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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 2, No. 25, 17 December 2003

In this Issue:

Red Alert: The historic YCL Re-establishment Congress

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

I am very proud that I joined and had the honour to address more than 500 young South African communists when they made history this last weekend. The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA), banned in 1950, was relaunched at its Re-establishment Congress at the newly renamed Vaal University of Technology (which served the needs of the apartheid economy) in Vanderbijlpark, one of the traditional strongholds of apartheid.

This historic event marked an important reversal of the dissolution of the YCL after the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa under the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950. When the South African Communist Party (SACP) was reconstituted underground in 1953, the YCL was never reconstituted. The YCL Re-Establishment Congress therefore made history by relaunching the YCL exactly in the year we are commemorating 50 years of the reconstitution of our Party underground in 1953. In essence it was an occasion "unbanning" the YCL after 53 years, thus reversing one of the most obnoxious actions of the apartheid regime! The relaunch is an important landmark in the new history of a democratic South Africa, particularly for the historically oppressed and exploited people of our country.

The relaunch of the YCL goes back to the first legal Congress of the Party after it was unbanned in 1990: at the 1991 Congress, there was extensive debate on how the Party must organise and mobilise young people. This debate continued in the 1995 and 1998 Congress and it culminated in the 2002 Congress Resolution for the re-establishment of the YCL. Since the July 2002 decision, 16 months have passed; we have established Provincial Steering Committees in all provinces, District Steering Committees and we have reached out to several thousands of young people who have an interest in joining and building the YCL. The YCL Congress marked the second phase and completion of the 11th Congress of the Party itself! The Congress was held in the same spirit as the 11th Congress - militant, extensive and open debate and full participation by all.

The future is socialism, The future is the YCL

The Congress was a clear declaration to all that capitalism has no future for the youth, and the future for the youth is being destroyed by capitalism. Only under socialism can the youth be able to realise its aspirations. By launching the YCL, young South African Communists are re-shaping their own future. Those who thought by banning our Party in 1950 they are destroying communist ideas in our country, they are mistaken, there can be no democratic South Africa without communists.

Listening to the questions and discussions which took place at thus YCL Congress reaffirmed my belief that contrary to our enemies and detractors, communist ideas are not outdated, but provide the only hope for the youth of our country. Eradication of poverty, exploitation, all forms of inequality cannot be achieved under a capitalist dispensation. Yes we can make a lot of advances towards eradication of poverty, but it is only a socialist dispensation that will finally eradicate poverty.

Indeed, the YCL is the future organisational base and leadership of the Communist Party itself: iinkomo ezingenamgqeku ziyafa! By relaunching the YCL, we are very consciously understanding the reality, that we are indeed shaping the very future of the South African Communist Party.

Young Communists in our history

The YCL relaunch is also in the same year as the 21st anniversary of the cowardly assassination of that communist hero, Ruth First, who was a member and militant of the Young Communist League in the 1940s. Because of all this there is a very heavy responsibility on the new YCL to carry on the proud tradition of Ruth First, and indeed all other communists, particularly those who perished in their youth struggling for the ideals of national liberation and socialism. These include communist heroes like Johannes Nkosi, gunned down by colonial police in Durban in 1930, the Lion of Chiawelo, who died in combat in a brave confrontation with the apartheid security forces in Soweto, Chule "KK" Papiyana, and Smiso Nkwanyana. Joe Slovo himself, Esther Barsel, Brian Bunting and many others joined the Communist Party via the YCL. The inspiring messages that the YCL Congress received from Ahmed Kathrada, Esther Barsel and Brian Bunting reminded these young communists of the nature of the tasks that they face. It was moving that There also could have been no better commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the assassination of our late General Secretary, Cde Chris Hani, than through this historic launch of the YCL. The new YCL has a massive responsibility to act like Chris Hani - by becoming dedicated and disciplined communist cadres.

What is the role and tasks of the YCL?

