December 1996/January 1997
Message from the Central Committee
Advance the socialist perspective
The final Central Committee meeting for 1996, held on November 29th and 30th, reviewed the year's activities and discussed strategic perspectives emerging from the alliance. The key decision was that a working class, socialist perspective must be consolidated in 1997. This is necessary, not just for the future of socialism, but for the unfolding national democratic transformation itself.
On the first morning of the CC, guest speaker, Deputy President Comrade Thabo Mbeki, presented the ANC discussion document, "The State and Social Transformation". The CC then engaged critically with the presentation and document.
CC comrades agreed with the central point made by the ANC discussion document. The apartheid regime, in its last years, cynically ran up a huge government deficit. This was used to maintain a white minority "welfare" state, and to buy some black allies through the dispensing of jobs and privileges in the bureaucracy. Our new democratic state must take seriously the challenge of restructuring this legacy, and of bringing down the huge government deficit.
However, CC members were very critical of other aspects of the ANC document. Points of criticism centred around its tendency to present the new democratic state as a technical, and class neutral, entity. The ANC document speaks of the need to deal "equally" and "equitably" with "both labour and capital". It even speaks of a "golden triangle" between the state, labour and capital. This gives the impression that the ANC-led government sees the working class and the bosses as equal partners. As the CC saw it whereas our 9th Party Congress in 1995 had spoken of the need to "advance, deepen and defend the democratic breakthrough", the ANC document tends to put most emphasis on defending what has already been achieved. The CC argued that what was missing in the ANC document was:
- a sense of a democratic state that, while engaging with all forces in our society, was fundamentally aligned with the interests, aspirations and mass formations of the workers and poor;
- any reference to the need to re-build a mass-based, internally democratic ANC and a broader alliance, and mass democratic movement. The impression given is of a very state-centred process of change;
- a profound defensivism, and a lack of will to engage with the present balance of forces to transform this balance.
In replying to these concerns, the Deputy President agreed that many formulations in the ANC document were not precise enough. He accepted many of the criticisms made, and called for ongoing debate within the ANC and ANC-led alliance on these key issues. The CC went on to draw conclusions from this debate, and from further discussion of the current strategic
situation. As the Party, we need to engage much more actively with our socialist outlook. We need to consolidate and popularise the "Build Socialism Now" perspectives developed at our 9th Congress. Unless we inject a socialist orientation in to the broader debate, defensivism, narrow pragmatism and class-neutral illusions are bound to flourish within our alliance.
The CC also discussed the COSATU strategic document, "A Draft Programme for the Alliance". The SACP's concerns converge substantially with those voiced in the COSATU document. In particular, the COSATU document is critical of the way in which policy-making is increasingly being driven technocratically, and from within individual ministries. The danger is that our programmes will become incoherent, and that the political vision behind our alliance Reconstruction and Development Programme will be lost.
COSATU proposes a clear programme of action for the tripartite alliance. These issues were taken further in an SACP/COSATU national bilateral held on December 2.
This bilateral reaffirmed the central role of the ANC and our shared, ongoing commitment to the ANC-led alliance. However, the two formations asserted the need for "much greater active involvement in the ANC by working class and socialist forces". The SACP delegation, for instance, criticised COSATU's failure in December 1994, the ANC's Bloemfontein Conference, to make some full-time COSATU leadership available for election to the ANC NEC.
The SACP and COSATU resolved to plan a series of bilaterals that will look at a number of issues, including:
- building a powerful progressive women's movement in our country;
- shifting increasing areas of health provision, including medical aid, away from the private sector;
- effective public provision of housing and transport.
In the official statement after the bilateral, the two formations said: "As working class and socialist organisations, we see the struggle for clean governance without corruption as essential to our cause. Our class opponents are attempting to hijack the process of change in our country by encouraging a culture of self-enrichment in the form of black economic empowerment for a small elite. The struggle for change that benefits the great majority is linked to the struggle against corruption."
Amnesty for Hani's murderers?
In our inside pages, we carry a report on ceremonies held tohonour Comrade Chris Hani, and those still being planned. At the same time, his murderers, Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz, at present in prison, have announced their intention of applying for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on the grounds that their motive for the murder was political.
It is worth noting that the political beliefs which they are pleading in extenuation are unacceptable anywhere, and particularly in the new South Africa. Derby-Lewis and Waluz are open, unashamed, racists. Derby-Lewis and his wife were at the head of an organisation calling itself the World Apartheid Movement, and had links with notorious racist leaders in other countries, like Martin Webster in Britain and Le Pen in France. Waluz was one of their followers.
What is more, Derby-Lewis and Waluz have proved themselves capable of planning and executing extremely violent acts in support of their beliefs. There is no sign that their beliefs have changed. We have no guarantee that, if released, they will not be a threat to society in the future.
