Mandela: New Baas, Same As the Old Baas

by Kevin Carson

Mandela: New Baas, Same As the Old Baas

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.

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10 responses to “Mandela: New Baas, Same As the Old Baas

  1. 1) The Bolsheviks never intended anything other than precisely what they did. If Kevin is trying to claim that the adoption of Taylorism and authoritarian factory management were some kind of capitalist plot, he’s lost his own plot even more than usual.

    2) Apartheid was a consequence of white (worker) populism. The “bosses” actually wanted to employ blacks at all levels, since they were cheaper, and opposed the apartheid that forced them to employ whites at higher labour rates.

    This is a classic misunderstanding of the selfish interests of capitalists; the same one as the belief that selfish employers will refuse to employ women as a class even when it is in their selfish economic interests to do so, for instance. If any such class really is working for a wage “below par”, they are attractive to employers for obvious reasons. Hence, leftist labour movements tend, as in SA, to either try to exclude the “cheap class” or overprice them via regulation, etc.

    Anyway, Apartheid is not recognisable as a capitalist conspiracy. The facts fit better to a populist conspiracy by labour, than by capital.

    • I don’t think he is arguing that it was a capitalist conspiracy, just a statist conspiracy. His point being that by looking at the parallel systems, the Soviet Union v post 1980s Washington Consensus v Apartheid South Africa, it doesn’t matter what the apparent ideological motivations of these regimes was, they all brought about injustice as a result of their shared statist nature and ideology.

  2. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on
    the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking
    about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving
    us something enlightening to read?

  3. Mr Carson’s objection to Mr Mandela appear to be that when the latter became President he did not follow the Orwellian named “Freedom Charter” the ANC agreed to in the 1950s (alienating anti socialist FOES of apartheid and thus prolonging apartheid for decades) and nationalise the mines and so on. JKJ – can you not read what Mr Carson wrote, or do you not know what the “economic agenda of the ANC” was?

    As for the Marxist waffle about “monopoly capitalism” this simply proves what I have long maintained. That, at best, Mr Carson is a complete and total idiot or (and far more likely) he is a socialist himself.

    Ian is correct – apartheid (and the “colour bar”) was established against the wishes of the capitalists by the pressure of the white trade unions and their political party. See W.H. Hutt “The Economics of the Colour Bar”.

    No one is forced to come from various parts of Africa to work in mines in South Africa – and if they do not want to work in a mine they can leave right now (no one will stop them leaving).

    Marxists are always blaming other people for violence they start – for example as far back as 1924 the Rand Rebels went to the gallows (they were quite rightly hanged for their armed revolt) singing the Red Flag. The Rand Rebels were white.

    Of course that was back in the day when the Communist Party slogan was “workers unite and save a white South Africa” – they made their “turn to the natives” later.

    Sadly government spending and regulations are out of control in South Africa (as they are in so many places) – so whilst there has been no sudden collapse, there has been a decline – and (alas) this decline will continue. But one can hope for its reversal. A good start would be to get rid of the “Racial Classification Board” (or whatever it is called now) the foundation of the old government’s anti black racism and the new (ANC) governments anti white “affirmative action” racism.

    Kevin Cason (being what he is) wants the capitalists killed and the means of production, distribution and exchange collectivised. This would lead to mass starvation.

    Kevin may wave the Black Flag of “anarchism” rather than the Red Flag of Marxism – but, in practical consequences, there is no difference.

  4. By the way – most farmland in Russia was already owned by the farmers who farmed it.

    The landlord – tenant system only applied to a minority of land.

    The same was true in China.

    The idea that the socialist revolutionaries ever wanted to give land to individual farmers was always a lie – a trick.

    In Indonesia in the mid 1960s the truth was told to the peasants.

    The truth of what happened in both Russia and China – the murder of TENS OF MILLIONS of people, as well as the forced “collectivisation” of land.

    It was the old Rousseau lie – if the collective are in charge, you are “free” because you are part of the local collective. That ended in rivers of human blood – mostly not of “landlords” but of quite ordinary people. Both the hundreds of thousands of peasants murdered in the provinces by the French Revolutionaries, and in the TENS OF MILLIONS of ordinary people murdered by the Marxists after their takeover of first Russia and then China.

    The peasants in Indonesia were told what the Communists really had in store for them – what they were really doing (right then in the mid 1960s) in China.

    The peasants took the members of the Indonesian Communist party (whose armed coup had recently been defeated) – and cut them to pieces.

    Much to the irritation of a young Barack Obama – as can still be seen in his book (well partly his book anyway) “Dreams From My Father” – where he can not even bring himself to admit that the Communists were Communists, and implies the “smart boys at the CIA” were responsible for the defeat in Indonesia. Actually that bunch of Yale types could not work out anything.

    As for Indonesia today – its main problem is lack of private property rights in the forests (as with Brazil – same problem).

    Where no one OWNS something (where it is “public”) then there is no incentive to preserve it.

  5. “Mr Carson’s objection to Mr Mandela appear”

    You might want to talk with your dealer about the quality of LSD he’s been selling you. It appears to distort, rather than enhance, your perceptions.

  6. Thomas.

    Kevin was quite clear that he objected to Mr Mandela not following the “economic agenda” the ANC committed itself to in South Africa.

    The economic agenda of the ANC was the Orwellian named “Freedom Charter” this (like other ANC documents) committed the ANC to nationalising the mines and so on.

    This is the point of Kevin’s ranting against the “capitalists” – he supports the “economic agenda” of the ANC that Mr Mandela did not follow.

    Kevin clearly regards Mr Mandala as a traitor to the collectivist cause (in spite of the higher welfare spending and so on).

    But why should Mr Mandala not following the collectivist economic agenda so upset Kevin? It upsets him because he is a collectivist himself – as he has repeatedly indicated (in relation to Egypt and everywhere else). local collectivists will provide everything.

    I know that Kevin holds that opinion – because he said so in a post on this site (supposedly the “invisible hand” will lead to local collectives being in charge of basic goods and services – a nice spitting on Adam Smith by using the term “invisible hand”).

  7. local collectives – not local collectivists.

    My apologies.