A reply from Danny Schechter
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 3 16:24:10 MST 2001
Debate is fine, and I must say Ben, who was staying with me,
understood what I was saying better than you did. Perhaps I didn't
speak clearly enough, so let me rephrase because I respect your
views, but not the tendency to charachterize me as some sort of
collaborationist. Was I being "concililiatory" because I find it a
bit harsh for a non-South African who wants to appeal to the people
in South Africa to seize on one Mandela comment and imply he is some
sell out. The fact is that the government of SA did sue the pharma
Ben's second film was not finished, not fully edited and was being
used to provoke debate and get feedback.At some points, that was
allowed, at others he closed it off as he sought to show the rest of
what was at points a compelling docu-tract. The film's message was
rather diffuse although its critique of Globalization's impact on
countries like SA are ones that I share. My own film on Globalization
and Human rights back in l998 told the story of how gold speculators
in Switzerland ended up driving the price down and 50,000 miners out
of work. My chapters on South Africa in Z and in my book, The More
You Watch The Less You Know speaks of the very contradictions he
So please don't indulge in a kind of simplication of what I was
critizing---I was also in Davos and was an eyewitness to the
"dialogue" that was anything but between Soros and others and some of
the folks in Brazil who in my view typified a kind of infntile
leftism by raging at him in an uninformed and highly rheorical way.
It was good that he interviewed Soros who was right when he said that
his critics were playing to the people in the room, not the TV
viewers. They hammered him about he importance of the Tobin tax for
example, without knowing he had supported it. When he agreed with
them, they moved the goal posts and disavowed it. In raising this, I
was not being pro Soros, who you acknowedge has funded progressive
media, as that woman who chose to heckle me and shit me up insisted.
My story about Joe Slovo was meant to argue only that you have to see
what the ANC leaders saw as their options back in l990 and how they
assessed the real world balance of power at the time. This is why
they negotiated a government of national unity rathey than try to
impose a people's revolution.They didn't have the guns or the
internal consensus. You can't wriggle wround his question with
rhetoric but need to confront it. They did not win by force of arms
like in Mozambique. They made a deal, and they are living with the
implications and logic of that deal right now in a world where
socialist ideas and economic strategies are hardly in the ascendency.
By the way, at that time, I was far more sympathetic to the critique
of Joes' Slovo's and the SACP's real politik as enunciated by Pallo
Jordan who questioned capitalism while Slovo lamented the passage of
Socialism. I challenge Mebeki in my new book, but to me
overpersonalizing the problem as one ofa Mbeki sell out
misunderstands and simplifies neo liberalism and the institutional
market driven trajectory SA has folllowed in courting and largely
failing to attract western capital. It is ironic that even the World
Bank and the IMF criticize them for failing to allocate enough for
the poor and safety social nets. THe fact is also that most of the
left moved on and did not fight for an end to the apartheid debt.
Mbeki was elected by a bigger margin than Mandela received and ,
alas, Trevor Ngwane was not returned to office by his Soweto
Neighbors. The land seizure to my knowlege was on government land,
not private land and was backed by the PAC, not some left force.
The "guy" who invoked Marx was the President of Switzerland. The
member of the audience who questioned MBeki is a South Asian Ghandian
back to the earther and New Age embrace the spirit advocate, not a
left activist or South African critic.
I don't want to engage in a polemic with you, As you know, I like
your writing, but please don't simplify or distort my position as I
felt Ben's film simplified some, but hardly all, of a bad situation.
By the way, Fatima Meer is only one of Mandela's official
biographers; and is way to his left. I like her andshe is articulate
although I would have like to have ssen her developed as a character
the way Ben developed Trevor N in his two Trevers film/ In his talk.
Ben said for example there was no coverage of the protests in Durban.
We monitored that coverage and the demos were just about all that
were covered. There was no coverage of what went on inside the
conference which was turned into an extension of the Israeli
Palestinian conflict with other issues of racism and even land not on
I am not shy about debate, but let's try to do so without baiting or
belittling each other. I am sharing this note with Ben and a friend
who sent it to me.
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 12/03/2001
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