Long and wind­ing road to free­dom

Fight for a changed SA means set­backs have to be tol­er­ated, writes John Lamola

Sunday World - - Opinion - Dr Lamola teaches phi­los­o­phy at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

THE view of the state as an in­stru­ment of co­er­cion and the van­guard of the in­ter­ests of the prop­er­tied class is a key tenet of clas­si­cal Marx­ism.

This would of ne­ces­sity wither away when a class­less so­ci­ety is achieved in com­mu­nism.

In 1918, when faced with the ironic re­al­ity of the force of this the­ory as the head of state, Lenin for­mu­lated a ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion that has since proved use­ful, and is rel­e­vant to the chal­lenges South Africa faces to­day as it strug­gles to evolve into a demo­cratic and egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety.

Lenin for­mu­lated a new con­cept of time as ap­plied to rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­cesses.

Deal­ing with the re­al­ity of the con­tra­dic­tion of the need for a co­er­cive state within the con­text of the strug­gle for the achieve­ment of so­cial­ism, he taught that the with­er­ing of the state is a pro­tracted process.

He thus in­tro­duced a new con­cept of time that held that typ­i­cally, po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion takes longer than ex­pected.

Ac­cord­ingly, the cit­i­zens of the Soviet Union had to be pa­tient while en­dur­ing the dis­com­forts of the dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tariat in the tran­si­tional phase to com­mu­nism.

This con­cept of the “pro­tracted na­ture” of the work­ings of rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­cesses found its way into the ap­proach to the re­sis­tance of apartheid in the ANC’s sem­i­nal strate­gies and tac­tics of the 1960s.

Suc­ces­sive strat­egy and tac­tics tracts cau­tioned com­rades at the fore­front of armed strug­gle in ex­ile, prison and in the mass demo­cratic move­ment that, given the so­phis­ti­cated na­ture of the en­emy the ANC was ar­raigned against, ours was by char­ac­ter a pro­tracted strug­gle.

As a pro­tracted strug­gle, it re­quired pa­tience, hard work, dis­ci­pline and stub­born hope.

Poignantly, when Nel­son Man­dela’s banned speeches where pub­lished un­der­ground in 1986, the

As a pro­tracted strug­gle, it re­quired pa­tience and hope

ti­tle of the book be­came No Easy Walk to Free­dom.

With the achieve­ment of the 1994 elec­toral vic­tory and the overwhelming eu­pho­ria that ac­com­pa­nied this mo­ment, the ANC omit­ted to cau­tion the ex­pec­tant masses that the new phase of the con­tin­u­ing strug­gle – that is, the dis­man­tling of apartheid and the cre­ation of a pros­per­ous South Africa – will also be a pro­tracted process.

The fail­ure to en­trench this con­cept of time in the post-apartheid mass con­scious­ness is at the root of the cur­rent re­bel­lious im­pa­tience by the poor and work­ing class.

In­stead of the mes­sage that the road to a changed South Africa will be a long one, re­quir­ing hard work and the tol­er­a­tion of set­backs, the ANC came to power in 1994 with bill­boards promis­ing jobs and hous­ing for all.

The his­tor­i­cally black op­pressed need a po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness that re­alises that there are no quick

We can­not af­ford to re­main a de­pressed and cyn­i­cal people

fixes to the mis­er­able plight that colo­nial­ism and apartheid have be­queathed them.

This re­quire­ment also ap­plies to crit­ics out­side the ANC who op­por­tunis­ti­cally ex­press a vary­ing range of frus­tra­tion at the pace and qual­ity of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion since 1994.

The dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive is, and should re­main, that we have in the ANC a govern­ment that is en­joined by its his­tory and char­ac­ter to be at­ten­tive to the cries of the poor.

This nar­ra­tive should not be drowned by im­pa­tient sub­texts on the set­backs that are en­coun­tered along the long walk to free­dom.

We can­not af­ford to re­main an overly self-crit­i­cal, de­pressed, cyn­i­cal and paral­ysed people.

Our road to eco­nomic free­dom will “last longer than ex­pected ”, which is how the Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary de­fines the word “pro­tracted ”.

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