Non-racialism or neo-racialism? UCT at the cross-roads.
On 6 June 1966, speaking in the Jameson Hall on the University of Cape Town Day of Affirmation of Academic and Human Freedom, Senator Robert Kennedy made what was probably the most powerful speech of his life. One sentence encapsulated his philosophy and became justly famous:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
I have long thought that the Jameson Hall should be renamed the Robert Kennedy Memorial Hall-because the “ripple of hope” speech was almost certainly the most important and inspiring thing which ever happened there. For many Americans and for many South Africans, it was a defining moment.
I was reminded of that speech again this year, by events which took place on the UCT campus rather more recently.
For the last three years the campus has writhed and withered under the tyranny of a quasi-fascist movement – the “Fallists” or “Decolonize UCT” Movement.
I say quasi-fascist advisedly, because this tendency satisfies five out of six attributes in a checklist for Fascism. There are several such lists in the academic literature, but on the composite one I assembled, I noted that this movement ticks the boxes under Violence, Irrationality, Xenophobia, Groupthink, and Anti-Democracy – the sole serious property that’s missing being the Fuhrerprinzip – that is, leader-worship.
Significantly, this movement claims to be totally without leaders, but on examination this turns out to be something of a half-truth – the leadership is there, only unelected and informal. But this is a feature which is not in itself praiseworthy, because what results is a convenient fiction which allows activists to shrug off responsibility and deny accountability.
And one should probably add to this list of characteristics the fact that the Fallist movement has the true Right-wing passion for promoting inequality – since It wants the poor and the middle classes to pay for rich kids to get a free higher education.
In Australia where the same issue was debated some years ago, they had a nice put-down for this position – they simply asked: why should bus-drivers pay for the education of lawyers?
In the South African case, the money which Zuma promised, is going to be taken from infrastructure spending, so the rural poor will continue to have to endure schools with broken windows and mud roofs. To the rich much shall be given, but from the poor even the little that they have, is entirely liable to be taxed and taken away.
Jonathan Jansen has suggested that the roots of this kind of thinking among today’s students lie in a psychology of entitlement.An unintended consequence of the South African welfare system is a belief that Government should always provide those who feel seriously entitled with a “free lunch”. And this remains true even in the case where this violates elementary principles of social justice, and hurts those people who are the truly disadvantaged.
So thoughtful South Africans are outraged because Free University makes higher education into a kind of permanent Gupta wedding.
The left-wing response would have been very different, namely:
Don’t sponge off the poor!
Make the rich bastards, at the very least, pay their own way!
And don’t let us add to the already dysfunctional school system a similarly dysfunctional system of higher exploitation!
But let us return to what started these reflections:
The main reason I have been thinking of the “ripple-of-hope” speech is that over the last few years there have indeed been isolated acts of resistance which attempt to rescue the lost honour of the University – to recoup it’s ethical standing, by striking out to expose the injustice and lies which are the hallmark of the reign of the Fallist movement; and by standing up for human decency against a pervasive atmosphere of intimidation, violence and hatred, there is an attempt to recover the idea of the University as a moral community.
I think for example of Gwen Ngwenya calling out the Vice-Chancellor Max Price for failing to protect the rights promised to all South Africans under the South African Democratic Constitution.
I think of the DASO students who contested the SRC elections on a platform of genuine inclusiveness towards allstudents regardless of creed or colour.
I think of the anonymous students who posted notices near the entrance to the Library denouncing the evils of censorship.
I think of the librarians (including the chief Librarian Gwenda Thomas) who refused to violate their professional code of ethics, by bowing to pressure to censor works of art housed in the library.
And I think of the people (William Daniels and un-named associates), who removed the covering from the sculpture of Saartjie Baartman, which had been placed there in order to comply with the obscene dictates of Fallist prurience and gender mythology.
And I think again of the story of the anonymous person who wrote on a blackboard the simple inscription : RACISM IS WRONG – ALL RACISM IS WRONG – a subversive thought in the new UCT, because of the Idea which is widespread among some of these people, that only White Racism is Wrong.
For if the truth be known, the Fallists’ hatred of the Other, goes way beyond the simple xenophobia of merely telling American exchange students that “You have no right to be here.”
It is, after all, the signature ideological move of the Fallists to have denounced the non-racialism associated with Archbishop Tutu’s evocation of the new South Africa as the “rainbow Nation of God”. “Fallism Rejects Rainbowism” was how this appeared on social media. (Note also the way argument is replaced by sloganeering. Group-think in a tweet.)
And it is perhaps the Fallists ‘crowning ‘achievement’ to have trashed and burnt UCT’s treasured portrait of Nelson Mandela, who was not only a great and principled non-racialist, but also in more ways than one, the founding father of our new Nation. Reflect on this for a moment: that it was not White racists who burnt the picture of Mandela.
Three years is a long time.
It has been a long winter; but even Fallism at UCT cannot shut out the dissident cry of the Left forever; from time to time the still small voice of conscience breaks the silence; the ripples rise, and hope springs eternal in the human heart.
But we must ask ourselves: How did this happen? How did anyof this happen?
To try and understand we will need to take a step backwards, and face up to a complicated history.
I think there are two huge underlying ideological circumstances which first need to be noted before we put them to one side to attend to the details of the UCT story.
