which hope to make trillions of dollars out of selling fast-breeder nuclear reactors must be allies of Monbiot and therefore implicitly also enemies of the establishment. Therefore, the fact that the establishment is in bed with those self-same corporations, must mean that the establishment is its own enemy. It is then not necessary to join Occupy Wall Street — one need only work for ESKOM in order to take a revolutionary act against the evil System! Down with the System, down!

Good examples of such things are the “Truther” movement contending that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked by the United States government on the 11th of September 2001, or the movement contending that John F Kennedy was assassinated under orders from the Vice-President of the United States, or the movement contending that there are captive aliens and their spacecraft hidden in Area 51 in Nevada, or the movement contending that Queen Elizabeth and the whole Bilderburg movement are blood-drinking reptiles from outer space. These are not forces encouraging intellectual passivity, but they are wonderful forces for soaking up intellectual action and ensuring that it never threatens the actual status quo.

And so we return to the problem, which is that without clarity of understanding, access to knowledge, the will to attain clearly-specified goals and the confidence that those goals might at some stage be attained, the stage is set for believing that we can’t do anything. Having accepted that belief it is then easy to decide that the goals themselves are either unattainable, or not worthy of attainment — are Communist, or atheist, or african nationalist, or something else unacceptable to those worthy and powerful people who decide what is, and what is not, acceptable. Under these circumstances, it is far safer to sit out the struggle and instead be completely passive.

Which, of course, is what most people did under the apartheid state, and what almost everybody did while neoliberalism and globalism were constructing the present crisis, and which is why such absolute faith in one’s own impotence, like absolute faith in the incapacity of governments, is such a magnificent tool to keep the ruling class in power forever.

 


The Players and the Game.

July 22, 2011

The Department of Trade and Industry belatedly complains about the Competition Commission giving a free ride to Wal-Mart. A Cabinet lekgotla decides to set up a state-owned pharmaceutical company. The Democratic Alliance calls on the South African Revenue Service to investigate Julius Malema’s financial state. What’s going on here?
Clearly, a kind of game is being played. The white ruling class is strongly in favour of Wal-Mart buying out some of South Africa’s major retail industries. It is, equally, strongly against the establishment of a state-owned pharmaceutical company. It is also strongly in favour of demonising Julius Malema, most particularly because Julius Malema wants not only pharmaceutical companies but banks and mines to be owned by the state. Hmmm — looks as if these are moves in a chess game with two sides. One can cheer on either side, can one not?
On the other hand, the game is not so simple. If the government had really wanted Wal-Mart not to buy out local retail industries, it could have stopped it in its tracks very simply, but it did not, although the government did present evidence against the deal to the Competition Commission.
But why send the matter to the Competition Commission, which is simply a body which exists to cover up for the financial crimes of the ruling class? Either the government did not want to win the case, or it hoped somehow that a body not directly connected with it would torpedo the deal and thus enable it to win the case without taking responsibility for it. Again, either the government is terrified of the white ruling class, or it is in the pocket of the white ruling class but does not want to reveal this fact to its constituency, or else the government is simply divided between such factions.
Again, the fact that the Cabinet decides to establish a state-owned pharmaceutical company does not mean that a state-owned pharmaceutical company is going to be established. Such a company would take years and billions to develop, even under ideal conditions, and current conditions are anything but ideal. (Jeremy Cronin recently trumpetted a new bus service for Rustenburg, to be set up with simply oodles of taxpayers’ money — it’s going to take four years to get the buses running. Since it takes about a month to ship the buses here from China and a similar time to train the drivers, and the whole project will cost about a billion, we must assume that forty-seven months have been set aside for the political discussions over who is to rake in the rest of the money devoted to this initiative.) It’s obvious that the government wishes to be seen to do something about high drug prices; it’s less certain that it wants to actually do this.
Then again, the Democratic Alliance’s stunt is almost certainly not really intended as an action against Julius Malema the person. Malema the image is largely a construct of the white ruling class and its tame media, has been built up as a black boogeyman over a long period of time, and would be a sorry loss to them and their panic-mongers were Malema the real human being to disappear from view and the image thus to collapse in a great ruin of racist stereotypes. In any case, what they are protesting against is apparently Malema building a house, as if the notion of black people living in houses is rather distasteful to them. (Judging by the municipal policies of the DA, this is probably the case.)
So, in a vital sense, the game is not about winning or losing. The game is about being seen to play. The real owners of property are off the board.
But this doesn’t make the game unimportant. In a sense, the game is the only way in which the actual public has any opportunity to express itself, and it is also by watching how the ruling class plays its side of the game that we can see just how bizarre the situation actually is. While the public cannot take part in the game, it is free to yell at the government from a distance. Also, sometimes the pawns in the game (such as Malema) interact with the public.
Essentially, what these three episodes have in common is quite simple. The ruling class is not interested in developing South Africa, neither economically nor socially, the ruling class doesn’t want to help the people of South Africa, and the ruling class is strongly hostile to public debate on any meaningful issue. These issues are made absolutely clear through these three episodes. It’s much more than just that the ruling class is showing two fingers to South Africa, and dropping its pants and showing its arse to South Africa, the ruling class is shitting on South Africa and everything it and its people stand for. And, more to the point, the ruling class, through its control of the media, is preventing anyone from protesting about this gross defecation.
Look — it is possible to argue that Wal-Mart’s taking over a large retail chain is not really a huge issue. The obvious danger is that Wal-Mart will then use its global muscle to sell goods cheaper than other retail outlets can manage, driving them out of business and establishing dominance of the local retail market, after which it will be free to jack up prices again. That means that it will be doing what it has done in towns and states throughout the United States, so there is nothing unusual about this expectation. Of course, this will hurt consumers and increase unemployment, but not massively so — we are talking about a modest increase in prices and a few tens of thousands of people unemployed. It is bad, but hardly worth fighting about given the actual catastrophic conditions which the present government is promoting. However, the trade union movement is aware that it has let down the working class very badly, and therefore COSATU’s leaders need to pretend that they are concerned about jobs, and therefore they are cajoling the government into putting on this show, with, probably, little hope or expectation of winning.
On the other hand, though, the ruling class’s support for the Wal-Mart bid means that they are having to line up with foreigners (which South Africans don’t really like) and make explicit their support for big companies over little ones (which nobody except ruling classes really like). In other words, they are making themselves look bad (although they are couching their propaganda in the ridiculous terms of consumer choice) over a relatively minor issue which most of them are not going to benefit from. And, also, some of South Africa’s ruling class will inevitably lose out if the local retail chains go down. What’s in it for them?
Two things, or perhaps three. One obvious thing — anything the unions like, the ruling class will oppose. While the ruling class applauds the current leaders of the union movement for their incompetence, just as the ruling class applauds Zuma for his incompetence, the reason for this applause is that the ruling class hates unions as part of its hatred for democracy and freedom. Wal-Mart also hates unions. Case closed.
Another obvious thing — Wal-Mart are foreigners. The profits will go abroad. The bulk of South Africa’s ruling class are either foreign-based, or owe their allegiances to people who are foreign-based. Therefore, support for Wal-Mart means support for South African economic activity becoming more dependent upon foreigners, which the ruling class wants (and this also undermines democracy, since the less economic freedom locals have, the less political freedom the country has). Case closed.
The third thing is discursive. If the ruling class can get away with running a public campaign under the banner “Up with unemployment and neo-colonialism!” then they have set a vital precedent in breaking the spirit of the public. The more we let them get away with, the more they will take. In this sense the issue is potentially far bigger than its actual nature.
But it’s the same with the fantasised drug company — the ruling class is effectively campaigning here under the slogan “Higher prices for your drugs, with less access to the drugs you need, and let foreigners have all the money!”. And the representatives spouting that slogan are allowed to walk around in public and present that slogan in almost so many words. Nobody slips a tyre around their necks, sloshes petrol and strikes a match. This illustrates the decline of South African civil society very clearly.
And, in a sense, it’s the same with the DA’s propaganda campaign against Malema, a campaign which it is conducting in self-evident alliance with the South African Communist Party. (The DA-SACP alliance has been evidence since 2008, when Helen Zille and Ryan Coetzee joined with Max Ozinsky and Mcebisi Skwatsha to destroy the ANC’s power-base in the Western Cape by jointly smearing all the coloured Charterist politicians in the province.) The campaign is, of course, the DA going ooga-booga for its white supremacist constituency, but in another sense it’s the ruling class going after someone who might actually believe in some of the egalitarian issues he raises, and thus a major part of neoliberalism. The SACP, of course, does not believe in egalitarianism and never has, but is sitting pretty so long as it can pretend to believe in this, and definitely does not wish to be challenged by some upstart who might actually mean what he says and thus threaten the SACP’ corporate funding which keeps it alive. In other words, suppress debate, silence freedom of speech, and ensure that the ruling class doesn’t have to answer awkward questions about who owns what, and what they are doing with the money they are making off with.
What should we do about all this? At the moment, almost the only thing we can do is to remember that there is such a thing as the ruling class. A possibility, dubious as it might seem, is that the government might be persuaded to challenge the ruling class on occasion.
The way in which the Left serves the ruling class is to insist that the government cannot challenge the ruling class, and in fact to pretend that the government and the ruling class are identical. This means that the Left challenges the government rather than the ruling class, pretending that this is a bold stroke for the people and speaking truth to power and all the other tosh which the Left has adopted from the hired media whores of the ruling class. As a result, the Left struggles to undermine the only power capable of challenging the ruling class.
Issues like these three show that the Left is mistaken in this matter — and, to be fair, the Left is nominally on the side of the angels when it comes to Wal-Mart, and perhaps even pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, we can be absolutely certain that the Left will abandon this stance any time it finds it more comfortable to do so, which is why it is reasonable to suspect that in these cases, the bad guys are going to win, and the Left will blame this defeat on people like Malema rather than on their own cowardice, treachery and (among the rank and file supporters of Stalinism and Trotskyism in South Africa) simple failure to understand what is going on.
And that’s how the game is played.