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November 1996

Landless and Destitute


It was a huge, military-style operation, like those that happened under apartheid in South Africa.
Police (mainly white, and fully armed), assisted by farmers carrying an assortment of weapons, descended upon black farm dwellers. It was an apartheid-like eviction programme.

This programme of evictions has intensified this year. More black farm workers and dwellers are evicted from the mainly white-owned farms, and dumped on the roadside.

The evictions, according to the National Land Committee, are, in the main, a reactionary response by farm owners to the adoption by government of the Land Reform Act, and an upcoming tenure framework for farm workers.

The apartheid regime adopted a proclamation in 1979 (The Abolition of Labour Tenancy) which abolished labour tenancy throughout South Africa. It worsened the effects of the Black Laws Amendment Act of 1964, which abolished this type of tenancy in certain parts of the country.

The present situation exists despite an understanding reached at a meeting on July 18th, when Comrade Derek Hanekom appealed to farmers to discontinue the evictions. The meeting was attended by representatives from government, farmers' collectives, farmworkers' unions, and the National Land Commission.

Comrade Hanekom asked the farmers to "search their consciences" and not evict workers and their families in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record. But the evictions continue.

The miseries that have become the order of the day in the lives of black farm workers are beginning to affect small Afrikaner farmers. They are being pushed out of their farms by the bigger and very rich farmers. Some of the affected small farms have been owned by the same family for many years.

In the face of this, the National Land Commission initiated an anti-evictions campaign, which was launched in Johannesburg on October 22nd.

The campaign is supported by a wide range of political parties and organisations, including the ANC, SACP and PAC, as well as COSATU, NACTU, SANCO, NGOs and religious formations.

The campaign will be taken to parliament and to the various provincial legislatures, while meetings will be set up with political parties and other groups and individuals concerned, including President Mandela. Between December 8th-15th, there will be Christmas prayers and solidarity days with the farm workers and farm dwellers.

In February 1997, community delegations will make presentations in parliament, while March will see a march to the Union Buildings and a focus week on parliament for demonstrations and meetings with parliamentarians.

Malan verdict

Setback to peace in KwaZulu-Natal

Since the verdict in the trial of Magnus Malan and others, a lot has been written about the role of the prosecution, the role of the judiciary, the need for judicial reform.

Little has been written about the effects of the verdict on people in KwaZulu-Natal. Yet this is the province where, first the KwaMakutha murders, and then the trial, took place; the province where relatives of those killed in countless massacres are waiting to see justice done.

A few months ago, optimism was growing. The level of political violence had gone down. Peace initiatives seemed to be working. Thanks to the police task force, responsible to the Commissioner of Police, murderers and perpetrators of other violence were being arrested and brought to court.

Since the end of the trial, we have talked to a number of Alliance comrades in the province. The general feeling seems to be one of betrayal, of disillusionment and hostility.

There is a belief that the prosecution was badly handled: "How do you prosecute a person who has been your friend?" one comrade asked. There is deep discontent at what is seen as a general failure to punish perpetrators of terrible crimes. Comrades talk of "a green light for more massacres," and "a licence to kill."

There is a pervading loss of confidence in the criminal justice system; a feeling that the law is not for the poor and the disadvantaged.

Letter to the EDITOR

Towards a vigorous socialist debate

I am glad that Comrade Reginald Dubuzana ("Our government provides a vision", Umsebenzi, October 1996) responded to my critique of the government's macro-economic strategy (GMS).

Comrade Dubuzana fails to respond specifically to any one of the concrete points of critique that I offered (deficit reduction, regulated "flexibility", export-led growth, etc). Instead, he makes vague accusations of my not recognising the need for a "vision", offering "amateur economics", a disregard for other agreements, such as the NFA, and not having "a clue."

Comrade Dubuzana should understand that, just because government has a vision, it is not necessarily a good one, nor should it be uncritically accepted by Alliance partners. We definitely need a vision, but it is not the GMS. A sound alternative to the GMS has a good foundation in the Alliance-adopted RDP (not mentioned by Comrade Dubuzana), COSATU's Social Equity document, our own Strategic Perspectives document, and in the numerous programmes of socialist organisation, such as El Salvador's FMLN and Brazil's Workers' Party, among others.

Comrade Dubuzana fails to grasp that it is not I who am disregarding the various labour-government agreements. It is precisely the GMS which undermines any kind of radical potential contained in the NFA, and other labour-government agreements.

Comrade Dubuzana's argument that foreign investment is being blocked by local conglomerates, and that thus the GMS seeks to "deconglomerate" South Africa by prioritising foreign investment is nothing short of ludicrous. All the practical experiences of developing countries in the South over the past decade clearly reveal that it is the very globalised conglomerates that "invest" who kill off competition and destroy much local industry. Just look north of the Limpopo, and see what a "growth-first", foreign-investment-based economic strategy delivers to the workers and the poor.

