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January/February 1999


Build Working Class Consciousness
Readers's Forum
Red Star Column
Political Education - Cuba
Provincial Focus on the W.Cape
The Politics of Corruption
SACP Debit Order Campaign & Competition
Focus on Russia:
Lessons from 1917
The Bane of Capitalism
Crisis in Zimbabwe
Peace Plan collapses in Angola

Build Working Class Consciouness

The SACP Central Committee has designated 1999 as the Year for Building and Consolidating the Political Consciousness of the Working Class. This overarching task is critical to ensure that democratic change and social transformation are defended and accelerated. But how will the Party be taking up this challenge?

The challenge of building working class consciousness needs to guide us in all of the campaigns and tasks that we take up this year. These include:

  • The election campaign;
  • The Job Creation Fund campaign;
  • Joint SACP-COSATU political education work; and

  • Building the SACP's capacity and resources.


The SACP is calling on all its cadres to be ANC election campaign activists. From the CC's review of the Registration Campaign it was clear that all over the country, and at all levels of activism, SACP members have been playing a leading role in the ANC's campaign.

However, the SACP will also be campaigning in its own right for the ANC. The Party has budgeted over R1-million for this, and we shall be employing some 25 extra district level organisers to help in the work.

The Party will be focusing on the organised working class. Every worker should vote ANC. Apart from the generally impressive record of delivery of water, electricity, housing, and the transformation of health and education - the ANC government has brought major changes for workers on the shop floor. The Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment, the Employment Equity, the Mines Safety Legislation and many other laws have greatly increased the rights of workers.

Yet, there were organised workers who, in the last election, voted for parties like the NP, DP and IFP. They must ask themselves what stand these other parties took on the above legislation. These other parties called for poverty wages (in the name of solving poverty, of course!). They called for flexible labour markets, and they basically opposed the democratisation of the work place.

In calling on workers to vote ANC, the SACP is not sweeping under the carpet the fact that there are areas where we are unhappy with government policy (like GEAR), or with government delivery. But these points of difference, which we shall continue to pursue, do not alter the broad picture. A vote for the ANC is a vote for ongoing, worker-aligned change. A vote for the other parties is a vote for the one or another sector of the bourgeoisie.

The SACP calls on Indian workers, Coloured workers and White workers to understand where their true interests lie. Do not be blinded by the racist scare tactics of other parties.

Apart from organised workers, the SACP is working among its rural constituency. Here, the challenges are less about convincing people to vote ANC, and more about ensuring the rural poor and farm-workers are, indeed, able to exercise their democratic rights. In these areas, logistical problems and farm-owner hostility are the issues we must prioritise.

The SACP is also directing targeted attention to progressive NGOs, left intellectuals, students and teachers. We are calling on all socialists to block the forces of reaction, and to vote ANC. Once more, we are not asking socialists to abandon their concerns or criticisms of government.

But every socialist and left-leaning progressive must ask themselves a basic question - how do we ensure the advance, consolidation and defence of the democratic gains of the last five years? It is clearly not by voting for anyone else but the ANC. And it is clearly not by sitting on the side-lines moaning. All socialists must vote ANC, all socialists must encourage others to do likewise. A vote for the ANC is not a blank cheque for the ruling party, but an intelligent choice to ensure that space for a robust and vigorous democracy continues to exist in our country.

One Day's Wages for Jobs - the Job Fund Campaign

The SACP enthusiastically supports the trade union campaign for all South Africans to pledge one day's wage to a Job Creation Trust. COSATU (with FEDUSA and NACTU) launched this call at last year's Presidential Job Summit. Wednesday March 3 is D-Day on which we shall all be contributing our earnings to this solidarity fund.

The SACP sees this campaign as an outstanding example of a worker-driven approach to transformation. It translates the slogan of working class leadership into a practical campaign. It strikes a powerful blow against those capitalists who want to argue that trade unions in South Africa represent a "labour aristocracy", only interested in their own "privileged" status. It remains to be seen whether the bosses will be prepared to pledge one day's profits on March 3.

All SACP CC members have already committed themselves to contributing fully on March 3. We call on all SACP members to follow suit. Details of the trust fund and how to contribute will soon be available.

It is true, the hundreds of thousands of rand that will be collected on March 3 will not solve the huge unemployment crisis in our country. But the campaign enables working class and progressive forces to go on the offensive. It sets an example that can be repeated, and refined. The Fund will be a resource with which we can begin to pioneer progressive job creation projects, including cooperatives.

Intensifying ideological work

Over the last few years, the SACP and COSATU and its affiliates have been conducting many socialist political education workshops. In the course of 1999 we will be intensifying and extending this work.

While most workers have a good healthy anti-capitalist hatred, this does not necessarily translate into a broader socialist consciousness. We need to constantly build and reproduce hundreds of thousands of working class socialist cadres. Socialist education is not just about ideas, but also about practical policies of transformation.

Building the Party - the Debit Order battle

We cannot do any of the above as the SACP unless we continually build and resource the Party. For the first time in many years, the SACP is now starting to achieve financial self-sufficiency on a relatively predictable and sustainable basis. This is largely thanks to the Debit Order campaign. Thousands of workers, elected representatives and professionals are now making monthly contributions to the Party. Every R10 helps.

