Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “fascism”

Belarus: Zimbabwe in Europe or socialist paradise?

I’ve just read two contradictory accounts of Belarus in blogs that I read. I’ve never been to Belarus, so have no firsthand experience of the place.

Neil Clark: Letter from Minsk: Belarus- a country unspoilt by capitalism:

This is a capital city where the streets are safe and clean, where ordinary people can still afford to buy medicine and basic foodstuffs and where the unemployment rate is less than 1 per cent. It’s the side of Belarus you won’t read much about.

And then there is this:

Clarissa’s Blog: American Writers and Actors Helping Belarus:

As if that weren’t enough suffering, since 1994 Belarus has been ruled by a fascist dictator Alexander Lukashenko. He has been condemned by the EU for horrible human rights violations on a variety of occasions and has been made notorious by his anti-semitic statements. Lukashenko can afford not to care about that, though, since his regime is supported by Russia. Russia isn’t interested in being surrounded by strong nation-states and has been punishing its neighbors for daring to seek independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And then in Russia last year renowned TV anchor Vladimir Pozner declared that that Orthodoxy is a reason for economic failures and the low living standards of Russians. Partiarch Kirill disagrees: Interfax-Religion:

‘Today our life is worse not because we are Orthodox, but because we ruined our country and spiritual foundation of our life two times during one century. Protestant countries live better not because they are Protestant, but because these countries have not been at war, they developed their economy staying in rather favorable conditions,’ the Patriarch summed up and wished so that God ‘gives us reason to save our political, social stability and develop ourselves both spiritually and economically.’

My own observation is that in the early 1990s Russia was overrun by snake oil salesmen from the West, evangelising for the Western religion of the free market system, which had become the established church in the USA and UK under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. A lot of Russians bought this lie, and the new god didn’t live up to the claims made for it.

Perhaps Belarus didn’t buy into that to quite the same extent. but it also seems to have retained an authoritarian government.

In the 1990s both Russia and South Africa moved away from authoritarian government, and this was accompanied by a huge increase in the crime rate. A Russian geologist living in Johannesburg at the time told me, when I was about to visit Moscow, that the crime was far worse in Moscow than in Johannesburg. But it makes me wonder: is the Mafia the necessary price we have to pay for freedom? In Russia the Mafia operated in the private sector. In Zimbabwe for the last 20 years it has been the government. I can’t make up my mind about Belarus.

And whatever the case may be, it seems to be a highly disingenuous effort of misdirection to try to blame it on Orthodoxy.

Politics is getting interesting again, thanks to two fascist clowns

Easter week of 2010 will be remembered as the week when politics in South Africa became interesting again, thanks to two political clowns and the media.

On the left, Eugene Terre’blanche (known as ET), former leader of the AWB (Afrikanner Resistance Movement), and on the right, Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth League.

ET made headlines by the manner of his death, and the rumours that circulated around it, and his political buffoonery lay in the past, though his funeral was a circus, if media accounts are to be believed, and some of his supporters appear to believe that Julius Malema’s racist rhetoric at least contributed to his death, if it was not directly responsible for it.

But, as the front page of City Press shows, they were actually birds of a feather, both dedicated to overblown fascist and racist rhetoric. But a nation divided? I doubt it. Both these demagogues appealed to small but vocal minorities, and they have been boosted by much media attention.

For ten years or more, politics has been excessively boring. Endless stories of graft and corruption, and fat cats jockeying for position. In the apartheid days we were largely protected from such stories because the press was kept on a tight leash by the National Party regime. The best one could say about the corruption stories was that they showed we now have a free press.

But the antics of ET and Malema and their supporters provide entertainment, and the media are determined to give it to us. Not all of the jounalism is responsible, though. One can expect sensationalism from tabloids like The Sun, but even “responsible” papers like the Sunday Independent could not resist a sensation-mongerring headline like

Was ET gay and bonking darkies?

based on the rumour that a used condom had been found in the room where ET was murdered. The police had categorically denied that a condom had been found, but the Sunday Independent was not about to let the facts get in the way of a good story. They did include the police denial — in small print, right at the bottom. So the antics of the media are almost as entertaining as those of the protagonists.

But it also reaches the point where it goes beyond a joke.

The last straw was when Julius Malema kicked a BBC journalist, Jason Fisher, out of a press conference, claiming he had been insulted.

