The looming threat of the proto-fascist, demagogic, hybrid neo-Stalinist business unionists, ethnically-tinged vigilantes and the preachy capitalist philanthropists

I am up to my neck in it, trying to tease out the main implications and trends of the election – in a way that might be useful to investors in our financial markets.

As part of the process I read everything I can find that has been written about the elections. I have just read the Sunday Independent to see what the journalists and columnists had to say and I came across something that I felt I needed to share; and social media granted me immediate gratification.

Jeremy Cronin, deputy general secretary of the SACP, wrote a column assessing the election under the title “No room for complacency for ANC and alliance partners”.

Cronin is always good value and worth reading and today he was especially feisty.

Opposition emerging to the left of the ANC/SACP/Cosatu alliance is an important matter for anyone who has an interest in how South African politics will progress. And Cronin deals with this question as part of his election assessment.

Cronin’s tone reminds me of the sectarian and slightly Stalinist tendencies that I was very much part of throughout the 80’s … and I felt almost nostalgic when he characterised the threats from the left thusly:

Will a serious left challenge now come from outside the ANC alliance? It’s possible, but only if we in the ANC alliance are clumsy or arrogant. We need to distinguish the proto-fascist demagogy of Malema from the hybrid neo-Stalinist business unionism of Irvin Jim, from the ethnically-tinged vigilantism of the Amcu leadership, from the preachy capitalist philanthropy of Jay Naidoo and Mamphela Ramphele.

I wanted to follow that with a few exclamation marks. It’s funny and it has a certain poetic rolling cadence that left me smiling … for a few seconds.

Until I realised that the trick Cronin has pulled here is he has created a sort of ideological bestiary and placed within it every conceivable left critic of the ANC and the SACP.

If you are a left critic of the ANC, SACP, Cosatu alliance then you are either a  proto-fascist demagogue or a hybrid neo-Stalinist business unionist, or you might be an ethnically-tinged vigilante or even a preachy capitalist philanthropist. You certainly couldn’t be a principled socialist of some kind, because then you would be in the ANC/SACP /Cosatu. Dah!

“Clumsy or arrogant”?

The article is worth reading because it gives a mostly subtle and thoughtful assessment of the election from an insiders view, but is, as you can see from the excerpt, occasionally entertainingly clumsy and arrogant.

After fiddling around a bit, I found it at Read it, it is here.

4 thoughts on “The looming threat of the proto-fascist, demagogic, hybrid neo-Stalinist business unionists, ethnically-tinged vigilantes and the preachy capitalist philanthropists

  1. While I support JC’s concluding statement as a matter of belief, it is not an evidence based conclusion arising from the article or election. We cannot fathom all the motivations which led millions to vote – for the ANC, DA or EFF – without better data. But nice statement of faith anyway.

    1. Exactly … the statement: “In coming out in their millions on Wednesday, South Africans were signalling they don’t want to be the passive recipients of top-down delivery .. they want to be active protagonists in a collective struggle to transform their lives and our country – and not just once every five years” … It would be churlish to point out that the statement has an inherent contradiction at its heart, I feel churlish in pointing out: by coming out to vote we are indicating that we don’t just want to come out and vote … hmmm, I hope so.

  2. Thanks for the Cronin link, Nic. As you point out, always a good, thought-provoking read. Sadly, I don’t find him feisty (vintage polemics aside). Perhaps more apt: wistful, defeated and isolated as a once tactically astute intellectual of the former (long-forgotten) morally-ascendant Congress movement. The ANC as driver of democratic space? The opportunity was there in 2009, the result increasing closure. An oligarchy consolidating? Look no further than our incoming Deputy-President, or our geo-political adventures in Central Africa. The parasitism of a predatory elite is dismissed with an obligatory reference to corruption. Sadly, what Cronin fails to acknowledge (or perhaps even see, as a matter – for him – of existential implosion) is that the ANC has become that left-of-centre creature of liberal democracy, as beholden to capital and the defeat of participatory democracy as its ever more-feisty right-of-centre opponent. Twenty years on, we’re just another parody of the liberal western democratic model, but with a very different, inherently unstable, internal social configuration. Our side-by-side position with America on the Economist’s crony capitalism index is a more apt summary of what we have achieved: from Africa’s little America, hail to the mentor.

  3. “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
    “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
    “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
    Ford shrugged again.
    “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

    – Douglas Adams, “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish”

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