However, while we are sustaining ourselves, it is still at a very, very low level of resourcing. There is a huge amount of work to do. There are hundreds of thousands of South Africans thirsting for the Party message. The collection of debit order pledges must be greatly intensified in the coming months.

You hate capitalism? You want to keep socialism on the agenda? Then help us to carry forward the struggle together - fill in a debit order contribution to the SACP. Encourage others to do likewise.

With hard work, with a clear sense of strategic purpose, we will convert 1999 into the Year for Building and Consolidating the Political Consciousness of the Working Class.

Reader's Forum

For an overwhelming ANC election victory

Regular contributor, JUSTICE PIITSO (SACP N. Province PEC member), argues that our liberation movement must take full credit for the achievements since the democratic breakthrough in 1994. In doing so, and whilst recognising the difficulties and problems still faced, we can reaffirm the mass democratic character of the ANC and ensure an overwhelming electoral victory.

Whilst elections fever looms over the horizon, the challenges facing our society should not make us forget the origins of our struggle and the political significance of the NDR. The driving force behind our movement's objectives has always been that the successes of our revolution would move us towards the eradication of all forms of colonial relationships and associated injustices through the creation of a united nation.

The April 1994 democratic breakthrough was a great accomplishment by the vast majority of our people - the working class, urban and rural poor, intelligentsia etc. It was a huge and difficult responsibility for the ANC to convince all the racially disintegrated, hostile groups to participate in the shaping of a peaceful transition. There emerged a great conviction that the ANC could work consistently in playing a leading role in the struggle for national democracy and reconciliation.

Our revolution has always been defined as the highest form of class struggle - against class, gender and racial oppression - the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and poor. The ANC-led Alliance (a natural product of our struggles) has always been geared towards the mobilisation of our people for the total transfer of socio-political and economic power from the minority to the majority. Today we are proud that the vanguard and mass democratic forces are in command of centres of powers, which can be utilised as tools of transformation.

Over the past several years, the ANC-led government has been striving for massive infrastructural development, which has contributed to the improvement of the lives of the majority. It has been able to amalgamate the former, racially-disintegrated administrations, the hostile police and defence forces etc. Millions of our people have got access to clean water, affordable houses, health services, electricity and other basic needs, despite the huge disparities inherited from the apartheid regime. This had greatly advanced the struggles of our people as made the ANC the most popular political force in the country. There is no reactionary force that can claim credit for these achievements.

We should also locate the gains of our struggles within the wider international context. Since 1994, South Africa has participated on the international arena after many years of isolation. The ANC-led government has been able to forge good relations with a host of countries, organisations, sporting bodies and other progressive international formations.

We therefore need to pledge to our people, that we will continue advancing, deepening and defending the gains of our democratic project. Our people must take the registration process seriously so that they will be able to cast their votes and give a further mandate to the ANC to consolidate our revolution. The ANC, as a mass democratic movement, together with the vanguard liberation Alliance, will then continue to constitute the frontline to advance the interests of the working class and poor. 

Red Star Column

- to the tens of thousands of Romanian miners, who showed incredible courage and revolutionary principle in their refusal to bow to the neo-liberal demands of their government, the IMF and World Bank. Their month-long strike and subsequent week-long march on the capital, Bucharest, forced the government to back down from its plans to close mines and refusal to pay decent wages. The miners fought pitched battles with thousands of riot police as they marched to the capital, and stood up to a column of tanks and armoured cars that Romania's President, Emil Constantinescu, had deployed in an attempt to smash the miners struggle. The settlement that was reached allows the mines to remain open and institutes a wage increase. Red Star salutes the example of the Romanian miners, who have shown the rest of the world that organised and popular workers' power is stronger than any state or capitalist institution.

- to those Zimbabwean journalists, as well as many other ordinary citizens of our northern neighbour, who continue to fight for, and defend, the right to freedom of expression and dissent. Their refusal to submit to the whims and fears of an increasingly dictatorial Mugabe government and its repressive army apparatus, is testimony to the reawakening of struggles for economic justice and political freedom all across our sub-continent. The tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe, whilst giving rise to renewed people's struggle, should serve as a timely reminder to the progressive forces in South Africa, not to slacken our own struggles to deepen and defend our hard-won freedom.

3 Thumbs Down - to Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader, Stanley Mogoba, for his outrageously silly approach to dealing with the problem of crime. In a clearly non-transparent attempt to gain pre-election bonus points (with whom, we're not quite sure), Mogoba suggested that the "offending limbs" of perpetrators of crime be cut off as a means of punishment and deterrence. Besides the absolute barbarity of such nonsense, we want to remind Mogoba that, given the PAC's own track record, he and his cohorts might just end up losing an arm and a leg as a result. Now there's a novel approach to cutting politicians down to size!

