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No EFFing clue: The ideologically constipated populist revolutionaries and reveries of Karl Marx have hit a dead end


Ismail Lagardien is a writer, columnist and political economist with extensive exposure and experience in global political economic affairs. He was educated at the London School of Economics, and holds a PhD in International Political Economy.

Intellectual honesty compels us to believe that the Economic Freedom Fighters want to create a just, more equitable society that is prosperous, stable with an expanding political economy and solid distribution mechanisms, and increasing levels of community safety and high levels of trust among all South Africans.

Based on the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) coalition demands, they seem to have no idea about the differences between local/municipal and national governance. With all the intellectuals in and around the EFF, you would imagine the revolutionaries to at least understand that municipalities are about the provision of local public goods and services. It is about clean and safe streets, reliable sources of utilities in local wards and the collection of rubbish. It’s a bit tedious to repeat all of this, but the EFF seem to be persecuted by its ideological wish-dreams and operate in the most extreme bad faith.

By bad faith, I refer here to a fundamental inauthenticity and an attempt to escape the responsibility to recognise one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and overall weaken the EFF’s political objectives – beyond national revolution and the politics of revenge. The EFF simply cannot explain what it is able to do in the actual and real domains of the places where people live, work and play. These things matter at the local level.

In the harum-scarum around coalitions for municipal governance, instead of explaining how they will ensure community safety, public goods and services in the wards where they have representation, the EFF have turned to their long-term revolutionary populist objectives. These demands are:

  1. Amendment of the Constitution to realise land expropriation without compensation in six months;
  2. Creation of a state bank in 12 months;
  3. Nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank in 12 months;
  4. Cancellation of student debt in 12 months;
  5. Creation of a state pharmaceutical company in 12 months;
  6. Passing of insourcing bill in 12 months;
  7. Die Stem must be removed from the national anthem in 12 months;
  8. Opening of clinics for 24 hours, seven days a week;
  9. Provision of free sanitary towels for all; and
  10. Provision of free water and electricity for all Sassa beneficiaries.

Let’s be honest, even if you agree with all the demands the EFF have submitted as the basis for entering into coalitions (for instance, the “sanitary towels for all” is a good idea, but not for “all” – for women who need them) none of it addresses the empirical, actual and real problems that beset society on a daily basis.

Even assuming that these are reasonable and even necessary requirements, they are in the domain of national public policy-making and legislation. It seems that the EFF’s revolutionary populist ideologies are causing intestinal obstruction, and makes it impossible for them to consider (ingest) the most basic aspects of local government. There are two likely reasons for this.

Centralisation of all power

One of the reasons the EFF seem to have little to no interest or expressed willingness to address the practicalities of local government may lie in the austere Marxist-Leninism to which they are committed. This is not a fictive statement. It is in their basic documents and whatever passes for a constitution.

Under their Marxist-Leninist conception of government, they would more than likely do away with provinces – as Julius Malema explained last month. Under such a scenario the central government would determine who gets what based on their theoretical (ideological) beliefs. This was how the Soviet Union centralised governance and defeated even the democratic centralists. The centralists were quite brutal – most especially under Joseph Stalin.

When, for instance, the democratic centralists (not dissimilar to today’s ANC), joined opposition parties – with the Declaration of the Forty-Six in October 1923 – Stalin, the arch centralist, expelled everyone who disagreed with him. Afterwards, during the purges in the 1930s, most of the Democratic Centralists were picked up and sent to labour camps or were summarily executed.

Benito Mussolini was more clever and marched at the head of the proletarian army of the unemployed after first sucking all opposition parties into his centralised vision of the Italian state. With his centralisation of all power, Adolf Hitler simply eliminated all contending sources of opposition to his highly centralised totalitarian rule.

Given the EFF’s loyalty to Marxist-Leninism, and the glaring parallels and homologies with organic fascists of the 1920s and 1930s – which is different in some ways from the Italian practice of trasformismo, the practice of ruling politicians to build a stable majority by patronage rather than by ideological solidarity, it is not inconceivable that the EFF’s demands are heavily influenced by the centralism that usually comes with dictatorial and totalitarian governments.

Intellectual dead end

Intellectual honesty compels us to believe that the EFF wants to create a just, more equitable society that is prosperous, stable with an expanding political economy and solid distribution mechanisms, and increasing levels of community safety and high levels of trust among all South Africans. This approach should be applied to every political party.

Disagreements enter on questions of how all of this will be achieved. We know what the ANC has achieved over the past 27 years and the Democratic Alliance has gone to great pains to tell us about how they “get things done”.

We should add to this the heavy caveat that no one governs without guilt. So, the EFF has among its rank-and-file people who have notable academic achievements and others who would imagine themselves as being of “superior intellect” or something of that sort. That’s fine and it may well be true.

