Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has coined or popularised three catch phrases, all of which have caused a mixture of controversy, anger, support and
confusion in various quarters.

The first was “a ticking time bomb” (of poverty and unemployment); the second a call in September for a “Lula moment” apparently to defuse this time bomb; and, finally, last week, the jibe that ANC no longer stood for African National Congress, but for “Absolutely No Consequences”.

All of these are being sifted over and discussed as the crucial ANC elective conference at Mangaung looms.

And while there continues to be much concentration on the possible votes of branches and provinces at Mangaung, the two most organised groups in the governing alliance, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP), have
given unequivocal support to President Jacob Zuma for a second term in office.
This is the reason that there was considerable anger in official ANC and alliance circles about Vavi’s remark about what ANC now represents.

However, the comment also generated a fair amount of mirth and approval in others.

It has also, to the chagrin of party loyalists, been hailed by critics of both the ANC and, in particular, of the party’s present leadership. To loyalists this is tantamount to
treason, to “giving support to the enemy”.

But the comment stuck a chord with many in the trade union rank and file, which is
where Vavi’s support lies; it is an open secret that he does not have majority support
within the Cosatu executive.

And this is why most commentators become confused and accuse Vavi of  inconsistency. Does he or does he not, for example, support a second term for Zuma?
— he often appears not to, but then, as the Cosatu leader, he unequivocally backs that second term.

However, he provided the answer to this apparent contradiction last week when he refused to be drawn on his personal preference, but noted that Cosatu supported the
second term proposition. In other words, whatever his personal view, the majority of the Cosatu leadership took the pro-Zuma position and he was therefore bound by it.

This was a classic example of what the SACP deems to be democratic centralism in action. It means that what most of the Cosatu executive decides, becomes binding on the federation as a whole. The fact that most — if not all — of the Cosatu executive are SACP members obviously helps this process.

However, critics point out that such decisions are not put to the vote of shop stewards, let alone rank and file union members. This form of decision making, they say, is better described as bureaucratic or centralised democracy; orders passed down
by a leadership clique or elite.

So while Vavi has provided several hints that he is not happy with another term for Zuma, he remains loyal to the decision making concept and practice of “democratic centralism”. At the same time, his regular verbal sallies against corruption and
excesses in high places have also garnered him considerable support at rank and file level, whether Zuma supporters or not.

It is this popularity that played an important role in halting a planned challenge to him from the floor of the September Cosatu congress. Other factors were the events at Marikana and the revelation that possible challenger, Frans Baleni of the National Union of Mineworkers, had accepted a 108 per cent pay rise, a fact that ruffled many trade union feathers.

It was at this congress that Vavi made his comment about a “Lula moment”. It was made in the context of the fact that Brazil’s immediate past president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva had been invited to address the Cosatu gathering. In the event, Lula
could not make it, and his visit was rescheduled for November.

However, the message was clear: Lula and Brazil possessed the answers to South Africa’s abiding problems of poverty and unemployment. In other words, the means
to defuse Vavi’s ticking time bomb.

There was also the claim that Lula had only been able to work his magic after being given a second term. The implication again was clear: coupled with Lula’s recipes, a second term for Zuma would spell more jobs, more prosperity and less poverty for
South Africa.

While some Cosatu delegates balked at the term “Lula moment” and wanted, instead,  to call for a “Freedom Charter moment”, most seemly bought into this idea that an economic panacea was at hand. But now more doubters are starting to emerge — and with good reason.

In the first place, the whole argument about national solutions ignores the reality of our global “village”, where surpluses from one region or country undercut similar products in others. This is the basis, for example, of the present row about Brazil, the world’s major poultry exporter, “dumping” cut price poultry on our market.

Both Vavi and the Freedom Charter moment supporters also ignored local labour history. Because what Lula and his Workers’ Party (PT) did in Brazil, was, in broad terms, outlined in the 1996 “Social Equity” document of combined South African
trade union movement.The PT placed redistribution before growth, effectively introduced a basic income grant, extended public works, raised the minimum wage and provided finance to get small farmers producing. At the same time there was a boom in commodities such as iron ore and soya that Brazil produces in massive quantities.

All of this combined to make for a 7.5 per cent economic growth rate in 2010, an election year. But last year, growth slumped to 2.7 per cent and there are few economists who predict that Brazil’s economy will breach 1.6 per cent this year.