2 Thumbs Down - to the Ministry of Transport and its head, Mac Maharaj, for constantly claiming that it has 'delivered' to the people, when all indications are that it has become one of the leading ministries of privatisation. We have been left wondering how, given the increasing unavailability of affordable mass transport, Mac and his ministry measure their 'delivery'. Maybe the stream of 'A' ratings given to the ministry by the Mail & Guardian should give some indication as to where things are headed.

Political Education

Cuba - achievements, problems and challenges

We continue the 'Basics of our Struggle" series with a focus on Cuba, as a means of highlighting the specific history and contemporary struggle for socialism.

Cuba is a small island barely 140 kilometres off the coast of the United States, with a population of 11 million. It is a unitary socialist republic with one legislative house, namely, the 589-member National Assembly of People's Power.

For the last 38 years, Cuba has stood up against the continuous imperialist efforts by the US to do away with its socialism and impose a capitalist system. Despite these attempts, Cuba's revolutionary leader, President Fidel Castro, has seen off eight hostile US presidents since he led a successful revolution against the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959.

As soon as Castro's government declared itself socialist and began to nationalise the assets of US companies, local landowners and capitalists, the US declared "war" on Cuba through attacks by Cuban exiles based in Florida. A US-led economic embargo has lasted for the past 35 years. The embargo prevents Cuba from acquiring through normal trade anything that is produced in the US or by US companies in other countries, including food and medicine.

Despite these attempts by the US government to destabilise Cuba, as well as the hardships that Cuba had to undergo when the Soviet bloc collapsed, Cuba continues to uphold its socialist way of life and is committed to improving the lives of the majority of the people. Its commitment to socialism and to the welfare and well-being of its people have led to profound achievements in education and health.

After the revolution, it took the Cuban government only a few years to do away with illiteracy (the inability to read and write). At present, 95.7% of people over the age of 15 are able to read and write, with an average educational level of Standard 8. Education for all citizens up to university level is free.

Similar advancements have been made with regards to health. Cubans enjoy free medical care, and there is a doctor for every 200 people. More specifically, there is a system of family doctors that provide initial care or first aid in every neighbourhood 24 hours a day. When necessary, patients are referred to clinics or hospitals if more specialised care is needed. Life expectancy is 7

One of the great achievements of the revolution has been the reduction in the number of children who die after birth (also known as infant mortality rate). When the socialist government came to power, infant mortality was at 60. In other words, 60 out of 1,000 children born, died very young. Because of its commitment to improving basic needs, the socialist government was able to reduce this rate from 60 to 8 deaths per 1,000 live births. In fact, Cuba's infant mortality rate is presently lower than that of the wealthiest country in the world, the USA. These accomplishments reflect the success of Cuba's socialist programme.

However Cuba has had to cope with severe economic hardships brought about by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the strengthening of the US trade embar. This situation had its bad side in terms of the economic crisis that overtook the country between 1989 and 1993. But it also had a positive side, in that it forced the Cuban people and leadership to follow a more self-reliant course.

For instance, Cubans made greater use of bicycles due to the shortage of petrol, and began to institute popular gardens, on small parcels of state-owned land, to address the 60% reduction in food imports during this period. Productivity in these gardens is achieved with minimal external inputs, using organic agriculture methods that are low- cost and environmentally sustainable. Gardens serve to empower communities. More importantly, they served to renew solidarity and sustain morale during the difficult economic period.

Even though Cuba did become more self-reliant, part of adjusting to a changed global context meant that new trading relationships with other countries had to be established on commercial bases and the economy had to be revived.

Unlike capitalist solutions, the revolutionary government did not impose the burden of the crisis on the backs of the people. After a nation-wide debate and intensive discussions at a popular level, the Cuban people decided not to change the socialist system that had brought unprecedented benefits to the masses.

In July 1992, the National Assembly approved changes to the electoral system, including direct elections of National Assembly members. People's Councils were also added as a new tier of government, to make local government more accessible at district level.

When the country was going through its most critical period in 1993, general elections were held and 99.57 per cent of the electorate went to the polls. Of these, only 3.99 per cent cast blank ballots, considered an expression of rejection of the socialist system. The overwhelming majority, 95.58% of Cubans, voted for a continuance along the socialist path. For the first time, the National Assembly's 589 members were directly elected.

At the same time that Cubans reaffirmed their belief in socialism, the US intensified its blockade on Cuba with the passage of US Senator Torricelli's Cuban Democracy Act in 1993. This Act does not allow US subsidiaries in third countries to trade with Cuba. Instead, it bans entry to US ports for six months, of boats that have been in Cuban territory; it pressures other countries to join the blockade; and gives the US president the option to sanction countries that give assistance to Cuba.

Rather than caving in to the US's desire to see socialism fail, Cubans decided to adopt a more flexible strategy, and partially open up the economy to foreign investment and private enterprise so as to obtain needed hard currency.

Foreign investment is presently concentrated in sectors such as tourism and mining, in the form of joint ventures, in which the foreign investor holds 49 per cent of the equity. Labour is selected and provided by the Cuban Ministry for Foreign Investment. The workforce is managed by the Cuban Directors of the Joint Enterprise, who ensure the protection of workers' rights. By the end of 1996, there were 260 joint ventures in Cuba, worth US$ 2.5 billion.

