Terror, Fetish, Fantasy, and Reification

Violence and Meaning in the Namibian Independence Movement

by Andrew J. Perrin1

This is it!

Banner Headline

This newspaper, which has also been instrumental in the fight for a free and independent Namibia, wishes to extend congratulations to all our countrymen and women - especially those who sacrificed in the fight for the right to control their own destiny - on this, the greatest day in our history. May all your expectations be fulfilled.

The Namibian, Special Independence edition: March 20-22, 1990

Namibian independence came about in 1990 after a quarter-century of civil war and international concern. In the eyes of western governments, independence was the end product of years of multilateral negotiations among the U.S., South Africa, Angola, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. The Namibian independence movement, though, which had fought a protracted civil war and an international political campaign for independence, saw the independence process somewhat differently. For them, it was the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) and the independence coalition surrounding it that forced Namibian independence onto the agenda of Africa and the international community.

It is difficult to contradict the latter interpretation fully; SWAPO and its predecessors managed to keep Namibia on the international agenda when such a small and seemingly insignificant country could reasonably be expected to disappear. The independence coalition and international solidarity with it made the territory much more costly for South Africa to maintain than it would otherwise have been, thus making it more reasonable for South Africa to give up.

The Namibian, an independent populist newspaper, was both a crucial member of the independence coalition and a symbol of the overall diversity of that coalition. Founded in 1985 as a self-proclaimed "independent" newspaper, The Namibian sought at once to report the news as an objective media outlet and to support Namibian independence through the passage of United Nations Resolution 435. The paper explicitly refused to support SWAPO, choosing to remain fiercely independent and critical of all participants in the electoral process: "We did what we believed in, and it happened to coincide with SWAPO" (Lister, Interview 478-9).2

This paper is concerned mainly with The Namibian's coverage of national affairs during the period from 1985-88. The coverage focused on two key story types: detailed accounts of acts of terrorism by the occupying forces, mainly in the north; and statements, interviews, and other coverage of SWAPO and its allies both inside Namibia and abroad. The Namibian's conduct during that period played two different, perhaps even contradictory, roles, each integrally related to the other. The first, positive role was to peel off the veil of mystery that surrounds terror; the paper reported the minute details of scores of incidents, exposing their perpetrators and effectively rendering acts intended to instill terror little more than incidents of routine, if nevertheless vicious, violence. The second role was to characterize "independence" as the not-terror, the negation of terror. Namibians were encouraged to reify independence, imagining United Nations Resolution 435 as the keystone of a Namibian fantasy, free of the troubles articulated daily in the pages of the "Paper for the People."3

Terror and violence seemed remote to most residents of white Windhoek, who "never seemed to leave the sanctuary of their mansions ringed with barbed wire unless it was in the air-conditioned comfort of their expensive cars" (Lush, Last Steps 14). In that context, the constant revelations of atrocities -- while not intended "to push propaganda SWAPO's way, although that happened automatically" (Lister, Interview 474-6) -- constituted a constant reminder to Windhoek-based leaders and international observers that the violence of the occupation was real. "We felt it was also important," said Lister (Language 59), "to try and reach the people of the south of the country, many of whom were unaware of what was happening in the besieged north...." At the same time, as we will see below, the paper's anchoring of otherwise faceless violence to specific agents helped remove the veil of mystery that otherwise would have surrounded the attacks.

The Namibian, like other papers in the southern African liberal tradition, found itself in an odd position. Its stated and practiced commitment was to objective, factual reporting of the news. But it quickly became clear to the paper's staff that truth itself was politicized in occupied Namibia. Merely reporting on a SWAPO rally, as Lister has pointed out, was cause for labeling a journalist 'leftist,' and the paper's commitment to reporting news that would otherwise be left unrevealed earns it, to this day, the disparaging label "SWAPO daily" in other Windhoek papers.4

In such a situation, where revealing the truth becomes, in the eyes of journalists and others, a political act in itself, the reverse also happens. Politics becomes a matter, not of interests and conflict, but of truth against fiction. Increasingly, in the eyes of The Namibian's staff, the occupation was not just immoral but literally incorrect. South Africa's forces violated not just justice and peace but truth itself. As truth became political under the occupation, politics became the territory of fact.