The first is the decay of Organized Belief in the wider South African society.
Both Christianity and Marxism are currently on the rocks – and so there is nobody out there standing up for the equality of all God’s children, or for that matter, warning that Racism can be unmasked as a form of exploitation, whereby (in this case) the Black racialist fraction of the Middle Class exploits all other classes.
The second is the rise of Anti-Science.
The importance of this, is that Racialism is first and foremost BAD Science: for it is based on Pre-Darwinian ideas about biology, and pre-statistical notions about Diversity. If one cares about Truth and about Science, these are in themselves reasons for ending racialistic talk, but if one does not – then one has to go on to consider the second layer of talk about Racialism, where one is concerned about Racialism as a precursor to Racism, which is Racialism-plus-Attitude, a socially divisive discourse; or even worse, Racialism-plus-Affect, where one adds to Racialism the negative emotions of fear, hatred and contempt – and puts power into the hands of the haters and exploiters.
But to return to UCT, I think there were here also three other very important proximal causes.
(1) Toxic Identity Politics.
The first one has been the importation of Identity Theory (including Racialized Identity Theory, perhaps deservedly called neo-racism) from the United States.
This is a toxic form of pseudo-leftism rife on American campuses, which under cover of an alleged quest for social justice, promotes anti-White racism, anti-male sexism, and anti-Judeo-Christian religious intolerance – that is all forms of bigotrywhich are compatible with the practice of so-called ‘political correctness’
And it suports its flagrantly regressive politics with bizarre fantasies founded on 19th century racialist biology. (None of these people know anything about melanin, or the X and Y chromosomes. Skin is assumed to reflect essence.)
This tendency is not Left, because it thinks in terms of purging, or ideological ethnic cleansing, rather than bringing about progressive social change through altering the structures of law and politics by democratic means. It focuses on changing symbolism rather than changing society; its mode of operation is by witch-hunts and heresy-hunts; and it invests heavily in emotion and ressentiment rather than a sober rational quest for renewal, justice and progress.
Furthermore it lacks the humility, as well as the broad humanity, of the great liberators, such as Martin Luther King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or indeed our own Archbishop Tutu or Nelson Mandela.
It is, in fact, in itself, just a part of the Racism of which it pretends to be the Refutation.
It’s alienating use of prejudicial language has been widely noted. And this has been exported to South Africa, as it is spread all over the various different Fallist factions. No movement whose true roots lay in the South African soil would ever talk about “house niggers” or “porch negroes”, or even “Jim Crow” and “People of Colour”. These are all items derived from the vocabulary of American racial antagonism.
South African language has always been very different. In particular progressive South African discourse on these matters has always tried to avoid thoughtless use of racialistic language – this explains the little ceremonies of separating off race-words behind scare-quotes, and the frequent use of the term “so-called”, as in “the so-called ‘Coloured’ Population of the Western Cape.”
And the South African discourse was always much more sophisticated than the American, because of dealing with policies not personalities – broad ideas not idiosyncratic peccadilloes.
Famously, it was about integration versus segregation; and about the need to move away from racial hierarchy towards a more egalitarian alternative society. Initially these alternatives fell into two broad families: multi-racialism and consociationalism – that is, either racial parallelism, or attempts at convergence through fancy ethnic engineering.
But eventually in the fullness of time, the South African discourse came to be about the need to move forward from multi-racialism to non-racialism: that is, the quest to seek to find practical means to transcend ‘Race’ altogether.
The American discourse, on the contrary, was always mired in racialism; and from long and uncritical meditations on the subject of ‘Race’, iron entered the soul.
But a later American/South African variant, ‘Decolonial ‘ Racism,has if anything, proved even worse. This is because it frog-marches its followers several steps further along backwards –moving repeatedly in the wrong direction.
This is a weird discourse, whose roots lie in Counter-enlightenment hatred of Rationality, and volkisch glorification of Cultural Relativism. Science, Mathematics, Reason and Logic, are decried as forms of ‘White Supremacy’ or ‘White arrogance’,and the cosmopolitan appreciation of masterworks from non-Western traditions gets denounced as ‘cultural appropriation’.
The essentially racist nature of much of this discourse, has been hidden from participants by the use of the hate-word ‘colonialist’ as a code-word for ‘White’.
But this is all nonsense: Science is a world-wide enterprise, with individuals from many countries contributing and participating. And colonialism is the name for a set of phenomena that both preceded and succeeded Western dominance. Most ironically, Pan-Africanism itself originated in the Colonization Movement, a 19th century effort by African-Americans to bring settlers to the African Continent.
In today’s world the principal examples of colonialism are all in Third World countries. These are cases like – for example – Indonesia in Irian Jaya (old name: Western Papua) – where in the crude language of skin-colour, ‘Yellow’ people are colonizing a land whose indigenous populations consist of ‘Brown’ people. (And if one moves back in history, there are many examples – such as the Islamic conquest of Southern Spain, or Bantu-speakers moving into the territory of the Khoi and the San – all of which run completely contrary to the Fallist narrative,)
In general social analysis the term “colonialism” is a pretty useless category, because there is so little agreement on what it is, or even how to specify it – whether in political, social, cultural or economic terms. Perhaps the two best-known definitions are the social one – as a multiethnic society – and the economic one, whereby an economy is said to be colonial if it is prematurely specialized in the production of primary products, i.e. staple crops or minerals. (On this last definition South Africa ceased to be colonial long ago. The same is true when we use the political and legal definitions of colonialism, for one must at once register the basic fact that the rule of the British Colonial Office ended in 1910.)
