Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 17, 2012

2012 and 1960

Filed under: South Africa — louisproyect @ 9:14 pm
NY Times August 17, 2012

South African Official Defends Police Killing of 34

By

MARIKANA, South Africa — South Africa’s police commissioner on Friday defended the actions of officers who opened fire on miners a day earlier in an episode that she said left 34 people dead and 78 wounded during a wildcat strike at a platinum mine, a sharply higher toll than the immediate reports had forecast.

The commissioner, Riah Phiyega, described a desperate struggle by the police to contain the machete-wielding crowd of thousands of angry miners who broke through two lines of defense, leaving officers with no choice but to open fire with live ammunition.

“The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons,” Ms. Phiyega said at an emotional news conference here, using an extensive array of aerial photographs and video to demonstrate how the violence unfolded. Previous attempts by the 500-strong police force to repel the crowd with rubber bullets, water cannons and stun grenades had failed, she said.

* * * *

“A senior police official said: ‘I don’t now know how many we shot.’ He is reported to have added: ‘If they do these things they must learn the hard way.’ Earlier, South Africa Air Force planes flew over the trouble spot in a show of force. But the Africans ignored all orders to disperse.”

From The New York Times account of the Sharpeville Massacre, March 22, 1960  (Posted by Jeff Goodwin to the Marxism list today)

32 Comments »

  1. You seem to be the first to attempt to connect these two. More, please!

    Comment by Cecilieaux Bois de Murier — August 18, 2012 @ 3:12 am

  2. I did hear something on public radio to the effect that the South African police, now and in the past, were not ready or trained for riot control of this magnitude. However, that ignores the authorities ignoring the people’s desperation, now and in the past.

    Comment by Jenell — August 18, 2012 @ 6:41 am

  3. But isn’t this simply the end result of the ANC coming to power on a program of preserving capitalism? And didn’t you support exactly that Louis, decrying any opposition to the ANC and its bourgeois program as ultra-left? I’m not trying to be a jerk, this is a real question. I don’t understand the shock of the leftists who supported Mandela and the ANC’s “black capitalism” program, as you should know that a bourgeois police force is a bourgeois police force, and serves and protects the bourgeoisie and its interests the same in South Africa as in downtown Manhattan.

    Comment by Beer — August 18, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  4. And didn’t you support exactly that Louis, decrying any opposition to the ANC and its bourgeois program as ultra-left?

    Huh?

    Comment by louisproyect — August 18, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  5. Beer wrote:

    “I don’t understand the shock of the leftists who supported Mandela and the ANC’s ‘black capitalism’ program”

    Their shock tells you those leftists were more liberals than radicals.

    I suggest you read some of the arguments over at The North Star about supporting (bourgeois democratic) revolutionaries in Syria (and what happened and has been happening in Libya) versus maintaining a stance of “socialist” purity that permits atrocities to go on.

    Comment by Todd — August 18, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  6. I suggest you read some of the arguments over at The North Star

    What a fucking joke. South Africa, along with Zimbabwe, is considered part of the “axis of good”–the “anti-imperialist” countries that are aligned with BRIC and that “supports” Cuba. If there’s any difference between how Jacob Zuma and Qaddafi or al-Assad treats workers, it’s news to me.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 18, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

  7. Louis, did you or did you not support Mandela and its ANC?

    Comment by Beer — August 19, 2012 @ 4:40 am

  8. Of course I supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC. I organized volunteers to help them in the early 90s. I also “supported” Christopher Hitchens at the time in the sense of crossposting his articles to the Marxism mailing list. As Heraclitus once said, “the only thing that is permanent is change.” They changed, and my views on them changed.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 19, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  9. Louis wrote:

    “South Africa, along with Zimbabwe, is considered part of the ‘axis of good’–the ‘anti-imperialist’ countries that are aligned with BRIC and that ‘supports’ Cuba.”

    ??

    Who, aside from the Stalinist left (who’d likely do so), is arguing this over at North Star? I was pointing out that, before the ANC came to power, the (bourgeois) equality they were fighting for was still worth fighting for in the teeth of the oppression they were under, just like those fighting against the tyranny of the Assad and Gaddafi regimes deserve our support even if a socialist revolution won’t be in the cards.

    Comment by Todd — August 19, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  10. Todd, my sincere apologies. I didn’t read your comment carefully. Really, really sorry.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 19, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  11. ‘K.

