Julius Malema, expelled ANC Youth League leader, released a ‘Central Command’ press statement today explaining his seven non-negotiable pillars for economic freedom in South Africa. These pillars will form the foundation of his new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (a ‘radical, Left, and anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Movement with an internationalist outlook anchored by popular grassroots formations and struggles’), and are:
- Expropriation of South Africa’s land without compensation for equal redistribution.
- Nationalisation of Mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.
- Building State and government capacity, which will lead to abolishment of Tenders.
- Free quality education, healthcare, houses, and sanitation.
- Massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs including Introduction of minimum wages in order to close the wage gap between the rich and the poor.
- Massive development of the African economy and advocating for a move from reconciliation to justice in the entire continent.
- Open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society without fear of victimisation by State agencies.
It is, or should be, evident to any reasonable individual that these policies are mutually exclusive. For example, if agriculture (land), mines, banks, and other strategic sectors are nationalised, they don’t pay tax. (They also don’t earn any income for the government, because their main objective is to employ, not to engage in the evil capitalist activity of earning profit.) If they don’t pay tax, the government cannot afford the free quality education, healthcare, houses and sanitation they hope to build. This is not economics, it is accounting.
Or, to use another example, introducing higher minimum wages will cause higher unemployment. This is not neo-liberal economic ideology. It is a basic supply and demand graph.
Or, as a final example, if State agencies can expropriate anything from anyone at any time, won’t society live in fear of ‘victimisation of State agencies’? Hello Stalin.
Yet I suspect that the ‘seven pillars’ is not a policy document. It is popular rhetoric to appeal to a group of people that the ANC has failed to empower: young, unemployed, black South Africans. And appeal it will. This is good; democracy is about voting for those politicians whose policies you believe will benefit you most, even if it is ‘Instant Nirvana’-type policies as Max du Preez called it on Twitter. A clear political option on the left will make South African politics easier to understand, as it moves voting from Luthuli House to the national ballot box. But it will also put pressure on politicians (and, frankly, all educated South Africans who are eager to improve this country) to explain clearly to those caught in the hype of ‘revolution’ why Malema’s dreams and aspirations will yield little more than pain and deeper poverty. Or let them see it for themselves: buy them a ticket to Latvia, or Cuba, or North Korea. In each of those cases, the State adhered to Malema’s seven pillars, with disastrous consequences. The poor of these countries did not escape poverty; the best they could hope for was to escape their miserable circumstances by fleeing to affluent, capitalist societies.
Julius Malema’s policies may score an EFF in logic, but they appeal to a large constituency frustrated by the failed promises of politicians past. Yet we need to spread the message that the only way to achieve our economic freedom is to give our economic fighters the tool to engage with our globalised world: quality education for all. This is an ideal which we should hope to live for, and to see realised. But, my friends, if needs be, it is an ideal for which we should be prepared to die. That is the revolution. Viva Economic Freedom Fighters, Viva!