The NGC documents are not light reading. They encompass more than 200 pages and cover virtually every aspect of policy. For the most part, the NGC documents are fairly workmanlike – and avoid wild ideological prescriptions – although there are the predictable references to the radical implementation of the second phase of the National Democratic Revolution – and requirements for fundamental changes in rural land ownership.
The exception is the chapter on foreign relations.
The nature of the problem is indicated, right at the start, by the ANC’s characterisation of itself as “a revolutionary national liberation movement which is an integral part of the international revolutionary movement to liberate humanity from the bondage of imperialism and neo-colonialism.”
Why does the ANC still regard itself as a “national liberation movement” – when for more than 20 years it has been the elected government of a constitutional democracy? What is “the international revolutionary movement”? What on earth is “the bondage of imperialism and neo-colonialism” in a world in which the last empires and colonies disappeared 40 years ago? Hello – it’s 2015 – not 1848 or 1917.
According to the NGC documents “imperialism has plunged humanity in a perpetual socio-economic crisis. The high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, disease and underdevelopment confirm our long-held view that the capitalist market economy cannot resolve its own contradictions”.
As the authors of the NGC should have noticed it was communism – and not the “capitalist market economy” that experienced a fatal crisis. The system has now been discarded by everyone except North Korea, Cuba and the SACP. In fact, the 70 years since the end of World War II, which have been broadly dominated by what the ANC calls the capitalist market economy, have seen more progress than any other period in the history of mankind: more people are now living in freedom than at any other time in human history; since 1950 global life expectancy has risen from 47 to 70 years – and infant and maternal deaths dropped by half; also, the percentage of the world’s population living in absolute poverty, (on less than US$1.25 per day), declined from 40% in 1980, to only 14% in 2013.
The NGC documents adopt an overtly hostile stance to the West and particularly to the United States. They claim that the US has declared a cold war against China and Russia. It is trying to destabilise China by portraying it as the world’s worst polluter; by supporting ‘counter-revolutionaries as human rights activists’; and by trying to sweep up animosity in East Asia to Chinese territorial claims in the China Sea.
The United States is also trying to destabilise the Russian government by staging counter-revolutionary protests and marches. “The war taking place in Ukraine is not about Ukraine. It’s intended to target Russia.”
The ANC goes on to claim that “Washington’s sponsored destabilisation is not limited to Russia and China. We see it unfolding in the streets of Latin America, including in Venezuela which the US has strangely declared a threat to its national security; in the Middle East and in African countries with the sole intention of toppling progressive, democratically elected governments.”
The ANC adulates Cuba – which according to Freedom House is one of the least free countries in the world: “We will always be inspired by the role of Cuba in the struggle for internationalism and solidarity. Its role in the struggle for the liberation of the African continent against imperialism and colonialism will always be treasured.”
It is perfectly appropriate for South Africa to cultivate positive relations with China and Russia as leading partners in BRICS – without endorsing their political systems. However, it is unwise and unnecessary to adopt such an openly hostile stance against the West – and particularly against the United States.
Where does all this come from?
In all likelihood, South Africa’s new international orientation has its roots in the growing influence of the SACP in the direction of the National Democratic Revolution and in ANC policy in general. The NGC documents follow the lead provided by the SACP’s Going to the Root document earlier this year and by the views expressed at its recent Third Special Congress in which it called for “partial delinking from the Western imperialist economic centres” with a view to “thus creating real possibilities for radical economic transformation in our country”.
The ANC clearly wants to take South African foreign policy in a new and radical direction.
Before it embarks on this course it should give careful consideration to the fact that ‘imperialists’ are by far the largest investors in our economy – with over 2 000 European companies operating here. Does it really want to alienate them?
Despite the growing importance to South Africa of our trade with China – our trade with the EU and the US is far larger. Does the ANC really want to jeopardise this trade – particularly when there is absolutely no need to choose between trade with China and the West?
Finally, in our new society the Constitution – and not the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution – is supreme. Foreign policy should reflect the values in the Constitution – and not the universally disproven jargon of Marxism-Leninism. We should pursue our national interests in our relations with all the nations of the world – but we should find our friends among countries that share a commitment to genuine democracy and freedom.
By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation
Photo credit: GovernmentZA / Foter / CC BY-ND
This is an updated version of an article first published by the SABC. Read more HERE.