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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 5, No. 69, 6 December 2006

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Build the Young Communist League as South Africa’s Political School for Communism!

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Next week, on 13-17 December 2006 our Young Communist League (YCL) – UFASIMBA – will be holding its Second Congress, after its 1st (Re-establishment) Congress held three years ago. The 2nd Congress will be held in eThekwini, at the Mangosuthu Technikon.

An important landmark and a breath of fresh air

At the YCL Re-establishment Congress in 2003, the SACP in its message of support said, amongst other things, that “the re-launch is an important landmark in the new history of a democratic South Africa, particularly for the historically oppressed and exploited people of our country”. Cde Zwelinzima Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU, also challenged the delegates at the re-establishment Congress that the YCL must bring a breath of fresh air into our politics and its impact must be felt. Indeed the last three years of the YCL has made a huge impact in our country. We congratulate the re-establishment leadership for a job well done!

The SACP is heartened that right from its re-establishment the YCL has not hesitated in throwing itself into the ongoing class, national, gender and ideological struggles underway in our country from the standpoint of the interests of the working class. Indeed the last three years of our country have seen many complex and difficult challenges both in broader society, as well as within our own movement. The SACP is also proud of the fact that the YCL has now established its structures in all the provinces of our country, and indeed in many districts and localities.

We also wish to congratulate the YCL about the fact that within three years its membership has reached 28 000, with 56% of its total membership being female. This is by any standards phenomenal growth, and shows the extent to which many young South Africans, especially from the ranks of the working class and the poor, are attracted to the ideals of the South African Communist Party. Women majority in the YCL membership is also a huge advancement given the huge challenge of deepening the struggle for women’s emancipation and gender equality.

Indeed the important achievement of a 56% percent female membership also comes with huge responsibilities. The challenge for the YCL is to ensure that these young women actively participate in all the activities and programmes of the YCL, and not just be mere appendages to a YCL that is otherwise dominated by males. The very programmes of the YCL must concretely take up issues facing young women, including fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, women access to education and many other similar challenges. The predominantly women membership must also be used as a base to advance transformation of gender relations both inside the structures of the YCL, as well as in broader society.

Since the re-establishment of our YCL, we have also unearthed a lot of young communist talent which is also educating itself, through struggle, in the challenges of leadership. This bodes well for the SACP and the future of socialist struggles in our country.

A political school for communism

The SACP is of the view that the YCL needs to consciously build itself into a political school for communism in our country. What do we mean by this?

The YCL must consciously seek to recruit and educate the widest possible strata of our youth on socialism and prepare them as cadres and future leaders of the SACP. This should necessarily entail consistent and ongoing Marxist-Leninist education as one of its prime tasks. As the YCL moves into its second term it must build its organizational capacity to conduct ongoing political education at all levels of its structures. This will go a long way towards the production of a conscious communist cadre for the SACP itself.

However, for the YCL to be the political school for communism it must not limit itself to theoretical discussions, important as these may be, but must also be a campaigning and activist organization. As Lenin said, theory without practice is sterile, and practice without theory is blind. The YCL should throw its full weight behind SACP campaigns and consciously seek to place youth issues at the centre of these campaigns, eg youth co-operatives, accessible and affordable finance for young people to build sustainable livelihoods, access to land for young people, safe and affordable public transport for scholars, etc.

In undertaking the above tasks, the YCL must ground its programmes and campaigns on the Medium Term Vision (MTV) of the SACP, which amongst other things seek to make the second decade of our freedom a decade for the workers and the poor. The SACP’s MTV seeks to build working class hegemony in all key sites of power and influence in society. The MTV has further been concretely elaborated by the SACP as meaning building working class hegemony in five key sites of power: the state, the workplace, the community, the economy and the ideological struggle.

Within the above context, for the YCL to be a political school for communism it must pay special attention to the organization of young workers. Statistics show that more than 60% of the 40% unemployed in South Africa are youth. The YCL also needs to help in the organization of the increasingly casualised workers, many of whom are young women. In this way the YCL should also seek to contribute towards strengthening the trade union movement in its efforts to organize this stratum of workers.

The YCL also has a special responsibility to deepen its ideological offensive against the increasingly dominant capitalist values in society, especially the offensive directed at the youth through all forms of media and other messages, not least in our education system. The ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality is going to swallow the future of our youth, unless this is actively combated.

As part of the ideological offensive the YCL has a specific task of prioritizing the struggle for the progressive transformation of the curricula both in schools and institutions of higher education. The YCL should indeed insist that amongst other things modules of historical and dialectical materialism are taught in our schools as well as modules promoting values of social solidarity and selfless service to develop our country without any expectation of personal reward. In organizational terms this also means strong YCL branches in schools and campuses, as well as the challenge of rebuilding a strong, progressive student movement.

Some of the organizational challenges: Building a strong Progressive Youth Alliance

The SACP notes with satisfaction the fact that right from its re-establishment the YCL joined and has become an important player in the front of progressive youth organizations in our country, under the umbrella of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA)

Within the context of the PYA, the YCL must consciously seek to build a special relationship with the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), participate in its structures, also as part of building a stronger ANC. We welcome the drastically improved working relationship between the YCL and the ANCYL, which has overcome the initial mutual suspicions between these two formations. The relationship between these two youth formations of our allied organizations must be regarded as of a strategic nature, and it must be a relationship driven by mass activism.

Of course the YCL will not be able to achieve all these tasks if it does not prioritise the strengthening of its own structures, and build itself as a mass communist organization of the youth in our country.

The SACP hopes that the YCL will use its second Congress to thoroughly reflect on its strengths and weaknesses. Indeed there are many challenges and hurdles that the YCL will still have to overcome.

We are however confident that our YCL, in the true tradition of Ufasimba, will be able to rise to the challenge. We are indeed proud of our SACP 11th Congress resolution to re-establish the YCL. It is a resolution that couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment, and the last 3 years have vindicated the correctness of that resolution!  



‘A nation that forgets its past has no future’

SACP Tribute on the occasion of the reburial of the body of Cde Moses Mabhida, the late General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Pietermaritzburg, 2 December 2006

It is 20 years since the passing away of one of the giants of the South African revolution. The South African Communist Party has come to pay homage to this worker leader, freedom fighter, communist to the end - Moses Mbheki Mncane Mabhida.

The SACP thanks the government of KwaZulu-Natal, under the leadership of Premier Ndebele, for honouring the commitment made in 1986 by both the President of the ANC, Cde OR Tambo, and the President of Mozambique, Cde Samora Machel. Speaking at Cde Mabhida’s funeral they promised that after liberation his body would be returned home. We salute the role played by the Alliance and by thousands and thousands of our people who responded enthusiastically in Mpumalanga and KZN along the route of the return of Cde Mabhida’s body to his Pietermaritzburg home. Over the past week, in popular action, ordinary South Africans were saying: “A nation that forgets its past has no future”. We will not forget our past.

At Cde Mabida’s funeral in Maputo in 1986, Cde Joe Slovo said:

“The racists hate South African communists with a special venom. To discredit what we stand for they spread the myth that communists are a strange people from far away places who import foreign ideas from Europe which are dangerous for Africa.

“The answer to all these outpourings lies before us in this coffin.

“Comrade Baba Mabhida, the leader of South Africa’s communists, personalized the real essence of our land and its people. He was nurtured by its very soil which he loved with a deep passion…

“It is no accident that all these working class and communist leaders also became outstanding figures in a national movement.”

Slovo’s message was simple. South African communists are not foreigners, they are the sons and daughters of the workers and the poor of our country. And because they are not foreigners, for some 80 years, communists like Baba Mabhida have thrown their full weight behind our national liberation movement, the African National Congress. As we honour this giant, we must commit ourselves to preserving this outstanding legacy.

In his funeral oration in 1986, Cde Oliver Tambo described Mabhida thus:

“It is rarely given to a people that they should produce a single person who epitomizes their hopes and expresses their common resolve as Moses Mabhida did. In simple language, he could convey the aspirations of all our people in their magnificent variety, he could explain the fears and prejudices of the unorganized, and he could sense the feelings of even the most humble among our people. Moses Mabhida could do all this because he was of the people, a product of the stern university of mass struggle, a product of the life experience of the exploited and downtrodden workers and peasants of our country. It was that university, that education, that experience, which inspired Moses Mabhida to join the ANC, the SACP and the trade union movement…”

Who was this giant, Moses Mabhida?

To those of us of a younger generation here in Pietermaritzburg, the late Cde Harry Gwala would speak with great fondness of Moses Mabhida, referring to him as ‘Stimela’. In fact, Gwala was calling him by his father’s name. His mother was Anna Nobuzi (Phakathi).  Moses Mabhida was born in Thornville here in Pietermaritzburg on 14 October 1923. He worked as a herdboy, which led to him starting school late, at the age of 8 in the 1932. But his schooling was interrupted in the same year, as he had to return to herding goats. He started school again the following year.

It was when Mabhida was schooling at Slangspruit that he first met with Harry Gwala in 1941. Gwala had just joined this school as a teacher and he would gather together a small group of senior boys, among them Mabhida, giving them political lessons. Mabhida remembered that these political classes had started at the time that Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Gwala explained the approach they should take in understanding that war.

Later Gwala introduced Mabhida and his fellow pupils to other literature of our movement, starting with the Guardian newspaper, as well as pamphlets produced by the Communist Party of South African (the CPSA, as it was then known).

