Thursday, 23 June 2011

Graham Philpott introduces S'bu Zikode's Foreword to Nigel Gibson's 'Fanonian Practices in South Africa'

Zikode's powerful contribution is the Foreword to Nigel Gibson's Fanonian Practices in South Africa (2011). Reflecting on the relationship between Fanon and the 'living politics' of the South African shack-dweller movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, Zikode reckons that "Fanon discovered what we [in the Abahlali] have discovered ...: if you are serious about victory, about succeeding to humanise the world, even a little bit, then your struggle ... must be owned and shaped in thought and in action by ordinary men and women".

With Fanon, and against elites on the political left and right, Abahlali insist that everyone can think. And so they share a radical definition of democracy as "the rule of the people and not the rule of experts... - a daily practice of the people". Zikode proceeds to weave together key Fanonian insights with the principles and practices that have emerged in Abahlali's 'daily practice' of struggle and mobilisation in contemporary South Africa. He outlines how the movement has had to distinguish between forms of leftism: a regressive one that expects the poor to obey the instructions of middle-class activists and academics, and a progressive one that shares the assumption that everyone thinks, and supports the struggles of the poor as they are defined and led by the poor themselves. He discusses why sustaining a living politics requires always thinking about the bigger meaning of particular struggles - and remarks that this is harder to do, but just as important, at times of heightened repression and crisis for a movement. He insists that individual freedom and collective liberation cannot be separated, but points out that there is a dominant tendency to privatise liberation and individualise our imagination of freedom.

"Our daily political practice is our humble attempt to continue the struggle to fulfil the striving for freedom and justice that people like Biko and Fanon wrote about" - Zikode.

Click here to read S'bu Zikode's preface to Nigel Gibson's 'Fanonian Practices in South Africa'