That truth, as it was recorded by The Namibian, consisted of two important elements: state terrorism and the independence movement. The pages of the newspaper from this period are full of reports of incidents of violence in the north, and there are frequent statements from the movement and coverage of its progress and activities. What coverage lacked, by and large, was an explicit connection between these two story genres. Readers were exposed to the terror of occupation and to a movement that, at least by implication, offered an end to the terror.5 They were generally left to their own devices to define the content of the movement's claims. One thing seemed clear: a victory for the movement would mean and end to the terror; as many interviewees pointed out, the particulars of post-independence policy seemed insignificant in that light.

State Terrorism and Violence

As the journalist Christopher Hitchens has suggested, there is no clear definition of terrorism (67-9); indeed, in common political usage the term terrorism often simply refers to 'political violence by a group with whom the speaker disagrees.' I intend to use a provisional definition of terror, gleaned from others' work and definitions, and use it to illuminate the phenomenon I want to discuss here. It is likely that all the actors listed above, as well as others in the area, have engaged in activity that could reasonably be considered "terrorism" according to some adequate definition; it is therefore not my intention to produce a standard definition of terror against which movements and actions outside this context could be measured.

Terror and terrorism, in the context of international discussion, are generally agreed to contain an element of physical violence; they are also, simultaneously, generally expected to be more than just violence, to have some other property that sets them apart from the violence states and civil wars might be expected to produce. Webster's dictionary defines terrorism as violence intended "to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate..." (1469). We start to see, then, that the missing element of terror involves the process of assigning meaning to violence; in order to be sufficiently terrifying, terror must remove violence sufficiently from the realm of the routine to make it mysterious and therefore frightening.6 To that end, the perpetrators of terror must remain nameless and faceless; with a concrete origin terrorism becomes mere violence, much of its purpose lost.

My provisional definition of terrorism centers around its use of violence to produce terror beyond normal fear of violence. As Lawrence Freedman suggests, terrorism uses violence to evoke "terror... [which] may be defined as extreme anxiety infused with an awesome sense of the uncanny" (399). Terrorism as I use the term here raises violence to the level of the sacred, relying on its unpredictability and its mysterious shroud to produce a generalized sense of fear, even among those who have not been personally subjected to that violence. Terrorism must use violence as a substitute -- a place-holder -- for the political legitimacy its perpetrators are unable or unwilling to procure. This is, of course, Freud's definition of the fetish: an idea or object that replaces true desire, diverting attention from reality.7 Terrorism, then, can be considered violence as fetish: pure, undifferentiated violence, its origins masked and unknown, its purpose the production of fear to replace the lost legitimacy of a compromised state.

Violence is not necessary, however, to produce terror. The simple possibility of the unknown is also terrifying,8 and it is this terrifying unknown that The Namibian (re)produced by concentrating on reporting terror of the first, more emergent, kind. Like any good antithesis, the implied resolution to the problem of South African terrorism -- independence, the not-terror -- contained elements of its opposite, terror. Independence was the great unknown; each member of the movement believed independence would mean something, but most were unclear on what it would mean. That unknown was terrifying; as I will argue below, the response was to construct a fantasy of independence, an elaborate yet vague set of ideas about justice, peace, nationhood, and so on, all centering on formal independence. This fantasy served to mask the indeterminacy of independence, hiding its terrifying quality.

Combining Hegel with Weber, Michael Taussig suggests that the State gets its power and authority from a mixture of Reason (Hegel) and violence (Weber). Embodying both at once, the state generally manages to avoid actually using the violence it commands (Weber, Politics 79-81; Taussig, State Fetishism 115-16). But what would happen if the legitimacy of that violence were partially removed? The legitimacy of state authority, for Weber, rests on the state's being the only legitimate controller of violence. Once the use of that violence becomes necessary -- for example, when the state is losing its legitimacy -- the state's hold on the right to violence paradoxically becomes less secure. Producing such a possibility was The Namibian's central achievement as a member of the independence coalition.

Language and Violence: Demystifying Terror

In an atmosphere in which violence became terror, and terror became the principal means of controlling a population increasingly at odds with the colonial government, the role of a 'people's newspaper' seemed clear. Terror, as practiced in Namibia, required silence; as Taussig has written on Latin America:

Above all the Dirty War is a war of silencing. There is no officially declared war. No prisoners. No torture. No disappearing. Just silence consuming terror's talk for the main part, scaring people into saying nothing in public that could be construed as critical of the Armed Forces (Terror 26).

The claim is not, I believe, that no prisoners, torture, or disappearings happen, but that the consistent and authoritative denials of such behavior by the régime cast an eerie silence over the situation. "This is more than the production of silence," cautions Taussig. "It is silencing, which is quite different. For now the not said acquires significance and a specific confusion befogs the spaces of the public sphere, which is where the action is" (27; emphasis mine. See also Wagner-Pacifici 25ff).

Politically, then, the exposure of war, prisoners, torture, disappearings, etc., in the public sphere contains the possibility of subverting the very program of state terror. If terror requires this strange combination of knowing and still not knowing, terror's apparatus is somewhat vulnerable to an institution that could disrupt the mysterious side of that equation. What better an institution to take on that role than an avowedly independent newspaper? The Namibian regularly carried two types of terror stories: the full-fledged exposé of an event, and the short clip exposing whatever details were available about a recent incident.

The Namibian was able to do this for two reasons. First, while the régime was carrying on a reign of terror in the north, it sought to maintain the legitimacy of an essentially liberal state in Windhoek and in the eyes of the international community. Censorship threats were not unusual:

...the authorities, as is well known, targeted it [The Namibian] from the start, seeing it as a SWAPO mouthpiece. We had to be constantly vigilant about the content of the newspaper... (Lister, Language 58).

but, as Lister told me, no issue of The Namibian was ever actually banned by the authorities. To do so would have ceded to the newspaper the liberal high ground; the state would have had to admit its repressive character. Secondly, The Namibian quickly built an international reputation, and its fortunes were being watched by human rights groups, anti-apartheid organizations, and foreign governments. Acts of banning and censorship would have proved internationally embarrassing for a régime intent on proving its benevolence to a skeptical world.

The Namibian of September 18, 1987, carried a story typical of the first of the two types of terror coverage. The story, which covered two full pages (including photographs), came under the headline "Under Siege by Soldiers."

Ongandjera is under siege again. Only a few weeks ago this newspaper reported on a group of soldiers who virtually held the entire region under siege, moving from one homestead to another, assaulting local residents at will. Once again a group of soldiers, reportedly from Battalion 911, are 'on the rampage' in the area....

After that dramatic introduction, in which the author defines his project as one of specifically detailing the "rampage" South African soldiers had gone on in the north, the rest of the article describes the scene and the allegations.

While talking to some of the victims, it transpired that the group of approximately six soldiers were in a nearby cuca shop [a small beer and food shop common in the north], about 500 yards from where reporters were speaking to the victims.

One of the victims pointed to them saying, "there, they are the ones who beat us."

The Namibian is seemingly humble about the reliability of its information; each claim is qualified with "allegedly," "it appears," and other apparent disclaimers.

It would appear that during the whole week, the soldiers moved from one homestead to another at night, allegedly assaulting people.

At the home of headman [chief] Moses Namalenga of Etunda, also in the Ongandjera area, the soldiers allegedly assaulted and badly injured his 20-year old son, Abraham (my emphasis).

This built-in doubt serves two purposes. First, it seemingly protects The Namibian from accusations of bias, since the paper discloses the sources of its information and admits that these are allegations, avoiding claims to facts. Secondly, and probably more importantly, the qualifying words serve as a backhanded challenge to the régime: if the allegations are untrue, the government should come forward to refute them. In a sense, the qualifiers foreground the state's assumed legitimacy; where the state can be assumed to know exactly what is going on (but, for some reason, it chooses to hide), The Namibian must deal, by its own admission, with mere appearances and allegations. The government, the paper seemed to say, can always correct these appearances if it has alternative information. The lack of governmental response in turn lent the reports more legitimacy.

