[Debate] (Fwd) Cronin v Saul on ANC partying
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Apr 2 12:38:32 BST 2012
On 3/30/2012 7:12 AM, Patrick Bond wrote:
> (There'll be a rebuttal to this rebuttal soon, I gather.
Letter to the Editors of Amandla! | by John S. Saul | Print |
Although all too familiar with the hard, even bitter, kind of South
African political "debate" on the left and centre-left that too often
turns potentially comradely exchange into a mind-numbing dialogue of the
deaf, even I was a little taken aback by the tenor of Jeremy Cronin's
response to my questioning approach to the celebration of the ANC's
100th Anniversary (both texts published in Amandla!, March, 2012).
Readers can assess our respective arguments side by side in that issue
for themselves so I won't reiterate them again here. I will, however,
take note of the hectoring, even demeaning, nature of Cronin's
intervention since it seems to me to exemplify one very real problem
that we have in making further progress on the left in South Africa.
For his intervention is framed by two observations that can only be
characterized as mere sneers, as crude insults. He begins by suggesting
that I feel "personally...let down" by the ANC failure to realize a more
progressive practice post-apartheid. But let me be clear: I do not feel,
nor does my writing for even a moment evoke, any sense the ANC owes me
or my "cohort" (whoever that might be taken to be) one damn thing.
Surely one can feel disappointed with an outcome without feeling one has
been personally betrayed!
But is it not, instead, the poor of South Africa who have been
"betrayed"? I'm not sure that this is the exact word I would use;
nonetheless, the point of my article is, precisely, that the ANC
continues to owe the poor of South Africa a much greater effort than the
party has yet demonstrated to expand the meaning of South Africa's
liberation beyond simple "national freedom" (and beyond, as well, the
sort of "liberation" promised in the name of private-sector,
elite-centred, "Black Empowerment"). Bluntly put, the ANC should be
seeking to help realize a much more fulfilling and egalitarian future,
in class, gender, democratic and even racial terms, for the vast mass of
poor South Africans. Yet, instead of "liberation" cast in such expansive
terms, the party (and the new black elite it chiefly represents) has,
all too comfortably, settled for a bald "recolonization" of South Africa
by global capital.
What then follows in Cronin's Amandla! article is a text in which he
seems more often than not simply to concede ground to my substantive
arguments (and those of Peter Alexander whom I quote). Yet he then
chooses to conclude his piece by capping his broader "argument" against
my original intervention with yet another ad hominem slur, one designed,
apparently, to altogether dismiss my right to speak with any
credibility. After all (Cronin here quotes Zizek to crown his case) I've
been pursuing, all these years, "a well-paid academic career in the
West" and now merely "rage against" the ANC when "it in any way disturbs
my complacency." Kid's stuff, this.
The real question: does the ANC (or the SACP for that matter) have the
capacity to right itself and become a real instrument of genuine
liberation of the South African people in the post-apartheid period?
Worth arguing about soberly and carefully, I would have thought. Some of
us were already somewhat skeptical about any such prospect for South
Africa under ANC leadership during the apartheid period itself. Now our
worst fears have been realized and we broach, seriously and
circumspectly, the case, and the social basis, for a counter-hegemonic
alternative. In such a sober context, just do me one favour, Jeremy.
Please don't trash the messenger.
John S. Saul
> Borrowing Zizek, Cronin's cheeky last sentence bites several of us in
> one wicked gnash of his teeth, me included.)
> John Saul's empty chalice
> Jeremy Cronin
> 2012-03-29, Issue 579 <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/579>
> Jeremy Cronin contests the assertion by John S. Saul in his article,
> 'A Poisoned Chalice', that the ANC is a lost cause and that a new
> political formation is needed to continue the liberation struggle.
> As we mark the centenary of the ANC there are, as we might expect,
> idealised versions of its history being trotted out. These tend to
> present the ANC's hundred years as a righteous procession from early
> beginnings, through persecution and heroic resistance, to inevitable
> triumph. Across 12 presidents, the ANC marches forward with God and
> history on its side.
> This clearly isn't John Saul's view of the organisation. He feels the
> ANC has let him and his cohort down personally. Unfortunately, rather
> than being an effective antidote to the dangers of centenary
> hagiography, Saul's dismissal of the current relevance of the ANC is,
> in many ways, just a sophisticated flip-side of the crude pro-ANC
> versions of its history and present relevance. Both the uncritical
> eulogies and Saul turn the ANC into a monolithic entity, an essence
> either wholly good or wholly bad - or at least gone completely rotten.
> This organisational fetishism removes internal complexity,
> contradiction and struggle.
