SACP 91st Anniversary Statement
5 August 2012
91 years ago the Communist Party of South Africa was launched. It was the first communist party in the continent of Africa. Today, over nine decades later, the Party has grown into the second largest political formation by membership in our country – second, of course, only to the ANC. As we noted at our 13th National Congress in Ongoye in June, with over 150,000 members, the SACP has doubled its size in five years. Today the SACP is larger than it has ever been in its 91year history.
Over these 91 years of unbroken revolutionary struggle, the Communist Party in South Africa and its militants have made an incalculable contribution to our struggle traditions, and to our new democracy.
Saluting our women
Let us also take this opportunity of the women`s month to honor and salute the role played by women in the struggle against apartheid and for the reconstruction and development of our country. During ths women`s month, we also honour and salute women communists like Dora Tamana, Frances Baard, Ruth First, Ray Alexander, Ncumisa Kondlo and many others for their heroic role in the struggle for women`s emancipation. They also deeply understood that the struggle for gender equality is inseparable from the struggle against capitalism.
Women workers continue to bear most of the brunt of capitalist restructuring, including casualisation, outsourcing and labour brokering. Whilst this capitalist assault on workers rights affect all workers, but women, and especially black, workers are the most vulnerable as it is often their jobs that become the main target. The SACP, on this 2012 Women`s Month, will continue to intensify the struggle for women`s emancipation as a critical component of the struggle for gender equality. In particular we will continue, through our campaigns, to mobilize women workers to be at the forefront of these struggles.
The SACP also takes this opportunity to once more congratulate Cde Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her election as the Chair of the African Union Commission. As South African communists we wish to say we are indeed very proud of her and we wish to assure her of our full and unstinting support in her new role. Malibongwe!
The ANC centenary year
As Communists we are proud to celebrate, together with our comrades, the ANC’s centenary year. Over the decades, since the late 1920s, Communists have actively participated in and helped to build the ANC – both as ordinary rank-and-file members, and as leaders of the ANC in their own right. Today, in 2012, we pledge to continue this great tradition to which our Communist forerunners contributed so greatly – among them Moses Kotane, Dora Tamana, JB Marks, Walter Sisulu, and Moses Mabhida.
As we mark the ANC centenary year, the SACP pledges to be a factor for unity and discipline within the broad liberation movement. We agree strategically with the ANC, that 18 years beyond our democratic breakthrough our revolution is now at a critical cross-roads. Either we lose momentum, or we embark upon a decisive second radical phase of the transition from apartheid-colonialism to a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and more egalitarian society.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of MK. Communists were in the forefront of the launch of MK and continued to play an outstanding role in its struggles – in particular we salute the role of, amongst others, cde Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Linda Jabane, the Lion Chiawelo (after whose memory our district is named), and many other communist combatants of Umkhonto weSizwe. Indeed communists have always been in all trenches of struggle!
A party – active in the trenches of struggle
Our modern day detractors, from the comfort zone of their foreign funded NGOs and academic institutions criticise our principled alliance with the ANC. They say that we cling to the ANC. When there were difficulties in the SACP-ANC relationship they celebrated, and accused us of behaving like a battered wife. When the alliance is going well (as it largely is in the present) they complain that the SACP is exerting “undue influence” over the ruling party. They claim that the SACP “lacks the courage” to stand on its own in elections.
Who are these fools who were nowhere to be seen in the course of the dark struggle days against apartheid-colonialism? Who are these hypocrites who now pretend to give us a lesson in courage? Let us remind them that in the grimmest hours of struggle, Communists were in the forefront of building the ANC (to fight the criminal apartheid regime), the very organisation that they now advise us to abandon.
Today lets us dip our red banner in honour of all those Communists who died in the trenches of struggle, among them:
That is an abbreviated roll call of honour of some of our martyrs. And the list does not end with the 1994 breakthrough.
This is the sacrifice the Party has made in fighting the enemy and in helping to build the ANC into the force that it now is. We will not abandon the ANC. We will not abandon it only because of this history, but also because of our principled strategic perspective that a broad-based national democratic revolution is the most direct route to socialism in South African conditions. Together with principled revolutionaries, we will also not, and never, allow the ANC to be stolen by tenderpreneurs and agents of imperialism. No matter how much dirty money these agents of imperialism dish out, they will never steal our revolution.
In this context, as we have said, the SACP agrees with the ANC’s National Policy conference that we are now at the cross-roads. We need to embark upon a new radical phase of struggle.
This must, in the first place, involve taking responsibility for the strategic programme of the government itself – as Communists.
This decisive radical phase must be focused on the six strategic priorities of government – unemployment, education and training, health, rural development and land reform, crime and corruption, housing and water. To address these priorities a clear set of programmatic strategies is required. The SACP has already contributed immeasurably to consolidating in government and within our movement what these strategies should be:
Above all, it is imperative that we place our economy onto a new, developmental growth path in which the quality of the growth will be measured by its employment creating capacity. We must break out of our present semi-colonial economic structure in which SA remains an exporter of unprocessed commodities and an importer of expensive manufactured products.
We must crack open the suffocating grip that the mineral-energy-finance and retail monopolies have over our growth trajectory. These monopolies stifle the development of co-ops, of small and medium light industries, and the manufacturing sector in general.
We need to align our macro-economic policies to our re-industrialisation and job-creating priorities.
We need to ensure that we use our abundant mineral resources much more sustainably and as a key asset for upstream and downstream industries. To achieve these objectives we must implement the measures outlined in the ANC-commissioned “State Intervention in the Mineral Sector” (SIMS) report – including windfall profit taxes (also known as resource rent taxes), and a state-owned mining company. We must amend the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act to focus on public and not narrow BEE ownership, and we should use the state’s custodianship of minerals on behalf of the people of SA, to ensure that a percentage of our minerals is off-set at cost-plus a low percentage profit (perhaps 3 or 5%) for local beneficiation.
Central to placing our economy onto a new growth path is our state-led Industrial Policy Action Programme focused on reversing the deindustrialisation of our country and the massive loss of manufacturing jobs. The SACP campaigned for years for an industrial policy and we are pleased that over the past few years there is now an active policy in this regard.
But to support industrialisation many tough actions still need to be undertaken. Among these measures is the need to drastically limit if not ban the export of scrap metal – and for two reasons: 1.it is a potential key input into our manufacturing sector; and 2. Booming scrap metal prices in Asian markets are behind the looting by criminal syndicates of our copper cabling, resulting in Metrorail delays and electricity blackouts –causing untold hardship to working class communities.
Central to placing our economy on to a new growth path, and central to weathering the impact of the global economic crisis is the massive, 20-year infrastructure programme now coordinated by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. It is absolutely essential that this massive infrastructure programme is not reduced to lowering the cost to doing business for the same dominant monopoly interests. The infrastructure programme must be used to release untapped resources; to develop historically neglected areas in our country; to transform the persisting apartheid settlements and planning in our urban and rural areas; to build social infrastructure as well as economic infrastructure; to green our economy; and to ensure that the programme is not just about building new infrastructure – but that we also maintain our infrastructure.
None of this will be achieved, unless we also pay a great deal of attention to education and skills development. The embarrassing text-book fiasco in Limpopo is a direct result of our democratic state having been compromised by a quasi-federal system, and by the deliberate tenderisation of the state. The publication of text books and their procurement (direct from the publishers and without rent-seeking intermediaries) should be a centralised function. Instead, what we have is a system of rent-seeking go-betweens, suppliers of suppliers of suppliers, working with syndicates within our provincial line departments. Publishers themselves are making a killing from government, apart from unilaterally deciding who must write books for education and public consumption. We must use this unfortunate textbook fiasco to transform the publishing industry itself, whose core still remains that built by the National Party and the apartheid regime!
Instead of building a professional education cadre, we downsized teacher numbers and we transformed government departments in to tendering, so-called supply chain managers. We need, once more, to restore pride and professionalism to the teaching vocation. We need to align what is taught in our schools, FET colleges and universities to our developmental objectives. After 1994 we greatly neglected artisanal training and the attempt by the 1996 class project to place our key SOEs on a narrowly profit-oriented trajectory saw critical training facilities for artisans and technical professions shut down – on the grounds that training was not “core business”. All of these things we are now correcting as urgently as possible.
All of the above strategic, state-led interventions require an effective developmental state. To achieve this, deployed communists, together with their comrades in government and in the broader public sector, are fighting against the silo mentality that so often undermines strategic coordination of state programmes.
Linked to this we are fighting against the neo-liberal new public management approach that was adopted in our public service as part and parcel of the 1996 class project. It was an approach that applied (misapplied) a private, for-profit, corporate management approach to the public sector. It included replacing a public sector ethics of service to citizens with a managerialist ethics of “delivery” to “clients/customers”; substituting professional leadership of the public sector with generic corporate managers; outsourcing, and replacing professional and vocational incentives in the public sector with monetary incentives.
Above all, and this is what has been particularly problematic in the South African case, the above measures were linked to a significant fragmentation of state institutions – line departments have often been broken up into dozens of stand-alone “agencies”, each with its own “corporate” structure – a board, a CEO, and an expensive head-office. Additionally, former public-sector functions have been contracted out, on the grounds that the state should “steer not row”, that line departments, or individual institutions (like a hospital) should “outsource” their “non-core business”. Many professionals in the state apparatus, those that have remained, have increasingly been reduced to compilers and adjudicators of “tenders” with all of the moral hazard implicit in this.
We will not succeed to embark on a radical second phase of the NDR, based on placing our economy onto a different growth path – as long as the state is undermined by tenderising and agentification.
But we must never forget that we cannot construct a developmental state aloof from the people. The developmental state that we are seeking to build can only become a reality if it is supported actively through popular, working class mass mobilisation and through an active SACP cadre presence in all key sites of struggle.
That is why at our 13th National Congress last month we resolved to intensify our various mass campaigns. We have resolved to re-dynamise the financial sector campaign. Important victories were scored in previous years through our Red October Campaign financial sector campaign that was joined by over 50 other formations. It resulted in progressive legislation protecting consumers and began to force financial institutions into community re-investment programmes. In the recent period, however, the leading private sector financial institutions have been trying to back out of these agreements. We must intensify the campaign, we must ensure community re-investment and particularly a commitment to addressing the housing gap market. We must also sustain our pressure on the public sector – DFIs – the DBSA, Land Bank, IDC, etc. Our popular mobilisation has helped to focus them more effectively on developmental priorities, moving them away from conduct that often made them indistinguishable from private banks. We must work closely with the trade union movement to mobilise pension funds for sustainable investments in developmental objectives. We must ensure, through popular mobilisation, that government issues the Postbank with a banking licence and that we use the Post Office’s extensive geographical presence to provide banking and other services to remote rural areas.
Together with our alliance partners we have recently agreed that the Tripartite Alliance must take up the battle to save our schools. The Alliance will be working closely with communities and with teachers, parents and students to identify challenges in local schools and to address these.
We have also resolved to reinvigorate our land and rural development campaign. Our past Red October land campaign successfully culminated in a Land Summit. At that Summit a number of important policy decisions were taken in principle – including an agreement that the market-based willing-seller, willing-buyer approach to land reform wasn’t working. However, little progress has since been made, and the SACP has resolved to once more step up our campaign and call for a second major land summit next year, the anniversary of the heinous 1913 Land Act that officially deprived the majority of SA’s people of rights to all but a tiny percentage of the land. This time around, the SACP firmly believes that the emphasis must be on sustainable and productive livelihoods in rural areas; on small farmers; and on building cooperatives linked to local agro-processing. The plight of farm labourers and the families working on white-owned farms must also be urgently addressed.
The challenges facing local government require sustained mobilization of all our structures and people on the ground. No amount of populist grandstanding will solve these problems. Instead, as communists and the working class broadly must take responsibility for local government transformation through patient building of street committees, working with residents and civic organizations, and revitalize the `Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign` to build people`s power in our localities. Only this work will turn around the state of our municipalities for the benefit of our people as a whole. All motive forces have a duty to ask themselves what role their organized formations should play, rather than perpetual lamentations. All our formations and the trade union movement in our municipalities must take responsibility for the transformation of local government.
The struggle against the scourge of corruption
In recent years the SACP has played a leading role in the struggle against the scourge of corruption. It is a cancer that is threatening all of our democratic gains; it is undermining the capacity of the state to drive through socio-economic transformation; and it is corroding the solidarity ethics that was nurtured in the struggle against apartheid.
What are the underlying systemic causes of this scourge?
In most of the public debate, the new political elite is singled out for blame. We are told about “social distance”, and the so-called “sins of incumbency”. Sometimes this singling out of the political elite borders on racism – “this is what happens when THEY take over”, “corruption is inevitable in post-independence” societies, etc. etc. Yet these same people are quite about the established elite, which acquired its wealth under apaertheid, and its continuing predatory role today.
At other times, frustrations with corruption by those in senior public positions plays directly into the agenda of right-wing liberals – who disparage the state. We find cases of left-wing workerists unwittingly singing the same song – dismissing the state (or at least a state in a capitalist economy) as inherently corrupt.
Of course we must look self-critically at ourselves. Of course we must deal decisively with corruption at the individual level. Those guilty of corruption, regardless of their political status and political affiliation, regardless of their struggle credentials, must be dealt with decisively without fear or favour. In fact, we should expect a higher level of revolutionary morality from our own cadres, especially those in public service.
Without detracting for one moment from all of the above – it is, however, important not to focus just narrowly on individual cases and on the new so-called political elite. Also we must not fall into a liberal or syndicalist dismissal of the state per se – we need to use the state apparatus to fight corruption, supported with mass activism.
Those who confine themselves to focusing on the so-called “new political elite” tend to neglect other dimensions to the problem of corruption and (as a result) while correctly criticising corruption, they are unable to develop effective counter-strategies beyond offering well-intentioned moral sermons about the need to behave better.
So what are these other, deeper systemic features underpinning the scourge of corruption in our society?
In the first place, it is important to remember that the so-called “new political elite” (and the "old white economic elite") is located within a society that remains extraordinarily unequal. With these levels of inequality it is possible with the right political connections to rise very quickly, but it is equally possible to plunge very quickly back into abject poverty. This leads to many bitter internal battles and intense factionalism over minor elected positions within our formations – a minor position is seen as a first step on a ladder to riches and out of poverty.
In the second place, this very inequality and resulting individual and collective insecurity, makes the so-called “new political elite” extremely vulnerable to manipulation by those with existing power and resources – the old, white elite. Behind every act of public sector corruption there is, invariably, a private sector corrupter – and many of these are located in the big established corporations. We must never forget that big capital in SA has continued to pursue the old apartheid regime’s agenda of building a small “black buffer middle class” – the better to protect their own privileges and the better to present South African capitalism as “non-racial”.
This is why the struggle for an egalitarian society is part and parcel of the struggle against corruption.
By the mid-1990s the key instrument for collusion between established capital and elements within the “new political elite” was the canonisation of so-called “black economic empowerment” as a key strategic objective of government. BEE was meant to produce a new patriotic bourgeoisie. What it has produced instead is a compradorial bourgeoisie dependent upon and working in collusion with established capital. Instead of producing a productive, entrepreneurial and innovative indigenous bourgeoisie of the kind that has emerged in China, for instance, since the late 1970s – what we have in SA are rent-seeking, tenderpreneuring, parasitic, share-holding paper-millionaires. Sections of this comprador bourgeoisie has also show a propensity towards lumpenisation (ukuba oSikhotheni). This has little if anything to do with the individual moral fibre or ideological inclinations of these BEE beneficiaries – it has much more to do with the character of SA’s economy.
In 1994 we were not a backward, egalitarian society with very little capitalist industrial development and a minority of proletarianised citizens (as was the case in China in the late 1970s when Deng introduced the new reforms). Long before 1994, SA was a developed (but skewed) capitalist economy dominated by major monopoly capitalist corporations. The developed but skewed character of SA’s capitalism has long suffocated medium- and small-scale productive enterprises and artisanal entrepreneurship (black or white).
This is why the struggle against corruption is also integrally linked to the struggle to place SA onto a different, labour-intensive, productive growth path. And this is why we need to thoroughly debunk the “patriotic bourgeoisie” illusion of BEE in its current versions. If we fail to do these things, we will not eliminate the breeding ground for collusive and corrupting connections between the old economic elite and sections of the new political elite.
Finally, and on top of these other systemic features of our society that create a breeding ground for corruption – there is the disastrous restructuring of the state that was undertaken in the mid-1990s, pursuing the neo-liberal “new public management” agenda. The fragmentation of the state by way of outsourcing, tenderisation and agentification has created multiple sites for rent-seeking primitive accumulation.
This is why the struggle to build a unified, strategically coherent state that increasingly INSOURCES its developmental responsibilities and capacities is also central to the struggle against corruption.
In short, the struggle against corruption is not a separate “moral” struggle – standing apart from the social, economic and public sector struggles that are central to our NDR.
On the occasion of our anniversary, let us once more remember that it was communists who pioneered and sustained the traditions of progressive trade unionism in our country across many generations - Bill Andrews, Gana Makabeni, Jimmy La Guma, Ray Alexander, JB Marks, Liz Abrahams, Bettie Du Toit, Billy Nair and many more. Today, as we celebrate their legacy, we also commit to continuing to play a unifying, militant and vanguard role in building and sustaining the trade union movement in our country. In particular, we pledge to work closely with our revolutionary socialist ally – COSATU and its affiliates.
Next month, COSATU will be holding its all-important national congress. Having failed to find any divisive foot-hold in the SACP’s notably united July congress, we can expect the media to do all it can to stir up imaginary divisions within COSATU and between COSATU and its allies in the run-up to this congress. On this occasion as the SACP we once more pledge to our comrades in COSATU that the Party will be a unifying and reliable ally.
We salute the public sector unions for achieving an effective wage settlement and for committing to a three-year agreement and to improving the quality of our public service to the people of our country, particularly to the working class and poor.
We stand by COSATU in the struggle against the super-exploitation of workers, and we reject attempts to suggest that COSATU has been defeated at NEDLAC over the question of labour brokers. The NEDLAC agreements, while not outlawing all forms of temporary placement, mark a potential massive rolling-back of the abuse of labour broking. Employers should no longer be able to use labour brokering to evade our progressive labour legislation. But we also know that NEDLAC agreements and amendments to legislation are only as effective as our own organisational strength on the shop floor. The SACP pledges to work closely with COSATU to ensure that we rebuild effective, shop-floor, and red trade union organisation.
The global situation
91 years ago, in the year 1921, the founding members of our Party had been inspired by events in distant Russia. Less than four years previously, in late 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party had led a workers’ and peasants’ revolution. The Bolshevik revolution toppled an authoritarian regime and wrested control from the bourgeoisie. In Russia they began to embark on the construction of a socialist society. For the first time in modern human history, there was an attempt to build a society based on solidarity, on the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”
When our Party was launched 91years ago, the world capitalist system was also in the midst of one of its great crises. The imperialist powers were staggering out of their bloody inter-imperialist First World War. There was mass unemployment and misery in the heartlands of capitalism. In the years ahead lay the Great Depression. Capitalism appeared to be on its last legs. The solution had to be a different world – a world based on communist values.
The socialist society that the Bolsheviks aspired to build was never given a single minute’s peace from the day of its birth. It was battered by an imperialist supported civil war, by a Nazi fascist invasion and occupation that cost 20 million lives; and by a Cold War and arms race that forced the Soviet state to divert resources away from social priorities into military spending. But the under the pressures of constant siege, grave internal mistakes were made with the suppression of a vibrant socialist democracy and a socialist rule of law. In the end, the socialist revolutions in the Soviet bloc of countries lost their way and they were deserted by their own people.
The Bolsheviks of 1917 were not wrong to fight for a different world. They were not wrong to identify capitalism and global imperialism as the prime enemy of the great majority of the world’s people. But history, precisely because it driven by a life and death class struggle, does not evolve neatly in a straight line.
Capitalism managed to survive its crisis of the 1920s and 30s – but only by resorting to fascist rule in key countries, only through the bloody destruction of World War 2, and by expanding its exploitative grip into wider regions of the globe. It managed to perpetuate its anti-people and anti-environmental pursuit of profits through the intensification of the exploitation of workers, peasants and the non-renewable resources of nature. But now, 91 years later, world capitalism has shown that it cannot escape its own internal contradictions. Once more, global capitalism is in visible crisis.
The crisis of capitalism doesn’t mean that Communists can sit back and await its inevitable collapse. On the contrary, the present global capitalist crisis places even greater responsibilities on the SACP – we have to help our alliance, the great majority of working class and democratic forces within our country, and across our region and continent to understand that an intensified anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist unity in struggle is the only way forward.
Much more importantly, let us intensify anti-capitalist critique and socialist education amongst the majority of our people, as it is only socialism that is a sane alternative to capitalist barbarism!
This is why we say:
SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE – BUILD IT NOW!
SACP Spokesperson - 082 226 1802