Another part of this more flexible strategy is that farmers and co-operatives are now allowed to sell produce over and above the state-determined quotas in newly established free agro-markets. One million of Cuba's 3.4 million workforce have been permitted, under license from the government, to do part-time work apart from their regular jobs and 208,000 licensed private family small scale businesses were allowed to be set up.

All these individuals and enterprises pay taxes to the state. This new policy allows those with extra income to buy more food and goods from the free market, over and above the basic needs fulfilled by government-supplied foodstuffs through a rationing system. Goods in the free market, of course, cost much more. For example, rice is available at 100 cents/kg through the rationing system, but the quantity available is distributed equitably, and is therefore limited. In the free market, rice is available to those who can afford it at 3.5 pesos/kg.

By 1994, the economic crisis began to ease and a modest GDP growth of 0.7% was registered, which improved to 2.5% in 1995 and a remarkable 7.8% in 1996. By 1996, sugar output grew by 33.6 per cent, exports grew 33 per cent, imports 33.6 per cent (causing a marginal increase in the trade deficit). One million tons of oil was produced domestically. The tourism boom reached the figure of one million visitors and 45,000 new houses were built for the people.

Political life is lively and debate is free; the bottom line always remains a defence and continuation of the revolution in the interests of the people. Counter-revolutionary attempts to subvert and overthrow the system, backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are dealt with through the vigilance exercised by Committees for the Defence of the Revolution which exist all over the country.

Trade unions, grouped together under the Central Organisation of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC), represent 3.3 million workers and also play a crucial role in defending the interests of the workers. Organised on an industry basis, they have structures from the individual plant or enterprise all the way through the municipal, provincial, and finally national level. Disputes are settled democratically at the lowest level. Only if resolution at a lower level proves difficult, are issues taken up to the next higher level. If even that fails, the ultimate court of appeal is the National Assembly.

The fate of Marxist philosophy in Cuba is subject to external pressures and the new internal dynamic that has been unleashed with liberalisation. For instance, Havana University students, who once flocked to the Philosophy Department to study Marxism, now prefer Economics. In addition, income inequalities are widening, and resentment is growing, between people who earn wages in the local currency and those who work in tourism, such as taxi-drivers, who earn wages in US dollars.

Added to the above, external pressures to promote the overthrow of the Communist Party have recently intensified. The Helms-Burton Act (passed by the US Congress) attempts to stop other, sovereign countries, from investing in Cuba. The blockade has been condemned in the UN General Assembly and rejected by all of Cuba's trading and investment partners, particularly EU countries, Canada and Mexico. The US Congress recently proposed a resolution that would allow humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medicine, currently prohibited by the blockade, to reach Cuba. However, Cubans have rejected this piece-meal resolution because it fails to abolish the blockade altogether.

As it should be, Cubans are not willing to compromise on this issue! Now more than ever, we must learn from the resilience of the Cuban people and their commitment to uphold a socialist vision. As internationalists, we must actively support all solidarity work - for example, the work carried out daily by the Cuban doctors who are here in South Africa!

Provincial Focus

Violence and crime in the Western Cape:

Terrorism, Gangsterism and Vigilantism - or a genuine anti-crime campaign?

The people of the Western Cape and indeed the rest of the country have watched with trepidation the continued cycle of violence that has affected the people of Cape Town, particularly those from the townships of the Cape Flats, writes SACP PB member, PHILIP DEXTER. Vigilante groups have responded to the real problems of gangsterism and organised crime, particularly the scourge of the drug trade, through a spiraling course of intimidation, populism, and lately terrorism.

What started as an attempt to mobilise the community against crime, a course necessitated by the complete and utter failure of the NP led provincial government to deal with the crime situation in the province, was hijacked by self-proclaimed militant groupings. These groupings have used everything from religion to violence to assert their dubious leadership claims on the genuine, but sometimes misguided, elements in the community that have confronted criminals.

But it would be a mistake to reduce all anti-crime forces in the Western Cape to the likes of some of the terrorist organisations that have carried out cowardly attacks on the tourists, citizens, police, and other innocent people in the province. There has been a long tradition of anti-crime initiatives and work by peace organisations, particularly in areas afflicted by the problem of gangsterism. Most of these are, and have been, genuine social movements, in which ordinary men and women, particularly the youth, have attempted to defend their communities. They have also sought to provide alternatives to the lucrative but deadly opportunities that gangs and organised criminal activity offer in the environment of poverty, exploitation, and misery that most working class people of the Western Cape face.

Such genuine movements and organisations have been most successful when guided politically by the ANC and the Alliance. The political content given such activities by the Alliance has succeeded in shifting analysis from the narrow confines of largely right-wing populist thinking, which sees crime as committed by evil, inhuman individuals and the answer to crime as being purely a matter of force. Where anti-crime campaigns have combined a focus on improving policing, mobilising the community to assist the police - all within the context of dealing with the underlying socio-economic conditions that give rise to most criminal behaviour - these have begun to see success, however small.

