Bird’s Eye View – kettles, biscuits and picnics
The pot calling the kettle black
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, stated recently: ‘As South Africans, we find similarities in our past with the Palestinians, and now I remember the funeral of Shereen Abu Akleh and what happened to her coffin. It reminds me of the gravesites that we had to carry out under the persecution of the apartheid soldiers’ (South Africa calls for holding Israel accountable for ‘inhumane conditions’ Palestinians live under, middleeastmonitor.com, 17 June, bit.ly/3yhwSvK).
In May Nokuthula Mabaso, an Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) leader was buried following her assassination in front of her children. She was the third activist of the shack dwellers’ movement to be killed in less than two months. Members of AbM are well acquainted with the state as a coercive machine of class oppression and likely know the fairytale Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC in 1955 envisaged a post-Apartheid South Africa where ‘The police force and army… shall be the helpers and protectors of the people’, ‘the right to be decently housed’ enshrined and ‘Slums shall be demolished …‘ AbM are credited with starting UnFreedom Day, which coincides with the official South African holiday called Freedom Day, the orthodox annual celebration of the country’s first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. On the 16 August 2012 17 workers were killed and 78 wounded by the police in the Marikana Miners’ Massacre, the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against other workers since 1976. Worse still, former President Mbeki’s support for alternative remedies such as vinegar rather than antiretroviral drugs saved the state’s funds at a cost of at least 300,000 lives. And ‘More than two decades after South Africa ousted a racist apartheid system that trapped the vast majority of South Africans in poverty, more than half the country still lives below the national poverty line and most of the nation’s wealth remains in the hands of a small elite’ (NPR, 2 April, 2018) led by billionaire Ramaphosa.
Taking the biscuit
‘For all his anti-imperialist rhetoric, Chomsky remains a controversial and deeply contradictory individual. Defining himself often as an anarchist—a form of adventuristic ultra-leftism—he is prone to criticise in harsh terms Lenin and Stalinism, that is any truly existing socialist government, be it China, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Venezuela, or the Soviet Union. In that way he ends up denouncing imperialism but cancelling the denunciation by also attacking socialist nations under Imperialist attack’ (grenvillepost.com, 13 June, bit.ly/3O9uxI8).
Yet Lenin wrote tellingly of Russia in 1918: ‘reality says that state capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about state capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us’ (The Chief Task of Our Time). In his Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan (1927), Mao admitted that the coming revolution would not be socialist: ‘To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the revolution’. This is what Fidel said when urging Mexican businesspeople to invest in Cuba, in 1988: ’We are capitalists, but state capitalists. We are not private capitalists’ (Daum, Walter, 1990, The Life and Death of Stalinism; p.232). Nicaragua lags behind North Korea as a family-run cult cum kleptocracy. ‘Maduro recognizes Venezuela is still a capitalist-based economy…’ (Popular Resistance newsletter, 27 May, 2018). Capitalist hallmarks, such as class society, commodity production, profit motive, exploitation of wage labour, markets, etc., are found worldwide. Chomsky trumps Lenin and Stalin here:
‘A democratic revolution would take place when it is supported by the great mass of the people, when they know what they are doing and they know why they are doing it and they know what they want to see come into existence. Maybe not in detail but at least in some manner. A revolution is something that great masses of people have to understand and be personally committed to’ (Linguistics and Politics, September–October 1969, newleftreview.org)
‘Presupposing that there have to be states is like saying, what kind of feudal system should we have that would be the best one? What kind of slavery would be the best kind?’ (Manufacturing Consent, 1988).
A sandwich short of a picnic
‘ The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC): A National Call for Moral Revival relies on economic calculations showing that 140 million Americans—which is more than 40 percent of the population—are poor or low-income’ (informationclearinghouse.info, 15 June, bit.ly/3NfCBX6).
50+ years after the original Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, which set out demands for nothing less than the eradication of poverty, 140 million Americans live in poverty, the top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and ‘just 1 in 10 black Americans believe the civil rights movement’s goals have been achieved in the 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr was killed’ (Independent, 31 March 2018).
He said ‘the prescription for the cure rests with an accurate diagnosis of the disease’ yet focused famously on the ‘Triple Evils’ of poverty, racism and militarism, i.e., symptoms rather than the underlying malady, which is why Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer winning historian, could say of MLK that ‘all the issues that he raised toward the end of his life are as contemporary now as they were then’ (NY Times.com, 4 April 2018). Clearly, what is needed is not a re-launch but rather a rethink. Rosa Luxemburg explains why: ‘…people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society’ (Reform or Revolution, 1900, bit.ly/3QFQQrb).
Next article: Material World: Sri Lanka – the limits of workers’ forbearance ⮞
One Reply to “Bird’s Eye View – kettles, biscuits and picnics”
What’s the difference between state-capitalism and private-capitalism? In the former, the government owns businesses. In the latter, businesses own the government.