Talk Is Cheap Until You Talk Black




Text: Rithuli Orleyn

Photograph: Passacol

Nigel Gibson writes on Biko and Fanon. He writes about the value of their thinking tools in the employ of ‘struggles that take their tutelage from below’. Gibson summarizes Marx’s and Hegel dialectics as capable of both progression and regression. He says, giving a kind of pictorial view for his logic, the Hegelian dialectics has a high-point; like an upright triangle – a point where ‘higher unity of two opposed forces’ is reached or forged.

He then continues to say, Marxian dialectics by comparison, resembles an inverted triangle. A triangle with its high-point hanging low. Low, to represent irreconcilable Marxist antagonism that exist between the opposed ‘classes’.

Slavo Zizek, a Slovanian rockstar-like famed philosopher, whose work brings together a reflexive way of reading politics through the windowpane of ideology – cupped in exhaustive Marxian and Lacanian universe of meaning about the socius (or white sociality) – takes a stab at this issue of dialectics. In a book where he interprets Moa’s thought/philosophy (Slavo Zizek – Moa’s Practice and Contradiction), Zizek reads Mao’s dialectics as lacking. Lacking an important aspect of Hegelian tensions of negation. A tension of opposing forces at that high synthesis point (unstable synthesis) – a point Gibson paints for us with a triangle pictorial view. The appreciation Mao lacks, according to this Slovanian philosopher, is the concept called “the negation of the negation”.

According to Zizek, Mao thinks “negation of the negation” is useless sophistry; intellectual farce that has no place in the crucible of praxis. In the material realm, protests Mao, the big fish negates the small fish by swallowing it whole. So do armies when they confront each other in battle; the weaker is negated by the stronger: which is also to say, gets swallowed whole by the stronger. There is no “negation of the negation” in the battle front; the stronger swallows the weaker. Mao protests.

To instantiate Zizek’s point about the value of a Hegelian dialectics in the crucible of praxis, Zizek applies the missing logic – called the “negation of the negation” – in Mao’s reading of true victory.

It is not when ‘big fish subdues small fish’, as Mao is wont to quip, that true victory takes place, argues Zizek. Highlighting Hegelian dialectics and the importance of factoring in the “negation of the negation” Zizek foregrounds the aspect of unstable tension in moments of political loss. Or victory. True political victory, Zizek opines, happens when your enemies are won-over not just by force of arms – for instance – but true victory happens when your enemies adopt your discourse.

Zizek qualifies the explicatory power of his philosophical point by conjuring the example of British politics. The true Thatcherite was not Margaret Thatcher, he says; but Tony Blair, who came on the ticket of labour-centered policies but ended up speaking a pro-capitalist language at its most vulgar form.

Here I cannot help but be reminded of Thabo Mbeki’s own confession; a confession in the face of his cowardice – cowering to neoliberal bullying stick and carrot. He said “call me a Thatcherite”. Those words marked a throw of the towel to GEAR austerity policy measures. Not Zuma. Zuma throws his whole clumsy body of rhetoric.
Recently, after the big brouhaha expose of Jaucques Pauw’s President’s Keepers – a story, among many, of Zuma’s corruption and rot deeply embedded in ANC’s “I didn’t struggle to be poor” culture – Zuma gave a moving and uncharacteristically-Zuma eloquent speech. The non-english-speaking Zuma on the day – a Zuma who spoke in his isiZulu mother tongue – is a rare oratory sight this side of english coloniality denies us the pleasure of seeing. Zuma defied that straightjacket veneer of presidential airs. They (the west) couldn’t countenance communists with nuclear power, when we took power. He said. The snide remarks punted by white-owned media meanandos (meandering-innuendos…Zuma’s brilliant coinage) associating an earmarked nuclear deal between mafias – sitting pretty on government legitimacy tickets (Russian Putin and incumbent president of the republic) – met an airtight family affair :where uBaba took us all (who had ears) to his confidence, in our own tongues. It doesn’t get more cheeky-kaffir (or decolonial proper) than this… the thought lingered much longer on my mind than Mandla Langa’s resurrection of Mandela in his latest Long Walk To Freedom biographical sequel: Dare Not Linger. I suspected that Zuma’s counterpoint view must have grabbed hold on more than just lowly me.

