After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?
Michael Schmidt, Johannesburg, South Africa. Talk at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, Wellington, New Zealand, 13 March 2014 [with additional comments made in 2016 in square brackets].
[There is a liberal-left thesis that South Africa only got into trouble after Mandela's presidency, that it represented the high-water of a stainless ANC Alliance politics which has since been hijacked by crooks more interested in what Joburg band The Slashdogs call "progress through plunder". But what if the Mandela era was in fact a continuity not only of some pretty conservative, even at times right-wing, black nationalist politics, but in the final analysis, the ultimate fulfilment of the white nationalist National Party's strategic plans for the continuity of rapacious capital?]
South Africa’s tragedy was turned into a global triumph. So how did the great hope of the first democratic elections in 1994 turn into state-sanctioned mass murder with the Marikana Massacre in 2012?
1912: South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later ANC) formed. The SANNC is formed by mission-educated black professionals who believe in politics by petition. Until the rise of the more radical ANC Youth League in its ranks in 1944, it remains conservative black nationalist and only opens membership to all races 74 years after its formation. [In contrast, the Industrial Workers of the World, established in South Africa in 1910, was the first political formation (for it was more than merely a union) in the new country to throw open its doors to all races, seeding a libertarian socialist working class revolutionary line that had far-reaching impact in Southern Africa].
1921: Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) formed. In 1920, a libertarian socialist CPSA is formed by the industrial syndicalists who built the first SA trade unions for people of colour [over 1917-1919: the Indian Workers’ Industrial Union, the Industrial Workers of Africa, the Clothing Workers’ Industrial Union, and others]; but it is eclipsed by the “official” Bolshevik CPSA formed the following year. In 1924, the official Party, which until the collapse of the USSR remains among the world’s most orthodox Stalinist, adopts the “Native Republic thesis” which sees it seek unity with the ANC, a parasitic relationship finally cemented in 1947.
1941: Atlantic Charter signed. Although in essence a statement of Allied war aims intended to undermine Nazi hegemony in the conquered territories, the Atlantic Charter promises freedom for all nations and appeals to the ANC, a tiny petit-bourgeois party compared to the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA, later SACP) which has a mass base as a result of its penetration of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU).
1955: Freedom Charter signed. In Kliptown, Soweto, the Freedom Charter is signed between the black ANC, the white Congress of Democrats (front of the outlawed SACP), Indian and coloured organisations. The liberation movement remains racially compartmentalised [even though allied]. But the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s against the pass laws at last makes the ANC a (black) mass movement.
1959: The ANC splits to the left; formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). The Africanists in the ANC, wary of increasing Communist influence, split away to form the PAC under S’mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. The PAC establishes its own armed wing Poqo (later the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, APLA).
1962: ANC fund-raising tour for uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In Algeria in 1962, MK Commander & SACP Politburo member Nelson Mandela visits the Algerian FLN whose guerrillas he thought would be good role models for MK. The trip was partly a dud: Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere suggested he suspend the armed struggle until the PAC’s Robert Sobukwe was released from jail to lead the revolution; and Ghana’s Kwame Nkhrumah refused to meet with him. The Xhosa ethnic and SACP dominance in the ANC is what concerns them.
1976-1977: First Insurrection; rise of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). A Soweto working class revolt against the raising of rates and service charges by the Western Services Council broadens out into a national uprising. Though no political parties organised resistance, the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and its exile Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), formed in 1979, are the greatest beneficiaries. The ANC is tiny, isolated and in exile, having split to the right in 1975 with the formation of Inkatha (later IFP).
1985-1989: Second Insurrection; destruction of the PAC and AZAPO. Flush with Soviet funding and using the notorious necklace method of torture-murder, the ANC fights primarily against [right-wing] IFP, [and left-wing] PAC and AZAPO communities, slaughtering tens of thousands. From the ANC’s 1990 unbanning to the first democratic elections in 1994, at least another 25,000 people would die.
So, how did a party that was nowhere in 1977 come to dominate in 1994?
