From that same interview that I have been so liberally cutting and pasting from this week—in Comparative Literature–the Communist poet and intellectual, Jeremy Cronin, talks about the conundrum for black intellectuals after the end of Apartheid:

… For obvious reasons that I’ve already alluded to, a great premium is placed on unity and loyalty within the culture of the ANC-led liberation movement. In the days of illegality and repression, carefree individualism could be a deadly indulgence. Unity and loyalty are still important. But national liberation movements, pre- and postindependence, also have a problematic habit of identifying themselves as “the nation.” There are numerous examples crystallized in once-popular slogans: “CPP is Ghana, Ghana is CPP”; “SWAPO is the Nation, the Nation is SWAPO”; “the Kenyan African National Union is the Mother and Father of the Nation.”

I have never heard anyone quite say these things of the ANC, but there are strong inclinations in this direction. To be politically outside of the ANC is still often characterized as being part of the “enemy” forces. To differ with the majority line within the ANC is sometimes to risk being accused of “siding” with the “enemy.” Lenin was fond of quoting [Carl von] Clausewitz’s maxim, “War is politics by other means.” But Lenin (even Lenin) never claimed that politics is war by other means. He quite correctly insisted on the primacy of a political understanding of war. Politicizing the military is one thing; the converse is quite another. Unfortunately, militarizing politics (at least discursively, by regarding all opposition as the enemy) is a natural but ruinous habit in political formations, particularly those that have waged armed struggles.

…I know that in South Africa, many black intellectuals, in particular, have recently battled with the inner dilemma of disagreeing with the ANC government. There is a sense of betraying their own, of feeding the racial stereotype that black majority governments “are bound to fail.” The [former] vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, a fine novelist and essayist, Njabulo Ndebele, wrote in 2003, “I increasingly experience the need to transgress but feel anguished by the thought that my transgressions, committed in the belief that they represent a process of democratic self-actualization, could be mistaken for the outmoded oppositions of old.” I would venture to say that increasingly among a wide range of black intellectuals and others, this sense of anguish is no longer so strong. Both from within the ANC-led movement and in other quarters, not least among a feisty new generation of black journalists and columnists, there are robust critical voices that are prepared to oppose government on many issues without being oppositionist for its own sake.

I have never quite shared Ndebele’s sense of anguish. Being simultaneously a member of both the ANC and its allied SACP (we are an interesting and, internationally, probably unique political alliance with overlapping memberships) has provided me with organizational spaces that are neither oppositionist nor monolithically univocal. Nelson Mandela, after I had unintentionally and unknowingly irritated him, and not for the first time, once told a comrade that he was convinced I had a “split personality”—good on some days, not good at all on others. In mitigation, I would argue that a bipolar disorder is a necessary attribute in our post- (or is it neo-?) colonial reality in which, to paraphrase Gramsci, we are living in a time when the old is dying and the new is still struggling to be born.

Source: Comparative Literature (You need a subscription and a password to read the full interview.)

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