However, drawing on the caveat above, if we believe that good people can be bad and bad people can be good (regardless of how you define “good” or “bad”), it’s fair to say that the EFF have been consistently stuck in first gear. In this respect, they always seem like a prepubescent lad who has discovered his first erection and is convinced that he has to stick it into anything and everything.

To paraphrase (and twist a statement by) my favourite physicist, the late Richard Feynman, the EFF does not abandon theory when evidence does not support it. In their minds, the EFF changes evidence (in the empirical world) to match their theories. I should stress that constitutions can be changed, but not always for the better.

For now, and based on their demands for entering local government coalitions, the EFF seems to have run down an intellectual dead end. The EFF has not demonstrated, nor has it convinced anyone, how it would ensure that rubbish is collected every week or whether the local libraries are functional (those are the realities that ought to be addressed), but they hold on to their Marxist-Leninist theories.

Most people know only that the EFF represents getting back at the white man and that “non-Africans” are, well, not African and by extension they don’t belong. Unless you’re married to one, or you have an African name – regardless of admixture. This still does not address municipal problems.

One expects this logic from barbarous professors (I have a particular one in mind, but I couldn’t be arsed to get into a debate with him) who believe that all the problems in the world of seven billion people, gathered voluntarily or involuntarily in communities and societies on Earth, each one of whom probably has multiple affiliations with church, state, professions, family, tribe, language group etcetera… is caused by one thing and that a single solution would solve all these problems.

In the case of the myriad actual problems in localities, communities and street corners of South Africa, the EFF has only its revolutionary populist statements.

Though I don’t care for symbols of national pride, let’s assume that removing Die Stem from the national anthem may be a good idea, but it will not ensure respectable sanitation nor would it eradicate pit toilets. You can give everyone free water and electricity (if you can find sources for both) on top of free housing and free education, but in which municipality will you start doing all that?

Let us go back to the top and assume that the EFF means well. To be sure, 10% of the voting public believe in them. But does anyone really trust Floyd Shivambu or Malema at the control panel of the Koeberg nuclear power station or in the control tower at OR Tambo International Airport? DM


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All Comments 12

  • They have one objective – self aggrandisement and enrichment. The EFF are people who conveniently ignore the catastrophes visited upon the citizens of communist countries, whilst western capitalist populations prospered !!

  • Spot on. The similarities the EFF display with other despised and fortunately deceased dictators is the stuff dark humour comedians thrive on.

  • Great article, and well said. The economic success story of Singapore was built on 4 legs:

    No corruption

    Practical solutions overrule ideology

    Rule of law

    The best man gets the job

    Looking at these, it’s easy to see how the ANC has lost its way. All 4 are an anathema. For the EFF, all 4 are a total anathema.

    Little wonder that the heroes of the EFF are the failed nations of the world…. Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba. All of them horrible places to live – and if they ever made it here we would head the list.

    Marxism is unfortunately based on hatred, and hatred produces terrible governments. The Nazis and Soviets are the playbook for the EFF.

  • DM, please do something about the non-functional reply ‘button’. Either make it operational or remove it. With reference to Rg Bolleurs comment, the four pillars of Singapore’s success look remarkably similar to the policies of the much maligned DA.

  • Demand No. 9 – Maybe the tobacco ban has forced the EFF to start smoking alternative cigars . . Go on Zapiro, what can you dream up with demand No.9 ‘for all’!

  • It is clear the EFF have no interest in actually governing, which is why they make such outrageous coalition demands – to deter any real prospects of such coalitions materialising. They are far too comfortable in their current position and are making careers of being an unruly band of agitators with no accountability and the sole purpose of fuelling racism which garners them enough support and influence to bankroll their lavish lifestyles. In some ways I envy them for the position they are in.

  • Intellectual honesty compels us to believe that the Economic Freedom Fighters knowingly robbed poor pensioners of their life savings. Tsotsis with flashy revolutionary berets.

  • The EFF’s loyalty to Marxist-Leninism …. wahahahaha! The only political vision the EFF has that they’ve glimpsed from the inside how the ANC has fleeced us, and they want in on the action, big time.

  • For me the EFF is Julius Malema, a wannabe demagogue in the classical sense with all the attributes thereof. Lose him (wishful thinking) and brand EFF will collapse overnight. But I have to admire our Julius. I always thought of him as a big, fat crook but he has lost a lot of weight.

  • Central control is the way things used to be done, but not anymore as it does not work. It exposes weak links and does not scale, more importantly, there can never be emergence, where one gets more than the sum of the parts. The worst however is that that style of control attract a certain type of individual, a supremacist, someone who feels they are superior to anyone else.

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