The election results that have come down so favorably on the part of the Democratic Alliance (DA) is an event that should be seen with some dismay and concern. Why is this? The rising influence of the DA represents the expansion of personal freedoms, which the DA is so big on, at the expense of imposing a liberal framework onto those freedoms. You are free to choose provided such choice is within this liberal framework. While you are free to vote, you have to vote the right way; this way is ‘obviously’ for the DA which has been constructed within the context of the current South African discourse as the only rational choice.
The cynical politics of the DA’s stated systematic plan for power betrays that the DA operates at the level of power play, and not in terms of a principled set of priorities and an overall commitment to progress. It has – and always had – a chimeric, ruthlessly pragmatic strategy of simply winning power by whatever means necessary. It is not concerned with a dialogue of emancipation, or with regard to the progressive realization of rights and responsibilities. Its ideological position is that of control, and their strategic policy castrates the very possibility of true progressive change.
Why are we witnessing the rise of the DA in the current political landscape? The rise of the DA is linked to and representative of the growth of levels of debt within the black middle classes, and to some degree, the working class in South Africa. The levels of indebtedness now permeating the black middle class is so deeply entrenched that this class now replicates the existing super-structures of (largely white) existing capital. The rise of the DA is not, as their narrative indicates, the awakening of the masses to the perceived injustices and failures of ANC rule. It is perhaps indicative of this narrative that it now seeks to mythologize Helen Zille and no doubt, in time the party as a whole. The reality of the actual failures of ANC governance is well known already, although the actual success – and the ANC has been amazingly successful – of 22 years of ANC governance are not actually well known or understood. What we should also bear in mind is that – paradoxically and problematically- the rise of debt levels amongst the black middle and working classes is largely an indication of the success of the ANC government insofar as creating the conditions for this situation to arise. The problem that has been faced by the ANC here is that the ghosts of the 1996 Class Project are coming home to roost. What we are seeing with regard to the deep entrenchment of capital in South Africa and the stupendous debt levels currently present have captured the ability of members of the black middle and working class to vote in an effective way that represents their interests; instead they are captured into the national pro-business/pro-capital political economy. The middle class created by ANC governance has thus not become matured. This is the real problem in South Africa: namely that the victory of the DA at the local elections polls contextually means the victory of the debt-holders. The sinister reality is that the rise of the DA is the imposition of an inflexible bureaucracy so characterized by the DA’s rightist management style and the imposition of the DA’s pro-capital position. Finally, lest we forget an indebted society cannot realize itself as a democratic society in which there is a progressive realization of rights.
Instead of authentic political discourse, the rise of the rightist DA is to present the national political stage as theatre (appropriate to a party of the bourgeois): Gupta’s, Zuma and so forth. This recreates the repressive system of pre-existing capital by the creation of a phantasmagoric reality. It is the creation of fantasy in which this national drama becomes the arena of political engagement. The political issue is no longer the, for example, realization of basic human rights. This fantasy deliberately distorts reality such that the discussion of non-middle class issues (which are framed within the context of this reality) becomes not only impossible but nonsensical. The silent majority becomes further repressed and side-lined. The fantasy of the DA is that there is no day after the elections. Reality is ignored.
The rhetoric of the DA is that they can achieve their liberal vision only when the conditions of (current) impossibility are removed. But in so doing the ideological statement is that the condition of their own impossibility must be implemented and sustained: indeed – further – their ideology embraces a continual and unending situation in which the polemic of a parliamentary system of opposition is used to justify such an impossibility.