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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 2, No. 23, 19 November 2003

In this Issue:

Red Alert:

Building independent working class power as the prime weapon to create a better life for all

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

This last weekend (14-16 November, 2003) the SACP Central Committee held its last plenary session for the year. This was an augmented meeting, attended by district secretaries from 42 districts countrywide. It was a truly historic meeting since it was the first of its kind since the 1970 augmented Central Committee in the underground. The ANC Secretary General, Cde Kgalema Montlathe, ANC national elections co-ordinator, cde Mannie Dipico; and ANC NEC member, cde Joel Netshitenzhe, also attended the session dealing with the forthcoming 2004 elections.

The primary aim of the meeting was to assess the year ending and discuss and adopt a medium term strategy for our Party. Most importantly it was to adopt the 2004 SACP programme of action, with the main goal being to prepare the SACP for an overwhelming ANC victory in next year’s elections.

By all accounts the augmented CC was a great success, characterized by a Party growing in confidence, its understanding of the short-term, medium and long term tasks of both the national democratic revolution and itself. It is a party that has also developed a middle layer cadre that not only understands the tasks of the Party in the present and medium term, but is also deeply committed to the struggle for socialism and the building of a strong SACP. It is this cadre, that has never wavered, even in the wake of setbacks to the international communist movement, in its understanding that indeed capitalism is no solution to the problems facing humanity and our country today, and therefore the need to build a strong SACP to lead a struggle for socialism.

Our district secretaries reflect a cadre that has never lost faith in the working class and its struggles, and understand that no other layer of society is best capable of leading our national democratic revolution other than the working class! It is a cadre that has grown the Party during the first decade of our freedom, despite enormous challenges and various offensives by our enemies and detractors. These district secretaries are indeed the backbone of our Party. The augmented CC was indeed an expression that the SACP is an integral and indispensable contingent of the forces for transformation in our country.

Socialism is the future build it now

Our augmented CC, upon extensive reflection, reaffirmed the correctness of our strategic slogan “Socialism is the future, build it now”.

Our theoretical, political and programmatic anchor to defend, consolidate and deepen the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) during the first decade of our freedom has been through our strategic and programmatic slogan “Socialism is the Future, Build it Now”, adopted at our 9th Congress in 1995. This strategic slogan has enabled the Party to creatively connect the struggle to advance the NDR and the struggle for socialism. Through this anchor, our Party has made some important advances during the first decade of our freedom.

This strategic slogan enabled our Party to positively engage with the political space opened by the 1994 democratic breakthrough, whilst simultaneously advancing the necessity for socialism in our country. Through implementing programmes under this slogan our Party has come to understand better, has concretised the dialectic of an NDR that is the most direct route socialism, which, at the same time, for its consolidation, requires socialist perspectives and strategies.

Our slogan has enabled us to enrich our dialectical perspectives on the connection between the national and the class questions, by firmly connecting these to the gender contradiction in our society. This has been our contribution to enriching Our Marxism – Marxism in a developing African country – as a well as a contribution to Marxist theory generally. We have managed to anchor our Party during the first decade of our freedom as an important component of the Alliance without, at the same time, surrendering the independence of our Party and the working class. This has been at the heart of our strategy and tactics during this period, directly guided by, and anchored in, our strategic slogan.

Through this strategic perspective we have also come to have a better grasp, through practice, of the fact that defending and jealously guarding the independence of our Party and the working class is a necessary condition for building a strong alliance. Even some of the weaknesses in the Alliance are largely a reflection of the failure to sufficiently build independent working class power as a glue of the alliance – a key challenge for the second decade of our freedom and the central objective in our medium term vision.

It is also this strategic and programmatic anchor that has produced an increasingly campaign-oriented and programme-driven Party, through our programme adopted at our 10th Congress. Our 10th Congress Party programme directed us to embark on major independent mass campaigns led by the Party, thus practically proving that there is no inherent contradiction between governance and mass action, and in many respects setting important precedents in this regard. Some of the breakthroughs we have made through our campaigns have shown that, indeed, mass action and activism are necessary components of, rather than diversions from, democratic governance. Between the 10th and 11th Congresses, Party activism rose to new heights – through participation in two ANC election campaigns, the launch of annual Red October campaigns, the financial sector campaign, hundreds of Party activists directly involved in the building of co-operatives and the co-operative movement, and activist-driven commemoration of national events and key dates – the most notable being the institutionalisation of the memory and legacy of Chris Hani through the high profile Chris Hani month.

