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Volume 5, No.60, 17 July 2006
In this Issue:

Red Alert

The SACP – eighty-five years of unbroken communist struggle in South Africa

By Jeremy Cronin, Deputy General Secretary

Inspired by the Russian Revolution

85 years ago, on July 29th 1921, the Communist Party of South Africa was launched in Cape Town. It was the first communist party in Africa, and among the earliest members of the newly formed Communist International based in Moscow.

Throughout the world, working people and the poor were inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution. For the first time in history, workers and peasants had successfully overthrown the bourgeoisie, and embarked upon a socialist revolution.

Many, including the founders of the CPSA, believed that the Russian Revolution was the beginning of a world revolution that would soon roll through countries like Germany and Italy in which the working class was well organised and militant.

We now know that capitalism has proved to be more resilient (and more barbaric) than communists in the 1920s had hoped. We now also know that the heroic advances made in the early years of the Soviet Union were to be rolled back. This was partly due to the unceasing destabilisation by a hostile imperialist world. It was also due to serious internal weaknesses and grave errors.

And yet, whatever the misplaced optimism of the founders of the Communist Party in South Africa in 1921, the fundamental vision with which they launched the CPSA has successfully inspired generation after generation of South African revolutionaries.

The advances made in our country over the last 12 years would not have been possible without 85-years of unbroken communist struggle in South Africa.

Our Contribution

Over 85 years, the Communist Party in South Africa has been:

  • the pioneer of non-racialism – from the 1920s, and for most of its existence, the Communist Party was the only political formation in South Africa in which there were black and white members struggling together shoulder to shoulder in the same trench. As communists we have laid down a tradition of non-racialism that has now become a foundation-stone of the new South Africa;
  • a party of militant trade-unionists – from the early ICU days of Cdes EJ Khaile, Jimmy La Guma, and Johnny Gomas, through the generation of Cdes JB Marks, Ray Alexander to Billy Nair and to younger party militants, communists have been in the forefront of organising workers.
  • a party of mass mobilisation – from our earliest years, Party cadres like Edwin Mofutsanyana and Josie Mpama, have been leading militant struggles of communities against poor housing and corrupt officials.
  • a party of rural activism – In the 1920s Cde SP Bunting worked in the deep rural areas of the Transkei, in the 1940s and 50s communist militant Cde Alpheus Madiba mobilised in the north amongst peasants and also among migrants in Johannesburg from these rural areas.
  • a party of co-operatives and community work – in the 1940s, Dora Tamana pioneered a cooperative movement in the informal settlements of the Cape Flats, a tradition that has been taken forward into the present by a new generation of young communists.
  • a party of guerrilla fighters and martyrs – through the bitter years of minority rule, Party militants have been among the first in sacrifice – from Johannes Nkosi, gunned down in 1930 for leading an anti-pass campaign, through to an outstanding 1976 generation of courageous young communists, among them Petros Linda Jobane (“Gordon Dikebu”), the Lion of Chiawelo, who surrounded and alone held off the apartheid police, down to his last bullet. The Party of Chris Hani remembers and salutes all of its heroes and martyrs.
  • a party of revolutionary theory and learning – as a revolutionary party, we have always taken collective learning, analysis, discussion and debate very seriously. In the earliest years, Communist militants like TW Thibedi and Eddie Roux pioneered what we would now call “ABET” (adult basic education and training). They ran night-schools in which migrant workers were provided with basic literacy and political theory. In MK camps and in prison yards during the apartheid years, communist party militants – among them Jack Simons, Mzala, and Govan Mbeki – wrote books, conducted classes and stimulated political umrabulo even in the most unfavourable conditions.
  • a party of internationalism – the earliest founders of the Communist Party in South Africa, among them David Ivon Jones, writing about the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, helped to bring an internationalist perspective into our own local struggles. That is a tradition that lives on today – a new generation of communists is active in the Cuban solidarity struggle, in taking up solidarity with the workers and poor in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and with the oppressed Palestinian people. 

The SACP of 2006 is proud to be the bearer of this incredible legacy. It is a legacy that is both an asset, and a responsibility. We cannot as a Party, or a movement, or a country, betray the hopes, aspirations and sacrifices embodied in 85-years of unbroken communist struggle.

