Opinionista Jackie Shandu 22 May 2014

The Sankarist makings of EFF

Should the EFF reject Parliamentary perks and salaries in solidarity with workers and the poor? No – their salaries are going towards building a stronger party, and stronger structures that will ultimately benefit those they support. And yes, we are a proudly Sankarist organisation, thanks for asking.

Some among us, led by the ANC and its supporters, seemed to be having the time of their life on social networks recently, taking jibes at the EFF for the red overalls and aprons EFF MPs wore at the first sitting of Parliament on Wednesday. Someone said they were living up to their characteristic shortsightedness, which warrants our general intellectual contempt to anything associated with the ANC. A further argument followed that EFF Parliamentarians must reject fat Parliament salaries and perks as a sign of true solidarity and oneness with the downtrodden. If this didn’t occur, the reasoning was to reject as hypocrisy the EFF’s dress code at the opening of Parliament.

But let’s unpack just a bit. EFF is a proudly Sankarist formation. In the ‘post-colonial’ Afrikan state context, Thomas Sankara – of the Burkina Faso revolution – demonstrates emphatically what Afrikan leaders and governing parties that assume state power after attainment of liberation from all forms of white-racist oppression should do to maximize the benefits of the previously oppressed under new dispensations.

Thomas Sankara transformed Burkina Faso, in the space of four years, from just another failed African post-colonial state – characterised by open looting and obscene wealth of the native political class, and a playground of Western corporations and governments for whom Africa is just source of cheapened raw materials, exploited labour and lucrative market for Western goods – into a thriving society with an indigenised non-elitist economy. The country demonstrated commitment to liberation of women and defeat of patriarchy. From being a net-food importer that left many starving, Sankara’s agrarian reform succeeded in ensuring that hunger became a thing of the past for everyone and that the proceeds from the exported agricultural surplus went to finance social investments such as schools, clinics and roads. These are precisely the kind of propositions and commitments the EFF makes through its election manifesto.

Again, we must remind the politically deficient among us that the Sankarist posture can only be meaningfully affected at the attainment of state power. Put differently, only a governing party, like the ANC, with a Parliamentary majority, can legislate as Sankara did for massive salary and benefit cuts of public officials and representatives, so as to redirect such funds towards public social investment: be it education, health, or infrastructure building.

It is equally pertinent to mention that such progressive legislative and political measures are always informed by genuine feelings of love for ordinary people and practical commitment towards social justice, equality, and fairness; and real opposition to arrogant elitism. Needless to say, pro-corporations, elitist and compradorial governments such as that of the ANC abhor such measures. They demonise, banish and discredit any campaign that promotes these egalitarianistic principles. The objective of elitist governments is to match the living standards and emulate the lifestyles of their pals in the private sector, only here through taking away directly from the poorest of the poor. As a result, pro-poor propositions are met with fierce opposition, ironically enough, in government corridors. Ironically, because almost all African governments, including that of the ANC, are put or returned to power by a rural mass of very poor people. But once in office, the ministers and MPs kick the proverbial ladder to power and begin to enjoy and protect the trappings of bourgeoisie life with former oppressors.

Always, the compradorial political class – the ANC government in our context – approaches and utilises the state apparatus fundamentally as an instrument with which to enrich leaders of the ruling party, their friends, families and associates. In other words, the compradorial ‘post-colonial’ (‘post-Apartheid’) state is a little more than a moneymaking scheme for leaders and those in their favour. In a word, the compradorial ‘post-oppression’ state is sickeningly corrupt, elitist and arrogant. Not just the state, but those manning the state apparatus collude with the lily-white private sector to institutionalise and nationalise elitism, bourgeois arrogance, anti-poor attitudes and warped meritocracy – with the zealous support of equally conservative institutions such as the church, black culture and so-called motivational speakers.

So, in a sense, whatever financial sacrifices are made by conscious individuals/groups to a compradorial state never, ever go to ordinary citizens that desperately need social services, but instead end up either in secret Swiss accounts or bankroll Nkandla upgrades or Zwelithini’s palace, or go to one of the construction/bread cartel members. It is never about rural black women who head households in those ultra poor communities, neither is it about shack dwellers, farmworkers nor financially excluded black students across the country’s universities.

At this point we are one, God forbid, with both right-wing and liberal white critics of the government, but for fundamentally different reasons. Whilst the AfriForum and DA are critical of the ANC government largely due to days of white rule nostalgia, we black lefties do so because of the deep yearning for true and total emancipation of the still-exploited black majority. We want and fight for our people to work under safe and suitable working conditions, for immediate eradication of the bucket system, for total decommodification of essential social services such as healthcare, education, water, shelter and electricity. We want both land ownership patterns and relations to means of production to accurately reflect the demographics of this country.

The EFF would therefore be foolish to donate money back to a corrupt government and system through salary cuts – money that would either go to the people of Luthuli House or to the London Stock Exchange through local subsidiaries of international firms. And since EFF is by no means foolish, both in terms of its social programme and the calibre of its leadership, one hopes the rumour is true that a sizable portion of salaries of EFF MPs and MPLs will go into a fund that will seek to assist in building structures of the organisation and employment of committed and skilled fighters to run the organisation at various levels. Hopefully, the EFF will continue from time to time to make financial contributions to just causes, as it has done recently to the AMCU workers’ fund. By characterising itself as a Sankarist formation, the EFF has no choice but to always support and promote working-class causes aimed at fighting for social equality.

The EFF picks up from where the project of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement left off, when it categorically identified its core objective as the creation of non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and egalitarian society, in which race ceases completely to be a reference point for anything. This kind of society is radically different from that envisaged by proponents of IMF and World Bank-imposed GEAR and NDP macroeconomic frameworks, which favor Western corporations and governments at the direct expense of citizens; voters.

Lastly, but very importantly, we hope that like Sankara, the EFF is going to consistently put the gender issue at the top of its agenda. On the issue of women’s liberation, Sankara was crystal clear in both rhetoric and practice. He stated:

“Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of women’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt.”

The EFF has had a wonderful start in terms of female representation and must be commended, with almost half its MPs being women. Talk of the formation of EFF Women Command by party leader is equally encouraging, and unlike their ANC counterparts who are on record to have defined themselves as non-feminists and stated that the country isn’t ready for a female president, we hope that EFF Women Command will tackle head-on the seemingly negligible culture of patriarchy and misogyny in this country. So relaxed is the attitude of our leaders to this scourge you would swear it’s a lie that South Africa is the gender-based violence capital of the world. The rape and murder rate of women by their lovers or people they know and trust can no longer be a ‘by-the-way’ issue, but must be central in policy formulation processes, so as to alter completely the structural relations that lend women to this kind of heinous violation by men. Ultimately, a Sankarist approach is one that seeks to create completely new gender relations, both in terms of life chances and attitudes – and conduct of men towards women. DM

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