Revolutionary Speaking – President’s Weekly Column – Volume 1 Issue 23

Vol 1: Issue 23
10 March 2023
In recent times we are witnessing a mushrooming of organisations that claim to believe in the Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy.  Naturally, we should be delighted when the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) is growing.  However, there are questions about this growth.
The association of BC with the #FeesMustFall Movement was organic and with no ulterior motives.  Despite theoretical and institutional challenges, the eruption of that Movement was indeed a positive development that could be characterised as the growth of the BCM.  There is therefore no doubt that there are organisational establishments that could be said to represent a positive development in the BCM.  Such establishments may be responding to the sectoral gaps in the stratification of society, whereas others may be of a strategic nature.
A sectoral example was the formation of the Union of Black Journalists (UBJ) before the 1977 banning of the BCM organisations, and the formation of the Azanian Youth Organisation (AZAYO) after the banning.  One was addressing the institutional gap in the journalist sector, while the other was doing the same in the youth sector within the context of the BCM.  The Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO) was formed to fill the sectoral void left by the banning of SASO.  No sooner had AZASO been formed than it had veered off the BC ideological path to associate with the Congress Movement and adopt the Freedom Charter.  AZASO became schizophrenic for some time.  For instance, it attacked and ridiculed the reference to our land and country as Azania, yet it was a students organisation of Azania.  In this regard, the formation the Azanian Students Movement (AZASM) to replace the ideologically stillborn AZASO was a positive moment of growth and development in the BCM.
There are instances occasioned by personal differences, clashes and egos where BC organisations have been formed to duplicate and compete with the existing ones.  That is a negative development that cannot be categorised as positive growth in the BCM.  The logical result is an overdrawn destructive competition characterised by an unfortunate exchange of insults and attempts to sabotage each other’s attempt to build the Movement of Biko.  Though unity is necessary as a matter of principle, such unity does not represent growth in the BCM.  It would merely amount to a corrective attempt to deal with the self-inflicted destabilisation of the BCM.
The scenarios delineated above still fall short to qualify as an instance of the appropriation of BC.  AZASO didn’t appropriate BC, it denounced the philosophy.  While AZASO presented a migration from the BCM into the Congress Movement, there is a recent phenomenon where politically disgruntled and organisationally stranded members of the Congress Movement organisations leave to form counter-organisations to express their resentment with their suspensions or expulsions from their beloved Movement.  They soon appropriate BC and Biko and play in the political space left vacant by an emasculated BCM.  That appropriation includes symbols like songs and the Black Power Fist.  However, the political and ideological dissonance becomes so enduring that these political forces continue to embrace both the BC philosophy and the Freedom Charter document.  The foregoing scenario is characterised by a conflict in its political nostalgia and the desperation to appropriate BC symbols to upstage the political home from which some activists were “excommunicated”. 
As if this appropriation of BC was not enough, an eyebrows-raising phenomenon is in the offing.  In fact, white people expelled by the ANC have moved with speed to form “a BC organisation” with that Black Power Fist symbol and Biko.  The political nostalgia of an expelled “loyal cadre of the ANC” soon surfaces when all the ANC heroes and heroines overcrowd and suffocate Biko.  For obvious contradictory reasons, the T-Shirt of that organisation had to be white to make an underlying statement in the subconscious mind of its white founders.
However, we have to be careful to resist the temptation to be either fixated or cynical.  The forming of a so-called “BC organisation” by a white liberal expelled by his organisation presents us with a political conundrum to solve.  Can white people join BC organisations?  BC organisations generally have their membership open to Black people only.  This position was not thumb-sucked.  It was a result of a sober and thorough political analysis.  Black people were defined as those that were (by law or tradition) politically oppressed, economically exploited and socially discriminated against in the Azanian context.  The definition added that the people so defined had to identify and operate as a group to fight for their own liberation.  We were cautioned that this definition was not all-inclusive, and nor was it based on the essentialism of the complexion of their skin.  There were Black people whose blackness was disqualified by their aligning with the interests of the enemy against those of their fellow Black people.  That is why the puppets of the white settler-colonial regime like Matanzima, Mphephu, Sebe and others were not regarded as Black people.  They were non-whites.  Their aspirations were white, but their skin colour betrayed them and made acceptance into the white community almost impossible.
A deeper analysis of BC will reveal that colour is not dismissed all together in appreciating the Black Condition.  While we emphasised that “Black” was the colour of our politics rather than the colour of our skin, we never forgot to emphasise in the same breath that we were not colour-blind.  It cannot be some Freudian slip that Biko wrote: “Black Consciousness is in essence the realization by the Black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin…”  The reference to “man” is not an indication of Biko’s gender insensitivity, but a result of using the English language with its intrinsic gender limitations at the time.
Biko left nothing to chance.  He dedicated an essay on “that bunch of do-gooders who define their participation in negative terms”.  Those were white liberals who sought to join our BC organisations.  However, the SASO Policy Manifesto explained that the exclusion of whites from the BC organisation was based not on principle, but strategy.  This meant that the BCM was not anti-white.  While whites were not welcome to join the BC organisations, the room was wide open for them to form their own organisations and join the struggle for the liberation of Black people and an egalitarian society.
If the exclusion of whites was based on strategy, it means that there might come a time when that strategy becomes irrelevant and obsolete.  The 1994 General Elections that were conducted on a universal suffrage ushered in a democratic dispensation.  There was a new Constitution with a Bill of Rights.  That Constitution forced political parties to be “multiracial” or “nonracial”, if you like.  Apartheid was increasingly being removed from the statute book.  Black people were entitled to vote and be voted for.  They were now Presidents, Ministers, Premiers and Councillors.   The ruling party was a predominantly black organisation.  Could these be the new circumstances that warranted a review of the exclusion of whites from the BC organisations?  The answer is in the affirmative.  BC is a dynamic philosophy.
That notwithstanding, AZAPO believes the changes ae somewhat cosmetic if you consider the fundamental demands of the liberation.  The land remains elusive.  The ruling class is white, and it owns and controls almost the entire wealth of our country.  Racism escaped from the statute books to take refuge in the structures and systems of society.  That is what we call institutional racism.  Settler-colonialism has undergone some dangerous metamorphosis to hide in neocolonialism and coloniality.  Oppenheimer and his ill-begotten wealth hides behind a protective and ever-smiling Ramaphosa.  The structurally guaranteed wealth and income of white people ensures that they will live in the leafy suburbs, while Black people are condemned and dumped in the townships and shacks. 
As a matter of fact, the circumstances that necessitated the exclusionary strategy are still intact, if not worse.  The status quo justifying and validating the exclusionary strategy remains.  The recent case we are presented with is not just a discarded white liberal seeking to join a BC organisation.  It is a tricky one of that political reject forming a so-called “BC organisation”.  He could do that because he was embraced by some BC organisations for the “RET” political makeup he put on.  It was a really thick and muddy one that hoodwinked and politically wrong-footed some of our Comrades.  As the political situation stands, and emerging from outside the Black Condition, it is politically and ideologically impossible for a white liberal to form a Black Consciousness political outfit.  That is nothing more than a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to appropriate BC.
These attempts to appropriate BC speak to the need for political vigilance and the fortification of the Movement of Biko.  It was not for nothing that the founders of AZAPO as the institutional continuation of the banned BCM organisation deliberately posited AZAPO as the custodian of BC and Biko.  The political mission to #ReLioniseAZAPO should now make more sense.