Malema apparently castigated the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwean opposition group, for speaking from their air-conditioned offices in Sandton. And Fisher pointed out that Malema himself lived in Sandton, and Malema blew his top.

Any politician in a democratic society with a sense of proportion would probably have grinned, said “Touché!” or something similar, and moved on.

The fact that Malema perceived that as an insult and lost his cool over it and kicked the journalist out speaks volumes. It doesn’t matter what Malema said. The words he used are not important. It his actions that show that he is a fascist, with no sense of democracy, and no sense of proportion.

As another journalist in City Press, Xolela Mangcu, put it, “Il Duce step aside: a fascist fire rages in Malema.”

If Malema had any political nous at all he would see that as an insult, and an insult far worse than saying that he lived in Sandton.

As Mangcu says of this incident

Perhaps a little world history could be helpful in opening our eyes to what Malema’s reaction could mean for our young democracy and people.

The historical figure I have in mind is Italy’s fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. On the eve of Mussolini’s reign as prime minister a critic asked him about his party’s political programme. Mussolini mocked the critic thus: “The democrats of Il Mondo want to know our programme? It is to break the bones of the democrats of Il Mondo, and the sooner the better.”

Mussolini concluded his tirade thus: “The fist is the synthesis of our theory.”

And that statement is a pretty good summary of the political programme and philosophy of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, which Malema has just visited, and spoken admiringly of ZANU-PF.

This, is of course, an embarrassment to the leadership of the ANC, which is trying to portray itself as a neutral honest broker between ZANU-PF and the MDC, an image which Malema’s blatant partisanship has shattered. His outburst to the BBC journalist has shown his true colours. It bodes ill for our democracy if his political career goes any further. Xolela Mangcu is hopeful that it won’t

Could Malema be the face of the replacement of politics with violence? I doubt it. Malema will ultimately trip on his own words. Besides, South Africa is too complex and differentiated to fall under the rule of one Il Duce.

I hope he’s right.

But if anyone is getting cold feet about coming to South Africa for the World Cup for fear of a bloodbath, don’t worry about it. Julius Malema is unlikely to become president this year, or next year, or any time for the next nine years. And a lot can happen in nine years. South Africa has plenty of precedents of politicians who appeared to have a meteoric rise, and had a sputtering fall. Tielman Roos, for example. Anyone remember him? With any luck, Julius Malema will go the same way.

Mugabe, Malema and the future of South Africa

The death of Eugene Terre’blanche stole the news over the weekend and drew public attention away from something far more ominous for the future of South Africa — Julius Malema’s visit to Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, Malema on Terreblanche:

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and ANC Youth League president Julius Malema have discussed the murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche during talks in Harare.

Mugabe met Malema — who was concluding a four-day visit to the country as a guest of Zanu PF — at State House for over two hours on Monday.

With reporters present, Mugabe spoke to Malema at length about Zimbabwe’s land reform programme and what he said was Britain’s failure to honour its obligations to white farmers whose properties were seized for resettlement.

Mugabe also praised South Africa as an unstinting ally against what he said was a global crusade by “imperialists” to remove his government through economic sabotage and propaganda.

Former President Thabo Mbeki was frequently criticised for taking a low profile on Zimbabwe, and refraining from public criticism of the fascist Mugabe regime.

Julius Malema has shown no such restraint, and has shown his true colours by praising the Mugabe regime. And this is a clear indication of one scenario for South Africa’s future: Julius Malema becomes president (possibly succeeding Jacob Zuma), and then it’s goodbye to our hard-won democracy. Perhaps in another 15 years time there will be South African refugees sleeping in the Methodist Church in Harare.

Look at what has happened.

Malema is welcomed in Zimbabwe, and praises the leadership of the Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe. In South Africa he has attacked the trade unions and Cosatu, and just a few years ago, far from meeting Mugabe, a Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

The white, Western and capitalist press has concentrated its criticism of the Mugabe regime on its “land reform” policies, which has entailed the seizure of land from white farmers, and its redistribution among relatives and supporters of high-ups in Zanu-PF.

But long before that, Mugabe attacked the trade unions, which was of less interest to the white, Western and capitalist press.

To understand this one must go back to the 1990s, when Mugabe sent Zimbabwean troops to intervene in civil wars in the Congo. In these foreign military adventures he resembles Tony Blair and George Bush, whom he professes to dislike. In reality, they are birds of a feather.

