“Its mindset is in some ways still that of an underground opposition ..”

Personally, I think that comparisons between Northern Ireland and South Africa are fundamentally flawed. But, in light of the political reality, and here, comparisons between how revolutionary movements political parties in those polities regard themselves might not be.

Many in the ANC have great difficulty in differentiating between the party and the state. It insists on calling itself a revolutionary movement rather than a political party, and regards its government ministers and functionaries, with Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, as “deployed cadres”, installed in their posts to do its bidding.

Its mindset is in some ways still that of an underground opposition – loyalty to the party is all, debates are held in secret before a consensus view is revealed to the outside world, and public dissent is frowned upon.

At times it shows symptoms of a collective messiah complex, and there will have been little embarrassment about the fact that in a nation of 46 million people, the removal of the elected president has been decided by the 86 members of the party’s National Executive Committee.

Update Related post here.

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  • joeCanuck

    Not totally correct, Pete. The President was removed by himself. Probably wise given that he had lost the confidence of his party executive.

  • Dave

    “As events have shown, what the party gives, the party can take away. And in South Africa, blessed is the name of the party.”

    I suppose that’s where the difference between SF and the ANC is most obvious. The SF Ard Fheis can democratically set the party’s official agenda, but the leadership’s actual agenda is is set by others, and where they conflict, the actual agenda takes precedence. So, that Ard Fheis may set pre-conditions (as in an agreed timetable for devolution of P and J prior to SF entering the Executive r taking its seats on the Policing Board) but where the leadership ignores those preconditions, the Ard Fheis offers no public complaint and doesn’t initiate any retaliatory action against the Ard Comhairle. So, unlike the ANC, the SF party can give it but it can’t take it away. Power, then, resides with the leadership and not with the ‘comrades’ even if the comrades foolishly think otherwise.

    I don’t know enough about the ANC to know whether or not it operates as a de facto cult as the opinion piece claims, but I’ve often argued that SF is a cult. They refined the ‘ourselves alone’ mentality to mean that only the counsel of the leadership should be listened to and that all dissenting voices should be classified by the members as sinister plots by Perfidious Albion to ‘divide and conquer’ them.

    This promotion of absolute trust in the leadership and absolute distrust of all others meant, of course, that the leadership was able to lead them wherever it (others) wanted and that anyone who told them their actual destination would not be listened to. As a tool of control, it meant that whoever could lead the leaders could lead the members. An absolutely ideal situation for MI5 to exploit: gain control of the leadership (all two of them) and you gain control of the entire ‘republican’ movement and can then use it to promote your own agenda taking due care, of course, to ensure that a process of converting them into a pro-state party and integrating them into the UK should be presented by the leadership to the members as being a process that was designed to achieve the exact opposite.

    As a cult, I think it transcends all unifying beliefs bar one: that the interests of the members are sacrosanct. ‘Ourselves alone’ is essentially ‘for ourselves alone.’ This abject lack of any convictions or principles means that even if they cop-on that the leadership led them deeper into a United Kingdom instead of a united Ireland, it won’t really matter to them. They’ll still hold to the belief that the leadership sought to serve the members’ interests by doing so. It’s a paradox created by folks who spent a long time fighting for stuff that was just a proxy for selfish interests, and hence the ‘stuff’ was flung away without any grand misgivings. I think this lot would have no great problem arguing for the Republic to join the Commonwealth and eventually rejoining the UK under the pretext of ‘parity of esteem’ if that is what MI5 directed the leadership to do – just as long, of course, as they can maintain the pretence that it is all for the good of old Mother Ireland and that they are being led from within and that Gerry and Martin will see them all right in the end, rewarding their blind faith in the leaders of the cult.

    It’s a shame they don’t put arsenic into the lemonade and have done with it like old Jim Jones.

  • But surely it is “all for the good of old Mother Ireland” that her sons are no longer killing each other in such numbers.

    Unless you believe that tosh about blood sacrifices?

  • Cahal

    “I think that comparisons between Northern Ireland and South Africa are fundamentally flawed.”

    If the whites had managed to partition off their own little ‘white homeland’ around 1993, perhaps the analogy would hold.

    But they didn’t because the democratic will of the South African people won the day.

    Unlike in Ireland. Oh well.

  • Reader

    Cahal: If the whites had managed to partition off their own little ‘white homeland’ around 1993, perhaps the analogy would hold.

