By Andile Mngxitama
The black community is at war with itself. We must avoid easy solutions based on wrong diagnoses. In this context, as the President of Black First Land First (BLF), I have kickstarted the #UnderstandingBiko (aka Biko101) series on Facebook. The series is intended to teach a basic understanding of Biko’s ideas over a number of episodes, during this September month of his birth.
In my first live broadcast towards the series yesterday, I dealt with how to apply the Black Consciousness perspective to understand the current black on black war. Having regard to two quotations by Biko, I examine its sources, the false solutions, and what can be done to turn the reactionary war into a revolutionary war against the real enemy. The first important quote is:
“Township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood. There we see a situation of absolute want, in which black will kill black to be able to survive. This is the basis of vandalism, murder, rape and plunder that goes on while the real sources of evil—white society—are sun-tanning on exclusive beaches or relaxing in their bourgeois homes”.
The next instructive quote is:
“The type of black man (sic) we have today has lost his manhood. Reduced to an obliging shell, he looks with awe at the white power structure and accepts what he regards as ‘inevitable position’. Deep inside his anger mounts at the accumulating insult, but he vents it in the wrong direction – on his fellow men in the township, on the property of black people”.
We must insist on thinking even under this difficult situation. Nelson Mandela said, “let us fight!” For this, they put him in jail for 27 years and thereafter gave him the Noble Peace Prize. Steve Biko said, “let us think”. They murdered him for this.
Revolutionaries must provide revolutionary analysis and solutions to the situation created by settler colonialism. The black on black war in the black zone is a reactionary war. It has to be turned into a revolutionary war! We can’t end the reactionary black on black violence If we can’t get these questions right:
1. What is the cause of this war?
2. Who is the enemy?
3. What are the necessary immediate steps?
4. What’s the long term solution to end the carnage?
Think about it. 20 000 black people are murdered annually in South Africa (SA). From this figure, 15 000 black men are murdered by other black men; 4000 women are murdered by black men; and about 1000 children are murdered by both men and women. Moreover, in one weekend in July this year, 43 black people were murdered in the townships of Cape Town. Also, over 200 black truck drivers were murdered between March 2018 and July 2019. The black on black war is naturalized. Blacks bleed to eat. And white monopoly capital (WMC) is out of the scene.
In the meanwhile Ramaphosa has nothing to say, understandably so, because the carnage is in fact caused by the same WMC funders who bought him as a President for R1 billion.
I know that the times we are in doesn’t permit the luxury of thinking, but we are compelled to do so. Otherwise, we will find ourselves being rushed into fake solutions by agents of reaction who want us not to think about the real questions and proper solutions. Here’s Slavoj Zizek’s reflections on the fake urgency that characterizes the liberal human rights conceptualization of violence:
“Let’s think about the fake sense of urgency that pervades the left-liberal humanitarian discourse on violence: in it, abstraction and graphic (pseudo) concreteness coexist in the staging of the scene of violence-against women, blacks, the homeless, gays . . . “A woman is raped every six seconds in this country” and “In the time it takes you to read this paragraph, ten children will die of hunger” are just two examples. Underlying all this is a hypocritical sentiment of moral outrage. Just this kind of pseudo-urgency was exploited by Starbucks a couple of years ago when, at store entrances, posters greeting costumers pointed out that a portion of the chain’s profits went into health-care for the children of Guatemala, the source of their coffee, the inference being that with every cup you drink, you save a child’s life.
There is a fundamental anti-theoretical edge to these urgent injunctions. There is no time to reflect: we have to act now. Through this fake sense of urgency, the post-industrial rich, living in their secluded virtual world, not only do not deny or ignore the harsh reality outside the area-they actively refer to it all the time. As Bill Gates recently put it: “What do the computers matter when millions are still unnecessarily dying of dysentery?” Against this fake urgency, we might want to place Marx’s wonderful letter to Engels of 1870, when, for a brief moment, it seemed that a European revolution was again at the gates. Marx’s letter conveys his sheer panic: can’t the revolution wait for a couple of years? He hasn’t yet finished his ‘Capital’.”
We have no “couple of years”. We have to turn the black on black violence into a revolutionary war. To do that we must resist this “fake urgency”. We have to see things clear in the midst of chaos. We can’t just act.