Foreign military adventures are expensive, and depleted Zimbabwe’s foreign currency reserves. This in turn led to fuel shortages, which in turn led to an economic recession, particularly in the towns. Businesses were closed, workers were laid off, and the Zimbabwean trade unions were up in arms. Opposition to Mugabe’s policies grew, and in a referendum some constitutional amendments that would, among other things, have made Mugabe president for life, were rejected by the electorate.

This was a wake-up call for Mugabe. If he could lose a referendum, he could also lose an election.

But instead of reversing the unpopular economic policies that had caused the problem, he exacerbated it by instituting his land redistribution scheme as an electoral ploy to buy the rural vote. If Mugabe were sincere about land reform, he had had 20 years to do something about it, and had done nothing. It was only the threat of losing an election that made him bring it in hastily, for the purpose of buying votes. And in the way it was implemented exacerbated the economic problems as Zimbabwe’s agricultural productivity plummeted. The foreign exchange problems worsened as tobacco, the main export crop, virtually disappeared. In a couple of years Zimbabwe went from being the bread basket of central Africa to basket case, as hyperinflation took hold.

The opposition grew stronger and reorganised, and coalesced around the trade unions, to form the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). And they have a natural affinity for Cosatu in South Africa, which is why the Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

But who is Malema talking to?

News – Politics: Malema upsets MDC:

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has upset the Zimbabwean political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, by meeting only Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF on a visit to Harare.

‘Is Mr Malema saying that the ANC does not respect democracy and is willing to ignore the millions of Zimbabweans who sent Zanu-PF packing in the corridors of power?’ asked Austin Moyo, chairman of the MDC in South Africa, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday.

‘Does Malema understand that there are millions of liberation heroes in the MDC?’

Moyo said Malema made it clear that he would be visiting the Zanu-PF because it was ‘a revolutionary party’.

At the moment Cosatu is still allied to the ANC in the tripartite alliance, but if Malema should ever become president Cosatu will have the choice — become a lapdog, or follow the Zimbabwe trade unions into the political wilderness, and form an equivalent of the MDC.

allAfrica.com: South Africa: Vavi to Tackle ANC Over Malema’s ‘Disdain’:

CONGRESS of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday said the bilateral meeting with the African National Congress (ANC) next week would be an opportunity to deal with how the ANC’s actions had threatened Cosatu’s functionality within the tripartite alliance.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s public mudslinging against Cosatu, the ANC’s unilateral decision banning municipal workers from taking up leadership positions in political parties, and a ‘general lack of commitment by the ANC to make the federation one of its political centres’, had left the alliance in a crisis, Vavi said at the National Union of Metalworkers’ National Bargaining Conference yesterday.

‘The oppression and super- exploitation of workers remains widespread – despite government and union efforts.

What South Africa lacks, and probably needs, is a strong and coherent left opposition, preferably before a fascist takeover. Is Zwelinzima Vavi up to it? The tragedy of the assassination of Chris Hani continues to haunt us.

And perhaps Thabo Mbeki kept quiet because he saw how easily what was happening in Zimbabwe could happen in South Africa, and lead to the break-up of the tripartite alliance. He preferred the Ronald Reagan approach of “constructive engagement”.

Recent reading: The Mitford girls

The Mitford Girls The Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’d only read one Mitford book before I began reading this joint biography of the Mitford sisters, and that was The American way of death by Jessica Mitford. But I often like literary biographies better than the works of the authors themselves. Perhaps that is because the lives of the authoers are sometimes more interesting than the subjects they write about, though it seems that the Mitford sisters took a lot of their material from their own lives, writing semi-fictionalised biography.

Though I have not read any of her fiction, the eldest sister, Nancy, also edited Noblesse oblige, with essays about class markers in English speech some 50 years ago, which popularised the linguistic theory of U and Non-U speech, some of which found its way into a new edition of Fowler’s Modern English usage, where one learns, for example, that the English upper classes say “napkin” and it’s terribly non-U (i.e. middle class) to say “serviette” — or at least it was 50 years ago.

So before reading this book I knew the Mitfords mainly through their writing about social customs: speech customs and funeral customs, specifically.