New Challenges and Threats

Over the last decade and a half, the local commercial media has told the South African public that we were one of the “last remaining communist parties in the world”. We were labelled a “dinosaur”. In 2006 we draw strength from our own legacy, but also from a world in which the left is re-awakening. The people of Cuba, led by a communist party, have survived the worst of their enforced isolation, and continue with new strength to build an inspiring society based on social solidarity. Even in advanced capitalist countries like Italy, there are now, once more communist ministers in a left-leaning government; in India, communists have won elections consistently for many years in West Bengal (population 40 million) and in Kerala. In Nepal, communists have been in the forefront of toppling an anti-democratic monarchy. Throughout Latin America – in Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, amongst others – left forces, often including communists, are rolling back the neo-liberal empire.

Over the last 12 years, the SACP has been faced with new challenges and threats. Within our movement some comrades have lost faith in socialism. Others have succumbed to the temptations of power and privilege that the new dispensation has brought. Some have gone out of their way to belittle the SACP – we are labelled “ultra-leftist”, “outdated romantics”, and “naïve ”,“ betrayers of the legacy of Moses Kotane”.

We will not be side-tracked by these jibes - whose class interests are all too obvious. We will continue to draw strength from our unbroken legacy, and from the hopes and aspirations of millions of workers and poor in our country.

For 85 years we have kept the red flag flying here in South Africa. Shoulder to shoulder with exploited factory-floor workers, with casualised seamstresses and temporary cash till operators, with the millions of unemployed, with the landless, the black-listed and the red-lined, with students who have been financially excluded, with communities battling against corrupt officials, with public sector workers, like teachers and nurses, doing their best to serve their people often with few resources, with the HIV positive, with economic refugees from failed states in our region, with all democratic and peace-loving South Africans – we pledge to honour our 85 years legacy.

We are this year celebrating our anniversary through three major activities. Our provincial, district and branch structures are debating the SACP Central Committee discussion document on the SACP relation to state power, including possible electoral options. We have also declared 29 July 2006, the Red Saturday, a day on which we will be holding pickets and demonstrations calling for a once-off amnesty for all from the credit bureaux. We will also be demanding a new, but affordable, model to finance low-cost housing, including a demand for a shorter bond repayment period for the workers and the poor.

All these activities are pursued under our 85th anniversary theme “ Build People’s economy” will culminate in a national rally that will be held in Pietermaritzburg on 30 July 2006!

We pledge to keep the red flag flying.

Long Live the SACP! Long Live the Struggle for Socialism!

Karl Marx was not a (Neo) liberal

By Buti Manamela, National Secretary, Young Communist League

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." (Marx)

"Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile" (Engels).The troubled conscience of an ideologue

ANC TODAY prides itself with being the most informative political journal the country has ever had. Historically, the President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, respected members of the ANC and some faceless authors have contributed to this invaluable communication tool of the movement.

Journalists, CEO’s of huge conglomerates, Archbishops, political leaders and many other individuals tremble at the thought of being maimed and tortured with words lest they utter or write anything negative towards either the President or government.

The latest to experience the wrath of vengeance is the late Karl Marx, respected and celebrated activist, revolutionary, political economist and philosopher. His day came two weeks in a row, and his theory was extracted and revised to suit the author(s) of ANC TODAY issue Volume 5, Issues 24 and 25.

When his day came, he was reduced into a common, if not neo liberal, and it was in the guise of responding to the SACP CC Discussions Document. In that regard no punches were held back, the wordsmith had a field day, the spin-doctor had a field day, and so was an attempt to bury Marx, conniving with Marx himself and celestial powers. Since he is dead, we have a revolutionary duty to defend him and his legacy from any self-serving and opportunistic attempts to use his work and ‘tempt’ him with liberal ideas. We should never allow Marx’s analyses to be co-opted to justify the opposite of what he meant. Marx wrote Capital as a contribution towards the destruction of the private ownership of the means of production!

Relying not on the neo-liberal ideologues that influence government economic policy on a daily basis, but on Marx himself, the two issues of ANC TODAY went at length to refute Marx, in his name nogal, and to justify the neo-liberal policies advocated by the “1996 class project”.

During the calls made for “celestial powers to save us from the 21st century “Marxists”, Marx himself was made the sacrificial lamb on the altar of justification of “capitalist accumulation” and “macro-economic policy” failures.

There are contradictions and inconsistencies in the two issues of ANC TODAY.