The Party and the YCL

In its activities the YCL should act to strengthen, build and defend the Party and its ideals. Without a strong Party there can be no strong YCL, and without a strong YCL there can be no strong Party. This also means that the YCL has the task to ensure that the SACP, must be defended at all costs. The YCL cannot allow the Party to be ridiculed, belittled or attacked from whatever quarter. But in doing this we do not expect the YCL to act like a loudhailer, to simply magnify what the Party says. Therefore the YCL has to nurture and promote the culture of open debate, engagement, criticism and self-criticism.

This also needs to include that the YCL must jealously guard against using the YCL as a springboard for political battles, as a battleground for leadership positions and contests in the Party or in any other allied structure. This would kill both the YCL and the Party. Communists hate opportunism, careerism and factionalism.

The YCL, the working class and the ANC Youth League

The bedrock of the YCL should be young workers working in alliance with students and young unemployed workers, both in the urban and rural areas. With regards to young workers, the YCL structures should immerse themselves in struggles to defend jobs and to fight retrenchments and to struggle for workplace skills development for young workers. Young workers are the most vulnerable when it comes to retrenchments. The YCL working with other youth organisations must engage with the SETAs to ensure that young workers benefit from skills development funds, and that individual employers do provide training for young workers. This is a very important dimension of building working class power in the place of production, which is one of the key components of Party programmes.

The YCL must also work to ensure that addresses the needs and interests of marginalised youth - in rural areas, in informal settlements, unemployed youth, youth outside of educational institutions, youth involved in crime and all other marginalised youth.

Young women

Significantly, the YCL Congress was attended by more than 180 young women of a total of 500 delegates. This poses the task of how the YCL should also pay particular attention to recruitment of young women workers, and be the primary training ground for young women communists. The struggle for gender transformation cannot be advanced, unless we strengthen the organisation of women. Communist women form an important component of the broader women's struggles and the struggles for gender transformation. The YCL needs to lead campaigns to defeat sexist ideas and stereotypes both within the Party and in broader society. The YCL needs to build the youth of today and tomorrow, not the youth of yesterday which believes in inferiority of women. It is only by recruiting much more young women into the Party that we can achieve this.

An important part of the struggle for gender equality, is a critical examination and engagement with activities, TV or radio programmes, and other forms of entertainment liked by the youth today. The YCL should closely examine the extent to which these activities continue to foster and reproduce women's inferiority, young women as objects of pleasure for young men, and the whole ideological underpinnings of these activities. This means work where the youth is and seek to influence them in the very areas and activities that they like in order to defeat sexism and gender inequality. This is by the way not a licence for endless jorling in the name of taking forward the work of the YCL!


The YCL must also act in the true tradition of the Party, as a pioneer and promoter of non-racialism. In this regard the YCL should properly grasp the interrelationship between class, the national question and gender in our revolution. As the Party programme says, the only way to deepen and consolidate the national democratic revolution, is by seeking to tackle these three contradictions, as interrelated contradictions, that cannot be isolated from each other. For instance, the YCL must be in the forefront in taking forward the struggles to address the national question, by giving its correct class and gender content.

The ANC Youth League

The YCL should also seek to work with all progressive youth formations in our country, region, continent and globally. Principal amongst these organisations is the ANC Youth League. You must ensure that all communist youth join and actively participate in the structures and programmes of the ANC YL. We must never act in a competitive manner to this formation, instead we should seek to strengthen it. We must ensure that the voice of the communist youth is felt within the ANC Youth League, and assist it in ensuring that it draws into its ranks the widest possible sections of youth in our country.

The challenge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the YCL is to join with all other forces in society to fight and defeat the scourge of HIV/AIDS. This is the single biggest challenge to your future. To protect its future, and to protect the struggle for socialism, and a socialist future, the YCL must throw its full weight behind the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

This Congress took place at a time when our government has adopted a comprehensive programme on HIV/AIDS, including prevention, awareness and treatment. There is no better platform on which to take forward this struggle. Our nation is now more united than ever on a common approach to dealing with this pandemic. But government alone will not be able to deal with the pandemic. This requires the mobilisation of all our people, in particular the youth, to support this programme.