The situation on the ground is complicated: there is no “essence” of colonialism any more than there are racial essences; and moral and political analysis of colonial society needs to be done on a case-by-case basis. Crown colony or responsible government? Direct or indirect rule? Slavery or Anti-slavery? Feudalism or Capitalism or Socialism? These are some of the relevant classifications, and the results are many and diverse.
A fantasy definition in terms of the bogus concept of ‘Race’ makes no sense whatsoever.
But this pseudo-Left discourse on ‘Race’ is very confused: for it wants to hold both that ‘Race’ does not exist, and that it is very important, if not, indeed, all-important. Also, each ‘Race’ must have its own ‘safe space’: it is the neo-apartheid or ‘separate development’ of today’s world.
Furthermore it wants both to celebrate so-called ‘Diversity’ and to nip it in the bud: this because it assumes that racial essence determines opinion, and therefore, all Whites can be dismissed as oppressive in one go, while its Black adherents think that “all true Blacks think as we do”. (So for example, Gwen Ngwenya gets dismissed as not being truly Black…) The real diversity of both Black and White opinion gets denied – or worse, gets actively suppressed.
The intellectual history of this movement is complicated because it is bound up with the philosophy of Post-modernism, and looks back to thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, and to the Integralist Nationalism of people like Julius Evola.
Bizarrely, the campus pseudo-left sometimes borrows ideas and phrases from its ideological opposite and enemy: the Alt-right. This is another baneful identity philosophy – but one which is ever contemplating the sufferings and possible future demise of the ‘White Race’, in much the same way that Fallism is forever going on about the ineluctable destiny of Blacks as the true ultimate victims. Both groups need to stand back and be exposed to a reality check. (And this is also important because people who see themselves as being solely ‘victims’, are apt, in the future, to become victimizers.)
But there is more.
It is this dual rootedness in obscurantist Continental Philosophy and in Racialist thought, which leads the pseudo-left into long convoluted cultural definitions of ‘Whiteness’, and to strange perverted utterances like: All I want for Xmas is a White genocide– a sentiment uttered on a California campus last December. (This is as if the sole thing that that needs to be done to sanitiseAlt-right ideological discourse is to change all its minuses to pluses!This truly, is the depressing politics of Schadenfreude.)
And it is from ratiocinations like these, that is derived the notorious slogan displayed on the tee-shirt of one of the leading Fallists, which said simply: KILL ALL WHITES.
If Liberals and other progressives write denunciations of Racism as graffiti on blackboards, the Fallists and their fellow-travellers, tend to follow the American pseudo-left and write hymns to hatred. (For six months I noticed an utterly gobbledy-gook definition of Whiteness posted on a sticker at the entrance to the A.C. Jordan building .)
In it’s defense, apologists sometimes claim that ‘Decolonization’ harks back to the Black Nationalist philosophies of Franz Fanon and Steve Biko. But this is not at all the case. Fanon was actually married to a ‘colonialist’ – that is, a White person (in fact a woman born in Corsica) – while Steve Biko with his slogans of “Self-reliance” and “Black Excellence”, was certainly no racist – as his many White friends who are still alive can amply testify.
So the idea of giving ‘Colonialism’ a purely racial twist derives solely from American identity politics and its local offspring – the Fallist movement.
Nonetheless, despite all these intellectual and moral failings, despite a fanaticism which was not above targeting the innocent and the vulnerable, and despite the use of abhorrent means of protest such as throwing human waste and setting off fire-bombs; the UCT Vice-Chancellor, Max Price, saw fit to describe the Fallist Movement as “Progressive”.
No, Dr Price: Racism is never Progressive, not even when it is the most up-to-date, post-modern, Decolonial Racism.
And the attempt to be ‘inclusive’ towards the tiny minority of Fallists (a hard-core of perhaps 40 activists with perhaps a loose following of 500 students), has been an extremely bad policy, because it means being exclusionary towards the vast majority of students at the University, who do not at all feel the Fallist enchantment with American Racism and Sexism, but who on the contrary, have often felt personally, racially, and ideologically, harassed and threatened. And that in particular, includes the 85% of students who vote for the ANC and the DA. These are two parties which, whatever their current failings, have been historically and officially committed to non-racialism.
Now it will be observed, that this policy of suppression of the rights and views of the majority by a basically racist minority, is of course, not a new thing entirely without precedent in South African history. (And the last time it happened it was also the result of a vicious form of identity politics – for when one turned on the radio in the 1950s, the first thing one was likely to hear, was that government policy was totally committed to safeguarding the social and cultural identities of South Africans A-Z, that is, from the Afrikaners to the Zulus. They did not use the vocabulary about ‘safe spaces’ then, but apartheid was certainly about celebrating the identities of groups, each safe and separate in its own group area.)
And the costs of this recent policy of suppression of the majority have been very high.
