15 October 2006

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Breaking news is that the SABC is taking the Mail & Guardian to court to force them to remove the 200KB PDF file of the Sisulu – Marcus report on blacklisting in the public broadcaster. See the Mail and Guardian’s article linked below, and find a further link to download the PDF on that page. The report exposes “His Staliness” Snuki Zikalala’s posterior to the cold winds and the rude gaze of the multitude, and rightly so. In contrast to the flagrant Snuki-monster, is hard to take up the pen against Terry Bell. It is not just that his writing is professionally guarded. It is because the motivation for his deception is so tragic. And Terry’s tragedy is the struggle’s tragedy. Ki kulacho, ki nguoni mwako is a kiswahili saying, popular in the town of Morogoro, Tanzania. Maybe Terry remembers it. It translates as: “If it itches, it’s in your clothes”, meaning that the people who trouble you most are those closest to you. Terry lives in Cape Town now and writes a unique weekly labour column in the Business Report. This is a supplement that circulates throughout South Africa with the Independent Group newspapers. In spite of his half-century or so of familiarity with what we still call “the movement’, the picture he paints in his column is often unrecognisable. To borrow a word from SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande, Terry’s view is a “construct”. His is an Alice-in-Wonderland world where things are oddly distorted and often upside-down. Who cares? No doubt the one hurting most is Terry Bell, as he worries away at his ancient sores. But it does hurt others too. The longer you have known Terry, the more likely you are to be shocked at the way he has turned. There are people in Johannesburg who remember “Terry and the boys”, from when they fly-posted and painted slogans in the 1960s. Now he posts for the other side. Here are some examples:

  • Although information flows constantly in his direction from the SACP, COSATU and the ANC, Terry insists on giving his readers a false picture of secrecy in the movement. He even blames the SACP for the fact that it was forced into clandestine conditions in 1950, and claims that it is forever tainted by this actually heroic passage of history. Why does this false charge apply to the Party, but not to Terry Bell?
  • The internal democracy of both COSATU and the SACP are in very much better shape than the ANC’s and Parliament’s. All kinds of matters are vigorously discussed and voted upon in the working class formations. Terry Bell was present at COSATU’s 9th Congress but now dismisses all of it as “power plays and political bickering”. You have to wonder whether he has any idea of what democracy looks like.
  • “Schism” has already happened, he writes, at the very moment when the SACP and COSATU have rededicated themselves to the Alliance. Does Terry know what schism means?

His articles remind you more of a messy soap-opera fantasy of divorce, resentment and personal grudges than of anything political. Terry tells that leaving the Party is “seen by some SACP members as desertion and akin to treachery.” Where did he get that idea? It is completely and impossibly false. People move in and out of the Party all the time. Terry Bell has been close to the SACP for decades. Whether he was ever a member, we don’t know. Whether he was ever active in a union, we don’t know. But this thing is certainly not about ignorance. It has to be that somebody, somewhere, has slighted him. Or that Terry must have had a “Rosebud” moment some time in his life, like “Citizen Kane”. Whatever it is, he should get over it. If he imagines that people are shunning him, he is wrong. Just to straighten out some aspects of Terry Bell’s upside-down world, here is a more normal view of some of the matters covered by his latest article (linked below): “Unions are built on an immediate, common need of workers… Unions are invariably the site of bureaucratism, corruption, self-seeking and petty-squabbling. They are also the well-springs of solidarity, class-consciousness, and emancipation. In short, trade unions are an arena of struggle.” (These words are from our good friends at the Marxists Internet Archive). “I think I have shown that (the working class’s) struggles for the standard of wages are incidents inseparable from the whole wages system, that in 99 cases out of 100 their efforts at raising wages are only efforts at maintaining the given value of labour, and that the necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities. By cowardly giving way in their everyday conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement… “Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!’ they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system’’’ (Karl Marx in Value, Price and Profit).

In other words the working class must have a revolutionary political party as well as, and in addition to, its trade unions. The Party’s job is to serve the class as its revolutionary political instrument, not to boss it, “influence” it, or “use” it. COSATU knows this and the SACP knows it. Terry Bell knows it, too. Terry Bell’s imaginary framework, erected for the gratification of his Business Report readers, shows an innocent but stupid working class being manipulated by its own revolutionary party. This is the distorted and jealous bourgeois nightmare shared with Terry by Tony Leon and most other liberals. It is only a mirror image of the greedy, commonplace bourgeois dream of capturing the working class in a fascist capital-labour bloc, such as is described by Antonio Gramsci in our current reading, “Some Aspects of the Southern Question”. These matters need to be kept clear in the mind at this particular time. In the triangular space between Terry Bell, Tony Leon, and Thabo Mbeki, there are all too many odd characters who would like to drive a wedge between COSATU and the SACP. They must not be allowed to succeed. The next four items linked below are one normal day’s COSATU press releases (Friday’s). These go to about 500 media contacts, including Terry Bell, from the very same COSATU leadership that Terry accuses of behaving like “an exclusive sect”. How ridiculous can you get? Terry makes his money re-writing these and other press releases, such as those of the SACP and the ANC. Is he trying to claim that these press releases are his exclusive material, or what? The mind boggles. Click on these links: Inside the SABC blacklist report, Ferial Haffejee, Mail and Guardian (3010 words) Schisms in tripartite alliance, according to Terry Bell, Business Report (802 words) Action against TU repression in Korea, November 15th, COSATU (541 words) COSATU condemns rise in lending rates, Media Release (245 words) SABC blacklisting report, COSATU Media Release (284 words) COSATU GS Z Vavi address to POPCRU bargaining Council (2365 words)


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