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July 1996


75 YEARS OF OUR HISTORY

This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of South Africa, which was first launched in July, 1921. Our history of struggle since then is a history to be proud of.

In the early days of apartheid repression, two years after the National Party came to power, the Communist Party was the first organisation to be banned.

The law the all-white parliament passed to ban it was called the Suppression of Communism Act, and, for many years after, this law was used to ban a number of organisations, including the ANC.

It was also used to suppress individuals who opposed the apartheid regime, to prevent their going to meetings, or speaking in public, to prevent the publication of anything they wrote. It was used against Communists and non-Communists alike, sometimes against anti-Communists, too, for it defined Communism very widely, and there was no appeal against the banning orders.

It was no accident that the apartheid regime saw communism as its foremost enemy. The Communist Party had been the first to advocate non-racism, and to open its ranks to people of all races and cultures. It had pioneered progressive trade unionism, and supported rural struggles. It had run night schools, and worked at developing its cadres.

After the banning, the Party reorganised underground as the South African Communist Party. Its paper, The Guardian, had been banned, and had reappeared under new names - Advance, New Age, Spark - which were banned, in their turn, one after the other. Then The African Communist appeared, produced overseas and distributed illegally here.

For the rest of the 40 years the Party was banned in South Africa, it continued to organise illegally, and put out its literature. Its members worked in the ANC and in MK. Many served long jail sentences. Many died.

Now, five years after our unbanning, what of the future? There are new challenges ahead.

It is our task to oppose those forces that seek to weaken the democratic government of our country, privatising its assets, and cutting public spending. It is our task to provide an analysis of the global economy of today, and to oppose the IMF and the great multinational corporations, as they search the world for ever-cheaper labour and ever-greater profits for themselves. It is our task to ally ourselves with the labour movement worldwide.

It is our task to build socialism. Socialism is the future. Let's start building it now.


The Government's New Macro-Economic Plan

In mid-June, ANC finance minister, Cde Trevor Manuel, unveiled the government's long awaited macro-economic framework. Shortly before the unveiling the SACP and COSATU were briefed about the contents and objectives of this plan.

In the coming weeks and months, SACP structures need to understand, discuss and debate this important document. As usual, understanding the document is not made any easier by the way in which much of the commercial press has reported on the plan. They are presenting it as "Thatcherist", as "anti-left", as a sharp "right-wing" turn by the ANC. What are the main features of the plan?

  • It locates itself firmly as a macroeconomic plan to help implement the RDP. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen. But the fact that it locates itself in this way is very important. Its success or failure will not he measured so much in terms of, let us say the inflation rate, but in terms of RDP delivery.
  • The plan calls for quite sharp reductions on the government's budget. The budget deficit will be dropped by a massive one per cent over the next year. This is a policy direction that many are unsure about. The reason for this sharp cut is that government is concerned about falling into a debt trap, and then into the arms of the IMF. We can all appreciate this. But will such a sharp cut create conditions in which there will be private sector investment that will help growth and job creation? This is a big uncertainty.
  • The plan locates the question of restructuring state assets firmly within the bilateral process, involving government and unions. In February this bilateral process produced the National Framework Agreement (NFA), which the SACP has fully supported. The commercial print media were claiming that the new plan would mark a massive swing to privatisation. Minister of Public Works, cde Stella Sigcau's announcement in parliament on June 21 once more deflated these claims, and once more affirmed the NFA bilateral process.
  • On labour markets, the plan is basically in line with the new Labour Market Commission report. Here again, we need to be careful not to allow the commercial press to set the agenda. The plan does not call for a slashing of wages, but it does call for wages (and salaries) to be linked to and below productivity gains. The emphasis is on improving productivity. The plan also talks about wage "flexibility" - but this is not market-driven flexibility. What is envisaged is a greater regulation of the labour market (in line with the Labour Relations Act), and for negotiated regional and sectoral flexibility to occur within the framework of such regulation.
  • Although the plan does not say anything on monetary and interest rate policy that will necessarily displease the current Reserve Bank governor, it does represent an important extension of overall macroeconomic policy, to cover the Reserve Bank. For some years the SACP has been raising concerns that the Reserve Bank has been left too wide a margin to make its own strategy.
There are many open questions provoked by the new plan. Would a more public-sector, demand-led growth strategy not have been better? Are we not relying too much on private sector investment in this new plan? Clearly we need such investment, but is it likely to come simply because we are "sending the right signals"?