> True, Saul does allow for some complexity by reminding us (correctly)
> that the struggle always had many more organisational protagonists
> than the ANC. But the complexity is presented as essentially outside
> of the ANC. Saul mentions the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU),
> the Unity Movement, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and Azanian
> People's Organisation (AZAPO), the Black Consciousness Movement, and
> later the unions and United Democratic Front (UDF), before they were
> 'swallowed' by the ANC. What, I inevitably wondered as I read for the
> first time Saul's second paragraph, happened to other organisations he
> might have mentioned, like 90 years of Communist Party struggle in
> South Africa? The answer to that question comes many paragraphs later:
> 'The SACP was already well within the ANC's tent of power ... [and]
> soon COSATU felt compelled to yoke itself as a junior partner to the
> political juggernaut that the ANC had become.' In short, for the
> purposes of Saul's argument, these formations can now simply be waved
> off into irrelevance.
> The only heterodoxy that Saul allows exists outside a supposedly
> monolithic ANC. This is not essentially different from the most
> dyed-in-the-wool, Jesuitical ANC dogmatist (if such exists) who would
> insist that anyone who does not give one hundred per cent unblinking
> assent to every sentence emanating from Luthuli House is beyond the pale.
> Of course the ANC has always been, and remains, a contested, uneven
> but real -- and therefore imperfect -- political force. For most of
> its early decades, the ANC was led by mission-school educated
> progressive professionals -- teachers, journalists, lawyers, religious
> ministers -- who were Westernising modernisers. They argued the case
> of the 'civilized', those who had been unjustly excluded from
> citizenship rights by the Act of Union on the grounds of race. Theirs
> was essentially a struggle for inclusion. But, with all of their
> inevitable historical and class limitations, from the beginning they
> introduced the seeds of three potentially radical positions. First,
> through their journalism, speeches, and sermons they recorded and
> critiqued the deepening racial oppression of South Africa's majority
> -- the Land Act, pass laws, the colour bar. Second, they critiqued
> narrow tribalism, and launched an organisation (the ANC) to forge in
> struggle a new African identity. In so doing they were advancing
> (implicitly) a post-modernist understanding of identity -- not
> something fixed biologically at birth, but rather a complex process
> shaped by social interaction and active organisation. This effectively
> post-modernist understanding also lies at the heart of what remains
> (in contest, of course) of the ANC's longstanding and (given South
> Africa's history) remarkable espousal of non-racialism.
> Then there is a third, paradoxical legacy bestowed on any contemporary
> South African left-wing project by ten decades of ANC activism. The
> Christian liberalism that informed the founders of the ANC was in
> effect the appropriation of a discourse of universal human rights in a
> semi-colonial context. It was a context that was bound to expose the
> limits of liberalism itself and force an increasing radicalisation of
> any rights-based discourse. That radicalisation can be traced through
> the 1955 Freedom Charter down to the fundamentally progressive South
> African Constitution and Bill of Rights of 1996.
> To appreciate the value of this legacy for the present, it is
> important to recall the generally poor record in government of both
> communist parties and former national liberation movements through
> much of the 20th century. There are many reasons why formerly heroic
> fighting formations, once in power, often declined into bureaucratism,
> stagnation and corrosive corruption, if not worse. The unending
> aggressive destabilisation of popular advances by imperialism was
> obviously the major factor. But internal weaknesses, including the
> neglect, suspension or deliberate distortion of key constitutional
> safeguards for popular democracy, were surely another important
> factor. It is one of many ironies of our contemporary South African
> reality that, in part as a result of mistakes and ambiguities from the
> side of the ANC, this legacy is now being claimed (and dumbed down) by
> anti-majoritarian neoliberals. The idea that the South African
> Constitution is essentially 'liberal' is gravely mistaken; even the
> most moderately inclined of clauses in the Bill of Rights, the
> so-called property clause, expressly allows for expropriation on terms
> other than market-value. One of the tasks of the left in our current
> reality is to actively espouse the Constitution and advance it for
> what it is -- a clarion call for ongoing radical transformation.
> Since becoming a ruling party, the ANC has by its own admission been
> beset with many of the familiar challenges of incumbency -- careerism,
> factionalism and corruption. What is to be done? Here I begin to
> agree, in part, with Saul. We need the vigilance, the
> checking-and-balancing of a re-invigorated, broad-based popular
> movement. But where I disagree with Saul is his insistence that it
> should be in opposition to and exclusively outside of the ANC. Genuine
> popular protagonism cannot be quarantined within the formal structures
> of any political formation, and the role of a radical political
> formation is not to 'own' the working class, or popular forces, but to
> provide as much unifying and transformational leadership as possible
> to what are often disparate local actions and grievances.
> Cases in point, mentioned by Saul citing Peter Alexander, are the
> thousands of 'local protests amounting to a rebellion of the poor'.