In our Party's own numerous discussions, both nationally and within Comrade Dubuzana's own district of Greater Johannesburg over the last two months, the vast majority of Party cadres and leadership have taken a strongly critical view of the GMS.

Comrade Dubuzana would do well to participate in his own organisation's activities at grassroots level - then he can engage in a vigorous socialist debate.

Dale McKinley

Chairperson, Greater Johannesburg District

Letter another editor didn't print


The Johannesburg Star has refused to print a letter defending Fidel Castro.

The letter was written in response to an article in the Star of August 13th. The article lacked politics: it attributed the shortages in Cuba to socialist policies, not to the US embargo, and stated that Castro had a drive to "change the world" because his birth had been illegitimate.

A comrade in Johannesburg Central Branch responded in a letter pointing out that revolutionary leaders have always been defamed by the capitalist press. "The more powerful the revolutionary, the more malicious the defamation," she wrote. "We know what Cuba and its Communist Party led by Castro has done ... We will never forget Cuito Cuanavale, we are grateful to the Cuban internationalist doctors."

A spokesman at The Star told the comrade that her letter was "not relevant".

Visit of IMF Managing Director


The brief visit to South Africa in October of Michael Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, dismayed many who have followed the history of the IMF.

    * The IMF has long been condemned for the "Structural Adjustment Programmes" it imposes on borrowing states. These programmes (in the words of a statement made by the Campaign Against Neoliberalism in South Africa) involve, among other things: "dismantling of health, education, infrastructural and social welfare programmes ... privatisation, wage cuts, massive retrenchments, labour market deregulation and the like."

    * The IMF lent $1 billion to the apartheid regime; a debt which the government of today still has to pay back.

    * One of the IMF prescriptions to the National Party regime was Value Added Tax, which was bitterly opposed by the unions, and which is still in place.

    * IMF representatives recently attacked South Africa for its "high wage levels". In a joint statement, COSATU and SANCO commented: "Anyone who has no blinkers knows that wages in our country are extremely low." They pointed out that the IMF hadn't mentioned the increasing wage gap between the highest and lowest paid, nor the fact that "the wages of employed workers act as a social security net for the unemployed."

    * The same representative criticised South Africa for its "rigidity" in wage levels. The statement replied: "As there is no legislated minimum wage in South Africa, the IMF's criticism can only be viewed as an attack on South Africa's collective bargaining system."

COSATU, SANCO and the community organisations represented in NEDLAC held a press conference on October 18th to explain why they had refused to meet the IMF representative. They did not object to the meeting in principle, but felt the time allocated was too short: "The working class is determined to engage in any situation only where meaningful dialogue is possible."

The statement stressed: "Any proposals of the IMF should be subject to scrutiny, and should not be held out of the reach of Parliament and the broader public."

In a statement made at the press conference, the SACP, too, insisted on transparency: "Our democratic South African government has both the right and the obligation to engage with all major international forces. We know, however, that we speak for many South Africans when we say that any such interaction with the IMF must be conducted transparently, and with the greatest circumspection."

Masakhane and Socialism

Jeremy Cronin discusses the intentions behind the Masakhane Campaign, and the way it has been developing.

The SACP's 9th Congress last year stated that the struggle for socialism was not some distant task to be postponed for some "second stage". We asserted that a socialist outlook, a socialist morality, and the struggle, here and now, for elements of socialism was critical. The validity of this perspective is more relevant day by day.

Nothing could illustrate this more clearly than the recent history of the Masakhane Campaign. The Reconstruction and Development Programme speaks of a "people-driven" transformation. This idea was then taken up, in the Masakhane (meaning "Let Us Build Together") Campaign launched by government early last year.

However, as we all know, despite the best intentions of our movement, the Campaign came to be more and more narrowly associated with a payments campaign. The Masakhane message, in the minds of most people, started to be: "Black communities must pay up."

This version of Masakhane has, of course, been seized upon by forces hostile to the ANC-led government. They keep taunting: "Your campaign is failing. Only 30% of this or that township is paying for services." Anti-transformation forces used the poverty crisis they had created, to put pressure on the new government.

From the side of the SACP we agree that, where communities can afford to pay for services, and where they are indeed receiving services, they should pay. Payment is definitely part of building a community sense of responsibility, involvement and ownership. As communists we have no problem with this. Our concern, which we have been expressing publicly for nearly two years now, is the narrow focus of Masakhane.

