Daggers draped in national flags: the fake war on monopoly capital

2017-01-31 12:37

Samuel Johnson famously remarked that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. These words ring true in the current age of racist travel bans that are disguised as a defence of the safety of a country’s citizens. Much of the sentiment that buoyed the Brexit and Trumpism movements were discriminatory biases that were clothed in a cloak of fake nationalism. Globally, there are a growing number of scoundrels who believe that their racism, religious intolerance and protectionism can be made more palatable if draped in a national flag.

Closer to home we are flooded by conspiracy theorists who want to characterize the demise of any and every corrupt clique as an attack by “White Monopoly Capital” (WMC). The WMC, they say, is fighting against the supposed proponents of transformation. This “wit gevaar” is supposedly threatening the country and it is our civic duty to oppose them at every turn. Sadly, when you take a closer look, you realize that the only transformation agenda that is being pursued by this lot is transforming themselves and their patrons into billionaires at the expense of the state and the poor. The poor and disenfranchised Black masses in who’s name they claim to be fighting are not part of the plan and do not eat at the table with the masterminds of the “new struggle” to supposedly protect the country. There is no national interest in this fight, only greed.  Only when their thievery is exposed do they develop a sudden desire to mount “radical” campaigns, marches and media onslaughts against the perceived enemy.

The truth is that there is nothing revolutionary about using political connections to squeeze others out of contracts, nothing transformative in bribing weak officials into looking the way as you flout the law and nothing progressive in advocating for lax financial controls. Transformation will not be achieved by replacing one group of elites with another. It will not be achieved by 8-person marches to bank branches or trashing of government offices. It will require the restructuring of the value chain, broadening of access, increasing participation and skills transfer for the previously and currently disadvantaged on a wider scale. Above all, it will require political will.

Nevertheless, it is not hard to understand why this narrative would be easy to propagate given our racially skewed and structurally unsound economy. The white minority still enjoy a disproportionately high concentration of economic power. More than 20 years into the democratic dispensation, there is hardly a Black-owned company that enjoys the hegemonic power of many white-owned players in any industry. The nature of this economy is that you can  wake up in township house built by Oppenheimer, Rupert and Menell’s Urban Foundation to catch a ride in a taxi  built with steel from a factory owned by Eric Samson, financed by Mark Lamberti’s taxi finance company on your way to work at a mall developed by a company founded by Donald Gordon or Jonathan Beare.  At work, you could be cleaning, boiling water, printing documents, sitting at a desk or driving a vehicle using products or services distributed by one of the many divisions of Brian Joffe’s company. Then you return home to cabinet full of food from AngloVaal Industries that you bought at one of Christoffel Wiese’s  or Raymond Ackerman's chain of supermarkets. It doesn’t take much to realize that the economy is not yet uhuru.

The historical structural failures of the South African economic system require urgent and decisive action, not common crooks trying to enrich themselves and export their ill-gotten gains to the tax-haven of their choice. If we are serious about progress, we will ignore the parasites who are more interested in joining the Rich List rather than making a meaningful contribution to the transformation imperative of the national democratic revolution. When it comes to genuine, sustainable economic transformation; the nation is really thirsty but far too many drink from the toilet.


*Akani writes in his personal capacity.


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