When, in days gone by, UCT was a good University, it dedicated itself to Academic Freedom and to Non-racialism; under the Terroristic Reign of the Fallists (aided and abetted by management, Freedom has been eclipsed; Non-racialism was replaced by Neo-racialism; and the whole process of Education decorated with filth.
Capitulating to racist ideology is deeply corrupting to the whole educational enterprise. Instead of using Science to demystify racialism, UCT has been allowing Racial mysticism to delegitimize science.
(This is the process known as ‘decolonization’ or ‘transformation’ of the Science Faculty. It went viral with a notorious clip where a student claimed that traditional wisdom is superior to Western Science, because in Zululand there are people who – unlike scientists – actually know how to bring down lightning from the sky.)
And then there is the effect on the students themselves.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy tells us that it is very important to gradually subject deluded people to encounters with reality. People suffering from race-phobia, or gender-mania – (or, for that matter, many other kinds of ‘woke’ prejudice) – need to have “difficult conversations” with rational others in order to return to the real world. By failing to challenge Fallist mythology official UCT has confirmed these people in their dysfunctional ideologically-driven mode of existence. Far worse than the loss of a few months or years, making a racist of oneself, can cause permanent damage, lasting throughout the course of an entire life.
Finally there is the effect on staff, and on third parties.
The full effect of Fallist Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia and Religious Bigotry will probably never be known. Among the minority groups which felt threatened were Christians (both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals – whose Christianity was dismissed as “a form of colonial oppression”); foreigners (both Americans and members of the African diaspora); and people who were involved in inter-racial marriages, (or who otherwise violated the Fallists’ simple stereotypes about ‘Race’ and ‘gender’.)
The extraordinary hysterical outburst provoked by unveiling the ‘politically incorrect’ statue of Saartjie Baartman was almost unbelievable. Not since the Immorality Act of 1957, has so much horror been expressed at the thought of White men gazing at Black women!
The University has seen a steady haemorrhaging of promising young staff, and a number of older people have also taken early retirement. (Four out of six Deans have retired or decamped.) Whole sectors of the University are recurrently sunk in gloom. (Students in the Law faculty tell me that many academics there shun the campus, for fear of encountering live hatred.)
The University has also been saddled with enormous financial losses leading to a programme of “down-sizing”, in which many jobs have been lost or endangered, and programmes aimed at disadvantaged students have been threatened with being cut back or starved of cash.
All this in pursuit of false theories and corrupt ideals.
Racialism is false, and pressure to use power and violence to advance Inequality is extremely corrupt.
But the Fallists have added new corollaries to these old shibboleths.
For the signature theory of the pseudo-Left is that works of Art can causeracism (which is false because to make a racist reading of a work of Art one already needs to be a racist in the first place); or that works of Art can cause victimization (which is false for almost the same reason: to feel victimized by a work of Art, one must already be a ‘victim-in-training’!)
And the signature policy prescription here is also deeply abhorrent: for it is to revive censorship – one of the most hated features of the old apartheid South Africa – a policy which, under all circumstances, automatically entails both privilege and exclusion.
Nobody who fought the real evils of apartheid will be at all impressed with the struggle against the trumped-up imaginary evils of “Imperialism/colonialism”, a political system which was dead as the dodo, more than one hundred years ago. The identitarian effort to revive apartheid-like thinking should be resisted on all fronts .
During the Struggle there was just one golden rule, and it said: YOU CAN’T FIGHT FASCISM BY FASCIST MEANS. But because the enemy is imaginary, for today’s pseudo-leftists no such rules apply.
(2) A Second Evil: Predatory Trade-Unions.
But there was another struggle going on – altogether less ideological and more gangsterish (or grubby). A number of Unionists among UCT’s labour establishment perceived in the student insurgence a golden opportunity to increase their power with their own following, and also to enrich themselves, at the expense of the University, and also of other workers.
In the 1990s Labour relations had been rocky, and in probably the darkest day in the history of the university, Management had taken its revenge by outsourcing 800 workers. (This was also in accord with the fashionable managerial ideology of the time: Neo-liberalism. The rest of the University was bought off with a pay-increase.)
In the years following there were occasional bouts of remorse, and there were some efforts to pay reparations, and to explore possibilities for reversing the policy. But it remained a sore issue for the Unions as a permanent threat to their power, and with the Fallist movement ready to act as shock-troops, an opportunity for a power-grab presented itself.
The result was Insourcing.
The University authorities had long refused to listen to Reason: so in the end they ignominiously caved in to Force.
Insourcing of at least part of the workforce associated with the University was probably a predictable and justifiable long-term outcome – but because the students were in search of instant gratification, the Insourcing happened in the worst possible way: with no regard for the rights of existing stake-holders. The pressure was on for mass retrenchments and early retirements.
Now it is generally true that Trade Unions are Janus-faced institutions. Under a regime of Full Employment their role is generally progressive – because they encourage investment in raising productivity, and prevent the bosses from running off with the profits. But in a regime of mass unemployment their role is altogether more ambiguous – and sometimes downright reactionary – for here, there is always the temptation to steal from other workers, (or from the rural sector, or from the public purse…) And so it appears to have turned out in this case.
Insourcing was hugely destructive for the pay and promotion prospects of UCT’s current existing workforce, and here the role of UCT Unionists is clear and stark.