Government must govern, and it must provide a macro-economic lead. The SACP supports this perspective. But that does not mean that things are non-negotiable, or that we must not encourage the widest debate in the coming months and years.


WITHOUT MONEY -
the SACP can't pay rent, telephone bills or wages

The Party doesn't get money from big businessmen in South Africa, and the big multinationals that provide "overseas investment" don't give us money either. Our money comes from our members' subscriptions, from sales of Umsebenzi and The African Communist, and, occasionally, from donations.

The debit order campaign is a drive for donations. SACP national treasurer, Kay Moonsamy, reports that we got R20 000 in debit orders in May and June, but there have been problems. The bank rejected quite a lot of debit orders, because details (like bank account numbers) were incorrectly filled in. Some people signed debit orders, but turned out not to have enough money in the bank to pay them.

Among the donations over the last few months are two of R10 000 and R5 181, both from SACP veterans, now living in Britain, and one of R300 from a British comrade. The SA Municipal Workers' Union has contributed R5 000. In April, we got a total of R14 719 from members who are MPs, Senators and MPLs.

The Party needs money. No sum is too small


Let's Live in our Cities and Enjoy them

Plans for renewal

Sisa Njikelana is an executive member of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Sub-Structure, and sits on the Inner-City Development Forum. He was a member of a delegation that recently visited the United Kingdom and the United States for three weeks, to study problems that face Johannesburg: inner-city decline and decay, crime, and the upliftment of poor communities. He reports here on the good and bad aspects of what he saw and heard.

In Coventry, I attended the First World Congress of City Centre and Downtown Management, where papers were presented from various cities worldwide. We were also able to meet and talk to other delegates and speakers.

Most cities have experienced the same problems: out-of-town retail and office developments have attracted business away from "downtowns" and "central business districts". The resulting decay is not unique to Johannesburg, and the various measures suggested at the congress are of help to us in planning our strategies.

Unfortunately, the quality of input at the congress was very poor. Africa, Asia and Latin America were poorly represented, if at all, so the participants were deprived of lessons about inner-city regeneration in a truly global sense.

Over and over again, we heard what big capital is doing according to its own interests and programmes. A good example is the frequent focus on redevelopment of offices, convention centres and supermarkets. There were competitive attitudes: a drive to "grab" business back from the "outside" of the cities, rather than to balance development between the city and its outlying areas.

A typical strategy for renewal is to form partnerships between business and government. However, while these are necessary to address the problems, they do not guarantee transformation for the betterment of the exploited. The partnerships were heavily biased towards big business, with government as a second, and often a merely supportive, partner.

In most instances, the interests and needs of small and medium businesses, problems of job creation and self-employment, were hardly addressed. Vision and planning hardly catered for working people, let alone poor communities, though Birmingham was an exception to this. It was difficult to find strategies that aimed to empower local communities in a political sense, to give them a say in what was being done to renew the city they live in.

A successful strategy is the establishment of Empowerment Zones or Community Development Corporations, with goveernment support and finance, together with finance from banks, insurance companies and other business. Communities participate equally in planning and implementation of projects to renew their areas. Government support follows a properly prepared feasibility study.

We visited London, Birmingham, Coventry and Manchester in the United Kingdom, and Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, in the Unites States. These visits reinforced what we had picked up at the Congress, and a pattern emerged of the most successful solutions.

The most common vision that evolved can be expressed in the slogan used by many cities: SAFE AND CLEAN. Keeping the city clean contributes to reducing crime, because a clean environment attracts normal and busy activity. People don't want to visit a dirty city, or do business there. Inner city renewal was also helped by renewing pavements, and providing attractively designed street furniture, like lights and street signs. In New York, a police station that looked user-friendly, with colourful neon signs, added to a feeling of security.

