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Issue 150 - First Quarter 1999


Advancing the Struggle in a capitalist crisis

The Role of the SACP in the Alliance. Our Vision of socialism by Blade Nzimande
Opening Address by Thabo Mbeki
The Current global economic crisis and its implications for SA
A programme of action for the Alliance

Left-wing childishness reflections on the new tendency emerging within our Party by Lucky T. Montana
Left-wing tendency, an imaginary enemy a response to comrade Montana's paper by Duncan Sebefelo
Positioning the Party in this period of the NDRby Phillip Dexter

Russia at the cross-roads by Vladimir Schubin

Moses Kotane, South African revolutionary (3rd edition) by Brain Bunting & Kader Asmal
Power Lines. US domination in the new global order, by Alejandro Bendana reviewed by Dale T McKinley

Communism and relegion, Simon Stevens


Editorial Notes

Advancing the struggle in a capitalist crisis

The last quarter of 1998 has finally forced a recognition from a very wide range of international intellectual opinion. The global capitalist system is in a serious, systemic crisis. It is no longer possible simply to portray this crisis as a peculiarly "Asian" contagion, or as a "Russian" melt-down, or a "Brazilian" problem alone. Of course, since this crisis occurs within the conditions of imperialism, and is a result of imperialist development, some regions are drastically affected, others, especially many of the most advanced economies are less severely affected - for the moment at least.

What challenges to the left does this crisis pose? The crisis opens up possibilities as well as serious dangers. As the SACP has been arguing throughout the 1990s, the demise of the old Soviet bloc in no way meant that capitalism had surpassed its own inherent tendencies

towards crisis. The present international reality creates a great deal more space for progressive forces within our country, and internationally, to challenge with greater confidence the tottering but still hegemonic neo-liberal paradigm. More importantly, we need to be able to pose concrete, programmatic alternatives to neo-liberalism as much as is possible.

However, the capitalist crisis does not mean that socialism is going to emerge spontaneously from the ruins of large of parts of the global system. As the Tripartite Alliance document on the economic crisis notes, previous globalised capitalist crises have also been associated, not just with mass unemployment and popular immiseration, as in the present, but also with the emergence of many negative phenomena, like fascist regimes, for instance.

In many ways, the global crisis impacts directly on debates going on within South Africa, and indeed within our own ANC-led alliance. The alliance summit documents which we publish in this issue give some idea of this. But the sharp and critical ideological interventions

made by President Mandela and ANC President Thabo Mbeki at the SACP's 10th Congress in July need also to be understood, in part, against the current international background. The debates in the relevant section of this issue, following our 10th Congress need to be located in this way, at least to some extent.

While the international economic crisis creates space for ideological alternatives to the neo-liberal paradigm, in practice, the major economies are increasing their pressures on the developing South as they seek, once more, to off-load the brunt of the crisis on to the poorest in the world.

Ironically, space for advancing progressive alternatives is both extended ideologically and constrained materially in these circumstances. The SACP, mandated by the many resolutions from its 10th Congress, is clear that the present global realities must nevertheless be used to the maximum to develop an intelligent, programmatic left project, within our country and internationally.

The argument that we should stick with our existing macro-economic policies, for instance, adjusting simply where sheer reality has made this or that target unachievable, is wrong. The belief that we are simply experiencing a patch of bad weather, and that fidelity to the Washington consensus (which barely still exists) will be rewarded when the sun shines again is an illusion.

Once more, in many parts of the world, including our own country, left and centre-left governments find themselves elected into office at the very moment that the capitalist economy is under major strain. Do we manage the crisis, or do we preach a "worse the better" message? Clearly, we cannot slip into this simplistic dichotomy. While our ANC-led government must, indeed, "manage" the crisis as best we can, ensuring that there is not even more unemployment and poverty in our country, we cannot confine our perspectives to "management". We have, as best as we are able, to introduce transformative "anti-bodies" to

the logic of imperialist development and under-development. Otherwise we will simply be sprinting desperately up an escalator that is moving downwards, faster and faster.

The role of the SACP in the Alliance. Our vision of socialism

SACP general secretary, Blade Nzimande, outlines the basic programmatic perspectives of the Party as they emerged from the July 1998 10th Congress. The SACP remains deeply committed to the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance, but this has never been, and should never be, construed as a watering down of the Party's commitment to its ownindependence, or to its vision of socialism.

As the SACP, we are firmly committed to a society free of exploitation, a society whose purpose is to produce in order to meet the social needs of the population as a whole. To this end we are firmly committed to a socialism whereby the predominant means of production are in the hands of the working class. It is our belief that only such a society will be able to meet the basic social needs of the majority of the population on a sustainable basis. To this end we are committed to the socialisation of the means of production, which would include nationalisation, co-operatives and other forms of collective ownership of the means of production.

Critical to our vision of socialism is the effective and democratic participation of the working class in decisions about productive processes and full participation of the mass of the people in the affairs of state and society. It is for this reason that we have adopted, at our 10th Party Congress, the programme of building people's power both as an immediate instrument to defend and deepen the NDR, as well as to form the nucleus of socialist democracy itself.

Indeed, the crisis and collapse of Eastern European socialism has led to ongoing debate amongst socialist forces internationally as to what kind of socialism is appropriate. Our very conception of, and path to, socialism is continuously under review. This is not only inevitable but necessary, as the conditions under which we struggle for socialism, domestically and internationally continuously change. In this regard the SACP's view is that much as we have much to learn from the gains and mistakes of Eastern European socialism, our path to, and the nature of, the socialism we are struggling for will derive from the conditions prevailing in our own society. Indeed our vision for socialism will also be largely informed by the very concrete struggles to defend and deepen the national democratic revolution.

Defending and Deepening the NDR: Our path to socialism

The SACP's struggle for socialism is informed not by some abstract, distant notions of socialism, but by the immediate struggles of the mass of the people of our country, of which the working class constitutes its core. This struggle is the struggle to defend, consolidate and deepen the NDR. For us, the deepening of the NDR, under the hegemony and leadership of the working class, is the direct route to socialism. However, we do not see the NDR merely as a stepping stone to socialism. The attainment of the key strategic objectives of the NDR - a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist SA - is an important goal in itself, and the realisation of its objectives will be an important achievement for the South African people. We therefore do not see the NDR in narrow, instrumentalist terms. The SACP has a proud record of struggle together with the mass of the South African people, led by the ANC, and in alliance with the progressive trade union movement for the attainment of the goals of the NDR. The Party long recognised that the struggle for socialism should be premised on the struggle for national liberation of the black people in general and Africans in particular.

The Party characterises this period of the transition as one of consolidating the gains of the liberation movement, in particular defending and advancing the gains of the 1994 democratic breakthrough.

To this end the Party believes that the Tripartite Alliance is the pillar to the consolidation of the NDR. It is our belief that a break in the Alliance at this point in time would unleash anti-democratic and reactionary forces perhaps never experienced in the recent period of our struggle. The break in the Alliance would, in fact, be tantamount to handing over our victory back to the apartheid and neo-apartheid forces. It is for this reason that we do not believe in the ultra-left approach of thinking that the only way to strengthen socialist and working class forces in our country is for the SACP and COSATU to break away from the ANC. Just as we believe that we should fight all kinds of rightist opportunism of pushing the ANC to abandon the SACP and COSATU in order to use the ANC as a vehicle to pursue some kind of non-racial capitalist agenda, without the irritation of some "outdated" leftist forces.

Nevertheless, it is our view that the achievements of a deepening NDRcannot be sustained whilst the bulk of the wealth of the country is inprivate hands and South Africa essentially remains a capitalist society. The attainment of fuller freedom and liberation can only be realised under a socialist South Africa. This is simply because, in our conception, liberation and freedom cannot be restricted to formal political institutional freedoms, but must, principally, be extended to the economy and economic relations. No people can ever truly be free whilst the bulk of the wealth of the country remains in private hands. Capitalism, by its very nature, is undemocratic, and it is neither characterised by freedom nor liberation.

It is this relationship between the NDR and socialism that has always and continues to inform the relationship between the SACP, the ANC and the progressive trade union movement. It is also this relationship that is the foundation of the Alliance itself. But the ANC itself has long understood and affirmed that the working class is the main motive force of the South African revolution. Indeed, even in its very own membership, the overwhelming majority of the ANC's membership is working class, employed and unemployed. Over the years the ANC has come to understand and describe itself as biased towards the working class, partly as a reflection of this reality. But much more substantively, the ANC has come to maintain a working-class bias because of the reality that it is the working class, mainly its black component, that has borne the brunt of apartheid colonialism, and simultaneously been the class that has been most consistent and reliable in our revolution. It is for this reason that much as the ANC is not a socialist organisation, it is at the same time not, and it should not be, anti-socialist.

Since our 1995 Congress, we have refined our understanding of the relationship of the NDR and socialism. Our understanding is that the struggle for socialism is not some phenomenon that is distant, at some second stage, but its foundations have to be struggled for in the here and now. Much as the current struggle is not a struggle for socialism in the immediate sense, but it cannot be disconnected from nor understood, from our standpoint, outside the struggle for socialism.We are also convinced that the struggle for the implementation of the RDP is not in contradiction with the struggle for socialism. As to the exact point at which the NDR assumes the form of an offensive for a transition to socialism, this will be determined by the balance of forces in society as a whole. It will be largely dependent on the strength, hegemony and dominance of the working class as a political force. Much as objective factors are part of the overall balance of forces in any struggle, organisational strength is critical in transforming those very same objective conditions in favour of the revolution. To this end, part of the tasks to lay the foundations for socialism now is to defend and deepen the NDR, whilst simultaneously building and strengthening the working class as a political force.

The NDR in itself is an important school for the working class and socialism itself. The NDR is essential for socialism itself, as we also see socialism as taking forward the NDR to its completion. Its defence and deepening is heavily contested by class forces who are not only fighting to defend racial and gender-based privileges accumulated under colonialism of a special type, but also committed to a capitalist South Africa of one form or the other. Our agenda for socialism is therefore not some cynical, secretive plot to ride on the back of the ANC in order to finally liquidate other forces through some kind of authoritarian rule and the dictatorship of the Party. Instead, as has always been the case, our Party adds value to the NDR through its focus on building the political capacity of the working class to defend and deepen the NDR. Through our immense involvement in deepening the NDR we, as communists, have always learnt and continue to learn from the ANC and the progressive labour movement.

Our perspective and strategic orientation is also informed by the current global realities within which our NDR is taking place. The SACP understands the current processes of globalisation as reflecting a particular phase of imperialism and capitalist development on a transnational scale. We particularly lay emphasis on imperialism, since such an approach understands globalisation for what it is. This is based on a critique of the notion that globalisation is a phenomenon from which the working people and the poor of the world can just benefit. In particular, the very foundation of globalisation is the simultaneous integration, oppression and marginalisation of less developed countries. The SACP still re-affirms its commitment to internationalism, and that this is even more relevant now than ever before. It is for this reason that we fully support, and in fact, as a Party, are engaged in fraternal international activity with left and socialist forces in the world. It is this international solidarity that we see as the foundation for challenging imperialism in its 'globalisation' phase. Underpinning such internationalism should be the solidarity amongst the people's of the developing world, in particular among organisations representing the aspirations of the ordinary mass of the people in these countries.

Of particular importance to us is the African continent and the Southern African region. The SACP supports the vision of an African Renaissance. But it is our view that such a renaissance cannot be successful unless the African revolution is taken forward and completed. Such a revolution must be led by those forces which stand to gain most from the most thorough transformation of the African continent and the defeat of colonialism, neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism. The SACP therefore places particular emphasis on the rebuilding of left and socialist forces on the African continent, and in Southern Africa in particular. To this end we have developed close and fraternal relations with a number of progressive forces in Southern Africa.

The SACP is committed to struggle for socialism under democratic conditions where it is free to propagate its own ideas without any hindrances whatsoever. But we are also determined to defend the right to propagate our ideas freely. It is for this reason that the defence of South Africa's democracy is also a defence of the struggle for socialism.

Our programme is based on the above perspectives. The principal method by which we struggle for socialism is not through endless intellectual arguments with those opposed to this goal, nor our detractors and cynics, but by mobilising and convincing those forces in society which stand to gain most from socialism, whose core is the working class.

The SACP's programme

We take as our primary task, within the context of the NDR, the organising of the working class, the poor, working class youth and women and the landless. This is not to say that the ANC will not, or should not, do the same. But what differentiates the Party is that those people involved in the NDR who see socialism as the future, must have an independent Party of Marxism-Leninism to which they belong. Much more important is the need to build a momentum and a capacity for both the defence of the NDR by the working people of our country as well as building a momentum towards socialism.

To this end the SACP must recruit, mobilise, educate and politicise the working class and the broader popular masses to carry out these tasks, working in conjunction with the ANC and COSATU. The Party is committed to strategic recruitment of a core of activists most able to lead the struggle and build a momentum for socialism. However, in doing all this, the Party will not allow itself to be used as an instrument to tame socialist forces from struggling for and propagating socialism; just as we will not be tempted to project ourselves as the "politically correct" wing of the national liberation movement. We learn from and complement the other components of the liberation movement, just as they learn from and complement our own programmes.

It is within this context that our 10th Party Congress adopted a programme of Building Socialism where we live and work. The key elements of this programme are builiding organ's of people's power through the strengthening of community-based initiatives in the area of development, dealing with crime, school governing bodies, and collective efforts towards the general upliftment of the mass of the people in areas where they live. Our programme also identifies the area of building effective participation by workers in decision-making processes in their work-places, as of strategic importance. The Party intends to achieve the latter by building on the COSATU resolution of building SACP industrial units as well as the holding of periodic socialist forums throughout areas where COSATU is organised. The third aspect of our programme is that of making every effort to rebuild popular and mass structures in the educational arena, in order to mobilise students, teachers and parents in the enormous effort of educational transformation. All this is to be underpinned by specific campaigns in various provinces, including the intensification of political education and general cadre development.

What kind of a Party?

As the SACP we have been engaged in extensive debates about what kind of a Party we are building in the current period. This issue has been debated extensively in the last three Congresses of the SACP. The broad conclusion that we have reached is that we are building a vanguard Party, but with enough presence on the ground and throughout the country in order to give effect to our strategic objectives. This means that it should neither be a small party as it was in the underground, nor should it be a mass party aiming at mass recruitment or competing with the ANC and COSATU for membership. The most important thing is that it should be a party that still aims to recruit and develop an active, politically advanced cadreship, but under conditions of legality. Our emphasis is to develop a political party that is capable of being the political representative of the working class and of translating our vision of a socialist society into a living, material force within the working class and the landless rural masses.

The SACP's strengths

Our Party remains immensely popular amongst the mass of the people of our country, in particular amongst workers. This has recently been demonstrated by, amongst other things, COSATU resolutions at its 1997 Congress to build the party as the political vanguard of the working class. This has been taken forward through concrete co-operation with most of the COSATU affiliates.

Flowing from above, we are still the leading socialist force in our country, and there is no credible socialist alternative to the SACP in South Africa at this point in time.

Despite some organisational weaknesses, we have an organisational presence throughout the country.

Our Party enjoys international prestige, and this is due to no small measure to the attempts we have made to maintain fraternal relations with many left-wing and socialist forces throughout the world. We are also an active component of international attempts in fostering a renewal of socialism and socialist forces world-wide.

It is our belief that it is not only the SACP that should build on these strengths, but the movement as a whole. This is because we do not narrowly see these as SACP's strengths, but can also be of benefit to the entire revolution and the movement as a whole...and weaknesses.

Our organisation is still generally weak on the ground, though unevenly so. There is a lack of adequate resources. There has been a loss of some of our key cadres over the last 8-9 years

Ironically our organisational weaknesses also derive from the fact that, since we are part of a broader movement, and we are committed to building a strong ANC, most of our cadres are doing work in the ANC, COSATU and the broader democratic movement. This has tended to deprive our organisation of the much needed day-to-day participation of our cadres in Party building. This is of course exacerbated by the fact that the very ANC that we are part of as communists and committed to strengthen is also leading the government in the post-1994 conjuncture. Many of our leading cadres at all levels are playing an important role in government structures.

Strengthening the Tripartite Alliance

The relationship within the Alliance has over the last few years been characterised by strains and tensions that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. In practice, these relationships have not been what they ought to be. It is important that we correctly identify both the objective and subjective bases for such tensions, rather than avoid do this through labelling one another and making unfounded allegations and attacks against each other. Objectively, the transition from apartheid to a democratic government has created a new situation, with new imperatives, whose implications we have perhaps not grasped fully in a frank, honest and comradely manner. Also, the very transition itself leads to a reconfiguration of the class forces and opens up possibilities for new class alliances and tensions. At a subjective level, the crux of the problem, as far as the SACP is concerned, is lack of viable and efficient Alliance structures for effective consultations and discussion on key strategic questions facing the movement. For example, one of the major sources of tension has been the manner in which GEAR was adopted as government policy. Where there has been full participation by the Alliance structures in policy development - eg. the development of the RDP and the National Framework Agreement - there have been no or minimal tensions.

Related to this, of course, is the question of the nature and functioning of the Alliance, and the meaning of independence for each Alliance partner within the context of an alliance. It is our view as the SACP that we should rather, in the first instance, focus our attention on the real key strategic and policy issues that need to be addressed. We should not start the debate at an abstract level of the role of each partner outside of the key strategic and tactical challenges facing the movement, as well as specific issues of contention. The Alliance has never been an abstract phenomenon nor merely a concept, but a relationship based on concrete struggles to achieve common strategic and tactical objectives in the NDR. Discussing Alliance relations in abstract can only serve to obscure the key strategic challenges facing the Alliance. Also, discussing these key challenges or developing each of the partners' programmes outside of the framework of the Alliance can weaken not only each of the partners, but the revolution as a whole.

It is only within the above framework that we can be able to manage our differences in a manner that advances the objectives of the NDR. It needs to be asserted that each of the Alliance partners is an independent entity with a specific programme, contribution and role to play in the NDR. This should not be regarded as a weakness but a strength for each of the partners and for the Alliance as a whole.

Opening Address to the Tripartite Alliance Summit, October 24-25, 1998

By ANC President, Thabo Mbeki

This Summit follows the very successful Alliance Summit on Sept 30/Oct 1 last year. The intention at the last Summit was that we would hold three Alliance Summits in the course of 1998. While some of the key resolutions taken at the last Summit have indeed been followed up, and while we have, indeed, been meeting in various ways as an Alliance, we have found it difficult to reconvene as a Summit. Why?

The first, obvious reason has been the usual pressures of time, and the difficulty of ensuring adequate preparations preceding the Summit. All of the Alliance partners have been in agreement that we want effective, working Summits, and not ceremonial events.

However, it should be said that we were close to convening a Summit in early July this year. The task group working on the Transformation of the State had made good progress, and the document we will discuss this weekend was basically ready. The Alliance Secretariat had also prepared a document on an Alliance Programme of Action, which also forms the basis of the document which we will discuss this weekend. We were, therefore, "two-thirds" ready in July. But it was on the economic front that we were finding it difficult, as an Alliance, to have an effective and constructive Summit discussion. This was the critical reason why, in July, by mutual agreement, we agreed to postpone the Summit.

Since July two important things have happened. The grave nature of the global economic crisis has, in the past three months, become much more evident. Economic policy debate and the finding of effective policy is, more than ever, not a luxury but an imperative. Whatever our differences, we have, as an alliance, to provide strategic economic leadership to our country and even to our region and beyond.

But, in a sense, this has already been happening, especially in the context of preparations for the Job Summit. An important and extensive range of policy packages are beginning to emerge from the preparations - driven strategically and bilaterally by government and COSATU. The fact that we are able to do this is encouraging for the entire Alliance.

What are our objectives for this Summit?

We have slightly different objectives for each of the main topics on our agenda.

The purpose of beginning with a brief overview of the current global economic crisis is to develop a general and, if possible, consensual appreciation of present global realities within our alliance. This issue was a central item of discussion in the ANC NEC of last weekend,

and of an SACP PB discussion a week ago. While just about every international economics commentator now agrees that there is a very serious crisis, the ways in which this is understood can influence more specific economic policy, not least at the national level.

Turning to the Job Summit, our own Summit this weekend will enable us to get a briefing from those most directly involved in the process. We need to understand whether there are areas of significant difference amongst us, and specifically between government and COSATU.

If there are such differences, how do we manage them as an alliance so that they do not become gaps that can be exploited by those who have little interest in ensuring the Summit is a strategic success? What are the areas in which business is showing reluctance to come on board? If there are such areas, how, as an Alliance, do we ensure that maximum pressure is exerted in the coming days? How, above all, does the Alliance assert its strategic hegemony over the Jobs Summit, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the Summit?

The discussion paper on "The State, Transformation and Property" is one of the tangible outcomes of the Alliance Task Group on Transforming the State that we established at our last Summit. We believe that the paper reflects very important progress at the general, theoretical level. We hope that this Summit will endorse the general thrust of this paper. More importantly, we need to mandate the Task Group to move now towards much more specific detail on the kind of developmental state we agree we are trying to build in South Africa.

The final discussion of this Summit will focus on the state of organisation of our respective formations, and, above all, make concrete proposals for an Alliance Programme of Action. An important component of such a programme will, of course be the electoral campaign. But we will need to develop a common programme of action that is not narrowly focused on elections. It is critical that we give ourselves adequate time to agree upon the basics of an effective Programme of Action. The unity of our Alliance, as we all know, is not going to be consolidated on debate and policy alone. We need to be able, jointly, to lead our constituencies in active work on the ground.

Finally, it should be said that within the Alliance there has been much debate about our tendency to over-emphasise Summits. There is a sense in many parts of the Alliance that such over-emphasis overloads expectations and agendas - everything is loaded on to a Summit, and it is, perhaps, precisely such an overload that has made it so difficult to convene this particular Summit. Without dismissing the need for Summits, we should, at the end of our agenda assess how useful we find this way of meeting. Either way, we must commit ourselves to frequent Alliance engagements at many levels, and in many formats. The Programme of Action that we develop should include such considerations.

The Current Global Economic Crisis and its implications for SA

The nature of the crisis

The current instability and volatility in the global economy over the last year is seriously affecting the economies of both developed and developing countries. The current acute manifestations of crisis began in Asia towards the end of 1997, spreading with remarkable speed to Russia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The crisis now engulfs almost all "developing countries" and so-called "emerging markets".

Among the most immediate features of this crisis are:

  • A contraction in export markets, especially in South East Asia;
  • Massive capital outflows from "emerging markets";
  • Deepening economic recession with huge exchange rate and asset price declines, which have destroyed more than $1,5 trillion of financial wealth in the East Asian economies alone.

Behind these economic statistics lie social crises of enormous dimensions. In Latin America, and especially in East Asia and Russia, unemployment, underemployment and poverty are rising. According to UNCTAD calculations "the proportion of the Indonesian population living on incomes below the poverty line in 1998 is expected to be at least 50% greater than in 1996". For the people of Russia, living just a decade or two ago in a super-power, the standard of living is now approaching African levels.

South Africa's economy is integrally linked into the global economy and we have not been left unscathed. Sudden outflows of short term foreign capital earlier this year created a situation in which our currency underwent a sharp devaluation (of around 29%). Interest rates have shot up, and growth forecasts have had to be drastically revised downwards.

These are some of the basic facts upon which there is general agreement. However, if we are to deal as effectively as possible with the crisis, it is important to move beyond the symptoms, and seek to understand its underlying nature.

The present crisis is, in fact, a global capitalist crisis, rooted in a classical crisis of over-accumulation and declining profitability. Declining profitability has been a general feature of the most developed economies over the last 25 years. It is precisely declining profitability in the most advanced economies that has spurred the last quarter of a century of intensified globalisation. These trends have resulted in the greatly increased dominance (and exponential growth in the sheer quantity) of speculative finance capital, ranging uncontrolled over the globe in pursuit of higher returns.

It is, therefore, not a temporary problem (although its present acute manifestations might be overcome for a while in the mediumterm); It is also, therefore, not an unprecedented reality for capitalism. The economic recession and crisis of the 1930s had many similar structural features. There are also, of course, new features in the present crisis - including the much greater volumes of speculative capital involved and the sheer speed of capital flows, due in part to information technology. There is also considerably more global inter-dependence.

Although they now carry less conviction, there were until a month or two ago, attempts to portray the current crisis in a limited light - as an "Asian contagion", a "Russian melt-down", or an "emerging markets" problem. While the crisis is being felt more acutely in some regions, it is an international crisis systemic to the global capitalist system, and not the result of some peculiar local features ("Asian croneyism". "Russian lack of will", etc)

It is also not merely a financial markets crisis, although its most obvious manifestations are in the financial sector.

The melt-down of capitalism?

The fact that we are faced with a global, systemic capitalist crisis should not lead us to conclude that capitalism is about to wither away. There have been several preceding globalised capitalist crises this century, in each case the capitalist system has (at huge cost in terms of the mass destruction of capital resources and resulting mass human misery) been able to surpass its crises, at least for a time. There is nothing to suggest that the present crisis is paving the way for some global leap into socialism. We should not sit around passively expecting the present crisis to deliver a new utopia out of the ruins of economic collapse. Indeed, previous globalised capitalist crises have been associated with some positive but also many negative phenomena (including the emergence of fascism in the1930s).

Nevertheless, the present crisis creates both the possibility (and the necessity) for the progressive movement in South Africa to question what was until the most recent period the unquestioned economic global paradigm. We have, in an engagement with many other international forces, to find our own solutions to this crisis.

The crisis of a paradigm

As the depth and relative durability of the crisis have become apparent, the dominant economic paradigm (the neo-liberal "Washington Consensus") has fallen into increasing disrepute. Perhaps the core feature of this paradigm was its belief that globalisation had ensured that capitalist economies had, more or less, surpassed boom and bust cycles - a vista of endless economic growth lay before us. In 1970 US Nobel prize winners, Solow and Samuelson were proclaiming that "the old notion of the business cycle is not very interesting any more". Top Kennedy/Johnson adviser Okun proclaimed in the same year that recessions "were now preventable, like airplane crashes". The OECD in 1974 envisaged uninterrupted economic growth that might "quadruple between now and the end of the century". This optimism was reaffirmed with great triumphalism in the 1990s. In 1993, for example, the World Bank argued "individual developing countries, particularly smaller economies currently contemplating an export-led expansion, could safely assume that demand for their products is infinitely elastic." (1993)

The dominant assumption in the 1990s has been that alignment with globalisation would guarantee economies more or less uninterrupted growth. The paradigm of an endlessly expanding global freeway, in which, to benefit, individual (and particularly developing) economies simply had to take the standard macro-economic on-ramp (liberalisation, privatisation, deregulation, flexibility and a 3 percent budget deficit) is now in crisis.

Will the left end up managing the capitalist crisis?

In the last few years, along with the ANC's electoral victory in 1994, there have been a series of left or centre-left electoral victories, including in many of the advanced economies (Italy, France, UK, Germany, Sweden). In our own country we quickly realised that we had inherited a society and economy in crisis. In our case this has included many serious economic structural problems related to the particular capitalist growth path in South Africa.

The prospect in our own society and in many others in the coming years is that, once more as before in this century, the left/centre-left will be confronted with the task of managing a capitalist crisis. We cannot decline this responsibility. But in taking it on, we do need to consistently pose the difficult question. How do we introduce transformative elements that seek to counter the systemic logic and momentum of a global capitalism? Can we introduce anti-bodies to resist and surpass a system that periodically results in the mass destruction of resources, that continuously reproduces huge inequalities between north and south (and within the north), that is increasingly volatile and unstable, and that has no clear strategies for sustainable development?

What, if anything, can be done? There are many levels at which we must begin to respond to the crisis. Among the most important are:

International engagement

The struggle to introduce a much more effective international regulatory system for speculative financial flows. Important efforts have already been undertaken in this respect by our comrades in government. There is clearly a growing international consensus that something has to be done in this regard. However, we need also to understand that some of the major economies are less affected by the present crisis, and see in it an opportunity to deepen their own dominance at the expense of rivals (eg. the US over Japan), and at the expense of the South in general. We should, therefore, not harbour exaggerated expectations in this regard.

Joint action with other developing economies, which may provide more immediate results. In particular we need to engage with some of the more significant economies of the South (eg. Brazil, India, China,etc). Can we forge a Brasilia-Pretoria-Delhi-Beijing Consensus in the absence of any Washington Consensus?

Continuously enhancing a southern African and African perspective.

Building a more effective macro-economic consensus within the alliance

As an alliance we have got stuck somewhat in our GEAR debate over the last two years (much to delight of the media and our political opponents). There are several reasons why we can now, collectively,surpass this situation of blockage:

The paradigm crisis of the "Washington Consensus", noted above, presents us all with some space to look afresh, and to look creatively and constructively, at macro-economic policy. Of course, we should not exaggerate the degree to which there is a global tolerance (especially in the financial markets) for macro-economic innovation, but the myth of a "one size fits all" macro policy has been punctured.

The serious downturn, and danger of recession, in our own economy creates space to argue for certain contra-cyclical measures to be applied (if only as interim measures);

With the last few months of international crisis, it has become increasingly clear that many of GEAR's targets would have to be revised. The NEC, and government, have now officially announced that some GEAR targets will be revised, while maintaining overall policy consistency.

Very important progress in the preparations for the Jobs Summit. The Jobs Summit may well produce significant national consensus agreements on a wide range of "real" economy policies. This will create a situation in which we will be more able to align (and argue for the alignment of) macro-economic policy with industrial policy.

It is not going to be helpful, now, as an Alliance to manoeuvre ourselves once more into a raging public debate in which we argue whether GEAR has been (or should be) abandoned or not. Much more important is the imperative of working together to consolidate, in an ongoing way, effective macro-economic policy. This in itself will involve debate and some difference, but it needs to be well managed within the Alliance. Above all, we need to root ourselves in major areas on which we can agree. These include:

The apartheid economy we have inherited requires major structural changes (many of these changes have already begun to be implemented). An effective macro-economic policy needs to support such structural transformation. However, what we now all appreciate better is that these structural reforms cannot just be designed to "modernise" (to align with global "norms") an out-of-date apartheid economy. Clearly, in transforming the skewed apartheid economic legacy, we have also to carry through structural transformations that enable our own economy to survive and surpass, as best as possible, the uneven and crisis-ridden character of the global economy. Structural reforms are not just about "catching up", or alignment with a now non-existent Washington consensus ;

The need for fiscal discipline (we are all committed to the responsible use of public funds); sustainability; and relative predictability (insofar as we are able to ensure such predictability);

Macro-economic policy (as GEAR itself affirmed) must be aligned with our reconstruction and development objectives. More substance should be provided by the Jobs Summit to concrete programmes with which such alignment should take place;

The need to investigate and implement contra-cyclical measures as noted above. (We may disagree as to whether these are short-term to avert recession, or of a more enduring developmental nature.)

Wherever there is some relaxation on existing GEAR targets, this relaxation should not be simply because we have been "forced backwards". Whatever resources are released as a result of macro-economic relaxation, these must be directed strategically to growth, development and sustainable transformation.

We do not underestimate the possibility of persisting areas of difference within our Alliance on macro-economic policy, however all of the above provide sufficient space for a much more effective intra-Alliance consensus.

Some specific areas of fiscal and monetary policy that can be taken forward

There are also a number of more specific areas where there is space to explore alternatives, new measures, and/or adjustments in fiscal and monetary policy. Many of these will emerge more substantially from the Jobs Summit report. Such areas include:

  • A fresh look at the funding of the Civil Service Pension Fund. Over the past year the debate within the Alliance has tended to polarise around a "fully-funded" versus a "pay-as-you-go" approach. Are the options that polarised? Do we need to advance rapidly and inexorably to the fully-funded option, or can we sustain the funding at its present partially funded levels? An alliance mandated technical team could help us all to understand the pros and cons of different options.
  • We need also, as an Alliance, to have a more nuanced understanding of the key challenges in terms of Tax policy. Is the priority to move towards greater progressivity, or are present policies basically sound with the priority being on more effective collection? How will the economic downturn impact on revenue? Again, as an Alliance we will benefit from a better shared understanding of the relative pros and cons of different options. We need to find ways of ensuring the necessary technical work is done that will make a more informed intra-Alliance discussion possible.
  • In the context of the Jobs Summit important progress seems to have been made around Tariff policies. There is an emerging consensus for greater flexibility, and for the approach to tariffs to be informed by sector specific, and even time specific considerations. As an Alliance we need to empower ourselves to better impact on the processes that will emerge, in this regard, from the Jobs Summit.
  • As was mentioned above, there are now good reasons to argue for basic contra-cyclical measures to be taken. Concretely, such contra-cyclical measures could include less rigidity on inflation, and less anxiety about defending the value of the rand - and therefore the prospect of easing pressure on interest rates. We are talking about relative shifts, not a demagogic indifference to any level of inflation, or any value of the rand. Such shifts may well require political pressure for, and a public debate on, the need for Reserve Bank policies to be strategically aligned with overall government development perspectives, while allowing for Reserve Bank operational independence

A "Post-GEAR" consensus?

At the ANC's NEC of last weekend, the notion of an Alliance "post-GEAR" consensus was mentioned in passing. Those who have been opposing GEAR in the Alliance will probably find the concept appealing. Those who have been defending GEAR would probably prefer to speak about an emerging consensus around an "adjusted GEAR" in which its core structural transformation logic remains intact.

We can certainly engage polemically with each other along these lines. Much more important, in the face of a global economic crisis and in the face of very serious structural problems in our own economy, is the ongoing Alliance development of an effective, sustainable and relatively flexible macro-economic policy framework. We have tried to argue here that, for many reasons, this is more possible than before.

A Programme of Action for the Alliance

1. The approaching 1999 elections

All three alliance partners are approaching the 1999 elections in strategic agreement that COSATU and the SACP will fully support the ANC. There is also agreement, recent media disinformation notwithstanding, on the general approach to electoral lists, etc.

The build-up to, and inevitable mass politicisation around the elections, present additional motivation and momentum to focus on organisational building.

However, it would be a mistake, even for electoral purposes, to approach organising from a narrow electoralist perspective.

In the coming months, long before we approach our mass constituency on a specifically electoral footing, we must reassert visibility and presence within communities.

This can be done partly around ID and voter registration campaigns, but it needs to be broadened into many other developmental focuses.

2. Developing a common mass-based programme of action

At our last Alliance Summit (Aug/Sept 1997) we resolved that we needed a "mass-driven programme" which would enable "the Alliance... to galvanise a mass movement for transformation, that unleashes the energies of our people in taking forward programmes which concretely improve their lives."

The resolution is good but general in character. We need, now, to give specific content to such a programme.

Elements of such a programme could include:

  • organising for community safety and protection, including the safety of women and children, protection of school property, of community resources (like taps and electricity supply, etc). This can be organised through active participation in CPFs, neighbourhood watch schemes, establishing places of refuge and safety for women, etc. If agreed, each ANC/SACP branch and COSATU local should have this item on the agenda of its fortnightly meeting - report-backs on participation, progress made, etc.should be given.
  • schools governance - our local-based formations should ensure that we are assuming much fuller responsibility for school governance, again each branch/local should be required to report-back on involvement, problems, solutions.
  • participation in other local based development/governance formations - including Hospital Boards, and Local Development Forums, Water Committees, etc.
  • fostering township and village-based co-operative movements.

Every township has stokvel and other co-operative savings schemes. How, as the alliance do we empower and assist such initiatives to be more than burial societies, and to play a more active developmental and self-empowering role? The host of new possibilities opened up by government policies - housing subsidies, public works programmes, the promotion of SMMEs, new co-operative/developmental approaches to welfare provision, land reform and restitution, etc. need to be used actively to build local level, participatory and co-operative approaches to development. Again our branches/locals must be empowered to play an active, organising and facilitating role in all of this.

  • defending marginal communities and people - as the alliance we need to be much more active in defending, for instance, labour tenants on white farms. They now have greater legal occupancy rights, but these are being flouted in practice. Our grass-roots organisations must be active in monitoring this and in defending people illegally evicted from farms.
  • other resolutions for mass-based campaigns resolved at the ANC's Mafikeng Conference included:
  • an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign
  • Youth Development campaigns
  • anti-corruption monitoring

3. The ANC branch as a more civic-oriented structure

All of the above implies that our vision of our grass-roots branch structures, and particularly of the ANC branch, is that it should function much more as a civic, but with a clear political mission. It must take up the civic concerns - housing, water, electricity, rates, etc. of the community. The ANC branch should facilitate contact between the local council and the community, it should act as a forum for this interaction, but it should not be dominated by the local council.

This is not to say that the existing civic movement should be hurriedly dismantled. There are regions and specific localities in our country in which, for instance, the ANC does not enjoy hegemony. In cases like this, politically non-aligned civics might be appropriate organisational forums alongside of our branch structures. But in many other situations, the strategic motivation for both a SANCO and an ANC branch is not at all apparent.

Unless we convert ANC branches into this much more civic type function, we will continue to build branches with little sense of strategic mission - apart from being platforms for individual career ambitions. If we allow branches to function in this latter way, we will have produced a generation of "cadres" whose experience and understanding of "politics" will be very alien to our Congress traditions.

We need also to give much more considered attention to the nature and size of our basic-level structures, and in particular the ANC branch. How do we accommodate the broad movement character of the ANC branch (many of them are several thousands large), with structures/ mechanisms that enable us to develop activist cores capable of doing the kind of campaigning work envisaged above?

The greater civic orientation of ANC branches, in particular, can also help to transform the "sociology" of branches. In many localities (not all) these branches are dominated by youth (generally young males), and older people and women are often alienated by what they perceive to be intellectual arrogance. By focusing more on civic matters, a better age-profile and gender balance can be achieved.

4. Uniting the Tripartite Alliance in action

The alliance is grounded in a common national democratic transformation strategic vision. The alliance is not, therefore, a momentary, tactical front. However, over the past four years, many of the most high-profile mobilisational and/or policy-centred struggles have pitted one part of our alliance against another. Whether it be the educational sector, or macro-economic policy, or the relationship of ANC-led local councils to historically ANC-supporting townships, we seem to be pitted against each other more often than not.

We are not suggesting that real debates, and real conflicts of interest should be bureaucratically suppressed - on the contrary.

But we do need to ask ourselves why so much of our political activity is inwardly turned, and divisive.

What are the causes of imbalance in this regard? We suggest there are several, among them:

  • the tendency to apply narrowly technocratic and managerialist solutions to policy-making, and to the challenges of delivery. This latter problem can be seen, for instance, at the local government level, where (with the best of intentions) many of our councillors turn delivery into a narrow, market-based relationship. Communities are turned into atomised households (consumers/clients) that have to pay for transformation. This serves to fragment townships (into payers and defaulters), rather than uniting townships around a common transformation agenda. As "credit control" is often applied in a blanket fashion, with scant regard given to the real capacity of many households to pay for services, this can turn communities against their own councillors. Instead of ANC dominated councils, and ANC-supporting townships collectively addressing the challenges of overcoming poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment, we have fragmentation, resentment and mutual incomprehension. Meanwhile the culture of non-payment, or of defiance of rate-hikes, continues unabated in the wealthy northern suburbs of Johannesburg. We need to find many more creative ways of addressing the challenges of local development - some we have mentioned above (more co-operative based arrangements for consumption and delivery, greater focus on redistribution between wealthy and poor localities, etc. etc).
  • On the other hand, we have also failed to actively mobilise our grass-roots structures around unifying struggles and achievements. There have been many progressive measures taken by our legislatures, or by government, which have not involved popular participation and support. The danger is that such gains may be challenged from conservative quarters and, lacking real mass support, will be reversed. We need to ensure that our mass based formations (beginning with our own alliance structures), play a much more active role in supporting things like:
  • The Termination of Pregnancy Act;
  • Government's stand on the importation of pharmaceuticals; etc.

5. Re-affirming and fostering our congress political culture

None of the above programmes can succeed, if we do not, at the same time as implementing such programmes,.reaffirm and foster our congress political culture. The past period has seen attitudes and practices develop which are very foreign to our movement:

  • Rampant individualism, and the disappearance of collective work;
  • "Bantustan behavioural patterns" - where instead of seeking to be as close as possible to our mass constituency, even petty leaders and third-layer movement officials indulge in ostentatious displays of authority and power. Obviously, very senior government officials require security and protocol arrangements, but these are about security and not about arrogant displays of power;  Tolerance of corruption, sexism, etc.

These kinds of behaviour can completely undermine all of the good work that our alliance is otherwise doing. Such behaviour is particularly problematic if, at the same time, we are calling on our constituency to be patient, to tighten their belts, to understand that rapid delivery is not possible.

It is crucial that it is our movement that begins to criticise more forcefully these behaviour patterns, and that the criticism is not left to loose talk in corridors, or to opportunistic opposition forces.

Part of our programme of action must, therefore, include:

  • Systematic attention, through political education and other means to the above problems;
  • Ensuring that in all three formations there is a relatively uniform induction process that introduces all our members to the basics of our Congress political culture (collective leadership styles, comradely debate). The ANC's Umrabulo discussion paper of these matters in the run-up to the Mafikeng Conference began to lay an important basis for this.
  • At the end of the day, of course, the best Congress education, is education in activity.

6. Achieving greater organisational co-ordination

To implement an active mass-based programme of action, we need, at the national and provincial levels, to provide much greater coherence and co-ordination to our various departments and activities.

  • In particular we need to ensure that functions like organising, political education, information and publicity, and elections, co-ordinate their work, rather than acting as separate mini-empires.This applies within each of the alliance formations, and between them as well.

7. Much more effective alliance policy-development capacity

As we have noted above, there has often been an imbalance between the technical capacity of government departments to produce detailed policy, and the weak policy capacity of some of the alliance formations.

This has resulted in several problems:

  • Some policies are seen by many as technocratic impositions on the movement, they enjoy limited legitimacy as a result, and in the face of this there are then sometimes attempts to impose them bureaucratically.
  • Alliance policy-making, or policy-making by alliance-aligned NGOs often falls into the habit of merely second-guessing government policy, or of being instinctively oppositionist in character.

Instead of synthesising our policy-making capacity across our alliance formations, and across the institutions of governance and the movement, we have, once more, tendencies towards fragmentation.

We must:

  • Enhance the policy-making capacity of our formations, not least the ANC. The setting up of an ANC policy institute needs to be strongly considered. More effective use of progressive, existing NGOs must also be followed through;
  • Rather than simply second guessing government, the policy-making within our movement needs to focus on:
  • issues that have a direct bearing on our organisational, programme of action activities - for example, building a co-operative movement in the townships;
  • broad strategic questions - like, what do we mean by a developmental state, what international practice can we learn from?

Attention to these areas can then strategically inform, more detailed, and more technically modelled, government policy. COSATU will (and has every right) to intervene on questions of macro-economic debate, for instance. It would be over-ambitious and inappropriate, however, for COSATU to aspire to produce a fully-modelled macro-economic framework policy. Likewise, the riposte to COSATU ("well if you have a problem with GEAR, where is your macro-economic model?") is equally fallacious.

7. Our cadreship resources

In seeking to galvanise our organisational work, we need to understand that we have a major resource in:

  • the several hundreds of ANC MPs, MPLs and councillors. Many of these are full-time, political cadres. Their activities must connect much more dynamically with the above proposed programme of action.
  • the 20,000 COSATU shop-stewards - again, we must, once more, affirm the principle that shop-stewards are organisers for our entire liberation movement, and should not see their work as narrowly confined to the shop-floor.
  • the 14,000 active SACP members. SACP membership is, characteristically, not a career fast-track, and therefore Party activism is often (not always, of course) a sign of a certain political seriousness. Again, these energies need to be deployed away from just theoretical debate, or oppositionism, to activism in the field. Party branches should be charged with helping to build an ANC-branch civic capacity.

But in order to unleash the potential of this cadreship resource, it is imperative to agree upon concrete, localised and coherent programmes of action. The alliance needs to meet frequently, at all levels, not least the local level, to plan, implement and assess such programmes of action.

8. The broader MDM

It is in planning and implementing such a programme of action that we will best interact with, learn from, and help to build a range of mass democratic formations - in the women's, rural, religious, youth, students, cultural, sports, and other sectors.

At the last Alliance Summit, we agreed to convene an MDM summit this year (once again, well before we move into a much more electoral mode next year). If we are able to present a relatively coherent (but still open-ended) set of proposals around a popular programme of action, this summit will have an effective purpose.


"Left-Wing" Childishness: Reflections on the new tendency emerging within our Party

Lucky T Montana argues that the intervention made at the SACP's 10th Congress by ANC president, Cde Thabo Mbeki, was an important wake-up call for Party activists.

The SACP has just emerged from its 10th congress. The congress was, indeed, historic in terms of both continuity and discontinuity in the history of our Party. The Congress declaration and resolutions have reaffirmed the Party's continuing role in and contribution to the current phase of the revolution, within the context of the strategic alliance with the ANC. In this, the Party has reaffirmed a fundamental tradition of South African communists in building and strengthening mass formations.

