Darkness descends on South Africa 3

In the early 1990s, the free world cheered as Russia threw off a Communist regime, and equally exultantly as South Africa fell under a Communist regime.

South Africa is mineral rich, and the world invests in its economy and buys what it has to sell. South Africa needs this to continue. So the Communist government, led at first by Nelson Mandela – the terrorist hailed as a hero by the free world – lets it do so. To the outer world South Africa is a thriving capitalist state.

But internally, it is a decaying Communist disaster.

Daniel Greenfield, the American journalist who knows more about South Africa than most South Africans do, writes at his website Sultan Knish:

Nearly 150 years after electricity came to South Africa, the country is in the dark. The blackouts can strike at any time and then lights, hot water and even major industries vanish into the darkness.

Storing perishable food in the fridge has become a gamble. The meat you buy today may be inedible tomorrow if the rolling blackout arrives and lasts long enough to destroy all the food you cooked.

With rolling blackouts that can last for as long as twelve hours, South Africans have grown used to eating by candlelight and heating water the old-fashioned way. Those who can afford it have been stocking up on generators. But the demand is so high that it can take a month to even obtain a generator.

It’s not just homes and small businesses. Factories and mines are struggling to maintain the country’s industrial base when power can vanish for the entire workday. Traffic lights run off the same power grid and when it goes into “load-shedding” mode, the roads become a snarled maze of honking cars.

South Africa is out of power. The load-shedding blackouts are a last-ditch effort to avert a national blackout that will send the entire country spiraling into a deeper and more enduring darkness.

At the center of the disaster is Eskom: South Africa’s state-owned power company … [which] had many scandals over the years, but its dysfunction reached epic proportions under the ANC. The African National Congress still carries a mythical luster in the United States due to the Mandela name, but it has thoroughly alienated both the country’s white population and its black middle class.

Key figures in the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, were members of South Africa’s Communist party. And under ANC rule, Eskom, the largest state-owned enterprise in South Africa, suffered massive thefts. Earlier this year, a government investigations unit tried to track down $9.6 billion in stolen Eskom funds.

And that may only be the tip of a melting iceberg. …

Eskom is dominated by the Union of Metalworkers which has its own political movement, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party, founded due to ANC proposals to break up Eskom. The SRWP is a Marxist-Leninist movement whose manifesto calls for abolishing private property ownership.

“We will nationalize the land and place it under the control of a worker state,” its national chair, Comrade Irwin Jim, the general secretary of the Union of Metalworkers, declared. “Under a Socialist government, no one will own land, therefore allowing for the worker-controlled state to decide how land is allocated, farmed and used.”  

Considering how well South Africa has done with state and worker control over electricity, giving the SRWP control over all the land would lead to famine and the deaths of millions.

South Africa’s power supply is in the hands of Marxists who are fighting the more moderate Marxists. The SRWP doesn’t care if Eskom’s debts bankrupt South Africa or its blackouts leave the country in the dark.

The ANC [government] knows that it if it doesn’t find a way to keep the power on, it will lose the middle class.

The Marxist SRWP is fighting to maintain Eskom’s failing coal plants while the ANC has proposed bringing in private companies to supply renewable energy. The power struggle puts South Africa in the unique position of being the only country where the Left is fighting against solar and wind power.

That’s because the comrades of the Union of Metalworkers fear losing control if solar power comes in.

The ANC tried to cope with power problems by building two huge coal plants. Medupi and Kusile instead became hugely expensive boondoggles that continually break down because of overuse, staff incompetence and poor planning. Eskom’s engineers and brass were unqualified ANC cronies brought in through affirmative action, and were incapable of managing a project of this scale. The power plants that were meant to provide for South Africa’s future are rated as being only 40% reliable.

While the SRWP is calling for massive investments in Eskom, there’s no more money left. A $5 billion bailout hasn’t helped. The only remaining hope for the failing socialist utility is huge loan from China.

The ANC is fighting to retain political power against even more radically Marxist movements, chiefly the  SRWP and the Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the firebrand Julius Malema who wants to kill all the Whites.

To cling on to power the government is dealing with the discontent of the tens of millions who are unemployed, ill housed and ill fed, in true Communist style with “a program of nationalization, redistribution and socialist terror”.

Daniel Greenfield concludes his article by pointing to the lesson the South Africa descent into darkness teaches:

Socialism promises everything and instead takes everything leaving you in the dark. Socialism doesn’t work. Like South Africa’s power plants, it’s only a matter of time until it breaks down.

Posted under Africa, Socialism, South Africa by Jillian Becker on Friday, June 7, 2019

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The most that the Left can hope for 7

… and its weird idea of what constitutes liberty.

Yes, of course, the Left hopes to be in power, everywhere and over all of us. It is a vast ambition, to organize the entire human “community” – or organize the entire human race into a “community”, locked under its power.

But why? Surely it has a vision it considers beautiful?