This was the best form of cheeky-kaffir defiance I had seen; since Mandela: admonished De Klerk for training iNkatha undercover – sabotaging the peaceful transition – and then quickly smiling alongside their shared Nobel Peace Prize… before the blood of kids wasted by De Klerk mastermind puppet pulling invisible strings of bullets cooled on their unsuspecting four roomed floor. (Twin brothers Samora and Sadat Mpendulo, 17, cousin Mzwandile Mfeya, 12, and schoolmates Thando Mtembu, 17, and Sandile Yose, 12. Twenty eight times children were shot; at a time the commander in chief of SADF soldiers was De Klerk. Children were massacred in their sleeping in Northcrest, October 1993)

Mbeki’s understanding of both Marx and Fanon, and Afrikanist rhetoric notwithstanding, gave in. He was swallowed in the discourse of a ‘politically conquered’ enemy. The sacrifices of ordinary blacks had earned that political victory moment Thabo squandered. Not only that, two-thirds majority scores of blacks entrusted to Thabo their fears and aspiration for true liberation. To do the historical thing our struggle against colonization has been about. All those gains our people entrusted Thabo with, had been earned by picking the life and limb tab in the battle field. Not Sussex English classroom or lecture halls. But Sussex training got the better of Thabo. It reminds me of Chinweizu when he write about dangers of colonial miseducation: if you socialize a mouse like a cat, say, among well-behaved cats, you kill its survival instinct… when you put it out there in the world, of not-so-well-behaved cats, when it’s supposed to flee from the predator, it walks to it, in over-familiar friendly gait, I imagine (paraphrased).
Taking counsel from the Slavanian philosopher: The buzz word for that phenomenon of finding yourself in power – like Thabo – (perhaps your team having pushed the enemy to cede ground), in power but using the power you gained over your enemies to freely grant them (your down and out enemies) a landslide victory in their already declared defeat, as the ANC did by not exhausting the political victory lifeline, instead ceding more uneven playground by granting the enemy Sunset Clauses to entrench their last kicks of a dying horse corruption culture, that phenomenon, typifies a “negation of the negation”. It signifies a moment where your ‘politically conquered’ enemies flip the script on you. And now you become the face of corruption. Like Zuma is. And Paul Kruger is not. Yet “One of President [Paul] Kruger’s three sons was his private secretary. A son-in-law of his, C.F. Eloff, was a businessman who was granted several (government) concessions, namely business monopolies of one kind or another” (Hennie van Vuuren, 2006: 31) That’s if we can agree that in 1994 we ‘politically’ won in the ballot booth; though ‘economically’ lost, at the negotiation table.

Zizek’s point concerning the unstable victory of being engulfed (or conquered) by the culture of your vanquished enemies is: the kind of capitalism we see in China today is what it is, vulgar exploitative, because of how it subverts Mao’s cultivated but failed cultural revolution.

It rides on that fertile soil of cultivation in order for it to be aggressive and vulgar exploitative, as it is.

Workers there, in China, charges the Marxian-Lacanian Slovenian thinker, are expropriated of their labour power with little to no human right consideration. Because, he says: they are slave-driven to sweatshop-vulnerability by the stick and carrot affect of patriotism.

In Zuma’s eloquent isiZulu speech recently, I heard this nuanced jump-the-gun patriotism. A patriotism to words – ‘Communist China’ rhetoric-like. The west took nuclear power capabilities from us when we came to government because the west couldn’t countenance communist with nuclear. Okay-Malum’-Cool-Cat, the west did clip the kaffir-government its nuclear-wings. But in twenty years you have dug your people deeper into poverty; at least the racists Afrikanner Broedebond had much better outcomes in their socialist corruption: by 1970s – even if through ‘crime against humanity’ brute force and draconian laws – they had achieved their mission of alleviating Afrikaner poverty.