The passionate intervention of the veteran Party leader, Cde Brian Bunting on the indispensable nature of the revolutionary alliance in deepening and defending the NDR was partly a reflection of this continuity. There is, of course, the common realisation, a point that the President of the ANC made at the first inaugural meeting of the COSATU Central Committee (1998), that the break-up of the Alliance will have "serious risks" for the various components of the Alliance.An alliance discussion document: "Strategic Objectives of the National Liberation struggle" (1993) clearly states the following: "An ANC cut loose from independent working-class formations, would find itself more easily dislodged from its historical vocation. Regardless of good intentions and an heroic track-record it would become more susceptible to the pressures of governmental office, and to influence of non-popular strata inside its ranks and beyond. An ANC without the Alliance would be an ANC in which the confusions and sense of betrayal amongst its own grass-roots membership would be increased"

It continues to say: "A trade union movement that withdraws from the national liberation movement runs the danger of declining into a narrow, economistic unionism." With regard to the SACP, the documents has this to say: " An SACP that `goes it alone', risks becoming a defensive, grievance party, cut adrift from the main-stream of positive transformation".

It concluded with this interesting observation: "In alliance, each one of our formations has a powerful contribution to make, and each is able to carve out a more effective role for itself. As an alliance we are more than the sum of our parts. Alone, each one of us is diminished."

The Party however has to grapple with new problems and challenges not foreseen by any of the founders of socialism. It is in this context that discontinuity could be expected in the SACP's style of organisation, leadership and fundamentally, how to position the interests of the working-class in the revolution.

The President of the ANC, comrade Thabo Mbeki, in his address to the 10th Congress pointed to what I consider a form of "discontinuity" : "this manner of proceeding which is very new in the Congress Movement, with which all the older cadres of our Movement are completely unfamiliar, of laying false charges against one another within the movement so that we can pose as the sole genuine representatives of the people is something that we must all address".

The Party could respond to this challenge in many different ways, and the 10th Congress has raised some very interesting possibilities. Depending on how it handles its own transformation, the SACP could be forced to make some difficult choices in the future.

Our Immediate Response

The immediate reaction of Congress delegates was one of anger and fear. We felt that the issues raised by Cde Madiba and Cde Thabo could have been dealt with differently and possibly in another forum. Cde Mbeki dealt with the SACP's congress documents in detail and observed that they "...seemingly demonstrate a supposedly communist and scientific contempt...". It could be said that this and other similar statements had the potential of raising doubts and of questioning the integrity of the Congress and its documents. The "dialectical" response of the Party leadership, through Cde Jeremy Cronin, to a large extent did succeed in restoring some confidence to the delegates and integrity to the 10th Congress and its documents. One must be careful not to suggest that the President of the ANC had intentions to undermine the SACP 10th Congress. For some within Party ranks, the addresses by Cde Mandela and Cde Mbeki served as a confirmation that the ANC leadership had "sold out the masses" and is "shifting to the right". Under the leadership of the "anti-Communist" Mbeki, the ANC will deal ruthlessly with the left within and outside of the ANC after the 1999 elections.

The SACP leadership has demonstrated the ability to respond and grapple with these challenges in an open, honest and intelligent manner. The discussions at the first meeting of the central committee (August 1998), and messages in Party publications have been extremely positive, constructive and encouraging.

These interventions by the SACP are a concrete demonstration of the presence of a balanced and strategic leadership informed only by the interests of the poor and workers. The SACP has made it clear before that its agenda and goal of a socialist society has never been a secret. Part of the Party's response has been to avoid being arrogant. The renewal of the socialist perspective and project is and will remain a complex task. No single force, including the SACP itself, has the monopoly of knowledge and solutions to these critical challenges.

The response of the SACP leadership must transcend the anger of delegates at the 10th Congress. It must be a strategic response that focuses on engagements with the real issues raised by the President of the ANC. Was Cde Mbeki justified in engaging our Party and its Congress documents in a manner in which he did ? Is his critique of the Party an intervention of the so-called right-wing forces from within the ANC ? Is it true that there is a "manner of proceeding", which represents a new tendency within the Congress Movement, and how does this affect the SACP? The Party will only be able to deal with these matters if it is prepared to critically examine itself and the ongoing political conduct of its leading cadres in the unfolding NDR. In this way, the SACP, I believe, will be able to draw some important lessons from Cde Mbeki's intervention and forge a broad-based way forward for socialism.

In doing so, we will need to be mindful of tendencies, inside and outside of our broader movement, that will see in these critical reflections the opportunity to attack our Party, those who will use this space to assert anti-democratic and anti-communist positions. We will need to challenge those within our movement who suddenly believe that capitalism has the answers to the problems of our people and of humanity in general. For us, this will be an opportunity to expose the tendency within the ranks of the movement that presents its "reactionary" positions as being consistent with the progressive traditions of our movement and the thinking of the President of the ANC, Cde Thabo Mbeki.

The "new tendency" Cde Thabo reflected on at the 10th Congress, is the logical response to this right-wing, anti-democratic tendency. By anti-democratic, I mean a project that seeks, by its very nature and outcome, to marginalise the overwhelming majority of citizens in our society (some kind of a 30 percent - 70 percent solution). Therefore in real terms, these are two new tendencies within our movement which, in essence, happen to be two sides of the same coin.

The intervention of the President of the ANC will remain a subject of debate for a very long time. Our collective weakness remains the failure to harness the energies unleashed by this debate in a proper manner.

The debate often has to do with the Party's practical intervention in the current phase of our struggle and how to raise further its political profile. There is a view emerging which I consider problematic. This view believes that it is in adopting a more "militant posture" towards the ANC that the Party will be best be able to achieve these objectives. This is how some comrades interpret the call for the "strengthening the SACP as an independent formation" made in the 10th Congress Declaration. I have been engaged in the past few weeks in debates with proponents of the approach that this means a more "militant posture" towards the ANC. I think their approach is precisely what the President of the ANC was describing as the new tendency in our Party.

In principle there is, of course, nothing wrong with engaging the ANC. It is, however, problematic and irresponsible in the context of deteriorating relations between the ANC and SACP to adopt positions like those quoted in a recent Mail and Guardian story, where an unnamed Party source says that the Party "will stand its ground" in regard to the ANC.

This whole discussion is also necessitated by the need to debate the role and contribution of SACP members in government. This matter also emerged at the l0th Congress, but got lost during more important debates. Those of us who find ourselves in government feel disempowered, and have been made to feel that we do not have a role in the Party. In terms of this new tendency, we are not seen to be revolutionary enough to be in the Party and to contribute to a socialist renewal. We are all looking forward to a day when Party comrades in government will be able to debate freely without being reminded that they are in government, or that they are civil servants.

We are in the SACP because we believe in the future of socialism. We are in the Party inspired by its history of struggle, and feel honoured to be members of the Party of Moses Kotane, Dora Tamana, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani. I do not think that we need to justify our presence any further. We are entitled as Party members to all the rights and responsibilities in its constitution and should not be treated differently.

I am raising these matters with the hope of opening a much wider and necessary debate focusing on the strategy and tactics of South African Communists. For me, the strategy and tactics of Marxist-Leninist Parties, as distinct from other radical socialist traditions, is best reflected and captured in Lenin's "Left -Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder". I am suggesting that the Party needs to make an assessment and pose a question as to whether its current approaches are consistent with the above tradition. (Of course, I am not suggesting that Marxist-Leninist strategy is captured in one document written by Lenin.)

I see this article primarily as an engagement with a tendency emerging within our Party which I regard as "ultra-left" and "unmarxist". Before we consider whether the President of the ANC is correct in terms of the issues he raised at the 10th Congress, we need to consider some few other important issues.

The left in South Africa

The President of the ANC makes the following interesting points:

(1) that people who claim to represent the left are repeating statements of the right-wing that the ANC has abandoned the RDP; and

(2) that there are false charges by those who "pose as the sole genuine representatives of the people". This raises the fundamental question of who constitutes the left in South Africa and whether the ANC is left. This question has been raised before and was also debated towards and in the aftermath of the Socialist Conference which took place in late 1994.

A central point made in the assessment of the Socialist Conference was the consensus within the movement that the ANC remains an integral part of the left project in South Africa. The revitalising of the left project will not happen outside of the ANC led movement.

Karl Von Holdt makes this interesting point in his definition of what he terms the democratic left: "On the other hand is the democratic left, focusing on the democratic reform or transformation of the state and society. In this view it is important to combine the strategies of reorganising state and other institutions from within, and engaging in criticism and campaigns from without. Organisationally, the democratic left is located in a range of organisations and institutions in civil society, as well as the ANC, the government and civil service". (African Communist, no.139/140, First Quarter, 1995).

The resolution of the 10th Party Congress on the strategy for reform and revolution is consistent with Von Holdt's democratic left. Perhaps the most interesting point was made by the SACP itself in its Secretariat "Political Overview", Central Committee of February 1996.

The SACP makes the following observation: "...certainly in the conditions of underdevelopment, there are two fundamental choices - neo-liberalism, that is the perpetuation of crisis and poverty for the majority; or a left route. In the conditions of the south the left route, provided it is conducted with intelligence, integrity and determination, has every possibility of becoming the main-stream, a majority project. The left project is, or should be, hegemonic, overwhelmingly in centre-stage."

The above perspective, in my view, places the ANC and its transformation agenda as an integral part of the left project in South Africa. I would therefore argue that part of the tensions within the alliance emanate from a tendency that has arrogated to itself the task of elaborating the left/socialist project in South Africa. It sees this historic task as belonging elsewhere, outside of the ANC.

Whilst the SACP will remain central to any process of defining a left/socialist agenda, this must involve a whole range of forces, including the ANC itself. The ANC, as a revolutionary nationalist movement, remains rooted among the poorest and among the broad popular classes of our society, committed to working-class leadership and its anti-imperialist traditions represent an agenda for fundamental transformation of state and society. It could be argued that there is no left project in South Africa without the ANC.

The Party needs to evaluate its role over the last few years and assess its real contribution to creating the theoretical and political conditions for the emergence of views as represented by this ultra-left tendency within the Party and other mass organisations. It could be the manner in which we have formulated our statements and speeches. It could be in the manner we shape our day-to-day interventions, including the assertion that the main immediate challenge is the battle for the life and soul of the ANC itself.

The origin of these erroneous views could be found and explained in the mechanistic way race and class are separated. The ANC is viewed narrowly as a nationalist movement not rooted in the working-class, whilst this tendency projects the "left" as the only real representative of the people with the historic responsibility of saving the revolution from betrayal.

Those of our comrades who promote such views needs perhaps to be reminded of the formulations of the late Cde Joe Slovo on the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle. It is quite problematic to view the ANC's historic mission as being the resolution of the national question in South Africa in its narrow sense. The ANC has always maintained that there can never be genuine liberation until the economic and social basis of colonialism of a special type is eradicated/transformed. National liberation and social emancipation remain interconnected in the struggle led by the ANC. The current strategy and tactics document still asserts this perspective.

It would seem that some people forget that we have characterised "colonialism of a special type" as a "variant" of bourgeois rule. This was the creative application of Marxism to the understanding of the development of capitalism in South Africa. To treat race and class as though they are mutually exclusive leads us to only one conclusion: that the National Question and the Class Question will be resolved separately, by the ANC on the one hand, and by "we, the left" on the other. The commitment of the ANC to social emancipation and fundamental economic and social transformation and the Freedom Charter are not seen as part of this class struggle. This is basically to treat race and class in the abstract. It also reflects a failure to capture the contradictory nature of nationalism. The point must also be made that the South African revolution, in its very nature and character, is a radical revolution. It does not need "special revolutionaries" to make it more revolutionary than it is.

The Changing Nature of our Struggle

The greatest danger is to present the revolution and its motive forces as unchanging and not affected by events. The Party has made serious attempts to grapple with some of the new difficult challenges that face and impact on the South African revolution, including its analysis of the agenda of our strategic opponents, how to engage the changing global environment, informed by our national strategic and development vision, and the process of class formation/alliances and other shifting realities within our society. Cde Mbeki did not sufficiently acknowledge the genuine contribution of the SACP to some of these important questions.

Comrade Mbeki reminded Congress that the new methods of dealing with issues were unfamiliar to the older cadres of our movement. Cde Mbeki will acknowledge that the traditions of our movement are reinforced on a daily basis and transformed at the same time.

The ANC and its alliance partners have nothing to fear from youth taking an active part in politics. The challenge for the movement is to harness the energies of this sector towards the goals of reconstruction, development and nation building. Also on a positive side, most of these young militants are direct products of progressive youth formations in our country, who espouse a commitment to the fundamental and socialist transformation of our society.

There are however problems that accompany these positive aspects. The first is that some, if not most, of these young people joined the Party because they were opposed to negotiations. They saw the ANC as selling out in its suspension of the armed struggle. They are hostile to, if not completely harbouring anti-, ANC positions. They see the SACP as more radical than the ANC. It is these youth whom Joe Slovo said needed to be educated. They still think that there could be transformation without the ANC.

It is among this section that there has been a strong call for the establishment of the Young Communist League within the Communist Party. I should not, perhaps, be making generalisations about the youth in the Party, but this is my own analysis of what I consider to be the dominant trend in this sector of Party membership.

This situation presents additional challenges to the SACP leadership. The first is political education. The traditions of communists working in mass formations and subjecting themselves to the discipline of these formations should be promoted. There should be an engagement about the relevance of the ANC to the unfolding national democratic transformation. Part of this engagement should be linking these young communists to concrete working class struggles and ANC led initiatives so that they are empowered in mass work. Demagogy and reckless interventions on the part of the SACP will only serve to reinforce the negative tendencies within this section.

The second challenge is Party building. There is a need to balance and maintain a bias towards the working-class within Party structures. Failure to maintain this balance could result in Party structures being dominated by small but vocal groups.

Thirdly, the Party will need to handle the debate on the Young Communist League with some caution. I would argue that there is no need for a YCL. Young Communists form an integral part of Party structures and must take an active part in the process of the renewal of the socialist perspective within the SACP and the movement as a whole. The Party will still need to popularise the ideas of socialism among the youth and build communist leaders. This remains an important strategic priority. The presence of progressive, mass youth formations committed to radical transformation provides the platform for this enterprise.

Significance of the 10th Congress

The l0th Congress represents the victory and consolidation of a political and ideological "line" that has been in a process of formation since the unbanning of the Party. The Party has been involved in a long and complex process of developing its socialist perspective. Party activists speak today of the need for a concrete socialist programme of action. The 10th Congress was a culmination of years of debates and collective engagements around the Party's socialist vision. In concrete terms, this is an important victory for political forces which have emerged and are striving for a strong and independent SACP within the context of the ANC-led alliance. The process to deepen this victory brings with it new challenges for the Party and its leadership.

One of the critical tasks of the Congress was the election of a leadership to take the Party into the next millenium. The Congress was successful in realising this objective. There is continuity as well as the emergence of a relatively young leadership collective in the SACP itself. The Congress declaration makes the point that the 10th Congress "has created a Central Committee that embodies a powerful balance of senior cadres from all levels of government, and trade unions, women and other communist leaders".

The SACP has a huge task ahead to make sure that its new leadership collective is consolidated and strengthened. This must include raising further the profile of the Party's General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande at various levels of our movement and society. Through this leadership, we should be able to build a Party of influence within our roader ANC led movement

The Meaning of Cde Mbek's Intervention

The address of the President of the ANC was the best thing to have happened at the 10th Congress. The "rude awakening" from Cde Mbeki was necessary for South African Communists who would probably have deceived themselves of the correctness of the direction they were talking.