The Alliance has attempted to mobilise the people of the province in active anti-crime work, such as neighbourhood watches, while at the same time putting political pressure on the NP led provincial government to shift resources to areas where they are most needed. Successes in areas such as Gugulethu have been recorded. Most importantly, the influence of dubious vigilante organisations has waned as the ANC led anti-crime campaign has gained momentum.

There is however much to do. The SACP has the duty to constantly raise the socio-economic origins of crime, the huge income disparities, unemployment, and the ideologies of racism, selfishness and anti-women attitudes that facilitate the kinds of excesses that have become a feature of the daily lives of many people. The challenge to the Party, COSATU and the ANC is to sustain the momentum of the fight against crime, and link this to the need for the people of the Western Cape to vote for the ANC.

It is the ANC, alongside its Alliance partners, that remain the only organisations capable of solving the problems of the Western Cape, which are not unique to the province. Poverty, unemployment, poor living conditions, and a lack of opportunities affect the majority of South Africans. It is for this reason that the fight against crime is a central element of the NDR.

Umsebenzi Discussion

The Politics of Corruption

Almost every day we hear or read about another case of corruption. Is it just another example of so-called 'human nature' or is there more to the prevalence of corruption in South Africa? SACP Gauteng Secretary, TREVOR FOWLER, looks at how apartheid created the conditions for corruption to thrive. He argues that this has left our society lacking in the skills to call its political leaders, public servants and industry to account and sets out some steps that need to be taken.

During the apartheid era, conditions were ideal for corruption to thrive. At its core, the apartheid system was designed to maintain a model of social organisation that was universally discredited. Eventually, the general lawlessness engulfed not only the state institutions, but our society as a whole. Recent TRC revelations indicate a litany of killings, detentions and manipulations by the security forces of the apartheid state, that violated even the apartheid state's own laws. These activities were conducted with the sanction of the highest levels of authority.

The consequence of its activities was that the apartheid state experienced increasing isolation from the international community. This isolation gave rise to a corporate mentality that wilfully ignored both legal and ethical norms. The legal and ethical decay of apartheid society also infected its puppets, the TBVC states and self-governing territories. Their underdevelopment, inadequate public administration and almost non-existent accounting practices ensured that corruption flourished.

This history, in which accountability was denied, created a climate favourable to corruption. To give just one, small example - at a clinic in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, a fleet manager was exposed for using clinic vehicles as taxis on weekends and for siphoning petrol off these vehicles for personal use. When this was brought to the attention of the manager's own supervisor, the supervisor received death threats to prevent him from acting. The result? - no petrol for vehicles and staff using public transport to obtain medicines.

There are many other examples in both the public and private sectors. Most often, the mainstream press ignore the massive levels of corruption taking place in the private sector, creating the perception that corruption exists predominately in the public sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. To get a sense of the levels of ongoing corruption amongst the country's capitalists, the total monetary value of the fraud currently being investigated by the Office of Serious Offences and the Commercial Branch of the SAPS is in the region of R18 billion.

An analysis of corruption in the South African political context should go beyond the concept of good governance as a prerequisite for sustainable development and economic growth. Given the pervasive nature of corruption in our country, and the need for its transformation to one that addresses the needs of the poor and the marginalised in particular, there is a need for a more in-depth understanding of corruption. Corruption is not simply a circumvention of laws but a colonisation of social relations which can only be remedied through the transformation of our society.

The legally prescribed procedures designed to maintain the unaccountable and secretive social relations of the apartheid system remain largely intact since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. The challenge, therefore, is to transform the legal framework not only to create a foundation for good governance but to create a social system that is biased towards the poor, the marginalised and, in particular, the working class.

Nonethelesss, corruption is not simply the product of an inadequate or inappropriate regulatory environment, but also of a climate that has evolved as a result of our specific historical circumstances. The challenge in this regard is to balance the need for intervention in favour of the poor and marginalised, with the need to avoid the creation of opportunities for corruption. The transformation of the representivity and integrity of the public service is an important consideration in the agenda to combat corruption.

In order to combat corruption effectively, the liberation movement should: 

  • Place the issue of corruption high on the public policy agenda, at a similar level to the fight against poverty.
  • Ensure that senior government, trade union, civic and religious leaders be seen actively fighting corruption in both the state and private sector
  • Branches and membership must be educated on the various forms of corruption, the necessity of its eradication and the facilities for dealing with it
  • Civil society must be mobilised to participate in the institutions of governance
  • Develop mechanisms that build the link between state intervention on corruption and our movement's own initiatives and responses on the matter
  • Ensure that appropriate legislation and regulations be introduced to deter corruption through punitive measures
  • Push for steps to review the institutions fighting corruption and for increasing their resources and effectiveness

Debit Order Competition

An organisational and political priority of the SACP is to build financial self-sufficiency. If we want to sustain our struggle for socialism, if we want to strengthen the capacity of our Party to fight the capitalists, then we must all become fundraisers. The 10th Congress instructed all Party cadres to take-up the debit-order campaign, both inside and outside the organisation. As part of building the Party of the working class through this campaign, we are calling on all Party structures to redouble their efforts.

