|Viewpoint by Pedro Mzileni
A Reply to Mail & Guardian Frolics
The Mail & Guardian came out of its closet to disclose explicitly what it has been trying to gossip indirectly to its readers for a long time. It gave up on trying to weaken the ANC through its committed effort to report negatively consistently about its government but now it had to come out and say it out loud and clear that "Vote for opposition to weaken ANC power!". Indeed, the elastic band must have reached its stretching limit.
On 2-May-2014, Mail & Guardian wrote this melodramatic editorial with the hope to convince our people. It said "in 1994 we asked you to vote for change. Twenty years later, we ask you to use your vote to dilute overweening political power". Their story went on to say "we have no regrets about supporting the ANC in South Africa's freedom election or that we continued to back it in 1999 and even 2004 but by 2009 we trod cautiously endorsing you the voter rather than a political party".
They went further to say "perhaps the most alarming product of years of single-party dominance has been the growth of political arrogance and unaccountability. Lastly, it concluded its theatre performance by saying "by diluting the ruling party's power, we would argue - and that means narrowing its majority by swelling the opposition vote and even, in some provinces, forcing the ANC to rule in coalition - in Germany, the ruling Christian Democratic Union was forced into cooperation with the Social Democratic Party; in Britain, the Liberal Democrats have toned down Tory dominance".
I cannot forget their last paragraph where it said "the Western Cape perhaps offers a local example. One can argue that the narrowness of the DA's majority in 2009 kept it in check".
I choose to reply to this editorial by Mail & Guardian because it is a golden opportunity to expose the class struggle that exists in major institutional means of ideological production and dissemination in the form of educational and training systems, the policy apparatus within the state, a wide range of cultural and faith based institutions and the media in our example here. The battle of ideas is an integral part of the class struggle. What we see in the publication by Mail & Guardian is not only a simple straightforward campaign against the ANC but rather it's the danger of ideas themselves being purported by the ruling class using an institution. Moreover, the ruling ideas of the ruling class tend to infiltrate the outlooks and beliefs of other classes and strata.
The stage of youth is one of assimilating knowledge of all kinds. Avidly searching for a rational understanding of the surrounding world, the youth therefore displays curiosity, rebelliousness, impassioned and uncontrolled enthusiasms; it quickly forms judgements as it abandons others. Such a stage is crucial in the moulding of stable social being; thus all classes and strata wage relentless battles for the hearts and minds of the youth. It is for this reason as to why our involvement in the battle of ideas as the working-class youth is so important in all institutions including the media.
The statement that I have made above of saying the ruling ideas of the ruling class tend to infiltrate the outlooks and beliefs of other classes and strata is no longer an ideal but reality. This is particularly the case in our own current global and national realities, dominated by monopoly capital, including highly globalized media empires. In these conditions, the ideas of the global ruling class are repeated so often that they begin to seem obvious self-evident truths. As some would say, a lie repeated over and over again ultimately becomes the truth. One of the key vanguard roles of cadres of the congress movement is, precisely, to engage actively on this terrain, and expose the class interests that lie behind what often seems like the "natural" way of doing things.
To go back and unpack this media empire called the Mail & Guardian - it says …"in 1994 we asked you to vote for change. Twenty years later, we ask you to use your vote to dilute overweening political power - we have no regrets about supporting the ANC in South Africa's freedom election or that we continued to back it in 1999 and even 2004 but by 2009 we trod cautiously endorsing you the voter rather than a political party"… - This statement by them is not only false but it is equally not class innocent.
The Mail & Guardian in 1994 did not support the ANC overwhelmingly as they claim here. In their similar editorial they wrote just before the 1st general elections on 22-April-1994, what was of interest to them was the liberal concept of racial reconciliation and "development" through "economic growth" that must be "distributed to people to provide basic services and job creation". Furthermore, they also analyzed opposition parties (National Party, Democratic Party, IFP & PAC) within the same editorial in an effort to look for the most reliable liberal option they can find that has the most legitimacy to the global monopoly ruling class in charge of them.
In that editorial, they concluded that they cannot support National Party because of its ugly past, they could not support PAC because of its racial ticket, they could not support IFP because of its ethnic ticket but they wrote a long analysis of the Democratic Party (now DA) in a full and bigger paragraph than the other opposition parties. However, ruling class morality could not allow them to support Democratic Party because, in their conclusion, "was plagued by poor leadership - it has been disappointing in its attempts to woo doubtful voters particularly from minority groups and sadly, the DP failed to rise above narrow sectional interests".
There is no other evidence than this to expose the Mail & Guardian to show that it never supported the ANC because of it was carrying the Freedom Charter but rather it supported it because it had an obligation of a "peaceful racial reconciliation" to deliver and that all opposition parties that it could have supported were rather pathetic. For the Mail & Guardian it was a matter of trying to shoot two birds with one stone, a matter of being on the right side of history and being on the right side of the global ruling class together with the heroic ANC. This is proven beyond doubt when in the same editorial it goes on to say "besides, it is a basic journalistic principle to never entirely trust any government, more so one which has so much hope invested in it". A basic ruling class journalistic principle for journalists of the ruling class.
In the 1999 elections, the Mail & Guardian was in the same liberal lagoon in its editorial that it published on 21-May-1999 just before the 2nd general elections where it mentions briefly that it "supports" the ANC because the opposition is weak again and that the ANC "has insisted that the relations and rights that create wealth must be maintained intact within a stable macroeconomic environment".
This is another feature on pure neo-liberalism that I will touch later on. But here again we see the Mail & Guardian supporting soft liberal gains like "economic stability", 'peace", "prosperity", "law and order" made out of the attempted racial reconciliation. There is absolutely no mention whatsoever of race oppression, class exploitation and gender discrimination affecting the working-class majority in South Africa that the ANC with its Alliance must repair guided by the Freedom Charter.
Again, in the same editorial the Mail & Guardian stresses the fact that "voting against the ANC for the reason that a good government needs a strong opposition to keep it in check is a respectable position". The same logic is repeated in the 2004 elections.
In 2009 and 2014, now we begin to see a Mail & Guardian claiming that it has "changed" its support for the ANC because "ayisafani". I say "ayisafani" because their reasoning is not far away from that of the recent DA campaign.
If the problem is not President Jacob Zuma then it is the corruption that he "came" with to the ANC when he was born in 2009 whilst ANC documents within the movement were already talking about corruption and government in 1991. President Jacob Zuma suddenly gets erased in history as an official of the ANC from 1991 to current and Deputy President from 1997 to 2007 - a time where they were "supporting" the ANC.
I am completely correct to say that the Mail & Guardian together with all the major media empires are staunch cheerleaders of anti-majoritarian neo-liberalism, liberal constitutionalism, capitalism, and the ruling class! They stand against anything that is of working-class. In fact, the Mail & Guardian itself supports my statement when it said in its editorial on 8-April-2004 that "we are a newspaper of liberal ideals". In the course of its liberal trip, it will not be apologetic in supporting anything that is liberal - politically, economically and socially.
The Mail & Guardian in its recent editorial that I am predominantly outlining here is complaining about "single-party dominance" and it wishes South Africa to have a "democracy" similar to that of Britain, Germany etc where power is exchanged between parties. They even make a local example with Western Cape. Let us remove the political mask attached to these statements again so that we can see the true face of its neo-liberal ruling class hiding.
Views expressed by Mail & Guardian and are always shared by the DA and other opposition parties are that there is "danger" with a "two-thirds majority". There is also a constant harp of deliberately "confusing party and the state", a harp of "cadre deployment" and another harp of having an ANC being in an Alliance with the trade union movement and the vanguard of the working-class.
All these of these concerns amount to a single fundamental concern in that the South African post-1994 democratic dispensation has not degenerated into a typical liberal democratic, two-party dispensation in which a centre-right and a centre-left political party, barely distinguishable from each other rotate through office.
This kind of "democracy" has reached its low-point in the United States, where to stand as a candidate, even for a relatively modest office, requires billions of dollars of campaigning funding. Typically, the major corporations in the US will support both parties and stand to benefit equally from whoever wins. This is so identical in the contemporary oligopolistic market in which the commodities of the major corporates (be it soap, cars, juice or cellphone) are distinguished not by price or quality, but by "branding". That is the type of a democracy that Mail & Guardian and the DA want to see.
They hate the investment the ANC has made in the millions of South Africans over the last 102 years in fighting for their disposed political, social and economic freedom. They hate the fact that in the ANC, the majority sees the true embodiment of all its aspirations. They hate its persisting movement character, its ward based branch-level organization and mobilizing traditions and its continued commitment to an alliance with two avowedly radical socialist formations, the SACP and COSATU. They hate the fact that this means that the ANC and therefore the state are accessible to the direct influence of class forces other than their established monopoly capital.
What they want is a "democracy" of lazy politicians that come out of the media (not society) with a Hollywood charisma and attractive organizational appeal sprinkled with bright colours that don't have meaning to "wow" the "voters" (not citizens) towards elections (only). They want a democracy were the "winner" of elections gets 51% and them getting 49% and call it a "matured democracy". To them, a two thirds majority is a "threat" not a democratic mandate given to the ANC by outright majority of a simple vote.
To them, receiving 66% of the vote is not a democratic episode but a somewhat unfamiliar circumstance or an accident of democracy. To them, the two thirds majority is not of a result of a straightforward voting by the majority in a democracy that they now seem not to understand it but rather is some form of a danger. They are afraid of a democracy. Votes going to them are democratic but votes going to the ANC are a threat.
Cadre deployment according to the media and DA is not supposed to happen. They constantly call for the deployment of "competent leaders" not "cadres".
