OP-ED: South Africa: The upside-down world of Racial Capitalism and Black Lives Matter, Part 2

2020-09-03 12:36:00 AM

OP-ED: South Africa: The upside-down world of Racial Capitalism and Black Lives Matter, Part 2

Black Lives Matter, Desmond Tutu

OP-ED: South Africa: The upside-down world of Racial Capitalism and Black Lives Matter , Part 2

The ANC’s Black Lives Matter is not a hypocrisy. It is much more than that. It is a defence. It is the second of the two ways in which the African rich seek to think well of themselves. It serves as a self-justification of otherwise intolerable actions and unthinkable greed.

Two events (although both involving the SACP and Cosatu) encapsulate the general failure.The SACP, with its large parliamentary presence (as part of the ANC contingent), was silent about the increase. So, too, was the officially socialist Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which also had a significant presence on the ANC benches in Parliament. There was, indeed, only one notable public dissenting voice: that of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said much of what one would have expected from the SACP and Cosatu consistent with the struggle having been on behalf of “our people”.

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The failure of the South African Left This is a subject more properly dealt with by books, many books. This is true even when, as here, the focus is exclusively on the white Left. He does not base his argument on the theory of deterrence, he says. The absence of a black Left critique (with the notable exception of Neville Alexander silenced by death in 2012) makes evident their concurrence with the positions of their white comrades. One of the passports is said to be a South African one; the other two are allegedly from other countries. Two events (although both involving the SACP and Cosatu) encapsulate the general failure. In criminology circles this is called the ‘incapacitation argument’, and it has been discussed and examined in various jurisdictions around the world. The first event began with a heated public debate in the build-up to the 1994 elections. Klaasen and Marach have been living in the bio bubble in New York for the past two weeks.

At issue was the pay and perks given to the outgoing members of the apartheid Parliament. I have written about this . However, he had not yet responded at the time of publication. The critique from the Left was that MPs’ salaries, rather than continuing to be that of the First World, should reflect the Third World reality of most South Africans. One of the first steps taken by the new Mandela government was to establish a commission to recommend a pay structure appropriate for the then-new South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo) But Mashaba would prefer incapacitation by execution. At least one member of the commission was not only a member of the SACP but, unlike most other communists, she was not also a member of the ANC. The premier does not know what he was arrested for and is awaiting the court case to find out all that information. Her reason for this, she told me, was that the ANC was bourgeois. He notes: “There is a shocking rate of recidivism by rapists and murderers in South Africa. “They have two very different game styles which complement each other’s play.

The commission duly reported towards the end of 1994. It found that there was indeed a major problem with MPs’ pay: it was too little! The new Parliament voted themselves the recommended salary increase.” The lower end (55%) Mashaba references is the recidivism ‘estimate’ of 55%-95% that can be traced back to a 1995 article that, along with similar articles that followed, stated: “recidivism is a phenomenon not uniformly conceptualised and no classification system exists whereby a recidivist can be formally classified. The matter came to light after Edwell Muntu Monareng was suspected to have fraudulently registered a Pakistani national and issued him with a birth certificate. This, arguably, turned out to be the single most seminal decision of democratic South Africa. As an ironic inversion of the slogan of the 1922 white miners, it was a case of: “Elites of the world unite to make way for a Black South African elite” (a comment made by Diane Salters). My concern with Mashaba’s point about recidivism is that the very studies he is reading posit compelling reasons why recidivism, at whatever rate it is present, continues to be a problem. The SACP, with its large parliamentary presence (as part of the ANC contingent), was silent about the increase. Upon further investigation, they found his Pakistani passport with a different date of birth and surname. “Marach is aggressive with groundstrokes.

So, too, was the officially socialist Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which also had a significant presence on the ANC benches in Parliament. Our prisons do not offer meaningful, effective rehabilitation programmes or sufficient education opportunities. There was, indeed, only one notable public dissenting voice: that of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said much of what one would have expected from the SACP and Cosatu consistent with the struggle having been on behalf of “our people”. I asked some of the leading members of the parliamentary SACP, both as MPs and members of Mandela’s first Cabinet, how they could have supported this unexpected move. So Mashaba now knows that recidivism would be prevented by rehabilitating and educating offenders. “This birth certificate was later used to apply for the passport at the Empangeni Home Affairs office in KwaZulu-Natal. They explained that they had queried the decision within the ANC’s parliamentary caucus. They had kept quiet when accused of being racist; that they were querying the matter only because most MPs were now Africans. Furthermore, we are already in the business of incapacitation.” The record shows Klaasen (2014) and Marach (2010, 2019) have not progressed beyond the quarter-finals at the US Open.

This event needs closer unpacking. The African response will be deferred until the final section of this article.5% (second only to India), and 22. For now, what needs addressing is an outrageous accusation. The charge was against individuals whose commitment to the struggle against white racism was beyond question: they had not only devoted most of their lives to the Struggle but had risked their very lives as part of the Struggle. Put differently, we are very, very good at putting people away for a very, very long time after we have convicted them. In a word, they were part of a small group best placed to be mortified by their own sometimes lifelong comrades accusing them of racism.

Adding to the manifest injustice of the charge is that it stemmed from a single event that went to the very heart of the Struggle: the ANC’s acceptance of a salary increase when the ethical position – made so clear by a shocked Archbishop Tutu – was to have argued for a pay cut consistent with the Struggle having been on behalf of “our people”. With a 2% prosecution rate, the number of people we incapacitate with life sentences is a fraction of those that offend. Why had these white communists allowed themselves to be cowed? An immediate answer is the two-stage revolution of the SACP’s strategic understanding of the transition to socialism: South African capitalism would first need to be normalised by the emergence of African capitalists before the class contradictions of capitalism were sufficiently developed for the African working class to separate itself from its racial identity and thereby lead the revolution to socialism. Whether or not they were familiar with about “the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure” being “the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers”, they knew more than enough. Mashaba intends to enter public office once again. They knew that beginning with 16 th century slavery, to say nothing about the enforced bloody creation of a black working class and the gold and diamond riches that required cheap labour, racism made the exploitation and oppression morally acceptable. This is to say they knew – and they taught others to know – that the exploiters had to turn the exploited into non-people for the fruits of the exploitation to be devoured without guilt. I can’t help but think he has forgotten this.

Race, in other words, was, in origin, a social construction of class imperatives; the “innermost secret” of capitalism where the dehumanised Other was of a different skin colour. This understanding does indeed offer what could be an immediate answer to the SACP’s acceptance of the salary increase. Like others , he has forsaken the option of elevating the issue of crime and punishment into the realm of informed debate. But this would be far too simple to be anything near a sufficient explication. Making sense of the silence of the white communists in 1994 suggests that race had by then become different from and independent of class. Mashaba promotes the simplistic and misleading idea that there is a clear divide between victims and offenders. Moreover, the specifically African “race” of South Africa was implicitly seen to be classless, without any class divisions.

It is further suggested that, such was – and is – the identification with the victims of class oppression that the working class, the class for itself which was to be the springboard into a classless society, was metamorphosed into the hegemonic primacy of a classless black race of Africans. The hopelessness I feel is deepened when I consider how many might look to a person like Mashaba – someone with power and influence – for answers, only to hear that empowering the state to kill the people it has failed to save or reform, is the answer. Inherent in this perception is that capitalism functions according to the colour of its capitalists. Thus, black capital behaves differently from white capital.. Confirmation of this colour confusion brings us to the second of the two events. In 2003, as part of the government’s strategy of creating a black bourgeoisie, it “outsourced” one of its state-owned enterprises (SOE) to a large British transnational corporation that, together with African owners, bought 51% of the enterprise.

The now African-managed company was offering a 0.5% wage increase conditional on an increase in the working week from 40 hours to 45 hours. Sick leave was to be reduced and transport subsidies phased out. The wage negotiations resulted in bitter and prolonged strike action. Six weeks into the strike, the lead negotiator of the main Cosatu-affiliated trade union involved, who was a life-long (white) socialist, made the following confession: “The problem with this dispute is that we didn’t put up a huge resistance to this particular privatisation.

To be honest I think the union genuinely believed, because there was a strong black economic empowerment component, that things wouldn’t be too bad, but it’s been quite the contrary. Everyone in our union agrees that we have not come across such hard-headedness since the 1980s and, if anything, this is the kind of dispute that will harden attitudes against privatisation because it simply demonstrates what can happen” ( Mail & Guardian 23/1/04). Strikingly, the “hardening of attitudes” was against “privatisation” rather than a reassessment of the attitude towards the black capitalists. Another Cosatu-affiliated trade union, whose members were also part of the strike, expressed its “anger” that a company, prominently owned by Africans, could be so anti-worker ( SABC News 28/1/04). The abandonment of any Marxian class analysis is, indeed, most evident when it comes to Thabo Mbeki’s creation of the black bourgeoisie.