Because, like South Africa and everywhere else, for that matter, Brazil is part of the global village and subject to all the vagaries of market prices, currency manipulation and other pressures exerted by an economic system broadly managed by the very
limited form of democratic control that citizens exercise while more and more of  them are made permanently redundant.

Terry Bell

(see also earlier discussion on: Lula, Brazil and BRICS)



About selcoolie

see: briefly: Born in Cape Town, South Africa; moved to Sweden in1969 and completed studies in 1983, then moved to Norway and then to S.A. in 1993 - back to Norway in 2005, and been there ever since! E-mail: Web Page: zcommunications/zspace/selcool In My Own Words: ¨ South African born ex-academic now retired, exiled and beyond redemption? Interests South African political economy and history; International Socialism and Marxist/Anarchist thought; anti-militarism and ecological questions My draft autobiography (ALL the "closet secrets" in the open! @ Aslo view:

One response to “THE MYTH OF A ‘LULA MOMENT’ by Terry Bell”

  1. selcoolie says :

    South Africa: Dreaming of our own Lula moment (opinion)

    Johannesburg (South Africa) –

    We need to draw a clear distinction between redemptive fantasies that, while they may be comforting, ultimately function to legitimate injustice and, on the other hand, redemptive visions that can inspire collective action against injustice.

    We also need to understand that politics is dynamic – that organisations, processes and ideas that emerge from living struggles ossify, exhaust their capacity to express emancipatory energies and become detached from the lived experience of struggle that generated them.

    South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS), by Richard Pithouse* | Monday, 03 December 2012

    Yesterday’s electric vision can be today’s stolid ideology wielded by a bureaucracy to police the political.

    There was a time when the National Democratic Revolution was a vision for change that inspired effective action. These days its driving idea, that we inhabit an unfolding process of democratisation, is sheer fantasy and a fantasy that is routinely deployed to mask the fact that we are plainly becoming a less democratic society.

    The idea of a Second Transition, while marked by a refreshing honesty about many of the ANC’s failings, is also fantastical.

    It lacks any credible idea of how to build and sustain a constituency within the ruling alliance that could successfully confront the interests that, from its commanding heights down to its base in the branches and ward committees, are deeply invested in its collective social failings in so far as it is precisely these failings that enable their personal accumulation of wealth and power.

    When honesty about failure is not matched with honesty about the prospects for effectively confronting the interests that depend on this failure it too functions to legitimate rather than to confront injustice.

    The hope that Zuma’s second term in office could take the form of a ‘Lula Moment’ is the latest idea being floated with a view to renewing confidence in the ANC and providing it with some sort of credible social vision.

    The story of the former Brazilian President Lula da Silva has an obvious attraction for people trying to wrestle some credible prospects for social hope from the Zuma Presidency. Lula, a man of humble origins, came to power on a tide of messianic enthusiasm in a society profoundly structured in inequality, an inequality deeply inflected by race. Brazil was still moving away from its authoritarian past, its formal democratic commitments were seriously compromised by corruption and a political system built on patronage and the country was marked by both a very powerful corporate elite and enduring popular struggles.

    All of this has obvious resonances for our own society. But it is probably the fact that while Lula’s first term in office is widely judged to have been something of a fiasco he was able to make real gains in reducing poverty and inequality in his second term, and to leave office as a tremendously popular figure, that offers the most hope for people trying to salvage something from the failures of the Zuma Presidency.

    There’s no question that Lula’s administration had many obvious failings including a reluctance to act decisively against corruption, an unwillingness to confront the power of a rural elite with vast land holdings or the growing power of agribusiness, a pandering to finance capital and attempts to co-opt and contain rather than to encourage popular movements.

    But while Brazil remains a society with very serious social problems there was genuine social progress, economic and political, under Lula.


This social progress has been limited and Brazil remains an obscenely unequal society in which inequality is not merely an economic reality but something that is performed, day after day, in routine encounters.

    Unsurprisingly Lula and his party have plenty of articulate and persuasive critics to their left.

    Nonetheless the social progress that has been made in Brazil is real and economic growth in Brazil has not been accompanied with the same degree of political authoritarianism that we have seen, in different degrees, in countries like China, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and India.

