The paranoia of this week's ANC Today newsletter came as no shock to me. I have after all just finished reading Ronald Suresh Robert's 'Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki', which is devoted to proving that there are colonialists hiding under every bed just waiting for an opportunity to reverse the democratic gains of the ANC's 1994 election victory. But what did shock me was the revolutionist, to be precise Maoist, rhetoric and tone.
The article states that the ANC, on coming to power, adopted the position –'let a hundred flowers bloom: let a hundred schools of thought contend!' This of course was borrowed from Communist China's Chairman Mao Tse-Tung during his only and brief period of relative openness.
What a bizarre choice of model for democracy in South Africa. For all the things that earned Chairman Mao a statue at Madame Tussaudes, democracy was certainly not one of them. But Mao's political evolution and some of the concerns raised in this article do provide us with a roadmap of where the ANC may wish to be heading (or perhaps beheading).
In late 1956 Mao launched his Hundred Flowers Campaign in an effort to revitalise the moribund creativity of the once great China through constructive public debate. Mao was convinced that this public criticism would not hurt the revolution as Socialism would certainly triumph in this ideological battle. And surprise surprise, the ANC believed the same with regard to their revolution.
|'We were and remain confident that precisely in the context of this contest of a hundred schools of thought, the views of the national democratic revolution would and will emerge triumphant in the minds of the masses of our people.'|
But by 1957 Mao's revolution was very much under threat. His Hundred Flowers Policy had resulted in a flood of criticism from his beloved masses, some calling for the overhaul of the Communist system all together. And so the campaign was immediately aborted. But it wasn't all a complete loss - for the Chairman, 'the snakes had now been enticed out of their lairs' and could be dealt with accordingly. The Hundred Flowers movement led to the condemnation, silencing, and death of many citizens with death tolls estimated to possibly be in the millions. And as we all know this was only a small taste of things to come.
But besides for borrowing the soothing title of Mao's one and only liberal aberration for their policy on open debate, what else does the ANC and the Chinese Communist Party have in common? Well like in Red China, they also see the Party as the sole vessel of the revolution (past, present and future). As the ANC today article explains:
|'the ANC and the revolutionary democratic masses it led and leads must, at all times and in all field of human activity, assert and exercise their hegemony as the leader of the process of the fundamental social and national democratic transformation of our country.'|
The revolution (and thus the Party) is constantly seen as under threat from reactionary forces that wish to restore the old order.
|'The motive force of our national democratic revolution, the ANC and the masses it leads, must defend and advance the democratic revolution conscious of the reality of the continuing existence and vibrancy of exactly the same forces that had, to one degree or another, opposed the victory of the national democratic revolution'.|
Although political power has changed hands, these reactionary forces are seen to have remained in control of important institutions.
|'We did not succeed to uncover the networks at all levels of society established as part of the so-called National Security Management System…we have former apartheid agents in the ranks of the political formations in our country, in the machinery of the democratic state, in business, the professions, including the universities and the media, and civil society in general, who will voluntarily act in a manner consistent with what they did in the past'.|
But these reactionary elements are not overt in their subversive activities. In their efforts to fight back the revolution they are believed to go as far as assuming the form of a revolutionary.
|'We must also recognise the reality that this situation makes it very easy for some who might have been inspired temporarily to attach themselves to the ascendant revolution to change their positions. This includes those who might find greater comfort among, and in the positions advanced by a necessarily sophisticated opposition to the political vanguard of national democratic revolution, in the aftermath of the victory of the democratic revolution.'|
When the ANC's Maoist logic is followed to its conclusion, smoking out and then purging the entire society of these anti-revolutionaries becomes the only way to secure the revolution. Thankfully for the time being there is a proviso in ANC policy.
|'We must therefore exercise the hegemony we have spoken of not on the basis of access to superior access to repressive force, as has happened elsewhere on our Continent and other parts of the world, but on the basis of the democratic and popular mandate of the majority that was the victim of colonial and apartheid oppression and super-exploitation.'|
But what will happened when there comes a day that not only 'White racist' and their Black 'native assistants' criticize the government; when 'the masses of their people' raise their voices in anger over poor service delivery and corruption; and when there is a significant threat that the ANC's democratic and popular mandate has come to an end? Will democracy or the national democratic revolution prevail? We know what choice our neighbour to the north made. Given the Maoist logic of this article, we have to seriously question why South Africa should be any different.
Previously at IAS