Monday, 21 December 2015
Artículo en español más abajo
From Paris with love for lake Poopó
By Pablo Solón
Lake Poopó becomes a desert while in Paris, governments conclude an agreement they call "historic" to address climate change. Will the Paris Agreement save over 125,000 lakes that are in danger of disappearing in the world due to climate change?
The second largest lake in Bolivia did not disappear by magic. The causes of their demise are many and complex, but among them is the rise in temperature and increased frequency of natural disasters like El Niño caused by climate change. The lake Poopó that had an expanse of 2,337 km2 and a depth of 2.5 meters, is now a desert with a few puddles in the middle with no more than 30 centimeters of water depth.
If the average temperature rose globally by 0.8 °C due to climate change, on the lake Poopó the increase went to 2.5 °C leaving in its path thousands of dead fish, dead flamingos, fishing boats anchored to the ground, and hundreds of indigenous people, who for centuries were devoted to fishing, that now roam for help thinking of a very uncertain future. That is the true face of climate change that expands like a cancer throughout the world.
Paris and the break with reality
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which a person breaks with reality and thinks he is doing one thing while in practice he is doing something very different. Something very similar is happening with the governments and the Climate Paris Agreement. In its Article 2 that agreement says the goal is to limit “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”. These words makes us think that the spirit of Lake Poopo and thousands of other lakes, glaciers, islands and hundreds of thousands of people who die each year from climate change has finally touched the hearts of the governments of the planet.
But wait! Paragraph 17 of the decision that approved the "historic" Paris Agreement states "with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios”. In other words, one thing is love professed by the political world to lakes like Poopó and a very different thing is what they are actually willing to do.
To really limit the increase of the temperature and prevent the planet from burning with an increase of more than 2 °C governments must agree to leave 80% of the known fossil fuels reserves under the ground. This includes hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and coal. But when one reads carefully the Climate Agreement there is no reference to put a limit on the extraction of fossil fuels.
The other urgent measure to prevent more greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere is to eliminate deforestation. However, in its so-called "contributions" countries with large forests are not committed to halt this crime even in the next 15 years.
Overall, thanks to the "contributions" of emission reductions presented in Paris, global emissions of greenhouse gases that in 2012 were 53 Gt CO2e, will continue to climb up to around 60 Gt CO2e by 2030. If governments really want to limit the temperature increase to less than 2 °C they should commit to reduce global emissions to 35 Gt of CO2e by 2030. Governments know this and yet do the opposite and even shout: “Victory! The planet is saved!”. Is it or is not a particular type of schizophrenia?
Meanwhile more than 10,000 kilometers away from Paris the increase in the temperature continues to evaporate a lake where the Urus, indigenous people also known as "the men from the water", struggle to survive. These ancient inhabitants that some researchers say came thousands of years from Polynesia soon will be "the men from the desert".
Impunity and climate crimes
If we can be sure of something is that the Urus are not guilty at all of climate change. Per capita, their greenhouse gas emissions are among the lowest in the world, yet they are one of the first victims of climate change. Could it be that the Paris Agreement will allow the Urus to sue the countries and corporations responsible for this ethnocide? Ultimately Article 8 mentions a loss and damage mechanism, but paragraph 52 of the decision that approved the agreement clarifies “that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”. The Urus, along with millions of people around the world that did not cause climate change have been totally silenced by this schizophrenic agreement that mentions the "rights of indigenous peoples" in its preamble and at the same time negates their right to demand those responsible for this climate crime. What kind of rights are these that are not enforceable? And all "made in Paris" which is the city of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789.
Some will say, that they are not given the right to make legal demands but there will be a multi-million fund for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Will this fund be provided by the countries that are mainly responsible for climate change? The truth is that developed countries in a very clever way replaced the word "provide" with "mobilize". Article 9 of the Agreement states that "developed country Parties should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, " such as public funding, private investment, loans, carbon markets and even developing countries.
And how much will the developed countries "mobilize"? A similar amount as the military and defense budget of the world that is around 1,500 billion dollars? Or maybe half of that? After all the more important issue of human security in present days is climate change. The Paris Agreement is silent in relation to the figure of climate finance, but the decision which approves the agreement is very clear in paragraphs 54 and 115. Developed countries will mobilize just 100 billion dollars for the year 2020-2025, which is 7% of the military budget worldwide.
While the tragedy of Lake Poopó is a small sample of what is yet to come, the climate summit in Paris teaches us that the real solutions will not come from international negotiations where the interests of large corporations and governments are predominant. The future of life as we know it depends on what we do today as the grassroots inhabitants of the blue planet.
Friday, 18 December 2015
|Published in: africafiles.org|
Between Crisis and Renewal: Where To for South Africa’s Left?
In October 2015, South Africa was rocked by over two weeks (commencing 14th October) of student protests. These protests shut down most universities, led to violent confrontations between police and students (most notably at parliament and with a march of thousands of students on the Union Buildings), and vocalized demands that President ZUMA address the call for free higher education, “insourcing” and a moratorium on fee increases for 2016. Twenty-one years into post-apartheid democracy a new generation of university student activists openly rebelled against the ANC government’s neoliberal fiscal cutbacks of public universities and reclaimed the importance of “public goods.” The use of mass mobilisation and social media, such as #FeesMustFall, led some commentators to suggest the “Arab Spring Moment” had arrived in South Africa. Students themselves in their assemblies and messaging also discoursed in the language of revolution. This manifestation of resistance is far from over and cannot be isolated. It has to be located in the crisis of national liberation politics and renewal of a new South African left.
After World War II, national liberation politics captured much of the left imagination. For the South African liberation movement, the 1980s were decisive years in which the internal and external movements consolidated their struggle against the apartheid state. The future seemed poised for a radical alternative. What is often not acknowledged, however, is that national liberation politics was actually exhausted by the 1980s (Armin, 1994: 105-148). The Bandung project’s anti-colonial and revolutionary nationalisms came unhinged by their own internal limits and the shifting relations of imperial force. This crisis of national liberation politics existed alongside the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the neo-liberalisation of social democracy forced the left into defensive struggles to protect gains achieved under Keynesian–welfare capitalism. Since 1980 global neoliberal restructuring completely remade the ideological and political landscape. The defeats endured by the left in this conjuncture added to the confusion of left politics and identity. Coupled with earlier horrors, strategic defeats and political shortcomings this further contributed to the left’s discredited 20th century inheritance. In this context, “revolutionary nationalist,””communist” and “social democrat” are all anachronistic labels and meaningless slogans to the generation of youth rewriting history through their recent protests. In this article, I look at the crisis of the South African left and explore the possibilities for its renewal.
|"In this context, “revolutionary nationalist,””communist” and “social democrat” are all anachronistic labels and meaningless slogans to the generation of youth rewriting history through their recent protests."|
For even as the 20th century variants of left alternatives to capitalism have waned, we see new manifestations of resistance struggles. Global neoliberal restructuring has given rise to a new cycle of global resistance engendering a renewed global left imagination, new practices of strategic politics, alternative forms of mass power, the rethinking of our political instruments and an articulation of transformative systemic alternatives (Harnecker, 2015; Panitch et al, 2012). This cycle is punctuated by the social movements in Latin America, the institutional left experiences from the Workers Party in Brazil to Chavistas in Venezuela to Syriza in Greece, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and the transnational activism of global networks, movements and the World Social Forum. In these experiences there have also been defeats, setbacks and challenges. But most important for the left is its new acknowledgement of the complexity of transformation and the growing sophistication of its sense of the diversity of contexts, the timing and democratic coordination of multiple confrontations - this instead of the mere mimicking of some one-size-fits-all model of change as a basis of resistance. In fact, taken together all these new experiences provide important reference-points for building a vital anti-authoritarian new left in South Africa.
When South Africa secured its democratic transition in 1994, the South African national liberation left was largely shaped and influenced by the revolutionary nationalist, communist and social democratic traditions of the 20th century, which provided it with a template, identity and grammar. At the same time, the liberation movement developed and translated these influences into a South African discourse shaped by local conditions. The ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance both expressed and further evolved this ideological orientation: the ANC championed the ‘national question’ and liberation for all South Africans from apartheid, the SACP evidenced a vanguardist and Sovietised imagination, and COSATU’s populist worker-controlled socialism was heavily influenced by social democracy. The legacies of these conceptions of left politics continue to influence left movements in South Africa, even as many try to wrench themselves free. This challenge for contemporary left politics in South Africa is also explored in this article.
|"the South African national liberation left was largely shaped and influenced by the revolutionary nationalist, communist and social democratic traditions of the 20th century, which provided it with a template, identity and grammar."|
The Crisis of the National Liberation Left in South Africa
Central to understanding the crisis of the national liberation left is the question of working-class hegemony. Many commentators and analysts work with a static conception of hegemony in which the South African political scene is reduced to the unassailable power of the ANC and a naturalized hegemony transcending all conjunctural shifts (e.g., Marais, 2011: 388-424). Linked to this is a failure to appreciate the necessary conditions for maintaining class hegemony and a tendency to read the ANC’s continued electoral successes as an indicator of just such class hegemony.