The book also brings out the wide political divergence in the family. Two of the sisters, Diana and Unity, had far-right views, being admirers, and in Unity’s case personal friends, of Adolf Hitler. Diana left her husband and married Oswald Mosley, the British Fascist leader. Jessica, on the other hand, was for a time a Communist activist, and eloped with her boyfriend to Spain during the civil war. As a result she and Diana did not speak to each other for years.

One of the things that struck me most about it was the changes in values in different generations, and especially the huge change following the First World War. The Mitford parents belonged to the Victorian-Edwardian age, and brought up their daughters with a view to marrying into an upper-class family, where they would stay at home and manage a household with lots of servants. They regarded school as unnecessary for girls, and university was unthinkable. For some of them, therefore, the only creative thing to do was to rebel against their upbringing. And perhaps it was this very thing that made them creative in a literary sense. If they had had a more permissive upbringing, and been allowed to go to school and university, they might not have rebelled, and might therefore have been less interesting people.

Of all the sisters, I found myself most in sympathy with Jessica, who did not have a society wedding. Her elopement caused great distress to her parents, and she never saw her father again. It seemed to cause even more distress than the society divorces and extramarital affairs of some of her sisters. Yet in marrying for love rather than money and social position, she seems to have had more inner stability than some of her siblings.

Another interesting thing for me was that it brought out the extent to which the countries fighting Fascism in the Second World War were infected by fascist tendencies themselves. Diana and her husband, Oswald Mosley were interned without trial during the war. And Jessica and her husband in the USA were persecuted by the FBI duing the McCarthy witchhunt period in a manner reminiscant of the South African security police during the apartheid era. Perhaps Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s craving for 90-day detention is not so unusual after all.

View all my reviews >>

Britain swings to the rift… er… leght

The election of two members of the fascist British National Party (BNP) to the European parliament has been the cause of some concern to British church leaders.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: BNP MEP’s: bring on the clowns?:

The disconnection of the Labour party from its own roots under Blair, Sun style pop Xenophobia, and disillusionment with parliamentarians, produced this result. Politicians must listen, not only pragmatically, but in a way that reconnects with this country’s historic Christian value base, or things can only get worse.

I wonder if the UK Sun is owned by the same people as own the South African Sun, because the latter’s pop xenophobia certainly played a part in inciting the xenophobic violence that erupted at the beginning of last year, in which over 60 people were killed, and which was discussed at the Amahoro Conference this week. Part of the problem in South Africa, as noted at Amahoro, is that apartheid deliberately disconnected the country from a historic Christian value base (while claiming to be protecting “Western Christian civilization” — whatever that means).

The xenophobic violence that lasted most of the first half of last year shows that we have not yet exorcised the demons of apartheid. And the demons that have been expelled seem to have emigrated to Europe, where they found the house swept and garnished, first in the wars of the Yugoslav succession, and now in the growing xenophobia in places like the UK.

But perhaps part of the problem in the UK could be remedied by voter education, which is very much needed, if the following example is anything to go by: Cranmer: Could the BNP now be sued for discrimination?:

The far-Left BNP may have won two seats on the Elections to the European Parliament, but, while this success undoubtedly constitutes something of a political and propaganda coup, Cranmer is not so sure that Nick Griffin will consider it much of a blessing when the lawsuits start being delivered.

“Far-Left BNP”? Perhaps that is the result of a misinterpretation of our Lord Jesus Christ’s injunction not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, but it seems more likely that it is caused by not being able to tell one’s left from one’s right. What does one call that? Political dyslexia, perhaps? So if the blogger Cranmer’s view is widespread, perhaps a lot of Brit voters simply voted for the wrong party, and thought that the “HITLER” tattooed on the chest of the gentleman in the picture spells “T-R-O-T-S-K-Y”.

Britain’s slide to a fascist police state continues

Any hopes that the replacement of Tony Blair by Gordon Brown might arrest Britain’s slide towards a fascist police state have been dashed. Brown’s recent defence of “Control Orders” sounded just like Vorster’s defence of banning orders against government opponents in apartheid South Africa. And the British Control Orders are virtually indistinguishable from South African banning orders, and in some ways even more restrictive.

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

What are control orders?

The orders were introduced under 2005 anti-terrorism legislation to give ministers the power to put individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism under close supervision that some say amounts to a loose form of house arrest.

gives the home secretary the power to impose strict conditions on a subject’s activities.

