By Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi and Tiisetso Makhele
The Democratic Alliance, a significant political vehicle for advancing the neo-liberal project, enjoys considerable support and sympathy from a wide range of media, NGOs, business associations, think-tanks and external forces. The DA articulates the neo-liberal project, more or less, in an unalloyed form. It hopes to contain our new democracy within the horizons of a narrow electoral and individual rights dispensation. It is robust in articulating the economic interests of the established capitalist class and its supporting cast among the powerful, the privileged and the well-resourced. It campaigns for greater liberalisation, rapid privatisation, a flexible labour market, lower taxes for the rich, a lean and mean state, a more or less narrow law and order approach to crime, and the deployment of the South African state apparatus within our region and in Africa to advance and protect the interests of multinationals and white commercial farmers.
The DA was initiated primarily by the Democratic Party (DP), whose precursor was PFP-Progressive Federal Party (PFP), historically a small, liberal white parliamentary party that operated as an opposition force within the margins of the white parliamentary dispensation in the apartheid era. The PFP had also revealed its opportunism by criticising government on the one hand, while attempting to rescue the apartheid parliament on the other hand. While attempting to rescue the apartheid parliament on the other they were only trying to give apartheid a better face. The PFP was much closer to the Nationalist government than they would have us believe.
In his address to the 1971 Conference of South African Student Organisation (SASO), the legendary Bantu Steven Biko warned against the PFP. He uttered these words: “The Progressives have never been the black man’s real hope. They have always been a white party at heart, fighting for more lasting way of preserving white values in this southern tip of Africa. It will not be long before the blacks relate their poverty to their blackness in concrete terms.”
Under the umbrella of the DA, the DP succeeded in rallying a range of minority parties and constituencies including the NNP, and the Freedom Front. These forces were mobilised on the basis of diverse minority fears, prejudices and aspirations. Programmatically, the DA project was held together on the basis of a common commitment to a range of neo-liberal objectives (privatisation, liberalisation, and a flexible labour market).
In practice, many of the white Afrikaner nationalists, or marginalised Coloured workers, or career politicians from the apartheid past who supported the DA would have difficulty in explaining how liberalisation or privatisation would advance the cause of the Afrikaans language, or entrench social security grants. However, for a time at least, the DP/DA had nearly a fifth of the electorate marching happily to the neo-liberal tune. The real glue that held the DA together was die-hard opposition to the ANC, rooted in the fear of “domination” by an African majority. In short, the DA represented a fundamentally schizophrenic project; a liberal party of white minority privilege moved rightwards, flirting with the most reactionary racist prejudices, in order to build an electoral base; and a wide-range of racist remnants from the apartheid past, began to recite neo-liberal mantras in order to demonstrate their “modernity”.
It was only because they espoused the cause of the working class and saw in it the new, rising, transforming force in history that Marx and Engels were able to discover the laws of social change, which those who adopted the standpoint of the exploiting classes could never do.
Marx and Engels wrote: “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” The superstructure ofviews and institutions, which arises as a product of the economic basis, and reflects that economic basis, is, then, always the product of the domination of a particular class.
“The ruling ideas,” wrote Marx and Engels, “are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling class, therefore the ideas of its dominance.” It is always a particular class which plays the leading part in establishing and then in shaping and consolidating a given economic system, in which that particular class is dominant, in which it is the ruling class. Marxism, therefore, by calling attention to the economic, class basis of established institutions and ideas, teaches us to regard no institution and no idea as “sacred”.
Lenin cogently observed that “people always were and always will be the stupid victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics, as long as they have not learned to discover the interests of one or another of the classes behind any moral, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old, as long as they will not realise that every old institution, however absurd and rotten it may appear, is kept in being by the forces of one or other of the ruling classes.”
The desperate attempt by the DA to reverse the gains of the liberation movement by entering into electoral pacts with other parties like loud-mouthed, pseudo-revolutionaries in red berets bears testimony to this. Through these pacts, where the DA always imposes its class and economic interests, the less dominant parties like EFF, UDM and ACDP will be the stupid victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics, as Lenin correctly posited.
Our people must desist from allowing the former white minority rulers to perpetuate the evil of white oppression. We must understand the historical truth that, whatever frills it is given, race oppression is basically a product of economic exploitation in general and capitalist class exploitation in particular.
The expansion of the capitalist system has been reliant not only on exploitation, but also on oppression and alienation. Racism, historically and in the present, has developed as part of Atlantic slavery and colonialism, through racially discriminatory immigration controls, and the perpetuation of hegemonic ideologies of natural whiteness through a vast array of institutions necessary to liberal democracy. Racism is an intrinsic feature of the capitalist process of accumulation and the reification of social relations that accompany it.
Racism has become more fully integrated into the ideology of the ruling class in bourgeois democracies. Importantly, Fanon identifies the colonialist process as one that includes racism and oppression against the occupied, but also the alienating process that colonialism imposes on the occupier. Franz Fanon wrote that:
“As we see it, the bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie is not apparent in the economic field only. They have come to power in the name of a narrow nationalism and represent a race; they will prove themselves incapable of triumphantly putting into practice a program with even a minimum humanist content, in spite of fine-sounding declarations which are devoid of meaning since the speakers bandy about in irresponsible fashion phrases that come straight out of European treatises on morals and political philosophy. When the bourgeoisie is strong, when it can arrange everything and everybody to serve its power, it does not hesitate to affirm positively certain democratic ideas which claim to be universally applicable. There must be very exceptional circumstances if such a bourgeoisie, solidly based economically, is forced into denying its own humanist ideology. The Western bourgeoisie, though fundamentally racist, most often manages to mask this racism by a multiplicity of nuances which allow it to preserve intact its proclamation of mankind’s outstanding dignity.”
Despite its adventurist opportunism and posturing as well as populist stances in denouncing racism, there are important factors linking DA with white supremacy. The visit by Mmusi Maimane to Apartheid Israel is a case in point here. In order to understand the visit of the DA to Israel we must understand the history of Apartheid South Africa-Israel axis. In May 1948, the state of “Israel” was formed. The establishment of Israel required the destruction of Palestine. The majority of the Palestine people were forcefully expelled from their land by the fascist forces of Zionism. Geographically, the small country of Palestine was broken into pieces, the largest of which became Israel, or rather Occupied Palestine. The Palestine masses have since been involved in a struggle to assert their self-respect and basic human dignity as a people, and to return to their homeland.
One of the founders of racism described it as a movement of “a people without land” in search of “a land without people”. Like their settler colonialist counterparts that came to South Africa, Zionists also claimed that they found the land unrehabilitated. Despite the many differences in the nature of these two societies as well as their histories and their economies, factors binding apartheid regimes of South Africa and Israel together were no secret. The minority governments of both countries found a common purpose in the suppression of the dispossessed majority. In Israel, it was the Palestinians who had been the majority until driven from their land, when most were herded into territorial enclaves or into neighbouring territories.
There have always been the links between the counter-revolutionary and anti-communist efforts of Israel and the United States in Africa. A similar arrangement existed between the US and South Africa. South Africa and Israel, by virtue of their geo-political positions, played similar roles, within their respective regions, in the world imperialist strategy. Both had a fair share in the military and intelligence activities against revolutionaries and progressive countries. In fulfilment of its surrogate role, South Africa has carried out subversive activities aimed at destabilising established governments in Southern Africa. It has intervened in various ways, including military actions in the affairs of these states. However, despite the difficulties which they have had to bear as a result of these barbarous invasions, the Angolan people and their government were as hard as a rock in their resolve to support the struggle for national liberation in South Africa and Namibia.
Failure to expel Helen Zille despite public outcries on her comments which glorified Colonialism, is another exposition of the sensual relationship between DA and racism. We have observed that in the so-called high-profile court cases which involved whites as culprits, DA will always be conspicuous by its silence, e.g. Oscar Pistorius murder case, cases of white farmers involved in the murder of black labourers or atrocities committed to the latter, as was observed in the farm in Wesslsbron, Free State, recently. Having projected itself as a protector of the people, the DA is yet to condemn bread producers who stole from poor people by colluding on prices of bread. The same can be said about the construction companies that milked the state of billions of Rand through collusion.
There is evidence that the collapse of coalitions in different municipalities is mainly due to white supremacy attitude DA is displaying against smaller parties. These parties, because of their inability to learn from the wise words of Lenin above, have been cajoled into the neo-liberal, white supremacist agenda of DA. By the time the leaders of these smaller parties wake up, South Africa might be under white minority rule, thanks to their lack of appreciation of the class struggles which are at the centre of South African politics.
Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi
SACP Free State PEC Member
Tiisetso “Africa” Makhele
Spokesperson for the Free State Premier Dr Ace Magashule
Authors are members of the ANC Free State Political Education Sub-Committee
They write in their personal capacities