STUDENT PROTESTS in S. AFRICA and the OLD POLITICAL NARRATIVE

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Fred
STUDENT PROTESTS in S. AFRICA and the OLD POLITICAL NARRATIVE
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Students and other people have been taking part for a week in mass protests in S. Africa against the high fees charged for access to Higher Education.  President Zuma climbed down and announced no fee increase for 2016. This hasn't satisfied the many who demand free education for all.  

What! Free education? Laugh out loud! What do they think capitalism is: a merry-go-round of freedom and jollity with free gifts thrown in?  They must be mad, 

Guardian wrote:
Student leader Mcebo Dlamini, a key organiser at the University of Witwatersrand, said students had not caused any violence. “There is no violence here. We have seen students reacting to the brutal system of the ANC [the ruling party].”

Stephen Grootes, a political commentator, said the success of the student protests posed a headache for the ANC. “What this does reveal is the ANC’s inability to deal with a multiracial, multiclass and multiparty group of people who refuse to buy into the old political narrative, he said.

 

In fact there has been a lot of violence at these rallies.  Some say it's the students; others unwelcome interlopers like workers! and many indicate the police who have been busy with truncheons, tear gas and the rest as usual. Some trace the violence back to the ruling ANC. 

Stephen Grootes remark is interesting when he refers to the ANC's inability "to deal with a multiracial, multiclass and multiparty group of people who refuse to buy into the old political narrative." 

It made this reader ponder what the "old political narrative" might be exactly. Surely he wasn't referring to democracy capitalist style? Not a Guardian journalist? But what other political narrative do we have at the moment other than the tired, worn out and dreary old clap trap of bourgeois democracy with the voting booths wheeled out every few years for the farce of an election for a capitalist government few want. 

And then there's the "multiracial, multiclass and multiparty" people who don't like the old political narrative. To deal with the multiparty group first. To say that they don't like the current political narrative is wrong. In fact they love it. All those fancy bourgeois political  parties, with fancy names and fancy personalities to front them, and all with the same bourgeois political program at base. 

Then there's the catch-all  word "multiracial". It's odd that the ANC can't cope with a multiracial society being born itself out of the death of apartheid. Why, even England is a multiracial society now. And even , almost, multi religious. What capitalist societies in their declining years really can't cope with isn't problems of race but problems of immigrants and refugees who may suddenly appear on their national door steps looking for jobs, housing, education, health care and the like, which  pressurise a nation's financial systems and stability. S. Africa suffers much from black migrants from other countries to its north coming looking for jobs and a better life. This isn't a racial problem at all.  (And why "multiracial" not "multiethnic" from the liberal Gaurdian?) 

So we are left with "multiclass". Is there a multiplicity of classes to equate to the bourgeoisie's multiplicity of political parties? I think not. And for certain there's only one class around that refuses knowingly to buy into the old political narrative mentioned by our Guardian reporter and that he doesn't want to name.  It is of course the working class.   The revolutionary class. The old political narrative has no intention in identifying the classes that make up class society. This would not serve its class commitment. And while the Guardian  may be liberal in its sympathy for the down trodden, the unemployed and repressed, it's sympathy has a firm ruling class basis, and is sustained by a firm belief in the old political narrative. 

So what have we learned from the Guardian's  analysis of the student revolt in S. Africa?  Not perhaps as much as we might think. We have been told that the ANC can't deal with society as it is because it is incapable of dealing with those protesters who refuse to buy into the old political narrative. This might be said of an increasing number of countries, though it isn't actually said. The group of people who don't buy into the old politics are disguised as being multiparty and multiracist. Yet what they are if they did but know it is the working class rubbing against its chains.  This is what  the Guardian subtlety presents as "multiclass". But then the Guardian has nothing to gain from speaking truthfully. 

Alf
agree, this was a class movement

I agree with Fred that the student movement in South Africa is essentially a proletarian one. They have shown this by

 - raising class demands, ie against the increased tuition fees

 - using marches to call all the students to join them; in contrast to the 'Rhodes must fall' protests of last March, there was no hint this time of this being something for black students only (hence 'multiracial?)

 - trying to link up with the workers on campus and raising the issue of low pay (hence 'multiclass' - except that the majority of the students are themselves from the working class and face a future of exploitation and unemployment)

 - linking up with bus drivers in Capetown who provided free transport to the demos

 The government - the executive committee of the ruling class - seemed to recognise their class enemy by jailing 200 students who 'trespassed' in the parliament grounds and accused them of treason and terrorism. But also perhaps because of Zuma's apparent climb down on the fees, which may have been prompted by an awareness of the danger that this movement could spread throughout the working class. 

Alf
from a participant

I was sent this by a UCT post-grad student who has been taking an active part in the movement. It's especially interesting on the real level of state violence and the attempts of the ANC 'youth wing' to recuperate the movement: 

 

We were caught off guard by the speedy response of the government. We knew that the 0% would be granted, but we were expecting the announcement on Monday, not yesterday, so the letter of solidarity we had drafted became a bit irrelevant. I am working on another one with a friend which explains that the workers and students have always been in solidarity on this, and how the theory of decolonisation fits into this. There were always two demands 1) no fee increase and 2) end outsourcing of public institutions. It seemed the second one was drowned out after the events at parliament. 

 

The ANC has since tried to co-opt this movement by handing a victory to their youth league yesterday. They invited SASCO students (part of the ANC youth league) and students leaders from opposition partied to a meeting with the president to negotiate with them, even though this movement has been non-partisan and leaderless from the beginning. They then played the game of negotiating with their own lackies to make it seem as though it was their own youth league's action which had brought this about. As far as I know, mainly men were invited to this negotiation, even though this movement was largely led by women. People on the ground are not happy about this, mainly because the movement has been misrepresented, it was always a grassroots one, and also because this settlement has left the workers behind.

 

Another thing which seems to have gotten little attention is the level of violence on used on campuses of historically black/coloured universities. It has been much worse for them than it has been at the "more prestigious" formerly predominantly white ones such as, Wits, UCT, Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria. The press has also given far less attention to historically black/coloured universities. When we, at UCT, marched on police stations and blocked main roads, there was plenty of press and the police were less aggressive. Our crowd had many white students in it marching with us, in a predominantly white neighbourhood. At UWC and CPUT, where the student body is largely black and coloured, exits to the university were blocked, and water cannons, tear gas, stun grenade and rubber bullets were used on them.

 

I am not sure what the press abroad has been reporting, but the government response has been brutal.