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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 12, No. 40, 14 November2013

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

Lifting the Mask behind the Class and Racial Character of the DA

By Blade Nzimande

When some of us recently referred to the Democratic Alliance (DA) as a party of baases and madams, despite its endless attempts to remake itself, there was a retort that but this is rather a caricature than the essence of the DA in 2013. The DA`s `somersault` over its stance on the amendments to the Employment Equity Bill leaves no doubt about the class and racial profile of this party; that it has no interest whatsoever in changing the conditions of especially the black middle and working class strata of South African society for the better. Instead, the DA`s fortunes both in the medium and longer term are premised on the continued reproduction of the racial and class inequalities whose foundations are in colonial and apartheid South Africa.

It is for these reasons that as Marx said it is important that we do not judge our class adversaries by what they say, but through what they do. In the `Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte`, Marx puts it succinctly:

`And as in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does. So in historical struggles one must distinguish still more the phrases and fancies of parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality.`

Whose class and racial interests does the DA represent? It essentially is, at its core, a party that represents those sections of the South African white middle strata that were the major beneficiaries of the racist and vicious suppression of any rise of a black, especially African, middle class as well as a skilled black working class. This became the basis upon which a white middle, managerial and skilled working strata were consolidated and basically ran operations in both the public and private sectors under apartheid. In addition the apartheid labour legislation and practices allowed only white workers to become apprenticed as artisans (and to form and join unions) and outlawing black workers from performing any jobs other than at the most as semi-skilled labour. Even the least educated whites were given supervisory jobs over black `gangs` of labour especially in the public service and state owned enterprises. It was from within these strata of white managerial and skilled white workforce that the apartheid regime got its backers and voters.

Whilst the white bourgeoisie was the main economic beneficiary of colonialism of a special type, it was the parasitic middle and skilled layers of the white population that also benefitted handsomely from apartheid. It is the largest sections of these strata and its beneficiaries that have found a home in the DA, especially after the collapse of the National Party and the almost total decimation of the white neo-fascist right wing. These white strata grew significantly during the post Second World War period, right through the golden decade of the apartheid economy in the 1960s, into at least the early 1980s.

In the wake of the 1976 countrywide student and youth uprisings against the apartheid regime, coupled with an intensified campaign for disinvestment and divestment by international capitalist corporations from South Africa, attempts were made to promote a new layer of a black corporate managerial class. This initiative was embarked upon under the rubric of what was called `black advancement`, within the policy framework known as the `Sullivan Code` meant to be signed and implemented by all foreign corporations in South Africa then. The aim was to try to create and co-opt a pliable black middle class that would have a stake in the capitalist system under apartheid.

Timid and halfhearted as the black advancement initiatives were, whatever potential success they could have had were frustrated by class resistance from a white middle management which saw these initiatives as a threat to their own economic positions in the apartheid economy. After the collapse of the National Party, the DA also inherited some of the most politically backward elements from this party. It is these strata that essentially are still threatened by affirmative action and employment equity today. It is these strata that also constitute part of the core of the DA constituency. It is this constituency that is reacting negatively to the DA`s recent but quickly abandoned flirtation with legislation associated with affirming the black majority in the South African economy.

The internal, seemingly ideological, fissures we see inside the DA at the moment further underlines the fact that the DA at its core represents the racialised class interests of a white middle strata - its key constituency. These contradictions also reflect a tension between some of the DA`s black leaders and the core white conservative constituency of the DA. Some of the black leaders inside this party, together with a small minority of white members, do realize the necessity to be seen to support some form of affirmative action and employment equity in order to reach our to black voters. But Zille`s firm rebuke and reigning in of the DA`s parliamentary leadership led by Lindiwe Mazibuko, further reflects the extent to which, when it comes to the interests of its core white constituency, the likes of Maimane and Mazibuko are nothing more than a post 1994 phenomenon of political fronting to try and legitimize the DA in the black population of our country. For example, some weeks back, no sooner had Mmusi Maimane pronounced that the DA supported Employment equity and black economic empowerment, he was swiftly and emphatically contradicted by Wilmot James, who had to affirm the position of the core of the DA`s constituency - rejection of BEE.

The DA`s attempted, but deeply contradictory, flirtation with employment equity measures reflect another reality about this party. As the DA seeks to defend and advance the racialised class interests of its core constituency, there is however at the same time an internal realisation that the DA has effectively reached its electoral ceiling. In order to break through its electoral ceiling it must therefore try to be seen to be supporting some changes in favour of the black majority. But when it attempts to do so there is a revolt from its core white constituency! This is precisely what is happening to the DA at the moment. In this way the fundamental agenda of the DA is exposed, that its reason for existence is deeply intertwined with, and interwoven into, the privileged class positions of whites accumulated under apartheid, and continuously being reproduced by the persisting semi-colonial growth path of our capitalist economy. What we are confronted with in the DA is therefore not just liberalism, but a deeply racialised (and racist), deeply patronizing white liberalism with deep roots in apartheid South Africa.

The DA faces an irreconcilable contradiction, upon which its decline from its current peak is likely to begin. It is that the DA cannot reconcile its defense of racialised class privileges for its core constituency on the one hand, with the objective necessity of addressing the glaring racial, class and gender inequalities still prevalent in South African society on the other hand. The two are in fundamental contradiction to each other and the DA can never do both. It is only a principled struggle and unwavering commitment to non-racialism, including affirmative measures and radical transformation of workplaces that can take South African society forward. It is only the ANC-led Alliance that has the history, the capacity and proven commitment to lead such transformation in society.

It is in the interests of our revolution that we must deepen these resurgent contradictions that have always been a reality within an organisation like the DA. But to do this does not mean that we should pre-occupy ourselves with what is happening inside the DA. Instead we need to intensify the struggles for the radical transformation of South Africa`s workplaces and confront all their racial and patriarchal features. Whilst as the SACP we should support the progressive legislative measures introduced by the ANC-led government, it is absolutely essential that concrete struggles are waged by the working class both in the workplaces as well as in the broader economy. An essential component of this struggle must also be, in the case of the Western Cape for instance, to unite the Coloured and African working class in the workplace and beyond. This must be part of a broader struggle to unite all components of the working class, African Colored, white and Indian as the only basis of tackling racism, gender and class inequalities in our society. Through these struggles we must further expose parties like the DA and other liberal hypocrites that for instance the enemies of the Coloured working class is not the African working class or the majority of the people of our country as the DA claims. But that it is the exploitative capitalist system and the many racists still harbored by parties like the DA.

Whilst as a movement we must also accept our own mistakes and weaknesses in losing the Western Cape to the DA, it is also true that in line with its racial logic, the DA has sought to win over Coloured and Indian voters through `swart gevaar` tactics, as part of a strategy of fighting back against the ANC, and an attempt to project the ANC as a threat against the interests of these sections of our population. Therefore there is no substitute to hard work to build the unity in struggle between the Coloured and African components of the working class. Let us build on the excellent examples by the unity between Coloured and African farm workers in de Doorns and in other farms in recent struggles by the farmworkers of our country.

Comrade Blade Nzimande is the SACP General Secretary

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