By Mandisa Makesini
“EACH GENERATION MUST, OUT OF RELATIVE OBSCURITY, DISCOVER ITS MISSION. FULFILL IT, OR BETRAY IT” AND JULIUS MALEMA LEADS A GENERATION THAT HAS DISCOVERED ITS MISSION”
Revolutionaries carry an obligation to patiently educate, enlighten and raise levels of consciousness amongst all members of society. This applies to even the most ignorant, reactionary and backward members of a society. This is an obligation we assumed upon ourselves when we founded the Economic Freedom Fighters as a political party under the revolutionary and capable leadership of Commander in Chief and President Julius Malema on the 26th of July 2013 in Soweto.
The reality is that with the nature of colonial and racist capitalism that defines South Africa, an underclass of lumpen proletariat emerges with no discernible levels of class and political consciousness. Marx and Engels said the lumpen proletariat is composed of “ vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged convicts, runaway galley slaves, swindlers, charlatans, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, procurers, brothel keepers, porters, organ grinders, rag-pickers, knife-grinders, tinkers, beggars; in short, the entirely undefined, and disintegrating mass“.
Of the lumpen proletariat, Marx and Engels said, “because it acted only out of socially ignorant self-interest, the lumpen proletariat was easily bribed by reactionary forces and could be used to combat the true proletariat in its efforts to bring about the end of bourgeois society. Without a clear class-consciousness, the lumpen proletariat could not play a positive role in society. Instead, it exploited society for its own ends, and was in turn exploited as a tool of destruction and reaction”.
The EFF’s political programme obliges it to bring revolutionary political consciousness even to this under-class. When it comes to raising political consciousness and public education, the EFF does not ascribe to phrases such as “do not kill an ant with a sledge hammer”. We patiently and robustly engage even the most ignorant, reactionary and backward of views. We are not bearers of sledge hammers and there are no ants in South Africa, but political beings, available for persuasion even when trapped in ideological fantasies and misinformation.
Inspired by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute on political leadership, all commissions and delegates in the recently concluded 2nd National People’s Assembly deliberated on an organisational character redesign perspective which amongst other things said we should avoid sectarianism. Sectarianism is a “trend defined by a complete refusal to conduct dialogue with other groups or work with them on small projects, following one’s own line dogmatically without striving towards one’s further education. This includes refusal to conduct work with other local groups on the grounds of high theoretical differences, to refuse further investigation and cling to superficial understandings, to become an in-group rather than a mass organization“.
To avoid and combat sectarianism, the Organisational character perspective said “the EFF must engage with other groups locally when goals align, put aside petty differences for the interests and well-being of the masses, conduct itself mannerly when others do the same, and focus on political work rather than squabbles“.
Now an attention seeker who previously expressed wishes to lead the EFF’s Women Command, posted a video clip which basically and clumsily argued that the EFF President Julius Malema is not defined by black consciousness and not inspired by Sobukwe and Biko. In all honesty, this does not deserve to be dignified, but because we live in the age where the 280 characters and 220 second videos on Twitter timelines influence political thought and reaction, let’s take this opportunity to clarify some facts.
Firstly, whilst we appreciate and honour the work done by the black consciousness movement, the EFF is not a black consciousness movement and has never defined itself as such. The EFF is a Pan Africanist economic emancipation movement inspired by Marx, Lenin and Fanon. There’s no EFF perspective that commits the organisation to black consciousness, in the same way there’s no perspective that commits the organisation to a Sankara oath. We honour and respect the work done by Steve Biko and Thomas Sankara, but the generation that founded the EFF in 2013 chose the scientific socialist analysis of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Frantz Fanon as tools of analysis and guide to action.
Those who have never read EFF documents are quick to criticize the organization and its leadership on the basis of their imagination of what the EFF is. All those who left or were expelled by the EFF were staff riders or entryists whose intention was to turn the organisation into permanent quantitative and qualitative insignificance.
The EFF aspires for a socialist and communist future, and not some superfluous society where people’s marriages and attire will be dictated by some warped logic. Marx and Engels say in the Communist Manifesto that “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour if others by means of such appropriations”.
That is what we know, and that is why in the political report to the 2nd National People’s Assembly, which was widely broadcast and published that, the President of the EFF said “ the socialist project that we pursue does not mean that all people will be wearing same clothes, walking the same way, and doing exactly the same things on the directives of a powerful bureaucracy that disrespects human rights”.
