In his response – stung by what he referred to as “sarcastic little barbs” – Cronin reminded Netshitenzhe of his close association with the discredited Mbeki presidency. “Cde Netshitenzhe’s intervention exposes the underlying ideological assumptions that succeeded in being hegemonic within the ANC and ANC-led government from the mid-1990s and for the better part of a decade.” These assumptions had resulted in “a costly loss of progressive momentum following the historic 1994 democratic breakthrough”. In effect, after 1994 the ANC had lost its revolutionary mojo – resulting in a situation of “a luta dis-continua”.

Cronin also took issue with Netshitenzhe’s view that apartheid was “exceptional”. On the contrary, “the chronic symptoms of the South African reality” were “part of a systemic whole, directly related to South Africa’s historic positioning as a semi-periphery within a global imperialist system as a primary commodity exporter based on “cheap” labour”.

According to Cronin “the concept of ‘imperialism’ had disappeared from official ANC documents after 1994.” Mbeki had gone so far as to hail the outcome of the 2002 G8 Summit as “the end of the epoch of colonialism and neo-colonialism.”

For Cronin, however, there was no doubt that the “profit maximising agenda” of monopoly capital and imperialism were at the root of all South Africa’s problems. There could accordingly be no question of any social pacts.

The crux of Cronin’s argument is that the ANC’s policies between 1996 and 2007 had given birth “to a pragmatism without boundaries”. According to Merriam-Webster, pragmatism is “a reasonable and logical way of doing things and thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of ideas and theories.” What could possibly be more unacceptable to a committed ideologist like Cronin?

The 10 000-word polemic provides an insight into the gobbeldygook card house of jargon that ideologists laboriously construct on the foundations of their thoroughly disproven premises. Most people are inclined to dismiss their arguments as having no connection with the real world.

They make an enormous mistake.

Ideologies have been the determining factor in much of human history. In the last century Communism, Nazism, Fascism and jingoistic imperialism resulted in the deaths of about 100 million people and caused untold suffering to billions of human beings.

Ideologies share similar characteristics: they start with some idea or belief; they all involve social engineering and rigid prescriptions; they postulate an unending struggle against some racial, religious or class enemy; they ignore realities that do not conform with their vision; they trample on the lives of individuals and are always destructive of freedom; they attempt to force economic realities and human nature into the constricted channels of their dogma; and they expound some pie-in-the-sky millenarian vision to justify the human suffering  and societal disruption that they inevitably inflict along the way.

Separate Development was such an ideology. The millenarian vision was a commonwealth of independent states in which all the constituent peoples of South Africa would enjoy national self-determination and work together in economic harmony; the enemy were black nationalists; liberals and communists; inescapable economic and demographic realities and the wishes of the people involved were systematically ignored; 16 million people were arrested for pass law offences; and three million people were removed by force from their homes and their lands.

Ideologies continue to threaten us today.

The millenarian vision of the NDR is the National Democratic Society – characterised by demographic representivity at all levels of the public, private and non-governmental sectors.  Its antagonists are white South Africans and its goal is “the resolution of the historic grievance arising from apartheid and colonialism”. It plans to achieve this through “the elimination of apartheid property relations” by means of accelerated affirmative action, BBBEE and land reform. In the process it ignores core economic and political realities and discounts the devastating impact that the ideology will have on South Africa’s economic viability and future race relations.

The SACP sees the NDR as the essential precursor to the introduction of ‘socialism’. Its vision is a classless society where the state will fade away. Its enemies are monopoly capitalism (whatever that means), imperialism and neo-liberalism. It systematically ignores the repression and catastrophic failure of all former and present communist regimes; it tries to force economic reality and human nature to comply with the thoroughly disproven precepts of Marxism-Leninism.

We cannot ignore the fact that the SACP now is the main determinant of economic policy – without ever having won a single vote – and believes that it can introduce elements of socialism even before the culmination of the NDR. Hence the raft of legislation going through Parliament that will seriously erode property rights – not just for whites but for all South Africans. Hence the SACP’s increasing attacks on the media and the judiciary.

South Africa cannot afford these ideologies. It should work rather for policies based on “pragmatism without boundaries” supported by “social compacting” between all the significant forces in our society.

By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation