[Marxism] Defeating apartheid a victory or not? - Is this a case of argui...

Tahir Wood twood at uwc.ac.za
Wed Feb 14 03:25:18 MST 2007

The South Africa debate should remember that the idea of a deal between
ANC and the Apartheid regime originated from the late Communist Joe
Slovo who  
realised that the movement was not powerful enough to defeat
The struggle for progress in South Africa now depends on the mass
led by trade union COSATU, the South African Communist Party and their
in  the ANC
The current issue is who will replace Mbekei. All the candidates are
pro  big 
See the article in todays Morning Star by Dominic Tweedie
George Anthony

If Slovo thought that then he was clearly wrong. The defeat of
apartheid was a done deal. The country was bankrupt, the imperialist
powers wanted the apartheid regime out of the way, and anyway Mandela
had already agreed to terms with Botha and then with De Klerk from his
prison cell. What could have gone wrong at this late stage was only a
minority uprising of the extreme right - I must admit I thought at the
time that such a thing was on the cards. But it would only have been a
temporary setback to a process that virtually everybody wanted. 

The idea that "struggle for progress in South Africa now depends on the
mass struggle  
led by trade union COSATU, the South African Communist Party and their
in  the ANC" is laughable. I don't agree with Patrick Bond's sanguine
view of the "comrades" in these organisations which he expressed in
another message. Zuma has genuine and vehement, although not universal,
support in these organisations and that is enough to reflect very, very
badly on them in my view. And if you had to subtract all of the Zuma
supporters on one hand and the Mbeki supporters on the other, in Cosatu
for example, you wouldn't have many left. Anyway what does Cosatu mean
to the millions of unemployed, compared to whose numbers Cosatu's
membership is a paltry figure. And where are these mass struggles
apparently supported by SACP taking place? How about an example? The
most radical thing the SACP does is trying to persuade the banks to lend
more money to poor people! The rest of their time is spent in government
and in organising for the ANC. 

It may be nice to know that there are still one or two CPs in the
world, I guess, just like it used to be nice that there was a Soviet
Union that would occasionally rattle its sabre at the US, but social
progress from such quarters? - forget about it. Coming back to Slovo, he
was not a very clever man. As late as 1990 I witnessed him debating with
Pik Botha on TV and trying to argue that Gorbachev was actually leading
the SU to something called "democratic socialism". Pik Botha, who was
the South African foreign minister at the time, and who was clearly in
possession of more accurate information, ridiculed him in exactly the
way that he deserved. Embarrasing (I was an SACP supporter at the time).
And Slovo was one of the more learned of the SACP members - I doubt that
in the SACP leadership today there is anyone who has even read Marx to
any significant extent. 

BTW I would like to just inject one other little thing that has some
relevance to the question of class, a topic which, on available
evidence, not many people here are interested in. Most of the posts so
far have tried to generalise about "black people", who "they" support
politically, etc., I think based on the assumption that blacks are the
proletariat while the whites are the bourgeoisie. 

Here are some figures that give the lie to that simplistic picture: the
overall gini coefficient for SA in the period 1991 to 2001 grew from
0.68 to 0.77, making SA already then one of the most unequal societies
in the world. I don't have figures with me for more recent times, but I
believe that inequality now is such that SA is the most unequal society
in the world bar none. But the point I wanted to make is that the gini
coefficient has also increased within every one of the major population
groups; most strikingly and dramatically amongst whites it has increased
from 0.46 to 0.60 in the same period. There are genuinely high levels of
immiseration now in the ranks of the white working class, without any
corresponding improvement in the black working class, quite the
contrary. If you are a white working class Afrikaner youth leaving
school today without a terribly good education your chances of ever
finding anything resembling stable employment in your life are remote.
As far as the class is concerned this is clearly the tide that lowers
all boats. 

What has any of this to do with social progress? The only thing I can
think of is the kind of schadenfreude that you find amongst certain
immature minds: "Oh look there are now a lot of whites suffering too.


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