As we enter the third decade of the 21st century in a few months, we are confronted with questions that not only need answers but action. Before we even commence the business of answering the questions, we must at least dissect these questions, make meaning of them, analysing them using revolutionary tools of analysis; through this, we can reconcile our minds to being ready to answer these questions.
In this article I will analyse Frantz Fanon’s Chapter 3, “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”, in his book The Wretched of the Earth, appropriate from the chapter to expose the pitfalls of South Africa’s pseudo-democracy and I will also use Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism to make meaning of the phenomena and in so doing try and map a way forward which will be rooted in theory and practice.
In “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”, Fanon invites us to analyse the “national bourgeoisie”, which in this case is the new political elite, the BEE comrades, higher-ranking members of the liberation party/movement (ANC members) who come into power after independence or in our context, post-apartheid. This national bourgeoisie, it must be noted, is not necessarily in charge – they are in charge on paper and the reason they are not in charge is because they have no idea what they are doing.
“The national bourgeoisie turns its back more and more on the interior and on the real facts of the underdeveloped country, and tends to look towards the former mother country and the foreign capitalists who count on its obliging compliance. As it does not share its profits with the people and in no way allows them to enjoy any of the dues that are paid to it by the big foreign companies, it will discover the need for a popular leader to whom will fall the dual role of stabilizing the regime and of perpetuating the domination of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeois dictatorship of underdeveloped countries draws its strength from a leader.” Frantz Fanon, 1961.
This is already prevalent in South Africa as white monopoly capital, a very organised group, funded the campaign of Cyril Ramaphosa to ascend as the president of the ANC and de facto the country. They bought him the presidency so that he can administer their affairs, while through the media which they have always captured, the poor masses on the ground are sold the idea of this Messiah-like saviour, who will bring investment and stabilise the economy. It must be noted that the power of this media is suffocating as it vindicates with auspicious lies any alternative party or leader that might come and disrupt the status quo.
These pitfalls show themselves as time goes by in the reign of the national bourgeoisie. The national bourgeoisie has become comfortable, lazy and uninventive because they are not in the business of actually governing and including the poor masses in the economy, but in the business of administration for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
“The struggle against the bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is far from being a theoretical one. It is not concerned with making out its condemnation as laid down by the judgment of history. The national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries must not be opposed because it threatens to slow down the total, harmonious development of the nation. It must be stoutly opposed because, literally, it is good for nothing.” Frantz Fanon, 1961.
This struggle qualifies itself not through us having to convince each other and wasting time in trying to find something that’s progressive about this national bourgeoisie, it qualifies itself through the lived experiences and current material conditions of the lumpenproletariat that haven’t improved over the last 25 years of this bogus democracy.
Fanon then requests us to envisage a party that is different from the liberation movement which is reaching its expiry date, a party that is by the people and for the people, a party which regularly is critical of itself and looks to correct itself decisively.
“In an underdeveloped country, the leading members of the party ought to avoid the capital as if it had the plague. They ought, with some few exceptions, to live in country districts. The centralization of all activity in the city ought to be avoided. No excuse of administrative discipline should be taken as legitimizing that excrescence of a capital which is already over-populated and over-developed with regard to nine-tenths of the country. The party should be decentralized in the extreme. It is the only way to bring life to regions which are dead, those regions which are not yet awakened to life.” Frantz Fanon, 1961.
In our context, Fanon is saying we must imagine a party where the leaders of the party live in the rural areas, for example, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape and so forth, avoiding Gauteng and the Western Cape. While we acknowledge the brilliance of this idea, especially in assisting in regions where the party is dead and the masses are living from the palms of the liberation movement, the capital itself assists in the party keeping its relevance in mainstream politics and having information about what is happening in the country. The danger of the leadership living in the capital is the tendencies of the capital. The capital swallows, captures a revolutionary and turns him into a stooge who envies the life of the national bourgeoisie and its decadent overconsumption of frivolous amenities which are rejects of the mother country. The capital, in essence, distracts and delays the revolution.
CLR James in his 1947 essay titled “Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity”, states that “the second law of dialectical materialism is the change of quantity into quality. At a certain stage a developing contradiction, so to speak, explodes, and both the elements of contradiction are thereby altered. In the history of society these explosions are known as revolution. All the economic, social and political tendencies of the age find a point of completion which becomes the starting-point of new tendencies.”
This second law was formulated by Karl Marx progressing on Hegelian dialectics. It’s important to simplify this law through analysing the South African political dynamic and context. I think that before we can get to an explosion, it is those tendencies of the national bourgeoisie that must be sharpened for all to witness so that when their reach their completion, we will have the chance at that “starting-point” to create the revolutionary tendencies which we seek to see. This moment might in the near future be characterised as a cultural revolution that won’t overthrow the state and liberation movement, but will serve as a springboard for the revolution that is bound to happen.
The next decade offers a new opportunity in how the revolutionary party itself, the Economic Freedom Fighters, matures in the way it runs its organisation, deals with the reactionary and counter-revolutionary mainstream media or creates its own media by taking its machinery to the people.
It is the Economic Freedom Fighters’ advantage in always being consistent in how they sharpen the contradictions prevalent at a specific time whether in Parliament, press briefings or through the work done by their councillors in municipalities.
The declarations adopted at party assemblies will gradually change as time goes by in the new decade, but what’s important is that they change with urgency in addressing the current conditions of the dispossessed, dejected and landless masses of our people. DM