Categories: AnalysisInternational NewsOpinionPolitics

Biting the Hand that Feeds: Confiscation of Land from White South Africans

The parliament of South Africa has just recently passed a motion to confiscate all the land from white farmers without compensation.

The motion passed by a large majority, and was put forward by the Economic Freedom Fighters party, a radical Marxist faction in the South African political system. At the core of their grievance is the claim that the white farmers inherited the land through colonialism, and currently own an overwhelmingly large proportion of the country’s total land given the small proportion of the population they make up.

As such, the Economic Freedom Fighters party see this as righting a historical wrong; as finally achieving some recompense for the atrocity of colonialism.

As usual, however, the Marxist ideologues unforgivably overlook several dimensions of the situation, many of which have proved detrimental or even fatal to other societies which implemented the same policy in the past.

To begin, let us deal with the elephant in the room – racism. To lump all white farmers into one category, and all black farmers into another, without acknowledging the differences between individuals is quite the opposite of righting a historical wrong – it lays all the right seeds to perpetuate it.

Immediately the assumption is made that if the farmer is white, then he must own the land because of his colonial ancestors, he must not deserve the land, and his land must rightly belong to people outside his race. Essentially, he is blamed for the wrongdoing of his presumed ancestors, and by mere virtue of being related to the victims, the presumed descendants of these victims are credited with the merit to own and farm the land instead.

This policy does not reflect justice; it reflects misguided resentment and prejudice.

And we see this discrimination with Marxism everywhere, be it between races, genders, or economic classes; it’s almost as though this is a necessary result.

The richer class is collectively blamed for the collective troubles of the poorer class, men are collectively blamed for the collective troubles of women, and white people are collectively blamed for the collective troubles of other races.

Personal agency is removed from the equation, nuance between members of a racial, gender, or economic group is ignored, and an over-arching narrative is stamped onto the social landscape to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to the scenario. Ironically the system claiming to dismantle oppression between groups ends up perpetuating the same oppression themselves.

Beyond the obvious pitfall of racism in this motion lies a lack of historical awareness, even of countries nearby and their recent policies. A few years ago, Zimbabwe took the same approach that South Africa is currently adopting, and their economy plummeted dismally.

This is because when the majority of competent farmers who efficiently produce the food for the country are removed, who replaces them? Invariably the workers who take over have less experience, less training, and consequently do not produce anywhere near the same output as their predecessors. And the entire country feels the sting.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, assures the approach will be carried out without jeopardizing food security and production. With the vibrant memory of Zimbabwe’s failure however, a great many critics don’t have much confidence in his claim.

One such critic is our very own Jordan Peterson, Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and quite likely Canada’s most popular intellectual as of late. Professor Peterson has made a name for himself by opposing what he calls the “radical post-modern neo-Marxist ideology” which he believes is increasingly possessing the academic institutions and the media.

For months now, he has been warning his audiences of the dangers of this philosophy and urges that we stop heading in this direction as a society or we face catastrophic economic, political, and social disaster.

The motion passed by South Africa’s parliament frighteningly affirms that his understanding and predictions of Marxism have validity. Recounting the Marxist history of Soviet Russia, Dr. Peterson often speaks about a class of affluent peasants called the “kulaks”, who owned and farmed land in Ukraine in the late 1920s. The kulaks were economically more prosperous than other classes of society, and they produced most of the food for the country.

The Soviets identified them as vampires and blood-suckers who contributed to class inequality through their economic privilege, and consequently organized mobs to invade their land, confiscate their wealth, and ship the kulaks who weren’t killed in the process to Siberia. The resentment the Soviets had for the affluent class of farmers wasn’t without its consequences; millions of Ukrainians died of starvation shortly after.

South Africa’s approach is strikingly reminiscent of this awful historical event. A collection of farmers has been stripped of their individual circumstances, identified by their group status, blamed for their economic prosperity, and displaced from their land by the government with no recompense. Ukraine received terrible backlash after doing this. Zimbabwe followed suit. What can we expect for South Africa, when their other farmers have such poor training and experience?

Considering the economic inequality between white farmers and black farmers, pertinent to this case is one of Dr. Peterson’s other topics of interest; the Pareto distribution. This phenomenon describes the natural progression of creative endeavours in any given field. Essentially, it demonstrates that a small minority of highly skilled people, in any given field, will come to receive the vast majority of the earnings.

We may observe with the music industry, for example, that a tiny fraction of artists make it big. This small percentage ends up getting most of the label contracts, radio plays, YouTube views, fans, and so on. All the other musical artists who are less successful are left to compete for the small space in which the stars leave behind. The same goes for athletes; a very few play professional sports, are recognized worldwide, and make millions of dollars. The distribution of wealth and popularity among the less successful athletes is very small in comparison.

As such, the same holds true for wealth; one percent is overwhelmingly successful and earns the vast majority of money, while everyone else fights over the remainder. The Pareto distribution demonstrates this is a natural progression in any form of creative expression; there is always a small group of insanely efficient, talented, or competent individuals who produce the vast majority of their craft and receive the vast majority of earnings.

Perhaps it is unfair, particularly with regards to wealth.