> Directed typically, as Alexander puts it, against 'uncaring,
> self-serving and corrupt leaders of the municipalities', they are
> 'widespread and intense, reaching insurrectionary proportions in some
> cases'. There is one important correction to this otherwise valid
> characterisation of these protests -- none have reached
> 'insurrectionary proportions'. Among the reasons for this is the same
> factor that ensured that even at the height of popular militant action
> through the 1970s and 1980s, the wave upon wave of uprisings were only
> ever quasi-insurrectionary in character. Then, as now, the South
> African working class and urban poor, largely confined to peripheral
> dormitory townships, are not in relatively easy marching distance of a
> Winter Palace. (I don't have current statistics for St Petersburg, but
> the average working class commute in today's Moscow is 7km, for
> instance; compare this to Tshwane's 25km).
> Persisting apartheid-style, dormitory townships at distance from work,
> amenities, resources and other loci of power continue to ensure the
> reproduction of a displaced and disadvantaged working class. The
> 'township service delivery protests' (and each one of those four words
> tells a symptomatic story) are essentially inwardly turned --
> demanding 'delivery' into the township rather than the radical
> transformation of urban space itself. They end up being fights over
> the scraps. Backyard dwellers compete against those in informal
> settlements for a place on the housing list. One taxi association
> fights another over a route and a rank. Local spaza shop owners
> mobilise against non-South African traders. The civic organisation
> attacks the ANC branch, or one faction of the local ANC is pitted
> against another, disputing over a list process and the right to hand
> out tenders and jobs. Many local councillors, often the prime targets
> of protest, may well be 'uncaring, self-serving and corrupt', as Saul
> and Alexander would have it. But many did not start out that way --
> they find themselves caught in an under-resourced situation (the big
> budgetary allocations go elsewhere), dealing with a bursting
> pressure-cooker reality of overcrowded townships. All of the research
> suggests, interestingly, that 'service delivery protests' tend to
> occur not in the most destitute townships, but in those in which there
> has been some 'delivery', but which is, of course, never 'enough'.
> There has been a political failure to mobilise legitimate popular
> aspirations into a politics that is not so much about delivery into a
> township as the democratic transformation of, for instance, the
> totality of urban space itself. While corruption needs to be roundly
> condemned, the over-emphasis on subjective factors results in a
> moralising discourse that fails to recognise the structural realities
> that require radical transformation through both popular agency and
> the determined use of state power.
> I agree with Saul that 'liberation must be about more than racial and
> national assertion'. I agree that it must, amongst other things, be
> about 'employment strategies, redistribution, education, health, water
> and electricity supply, and of a more internally focused and
> need-driven industrial strategy -- that exemplify some real attempt to
> overcome the great inequalities that no mere tinkering with such
> things as "basic income grants" can paper over'.
> To imagine that these challenges can be met by conjuring up some
> nebulous new 'movement' is far-fetched. To imagine that all that is
> wrong in the current South African reality is subjective failure on
> the part of the ANC is equally misplaced. There are no guarantees in
> history, but Saul's dogmatic certainty that the ANC is a lost cause is
> consistent with his positioning on the ANC over the past
> decade-and-a-half. It is a positioning infused with the bitterness of
> a romanticism that feels betrayed. It calls to mind Slavoj Zizek's
> biting comment on certain scholars: 'They allow themselves to pursue
> their well-paid academic careers in the West, while using an idealized
> Other (like Cuba, Nicaragua, Tito's Yugoslavia [or Mandela's ANC?]) as
> the stuff of their ideological fantasy: they dream through the Other,
> and [this is the kick in the tail] rage against it if it in any way
> disturbs their complacency.'
> * BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
> * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of
> Pambazuka <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/friends.php> NOW and help keep
> Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
> * Jeremy Cronin is SACP deputy general secretary, ANC NEC member and
> Deputy Transport Minister. This article was first published by Amandla
> * This article was first published in the latest issue of Amandla
> (Amandla 24) as part of a feature on the centenary of the ANC, "from
> popular power to state power". The magazine can be found online at
> [url= online
> and throughout bookstores in South Africa. Contact
> <mailto:jeanne at amandla.org.za>jeanne at amandla.org.za
> <mailto:jeanne at amandla.org.za%3C/a%3E> for comments.
> On 1/8/2012 6:39 PM, Patrick Bond wrote:
>> *Polokwane's Failed Promise of Economic Change: The Continuities of
>> the ANC on the Eve of Its Centenary *
>> By Dale T. McKinley
>> The ANC might be about to turn 100 years old but when it comes to its
>> contemporary politics, the last four years seems like a lifetime of
>> its own. It was four years ago, almost to the day, that the ANC
>> gathered at the now infamous Polokwane Congress and when it was all
>> over the general view both inside and outside the ANC that it marked
>> a fundamental 'turn' for the ANC and the country; not simply in
>> respect of a new national and ANC leadership but more crucially, in
>> respect of the promise of a political economy of change as applied to
>> the ANC itself and the majority of people in the country as a whole.
>> However politics, like a majority of marriages, always has a way of
>> reminding us of the often wide gulf between promise and lived
>> reality, whatever the respective lifespan. In the case of Polokwane,
>> rather than signifying a fundamental organisational and ideological
>> 'turn' that marked a radical departure from what had come before, it
>> was a great deal more representative of a transitionally constructed
>> continuity of intra-ANC and Alliance elite power politics.
>> On the one hand there was a visible and indeed intense class
>> character to the desire for change. A majority of the rank-and-file
>> delegates in Polokwane came from the broad working class. Their lived
>> experiences of the accumulated and combined impact of the ANC
>> government's neo-liberal policies, the centralisation and abuse of
>> political power as well as intensified corruption and mismanagement
>> created a situation in which this core of the ANC's own constituency
>> were ready and willing to embrace organisational, ideological and
>> leadership changes. In this sense, an important part of what happened
>> at Polokwane was nothing more and nothing less than the realities of
>> class struggle being taken onto an organisational and political 'stage'.
>> On the other hand though, there was a clearly organised agenda
>> dominated by the desire to simply replace one set of incumbent
>> leaders with another. Not surprisingly, this emanated largely from
>> within various ANC and Alliance leadership strata. Here, the content
>> and character of change being sought was neither framed nor
>> organically informed by the desires and lived realities of the
>> majority of delegates that this leadership represented. In this
>> sense, the other side of the Polokwane coin was undeniably driven by
>> self-interest, intra-elite competition and factional power mongering.
>> The combined weight of these two levels of 'grievance', however
>> disconnected, succeeded in fomenting the desired change of
>> leadership. The new Zuma-centred leadership was then given a mandate
>> to implement various degrees of organisational and ideological
>> change. Under the banner of "iANC ibuyile" (the ANC has returned to
>> its members) key resolutions were adopted on the transformation of
>> the economy as well as state and governance, international relations
>> and the battles of ideas amongst others.
>> On the most crucial of fronts though -- transformation of the economy
>> -- the potential promise of change at Polokwane was stillborn. Rather
>> than a clearly enunciated need and plan to move towards a radical
>> change of macro-economic policy, the desire for which had been at
>> heart of long-running struggles involving the organised working class
>> and various movements of the poor and community organisations, there
>> was a droll continuity; an injunction for "macro-economic policies
>> that support and sustain growth, job creation and poverty eradication
>> on a sustainable basis". Confirmation of this status quo approach
>> came from none other than the person chosen at Polokwane to lead the
>> evident process of change, President Jacob Zuma. Addressing a
>> gathering of the American Chamber of Commerce less than a year after,
>> Zuma confidently stated that, "we are proud of ... the general manner
>> in which the economy has been managed ... that calls for continuity."
>> This is all the more crucial given the Polokwane demand for
>> "employment expansion" and the "creation of decent work opportunities
>> as the primary focus of economic policies". As every working class
>> person is all too aware from their own experiences, this is a
>> practical impossibility if it is not tied to a macro-economic
>> framework that prioritises people and puts the principles of
>> redistribution of production, wealth and opportunity at its centre.
>> As night follows day, so too has the post-Polokwane period dished up
>> the opposite of its stated promise. Only a few months ago, Finance
>> Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that since 2008, over 900 000
>> people had lost their jobs, the vast majority of whom were lower
>> skilled black workers -- the ANC's main constituency.
>> Another key Polokwane promise was that a reconfigured and rejuvenated
>> 'developmental state' would "intervene" to "shape key economic
>> sectors". More specifically, such intervention would target the
>> natural resource and transport sectors, as a means to "transform the
>> economic structure" as well as "maximise development and the
>> sustainability of local communities". And yet, what we have witnessed
>> over the last several years is: a privileging of private sector
>> capitalists alongside politically connected BEE elites who have
>> accumulated more capital than ever before; a sidelining of poor
>> mining communities when it comes to socio-economic benefits and
>> environmental concerns; a rank failure to provide leadership on and
>> commitment to, developing sustainable sources of cleaner and
>> alternative energy generation/supply; and, the pursuit of privatised,
>> elitist and hugely expensive transport infrastructure that largely
>> benefit the richer residential areas and the needs of corporate
>> capital while largely neglecting the same in the poorest residential
>> areas where the majority of people live.
>> A recurring historical and more contemporary feature of the South
>> African economy has been its high levels of
>> monopolisation/concentration of ownership that have continued to feed
>> gross inequality and imbalances of social and economic power.
>> Importantly then for poorer consumers and workers, Polokwane enjoined
>> the ANC to implement "anti-monopoly and anti-concentration" policy as
>> a means of broadening ownership and overcoming barriers to small
>> business growth and market entry. However, despite a few small and
>> effectively meaningless fines levied against some corporates for
>> price-collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, the real test came in
>> the form of the approach to the Massmart-Walmart merger. Instead of
>> an unambiguous rejection of a clearly monopolistic merger that will
>> impact negatively on sizeable sections of local manufacturing
>> capacity, the retail and distributive opportunities for small and
>> medium scale enterprises as well as on the possibilities for decent
>> work and increased employment, it has been allowed to go ahead.
>> Correspondingly, Polokwane called for the "regional integration of
>> the South African economy on a fair and equal basis" and the adoption
>> of a 'developmental approach" that would "diversify regional
>> economies". Regardless, when the newly elected ANC leadership was
>> provided with the opportunity - in late 2008 - to begin such a
>> process of change on the regional front, they instead wholeheartedly
>> embraced the very thing - a neo-liberal regional free trade agreement
>> (FTA) -- that has only exacerbated already existing macro-economic
>> deficiencies and disparities amongst Southern Africa Development
>> Community (SADC) member states. The practical result has been a
>> further crippling of weaker nations' already limited domestic
>> manufacturing base and increased reliance on the production of
>> primary/raw commodities. What potential there might exist for the
>> development of infant industries and thus sustained employment
>> creation in such nations is simply overwhelmed by the sheer scale and
>> reach of such 'free trade' inspired penetration with South Africa as
>> the vanguard.
>> Last year, COSATU's Central Executive Committee issued a statement
>> that goes some way in capturing Polokwane's failed promise of
>> economic change. Namely, that within and amongst the ANC-Alliance's
>> "working-class constituency, there is a degree of despondency ...
>> there is the danger that the 2nd decade of freedom, like the 1st will
>> belong to capital and not the workers and the poor ... we face a
>> serious crisis of legitimacy ... not only COSATU but also the
>> Alliance as a whole will be in serious trouble." That time has
>> already come. Enjoy the centenary.
>> *Dr. McKinley* is an independent writer, researcher, lecturer and
>> political activist based in Johannesburg.
>> *The B u l l e t Socialist Project - home
>> Socialist Project . E-Bulletin No. 585
>> January 6, 2012*
>> *A Poisoned Chalice
>> Liberation, ANC-Style*
>> John S. Saul
>> There is good and obvious reason to celebrate the long history of the
>> African National Congress <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANC> (ANC):
>> the organization's marked dedication over one hundred years to the
>> cause of the betterment of the lot of the oppressed African people in
>> South Africa. It has also sustained an honourable commitment to a
>> multi-racial, pan-ethnic outcome to the struggle against the
>> unequivocally racist system that both segregation and apartheid came
>> to represent for so long in South Africa. And, not least important,
>> the ANC is now in power.
>> Not that the ANC was alone in this struggle. The ICU, the Unity
>> movement, the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Africanist_Congress_of_Azania>) and
>> AZAPO (Azanian People's Organization
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azanian_People%27s_Organisation>) were,
>> of course, significant heterodox players over many years. Then, in
>> the 1970s and 80s, the Black Consciousness Movement
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Consciousness_Movement>, the
>> range of unions that would soon become COSATU
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COSATU>, and the township insurgency
>> that first burst into flame in Soweto and then, spreading
>> dramatically, helped fuel the United Democratic Front
>> (UDF) and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) also had vital roles to
>> play. Even more expansive in their import than any some-time
>> 'internal wing' of the ANC such assertions have also been linked all
>> along -- but such militancy from below marks the present moment in
>> South Africa as well -- to a wide range of local outbursts and
>> assertions as part of a genuine mass resistance in South Africa (one
>> not always easily identified as 'belonging' to any one or another
>> broader movement).
>> Surge Forward and Building Alliances
>> In short, the surge forward in South Africa was by no means
>> monopolized by the ANC, despite the longevity of its existence, its
>> persistence in exile, and its occasional quasi-military appearance
>> within South Africa's borders. Yet the ANC did manage to translate
>> its popular salience (and that of Nelson Mandela), its international
>> resonance (becoming much more credible in this respect with the
>> virtual disappearance from the scene of its long-time Soviet-bloc
>> allies!), its rather spottier presence on the ground inside South
>> Africa, and its increasing and quite dramatic rapprochement with
>> international capital into a winning hand in the on-going bargaining
>> with the apartheid state. And it did emerge victorious in 1994.
>> Moreover, the fact that it had by the 1990s abandoned any promise of
>> offering a radical alternative to continued subordination to global
>> capitalism (and to its leaders' own aggrandizement as the new
>> well-rewarded masters of state power) did not, at first, cost it
>> heavily at the polls. It was the party of 'liberation' after all.
>> Indeed, as such, it began merely to absorb other centres of recent
>> and significant public dissent. The South African Communist Party
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacp> (SACP) was already well within
>> the ANC's tent of power of course, but soon COSATU felt compelled to
>> yoke itself as junior partner to the political juggernaut that the
>> ANC had become. As for the UDF, many within it undoubtedly did feel
>> the positive pull of ANC legitimacy but the fact is that those who
>> did not were soon sidelined and the UDF disappeared, leaving
>> long-time ANC/SACP stalwart Rusty Bernstein to bemoan
>> <http://monthlyreview.org/2002/12/01/starting-from-scratch>, shortly
>> before his death, that:
>> "The [ANC's] drive toward power has corrupted the political equation
>> in various ways. In the late 1980s, when popular resistance revived
>> again inside the country led by the UDF, it led the ANC to see the
>> UDF as an undesirable factor in the struggle for power, and to
>> fatally undermine it as a rival focus for mass mobilization. This has
>> undermined the ANC's adherence to the path of mass resistance as a
>> way to liberation, and substituted instead a reliance on manipulation
>> of the levers of administrative power. It has paved the way to a
>> steady decline of a mass-membership ANC as an organizer of the
>> people, and turned it into a career opening to public sector
>> employment and the administrative 'gravy train.' It has reduced the
>> tripartite ANC-COSATU-CP alliance from the centrifugal centre of
>> national political mobilization to an electoral pact between parties
>> who are constantly constrained to subordinate their constituents'
>> fundamental interests to the overriding purpose of holding on to
>> administrative power. It has impoverished the soil in which ideas
>> leaning toward socialist solutions once flourished and allowed the
>> weed of 'free market' ideology to take hold."
>> Renewed resistance -- this time, increasingly, to the ANC in power --
>> took a few years to jell, of course. But a distinct constituency, one
>> that echoed the revolutionary sensibility of the past, has begun to
>> articulate a radical grass-roots politics that begins to surge past
>> the illusion of ANC 'victory.' After all, some increasingly sensed,
>> liberation must be about more than racial and national assertion. It
>> must, they reason, also be about transcending class, about gender
>> equality, and about the expression of genuinely and effectively
>> democratic voice. And about policies -- in the spheres of employment
>> strategies, redistribution, education, health, water and electricity
>> supply, and of a more internally-focussed and need-driven industrial
>> strategy -- that exemplify some real attempt to overcome the great
>> inequalities that no mere tinkering with such things as 'basic income
>> grants' can paper over. Fortunately, as noted, politics in South
>> Africa has long been about more than the ANC -- and so it will be
>> again, many feel. For it is in this prospect, rather than in some
>> mere wading through of the several hundred years of ANC hegemony
>> predicted by the ever zealous president, Jacob Zuma
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Zuma>, that a fulfilling future
>> for the vast majority of South Africans is most likely to be found!
>> Left Alternative to the ANC?
>> But just how likely is that any such genuinely viable left
>> alternative will surface? There is, on the one hand, the fact that
>> the ANC's vaunted 60-70% of the overall national electoral support
>> has in fact shrunk to rather lower than 40 per cent of the eligible
>> voters (and, in local elections, much less than that) -- given the
>> rapidly falling number of those who these days actually choose to
>> exercise their franchise. Meanwhile, on the other hand (as Peter
>> Alexander has recently observed
>> "Since 2004 South Africa has experienced a movement of local protests
>> amounting to a rebellion of the poor. This has been widespread and
>> intense, reaching insurrectionary proportions in some cases. On the
>> surface, the protests have been about service delivery and against
>> uncaring, self-serving and corrupt leaders of the municipalities. A
>> key feature has been mass participation by a new generation of
>> fighters, especially unemployed youth but also school students. Many
>> issues that underpinned [initially] the ascendency of Jacob Zuma also
>> fuel the present action, including a sense of injustice arising from
>> the realities of persistent inequality...[Moreover,] while the
>> inter-connections between the local protests (and between the local
>> protests and militant action involving other elements of civil
>> society) are limited, it is suggested that this is likely to change."
>> Small wonder. For the chilling fact remains that while the economic
>> gap between people defined in terms of racial categories (black as
>> distinct from white) has narrowed statistically (as some blacks have
>> become very rich indeed) the gap between rich and poor has actually
>> widened. Needless to say, in South Africa such depressing facts are
>> too readily apparent to cause surprise. The real question is: how
>> long can it be before the anger these facts even now give rise to
>> becomes ever more potent politically?
>> ...the ANC government has lost a great deal of its earlier focus
>> on the fundamental transformation of the inherited social system.
>> True, there will be many who see the prospect of a rebirth of
>> principle -- rebirth of the goal of justice and equality -- as still
>> being most likely to arise from within the ANC fold itself. Those of
>> us who supported, for many long years through the global
>> anti-apartheid movement, the ANC's championing of its cause can bring
>> themselves to abandon such hopes only with great reluctance. But
>> take, as well, the case of veteran ANC/SACP hand Ben Turok who now
>> feels driven <http://books.google.ca/books?id=pNytPgAACAAJ> to "the
>> irresistible conclusion...that the ANC government has lost a great
>> deal of its earlier focus on the fundamental transformation of the
>> inherited social system." And to the conclusion that "much depends on
>> whether enough momentum can be built to overcome the caution that has
>> marked the ANC government since 1994. This in turn depends on whether
>> the determination to achieve an equitable society can be revived." It
>> would be another thing, of course, were an old ANC loyalist like
>> Turok to agree with me that the ANC, despite its brave history of a
>> hundred years, is ineluctably becoming yesterday's movement.
