Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
26 August 2007

National democratic codswallop

I am such a dunce. There I was thinking that in 1994 the opposing parties (ANC and NP mostly) negotiated a settlement which established a constitutional democracy in which both civil and political and social and economic rights would be enforcement by an independent judiciary.

Now I discover on the ANC Today website that we are not living in a constitutional democracy after all but in a “revolutionary national democracy”. In an unsigned article ominously titled “A fundamental revolutionary lesson: The enemy manouevres (sic!) but it remains the enemy / Part I” the writer tells us that the ANC is the “primary motive force” of this national democratic revolution.

Of course, the forces opposed to this ANC revolution would never “give up their offensive to weaken, defeat and destroy the ANC”. Unfortunately the ANC had decided to put up with these “historical forces of reaction” and thus the enemy has the cheek to continue “to exist and freely represent their views and interests within our evolving national democracy.” To quote from the document:

Wisely or otherwise [my italics], and by conscious decision of our movement and the masses it leads, our national democratic revolution has deliberately avoided any resort to the “Jacobin option”. It has therefore not used revolutionary force to suppress and destroy its historical opponents, as did the English, French, Russian, Chinese and many other revolutions.

Well, what can one say about a writer who suggests that it might have been unwise not to kill all those who opposed or criticised the ANC? What does one make of the messianic assertion that only the ANC can lead this revolution and that its leaders thus have a duty:

at all times and in all field of human activity, [to] assert and exercise their hegemony as the leader of the process of the fundamental social and national democratic transformation of our country. Both in the field of theory and in practical activity, this united force must act resolutely and successfully to protect and advance its interests.

How does one respond to a writer who seems to think that the legitimate political opponents in our constitutional democracy, a critical media and civil society organisations critical of the ANC are all “enemies” not only of the ANC but also of the “national democratic revolution”? Does this not imply that the ANC – the God anointed leaders of the revolution – would have a right, in defence of this revolution, to prevent the “enemy” from every taking over the state, using all means at its disposal? And what on earth could be “democratic” about such a view?

There are many people in the ANC who are surely embarrassed by this kind of Stalinist rubbish. Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota only last week wisely remarked that in our democracy the ANC will only continue winning elections for as long as it continued to be trusted by the people.

The argument that the ANC, historic and natural leader of the national democratic revolution, must take control of all levers of state power and must “defend” the national democratic revolution at all cost, is a dangerous and anti-democratic argument. It presupposes that democracy is not an end in itself but is only the means through which, in the present phase, the ANC has chosen to achieve the “national democratic revolution”.

This means that other important players in a democracy (the press, opposition parties, civil society) who disagree or criticise the ANC, are enemies of the state and only survive and are only tolerated through the benevolence of the ruling party.

Of course, in a true democracy the establishment and deepening of democracy is an end in itself. Parties compete for votes based on their programmes and policies. Sometimes a party wins and sometimes it loses the election. If the opposition wins an election and it believes that the “national democratic revolution” is a lot of dogs bollocks, it has every right to rule the country accordingly – until the next election when its performance will be judged by the electorate.

And of course if one is the leader of the party at the vanguard of the “national democratic revolution”, and if all those who criticise the party are viewed as enemies of the party and the state, this means that the party and its leader are omniscient and never have to face reality or admit mistakes.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Wonder whether our Dear Leader did not have a hand in writing this dangerous, reactionary piffle?

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