Why did it get this narrow focus? One reason is the sheer power of capitalist "market" ideology. In our 9th Congress we warned about the powerful domination of market ideology, shich reduces the nation, the people, communities, all of us, into nothing more than buyers and sellers.

And this is what tended to happen in the Masakhane Campaign. The rich idea of "building together", of a diverse people-driven process, was narrowed down into a "government will deliver, you must pay" message.

But our communities, our civic structures, our local branches, our shop steward councils are much, much more than just buyers and sellers. And they have a contribution to make to transformation that goes far beyond paying for services. There will be no RDP in our country unless we mobilise the expectations, energies and struggles of millions of historically oppressed South Africans.

The SACP is, however, not alone in these concerns and perspectives. On October 12 a National Masakhane Summit was convened by the Tripartite Alliance. It was attended by delegates from all over the country: from the Alliance, from SANCO, from the Leagues and other MDM formations. The Minister of Constitutional Development, Comrade Valli Moosa, whose department has been the centre of the Masakhane Campaign, was also present, and he made an important intervention criticising the tendency to bureaucratise Masakhane.

There was a complete consensus that the Masakhane Campaign had to be redefined. It needs to be seen as a broad people-driven struggle for transformation in which the payments aspect is one dimension. The Summit developed a Two Year Action plan which includes innovative ideas about local level participatory budgeting.

As communists we welcome this shift of perspective. We are committed, in our Strategic Perspectives, to rolling back the empire of the market. This includes "decommodifying" basic human needs, like water, electricity and housing.

In fact, the authentic understanding of Masakhane ("let us build together") goes to the heart of the socialist project. As our Strategic Perspective document from the 9th Congress concludes: "Neither national liberation nor socialism are events that are delivered to the people. They are, rather, ongoing processes of popular and working class self-emancipation."


Need for an analysis of class froces

What we in the Western Cape have not done is to develop a common systematic materialist analysis of the balance of forces. It has become clear that, though the NP is supported by the majority of coloured voters, it has not become an authentic representative of coloured interests.

It remains a party dominated by, and representing the interests of, white capital, and, particularly in this province, of agrarian capital. NP electoral victories mean that this class force remains politically dominant at provincial and local government levels, and the dominant economic power.

It is necessary to recognise that the coloured community is differentiated by class, as well as in terms of language, religious and other categories.

It is only a sizeable petty bourgeoisie, consisting of small traders, shopkeepers and various middle class professionals, that continues to support the Alliance. The working class is rejecting the working class movement.

Our failure to be consistent in implmenting affirmative action has resulted in a situation that is distorted in favour of the NP. Accusations, that the Alliance is applying affirmative action to the benefit of African people only, and not the coloured community, go unchallenged. The perception that, at certain levels, the jobs of Coloured people may be threatened, is even more pressing.

As these fears spread over the Western Cape, we are failing to demonstrate in any substantial way how our policies would bring concrete social justice to all. There is no clear indication that our message of unity, peace and non-racialism has any credibility.

Hence, we are experiencing in this province an emerging sense of the need for coloured identity to be represented. This is not expressed in any crude racist epithets, but rooted in the idea that the coloured people need to organise themselves on an ethnic basis, in order to struggle for their interests. An example of this is the December 1st Movement, so named because the slaves of the Cape were emancipated on December 1st 1834, and claiming to be a broad cultural organisation, in which coloured people of all political persuasions may feel at home.

Another dangerous tendency has emerged: an Africanist tendency. This involves giving up attempts to win the confidence and support of the coloured community, and concentrating on representing African township communities, which are perceived as likely to be ignored by the NP.

Our failure to address the national question in relation to class and gender is posing serious problems. We need to find and emphasise policies and programmes that prioritise the needs of historically oppressed working class communities across ethnic lines. This requires identification of programmes that reach across into all our communities in the province.


Calls for Unity against right-wing government

The Communist Party of Israel has called on all peace activists, Jews and Arabs, to unify their efforts in the struggle to topple the Israeli right-wing government, headed by Netanyahu. It suggests that a joint struggle headquarters be established, of all opposition forces.

The Central Committee of the CPI holds the Netanyahu government responsible for hundreds of dead and wounded, both Israeli and Arab, and for undermining the peace process. It condemns Netanyahu for failing to implement the Oslo agreements, and especially for failing to withdraw from Hebron. It says that if Netanyahu carries out his threats to deploy tanks and troops in the cities controlled by the Palestinian authority, and to confiscate the arms of the Palestinian police, it will "bury the chances for peace."

US still using nuclear weapons

"We now shoot nuclear waste into other people's backyards," says Dr Michio Kaku, nuclear physicist and New York radio commentator. The US paper, People's Weekly World, of September 26th carries reports on the United States' use of depleted uranium weapons in the Middle East.