In the cities we visited, public transport was well-run, frequent and affordable. Use of cars was discouraged, and highways into towns are no longer built.

Poor communities tend to be within, or close to, inner city areas, and improving the living conditions of these communities also contributes fo reducing crime. Job creation forms part of this improvement. As community spirit grows, crime is reduced.

There were good lessons, especially where local communities have initiated programmes, and driven struggles to gain support, from government in particular. In Hulme, Manchester, the local community had participated at every level in a major housing reconstruction programme, and the local health centre was also managed by the community.

The role of government in inner-city renewal was informed by the system in each country: legal, political, social and economic. It was clear that lack of co-operative goveernance seriously retarded the expected rolw of government.

(Sisa Njikelana is also national co-ordinator of the SACP Health Sector.)


GAUTENG

Frank and serious debate at Provincial Congress

"As communists, we sometimes think that socialism is like a place called Durban, and there is a road like the N3 that goes there," said provincial secretary Jabu Moloketi at the Gauteng Provincial Congress of the SACP, over the weekend of 25th-26th May. He went on to add, seriously, that it is a mistake to look at the future of socialism in this mechanical way: "The situation must inform tactics," he said, "The Party's strategy must respond to circumstances."

The congress looked at different possible roads to socialism, and there was earnest debate over which was the best route from our present situation.

A number of economic issues were discussed, and a panel debate was held with the following panellists: SACP deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin, NUMSA General Secretary Enoch Godongwana, NUM Assistant General Secretary Gwede Mantashe, and Dr Asghar Adelsadeh of the National Institute of Economic Policy.

One important question occupying the congress was that of the "black patriotic bourgeoisie", its role in a "broad movement for transformation". There was debate about whether all sections of the bourgeoisie are parasitic, or whether tactical alliances are possible between the certain sections of the bourgeoisie and the working class.

Privatisation of state assets was another question raised. The point was made that the property clause in the Constitution protects publicly owned property as well as private property.

One speaker said: "In history, there are certain moments that, once you miss them, it takes time to recover from them. This is the situation now with regard to the economic debate. Things in our country are in flux. It is therefore important for us to take maximum utilisation of this gap."

In his reply to the debate on his report, Comrade Moleketi said: "The Party has s position on the issue of privatisation. We have made statements on this position ... We must begin to say which sectors are critical within the development of our country ... It is critical for the Party and COSATU to begin to understand and interrogate the industries that are candidates for restructuring. Industrial policy may not see the light of day within six months, but the pressure for restructuring is huge."

Finally, the congress rejected the "Growth for All" document of the South African Foundation, and broadly endorsed labour's "Social Equity and Jobs for All" document. The resolution on economic policy also called for an alliance summit on economic policy, and that the Party further develop its own economic policy, "friendly to the workers and the poor".

Some of the other resolutions taken at the congress dealt with

housing policy, health care, education, the environment, "free trade zones" and the new constitution.


WESTERN CAPE

Victims of National Party Racist Propaganda

Comrade Lizo Nobanda, Khayelitsha District Secretary of the SACP, has prepared a frank and thought-provoking analysis of the local election results in the Western Cape. He argues that the Alliance in the Western Cape has allowed race issues to become confused with the class struggle. Here, we present extracts from his paper.

The Western Cape local government election results are a bitter lesson of short memories and rejection. The Alliance, which represents the hopes and aspirations of the millions of our people, didn't work well in our province. The majority of the poorest of the poor voted for their class enemy.

We should be fighting a class struggle against the National Party, which is nothing more than the party of a white bourgeoisie that fears to lose power and privileges in a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

Our failure to respond on a daily basis to the NP's racist propaganda and disinformation campaign cost us. Now we will be facing a party in local government that will attempt to continue to preserve as much of the old South Africa as possible.

Our weaknesses started with the process of drawing up the list of candidates. There was no strategic discussion around the question of deploying the best cadres to defend the interests of the working class. The process was accompanied by great opportunism among ourselves. Hence, there were tensions and independents among our ranks, which split the vote.

