Politics is a Nazi business for the fearmongering EFF
Using a phrase borrowed from Hitler will spark fear - just the political commodity the populist party needs
Yesterday, Dali Mpofu, the frontal lobe of the EFF, published an opinion piece in The Daily Maverick.
I must confess that I didn’t read it all, partly because it was more than 6,000 words long and life is short.
Indeed, I struggled to get much further than the fifth paragraph, the point at which the piece descended into parody when Mpofu accused various journalists of using “different media platforms to insult, undermine and even intimidate the leadership of the EFF”.
Intimidate? Poor ickle Julius! Poor Floyd diddums! Did the nasty writers who are read by 50,000 people and have no legislative power say scary words to MPs with a million supporters? How frightening it must be to be so besieged by such a dangerous “mob”. (That last word was Mpofu’s, not mine. For future reference, if you disagree with the EFF on anything, you are part of the mob. So now you now.)
The main reason I failed to engage with Mpofu’s tome, however, was the phrase that gave the piece its headline and its entire argumentative thrust.
Because Mpofu was writing about something he unblushingly described throughout the piece as “the Indian question”.
These days a lot of people are accusing the EFF of being fascist. This is an unfair label. The fact is we don’t yet know which form of totalitarian populism the party will decide on as being the best route to taking and holding power. Given that it is a party of personality cults, that decision will also depend heavily on the mood of its leadership: if Julius and Floyd are watching The Motorcycle Diaries, the party will tootle off towards communism. If they’ve just been discussing the pleasures of indulging in some hot, steaming ethnic nationalism, they’ll probably goose-step to the right.
Still, given that the EFF wants to avoid any association with fascism and, dare we say it, Nazism, you’d have thought Mpofu might avoid borrowing one of Hitler’s favourite phrases.
“The Jewish Question”, you will recall, was a debate in the 19th and 20th centuries about whether or not Jews belonged in ethnically homogenous European nation states. You will also recall that the Nazis worked out a “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.Now, these are not obscure phrases. If you know anything about history, you know that describing any social or political issue as “the [insert ethnic or cultural minority] question” is to make extremely loaded claims. For example, you are claiming that there is an objective, empirically true problem. You are tacitly implying that the minority being questioned presents some sort of threat to the majority and, indeed, the state as a whole. And, since 1945, you are conjuring up the other half of the “question”: its “solution”.
Mpofu is a learned man who claims to know a great deal about history. I cannot believe he is unaware of the deafening echoes and diabolically evil connotations associated with rounding up an ethnic minority as a “question” that implicitly need a solution. So why did he choose to use that phrase?
The EFF is not planning genocide, no matter what frightened idiots insist on Twitter. But fear is a valuable commodity in politics.
If you can drop a few sinister phrases into the media that light even the smallest spark of fear, your political opponents will overreact. They will become aggressively defensive. They will yell and call you names. They will, in short, start looking like a mob.
And you will shrug piously and say: “See? What did I tell you?”