[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Mandla Sishi to the 'left': Awake!
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Jan 6 05:15:50 GMT 2008
By Mandla Sishi, November 18, 2007
The Class Struggle Rages As the Left Slumber.
The wheel of history rolls, never mind the inertia gripping the left in
South Africa, a left that won’t help choking from inside the cocoon of
its doctrinarism and self satisfied theoretical uprightness. In the
metamorphoses of this history, class struggles are decided not by the
impeccable morality of personalities but by the immediate calculations
and experiences of the vast masses.
In conditions where positions in class contest are gaining near definite
shape, morality loses the mask of neutrality. Bourgeois moralities never
come close to deciding the fate of the march of history. It won’t hold
it back from bursting through multiple channels, unattractive to
prevailing left traditions, even.
In trying to explain new situations, the dead weight that is the
traditional left can never cease throwing about, from time to time, and
in ritualistic fashion, some dust laden Marxist sounding critique it
imbibed over years, and however much it subsumes practical realities to
the whims of its spectacular book radicalism. Surely Marx must be
turning in his lonely grave.
Marxism is a science. It won’t fit into a shallow pocket of ones own
straightjacket. It cannot be restricted to the realm of tradition lest
it turns moribund, ceasing to be anything more than a religion. If you
asked, Gedleyihlekisa Zuma’ s ANC presidency is certain to be a part of
the reality of our times. How does the left explain this apparent non
sequitur? As events unfold, how has the non-alliance left fared from the
comfort of its neatly cut out social movements enclaves? The left is
like a city garden statue, it only exist in order to remind us of its
one-time existence. Everything passes by without it ever shifting its head.
If, 13 years on, the masses wouldn’t any more countenance Mbeki,
Mboweni, Erwin and Manuel’s neo-classical diet (peppered in pro-poor
rhetoric) and had found in Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the channel to voice its
grief, how would you have ministered to the masses, given your chronic
state of oblivion towards the dynamics of the raging class struggles out
Having quietly dismissed reality you have blunted, shunned the cutting
edges of Marxism proper. Mbeki and Company is not just battling the
spectre of Zuma’s presidency, but the preservation of one legacy and the
thwarting of the imminent next. These two, are deeply steeped in
contending class perspectives. “Not a proper revolutionary strategy! Not
a proper revolutionary strategy!” shouts this encyclopaedic left
drowning from backroom bookshelves, lush with volumes by eminent names
in revolutionary literature.
Right before this repository of revolutionary thought (at least
according to its imagination), the mass have calculated and whether they
succeed at turning history around; at dislodging the “1996 class
project” (actually the pre 1994 Burnhurst class project in my view
though still traceable as far back as the Harare Declaration of the
congress movement) is yet to be seen. But what is most telling is your
insignificance in the whole endeavour.
Your self-fulfilling intellectual sideshows lack the attraction for the
youth, women and workers.
And since your private educated deliberations are of no consequence to
the march of history, you can only hope for some moment and day when you
will pronounce yourselves vindicated, but even with that brief ‘I told
you’ spell, you will still be talking to yourselves, in what we should
aptly label, the big leftist monologue.
Just like every other self-indulgent group out there, you’ve been
limping about, moulding a niche of social movements and in your
self-styled acclaims, elevating it to a mass status. From time to time
you pick up some small gains, but never fail to parachute them into
something more profound than they really are. But you need this kind of
self-pampering; it meets the psychological needs of captive minds.
Having applied yourselves impressively in alternative policy research
and advocacy, you have failed to craft a political strategy that forges
united action, connecting local with organised industrial struggles. In
this self-serving perversion of Marxism you have successfully fashioned
social movements into private laboratories for your experimentations and
“Communists…do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which
to shape and mould the proletarian movement” (Marx). But our most
celebrated lefties do just the opposite, baphambana nemvula in Isi-Zulu;
wishfully hoping things will proceed in prefigured schemes, turning
their back on anything that is treading along routes unfamiliar to
common traditions. You know that the world is not built around your
private wishes, but don’t seem to think this goes for the class struggle
Here has come the crunchiest of times in recent years, its time you
showed us your mettle, be generous with your wisdom, your theoretical
prudence too. As the class war rages, your ever-correct outlook
evaporates into space creating a mere vapour, too thin really to grip
any one in some awe. Philistines are not defined exclusively in right
wing anti working class attitudes. There are left wing philistines too,
only that theirs may be coated nicely in radical phrases.
Anti-theory, I imagine you might say, and I will reply; No, not, I am
anti your fetishism with theory, your separation of practice from theory
and your sectarian practices that renders theory scarcely relevant for
the workers’ course.
If you would take a moment to think, your circular, nonetheless radical
sounding fibs are suffocating. Break this slumber! Tear down the tinsel
of theoretical purity! Shun these dated pontifications! Join the march
of history and put your thoughts to practical use!
You can do better than this. It’s interesting out there. We are
communists not for the sake of it.
Mandla Sishi is an activist of the Right to Work Campaign, born in
Umlazi, Durban, and now based in Cape Town. The article is an extract
from unfinished pamphlet “Conversations with the left in South Africa”.
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