In fact, contrary to this understanding working class hegemony of the post-apartheid order—organized through the ANC-led Alliance was actually a short lived affair. The ideological project of working class leadership of society through national liberation vanguardism was dead by 1996, when the ANC adopted its homegrown strategy of financialised and globalised accumulation, the Growth Employment and Redistribution macro-economic strategy (GEAR). The adoption of GEAR not only demonstrated the limits of a vanguardist politics in a world of globalising capitalism, but vitiated working class agency. For the better part of the last two decades the working class has been increasingly squeezed by the imperatives of neoliberal accumulation: stagnating low wages, precariatisation, high and growing unemployment, poverty that disproportionately affects women, the Marikana massacre of mineworkers and now the destruction of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) by an ANC-SACP faction operating in the labour federation (Satgar and Southall, 2015). This is neither hegemonic working class politics nor can it be defended as left politics. Rather this is about the cooption and undermining of working class leadership of society to ensure the reproduction of a globalising capitalism and the rule of transnationalising capital through the ANC-led Alliance.
|"For the better part of the last two decades the working class has been increasingly squeezed by the imperatives of neoliberal accumulation..."|
At the same time, corruption and the theft of public money by the ruling party and its “deployees” in the state have become widespread and systemic. The license for corruption emanates from the top in the ruling ANC with the sitting President of the country and the ANC, Jacob Zuma, implicated in arms deal corruption, patronage relations to promote members of his family and more recently the R240 million Nkandla scandal in which a palatial rural home was built for him with taxpayer money. Zuma is merely emblematic, the face of a deeper crisis that accompanies corruption: the parasitic creation of a bureaucratic capitalist class with immense social distance from the masses. This disconnect is growing and expressed through violent and non-violent protest actions across civil society, including the recent student protests across the country. In short, the crisis of state and ruling party legitimacy is deepening (Dale, 2015).
Moreover, contrary to the national liberation myth in which the ANC is synonymous with “the people,” a people’s history and understanding of South Africa’s struggle suggests that all progressive South Africans (from all race groups) achieved democracy, whether through resisting pass laws, marrying across colour lines, living defiantly together in some mixed communities and struggling against apartheid through various movements. Resistance, both formal and informal, organised and unorganised, domestic and international - all these played a part in ending apartheid. At the same time, and contrary to the ANC’s articulation of African nationalism, elements from all race groups also tried to defend and reproduce the apartheid system. Who were the liberators and who were the oppressors under apartheid is a complex issue as Dlamini (2014) powerfully demonstrates. At the same time, the ANC’s embrace of erstwhile enemies such as the National Party, traditional leaders and former “Homeland leaders” further undermines the ANC’s proprietary claims over post-apartheid democracy and also reduces non-racialism to electoral expediency. Moreover, the ANC rules South Africa with such disregard for the complexities of how post-apartheid South Africa was made that through the hubris of power it is increasingly playing a role in weakening constitutional democracy and rolling back democratic gains that were fought for by all progressives, both South African and internationalist.
The ANC-led Alliance has also re-racialised and deepened patriarchal norms in South African society in hideous ways. The ANC-led Alliance’s degeneration and its maldeveloped ideological template (expressed through a claim to South African exceptionalism as the cornerstone of its “theory of colonialism of a special type”) has meant that, in its very nationalism, the ANC Alliance’s understanding of Africa in terms of the centrality of such nationalism has always contained the seeds of xenophobia. Today, in fact, the Alliance’s narrow African nationalism not only turns against ‘Pan-Africanism’ but also is increasingly about sub-national exceptionalisms linked to old ethnic identities constructed around apartheid-era “bantustans.” There is a dangerous retribalising of ethnic identity at work in the ANC’s nationalism (Jara, 2013: 272-276). This is further re-enforced by increased power given to traditional authorities and through land dispossessions happening in rural communities, this mainly in favour of extractive industries. Moreover, in such a context women have had to struggle particularly strenuously to affirm their rights, power and agency as modern citizens (Claassens, 2015).
At a structural level, in short, both race and gender hierarchies have been remade but also reinforced in the context of a globalising capitalism. The racism and male domination of neoliberalism has its roots in a Eurocentric patriarchy that has been constructed over 500 years through militarist mercantilism, slavery, colonialism and imperialism. Indeed, the existence of global racism has never been part of the remit of analyses linked to the centrality of a “National Democratic Revolution,” this including “national question” debates within the ANC-led Alliance (Van Diepen, 1988). This also made it increasingly difficult for the ANC to appreciate how transnational neoliberalism has been tied into reproducing racialised patterns of global accumulation and masculinised imperial domination. It also means the historically-specific globalising of both apartheid and male domination, as brought in from the outside, have been central to “deracialising” monopoly capital in the country as part of neoliberalisation. Thus the commanding heights of South African capitalism are about transnationalising monopoly power, which, despite the freedom of post-apartheid democracy, is still white and male dominated.
|"...the commanding heights of South African capitalism are about transnationalising monopoly power, which, despite the freedom of post-apartheid democracy, is still white and male dominated. "|
South Africa’s racialised income inequality bears testimony to this as it stands at the centre of explanations about the crisis of social reproduction in South African society (Forslund and Reddy, 2015). In this regard liberal historiography, with its argument that racism was not essential for capitalism, has been wrong. For the end of apartheid has not ended racialised and male dominated accumulation; actually, with globalisation this has been deepened, both from within and from the outside. In this context, any such break with a racialising and masculinised neoliberalism has not happened despite the much vaunted expectations created by the parasitic, ethnicised and sexist “Zuma project” that now dominates the ANC-led Alliance.