Gwala subsequently took Mabhida to trade union meetings and later introduced him into the Communist Party, which he joined in 1942. Mabhida left school after completing Standard 7, and later worked for the trade union movement in Pietermaritzburg. He joined the Howick Rubber Workers’ Union as a full-time organizer, and gradually expanded his work to Durban.

In the 1950s his contacts and responsibilities had extended considerably. In the mid-1950s Mabhida toured the whole of Natal collecting demands for the Congress of the People for inclusion in the Freedom Charter. He was a founder member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), participating in its first National Congress, where he was elected one of four vice-presidents.

Moses Mabhida was a driving force in the organization of unorganized workers in the 1950s. As chairperson of the SACTU local committee he worked with a number of trade unions, including the Dairy Workers’ Union and the General Workers’ Union. Moses Mabhida participated in many major local and national strikes. He played a key role in the preparations for the 1958 stay-at-home called from 14-16 April 1958 calling for a wage of 1 pound a day and other political demands.

Moses Mabhida was also an activist on the gender front and struggles for emancipation of women at this time. He participated fully in the mass movement of the Natal African women which erupted in 1959.

After the declaration of the 1960 state of emergency by the apartheid regime, in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, Cde Mabhida was instructed to leave the country to organize solidarity work abroad. He spent some time at the headquarters of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). In 1963 he was instructed by Cde OR Tambo to leave solidarity work and devote himself fully to the work of Umkhonto WeSizwe.

After the death of Cde Moses Kotane in 1978, he was elected General Secretary of the South African Communist Party.

During the exile period Cde Mabhida served the movement in various capacities, in the Party, as a member of the ANC NEC, the Revolutionary Council of the movement charged with directing all revolutionary work against the apartheid regime, and as leader of SACTU.

Despite his lengthy exile, and despite the apartheid regime’s every effort to crush our organisations and to wipe out even the memory of our liberation movement, Cde Mabhida continued to enjoy great prestige here at home. After his death in 1986, and in very difficult circumstances, a number of commemorative events were held inside the country, among them at the national gathering of the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC), held in Durban that year.

Moses Mabhida was the very embodiment of our revolutionary Alliance. Let us use this homecoming occasion to pledge to work ceaselessly to foster and nurture this great revolutionary Alliance. In continuously building this Alliance, we honour our history and, above all, we serve millions of South Africans, the downtrodden and the exploited, the workers and the poor.

Let us tell our history as it is and not rewrite it!

The funeral of Cde Moses Mabhida in Maputo in 1986 was, in effect, an unofficial state funeral. Cde Mabhida was accorded full honours in a ceremony addressed by Cde Samora Machel, the President of Mozambique, Cde O.R.Tambo, the ANC President, and Cde Joe Slovo, who had at the time been elected General Secretary of the SACP (but this had not yet been publicly announced). Cde Mabhida’s funeral in Maputo in 1986 was highly significant for a number of reasons and at a number of levels.

First, it was testimony to the personal qualities of Cde Mabhida, and the esteem in which he was held by the FRELIMO Party. Cde Mabhida had earned great respect for his leadership qualities, and he also had a strong personal bond with Mozambique, having chosen to live out his last days in that country. 

Second, the fact that, to all intents and purposes, the funeral was a state funeral, was an important public statement by the FRELIMO Party and the Government of Mozambique. Our Mozambican comrades were proclaiming their strategic choice of solidarity with the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid and racist minority rule. The funeral of Cde Mabhida was the first high profile public statement of its kind, marking a deepening sense of anger that the apartheid regime had betrayed all of the commitments it had undertaken in the Nkomati Accord of Non-Aggression.

Third, the funeral was significant in that it was a leader of the SACP who was accorded this honour. It was recognition of the central strategic role of the SACP in the liberation struggle, and also a statement of the centrality of the socialist values of the Party in the struggle.

Cde Slovo highlighted in his speech the importance of the fact that Cde Mabhida was an organic working class leader. He spoke of the apartheid regime’s stupid propaganda that sought to portray our liberation struggle as an attempt to further the ambitions of Soviet foreign policy. All that Moses Mabidha was, all that he lived and died for, debunked this pathetic propaganda.

Cde O.R. spoke of the importance of the alliance, emphasizing that Mabhida’s role in our revolutionary alliance was in itself an embodiment of that Alliance.

Cde Samora Machel used the occasion to affirm Mozambique’s strategic choice of solidarity with the struggle for liberation in SA. Within a few months of this speech, Cde Samora was killed in an air crash in Mbuzini in circumstances that point to a strong probability of some role of the apartheid regime in causing this tragedy.

The 1986 funeral of Cde Mabhida marked the burial of the Nkomati Accord. Today’s reburial is not about burying our revolutionary history. It is about honouring that history, and about keeping it alive.