But what Zuma wants us to believe and put our lives in the line of fire for is rhetoric in the employ of capitalists. A rhetoric not steeped in the values of the people. It is a rhetoric that ‘speaks at’ – rather than with – people who have the sovereign title to ownership of this land. The people who must say – as opposed to being ‘spoken-for’ – how they see fit to heal their (our) hundred-years cultural injuries, psychological injuries, loss of personality injuries, amputated self-reliance injuries, knowledge systems diminished injuries, and spiritual injuries …  by taking back our source of healing – the land.

I shuddered at the thought of how close we are too to being cajoled, arm-twisted, by Zuma’s “radical” sounding promises of “transformation” and nuclear power. Nuclear would be great. If there were more than dynastic power signs in Zuma’s line of march; if he broke fundamentally from the insult that is the Constitution (but the ANC prides itself for brokering land heist in a bill of rights paperback).
It seems to me that the adoption of ANC policy, the peddled “radical economic transformation”, by Bikoist rhetoric-prone comrades who root for Zuma with more than a tinge of uncritical pigmentationism and unprincipled blackist-unity, is a slippery slope. Towards being discursively swallowed. Swallowed in a dying ANC. An ANC that should be allowed to die, from its internally raging decay.

In an approach that suspends other contradictions (arguing that there is a Nationalist vs Imperialist main contradiction, at this conjuncture), it seems that our Black Consciousness comrades have turned crass pigmentationist for rice (biryani). It seem they have taken up the cause to champion certain favoured ANC factions; without paying attention to their equivalent of “call me Thatcherite”… “negation of the negation” pitfalls.

In their vulgar Nationalism (represented by Zuma at the helm) against Imperialism (represented by the so called London-gang ANC faction….plus the ANC-lite in red berets), it appears that the dying ANC will take to the grave the credibility, the integrity and ethos that propels true “radical” discourse.

My caution, within the limitations of white philosophers (Gibson’s Hegel, Zizek’s Marx and Lacan and Chinese thinkers and activists), my caution is: perhaps we (the hands-off-Zuma Biko clique) went too deep into the enemy’s terrain. I caution that perhaps in expediently sleeping with this colonial lapdog called the ANC, we should guard against waking up with its flees. Better still I say, there once was a time we wrestled their little “radical” sounding pig, Juju, in the mud with People’s Manifesto and Sankarist Oaths. Perhaps we should be careful not to repeat the same. Careful to craft Zuma’s “radical” rhetoric in the image of our desire, just because he sometimes fires his pro-capitalist aids to hire others.
Careful to project our wet dream (of ‘revolution’) without theorizing or learning from our failures. Careful to project our wishes without learning to fail-forward, fail-safer, fail-closer to the social upheaval and insurrection prize; closer to that handmaiden prerequisite: the fall of South Africa and rise of Azania (from ashes of South African destruction).

(I hold the view that there are progressive failures. Like Mandela’s wrongs of reconciliation without justice. Our failed Black Consciousness experiment with Juju’s EFF is one such naiveté about radical sounding ANC-cultured leaders. We cannot rush to align our Black Consciousness with ‘radical’ sounding ANC-cultured collaborators).
So I would say, the real benefit of a Zuma-moment, is how it unearths the buried – the buried in the silence of things. How it trades-in the tyranny of peace for a necessary chaos – a creative chaos to help us imagine afresh. How it uses the small-fish gangster as a magnifying glass to see the invisible hand of the Bigfish mafia… the land dispossessor. How it presents, or foregrounds, the black-white antagonism in ways more poignant than has been the case in previous post’94 instances of Thabo and Mandela combined.