Hence, it is important to ask what is “left” of national liberation politics today? From the perspective of working class hegemony, what can we identify and defend from the more than twenty years of post-apartheid democracy? Is it not farcical to talk about the agency of a national liberation-centered left given what has actually happened in South Africa? Indeed, isn’t it quite possible that the ANC-led national liberation movement has reached its historical terminus and the most it can evoke is a mythical and sentimental past as a means to justify the present. Yet this now clearly means that state power is increasingly instrumentalised merely to reproduce a South African order that meets only the needs of a few, especially those of the ANC’s own “heroic cadre” of leaders... and with the “national interest” now being deemed to be synonymous with the patronage machine of the ANC (Southall, 2013). And yet, as inequality and poverty have grown, this has actually become ever more morally and politically indefensible: both illegitimate from the perspective of students wanting free higher education, for example, but also contrary to working class hegemony.
|"...state power is increasingly instrumentalised merely to reproduce a South African order that meets only the needs of a few, especially those of the ANC’s own “heroic cadre” of leaders... and with the “national interest” now being deemed to be synonymous with the patronage machine of the ANC."|
The Making of a New Left from Below
Almost three decades of neoliberalisation has enabled important resistance against racialised and gendered forms of commodification, dispossession, exploitation and ecological destruction. In the post-apartheid context this resistance has gone through two cycles. The first cycle (the late 1990s into the early 2000s) was marked by the emergence of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Landless Peoples Movement and the Anti-Privatisation Forum, many of which are now moribund or trying to renew themselves (like the TAC). A second cycle has come to the fore, this marking the emergence of a much more discernible and variegated left. Beginning in 2007 (to the present) this has been punctuated by struggles for ‘service delivery’, building solidarity economies, the Right to Know, Equal Education, social justice, defense of constitutional freedoms, food sovereignty, rural democracy and rights for women, against extractivism, climate jobs, housing, rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersexed (LGBTI), the recent student protests demanding decolonisation, free education and insourcing of universities and struggles against corruption (including a Vote No campaign during the 2014 national elections). Nor is it merely a “rebellion of the poor’ (Alexander, 2010) or a “violent democracy” (Von Holdt, 2013) as suggested by some sociological perspectives. For these reductive analyses mainly focus on service delivery struggles and miss the broader range of struggles emerging in contemporary South African civil society, and miss the polyvalent character of institutional agency and the various and diverse forms of resistance coming to the fore. In fact, while there may be different tactical repertoires and institutional bases taken by these struggles, their predominant thrust addresses systemic challenges, articulates transformative alternatives and mobilizes popular power.
Moreover, three other factors have contributed to amplifying the recent cycle of resistance. First, the rise of Jacob Zuma in the ANC, culminating at the Polokwane conference in 2008, was a deeply polarizing process inside the ANC-led Alliance and the country. Not only did the ANC experience its first split (with the break-away of many in the Mbeki faction to form the Congress of the People/COPE), but it also closed off strategic debate across all the Alliance’s constituent formations. In this context, critical voices challenging the ‘Zumafication’ of the Alliance and society were vilified and declared dissidents (Satgar, 2009: 294-316). Thus, in the end, the closing of the ranks around Zuma served to produce deep factions inside COSATU and purges in the SACP, culminating in the factionalising of the SACP and its further weakening through its cooption and collapse into the ANC. More positively, this reconfiguration of a Zumafied ANC-led Alliance has loosened loyalties to the Alliance amongst committed cadres, opened up space to the left of the ANC, and disaffected many once sympathetic to the ANC-led Alliance - all developments that have fed directly into the deepening cycle of resistance.
