Comrade Ziyana Lategan always says that it is important to read Marx, and to read Marx to the latter.
A few weeks back I was invited to write a piece for Amandla titled Why Marx is not enough, which was published on the AIDC website on the 26th of July 2018. In that paper I argue that there is a certain sect of Marxists in South Africa that don’t read Marxism properly. Because I argue that if we read him properly, in many instances he may agree with us that the class analysis is not enough. In the article I make a very simple point that the class analysis is not enough, and it does little help to simply add race to remedy the situation. I argue that the best way to deal with the so called quagmire is to read Capitalism as racists in itself, which is a point that is made by Hosea Jaffe and Ziyana Lategan reminds us of in her recent thesis.
On Sunday the 5th of August, my comrade Mokgweetsi Keikabile penned down a response to my article. In it, comrade Mokgweetsi accuses me of ‘unconsciously distorting the reality of the Afrikan people’ and proposes that if Marx is not enough, then Walter Rodney does the job. I must say that, I do think that comrade Mokgweetsi missed my point in my article because I do make the point that it is in in fact Walter Rodney that helps us understand Marx better for the colonial situation, and for fear that we have a train debate where we just speak past each other, I wish to take this opportunity to try, as much as possible, respond to the points raised by Mokgweetsie in his piece.
Very early on his paper, comrade Mokgwetsi argues that the Africanist (Which I am very much a member of) disagree with my position that Capitalism is racism when they argue that “the significant portion of our social milieu begins with the expansion of the markets founded by the rising commercial capital of Western Europe at the turn of the fifteenth century” (Pan Africanist Manifesto 1959). What Mokgweetsi does not ask himself is ‘When the markets ‘expanded’, through colonialism, what categories were used as the ordering system in the colonial world? An answer to this question will quickly show that the Africanists are not, as Mokgweetsi would like us to believe, incompatible with my point. For if we read the same document that comrade Mokgweetsi sites a bit further we see that the Africanists go further to say that “Succeeding years witnessed the “discovery” of new lands by the Europeans, the Papal award of the whole of Africa to the Portuguese, increased European Slave raids on Africa, denuded African of Africans and led to the establishment in the Americas of the greatest mass chattel slavery that the world had ever known. Africa had been successfully robed of Africans. It was this chattel slavery that contributed substantially to the initiation of the European industrial revolution which in turn resulted in the unleashing of the chain of reaction which culminated in the rape of Africa and the close of the last century”. Here we see that the Africanist agree that it was slavery “that contributed substantially to the initiation of the European industrial revolution”. Who was taken as slaves? Was it the mass of ‘white worker’ in Europe or was it the peasant black mass of Africa? Colonialism bases its ordering system of society on racism. It is this very colonialism that Marx and Engels, together with the Africanist argue paved the way for the growth of capitalism. Again, to try and separate capitalist- colonialism from racism, is to look for corners in a circle. Fuck man.
Mokgweetsi goes on further to argue that I misread Marx and Engels when they say , “the discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened fresh new ground for the rising bourgeoisie”, arguing that what Marx and Engels say here is not to say that capitalism is racist. Unfortunately, he does not give an alternative view to what could be meant by this sentence by Marx and Engels. However, I still stand by my point that this quote was an acknowledgment by Marx and Engels that capitalism could not have been had it not been for colonialism. To prove this point I shall quote extensively from Marx and Engels themselves to speak for themselves. In the communist Manifesto, they argue that “The discovery of the America, the rounding of the Cape opened up fresh new ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development”. Engels and Marx go further to say that “Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way”. The discovery of America paved the way. Colonialism paved the way. Colonialism is racism. Fuck! Look man! This is simple logic. Let’s take C1 to stand for Capitalism and C2 to stand for Colonialism and R to stand for Racism. And we agree that colonialism paved the way for Capitalism and Colonialism is racist and orders society on racial lines. Simple logic dictates that:
C1 ⸧ C2
C2 ⸧ R
Hypothetical syllogism dictates that you get
C1 ⸧ R
If you have Capitalism, you have racism. Its simple logic
How then comrade Mokgweetsi wants to separate these is beyond my comprehension. I would really love to hear how then he understands to be meant by, both the communist and the African Manifestos when they put colonialism at the centre of the development of capitalism.