We sometimes go looking for explanations of why the Left opposes individual freedom, free speech, free market prosperity, private property, the US Constitution, objective impartial justice, racial color-blindness, the nation-state and its military defense capability, the family, the rules of the English language, historical monuments and records, civility, and  – coming at last to a word that could be the title of the whole list – happiness.

And from time to time we find an article that gives us a glimpse of  – not a rational argument as to why – but an exposition of what the Left wants which, discussing some of its hates and dreads, clarifies some of its wishes, even though it still leaves the question why unanswered.

Here’s one such article. The Leftist author, reviewing the work of fellow Leftists, is convinced that Marxism is gaining popularity. He  thinks that the financial crash of 2008 brought about “the intellectual rehabilitation of Marx”.

Outside academic precincts, his ideas have been slowly, if not wholly, exfoliated of their association with dictatorship and state-sponsored terror.

Have they indeed? If so they need to be foliated in those associations again as quickly as possible!

What makes him think so?

Recent, if only partial, exonerations have been issued by the Economist and the New York Times …

No surprise there.

And a host of new “journals and websites [that] share certain characteristics. They express a loathing of the war on terror, and disaffection with the precariousness and austerity of millennial life. The London riots in 2010 and the student protests as well as the Occupy protests in 2011-12 were formative moments of dissent that produced new political imaginaries [sic]. Academics, writers, bloggers and journalist-activists began to describe post-capitalist futures …

Above all, these “little magazines” reflected a growing sense of political possibility, a belief that the future wasn’t locked in the image of oligarchic power, but looked simultaneously darker (inequality and ecological collapse) and more hopeful (a recrudescent left). …  [T]he left began to crawl out from the sumps of melancholia.

We derive a certain amount of Schadenfreude from thinking of the Left as in “the sumps of melancholia”.

How does its new hopefulness express itself?

The blurb advertising the article reads: “Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin, offers a manifesto for socialism that is thrillingly non-utopian.”

“Thrillingly non-utopian”? So a vision not of an ideally beautiful human world, yet “thrilling”?

An irresistible temptation to read on!

The article, titled The rise of millennial socialism, is by Gavin Jacobson (commissioning editor for the Leftist New Statesman).

He writes at the NewStatesmanAmerica:

Across the world, young activists are turning to old ideas. Why? …

[Bhaskar] Sunkara’s vision is thrillingly non-utopian. When describing the ultimate goal of socialism, he alludes to one of its most brilliant, if saturnine, definitions: “converting hysterical misery into ordinary unhappiness”.

Now that’s blunt! Not to be happy is the aim. Achieving “ordinary unhappiness” is the height of the socialist aspiration.

And the prospect is thrilling?

The author expatiates further:

The phrase was originally conceived by Freud, but was adapted by the political theorist Corey Robin in 2013. And while you wouldn’t put it on the side of a campaign bus, it gets to the heart of what a socialist economy might look like: helping people overcome, in Robin’s words, the “immense, and incredibly shitty, hassle of everyday life”.

There are more provocative theorists than Sunkara on the American millennial left, and more engaging historians, too. But few of them present the arguments against capitalism and for socialism better than he does. He writes with clarity and light-heartedness – something writers on the left hardly ever do well – and has shrewdly repurposed buzzwords from the liberal centre to make the case for the radical left. The usual socialist argot of justice, equality, class war, dialectics, revolution, the 99 per cent, and so on, is either absent or pared down. Instead, Sunkara emphasises how socialism enables greater choice, leaves markets intact, is about participation and democracy, is created through reform, and is ultimately about freedom – safe-words for the politically curious. In style and endeavour, then, if not in politics, Sunkara might be the heir to Michael Harrington, the founder of the Democratic Socialists of America in 1982, who did so much to promote socialism in the US. …

So this socialism “leaves markets intact”, “is created through reform” (ie. not through revolution – nothing new there, that brand of Leftism used to be called Fabianism) and is “ultimately about freedom”?

At which point we need Sunkara’s definition of freedom. It is not provided.

We are taken back to the familiar politics of the New Left:

Again, this draws on the work of Ralph Miliband, who argued in 1985 that “the exploitation, discrimination and oppression to which women, blacks and gays are subjected is also crucially shaped by the fact that they are workers located at a particular point of the production process and the social structure”.

The Left has not noticed that Europe is governed mostly by women and the men who are allowed to share the seats of power with them have “Feminist” hung round their necks. They have not noticed affirmative action; are unaware that Blacks are admitted to universities on lower academic grades than Whites and Asians. Or that we are forced every day of our lives now to be aware of homosexuality as if it were one of the most important issues in all our lives.

The New Left replaced (to use its own jargon) the Marxist “class analysis” with “race analysis” and – more recently – “gender analysis”.