Second, since 2008 various grassroots activists involved in movements and campaigns, and coming out of the ANC-led Alliance, part of the independent Marxist left, the labour left and the Trotskyist left, began conversations about the global crises of capitalism and the national liberation project. The significance of this convergence cannot be understated as it is the first time that such a broad range of different traditions came together to work collectively. This gave rise to the formation and launch of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) in January of 2011. The DLF was not formed as a political party but more as a space for solidarity, building capacity for resistance around transformative alternatives, developing analyses of the contemporary crises and advancing an anti-capitalist imagination beyond neoliberalised national liberation politics (DLF, 2011). It essentially functioned as a pole of attraction as part of a process of reclaiming lost ground. While the DLF did not realize all its objectives and has become much too centered around South Africa’s Trotskyist left, it has played a crucial organising role to bring South Africa’s very divided left into a common political space to begin crucial conversations. It provided a political home for some, supported important resistance to xenophobic violence, campaigned against the wasteful expenditure of the World Cup, and gave support to several grassroots community struggles, including worker committees involved in the platinum belt and the Marikana Campaign for Justice, and the Climate Jobs Campaign. True, the DLF is at a crossroads as grassroots social forces are being realigned around the NUMSA-led United Front, some aligning to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and as rising anti-systemic forces build their own capacities as part of the cycle of resistance. And yet the DLF has provided valuable lessons for left convergence. And it may still have an important contribution to make to strengthening the emerging alliance between community and worker struggles, as part of building the NUMSA-led United Front.
|"...yet the DLF has provided valuable lessons for left convergence. And it may still have an important contribution to make to strengthening the emerging alliance between community and worker struggles..."|
Third, the massacre of 36 platinum mine workers on August 16th, 2012 did not mark just another militant moment in post-apartheid industrial relations or a mere expression of the securitisation of neoliberal politics. For this brutal massacre and historical event was in fact a truly conjunctural development, one that gave rise to a fundamental rupture in the working class support base of the national liberation bloc of forces. The realignments flowing from this have given rise to an independent union in the platinum mining sector, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), taking away significant support for the ANC-aligned National Union of Mine Workers. In addition, Marikana has had significant ramifications for COSATU itself - contributing directly, for example, to the largest union in South Africa, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa/NUMSA (with over 340 000 members), withdrawing support for the ANC in the 2014 elections, leaving the ANC-led Alliance, and exploring the process of developing a United Front and a Movement for Socialism (NUMSA, 2014). Since NUMSA resolved on this direction at its 2013 special congress it has convened a resistance assembly to learn about grassroots movements, campaigned against neoliberal policy proposals such as the Youth Wage Subsidy and the national budget, hosted an international symposium with various left movements and parties from around the world, initiated a United Front building process, convened a conference on socialism and actively championed mass mobilisation against corruption. Today NUMSA, together with eight other unions, is also poised to lead the building of a new labour federation in South Africa after it was expelled, together with the General Secretary of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi, from COSATU.
The Horizon and Challenges for Post-National Liberation Left Counter-Hegemony
There is growing consensus that South Africa’s national liberation project is exhausted, in part due to its profound capitulation to neoliberalisation. Put more starkly such national liberation politics is, like most national liberation projects, not a way forward for the working class and national-popular forces committed to transformation. Thus, while it was perhaps not inevitable for the national liberation project to end up where it has, it is in fact being eaten up by its own contradictions and limitations. Not that this, in itself, guarantees the emergence of a genuine left alternative. The EFF is a negative example in this regard. It is a product of the ANC and it has emerged by feeding off the ANC’s weaknesses, particularly through its being anti-Zuma. In its practice, however, it is a self-styled vanguard, organised around the “cult of the personality” and a militarised internal hierarchy, and lumpen in its tactical interventions in everyday politics. The EFF gestures to the left of the ANC–led Alliance, but is afflicted with the same limits and contradictions of the ANC. While it captures headlines for its disruptive and populist politics, it has not broken the mould of national liberation politics and has not captured the imagination of most South African youth, including those involved in the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, the students demanding free education (#FeesMustFall) and others involved in the various anti-systemic movements that are on the rise. The EFF is in its essence an electoral opposition, and would really be tested if it were ever to come to control state power even at a local government level. How different, we might well ask, would it actually be from the ANC if in power?
In short, for an effective and meaningful left to emerge as a serious contender it will have to provide an imagination and horizon of politics beyond the national liberation template and neoliberal capitalism. It will have to remake itself in fundamental ways in order to constitute a new balance of forces and a political project with broad mass appeal, while also advancing new transformative practices. It is too simplistic to believe that merely replacing one kind of vanguard with another or narrow electoral contestation will bring about a rupture with neoliberal capitalism. Similarly, evoking old formulas from the revolutionary nationalist, social democratic and soviet experience are inadequate to the new conjuncture. A globalising capitalism, grounded in transnational circuits, harnessing new technologies and constituting new space-time dynamics has remade social relations in fundamental ways. Central in this regard is the weakening of the global and domestic working class, of course. Yet South Africa’s post-national liberation left is itself in transition from crisis to renewal: still being made but with immense potential!