Another weakness was our failure to penetrate coloured townships. This reflects an objective disadvantage the Alliance faces in the Western Cape: the difficulty of organising in a province which has been racked by gangsterism. It was almost impossible to organise in areas where the gangsters were explicitly aligned to the NP.

The flip side of our weakness in coloured townships was our over-reliance on our strength in the black townships. This led to complacency, and, as a result, we did not put in as much work as was needed. There are also indications that as many as 30 000 of our supporters in black townships did not cast their votes, though we still need to investigate further.

Perhaps our most serious subjective weakness is disunity among the Alliance partners, in the face of a virulent enemy, united in dealing with us. Despite the fact that there was great disunity behind their closed doors, the pull-out from the GNU was an avenue we failed to exploit.

We received the election results with shock, but noted that there is nothing that the NP can be proud of. But we have not given adequate guidance to our membership, and the people in general, of how to analyse the election. On the ground, the people are making their own analysis, and black people are jumping to the conclusion that the coloureds have sold them out to the NP.

If we fail to correct this, the consequences will be disastrous. Racism has always been the weapon of the NP. They have always sought to divide people along racial lines. Their record speaks for itself. We need to be vigilant in this regard. We cannot afford black versus coloured violence in the province.

The fact that the NP is now the dominant force in the province gives it legitimacy. Its second strength is its historical control of the Afrikaans-speaking population, coupled with its past total control of the police force.

The first and major weakness of the NP is that it has no viable economic and development programme for local government, other than to implement the RDP. Our strategic objective in the province should be the implementation of the RDP by all local government sub-structures, but knowing very well that the NP will continue to present various stumbling blocks. In order for the NP not to be able to claim credit for the implementation of the RDP, we have to involve a wide base of the mass of our people in opening up the way forward.

We cannot embark on strategies of withdrawing from the provincial agovernment, as many have suggested. What is clear is that the coming years will be characterised by intense struggles.


Russia at the crossroads

How they voted

Writing before the second round of voting in the Russian presidential elections, Vyacheslav Tetiokin writes from Moscow about the situation in Russia, and analyses the voting in terms of social groups and geographical areas.

Russia is in trouble. The economy is falling apart. The country is living off the wealth it accumulated over the last 70 years.

Russia imports 50% of its food supplies. It is rapidly acquiring the characteristics of a raw-material, exports-orientated colonial economy. Unemployment didn't exist in the USSR after the 1930s, but now more than 10 million people are unemployed, 13% of the economically active population. High-tech industries are nearly destroyed, the quality of education and medical care are declining, sciences are under-funded, so scientists are leaving the country. The population is shrinking by about one million a year.

The living standards of 15% to 20% of Russian people have either improved or remained on the pre-1990 level. But the life of the other 80% has deteriorated.

The war in Chechnya is claiming not only thousands of lives, but billions of dollars from the state budget. The troops have not been paid for months. They are badly supplied with uniforms and food. Morale is very low.

The government is bankrupt. The only positive result of the "reforms" is the low inflation rate demanded by the IMF. It is achieved by an unheard-of method: refusing to pay salaries to state employees for three and more months. Russia is an example of the failure of the IMF "stabilisation policy." People call it "graveyard stabilisation."

The mood of society has not been clear. On the surface, the country seems to be calm, but a hot debate has been going on in the kitchens, the local trains, at the bus stops, at parties.

Events are moving too quickly. In South Africa, the vision of the future was evolving for several decades. The ANC as government, Nelson Mandela as president, had been accepted long before they materialised. In Russia, the historic transformations are taking place at breathtaking speed, not allowing the concepts to solidify.

The main groups supporting Yeltsin are commercial and banking capital, groups involved in import-export operations, state bureaucracy and part of the small, but vocal, Moscow-based artistic community.

Half the 89 regions of the country, including practically all important industrial and agricultural regions in Russia itself, of Siberia, of the Southern Urals, and the Caucasian republics gave the lead to Zyuganov.

