What makes us revolutionary?
It's a question that has plagued me for some time now, particularly with the rise of the Fallists. What makes a revolutionary? What makes one person radical and another unprogressive?
The question came up again on Wednesday night when I attended a leftist discussion in Cape Town, "Zanufication or Renewal: Whither the ANC?".
Hosted by the Alternative Information and Development Centre through its media arm, Amandla! Media, I was surrounded by socialists, well-known activists, and Fallists. People I consider to be revolutionary were there: one of the last great journalists, Zubeida Jaffer; Tony Ehrenreich; and Jeremy Cronin, to name a few.
It was Cronin's presence on the panel that seemed to prove problematic to at least one young, black female.
According to her brief statement (I want to emphasise "brief" because I had not taken the time to discuss the point with her afterwards as I rushed out), Cronin was a white, middle-class man who had no place discussing economic transformation.
Forget his commitment to socialism. Forget his vocal stance against both Zuma and corrupt white capitalists. Forget his contribution to the liberation struggle and his arrest under the Terrorism Act in ’76.
In one sentence, this man was reduced to a "white, middle-class man". I clapped for her statement on the lack of female representation on the panel. But for this, I felt deflated. Deflated because if race and income – despite the class with which one identifies and a stellar record of activism - disqualifies one from contributing, then how do we ever mobilise?
What boxes need to be checked in order to render us suitable for truly transformative work?
Is it enough to be female? Is it enough to proudly be part of the LGBTIQA community? Is it enough to support BDS-led boycotts? And, is it enough to be black?
Because if so, then I am Vilma Espin by simply being.
Fortunately, another panellist at the AIDC discussion, EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, seemed to have the answer for me. No, it is not enough to be any singular thing and call yourself revolutionary or even, conscious and progressive.
More must be done. You must - at least in my opinion and through a socialist-leaning lens - work for the rightful rise of all the oppressed groups which includes females / the feminine, the LGBTIQA community, Palestine, the working class, blacks, Arabs, indigenous people, the trans community, those with disabilities, the homeless, refugees, and so on.
It is, in my belief, in this that we find true revolution; in the acknowledgement that all beings must be treated equally. That is the necessity, the non-negotiable.
It is in an egalitarian framework that we find true revolution and true revolutionaries. It is the same place we'd find Castro, Gool, Biko, Fanon, and Kriel. It is herein - should he act on his criticism of Zuma and his ilk - that Cronin resides.
And hopefully, it’s the framework in which we will find the revolutionaries of our own generation, committed to equality for all.
Carla Bernardo is a student of African Politics proudly from a predominantly working class family. She's moved from journalism to communications, allowing her to publicly support Reclaim the City and declare her love for Fidel Castro.