Julius Malema and the ANCYL’s call for nationalisation should have all reasonable South Africans worried about the direction the country is taking. It seems as if the youth of the ruling party have embraced outdated Marxist ideals in their radical quest to change the status quo and this should be cause for concern for all South Africans who love this great country. It has seemingly become fashionable to flirt with the ideas of Marxism within the youth wing of the ruling party even though most of the world has clearly renounced Marxism as impractical, unworkable and detrimental to the cause of human progress. This is the ideology that lies behind the ill-informed calls for nationalisation by the ANCYL, even though nationalisation has proven to be disastrous wherever it has been implemented on the continent. From a practical perspective, given the shambolic state of most government departments and the mismanagement of most parastatals to the point where many of them are just barely breaking even, if not making a loss, we have no logical basis for trusting the state to run the entire economy efficiently and effectively. The ruling party and its assortment of cadres have mismanaged and bled dry so many government departments and public entities that we would be suicidal if we supported the ANCYL’s call to nationalise under the pretense of promoting, “economic freedom in our lifetime.” Is nationalisation really the solution to the socio-economic problems that South Africa is undoubtedly faced with? I wonder what advise one of Africa’s finest leaders; Mwalimu Julius Nyerere would have given us, after his experience with his failed Ujamaa socialist experiment which had devastating consequences for Tanzania and its majority rural poor. Well, here are a few important issues to consider or questions to ask as we endeavour to answer the question above. Does this socialist vision that drives the call for nationalisation actually empower people by giving them ownership and a personal stake in production apparatus or does it simply ensure that the state owns everything while the people own virtually nothing? The reality is that collectivist nationalisation does not give power to the people, but instead concentrates all power in the hands of the state. True empowerment is when individuals have power and control, not the state. With nationalisation based on the Marxist ideal, people go from being in slavery to the capitalists to being in slavery to the state and its officials. True social revolution should spread ownership and power across different sectors of society instead of concentrating ownership and power in the hands of the state and its few exceedingly privileged officials. Another important aspect to look at is the flawed belief that a market-based economy inevitably leads to the exploitation of workers, because this belief stems from a false understanding of the concept of value. Marxists believe that entrepreneurs exploit workers by profiting from the value that workers create, without themselves adding or creating value. In truth value has many facets: use or utility value, which is the value that is added through the usage of the product that has been manufactured and exchange value, which is the value that people place on a product through the price they are willing to pay for it. Many goods with a high use value have a low exchange value whilst many goods with a low use value, have a high exchange value. The same dynamic applies in the relationship between the entrepreneur and the worker. Whilst the worker has great use value through his ability to produce goods and do manual labour, the entrepreneur’s ability to organise the different factors of production in order to produce a good and then find/create a market for that good means that he has greater exchange value than the worker. This is not exploitation. It is a mutually beneficial, though unequal relationship. The entrepreneur’s skills and abilities have greater exchange value than the worker’s skills and abilities. Exchange value is the real determinant of value, not use value. It is important to state that the socialist ideal of perfect equality of income and outcomes is completely unrealistic because human beings are inherently unequal when it comes to talent, ability, intellect, application etc. In fact a degree of this inequality may actually be beneficial as it gives entrepreneurs the incentive and drive to create wealth and employment for many others beside themselves, which is in the interests of wider society. So instead of supporting Malema and the ANCYL’s Marxist-inspired calls for nationalisation, we should be calling for a different revolution: a revolution of entrepreneurship, education and learning. It is only a revolution of this nature which will bring, “economic freedom in our lifetime” to our young nation, not nationalisation or any form of state-sponsored socialism. This has been tried and found wanting in Kaunda’s Zambia, Nyerere’s Tanzania, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and many other parts of the continent. Can we not be so ignorant that we refuse to learn from history please!
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