The ‘Zuma moment’, especially because white arrogance – this time around (#BlackMondayCampaigns) – is greedy to punish Zuma. Punish Zuma so that it can thinly veil its sins of racism behind Zuma’s 789 ‘criminal’ charges (whatever calculus is employed to count sins of a bogeyman like Zuma. Or me and you).

This Zuma-moment reminds me of Tony Yengeni. Long time ago, when SPCA’s totalizing white attitudes concretized against Yengeni for contravention of his parole condition, there was a similar shadow cast by our historical-hanging cloud of white racism.

You see, because: the hundred-years-long injuries of racism makes the slightest provocation capable of bringing the world – as we know it – to its grinding halt … if the contradictions are correctly harnessed and analyzed.

Yengeni’s biggest mistake was to come out of jail on parole and go ayohlabela amadlozi. He went and slaughtered a cow in keeping with his tradition. And of course this – barbaric black cleansing ritual (white people being white people and arrogant, boasting laws more considerate to animals than our kaffir consideration for animals can ever be), this – ‘hlabel’ amadlozi event’, was only seen through the ‘eyes of the law’ by white norm. It was seen as contravention of legal procedures. For someone out on parole, with conditionalities to adhere to, white-or-colonial-law could only see one thing: its own single narrative. Being gatvol of this single-narrative foreclosure, blacks became inspired to cause an uproar that swept across the country.

Media loved to hate Yengeni. And in keeping with rampant attitudes that say ‘well to do blacks’ thieve the public purse, through political favours and connections, the media didn’t know how black people flipped and disregarded the media’s dominant narrative; to embrace Yengeni. Regardless of the corruption flack. The media couldn’t appreciate that: though black people know that the Yengeni brigade in the ANC ba-hustle-isha ngathi, we still share with those hustlers wounds inflicted indiscriminately on us by white racism – because we are Black. And that is not to be used to qualify Zuma’s hustle as “radical” transformation.

(The hustling phenomenon in the ANC is not only undeniable but resembles white network ethos of grand pillaging – eating up the state resources by corrupt means).

Against such SPCA white assumptions, about who we are (savages who are inhumane to poor animals) and how we must conduct ourselves, pertaining cultural practices, the blacks told whites where to get off.

Now back to Zuma’s predatory kaffir-cheekiness. It evokes similar solidarity sentiments we saw club blacks around their ontological wound of racism – our “lived for-consciousness experience”.

Perhaps the cabinet and presidency arena, where this black solidarity sentiment against white bullying plays out, marks the difference between the Zuma moment and the erstwhile Yengeni uproar

White people didn’t know what hit them when they tried to bully Yengeni with some logic of their law. A similar solidarity sentiment (with Yengeni against white bullying) seems to have grabbed hold. But our solidarity against whites cannot mean narrativizing Zuma, in this instance, as a nationalist. Zuma is a cheeky matjingilane of white ill-gotten wealth. He has been waiting for his struggle-credential ration. But the ration rules ‘unfairly’ changed when it was him at the front of the line. So he sommer went ahead without authorized white permission to help himself to the buffet. Zuma is not a nationalist by any stretch of imagination. For god sake even by white standards of what a nation is, we blacks don’t make the cut. We don’t have Sovereign Title To Territory. That Sovereign Title To Territory is enshrined in the constitution as the right of white conquest over grabbed property – our land.

Even as we speak, Zuma presides on shooting destitute people of Freedom Park in Johannesburg; mothers who want to erect shelter for their children. The irony of shooting people who want to build a lousy shelter whilst you live at a palace in Nkandla… imagine (the negation – by bullets, of the negated – by Blackness)!


Black Artistry


Writer: Rithuli Orleyn

Photograph: Musa N. Nxumalo


It’s a known fact that Blacks don’t have land and are therefore without the primary source of wealth. But Blacks are talented as fuck. There is no reason why so many of us, 13 million we are told, must live under the so-called breadline. Blacks are so driven they come to Jo’burg, live on a couch (at a friend’s place who is long gatvol with their black-ass), Continue reading “Black Artistry”