Analysis

“To be a revolutionary party, people must be attracted to some alternative revolutionary vision. Is Freedom Charter a revolutionary vision?”

As the EFF celebrates it’s 6th Anniversary, Mandisi Gladile shares his reflections on the party’s journey, “the good, the bad and the ugly ” , and comments on the state of national politics, the ideological contradictions that hinder progress, land redistribution, and the relevance of the Freedom Charter in the economic liberation of the people and development of South Africa.

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Submitted by Mandisi Gladile

In less than about a week or so ago, an army of fighters, supporters, the ground forces and commissars from across the length and breadth of our national boarders all gathered at Mpumalanga’s KaNyamazana stadium to commemorate the #EFFTurns6Anniversary in style.
This event marked 6 eventful years since the founding of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
For a movement born in July, an important date historically in the context of a world revolutionary wave that was predicted by Fidel Castro and which he subsequently tried to set in motion with the Cuban revolution that continues to be a source of inspiration for the EFF.
We’re the 26 July movement that draws inspiration from such developments around the world on what has been journey to advance the people’s struggle against settler colonialism and imperialism.
Equally, we’ve also had our fair share of pitfalls in the journey, so there is a lot to reflect on; the good, the bad and the ugly.
And so those who follow popular discourse would agree with me that the word “EFF” conjures up different reactions from different sections in society. That is to say, EFF means different things to different people or interest groups.
But I shall circle back to this point later on after first giving a brief historical analysis of national politics both in the pre-1994 and post-1994 moments.
Within certain political circles there is a commonly held view that the first hurdle to overcome in understanding South African politics today is first a proper  ideological characterization of the South African state as first and foremost a false concept. A white settler neo-colonial construct that was codified into law by the 94′ democratic breakthrough.
Like in many post-colonial settings of Africa as predicted by Frantz Fanon’s numerous warnings on the post-colonial contradictions, revolutionaries have come to power with revolutionary programs but have failed to dislodge the old ruling white settler minority class from power. Revolutions have regularly been aborted, suppressed, and more than once perverted by politicians themselves.
This was the case with South Africa in the early 90’s. The revolutionary mission of pursuing armed struggle to defeat settler-colonialism and apartheid thus liberating the African masses was jettisoned in favor of a “peace pact” dubbed the TRC, liberal constitution, and the rainbow nation sham.
We have since then been caught up in the whirlwind of post-democratic fever and are now gridlocked in the realities and contradictions of governance.
The contradictions of a post-1994 South Africa rests squarely on the unresolved LAND question. Everything wrong with the country is as a result of failing to resolve the Land question.
In addition, these post-94 contradictions are also ideologically conflicting. Those who follow the development of national liberation thought would note the emergence of the two schools of thought in South Africa. The Azania School and the South African School.
These two schools differ first in their ideological understanding of how the people of South Africa were dispossessed. Secondly, and as a consequence to this main difference they also conflict on the reorganization of South Africa into liberation.
Today the dominant School is the South African School of thought which is predicated upon the Freedom Charter, a sell out position channeled within the ANC by an organized racist white Left cabal of Joe Slovo, Jeremy Cronin and Ronnie Kasrils among others.
This fundamental ideological difference that emerged is what divided the forces of national liberation into two factions: the Charterists who remained on this sell-out direction, and an Africanist ilk that parted ways with the African National Congress (ANC) to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) as an alternative liberation movement led by the late Prof Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.
However the Pan Africanist ilk who later organized themselves into the PAC faced many political and organizational setbacks post the 60’s, such that their political activism and role in the early 1990’s was minimal to none.
Now wind forward to 2019, it is regrettable to learn of the EFF openly flirting with Charterist rhetoric. This ideological slippage makes us as a party no different to the former liberation movement when we’re engaged at an ideological level. The difference between us and them becomes only cosmetic if one appreciates how the Freedom Charter (FC), which we have no qualms with is a pathetic document that sells out the idea of black liberation. 
This commitment to the Freedom Charter as an organizing logic for Land return is on record aptly articulated by the EFF party leader and the CIC, Julius Malema in a recent article published in the City Press when the CIC wrote:
“As unfashionable as it has been, we have remained guided by the Freedom Charter on our approach to the land question and the economy, with our programmatic agenda regarding land outside of the legislative process being the rallying cry of the occupation of land by our people”.
In essence, for good or bad, we’re still here trying to come to terms with this contradiction of people within our ranks who want to use the same ideologically bankrupt FC interpretation and only infusing it with a bit of youthful arrogance.
And for the record, it must stated categorically that the idea that EFF can resolve the historical and national question of Land dispossession using the Freedom Charter as an ideological framework is preposterous. 
Although I understood that the fetish with the FC in the formative stages of the EFF reflected, on the most part, the mindset of both the mass  membership and the leadership’s former political home (who are majority), but it was a position I was convinced that the party was slowly going to self-correct over the years post it’s inception as it began to establish a firm ideological character and body-politic because the FC is in essence a reactionary position historically that you cannot embrace without the eventuality of selling the struggle for black national self-determination.
With that said, I would like to now return to the argument I made above about the EFF meaning different things to different interest groups and people for the bulk of my remaining piece.
The first group interests and aspirations that the EFF embodies is that of the marginalized African masses. We stand with the economically dis-empowered masses.
Our political mission as reflected in our founding manifesto and the 7 cardinal pillars is for a radical redistribution of political and economic power to overcome more than 350 years of political oppression and our social dislocation. The means of achieving this is through a seizure of political power.
This position stems from a solid resolution taken in our First People’s Assembly held at Soweto’s Uncle Tom Hall in July 2013 that gave clarity on the question of What Is To Be Done.
We resolved, inter alia, to contest power through a parliamentary system, this, not withstanding the many contradictions of bourgeois parliamentary politics.
We’ve since then been guided by a Marxist and Leninist analysis of world politics of social change and managed to expand and massify our politics and our ideological influence even beyond the boarders of South Africa. We’ve established socialist allies in other African states like Namibia and Zimbabwe among others. However, our overriding concern is to change the brutal conditions of our people in our own land first.
But we are at the forefront of spearheading the growth of revolutionary consciousness anchored on the struggle for Economic Emancipation across the continent of Africa. An Africa with a traumatic history of oppression and genocide is still very much in need of revolutionary movements like the EFF who grow in the soil of exploitation and injustice. We therefore have a strong belief that history will vindicate us. We’re on the right side of the struggle.
However, as would be expected, this battle has not been without it’s fair share of challenges. The second strand of interest groups that EFF wittingly and unwittingly continues to rattle are reactionaries and owners of the means of production. These are white land thieves who are allergic to transformation and degenerate into all sorts of counter-attacks against forces of radical change, and their counter-insurgency campaigns have grown more sophisticated and emboldened over the years.
Due to their complete hegemony over the media, institutions of influence and power, and of course, an arsenal of white barristers they have made every effort to undermine the existence of our party. At the outset, these enemies of transformation organized in their racist white enclaves such as Freedom Front Plus (FF+) refuted the establishment and registration of the EFF. They cited that the name “fighters” incited violence and was therefore out of synch with the electoral code. The EFF through public debate gave superior logic and defeated such nonsensical categorisation and exposed it as feeding into a racist profiling of Black people as criminal and violent when they organize themselves.
When racists saw how they could not disallow us from registering they then later subjected the party to a widespread right-wing propaganda mechanization (through the infamous Stellenbosch Stratcom) that framed the EFF as a bloodthirsty terrorist organization. Thereafter, we’ve been litigated on a litany of our actions and public pronouncements we’ve made by the white establishment. The famous legal battle of course being against Afri-forum (a right wing racist cabal that promotes Afrikaner interests) that took us to court for calling on black people to occupy vacant pieces of Land for urgent humane settlement needs.
And in all our efforts to develop the nation with the minimal political power we hold, I have realized that there can be no peace-meal way to development. And that national development remains a mirage without abolishing the conditions that incubates under-development. The EFF has therefore consistently proposed a progressive developmentalist agenda underpinned by ideals of economic justice that abolishes private ownership of the land and strategic sectors of the economy. The EFF has repeatedly argued and taught that it is only when the 7 cardinal pillars are translated into policy intervention with a progressive legislative realignment undertaken will the under-development of our people be a thing of the past.
It is this ideological distinction, which in clear political terms makes the EFF a revolutionary party that aims to take over political power, change the neoliberal failed policy misdirection and implement the 7 cardinal pillars in order to establish a Black socialist state where the interests of black people will be centralized. 
That’s why there was a necessary and a welcomed outrage from party members during the 2016 local government elections when the party leadership took a decision to give key municipal Metros to the Democratic Alliance (DA), a party of white land thieves that is diametrically opposed to the EFF’s ideological character and vision.
I was equally incensed at that reckless decision too. I felt that it was disrespectful to black people who suffer and live in crushing poverty under white power and was also ideologically strange. A party has a reason for existence. Our reason for existence is irreconcilable to the DA’s reason of existence. But that was a crucial learning moment in our history that fighters must hopefully reflect on, and then write their names on the dotted line never to make such a political blunder again to have a revolutionary party that degenerates and becomes a chief supporter of racist and imperialist formations.
More generally, I argue that the EFF has done relatively well in elevating many of us from the doldrums of moral emptiness and a soulless struggle. Before the EFF came to the fore many young people in the country were either apolitical or where like lost sheep in the wilderness in desperate need of a Shepard.
The EFF has redefined the political landscape, sharpened the conviction of the masses and led important legislative efforts against some of the constitutional counterweights that stands in the way of Land redistribution.
We’ve successfully managed to make the following inroads that has dramatically changed the political theater in South Africa.
  1. Successfully exposed the contradictions of parliament, as nothing short of a liberal anti-poor elitist arena that serves to defend the maintenance of the status quo (ante).
  2. Successfully exposed the Constitution as an albatross around our necks in which no land expropriation without compensation will be realizable without fundamental amandments to the key tenets of the document like the infamous Sunset Clause or Section 25. We’ve done this through removing the technicist and legalistic veil of the law and repositioned the Land Question as a matter of public good which should be removed from the courts and liberal jurists.
  3. Played an instrumental role of political support and leadership in the #FeesMustFall struggles of students who were tackling some of the most pressing issues facing higher education institutions today in South Africa under the ANC government.
We’ve done all of this and more within a short space of 6 years in the political arena, rallied by a collective capable leadership of the EFF, and one that is armed with only revolutionary ideas and a resolve to end structural injustice of Land dispossession.
Moreover, as young black people who embody the contradictions of the born frees, we feel represented in the EFF and we’ve gained a renewed sense of hope in the possibility of liberation. The party continues to play a significant role both in our personal and ideological developments and has linked us with an exceptional of group of youngsters from across the country who have waken up to the call to struggle for a free and better South Africa as people who will define the markets of tomorrow.
In the EFF we’ve built long-lasting fraternal relations. In the EFF we’ve grown as leaders in our own ranks who can contribute meaningfully in shaping public discourse.
Long live to the revolutionary movement of July 26, and to the generation of economic freedom fighters. 
#EFFTurns6

[END.]

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