Beginning in March, SACP Head Office will monitor all debit order contributions from each of the provinces on a monthly basis. The province with the largest increase in the amount of debit order contributions each month will receive additional funds, above and beyond the regular 50% return for all debit order contributions.

Umsebenzi urges all Party cadres to actively involve themselves in this campaign. Each Party cadre, each branch, each district and each PEC must set monthly targets for the distribution and collection of debit orders. Special emphasis should be placed on targeting organised workers where we live and work.







Lessons from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution

SACP Western Cape member, CHRIS DERBY MAGOBOTITI, argues that communists must consistently invoke the lessons of the past in order to take the struggle forward. In this vein, this contribution looks at the relevance of the legacy of the Bolshevik revolution to the present struggles we face.

In October 1917 the Bolshevik party led thc first socialist revolution to seize and hold state power in the interests of the toiling masses of Russia. The victory of the Russian working class was possible under the leadership of Lenin. However, peasants made a decisive contribution to this victory and the organised working class were not yet hegemonic during the period of the revolution.

Like any other revolution in other parts of the world the Bolshevik revolution was a long process The February 1917 revolution gave rise to a dual power between the bourgeois provisional government and workers' and soldiers councils. Therefore, the 1917 October revolution was supplementary in character, giving rise to an ongoing advancement, deepening and consolidation of the cause of the revolution from the perspective of the proletariat.

One of the significant motives for the development and successful defense of the Bolshevik revolution was Lenin's understanding of the relationship between the class struggle and the national liberation struggle of the oppressed societies. Other Marxist-Leninist parties were also founded in many parts of the world on the basis of their own conditions of exploitation ,

Lenin captured the necessity of this approach when he stated:

The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e.,

by giving full effect to democracy and by linking, with each step of its struggle, democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. It is absurd to contrapose the socialist revolution and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism, to the single problem of democracy, in this case, the national question . We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of all officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations etc. (The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self Determination - Lenin,1915 ).

The above quotation captures the national democratic revolution (NDR) of the present conditions based on the character of the South African situation of exploitation. There is no contradiction between the struggle for socialism and the struggle for democracy. The SACP's commitment to national and class struggle is rooted in South Africa's concrete conditions. Furthermore, drawing from the Soviet legacy, it is evident that the socialist project tended to eliminate democracy gradually, with little mass involvement or influence. It is crucial for the SACP to make sure that the April 1994 democratic breakthrough does not dwindle into bourgeois democracy. Hence the need for on-going radical transformation and mass participation.

In South Africa we did not seize power. Instead the liberation struggle resulted in a negotiated settlement which created new realities and new constraints. This route begins to suggest that there is no single way of conquering power because power is not a static entity, like a swarm of bees it is not located in one area. Power is located within the dynamics of social relations.

The present conditions in which the national democratic revolution evolves in South Africa are characterised by the hegemony of liberalism that seeks to be at the centre of transformation, thereby retarding the national democratic project through privatisation, a neutral role for the state etc. The South African bourgeoisie owns the means of production at the expense of the dispossessed masses. Therefore the advancement and consolidation of political power in the national democratic revolution requires radical transformation of the economy and political relations between the bourgeoisie and the working class.

The present record of capitalism clearly shows that the system is discredited, it does not offer a way forward to prosperity and harmony. Furthermore, the present global discontent about the system of monopoly capitalism and the parallel development of class forces might engender revolution as a world phenomenon. Part of the alternative to the crisis of capitalism is the strengthening of the left forces in Russia and other parts of the world in order to regain momentum. Positive steps forward include the SACP's public critique of GEAR and the further rejection of GEAR as a rigid, unsustainable policy. The SACP's proposals for an alternative industrial policy which is grounded in South African realities must be expanded and sustained.

Above all, this demonstrates, inter alia, a commitment against the chorus, from certain quarters, that there is no alternative (TINA) to the current global situation. The SACP is rooted in the traditions of the Bolshevik revolution. It must, therefore, demonstrate its independent vanguard role in the evolving national democratic revolution, and thus become programmatic instead of simply reacting to this or that policy.

Long live the traditions of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution!

The Bane of Capitalism in Russia

SACP Botshabelo Branch member, PHEL PARKIES, takes a close look at the bandit capitalism that has seemingly taken hold in Russia, highlighting the close relationship that has developed between wealthy tycoons and the state and the horrendous socio-economic conditio

The past two years have seen a massive extension in the power of big business in Russia. A new 'clan' system has emerged, whereby business moguls and their political allies in the state have transferred Russia's state-owned industries into private hands. Today, each 'clan' has a bank at its core and its own security operations to defend its interests. While large parts of the state's infrastructure have now fallen into the hands of (private) anti-communists, this has not led to economic prosperity.

Instead, Russia's transition to 'free market' capitalism has benefited only the few. Agricultural production has stagnated, miners and soldiers have not been paid fomonths and millions of other workers receive meagre wages. The only Russians that are happy are the big capitalists.