Firstly, it is alleged “…that the CC SACP is demanding that the ANC should transform itself into a socialist party and that the democratic revolution should pursue the objective of the defeat of the capitalist system…” (Issue 24). Issue 25 claims that “The SACP Discussion Document calls on the ANC to undertake a "revolutionary/systemic transformation of society that begins to resolve the inherent contradiction in favour of the working class and its popular allies".

It goes on saying that “it (CC SACP) says nothing about the directly related matter, whether "centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour (have) at last reached a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument". (In other words the SACP is being asked to pursue ‘free market’ policies if it is truly socialist, because the means of production and socialization of labour have not yet reached a point where they are ‘incompatible with their capitalist integument’!) This is the point at which, according to Marx, objective conditions emerge for revolutionary socialist change, and therefore the 'resolution of the inherent contradiction in favour of the working class', which it calls for.”

It is not clear whether the author(s) of ANC TODAY are suggesting that GEAR and its predecessor policies are meant to create a fertile ground for a socialist revolution and that the SACP is not appreciative and understanding of this, or whether the SACP, whilst “demanding that the ANC should transform itself into a socialist party” wants to destabilise and abort a perfectly cooked GEAR route to socialism.

Therefore, the author(s) of ANC TODAY are opposed to an ANC “transforming into a socialist party” but are equally advancing socialism through ensuring that “centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour” become incompatible with their capitalist integument”. This, in essence, is done through “macro-economic stabilisation”, and Marx’s famous words from Das Kapital, “capital expropriates capital”, are borrowed for this distortion.

The truth of the matter is that the process of the “development of productive forces necessary to change social relations, the centralisation of the means of production and the socialisation of labour” can become both a reactionary, that is, for purposes of restoration of capitalist profitability, or a progressive project for the advancement of a socialist oriented national democratic revolution.

ANC TODAY suggests that through GEAR, the necessary locomotive for social change, that is the working class, will be in a position to act as a revolutionary force because GEAR would have helped in the "centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour”. This is a “Marxist” distortion of the highest order. It is manufacturing a connection between a policy position that is neo-liberal (GEAR) and Marx’s study of capital.

The main purpose of Marx in writing Capital was not to teach the working class to implement it, but to guide it towards “changing social relations”. To insist that the SACP should advocate for, or act in a manner suggested by the ANC TODAY so as to satisfy their requirements for one to become a Marxist is opportunism of the highest order. And equally, to appropriate Marx for purposes of fighting Marxists should be treated in the same vein.

Marx argued that “any theory of the collapse of capitalism…therefore…can only present itself as Marxist if it is a theory of conscious overthrow of capitalism, that is, a theory of socialist revolution.”

From the above, we can deduce that any form of capitalist accumulation or restoration does not result in the “overthrow of capitalism” unless “if its is a theory of conscious overthrow of capitalism, a socialist revolution.” Besides destroying the organisation of the working class through the will of the markets, Gear is also not a “conscious socialist revolution”, and the authors of ANC TODAY have been at pains to cleanse the ANC of any pursuance of a socialist revolution.

Towards the end of Chapter 32 in Volume 1 of Capital, Marx continues to state that “the rest has to result from the growth of the revolt of the working class, a class constantly increasing in numbers, and trained, united and organised by the very mechanism of the capitalist process of production.”

There are two further issues addressed by the author(s) of ANC TODAY. These are the “rupture” and the altering of the “capitalist accumulation path”. The whole Das Kapital was splashed in both editions of ANC TODAY so much so I thought that Marx was a (neo)liberal. And, borrowing from Lenin, we can only say “…that is such an awful theoretical muddle, such a complete renunciation of Marxism, that Kautsky (read ANC TODAY), it must be confessed, has far excelled Bernstein.”(Borrowed from Lenin)

What is it that the author(s) of the series in ANC TODAY are really hiding when they choose to “turn Marx into a common (neo)liberal” in their response to the SACP document, especially on issues relating to the ‘rupture’ and ‘capitalist accumulation’?

Five things come to mind.

Firstly, the authors are hiding the fact that GEAR was a strategy to save the apartheid capitalist crises.

In the period between 1989 and 1994 Apartheid capitalism was faced with serous crises. There was a “significant shrink of the national market due to unemployment and poverty”, absence of foreign direct investments mainly due to international sanctions, lack of skills for the advancement of production due to uneven developmental agenda of the Apartheid regime and persisting political violence instigated and financed by the regime. A catalogue of this crisis of apartheid capitalism is contained in the Reconstruction and Development Programme of 1994.