|"...for an effective and meaningful left to emerge as a serious contender it will have to provide an imagination and horizon of politics beyond the national liberation template and neoliberal capitalism. It will have to constitute a new balance of forces and a political project with broad mass appeal..."|
In fact, there are four formidable challenges confronting South Africa’s left. But, in light of the advances that are now being made, they are not impossible to address. First, South African capitalism reflects a deep set of systemic crises that were not resolved by the national liberation project and have worsened in the context of neoliberal restructuring and deep financialised globalisation. A crucial challenge in this regard is the deglobalisation of finance to reverse the economic regression and financialised chaos that has taken place over the past three decades and to which South Africa’s political economy is articulated. Contrary to Picketty (2014: 515-539), who visited South Africa in 2015, this requires more than just increased taxation on capital but also the introduction of exchange controls, new investment laws, structurally diversifying the financial system, the introduction of a universal basic income grant and democratic planning. Moreover, it requires a programmatic politics unifying various anti-systemic solutions emerging from the new cycle of resistance in the country such as ‘free university education’, insourcing, food sovereignty, climate jobs, Right to Know proposals, equal education, and so on.
Of course, this will have to be done in a manner that is deliberative and participatory and one that, in pursuit of genuine left convergence, respects the independence of social forces. But the conditions are ripe for this. Thus, if the NUMSA-led United Front appreciates that left convergence is more than merely connecting service delivery flashpoints, it could be central in facilitating such convergence around a common programmatic platform of resistance from below. Moreover, if rising anti-systemic movements appreciate the necessity of solidarity then a new mass politics is a real possibility. In this process of democratic convergence a new class and national popular alliance of the organised working class, the precariat, the permanently unemployed, the landless, youth, students, sections of the progressive middle class and left intelligentsia could congeal. A new historical bloc and class project could potentially emerge articulating transformative alternatives for a post-neoliberal South Africa.
|"In this process of democratic convergence a new class and national popular alliance of the organised working class, the precariat, the permanently unemployed, the landless, youth, students, sections of the progressive middle class and left intelligentsia could congeal."|
Second, the sectarianism of some sections of South Africa’s left – rooted in their belief that they have historically always had the correct analysis, the monopoly on political truth and the only understanding of what revolutionary change is - will not assist left convergence. The historical inheritance of socialism was never about one transhistorical model. Instead the historical inheritance of socialism is rich and varied. Socialism as an object of study is more than recovering blueprints and state-centric formulae but requires a deeper and more critical analysis of the Soviet experience (and its copies), of revolutionary nationalist experiences and of social democracy. Many on the South African left hold onto a romanticised understanding of the 1917 Russian Revolution or of the “golden years of social democracy” or merely crudely justify revolutionary nationalism.
More specifically, the African experience of revolutionary and transformative change does not even feature as a critical point of reference. This entire inheritance of 20th century socialism has to be engaged with critically to appreciate what were the limitations, contradictions and excesses (Saul 2013; Glaser 2013). These critical reflections, conversations and engagements need to begin in earnest and as part of ongoing attempts to ensure a broad horizon and vision for transformative change, even as transformative systemic alternatives are being advanced in the present to address the new contradictions of a globalising capitalism. Ultimately a 21st century South African socialism should be shaped by its rigorous appreciation of historical socialism’s limitations and the systemic alternatives required to overcome the new contradictions of globalising capitalism.
|"Ultimately a 21st century South African socialism should be shaped by its rigorous appreciation of historical socialism’s limitations and the systemic alternatives required to overcome the new contradictions of globalising capitalism.."|
Third, the re-racialising dynamics of post-apartheid South Africa has affected class, gender, spatiality and ecology. Race still matters at every level of society and is important for a renewed left politics. In this regard, questions related to the non-racialism of mass politics and of the constitutional order cannot be surrendered to the ANC. Indeed, it is the ANC’s own version of non-racialism that is itself in crisis, this further affirming the need to move beyond a singular conception of non-racialism as a political tradition. For it suggests instead the importance of affirming a plurality of non-racialisms: a diverse tradition of official and non-official, everyday, non-racialisms. Moreover, non-racialism as an organising principle and a fresh critique of capitalism (connecting race, class and gender) are existential resources for reflecting on blackness, whiteness and their intersections with class and gender and developing the new imaginary and programmatic referent (a real “Freedom Charter”) that has to be rescued from a degenerate ANC-led Alliance.
In short, non-racialism must be re-grounded in a new political economy analysis of a globalised social formation, one that evidences dangerous ecological contradictions, must be brought into dialogue with a resurgent black consciousness movement and must be the principled basis for confronting white and black privilege. In this regard, a non-racial approach to the climate crisis and the just transition is a crucial challenge for left politics in discovering a new horizon for itself. For the mere affirmation of blackness or whiteness actually becomes meaningless in the context of a scorched country and planet and ultimately the extinction of the human race. We need to find a renewed human solidarity to confront this challenge and to survive. In this regard a true, hard-won, non-racialism must be key to a struggle for systemic transformation as part of the just transition. But there remains much work to be done on this front.