Yeltsin was supported in the financial-commercial capitals (Moscow and St Petersburg) by three major raw-material-producing, export-orientated regions in the northern Urals (Sverdlovsk, Perm and Chelyabinsk) from where Yeltsin originates. Nearly 25% of the voters live in these five areas. He was also supported by the big ports, which profit from import-export operations.

The voting took place in a relatively free atmosphere, but the playing fields have been not been levelled.

The state has a monopoly on the media. Journalists, particularly TV people, earn as much as their Western colleagues, thus the TV is the main supporter of Yeltsin.

Enormous sums were spent from the state budget for Yeltsin"s election campaign. Coercion was used against state employees, and against many tiny regions in Siberia and the extreme north, which depend on the central government for vital supplies.

There were numerous cases of manipulation. The army, which strongly dislikes Yeltsin, is said to have given a vote of about 70% in his favour. The troops fighting in Chechnya, who really hate the man who sent them there, have allegedly given him 82%. The population of Chechnya itself is alleged to have given him 60%, which is ridiculous.

Alexander Lebed, who has been groomed by the TV as "Yeltsin-2" for the last couple of years, got unlimited funds for his election campaign.


Cuban Foreign Minister meets SACP

The SACP national leadership met with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Comrade Roberto Robaina, in Johannesburg on June 19th.

Charles Nqakula, SACP general secretary, welcomed Robaina to South Africa, and explained the role of the SACP in the unfolding democratisation process in our country.

A relaxed Robaina, describing himself as "a communist first and only a diplomat by accident", briefed the SACP on recent developments in Cuba. "We have definitely broken out of our recent grave economic situation The economy has been growing over the past two years, and, for 1996, we are predicting a 5% growth."

Robaina described the Helms-Burton Act in the US as "not an attack against Cuba, but against the world. It is a serious blunder on their part."

Despite the improvement in the economic situation, and despite growing international solidarity with Cuba, Robaina said that Cuba expects destabilisation attempts by the US to continue. "Right-wing Israelis complain that their country is too close to God and too far away from the United States," he said. "In Cuba, we have the opposite problem."


US squeeze on Cuba

New law contravenes principles of international sovereignty

The Clinton administration has sent letters warning three large firms with interests in Cuba that they may face US sanctions in terms of the Helms-Burton law tightening the embargo on Cuba. One of the firms is Canadian, one Mexican and one Italian.

Under pressure from the US, a Russian firm that used to exchange oil for Cuban sugar, has stopped its oil shipments. Another Canadian firm, a subsidiary of Tate and Lyle, has begun to buy its sugar from other markets, in spite of the higher price. On the other hand, the Spanish hotel chain, Sol-Melia, has refused to give in, and has said it is willing to give up its US interests in order to expand in Cuba

The Helms-Buron law has been condemned by spokespersons for several governments: Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico, among others.

The Communist Party of Cuba has said that the law violates "the international juridical order and its basic principles: the sovereignty, sovereign equality among states, non-interference in other countries' internal affairs and the self-determination enshrined in the United Nation Charter."

The US government has shamelessly given the Helms-Burton law the official title of: "The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act".


75th ANNIVERSARY PROGRAMMES

Western Cape

    July 20th-21st, at 9.00 am: a seminar in the auditorium at the University of the Western Cape, on questions that concern the Party today.

    July 27th, at 9.00 am: an indoor rally in the Sports Hall at Gugulethu.

North West Province

    July 28th: rally in Ventersdorp.

Free State

    July 19th: Bram Fischer Memorial Lecture in Bloemfontein.

Eastern Cape

    July 25th-26th: a fund raising event in East London.

    July 28th: a rally in East London.

(For further details about times and places, contact the local SACP office.)


NATO uses radio-active weapons

In air strikes against Bosnian Serbs last year, NATO used projectiles tipped with depleted uranium, which is extremely hard. These weapons were used against civilian, as well as military, targets, including hospitals and kindergartens.

NATO first used these weapons during the Gulf War of 1992, and left parts of Iraq littered with radio-active particles. There has since been an increase in cancer in these areas, particularly among children. US and British troops who took part in the Gulf War have also been showing symptoms of exposure to radiation.


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