The SACP opposes amnesty for them, and is calling for the investigation into Chris Hani's murder to be re-opened. There is evidence that a conspiracy was involved, and the other members are still at large.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The SACP needs to study all the questions and issues relating to the liberation of women, and find lines of action which will lead to their emancipation.But we might ask: Why trouble ourselves with the liberation of women? Why should the SACP look at the issue seriously?
There are comrades among us, as the Party is well aware, who feel that we should devote much of our time and strength to the struggle against capitalism, and that the issue of women's liberation is therefore secondary, because it will dissipate our forces.
They say further that our present situation, with a shortage of skilled women, and with the majority still bound by African traditions, does not provide any basis for embarking upon consistent action, and that it is therefore necessary to wait for socialism, to establish the economic, educational and social foundations for launching the struggle for the emancipation of women.
Others claim that certain traditions must be respected, because we cannot oppose them right now for fear of losing the support of the people. They are asking, "Are we talking about women's emancipation while the vast majority are indifferent to the matter?" After all, comrades conclude, the emancipation we are talking about would be artificial - imposed on women by the Party.
Editor's note: As a woman, I cannot refrain from commenting on the arguments quoted by this comrade. I sincerely hope he doesn't believe them himself. How can anyone know that the vast majority of women are indifferent to their own emancipation? Has anyone done a survey? It's a fact that many women, right now, are deeply concerned with the question of their own development and emancipation. Within the Party, cadre development programmes should be made available to them equally with men.
Women form more than half the population. Many are potentially powerful agents for the transformation of South Africa. Women comrades have the potential to help expand and strengthen the Party, and take part in the building of socialism. The emancipation of women and the building of socialism go hand in hand. Each process could strengthen the other. The time for building both is now.
Women aren't a flock of sheep waiting in a field for a shepherd to find the time to come and lead them somewhere. Many of them are desperately searching for a hole in the fence.
'Mainstream' press gets SACP policy wrong
A letter written to the Cape Times by a Western Cape SACP comrade, in his private capacity, was quoted in national newspapers as an SACP statement, and then, later, as a document published in Umsebenzi.
The letter expressed the comrade's personal views on the nature of the Alliance. The South African Press Association (SAPA) got the text. On November 21st, several papers printed the story, quoting extensively from the letter, and representing the views in it as SACP policy. The Citizen used the headline: "Schism starting in tripartite Pact - SACP."
The same day, SACP head office in Johannesburg responded with a press statement explaining the situation: "The piece in question was a letter, and therefore a personal opinion, not an official statement, as SAPA mischievously implies."
The statement remarked on, "how quick hostile elements in the media are to jump on to any minor error," and said: "There is a real debate within the Alliance, including within the Party, about the merits of the Alliance. We believe that such a debate is healthy and necessary. The comrade is
certainly entitled to engage in this debate with his own views. However, the views he expresses are certainly not the official views of the SACP."
The next day, the 22nd, the Johannesburg Star picked up the story, but
described the letter as "a document prepared for publication in the
Party organ, Umsebenzi." The headline took it further: "SACP
paper urges review of alliance with ANC," which implied that Umsebenzi
had already printed the document as editorial policy.
The document was not prepared for Umsebenzi, and Umsebenzi has not seen it, let alone printed it.
We took the matter up with John Patten, ombudsman of The Star. In an article in The Star of December 3rd, he acknowledged that the headline had been misleading.
Pagad and Core
Social movements or social problems?
The Western Cape was recently confronted with a new, community-based, anti-crime movement calling itself People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD). It was able to mobilise vast numbers of people to march on alleged drug dealers, to denounce them publicly, and to demonstrate discontent with the failures of the criminal justice system, writes SACP provincial secretary in the Western Cape, Philip Dexter MP.
After an initially confused response, the SACP and the Alliance partners have generally analysed PAGAD as a genuine but misguided attempt to face a social problem. PAGAD has never had a coherent leadership, strategy or programme of action. Some excesses were inevitable, like the lynching of Rashied Staggie. There are clearly elements within PAGAD that fantasise of a revolution being won from the base of PAGAD, but most people have seen through these elements. Recently, religious and community leaders expressed their concern with the manner in which PAGAD was handling its campaign, particularly after a life was lost.
Soon after PAGAD was seen to be gaining momentum, certain church leaders and gangsters came together to form CORE, Community Outreach. This organisation is clearly not one that can be regarded with as much sympathy. CORE unites criminals for one purpose: to ensure that they continue business as usual, but with a friendly face. By bribing communities with the offer of resources, CORE seeks to consolidate its social base, to protect the business interests of its members.
Both PAGAD and CORE are social movements, but vastly different in class base and intentions.
