Monday, 12 May 2014

A look at the South African elections ANC still rule but support fades

Not huge amounts has been made of it but last week the ruling ANC party in South Africa regained power all be it on a reduced turnout. The African National Congress has been re-elected with 62% of the vote. This represents a marginal decline with the shedding of a few hundred thousand votes in absolute terms and the loss of 3.5%. Given the scandal filled five-year term of president Zuma, not least of all the Marikana massacre and Nkandla-gate, ANC strategists must nevertheless be breathing a sigh of relief. However, this “good story” hides the reality that the ANC has continued to shed significant support. Over ten million eligible voters did not register to vote and a further six million were registered but did not turn out. In other words 16 million did not take part in this election. The corresponding figures in 2004 and 2009 were 12 million and 12.4 million respectively. The ANC is in reality a minority government about to resume office with the votes of just eleven million people, barely 32%. As for other parties contesting this election are notably the Workers and Socialist Party with strong links to the CWI who are backed by the socialist party of England and Wales. They came into the elections with high expectations and a lot of bluster as per normal when any election is upcoming the CWI focus's its attention on building votes rather than a mass based movement on the ground. In the CWI piece they claim to be disappointed by the results of their candidates and go on to produce several excuses as to why they received such a poor vote. Such points referring to a lack of resources, lack of people getting involved and isolation from the main unions in SA lead to me thinking this was an election that came too soon for the WASP. They write "The scarcity of resources for the campaign was a fundamental problem. The struggle to raise the finances to pay the enormous election deposits meant that we spent over a month without a cent as we launched the second phase of fundraising for election material and a campaign fund. There is no doubt that if we had had the resources to reach more people our vote would have been higher. In addition, early in the year, the media decided on their narrative – this election was a three horse race between the ANC, DA and EFF. WASP was in reality excluded from serious press coverage. The press did not even cover our manifesto launch. However, they covered the launch of the tiny religious ‘Kingdom Governance Movement’ which received fewer votes than WASP. But there are other important political factors to take account of. Unfortunately, WASP has not been able to consolidate our position amongst the mineworkers. Despite the crucial role of the founders of WASP - the Democratic Socialist Movement – in the move of the majority of mineworkers from the treacherous ANC aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to the previously marginal Association of Mining and Construction Workers (AMCU), the AMCU leadership has done everything to remove our influence among the mineworkers. DSM and WASP members and supporters have been victimised and expelled from the union, frequently leading to the loss of their jobs. The lie has been spread by the AMCU leadership, disgracefully encouraged by tiny jealous forces on ‘the left’, that WASP is behind the new scab union. The Workers Association Union (WAU) which has attempted to take advantage of demoralisation among sections of the mineworkers in what is now a three month long wage strike. Thus, combined with the hostility from the AMCU leadership, and the understandable ‘closing of ranks’ by the mineworkers, in the midst of a life and death strike, WASP found it very hard to even campaign on the platinum belt with some comrades even facing death threats." Well as I’ve previously explained before looking to capture the state usually leads you to being captured by the state yourself. It’s a dangerous road to tread especially in South Africa. Allot of excuses there in the piece but not a lot of concrete reasons why the WASP failed to gain support in the areas it wished to where it should have done well. In an excellent LibCom piece last week I found really well put on the question if to vote or not in the coming elections in South Africa they made some great points. "As part of the hype that has surrounded the elections this year, however, there are two parties that also claim they are fundamentally different to the ANC and DA. These two parties say they have recent struggle credentials against neoliberalism and say they will really help the poor this time around if elected into the state: the EFF and WASP. Some activists on the left, in community movements and some in workplace struggles, have been drawn to these parties and say they are going to vote for them. Some even believe that parties like WASP and the EFF will bring ‘economic freedom’ and even socialism. While the policies of the EFF and WASP certainly differ – WASP being more socialist and the EFF being a black nationalist party (with authoritarian leanings) that promises land and welfare for black workers and the poor – what these two parties have in common is the tactic of wanting to enter into the state to supposedly bring change. The question, therefore, is: can equality, socialism, national liberation or ‘economic freedom’ – or even a respite from state violence – for a majority be brought about through parties and activists entering into the state or through voting for parties that promise not to use the state for violent or oppressive means; or will this only lead to a dead-end for the working class yet again? The state is an instrument of oppression When looking at this question it is important to understand why states exist and what their role in society is and always has been. States arose when inequality between people in terms of class started to emerge in society: elite needed an instrument of coercion to maintain and entrench their rule and states were that instrument. States have, therefore, always been controlled by, and have been instruments of, a privileged minority class. Consequently, all states have always enforced the rule of a minority privileged class. As part of this states have always protected a minority ruling class’s power, privilege and wealth from the majority and have enabled the exploitation