The other type of terror coverage in The Namibian is a very short story detailing a specific allegation; the story tries to publicize the allegation, alerting the authorities that their actions are being watched, and embarrassing the government in the eyes of the international community and their moderate supporters inside the country. For example, the paper ran the following four-paragraph story on September 4, 1987, reproduced here in its entirety:

Mr Julius Eino Shigwedha who was allegedly taken from his home by members of Koevoet on Friday 14 August is still missing.

His mother Frieda Nakadhilu, and sister Helena Shigwedha, have appealed to Koevoet to release him.

They allege that on the day in question members of Koevoet arrived at their home at Elombe in the Ondonga tribal area and asked where her other son Ismael Shigwedha was. Ismael was away in Ontawanga where he attended school. Not able to find him they then made the accusation that Ismael had left the country in order to be trained as a SWAPO guerrilla.

They then allegedly turned on the other son Julius and first hit him very hard. They took him a short distance from the house and continued to assault him there. After that they brought him back to that he could collect his clothes and then drove off with him in a Casspir [a dreaded South African military vehicle] with registration number 58316/594831. His whereabouts are still not known (Mother's Appeal).

This sense of continuous monitoring of the conduct of the occupation is also behind the weekly page, begun in 1985, called "Detentions Update." The first edition, on September 20, 1985, carries the news of the release of Mr. Boniface Likando; the one-paragraph story simply reveals his release from detention without trial and the fact that "He had been in detention since July 10 this year." Below, on the same page, is a listing entitled "Known to be Detained Without Trial," including the dates of their detention. The very act of knowing what is supposed to be only believed, making explicit information that the populace should have only in the back of its mind, helps transform terrorism into mere violence.

Eric Gordy's interesting Swarthmore College thesis -- a study of the Argentine press during the Dirty War, 1976-1983 -- suggests that mass-circulation magazines in Argentina served to "construct an imaginary reality which performs the function of legitimation -- and could have the power to actually create facts by inciting action" (54).

By attempting to forge a kind of transparency for the military power, making it appear normal and making its contentions, by sheer force of repetition and exclusion, seem "obvious", these magazines functioned in tandem with the repressive state apparatus controlled by the military, offering the ideological support necessary for the repression to carry on. Every assertion of a threat, and every postulation of a military virtue, helped people to deny or to rationalize the terror of kidnappings, tortures and murders that made up the practice of el Proceso (99).

In a sense The Namibian performed the opposite function, constructing an imaginary reality in which the occupation would hold no legitimacy, in which the violence with which it operated would end. It consistently tried to make the military power seem abnormal, thereby acting to resist the fetishization of violence the régime would need to maintain a reign of terror.

An ideological veil of feigned innocence, of simply demanding the truth, gives the coverage of terror in The Namibian its political power.

Enlightenment and the Politics of Silence

In an attempt to relate the communicative theories of Jürgen Habermas to colonial societies, John O'Neill has suggested that silence, "the ultimate political tragedy of language," is "the special fate of colonial societies.... There is no analogue in the colonial context to the psychoanalytic model of nonrepressive dialogues or parliamentary debate and its extensions in the media" (57-8). "Silence, so far from being empty, is the harsh and cruel work of those who refuse to name the political institutions through which they own other men and women" (60).

O'Neill's suggestion points out the weakness, or at least the partial nature, of my argument so far. My claim that The Namibian's uncovering of the process of making violence into terror actually subverts that process seems to be merely an Enlightenment indulgence: "the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy" (Horkheimer & Adorno 3). As Horkheimer and Adorno point out, enlightenment is at the same time liberating and "totalitarian" (6):

Man imagines himself free from fear when there is no longer anything unknown. That determines the course of demythologization, of enlightenment... (16).

The idea that 'the truth will make you free' -- the central belief that motivated The Namibian's terror coverage -- is only partially accurate. The demythologization of violence certainly contributed to the ultimate failure of terror as social control in Namibia; at the same time, though, it produced a powerful mythology of independence in reaction to terrorism.

Violence and Legitimation Strategies

"One reason why Fascism has a chance," wrote Walter Benjamin, "is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge -- unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable" (257).