But there is another case where their role is altogether more shadowy, and one must infer the hand of Unionism by seeking to apply the well-known maxim that one should “Follow the Money”.
Zemonfoods is a catering company which has been in operation on the UCT campus for many years. It is a progressive employer, run along cooperative lines, where senior workers are given the opportunity to acquire a stake in the enterprise. But its workers are not NEHAWU workers (or members of any other UCT established Union).
And after the Fallists had been fed a diet of lies on social media about Zemonfoods workers all being scabs or exploiters, Fallist supporters broke into and trashed the Zemonfoods canteens, scrawled death-threats on posters on the Technikon campus, and proceeded to beat up staff working for the Zemonfoods company both there and at UCT.
No authentically left-wing movement would ever have descended to the level of first demonizing and then physically attacking a group of middle-aged Black female workers – yet this is precisely what happened once the Fallists got involved. And when they smashed up the fittings of the kitchens and cafeterias, they also destroyed the life-savings of some of these very same workers which had all been heavily invested in the business. To insult and injury were added damage and possibly destitution – for some of these people ended up without work because the University franchise has now been completely taken away from this firm. (A new union-based set of operations has replaced it.)
The regressive UCT administration, so ready to make apologias for the perpetrators as ‘victims of an apartheid society’, has not so far as I know, shed a single tear for people who have altogether a more genuine and just claim on the sympathy of the public – because in the last resort, these are honest and humble people, who have had to stand passively by, while watching their whole livelihoods being shattered and even (eventually), being taken away from them.
(3) Rent-seeking Academic Staff who are ready to play the race card
But it is not only the students who have deluded Racial views. A substantial minority of Staff also do – and they provide backup for the student racist movement.
A few of these people studied in the United States and have imported their racialism directly from that country.
But many do not, and to understand this, also requires a detour into history.
Shortly after 1990 a distinguished sociologist, the late Professor Lawrence Schlemmer, made a vital discovery which is still important and too little known. Conducting a poll on the subject of Affirmative Action he found a sharp division of Black opinion along class lines: a substantial fraction of the Black Middle Class favoured it, but it was overwhelmingly rejected by the Black Working-class, who turned out to be one of the most non-racialist groups ever polled. They wanted jobs, good jobs, and seem to have been utterly and completely indifferent to the skin colour of owners or managers.
(At least, that is the standard interpretation of this poll result. But in actual fact, the details of popular reasoning in this matter are not known, and it has also been suggested that for at least some of the respondents, having themselves been under the harrow for so long, they had a pretty shrewd idea of who was going to have pay for renewed racial discrimination. Normally the costs of discrimination fall unpredictably all over the social spectrum, but almost invariably they accumulate amongst the poor, because the poor have so few opportunities to pass costs on…)
The Black Middle Class however thought that discrimination might be made to work in their favour.But from a modern materialist point of view, the idea of making racial discrimination work positively for some special group of people is particularly dangerous, because it creates a class of recipients who are dependent, and who have a vested interestin the perpetuation of racism – both their own, and other people’s.
This is why several Black Power organizations in the United States, like the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC),for example, rejected Affirmative Action. They thought it would be both enfeebling and corrupting. It would make the Black Middle Class parasitic, and dependent on what they could get by way of handouts from the White man. They would become, in Franklin Frazier’s terminology, a lumpen-bourgeoisie.(And in the light of history, it would appear that these critics had good reason. And it would also appear that not every idea which comes out of the US is altogether bad: the Black Nationalist Critique of Affirmative Action has much going for it.)
It is considerations like these which need to be born in mind when considering the growth of Black Racism in post-apartheid society – a kind of ideological formation which was almost totally unknown under apartheid.
Whenever voices expressing anti-White hatred did emerge, as they did briefly in the discussions around the formation of the PAC in the 1950s,and around the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), in the 1970s, they were firmly tamped down – not least because of the Liberation movements wanting to stake out the moral high ground in their struggle against the apartheid regime.
(Perhaps there were other more subtle reasons too – Christianity provided a unifying force which transcended hatred.) And they also had a very simple perception which is still relevant today: once one has begun to divide the human family, there is no natural stopping point.
Non-racialism unites – but identity politics divides – and this balkanization will drive us all apart until we become (in Monica Wilson’s words) “atoms of social dust”.
In a more contemporary political lingo: Identity politics leads, via the ‘Oppression Olympics’, up the ‘Intersectionality ladder’, to the Hobbesian “war of all against all”.
And it is these many things which need to be borne in mind when considering the present situation.
At UCT, some years ago, there emerged a “Black Academic Caucus”. Black Consciousness Theory had held that separate Black organizations were a tactical move in the apartheid struggle, and would no longer be necessary, and so would automatically fall away – after the country was liberated.
But such an organization could be justified in terms of the logic of multiracialism, so long as there were also parallel organizations for other groups or minorities. (And racial quotas could even be justified by branching out in the direction of consociationalism.)
But In the long history of liberation even this way-station of multi-racialism was found to be unacceptable, because separate organizations maintain or exacerbate social distance, and do nothing to abrade the social networks which undergird inequality .
