23 October 2007

A Stage-Managed Beauty Contest?

Anthony Butler, the CU’s favourite bourgeois Prof., has done some useful “codification” of the ANC’s internal democracy (See below). He has gone through the Information Sheet on NEC Nominations on the ANC web site, and the old “Through the Eye of the Needle” document, which he attributes to the late Peter Mokaba (it came out under the name of the National Working Committee).

Butler calls the latter document “profoundly undemocratic”. This may be true, but not quite in the way that he says it is. Butler lists the anti-democratic parts, but omits the balancing clauses that confirm, for example, the constitutional right of ANC members to campaign and to canvas.

The “undemocracy” of the ANC is not explicit. It is the opposite of explicit. It lies in the ANC’s love of obscurity, and in what in the British labour movement is called “fudge”, meaning the tendency to leave matters undecided, or even worse, to leave the appearance of having supported both sides of any given contradiction or controversy. The “Eye of the Needle” document is typical of this tendency.

Naturally, “fudge” plays into the hands of the corporatists, because they are the ones who want everybody pretending to be on the same side, and all together in a class-blind “national team”. “Fudge” is the enemy of the revolutionaries, who are always seeking a cathartic “sharpening of the contradictions”. That is why conferences tend not to produce revolutions, but only resolutions, unless they split first.

All agree that ANC structures function more as career paths than anything else. Those most successful at working the system are the ones who denounce it most loudly (e.g. in “The Eye of the Needle”). This brings us to the question: Can such a networking, social-climbing, scrummage, ruck, maul, or food-trough, any longer represent or assist the existence of a conscious revolutionary class alliance at mass level?

The picture painted (codified) by Makhudu Sefara in the City Press (linked below) is of just exactly the kind of unprincipled beauty contest that COSATU used to say should not take place, and it is a very plausible picture. Mosiua Lekota has challenged COSATU to produce its ideas, and COSATU has in response shown that it has prepared a large number of documents, which Lekota knows about. So perhaps what Lekota means is that the working class has no single clear slogan for Polokwane? In that case, he has a point. There are some good songs, and there are T-shirts, and there is a candidate for President, but where are the politics? In the files? Which particular files? There are indeed very many of them.

COSATU has had another exchange with Lekota, this time about T-shirts. COSATU says that Lekota “raises an issue which is symptomatic of the poisoned atmosphere which is developing around the ANC succession contest – the way in which supporters of different candidates are promoting their favoured candidates in the run-up to the 52nd National Conference”, and it complains about the “trend to focus on individuals rather than the organisation and its policies”.

So how is all this to be turned around? It would be a mistake to think that there is no serious challenge facing the working class at Polokwane. It is necessary to think through all of the possible outcomes, good and bad, and to make plans for all these possibilities. We will continue to study this question.

We meet this afternoon at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom on the 3rd floor of COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, to discuss Lenin’s “
Better Fewer, But Better”. Please, please if you can, do read Sibusiso Mchunu’s very helpful reflections on this text, which he sent yesterday (Thank you, Cde Sbu!).

No apologies for another picture of V I Lenin (who attached great importance to slogans, by the way) in the build-up to the Anniversary of the Great October Soviet Socialist Revolution in fifteen days’ time.

Click on these links:

Spanners in the succession works, Butler, Business Day (911 words)

Mindpower vs Showmanship, Sefara, City Press (1333 words)

Life of a deputy; building on our small gains, Sibusiso Mchunu (1149 words)


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