The interventions from Cde Mandela and Cde Mbeki contributed significantly to the balanced formulation that characterised the Congress Declaration and other resolutions. It could be argued, correctly so, that the Congress documents that Cde Mbeki critiqued were discussion documents in any case being discussed by all delegates. Some of the issues that the ANC President raised and identified in his address were dealt with during preparations for the 10th Congress. For example, criticisms about the formulations on counter-revolution were made at the Pretoria Central branch of the SACP, two weeks before Congress. Almost similar points on counter-revolution were made by Cde Mbeki in his address.

We should be careful not to reduce the whole of the SACP to this new tendency. There are other ideas and perspectives within the Party. A critical challenge is how the Party and the movement as a whole manage these different perspectives, however problematic. The intervention of the ANC President was necessary and timely. The reality is that there exists a political tendency which continues to put forward positions that pose as more revolutionary than the revolution itself, and which sees the victory of its own positions as constituting victory for the working-class. Cde Mbeki, in my view served to expose the myth, arrogance, erroneous and mistaken basis of this new tendency within our movement, that speaks in the name of workers and socialism.

Another significant point from Cde Mbeki was that individuals who pose as the only real revolutionaries do this "in part to promote their prospects of election to leadership positions within their own organisations". The issue for debate is whether the election of such individuals leads to the empowerment of workers and the poor. They call for the transfer of all power to the people, meaning themselves. We will in future need to be vigilant when people call for "Building People's Power".

For me, I compare the intervention of the President of the ANC to that of Lenin during the debates in the aftermath of the Brest Treaty in 1918. The "Left Communists" opposed the peace and put forward war phrases in conditions which certainly could have led to the defeat of the Great October Revolution in Russia. Lenin demonstrated that it was the workers and exploited peasants of Russia "who carried the peace" as against the "intellectual" cream of the Party, the elite, who opposed the peace "with slogans couched in revolutionary petty-bourgeois phrases". Lenin exposed the childishness and political bankruptcy of these "Left Communists". Lenin moved to expose the myth underlying the erroneous view that "converts the `lefts' into spineless preachers of a policy of vacillation". He argued that it is because the "Left Communists" "devote more effort to learning by heart and committing to memory revolutionary slogans than to thinking them out". The big question we must ask ourselves is the following: who is the right-wing and who is the "left" in this situation? Lenin or the "Left Communists", Thabo Mbeki or the "true revolutionaries" of South Africa?

Left Wing Tendency, An Imaginary Enemy - A Response to Comrade Montana's Paper

Duncan Sebefelo argues that Lucky Montana's paper, published above, is an exercise in misguided "leadership praise-singing", rather than a serious political contribution.

After reading and re-reading Cde Lucky Montana's paper on the "left wing tendency within the SACP", I came to the conclusion that his assessment and interpretation of ANC President, Cde Thabo Mbeki's intervention at the SACP 10th Congress is completely off the mark. The premise of his argument is that Cde Mbeki's critique was directed at a particular "left wing tendency" inside the SACP, which constantly advances ultra-radical positions against the broad progressive alliance led by the ANC. In so doing, this tendency was seeking to position itself as the "authentic representative of the workers and the poor".

Cde Montana categorically states that Cde Mbeki's critique achieved the objective of exposing the myths and arrogance upon which this tendency derives its claims to be the champion of workers' struggles and socialism. The logical conclusion of his argument is that Cde Mbeki has provided the Party with washing utensils. Now the task of cleaning is left to the party to perform, the Party must identify the black spots within its ranks (ultra-leftists) and deal with them effectively.

I want to argue that this analysis is not only a gross distortion of Mbeki's critique of our Congress discussion papers, but also dangerous to party unity and cohesiveness. If Montana would only study Cde Mbeki's speech to our party congress carefully, he would discover that, on the contrary, the critique was not directed at elements or rumour mongers either outside or inside the Party, but strictly at the SACP itself.

The main focus of Cde Mbeki's critique was on the Central Committee's discussion papers for Congress. In his critique he engages with the following key issues: the Party's conception of counter-revolution; the relationship between the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and government's macro-economic framework (GEAR); and foreign policy issues (in particular the African Renaissance concept). In so doing, he was trying to prove to Party delegates, activists and members that our analysis of the current political process was flawed, and that we needed, thus, to review the manner in which we looked at some of these questions.

Cde Mbeki argued that right-wing parties in South Africa today are fond of accusing the ANC of betraying the masses. These parties suggest that the ANC has abandoned the RDP and failed to deliver on its promises. Mbeki expressed shock that this kind of criticism was also to be found in the ranks of the left, in this instance within the SACP.

This is a point that Cde Montana is shying away from, he avoids any clear and direct engagement with Mbeki's critique. He prefers a soft target, the imaginary threat of ultra-leftism. Unlike Cde Montana, I would argue that, while Cde Mbeki is completely correct about the behaviour of right-wing Parties (the UDM, NP, DP, FF) and also about pseudo-left parties like the PAC and AZAPO, he is wrong to extend this to COSATU and SACP members who are critical of certain policy directions of the movement. Nowhere do the SACP Congress documents assert that the ANC (or government) has abandoned the RDP. There is, however, a real concern that GEAR has the (unintended) potential to undermine the implementation of the RDP.

SACP and COSATU criticisms of GEAR are not made from the standpoint ofthe opposition (which mostly supports GEAR, incidentally). The SACP and COSATU are not hell-bent on sabotaging the transformation process. Criticism from these quarters is made to advance the agenda of the alliance. To lump the two different kinds of criticism together is a theoretical mistake.

Cde Mbeki's view is that there is no contradiction between GEAR and the RDP, that in fact GEAR is an elaboration of the RDP. Here lies a challenge once again for the Party, for Cde Montana, for the entire activist community. What is our response to Cde Mbeki's assertion?

Do we abstractly label him "left" or "leninist" (or, alternatively, "neo-liberal") because of his standpoint, or do we engage with his argument in a scientific manner? I. think the latter is the correct route to follow. The SACP congress documents argued that there was some degree of shift in government policy from the initial approach which had emphasised the interconnection between growth and development, towards an emphasis on growth first. This is a critical point which illustrates two distinct approaches to the economic transformation.

Does this point of difference with Cde Mbeki put the SACP in the camp of the right-wing and pseudo-left opposition parties? The answer is a simple no, primarily because this point is not new and is not an exclusive observation of the SACP but of the whole progressive movement. The tripartite alliance summit document identified the same point in its discussion of key areas of agreements and disagreements within the alliance (see the African Communist, 4th quarter 1997 p.20-21).

Another area that Cde Mbeki delves into is the question of counter-revolution. Here, he argued that the party discussion document was less concerned about the counter-revolutionary threat from outside the ANC, and more concerned about counter-revolutionary potential inside the ANC. Cde Mbeki argued that this was a "wrong manner of proceeding". The SACP Congress document says: "While vigilance is certainly required, it would be a serious strategic miscalculation to project our liberation movement and our new democratic government as besieged, as threatened on all sides. A position that calls for the bureaucratic "closing of ranks" in the face of perceived counter revolutionary activities on all fronts will, in the end, become self-fulfilling".

Cde Mbeki's argument that the Party is less concerned about an external counter-revolutionary threat is not entirely correct, because it fails to take into account the totality of the Party's substantive point on the issue of counter-revolution. He has extrapolated a small part from the entire analysis. My view is that the Party's analysis of counter-revolution is correct and balanced. It understands the broad counter-revolutionary threat to the national democratic transformation, and furthermore emphasises caution against exaggerated threats and imaginary enemies. This caution is critical particularly in this era of complex and contradictory processes of change.

The point that the Party is making around this issue was also made by Boris Kargalitsky in his 1995 visit to South Africa. He said: "The main problem in South Africa is not the resistance to the left project from the outside, or the survivors of apartheid who will derail the project. The danger is the transformation of the project itself from an anti-racist project into a very narrow, elitist project involving the reconciliation of the old and new elite" (SA Labour Bulletin, July 1995, vol.19 no.3). Kargarlistsy further observed that sometimes the neo-liberal agenda is "imposed on the left through the left itself", and he saw that as the main challenge facing the South African left at the time. Clearly, this is the point the Party was trying to illustrate in the discussion document, the fact that the complexity and contradictory nature of the political conjuncture and our interpretation of the transformation process may set us on the neo-liberal trajectory - not because we intended to go that route, but because of wrong assumptions and sometimes due to human errors. This does not necessarily imply that the Party is less concerned about counter-revolutionary threats as generally defined.

I have attempted to engage a few issues raised by Cde Mbeki in his speech to the 10th SACP Congress, in an attempt to clarify Cde Montana about the focus of Cde Mbeki's speech. The SACP must continue to engage the substantive political issues, and not personalise issues. Most importantly, we must continue to raise objections about various aspects of GEAR, without fear of being labelled ultra-leftist.

Cde Montana's conception of the so-called left wing tendency remains unclear throughout his paper. It is not clear what the nature and character of this new tendency is. How does it operate? At what level? How does it manifest itself within the SACP, the ANC and COSATU ideologically and politically? Without answering these questions his concept of ultra-leftism will remain poor and vague.

The other problem with his argument is his attempt to use cde Mbeki's speech to the SACP l0th Congress to justify his evoking of this alleged "left-wing tendency". This is unfortunate, since Cde Mbeki's speech and interventions at the Congress were intended to provoke a debate, and not an attack on individuals or groups.

In this regard, it is interesting to look at Cde Mbeki's speech, just the week before our Congress, to the COSATU Central Committee on 22nd June 1998, in which he dealt with the issue of tendencies. He said the following: "We must not fall victim to the easy temptation to label one another as this or that school of thought, and thus close the dialogue among ourselves." He goes on to say: "Indeed, I have noticed that these days some comrades seem to think that the attachment of political labels, like the labelling of different brands of beer, is some honourable revolutionary occupation...to label one another ultra-left, or neo-liberal...is neither helpful nor conducive in the Congress Movement." How ironic, then, that Montana should cite as his authority Cde Mbeki when labelling other comrades "ultra-left".

The role of Party activists inside and outside government is to be defenders of the new democratic order and provide a critique at the same time. This means that we have to defend and critique ourselves, we cannot be content with the fact that we are "on the right track".We must continuously ask questions, even if sometimes our questions raise uncomfortable matters, we must be brave enough to stand by our convictions.

There is a need for Party activists to internalise a certain scepticism, to uphold morality and a spirit of rational investigation - not for themselves but for the sake of revolutionary change. There is a need for constant assessment and reassessment of our tactical and policy approaches, otherwise we might end up with revolutionary illusions.

Post 10th Congress Scenario

Cde Montana's paper is full of praises for the intervention made by the ANC President at the 10th Party Congress. He tells us that that it was a necessary "rude awakening" to an SACP that tended to assume the correctness of its analysis. This is an unbalanced way of looking at what transpired at the Congress. Instead of providing a concrete political analysis of the implications of the intervention, Cde Montana gets carried away in leadership praise-singing. Not only does he misunderstand Cde Mbeki's input, but he fails to note how the speech served to distract public attention from many other key issues.

After the 10th Congress, the Party could not assert itself fully, it could not focus publicly on its broad political agenda and the relevance of the socialist perspective in present era. Every media opportunity provided to the Party after Congress had to be used to assert the SACP's commitment to the alliance and to explain the differences in the alliance around GEAR. This was unfortunate, because these were not the only issues discussed by Congress, there were other policy matters that needed to be highlighted. Congress potentially provided the organisation with a rare opportunity to articulate and inform its constituency and society in general about its socialist policy perspectives on a variety of issues.

In conclusion, I would like to remind Cde Montana of the words of one of the greatest African revolutionaries, Thomas Sankara. In an address to the Burkinabe people in 1987 he said: "we should reject all triumphal and superficial balance sheets, which are dangerous over time. Perseverance, tolerance, criticism of others, criticism of ourselves - this is a difficult fight to wage, the revolutionary fight. As revolutionaries we have chosen the difficult road, which means we must go beyond ourselves, surpassing ourselves individually and collectively. There are easier and quicker ways, but these only produce illusions and a bitter tomorrow".

Positioning the Party in this period of the NDR: Implementing the POA of the 10th Congress.

Philip Dexter, SACP CC member and Western Cape SACP secretary also takes issue with Lucky Montana's perspectives. Dexter argues that the key to going forward now is the implementation of the programme of action from the 10th Congress.

It would be irresponsible of the SACP not to acknowledge the serious challenges we face at this historical juncture. Since the unbanning of the Party there have been a number of debates both internally and externally about the future of the Party and the viability of a socialist project in our country. These debates have been taken seriously and the discussion documents of the 10th Congress sought to engage these issues and provide direction and a way forward. Indeed, our 10th Congress did give us a clear direction. However, there is also a strong opportunistic tendency that has utilised these debates about very important matters to criticise the Party out of context, to cynically undermine the idea that socialism is a viable alternative to capitalism, or to just engage in good old fashioned anti-Communism or Party bashing. These debates therefore need to be understood by the membership of the Party and comrades in the Alliance to ensure that the defeatism that such propagandists attempt to promote is still-born.

The role of the SACP in the NDR and beyond This is the essential issue that underlies all the debates. While some comrades avoid the issue, skirt around it, or whisper about the future of the Party, there are clearly forces within our country that would wish the SACP a hurried demise. Clearly the question of the role of the Party is an issue for the members of the Party to decide upon and for the working class to support or not. In the 77 years of the existence of the Party there has been consistent criticism and arguments for the Party to dissolve or be smashed. Despite this,communists have over the years successfully defended and built the Party. Much more significantly, millions of workers have committedthemselves to building the SACP as their political vanguard. The latest variant of the "dissolusionist" argument suggests that since the socialist countries have collapsed in Eastern Europe, and most of the European Communist Parties have disbanded or split, and since the ANC has now won political power, there is no longer a need for the SACP. These views are not new, but were expressed by a minority in the SACP immediately after its unbanning in February 1990.

Such critics suggest that the Party has outlived its usefulness. It is as if the Party only existed for the 1994 electoral victory and very little beyond that. Proponents of this view suggest that the disagreements on macro-economic policy issues within Alliance organisations and between these, are the result of the Party and COSATU's membership and leadership not understanding the real situation in our country. This view suggests that some highly politically conscious individuals, some of whom were once Party members, need to point out the weaknesses in the Party from the sidelines, get it to correct its views, or be written off as a spent force in this country. Perhaps the reason why this debate has reached such hysterical levels is understandable, given the indications of an even stronger SACP likely to emerge out of the 10th Congress, within the context of sharpening class contestation over the very direction of the NDR.

One version of this criticism suggests that before the Party can claim any credibility, role, or place in society it must "define" the kind of socialism it is struggling for. Some of those asking this question now pretend as if they never knew what the SACP has meant by socialism all along. This view conveniently forgets the fact that the Party has put forward a vision of socialism consistently since it was formed. The 1995 Strategic Perspectives document and the 1998 Party Programme and congress resolutions define socialism as being a social, economic, and political system where there is democracy, freedom, social ownership (through the state and by workers and communities directly), woking class hegemony or leadership of society. It seems that ecause the view is not some classical or even academic Marxist description of socialism as taught in the Lenin Party School, it is therefore not to be seriously considered. What is clear is that proponents of such arguments themselves offer no vision of socialism that is any richer or more detailed than the Party's. Of course they can offer no such vision since, in all probability, they no longer believe in socialism itself, despite the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric. They also, interestingly, do not openly suggest that socialism is not achievable or that they do not support socialism. In a strange way proponents of this view are actually arguing that the Party must either build some kind of textbook socialism or give up the ghost.

