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Comrades Without Irony

For as long as I can remember, I have been dealing with lefter-than-thou comrades and more-authentically-revolutionary-than-thou types. Their judgemental bullshit has been harsh and unwavering. Their righteous certainty without irony.

#ZumaMustFall protesters clash with BLF. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
#ZumaMustFall protesters clash with BLF. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

And, yet, among those very comrades I have seen (and continue to see) men fuck female and queer comrades over in the name of the struggle against racist oppression. I have seen comrades sell comrades out to the cops and now to corrupt businessmen and politicians.

I have seen comrades take the moral high ground as they assumed power in the country only to waste no time in handing it over to big business.

I have seen radical comrades settle down in the suburbs and corporate boardrooms, doing a full 180 on their youthful radicalism. Today’s young radicals think that it will not happen to them, but already we are seeing a repetition of the complicit non-intersectional modes of thinking playing themselves out in the battle of the hashtags. This is much too familiar.

I have seen comrades adopt black radical modes of speech and seize every possible photo opportunity, while ignoring social movements that are attempting to counter the detail of neoliberal economics’ everyday violence on the ground – one eviction at a time, one court battle against duplicitous public officials and corporates at a time.

I have seen comrades make judgement calls along the lines of affiliations and self-interest, as opposed to a commitment to social justice.

So, tell me, who is more revolutionary? Who claims ownership over the revolution – ironically, in an age where ideas can be owned as if they are tangible property in a neoliberal era where everything can be commodified?

Even radical left-wing politics can be commodified. Who will win the battle to serve as the next ‘conveyor belt for capitalism’?

I am reminded of a performance by spoken word artist Caco (aka Kultuur aka Tricky Tiger aka Etlone Rainja aka Dr Marlon Swai) at the Urban Voices spoken word festival about a decade ago:

“Viva revolution, viva!
Viva revolution, viva!
Wie? Waa?
The revolution has me doing 360 degrees…”


  • Adam Haupt writes about film, media, culture and copyright law. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town and is the author of Stealing Empire: P2P, Intellectual Property and Hip-Hop Subversion (HSRC Press, 2008) and Static: Race & Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media & Film (HSRC Press, 2012). In 2010, he was a Mandela Mellon Fellow at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

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