    Given the extent of our own failings the prospect of real social progress, even if limited, is an attractive prospect.


Lula had some good luck in office in the form of the discovery of oil and the commodities boom in China.

    But his administration can take credit for raising wages, the introduction of a system of cash transfers to poor people and a more consultative approach to governance.

    The system of cash transfers has been widely praised for putting cash directly in people’s hands in a way that bypasses the local political elites that are, as is rapidly becoming the case in South Africa, widely engaged in the brazen diversion of supposedly universal entitlements through party structures.

    The direct way in which cash is moved from the state to its citizens without mediation through local political structures has meant that this programme has had a democratising as well as an economic function.

    When the idea of a Zuma Moment to match the Lula Moment was floated at the Cosatu conference in September Steven Friedman, writing with his characteristic logical precision, made the point that the ANC is a nationalist movement while Lula’s party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Worker’s Party) is a worker’s movement.

    Friedman noted that nationalist parties have very different projects to workers’ parties and argued that if COSATU is serious about achieving a progressive shift within the ruling alliance it would have to get serious about building an organised constituency in support of the working class and the poor.

    This is a vital point as is the observation that the Lula Moment was a consequence of many years of struggle and organisation in and out of the party that bought him to power.


No doubt part of the attraction of the idea of the Lula Moment for Cosatu is that Lula was a trade unionist whose party built its power in workers’ struggles.

    But if Cosatu cannot find ways to effectively contest the drift of some of its leading affiliates up the class hierarchy, towards a closer identification with the ruling party than workers’ interests and a ruthless hostility to workers’ independent self-organisation, a phenomenon that could reinvigorate the broader workers’ movement, it is not going to build the sort of independent worker’s power that could develop the capacity to take on and win significant battles in the ruling alliance and in wider society.

    Moreover the struggles that led up to the Lula Presidency in Brazil were not just workers’ struggles.

    Rural struggles in Brazil have produced the largest and most successful movement for land reform anywhere in the world – a movement that has achieved far more in terms of agrarian reform from outside of government than the Partido dos Trabalhadores has achieved in government.

    And James Holston has argued that in Brazil “Contrary to so much nineteenth and twentieth century theory” insurgent citizenship has, in recent years, been developed “not primarily through the struggles of labour but through those of the city.”

    Raul Zibechi argues that this is not unique to Brazil and that: “If a spectre is haunting Latin American elites at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is for sure living in the peripheries of large cities.

    The main challenge to the dominant system in the last two decades have emerged from the heart of the poor urban peripheries.”

    This is certainly true in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela.

    It’s also clear that in South Africa while we are amidst a new vitality in workers struggles on the mines and the farms, there has, since at least 2004, been a sustained urban struggle frequently rooted in the shack settlement.

    Cosatu’s failure to take this struggle seriously has been a major miscalculation on the part of the democrats and progressives that remain in the federation.


If there is a lesson that we should be learning from Brazil, and Latin America more broadly, it is that social progress does not depend on a magical moment of collective redemption channelled through a once discredited leader.

    On the contrary even very limited social progress has to be built on sustained popular struggle and organisation.

    Cosatu’s failure to openly and effectively confront its own degeneration, to engage worker’s self-organisation as a legitimate and potential source of renewal for the broader workers’ movement, to seriously oppose the growing authoritarianism with which the ANC approaches popular dissent and to make common cause with the ongoing rebellion in the shack settlements across the country are part of the reason why the idea of the Lula Moment functions as another fig leaf masking the ongoing degeneration of the ANC under Zuma rather than as an enabling collective vision that can inspire real action for real change.

    *Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University.


    For more informative articles on Lula, Brazil and Latin American developments see:

    LATIN AMERICA: Socialist Revolution and Latin American Unity
    Saturday 30 April 2005, by Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski


    The Brazilian left at the crossroads
    NOVEMBER 2004, Wednesday 16 February 2005, by Palavra Cruzada


    BRAZIL: The two souls of Lula’s government
    Friday 7 March 2003, by João Machado


    BRAZIL: From Lula to Dilma
    Tuesday 14 February 2012, by Michael Löwy



    from: New Socialist : Webzine

    What is the ANC and Where is the Left in South Africa?

    Published on Thursday, 04 October 2012 18:38

    By Chris Webb

    About a month ago I stood with some 200 striking farm workers in South Africa’s Hex River Valley, a rich agricultural region that produces table grapes for export.

    The workers were on strike against severe pay cuts and outsourcing, which came about when a major fruit export company took over the farm from its previous owner.

    The workers were a mixed group.

    Some were Zimbabwean migrants, but the majority were Xhosa speakers from the more impoverished Eastern Cape, where 72 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

    Most of them currently lived in the valley’s informal settlements, expanses of matchbox houses and zinc shacks on the dusty ground between the grape farms.

    As we marched toward the farm, the workers began to sing struggle songs praising the African National Congress (ANC) and the role of struggle leaders like Oliver Tambo and Chris Hani.

    The songs and circumstances seemed to capture the complexities and paradoxical politics that define the post-apartheid condition.

    While the promises of the political transition in 1994, the ANC’s “A Better Life For All” campaign, have been largely unfulfilled, the idea of the ANC as the agent of political emancipation remains very much alive.

    How then can we make sense of a political organization that has largely accepted the dictates of global neoliberalism, failed to restructure the country’s apartheid-era labour markets, allowed a handful of white commercial farmers to retain most of the country’s land, is embroiled in near endless corruption scandals, yet retains the support of millions of poor and working class South Africans at least once every four years?

    Of Struggle and SUVs

    The ANC is a difficult beast to understand.

    In its contemporary form it is perhaps most adequately described by writer and activist Patrick Bond’s useful “Talk Left, Walk Right” phrase, which describes its strategy of justifying neoliberal or anti-democratic policies using Marxist phraseology and obligatory allusions to struggle heroes.

    This has been a crucial tactic for the party in maintaining the hegemony across the class divide and asserting its dominance as the sole inheritor of the liberation struggle.

    Numerous scholars have emphasized the diversity of political, religious and labour movements that comprised the anti-apartheid movement, rather than viewing the ANC and its armed wing as the primary actors.

    There remains significant debate over the political character of the ANC before the transition to majority rule in 1994.

    Was it forced to abandon radical redistributive reforms by the World Bank and the ruling white elite, or were its economic ambitions always more moderate?

    Did the collapse of the Soviet Union bury its aims of socialist transformation?

    Moving forward one could question whether the transition from the mildly redistributive Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) policy in 1994 to the pro-market Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy in 1996 was a sign of shifting class alliances within, or simply a party pragmatically adapting to the dictates of globalization.

    A closer examination of the party’s history can help us answer some of these questions.

    If we return to some of the debates that shaped the party in the mid 20th century it becomes clear that its primary concern was the pursuit of state power with the goal of universal suffrage.

    The party’s ambitions were only socialist to the extent that they fraternized with the South African Communist Party (SACP).

    This is not to suggest that the party’s politics have always been homogeneous: the influence of Marxists like Harry Gwala, Govan Mbeki and Chris Hani was significant.

    Indeed, these internal ideological rifts and debates between Liberal, Marxist and African nationalists tendencies have defined much of the party’s history, including a strong anti-communist current that emerged in the 1950s.

    The political heterogeneity and the vigorous internal debate that were once key strengths of the party as it faced the material and ideological barrage of the apartheid state have eroded in recent years as a creeping culture of discipline and deference to leadership has taken over.

    Ultimately the school of thought that emerged triumphant did not see the 1955 Freedom Charter as a pathway toward socialist transformation but rather as a means toward establishing a capitalist democracy.

    This would be the prelude to a socialist state, but in the interim, the ANC would fight against racism rather than capitalism.

    Known as the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), this two-stage theory of revolution (a Stalinist hangover to be sure) remains on the books as the party’s guidebook of societal transformation.

    While its first phase, the deracialization of the economy, has progressed significantly, the second phase of a socialist transition is an ever-receding goal on the horizon.

    This ossified political doctrine has allowed the party to retain its radical credentials while using it to enrich a small coterie of black businesspeople who are its primary beneficiaries.

    Another good starting point for understanding the current state of the ANC is to return to the ouster of former president Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007.

    Mbeki was widely criticized as an out-of-touch president more interested in quelling conflicts in the rest of Africa than dealing with spiraling unemployment and poor service delivery at home.

    His bizarre position on the HIV-Aids epidemic, along with his near-thorough embrace of orthodox neoliberalism, distanced him from the ANC’s historic allies in the tripartite alliance, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the SACP.

    The fall of Mbeki and the rise of Jacob Zuma can be explained by the widening gap between the ANC and its alliance partners as well as between the presidency and party’s base. Zuma’s popularity amongst ANC members, particularly in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, along with his long history in the organization earned him the support of many rank-and-file members.

    Perhaps most importantly, he successfully framed himself as a voice of the poor and working class, earning him the support of COSATU and the SACP.

    Rape and corruption charges aside, supporting Zuma during this time was seen as a way of regenerating the ANC and the alliance structures.

    COSATU’s General Secretary Zwelenzima Vavi recently told a trade union congress that the euphoria felt after Polokwane had not returned the ANC back to members, nor had it held government to account.

    “If we don’t act decisively, we are heading rapidly in the direction of a full-blown predator state, in which a powerful elite increasingly controls the state as a vehicle for accumulation,” he told delegates.

    Accumulation of personal wealth via state channels has embroiled the ANC in scandals too numerous to list.

    Perhaps the most notable among them is the 1999 arms deal, which involved massive payouts from European Arms companies to senior ANC politicians.

    The case reached a fever pitch in 2005, when Zuma was temporarily suspended as deputy president after his close advisor was jailed for his role in the arms deal scandal.

    Current vice-president Kgalema Motlanthe has called this moral decay of the organization a “rot across the board.”

    Almost every project is conceived because it offers opportunities for certain people to make money.

    And yet this moral decay of the party is an inevitable outcome of its adherence to the myopic NDR and piecemeal deracialization of corporate boardrooms.

    The ANC has not undergone any significant ideological transformation under Zuma.

    Economic and labour market policy has stayed the course of the Mbeki years, and there have been few attempts at addressing spiraling unemployment, particularly among young people.

    A system of “regulated labour flexibility” remains central to the party’s market-friendly policies, which has resulted in the massive growth of contingent and contract employment across the economy.

    Unions have estimated that between one and two million workers are employed through third-party contract agencies.

    This growing insecurity of employment has condemned those lucky enough to find work to poverty and increasing indebtedness, while preventing effective organization of a growing class of precarious workers.

    Following the Polokwane conference the ANC under Zuma has repeatedly made commitments to rural development and agrarian reform.

    The government has released a series of policy documents outlining its vision for broad agrarian transformation aimed at challenging the political economy of rural underdevelopment.

    Closer examination of these documents reveals that they remain conceptually tied to a commercial farming model that has done little to generate sustainable employment in the past.

    The much discussed Green Paper on Land Reform is not a significant break from the pro-market, investor friendly policies of years past, which have left 87 percent of the land in the hands of white commercial farmers.

    It is a serious indictment of ANC policymaking that for the past 18 years there has been no systematic attempt to address rural poverty and landlessness.

    It is indeed unfortunate that there is no rural social movement capable of taking up the mantle of agrarian transformation towards sustainable livelihoods at present.

    Recently the party has attempted to quell criticism by releasing a series of new economic platforms, each murkier than the one before, on how to create decent employment while sustaining high levels of growth.

    The New Growth Path (NGP), released in early 2011, is filled with rhetorical flourishes on the creation of decent work and alleviating poverty but, in the words of COSATU, it “does not represent a breakthrough in economic thinking and in economic policy.”

    The party’s appeal to East Asian Developmentalism and Scandinavian social democracy does not fit the realities of an economic structure built, primarily, around a core mining sector supported by a base of cheap labour.

    The document offers a limited role for the state, once again casting private business as the core driver of economic growth.

    In any event it is not clear what the future of the NGP is as a recently released National Development Plan proposes a far less interventionist role for the state. It will be up to delegates at the ANC’s leadership conference this December to make their pick.

    Mangaung in the Shadow of Marikana

    This December ANC delegates will gather in the party’s birthplace, Mangaung, to choose the party’s next leader and discuss policy matters.

    The murder of 34 miners at Marikana and the strike wave that spread like wildfire across the mining sector will surely be hot topics, but whether they will result in another Polokwane moment is doubtful.

    The messaging coming out of a recent COSATU conference has been to place the blame squarely on the mining company, Lonmin, and it’s poverty wages and poor housing rather than questioning the role of the state in the massacre.

    This, in all likelihood, will be the result of the official state investigation into the massacre, which will absolve the state or the national police commissioner of any wrongdoing.

    No inquiry, however, can erase the images of black South African police officers gunning down miners.

    The subsequent revelations by the Daily Maverick of an orchestrated slaughter cannot be brushed aside lightly for incoming party leadership.

    While the ANC washes its hands of the matter it cannot hope to escape the aftermath of Marikana anytime soon.

    First, the fact that the inheritor of the liberation struggle massacred its own citizens, many of whom voted for the ANC, arrested their fellow protesters and subsequently accused them of murdering their own coworkers using an archaic piece of apartheid-era legislation has massive symbolic significance. The allegations of police torture that emerged soon after adds fuel to the fire.

    Second, there is the meteoric rise of political firebrand Julius Malema from the political wilderness to a renegade leader of striking mineworkers to be considered.

    Malema, the former leader of the ANC Youth League, has emerged as a media phenomenon and significant political force following the massacre. He visited with the striking miners days after the massacre, paid for many of their funerals, and went on a whirlwind tour of the platinum belt, urging workers to die for their cause of R12,500 a month in wages ($1,500 CAD) rather than give up the fight. While Malema’s sympathy for the struggle of the working class emerges more from opportunist populism than genuine class solidarity, he was the only figure able to capitalize on glaring absence of political leadership following the massacre. Whatever you may think of his rather muddled politics, he was the only figure who received a warm reception from striking miners compared the cold shoulder received by Zuma and many other ANC higher ups.

    The vitriol and accusations made against him by the ANC and alliance partners speaks to a growing crisis of political leadership.

    The disaffection of thousands of miners from the historically dominant National Union of Mineworkers to breakaway unions promising greater wages and greater representation speaks to the unraveling of working class identities from the alliance.

    While there was little of substance that came out of the most recent COSATU conference, aside for the renewed call for strategic nationalization and a call for a “Lula Moment” (referencing the popular former president of Brazil, Lula da Silva) in South Africa, this lack of action belies the fact that the federation faces significant challenges in representing the most vulnerable workers in the economy.

    They have been largely unsuccessful in organizing the country’s growing precariat, and many of their calls for basic income grants, strategic nationalization and increased land reform have gone unfulfilled.

    Nevertheless, COSATU’s ability to mobilize millions of workers, as they did in early March, should not be underestimated.

    It is in the interest of all South African workers to see a stronger and more democratic trade union federation rather than one plagued by petty rivalries and leadership battles.

    However, it is unlikely that this will come about without some distance between the federation and the ANC.

    Where is the Left?

    While the tide of social movements in South Africa has receded lately, a spattering of radical grassroots formations continue to struggle against housing evictions, the intransigence of corrupt councillors and politicians, and the daily privations of living in the most unequal society in the world.

    Organizations like Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) remain incredibly important in confronting the legacy of apartheid-era spatial engineering and cheap labour policies.

    As important as these movements are in confronting the violence endemic to post-apartheid society, they have not yet galvanized mass support nor demonstrated that they have the political potential to constitute a serious counter-hegemonic effort.

    At present there is no organization or party able to channel the anger that millions of South Africans feel into a transformative political project.

    The increase in service delivery protests since 2004, which have resulted in repeated clashes with the police and numerous deaths, are desperate struggles of the poor against the daily injustices bred by severe poverty and inequality.

    These protests are often aimed at achieving immediate demands for the poor (an end to the bucket system of toilets or electricity delivery, for example), and they represent is a growing dissatisfaction with the ruling party that can easily be co-opted by savvy politicians—the role of the ANC Youth League in service delivery protests in the Western Cape is but one example.

    In their present form, however, they do not represent a significant challenge to the status quo.

    More often than not they are quietened by a visit by an ANC MP or the expansion of housing developments in a township.

    There is a desperate need for an organization to give voice to their demands while pushing for structural reforms.

    The formation of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) as a broad alliance of social movements struggling collectively within an anti-capitalist framework is heartening in this regard.

    It remains to be seen whether this movement can provide a platform through which social movements can broaden their scope of action and pose a significant challenge.

    In addition, the formation of a Campaign for Solidarity with Marikana is a positive step in building bridges between social forces and keeping the memory of those slain by police alive in collective memory.

    These formations, and the anti-capitalist politics underpinning them, will be increasingly important in confronting a ruling party intent on bludgeoning its own citizenry into submission.

    It is a significant undertaking, and will require new forms of political organizing and action that can combine the process of meeting the immediate needs of the poor with a long-term structural transformation of South African society.

    It calls for a renewed imagining of post-apartheid society, which counters the stale rhetoric of state developmentalism or the National Democratic Revolution.

    In the words of the late Neville Alexander, it is a process of, “find[ing] unity in action just as we find new ways of seeing the struggle for another world and another South Africa.”

    Chris Webb is a writer and activist based in Toronto. He is a member of the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly and a columnist for Canadian Dimension magazine.


    For more “contextualization” and the unknown history of the ANC/SACP in exile, the background to the “Arms Deal” and corruption in the ANC, see:

    INSIDE QUADRO: End of an Era

    The first-hand testimony by former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) about the ANC prison regime, together with press reports that began to appear in Britain in March this year, are an event in South African history. Never before has such concentrated factual evidence been presented about the inner nature of the ANC and its eminence grise, the South African Communist Party.

    If people wish to understand the operation of the ANC/SACP, they must look here. This is the view behind the proscenium arch, behind the scenery, where the machinery that runs the whole show is revealed in its actual workings.

    The ANC/SACP did a very good job in preventing public knowledge of its secret history from emerging, and the testimony of the Nairobi five shows how. (Two other South Africans, both women, are with the five in Nairobi at the time of writing, but they have not yet gone public about their experiences). Those who survived the Gulag system of the ANC/SACP did so knowing that to reveal what they had been through meant re-arrest, renewed tortures and in all probability, death. They had to sign a form committing them to silence…..

    ANC in exile’s human rights record: The Cambridge Seminar by Paul Trewhela
    18 February 2010

    The record of the liberation movements under scrutiny in the United Kingdom

    ANC, SWAPO AND ZANU-PF HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD UNDER SCRUTINY AT CAMBRIDGE – Seminar at the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release

    On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at Cambridge University hosted a roundtable discussion at King’s College on Wednesday 10 February with leading academics on Southern Africa – Professors Stephen Ellis, Saul Dubow and Jocelyn Alexander – and with Paul Trewhela, the author of Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO (Jacana, 2009). The seminar was chaired by the BBC World Service’s Africa Editor, Martin Plaut.

    Participants set out to examine the human rights record of liberation movements in the region as a whole, with a particular focus on “Inside Quatro”.


    This review is from: The Arms Deal in Your Pocket (Paperback)


    “The Arms Deal is a complicated beast”, writes Paul Holden in his Preface to ‘The Arms Deal In Your Pocket’, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg/Cape Town, 2008. It covers the best part of 18 years, so “if you were born in the year of Mandela’s release [1991] and you look forward to casting your vote in the 2009 elections, the Arms Deal has been in the background all your life. No wonder people struggle to remember exactly what went on and why.” (p xi)


    and @ The arms deal: Ten years on by Selim Gool
    13 August 2009

    Selim Gool reviews Paul Holden’s The Arms Deal in Your Pocket


    “The Arms Deal is a complicated beast”, writes Paul Holden in his Preface to ‘The Arms Deal In Your Pocket’, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg/Cape Town, 2008. It covers the best part of 18 years, so “if you were born in the year of Mandela’s release [1991] and you look forward to casting your vote in the 2009 elections, the Arms Deal has been in the background all your life. No wonder people struggle to remember exactly what went on and why.” (p xi)


    From crony capitalism to African despotism? by Selim Gool
    27 July 2009

    Selim Gool writes on a brace of new books about South African politics

    South Africa in a new transition again – from ‘crony capitalism’ to African despotism?

    Of the brace of new books available on the new South Africa, only two or three are remarkable for their insights and penetrating political analysis. More recent biographies of ex-President Thabo Mbeki (Gumede and Gevisser), present President Jacob Zuma (Gordin) and former ANC MP ‘Mac’ Maharaj (O’Malley) provide a look into the inner workings of the ruling African National Congress.


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