In the US it was this analysis which justified the desegregation verdict in the famous Brown versus Board of Education case of 1954; and in South Africa, it similarly justified the ANC in scrapping the Congress Alliance and embracing Unification at a famous meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. (Actually, even in 1955, the Congress Alliance found the idea of a ‘White National Congress’ problematic – and so the White parallel organization to the ANC was called The Congress of Democrats (COD).)
But on the UCT campus, the backward slide in the direction of multi-racialism was not even registered.
However a further most important development in recent years, has been the emergence within the UCT Black Academic Caucus, of a militant minority ruthlessly playing the race-card.
There are many things wrong with current race-conscioussness, but for our purposes, one of the most important is that it provides incentives for rational people to opportunistically behave as if they were victims. If there is the prospect of a job or salary increase in the offing, this kind of opportunist will simply shout Racism (or Sexism) in order to improve eligibility.
Now psycho-analysis tells us, that false accusations of racism often reflect racism on the part of the accusers, who tend to project their own unconscious thought-processes onto other people; but there are other kinds of suspect cases as well, and here is such a case in point, for one needs to be especially skeptical in situations where the accuser stands to benefit directly and personally from making such an accusation.
So it now appears that part of the problem about racism at UCT, is not just about a tiny minority of students who have bought into recent North American campus mythology, but also about a tiny minority of staff, who have also become race-obsessives, or who, at any rate, find it profitable to simulate this kind of thinking.
And this also explains another strange thing. These are presumably the same people who have been incorporating racialism into the curriculum.
Again let us go back.
In 1955 representatives of the two Open Universities, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand, got together to produce a booklet in response to the plans of the National Party government to remodel higher education along segregated lines, by removing the small minorities of Black students who had been admitted to the two Universities under the policy of “Openness”.
At that time official propaganda had it that race mixing inevitably produced conflict, and therefore racial segregation was imperative for simply maintaining social peace. So the booklet included a firm declaration that “we can testify from our own experience that relations between the races have been harmonious.”
Fast forward to 2016 and we find a student reporting to David Benatar, the occurrence of an exam-question in a UCT exam which reads as follows: “Give the real reason why Black students and White students can never be friends”.
Notice that the way the question is set: it presupposes the truth of the racial-hostility assertion, (which was the pro-apartheid default option of 1955) and gives the examinees no opportunity to question or deny it.
Perhaps the ‘harmony’ of the Studebaker era has been a little overdone, or sentimentalized. But consider this: over a period of 60 years the lie that underlies apartheid has gone from an external threat to an internal truth – and worse, a truth-not-to-be-challenged.
A left-wing friend of mine (who cherishes his anonymity), has a sharp analysis of the UCT situation, which runs as follows: “In the 1990s the university management was taken over by neo-liberals – who then proceeded to pump up inequality within the university, mess up research, and bugger up labour relations.
More recently, the neo-liberals have gotten into bed with the neo-racists.
And this has been disastrous for the University ‘brand’.
For if UWC has claimed for itself the title of being ‘the intellectual home of the Left’, in the eyes of many, UCT has inadvertently become ‘the intellectual home of the Racist’.”
This is of course, that kind of thing one almost never encounters nowadays – a Left-wing polemic. But you don’t have to be a Trotskyist to see that it has more than one grain of truth to it.
So UCT management have got themselves into a pickle, because they have abandoned the moral high ground of non-racialism, while being under fire from extremist members of the Black Caucus for not being Racialist enough.
In the future one can readily foresee a situation where the Left on the Cape Flats is calling out the University leadership for being under the sway of Black racialists, while the Black caucus are calling them out for being under the sway of White racialists.
The sobriquet of being “the intellectual home of the racist” may stick because it seems to apply no matter what happens.
More bad News: How the Market Screws things Up
But before continuing the argument let us pause for further explication.
Since the South African political spectrum is effectively skewed to the Right, it may be helpful to stop to explain the unfamiliar term “neoliberalism” .
This is the market-based brand of liberalism, which attempted to replace Classical Liberalism during the 1980s. Its most characteristic doctrine is probably moral nihilism – in the form of the idea that there is no such thing as The Public Good.
As Mrs Thatcher famously put it: “There is no such thing as ‘Society’. There are only individual men and women, and their families.” So in particular neo-liberals hold that it makes no sense to talk of the general good, or of corporate responsibility – in our present instance – the broad health of the University.
A major reason explaining what has gone wrong at UCT over the last 20 years has been the total inability of DAVOS man to be ready to think in moral terms.
Speaking more generally, it may be said that in this way neo-liberalism undermines intrinsic or disinterested motivation, which is always directed towards abstract ideas of the good and the right, and so the actuality of the Unprincipled Society replaces the ideal of the Great Society.
And finally, in the Brave New World of neoliberalism Truth goes out the window, and after a time, journalism comes to be replaced with fake news, and academia gets replaced with rote recitation, and fake research.
While on the other side of the ledger, genuine leftism is dead and it too gets replaced with ‘fake radicalism’ and only-too-genuine racialism.
Post-modernism with its ingrained doctrinaire dismissal of science and moral authenticity chimes perfectly well with both these tendencies. And so academic Post-modernism goes into print, as a kind of peer-reviewed reactionary nonsense.
(Worse than mere racialism, this is also, unmitigated intellectual rubbish. This is the main offense to Liberals – while Radicals can also object because it represents an income stream for people who subtract value.)