Finally, a new left politics has to appreciate the need to build capacity for a new revolutionary politics, one more appropriately termed a new “transformative politics.” This is very much the horizon of the global left and many of the social forces championing systemic alternatives as part of the new cycle of resistance in South Africa. Transformative politics is very different from the technocratic managerialism of social democracy or coercive control of Sovietised Marxism or the patronage machine politics of revolutionary nationalism. In each of these frames of politics a vanguard was featured as a self-declared advanced layer and the custodian of history and change. Transformative politics now promises to turn its back on this elite understanding of agency, power and politics.
Instead, transformative politics is about pre-figuring the future now through building systemic alternatives, evoking capacities for change from below, constituting new forms of mass power, rethinking the political instrument, extending and broadening democracy, reclaiming a transformed, genuinely popular, sovereignty and strengthening international solidarity. It is consistently anti-authoritarian and about democratically constituting a new working class-led counter-hegemony to sustain life. In South Africa the idea of a “movement for socialism” best embodies the logic of this politics, one within which a United Front of anti-systemic movements, an independent and worker controlled trade union federation, and a mass left party are constituted. But it is not led by “the party.” Instead such a movement for socialism is grounded in collective leadership in all its structures, a democratically conceived and commonly agreed program and a political division of labour in which a party is merely a tactical device in a mass transformative strategy. There is potential for this to be realised although whether this is what will actually happen remains an open question.
Vishwas Satgar: Senior Lecturer, International Relations Department, WITS. An activist for over 30 years, he edits the Democratic Marxism book series and has published on transformative systemic alternatives. He has also co-founded various grass roots organizations and campaigns, a National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) social theory course at Wits and has actively supported student demands for insourcing, “free education” and the decolonization of the university.
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Glaser, D. 2013. “Retrospect: Seven theses about Africa’s Marxist Regimes” in Michelle Williams and Vishwas Satgar (eds) Marxisms in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis, Critiques and Struggles, University of the Witwatersrand Press 2014
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Socialism. New York: Monthly Review Press.
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NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers). 2014. ‘Resolutions adopted at NUMSA Special National Congress, 16–20 December, 2013.’30 January.
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Saul, J. 2013. “Socialism and Southern Africa” in Michelle Williams and Vishwas Satgar (eds) Marxisms in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis, Critiques and Struggles, University of the Witwatersrand Press 2014
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Saturday, 12 December 2015
Colleagues and comrades
Our country has been thrown into (further) crisis by the recent axing of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister. The crisis is not so much the replacement of Nene the person as it is the manner in which it has been done, the timing of the action, and the possible reasons for it. As Zuma has not indicated why he has made this move, everyone is left to speculate as to the reasons and the general wisdom is that he wanted someone more pliable in place, someone who would not stand in the way of projects that he wants to see go through, by hook or by crook. Nene has at least demonstrated that he was a man of ethics and integrity, willing to 'speak truth to power' when it came to the spending of state funds. The SAA airbus debacle, the nuclear deal, the presidential jet - these are all matters on which Nene was taking a principled position, refusing to simply agree to them regardless of the cost to the country.
All of you either supported the march against xenophobia in April or the actions against corruption in September and October.
We call on you, once again, to join hands with other like-minded South Africans to say, as ex-Minister of Health Barbara Hogan said today: Enough is enough.
For those who live in Gauteng, there will be a demonstration on Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein/Newtown from 10am-12pm on 16 December under the banner of 'No reconciliation with corruption'. Those in Cape Town can meet at the Cape Town Gardens near Parliament at 10am. Those living elsewhere are encouraged to plan their own action on 16 December or any other time to make your unhappiness known. Please inform us of any actions you might take in this regard by return of email.
There are no buses arranged, there is no food promised. This is a call to all to do what you can to get to these events to add your voice of protest.
See you there.
Unite Against Corruption/Awethu!
Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Hot of the press! If you want to know who controls agriculture and the commercial food system in South Africa and beyond read this new report on the seed sector released by the African Centre for Bio Safety:
Attention: Dr Cassius Reginald Lubisi
C/O Nokhukhanya Kubheka
Union Buildings, East Wing
Urgent Message for the Attention of Minister Radebe.
Dear Minister Radebe,
Re : Response to Memorandum Submitted by the United Against Corruption Campaign
We are writing to you on behalf of the United Against Corruption campaign who presented you with a memorandum on September 30th outside Union Buildings where you kindly agreed to accept it on behalf of the Government.