The government desperately needed to give its reign the image of normalcy Benjamin discusses; allowing an independent newspaper simply to do what it is expected to be good at -- publish the news -- provides just such a veil. The South African government's list of banned publications contained far more entries for pornography and other 'socially' unacceptable publications than for expressly political violations; to ban the largest newspaper in the country would have been very embarrassing for a régime intent on proving the eminently reasonable nature of apartheid as a means for encouraging independent cultural development (Thompson, Mythology 100ff). This bind -- that in order to maintain its legitimate monopoly on coercion the state must avoid using that coercion -- was exploited by The Namibian.

Benjamin's recommendation to combat the increasing normalization of terror -- the fact "that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule" -- is "to bring about a real state of emergency." That call can be read in two ways: as a call to expose the state of emergency in its abnormality, or as a call to produce the disorder the government tries so hard to repress. The guerrilla section of the movement can be considered to have carried out the latter reading; The Namibian did the former.

The Production of Political Fantasy

There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another.

--Walter Benjamin
Every social community reproduced by the functioning of institutions is imaginary, that is to say, it is based on the projection of individual existence into the weft of a collective narrative, on the recognition of a common name and on traditions lived as the trace of an immemorial past.... under certain conditions, only imaginary communities are real.

--Balibar & Wallerstein
The South African occupation's basic task was to produce a fantasy, an imaginary Namibia in which its power was legitimate and benevolent, and the violence it employed was necessitated only by the irrational demands of SWAPO terrorism.9 The threat of state violence -- the knowledge that it existed, often the direct experience of it, but with a remaining uncertainty as to its origins and specifications -- served as the keystone of this fantasy. If, as I suggest, terrorism is fetishized violence, the purpose of that fetishization is to serve as the center of a fantasy of legitimacy and normalcy; if it works as the perpetrators hope, the populace should develop, largely on its own, an ideology of the state that allows the constant presence of violence to be routine.10

There is, however, another possibility. Given the opportunity, people can produce an alternative fantasy, centered around terror's negation, not-violence as fetish. The movement produced an idea -- independence -- that provided a perfect stand-in for an end to the terror. As it turns out, the movement provided little else, possibly because of the breadth of its coalition. The Namibian connected terror to the politics of colonialism by carrying, side by side, outraged coverage of the terror and stories about and statements from movement activities and officials. Independence, then, became the answer to the country's problems, the end to terror -- and the central figure of a diverse and elaborate 'independence fantasy.'

Zizek suggests that the production of fantasy is produced as a reaction to the repulsiveness of the desire of the Other; but "it is at the same time fantasy itself which, so to speak, provides the co-ordinates of our desire.... In the fantasy-scene the desire is not fulfilled, 'satisfied', but constituted (given its objects, and so on) -- through fantasy, we learn 'how to desire'" (118; emphasis in original).

For Zizek, while fantasy is crucial to a politically progressive program, fantasy produced in opposition to perceived injustice -- "to the unbearable enigma of the desire of the Other" -- retains elements of the injustice that precipitates it. In other words, these 'independence fantasies' produced by the reification of independence as terror's negation actually acted to distract from another, terrifying object: the unknown and sometimes contradictory character of imagined post-independence Namibia.

In this sense Zizek differs significantly from Marcuse, who sees "Phantasy... born and at the same time left behind by the organization of the pleasure ego and the reality ego." For Marcuse, Phantasy is the remnant of unconscious, even prehistorical, desires, repressed by reality:

Reason prevails: it becomes unpleasant but useful and correct; phantasy remains pleasant but becomes useless, untrue -- a mere play, daydreaming. As such, it continues to speak the language of the pleasure principle, of freedom from repression, of uninhibited desire and gratification -- but reality proceeds according to the laws of reason, no longer committed to the dream language (142).

This psychoanalytic model corresponds to what might be called the "common sense" model of political mobilization: people's desires, their will to be uninhibited, is innate, and oppression invokes that will, turning it into political resistance. It is for this reason that Marcuse suggests that fantasy is politically useful: it remains a constant, unpolluted idea of what should be, and therefore provides a model for reacting against what is.