Neoliberalism has had huge destructive effects on the University: appointing bad scholars and parasitic bureaucrats, making whole areas into intellect-free zones, with managers destroying academic freedom, and administrators lowering academic standards, all in the name of securing the bottom line.
It has been well-said that that the main effect of the philistine concept of performance management has been “the apotheosis of mediocrity”.
No wonder the University of Cape Town has been unable to put up anything much in the way of intellectual resistance to neo-racialism.
For nearly twenty years the University has been little more than a hollow shell.
And so – the ‘brand’ is indeed in deep trouble – not least because UCT has come to be perceived as consistently giving itself over to the larger lunacy of Black racism.
The number of foreign students wishing to spend a semester abroad at UCT has fallen off dramatically.
The number of student applications to join UCT at first year level has dipped, and the uptake on offers of a place has also fallen off.
Many students who would formerly have come to UCT are now going to Stellenbosch – which is widely perceived as being a successful convert to the practice of non-racialism.
BAD IMAGES, AND THE LOSS OF REPUTATION
In this context, it is difficult to over-estimate the harm done by a demonstration such as occurred some weeks ago, when a group of staff-members were to be seen picketing outside Bremner, with posters which were openly given over to anti-white racism and anti-male sexism. (But they also, as my left-wing friend observed, displayed a strong sense of entitlement, such as one normally associates with SPOILED WHITE BRATS!)
They were protesting about the appointment of Lis Lange, a woman of Latin American origins, to a post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for Educational Innovation. Dr Lange has apparently had considerable experience in these matters, but the protesters were convinced that she was appointed solely because she was ‘White’. But is she ‘White’? And was she appointed solely for that reason?
It was the fond ambition of the apartheid old regime, to want to extend its racial classification system to the whole world. There were basically assumed to be four races: White, Coloured, Black; and a category called “Indians and other Asiatics”. Foreigners who were uncertain as to which Race they belonged could apply to the nearest South African embassy, for a helpful tagging session.
In theory the classification was a biological one. But in practice, as is almost invariably the case, biology was overlaid by culture – ‘race’ as one prefers to say nowadays, was socially ‘demarcated’. Thus the Japanese – after a major trade deal, became honorary Whites, while the Chinese remained ‘other Asiatics’. On the other hand, some Arabs were also counted as ‘white’ if they were Christian Arabs.
The category ‘Coloured’ was even more of a mish-mash, for though in theory it comprised persons of mixed Black and White descent, it also included persons of pure descent from the Khoi and the San, and from freed slaves of Oriental or African origins, (the so-called Prize Negros.) And Africans who passed a “straight hair” test, or could speak Afrikaans, could also get in. (There is a wonderful evocation of all this sad stuff in the classic South African novel Familiarity is the Kingdom of the Lostby Dugmore Boetie.)
Thus one was classified as ‘White’ if one had a skin that was pink and pale, or if one was a Christian from the Middle East, or if one was an Oriental pig-iron merchant.
In other words Racism was not only Morally Abhorrent, it was also Intellectually Ridiculous.
And the same is true now. And the racial systems of different countries are all different. In the US they have the “one-drop rule” that if one has one drop of Black blood that makes one Black –so many people who in South Africa get labeled Coloured, would in America get labeled Black. But on the other hand in the US they also now recognize ‘Latinos’ – persons whose ancestors spoke a Latin-derived Iberian language – as constituting a separate racial category. Some Latinos, including some persons whom I have met, when they come to this country automatically self-classify as ‘Coloured’.
So who knows what Lis Lange is? – and who cares?
It really makes no sense in the year 2018, to try to extend the shelf-life of apartheid, which should have expired in 1994, by using repellent apartheid words and categories to classify foreigners. (My archaeologist friends tell me that the situation in their discipline is even worse – for certain exponents of ‘decolonial’ racism, are wanting to extend apartheid-era classifications into the Stone Age.)
What is to be done? One of the troubles is that racism closes itself off, as a self-sealing system.
In the 1950s White Non-racists needed to have difficult conversations with White Racists.
Because of the nature of the subject and the interloculor, Blacks were not included. Today there is a parallel situation. Whites are shut out. And Black Non-racists need to have difficult conversations with Black Neo-Racists.
What can Whites do? Well there was some good advice from the BCM years – they should go and fight racism in all the minorities, wherever they can.
But much depends on young Blacks taking up the cudgels and responding to the challenge.
From 1950 to 1990 there were forty wasted years while the ideas of non-racial liberalism gradually percolated through White society, and while the flagrant contradictions of apartheid became ever more piquant, and in the end, overtly, brutally, apparent. The result was that there were several periods officially proclaimed as States of Emergency, interspersed with many long years of quiet, and quietly desperate, economic stagnation.
We can ill afford another 40 wasted years.
When the country faces huge problems of underdevelopment, poverty and inequality, it is criminal folly to be wasting time talking crap about statues.
Coming towards a conclusion.
Neo-racism is taking a huge toll on the University.
But it could get a lot worse.
