REVOLUTION POSTPONED: Please protect your privilege

The System of our capitalist democracy isn’t broken, it’s working exactly as intended, keeping us oppressed, writes IOL Editor Lance Witten.

The System of our capitalist democracy isn’t broken, it’s working exactly as intended, keeping us oppressed, writes IOL Editor Lance Witten.

Published Jul 2, 2024


South Africans rejected revolution at the polls.

This was evident by the May 29 elections resulting in a drop in support for the Economic Freedom Fighters, and the Freedom Charter-based ANC.

I was most impressed by the EFF’s build-up to the elections and the conduct and utterances of leader Julius Malema in the subsequent Government of National Unity (GNU) talks.

There is a level of maturity displayed by the EFF that defies the memory of the upstart rabble-rousing party that first emerged 10 years ago.

Its 2024 elections manifesto makes for fantastic left-wing reading. It’s inspiring. It appears to be the only party committed to redress.

Sadly, there are only a handful of socialist governments that have come into power through democratic elections, and many of these have strayed from their founding principles due to the endemic corrupt elite class that inevitably develops.

This leaves the bulk of socialist governments to come into power through revolution. These are not spared the ills of corrupt elites either.

Revolution happens when the majority of us who are not the corrupt elite, rise up against The System, once we realise and understand that The System cannot be fixed.

What is The System?

We live in a capitalist democracy, and for capitalism to thrive, there must be inequality.

The billionaire class does not exist in a vacuum. It can only exist where an exploited class remains oppressed. There can be no equality in a system driven by capitalism, where the electorate uses the machinery of democracy to further entrench that system.

There are political actors who claim they can “fix the system”, sure, but the reality is this: The System is not broken. The System is working exactly as it is meant to.

The System of oppression will continue to thrive where a large majority of us vote to protect our privilege.

So if The System can’t be fixed, what then is the solution? The short answer is that it must be dismantled. But is revolution the only way to do so?

Alas, the revolution in South Africa has been postponed.

South Africans have voted to protect their privilege, and the GNU and the new, bloated Cabinet announced on Sunday night by President Cyril Ramaphosa is further evidence that hard work is going into privileges being protected.

Don’t get me wrong — I grappled with this myself when standing in the voting booth on May 29.

Every fibre of my being was telling me to vote for change, vote for a complete overhaul of The System, vote for the left, every socialist molecule of my body urging me to put my cross where it would make a difference.

And as a resident of Cape Town, a privileged middle class man living in a leafy suburb, bombarded by the DA’s PR machine screaming about clean audits, good governance, functioning municipalities, effective service delivery, doubt crept into my revolutionary mind.

But effective service delivery for whom? For me, in my leafy suburb, sure. What if that service delivery stopped? What if the Revolutionary Party didn’t put my needs above the needs of the lower classes if they came into power?

I pay my rates and taxes. I deserve better, because I contribute more to the fiscus. My existence is more valuable than those people who protest. My needs are more important than theirs. They can’t keep their surroundings clean. Everything they are given is squandered and destroyed.

My fellow South Africans, that is our privilege talking. That is The System in glorious action.

So we resist National Health Insurance. We entertain a party in the GNU that is against minimum wage and redress, and allow them to make demands and call the shots. We perpetuate the privilege. We postpone the revolution.

What is so wrong with overcoming our addiction to privilege and completely revolutionising The System?

I’d love to live in a country where my chances of surviving cancer or a car crash don’t depend on my access to private medical care; where my ability to provide for my family isn’t dependent on private school education; where the majority of the residents don’t have to spend around 40% of their salaries on transport to work; where minimum wage is liveable; where fundamental basic rights like access to water, electricity and WiFi are enshrined at every level of government ...

What’s so wrong with a Welfare State? It works for Sweden, why not here?

There are fundamental changes that need to happen, and those changes, as the horse-trading that led us to this GNU Cabinet has proven, are not going to come from our government — they need to come from us.

We’re in for a rough ride yet, and without revolution, our inequality gap is only going to widen. How long before you find yourself no longer in a position of privilege, and find yourself among those people struggling to just survive?

* Lance Witten is the Editor of IOL