Friends & Friction: How SA can avoid an inevitable revolution

‘Before a revolution happens,” wrote Rosa Luxemburg, “it is perceived as impossible. After it happens, it is seen as having been inevitable.”

Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, born in Poland in 1871, and executed at the age of 48 in Germany after she had moved to that country.

Aristotle was pretty philosophical about the start of a revolution. As far as he was concerned, generally, a revolution is sparked when those who have no morals or virtues develop an unquenchable thirst to possess the property of their rivals.

We know that is not how Africans are. We eat dust while our leaders drive past us with their blue-light brigades to a rally.

By the same token, if a revolution were to start in this country, it would not be as a result of a revolt against white monopoly capital, because many people are already employed by that animal, whatever it is.

Theda Skocpol and Jack Goldstone, two scholars of revolution theory, argued that revolutions do not always start because of a clash between classes, but because of politics. If their theory is closer to the truth than that of Aristotle, then the forecast for the South African political landscape is much dimmer.

In the French Revolution, the people perceived the head of state, King Louis XVI, to be weak. He couldn’t make major decisions; preferred personal interests over those of the state; and was strongly influenced by his wife, Marie Antoinette. The state was broke, with large amounts of debt, and the noblemen weren’t cutting down on their birthright perks.

South Africa’s president is perceived to be putting his family interests and those of his friends above those of the people. His tendency to laugh at serious questions posed to him is often taken as contempt for the people. The Guptas are President Jacob Zuma’s Marie Antoinette. They flaunt their wealth, and have become South Africa’s de facto nobility.

Trade union federation Cosatu, an important part of the tripartite alliance, has now banned him from their events, giving the impression that he is weak.

Recession has set in, and more people will join the unending queues of the unemployed, who will then become the willing soldiers of the revolution.

When things are teetering on the edge, the best countermove is for the rulers or government officials to make symbolic sacrifices, like cutting down on the blue-light brigades, taking salary cuts and making other laudable but insignificant gestures.

If brevity is the soul of lingerie, as Dorothy Parker suggested, modesty is the soul of good governance, and there is none, throughout all tiers of government.

Small business must now come to the fore and save this country, because they have the most to lose. Big business is taking its money offshore.

Black business organisations are more concerned with protecting their members now that they’re inside the boardroom and, like most white-collar workers, their biggest struggle of the day is fighting the traffic on their way to the office. They don’t have to worry about making sales, signing invoices or collecting their money.

Many small businesses are now employing young people with the specific intention of training them.

They often do not have the money to pay salaries. Parents are subsiding those businesses by paying for the travel costs and upkeep of those children, because they understand that their children are gaining skills. After all, Aristotle said education is the best way to avoid a revolution.

Isn’t that what we need to save South Africa?

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