By Patrick Matabeni
South Africa is at a crucial point in history, a point characterized by fierce contestation of black nationalist ideas versus white liberal and so-called white radical ideas that continue to dominantly shape the contours of the South Africa political and ideological landscape.
This contestation is nothing historically new to the broader trajectory of political ideology dating back to the ushering of modernity and proliferation of anti-blackness masquerading by all sorts of terms like: non-racialism, scientific socialism, Marxism and many other conceptual categories that underpin the anti-black “white lib-rad” project.
In this piece I hope to make a very crucial intervention in the fake altercation between Cronin and Shivambu by unmasking the congruency of their anti-black ethic which is foundational to both of their political projects and the organizations they represent.
Re-appropriating Mngxitama’s characterization of the SACP, I’ve argued elsewhere that the EFF is a party of “meat eating vegetarians” just like the SACP, and both of them are sutured by politics anti-blackness at the core of the ideological orientation and persuasion.
The SACP: the father of anti-black communism in South Africa
We must recall that it is only in the 1920s that the SACP first takes black membership, after being rejected in the comintern. As if that reprimand changed substantially – the white communists preserved their slogan “white workers of the world unite” by holding on to “non-racialism,” which in principle kept things the same. Well, the less smart guys abandoned ship because they could not sit with blacks, let alone accommodate their demands for economic transformation, returning of the land and nationalization of natural resources.
Those who did stay systematically worked to purge this currency of Black socialist nationalism for generations to come. Cronin is the offspring of this anti-black capitalist communist ethic, which uses Marxism in service of keeping an old tradition.
The anti-black nature of the SACP finds its expression in their twisted analysis of the race-class configuration which positions race as a minor form of subalternity second to the class project which diagnoses social ills of black people from the prism of worker coordinates, as if when these pale land thieves arrived in the continent, blacks were proletarianized
The trajectory of the SACP’s involvement has been littered with political zigzagging and ambiguity which has made it a useless organization in the political landscape. The cooptation of the SACP by white monopoly capitalist regime change agents is not only untenable but preposterous even in the axioms of a pure Marxist or leftist project.
The communist party and their allied workers unions have sadly undertaken a process of outsourcing their thinking capacity to white monopoly capital. This has been an historical fact which continues to perpetuate unto this day.
Prior to their messianism, the missionaries occupied this position and answered to their God – the capitalist aristocracy which had as its essence the paternalistic civilizing qua colonizing impulse. Cronin’s vivid onslaught on President Zuma’s nationalist project is yet another demonstration of the long-dated old encounter between the colonizer and the colonized; as Frantz Fanon would say “the colonizer and colonized are old acquaintances”.
Today once again, the coordinates of these battles are rearing their ugly head in our contemporary political setting. While Jacob Zuma stands on the shoulders of Lembede, Sobukwe and Biko, declaring the most fundamental program of black nationalism through land expropriation without compensation and radical economic transformation, the grand children of colonialists are shivering at the swaart gevaar that’s about to ensue and therefore naturally consolidating themselves against the revolutionary project by co-opting house negroes to carry out their hideous and rapacious project of thuggery and national theft.
In fact it would not be outrageous to say there’s no such a thing as the communist party in South Africa. What we have and that which Cronin speaks for, is the old type white liberalism that by all means strives to curtail a full on revolution for the black proletarianised masses. Where the spectre of communism exists in this bedevilled party, it appears under quotations marks as a fossil or mummy – a dead specimen in a museum, in which Cronin is mere curator but not even close to being a commie.
Cronin, who is occupying a strategic position in the SACP as the puppet master, issues a decree to his minions like Cde Blade Nzimande and other blacks of the SACP with the casualness of a person who really holds keys. How else do we make sense of the fact that so called black communists are repeatedly told that white monopoly capital does not exist, and yet the entire country indisputably remains in the hands of this unnameable and untraceable creature? For those who know the history of capitalism and the pathetic place of the black bourgeoisie in it, not only know the face of WMC, but also its general tactics.
Therefore one would imagine that real communists, rooted in the historical contradictions of this country, would not flinch one moment when the real enemy is brought to book. Instead, typical of the old classical missionary/leftist, a push back against this exposition is calibrated in collaboration with WMC itself and white people in general. From the colonial myth of white workers to fully fledged unity of whites against black justice, the communist party has dropped even the little semblance of moral pretension it had by openly being in alliance with the parasitic white settler community under the banner of communism.
It is thus inconceivable that a communist party can endorse ultra right wingers like Pravin Gordan, Sipho Pityana, Julius Malema and Cyril Ramaphosa as paragons of “clean” governance, much like apartheid endorsed bantustan leaders. Like Gods, whites believe that they carry the moral right to write and erase sins, in exchange for the sinner doing their dirty job for them.
The EFF: the foot soldiers and ground marshals of the DA.
Similarly the red brigades of Johan Rupert are not embarrassed to pronounce leftist phrases that are bereft of any political praxis potency.
While Floyd Shivambu, the Porshe-driving glutinous socialist, is at pains to try to show the liberalism of the SACP through its endorsement of Mbeki’s neo-liberal GEAR program, his “superior logic” party on the other hand endorsed the Democratic Alliance which is an unwavering right wing liberal party, and became the mass movement of the DA.
Floyd Shivambu is probably suffering from acute selective amnesia. Let us remind him that the so-called biggest socialist party of superior logic was recently coopted by white capital to its “Save SA” mass initiative wherein it had to actively play its mass movement function by deludedly delivering its black mass to the supervision and control of the white liberal establishment as part of the regime change agenda against the progressive agenda President Jacob Zuma has tabled to the nation.
The EFF’s incessant beguilement found one of its manifestation (in the myriad of many of its liberal manifestations) earlier this year when it sang praises of exaltation to the neo-liberal budget speech of the erstwhile WMC finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
In an interview with the regime change agent media station, eNCA, the president of EFF remarked that “If there is only one person who’s giving some form of hope for our people, we must be able to support that person and Pravin comes across as such an individual who’s a unifier, who’s seeking good for our country”
Pravin Gordhan, the glaring unambiguous embodiment of white monopoly capital, became the object of veneration by the so-called biggest socialist party. This strategic move of embracing a neoliberal agent of WMC like Gordhan against Zuma’s push back, should be puzzling to any Marxist Leninist. It is perhaps good that Frantz Fanon was removed from the ideological triumvirate (Marx, Lenin & Fanon) of the EFF, but still even within this whitewashing of the ideological positioning, there’s absolutely little explanatory substance possible through the duo – Marx and Lenin – to justify a defense of imperialism.
If we truly know imperialism and its antics, we must see through this circus or fake antagonism between Floyd and Cronin. A closer look at both of their antics reveals that not only is the Marxian lexicon a means of looting or desubstantializing radicalism, it also a kind of public relations prank to give a little bit of moral backing to their immoral activity. Through their public interlocution we cannot properly see a break between ideological opponents since the consequences of their actions prove them as comrades and allies. Here Floyd and Cronin, operate neither at the level of typical idealists nor the Marxian injunction “to change” social relations, because neither have ideational desire for a world beyond WMC nor do they have the materialist interests to realise change.
Furthermore, the EFF and the SACP both have no theoretic grasp nor space for black radical politics due to first and foremost their grossly impaired conception of the intrinsic colonial or anti-black character of capital as a mode of production.
Let us help Cronin and Shivambu by explaining that the spectrum of Marx’s historical materialism is predicated on absence of the black body, not only did Marx not conceive blacks in his prism of understanding dialectical historical development but in his historical materialist continuum, blackness or slavery as a feeder and life-giver to capital is not theorized nor historicized, hence Fanon would say “everything up to and including the very nature of pre-capitalist society, so well explained by Marx, must here be thought out again”
As Mngxitama shows us, in the convesation between Marx and Proudhon, a concession is made that where it not for slavery of blacks, modern capital would not have existed.
Extrapolating from Daivd Eltis’ work, Frank Wilderson demonstrates that there was more economic rationale for enslaving white bodies in Europe than enslaving black bodies in Africa. The enslavement of Africans (a period critical to the existence of modern capital) was therefore not so much economic project than a symbolic project which off course finds one of its expression in the economic sphere.
Funny enough former president Thabo Mbeki, who once wrote a preface to Eric Williams’ magnum opus – Capitalism & Slavery, today denies the racial character of the capitalist market (through its auctioning of black bodies) and does so by playing the typical white self-denying semantic game – denouncing the historico-immanent whiteness of monopoly capital.
Both SACP and EFF do not understand that capital needed race consciousness to exist and perpetuate itself, as Frank Wilderson would say “capital was kickstarted by the rape of the african continent”. Contrary to colonial socialist theories of situating race as a symptomatic problem derived from class conflicts, it is rather the inverse, hence Fanon would retort that “it is neither the act of owning factories, nor estates, nor a bank balance which distinguishes the governing class”.
Both the SACP and EFF are enemies of the black nationalist project and are servants of white monopoly capital. This parallelism and congruency needs a further characterization of Cronin and Shivambu: Cronin forms part of the architectural family of white supremacy, while Shivambu forms part of the agent family of white supremacy and therefore his party (the EFF) are foot-soldiers of white capital parading as anti-black socialists.
In his rejoinder to Cronin, what Shivambu does is to fashion the activist half-baked curriculum vitae of the EFF, maintaining a very artificial comparative critique of the SACP which does nothing to distinguish the ideological foundations of the EFF against the SACP. Floyd’s article is just full of inessential reformist activities undertaken by the EFF, almost like an Olympiad of struggle credentials.
Therefore, the seeming altercation between Cronin and Shivambu is a superficial cosmetic in-house affair between a well meaning master and his recalcitrant servant for purposes of pedagogical exercising. It is a mere conflict over how to best maintain the longevity of the status quo. In both cases, that is, in their interlocution and organizational statuses, one encounters more agreements than disagreements. But nowhere does one see Marx, Lenin and their dream of a revolution.