Current situation

An economic catastrophe is emerging in Russia. While government has battled against the international speculators by devaluing the rouble and trying to save the banking system, market participants, desperate for liquidity, have sold off stocks, eurobonds and other dollar-denominated debts, driving the already depressed market to historic levels. Further efforts by the government, such as converting the frozen debt into government securities and intervening to defend the value of the rouble has done little to stem the crisis. Ordinary Russians have not been convinced by the repeated assurances from government that their savings will be guaranteed.

Russia has turned into an oligarchic capitalism, dominated by conglomerates and wealthy tycoons who enjoy special privileges through their intimate relations with sections of the state as well as dominance in the media. This 'tycoon model' has now extended beyond Moscow, to the regions, where young capitalists have taken advantage of the chaos to make phenomenal profits. As for the working class and poor, the situation can be regarded as a new phase of slavery.

However, we have to appreciate the left progressive movement, who buttressed the appointment of the new Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov and his moves to strengthen the role of the state and push for the re-nationalisation of key sectors of the economy. With the triumph of 'free market' capitalism being called into serious question, Primakov has the capacity to push Russia back to its historic roots of communism. Moves to introduce wage and price controls as well as restrictions on imported goods and exports of capital must be welcomed.

All the reforms that Russia has taken so far have been based on Western promises that have not materialised, but bedevilled the living conditions of the majority. The best minds in the West have lost the ability to control the situation and also to understand exactly what is happening in Russia. Their only response to the crisis is to urge reform of financial structures, as an element of the imperialist conditionalities emerging from the World bank and the IMF. Capitalism has never developed the world evenly, but rather been a bane to social justice and human dignity. The fallacy and illusions of capitalism should, and will be, circumvented through working class internationalism.


While there is a tendency towards dissatisfaction about the influence of the left progressive movement in Russia, I solemnly hope that they will regain their roots and influence within that society. In this regard, the appointment of the new Prime Minister is a wholesome victory for the left.

However, there must be a fervent rejection of any imperialist expediency that might beguile. There must be a prudent approach when dealing with the international market, including in our own country. I've got a strong conviction that the left will never accept a servile level of existence, irrespective of the advice and recommendations of the best minds in the West.

Capitalism is not a panacea for the social and economic ills of the nations of this world, and is continuing to destroy itself. The Western powers can destroy cities and kill, but they will not destroy our morals and convictions. Socialism remains worth struggling for, and only a tenacious vanguard will reach the future and conquer it.


Crisis and Struggle

Over the last several months, Zimbabwe has experienced an intensification of struggles around rapidly deteriorating socio-economic conditions and an increasingly dictatorial Mugabe government. DALE T. McKINLEY, who recently travelled through Zimbabwe, chronicles the recent history of decline, contemporary developments and the possibilities of fundamental economic and political change.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Zimbabwean people have been experiencing the economic and political consequences of the government's adoption of an Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). Designed by the World Bank, Zimbabwe's ESAP has seen the implementation of the entire spectrum of neo-liberal policy prescriptions - for example, cutting back on social services and privatisation. Not surprisingly, this has been accompanied by the development of an indigenous bureaucratic and corporate elite, whose advancement has been directly tied to the increased impoverishment of the majority.

By the mid 1990s, it was clear to everyone, except the unrepentant government praise-singers, that the ESAP had failed to deliver even the most minimal targets of growth and development. Instead, the combination of neo-liberal policies, endemic corruption and elite enrichment has resulted in over 65% of Zimbabwe's population now living below the poverty line. Well over a third of the population is now unable to afford even the most basic means of housing, health care, education, and transport. Meanwhile, the political elite has been living the high life, replete with huge mansions, fleets of luxury vehicles and a never-ending pipeline of accumulation through the siphoning-off of public money.

The first signs of resistance to this lethal cocktail of exploitation, corruption and repression came from the (predominantly urban) organised working class. Through the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), workers embarked on a series of successful national strikes throughout 1997-98, targeting the issues of wages, higher taxes on basic goods and services and, finally, the very government responsible for the deteriorating conditions. Although the rural population (which has historically provided Mugabe with his support base) was slower to show signs of resistance, land invasions in late 1998 signalled a growing dissatisfaction with declining living standards and the government's failure to address the key issue of land reform.

The decision by Mugabe and his army officers, in late 1998, to send the Zimbabwean Army into the DRC to assist Kabila (now estimated to be costing Zimbabwe at least R5 million a day), has served only to heighten the government's unpopularity and further the gradual collapse of the economy.

There is a sense of complete disillusionment (across class and ethnic lines) about the government's ability or willingness to reverse the growing economic and political crisis. While there exist a host of opposition political parties, most are organisationally weak and there are few signs that the populace possess any confidence in the possibility of any one of them defeating Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in the upcoming national elections in 2000. In the rural areas, the quick descent into survival strategies for most, is exhibited in a combination of frustrated resignation, increased recognition of the bankruptcy of the Mugabe government and, more vocal demands for genuine land redistribution.

