Following the first phase of the Russian Revolution, Josef Stalin (1878-1953) engaged in a systematic propaganda campaign for the consolidation of power and assertion of authority, as well as establishing a heroic image of himself through expression of most dissolute flattery and unquestioning praise. Stalin was presented to the unsuspecting masses as “man of the people” and gained wider and popular appeal as a result.
Nikita Khrushchev (1874-1971) said of Stalin: “Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person.”
Stalin inebriated by the revolutionary euphoria instituted what was known as the Great Purge, a brutal campaign of political repression against those he considered counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people. It was during this time that his opponents were executed or banished from Russia to Gulag labour camps in remote areas of Siberia. Stalin was driven by his desire to eliminate dissident elements from his party and totally annihilate any form of opposition from within. Factionalism was banned and no person could openly go against the policies of the party.
As intelligent readers, I suppose you already see where this is going. Since Polokwane the presence and influence of communists in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been more pronounced. We have noted how a leader of the ANC had been portrayed as the messiah of the poor, in spite of the glaring absence of a track record to support such claims. Those openly opposing particular positions taken by the ANC had been labelled counter-revolutionaries and threatened with violence.
We have noted a growing and disturbing tendency of intolerance to criticism by the leadership of the ANC. Party members are prevented from openly expressing their views on issues of national interest. Stalinism appears to be espoused by the ANC and entrenched within its structures. Recent political events have exposed to the rest of us that party leaders rule with an iron fist. The triumphant victory of Polokwane, or the revolution as the chief prefect of the ANCYL keeps reminding us, was the beginning of the Great Purge in government.
Party members not closely aligned to Jacob Zuma, or who are perceived to be outside the victorious faction, have become victims of political settlement of scores. We have witnessed premiers being removed from their positions purely as a result of having betted against the wrong horse pre-Polokwane; followed by the president of the Republic.
Cosatu has unfairly attacked the former premier of Gauteng Mbhazima Shilowa for expressing his views about the shenanigans of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC upon his resignation. Cosatu said, “we are not taking kindly his continuous criticism of that decision to recall Thabo Mbeki … He does not have any authority to lambaste the ANC NEC decision in public … we believe that we can’t entrust ill-disciplined cadres with the responsibility of being the guardians of the state resources.”
The ANC also made it know that they believe Shilowa “is entitled to his criticisms, but this must be done within the ANC structure. While we respect his freedom of expression, we take a dim view of his utterances, especially words like ‘unjust’ and ‘unfair’.” This was a display of hypocrisy of the highest order by the ANC. It is disturbing that the very same individuals, who were at liberty to voice their disgust at the alleged intolerance of criticism by the former president and portrayed themselves as champions of freedom of speech and other constitutional rights of individuals, are the ones denying others their civil liberties.
Similarities of the behaviour of the ANC and communist lieutenants of Stalin become more pronounced as the days progress toward elections and the impatience for power becomes overbearing. The chronic illusion of omnipotence by the victorious faction is suicidal. Instead of sustaining the tested tradition of the movement that embraces reason in dealing with those opposed to unpopular position, the new ANC demands obedience, intimidates, threatens and flaunts the new-found power with regrettable arrogance.
The collapse of the Roman Empire was to some extent attributable to the culmination of several political infightings and the deposition of Emperors. Periods of political stability were interrupted by powerful generals and inciters of the Roman mob jockeying for positions. Most notable was the political rivalry between Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106BC – 48BC), known as Pompey the Great, and Marcus Licinius Crassus (115BC – 53 BC). The collapse of the Empire was gradual and certain. The ANC is no different. Its continuing dominance is already under threat and it is the most wonderful prospect.
The breakaway of disgruntled members of the ANC led by Robert Sobukwe, who formed the PAC, did not necessarily weaken the ANC, as it derived strength and cohesion from the existence of a determined enemy and determination of purpose to defeat the apartheid forces. The adhesive glue that bounded the leadership together over the last year is no more and it is inevitable that all things would gradually fall apart in spite of all denials and complacency.
Communism is the very antithesis of democracy. The continuing presence of communists within the powerful structures of the ANC is troubling. Recent, senseless outbursts by leaders of the ANC at opponents of its misguided decisions and thoughtless actions indicate that the spirit of Josef Stalin is marching through the corridors of Luthuli House. Are we as a nation unable to stand up and fight to sustain this democracy for which many lives were sacrificed? The stability of our country is dependent on our defence of democracy. The growing despotism within the ANC constitutes the gravest menace to democracy and causes greatest impairment to the ideals for which the elders of the movement fought.