We deliberately provided two months for the response to the memorandum to be developed because we understand that these matters require careful but urgent consideration, and especially so given the revelations on a daily basis that are emerging of the misuse of government funds. The latest report from the Auditor General is a case in point, and has served as a timely reminder of the need for decisive action.
The 30th of November was the date that we expected a response, and we are writing to you now to inquire as to whether a response from you is forthcoming. You will be aware that Wednesday 9th of December is International Anti-Corruption Day, and we are holding an activity on that day to draw attention to the need to tackle corruption at all levels. It would be ideal to report on the 9th December that we have indeed received a response from Government. If a response by that date is not forthcoming then we will be left with no alternative but to advertise this fact via the media, and through the network of 200 plus organisations and countless individuals who have subscribed to the campaign to date.
We look forward to hearing from you. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to make contact.
For the United Against Corruption Campaign
(please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Africa Solidarity Network (ASONET) Press Statement
PROTEST ON 8 December 2015
Protest Police Attack to African Migrants
Protest Police Attack to African Migrants
Africa for all Africans but this has become just one of those slogans that does not exist in the soil of South Africa.
In earlier this year as Africans we faced attacks. Our brothers and sisters were killed by their own black brothers. We ran to the protection of police to protect us but some of us had to be attacked in front of the police. When we were also killed we ran to police but we were turned down when we wanted to open cases or more worse arrested and deported back to our country of war and origin.
We never thought that for once in Africa we can be called names like "kwerekwere" "foreigners". We cried for help but it was like we are not human. They shouted "awahambe amakwerekwere".
When we thought the storm is over, never did we knew that the worse is about to happen but this time not by citizens but by the police. We were told that soldiers will be sent to protect us in the name of Fiela but in actual fact it was another way to continue to where xenophobia left of.
Fiela only targets black migrants, it is xenophobia on it own. No week pass without us not hiding in our homes like rats. The freedom charter says "South Africa is for all who lives in it" but those for us is just theory which does not exist to the life we face.
We respect South Africa as an African home. Despite that King Zwelithini called us names saying "singamanikiniki" but never do we look down to South Africa. Thanks to the Freedom Charter and its constitution as we hold it as our shield to all these attacks.
We also note that government is using his institution to promote xenophobia. The attacks does not only come in a form of arrest, fiela but comes in a form of corruption where police will raid and take our money demanding for work permits. Even when we show them but they still seek for something to use to get access to our money. We are human, we are parents who work for our families but never do they care about the mouths we feed behind.
Tomorrow we will be jointly protesting with Nigerians Union against these attacks formed against us. We will be fighting for our rights and the respect of the Freedom charter and constitution to be respected and implemented.
Enough is enough. We call upon all human rights activist, organizations to stand with us as we will be marching to City Hall.
The protest will start at King Dinuzulu (DCC) and proceed to City Hall at 10:00am where we will hand over our memorandum.
Let's unite against all odds formed against Africans in Africa.
For more information please contact
Daniel Byamungu- Asonet Secretary : +27 61 920 1622
Musa Shezi - Asonet Chairperson : +27 73 826 5600
Bandile Mdlalose - Asonet Management - 0733977853
Musa Shezi - Asonet Chairperson : +27 73 826 5600
Bandile Mdlalose - Asonet Management - 0733977853
Thursday, 3 December 2015
VENEZUELA SHOULD CONTINUE BEING A TORCH THAT ILLUMINATES THE ROAD!
NOVEMBER 2TH, 2015
NOVEMBER 2TH, 2015
Dear Venezuelan People,
Thirty years after the defeat of Allende's government and Popular Unity in Chile, the first socialist government of the region, Venezuela welcomed me as my third homeland. Cuba, my second homeland, had received me with open arms to shelter me from the persecution of Pinochet's dictatorship.
In Venezuela, joined to Hugo Chávez, I saw my hopes reborn and I received immense love from many of you who thanked me for accompanying your president in the exciting struggle to build a homeland free and sovereign, fraternal and solidarian, especially with the poorest inside and outside the country.
Today, the continuity of the process is threatened. That is what we should all see with great clarity. There are many weaknesses that must be overcome. There are many errors that must be rectified. There are many offended to whom amends must be made. But that should not prevent us from all joining in this wonderful project that unites us more than any differences, in order to achieve the victory of those candidates in each place that will assure the continuation of this project.
I hope with all my heart that in the coming election the Venezuelan people will not make the same errors that we Chileans made. In our homeland, while the conservative forces became unified to defeat Allende, the progressive forces and the left were divided.
I also hope that the progressive sectors and the left of the world understand what is at stake today in this country and that they form an international protective cordon around this process.
Venezuela should continue being a torch that illuminates the road!
Venezuela should continues building the hopes of so many men and women inside and outside of its frontiers who struggle for a better world!
November 2th, 2015
November 2th, 2015