Suppose for example, that Whites stop coming to UCT because they fear they will get downmarked by a prejudiced ‘decolonial’ lecturer. (This could happen also with Indians, or members of other minority groups – but this seems less probable, because it is anti-White prejudice which seems to be uppermost at the present time.) After a while, smart Blacks will notice that Whites are dropping off going to UCT, and will infer that the education UCT delivers is somehow inferior. They too will want to join the stampede to Stellenbosch.
So far, the UCT pool of recruits is shrinking, but total numbers are holding up.
All this could change.
Examples from the US are not encouraging. At Evergreen State College, where they had an outbreak of student identity activism lasting for just over a year (unlike the three years at UCT) numbers are down by 20% .Over five years this is not sustainable.
So, UCT stands at the cross-roads.
It is also the case that UCT has recently elected a successor to Max Price.
Let us wish Dr Phakeng all God-speed.
But I think, it is also fair to say, that a lot of people will want to know where she stands on all these hot-button issues.
Where, for example, does she stand on the question of Racism (and I’m not just talking about White racism.)
That is: which philosophy will she want to commit to:Non-racialism, or neo-racialism?
Put very concretely, who does she want to stand alongside:
NELSON MANDELA or JULIUS EVOLA?
Put this way-the question is a no-brainer: Mandela is a celebrated statesman, and a moral leader; the leading people on the other side are all dwarves, trolls, monsters and nonentities.
But stranger things have happened: sometimes the trolls do seize control. The case of EVERGREEN stands as an awful warning.
Dr Phakeng has expressed an interest in giving UCT an African focus.
In the 1950s the two Open Universities lead the way in producing academics who were up to the challenge of intellectually combating Racialism. One thinks of people like Monica Wilson, Eddie Roux, and Philip Tobias.
In the 1950s there were also important thinkers in the Liberation movements who put themselves in the vanguard of challenging Racialism – one thinks of Neville Alexander (a life-long critic of racial categorizing), and of Robert Sobukwe (who revised the political definition of African, so that it referred to geography and allegiance rather than to biology.)
So there is indeed an African basis for Non-racialism.
We need to return to these African roots and reject the clotted garbage provided by recent American exports.
Then there may be some hope.
Under the present dispensation, the Fallists have secured money to open up further access to the University system, but they do not seem to at all realize that this may be a Pyrrhic victory, because the Post-Truth University delivers an education not worth having.
The combined battering provided by neo-liberalism and by neo-racialism, has greatly weakened UCT.
Let us hope we do not have to file this whole unhappy history in a folder marked:
FULL INSTITUTIONAL SUICIDE OF A ONCE NOTED UNIVERSITY
ENDNOTE: SOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Since this is not an academic article, I have not attempted to provide full documentation. But I would like to acknowledge my borrowings from other people, and direct the younger generation to important resources for the critique of neo-racialism.
The best discussion of the definition of Fascism is by Robert Paxton, in his book The Anatomy of Fascism.He recommends a narrative definition. I used such a definition in an earlier version of the analysis for this article – but later on, preferred to return to the older idea of a checklist – in order to make better sense of the exact nature of student activism at UCT.
The modern critique of American identity politics started with Martha Nussbaum, in her telling demolition of the third wave feminist Judith Butler – whom she dubbed “The Professor of Parody” – in a review article usefully reprinted in her book Philosophical Interventions. Butler is, indeed, an exponent of the post-modern fixation on symbols, and the debilitating cult of passivity and “learned helplessness”, which foregrounds the notion of the-self-as-victim.
But this critique has since been carried much further, notably by Mark Lilla in his book The Once and Future Liberal, which saw the divisive and polarizing effects of identity politics as responsible for the victory of Donald Trump in the Presidential election of 2016. Upon publication Lilla was himself called out as a racist, to which he memorably replied: “That’s a slur, not an argument!” (In the pathological world of identity politics, the ad hominem fallacy gets converted into something approaching a way of life!) This may also be seen to be a particularly incisive comment, once one reflects that, almost by definition, an anti-rational movement cannot at all manage to do rational argument. (Cf. W H Auden: “The ogre does what the ogre must/ but the ogre can never/ master speech”.)
However, it currently appears that the critique of identity politics as ‘narcissistic’ or as a kind of “racism-without-the-biology” can probably be pushed a great deal further. One may mention for example, recent work by Peter Boghossian,and Helena Cronin who have both been posting important independent critiques on Youtube.
For American Black Nationalism the classic book remains Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967).
Lawrence Schlemmer’s work on Black South African’s attitudes to Affirmative Action was done at the behest of the Helen Suzman Foundation, and got summarized in a volume edited by Bill Johnson and David Welsh, entitled Ironic Victory.
The most comprehensive discussion of the failings of the philosophy of neo-liberalism is in the book VOLTAIRE’s BASTARDS – The Tyranny of Reason in the Westby the Canadian writer John Ralston Saul.
More narrowly economic and psychological critiques are also relevant – Keynes was an early contributor when he denounced “the worm of Benthamism” – but these probably also need to wait on further developments in these disciplines, which have been, for the most part, heavily compromised.
The best summary account of the meltdown at Evergreen College is on the Australian Youtube website known as Independent Man.
This article was written during the period April-June 2018. It therefore does not reflect recent events, including the tragic suicide of Professor Mayosi and the partial redress of grievances in the Zemonfoods workers case. A number of these workers are being insourced, due to the emergence of a better Union leadership.