Opinion

OPINION: Fallism and its discontents

Nkateko Mabasa

The idea that the colonial system that this world is founded on and all its institutional appendages must fall, is an idea that those who believe in the true liberation of the African people, long to see fulfilled. And yet beyond that, when the world is turned upside down, what will rise from the ashes? What world does fallism imagine for Africa?

It is the stuff of dreams to wish for an Africa unscathed by colonization – a Wakanda country that has not known dispossession and enslavement. This tabula rosa of an Earth, that provides a clean slate with which to shape our lives however we like, with the agency denied to us for so long, is a preoccupation that takes away from the real work of the day. It is, in all honesty, the musings of those who dream during the day and romanticise about the past – this too can also be an escape to the ever-present pain of blackness.

That which should be the subject of our discussions, our thoughts and theorising should be what, after all has fallen, will this world look like. It is this vision, that is not commonly held, that puts many in an uneasy position when it comes to fallism.

Though one might be dissatisfied with the status quo and one might also be well aware of the exploitative nature of a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchal society, there is more fear of the unknown. Better to deal with the devil you know and the one you do not (although one can never truly know the devil).

I have heard the argument, here and there, spoken, on how although #FeesMustFall had grand and noble plans, ultimately it failed. And the cause for this failure, they say, is because of “those ones”: the co-opted and celebrity activists – the sellouts.

Some politically affiliated and business connected small group of students who were part of the movement, are said to have received financial kickbacks and party positions. And the cost for this pact with the devil, was either information or infiltration to derail the movement, especially its more revolutionary ideas propagated by PASMA.

That #FeesMustFall achieved its goal is, of course, a gross misrepresentation of reality. Students were fighting for far more than the decommodification of education. Free University education was part of a number of other critical issues in the entire programme.

And the highest item on the agenda was making coloniality, masquerading as advanced and modern education, fall – once and for all.  The ivory towers themselves were being put into question. They must justify their legitimacy in knowledge production and subsequently their authority over the African child. What students are being taught should fall.

With just only free education secured, which will be phased in annually, the results are more students gaining access to the western hegemonic thought that prepares one to only be a foot soldier for the capitalism that is at the heart of fees.

What #FeesMustFall has won is colonial indoctrination for free. And to credit its failure to the “career activists” is not only a false assessment of the situation but disingenuous and an inability to read the ground.

#FeesMustFall got to a point where it was not getting mass support from the student populace. A combination of the violence acted on students by private security and the police, coupled with protest fatigue and more severe psychological trauma, collectively affected students’ participation in the movement. But the most basic and yet paramount reason was a loss of a popular approval from the students on the ground.

In the latter months of the protests, more and more activists and political societies stood alone as they tried to rouse season 3 of #FeesMustFall. The student populace soon quickly went back to class, tired and scared of any of the more things from the year before. They went back to their daily lives regardless of the absence of results from their hard activism and their passionate protest.

A continued struggle needs more than just overwhelming rage at the status quo but a deep rooted conviction for nothing but true justice.

In this category, of those seeking true justice, one can only find the pan-african movement in contemporary student politics and South African history. Those chaps whose organisation was built solely on principle. When the ANC decided to cross a revolutionary line by adopting the Freedom Charter in 1955, they said no. With two roads diverging in the yellowood, they took the path less trodden.

They never lost track of the fact that Africa would not be free if the African cannot decide on her own terms, without economic or psychological meddling from others, to do as she wishes with her own land. She must feel the value of ownership and touch the works of her hands. Without trepidations that she is working for another or it does not belong to her and it will be taken away.

This is freedom from fear. It is the joy that comes from doing work that is fulfilling and creative.  A final respite from the parasite of white supremacy. Is this not what we aspire to achieve, that more perfect society?

And yet Fallism in my estimation can never lead us to this. Not only is it short-sighted in approach, it is pegged on an emotion that has little milage – anger. Though anger is justified and in most cases appropriate, when used as a unifying force it can present some shortcomings.