Depleted uranium is a form of nuclear waste. It is radioactive and dangerous, and the arms industry is using it to enhance the power of shells and bullets. It leaves a fine mist of particles that can be inhaled. As a result of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, large tracts of the Gulf area are still contaminated, forming a human health disaster.

More then 100 000 Iraqis were killed at the time of Operation Desert Storm. Now, the effects of depleted uranium have begun to be felt among Iraqis, and also among US soldiers who fought in the Gulf.

Sara Flounder, another commentator in People's Weekly World, comments on the fact that US bombers have once more struck Iraq. She points out that the US administration speaks of "protecting our soldiers," and says: "The Pentagon never cared about the safety of its soldiers. The Pentagon is not defending soldiers. It is defending profits. The war on Iraq is all about oil profits for big corporations."

Cuban comrade visits South Africa

The recent visit to South Africa by a comrade from Havana, Isasi Herrerra, re-affirmed the friendship that has long existed between the Communist Party of Cuba and the SACP.

At its central office, the Cuban Party has a well-developed International Relations Department. Comrade Isasi is in charge of the Southern Africa section. He has visited Angola and witnesssed some of the process of national reconciliation there. His first visit to South Africa was in 1994 when he came as a member of the UN forces in the North-West. This time, he visited Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

The purpose of his visit was, he said, to exchange information, make contact with political organisations, and improve his knowledge of the region. He said, "I hope the relationship between our two Parties will improve day by day, so we can support each other."

US presence in Prague

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has been operating in the Czech Republic for several months, and is now about to open an office in Prague reports the Czech information service, Postmark Praha 138.

The FBI will be operating independently of Interpol. The Czech Communist Party believes it will not be engaged in ordinary police work, but will be monitoring those who voice opinions hostile to US interests. Situated in the heart of Europe, Czechoslovakia would be of strategic importance to the US in enforcing the "new world order."

The CIA already has offices in Prague, and so have Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, both financed by the US government.


The foolery of Abacha's transition

The writer of this article is a Nigerian democrat, at present living in one of the Southern African states.

To the casual observer, General Abacha, who installed himself as the seventh military leader of Nigeria through a palace coup, is setting the country on the path to civil rule. Since the execution of nine minority rights activists, and the detention without trial of scores of pro-democracy activists, the regime has sought to deceive the Nigerian populace and the international community, to avoid further pressure being put on it.

The regime has held local government elections, but excluded politicians aligned to the democratic forces. It recently registered five political parties, created six more states, and created more local government councils. It released scores of political detainees, in the wake of the meeting with the Commonwealth in London.

Why are these not steps in the right direction? It's enough to say that the new states and councils are economically unviable. Besides, their creation doesn't remove the evils created by 26 years of military rule: poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, absent or non-functioning social services (all the nation's universities have been closed in the last six months) and corruption.

Abacha's transition lacks a popular base.

The regime refused to register political parties from among the democratic forces. The five registered parties are all dominated by Abacha's surrogates: conservative and corrupt elements, money-bag politicians, the same people who have plundered Nigeria's human and material resources since political independence in 1960, either as military officers or politicians. None of the five parties have programmes that would end military rule and put Nigeria on the path of entrenched democracy and political development.

If elections take place in 1998, the date Abacha has set, one of the parties is likely to field him as its presidential candidate (news of this is already in town). All parties are likely to campaign for him to stay on as military ruler, under the pretence of averting a civil war: the same pretence Abacha used to stage his coup.

Leading members of the democratic forces, including General Olesegun Obasanjo, and Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 elections, who could muster enough electoral support to challenge Abiola's rule, are in gaol. If the regime is interested in returning the country to civil rule, it should free all political detainees.

An interim government made up of all democratic forces should be immediately constituted, with the task of convening a Sovereign National Conference, to prepare for the transition to a democratic dispensation.

The Nigerian democratic forces realise that democracy will be restored only through a hard-fought and co-ordinated struggle. Leading democratic organisations converged in one of the Southern African states in late September, to assess strengths and weaknesses and to devise means to advance the Nigerian democratic struggle. The meeting also attracted leading veterans of the liberation struggle in the host country, who shared their experiences with their Nigerian guests.

The meeting called on participating organisations to put away their differences, and work together through joint actions and programmes in the interests of democracy, and to reach out to other democratic forces, that were unable to attend the meeting.

Efforts have already begun to implement these decisions. They can succeed only through the active support of friends of Nigeria, and lovers of democracy, human rights and peace across the globe.

How they voted JAPAN

In the Japanese general elections on October 20th, the Japanese Communist Party won 26 out of 500 seats in the house of representatives, an encouraging increase over the 15 seats it won in the last elections.