Basically, they are saying that a government that the majority have given a mandate for the ANC to lead, the ANC must turn around and not put its leaders to lead such a government. The leadership of the ANC must step aside and allow "competent leaders" to run its government whilst it stand and watches the show unfold. They forget that cadre deployment is something that they themselves do. When DA won Western Cape, it was a leader of the DA that became Premier. But somehow, when the ANC wins elections, it must not be President Jacob Zuma occupying Presidency with the leadership of the ANC in government.
They want the ANC to be told by them what is a competent leader and according to their own liberal definition of the word "word". Basically the ANC must be told by the minority occupying opposition benches on how it must run its government.
The Mail & Guardian embarrasses itself even more in its editorial when it mentions that "the Western Cape perhaps offers a local example. One can argue that the narrowness of the DA's majority in 2009 kept it in check". What is shocking about this analysis from Mail & Guardian is that it now does not say that "voting against the DA for the reason that a good government needs a strong opposition to keep it in check is a respectable position".
At no particular stage does it encourage the people of Western Cape to vote for the opposition to "weaken" the power of DA but it encourages the other 8 provinces to vote "tactically" to weaken the power of the ANC. This exposes Mail & Guardian in broad daylight that it is supporting the Democratic Alliance! Also, it shows that the Mail & Guardian is anti-government and anti-state because it is encouraging people to vote for an opposition whilst people want to vote for a government. There is no other way to undermine the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality facing our people other than this one.
Another ideological theme of the media/DA is the use of a wide array of NGOs and liberal think-tanks is that the ANC and its alliance constitute a "threat to the Constitution". In making this ideological claim, these anti-majoritarian liberals deliberately dumb-down the actual Constitution, turning it into a narrow 19th century liberal document focused on upholding individual rights and on checking-and-balancing the state. While these values are important and are certainly present in our Constitution, the anti-majoritarian liberals conceal the many transformative obligations that our Constitution places upon the democratic state.
This, in turn, relates to the ideological posture that the media/DA assumes in situations in which it holds political office. It seeks to transform the political electoral debate into a competition over "delivery", "efficiency", and addressing "backlogs". But one must notice how these ideological terms "delivery", "efficiency", and "backlogs" serve two purposes.
In the first place, the DA (given its history and anti-majoritarian platform) tends to win elections only in localities that are relatively wealthy and well resourced, which immediately skews any "delivery" competition between it and the ANC with its mass-base in improvished townships that have a weak revenue base, and in provinces with a lasting legacy of dire, ex-bantustan, rural poverty. But secondly, and more importantly, "delivery", "efficiency", and "backlogs" are all ideological terms that divert our attention from the imperative of carrying forward structural transformation. And this goes to the heart of the anti-majoritarian liberal position - it is in favour of change, but change without transformation!
TAKING THE BATTLE OF IDEAS FORWARD
What I have attempted to analyze above are the major anti-working class economic and political ideologies of our current South African conjecture. Within the congress movement we have a vanguard responsibility as working-class leadership to continuously analyze, expose and popularize our analysis of these ideological currents. As in the class struggle in general, however, it is also important to conduct the ideological struggle with a coherent strategy and tactics.
This means, in the first place, being able to identify the dominant threat to a socialist struggle, and also any immediate principal dangers. Unquestionably, neo-liberalism is the dominant ideological threat locally and globally to the struggle for a different world. It is important that we build the broadest unity against this threat, and that we help to identify, also, elements of neo-liberalism when they infiltrate parts of our movement.
TRANSFORM THE MEDIA!!
In the battle of ideas the media sector plays an absolutely critical role. South Africa's print media landscape remains dominated by four big role players - Naspers, Avusa, the Independent Group and the Caxton group. The Mail & Guardian is foreign-owned entirely. Black ownership in the print media is 14% and the representation of women in boards and senior management in the media is 4.4%. the circulation patterns of newspapers shows that there is a serious lack of distribution in rural areas. Close to 70% of newspaper readers are in Gauteng and Western Cape.
In broadcasting, while the SABC is dominant, Kagiso media has established a sizeable presence with its ownership of private commercial radio stations.
Media monopoly is a major threat to media freedom, to an informed society, and to a meaningful democracy. Current patterns of concentrated ownership an control of the media promote commercial interests and the logic of the private capitalist market. At the moment, it is only ONE class that owns the media and it is distributing ONE message. There is absolutely no diversity and freedom of information in that!
As part of building working class power and hegemony in the battle of ideas it is important that workers in the sector are mobilized and develop a class consciousness. The trade union movement in the media sector must organize journalists. Given the importance of the media in the battle of ideas and its direct impact on today's youth, the congress movement must develop more comprehensive perspectives on the media, and a more coherent strategy and tactics to contribute more effectively to transforming the media in the interests of the national democratic and socialist struggles. This debate is not new
(Pedro Mzileni is in the Branch Political Education Sub-Committee of the ANCYL Khaya Mabeca Branch)