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The ANC’s democratic centralism is just a semantic cloak hiding the false mantra of socialism

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Ghaleb Cachalia is an MP in the National Assembly and the DA spokesperson on Public Enterprises. He serves on the Ethics Committee in Parliament.

Unemployment, poverty and hunger are currently at staggering levels and are set to rise exponentially – not that the elite are concerned. They will continue to offer the economically dispossessed crumbs off their richly laden tables while they chant the false mantra of socialism. It will be the death knell of the economy.

It’s time to be counted — especially those who wax lyrical about Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC as if he wasn’t “made” a billionaire (like the Mafia makes capos), as if he wasn’t handmaiden to Jacob Zuma during those disastrous years, as if he wasn’t at the helm of successive state bodies to fix Eskom, as if he isn’t an ardent supporter of expropriation without compensation and radical economic transformation, and as if he isn’t a loyal member of the ANC who will defend its policies to the death. 

Hands up if it has finally dawned on you that all of this is simply code for the ANC’s time-honoured modus operandi, underpinned by the National Democratic Revolution – that the ANC is one body bound together willingly by democratic centralism, a principle of communist party organisation by which members take part in policy discussions and elections at all levels but must follow decisions made at higher levels – adhering unwaveringly to policies that have been in place since the 1950s, policies that were shaped and informed by the Soviet Union, which supported the liberation movement when the battle lines were drawn in the Cold War.

That these policies have continued unabated despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union was of little consequence to the ANC and its allies as they moved on to embrace aspects of the Chinese model. Today, the deputy secretary-general of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, shamelessly defends democratic centralism as she attacks the chairperson of the Zondo Commission, which is interrogating the ruinous effects and culprits in the capture of our state.

Democratic centralism is defined as purporting to combine two opposing forms of party leadership: democracy, which allows for free and open discussion, and central control, which ensures party unity and discipline. Lenin declared that the party was not a debating society in which all opinions were tolerated and freely expressed; it was a “vanguard” party whose role as leader of the revolution demanded extreme discipline and a high level of organisation. Unrestrained discussion, he insisted, would produce intraparty disagreements and factions and prevent the party from acting effectively. On the other hand, absolute control by a centralised leadership would discourage new ideas from lower-level party members. Therefore, Lenin argued, free discussion within the party should be tolerated and even encouraged up to a point, but, once a vote was taken, all discussion had to end. The decision of the majority should constitute the current party “line” and be binding upon all members.

This is what the ANC and its allies in the Communist Party and the unions subscribe to. This is what has come to pass under the veil of fighting Covid-19. This is why the ANC will never really split – occasionally some individuals will hive off to reside in relative oblivion, and others like the EFF will return to the fold when their strategic goals have gained ascendency.

Meanwhile, we are facing an unprecedented challenge from the proliferation of the Covid-19 virus and its mutations. While the jury is out on which model will be best placed to mitigate and contain the impact on lives and livelihoods by the coronavirus, the use of the current crisis for dubious political, authoritarian and financial ends should be clear to all. They appear to have bought into Winston Churchill’s dictum for the most nefarious of purposes: why waste a good crisis?

The crisis is being used by the ANC to wage war on our economy, to take back the land, the “commanding heights of the economy”, the fruits of millions of South Africans who have built small businesses that are the lifeblood of the economy – all on racial grounds that purport to empower the black majority, but which in reality, only empowers a new black elite.

Unemployment, poverty and hunger are currently at staggering levels and are set to rise exponentially – not that the elite are concerned. They will continue to offer the economically dispossessed crumbs off their richly laden tables while they chant the false mantra of socialism, which in reality, is simply theft. It will be the death knell of the economy and any vestige of an open society built on constitutional principles. It will usher in the failures of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and Chavez’s Venezuela, in solidarity with Cuba – where, as an economic approach, it has failed. 

It’s time for the champions of the great levelling – which as has been repeated countless times in history, often, per Marx’s own dictum, as tragedy first and farce later – to acknowledge their complicity in what has been a ruse for the empowerment of a new Orwellian elite – and be held accountable for their gullibility and stupidity.