The political report further said, “ Socialism is not some huge bureaucracy that disregards rights and freedoms of individuals. Socialism does not mean the state or government ownership. It is not a society where private non-exploitative property (such as houses, Cars, and clothes) will be commonly shared. Socialism is about ending the private ownership of the means of production (mines, huge farms, monopoly industries)”
Now, this is pretty obvious and was said when the EFF was launched and said even in the 1st National People’s Assembly In Bloemfontein. We will patiently educate and enlighten society about these ideals.
The Pan Africanism that the EFF ascribes to is far higher than what was ever aspired by any political movement in South Africa. We aspire for a borderless continent, with single currency and increased intra African trade. Since Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Haile Selasie and Muammar Gadaffi, no other African generation or leader has articulated the Pan continental vision and programme that is being articulated by the Economic Freedom Fighters under the leadership of the Commander in Chief Julius Malema.
Comparing leadership of different generations and under different circumstances always has its shortcomings, and often history becomes the most dependable arbiter. Whilst his agenda was distinctively radical and different to the Congress Movement’s agenda of “South Africa belongs to all who live in it -black and white”, Robert Sobukwe was arrested, isolated, banished and therefore prevented from cultivating his ideals and ideology into a mass revolutionary movement of the people.
Despite the romanticism that is associated with Sobukwe’s politics, the reality is that what he stood for never reproduced into a mass movement, but was instead succeeded by perennial factions that called themselves Pan Africanist Congress of Azania with no verifiable capacity to convert their self-proclaimed quality into quantity. This doesn’t devalue Sobukwe’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid and colonialism.
For some reason, the capacity to ideologically and politically reproduce black consciousness beyond Steve Biko has not succeeded. Almost all black consciousness activists, such as Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Patrick Lekota, Kgalema Motlanthe were absorbed into the Congress movement. Those who weren’t absorbed into Congress Movement dwindled into political insignificance and are not worth mentioning.
All organisations, past and present that defined themselves as successors of Black Consciousness are failed projects, and their collective impact since the death of Steve Biko do not come anywhere close to the EFF’s achievements in its 6 years of existence. Our victories for black people in South Africa are there for everyone, and they include the fact that we have reclaimed the dignity of Africans in South Africa’s political landscape and that happened under the leadership of Commander in Chief Julius Malema.
To gauge President Julius Malema against Steve Biko and black consciousness is not only disingenuous, but somehow represents a breakdown in the relationship between thought, emotion, and behaviour, therefore leading to a faulty perception, delusions and a sense of intellectual fragmentation. It is this breakdown that leads to a suggestion that one’s choice of marriage represents their political or black consciousness. There is nowhere in history or political theory where marriage choices are linked to political consciousness. The decisions of whether, who, where to marry are personal freedoms that should never be determined by politics.
Robert Sobukwe discovered his generational mission and in the process of fulfilling the mission, the nonsensical apartheid regime did everything in its power to suppress him. Steve Biko discovered his generational mission and fulfilled such mission, which inspired a generation of youth political activism that rendered apartheid ungovernable and machinery unworkable. Julius Malema has discovered the generational mission and is marshalling millions of young people in South Africa, the African continent and African diaspora towards attainment of such mission. The mission is ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME.
This generational mission of economic freedom in our lifetime will be realized despite illusionary and delusional interpretations of what we stand for. It is a mission based on revolutionary scientific socialism and inspired by great Pan Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah, Ben Bella, Haile Selasie, and Sekou Toure.
Our appeal to those who are literate though is that somewhere in the between developing criticisms for the EFF and its ideological positioning, please read its policy documents. The current criticism reveals the obvious fact that those that levelled the criticism did not just ignore EFF documents, they ignored all written documents about political history and theory, hence the lousy criticism which this perspective seeks to clarify.
The lack of engagement with political history and theory is why attention seekers, who have not read Black Consciousness and Pan Africanist literature distort it in an attempt to achieve relevancy.
It was Steve Biko who said that “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”
To Biko, Black Consciousness had nothing to do with one’s personal relationships or attire, it was an attitude of solidarity and organizing against white supremacy. This is not something that is done in tweets, or through ill-informed analysis.
It is therefore critical that those who seek to criticize the EFF based on ideological perspectives, begin by reading the documents of the EFF and political theory in general. Hopefully this will result in us avoiding being abused by people who suffer from low self-esteem and ideological deficiency.
Commissar Mandisa Makesini is the Chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighter’s in the Province of the Free State