Archive for South Africa

No Woman, No Revolution

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2009 by Umer

From Communist University [South Arfica]

Feminism, particularly in the field of politics itself, has often proved to work to the advantage of the bourgeoisie. Examples would be the elevation of Helen Zille, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright and Hilary Clinton to leadership.

What happens in those cases is that agitation leads to a correct requirement that more women be promoted to leadership. But then, at the critical moment, no female candidate appears, except the well-prepared female candidate of the reactionaries. The result is a catastrophe for all, and especially for the women

In the Umsebenzi Online of 6 August 2009 the SACP General Secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande, wrote that the majority of the membership of the Young Communist League at present is young black women.

This remarkable achievement ranks alongside of the achievement of the 52nd National Conference of the African National Congress which elected a National Executive Committee that consists of 50% women and 50% men.

This indicates that there is now an established stream of women cadres at an equivalent scale to men, and that their placement in leadership is happening. These achievements are the result of consistent work and determination over many years. They cannot be regarded as extra, or simply “nice-to-have”. They are necessary building blocks of Socialism.

The proletarian revolution is inconceivable without the involvement of the more than 50% of the population which is female. That is the general situation.

But the particular situation is that the working-class movement and its allies must be able to find winning female candidates at all levels and must never again be put in the position of seeing a reactionary being elected because she is a woman, only because there is no working-class woman candidate.

Alexandra Kollontai understood all this very well. In 1908 she wrote: The feminists seek equality in the framework of the existing class society, in no way do they attack the basis of this society.” (the full document is linked below). “Where, then, is that general “woman question”? Where is that unity of tasks and aspirations about which the feminists have so much to say? A sober glance at reality shows that such unity does not and cannot exist,” wrote Kollontai.

This text will be followed in coming days by others relating to women, under the general series title of “No Woman, No revolution”.

Click on this link:

Social Basis of the Woman Question, abstract, Kollontai, 1909(6619 words)

The Communist University (CU) holds live sessions weekly in Johannesburg, South Africa. CU – the wiki – is the interactive archive of education, organisation and mobilisation that is our main base on the Internet. CU – the Library – has many classic texts and study courses. The CU is not a constitutional structure of the South African Commnist Party.

Beware Human Rights Fundamentalism!

Posted in International Affairs, Law with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by Umer

by Mahmood Mamdani

When former South African president Thabo Mbeki makes the African case for a postponement of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, what can he say with dignity and foresight?

To begin with, he should remind his audience that nowhere in the world have rights existed outside an enabling political context. No democracy enforces a fixed standard of rights regardless of the country’s political context. Few can forget how the Bush administration diluted the Bill of Rights in the interest of pursuing Homeland Security. In the relation between law and politics, politics is always paramount. Precisely because the struggle for rights is a political struggle, enforcers of rights — and not just its violators — need to be held politically accountable lest they turn rights enforcement into a private vendetta.

Mbeki can then share with his audience the lessons Africans have learned in the struggle for peace and justice over the past several decades. Contrary to what many think, this lesson is not that there needs to be a trade-off between peace and justice. The real trade-off is between different forms of justice.This became evident with the settlement to end apartheid. That settlement was possible because the political leadership of the anti-apartheid struggle prioritised political justice over criminal justice. The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes — in plain words, immunity from prosecution — provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living.

The South African lesson has guided African practice in other difficult situations. In Mozambique Renamo sits in Parliament instead of in jail or in the dock. In South Sudan, too, there would have been neither peace nor a reform of the political system without an agreement not to pursue criminal justice.Why not in Darfur?

Mbeki would also be well advised to keep in mind that in the court of public opinion — unlike in a court of law — the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent.

The public needs to be reminded that when the justices of the ICC granted the prosecutor’s application for a warrant to arrest the president of Sudan, they were not issuing a verdict of guilty. The justices were not meant to assess the facts put before them by the prosecutor, but to ask a different question: if those facts were assumed to be true, would the president of Sudan have a case to answer? Unlike court, which took the facts for granted at the pre-trial stage, we need to ask: to what extent are these facts true? And, to the extent they are true, are they the whole truth?

The prosecutor’s case
The prosecutor’s application charged President al-Bashir with (a) polarising Darfuri tribes into two races (Arab and Zurga or Black), (b) waging a violent conflict (2003-2005) leading to the ethnic cleansing of Zurga ethnic groups from their traditional tribal lands, and (c) and planning the malnutrition, rape and torture of internally displaced persons (IDPs) so as to “slow death” in the camps — a process that the prosecutor claimed went on from 2003 to the time the application was submitted in 2008.

The racialisation of identities in Darfur had its roots in the British colonial period. As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organise two confederations in Darfur: one “Arab”, the other “Zurga” or black. Racialised identities were incorporated in the census and provided the frame for government policy and administration. In spite of official policy, Arabs never constituted a single racial group. Contemporary scholarship has shown that the Arab tribes of Sudan were not migrants from the Middle East but indigenous groups that became Arabs starting in the 18th century. This is why there can be no single history of Arab tribes of Sudan. Little unites privileged sedentary tribes of riverine Sudan and impoverished nomads of Western Sudan. Unlike the Arabs of riverine north, who have tended to identify with power, the Arabs of Darfur are the most marginalised group in a marginalised province.

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