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𝗘𝘅𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗘𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗢𝗽𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗵 𝗤𝘂𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗿𝘆
During my stay in Lusaka, Zambia, 1975-88, some of my most memorable social interactions involved meeting older and veteran, mostly male South African freedom fighters. These were ANC members. Then in their mid-thirties and above, some of them had travelled the world. They would have been in pursuit of various goals, which included:
- Mobilization of international support for the South African liberation struggle efforts
- Military training
About all the veterans exhibited the abhorrent traits of arrogance, tribalism, bullying, cantankerousness, outright stupidity, and violence endemic of South African kassie/ township life. Hard partying involving huge consumptions of alcohol and drugs and all that it entails were an integral part of the deal. Needless to say. Shebeen culture carried with into exile. Not that Zambians were any less of party animals.
These veterans were people of all sorts, with all sorts of familial backgrounds. They, or we, as individuals or as special-interests sub-groups were motivated and threaded together by the collective higher dream of the attainment of the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid oppression.
Much as they loved to party by default, the majority of these people took their liberation struggle work very, very seriously. They were highly knowledgeable in the various fields of Social and Natural Sciences, including Mathematics. Some had had guerrilla operations experiences within South Africa in the 1960s; also, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in conjunction with fellow freedom fighters in those countries. Others had participated in major international wars, such as the Vietnam war, and in Latin America. These were hard people.
There were three distinct individuals with whom I shared intense mutual dislike for one another. Each in their own ways reminded me of some older guys and grown-up men that were generally not nice people back in my kassie, Thabong, Welkom. These horrible guys hated especially the ever vocal and visible little boys like myself then. It didn’t help my situation being son of an envied foreign man from Zambia. I had already been in Zambia for several years when I heard that, on separate occasions, five of the horrible guys got stabbed to death by younger boys on the streets. Good riddance. For the obnoxious people these men were, their souls deserve neither rest nor peace wherever they may be in after-deathland.
Regarding the three older exiles that didn’t like me very much in Lusaka, I imagine that a mortal confrontation would have ensued at some point had we been in South Africa then. The likely murdered wouldn’t have been me.
Zambia’s relatively laid-back culture had a way of dampening our wild South African township streaks. Otherwise, I got along fine with everyone; particularly those that found me “interesting to talk big struggle issues to”; their words, not mine.
My favourite was Comrade Mjaykes. He was Commander for a unit of younger, recently arrived immediate post-1976 Soweto student uprising exiles. Overriding objective here was to debrief the traumatized youth with various available and relevant medical and therapeutic methods. Intense and continuous conscientization political education was an unavoidable part of the package. And this was the fun part for me. Much of my fundamental geopolitics principles understanding was founded here.
Contrary to many a senior veteran, on the outset, Comrade Mjaykes was an unassuming personality. But he was one the most highly trained and educated around, both militarily and academically. He trained a lot, often alone late at night. He was very fit. And he read a lot too. Of his few personal possessions other than his books, he treasured a satellite radio that he had bought on one of his travels abroad. Commanding English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili languages, the super veteran used the radio to listen to current affairs programs from all corners of the world. He was a well-informed man.
Being an exemplary leader with superior oratory skills, Comrade Mjaykes was a complete warrior in my eyes. An enduring source of inspiration that I last saw in 1981. Sadly, he was one of the earliest victims of the scourge of HIV/AIDS pandemic that began to ravage southern Africa and the rest of the world from the 1980s onwards. Comrade Mjaykes died in the newly liberated Rainbow Nation, South Africa, in December, 1994. No doubt, his soul is resting in eternal power. I can’t help but often wonder as to what he would have thought of the South Africa of today.
Acknowledging my Karate prowess already in 1977/ 78, Comrade Mjaykes said to me one day, “Much as I know you’d make a much better soldier than all these young comrades here, I’d rather you went to school first. You have the kind of brains there is a shortage of in our political leadership structures, see? We should be able to organize for you a scholarship for studies abroad. I’ll talk to your parents about this.”
“That would be nice, thank you! You know, my father’s biggest wish for my two siblings and I is that we could go and study overseas. But that’ll remain a pipedream because he could never afford the costs of an overseas education for us. Life is really hard for our family in Lusaka, as you know well.”
“Yes, I know! Your father is a good man. He deserves all the help we can afford him in that regard.”
“Thank you, Comrade! My parents would be extremely happy and grateful if mzabalazo/ the liberation movement can help.”
“It should work out for sure. But, unfortunately, currently available scholarships for full education up to university level are from Yuseserese/ the USSR (The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). However, no, I don’t want you to go there even if you could leave tomorrow. My analysis of you and how you think tell me that you obviously are not Yuseserese material.”
“Why? How’s that? All I want is to be a doctor. A doctor is a doctor, no? There are Russian doctors at the UTH/ University Teaching Hospital, right?”
“Correct, a doctor is a doctor to the extent that he or she thinks only within the context of being a doctor and nothing else beyond.”
“I don’t understand!”
“Let me explain, Sae: you see, being a doctor, or any other modern, academically attained profession for that matter, is but just one of the multitudes of tools available for us to apply in the overall growth and development of society. You’ll, of course, recall that growth refers to the actual physical expansionary attributes of society; infrastructure, for example. Whereas development refers to the total conceptual and practical work that goes towards visualizing and realizing measurable qualitative and quantitative transformation of society.”
“Yes, growth or lack thereof is a function of ideas and tools constituting a society’s developmental visions as espoused by the incumbent national leadership.”
“Absolutely, Sae. Do remember that the developmental visions are promulgated in national development plans over specific time periods. Your brilliant explanation is further proof that sending you to Yuseserese will be a waste of what I see as one of the most promising of future leadership brains in our soon to be liberated South Africa. You must go to the West. Most of our smart ANC leaders in exile send their children to the West, anyway. There’s a good reason for that.”
In arguing his case, Comrade Mjaykes repeated a summary of standard rhetorical statements I had heard numerous times before:
- The Soviet Union is a Socialist state.
- Socialism is a transition state. Socialism puts together all the building blocks leading to Communism attainment.
- Socialism shall build a strong state designed to enhance optimal economic growth and protection of society and all that guarantees perpetuity of the imminent march to Communism.
- Communism is the highest state of existential wellbeing attainable for society. Under Communism, classes are non-existent; all are equal with equal access to all resources necessary and available for a life of non-ending abundance for all.
- The state machinery, i.e. bureaucracy, has the function of managing efficacy of Communism towards the full satisfaction of societal needs. Under Communism, given certain specific skills according to different levels of societal engineering and resources production and distribution administration, all are at the service of society first and foremost and last.
- Communism has no room for individualism, the basis for societal stratification, or classes creation. When Christianity and other religions talk about heaven, that’s another language for the perfect Communist state, actually. Only that Communism has no overbearing figures of God as portrayed in religious belief systems.
“That is the rosy picture of Communism, Sae. The reality is different. Just like the concept of heaven for the religious, Communism is utopian. The march to Communism starts and ends in the already dysfunctional Socialism, really.”
“But I thought that attainment of the Communist state was more realistic because it was based on the dialectical material world for material human beings without mythical angels and gods in even more farfetched heavens above somewhere in the distant sky.”
“Communism attainment would be more realistic had it not been for Socialism’s killing of the human spirit, Sae.”
“You are losing me now, Comrade Mjaykes!”
“I know that no one here has ever mentioned that last statement to you. I deliberately chose to prematurely take your political education to the next level now. That’s only because I really want the best for you and the future liberated, non-Communist South Africa.”
“If I may say so, you are beginning to sound like a sellout, Comrade Mjaykes. Aren’t you risking condemnation by others should they hear you talking like this to me now”
“No, my views in this regard are already known to even the highest levels of our command structures. My devotion to the struggle is known; I having been tested on many, many occasions over the years. But because we, the ANC, aren’t hard-core Socialists yet, there’ still much room allowed to hold principled divergent opinions in the on-going discourse of how to establish a unique, workable developmental model for the future South Africa.”
“And that is the point, Sae; behind the apparent success of Socialism in the USSR, North Korea, Cuba, and China, to name the most prominent, there are millions of robotized people whose senses of individuality have been broken to the core. Indeed, people may be provided with the best education in the natural and social sciences, producing top doctors, engineers, economists, and many more vocations. But that’s often as far as it goes.
That’s because, through various political indoctrination methods, backed by extremely brutal national security forces trained to think and act as robotically themselves, the ruling elite ensure that the people cease to think independently and critically over existential questions.”
“But I’ve thus far been made to believe that people in Russia and all these socialist places live happily ever after. Moreover, Russia’s support of ours and others’ anti-imperialist struggles were for that the world must unite against capitalism’s exploitative socio-economic relations subjecting us to lasting poverty and subjugation.”
