7 May 2008

National conversation, the cure for Zanufication and Snukification

The Communist University meets on Monday, 13 May 2008 at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to discuss Chapter 8 of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, “Constant and Variable Capital” – see the first item linked below.

This is a short chapter, easy to read, but very interesting, bearing on the reasons why fixed capital (machinery &c.) does not yield any surplus value during production, which is in turn the reason for the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in “capital-intensive” as opposed to “labour-intensive” industries.

The second item is the announcement by the Coalition Against Water Privatisation of their stupendous court victory over the practice of installing compulsory pre-paid water meters in poor areas. Thanks to Comrade Dale McKinley for sending it, and congratulations to him and all his colleagues.

The third item is a review of the book Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies. The article reveals the reasons for the astonishing “thinness” of the bourgeois media in the metropolitan countries, and Britain and the USA in particular. South African newspapers are not so bad (but SA television is worse). Part of the reason for the relative good health of the SA bourgeois press is the widespread practice of Trade Unions and other mass and specialist organisations of sending their stories direct to the entire press corps, whereas in Britain, this practice seems to have died out and been replaced by the ubiquitous Press Association. This corporation processes nearly all the news in the same skimped and bland manner for nearly all the news outlets. Professional reporting, with checking of plural sources, seems to have largely died out in Britain.

Some journalists like to write from time to time that “blogging is not journalism”. The trouble is rather that journalism is no longer what it was. Good writing is good writing wherever it may appear, but the special function of newspapers used to be to present “a nation in conversation with itself”. The new media (not just blogs but also Google groups and other bi-directional electronic media) have allowed the national conversation to blossom unmediated by the deadening formulas that have got such a grip on the older media.

There are difficulties with the new media, but they tend to be capable of resolution. For example, people occasionally request to be unsubscribed from lists “because their Inbox is getting clogged”. There is a remedy for this. The Communist University has been a little quiet lately because it has been investigating e-mail management. This is mainly a matter of setting up sections of the Inbox, so that different kinds of mail, identified by their addresses, subject or content, automatically go to different sub-Inboxes, and the main Inbox is left to collect mail that is out of the ordinary. At once the problem of dealing with the day’s e-mail becomes easily manageable. We will describe how this is done, for Outlook and for Gmail, in a later edition of the Communist University. Suffice it now to say that it is absolutely necessary to conquer the problem of the clogged In-box. The national conversation depends upon it.

The fourth item is a welcome addition to the SA media fold, a news agency (SACSIS) that will supply free copy (but you must attribute) on various “Civil Society” matters. Congratulations to Fazila Farouk (pictured) and the team. See also
Fazila’s brother Ismail’s site for wonderful photos of Johannesburg. There is a serious shortage of good sources of pictures for the Internet, and especially of good, contrasty, high-resolution face pictures of individuals in the labour movement. Recognition and accountability go together!

The fifth item is SACP Deputy GS Jeremy Cronin’s article from last Sunday’s City Press, with its peculiar headline, added as usual by the newspaper’s sub-editors. Comrade Jeremy (pictured) does not in fact say that SA could not become “zanufied” (or even “snukified”), but rather that the price of avoiding zanufication is keeping the vitality of our popular political institutions, and especially the ANC, COSATU and the SACP, but also other self-defined social movements and civil society organisations.

The final item is the ZCTU’s gracious message of appreciation to COSATU for its (and its affiliate SATAWU’s) assistance to the Zimbabwean people. Viva International Solidarity, Viva! Pictured: ZCTU SG Wellington Chibebe.

Speaking of international solidarity, there is to be a YCLSA Cuito Cuanavale celebration at 18h00, on Constitution Hill, 8 May 2008. Never forget that at the foundation of revolutionary South Africa is international solidarity!

Click on these links:

Capital Volume 1, Chapter 8, Constant and Variable Capital, Karl Marx, 1867 (5806 words)

Water court case judgement, Coalition Against Water Privatisation (893 words)

Riots, Terrorism etc, John Lanchester, London Review of Books (2856 words)

Introducing a New Civil Society News Agency – SACSIS (458 words)

Why SA will never be like Zimbabwe, Jeremy Cronin, City Press (1355 words)

ZCTU letter of appreciation to COSATU (228 words)

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