A perverse choice of holiday reading included Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Unlike previous famines in the Ukraine, the Red Famine or Holodomor of 1932-1933 was not a climatic phenomenon; it was man-made.
To destroy “the Ukrainian national idea, and the neutering of any Ukrainian challenge to Soviet unity”, Stalin persecuted intellectuals and leaders, demoted the Ukrainian language and banned the teaching of Ukrainian history.
Then, for opposing his obsession with collectivising agriculture, Stalin imposed the Holodomor – death by hunger.
To do this, Stalin first set quotas for the production of food at levels that were unachievable. Then he ordered the confiscation of all food from the peasants for failing to meet these targets.
Unlike the famine a decade earlier, no international food assistance was allowed because Stalin had no intention of alleviating the suffering. As a result, over 3,9 million perished out of an estimated population of 31 million.
Stalin is thought to have killed between 20 million and 60 million people in 25 years in power. Communist China under Mao Zedong saw the deaths of between 45 and 70 million people through starvation because of his Great March Forward to impose industrialisation on China.
The Maoist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia resulted in the deaths of between 1.7 and 1.9 million people between 1975 and 1979 – 21 to 24 percent of Cambodia’s 1975 population.
Zimbabwe’s policy of forced expropriation of land in an agricultural economy has been the main driver of the collapse of the country’s economy. Robert Mugabe was in power for 37 years.
Fidel Castro was the dictator of Cuba for 53 years. Cuba remains a one-party communist state. At the end of 2017, there were at least 140 known political prisoners in Cuba, twice as many as in 2016. This was over the period that former American President Barak Obama normalised relations with Cuba.
Cuba still restricts freedom of the press, assembly, speech and association. Raúl Castro, Fidel’s successor, continued to monopolise economic activity in state enterprises despite some reforms permitting self-employment. The current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, is a protegé of Raul’s.
Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated “H.E. Nicolas Maduro Moros of Venezuela following his inauguration for a Second Term”. In this, South Africa aligned itself with Cuba, Bolivia, Russia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran, Mozambique, Syria, China and North Korea.
Venezuela’s electoral contest was denounced as a sham by the United States, Canada and a dozen Latin American nations. Sixteen ambassadors were recalled. All but one opposition party boycotted the election.
Apologists argue that the problem lies with Venezuela’s particular brand of socialism: it fuses bad economic ideas with a distinctive brand of strongman bullying, prone to authoritarianism and mismanagement. But this only proves the rule!
Venezuela’s inflation rate in November 2018 was 1,300,000 percent. Child malnutrition is at 70% in some rural areas. By June 2018, an estimated six million or 20% of Venezuelans were living outside Venezuela. The once flourishing fishing community that was nationalised by Hugo Chavez has collapsed and fishermen are resorting to piracy and drug-running to survive.
As at 2001, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. Now it is becoming the first failed state in modern Latin American history.
In 2016, Maduro’s government issued a decree to force public and private sector employees to work in the country’s fields for 60-day periods, which could be extended “if circumstances merit” to try to tackle the severe food shortages.
Socialist governments eventually have to rely on coercion and worse to enforce policy or to remedy a crisis. And the African National Congress (ANC) is set on making South Africa follow that route in its ongoing support of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), using the historic but redundant Freedom Charter as its economic blue print.
Thirty of the 47-odd Communist countries in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were occupied by Russia mostly as a result of the Second World War. The USSR became the fourth largest empire in history by geography.
The Soviet Union trained and supported the ANC during the armed struggle while the West was seen as supporting the apartheid government. For the USSR, support for Africa’s independence movements was intended to improve its influence during the Cold War. The USSR, however, treated its own citizens and the citizens of its empire abysmally. The infamous system of gulags or forced labour camps epitomised the Soviet dictatorship’s disregard for its people.
The ANC still espouses the NDR despite its failure and the demise of its inspiration when the USSR collapsed. The ANC adopted the policy at its Morogoro Conference in Tanzania in 1969, and has recommitted itself to it at all its national conferences – Mafikeng (1997), Stellenbosch (2002), Polokwane (2007), Mangaung (2012) and Nasrec (2017).
Mafikeng’s key goal was to use cadre deployment to give the ANC control over ‘all centres of power’. Ramaphosa chaired the ANC’s cadre deployment committee during Zuma’s second term. The most graphic consequence of this policy has been the hollowing out of State Owned Enterprises (SoEs).
Stellenbosch stressed the need to ‘eliminate apartheid property relations’ through ‘the deracialisation of…wealth, including land’ and the ‘redistribution of wealth and income’. Now we have ‘expropriation without compensation’ through unnecessarily amending our Constitution.
In its 2019 Election Manifesto, the ANC undertakes to investigate the introduction of prescribed assets on financial institutions’ funds – this includes the idea that pension funds will be obliged to invest in SoEs.
The ANC also vows to
- implement the unworkable National Health Insurance;
- introduce legislation to extend company ownership to workers through employee ownership schemes,
- build greater partnerships between workers and owners to build these businesses.
This is legislating ownership of the means of production by the proletariat.
“The National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance” is a realignment of political power in the ANC following a meeting this month. There, the ANC, Cosatu, the SACP, and the South African National Civic Organisation “reaffirmed the centrality of the Alliance in moving the National Democratic Revolution into a second more radical phase and collectively driving its successful execution”.
The SACP also said: “The mandate of the Reserve Bank was not designed ‘WITH THE OBJECTIVES OF THE SECOND [RADICAL] PHASE OF [OUR DEMOCRATIC] TRANSITION’ in mind”.
The ANC’s disastrous management of the economy confirms that it won’t achieve what predecessor socialist states could not.
The 2019 Manifesto makes it clear that the ANC intends to run people’s lives for them. The most insulting aspect of socialism is the denial of people’s individual agency.
The ANC understands the importance of export markets, the need for more international competitiveness, and the need to attract foreign investment. However, these demands clash with the NDR so there can be no real change.
In the global world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ANC continues to pursue a flawed system based on a mid-19th century analysis of conditions in the Europe of the First Industrial Revolution.
Assuming the tripartite alliance will succeed where every other communist/socialist society has failed, the SACP says: “The state should encourage the widespread development of democratically administered co-operative and collective farms rather than individual peasant smallholdings.”
This statement should send a shiver down every South African’s spine.
Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by sending an SMS to 32823 (SMSes cost R1, Ts and Cs apply).
- Applebaum, Anne, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, original publisher Penguin Press, 7 September 2017;
- Filatova, Irina, The Lasting Legacy: The Soviet Theory of the National-Democratic Revolution and South Africa;
- African National Congress, LET’S GROW SOUTH AFRICA TOGETHER – 2019 ELECTION MANIFESTO A PEOPLE’S PLAN FOR A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL;
- BBC Venezuela, Election: Fourteen ambassadors recalled after Maduro win, 22 May 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44204632;
- World Economic Forum, Venezuela was once South America’s richest country. Here’s what went wrong, 7 Aug 2017, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/venezuela-economic- woes-2017-explained/;
- CNN Business, Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens, Patrick Gillespie, Rafael Romo and Osmary Hernandez, July 29, 2016; money.cnn.com/2016/07/29/news/ economy/venezuela-decree-farm-labor/;
- South African Government press release, President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulates President of Venezuela on his inauguration, www.gov.za, 10 January 2019;
- Sangonet Pulse, NGO: Cuba Doubled Political Prisoners in One Year, Frances Martel, 15 November 2017, www.ngopulse.org/article/2017/11/15/ngo-cuba-doubled-political-prisoners- one-year;
- Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018 – Cuba Profile,
- First Thing powered by Daily Maverick, Anthea Jeffery: The Reserve Bank and the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, Dr. Anthea Jeffery, 18 January 2019;
- The South African Communist Party, “The National Democratic Revolution” – The SACP’s 1962 proposals for the building of a national democratic state, Politicsweb 3 March 2010;
- Freeman, Colin, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Spectator, 19 January 2019.