Such an argument is disingenuous. Everyone has the right to agree or disagree on policy issues, political programmes, and on a vision for socialism. But these critics cannot have their cake and eat it. If the argument is that some individuals do not believe that the Party has a viable socialist vision and programme, then let that be openly and frankly said. The Party will agree to disagree. If there are those who believe that socialism is a utopian dream, let that also be said. But to suggest that a vision for socialism does exist somewhere, perhaps in an inaccessible Twilight Zone, but the Party is not articulating this correctly, and better yet, that those apparently in the know will not do so themselves, perhaps because they are too busy, is simply ridiculous. We are expected to believe that because someone once upon a time was a socialist, and apparently had the answers that the people of this country now need, and now for some reason faces an ideological crisis that will not allow them to articulate this vision to the people, we must all heed their advice, even though they won't exactly tell us what that advice is.

Anti-Communism, Left-Wing Childishness, and the struggle for the leadership of the NDR

The hard-line Party bashers have always existed. As Communists we expect these elements to exist for as long as the struggle for socialism itself. Cde Lucky Montana's article represents yet another analysis and characterisation of the Party based on some late-night coffee-bar gossip or, as he himself admits, some unnamed sources quoted by the Mail and Guardian. In many respects this anti-Communist climate is tending towards that created for Communists under the apartheid regime. We must ensure that as members of the Party we defend our organisation and counter such attacks.

The most intolerable aspect of this environment is the role of certain Party members in the Party bashing activity. Such "members" should not be allowed to deliberately ridicule, undermine, and even slander the Party. As an organisation we should make it clear to members of the Party, they must defend the organisation. This does not mean that comrades cannot debate, criticise, and disagree with one another. Such contestation of ideas must take place in the correct manner. The most dangerous tendency in our movement at this point is the tendency to conjure up enemies of the revolution. At one point this tendency had reached such hysterical levels, such that to disagree with particular policy positions was being defined as counter-revolutionary. It is clear that such a culture, one that claims that some people are more Communist than others, or more ANC than others, will destroy our movement. It is simply a tool used to mobilise certain members of the movement in a particular direction. But unlike a debate on policy or ideas, it is a culture that drives politics out of our organisations and seeks to create a culture of compliance with certain individual leadership figures, rather than allow leadership to lead by developing the correct political line for this period of the revolution. As the SACP we should consistently and in a principled manner rise above such factionalist tendencies and struggle for the unity of the Alliance at all times.

A variant of this political tendency is the one that finds the SACP guilty of Left-Wing Childishness for debating the direction of the movement in this period of the NDR. To accuse the Party of Left-Wing Childishness is not the same as Anti-Communism, but the roots of this objection are the same. Such an allegation is one that views the Party as an organisation that must never state its positions on key tactical questions in our revolution, nor raise any issues that may differ from the ANC or COSATU. This tendency reflects an attempt to interpret leadership of the Alliance by the ANC as meaning that the Party should give no leadership at all. In other words, it is a view which stems from insecurity generated by having an independent political party of the working class in a multi-class alliance. Such a view is exemplified in the paper circulated by Lucky Montana.

The accusation that Comrade Montana makes, that suggests that there is a dominant, ultra-left tendency within the Party, is incorrect. In fact the entire article by Cde Montana reflects a construction based on his own biases or ignorance about the real debates and challenges facing the SACP. The article is in essence a critique of his own imagination, and not the SACP. It is bad enough to base an entire critique of an organisation he claims as his own, almost purely from the perspective of his own fears and imagination. But it is worse to start doing shadowboxing with such imagined constructions as if they were real. Let us just cite two examples to illustrate this. He accuses the so-called "dominant tendency in the SACP" of viewing the ANC "...narrowly as a nationalist movement not rooted in the working class". One is tempted to ask where does Cde Montana get this? If he had bothered to study our 10th Congress Party Programme carefully, he would immediately realise that this is again a reflection of a rather rich imagination. He further accuses the SACP that it views "...the ANC's historic mission as being the resolution of the national question in South Africa in its narrow sense". Again one is tempted to ask which SACP is Cde Montana talking about here? Instead it is from the ranks of the ANC itself, as exemplified by Cde Peter Mokaba's paper's in the lead up to the Mafeking conference, that is arguing along these lines, and not the SACP. But Montana, of course, conveniently chooses to ignore this because, as far as he is concerned, all problems in the Alliance are to be traced to the SACP. Cde Montana is perfectly entitled to engage in a debate about what he sees as the Party's conception of the ANC, but this must at least be based on fact.

It becomes very serious when Cde Montana, in order to try and prove the existence of this imaginary SACP of his, engages in what is tantamount to a witch-hunt, if not downright lies. As part of the demonisation of the SACP he makes the following argument about its structures:

"Party structures are in the hands of a membership that is predominantly constituted of young workers, militant youth activists, students, etc, who joined the Party at its unbanning... (O)n a positive side, most of these young militants are direct products of progressive youth formations in our country that espouse a commitment to the fundamental and socialist transformation of our society. There are however problems that accompany these positive aspects. The first is that some, if not most, of these young people joined the Party because they were opposed to negotiations. They saw the ANC as selling out in its suspension of the armed struggle. They are hostile to, if not completely harbouring anti-ANC positions"

It is indeed a shame for a Party member to make such sweeping and completely unfounded generalisations about the heroic and communist youth in our country. If the Party structures, as he claims, "... are in the hands of a membership that predominantly constitutes the youth", when and where did the SACP take official positions opposing negotiations? This never happened - indeed Party leaders and members played an outstanding role in the negotiations process. It is also absurd for Cde Montana to castigate communist youth as harbouring anti-ANC feelings. It is in fact this very youth, which, up to this day, constitutes an active component of the ANC itself, and most of it had sacrificed its own educational opportunities and lives to defend the ANC and ensure its electoral victory in 1994.

There is a clear line of theory, policy, and practice between the Party now in 1998 and the Party prior to 1994. The SACP today is the SACP built by Kotane, Alexander, Bunting, Slovo, Hani and many others. It is not stated in Montana's paper, but is obviously clearly implied that, because certain leadership figures have left the Party, the Party has now been dominated by certain tendencies. This incorrect assertion is a dangerous one. In the climate of anti-Communism, with a hostile press that seeks to demonise the Party, his fertile imagination is likely to fuel, if it is not deliberately aimed at, divisions that certain elements seek to create in the movement. In addition to this, "Left-Wing Childishness" does not exist as the only tendency in the revolution. At all times there are different tendencies at play in any revolution. There are also rightist or opportunist tendencies, tendencies attributable to individuals and their own hunger for power and narrow careerist aspirations. What is more, these tendencies exist in all the Alliance organisations. To focus on such a tendency as claimed to exist in the SACP, elevating it in the manner he does, Comrade Montana's piece generates precisely the kind of unhealthy climate that serves no purpose in the movement. Such an approach moves from the premise that there is a political centre which the Party leadership is not part of. This is clearly not the case, since the Party leadership is central to the Alliance. Unless of course Comrade Montana knows of a political centre that the Party is not aware of, and not part of, thus making it left of such a point.

In any case, Comrade Montana's simplistic analogies between the NDR in South Africa and the Bolshevik Revolution render his contribution unhelpful in many respects. To argue that certain characters in the South African political firmament can be compared to those in the Bolshevik Revolution and thus place everyone on a grid of Left, Right, and centre, is crude and undialectical. The issue in the NDR is not who is left or right in the SACP, ANC, or COSATU. The issue is, are the policies that we are implementing as the Alliance, and those we are developing as the SACP taking the revolution forward or not? The debate around certain of the policy choices we have made in the last few years has turned around the question of whether revolutionaries can implement conservative policies and if so under what conditions, how and for what reasons.

To evaluate policies we must have benchmarks. In our case those are the policy positions of our movement. What has been disturbing is the fact that when debating the virtue of certain policies there has been the suggestion that to question current policy choices is to accuse the leadership or individuals of treason, of selling-out .

A call to action

Whilst it is important to encourage and stimulate inner-Party debate, our cadres should be careful not to be drawn into endless, and obviously fruitless, debates with cynics and doubters. Rather our debates should be guided by our commitment to build a strong SACP, deepen the NDR and build the political consciousness of the working class. It is for this reason that the Party has developed a comprehensive programme of action at the 10th Congress. The implementation of the Party programme will require total commitment and dedication from our membership. This is even more critical when we consider that a Party member like Cde Montana can argue that "We will in future need to be vigilant when people call for "Building People's Power".. Since building people's power is, indeed, our programmatic perspective from our 10th Congress, it is clear that Cde Montana is already positioning himself to be vigilant against the implementation of the Party's very own Programme!

In the current period there are a number of critical issues the Party must address to consolidate its position as a strong and independent party of the working class. The key issue facing the Party is to give leadership in a period when there are some clear tensions, contradictions, and worrying features in our Alliance relations. The Alliance is in a process of development and even change, as should be expected, given the democratic breakthrough and the progress of the NDR.

The 1999 elections

As our Party programme points out, all Party cadres must be at the forefront of election work to ensure an overwhelming victory for the ANC in 1999. This involves canvassing, the ID campaign, registration, as well as issues of developing an election platform. This work needs to be done both in the ANC structures and by Party structures themselves. Effectively this means twice as much work for Party cadres, but that is our responsibility.

Combating Crime and Violence

The Party must give attention to the issue of crime and mobilising for the safety and security of our communities and the people in general. Without proper intelligence, co-ordination, and an overall strategy for development, the fight against crime will be lost. Party branches should set up Community Safety Committees that deal with gathering information on crime and criminal activities, and which are active in the CPF, and which are the centre for development initiatives. The Alliance should be engaged to ensure that such structures become inclusive of the Alliance partners.

Socialist Development Initiatives

The Party must take up practical programmes and projects for assisting people to deal with poverty and unemployment through social/communal ways and means. The Party structures in the community should be active in initiating co-perative projects in housing, agriculture, and tourism.

Transforming service delivery

The Party must ensure its efforts are put into the transformation, extension, and improvement of social services. This must involve the mobilisation of people to engage constructively with the state at local and provincial level in particular. Theoretical debates about the state are important, but these should not be a substitute for engaging the state and mobilising the people around programmes that assist the state in delivering services, that extend these services to those who have not traditionally received them, such as welfare pensions and grants, and that root out wastage, corruption, and other excesses.

Cadre development

The Party must initiate a political education programme which involves the Alliance partners, where emphasis is placed on building Party cadres and cadres for the Alliance. Such a programme will involve monthly political education activities based on a curriculum that takes comrades through basic and advanced Marxist readings and their application in society.

Media strategy

Without public awareness about the Party and its activities, little headway can be made in building the Party. A consistent effort must therefore be made to raise the Party's profile in the media. This involves regular articles, pamphlets, photo opportunities, and public activities. The General Secretary must be central to this process.

But people will not be convinced of the need for Party by vision statements and claims of what the Party will do in the future. The Party will be supported, shielded, and gain strength and influence to the extent that it answers the needs of women, workers, unemployed people and the poor in general. To that extent the Party must prioritise a number of aspects of the 1998 Party programme.

Russia at the cross-roads

Writing from Russia,
Vladimir Schubin describes the terrible plight of his country, plundered and devastated by nearly a decade of wild capitalism. With the Yeltsin era drawing to an inevitable end, which way will things go? Schubin predicts that there are two possible trajectories - the consolidation of a centre-left political platform, or the descent into a dangerous authoritarian populism.

Any serious observer of the present events in Russia knows that "Yelstin's era" is coming to an end. It was put in a rather roughly recently by a Western journalist: "Everyone in the Kremlin, including the man himself, seems to want us to believe Boris Nikolaevitch Yeltsin is going to remain president until his term ends in 2000. This is wishful thinking, if not an outright lie. His health is obviously deteriorating and the country as a whole has had enough of him. Russia is in too much of a mess to be led by a sick, ineffective and unpopular president. Very soon now he will either die in office or be forced to resign."

Indeed, even the polls conducted by agencies very distant from the opposition, indicated that not more than 5% of the people trust Yeltsin. (A lower rating among prominent politicians is "enjoyed" only by Gorbachev ). So German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenter Verheugen had good reason to tell a German radio station on November 24: "All domestic politics in Russia is focused on the question: when will President Yeltsin's era end and what will come after that?" However, one question has to be added: what are the results of his seven years in the Kremlin?

When will Yeltsin go?

Yeltsin has been given a chance to resign voluntarily, in fact the majority of the members of the State Duma (a lower chamber of the Russian Parliament) appealed to him to do it. There was even talk of making him a face-saving offer (just as was done for Pinochet in Chile). Membership was offered to him of the Federal Council, the Upper House, with guarantees to him and his family also being offered. This would have been the best and the least humiliating way out for him, but he still stubbornly refuses to accept.

At the same time, a special parliamentary commission is preparing the case for his impeachment. The grounds for impeachment, in this case, are much more serious than Bill Clinton's sexual exploits with Monica Lewinsky. The grounds for Yeltsin's impeachment would be the "dissolution" of the Soviet Union in December 1991, against the will of the majority expressed in a national referendum, a "presidential coup" followed by the shellingof the Parliament building in September-October 1993, and the launching of a war in Chechnya in December 1995. To proceed with this impeachment 300 votes out of 450 in the Duma are needed, over 250 MPs have so far signed for impeachment, but the final result will depend on popular pressure on MPs. According to polls, 70% of Russians support Yeltsin's impeachment.

In any case a very important verdict was passed by the Constitutional Court in November: Yeltsin has no right to stand in the next presidential elections in 2000, though his entourage, apparently scared for their future, were pushing him to do it. After that, even those politicians, who earlier did not oppose him in public, like Moscow's mayor Yury Luzhkov, virtually began their own election campaigns.

What heritage will he leave?

Whoever eventually replaces Yeltsin will "inherit" a country in disarray and misery. Not since the civil war in the first years of the Revolution (not even during World War 2, when a large part of its territory was under Nazi occupation) has Russia experienced a drop in industrial production of over 50%, and at least 30% in agriculture. Instead of the "alleviation of social discrepancies" that Yeltsin promised as he looked for an armchair in the Kremlin, there has been a sharp social division of our society: Less than 5% of the population make up the "new Russians", with the latest model Mercedes and country houses around Moscow that look like castles. Another 5 or 10% of the population serve this elite directly or indirectly. As for the rest of the population, real wages have decreased 50% and more, and even then, actual payment is often delayed for several months.

Moreover, the so-called reforms, following IMF recipes, have created another kind of stratification: between Moscow, port cities and raw material (mostly oil and gas) producing areas on the one hand, and the rest of the country on the other. One recalls how some years ago a Mozambican politician spoke of the "lumpen-bourgeoisie" in his country. Perhaps a similar formula could be used to describe the situation in Russia. One could speak of a "comprador proletariat", the workers in some export-oriented industries, who receive salaries much higher than the others.

The creation of new jobs in a kind of "informal sector"- small trading and transport services - has transformed many industrial workers and researchers into small traders (600,000 jobs of this kind have recently been created in Leningrad/St Petersburg alone). This process has split and atomised workers' collectives, and is one of the reasons for a relatively weak workers movement in the country. Another reason for it lies in the fact that under Soviet power the workers, though far from being "gang-pressed", relied for generations on state support, knowing that they would never be left in the lurch. So they have to learn anew to defend their basic rights, this will take time.