In the same week that this YCL Congress was held, we witnessed the rolling back of the logic profit maximisation through the agreement signed at the Competition Commission by several drug companies. This is an important landmark and achievement. We must use this as a basis for ensuring that as many of our people as possible have access to life-saving medicines but also to ensure that local production capacity is enhanced.

The YCL and the 2004 Elections

The very first task of the YCL is to effectively participate and earnestly work towards ANC victory in the 2004 elections. The most immediate task is that of preparing yourselves for a massive drive for the second window of voter registration on 25 and 26 January 2004.

The YCL must to implement a comprehensive programme in line with the ANC's election plan and the Party's election programme starting with the mobilisation of the youth to register and vote for the ANC!

Home of young communists

Finally, young communists have their own political home and organ. They must nurture, build and grow it.

SATUCC Congress, 17 December 2003, Gaborone, Botswana - Opening address  

By Zwelinzima Vavi President of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council

Comrade delegates;
Distinguished guests;

Yet again we gather here in the workers' parliament to reflect on the state of the organisation, the political and socio-economic conditions in the SADC region. A hearty welcome to all of you and sincere greetings from the bottom of my heart!


For the next few days we shall assess the state of the organisation and the political and socio-economic conditions facing workers in our region. On that basis we shall chart a way forward for the next three years. Doubtlessly, we move from a firm basis, as SATUCC remains the sole workers' representative in the region.

From humble beginnings, SATUCC has grown from strength to strength and now boasts an organisational infrastructure and almost all SADC countries are now represented in the organisation. Through its programmes SATUCC has contributed to the consolidation of democratic unions. South Africa is today free largely because of work conducted by SATUCC and its affiliates.

Still, we face many organisational challenges that this Congress must find ways to address. SATUCC has still to gain organisational coherence. Our presence and organisation must still be felt. Solidarity amongst its affiliates must still be properly coordinated, that is going beyond issuing statements to condemn trade unionists harassment and abuse of workers and human rights by some governments in the region. Our organisational might must still be felt in the new structures of the SADC. The workers voice has not yet been properly heard on issues of integration of the economies of the region. In SACU including in the current negotiations with the US government the workers voice is missing.

Not all our affiliates pay their affiliation fees or pay on time. Consequently, we rely heavily on donor funding for whom we remain grateful and indebted. Nevertheless this situation cannot be left unattended for too long because in the long run it will undermine the foundation of independent and democratic union movement.

Without the financial muscle it is impossible for the organisation to be visible and to implement programmes. An organisation without clear programme is definitely digging its own grave. Against this background we must thank the SATUCC staff for finding ways to develop and implement programmes to build the capacity of the trade union movement and engage with a diverse socio-economic issues.

Workers in the region to varying degrees face similar challenges. The regional economy is not growing fast enough to create jobs and economic opportunities for our people. As such our people face unemployment and poverty and in some countries starvation.

It is scandalous that such a well-endowed region is unable to feed its entire people. Parts of the region are facing starvation and need food aid as a matter of urgency. Yet, the region has the capacity to produce enough food to feed its entire people. But now some of the countries have to rely on food aid to feed the poorest of the poor. Escalating prices especially for basic necessities exacerbates the chronic shortages by placing food beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Unemployment is some of the SADC countries is as high as 70%. This means that out of 10 people 7 do not have a job. This is a serious waste of human resources and underscores the need for job creating economic development strategies.

Yet governments still believe that more of the same dose of structural adjustment programmes will miraculously cure our economic woes. As trade union we face the ravages of structural adjustments almost daily. The loss of jobs translates into loss of members, which further weakens our movement. For us employment creation is both for our survival and a decent life for our people.

The NEPAD process offers a unique opportunity in our history. To that end we need to intervene and place on the table the urgent need for a thoroughgoing regional economic development strategy. At the core of the strategy must be attempt to shift from colonial patterns of development.

Export-oriented industrialisation is effective up to a point, and because it tends to be capital-intensive, it does not create employment and momentum for internal development. It reinforces the enclave economy by concentrating on the sectors that have export potential. The local market remains largely untapped and the geographic spread of economic development remains highly skewed.

We have a historic duty to insist on a development strategy for the region that will create new centres of wealth and draw the majority of our people into productive economies. In this regard, the issue of rural development becomes crucial. For the reason, we need to impress upon governments to redistribute land to poor peasants and provide them with financial and technical support.

A regional development strategy will go a long way to overcome the inequalities between our economies. A free trade strategy will in the long run fuel the inequalities within our region. Still need to ensure that the stronger economies give preferential treatment to goods from the weaker economies. In the interest of safeguarding jobs in the region we must ensure that only local produced goods are given such preferential treatment.

Governments in the SACU are currently negotiation a Free Trade Agreement with the United States government. The FTA is consistent with US policy to sign bi-and-multi lateral trade agreements to widen the market for US corporations. For us it is imperative that we study the lessons from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between US, Canada and Mexico.

By all accounts, Mexico - a developing country - got a raw deal from the agreement. The essence of the strategy is for U.S Corporation to use Mexican cheap labour and export their products into the U.S.

Of course the US approach to the negotiation with SACU has some differences but the basic strategy is the same. The US is attempting to secure gains from the FTA that it has not won at the multilateral level. The trade mandate encompasses a wide variety of areas broader than just trade.

The more dangerous aspects of the FTA would erode SACU countries sovereignty on economic policy. Were the FTA to be concluded on US terms, economies in the SACU region will be the worst affected as some of sectors for example in agriculture cannot compete with heavily subsidised US product.

International trade is by no means neither fair nor free. The terms of trade are heavily loaded against developing nations. Developing nations have been forced to liberalise their market while the developed countries have either maintained or increased protection by tariff and non-tariff means.

The collapse of the Cancun talks in part demonstrate that developing countries are gaining confidence to take on developing countries head on. Hopefully they will remain steadfast against negotiation of so-called new issues that will only serve to erode their sovereignty. The SADC region is now relatively peaceful and democratic.

The guns in Mozambique and Angola and have finally been silenced and the people of these two countries are beginning to reconstruct their societies. Democracy is now a way of life in most countries in the region.

Still the people of Swaziland are still under an absolute monarchy that does not guarantee free political space. Political parties are still banned and trade unions are continuously harassed. Democracy in Swaziland should remain one of the key priorities for SATUCC.

We call on the rest of the world to intensify its isolation of the Swazi monarchy and free political activity is guaranteed and a new dispensation is ushered in. SATUCC should redouble its effort to support the trade union movement in Swaziland by all means necessary.

The political situation in Zimbabwe has presented one of the critical tests for SATUCC in the recent period. We can proclaim without fear of contradiction that we have discharged our mandate with distinction. We maintained our principled stand first to affirm the need for land redistribution in Zimbabwe that will benefit ordinary people and workers. Still we have also maintained that there must be free political activity in Zimbabwe that guarantees freedom and liberty to ordinary Zimbabweans.

To that end we have called for the end to the abuse of human rights. It is also important that Zimbabweans find a lasting situation in the current political impasse. But SATUCC will not hesitate to support the trade union movement and its right to exist.

As a trade union movement we support democracy as a means to guaranteeing a better life for all. We must insist that the dividends of democracy are widely spread and not percolate to the few. Over the last ten years, the benefits of democracy will not automatically.

It is for this reason that we need strong and independent trade union to fight for workers rights in the workplace and in broader society. We must continue our struggles for better wages, better and safe working conditions. In this regard we welcome the SADC Charter on Fundamental Rights as a basic floor of rights for workers in the SADC region. Our task is to make the Charter a reality by fighting for national legislation that protects workers rights.

The road ahead is a difficult one but with the workers behind us we cannot go wrong. This workers parliament must chart the way forward and agree on a programme to tackle the challenges facing worker. This congress is now officially opened

Thank you


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