In other words, we are assimilating critical lessons for building a legal vanguard Communist Party with a mass character in the context of post-apartheid reconstruction and transformation challenges and struggles. As a result, we have begun to consolidate a core of communist activists, as reflected in the depth of discussions and understanding of the key strategic and tactical questions by the augmented CC.

It was within the above context that the augmented CC reaffirmed that our strategic slogan of “Socialism is the future, build it now”, remains as relevant as ever, and is our fundamental point of departure in approaching the second decade of our freedom.

Our strategic slogan captures both the long-term goal of a socialist South Africa and the current challenges and struggles for communists and the working class, and dialectically links the two. It is our theoretical, strategic and programmatic approach to consolidate and deepen the NDR and struggles for socialism. It is our long-term goal of a socialist South Africa that informs our current struggles, and the concrete struggles are in turn guided by the long-term goal. This relationship and dialectic is expressed through our struggle to build capacity for, momentum towards and elements of socialism.

Our Medium Term Strategy

Perhaps what has been missing in concretising our strategic slogan is a compass and a set of intermediate objectives and concrete targets between “the now” and our long term goal. This is what the Medium Term Vision seeks to do! It is a concrete guide on whether we are advancing or regressing. It anticipates very concrete outcomes in the course of our struggle, and seeks to consciously build independent working class power to attain elements of socialism, capacity for, and a momentum towards socialism. It seeks to advance from the current challenges closer to our long-term goal based on very clear and specific outcomes as part of the struggle against capitalism.

To this end the augmented CC adopted a medium term strategy to realise our medium term goals of a transition centrally dominated by the weight, perspectives and needs of the workers and the poor, as the platform to deepen our democracy and create a better life for all. The medium term strategy adopted by the augmented CC seeks to stamp the political authority of the working class as the principal motive force of our democratic revolution.

The augmented CC adopted the following as the key six stands of the SACP during the second decade of our freedom:

  • Building the Party
  • Strengthening the Alliance at all levels, with a particular emphasis on building it from below
  • Rolling Back the Capitalist Market: Building Working Class Power for Sustainable Livelihoods through the Transformation of the Current Accumulation Regime in favour of the Workers and the Poor. This includes the key task of building strong public sector and a developmental state as key strategic leverage to transform the economy and the lives of our people
  • Winning the war of ideas and values: Engaging in a Systematic and Concerted Battle of Ideas in order to advance the Ideological Hegemony of the Workers and the Poor
  • Implementing our Annual Programmes of Action
  • Working with other progressive forces locally and globally in the struggle against neo-liberalism and imperialism

This essentially constitutes the six key tasks of every communist over the next 10 years!

Our Red October Campaign

The augmented CC also reflected on our annual Red October campaigns, particularly focusing on evaluation of the 2003 Red October Campaign. In reviewing the year, we noted considerable advances in the Financial Sector Campaign, launched by the SACP in October 2000, and joined by over 50 other organisations. Following the Financial Sector Summit in August last year, government has published draft regulations to govern credit bureaus. Cabinet is engaged in developing a new Co-operatives' Bill and Community Reinvestment legislation; the Reserve Bank and government have begun to look at access to credit for the poor; several private banks have introduced positive changes. AVBOB has announced that it will now remove any discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS in its funeral insurance policies following mass pressure; and the Financial Sector Agreement was incorporated into the GDS agreement. The recently released financial sector charter itself is directly an outcome of these struggles. However the CC noted that much still needs to be done to ensure that the financial sector is transformed to serve the workers and the poor.

Our 2003 Red October Campaign has also given us some insights, particularly from KZN, of the actual class content and emerging class alliances between the IFP elite and the white farmers on the countryside. In Bergville, the IFP controlled municipality prevented us from marching through the centre of the town so that that activity will not draw the attention of the people and farmworkers of Bergville. At the same time the local farmers’ association instructed all their members to ensure that workers on that day are at work from 05h00 to 17h00, as part of preventing the workers from participating in our activity.

There was clearly a collusion between the IFP elite controlling the municipality and white farmers, despite the fact that many farmworkers belong to the IFP and suffer the same humiliation, oppression and exploitation as all other farmworkers. In addition there is very close collaboration between IFP-aligned chiefs in neighbouring areas – which continue to be the reservoir for cheap African agricultural labour - and white farmers. This gives us a glimpse of the real class content of the “Coalition for Change” between the IFP and DA, that it is essentially an anti-worker and anti- working class coalition. Many of the white farmers have also shifted their past allegiance from the NNP to the DA in many parts of KZN, and possibly in many other parts of the country. The IFP continues to be the vehicle to deliver vulnerable African workers to the white farms, as well as produce and reproduce the conditions of exploitation in the countryside.

