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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 1, 7 January 2004

In this Issue:

Red Alert

SACP remembers and honour Joe Slovo as we celebrate 10 years of our freedom

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

This week, on 6 January 2004, is the ninth anniversary of the passing away of that giant of our struggle, Joe Slovo. The SACP takes this opportunity to remember and honour this gallant fighter of our revolution, the former National Chairperson of the SACP, ANC NEC member, commander of Umkhonto WeSizwe, and the first Minister of Housing in the democratic government. We are commemorating the 9th anniversary of the passing away of Cde Joe Slovo during the year in which we are also celebrating 10 years of our freedom. Cde Joe Slovo was one of the key participants in our negotiations process in the early 1990s. It was also through his courage that he stuck his neck out and publicly argued for sunset clauses and a government of national unity, a path, which many of our people were initially skeptical of, yet became a development that marked a decisive breakthrough towards our negotiated settlement.

For the SACP and millions of our people, celebrating 10 years of our freedom should also be a celebration of the role played by communists in the liberation struggle and the struggle for transformation. Therefore celebrating 10 years of our freedom is also a celebration of the life, struggles, sacrifices of a hero and communist like Joe Slovo. This is a history we dare not forget nor allow to be rewritten as our detractors and opportunists will attempt to do!

Cde Joe Slovo is one of our key monuments to the glorious struggle of liberation and transformation of our country, and to this end he ranks alongside heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu as one of the architects of our nation and democracy. Cde Slovo is also one of the symbols of the non-racial character of our struggle, a man who abandoned racial privileges of South Africa''s white population under apartheid and chose to dedicate his entire life to the struggle for the liberation of the black majority. That is why he became such a symbol of hatred for the racist minority apartheid regime, and yet loved and adored by millions of oppressed South Africans. Commemorating Joe Slovo should therefore also be an opportunity for our white compatriots to fully commit themselves and join forces with the majority in building a truly non-racial South Africa..

We also honour this gallant fighter and son of the soil as a hero of the working class and an unswerving, dedicated communist. He dedicated all to the struggle to liberate our people. He hated opportunism and careerism, yet tactically flexible, without abandoning the fundamental principles and objectives of our movement. He managed to be all these things because Joe Slovo was a visionary. He was a critique of the Soviet model of socialism in the early 1990s, without opportunistically abandoning the cause of communism and the validity of socialism as the only rational alternative to capitalist barbarism.

We are commemorating the 9th anniversary of the passing away of Cde Slovo, at a time when the working class has made significant gains under the democratic government. During the first decade of our freedom our government has led a legislative and policy programme that has seen some of the most progressive labour market transformation compared to anywhere else in the world. However the working class is also going through some of its most difficult periods due to the jobloss bloodbath underway in our country, as a result of neo-liberal restructuring of the global and domestic economy.

It is because of these realities, and the need to struggle for a society favouring the interests of the workers and the poor, that more than ever before we need to take to heart some of Cde Slovo''s passionate commitments - the building of independent working class power as the principal vehicle to deepen and consolidate our democratic gains. The medium term vision of the SACP and COSATUs Vision 2015 provide key elements of a co-ordinated strategy to realize Slovo''s dream of building independent working class power in all sites of power and influence in society. This was because Slovo concretely understood that the working class is the principal motive force of our revolution, and it should not just preach this to itself, but must seek to win this role on the ground through strong working class organization.

We are also remembering and honouring Cde Slovo who, in his capacity as Minister of Housing, was a pioneer in the struggle to transform the banks to serve the poor, particularly in the area of low-cost housing. We are proud that as the SACP we have managed to drive the struggle for financial sector transformation to the point of having reached significant agreements at Nedlac and pushed the financial sector to adopt a charter.

We are also celebrating the life of Cde Slovo, a leading member of the Young Communist League in the 1940s, at the time when we have just relaunched the YCL after 54 years of illegality. There could have been no better honour to this stalwart of the YCL than to rebuild this militant detachment of the Communist movement - UFASIMBA.