To show this point one just needs to look at the development of colonialism in Azania alone. Mohamed Adhikari’s books “The anatomy of the South African genocide: The extermination of the Cape San people” and “Genocide on Settler frontiers” shows us that for a good 50 to 100 years after the settlement of the VOC in the Cape, Jan Van Riebeek had explicit clear instructions from the bosses in Holland not to antagonise the natives, because they needed to trade with them for supplies for the company in the Cape. It was not the company that led the colonialism in the Cape, it was in fact the ‘working class whites’ that decided that they no longer wanted to work for the company and ran away and settled on the frontiers. They were called the Trek Boer or the Burghers and even Hottentots at the time. In fact the defence of the settler frontier was not even funded by the company, it was the Trek Boers themselves that formed commandos to raid San societies so they can take their lands. The company came into the party very late after realising that these trek Boers are not being taxed for the lands they own.
What do we find from this brief history lesson? It was not the commercial interest of Europe that led to the very early stages of our colonialization, it was the European ‘proletariat’ that wanted to escape work in the VOC that did this, the very same ‘proletariat’ that these comrades want us to unite with in the name of working class unity. What we also take from this history lesson is that there was no class distinction when it came to taking of our land, poor and rich whites alike participated in the taking of our land. And even on the side of the blacks, it was not taken from ‘poor’ blacks and the rich blacks were let go. It was taken from all of us. Whites took the land of the blacks. In fact it was these reactionary rich blacks that started to form the ANC in 1912 because they were being treated like the ‘other’ blacks and their land was being taken away.
But let us go back to Mokgweetsi’s paper. In the paper, Mokgweetsi goes on further to quote Raboroko out of context and takes a sentence from his famous paper among the Africanist titled The Africanist Case. The quote quoted by Mokgweetsi to further push forward his point that race is not a factor is when Peter Ramoroko says “that politics is a matter not of race or colour, but vital material…interests” . But because we have read Raboroko ourselves. I shall show that Mokgweetsi is deliberately quoting him out of context. Let Peter speak for himself:
“The Charterists allege that the principal target of the Africanist attack upon them is their “broad humanism, which claims equality but not domination for the African people”. This statement itself bears out of the main Africanist contention that the differences between the Charterists and themselves are mainly ideological. The Charterists have yet to understand that politics is a matter not of race or colour, but of vital material and spiritual interests.
The crucial issue today is whether the interests of the five million Europeans throughout Africa must continue to dominate over those of the two hundred and eighty million African, or whether the reverse process should obtain.”
The point being made by Raboroko here is not to say that we do not see race, but to say that we are not fighting these people simply because they are white, but precisely because they took our land and we want it back qha. The same Peter Raboroko in the same paper that was mischievously selectively quoted by Mokgweetsi, Raboroko goes on further to say: that “Nationalism demands that the interests of the indigenous peoples should dominate over those of aliens”. Who are aliens in South Africa and who are indigenous? I shall let the reader answer that question. But let us continue to read Raboroko further:
“The Kliptown Charter, erroneously called the Freedom Charter, offers a classic illustration of the essentials of Charterism.
“And, therefore, we the people of South Africa”, proclaims the ultimate clause, “black and white-equals, countrymen and brothers- adopt this Freedom Charter…”
To them master and slave- the exploiter and the exploited, the oppressor and the oppressed, the degrader and the degraded- are equals. To them the indigenous African nationals and the immigrant European foreign nationals- the disposed and their dispossessors, the victims of their robbers- are all countrymen. For them the progressive and the reactionary- the African subject and his foreign overlord, the African nationalist and the colonialist or white supremacist, the liberationist and the collaborationist- are all brothers.
The problem of the synthesis of opposites cannot be resolved by the wave of the magic wand. It is only after all these sets of antithetical categories have been duly reconciled that we can reach those final categories- equals, countrymen and brothers- which betray no instability”.
It, therefore, cannot be that comrade Mokgweetsi can deliberately lie to us and say that father Roboroko did not see race. It is only the moment of the synthesis that race categories cannot matter, but at the moment we are at the antithetical moment and the failure from comrade Mokgweetsi is to read Raboroko and Sobukwe from the synthesis moment, as humanist, but not from the antithetical moment in which they wrote.
As the paper finishes, comrade Mokgweetsi degenerates even further. He uses Walter Rodney to say that the Marxist methodology “would exist at different levels, at different times, in different places and retain its potential as a tool, as a set of conceptions which people should grasp”. But this is the same point I make myself in my original article. What I say, however, that is different from Mokgweetsi, and is something that I think I have sufficiently substantiated both in my original paper and this one, is that the use of the Marxist methodology of historical materialism in the colonial situation does not lead us to a clear cut two way class distinction. I also disagree with Rodney in his paper on the focus of the material when looking at our relations to social mode of production, and I go through this point of why I disagree in my article and for sake of time I shall not to it again here.