• 1985: Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) formed and dominates organised labour (SACP moles in COSATU defeat [politically autonomous] “workerists” to tie the formation to the ANC and give it an ersatz mass membership);
• 1985-1994: Mass-murder campaign against PAC, AZAPO, the IFP, ANC dissidents and unaligned blacks;
• 1990: Tripartite Alliance: ANC/SACP/COSATU; heavily foreign-funded, this centrist bloc leads transition negotiations with the white National Party (NP) government (the ANC absorbs the remnant NP in 2005); proof surfaces of SACP “Plan B” to assassinate Mandela to provoke a Third Insurrection [should negotiations fail].
• 1990: Illegitimate and unilateral disbandment of 119-organisation anti-apartheid United Democratic Front (UDF) by the ANC which sees it as a challenge to grassroots control.
Who pays the piper calls the tune. Mandela was at first an anti-communist black nationalist who became a communist who became a neoliberal supporter of the murderous Indonesian neo-Fascist, Saudi Salafist and Nigerian military dictatorships – all depending on where the ANC’s blood-money came from.
Mandela’s shady friends: Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, King Fahd… etc. It goes without saying that these were/are some of the world’s most notorious dictators. Castro was a fan of Mussolini in his youth and friend of pro-Nazi Juan Perón of Argentina when in power; Gaddaffi was a delusional president-for-life so popular that he was killed in the Arab Spring uprising in Libya; while Fahd sponsors ultra-right patriarchal Islam the world over.
General Sani Abacha, dictator of Nigeria gave the ANC £2,6-million + $50-million. Abacha stole $3-6-billion from the Nigerian coffers in his five years in office, had famous writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists executed by kangaroo court, and was friends with US race-hate leader Louis Farrakhan.
General Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia gave the ANC $60-million. In Cape Town in 1997, Nelson Mandela gave SA’s highest award to Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia, whose New State has the blood of perhaps 1-million on its hands – for funding the ANC. Suharto embezzled $15-35-billion in his reign of terror from 1967-1998.
Mandela in office: 1994-1999
• Heads a party that was racially-exclusivist for 74 years – from 1912 until it finally opened all ranks to all races as late as 1986;
• He’s a multimillionaire living in SA's most obscene parasitic enclave of Houghton who barely had to earn a cent after his release;
• He’s a neoliberal who dismantles the nominally socialist apartheid state and sells off national assets to private interests, and who implements the neoliberal GEAR [Growth, Employment And Redistribution] austerity programme;
• The war on the poor continues with forced evictions, the dismantling of the shacks of the poor, water and electricity cut-offs;
• The ANC regime enforces a new form of race classification – one that entirely "disappears" the indigenous Bushmen;
• The SANDF illegitimately invades Lesotho in 1998 to crush a pro-democratic mutiny while the government does nothing to support the beleaguered pro-democracy movement in Swaziland;
• The ANC regime settles white right-wing farmers in Mozambique in 1998 [under the Mosagrius Accord] by dispossessing the indigenous peasantry; and
• The ANC regime does nothing to break up the banking cartels, and corporate monopolies and does little to break up massive private landholdings in South Africa – instead, it merely integrates a tiny black cadre of some 300 families into the elite.
Reconstruction of the Securocrat State
• More than 10 apartheid-era laws that restrict the free flow of information are still on the statutes, including the National Key Points Act under which scrutiny of the R200-million in public expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s private ranch at Nkandla has been obscured;
• New legislation including:
- The Terrorism Act (overly broad definitions potentially criminalises social movements and all in opposition to the government)
- The Secrecy Act (up to 25 years in prison for journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal state information arbitrarily declared to be related to “national security”; no public interest defence)
- The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (would beef up internal spying powers on the citizenry including communications interception);
- The Independent Communications Authority of SA Amendment Bill (would corporatise the vibrant community radio sector by forcing stations to have government appointees sit on their boards, and force them to broadcast from municipal premises)
- Abuse of existing legislation such as The Gatherings Act, under which the remilitarised police and municipalities have assumed magisterial powers they do not possess to outlaw gatherings and protests.
