READING some of the latest ‘academic’ defenses of Lushaba in the ‘petit press’, one could be forgiven for thinking that he had delivered an important speech at UCT pronouncing on the supremacy of politics over law, utilising dialectical materialism to thoroughly debunk so-called legal institutional analysis, in the process setting the Holocaust in its rightful place, a mere peccadillo involving white people.
Both Chris Roper and Steven Robins are at pains to point out the context of a general critique of various approaches to the teaching of political science. While Roper’s is anything but a systematic contextualisation (in effect denying that the comments were even made), Robins errs on the side of rewriting the lecture altogether, as if the specific context of revolt against democratic and constitutional norms is all good and fine if one also raises substantive issues of colonial violence.
A case of competing frames of reference?
Robins erroneously writes: “As Roper indicates, the wider context of the lecture, and the logic of Dr Lushaba’s overall argument, do not in any way support Holocaust denial, and he certainly does not seek to argue that Hitler and the Nazis committed no crime in their acts of genocidal violence.”
“Instead, the lecture is a critical reflection of the racial blind spots of his discipline of political science, and why it was only after the Holocaust that genocide came to be recognised by scholars and human rights lawyers as a crime against humanity.”
If this were the case, then why did Lushaba not come right out with it, and say so, why beat around the bush? Why slip into an obnoxious, bigoted statement denying Hitler’s culpability for crimes against genocide, or should that be humanity? To use an ignoramus like Roper as an authority, would be to ignore his earlier statements made concerning Negritude and Césaire, a man whose work he rejected in a public address made in 1996, in the process claiming that the term itself was ‘racist’.
As I wrote previously, the result is not simply a moral vacuum in which the only historical crimes of any import are those against black persons, (and vice versa) but worse, a descent into reductionism, racial categorization and the logic of the late BJ Vorster, whose grey shirts were allied to the Nazi Party.
That Lushaba’s approach to political science provides short thrift to his subject matter, may be seen by the equally false claim that there are only three approaches worth considering. Check this page.
Equally problematic is his approach to proven facts like the 13th Amendment to the US constitution. Sorry Sir, while the amendment may have had the effect of extending the category of human being, it tragically did not state so in its wording. The same error appears in Roper’s fatuous piece devoid of truth yet upbraiding the media for breaking the story.
This shoddy approach to evidence-based research in favour of polemic and opinion-making easily embraces racist bile.
While I agree with Robins: “the lecture raises substantive issues about the relationship between the Holocaust and black histories of colonial violence that are certainly worthy of academic and public debate”, I categorically disagree with its intention and true purpose.
The trouble with his long-winded mitigation argument, sans facts, is the obvious attempt to drown out objections. Thus it is not what Lushaba actually says, and what is recorded, but rather an intellectual interpretation of events, one which seeks to spin an obvious faux pas, which passes for a response. In exhalting Hitler’s purported innocence, and ignoring that the intended audience are not pHd candidates per se, but rather first year students, both gaslight instead of enlightening the public. His students deserve a lot better than lies.
“One possible charitable interpretation of Dr Lushaba’s comment is that he understands the word “crime” quite literally to mean a legally proscribed, punishable offence and that he was claiming that under Nazi law it was not a crime to kill Jews” writes David Benatar.
To add fuel to fire, Lushaba proceeds to claim our objections are in the minority, blames the media, and stands by his words. One would at very least expect an apology, but that would mean climbing down from his seemingly ‘unassailable’ academic pedestal, a pedestal from which he has seen fit to launch racist invective.
There are undoubtedly many valid criticisms of racism and colonialism, however, a critique of racism which concludes that in order to combat racism, one has to suppress women, or homosexuals for instance, would not be a valid critique.
Similarly, a criticism of traditional approaches to political science, a critique which starts by inferring all law is subordinate to politics, but then falsely concludes the findings of war crimes made under Nuremberg were wrong, is not an educated segue into modernist and post-modernist discourse, but rather, a moribund approach to dialectical materialism, one which invariably leads into antinomian and relativistic terrain.
It is the exact same terrain in which our own TRC findings have been subordinated and reduced to irrelevance by political cadres and apparatchiks of Lushaba’s ilk, emanating from our nation’s academic institutions.
Time to call a spade a spade.