Editor's Note: Emeritus Professor Milton Shain (Isidore and Theresa Cohen Chair in Jewish Civilisation) received his PhD from the University of Cape Town. He specialises in the history of South African Jewry and the history of anti-Semitism and is Director of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research. He is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town.
In this article he discusses the political leanings of EFF leader, Julius Malema, and questions where his political rhetoric will lead.
That Julius Malema and his EFF share much with the fascists of the previous century cannot be gainsaid: a muscular and integral nationalism, a sense of racial exclusivity, a commitment to destroy political enemies, a wish to reorganise the economy, an authoritarian leadership, and at least a hint of militarism.
Even the EFF's penchant for uniforms harks back to the Brownshirts of Hitler's Germany and the Blackshirts of Mussolini's Italy, as does Malema's redemptive and at times racist rhetoric.
But Malema operates in a very different context. Unlike the original fascists, those he appeals to are not anxious about modernity or fearful of the left. To be sure, Malema comes from the left, or at least claims to.His concern is historical injustice. More than that, he is comfortable with existing state institutions, appreciates nonviolent parliamentary methods and welcomes judicial independence, a free press and free elections.
There is, then, much about Malema that is not fascist. He slots far better into the category of racial nationalist, with populist leanings. Distinctions between left and right matter less for him than the cleavage between elites and "the people". In this he employs the language of Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders. Identity and exclusion inform his politics. Importantly, his rhetoric is Africanist in a racist sense.
Rhetoric of this sort can cement cracks among the majority (the insiders) and paper over class divisions. It is seductive. It strikes the right chord and resonates with our history by revealing apartheid's legacies. But such rhetoric threatens to undermine the fragile "Rainbow Nation".
Read the rest of Professor Shain’s full column on Times LIVE.
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