25 November 2007

Populism Falls Apart

In August, 2005, SACP Deputy GS Jeremy Cronin gave a lecture to the SACP Gauteng Province on Neo-liberalism, reformism, populism and ultra-leftism, in which he said, among other things:

“… one of the features of populism is that it will often mobilise quite diverse (and even opposed) ideological currents around a single issue/personality.”Populism is essentially a tendency that focuses on the emotional mobilisation of popular forces…
”Populism tends to mobilise popular forces demagogically as emotional fans of a particular cause, often of a particular personality. The demagogic mobilisation also frequently agglomerates a whole series of diverse grievances and unites them around a single issue or personality - – but also AGAINST some demonised arch-enemy
”… populism tends to invoke the “people”, “popular sentiment”, the “nation” etc. in ways that ignore, or deliberately obfuscate diverse class, gender and other diversities and potential contradictions within the people’s camp.”

Jacob Zuma’s populist bandwagon has arrived at the point where its candidate feels obliged to give the appearance, at least, of supporting something that looks like a policy. Or failing that, to oppose something that he assumes that everyone else opposes in a simplistic, kneejerk, brain-free response.

At such a moment, a candidate like Jacob Zuma must know that he is going to shed support. The more definite he becomes about this policy or that one, the more certain he will be to make enemies. This is the hell of it for a political man who has no distinguishing political characteristic of his own, other than long service to an organisation, some personal charm, and considerable courage.

We have supported him for this great, unforgotten, but now past courage of his, when we needed somebody to make a stand against the abuse of state organs to pervert and to corrupt our democracy. He took everything that was thrown at him and we proudly stood with him. We wanted to keep him out of prison! We still want to get Schabir Shaik, put there by the Rhodie, Hillary Squires, out of prison – now!

We have not changed, because we have principles, but the situation now is different. Zuma is not brave any more. He has taken to using the claptrap principle. The policy that gets the biggest clap is in, and if you are not cheering then you become invisible to him, like a ghost.

Like the spectre of communism as told in the Communist Manifesto, the Communist University is not applauding Jacob Zuma when he says that the death penalty should be reviewed, or that: “Criminals must feel they are prisoners. They are comfortable in jail” (see the linked Sunday Times report, below).

We do not applaud because we are disgusted with the spineless claptrap populism of these sentiments. We do not applaud because we have studied this matter of incarceration, what it means, where it comes from, and where it is going. In this study we have had the assistance and the leadership of Angela Davis (pictured, being arrested by the FBI in 1969, and as she is today).

The incarceration of larger and larger numbers of people does not reduce the level of crime. It increases crime. The “Prison-Industrial Complex”, as Angela Davis calls it, is not about reducing “crime”. It is a system that is a direct descendent of the system of slavery, and like slavery, there is only one thing to do with it in the end and that is to abolish it. This is why Angela Davis still calls herself an Abolitionist. It is why we in South Africa, once called “The Imprisoned Society”, are supposed to know better than cheap populists about this matter. (Sufficient links to the Angela Davis material are given below.)

Click on these links:

I'm ready to rule, Zuma, Naidu, Mbhele, Mkhabela, S Times (1007 words)

Challenge of Prison Abolition, Angela Davis text interview (3122 words)

Public Conversation in Johannesburg, Angela Davis sound recording (Internet)

Angela Davis on Prison Industrial Complex, Apr 2007, USA (Internet stream or audio file)

Are Prisons Obsolete? (Extracts from a book by Angela Davis, text on Internet)

Coming Events


Post a Comment

Post a Comment