Zizek's model relies much less on a primordial desire for justice than does Marcuse's; Zizek sees a battle between fantasies, between ideological constructions necessitated by what he calls "antagonistic fissures" in ideologies: the unknown or contradictory sections of political ideas. Because "the Real itself offers no support for symbolization of it" -- in the Namibian case, because independence itself was impossible to signify, its boundaries unknown and its character as yet undefined -- "the only way the experience of a given historic reality can achieve its unity is through the agency of a signifier" (97). This signifier ("independence") must necessarily be incomplete, an imperfect and even distracting substitute for that which is 'truly' desired.

Two things are particularly important about this process of substitution: first, that there is no other option, since all political experience and ideas must be signified in this way; and second, that this inability to represent the Real is not merely disabling, but is in fact enabling in important ways. The process Zizek calls "quilting"11 is made possible by the uncertain relationship between the signifier -- in this case, "independence" -- and the more substantive political climate it refers to.

Quilting, in Zizek's eyes, is the process by which "the free floating of ideological elements is halted, fixed -- that is to say, by means of which they become parts of the structured network of meaning" (87). Laclau and Mouffe, discussing a similar phenomenon, use an example directly applicable to the discussion of Namibia:

...in the countries of the Third World, imperialist exploitation and the predominance of brutal and centralized forms of domination tend from the beginning to endow the popular struggle with a centre, with a single and clearly defined enemy. Here the division of the political space into two fields is present from the outset, but the diversity of democratic struggles is more reduced (131).

The collective opposition to colonialism -- in this case, I am suggesting that this collection takes place largely in reaction to terror -- provides the political space necessary for a coherent movement but at the same time ensures that the often contradictory independence fantasies -- whose job, we remember, is to mask the fissures of ideology -- rarely, if ever, reveal the tenuous and contingent basis of their alliance.

Namibian independence was not one hegemonic independence fantasy; rather, fetishized independence substituted for a multitude of such fantasies, corresponding roughly to the numerous different parts of the independence coalition: SWAPO, the National Union of Namibian Workers, the Council of Churches of Namibia, white liberal groups such as NPP-435, sometimes even business groups. Presumably, within each of these "interests" numerous different conceptions of independence coexisted. Thus if, for the union movement, independence was an ideological substitute for just wages and working conditions, such conditions were themselves a quilted substitute for numerous other, probably diverse, ideas of workers' justice.

The quilting metaphor of Laclau & Mouffe and Zizek provides us with a relatively comprehensive theory of how movements coalesce disparate groups by manipulating the signification of the movement's goals. What I have suggested here is that The Namibian's coverage of pre-independence terror is an excellent example of that theory: removing the fetish character from régime violence, thus stripping it of the necessary quality of terror, but in the process (re)producing the fantasy of independence as the solution to the terror.

The question of fantasy is crucial to an understanding of the development of the Namibian independence movement. As Anderson has suggested, nationalism depends on a particular imagining of the nation; Namibian nationalism was no different. Indeed, Namibian nationalism depended on an imagining of the nation that allowed independence to be a common goal, but at the same time prevented a more detailed image from becoming widespread.

Discussing third-world nationalism, Anderson has suggested:

...the immediate genealogy [of anticolonial nationalism] should be traced to the imaginings of the colonial state. At first sight, this conclusion may seem surprising, since colonial states were typically anti-nationalist, and often violently so. But if one looks beneath colonial ideologies and policies to the grammar in which... they were deployed, the lineage becomes decidedly more clear (163).

In other words, "the state imagined its local adversaries, as in an ominous prophetic dream, well before they came into historical existence" (xiv). In a passage similar to Laclau & Mouffe and Zizek's quilt metaphor, Anderson describes the seepage of colonial thinking into postcolonial government:

The 'warp' of this [colonial] thinking was a totalizing classificatory grid, which would be applied with endless flexibility to anything under the state's real or contemplated control: peoples, regions, religions, languages, products, monuments, and so forth.... It was bounded, determinate, and therefore -- in principle -- countable. The 'weft' was what one could call serialization: the assumption that the world was made up of replicable plurals.... This is why the colonial state imagined a Chinese series before any Chinese, and a nationalist series before the appearance of any nationalists (184).

