Eulogising Ideologies

The generous half-page spread in the Mercury of October 22 eulogising Eric ‘Stalin’ Mtshali of the SA Communist Party raises an interesting issue:

if eulogising members of discredited, failed ideologies like communism is worthy of such indulgence, then why was Pik Botha’s association with the discredited and failed ideology of apartheid not afforded a similar half-page spread?

Regardless of who Eric Mtshali was as a person, he was staunchly associated with an ideology that imposed tyranny and terror wherever it prevailed. Yet Mtshali was proud to have the nickname ‘Stalin – man of steel,’ despite the fact that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of over 30 million people in Russia through jackboot collectivisation of farms, enslavement and a network of gulag prison camps. Stalin, as with all communist leaders, outlawed democracy and the five freedoms – speech, press, religion, association and assembly.

Given Mtshali’s embrace of communist revolution, the epithetic, bourgeois bouquet writer Vusi Shongwe bestows, is bizarre and inappropriate. John Donne, HW Longfellow, Yeats and DH Lawrence whom Shongwe cites, represented social outlooks and values which communism marked for overthrow and repression. In that opinion pieces on deceased apartheid figures like Pik Botha reflect ideological reproval and historical context, the same criteria should also apply in cases of fallen adherents of communism.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 2 November 2018.

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