However, we must not immediately assume, as the Marxists do, that it is caused by a corrupt economic system, particularly if the same disparity holds true in a vast range of other fields.

Furthermore, Dr. Peterson explains that the “one percent” we so often vilify is not consistent; it is very competitive and people constantly shift in and out of it as a result. He explains that the vast majority of people within the one percent do not sit around all day chewing on expensive cigars as we assume. Rather, they work tirelessly because they underpin the whole economy.

They create all the jobs. Their intensive labor ensures that society continues to run smoothly, and thus their position is as much of a blessing as it is a curse.

Indeed they make overwhelming sums of money, but they spend virtually all their time working fiercely to maintain the economy’s stability. In many ways, they are responsible for the creation of jobs we hold in order to feed ourselves.

This is something the Marxists in South Africa could learn from. Indeed the minority of white farmers in South Africa own most of the farmland and make more money than the black farmers do. But they also produce most of the food and possess most of the farming skills. According to the Pareto distribution, this is naturally so.

Unlike the Marxists believe, wealth isn’t equally distributed, even when everyone plays fair. Neither can humans be generalized into boxes by their group status.

People are different on an individual level, and a small portion of any population will always be obsessively productive or talented in a given field. Naturally then, they will earn more than others do. What’s more is that we all benefit from these highly efficient individuals. We either listen to their music, enjoy their sportsmanship, absorb their teachings, occupy their jobs, and yes – eat their food. And when we burn them at the stake in the name of economic equity, everyone is left with little to consume.

Nobody eats without skilled farmers.

Marxism is characterized by a bitter resentment of those doing better than oneself, without thoroughly examining the reasons for their success or anticipating the consequences for supplanting them.

It attempts to manifest an idealized utopia without considering the real-world variables that such a project must contend with. Insofar as this philosophy stands, Professor Jordan Peterson is right when he says the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Whenever we feel indignation, we must also verify what we should be grateful for. Often, the people whose things we covet are in some way responsible for the things we have. The Kulaks are the most pronounced example of what happens when we forego this. Let us hope the South African population learns from history before their citizens suffer irreversible catastrophe.

Jordan Mamano

Jordan Mamano is an aspiring teacher, writer, and a hard enthusiast of philosophy, religion, and mysticism. He believes that responsibility is the key to empowerment and that individuals can reach astonishing ranges of excellence in all aspects of life through willpower, mindfulness, and inspiration. Politically he identifies as a centrist, supporting various issues on both the left and the right. Through free speech and courteous debate, he believes both sides may learn from one another and continuously refine their positions. His interest in politics began with concern for the increased polarization of ideas, and now he hopes to encourage an atmosphere of reconciliation through his work.

Comments

  • Whilst some of the aspects to your analysis sound correct, issues relating to the expertise vacuum that can be created by an abrupt approach to taking over of land, you also need to appriciate the political make up of the South African parliament. EFF is rightly a party with neo-Marxist ideology at their core but when you look at the voting partten in support of the motion, you will see that many neo-liberals actually voted for this motion. EFF is a new political party that is vocal but is very marginal when it comes to representatives in parliament. The issue about land redistribution in South Africa, Zimbabwe and anywhere else has not been so much about Marxist thought, it has largely been about whether past colonial imbalances should not be reversed regardless of the economic backlash that they might cause. In all honesty, there is no way why the indegenous people who constitute more than 70% of the population in South Africa (95% in Zimbabwe) should own less than 10% of the land when colonisers own upwards of 90%. How do we justify the rightful owners of the land having to be crammed in tiny arid pieces of land, a model of ownership brought through killings and brutal treatment of the same people when a few enjoy vast arable tracts of land. Even if some of them managed to buy the land much later on, the simple fact is that they are beneficiaries of a skewed system that shut out Africans from access to commercial financing. I can agree to some extent that such a category might need to have some exceptions when it comes to compensation, but the whole system is built on various layers of an unjust dispossession of the land owners. This might take after political correctness that seeks not to question whether "thieves" who robbed land should be allowed to keep it just because the events happened decades ago. So, the issue of redistribution of land should not be viewed with spotted lenses of hatred of Marxism, rather, it should be analysed from the view that, whether hailing from Marxism or neo-liberal thought, indegenous South Africans today overwhelmingly voted to right an unacceptable structural wrong. Yes, there will be economic consequenses as the priviledged foreigners now turned South Africans will push the economic levers that will turn the heat on the economy but as history will recall, Zimbabwe eventually made the economic turn after a brutal decade of economic malaise. Currently, the local small scale farmers, the previously unresourced and unskilled farmers are produing more tobacco tonnage than what the British farmers produced before the land take over ( https://www.reuters.com/article/zimbabwe-tobacco/zimbabwe-takes-tobacco-road-to-agriculture-recovery-idUSL5N0XB1N720150416). So regardless of the fact that the moion in South African parliament was tabled by a marginal Marxist party, the overwhelming support of the motion from other parties that despise Marxist ideas is a sign that this has nothing to do with Marxist thought but everything to do with the desire to correct structural issues that exist in a society.

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Jordan Mamano
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