PAGAD, while it may harbour some elements that wish to promote counter-revolution, is a genuine attempt to better people's lives. It has failed, or been misguided, to the extent that the Alliance has not given leadership in the fight against crime. Because our attempts at government are weak at community level, we have not been able to lead the community in this campaign.CORE, on the other hand, is a formalised movement for gangsters. Whatever the social causes of crime, these individuals have profited from violence, prostitution, drugs such as Mandrax, and even collaboration with the former racist regime. CORE is a social movement of counter-revolution, armed, trained and dangerous. It has offered drugs to school children in the past, and it now seeks to negotiate with the government to legitimise its profits.
The criminals have begun formalising their relationships with some people in the working class areas, where gangsters are often the sole breadwinners for families and communities whose lot in the past has been the violence and injustice of the apartheid regime.
The SACP in the Western Cape must come to grips with these movements. We need to give leadership to the working class. Our failure allows the vacuum that counter-revolutionaries exploit. We need to end social problems, but through genuine social movements that will fight crime, fight for development, and fight for socialism.
Honouring Chris Hani
Groups and organisations continue to honour the memory of our former General Secretary, Chris Hani, who was murdered in April, 1993. Ceremonies have been held, and more are planned for the future.
Some of our provinces organised memorial services in honour of Comrade Chris at the time of the third anniversary of his murder.
A significant memorial on this anniversary was the opening by President Mandela of the Lower Sabalele Water Project of the Department of Water Affairs. Lower Sabalele was where Comrade Chris was born and grew up.
Visitors continue to go and pay their respects at Comrade Chris' grave at Boksburg. We were involved recently in a church service at the graveside, a moving, emotion-charged ceremony, involving a group of the young men's union of the Methodist Church from Port Elizabeth.
A national commemoration at the grave involved both the Catholic Church and our two branches of Reiger Park (where Comrade Chris was once a member) and Vosloorus.
A break with the past came when the Greater Boksburg Town Council voted to confer the Freedom of Boksburg posthumously on Comrade Chris. An event to mark this will take place in April next year, as part of the fourth anniversary memorial.
A documentary being made on the life of Amy Biehl, the student from the US, who was murdered in Guguletu in the Western Cape, includes material about Chris Hani's life. He was one of her heroes.
The Party's Chris Hani Peace Award is an annual event. Charles Nquakula, SACP General Secretary, says: "The first recipient, Comrade Walter Sisulu, was identified at Central Committee level. This time around, we should take our branches on board. The provinces should galvanise our branches as part of the commemoration of the next anniversary."
Building a working-class spirit in Ventersdorp
Ventersdorp in the North-West has been known as a stronghold of the far right. In 1991, local whites demonstrated violently against the presence of FW de Klerk in the town, because he had instituted negotiations with the Alliance. A SACP branch was launched in March, 1996, and its members now believe that things are changing for the better. Branch secretary, Lesego Boikanyo, reports.
The branch has become active, and members outside the Branch Executive Committee have been deployed in community structures, like the Community Policing Forum. There are three Communists on the Greater Ventersdorp Town Council: the mayor, the deputy mayor, and one councillor.
The mayor, Comrade Meshack Mbambalala, is chairperson of the SACP branch. Because he follows a communist morality, and is seriously committed to serving his constituency, he has refused some of the privileges due to him as mayor, such as a car and mayoral house. We believe that he is building a working-class spirit in the town.
At the time of the 75th Anniversary celebrations, the branch hosted about 10 000 Communists from all parts of the North-West Province. We tested our provincial strength and morale by making the centre of our town red. The red flag was visible. Conservative Party members on the Transitional Council raised no objections, our members were disciplined, and no one was harmed or attacked during our celebration.
We condemned as criminal the bombing, that night, of Kgololo-sego (Freedom) Intermediate School, and the bombing was criticised, even by so-called moderates.
The Mayor has had two successful meetings with the white community. One of them was with the parents of the Afrikaans-medium Ventersdorp High School, who invited him to address them in November. In protest against the meeting's being addressed by a Communist, the AWB held a rally, addressed by Eugene Terreblanche, at Trim Park, about 3 kilometres away.
The school hall was packed with parents. The Mayor spoke to them about reconciliation, and they gave him a standing ovation. By contrast, the AWB rally was not well attended: there were only about 60 cars, whose registration plates showed that many of them were from outside the province.
We believe that the far right is becoming isolated, and losing respect in the white community. The branch will continue the struggle of JB Marks, who was born in this region. We believe that, with Communist discipline and commitment, we can show people a better way forward.
Farm evictions in the new South Africa:
How can they happen?
The November issue of Umsebenzi carried a story about forced farm evictions. The accompanying picture looked like a return to the apartheid years; it showed an eviction being carried out by armed police. How can this happen in the new South Africa? Jean Middleton asked spokespersons of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land to explain.
What rights does the law give farm workers and tenants at present?
The new Labour Relations Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act both give more protection to workers, including farm workers. Legislation has already been passed to protect labour tenants, those who have been farming a piece of land in exchange for labour. Despite this, evictions still take place.
Some evictions are illegal, for farmers are not allowed to take the law into their own hands and evict without permission from the courts. However, the presence of the police at the eviction in the photograph shows that the farmer has been granted a court order to evict, and the eviction is therefore legal.
Court orders may be granted for various reasons. Where the farm has changed hands, and the new owner doesn't want those workers on his land, a court order may be granted to evict them. Evictions also take place because of termination of employment for reasons like old age. Some of these evictions are clearly unfair.
What legislation is being prepared to prevent these abuses?
In consultation with agricultural organisations, the Ministry is planning legislation to correct the imbalance of rights between land owners and those who live on the land. It will apply to all farm workers.
The most important part of it is that it is intended to prevent evictions without any alternative having been found; to prevent tenants and farm workers being dumped on the roadside with no means of livelihood.
The Ministry is looking into ways to enable farm workers to own pieces of land: for example, through government subsidies, bank loans and communal village ownership.
Why has it taken so long?
The number of urgent transforming bills going before Parliament has been massive.
There is a queue. All ministries have to wait their turn. There's no magic short cut, because, in a democracy, all laws must go through Parliament.
The Ministry believes that the new legislation will take us a step forward in our democratic order, in changing power relations in the countryside, and offering protection to the most vulnerable members of our society.
The Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Derek Hanekom, says: "I don't only represent farmers. I have to represent the interests of consumers, especially the poorest consumers, and, very importantly, the interests of farm workers. Without farm workers, there is no agriculture in South Africa."
World opinion grows against US blockade of CUBA US disregards United Nations vote
President Clinton has said publicly: "No one agrees with our Cuba policy." He's right. Every year since 1992, the General Assembly of the United Nations has voted for an end to the US blockade of Cuba. Yet the blockade continues.
After the 1995 vote, the US passed the Helms-Burton law. In flagrant defiance of world opinion, this law strengthened the blockade. It provided for sanctions against foreign or international companies trading with, or investing in, Cuba.
In November 1996, the Cuban representative told the General Assembly:
"Cuba has not blockaded the United States. Demands must be made of
the aggressor, not the victim. The United States lacks the moral authority
to require others to respect human rights." The vote that followed
showed international indignation rising further.
The blockade shows US contempt for Cuban sovereignty. The Helms-Burton law, which strengthens it, shows US contempt for the sovereignty of other countries as well, for it infringes their rights to investment and trade.
The US response to the United Nations vote shows contempt for the opinions of other states, and for the United Nations itself.
Bonaventura Reyes, spokesman for the Cuban Embassy in Pretoria, believes that Clinton's support for the Helms-Burton law was calculated to attract the Cuban exile vote in Florida. He says: "We can't move Cuba anywhere else. We have to stay where we are, and resist."
votes to end blockade
This is how the General Assembly voted 1992-1996, in the annual resolutions
against the blockade of Cuba.
|For ending the blocade:||59||
|For continuing it:||3|
|Absent from assembly:||46|
|For ending the blockade:||88||
|For continuing it:||4|
|Absent from assembly:||35|
|For ending the blockade:||101||
|For continuing it:||2|
|Absent from assembly:||33|
|For ending the blockade:||117||
|For continuing it:||3|
|Absent from assembly:||19|
|For ending the blockade:||137||
|For continuing it:||3|
|Absent from assembly:||16|
Southern African brigade to CUBA
Comrades give support
Representatives of trade unions and other organisations, journalists and private people will be joining the Southern African Brigade visiting Cuba from early December till early January.
During that month, members of the Brigade will contribute their skills by putting in work-hours, and will form friendly links with organisations and individuals.
Among their many activities, as they visit different parts of Cuba, will be visits to hospitals and polyclinics to see Cuban medical services at work, a visit to a Pioneer camp, where they will meet children from Chernobyl, a meeting with the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution, and a visit to the Bay of Pigs, scene of an unsuccessful US invasion in the early 1960s. There will also be a jazz concert, and plenty of social activities and sight-seeing.
The expedition has been organised by the Friends of Cuba Societies (FOCUS)
in South Africa. The cost per person is about R6 500, which includes everything
British communists oppose Nato intervention in Zaire
The executive committee of the Communist Party of Britain has voted to oppose the suggestion that NATO and Western troops should be sent to intervene in Zaire. reports the British Communist paper, the Morning Star.
The executive committee was told that Western countries were interested in exploiting the mineral wealth of Zaire, not in finding a solution to the refugee crisis there. Any intervention in support of the delivery and distribution of aid should be under the control of the Organisation of African Unity.
Other countries should follow the example of South Africa, and introduce an arms embargo in the region.