What is the nett result of this continuity from Apartheid?
• South Africa is the world’s most unequal society according to the GINI Coefficient;
• South Africa falls behind the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the UNDP’s Development Index;
• Unemployment ran at 40% (70% in many rural areas) before we lost 2-million jobs in the 2008 Recession, so diseases of extreme poverty are common;
• The SA Police, remilitarised after being demilitarised in the early years of democracy, are engaging in planned assaults like the Marikana Massacre so conflict is escalating in poor areas;
• Rampant corruption has not only resulted in the loss of 20% of GDP, but has seen COSATU’s largest union, the mineworkers’ NUM, lose 80,000 members last year , while metalworkers’ union NUMSA with 338,000 members split away from COSATU; and so
• We have all the elements for nascent black fascism: right-wing populist parties (EFF, etc) and separatist movements; corrupt yellow trade unions linked to the government and the oligarchs (COSATU); a heavily-armed private security sector (Mapogo a Mathamaga etc); a culture of political assassinations of shop stewards, white farmers etc; murderous xenophobic organisations (Malumalela Social Movement for the Unemployed etc); the spread of ultra-conservative religious cults; and a new Stasi-trained securocrat state reliant on dumbed-down public education and a militarised police force, which has launched an assault on press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, and Section 9 institutions which defend the Constitution.
[New points to be made in 2016:
• “State capture” by the capitalist elite has its roots in the 1910 incorporation of South Africa (Pty) Ltd as a shotgun wedding between the defeated Boer Republics and the British Colonies, under racist British imperialism, and as such, the entity has been under the control of crime syndicates, secret racist cabals, and monopoly cartels since then. The revelation of the “state capture” by the Gupta family cartel of the national Cabinet is merely the latest incarnation of this – yet it grows more Kafkaesque by the week;
• The ANC has steadily assaulted democratic organs, including the judiciary (with “cadre deployment” to the Judicial Services Commission and the Constitutional Court), the prosecutorial authorities (the destruction of the Scorpions and the erosion of its replacement, the Hawks, and with meddling in the National Prosecuting Authority), the media (calls for a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal, the establishment of loyalist outfits The New Age and ANN7, the capture and purging of Independent Newspapers, and the reversion of the SABC from a public broadcaster to its “His Master’s Voice” role of the apartheid era), the Constitutional Chapter 9 Institutions supporting democracy (underfunding of the SA Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission etc), the 1996 Constitution itself (calls for an overhaul of the document to strengthen the state and weaken civil society), and even well-functioning elements of the state (undermining the SA Revenue Service, and Parliament with the expulsion of the Parliamentary Press Corps and the use of cellphone jamming and strong-arm “white shirt” tactics in the House).
• The ANC has staunchly retained race classification and a scientifically unsupportable and politically dubious race-essentialist stance on public race debates, its leaders have often been outspokenly racist and have openly voiced the need for racial social engineering along apartheid lines (suggesting breaking up the “overly numerous” hostile coloured voting bloc in the Western Cape by forced relocations, with similar sentiments expressed for the Indian voting bloc in KwaZulu-Natal).]
Conclusion: the ANC/SACP “National Democratic Revolution” continues the neoliberal war on the poor started by the National Party in 1973. [It is now a de facto counter-revolution in its deliberate erosion of even its own democratic gains from 1994. Franz Kafka once wrote that “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” How prescient he was: decades later, in 1979 during the height of liberation movement hubris, First Insurrection student leader turned libertarian socialist Selby Semela slagged off the ANC and SACP as “the old spinster-huckster parties.” By 2003 and well into the democratic era, my late friend the former SACP stalwart Alan Lipman who had bailed out of the Party in disgust at the indefensible 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, turning leftwards and becoming an anarchist, told a crowded community hall in the giant Orange Farm squatter settlement: “I spent 35 years of my life supporting the liberation struggle, but the ANC has now become an anti-liberation movement. Now we need a real ‘People’s National Congress’ – under people’s control – to take real liberation forward.”]