Black mid­dle-class cru­elty

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

CO-OP­TION, or be­ing cap­tured by the su­prem­a­cist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic sys­tem is a di­men­sion of racial in­te­gra­tion that black peo­ple pre­fer not to con­sider or talk about.

Over the last 25 years, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists and for­mer free­dom fight­ers have re­fused to dis­cuss or ex­am­ine their role in pro­mot­ing and pro­tect­ing an un­just eco­nomic sys­tem.

In fact, the agenda of the so-called lib­er­a­tion strug­gle has long been hi­jacked by false com­mu­nists and de­ter­mined by self-pro­claimed rad­i­cal ac­tivists who de­sired com­fort and se­cu­rity in an in­her­ently un­just cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

Even though masses of poor and work­ing-class peo­ple were the can­non fod­der that fed the mil­i­tary camps and marches, the val­ues of the Strug­gle were al­ways pro-cap­i­tal­ist.

In fact, the pri­or­ity in the Strug­gle was for the mere abol­ish­ing of dis­crim­i­na­tory apartheid laws with­out the re­moval or rad­i­cal change of cap­i­tal­ism.

The call of the anti-apartheid strug­gle was for false equal­ity and jus­tice in a eco­nomic sys­tem that up­holds and pro­motes ex­ploita­tion and op­pres­sion of the poor.

The de­sire of the strug­gle for aris­toc­racy has al­ways been to join the elite to en­joy the fat of the land at the ex­pense of the ma­jor­ity poor. Thus, the post-apartheid boom­ing black mid­dle class, whose in­come is spent in white cor­po­ra­tions to en­joy what is con­sid­ered a white lifestyle: sub­ur­ban homes, pri­vate schools, ex­pen­sive din­ners and cock­tail parties.

This pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with mid­dle-class sta­tus in the name of suc­cess has seen the elite aban­don masses of the poor to fo­cus on get­ting shares, bonds and other in­vest­ments in the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

The be­trayal of the poor and work­ing class has be­come a way of life in the post-apartheid so­ci­ety.

In fact, it is a pre­req­ui­site for suc­cess. To make it in the sys­tem, you must dis­tance your­self; be alien­ated from the an­gry and poor.

Men and women, in­clud­ing work­ers’ union lead­ers, who do not ad­vo­cate or sup­port cap­i­tal­ism, are iden­ti­fied to be dealt with by any means nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing un­jus­ti­fi­able ex­pul­sion.

For ex­am­ple, com­mu­nists and worker lead­ers to­day en­joy all the trap­pings of a mid­dle class cap­i­tal­ist lifestyle.

This is the sym­bol of recog­ni­tion, suc­cess and achieve­ment in to­day’s world. Only lead­ers and fig­ures who sub­scribe to cap­i­tal­ist norms of suc­cess are deemed re­spectable and dig­ni­fied.

When you are coura­geous and prin­ci­pled but do not dis­play con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion ten­den­cies, no­body takes you se­ri­ously.

The new rule for suc­cess is: when you have it, you must flaunt it.

As a re­sult, coura­geous and prin­ci­pled lead­ers who are seen or re­garded as “too rad­i­cal” or “mil­i­tant black” are pushed to the mar­gins, and de­nied op­por­tu­ni­ties and ac­cess to power and po­si­tion.

There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when the agenda of an al­ter­na­tive to the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem was part of po­lit­i­cal dis­course and Strug­gle agenda.

In those years, there was wide­spread talk about the in­her­ent in­jus­tice in cap­i­tal­ism, and how this needed to be erad­i­cated and sub­sti­tuted by so­cial­ism.

But a pro­found or even shal­low cri­tique of cap­i­tal­ism is un­heard of in the new South Africa. It is taboo.

There are very few left­ists who of­fer a class anal­y­sis or ex­press prag­matic views on how to un­trans­form the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. This is be­cause ac­tivists, aca­demics and in­tel­lec­tu­als can­not af­ford to bite the hand that feeds them.

But what needs to be un­der­stood clearly, es­pe­cially by the poor and work­ing class, is that cap­i­tal­ism will not al­low to­tal black lib­er­a­tion.

In fact, with the ANC lack­ing the po­lit­i­cal will to chal­lenge the sys­tem, vi­sions of eco­nomic jus­tice and re­dis­tri­bu­tion of the land are as good as a pipe dream.

Worse, the masses should for­get about the op­po­si­tion pro­vid­ing any con­crete al­ter­na­tive to the cur­rent eco­nomic sta­tus quo.

Much as some wish to look to Julius Malema or his EFF, their strate­gies and tac­tics – just like the ANC and DA – are about mak­ing the best out of a bad eco­nomic sys­tem.

What­ever Malema and his co­horts may claim to be or rep­re­sent, they live, work and ben­e­fit within a cap­i­tal­ist frame­work.

Alas, this ra­pa­cious eco­nomic sys­tem works for them, too.

It has pre­dictably be­come dif­fi­cult to find any leader or self-pro­claimed mes­siah who makes sug­ges­tions of an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem or pro­poses ways of liv­ing a de­cent life out­side the val­ues of cap­i­tal­ism.

Much as the poor are granted al­lowances and fee­ble at­tempts are made to im­prove their qual­ity of life through bad ed­u­ca­tion and fall­ing apart health sys­tem and hous­ing, the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem per­pet­u­ates it­self by mak­ing sure that the poor ex­ist.

In fact, it will make sure that the num­ber of the poor and un­em­ployed in­crease so that it can feed off their cheap labour.

There is no way that the mid­dle class, par­tic­u­larly black, with its rad­i­cal rhetoric, de­sires to break down the sys­tem.

South Africa has re­de­fined it­self. It is not a black man’s coun­try. Af­ter all, it be­longs to ev­ery­one who lives in it.

As a re­sult, it has be­come a coun­try of the rich and poor. Colour does not mat­ter any longer. In fact, the lead­er­ship will tell you that there is no al­ter­na­tive to cap­i­tal­ism.

Af­ter all, com­mu­nism has been smashed to smithereens when even in Rus­sia, they have adopted cap­i­tal­ism – es­pe­cially among the elite.

Every­body praises cap­i­tal­ism as the only vi­able sys­tem in the world. As a re­sult, no­body is ready or will­ing to recon­cep­tu­alise their re­la­tion­ship with money and what it can buy.

For­mer free­dom fight­ers and the small black mid­dle class thrive in an ex­clu­sive, money-driven so­ci­ety. What the elite and mid­dle class do is to help and sup­port their fam­i­lies and friends as a ges­ture of so-called phi­lan­thropy.

This is what blacks who have gained ac­cess into the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem do. They de­liver gro­ceries once a month or a year to salve their con­sciences and claim this de­fines deep con­nec­tions with the poor. But this is delu­sional. The days of dream­ing of the equal shar­ing of re­sources are now a thing of the past. What has taken over are the cap­i­tal­ist val­ues of self­ish­ness, greed and un­bri­dled in­di­vid­u­al­ism.

There is and will be no sup­port for any stupid idea, be­lief or model that does not fit into the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.

While some lead­ers and po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions con­tinue to preach and es­pouse anti-cap­i­tal­ist sen­ti­ments, it is all sound and fury that sig­ni­fies noth­ing.

Cap­i­tal­ism has tri­umphed! The poor will al­ways be with us. The ma­jor­ity will be black.

TWO WORLDS: General view of Alexan­dra town­ship, com­monly known as Alex, a poor area over­look­ing the Sand­ton sky scrap­pers in Jo­han­nes­burg Au­gust 23, 2002. South Africa has be­come a coun­try of the rich and poor, says the writer.

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