South Africa, like Cuba, is the last outpost of communism. Elsewhere in the world, experiments in collective farming and nationalisation have been abandoned as the grim mistakes of nineteenth-century radicalism, issuing forth from the bearded Karl Marx, scribbling away in the British Library.
However, behind Karl Marx there was a capitalist, Friedrich Engels, who bankrolled him and actually paid him to pour forth his books and pamphlets that would sow discord and resentment for more than a century.
The ANC, like many of the “tenured radicals” at South African universities, loves Karl Marx. The class struggle is their favourite nursery tale. And if you could add that the capitalists are actually white, then it’s no longer Little Red Ridinghood; it’s Little Red Soldiers marching from one conference to the next.
Unlike most journalists and newspaper pundits, I have actually read the ANC’s document on “the second transition”. Not so long ago, the ruling party – maybe we should capitalise “Party” as is communist practice – entertained us on the notion that South Africa was going through a two-stage revolution. Classical marxist theory holds that all of human history advances through a succession of “epochs”, culminating in “the most advanced stage, the classless society, or communism”. That is when people start queuing for bread, potatoes, shoes or waiting ten years to buy a two-stroke-engined car with nineteen-fifties technology.
At one point Cuba was going back to the bicycle. Not that I have anything against bicycles; on the contrary. Quite a few of our BEE moguls and traffic cops taking bribes alongside the roads, bulging out of their blue uniforms, could do with some exercise.
But to go back to stone age economic principles – “sharing” things around the camp fire – is a great leap backwards, if you will pardon the pun. In fact, Mao’s “great leap forward” was another communist cliché floating around the ANC’s Midrand conference yesterday.
According to Marx and Engels, there is first a political revolution, alternately called a “bourgeois revolution”, before the real transformation, the social revolution, begins. In the case of Russia, the “capitalist epoch” lasted only a few months, from February to October 1917, but we need not detain ourselves with such finer details. In ANC parlance, the transition of 1994 when De Klerk fired all his generals and handsupped before the Party’s militia, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was the political or “National Democratic Revolution”.
Until now, the second or social revolution has been chomping at the bit within the Luthuli House stables, ready to propel its bright-eyed, sushi-chomping jockeys into the apocalyptic dawn.
According to Jacob Zuma yesterday, the enemy, the class enemy, to put it more politically correctly, seems to be so-called white males. South African marxists have always confounded race and class. Mbeki, the great black marxist – or should I use the fashionable euphemism, “progressive” – intellectual, used to rave quite frequently about the white ruling class while he was still president. Or maybe Mbeki was just too habitually drunk to realise that putting yourself forward as a victim while you are wearing the crown represents a colossal contradiction.
However, not so long ago I read that 75% of white males over 50 were self-employed. That is only logical as BEE and affirmative action have already swept South African corporate life, not to mention the civil service and municipalities. Most municipalities are now all-black, with whites actually doing the cleaning. Our municipalities must have the most highly educated cleaning staff in the world; apparently some of the people wielding brooms and mops have postgraduate qualifications. But they happen to be white, which is a fatal handicap in the Republic of South Africa.
Younger white males are hanging on in the SME’s where racial headcounts are pursued with lesser fervour. In fact, a survey that I found on the internet yesterday showed that one in four white males of all ages was actually self-employed in 2006. By now the figure must be far higher.
So maybe the ANC, in its racial-marxist zeal, pursuing the Second Coming – wasn’t Mbeki also fond of quoting his favourite Xhosa poet, William Butler Yeats? – is barking up the wrong tree, “full of passionate intensity”.
One of the few people I mostly agree with in South Africa, is liberal historian Hermann Giliomee. I think that is because we both look at the current situation from the vantage point of history. Not… fantasy. He recently told me that he was just glad to have severed all ties with universities. In fact, the universities have become little ANC kindergartens, producing the type of pompous, quasi-marxist “papers” of which the ANC’s latest policy document is but a carbon copy.
We have to acknowledge that race, not class, is what the South African revolution is all about. That is why the white male bogeyman will be brandished, even if most of us white males eke out a measly living doing odd jobs on our computers in SOHOs. For those less familiar with American acronyms, that is “small office home office”. While the BMW-driving, black bourgeoisie are feasting out there, living it up in five-star hotels and bleeding this country dry.
To understand black identity, we have to look at America and a book such as Jared Taylor’s recent White Identity – racial consciousness in the 21st century.
In a nutshell: whites, with the exception of a few so-called “right-wing Afrikaners”, no longer have an identity. Blacks, on the other hand, are completely lacking in any European class consciousness. Their only consciousness is one of race. Not being very culturally assertive and preferring English as their means of communication, their only identity is being black, which may be further enhanced by hating whites.
Ultimately, the second revolution is not about poverty, equality, redressing past wrongs or any of the usual clichés offered by the ANC. It is about the black elite affirming its own identity.
Like Narcissus, they are looking at themselves in the mirror, whispering: “I am black, so black.” All other consequences flow from that existential premise and experience.
When I was a student, some of the campus radicals used to call it “black-being-in-the-world”. It had a kind of Heideggerian ring to it.
South Africa is going to pay a very high price for that singular mode of being.