As the SACP we will continue to honour Cde Joe Slovo by taking forward the struggle of the transformation of the financial sector. We will honour the memory of Cde JS by continuing to educate our people that the basic source of our problems is capitalism. We shall cherish his memory by building a stronger SACP, a stronger Alliance, a stronger trade union movement and other progressive mass formations, and by deepening the struggle for socialism. We will not allow his memory to fade by deepening the struggle to build a progressive women''s movement to be at the head of the struggle for transforming gender relations in our country. We will honour his memory by celebrating 10 years of our freedom as a simultaneous celebration of the role of communists like him in bringing about these achievements.

However there could be no better way to honour this stalwart, than to mobilize our people to register and return the ANC government overwhelmingly, including an outright victory in KZN and Western Cape.

Long live the memory of Cde JS, long live our democracy!

SACP statement on 9th anniversary of the death of Joe Slovo

Tuesday 6th January is the 9th anniversary of the death of cde Joe Slovo. At the time of his death, he was SACP chairperson and Minister of Housing in President Mandela’s cabinet. The SACP will be commemorating the occasion with a visit to his Soweto grave-side by cde Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary, Helena Dolny, Slovo’s widow, and others.

For the SACP this is not merely a ceremonial occasion. Slovo’s legacy needs to be constantly fostered and taken forward. In particular, over several decades, as a loyal and active ANC leader, Slovo insisted on the need for an allied but autonomous party of the working class, a party of socialism. He constantly insisted that, in the context of national liberation struggles, it was imperative for working people to safeguard an independent ideological and organisational platform. Africa, he noted, is littered with examples of once-heroic struggles stagnating post-independence under the domination of emergent, supposedly nationalist, rent-seeking bourgeoisies, abusing newly acquired state power for personal accumulation. With the contemporary example of Zimbabwe close to hand, the SACP is convinced that Slovo’s concerns in this direction were absolutely valid.

In the late 1980s, with the Soviet bloc fragmenting and eventually imploding, Slovo was one of the clearest communist voices, not just in South Africa but internationally. He declined the temptation of denial, conceding that serious errors had been committed in the name of socialism. But, at the same time, he was scornful of the Yeltsin option, an opportunistic switching of ideological camps. It is as communists, he insisted, that we would analyse, learn from, and accept responsibility for the crisis in the former Soviet Union. We would not run away from our socialist morality and our communist strategic outlook.

Again, this principled position is of enormous relevance in South Africa in 2004. Unrealistic hopes of a benign, post-Cold War capitalist world order lie shattered in the ruins of Cancun, Kabul and Baghdad. Post-1990s global capitalism is epitomised by Enron and Parmalat, and not by some woolly third-way dream of “partnerships” that do not address the fundamental inequalities of power. In our own country, post-1994 capitalist stabilisation has come with deepening income inequality and growing inequality.

The SACP pledges to take forward the struggle of Joe Slovo, and the tens of thousands of fellow communist militants who devoted their lives to the struggle for a better South Africa.

Joe Slovo in his own words

On the leading role of the ANC

We''ve had examples of radical youth, and quite a few radical workers too have come to us and said "We''re not joining the ANC, we''re waiting for the Party to come out", and we''ve told them on that basis there''s no place for them in the Party because they''ll have to be reeducated politically. And it''s not because we want to have a presence in the ANC, it''s because we believe and must continue to be, to strengthen the most important national force.

On the armed struggle

In 1961 history left us with no option but to engage in armed action as a necessary part of the political struggle. It was a moment in which (to use Lenin''s words) "untimely inaction would have been worse than untimel action". We could not refuse to fight. We had to learn how to do so. And, in many respects, we had to learn on the ground, in the hard school of revolutionary practice.

On religion

It is my contention that there is a major convergence between the ethical content of Marxism and all that is best in the world''s religions. But it must also be conceded that in the name of both Marxism and religion great damage has been done to the human condition. Both ideologies have produced martyrs in the cause of liberation and tyrants in the cause of oppression. Let us (socialists and believers) stop concentrating exclusively on the debate about whether there is or is not a paradise in heaven. Let us work together to build a paradise on earth. As for myself, if I eventually find a paradise in heaven, I will regard it as a bonus.

On the apartheid''s regime disinformation campaign against him

For the past decade and a half they have been saying that I am a KGB colonel. I must the most unsuccessful spy in the world in 15 years I haven''t had a promotion!

The working class and the national democratic struggle

If we pose the question by asking only whether our struggle is a national struggle or class struggle, we will inevitably get a wrong answer. The right question is: what is the relationship between these two categories? A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle inb existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek.

Has socialism failed?

For our part, we firmly believe in the future of socialism; nor do we dismiss its whole past as an unmitigated failure... But it is more vital than ever to subject the past of existing socialism to an unsparing critique in order to draw the necessary lessons. To do so openly is an assertion of justified confidence in the future of socialism and its inherent moral superiority. And we should not allow ourselves to be inhibited merely because an exposure of failures will inevitably provide ammunition to the traditional enemies of socialism: our silence will, in any case, present them with an even more powerful ammunition.

Has capitalism succeeded?

The wretched of this earth make up over 90% of humanity. They live either in capitalist or capitalist oriented societies. For them, if socialism is not the answer, there is no answer at all.

On his return to SA from 27 years in exile

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted...

The negotiations

The starting point for developing a framework within which to approach some larger questions in the negotiating process is to answer the question: why are we negotiating? We are negotiating because towards the end of the 80s we concluded that, as a result of this escalating crisis, the apartheid power bloc was no longer able to continue ruling in the old way and was genuinely seeking some break with the past. At the same time, we were clearly not dealing with a defeated enemy and an early revolutionary seizure of power by the liberation movement could not be realistically posed.

...For the past three years, we politicians have all had our say. It is time now for the people to have their day. For the past three years we politicians have spoken to each other, at each other and past each other. We have been in bilaterals and multilaterals. But beyond the walls of the World Trade Centre there is growing impatgience with our speechifying...

...The negotiated package that was finally signed on the night of November 17-18 1993 at Kempton Park was a famous victory. It represents both the culmination of decades of struggle and the starting-point of a new struggle. The critical question now is implementation...

On certain English liberals

Bashing the Afrikaner is a popular pastime among certain English liberals, and it gets my goat. It stems from a combination of English jingoism and an attempt to evade collective white guilt for our racist inheritance by piling it all onto Afrikaners. It also creates a smokescreen over the real roots of racism by giving pride of place to the ethnic factor rather than to economic exploitation. Mealy-mouthed shedding of responsibility and blaming it all on the Boers is, at best, ahistorical and, at worst, a form of racism. If any one group is to blame for the modern foundations of apartheid, it is the non-Afrikaner upper strata which dominated the seat of power for more than 75 years before 1948. I am not arguing for "one randlord, one bullet", but we must get our history straight.

The SACP''s secret weapon

Commentators continue to be puzzled by the staying power of the SACP in a world in which socialist parties are in decline. It is time to divulge one of the lesser known secrets of our public relations success. No, we have no contract with Saatchi and Saatchi who are already working for the NP. We rely on the firm of De Klerk and Botha, whose public relations work for our Party is unsolicited, unintended and free. Every time this old firm launches a salvo against us, our popularity rating among blacks taks a further leap.

On multi-party democracy

The single party state, except at rare moments in history, is a recipe for tyranny. What we''ve learnt from the Soviet experience and from the African experience is that the concept of the Party as a vanguard which has the right to rule by virtue of calling itself something and which is entrenched in the constitution as a permanent godfather of society, is a disaster.

The challenges of the new SA

It is our task to give millions of South Africans an essential piece of dignity in their lives - the dignity that comes from having a solid roof over your head, running water and other services in an established community.

Looking back

As far as I am concerned, what I did, I did without any regrets. I decided long ago in my life that there is only one target and that target is to remove the racist regime and obtain power for the people.

Joe Slovo''s favourite poem:

In Praise of Communism, by Bertolt Brecht

It''s sensible,
anyone can understand it.

It''s easy.

You''re not an exploiter,
so you can grasp it.

It''s a good thing for you,
find out more about it.

The stupid call it stupid
and the squalid call it

It is against squalor and
against stupidity.

The exploiters call it a crime
but we know:
it is the end of crime.

It is not madness, but
the end of madness.

It is not the riddle
but the solution.

It is the simplest thing
so hard to achieve.

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