and domination of the majority by a minority. To do so, all states in history have been top-down and centralised organs structured so that only a few can govern: the majority of people were and are deliberately excluded from decision-making under a state system. As capitalism developed, the size and power of states dramatically increased. Today we have huge states that ensure the interests of the ruling class today (capitalists, politicians and top officials in the state) are protected and furthered. Through the state’s executive, legislative, judicial, military and policing arms, the state always protects the interests of this class. Under capitalism, states are also central to protecting minority ownership in the form of private and state-owned property. For capitalism to function, and for class rule to be maintained, a state is therefore vital. Without a state, which claims a monopoly on violence within a given territory, elite could not rule nor could it claim or hold onto the ownership of wealth and the means of production under capitalism. Along with this, the role of states within capitalism is to try and ensure that resistance to the exploitation and oppression of the working class is undermined, crushed or co-opted. States are, therefore, not structures that have been created to bring about liberation or equality or to end capitalism, but rather to ensure oppression, domination and the continuation of capitalism. That extends too to gunning down activists if they pose a threat to the state and the stability it tries to create at a national, provincial and local level. On this alone, the tactic of supposedly trying to use a state to end oppression, domination and capitalism is deeply flawed – states have always been central to oppression, class inequalities, domination and today capitalism, and entering into them as the EFF and WASP propose does not change this. Likewise, voting tactically for politically bankrupt parties like the DA and ANC in the hope they will lesson state violence locally will not change the nature of the state nor the purpose it is designed to carry out: oppressing, dominating and facilitating the exploitation of the working class. The reality is that no state is truly democratic. Even in a parliamentary system, most high-ranking state officials, including generals, director-generals, police commissioners, state legal advisors, state attorneys, judges, officials in the various departments and magistrates, are never elected by the people. Most of their decisions, policies and actions will never be known by the vast majority of people – the top-down structure of the state ensures this. Linked to this, parliamentarians and the executive make and pass laws; not the mass of people. In fact, parliamentarians are in no way truly accountable to voters (except for 5 minutes every 5 years). They are not mandated nor are they recallable. They – along with permanent state bureaucrats – have power; not the people. As such, no state is participatory; but rather designed to ensure and carry out minority rule. If the EFF and WASP’s representatives enter into the state, therefore, they will simply be joining the elite few that rule under a state system. States turn liberation fighters into governors States to generate an elite and a section of the ruling class. When people are hired or enter into top positions in the state, they gain access to the means of administration and coercion, and to new privileges, benefits and kickbacks. Being part of a few, who have the power to make decisions for and over others, and the ability to enforce those decisions, creates a privileged position. As such, the centralisation of power, which defines states, generates an elite. The fact that under a state and elite holds decision-making power usually goes hand in hand with this elite also living under far better material conditions than workers and the unemployed. Linked to this, the bureaucracy that emerges from the centralisation that defines states also develops its own interests, like maintaining the material privileges it has and the power it has over other people. In fact, throughout history, states have been sites that have been and are used by an elite to accumulate wealth. This was so even under Lenin in the Soviet Union. An elite arose in the state in the Soviet Union and they ruled and lived privileged lives. In fact, the privileges that top positions in the state offered in the early Soviet Union attracted opportunists that wanted to gain wealth. To maintain their privileged positions these officials in the state ruthlessly exploited and oppressed workers. Indeed, the good lives that top state officials and politicians live in all countries was and is always based on the exploitation of workers and the unemployed. This has been done through exploitation in state owned companies and/or through taxing the working class. The anarchist Bakunin foresaw the possibility of such a situation arising in cases where supposedly implementing socialism or bringing about national liberation was based on capturing state power. Bakunin said that the “statist path” was “entirely ruinous for the great masses of the people” because it did not abolish class power but simply changed the make-up and faces of the ruling class. Consequently, he stated that if the socialist struggle or a struggle for national liberation was carried out with "ambitious intent to set up a powerful state", or if "it is carried out without the people and must therefore depend for success on a privileged class" it would become a "retrogressive, disastrous, counter-revolutionary movement”. He also noted that when former liberation fighters or activists enter into the state, because of its top-down structure, they come to no longer represent the people but themselves and their own pretensions to govern the people. This has not been due to any faults in the personal characters of such activists entering into the state, but rather due to the logic of the state – which exists for a few to govern. The past, therefore, tells us that even if a party like WASP (which is far more principled than the EFF) enters into the state, in all likelihood their character would alter, they would become rulers and governors; and the working class would remain in a subordinate position. " Something to bear in mind I think With thanks and extracts from

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