When the language changed from black bourgeoisie to its current Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) or “Transformation”, it was met with the same silence. Both should be a direct challenge to the Left. In the name of this transformation, we now have a South Africa unequivocally committed to interfering with the normal reproduction of our inherited class structure. The Left (particularly initially) says little about this, and the SACP and Cosatu – the ANC’s formal allies – have done nothing in practice to challenge the mere transfer of class-defined benefits to the members of the government, or the ANC’s leading cadres, African businesses and African professionals. BEE claims the empowerment of all black people.

One doesn’t expect the government to say anything about whether this is possible under capitalism. But the Left’s essential silence is consistent with its view of Black being classless and, therefore, of an “empowerment” that embraces the working class. Black capitalism ends up being a socialism for the working class! A further striking testimony to the characteristic primacy of colour rather than class among the Left was provided by a leading member of the SACP. In a private conversation with me (probably in 2000 or 2001) about which class – bourgeois or worker – benefits from the SACP’s alliance with the ANC, the life-long white communist stunned me by saying he couldn’t objectively critique the ANC because the ANC – not the SACP – was the centre of his life! This acknowledgement has further ramifications. What is essentially a romanticised picture of socially constructed Africans shapes the white Left in other significant ways.

The very strength of the empathy with the oppressed produces an inversion of the classical defence mechanism of identification with the oppressor. The standard example being the Jews who hid their identity by being the most anti-Semitic of the Nazis. Not being able to change their colour, the white Left’s inability to become the oppressed has resulted in both a favourable predisposition towards Africans, and a deferential surrender to African nationalism. Disavowals of being white by attacking anything they can label White is another consequence. Hence the white Left’s leading role in colour-coding class privileges.

“White Monopoly Capital” is probably a white Left invention. Rather than speaking of residential areas of the rich, the reference becomes White areas. Under the original Racial Capitalism of apartheid, white areas were White as a function of law; under the current Racial Capitalism they are rich as a function of capitalism. Yet, the Left chooses the anachronistic apartheid designation rather than the current class one. Similarly, class privileges – regardless of which specifics – invariably become colour-coded as White privileges.

The working class itself is similarly and anachronistically racialised as the black (meaning African) working class. It is with these various colour confusions where the black Left joins the white Left in the racialisation of class. A far bigger challenge now faces us. Understanding the white Left is easy compared to making sense of the turpitude of what might appear to be a racialised African disorder. Recall the anguished question of the Daily Maverick editorial: “The [African] elite are immune to everything, including shame.

” Racism turned upside down: The black bourgeoisie play the race card There is an easy answer to why and how South Africa has now become the “broken society” spoken about in so many different ways and by so many different people. The answer is to invoke Fanon. Writing in 1961 about the then very new phenomenon of decolonisation, Frantz Fanon, in his celebrated, “ The Wretched of the Earth” , provides a penetrating analysis of the post-independence black leadership that is perspicacious of today’s SA. “The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary. Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neo-colonialism.

The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent. … But this same lucrative role, this cheap-Jack’s function, this meanness of outlook… symbolize[s] the incapability of the middle class to fulfil its historic role… [of transformation. Instead] the spirit of indulgence is dominant… and this is because the national bourgeoisie identifies itself with… the decadence of the bourgeoisie of the West. … [The national bourgeoisie] is in fact beginning at the end. It is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the fearlessness, or the will to succeed of youth.

” This searing critique, however, is not the sufficient answer to South Africa in 2020. The ANC itself recognises this. It did so in 1969 when it committed itself to avoiding these dangers. Arguably among the most important ANC documents, prior to its unbanning in 1990, is its Morogoro Conference’s Strategy & Tactics . The then-commitment is so starkly different from today’s reality that it bears repeating in some length.

“Our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism… It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy, so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the mass. “In our country – more than in any other part of the oppressed world – it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning, without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is, therefore, a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests, intact, is to feed the root of racial supremacy, and does not represent even the shadow of liberation. “Our drive towards national emancipation is, therefore, in a very real way, bound up with economic emancipation.

… This perspective of a speedy progression from formal liberation to genuine and lasting emancipation, is made more real by the existence in our country of a large and growing working class whose class consciousness complements national consciousness. Its militancy and political consciousness as a revolutionary class will play no small part in our victory, and in the construction of a real people’s South Africa.” Thabo Mbeki, the president who declared the formation of a black bourgeoisie to be among the top priorities of an ANC government, the same Mbeki who was a member of the Central Committee of the SACP, provides much of what I would consider to be a Marxian answer to our conundrum. His answer, moreover, carries all the weight of his own contradictory position. He thus merits being quoted at some length.

Adding to its significance is that it comes from .