Tasting the fruit of a poisoned tree

Phillip Dexter on the crisis in the leadership of the National Liberation Movement

COSATU's recent Central Committee has been a watershed event. Following closely on the heels of the ANC YL Conference, the platform afforded by organised labour has seen the core of the leadership of the liberation movement admit that there is a crisis.

Blaming the politics of mammon, ill-discipline and populism, Zuma, Vavi and Nzimande have all berated the youth, sucked up to the workers and appealed in a weasel like fashion to the masses they continue to misuse. But is their analysis correct? Is the crisis they describe in the whole movement, or is it in their leadership?

Hearing Jacob Zuma warn of the dangers of the politics of mammon and personal interests was surreal. Here is the man who subjected the entire liberation movement and the country as a whole to his personal trauma, brought about by his own misuse of money and his selling of his soul to his erstwhile financial advisor and by his sociopathic-like willingness to subvert the constitution, the institutions of state and the liberation movement itself to avoid criminal prosecution were there for all to see.

He should pardon us for the thought that ‘he doth protest too much'! It is Zuma and his gang who elevated the politics of money to new heights in the NLM. Polokwane was bought and paid for long before any delegates arrived at that charade. So to with Vavi, who seems to have recently woken up from his slumber, largely due to finding himself outside of the inner circle of the Zuma gang.

Before Polokwane, Vavi paid no attention to those who warned of corruption and selfish class interests. Being near the beast of power itself seemed to have inspired the hope that he may yet get to ride it. Alas, he found out too late that in politics such as this, it's the beast that must be fed and the workers are always the first chosen fare!

So too with ill-discipline. Having been taught outside of the courts of our land to sing insulting songs, burn effigies of other leaders, openly preach violence and misogyny, it is little wonder that these traits are now defining features of the once proud ANC Youth League. It was in Zuma's name that these things were done. Even now he does not rebuke Malema for his racial prejudice, misogyny and hate speech.

Zuma often makes similar remarks, inciting people through emotive language where his opponents are caricatured as devils, snakes or insects. A President who does not respect his fellow South Africans can hardly command respect himself. Indeed, the fruit of the forbidden tree is bitter, comrade President.

As for the populism at play, hearing the General Secretary of the party once entrusted with the future of the working class's interests denounce nationalization just because it is being championed by someone else more populist than himself, sounded trite to say the least. The very same Nzimande is in the vanguard of the politics of tenderpreneurism, of mammon, of ill-discipline and of populism. His stance amounts to complaining that no-one else can watch television unless he is holding the remote!

Despite these obvious contradictions, the hypocrisy of these leaders and the chaos they now see before them and are all of a sudden concerned about-for it will affect their re-election-such analysis they have proffered, is predictably, weak, facile and of limited value. Nowhere does the SACP offer a coherent analysis of the effects of class formation on our society and it's being the cause of these tendencies of pork-belly politics, anarchy and populism. Any Marxist worth their salt can give such an analysis, but the problem for the SACP is that it is now a beneficiary of the corruption this class formation begets. Its leaders are as tenderpreneured and BEE'd as the very petit-bourgeoisie Nzimande berates. He drives the same luxury vehicles as other nationalist leaders in government and he now co-presides over the same political disarray that defines the contemporary capitalist political life of the country.

The SACP has become a party of the establishment. It does not , nor can it, even lead the most basic of campaigns in defense of the working class and the poor. Even those in the party who see the problem cannot do anything about it as they are threatened with purging as soon as they call for any independent thought or programs.

COSATU similarly is now committed to upholding a political project that has little to nothing to do with the interests of workers, but is all about entrenching an avaricious elite whose priority is to put their children into business, even at the cost of the lives of workers, as we have seen in the case of Aurora Empowerment Systems. In return, COSATU has been offered sops such as a New Growth Path, with nothing new in it, the promise of the banning of labour brokers, which is tantamount to saying the government can ban capitalism itself or even prostitution and of the promised land of delivery if they defend these current useless, corrupt, leaders. Frankly speaking, the governments policies, apart from keeping the economy on an even keel in macro-economic terms, are nonsense. There can never be the required growth from these policies to achieve what we need to as a country. On top of that, the government departments that are supposed to implement these policies, are largely dysfunctional, especially at local level.

Those who have left the ANC, SACP and COSATU-some pushed, some who jumped, some who have just faded away-are either locked in a similar logic in their new party, COPE, or are at home, tending to their flower beds. Those who can see the problems are similarly unable to do anything about it.

That is because the movement has been hijacked by criminal and petite-bourgeois interests, manifest in some new capitalists and a bureaucratic class in the state. ANC, SACP and COSATU cadres alike are now all focused on preserving the status quo. They do this on behalf of the former ruling class, who still reap all the profits, at even higher levels than under apartheid!

So, the liberation movement is paralysed, but those who lead it are to compromised, to set it free. Those who can see the problem are too far from the levers of power to do anything. The masses, those who fought for freedom, democracy and for transformation, are too loyal to their organisations to act and have conflated the interests of their leaders with the interests of the masses.

It is time for a new populism. A populism that says away with corruption, with the cult of the personality and with the dogma of old ideas. It is time we were radical again and told the truth first, analysed the problems correctly and then looked at possible solutions. We can change our economy if we are not beholden to the interests of monopoly capital and the new BEE elite. We can drive growth if we break up the monopolies of corrupt and useless public enterprises such as Eskom, Alexkor and SAA.

We can bring investment into the country if we deal with the nonsense espoused by Malema, Nzimande and others that masquerades as serious political debate. Clearly, the gang that stole the movement, the so-called ‘Pirates of Polokwane', are not the men and women for that job. They are too busy fighting over the spoils.

Phillip Dexter is COPE's Head of Communications. This article first appeared in newspapers of the Independent Group.

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