Seven or eight years ago there was a lot of talk by Yeltsin and his fellow "democrats" (unfortunately "democrat" has become a swear-word in Russia today) on the need to improve production of consumer goods, but the textile and clothing industries are now almost defunct. Similar damage has occurred in hi-tech industry. Instead of conversion of defence-oriented plants, they mostly remain idle.

The Soviet government used to be criticised when, owing to seasonal climatic problems, it was compelled to buy grain abroad. Now, however, "Yeltsin's Russia" imports over 50% of food, and the danger of losing "food independence" became very visible when due to a 60-0% fall in the value of the ruble last August-September, neither government nor private companies had means to buy required products.

Privatisation, which had been advertised as a tool to take industry out of bureaucrats' hands and into the hands of efficient managers and workers, has become a real "free for all", or as we say in Russian "prikhvatisation" ("khavtat" means to grab). Just one example, recently quoted by the new Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov: an oil and gas producing company in Siberia, "Purneftegaz", which was sold for $10m, sixty times less than its actual value!

The mass media in the West (and in South Africa as well) is full of stories of Russian Mafia and corruption. But the media forgets to add that this very corruption is encouraged by the West. Of the at least $300bn (most economists speak of about $500-600bn) that has been disinvested out of the country, over 90% was in illegal transactions, murky deals between Russian and Western "businessmen". Yeltsin himself, who rose to popularity as a "fighter against privileges" (they call them "fringe benefits" in South Africa), built a luxurious villa on four hectares of land he "privatised" in a prime resort forest near Moscow. Ostensibly his income was assured by the publication of his memoirs in the West, but according to his former body-guard and confidante, General Alexander Korzhakov, that publication was organised and paid for by the notorious Boris Berezovsky, an oil and media tycoon. His entourage follows the suite or even "runs ahead" of the master, and there is good reason to speak about "collective Rasputin" around the throne of "Tsar Boris".

The statistics on capital flows out of Russia should be compared with those for incoming investments from the West. The comparison easily proves the fallacy of talk about Western "aid packages", etc. For each dollar invested in Russia, the West has received at least 5 and often 10 times the amount. For example, in the first ten months of 1998, foreign investments were $3bn, but, according to Primakov, between $1,5 and $2bn is leaving Russia monthly. All in all, one can say that capitalism, especially the kind of capitalism imposed by the IMF, has meant destruction of the country's economy and misery for the majority.

Yeltsin's foreign policy has hardly been more successful, at least until Evgeny Primakov became the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996. The Community of Independent States, which was proclaimed as a replacement for the Soviet Union with transparent borders, a single currency, joint armed forces etc., exists mostly on paper and its Executive Secretariat is headed now by the same Berezovsky. 25 million Russians live beyond its borders in the so-called "near abroad", sometimes in a hostile environment, that makes Russians the most divided people in the world.

NATO's advance into Eastern Europe proves that this organisation was not created "to defend" the West from a "communist threat" but to combine West European armed forces under US command to dictate to the rest of the world.

What's next?

Despite itself, Yeltsin's regime has not been able to waste Russia's main capital - our well-educated and industrious people (or perhaps it has not had enough time to do it). However, the country loses up to one million off its population total each year, as a result of the death-rate growing and the birth-rate falling. The level of compulsory education has been lowered from 11 to 9 years of schooling. The country still has natural resources in abundance and a Soviet high technology capacity has been preserved, at least in some fields.

So a lot will depend on subjective factors, on who will replace Yeltsin, or rather, on what will be the political character of a "post-Yeltsin era". The present government, headed by the new prime minister, Primakov, with its programme of urgent economic measures, aimed at growth in the industrial and agricultural sectors, has overwhelming support in Parliament, though the communists and their allies are a bit short of an absolute parliamentary majority there. Only Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his Liberal-Democratic Party (which is neither liberal nor democratic) voted against the appointment of Primakov last September, because they were promised some slices of the pie by another contender (Yeltsin's prot?g? Victor Chernomyrdin, who failed as Prime Minister during his five years in the office).

Primakov, whose cabinet was formed in September, after Yeltsin could not get the Duma's consent for the reappointment of Chernomyrdin, prefers to call it a government of professionals, but its members in any case still have their (at least informal) political affiliations and connections. So in that sense the government is far from cohesive, for example the first Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov is a Communist Party CC member, but some of the Yeltsin's old-guard are still there, though not in crucial posts. Besides one has to bear in mind that, according to "Yeltsin's Constitution", imposed on Russia in December 1993, heads of defence, security, and police are directly subordinate to the President and not to the Prime-Minister.

The government is in a weak position, facing a severe Russian winter: the state coffers are empty, the external debts have to be paid, and wage payments could not be delayed anymore without a risk of serious social explosion. Besides the new government is daily attacked by the media - TV and papers, "privatised" by major banks. Even worse, the government's continuation depends on Yeltsin' mood. Yeltsin has the right to dismiss it at any moment, though such an act would cause a public outrage and he would have to think twice before doing it.

A pronounced feature of Russia in the nineties has been the political assivity of the youth. Moreover, unfortunately left ideas are not popular among them. Indeed, all that is remembered of "communist rule" by those who are in their early twenties is of empty shelves and empty promises from Gorbachev of "more democracy and more socialism".Besides, it was much easier for young people to adapt to the new economic system.

However, the financial crisis and the devaluation of the ruble will make at least half of Russia's 1500 banks broke, and in Moscow alone at least 200-300,000 people are in the process of losing their jobs, most of them young, and most of them accustomed to receiving Western-scale wages, when in the country at large an average monthly income is well below $100. Disillusioned and desperate, these people could be turned against the present "pro-Communist" government, and this campaign has already started in the mass-media.

On the other hand, the majority of workers are also rather passive, just as they were passive during the privatisation campaign. Joe Slovo admitted once in the late 1980s: "The SACP hasn't yet won the soul of South African workers". One can say that the Russian Communists have not yet recovered the trust of the workers, who feel sometimes that the CPSU betrayed them when its leader, Gorbachev, introduced "reforms" that caused their sufferings.

There are two most probable "scenarios" for the near future of Russia: either a centre-left government (further to the left of the present one), or a populist authoritarian regime. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation remains the strongest political organisation in the country and a rallying point for progressive and patriotic forces. Most of these progressive and patriotic forces have joined the People's Patriotic Union of Russia (PPUR), headed by the CPRF Chair, Gennady Zyuganov. Over a half of the provincial heads were elected with communist support. However the CPRF leadership believes that to win the Parliamentary elections in late 1999 and presidential elections in mid-2000 (or, probably, much earlier), a broader centre-left coalition is required, and that there are chances to create it by combining the forces led by Zyuganov with the supporters of Yury Luzhkov, Moscow's popular mayor. The possibility of such an alliance was manifested by a message of greetings sent by Luzhkov to the recent PPUR Congress in November. In classical class terms such an alliance would be between the working class, peasantry, patriotic intelligentsia and national-minded bourgeoisie. This is an approach that has its critics on the left, but a "rupture" from the present situation as a single act is hardly possible.

The exact policy of such a coalition will depend on the actual correlation of forces both within and outside it, but most probably it would involve a greater role for the state in running the economy, a fearless fight against corruption, investigation of dubious privatisation schemes, "civil society" control over mass media, primarily TV, the fostering of national industry, agriculture and science.

The honest appraisal of the Russian left at present would not be complete if a peculiar phenomenon were not mentioned. It can be called the "resurgence of Stalin". In the new edition of his book on Moses Kotane, Brian Bunting quotes from Kotane's statement in 1953 at the time of Stalin's death: "Those who traffic in human lives - the warmongers, profiteers and apostles of racialism - dreaded his name". On the other hand, said Kotane, Stalin's death had been a grievous loss "for the working people of the world". New facts about Stalin's role and deeds were to become known in the years after this statement. But for many in Russia today, especially against the background of chatter-boxes like Gorbachev and turn-coats like Yeltsin, Stalin is being remembered as an idealised symbol of a strong Soviet state, of social justice for working people, and of the suppression of corruption, etc. The wish to get the country out of the present mess and chaos, to "restore order" is also often personified by invoking an idealised memory of Stalin.

However, the same desire for "restoring order" can be exploited by populist demagogues with another agenda, and herein lies the danger of the alternative political trajectory. It is hardly accidental that during the government crisis in September, on all TV channels owned by the tycoons (the compradore bourgeoisie) one could see retired paratrooper, General Lebed, who is now a head of administration in the Siberian province of Krasnoyarsk. Moreover one of these channels broadcast in prime-time on Sunday a lengthy interview with General Pinochet that was advertised daily in advance as a meeting with a "genuine patriot", who knew what should be done when his country was in danger.

Alexander Lebed, a populist without principles, ready to take money from anybody (his election campaign in Krasnoyarsk was openly funded by the selfsame Berezovsky) crossed over to Yeltsin's side twice, in August 1991 and in June 1996. He was placed third in the presidential race and traded the votes of his supporters (though not all of them followed his appeal) for the position of the Secretary of Russia's Security Council. Having taken this post he, on one hand befriended the worst of the Chechen leaders, and, on the other, discovered two "conspiracies" in Moscow in two days and threatened "to suppress ruthlessly the [non-existent] mutiny". His information about "conspiracies" was false in both cases.

It looks like he is considered as the best replacement to Yelstin by the "oligarchs" in Russia and by their Western friends. Their plans have been revealed by the Western journalist, Rod Pounsett: "If he [Lebed] could content himself with simply winning titular high office and leave practical government of the country and management of the economy to professionals, he might just be a good choice for Russia...I see a steady march ahead for the smooth-talking general."

By "professionals" Rounsett means Anatoly Chubais, Boris Nemtsov and other so-called "young reformers", who for years conducted anti-people policies.

So, the scenario looks to be a rather simple one: the General wins elections on the populist ticket (he joined in the demands for Yeltsin's resignation and early elections); or, if the situation further deteriorates, he takes power in the Pinochet way (he is on record saying that he will take up the highest post if "demanded by the people"). Lebed's accession to power would, in this scenario, open the way for the pro-Western and pro-"wild capitalism" elements to further plunder the country.

We shall see soon which way Russia goes.


Roll Away the Stone to Look upon the Face of Moses

The following address was delivered by Professor Kader Asmal at the launch of the third edition of Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, by Brian Bunting (published by Mayibuye Centre).

We have come a long way, we live in a very different world, from the one in which, in 1947, on the 30th anniversary of the 1917 revolution, Molotov exulted: "We are living in an age when all roads lead to Communism. "Today that sort of comment, which appears on page 155 of the book we celebrate tonight, makes cynics snicker and it makes idealists despair. Ours is a time of fallen idols and rudderlessness, for far too many of our people -and by "our people" I mean the global unwashed, those whom George Orwell called the "great unwashed," all over the world.

I refer to Orwell's phrase, the "great unwashed," not merely to draw your attention to my own role as a Minister, in taking water to the unwashed - so that they need, never be that way again. No, it is not anity. My more serious concern is that, in our ideological reckonings, our Talmudic parsings, which so often take place in the menacing shadow of sectarian strife and schism - that in all this we should keep our eyes on the prize, our focus on the people - the great unwashed.

So we must pause to consider whether the premature triumphalism of Molotov's remark was not itself part of the reason for the demise of his hopes. This is hardly a novel observation: pride comes before the fall, my mother - and probably yours, too was fond of saying,

Victories are easier to announce than to implement. Or as Marx puts it, world history would indeed be very easy to make if the struggle were taken up only on condition of infallibly favourable chances.

The South African transition is built on the opposite of triumphalism, on a deeply felt humility, exemplified by our President and - in fits and starts - emulated by the rest of us. And it is paying off, because we are now seeing a turning of the tides. In 1990, local liberals and other recalcitrants were quick to hoist aloft one Francis Fukuyama when he announced the"End of History" and the triumph of capitalism. They seemed unaware that others had in the Fifiies similarly proclaimed the "End of Ideology," the"'End of War" and all sorts of esoteric other ends of things.

Yet today, a mere eight years after Fukuyama's outlandish and widely publicised claim, we are evidently experiencing the end-of-the-end-of-history. History resurrects itself. Some have even talked of the collapse of capitalism. If this seems to go too far, then note that George Soros, capitalist extraordinaire, has spoken of a crisis of capitalism.

But let us think. Do we really yearn for the collapse of capitalism? Can we convince ourselves that the world was a better place for working people in the aftermath of the 1929 crash, in the Great Depression? Do we really want to elevate triumplialist satisfaction - the perhaps genuine joy of' seeing yuppies dive from skyscrapers without parachutes - do we really seek this joy at the cost of the other casualties that will follow in its wake?

I think not. We often forget that Marx himself was aware - even in awe of -- the power of the markets. In the Manifesto, he wrote that "Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty find agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify." This is, for instance, the story of the English corn laws, in which protectionist privilege of the aristocracy was swept away and starvation averted - because of an essentially capitalist dynamic - the merchants versus the aristocracy.

Kotane himself engaged with the issue of what, in the language of the day, was called the "native bourgeoisie." He was integrally involved in debates over whether the few small businesses, ostensibly owned by Africans, were actually controlled by them. In this he was again wrestling with issues that still engage us today, as we seek to align black economic empowerment with broad societal reconstruction, rather than enrichment of an isolated few.

So am I saying that we should celebrate the South African revolutionary and SACP stalwart Moses Kotane by singing hymns of praise to capitalism? Hardly. That would be a desecration -. in the strongest sense,a profanation of his memory. What I am saying, and what comes through so strongly in Brian Bunting's biography, whose third edition we celebrate tonight - what I am saying is that we should be true to the spirit of Kotane.

What is that spirit? Kotane was, above all else, a practical man. "We had an organisation before. Why can't we have it today", he challenged his comrades in 1934. He opposed rule by party decree from the top, he wanted to increase rank and file activity. He valued the close relationship between the SACP and the ANC, while insisting that the SACP should pull its weight on issues of organisation, branches and mass mobilisation. He wrestled, as we all do even today, with the twin imperatives of maintaining a principled position, on the one hand, and maintaining an inclusive and mobilised political movement on the other.

He pursued, as we still must today, the synthesis of unity and integrity, for instance in his support for CPSA participation in the All-African Convention of the Thirties. Bunting notes that some may think, with the wisdom of hindsight, that participation in this convention was naive, enthusiasm for it unfounded. Hindsight might also suggest that the CPSA was deluded to think it could align itself with Afrikaner nationalism, detaching Afrikaner workers from the bourgeois-dominated National Party - an effort that, to use mild language, was unsuccessful. But of such folly great things are made, or might be.

For Kotane was doing a Big Thing here, beyond the little tittle tattle of everday politics, he was engaging with that problem which WEB Du Bois identified and which has bedevilled twentieth century politics: the problem of the colour line. It is tragic how race distracts us, how it diverted Afrikaner and blacks from a shared working class history, a mutually beneficial solidarity.

But we can't deal with it by ignoring it, by employing what has been called the "I think therefore it is" school of idealism; I don't think of race, therefore your problems don't exist. Racialised problems do exist, and Kotane was always in the trenches, trying to build bridges across problematic racial reaches, not only between African and Afrikaner, black and white, but also between Africans and Indians, as lie did in the aftermath of the 1949 Durban riots in which 123 people were killed, and 1,300 injured. He rushed to Durban and found, among other things, that strife between Indians and Africans was aided and abetted by Government officials and police.

