“Fascism is to take a worn-out example, is not an external opposite to democracy but has its roots in liberal democracy’s own inner antagonisms.”-Slavoj Zizek
The Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) formation has drawn both envy and admiration within the SA political discourse, and this is due to its founders, its policies and what its standing means for the traditional political formations in the country. We all know how its formation came about but i shall not discuss that here, except deal specifically with the ideological and political questions surounding the EFF. Questions i hope, will assist us not only in measuring the EFF’s potential but changing the entire SA political discourse. At the heart of EFF’s existence, is its 7 non-negotiable pillars, which are themed on what they term Sankarist politics; and its rallying cry is the insistence of the current generation to curve its own destiny, Fanonian-style.
For some of the traditional political formations, the likes of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), Azanian People’s Organization (AZAPO) and Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) which are largely regarded as the political left of the SA discourse, EFF presents a serious challenge in terms of “appropriating” their politics (whether for better or worse) and this does not only threaten their existences but their relevance as well. While many within the said formations insist that EFF is neither socialist nor leftist, but just a slightly noisy and militant ANC by-product, some see it as having great potential in upping the intensity of the political langauage of the SA politics of the left, and at the same time making them relevant to ordinary masses of the country. On the flipside of the coin, is the more liberal and conservative right side of the political space in SA, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), whom, by their standing alone, are direct foes of what the EFF purports to stand for. Well, the ANC, due to its adherence to the Freedom Charter, its relations with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), can claim to have leftist leanings, which should dispel the notion that they are on the right side of the SA political discourse. However, what remains visible is the ANC economic policies since it came into power and its consistency in that regard, hence it is largely considered to be anything but leftist.
Ideologically, the tradional leftist organizations consider EFF limited in its articulation and comprehension of radical leftist politics, they argue that despite its “rhetoric”, it borders on the same Freedom Charter aspirations of the ANC. That, its objectives are still centred around the false premise that SA belongs to all those who live in it, not just the indigenous people of SA. On the other hand, the right side of the frame argue that EFF is nothing but an extremist racial group that stands to hamper the gains that the “democracy” has achieved. In between the two-sides of the frame, there are emerging voices which place EFF as SA’s potential, much-loathed ZANU-PF, accusing it as fickle nationalism, that actually serves to benefit, just a handful of the black elites in the country, under the guise of nationalization. Interesting enough, much of the comments come as a result as the leadership of the EFF, not neccesarily, its policies or ideological standpoint; for instance, due to his political views, the EFF, self-styled, Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema, is largely considered a demagogue and has been compared to a Hitler and a Mugabe, whom, the liberal voices in the country, feel, has modelled sophistry around the plight of the impoverished masses of the people, while he has amassed wealth for himself, during his days as the President of the ANCYL. They argue that, the current socio-economc conditions of the country, almost mirror the same ones that propelled Hitler and the Nazis into power in Germany, therefore the end product is mostly likely to be the same; while the leftist voices argue that the EFF will fall in the same pitfalls many, natioanlist movement all over the world, but specifically, in Africa, have fallen into; the insistence to nationalize the economny and trading sectors, not to place the whole economy at the service of the whole nation and satisfy the needs of the nation, not to govern the state with regard to the new social relations has been decided to encourage but the transfer to the native hands, the unfair advantages apartheid created and 20-year-ANC rule has maintained and perpetuated. And the above cahrges are levelled solely on the leadership make-up of the EFF.
To then, get to the gist of my article, i wish to point out that, given how EFF came into be, a central command team without an eletive congress, founding manifesto without proper organizational make-up and the fact that there is no visible accountability mechanism to oversee the operation of the the entire organization; indeed the EFF does have potential to be just another grotesque version of what it purports to be, like Zizek said “Because the horror of Communism, Stalinism, is not that bad people do bad things — they always do. It’s that good people do horrible things thinking they are doing something great.” However, the charges against EFF from both sections of the left and right frame of SA politics are not as noble as they seem, infact they reflect exactly their ideological commitments with regard to the SA political status quo. Both sides, are actually merely protecting their territories and standing, which the EFF seems to have appropriated. Both refuse to acknowledge that the EFF emergence has come as a result of their own failures, the left’s inability to attract and mobilize the impoverished masses of the people and the right’s further marginalization and drift away from the masses. The SA political discourse has always been dominated by comfortable politics, the lamentation of the corruption within the government and how the government fails to consistently apply the Constitution, which by the way, sustains the apartheid legacy of inequality and ill-gotten wealth. One of the EFF’s leading figures, Andile Mngxitama once argued that the EFF decimates the left, and here i argue that it actually decimates the entire political discourse of SA, for better or worse. It is a direct product of failed political discourse in an apparent democracy, whether it goes on to be just another form of Stalinism or in fact, the first ever political movement to be thoroughly Sankarist.
As it stands, the only real worry with the EFF is its organizational capacity, the ability to organizationally overcome possible and imminent power struggles post the national elections next year; it goes without saying that, despite its attractive nature to ordinary folks, it remains susceptible to the “stalinist” takeover same way many historical liberation movements have been taken over. Truth is, every organization is bound to be plagued by internal power struggles and its eventual destiny is always shaped by the faction that emerges victorius within the organization and EFF is not different; therefore observations on it should be be solely on the potential it holds and option it gives the disenfranchised people of SA. The insistence to single out Julius Malema, actually exposes the shallowness of the political formations within the political discourse.
Afterall is said and done, EFF is a product on the prevailing conditions in the country, therefore exists through its mantra, better expressed by Frantz Fanon “Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, find its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” and find it they have, what’s left is fulfilling or betraying it.