Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Left Masthead
October 9, 2015
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Rad American Women A-Z

Truthdig Bazaar more items

Print this item

The Eternal Rebel: Ronnie Kasrils

Posted on Jun 23, 2013
Screenshot via "Democracy Now!"

Ronnie Kasrils.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 3)

“The rise under capitalism of Western Europe is directly, as a result of the ability, time and place, to colonize what we call the developing world today: Africa, Asia, Latin America. It’s on that basis that the empires of Europe, and then of America—North America—grow.”

And as nations are re-colonized, the forms of control become more sophisticated.

“Every single dictatorship builds up the surveillance mechanisms and the control system of its society, of its people,” Kasrils said. “Right throughout history—from ancient times—it becomes absolutely necessary the moment the state based on classes emerges. So the slaves are kept under control. Fear is put into their hearts on a minute-to-minute basis. The sword, the ax, is always over your head, and that applies in modern times where it’s not just the club over your head but it’s also the other threats of losing job, losing profession, of being ruined or being thrown onto the streets.”

“People fear what they see emerging,” he said. “It has happened before under McCarthyism, communist witch hunting in Europe, Britain. So, to keep people in line, whether it’s schoolboys under disciple or sailors on the deck of a ship, or the unemployed, or the factory worker, there’s always been that element of fear to control, to reinforce the control through socialization, education and the hegemony of ruling-class thought, prayer, religion and so on. But in history, as Spartacus or any rebel movement shows, and as we’ve seen in the Arab Spring—Tunisia and Egypt are the particular models—the point comes when people lose fear. That emerged very starkly in the police state of [Hosni] Mubarak. Fear was everywhere. People didn’t dare to speak or to step out of line. The few rebels were always crushed on the torturer’s wheel, their tongues cut out, metaphorically, sometimes actually in reality. So the contradictions of the few ruling the many in terms of injustice brings to my mind the great lines of Shelley, the poet, at the time of the Peterloo Massacre, ‘Rise from your slumbers like lions, we are many they are few.’ [Paraphrase.] And, you know, when I read that I was amazed at the similarity in South Africa when in 1976 young people, 12-year-olds, teenagers in the schools, rose against the apartheid police state, with all of the fear factor, including that of the myth of white supremacy, and were prepared to take it on in the streets and were prepared to die, and those who weren’t shot down were prepared to look for the organizational form to fight back and instead of stones to seek guns and bullets. The ANC was the organization that they turned to because it had always been the rebel organization. It had never died, it was always there and always strove to resist. So, fear, as we’ve seen, can keep people in check for many, many years. Decades. And there comes a time when the system breaks, when the weakest link snaps, and people suddenly lose fear and find courage and stand up. And that’s what we’re seeing.”


Square, Site wide

“I recall in the long, dark years of our struggle against apartheid where we were being hammered, or imprisoned, or we were in exile, and we would always speculate what would start the fire again,” he said. “And it’s like what’s happened actually as we speak in the square in Istanbul. Quite a small, insignificant square, which was the only parkland with trees in a huge district. And young people and old people wanted to defend this park as one of their lungs. We’re reading about it as we speak and seeing it on our TV screens this very day. That’s a kind of poetic beauty about rebellion and revolution. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s that dialectic—the drip of water that wears away a stone. What is it? This is where you use the term ‘mystery.’ It’s happening over many, many years. It’s wearing away a chain that’s imprisoning people. It’s melting somehow. It’s breaking the fetters. And that happens suddenly from a trigger like the demand, the protection of the park, and the Turkish despot, [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, saying, ‘No matter what you do or say, the development of the shopping area on your blessed park is going ahead.’ And that’s just one bridge too far.”

“You’ve got to be organized,” he said. “You’ve got to have a program of action. You’ve got to have a strategy about your tactics and who is the enemy, and what are you going to replace the system with.”

Although Kasrils embraced violence against the apartheid state he is very hesitant about employing violence against the corporate state. But he sees oppression, if finally left unchecked, as justifying the use of force by the rebel. He quoted John F. Kennedy’s dictum: “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

“When you get to a point where it’s impossible to make change in any other way, then violent means comes on the agenda, revolutionary struggles,” Kasrils said. “I wouldn’t speak for [the] American people. Certainly in a democracy where everybody has the right to vote at every level from national to local, isn’t it then a question of the extent to which you … use your space and the opportunities of organizing people against particular obstructions, against injustice of whatever form, and electing the people who can do the job?”

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network