>> Yet it has become increasingly difficult to think otherwise, and
>> increasingly necessary to divine some new counter-hegemonic movement,
>> to delineate its possibilities and its prospects -- and to make these
>> potent in practice. Briefly, in Zimbabwe, the MDC
>> seemed to offer just such an alternative there. Only cruel repression
>> by Robert Mugabe <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Mugabe> and his
>> ZANU minions worked to deny the MDC its several rightful electoral
>> victories there. How intransigent will the ANC be when it becomes
>> apparent that, despite its long service in the cause of national
>> liberation, its rationale for the retention of power has run its course?
>> Equally challenging: the fact that knitting together protest, however
>> widely expressed, into a viable counter-hegemonic movement -- counter
>> both to the ANC and to its neoliberal, freely capitalist, agenda --
>> is still a long way from realization in South Africa. Indeed, the
>> best so experienced an observer as Thabo Mbeki's brother, Moeletsi
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moeletsi_Mbeki>, seems able to offer
>> South Africans is a "Tunisia Day" set to arrive, he writes
>> <http://allafrica.com/stories/201112021275.html>, in 2020! Then the
>> South African masses will "rise against the powers that be, as
>> happened recently in Tunisia." For, in Moeletsi's words, "the ANC
>> inherited a flawed, complex society it barely understood; its
>> tinkerings with it are turning it into an explosive cocktail. The ANC
>> leaders are like a group of children playing with a hand grenade. One
>> day one of them will figure out how to pull out the pin and everyone
>> will be killed."
>> But what is actually needed is something else than this, something
>> far more sustained and structured -- something more self-consciously
>> and effectively counter-hegemonic in concept and in purpose -- than a
>> 'mere' Tunisia Day can offer. South Africans will have to be more
>> creative and more imaginative than that in consolidating the kind of
>> new movement necessary to realize a more just and equitable South
>> Africa, a South Africa in which, a hundred years from now, they can
>> take further pride. The liberation struggle continues. .
>> John Saul, veteran Canadian anti-apartheid and southern African
>> solidarity activist, is also author of numerous books on African
>> political economy. He currently serves as member of a
>> formally-constituted committee of international "friends" of South
>> Africa's fledgling Democratic Left Front
>> <http://democraticleft.za.net/>. A version of this essay will be
>> appear in a forthcoming issue of /Amandla!/
>> <http://www.amandlapublishers.co.za/> marking the 100th anniversary
>> of the founding of the ANC in 1912.
>> Danny Schechter
>> News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel1.org. He is the
>> author of The Crime of Our Time.
>> Celebration and criticism as the ANC turns 100
>> Reflecting on the first 100 years of Africa's oldest liberation
>> movement, celebrating its centenary today.
>> Last Modified: 08 Jan 2012 11:50
>> South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) celebrates its 100th
>> anniversary ceremony on January 8, 2012 [EPA]
>> New York, NY - The invitation came by email, inviting "CDE Danny
>> Schechter" to the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of South
>> Africa's African National Congress in the Free State. Unfortunately,
>> in these depressing financial times, I had to beg off because it
>> didn't come with an air ticket.
>> For the uninitiated, CDE stands for comrade, a term over-associated
>> in this country with Communist movements, and a word that is often
>> used by members of the US military and even by activists of Occupy
>> Wall Street.
>> The dictionary I consulted pigeonholes it as a subversive lefty
>> phrase, which of course it isn't.
>> comrade |?käm?rad; ?kämr?d| - noun - a companion who shares one's
>> activities or is a fellow member of an organisation . (also
>> comrade-in-arms) a fellow soldier or serviceman . a fellow socialist
>> or communist (often as a form of address) : [as title ] Comrade Lenin.
>> ANC members, and members liberation movements the world over, use
>> comrade as a term of identity and endearment.
>> In that sense, I was proud that the ANC had me on the guest list - no
>> doubt because of the 30 years I spent crusading against apartheid, as
>> an activist in South Africa and America, writer, filmmaker, and part
>> of the team that produced Sun City, the anti-apartheid multi-artist
>> hit and related educational material.
>> I was consumed with the South Africa struggle since my days in the
>> civil rights movement in the early 1960s, my graduate student days in
>> London in the mid-sixties when I visited the land of apartheid on an
>> ANC-backed "mission", as a founder of the Africa Research group in
>> Cambridge, MA, as a freelance writer and then as a network producer
>> and independent filmmaker.
>> I made five films with and about South Africa, working with a South
>> African company, and produced the South Africa Now TV series with my
>> company Globalvision for 156 weeks between 1987 and 1991.