It may be a strong emotion able to galvanise people quickly to an issue but it moves as fast as a fire from a pile of twigs. It does not last. One can get to a point where after fighting for something to fall they can get discouraged if there is nothing to build.

To borrow from a certain poet, all of us at one point or another, find ourselves in a place where we wonder whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer, silently, the slings and arrows of blackness or to take arms against a sea of trouble for liberation? And by opposing this system, we end it. This is a dream devoutly to be wished.

There is however a rub that makes cowards of us all. When we have shuffled off this colonial garb and in that great rest of sleep after fallism, what dreams may come? What awaits us in the great beyond? In that undiscovered country, from which after no traveller may return. Ah, there’s the respect, that makes us pause.

It is through the fear of the unknown, that one’s resolve is infected by a sickness of the soul: a despair caused by looking into the deep and dark abyss that fallism might create. And from there, action is lost.

Since Rhodes fell at UCT, has there been any statue placed there to celebrate any revolutionary heroine? or was it just anger over Rhodes and not a love for justice?

A vision of the society we want to create, even from the ashes, and a clear path of how to do it, can inspire and hold conviction. People need this for the days when, as another poet writes, in their solitary heart they sit, with no good dreams in their mind’s eye, and the bare heath of life presents no bloom, that sweet hope shall drive despondency as the morning frightens the night.

There are many students who were advocating for this. They figured that a strong ideological position will be the foundation for creating systems to replace the old ones. They engaged in intellectual discussions and debates over the times we are in and what the movement must do to achieve them. These brave students chose to integrate Pan-Africanism, Black Radical Feminism and Black Consciousness to move beyond just making things fall without something rising or a vision of it.

Alas, it got to a point where student activists saw the dwindling numbers in their ranks. Their option was to resort to disrupting classes, kick students out in the hopes that they will join. Campuses across the country were to shutdown until demands are met. But the campus is not made of several hundred students but the total student populace. And if they stay away and no longer want to protest, it is a sign that new methods are required.

This was a gross miscalculation. When the anger subsides, for a minute or a week, revolutionary principle of the Azania we seek to build in the aftermath, should prevail to inspire resistance to oppression. Struggle songs help in this case. Not only are they about mourning our loss and pain but they speak of the Africa we envision and seek to rebuild.

But without a clear and detailed programme on how to achieve this, especially in a complex market dependent world we are in, it makes the impact of these songs ineffective.  

Within the movement there are those who have suckled revolutionary ideas from the nipple of their parents, their struggle stalwart uncles and radical communities.

For most student millennials, they grew up believing in the rainbow nation of Mandela and the ANC. With this in mind, to win them over to revolutionary work requires more than just anger at the system. It requires consciousness of the bond in our Africaness, the heritage of historical dispossession and the vision of a united and free Africa.

This takes patient political education to instruct the convicted and gently reprove those who contradict themselves, in the hope that they may, in their interaction with whiteness, come to the knowledge of the truth.  As sister instructs brother over her oppression and his part in it, the African child will soon come to herself. This approach positions the students as saviours of themselves instead of a few elite activists.

It is better to have a long continued struggle for the right thing rather than a quick victory for a few concessions by a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchal system.

I invite all those who make it their life’s work to think about uprooting colonization and the rise of Azania, to think of the how of things. How do we rebuild when we have declared our independence from capitalism. It must not be a wishful thinking catchphrase but something translatable to an economic plan or legislation.

Education to us, of course, as always meant service to Africa. Izwe Lethu 

 

Nkateko Mabasa is a dropout and former student of Wits University and UJ. He is currently an intern at The Daily Maverick. And serves as a member of the PAC Johannesburg Central branch. His three great loves are God, literature and politics. And looks forward to the upcoming revolution and the demise of the White-Supremacist-Capitalist-Patriarchal society.

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