So, just as terror (re)produced itself -- to be sure, in the radically different and infinitely less repugnant form of the terrifying unknown of independence -- by defining its opposite, the colonial state (re)produced itself in its opposite by defining the grammar of anticolonial movements.12 We are left with an interesting dialectic: colonial oppression and terror produced a movement in reaction to, but containing more than the simple negation of, the old state. Quilting numerous ideas and independence fantasies into a unifying (albeit somewhat 'false') fetishized idea of independence, the movement won independence and, at the same time, lost the broader movement's goals, both by uncovering the terror of the unknown and by revealing the residue of the terror of occupation.

Remembering the Dead: The Mundane Business of "Development"

Since independence, The Namibian has evolved into a model 'people's newspaper' under a democracy, covering everything from the annual "Young Scientists Exhibition" to commodity prices to exposés on brutality and foul play around the country. In 1990 it began talking about "Namibian Firsts," such as the first US Peace Corps volunteers in the country, the first development aid provided, and so on. On September 19 it hailed the first shipment of oil directly to Namibia, bypassing South Africa and the South African-held port at Walvis Bay, calling it "...further steps away from economic dependency on South Africa and towards greater cooperation with its northern neighbours" (9/19/90).

Above the masthead on the same day is a teaser to an inside story: "Today: Focus on SWAPO's transformation into a political party." The article, an opinion piece by a Namibian studying in the US, was serialized over the next week's papers. It is an example of something The Namibian began to devote significant space to, and something it continues now: opinion pieces by movement members and intellectuals on the transition process. Once seen as the sole route for movement information to come into the country, The Namibian has become a forum for the country to debate its own future.

The government often acts now as if the independence struggle were entirely separate from the process of governing; indeed, many of the government officials I interviewed found it difficult to make the transition during the interview from talking about the movement to talking about governing. Nashilongo Elago-Shivute, once an independent activist and now a government official, complains of lacking "the skills to negotiate. Because I have to negotiate now" (203-4). And Netumbo Ndaitwah scorned the idea that the government's program was too moderate:

Q: One of the people I interviewed last week said that they were disappointed with SWAPO because they had expected it to be a bit more socialistic when it came to power. They'd expected SWAPO to redistribute national wealth more quickly and with more of a government hand. Do you have a comment about that, or do you agree?

A: Well, I can say that that statement is expected. It's expected because of the high expectations which we had. And when one is having nowhere to stay and having nothing to eat, you are expecting a person to make that statement. But the reality of the situation is that one has also to look into the current international trend, and also to look into experience. So there are those who are accusing SWAPO of trying to bring socialism from a back door... (126-133).

The problem, in these views, lies either with the lack of technical skills (Elago-Shivute) connected to a history in struggle rather than negotiation, or with expectations that are unrealistic, belonging to a time of political action as opposed to rational discussion (Ndaitwah). For neither one is the time of struggle directly related to the process of governing.

In my view, that break is connected with the veil of fantasy that the movement installed between the struggle and the independence period. Where The Namibian previously peeked under a similar veil to reveal the stark violence of the occupation, its current role is in some ways reversed: it seeks to remove the veil between the struggle and the present and reconnect the process of political change with current policy. The paper's editorials are telling in that regard; they constantly refer back to pre-independence days:

The DTA uses words like 'struggle' and 'freedom' so glibly these days - most out of character in fact - when they battled only recently to mouth expressions such as 'SWA/Namibia'.... They have embarked on a campaign to identify themselves with the 'liberation' of Namibia.... Who can believe the DTA claiming to stand for a bill of fundamental human rights, when they never opposed detention without trial in their many years in government in this country?... Does their stated policy of 'reconciliation' mean anything at all, when their supporters are engaging in what are probably the most violent forms of intimidation during this election campaign? (Lister, Political Perspective 9/1/89).