Mokgweetsi again randomly quotes Amilcar Cabral ““always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head.” Amilcar Cabral continues: “they are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children” (Tell no lies, Claim not easy victories).” No one disagrees with Cabral, but if we are to base our thinking of the problems we face on the day to day experiences of our lives, we are never going to do a thorough reading of our problems. Of course people want to leave better lives, they want to put bread on their table and many a times theory is of little importance to them. But that is where the job of the thinking class comes in, to elevate the conscious of our people. Even the so called working class never goes on a march to demand to own the factory, even the deadly Marikana protests where simply about a better wage, not a protest to own the mine itself. Are we then going to lower our thinking to that level simply because this is what the mases want? We must be serious about thinking. The lived experience is only important to a certain extent, it can never take us all the way, we need to be able to us question of why do not have bread in the first place rather than where can we get bread now.
Mokgweetsi goes further to claim that “The enemy of land dispossessed Afrikan people therefore, is the petite bourgeoisie, comprador-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie ruling class regardless of which group within the human race that person/individual belongs to. For as Africanists we believe there is only one race which all humans belongs.” Firstly, it is a complete and utter lie to say that the Africanists just see one race, the human race. This is the most vulgarised quote from Sobukwe and I would urge the reader to consult a paper I wrote on this a year or so ago titled Sobukwe on the African and Race Question: A case against the liberalisation of Sobukwe. But what I would like to deal with here is the first sentence in Mokgweetsi’s point. He argues that the enemy of the landless people is the “petite bourgeoisie, comprador-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie ruling class regardless of which group within the human race that person/individual belongs to”. Hebana, the landless masses are landless precisely because of a very specific racial group that took their land. Our enemy cannot be dissolved into thin air just like that. So now the subsistence Farmer who chooses not to be commercial yet own thousands of hectors of land that was stolen is not our enemy as the landless African Masses, because that white farmer is not a member of the “petite bourgeoisie, comprador-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie ruling class”? It cannot be, it really cannot be. Both poor ‘working class’ and rich bourgeois whites are the reason that we are landless. Our enemy is not colourless, it definitely does have a colour, and that colour is white. My land was not stolen the Ramaphosa family, it was stolen by the Ruperts, the Oppenheimers and the unknown small Van de Bergh family somewhere in the Karoo.
To my critiques that the black elite in South Africa do not control the ruling ideas Mokgweetsi brings out the recent Nelson Mandela lecture delivered by Obama and he argues that this lecture was the black elites controlling our ideas. Clearly Mokgweetsi is yet to understand how ideology works. A reading of Althusser “On Ideology” would probably help. The rainbow nation idea is a white idea, how comrade Mokgweetsi wants to distance whites from it is beyond me. Furthermore, ruling ideas are not just in the giving of one huge lecture, Althusser reminds us, they are in the everyday and they are in the subtle things we take for granted, the fact that we have to be reminded every day of the Mandela rainbow nation idea is precisely because it is clear it has not been able to elevate to the level of ideology, where we are not reminded of it, but we simply do it and follow. Feminists will tell us better how ideology works. No one tells or forces us the idea of how a ‘man’ should wear, but we actively participate in the idea unconsciously. It is something that happens by itself, but we all know that it is patriarchy that is behind that thinking. In fact it is Ideology at its best when white people steal our land as a group of whites regardless of their class distinction and when we are landless, somehow comrade Mokgweetsi thinks he can make the point that our enemy is not white, but it is the bourgeois class and has no colour. It is the white rulling class ideas permeating Mogkweetsi’s thinking without him even realising it.
Comrade Mokgweetsi finishes off his piece by saying that “A white homeless person calling a billionaire tycoon Motsepe nigger or kaffir is insignificant because racism is determined by power dynamics in society”. This is the last point of degeneration of Mokgweetsi’s paper. Power to him is clearly just having money. He fails to realise a point I make in my original paper which he would have, had he read it properly where I argue that:
“Motsepe with all the millions that he has, is still black in society and because of the logical systems that are in operation in South Africa, and the world over, he cannot escape his blackness. As Fanon, argues, he is overdetermined from without. He lacks the historical, cultural and epistemic reference of power that white people enjoy in society, poor or rich.”
The white homeless person has access to epistemic, historical and metaphysical power that the black does not have.