It is an act of telling our history as it was and as it is. It was not former Bantustan leaders who liberated our country, but the likes of Moses Mabhida and many other revolutionaries in our struggle. We are committed to building a united South Africa. But unity and reconciliation cannot be built on forgetfulness. As we rebury Cde Mabhida, whose first full-time job was as organiser of the Howick Rubber Workers’ Union, we pledge never to forget the fallen MAWU shop stewards and workers of Sarmcol, who in the early 1980s, were slain for seeking to take forward the work of Cde Mabhida in re-building progressive trade unions. In honouring Cde Mabhida, we are also honouring the people of Mpumuza and Caluza (here in Pietermaritzburg), upon whom a deadly 7-day-war was unleashed in the early 1990s. We honour the fallen of those communities, we honour those who heroically defended their people. We shall not be distracted, let us tell our history like it is.

There are indeed many attempts to write the SACP out of South Africa’s history. It is, perhaps not accidental, that these attempts occur at a time when our Party has escalated its mass activism, perhaps to levels unknown since the SACP-led campaigns of the 1940s. We have doubled our membership to 50 000 over the last 4 and half years, perhaps the fastest growth of our Party in its history. This is because our 50 000 communist activists are to be found everywhere – in state structures, in community struggles in the urban and rural areas and also making enormous contributions in building ANC branches, in the trade union movement (continuing the great legacy of Moses Mabhida); in daily economic battles with bosses fighting the tyranny of capitalist exploitation; and also waging a relentless ideological struggle to expose and teach (while also learning from) the masses that capitalism is both a material reality and a lie. It is a reality given the grinding fact of its daily exploitation of the working class, but a lie in that, contrary to its claims, it is a system hopelessly incapable of addressing the problems facing the overwhelming majority of our people. Capitalism is a system for the rich, a parasite on the blood, sweat and labour of the workers and the poor!

Moses Mabhida – an African and an internationalist

Both the reality and the lie of capitalism still afflicts the whole of our African continent. Deeply rooted as he was in the South African struggle, it is important to remember that Cde Mabhida, was also an internationalist, committed to the international solidarity of the working classes and oppressed peoples throughout the world. He participated actively in numerous internationalist activities as a communist, an ANC leader and a leader of SACTU.

From his direct experience in this work, Cde Mabhida reminded us at the 60th anniversary meeting of the SACP, in July 1981:

“…in some independent African countries neo-colonialism persists, thus constraining national development. In these countries the international monopolies, finance capital and their corporations attempt to entrench themselves and perpetuate exploitation in these countries, thus denying them genuine independence”

Although these words were said more than 20 years ago, they are still true today. They emphasise that the liberation and sovereignty of our country and continent shall remain incomplete, for as long as the wealth of our countries is not fully returned into the hands of the people.

The challenge: Keep the Red Flag Flying High!

There is no better way for us to honour and take forward the legacy of Cde Mabhida than to build an even stronger Alliance. It cannot be an Alliance just for old time’s sake. It has to be an Alliance that is reconfigured in line with the contemporary challenges of our post-1994 reality.

Of absolute necessity, we must build a campaigning alliance, taking up the daily struggles of our people. We should not rest on our laurels now that we have a democratic government. A democratic government without ongoing mass mobilisation is always vulnerable to being influenced by the propertied classes.

For our part, we as the SACP shall continue to do all we can to ensure a strong and campaigning alliance.

We will honour Cde Mabhida’s legacy by deepening our campaigns through taking up matters affecting ordinary people, to deepen our democracy, to fight poverty and unemployment, and to roll back the capitalist market in the provision of basic services. We will go out into the streets, we will undertake door-to-door work, we will convene people’s forums:

  • To demand a once-off credit amnesty for all those listed in the credit bureaux so that the workers and the poor especially can start their lives anew as part of the struggle against poverty and for sustainable livelihoods. Our people have to be liberated from the economic death sentence imposed on millions by the faceless credit bureaux
  • To demand the abolition of compound interest on housing bonds for the workers and the poor, so that there shall be houses for all. Housing is a basic human right that should not be subjected to the profit-maximising logic of the capitalist market
  • To build people’s land committees to mobilise our people to drive an accelerated land and agrarian transformation programme
  • To ensure that local transport committees are established in every municipality as the foundation for building a safe, affordable and efficient transport system in our country
  • To build co-operatives and a co-operative movement as part of a contribution towards building sustainable livelihoods and ensuring that black economic empowerment is truly broad based
  • To build SACP workplace units to support and strengthen the struggles of the trade union movement on the shop-floor in order to challenge the gender and racial division of labour in the workplace, and wage struggles for a living wage, to fight casualisation and the super-exploitation of black and women workers
  • Above all, we will throw our full weight into building a stronger ANC through, amongst other things, ensuring that the ANC’s Imvuselelo campaign reaches out to every corner of our country

In short, Cde Moses Mbheki Mncane Mabhida, as we stand here before your mortal remains, we solemnly pledge: