What happens when we define ‘the enemy’ in terms that would justify shooting them down like mad dogs in the street?

I have often felt that the terms of our political debate are too extreme – from all sides of the political spectrum.

The idea or assertion that the government, the state and the ruling party is made up of an undifferentiated herd, squealing and grunting at the trough, might be rhetorically satisfying, but it’s wrong and not designed to foster our democracy.

But a more serious problem is emerging as the a Ruling Alliance, feeling threatened and burdened, has started characterising all forms of opposition as driven by white capitalists full of nostalgia for Apartheid.

The best example I can find is contained in Blade Nzimande’s Chris Hani Memorial Lecture.

Nzimande makes explicit something that is being articulated from every part of the Ruling Alliance – and it is important not to dismiss his words as part of a “loony left” view.

Nzimande defines two enemies of freedom, democracy, national liberation and “our revolution and its objectives”. These enemies are:

  1. The new tendency including tenderpreneurship and the general danger of business interests within our broad movement overrunning and defeating the revolution
  2. The anti-majoritarian liberal tendency

The first one is clearly ‘the enemy within’ – tenderpreneurs and similar – and in this he might be supported by the DA.

But in the lead-up to the municipal election, it is the second enemy and how “it” is defined that is of interest to me.

This is the essence of it pulled out as quotes and paraphrasing from the lecture:

Firstly, the Democratic Alliance and the print media are the organised representatives of the enemy.

Thus: … there is a “liberal offensive against the majoritarian character of our democracy” that with “growing arrogance and strident nature” is “pushed by the likes of the DA” but mainly conducted by its “principal ideological platform and mouthpiece … South Africa’s mainstream print media”.

Secondly, the enemy consists largely of previous beneficiaries of Apartheid:

In fact the (anti-majoritarian) liberal agenda seeks to defend, protect and advance the interests of the white capitalist class and the petty bourgeoisie, without explicitly saying so like during the era of the racist apartheid regime; and yet in a manner not different from white minority rule, but in conditions of black majority rule!

Finally, the main strategy of this enemy is to get the state to stop supporting the poor and instead make it (the state) an instrument for making capitalists richer still.

At the heart of the liberal offensive is the objective of weakening the capacity of the state to act in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the workers and the poor … In addition such state intervention in favor of the capitalist or local ruling elites … undertake(s) further measures (like repression and destruction of the trade union movement, especially its progressive components) in order to ensure that the conditions for the reproduction of capitalist relations of production are strengthened.

Believing your own propaganda

Like all effective propaganda these characterisations by the Ruling Alliance –  here expressed in the mostly pseudo-intellectual terms of Marxist Leninism – rely on packaging elements of truth with confirmations of  people’s lived experience – at the same time confirming their prejudices and fears.

In this universe a Media Appeals Tribunal or the disruption of a DA rally in Mamelodi are minor acts of resistance against an evil and dangerous invader.

The lie that the DA only represents Apartheid nostalgia equals the lie that the ANC is only a platform for pillaging the state.

Both characterisations leave the protagonists stranded on their high horses beyond the frontiers, with no roads back and no options but to push forward into the night.

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