But we discover here that “class analysis” has not been superseded, only enlarged to take in race and gender:

Prioritising politics over policies is why Sunkara favours Sanders over Elizabeth Warren, who has a plan for everything – “I have a plan for that!” has become her unofficial campaign slogan – but not an alternative politics. It isn’t enough to win the policy argument, nor is it enough to win elections. Today’s socialists speak of the need to win power – not for its own sake, but as the handmaiden of liberty – and that requires a mass movement based on class struggle.

So in that discussion, the Left wants power “not for its own sake” but because it will deliver liberty to women, blacks and gays who are at present – so it analyses – unfree.

No intention there of defining liberty. The author admits that in discussing Sunkara’s view he has told us who must be freed, but not what their freedom will consist of:

If Sunkara asks “Freedom for whom?” Aaron Bastani wants to know “who will benefit?” Specifically, who will benefit from what he calls the “Third Disruption”, when abundance and “extreme supply” in labour, energy, resources, health, and sustenance lead to a post-scarcity world? Just like information, these things “want to be free”, posing grave dangers for an economic system built and sustained by profit.

What? So the present system – capitalism – is  leading to all that “extreme supply”? To a post-scarcity world? Wonderful! Great! Odd that he expects even more of capitalism than we do ourselves. But then he seems to be saying that because there will be so much in the way of “labour” (does he means robots?), “energy” (from what?), “resources” (such as?), “health” (medical care, he presumably means), and “sustenance” (food”?) that they should be free to everybody, like the sands of the desert, the water of the ocean, the air we breathe. He or the writer he quotes expresses it badly,  saying that “these things ‘want to be free'” rather than that people want to have them without having to pay for them.

This desire on the part of these things to be had freely – or let’s be kind and say it the way it makes sense: the fact that there will be so much of these things that they will be freely obtainable by everyone without it costing them anything, will “pose grave dangers” for the capitalist free market system. He is implying that no one will be able to make money out of enterprises that employ people; or by selling coal, gas, oil, wind-power etc.; or by being doctors; or by growing or retailing food.

That is indeed a utopian vision! And that is what Bastani thinks of as liberty. You are free from having to work to earn money, because you do not have to pay for anything. Everything you need is “free”. So that’s what freedom means. In such a world, such a paradise, women, blacks and gays will no longer be “workers located at a particular point of the production process and the social structure”. They will be free when all things are free to them.

Ah, but in that case, women, blacks and gays must face a most disheartening truth – that they will never be free.

Women, blacks, gays – sorry, but there will never be a post-scarcity world.

But now confusion arises in the article. It seems that capitalism and the free market are not creating a post-scarcity world! We thought that view of our present system was too strange  coming from a Leftist.  No, no – he knows that capitalism is failing. Mark off the constantly repeated failures and disasters:

Bastani’s message is that climate change, resource scarcity, surplus populations, and technical unemployment, are syndromes of a dying socio-economic order.

So what will produce the post-scarcity world where everything and therefore everyone is free?

[T]echnological advances in robotics and AI, as well as renewable energies, gene editing, synthetic meats, cellular agricultures, and (eventually) asteroid mining, provide opportunities to achieve FALC [fully automated luxury communism]. This is when, under a realm of plenty, “labour and leisure blend into one another”, and where work is no longer a means of survival, but a “route to self-development… more akin to play”. …

Actually, Gavin Jacobson thinks Bastani may be a little too optimistic …

Bastani’s book isn’t a complete riposte, and load-bearing statements such as, “once the technical barriers are surmounted”, suggest his arguments require more faith from the readers than he might think. Nor does he contend with the fact that capitalism has so tightly bound our collective sense of meaning to work, that post-scarce societies might become more like JG Ballard’s dystopian leisure world in his novel Cocaine Nights than luxury communism.

… though not too unrealistic:

But in outlining the benefits of decarbonised economies, worker-owned businesses, people’s banks, planet taxes and universal basic services, Bastani is starting to put flesh on the spectre that might one day haunt Europe again.

Note the vocabulary: :”decarbonised economies” (think Green New Deal); “worker-owned businesses” (for the danger of which see our post Darkness descends on South Africa); “people’s banks” (loans without limit without interest, without repayment?) “planet taxes” (taxes paid to a world government?); “universal basic services” (everything free).

However, the author says, just hoping for such a utopian “post-scarcity” world has the power of dynamite. To hope is in itself progressive:

Both his [Bustani’s] and Sunkara’s books represent … “the dynamite of hope that blasts the dead load of ossified systems, institutions, customs, intellectual habits, and closed doctrines. The Left unites those dispersed and often hidden atoms whose movement is, in the last analysis, what we call progress”.

Progress towards “fully automated luxury communism”.

“Luxury communism” is the name of the new Marxist utopian vision.

It may be less believable, but it’s certainly less depressing than “ordinary unhappiness”.

Posted under communism, Feminism, Leftism, Marxism, Socialism, world government by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, June 18, 2019

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