This can include a ban on using the internet or mobile phones. The subject can be told to observe a curfew or other restrictions on their movements and travel.

blog it

Fascist America, fascist Zimbabwe

It was Guardian Unlimited that had the extraordinary innuendo that Thabo Mbeki was the worst president in the world. But here they publish the criteria by which, I believe, Thabo Mbeki looks a lot better than George Bush and Robert Mugabe. Hat tip to Douloi Johanna for the link.

To summarise: Naomi Wolf outlines 10 steps taken by most dictators to establish their dictatorship, and shows how they have been taken by the Bush administration in the USA. I don’t think it would be difficult to show that most of them have been taken by Mugabe in Zimbabwe as well. But in South Africa?

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

Of course all 10 were in place in South Africa under National Party rule, but they were removed in the democratisation process during the 1990s. They all now seem to be present in Zimbabwe as well as in the USA.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Having read a great deal about Pan’s Labyrinth on other blogs several months ago (for example Theofantastique), I had to wait impatiently for it to be released in South Africa, and wondered if it ever would be.

I finally got to see it last night, and it lived up to expectations. Even my wife enjoyed it, and she is not normally a fan of horror films, and this one, as those who have seen it will know, is a blend of fantasy, horror, and stark brutal realism.

It probably had a greater impact on me because I’m in the middle of reading George Bizos’s Odyssey to freedom, a memoir of his time as a human rights lawyer in the apartheid era. Pan’s Labyrinth is set in Spain in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, where Franco’s fascist forces are mopping up the remaining groups of Republican insurgents hiding out in the woods.

The villain of the film, Captain Vidal, could stand in for just about any of the police witnesses that George Bizos had crossexamined in court, when any evidence of torture of political detainees was denounced by prosecutors, and sometimes by the flagrantly biased judges, as attempts to besmirch the good name of the South African Police.

I wonder if the release of the film in South Africa wasn’t timed to coincide with the release of Bizos’s book. In the torture scenes in the film I kept thinking of the lonely death of Steve Biko, or the defenestration of Phakamile Mabija, a church youth minister who was being interrogated by the Security Police in Kimberley. The day we heard the news of his death, I was with a group of people who were saying Anglican Evening Prayer, and the Psalm set for the day was Psalm 94, which seemed most appropriate, especially verses 20-21:

You never consent to that corrupt tribunal
that imposes disorder as law
that takes the life of the virtuous
and condemns the innocent to death.

About 10 years ago I tried to write a children’s fantasy novel set in the apartheid era, with a similar blend of fantasy and reality. It wasn’t very good, and was probably too dark for a children’s novel, so I abandoned it. But one thing different about Pan’s Labyrinth was that the this worldly and other worldly realms appeared to have different agendas, which coincided quite coincidentally, as when the little girl’s ailing mother gets better following the advice of the faun who sets her tasks for the other world. In this there are echoes of Narnia, where the young Digory Kirk is seeking an apple from Eden to heal his sick mother.

But there are also sharp contrasts with Narnia. In Narnia the faun, Tumnus, regrets and repents of his role as a Security Police informer, and ends up being detained himself, but in Pan’s Labyrinth the faun turns out to be not much different from Captain Vidal, demanding unconditional obedience in the same terms and in the same tone of voice.

I go out to see films about once or twice a year, and Pan’s Labyrinth was well worth seeing. Thanks to all my blogging friends who wrote reviews of it and made me want to see it. If it weren’t for that I would probably have missed it.

Vorster rules – in Britain!

Banning, detention without trial and other features of Vorster’s South Africa are on their way to Britain, if Gordon Brown has his way, and 83% of Sky News viewers approve of 90-day detention, according to what I saw on the TV a few minutes ago.

Back in 1963, when Vorster introduced 90-day detention in South Africa, the British Labour Party was one of the outspoken opponents of such violations of human rights, and generally supported the anti-apartheid movement. Who would have thought, back then, that the day would come when South Africa would have a constitution that protected human rights, and the British Labour Party would be seeking to turn Britain into a fascist state?

Of course such measures are necessary to protect law-abiding members of the public against terrorism (that’s exactly what Vorster said). But perhaps that would not have been necessary of Tony Blair had not led Britain into so many wars, and terrorised civilian populations in Yugoslavia, Iraq and other places by bombing them. He should have heeded the warnings of Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid in Charles Kingsley’s The water babies.

Post Navigation