There were other features of general crises accompanying capitalism, which included “accelerated growth of monopoly capitalism”, crises of “state capitalism (mismanagement and rampant privatisation of State Owned Enterprises), a weak but costly public sector, financial disorganisations, high inflation and a weak currency”, and, the “centralisation of the means of production” in the hands of white monopoly capitalism and the “socialisation” of the motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution.

Not only were we witnessing the downfall of apartheid, but also a potentially serious challenge to capitalism itself. What was needed was either a conscious socialist-oriented national democratic revolution or the path of restoration of capitalist profitability to save capitalism from its apartheid crises. This is where GEAR came in, consolidated by the 1996 class project, seriously watering down many of the institutional and policy measures meant to advance the goals of The Freedom Charter and the RDP, and pursued a neo-liberal route. This is at the core of the rupture, not so much led by the ANC as by the increasingly dominant 1996 class project.

What the author(s) of ANC TODAY do is to single out and elevate just one of the many issues that constituted the crisis of Apartheid capitalism, that of a high budget deficit, thus justifying the necessity of Gear. All the other issues that were used to hide the neo-liberal objectives of Gear – “Accelerated, Sustainable and Shared Growth” - were not met.

Secondly, that Asgisa is meant to salvage the economic crisis that was created by GEAR. But because the Asgisa identifies the right problems and suggests the wrong solutions, it will further worsen the crisis created by Gear and precipitate another packaged public relations intervention strategy.

Thirdly, the authors of ANC TODAY are hiding behind the veil of uniting the ANC against the threat of “the false prophets” - to try and divert the real sources of the crises facing the 1996 class project; which is the false prophecy that restoring capitalist profitability will produce development for the benefit of the workers and the poor. The July 2005 ANC NGC could but read behind all of this!

Fourthly, this is merely a restatement (in all its contradictory messages) the 2001/2002 attempted onslaught on its allies, the SACP and COSATU by this 1996 class project. The origins of what is being said today are from the 2002 ANC Briefing Notes, the Josiah Jele and Jabu Moleketi “theoretical obfuscations and attempts at redefining the National Democratic Revolution as if its primary task was always to “manage capitalist relations”. This is a falsification of the objectives of the NDR as contained in the Freedom Charter and other documents of our movement.

Fifthly, and MOST importantly, the 1996 class project is hiding the fact that it believes in that if capitalism is still dominant in South Africa then we must follow ‘its own logic’ by not doing anything to challenge it because that is (an ‘ultra-left’) misreading of Marx’s Capital. Otherwise if we pursue the struggle for socialism, then we must smash capitalism now! But if we cannot smash capitalism now, so the argument goes, and storm the Union Buildings, then we are not genuine socialists. According to this distortion of Marx, socialism is not a protracted struggle against the capitalist system, but a once-off event, the ‘storming of the Bastille ‘ and the ‘1917 October revolution’! In fact, in the name of Marx, the author(s) of ANC Today are actually telling us that we must never pursue a struggle for socialism at all in South Africa! Nor should we dare attempt to pursue a socialist oriented national democratic revolution, because this is outdated.

In addition, the only way forward for the national democratic revolution, so the 1996 class project tells us, is restoration of capitalist profitability. This is actually an attempt at theoretical liquidation of socialism and the SACP, in the name of Marx! This is at the core of the agenda of the 1996 class project. Why is this class project not bold enough to declare, for the whole world to know, that it no longer believes in the ‘legitimacy and logic of the struggle for socialism’ and in that ‘the working class is the dynamic link between national liberation and socialism’? By so doing it would save itself from the pain and shame of opportunistic and concocted attempts at co-opting Marx in the service of capitalism!

All of this is principally done to de-legitimise the relevance of the struggle for socialism in general, and the SACP in particular. The 1996 class project has since 1996 intensified its attempts to try and sow suspicion about the intentions of the SACP in the eyes of the workers and the poor. This continues to fail dismally, and there seems to be a growing desperate attempt by this class project to try and return to 2001/2002.

So when the “Gods” are busy responding to those who wish to win the lottery so as to escape their poverty, “God” will be crazy to respond to the prayers of the authors of the ANC Today series on the SACP document!