[DEBATE] : whiteleft/race matters
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Feb 12 13:12:13 GMT 2006
I guess the left loves its circular firing squads, but what's this timing
all about? It's during a period of struggle to get Ashwin his job back so we
can get the CCS race/identity research back up and running; a period of very
hard work with underpaid, largely black UKZN staff who have been on an
intense strike this past week; and also a period when we have taken serious
financial steps to fund the visiting scholar programme for local researchers
(begun over the final two months you worked at CCS, and fully discussed in
staff meetings). So this is a debate that I'm not going to get into with you
in public after this message. I tried to clear things up in private. But
doing this publicly right now isn't something I'm going to be able to put
further effort into.
In part, though, the problem is that my attempts over a few months to get
details from you about what precisely you're objecting to were never
answered; below you've made the first crack at it, after several times
assuring me you had others - not me - in mind. They can jump in if desired,
and I'm not going to defend material I haven't seen, though I will remark
that Peter Alexander's seminar paper at CCS last year was full of nuance on
Sowetans' identity, as you can see online, and by no means downplayed race
but acknowledged that it is central to the analysis
Fine, you disagree with my use of the phrase 'class apartheid' (not a
concept I invented). But that's essentially a semantic problem given that
everyone knows the vast majority of poor people are not white people; the
same is true with the phrase global apartheid. I have no disagreements with
what you say on content. When we see each other again we can have this chat
over what's a useless and what's a useful phrase in a comradely way, I hope.
However, in a comradely way, let's remind ourselves that a *superb* group of
scholar-activists (including white Canadians Graham and Audrey) were
visitors at CCS last year, and spent a great deal of time in local townships
doing fabulous, empowering work. In 2005, the majority of visiting scholars
(Mvu, Trusha, Amanda K., Filiberto) weren't white, we may need to remind
ourselves, and they far more actively promoted community projects than any
comparable students I've ever come across. During an era when imperialism
implements the globalisation of capital but not of people, these
internationalists should not leave CCS accused that their presence
manifested North-South power relations (given that their work and political
commitments are aimed, explicitly, at fighting that power), omitting any
acknowledgement of their contributions to local social justice struggles.
Finally, one way to get a healthy debate going with someone who sends you a
private note is to get permission that it be put out for general
consumption. This is an especially important problem given the way you've
reformatted the material below, such that it's impossible to see what was
left out from my note a few days ago, and where my interventions intersected
with your claims. You've dropped out quite a bit of the discussion, I see;
even if I had the energy, it would take enormous time to reconstruct this
for public consumption now. The signal you're sending is to avoid private
correspondence because it might be forwarded much more widely, and I hope
that isn't as much a disincentive to others as it now has become to me. I'm
sorry that my attempt to engage your grievances in private emails appears
patronising; I saw more than enough flame wars and intolerance on emails
last year - and to avoid that, I'll await a chance to see you in person if
you want to take up these issues any further. I hope we have that chance
soon, but that's my final e-input on this for now, comrade Mandisi.
----- Original Message -----
From: "mandisi majavu" <majavums at yahoo.com>
To: "debate" <debate at lists.kabissa.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2006 1:53 PM
Subject: [DEBATE] : whiteleft/race matters
This is a crucial topic but first, I simply don't know anyone on the 'left'
who would be so blind to leave race out of contemporary social analysis
(unfortunately there are no details of who is guilty, in this post). ... My
responses after 'PB': -- Patrick Bond
Mandisi Majavu: In volume 55, number 10, Monthly Review, you, Patrick,
argue that "The reality is that South Africa has witnessed the replacement
of racial apartheid with what is increasingly referred to as class
apartheid-systemic underdevelopment and segregation of the oppressed
majority through structured economic, political, legal, and cultural
practices." Perhaps, you should have elaborated further than this by what
you mean by 'class apartheid' -- I find the term useless and very obscure.
the apartheid, as we know it, has always had class logic (though class has
always been distort by the extreme racism of the apartheid regime)as well as
race logic in its oppression of black people in this country. what does race
and class apartheid mean to you? are you, in plain langauge, suggesting that
race is being replaced by class? to me it sounds as if you are indeed
suggesting that.if not, then at least you are suggesting that race is now in
the periphery, which as a black person I
disagree totally with you -- as my article 'Race Matters' reveals. in fact
thousand other black people would disagree with you on this point.
In that same article, you write: "The deal represented simply this: black
nationalists got the state, while white people and corporations could remove
their capital from the country, although continuing to reside in South
Africa to enjoy even greater privileges through economic liberalization...."
in this sentence you make it clear that whites still enjoy white privilege
and have economic power that they use to exert political influence; but for
unexplainable reasons you don't go further to unambiguously reveal and
connect the white supremacy economic structure with social relations between
black and white, with the still existing racial hierarchy in this country --
that even manifest itself in social movements. instead you point out: "As
for division of the national surplus, the pre-tax profit share soared during
the late 1990s, to 1960s-era levels associated with apartheid's heyday.
Pretoria also cut primary corporate taxes dramatically (from 48 percent in
1994 to 30 percent in
1999) and maintained the deficit below 3 percent of GDP by restricting
social spending, notwithstanding the avalanche of unemployment."
what you choose to elaborate on in depth explains what you mean by class
apartheid -- an analysis of how the economy functions without linking that
to how the economy impacts personalities, social relations and racial
hierarchy. this is what I have an issue with.
white/black activists and academics have echoed your sentiments of class
apartheid quite a number of times. jeff rudin, writing to the cape times
editor made it clear that all those who concern themselves with race issues
are barking the wrong tree. last year, peter dweyer posted an article that
argued that race was being replaced by class in south africa. he praised
that article as being a great piece of work. those who still remember I
confronted him about that. Peter (profesor at joburg university -- I forget
his surname) gave a seminar at ccs last year. he quoted the right wing Rhoda
Khadile supporting his claim that race was now in the periphery in south
african politics. you chaired that seminar, and if you remember well, I also
confronted him about this. so, it surprises me to hear you say you know of
no one who downplays race matters.....
PB: 'The white left'? If CCS (directed by a white leftist academic, namely
me) is a target of this claim, is it unjustified?
MM: this is strawman! I have never said what you are saying nor did I
PB:.... With perhaps one exception, no one
I've ever met from the white left in South Africa more generally 'agrees'
with conservatives 'that race analysis is an irrelevant subject that ought
to be jettisoned.' Who is the target of this critique?
MM: I have tried to paint a picture for you of how mostly white
activists/academics seem to think race analysis is not useful and will not
help us understand the status quo in south africa.
PB: Who instructs or even argues this, given how racially-constituted
socio-economic processes - black and rural poverty, inequality,
unemployment, morbidity/mortality, etc etc - have worsened in so in many
ways since 1994?
MM: there is a difference between collecting data and showing how wealth
is distributed in south africa and collecting data and connecting the links
of how white privilege still impoverish the black majority of this country
and how white privilege maintains the racial hierarchy and oppressive social
relations in this country. that I am sorry to say, but I have not seen you
do, nor any white analysit. but what I have seen you do is writing phrase
like 'from racial to class apartheid' -- obscure and useless
PB: If 'replaced by' means acknowledging that post-apartheid black elites
are now formally part of the oppressive apparatus, through direct Black
Economic Empowerment exploitation of poor black people within capitalist
relations and through state-bureaucratic imposition of neoliberal social and
economic policies which most adversely affect black people, then any good
analyst of SA political economy is guilty.
MM: even during the apartheid regime some blacks benefited from the
apartheid. homeland leaders are an example. so, one can say even before
there were blacks who were part of the oppressive apparatus. in fact this is
nothing new in history -- there are women who have been complicity in their
oppression, so as slaves, so as jews in nazi germany. because some of these
people were complicity in their oppression, does it now change the nature of
oppression. the good analyst you talk about -- am interested to know, what
do they call the salvery or the holoucast given that some slaves and jews
were in complicity in their oppression? don't you think if you focus too
much on those who are in complicity...you are going to endup reaching
PB: Here's the key
section under that heading (from the book Talk Left Walk Right):
The structured processes of division and segregation are comparable in
outcome, as reflected in rising alienation and discontent. Shockingly, 'the
number of black people who believe life was better under the apartheid
regime is growing,' according to a 2002 survey conducted by the Institute
for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa. 'More than 60% of all South
Africans polled said the country was better run during white minority rule¼
Only one in ten people believed their elected representatives were
interested in their needs and fewer than one in three felt today's
government was more trustworthy than the apartheid regime. Black people were
only slightly more positive than white and mixed-race groups about the
government, with 38% deeming it more trustworthy than before.'
MM: to begin with Patrick, what questions was put across to these people?
how was the question phrased? -- for that's the determing factor if one is
interested to know if the study was serious or not.
PB: In 2005 the race/nation breakdown of Visiting Scholars were: four white
Americans/Canadians (one who never appeared), a Chicano, an Indian Canadian
and two black South Africans.
MM: Patrick, I said 99 percent of the visiting scholars at ccs last year
were from north america/western europe. and as you point out I am right. the
one black south african you are refering to was actually enrolled in an
american university. the guy was not based in any of the south african
universities -- so please do not distort reality.this is what richard
pithouse had to say about my criticism of ccs: "I and a good number of
others who work here accept this critique of the centre entirely. but i
think, that in order to be fair, we should also note that there has been
serious contestation within the centre around issues like this."
PB: In order to change the race/nation ratio from 2005 levels, in December,
staff authorised spending R100 000 on special scholarships for young black
researchers for projects that get them into civil society agencies. In
January, we agreed to increase our spending on special grants aimed at
attracting black South Africans to do research, once we received funder
permission to shift R500 000. These are amongst the most serious financial
efforts that a tiny research organisation can make. (I have personally made
many efforts to encourage black researchers to apply, though two of whom
applied in 2005 did not have civil society projects that staff agreed to
MM: I'm very happy to hear this, but as you will see in my article, I make
it clear that my criticism is based on what I saw last year.so if things are
changing, so much the better.
PB: 'Rewarded'? From early last year, to be a successful applicant, all
visiting scholar applicants were required to show how their work
strengthened civil society groups, and that became the overriding factor in
an application's acceptance or rejection. Extremely committed activists have
served as CCS Visiting Scholars, and persuaded me they are fully conscious
of the need to work against their national privilege.
MM: I'm not sure how this talks to my criticism of north/south and race
representation at ccs.
PB: The need for white people and CCS to do far more
to combat racism is *always* acknowledged; but published exaggeration and a
failure to acknowledge sincere, substantial efforts is beneath you, Mandisi,
especially at a point when CCS staff are engaged in a fierce battle with the
vice-chancellor to unban the senior academic most responsible for our race
MM: first of all, I do not appreciate your patronising attitude -- this is
exactly the kind of condescending attitudes that I am about -- 'published
exaggeration and a
failure to acknowledge sincere, substantial efforts is beneath you,
Mandisi,....' I have already quoted what one of the ccs staff had to say
about my criticism that you claim to be exaggerated.
furthermore, you will not instruct me what to write and when to write it.
my criticism of the white left also touches on this kind of attitude --
whites placing themselves in positions of authority where they can mediate
communication... and delimit the boundaries of debate.
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