While the ever-present fear of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) seems to have declined, there is a sense that the majority of Zimbabweans are not quite sure whether to wage all-out struggle or continue to wait and hope for something big to happen. Struggles in various sectors continue, driven by renewed working class militancy, and yet there seems to be little overall political direction to the underlying socio-economic grievances that are propelling those struggles.

At a certain level, the Zimbabwean elite are faced with a dilemma that is becoming commonplace in our region and continent - the inability (and in many cases, unwillingness) to implement sovereign policies. The lesson to be learnt from the present situation in Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa, is the need for governments to understand that mass mobilisation around legitimate socio-economic demands can only serve to strengthen the struggle against destructive neo-liberal policies and the arrogance of transnational corporate capital.

The unfolding tragedy in Zimbabwe is illustrative of a government that refuses to learn that lesson. The consequences are clear to see - a government that is out of touch with its own citizens and increasingly resorts to the use of force and dictate to deal with genuine grievances and criticism. The widening gap between the government and masses threatens, in the absence of any clear political alternative, to plunge the country into potential chaos. This poses a collective challenge to both Zimbabweans and all progressive forces in the region.


One more peace plan collapses

For over three decades the people of Angola have not had peace. In the last months, the situation has worsened gravely. A full-scale conventional war between government forces and Savimbi's UNITA is once more unfolding. The most recent peace process, as agreed in the Lusaka Protocol of 1994, has collapsed. What has gone wrong?

In 1992, much to Savimbi's surprise, UNITA lost the first ever democratic elections in Angola. Although Savimbi had pledged to honour the outcome, he never did this. Military operations between UNITA and the government ensued. Then in 1994 the Lusaka Protocol was signed. It called for:

  • The demilitarisation of UNITA and the merging of UNITA forces into the army; and
  • The extension of government sovereignty to all parts of Angola.

In exchange for these measures, the MPLA government would settle for a Government of National Unity arrangement. The process was meant to be overseen by a UN observer mission.

Savimbi has simply defied the Lusaka Protocol. He has used the peace agreement to obtain a breathing space. He has embarked on a massive re-arming and supply exercise. The bulk of UNITA forces have remained under arms. UNITA territory has not come under sovereign government administration. Savimbi himself has refused to move to Luanda.

Against the background of persistent UNITA defiance, the UN in July 1998 finally attempted some punitive measures - a freezing of UNITA officials' bank accounts, and a ban on trade in diamonds from UNITA controlled areas. In practice these measures were difficult to enforce, and they appear to have had little impact.

In December 1998 the MPLA government finally lost patience with the whole process and launched military actions against UNITA bases. MPLA encountered stiffer resistance than expected, with UNITA counter-attacking by laying siege to two key Central Highlands towns, Kuito and Huambo. More seriously, UNITA forces have probed into the north-west, towards the oil producing centres around Soyo. UNITA has Sting surface to air missiles, some 60 advanced tanks, and, according to some sources, G5 artillery.

For South Africans to make sense of these developments, it is important to understand that the social and economic realities underpinning our own negotiated transition are somewhat different from those prevailing in Angola. It is true that both SA in 1990 and Angola in 1994 witnessed partially stale-mated balances of force between two distinct power-blocs, in which neither had the capacity to physically crush the other.

In SA, however, this relative stalemate was on the terrain of a single, integrated and relatively developed capitalist economy. In Angola, the two power blocs are located in two geographical areas, each resourced by enclave economic activities - oil and diamonds. It is calculated, for instance, that UNITA earns about R3 billion a year from diamonds.

The South African situation, to some extent, objectively compelled both sides to pursue power sharing, integrative strategies. In Angola, Savimbi calculates whether becoming a vice president in Luanda is more desirable than having a monopoly over R3 billion a year. He has had little ambivalence about his choice.

The South African situation meant that we were also able to dispense with any major reliance on external forces to ensure the transitional process. In Angola, the reverse is the case. The Lusaka Protocol has depended on the goodwill of Savimbi (which is an unrealistic dependence), failing which, it has required UN determination and capacity. The UN has, once more, failed the people of Angola.

The contrast between the way in which the UN (and the US and UK) behave in Iraq and in Angola is striking. In Iraq, the government is alleged to not be cooperating sufficiently with a UN inspections team, and twice in the last years, massive air-strikes are launched. In Angola, not only does UNITA fail to co-operate with a UN monitored peace process, it actually shoots down two UN aircraft. The UN (and US/UK) response is muted, to say the least.

There is another Angolan reality which we need to understand. While, in the last eight years or so, liberation movements like Frelimo and the ANC have not been subject to aggressive hostility from the US, there is much evidence to suggest that MPLA continues to be marked out for special hostility from powerful forces within the US, possibly at variance with the Clinton administration. In particular, the CIA is suspected to have its own relatively autonomous anti-MPLA agenda. The Angolan liberation movement has never been forgiven for the role it played in the late 1970s and 80s.

This is not to say that all is well within the MPLA and in the government in Luanda. There are serious levels of corruption, and worrying signs of internal factionalism. However, overwhelmingly, culpability for the collapse of the Lusaka Protocol must be shouldered by UNITA. The UN, for its part, has not emerged with an enhanced reputation.