It has failed to bring progress to the people of Cuba. GDP per capita has risen at only around 1% per year, and that includes (now ending) subsidies from Venezuela and transfers from Cubans living in the United States. Two million people have emigrated to the United States and elsewhere. Despite its fertile land, Cuba imports two-thirds of its food. When the USSR subsidy ended in the early 1990s, GDP fell by a third and there were widespread, severe food shortages. 

The inefficiencies of planning meant that Cuban productivity languished as other countries overtook even the previously competitive sugar industry. And planning also failed to direct investment to genuine economic opportunities. Instead, investment has produced low returns and failed to deliver growth.

One telling marker is the availability of affordable and consistent electricity supply. Venezuela, for all its huge oil reserves, Zimbabwe despite the inheritance of a solid infrastructure and Cuba for all its planning and subsidies all live in intermittent darkness that impacts the lives of people, business and industry and that has condemned them to the bottom rungs of the economic league tables.

In 2019, between 14 and 16 of Venezuela’s 23 states were without power from 25 March to 28 March; at least four people died as a result of the three-day lack of power. Another blackout started in the evening of 29 March, followed by another 24 hours later. During the month of March, Venezuela was without power for at least 10 days overall. This story – from a country with more diesel than most – is telling and it is not inconceivable that South Africa will travel a similar route if it does not address Eskom’s broken business and operational model – nothing is able to grow without power, and ours is dwindling and darkening. Even the failed states referred to are rethinking their agenda and policies. Sadly the ANC appears not to be doing so.

Eskom’s failure is a tragic metaphor for 25 years of ANC destruction of the levers for growth of the economy — all instituted ostensibly for the greater good. The fact is it’s a sham, perpetuated by the president and the “commissar” of our state-owned enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.

It’s time for the champions of the great levelling – which as has been repeated countless times in history, often, per Marx’s own dictum, as tragedy first and farce later – to acknowledge their complicity in what has been a ruse for the empowerment of a new Orwellian elite – and be held accountable for their gullibility and stupidity.

It is, moreover, high time that the commentariat, who continue to place their guilt-ridden and guilt-stoking faith in the venal, inept and corrupt post-liberation party, wake up and say loudly: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

They have more than a duty; it’s an obligation. DM

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All Comments 9

  • A brilliant and lucid article that sums up the gross ineptitude of this pathetic, corrupt to the core and spineless government. Stuck in the past and fast becoming a failed state like their revered Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe etc. The only way this country will move forward to its potential and prosper is to remove the shackles and consign to the dustbin this obnoxious anc that it has become.

  • Yep – we all get it. It’s turning the lumbering juggernaut that pays lip service to democratic elections, elected representation, personal accountability, freedom of thought and expression. Meanwhile there is endless talk and little change as the ANC leads its flock of sheep further into the economic wilderness.

  • For socialism to profit the population must be kept in need.
    This means they must be kept poor.
    The standard of education in South Africa today is designed to maintain such a situation. It is managed by the ANC government and controlled by a trades union.
    The sole opposition is private commercial education centres which ensure that productive education is limited to “the haves” while the “have nots” remain unrecognised.
    I believe it was Stalin who said ” Give me a generation and I will steal the nation!”
    How long is a generation?

  • Nonsense, the ANC is anything but “socialist”. This lazy sloganeering is an attempt to appeal to a shrinking DA base tweeting the benefits of colonialism.

    Empirical research has proven that BIG grants – and the like, can dramatically improve life and development for the poorest rung of such a deeply economically differentiated society as SA is.

    This does not make the ANC “Socialist” by any means – and if social grants is a definition, then such Socialism is bound to live longer than the DA.

  • I ask one question of the ANC. In what country, and especially African country, has your Communist inspired ideology and policies raised the standard of living for the poor?
    You could not be following a more destructive path and you do not care what this means as you attempt to drive out Non black South Africans.
    Be honest and tell the people what comes with RET and EWC – collapse of our economy and even more dire poverty.
    Remove anti competitive racist BEE and Labour legislation, protect property rights and abandon EWC.
    Watch the energy being released and people getting jobs and improving their lives.

  • Truly the the Orwellian Pigintroff Syndrome called Black Elite Empowerment (BEE) is a far deadlier virus that Covid 19 although its impacts are repeatedly reported and dismissed by the
    commissars.

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