On the battle of Ideas
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas."
Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845
The 13th Congress of the Party was spot on in bringing the question of the ‘battle of ideas' to the fore.
Indeed the issue of who dominates the public discourse is as old as the post 1994 democractic society. Before 1994 it was clear that only two ideologies prevailed, i.e. capitalism and racism. Others may argue that racism in itself cannot stand as an ideology. By the way, racism was institutionalised in South Africa in the manner that its legislation was made alive through permeation into everyday life of South Africans.
So you need to think again before trivialising it to any phenomenon less than an ideology. This is why it's a mountain to climb even now in eradicating the philosophy of racism that was entrenched in our educational, cultural, religious and economic system. The SACP characterised this systematic deepening of racist ideology coupled with capitalism long ago as "Colonialism of a Special Type (CST)'.
The CST theory basically in its simplistic terms points out a unique type of colonialism whereby the oppressor and the oppressed share one territory. The privileged white minority wanted to impose their norms, values, racial and economic superiority on the majority of the South African populace. This they did by co-opting some in the oppressed communities into conniving with their ideology so as share in the spoils of elitism.
The apartheid regime led by Afrikaners made it clear that blacks and Africans in particular should be condemned to servitude. Denial of a right to knowledge made sure that they are robbed of necessary skills to participate in the main stream of economy. Not long ago certain historians praised Hendrick Verwoerd as a ‘social engineer'. They argued that it took an extraordinary mind for a young politician who obtained doctorate at the age of 25 to engineer a political system that could benefit his folk for years to come. They argued that blacks deserved to live separately in the rural periphery of the country to preserve their own customs and traditions.
The same happened with praises being hipped on Margaret Thatcher at the moment of her death; when some political commentators argued that nobody could take away the fact that she invented a workable conservative political system that was later to be referred to as "Thatcherism". How annoying?
Recently Douglas Gibson, came from the doldrums, accompanied by a well know protagonist of racial thought, David Bullard; pronounced Jo'burg as Third World Class City. His only reasoning being that Jo'burg compared to Cape Town is filthy and the ANC is to blame for that. If you decode the message in his article Gibson suggests that the City of Jo'burg must do the same as Cape Town by chasing all the hawkers away from the CBD and clean itself of economically desperate blacks. You wonder why Gibson agreed to be an ambassador of a ‘badly run' government in the first place?
Ironically, it was Aubrey Matshiqi, (who serves in the board of Helen Suzman Foundation) who pointed out that the current discourse in South Africa was skewed against black society. He argued that the current discourse is dominated by white capitalist males. Actually Matshiqi found a clever way to utter what Marx said long ago, namely that the ‘the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it".
As long as the South African economy is still overwhelmingly in the hands of white males who also own the fourth estate, the media we can't expect an "African voice' as recently pointed out by Panyaza Lesufi to prevail. Lesufi, in a radio debate gave a vivid example how "City Press" all of a sudden regressed from being "Distinctly African' during the times of Mathatha Tsedu as an editor to being antagonistic to African opinion.
This is the same paper that led with the unpalatable painting of our state president. The strategy is clear; in order to punch holes at the ruling party, target its president and humiliate him. Thus journalists, the so-called public intellectuals are in cahoots with opposition parties in dis-informing the general public that everything is going wrong in South Africa because the predominantly black ANC is in charge. Unfortunately some in the progressive trade union movement unwittingly fall into this trap as they join the chorus in the interest of fighting their factional battles.
The democratic state cannot also be spared the blame in this regard. In the Post-1994 era the state ensured the systematic "de-ideologisation" of South Africans especially the youth. There-by pumping imperialist American cultural programmes in the public broadcaster. This is why the DA has constructed what is called the ‘born frees'. Is there such a concept? If the majority of the working class youth still face an uncertain future due to being trapped in poverty circles how do you call them ‘born frees'? Are they born free from capitalist exploitation?
The democratic state must do its bit in confronting the legacy of "Colonialism of a Special Type". Two recent developments, both nationally and internationally serve as guiding lights. Government has announced that African languages will be made compulsory in all schools and at some faculties in universities. We must also take a leaf from Brazil who allowed workers who constructed the World Cup Official Stadium to be the first ones to start playing a football match in front of their families and friends.
So in the spirit of the 13th Congress, all communists to the front in the battle of ideas!
Walter Mothapo is a member of the PEC of the SACP in the Limpopo Province. He writes in his personal capacity.
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