The left is being left behind

2011-06-04 10:09

The independent left has become so sadly insignificant in South African politics that the recent local government elections took place without any questions about its absence.

Other than a few attempts in the 1994 and 1999 national elections, and the 2001 and the 2006 local government elections – the results of which were miserably poor – the left outside the tripartite alliance has been reduced to little or nothing.

The key questions that need addressing are: what are the reasons for its total absence from these elections?

Is it a lack of money, leadership, support, the fact that there are serious organisations to contest with for power?

Each of these factors have probably played a role to varying degrees, but where does it leave the future of this left, especially the social movements which, up until a few years ago, presented a promising prospect of real opposition to the ANC.

The left had a sizeable constituency, with some very strong activists and a number of good intellectuals leading its movements.

It also had the important advantage of a good theoretical grasp on why communities had such serious problems with the most basic services in the first place.

In fact, it predicted, in the face of such conditions, many years of struggles by these communities for the meaningful realisation of a “better life for all”.

But it never had as good a grasp on how to build organisational alternatives within black, working-class communities and use those platforms to contest elections.

What this means in practical terms is that all the wonderful theories and analyses it produced in its writings and lectures is wasted on a failure to build bridges between those good ideas and criticisms, the struggles taking place on the ground and participation in elections.

What prevents its participation in elections is the lack of unity within their own ranks or the little, organisationally, that remains of it.

But even if it were to unite its disparate forces into some credible organisation, unless it comes to terms with the dominant reality of electoral politics, there will be no serious future for it.

It is most unfortunate that activists and intellectuals within this left are nowhere to be seen, especially since their voices for social justice are what we urgently need if we are to build and sustain a truly meaningful democracy.

Those who want to build a new society and believe that they can do much better than the ANC must enter the elections because it is the biggest, if not only, arena today that determines which party or parties exercise political power.

Elections may not be the only game in town, but right now it surely is the most important one.

»?Harvey is an independent political writer 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.