Legitimacy in the eyes of these contemporary editorials comes from past participation in the struggle. In other words, to be truly Namibian -- to be able to speak with authority on Namibian politics -- requires experience with, perhaps action in response to, terrorism. Once again, the terror of the occupation surfaces after independence.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Revised ed. (London: Verso 1991)

Balibar, Etienne, and Immanuel Wallerstein. Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. (London: Verso 1991)

Benjamin, Walter. "Theses on the Philosophy of History." Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. (New York: Schocken 1968):253-64.

"Big Sunday: Mass celebrations expected for return of Swapo top three." The Namibian June 16, 1989:1.

Calderón, Fernando, Alejandro Piscitelli, and José Luis Reyna. "Social Movements: Actors, Theories, Expectations." Escobar, Arturo, and Sonia E. Alvarez, eds. The Making of Social Movements in Latin America. (Boulder: Westview 1992):19-36.

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1 Andrew Perrin is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. This article is the result of work done at Swarthmore College and in Namibia. It has benefited from helpful readings of previous drafts by Robin Wagner-Pacifici of Swarthmore College and Megan Biesele of Rice University. Any mistakes are, of course, the author's.

2 Numbers cited in my interviews refer to line numbers in my own transcripts of the interviews.

3 Reification, as I use it here, refers essentially to the Marxist observation of capitalist relations: "A relation between people takes on the character of a thing and thus acquires a 'phantom objectivity', an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-embracing as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people" (Lukács 83).

4 Namibia has numerous newspapers -- "too many" according to the owner of several of them, former DTA president Dirk Mudge. The Democratic Media Trust, of which Mudge is president, publishes the Afrikaans daily Die Republikein, the Afrikaans weekly Tempo, the English monthly Times of Namibia, the German biweekly Namibia Nachrichten, the German weekly Allgemeine Zeitung, and has a large financial stake in the Windhoek Advertiser, an English daily. The Trust also owns the only newspaper printing press in Namibia. The Namibian is published by the Free Press of Namibia, of which editor Gwen Lister is head. The government publishes New Era, a multilingual weekly with extremely small readership, and SWAPO publishes Namibia Today, which is essentially a party newsletter. The Namibian is therefore the only print news source in the country not connected to the government or to a party. Mudge denies that his political life and his ownership of much of the country's media are connected, but that contention is not borne out by the testimony of many employees of his papers.

5 SWAPO engaged in violence too, but its violence was rarely covered by The Namibian, and the terror experienced during the occupation was mainly carried out by the government. After independence, the paper did cover -- more thoroughly than some SWAPO leaders would have liked -- the controversy over the detainment and alleged torture and disappearance of accused spies in SWAPO camps.

6 I use "routine" here in the sense of the German alltäglich, as in Max Weber's concept of "routinization" (Theory 363-73; Sociology 247). Parsons (in Weber, Theory 266n) has suggested that Alltag (the routine) contrasts with that which is charismatic, "exceptional or extraordinary and hence temporary..." and that the distinction maps onto the sacred-profane dualism of Durkheim and others. That similarity is helpful here: violence must be firmly in the realm of the sacred, I suggest, to introduce the necessary element of terror.

7 The same substitution -- of a mere symbol for true desire -- also informs the Marxist idea of commodity fetishism. Fetishization, for Marx, brings mystery: "A commodity is... a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour" instead of as a contingent reality (Capital 320). Thus "all commodities are exchanged for gold and use it to express their values only because in its very nature it is money" (Volkov 52).

8 Note that it is not terroristic, a similar word that I will use to refer to terror produced through violence.

9 The Namibian's Gwen Lister pointed out this process of ideology, remembering that "it's safe to say that really the media [before 1985] was totally anti-SWAPO, it only got a play on the radio or in the other newspapers when the word 'terrorist' was mentioned. In other words, when it was a press release by the military to say, well, X number of SWAPO terrorists have been killed, SWAPO Terrorist leader Sam Nujoma said XYZ" (40-43).

10 This must be the routinization of the constant of violence as practice, not just the alltäglich nature of the Weberian state's hold on the right to violence.

11 Zizek takes the term, as well as the starting point for his argument, from Laclau and Mouffe's Hegemony and Socialist Strategy.

12 The fact that the two formally similar objects -- occupation and independence -- were radically different is, of course, crucial. The point is not that the two are identical, but rather that they operate in similar ways.