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The Eternal Rebel: Ronnie Kasrils
Posted on Jun 23, 2013
By Chris Hedges
“The corporate [state], as you say, they are the unseen force, but behind what?” he asked. “It’s behind the media, so to propagandize, and subject us to their world through the visual and the printed forms, and the way we’re educated, through the running of governments and getting their hands on the Appalachian minerals, but isn’t there potential? Doesn’t the Occupy movement show that there is energy there that can be tapped, that can be mobilized? That’s the challenge. It’s very, very difficult. I know.”
“The fact that we have a bourgeois democracy with the right to vote means that there must be the space to organize,” he said. “So we’ve got a situation in South Africa where things, I believe, are going wrong, where our ruling party is serving corporate elements and is being bribed and corrupted. It’s not so easy to mobilize people who see their only hope with the ANC and will use their vote for that, but in fact aren’t getting proper service from the ANC. Until there’s a force on the scene in South Africa to do better, people won’t vote otherwise. ... I wouldn’t [want to] see a repeat of what the Weathermen did in the late ’60s with the Black Panthers. Look how isolated they were as a result. If you’re going to take up arms as we did, it’s on the basis that in the end you will win, that you will isolate your adversary, and that you will win to your side the vast multitudes of people, not be isolated as so many armed struggles become, not only in Germany with the Baader Meinhof group or the Red Brigades of Italy.”
“This wave of jihadism is absolutely reactionary. ... They see certain problems with their culture, with Western domination,” he said. “It goes [to] more than just the culture … it’s all about the domination of the wealth of those countries. They’re using the wrong means here and bringing such incalculable suffering on their people. And I’m not blaming them for drone war, etc., but you’ve got to take this into account. They’re going about it in the absolutely wrong way. So to consider the use of violence in terms of resistance, it’s, in a sense, the highest form of struggle to use weapons when you can’t use any other forms of change. But you have to be so scientific, so clear in your goals and in your strategy and tactics if you want to use this. Otherwise, you’ll be absolutely smashed, and you’ll bring untold harm and devastation onto the heads of people, and a price that you can never pay.”
Kasrils in his autobiography tells of an incident involving a South African death squad led by the notorious killer and former police colonel Eugene de Kock. De Kock was the commanding officer of C1, a counterinsurgency unit of the South African police that in the 1980s and 1990s kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of anti-apartheid activists and ANC leaders. He and his hit squad had recently assassinated three of Kasril’s ANC comrades. Kasrils tracked de Kock, nicknamed “Prime Evil” and now serving a life sentence in South Africa, along with de Kock’s squad of killers, to a hotel. Kasrils organized a group of ANC insurgents to gun down the members of the hit squad there. De Kock and his men had left, however, before Kasrils and his party burst into the room where they had been. I asked Kasrils if he would, should the situation be repeated today, organize an armed group to kill de Kock and his hit men.
“I see this as similar to the French Resistance and the resistance in Europe against the Nazis,” he said. “So, you know there were the battles in the open, but most of the battles were by stealth. I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong in the battle of stealth against power when you are engaged in a war. They had killed, murdered in cold blood, three of our people in Swaziland. You’ve got to take harsh decisions at times, and this is in the context of an ongoing war there. … I put it within the context of a revolutionary war.” He said, nevertheless, that “when I look back and I meet some of these people who we fought before and I hear from them how they knew someone who died, I wish that that person didn’t have to die.”
“To go up in a war, a revolutionary war, to attack a barracks and blow it up with soldiers inside, you know they’re doing that to you—that’s warfare. Terrorism is the indiscriminate action against the civil population, unarmed people. And there were times there, probably 20, 30, 50, maybe, acts that took place in so many years where you could say that was an act of terror, where a bomb was put in a bar or a restaurant, but we stopped it as soon as that was taking place in the mid-’80s. Some of our elements, our units, did that in a very small-scale way. We came down upon it very quickly.”
“To have taken lives that way, I think, is coming down to the unspeakable level of your adversary, which you must not do,” he said. “And you lose the moral high ground in the process.”
He said that the ANC learned to differentiate between the apartheid regime and all other whites, even those whites who voted the apartheid leaders into power and backed their racist ideology.
“When people vote they often aren’t even really clear about why, and they do it out of fear,” he said. “So we were very careful in relation to that. But it was another thing if you were on the track of hit squads, of very vicious people who were taking our lives. You were actually saving lives if you could stop them.”
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