FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New Baas, Same As The Old Baas

by KEVIN CARSON

The end of apartheid in South Africa was neither the first nor the last people’s revolution to be betrayed by its own victorious leadership.

Perhaps the premier example was Russia’s Bolshevik victory in 1917. Compare the party’s policies after the October Revolution to its rhetoric before. Lenin’s book “State and Revolution,” written to appeal to the huge influx of workers into the party after the February Revolution, hailed the Paris Commune as a model revolutionary government. In almost anarchistic terms, Lenin wrote of paying state officials workmen’s wages, and Trotsky promised his first act as Commissar of Foreign Affairs would be to proclaim world revolution and then shut up shop. The Bolsheviks promised land reform to the peasants and proclaimed “all power to the soviets” (workers’ councils).

After the Bolshevik seizure of power, it was a different story. Lenin began to purge one party of the Left after another. He steadily transferred managerial authority in factories from workers’ committees to strict “one-man management” and enthusiastically embraced Taylorism. The regime suppressed the Workers’ Opposition and threw anarchists into the Gulag. It carried out forced requisitions of grain and livestock, forcing collectivization in violation of traditional peasant tenure rights in the mir (or open-field system).

From 1989 on, the former Soviet bloc saw a series of “color revolutions” in which the people’s gains on the streets were immediately given away to the IMF and World Bank by the “revolutionary leaders” newly settled into the seats of power. And meanwhile, the same thing happened in South Africa.

The forces of global monopoly capital have shown they will not hesitate to resort to direct colonial rule, dictatorship, and state terror that inflicts megadeaths on innocent people, when they have no other alternative. But it’s their last resort. They far prefer — because it is far less messy — to rule indirectly through local elites, under the guise of neoliberal spectator democracy. They prefer to pacify popular majorities through the illusion of periodic elections that decide nothing, while the real decisions are dictated behind the scenes by economic elites.

In the late 1980s, faced with the prospect of a bloodbath in South Africa, the forces of global monopoly capital looked for a peaceful way out. And perceiving they might very well actually lose in the coming conflagration, the more realistic members of the apartheid regime were willing to talk.

Starting in the 1980s, according to John Pilger (“Mandela’s greatness may be assured, but not his legacy,” July 11) the white leadership had already started to try to split the black resistance between “radicals” (United Democratic Front leaders in the townships) and “moderates” they could do business with (Mandela, Mbeki and Tambo), and to coopt selected black leaders into the economic ruling class. Botha’s government used small business loans to create a black bourgeoisie who owned businesses outside the homelands, and encouraged the rise of newly enriched cronies in the ANC leadership who lived in “golf and country estates.”

When the Afrikaner realists realized a transfer of power was inevitable, they held talks at Mells Park House in England, a mansion owned by the Consolidated Gold Fields corporation. There Mandela, spirited away from prison, met with selected National Party leaders and with representatives of the leading white corporations that had extracted wealth from the black South African majority for decades.

One outcome was Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, and public talks that led to majority rule in 1994. The other was Mandela’s abandonment of what had been the ANC’s official economic agenda, the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The most important part of the RDP was its promise to redress the historic wrongs of land and mineral resource appropriation by white settlers, forced resettlement of the black population, and the historic legacy of entire industries built on slave labor and virtual slave labor. All talk of land reform or reallocating mineral rights was dropped.

The same corporate interests retained control of the South African economy — but with newly rich members of the ANC leadership buying in and new black faces on the boards of directors. This became clear with last year’s massacre of 34 workers at the Marikana platinum mine (striking to protest corruption in the National Union of Miners, part of the once-radical COSATU labor federation which had been coopted into the ANC ruling elite as part of its devil’s bargain with white capital). Former NUM president Cyril Ramaphosa sat on the board of the London-based mining company that owned Marikana. The Marikana massacre came shortly after a massacre at the Aurora gold mine, owned by Nelson Mandela’s grandson.

The state, in its essence, is a tool for exploitation by an economic ruling class. You’ll never end exploitation by putting “revolutionaries” in control of the state. You’ll just create a new ruling class.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail