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Vishwas Satgar examines the crisis of the left in the context of Fees Must Fall

Cosatu in CrisisIn a recent article for Review of African Political Economy’s Radical Agendas series, Vishwas Satgar asks: “Where to for South Africa’s Left?”

Referring to the student protests that “rocked” South Africa towards the end of last year, and the fact that some commentators suggested that the country’s “Arab Spring Moment” had arrived, Satgar points out that the students themselves were using the discourse of the revolution.

According to Satgar, “This manifestation of resistance is far from over and cannot be isolated.”

He also insists that in the context of global neoliberal restructuring, “‘revolutionary nationalist,’ ‘communist’ and ‘social democrat’ are all anachronistic labels and meaningless slogans to the generation of youth rewriting history through their recent protests”.

Satgar is the co-editor of the recent KMM Review publication Cosatu in Crisis: The Fragmentation of an African Trade Union Federation.

Read the article:

After World War II, national liberation politics captured much of the left imagination. For the South African liberation movement, the 1980s were decisive years in which the internal and external movements consolidated their struggle against the apartheid state. The future seemed poised for a radical alternative. What is often not acknowledged, however, is that national liberation politics was actually exhausted by the 1980s (Armin, 1994: 105-148). The Bandung project’s anti-colonial and revolutionary nationalisms came unhinged by their own internal limits and the shifting relations of imperial force. This crisis of national liberation politics existed alongside the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the neo-liberalisation of social democracy forced the left into defensive struggles to protect gains achieved under Keynesian–welfare capitalism. Since 1980 global neoliberal restructuring completely remade the ideological and political landscape. The defeats endured by the left in this conjuncture added to the confusion of left politics and identity. Coupled with earlier horrors, strategic defeats and political shortcomings this further contributed to the left’s discredited 20th century inheritance. In this context, “revolutionary nationalist” “communist” and “social democrat” are all anachronistic labels and meaningless slogans to the generation of youth rewriting history through their recent protests. In this article, I look at the crisis of the South African left and explore the possibilities for its renewal.

Book details

  • Cosatu in Crisis: The Fragmentation of an African Trade Union Federation edited by Vishwas Satgar, Roger Southall
    EAN: 9780992232948
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