This awful feature of our politics, the manipulation of one fraction of the oppressed so that it turns upon another fraction, this feature of our politics which assumed unprecedented proportions of violence in the Eighties, was already present in 1949, and Kotane was resisting it. And it is still with us today, in the electoral patterns of the Western Cape and elsewhere.

The "national question" is actually an international one: everywhere, men and women of goodwill have wrestled with the interplay of race and class in making social change. As Nadine Gordimer, who celebrates her 75th birthday today, wrote in 1967 that "the Africans shot by white South African police at Sharpeville, like the black American victims of the Birmingham Sunday bombing, have become martyrs of a world whose frontiers are not those of South Africa or the Deep South but of Colour." She continued; "If the British Commonwealth is a 'family,' the poor relations are black, just as in the United States the 'affluent society' stops short of the black ghettos. "The hungers of the dispossessed are shared by Jamaicans, Batswana, Indians, Congolese, Ghanaians, Argentines, Chinese, and millions more", she added.

We cannot talk about international socialism without acknowledging the international racialisation of injustice. If we debate communism and capitalism while neglecting the racialised global context in which they operate, we end up like that Alabama communist that Professor Robin DG Kelley tells of in Hammer and Hoe, who habitually addressed a black colleague as "comrade nigger."

It is because of the work that Kotane exemplifies that the CPSA was famously a place where black and white worked together as one. This was not a gift from God, but a project of hard work. As Bunting tells at page 97, Kotane specifically resisted efforts to segregate the Party along racial lines as a method of dealing with dissatisfaction of black members who felt marginalised. "Here is a Party that preaches equality. If we have two sections what will the psychological reaction be? It will put us back 300 or 500 years. Parallel lines never meet." He threatened to walk out of the Party. This was a fundamental matter, for him. He carried the day, his motion was carried and he was elected General Secretary of the Party.

In the end race is an absurdity - it can seem intractable, stubbornly relevant, and yet it is absurd. This combination of the brutal and the idiotic is a large part of the horror of racism. The American labour historian David Roediger, author of a book called Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, brings out the absurdity of race in a story he tells.

On a visit to South Africa some time ago, the son of an African labourer in the Cape Town harbour told him that the "WHITES 0NLY" signs appeared on the Cape Town waterfront only after literally-minded white American sailors avoided "EUROPEANS ONLY" facilities. Race is absurd. What blood we have spilt over nothing.

It is also jarring, if not absurd, to note, as Bunting points out, that "1948, the year of the centenary of the Communist Manifesto, was also the year in which the Nationalist Party of Dr Malan, basing itself on its newly-fashioned apartheid manifesto, came to power in South Africa." So we return in a different form to the question with which I began: Fifty years later, are both manifestos equally dead?

I think not. Malan's manifesto is ailing, but not gone. It lives on in new forms, suitably updated, now that Malan's own party is collapsing and others are contending for its mantle. How else can an aspiring Leader of the opposition so blithely refer to his own former black colleague as "a bedraggled rat," language painfully akin to the Nazi lexicon, with its awful term, "Judenrat," its characterisation of Jews as vermin, half a century ago? How can they so crassly expose a man's medical records in an extraordinary and unethical attempt to assassinate his character, to label him as insane, because he chooses to defect from them? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this party has chosen to focus entirely on recalcitrant white voters, the dwindling iceberg of those few who feel caught in an alien sea of black faces. This is a retrograde step in the strict sense of the word. It is a 1990s avatar of Malan's manifesto.

And what of that other manifesto? Thankfully, it too lives, I think, not only in the memory of Moses Kotane, Joe Slovo and others who move us today, as though they had never died. It lives also in the challenges it presents to each of us. Reviewing the new edition of the Manifesto, Marshall Berman tells the story of a doctor who treated TB patients in a working class neighourhood in Bavaria, just before World War I. The doctor could not save them, but could hope to help them die with dignity. And for their last requests, many of them said they wanted to have the Manifesto buried with them when they died.

They implored the doctor to ensure that the priest didn't sneak in and plant the Bible on them instead.

As the Cuban Finance Minister said earlier this year, if the Bible could survive the Inquisition, the Manifesto will survive the failuresof Soviet and Eastern European despots.

Our job is to enliven it so that it becomes not only a thing to die with, as with those Bavarian workers, but also a thing to live by and to live for. While globalisation has been monopolised by slick bankers, shifty speculators and assorted self-seekers, the Manifesto ends with a clarion call of globalisation, in its appeal to "WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES." So we must ask ourselves whether, in surly critiques of globalisation, in passive resort to phrases like "neoliberalisni" we are not abdicating our responsibility to do more than whinge.

We cannot continue to lose the battle to define the terms of globalisation. That is what the Manifesto is about. Marx was no hermit. He saw the cosmopolitan character of capitalism as another of its strengths. Cheap prices are the artillery, he said, with which the bourgeoisie "batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate." What is labour's counter-artillery?

If it is merely protectionism, an attempt to stop the world and get off, then we will fall along with the barbarians - and we will deserve to fall, too. So l want to end with an appeal to all of us here tonight to re-read the Manifesto, alongside this inspirational biography. And to do the work of mourning in relation to Moses Kotane: the work of helping him - his ideals - to rise again. Not static duplication, in new circumstances, of the particular stances he took in old circumstances. No. I mean a modernised version that remains true to his practical bent and his idealism. The body cannot look the same after the resurrection as before, or else where is the miracle?

So I ask you to join in the hard work of resurrection, with courage, and with openness to fresh thinking. This is the only way to roll that stone from the mouth of the tomb - so we might look upon the face of Moses - not Christ -- once again.

Book Review

US global domination

Dale T McKinley reviews "Power Lines - US Domination in the New Global Order", by Alejandro Bendana, New York, Olive Branch Press

Alejandro Bendana, a former official in the Nicaraguan Sandinista government and presently Director of the Centre of International Studies in Managua, has written an extremely important book. Its importance derives from the fact that the book deals with a subject that occupies centre stage in any effort to radically transform both global and respective, national political economies. This is particularly the case at a time when both the South African and international left have been in a general state of ideological confusion and organisational disarray.

There have been innumerable studies of internal U.S. political and class relations, trans-national corporate power and imperialism. To my knowledge though, there have been very few scholars-cum-activists who have attempted to combine all of these within an analytical framework that seeks to explain the hows and whys of continued U.S. dominance as we approach the end of the millenium. More specifically, Bendana sets out to unravel the character and practice of U.S. domination by focusing on intra-capitalist (North-North) power relations as they relate to, and potentially affect, the South. Such an approach is crucial to any understanding of the present, and future, trajectory of global capitalism, or as some call it - globalisation.

Bendana begins his investigation by providing an in-depth look at what he calls "global structural adjustment" - the implementation of a 'free market' political economy in both North and South. For Bendana, though, the central point is not merely the economic processes which such 'adjustment' engenders, but the political content behind it. While noting capitalism's general resilience in the post-World War II period, Bendana looks to the imperial power of the U.S. as its ultimate guarantor. In order to show how this 'political centre' of power affects the way in which capitalist globalisation has played itself out, he lays out the specifics of internal power configurations in the U.S - the merging of U.S. corporate and political power. This then allows Bendana to argue that the 'global market' is more a reflection of the attempts at consolidation (with all its corresponding contradictions), at both domestic and international levels, of U.S. power.

It is this concentration on the character of U.S. imperial power that points to the "myth of multilateral coordination of globalisation". Bendana unravels the efforts of such multilateral institutions - the I.M.F., World Bank, the G-7 Group - to manage the process of capitalist production and acccumulation, to create a global "mega-state". Not surprisingly, these efforts have proven futile. Intra-capitalist competition, for example between Japan and the U.S, has, on the contrary, generated ruptures within the system resulting from 'national interest' concerns and geopolitical power plays. Instead of the needed overhaul of the global capitalist engine, such contradictions have only served to exacerbate its malfunctioning.

Bendana's analytical framework uncovers part of the logic behind this capitalist irrationality. In its pursuit of unrivalled global political and economic power, the U.S. ruling class has appointed itself as the "visible hand" behind the 'global market'. The notion that there is an "invisible hand" of the market is nothing more than a myth, created and sustained by a prostrate media and allied market practitioners. Bendana's argument is convincing. Indeed, he shows that it is the very visible hand of U.S. imperial power that directs the orchestra, backed by the largest military machine ever assembled.

Recalcitrant 'friends' are faced with 'persuasion' to comply, foes are merely bludgeoned into submission. Whether its playing NAFTA off against the European Union in order to further pry foreign markets to 'open up', or deploying military muscle to ensure compliance with it's unfettered access to cheap natural and human resources, the 'hand' of the U.S. is ever present.

This increasing "micro-management" of the 'new' global order is not however, without its glaring weaknesses. Not only does it deepen an already serious socio-economic global disequilibrium that threatens to degenerate into capitalist anarchy, but serves to further entrench rising nationalist and mass opposition to imperialist political dictates. From the echoes of the peasant uprising in Chiapas to the emergence of a pan-Islamic power counter-weight, the U.S.-led efforts to recolonise the globe continue to give an uneven 'breath of life' to Marx's metaphorical gravedigger.

Bendana might be guilty of overstating the preponderance of U.S. imperial power in the unfolding struggles centred around capitalism's regenerative crises. However, he does succeed in showing us that the state (in both North and South) has not been sidelined by the mythical market forces that we are led to believe now envelop the totality of socio-economic and political life. In doing so, he skillfully navigates the dialectical contours of past and present capitalist globalisation and reveals the clear contradictions that continue to give rise to hope for humanity. In his own words - "A failure to understand the social and transnational content of national struggles, along with the national reality of transnational and social struggles, in present-day conditions, can only retard the advancement of the democratic transformations so desperately required and sought by a majority of the world's peoples".

Dale T. McKinley holds a doctorate in Politics & African Studies. He works at the Head Office of the South African Communist Party.



Communism and Religion

There is a myth that communism and religion are incompatible. They are not mutually exclusive opposites, nor are they entirely at odds with one another. On the contrary, there is a long historical connection between communism and religion: one that neither dogmatism nor opportunism can dissolve. Yet, while communist parties should welcome both believers and atheists into their ranks, they should not oversimplify nor sanitise the connection between communism and religion. Historically, this connection has both positive and negative aspects. And we must understand both these aspects if we are not to repeat some past errors.


One of the most negative connections between communism and religion was Stalinism. While Stalinism certainly treated religion as totally incompatible with communism, it was, nonetheless, a product of the historical connection between the two. Stalinism was a communistic, albeit atheist, religion. It was both communistic and religious in both the historical and theoretical senses of the words. And as an atheist religion Stalinism was not an oxymoron (a self-contradiction), but a historical contradiction. First, Stalinism turned the Communist Party of the Soviet Union into an omnipotent church. Second, it extolled Marxism-Leninism as a universal theory that effectively did not alter with time. Finally, the CPSU persecuted heretics or dissidents that departed from the party line.

Stalin himself was from a Russian Orthodox background, and at a young age he trained for priesthood. When Stalin spoke at Lenin's memorial in 1924, he gave a Russian Orthodox eulogy. Though he did not mention God, Stalin did say that, "We Communists are people of a special mode." For Stalin it was as if communists were the Chosen Ones. However, the sizeable Jewish minority in the Party were quick to recognise Stalin's Russian Orthodox medievalism and most soon became opposed to him. Yet, most of those with a Russian Orthodox background saw Stalin's eulogy as quite natural. It seems that despite the fact that most Russians communists were atheists, their religious heritage shaped both the way they understood Marxism and the way they sought to build Communism. The immediate impact of Stalin's eulogy upon Jewish comrades was so strong that it actually split the Party. Ironically, the split Lenin warned against occurred along religious lines, and not along strictly Party ideological ones. Virtually all of the Workers' Opposition faction (a disparate group of various ideological positions) opposed to Stalin were Jews. When Stalin and Bukharin organised the Party membership against the Workers' Opposition they engaged in quite crude anti-Semitic propaganda. Posters commissioned by Bukharin appeared all over Moscow showing the Workers' Opposition as stereotypical Jews with long noses and grasping hands. The first open fight against Stalinism failed, but since then many comrades have fought it, but with varying degrees of success.

The theoretical tenacity of Stalinism, as with many other forms of Marxism, lies in the religious upbringing of most people who later become Marxists.

People are not born Marxists. All Marxists initially proceed from the standpoint of their own religious heritage, regardless of whether they are believers or not. Marx's own religious heritage as a Jew, in a traditionally anti-Semitic nation of Protestants, had a profound effect upon his world-outlook. Marx didn't simply reject his heritage, he studied it and was thereby able to transcend it. If we are to transcend Stalinism we do not only have to learn Marxism from Marx, but we must also learn about religion and the role it plays in the communist movement. More than that, we must reject the simplistic notion that communism and religion are incompatible.

Liberation Theology and Quakers

Liberation theology is a good example of a positive connection between communism and religion. Unfortunately, while I recognise the positive contribution of liberation theology to the anti-apartheid struggle I am unqualified to speak about it. Here, many South African comrades are far more capable than I am to discuss it. In Australia, liberation theology is virtually unknown and all communists I know are atheists. However, Australian communists often struggle side-by-side with Christians, especially Quakers (with whom we have much in common).

Capitalism and Relegion

Communism is not the only theoretical and political system that has a deep historical connection with religion. Capitalism also has an essential connection with religion, especially Protestantism, Judaism, and to a smaller extent, Catholicism. Marx even described Protestantism as "the most fitting form of religion" for capitalism. However, in capitalist Britain, Protestantism, especially Methodism and Calvinism, has historically had a profound impact upon both Marxists and Thatcherites. While Marxists may quote Christ's Sermon on the Mount, Thatcherites tend to extol the Protestant virtues of thrift, abstinence, and a strong work-ethic. It seems there is something for almost everybody in religion. Marx certainly thought so. He saw religion as the "general theory" of the world, "its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritualistic point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its universal source of consolation and justification."

Still, we must not shy away from the fact that Marx was an atheist, and his philosophy of dialectical materialism is theoretically at odds with religion. How believers in the Party cope with this is their own concern, and not the Party's. However, as noted above, all atheists, including Marx himself, were born into a religious heritage, the enduring legacy of which shapes the nature of their beliefs, including Marxist beliefs. So, even atheists in the Party have a connection with religion. To think that we can, or even should, discard our religious heritage like an old worn-out boot is futile. Instead, each of us needs to recognise our own religious heritage and understand how it has shaped our beliefs. And moreover, we should critique both our religious and communist legacies, not sanitise or gloss over them.

Motherhood statements to the effect that communism and religion are bosom buddies are unhelpful. Communism does not have a stronger connection to the core beliefs of religion than capitalism. Both communism and religion are far too broad for such a sweeping statement. Rather, South African and Australian Communists, for example, have a stronger connection to the spiritual values of Christ than do the neoliberals who worship both God and mammon. In short, we need to be more specific about connections. Further, we should recognise both the good and bad connections between communism and religion. Finally, we should not oversimplify, belittle or sanitise those connections, but critique them responsibly. A cautious respect for history demands no less.

Yours in unity,
Simon Stevens.
Perth, Australia.