    But what on Earth did you think I’d written?

    Comment by Todd — August 20, 2012 @ 12:04 am

  12. Don’t ask. I am 67 and rapidly losing a grip on things.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 20, 2012 @ 12:22 am

  13. But they didn’t change at all. Which is the point. They always had an explicit program of black capitalism, that’s what they enacted, and that’s what resulted in the recent massacre of miners. So why the surprise? This is the end of result of the dead end of bourgeois nationalism, worse even still when connected to identity rather than class politics.

    Comment by Beer — August 20, 2012 @ 6:58 am

  14. Black workers are no better off now then they were under apartheid. The only people who have benefited are the nascent black capitalists, compradors, and petty bourgeoisie of South Africa. Congratulations on achieving “bourgeois equality” — which as we know condemns a starving man and a rich man equally for stealing a piece of bread. Yes, the great ANC established bourgeois norms, which of course include slaughtering striking miners. That’s right out of the history of the greatest bourgeois model there is: the United States of America.

    Comment by Beer — August 20, 2012 @ 7:01 am

  15. Beer wrote:

    “Black workers are no better off now then they were under apartheid.”

    Really? Black workers are still segregated, still required to carry an ID card showing their race, still not allowed to marry white workers, still not allowed to attend mixed universities, still have no voting rights, etc.?

    That’s surprising, considering a black man has been legally elected president, what, three times now?

    Do you think it would matter to blacks in South Africa (or even blacks throughout the world) if apartheid were re-instated if it makes no difference?

    One step forward happened; it’s high-time for another.

    Comment by Todd — August 20, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  16. “That’s surprising, considering a black man has been legally elected president, what, three times now?”

    Black faces in high places. Who cares? Same thing liberals push in America. Black workers are doing real good under Obama eh?

    It’s all superficial. The real tentative benefits came to the local bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. Black workers aren’t marrying white women or going to universities in South Africa. Guess who is? No ID card, but black workers are still stuck in shit hole townships and for all intents and purposes never venture out of the ghettos they call home. So what has changed for them?

    Voting rights? Those are worth about jack shit when your “best choice” is the tripart alliance that keeps the capitalist jackboot of exploitation on your neck. Same as anywhere else in the world in 2012. (Where is it again that socialism has been elected? Where has wage slavery been voted down via bourgeois sponsored referendum?) The bourgeoisie is quite fine with letting workers vote because it means nothing. What does mean something, what does harm them, is stuff like the recent miners strike. And that’s why it got the reaction it did from the bourgeoisie’s police.

    It’s quite fine if you want to push these pro-capitalist politics, but at least be open about it and don’t pretend you have anything to do with the kind of stuff laid down by Marx.

    Comment by Beer — August 20, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  17. I actually agree with much of what Beer wrote and as such am surprised that he would misrepresent my views. I think that it was incumbent on revolutionaries to back the ANC in its struggle to abolish apartheid but once it became clear that it was abandoning its historic program another posture was necessary. Here, btw, is what the ANC once stood for before it became corrupt. Since we are not Nostradamus, we could not predict that these words would be disavowed:

    http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=72

    All people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security;

    Unused housing space to be made available to the people;

    Rent and prices shall be lowered, food plentiful and no-one shall go hungry;

    A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state;

    Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children;

    Slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, creches and social centres;

    The aged, the orphans, the disabled and the sick shall be cared for by the state;

    Rest, leisure and recreation shall be the right of all:

    Fenced locations and ghettoes shall be abolished, and laws which break up families shall be repealed.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 20, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  18. No need to be a psychic to see what the ANC is and was: a bourgeois nationalist movement. I.e. a dead end in the last 20th century, let alone the 21st (hello Syria). Where was the class content? What differentiated the ANC in actual practice from the sundry Maoist “National Fronts for the Liberation of the Motherland”. Louis of all people should know this since he came out of a movement that once had close ties to a fellow named Trotsky, who identified the inability of bourgeoisie nationalist movements to carry out their “historic program” as early as 1915.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (except this boss has/had the support of the left).

    Comment by Beer — August 21, 2012 @ 6:53 am

  19. There was plenty of criticism of the ANC and the SACP coming from genuinely leftist South African workers and intellectuals in the 1980’s and earlier. And there was certainly no justification for any socialist who wasn’t wearing blinders to politically support the ANC and SACP after 1990, when they were openly negotiating their deal with South Africa’s big capitalists to paint black lipstick on the apartheid pig. (Defending them against attacks by Buthelezi and Inkatha was another matter.)

    As for the Freedom Charter, which is what Louis is quoting in @17, it’s glaring omission is anything about overthrowing capitalism. And it didn’t take a Marx, Lenin or Trotsky to realize that the promises of the Freedom Charter were just vaporware without the intention of making a socialist revolution — an intention the ANC and it’s allies clearly didn’t have.There was another document coming out of South Africa, the Workers’ Charter, that came from real militant workers, not some tiny group of intellectuals. That was what the more radical elements of the anti-apartheid movement were circulating during the mid-1980’s, at least in the SF Bay Area, where we rejected the attempt by Workers World, the SWP and other centrist (and reformist) groups to have us recognize the ANC as “the sole legitimate representative of the South African people”.

    Comment by Red Snapper — August 21, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  20. Todd @15 writes: “Do you think it would matter to blacks in South Africa (or even blacks throughout the world) if apartheid were re-instated if it makes no difference?”

    “One step forward happened; it’s high-time for another.”

    Todd is far from alone in committing the fundamental empiricist error of judging one part of the whole in isolation. Of course, the abolition of legal racial apartheid was a good thing taken in isolation. But the problem is that it was not a separate, independent act but an integral part of a deal where the Black bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, including labor bureaucrats, used their influence to confuse and demobilize one of the world’s most militant and radical working-class movements and actually strengthen the domination of capitalists, with a number of Blacks now assimilated into that class, over the Black working class. In other words, the abolition of legal racial apartheid was an integral part of a package that was harmful to the working class of South Africa and internationally.

    The kind of logic that isolates a part of a very negative whole in order to celebrate that part and whitewash the whole is also what was and is displayed by those who defend, or at least excuse, the invasion and occupation of Iraq by saying that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was ‘obviously’ a good thing. And I’m sure i could, given some time, come up with many more examples of this kind of thinking.

    Comment by Red Snapper — August 21, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  21. @Red Snapper. Good info. Always beware when someone mentions “the people” of any country. As if there are no class divisions among the people of South Africa or any other place. “The people” is cover for the interests of the bourgeoisie passed off as the interests of population as a whole. Where do the workers figure into the formulation of “the people of South Africa,” and how can a “people” with class divides have a “sole representative”?

    Pathetic stuff coming from supposed Marxists.

    Comment by Beer — August 21, 2012 @ 11:22 am

  22. I would sincerely like someone to show me where I wrote that I was “judging one part of the whole in isolation”.

    All I see are a pair of little white ultras who can’t be bothered to fight against apartheid if The Revolution they want isn’t GUARANTEED. A position that, I’m sure, appeals to black people the world over and helps explain the growing power of a revolutionary proletariat.

    “It’s all superficial.”

    So was enfranchisement for workers in Europe in Marx’s time, but, IIRC, the only ones who were arguing against it were idiot anarchists.

    What’s next? A demand for the abolition of welfare? Howabout a repeal of Roe vs. Wade? I know! The abolition of the voting franchise to anyone who doesn’t hold property over a certain amount of money! After all, voting doesn’t make any difference whatsoever! We can dispense with all that rot about democracy! It’s all a fake, like the moon-landings, made up by the bourgeoisie to trick working class people into expending their energy uselessly instead of concentrating on Beer’s Revolution!

    Comment by Todd — August 21, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  23. Todd @22 writes:

    I would sincerely like someone to show me where I wrote that I was “judging one part of the whole in isolation”.

    Of course, you didn’t write that you were “judging one part of the whole in isolation”. I pointed out that you were doing that. As for the rest of what you wrote in your hysterical shriek @22, I have no need to respond and I don’t think Beer has either. Your straw men aren’t even made out of real straw.

    BTW, I was very active in the 1980’s in the anti-apartheid movement and in support of South African workers’ struggles. From that perspective, I never supported the ANC/SACP, even before their blatant sellout of that workers’ movement.

    Comment by Red Snapper — August 21, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

  24. I’m afraid you made a mistake, Snapper, in your ultra zeal to show you’ve reached some apogee of revolutionary thinking. You and Beer both think you can make your revolutions however you want because you can make up your little mental pictures of it happening, and if nobody else follows the plans of you geniuses, well, obviously the rest of us just aren’t as pure and revolutionary as you two.

    “I was very active in the 1980′s in the anti-apartheid movement and in support of South African workers’ struggles.”

    Oh, to coin a phrase: that’s all superficial. I suppose you hadn’t reached your maximum understanding of how The Revolutionary Plan has to be carried out.

    “I never supported the ANC/SACP, even before their blatant sellout of that workers’ movement.”

    Does your cadre commander know about your sin?

    Comment by Todd — August 22, 2012 @ 2:00 am

  25. Is there anybody here who actually wants to discuss the question of how to deal with a situation where a desirable result is packaged with an undesirable one. Or perhaps somebody other than the idiot, Todd, wants to defend the deal the ANC made in order to take over management of South African capitalism.

    Comment by Red Snapper — August 22, 2012 @ 8:09 am

  26. I’d _really_ like to see where I’m “defending the deal the ANC made” as opposed to critiquing some hack ultra’s frustrated desire for revolutionary purity.

    “how to deal with a situation where a desirable result is packaged with an undesirable one.”

    I’d suggest going over to The North Star where this sort of thing has been a major topic of discussion in various incarnations, but I don’t think you’d like what you see there:

    http://www.thenorthstar.info/

    Comment by Todd — August 22, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  27. No, Todd, you’re not “defending the deal the ANC made”. You’re only using your habitual method of name-calling against someone who denounces the deal the ANC (with the SACP and COSATU) made as a sellout of the South African working class. So how about giving your view of that deal instead of your view of my expression of my view?

    As for The North Star web site, it seems to exist only to give a left cover to neo-con politics. Or use the term ‘social imperialist’ for it, a far more proper application of that term than was the right-Maoist application of it to the Soviet Union.

    Comment by Red Snapper — August 22, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

  28. Snapper, why is that ultraleft trolls like you insist on using a bullshit made-up name? You talk about what you “did” for South African workers but we don’t know who you are. For all we know, you are some asshole living in his parent’s basement living a Walter Mitty life about the class struggle. The next time you start flinging terms around like “social imperialist”, it is bye-bye for you. I am sick and tired of anonymous trolls acting as if they were Lenin in 1914. Get a life, piss-ant.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 22, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

  29. Louis, not everyone has the protections of using their real name. People can lose their jobs, relationships and even their lives depending on their situation. We’re not all posting from Manhattan apartments. Anyway, it’s common on the internet is to use a screen name. A better question would be why you insult and delete comments from people who have opposing views to you instead of addressing them, all along pushing for “unity.” It seems the unity you want is with bourgeois nationalists (at any cost), while refusing to even address the “ultralefts”.

    Comment by Salo — August 24, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  30. “Salo”, I have no problem with assumed names. There’s a guy who lives in Colombia I know very well through email exchanges and at least one phone call. He does not use his real name when posting on Marxmail but a made-up name that sounds legitimate. Old-timers in the SWP used to use “party names” when writing for the Militant. Bert Cochran was E.R. Frank. I just lose patience with “tags” like Red Snapper, especially when the author is trolling. Btw, I define trolling as showing up here to “expose” me as the new Christopher Hitchens, etc. I enjoy having debates with other leftists but would never characterize anybody in that fashion even if we disagree sharply on Cuba, for example.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 24, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  31. But is it impossible that a new Chris Hitchens would emerge? After all we had Shachtman before him, and the war credit votes long before that, so of course someone will be after. You are free to take your position, but why not defend them? I would much rather see that than sniping, even if it comes in response to people who “fire the first shot”. It’s a waste of your writing ability frankly.

    Comment by Salo — August 24, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  32. Sorry for this delayed response to your objection to my pseudonym, Louis.

    1) I accept that unverifiable claims about my personal experience are of no evidentiary value and I will try to avoid them in the future. This would be true regardless of whether I called myself Red Snapper or something like Moishe Cohen or John Riley.

    2) Using an obvious pseudonym like ‘Red Snapper’ seems more honest than using one that could be mistaken for a real name.

    3) I doubt that you would be particularly critical of my use of or choice of a pseudonym if you agreed with my political positions.

    Comment by Red Snapper — December 7, 2012 @ 7:37 am


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