>> That's a long immersion, and as the late South African writer and
>> poet laureate, Mazisi Kunene told me, I earned the right to speak out
>> about my concerns even if I wasn't born in the "beloved country".
>> A history of activism
>> Watch Al Jazeera's report on the ANC's centenary
>> The ANC, formed by exiles in 1912 in Harlem, New York, (around the
>> same time that the National Association for the Advancement of
>> Coloured People [NAACP] was born) fought a long freedom struggle, one
>> of the longest in Africa.
>> It went through several stages, first, as a church-based elite
>> lobbying force, a non-violent nationalist movement, and then, as part
>> of an alliance with Indians, Coloureds, and progressive Whites,
>> including Afrikaners and Communists.
>> It morphed into a violent struggle of resistance and armed combat
>> when the doors to non-violent change were brutally shut by white
>> nationalists who built on British colonial racism to impose
>> apartheid, a practice of physically relocating communities,
>> regulating labour with passes, and violent repression.
>> In response, the ANC evolved a four-pole strategy built around armed
>> struggle led by exiles, urban insurrection in the townships to make
>> the country ungovernable there, worldwide anti-apartheid activism and
>> aggressive lobbying at the United Nations, in sports federations and
>> other international bodies.
>> Its committed and impressive advocates and representatives
>> criss-crossed the globe raising money and awareness.
>> Outside the country, the movement was led by Oliver Tambo, Nelson
>> Mandela's law partner. It had alliances with the "frontline states"
>> of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia and worked alongside liberation
>> fighters in Angola and Namibia.
>> Inside South Africa, many top leaders such as Mandela were arrested
>> and sent to the draconian Robben Island prison where they were
>> expected to die. Thousands more were arrested in bitter battles with
>> the police and army. Scores sacrificed their lives - such as the
>> murdered black consciousness fighter, Steve Biko, or rivals in the
>> PAC and Unity Movement.
>> Many died or were killed, endured torture, the separation of
>> families, and very tough times.
>> Finally, as South Africa's economy came under external sanctions and
>> pressure, and after their army suffered a major defeat in Angola at
>> the hands of Cuban and African solidarity fighters, Pretoria had no
>> choice but to free Mandela and his comrades, and start a negotiating
>> process that led to the country's first democratic elections four
>> years later.
>> Nelson Mandela became president in 1994.
>> A new challenge
>> That was nearly 20 years ago. While the ANC which promised a "better
>> life for all" faced a new and even more problematic struggle -
>> delivering on its promises by providing services, building houses,
>> creating jobs and transforming a country with the deepest divisions
>> between wealth and poverty in the world. There, the 99.9 per cent
>> were held captive by the 0.01 per cent.
>> A group that fought against power had now become the power, and in
>> some cases was seduced by power's seductions and corruption.
>> The result has been predictable - and a lesson for revolutionaries
>> the world over.
>> Some in the ANC believed "it is now our turn" to enjoy the country's
>> riches. "If we get mesmerised by the 'fleshpots'," ANC leader Joe
>> Slovo warned me in an interview on the first Election Day, "we will
>> be through". Had he lived, he would have not been a happy man to see
>> the co-option and compromises of many of his comrades.
>> Sadly, many sold out while others bought in. The country that wanted
>> to be known as "the Rainbow Nation" revealed a dark side alongside
>> all the impressive and undeniable progress that had been made.
>> Still, the ANC lost its beneficent aura, and, in some cases, its
>> moral standing as a handful of high profile leaders became
>> millionaires and more, while "black empowerment" schemes were riddled
>> with nepotism and self-dealing as in the phrase that goes back to the
>> apartheid days: "Let's make a plan!"
>> There seem to be new scandals every day. At the same time there are
>> many ANC stalwarts that stay true to the movement's values.
>> To its credit, much of the South African press tells it like it is.
>> Some of this is reversible. Many activists demonstrate for reforms of
>> what they call a "new apartheid". The ANC's traditions are still
>> alive - although not always within the ANC. A new crusade against
>> corruption, demagoguery and hypocrisy is needed.
>> Hopefully, this anniversary can become a time of reflection. It has
>> to start by the movement admitting it did not bring about what's
>> called the "new dispensation" all by itself. It has to credit
>> religious leaders such as Desmond Tutu and civic leaders in every
>> It has to salute the solidarity movements that helped delegitimise
>> apartheid and its apologists, including US politicians and corporations.
>> Happy 100th Birthday ANC. A big Viva to all your leaders and
>> supporters and a sincere thank you for allowing me, an opinionated
>> American who cared, access to your internal processes, and profound
>> lessons about what it takes to make change.
>> I learned so much more than I was able to give and am proud to have
>> stood with you when I could.
>> News Dissector and blogger Danny Schechter called for protests in his
>> film Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time, exposing financial crimes on
>> Wall Street. Comments to dissector at mediachannel.org
>> <mailto:dissector at mediachannel.org>
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