“That’s a myth, Sae. The truth is that us South Africans we are just too free-spirited, too wild to tame for Socialism. It goes without saying that Communism isn’t even worth talking about. Our allied South African Communist Party is a good platform for training in polemics and rhetoric more than anything else. We’ll discuss higher level Capitalism issues another time.”
“I must say that this new side of Socialism has shocked me, Comrade Mjaykes.”
“You see, Socialism works for, and constructs linear thinkers; people who cannot think outside the box. People who think only in straight lines and right-angles in fixed operational spaces. Perhaps that may be one of the reasons Russians are superior chess players! I don’t know.”
It’s at about this time that my interest in chess waned. I dreaded the idea of my brains turning square! Indeed, many a South African liberation struggle veteran is a formidable chess player. If they ruled today’ South Africa as exceptionally as they mastered chess, the country would probably be in a better place. But political leadership is an infinitely open field presupposing capacity for paradigm specific, or beyond as necessary, multifaceted thinking in problem solving and application of solutions derived thereby.
“You have on many occasions demonstrated that you are a more independent and well-rounded thinker than your contemporaries here, Sae. I know that that’s why some of the older comrades here don’t favour you much. They simply hate your guts. Highly educated as they are also, these guys don’t take it kindly when they are pushed out of their intellectual comfort zones, especially by a young comrade like you. They are Soviet educated.
“I’d hate to see you stagnate or degenerate intellectually as you get older. That’s why you can’t go to Yuseserese for studies, Sae, you see? One or two young comrades of your calibre have died out there before. Some have had mental breakdowns. It would break my heart to see that happen to you. Although the truth is suppressed in our organization, racism is also rife in the USSR. Encountering racism out there is tantamount to jumping out of the South African Apartheid pan into the Soviet racism fire, if you ask me.”
At own private initiative elsewhere, the first scholarship chance I got for an overseas higher education was to Social Democratic capitalist Norway in 1988. I got stuck here. Primarily out of idealism and for love. No regrets. Norway is the richest country in the world. All things considered, life is as good as can be in Norway. Of course, never perfect, never fully satisfactory for everyone, but Norway does deliver for its people.
And the country is a leading Foreign Aid nation. Norwegian Finance Ministers have for years been megastars amongst their global colleagues. No Communism here. The few ardent Norwegian communists around are but fringe individuals or insignificant groupings with inconsequential social change impact, if any at all.
I write books now. I am what they call norsk forfatter. ‘Forfatter Simon Chilembo’ sounds ever so cool! I write without fear or favour, freely following my creative fantasies to wherever they take me. I live happily ever after in an effectively non-Communist state. If Comrade Mjaykes could see me now! All gratitude due.
USSR-Socialist trained South African national leaders across the board fail to get the Rainbow Nation out of the mess they’ve plunged it in after the fall of Apartheid in 1994. In big geopolitics questions, the USSR yoke is sitting comfortably on South Africa’s neck. Mzansi drowning with a sinking ship that is post-USSR Russia fo sho.
The USSR fall with the Berlin Wall in 1989 give rise to Russia. In essence, Russia is the ghost of the former USSR. Ghosts are no touch of reality. It’s therefore not surprising that, identical to South Africa contra Apartheid’s subsequent collapse five years later, Russia never could rise from the post Berlin Wall shambles. Oligarchs ruthlessly plundered the Russian state coffers, taking corruption to the next level.
Post-1994 South Africa created its own egregious oligarchic class through the State Capture phenomenon. This has shown many a Comrade from humble beginnings becoming millionaires to billionaires overnight. They have acutely incapacitated the South African state’s ability to optimally deliver the promise of a better life for all in a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic republic. The post-1994 South African oligarchic class has given the formally Apartheid state’s corruption colour. The former is living in the past. They have lost sight of the reality that Russia is not the USSR. Dismembering of the USSR is permanent.
In 2022, Russia invades Ukraine with chess moves mentality. Some things never change. It has turned out that Ukraine is not a chess board for Russia to play on as it wishes. Things have changed here. Parochial USSR legacy oblivious to this fact. Just for starters, young men of my age in the late 1970s are dying, falling like sacrificial chess pawns. The rest is a tragic war on a straight line trajectory ending potentially with a nuclear war catastrophe.
World in panic makes noise. USSR legacy ears are plugged. USSR marble eyes see imperial rebirth victory where the odds for survival are impossible to turn around. Meanwhile, Norway gives shelter and protection to Ukraine children and women running away from the ravages of Russia’s war on their country. No better place to be. Communism allergic. Progressive society as close to heavenly terrestrial opulence as can be.
April 23, 2022
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