In many respects the “Coalition for Change” is not in the interests of ordinary IFP members, but serves to cement the position of elites from both sides. It shows the extent to which the IFP elite, as opposed to its ordinary members, remains shackled in the comforts of the bantustan past, and its dependence on a close relationship with the most backward elements of the white bourgeoisie, previously represented by the National Party, and now found in the Democratic Alliance.

White farmers continue to use the excuse of “private property” to prevent access by progressive organisations, in particular unions, to white-owned farms. Even more disturbing is that not only is the land the private property of these white farmers, but that the workers themselves are essentially the “private property” of farm-owners, to be accessible to outsiders at the behest of these farmers. It is also very striking that because of this these white farms are in all essence unliberated zones and more like “open air” prisons.

A broader and much more central question raised by all these issues, is that addressing the conditions of farm workers cannot be isolated from the broader question of fundamental transformation of the land and agrarian relations in South Africa. This raises once more the very important question of organisation of farmworkers, and all other exploited and oppressed strata in the countryside as motive forces for rural transformation.

Government’s 10 Year Review

The CC endorsed the broad thrust of government's ten year review process, and acknowledges with pride the very significant advances made in deepening democracy, unifying our country, and in major resource transfers to the poorest of the poor. We strongly concur that where most progress has been made over the past decade is in areas in which the public sector has a direct role.

The CC also welcomed the frank acknowledgement by our ANC- led government that, notwithstanding significant progress, the current levels of poverty and marginalisation are not sustainable. There are many significant challenges, notably unemployment, poverty, HIV and AIDS - all of which are linked to the systemic duality of our economy and society. The augmented Central Committee also welcomed government's Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, which envisages major infrastructural spending, and a significant focus on extended public works programmes, learnerships, internships and other measures to address the unemployment crisis.

In its engagement with the senior ANC delegation, the CC emphasised the SACP's view that in addition to public works programmes and other job-creating initiatives, we need to focus on sustainable livelihoods, households and communities. Realistically, in a capitalist-dominated economy we will not succeed in approaching anything near full employment in any immediately foreseeable future. Hence the imperative of complementing the focus on job creation, with a focus on sustainable livelihoods. This includes a much greater drive to implement significant land reform that benefits hundreds of thousands of small family farmers, linked to a vibrant cooperative movement; food gardens in urban and rural communities. The CC also emphasised the need for a more effective and comprehensive social security net that must be implemented not as a dole but as a catalyser for development; fostering local economies; more coherent housing and spatial planning to ensure sustainable communities; and micro-finance.

Towards an overwhelming ANC victory in the 2004 elections!

The augmented CC adopted a comprehensive SACP approach to the elections to complement and strengthen the ANC towards a decisive victory in the 2004 elections. As the 5th Plenary Session of the CC decided, the Party approach to the 2004 elections must be located within a broader political framework of evaluating the first decade of freedom as well as planning ahead for the second decade of freedom. Such an approach has begun to assist us in identifying priorities for the elections and the kinds of political, economic and programmatic outcomes needed during and after the election.

The strategic importance of the 2004 Elections for the working class resides in the fact that an overwhelming victory for the ANC means the continuation of the transformation process started in 1994 that is beneficial to the working class. At the same time we must ensure that the very nature of the election, the ANC manifesto and conduct must serve to reflect the working class bias of the ANC.

The augmented CC decided that the SACP will focus on the following areas in the election campaign.

  • Mobilising organised and Vulnerable Workers – through workers’ forums and assemblies, building workplace units, taking forward our own debit order campaign, focusing on the the urban African working class in KZN and the coloured working class in the Western Cape.
  • Using the financial sector campaign as a platform – holding the national and provincial public hearings on the financial sector charter during February and March.
  • The 2004 Chris Hani Month: the ‘Chris Hani Election Victory Trail’ – to celebrate 10 years of our democracy, as well as to intensify the election campaign itself.
  • Focus on the mobilisation of the youth – Directing the YCL ReLaunch Congress in December to adopt a programme at its Congress that should include intense work in mobilising the youth to go and vote for the ANC.
  • Rural mobilisation – rural Party districts must be assisted to focus on the mobilisation of rural communities, holding farmworkers forums/assemblies organising them into trade unions, mobilisation around issues of land reform and the need to build co-operatives.

As South African Communists we are ready for the election battle!


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