    But they didn’t because the democratic will of the South African people won the day.

    Where would such a homeland be? That’s really where the prospects of an analogy fail.
    Also, when referring to the ‘South African people’, do you imagine that SA, alone in the continent, has had its borders drawn in the right place by dead white europeans?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    The former head of the norn iron civil service – whose name escapes me at the moment – but was (presumably) from the Unionist community background – mentioned the similarities in the Afrikaners and Unionist mindsets. He was the one speaking on the recent radio 4 program where it became clear ‘arold Wilson wanted to throw norn iron not just out of UK but also out of the commonwealth.

  • “loyalty to the party is all, debates are held in secret before a consensus view is revealed to the outside world, and public dissent is frowned upon.’

    Pete

    How is the above different from how Blair and New Labour operated and how Cameron and the Tories operate today?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Many in the ANC have great difficulty in differentiating between the party and the state. It insists on calling itself a revolutionary movement rather than a political party,’

    Nothing surprising here . It’s an inevitable outcome in post colonial situations even though neither Ireland or South Africa can be termed authentic ‘post colonial ‘ in the sense of say a Zambia or Kenya . For many years after Irish independence Fianna Fail referred to itself as a ‘national movement ‘ i.e more than just a political party . Sean Lemass’s infamous remark ‘we are a slightly constitutional party ‘ underscored the feeling .

    Ireland’s previous history during Westminster rule (1800 to 1922) as well as the Civil War ensured that ‘opposition’ would be built into the newly formed State .

    Northern Ireland can be compared to RSA during the ‘apartheid ‘ era 1948 to 1990 when the South African Nationalist Party ruled without an effective opposition . Similar to NI 1920 to the present .

    Beyond that there are vast cultural and economic differences . There are at least 17 if not more separate ethnic and linguistic groups within RSA . The Zulus ( 9 million -are the biggest group followed by the Xhosa , Whites (two tribes ) Indians , Cape coloured , Basotho , Swanas , Vendas , Sindebele etc etc etc

    Northern Ireland is ‘simplicity ‘ itself .

    South Africa does not yet have a viable alternative political opposition but somehow I think they are heading in that direction.

    They’ll probably get there before Northern Ireland does i.e having an effective alternative opposition . The ANC may have to split however for this to be achieved .

  • Greenflag

    reader

    ‘do you imagine that SA, alone in the continent, has had its borders drawn in the right place by dead white europeans?

    RSA continues to hold as a ‘constitutional ‘ entity because of it’s longer self governing status – and because of the large number of ethnic groups . If the latter fragment along political lines to say the degree that both groups do in Northern Ireland then it’s conceivable that RSA could break up into separate states . Given continued failure by the ANC government to address the serious economic issues facing the country then the words ‘Weimar Republic’ come to mind .

  • Rory

    This latest is yet another battle in the Left/Right war within the ANC, with Mbeki representing the Right losing out against Zuma, figurehead of the more dominant Left faction. It is also however a battle in a war between international capital and the welfare of the people of South Africa.

    The victory of the ANC against apartheid was simply that – a victory against apartheid which allowed a majority (which happened to be black African) the opportunity to determine the nature of the government.

    The ANC was a revolutionary party and drew much of its inspiration, ideals, strategy and tactics from a Communist Party cadre lead by the late Joe Slovo. It was to my knowledge never envisaged that an ANC government would progress overmuch with its social and economic programme in a sudden grabbing of the control of the economic heights. And this was also the understanding of the comrades within the ANC, trained as they were in what might be realistically expected.

    What was expected however was that there would be progress towards a lessening of the hardships of the very poor black African majority, that there might be housing, health care, educational development, youth opportunity and maybe even the beginnings of secure employment that paid a living wage.

    Neither Mandela nor Mbeki showed any inclination to fulfill those expectations and when murmurs began to rise Mbeki moved against the apparent leader of those murmuring, Zuma, and promoted the levying of false charges of criminal corruption against him.

    Greenflag indicates an ANC split and I concur that this is likely.. As of now the Left holds the party and can probably command an electoral mandate in the country. The Mbeki faction may well yet unite with a white party (or sections of white parties) to form what will probably be described as a “moderate” or “centrist” party or somesuch, which may rely on the institutions of capital and of the state to delay and obstruct any reforms that a moderate left wing ANC government might attempt to implement.