Michael Neocosmos, The Politics of Fear and the Fear of Politics:
This politics of fear which finds its origins fundamentally within the apparatuses of power, has been complemented since the 1990s by a fear of politics, ie. the unwillingness or the inability of popular politics, with a few exceptions, to break away systematically from a state politics of fear.
The context is a discussion of xenophobic pogroms - attacks on “non-indigenous” Africans - in the South African townships. Xenophobia, fear of the foreigner, feeds on the state discourse which identifies the foreigner as such, which supplies the template for recognising the foreigner in our midst (foreigners “over there” form an indiscernible mass: there is no foreigner amidst the foreign).
Passive citizenship, the expectation of delivery from the state, the fear of criticism, self-censorship, the culture of uncritical celebration have all been noted at one time or another as obstacles to political thought. A fear of contesting authority, kowtowing to those in power, the politics of cramming “our people” into positions, all this has lead not only to a demarcation between ethnic and other identities capable of “delivering”, but also to a politics of the exclusion of others as a standard/ normal practice. The exclusion of alternatives (economic, political or intellectual) constitutes the dominant practice. The fear of responding to the politics of fear in a critical and organised manner, to say no to treating people differently, to say yes to maintaining a firm point that all must be treated equally by power; the absence of all this constitutes the fear of politics, the fear of political agency by all of us.
I would like to underlike critical and organised. The fear of politics is a fear of crisis (splitting, krinein), of the antagonism that arises when the possibility of an alternative is broached; and it is a fear of organisation, of any form of political discipline that is not immediately subsumable by that of the state.
Michael Neocosmos talks about an “alternative politics of peace and equality”. This politics of peace is not a passive politics: passivity means acceding to the politics of fear, which targets the foreigner for exploitation and violence. Nor is this politics of equality an impartial politics: impartiality means permitting fascism to monopolise discourse in order to dominate and silence others. Peace and equality require a militant politics, which separates itself from the state and develops its own positive political thought, upholding through all struggles and contradictions the “firm point” on which it is based. This is what the state cannot deliver; this is what we must do.