Bismarck famously and dryly said that politics is the art of the possible. A stoically Germanic interpretation of politics, and perhaps as reflective of wider-world politics as Germanic stoicism is of the wider world in general – not very. Were politics the art of the possible, our battle-scarred cynical selves would have come to expect so much more from it. Instead, politics seems more like the art of promising the impossible, but never quite achieving the plain old bare basics. Or, put more succinctly, politics is the art of audacious propaganda.
Humans have no verbiage like a politician adorned, not least when he’s fudging the vast chasm between hard reality and easy promises. The mark of the master politician’s art is not the capability of achieving what’s possible, but crafting clever propaganda to pilfer undeserved absolution for failed assurances.
Marxists, in particular, have always been skilful propagandists, and South Africa’s Marxist cabal of technocratic socialists have leapt at the opportunity to absolve themselves and wash their hands of South Africa’s economic mess – a mess they’ve had such a firm hand in creating with impressive systematic resolve. It is a masterstroke of political skill that Pravin Gordhan, Mcebisi Jonas, Rob Davies, and a gaggle of SA Communist Party apparatchiks should now slink away from the crime scene only to pop up on the other side of the police tape and join the chorus of critics. It was they who helped hoist President Zuma to power, who’ve been at the levers of the economy’s commanding heights for nearly a decade, and whose fingerprints are all over South Africa’s strangulating tax and regulatory apparatus.
As RW Johnson recently pointed out in a fabulous piece for PoliticsWeb, the SACP is not only wholly complicit in, if not chiefly responsible for, South Africa’s macroeconomic train wreck. It has – at best – for decades turned a blind eye to the ANC’s klepto-thuggery, if not dabbled quite liberally in it. The Marxists have also aided and abetted the long-standing ANC thieving through political support, but more perniciously through their design of an ever-evolving regulatory web subject to the discretionary rule of man. As Hayek pointed out in the Road to Serfdom, socialists, through their setting up of nodes of regulatory control, always pave the way for the thugs who would exploit it for the express purposes of plunder. It is why socialist states always end up as kleptocratic socialist states.
As if our wily Marxist friends were not audacious enough, they now appear to be trying to capture higher moral ground by seizing upon wayward corporations partly complicit in state corruption. Good Marxists never like to waste a good corporate crisis to evangelise the perceived moral legitimacy of their regulatory crusade. Of course, nefarious corporate behaviour cannot be condoned, but is the source of this behaviour not the state’s gushing fountain of graft the Marxists helped sculpt? And have those corporations not been savagely dealt with in the court of market discipline, which will likely dwarf any legal sanction that may yet come their way?
South African’s must remain vigilant to state capture and corporate complicity in it. But they must be equally aware of a cunning and politically-skilled cabal who would not only use propaganda for barefaced self-absolution, but would reinvent themselves as paragons of virtue and so gain unmerited, reborn legitimacy to pursue their hopeless socialist National Democratic Revolution and tighten their noose around already half-asphyxiated private enterprise.
Russell Lamberti is an economist and chief strategist at ETM Analytics