Flag and Symbol
Media & Artwork
Media Alerts
Leadership Structures
African Communist PDF Archive
African Communist Digital Archive
Bua Komanisi
Eastern Cape Bulletin
Umsebenzi Online
Umsebenzi Online Articles
Voice of the Proletariat - Northern Cape Publication
Feedback Form
Google Groups

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

Contact us
Tel:  +27 11 3393621
Fax: +27 11 3394244
+27 11 3396880


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

The latest Umsebenze Click here to view the Latest Umsebenzi. [PDF]

The latest Umsebenzi Online

The political attack of the capitalist crisis on women, its consequences in the struggle for socialism and the role of the vanguard Party - SACP statement on the occasion of the International Working Women's Day
Read more

The latest African Communist Click here to view the Latest African Communist. [PDF]

May 1997

Debate Within the Alliance


The SACP welcomes debate within the Alliance over economic policy, and the Growth, Economic and Redistribution (GEAR) macro-economic strategy in particular. But, it is the balance of class forces that will determine the actual outcome of economic transformation. As we struggle to build socialism now, let us ground our engagements firmly within the parallel struggle to build working class hegemony!

Comrade Chris Hani was fond of quoting a saying from the Chinese philosopher Confucius:
"The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names". In the case of recent debate around government economic strategy and policy we would wise to call it a component of our class struggle.

Despite attempts by some to depoliticise and de-class the relationship between different social forces in our society, we know that the basic relationship under capitalism (between capital and labour) is one of inequality and exploitation. In our country this relationship has been underpinned by a history of racial oppression and dispossession. While our political transition has undermined much of the space for the latter, the basic class conflicts characteristic of a capitalist society have not disappeared.

In relation to the Alliance debates around GEAR this means we must intensify a vibrant engagement with many of the assumptions that inform GEAR. For example, GEAR assumes:

  • that redistribution will emerge from growth;
  • that present structures of production and ownership need not be socialised;
  • that reducing the deficit is a fiscal priority;
  • that labour 'flexibility' is needed for job creation;
  • that an export-led growth and trade strategy will spur productive investment;
  • that privatising state assets will provide more economical and efficient service delivery.

Specifically, we must ask why GEAR contains no clear industrial policy? How is our society going to redistribute resources and power when GEAR privileges the present economic structure dominated by privately-owned mining and financial conglomerates? The macro- economic policy enshrined in GEAR is hostage to these social forces and their accumulative needs. The results are clear to see; an economy that lacks a dynamic diversity, low domestic investment, jobless growth, overly technocratic budget processes and an all too willing tendency to accept the notion that there is no alternative.

And yet, it is not enough to critique GEAR, to merely focus on the macro-economic level. We must fight for a clear and conscious industrial strategy that privileges public sector-led infrastructural and human development and that prioritises people before profits. The struggle for socialism now demands that, through class organisation and struggle, we advance concrete alternatives to what is being offered at all levels. This can be done through creative projects and campaigns focusing on:

  • a redistributive and interventionist state;
  • collective forms of ownership;
  • labour-intensive production;
  • democratisation of the workplace;
  • decommodification of basic social needs;
  • internationalist foreign policies.

While continuing to contest GEAR's one-sided interpretation of the character of economic transformation, we must, as part of our broader class struggle, link this debate to key strategic challenges around rebuilding working class organisation through our 1997 Programme of Action. We need to build working class formations that are capable of breaking the class power of capitalist forces.


SACP May Day Message

Alongside communists from all over our globe, the SACP celebrates May Day 1997- the day of the WORKER. The SACP calls on all cadres to:


Rethinking Crime and Punishment

The need for serious reform in the criminal justice system

Much of the approach to crime and punishment (the penal system) lacks a clear strategic purpose. Instead, there has been a tendency towards re-active policy and opinion that panders to populist prejudices. A socialist approach is grounded in an understanding of the brutal legacies of the apartheid system combined with an analysis of the socio-economic context within which our population finds itself. There can be no short-cuts to an effective and just solution!

"Crime out of control!"; "Prison system in chaos ­ Privatise Now!"; "Bring back the death penalty!" ­ such is the stuff of bourgeois press headlines. While we can be thankful that newspapers don't make public policy, they certainly do shape it. And, it has been such perspectives that have, unfortunately, played an important part in recent approaches to the issues of crime and punishment.

These approaches most often treat the present situation as if the life-long experience of racist oppression and exploitation of most South Africans ceased to exist after 1994; as if massive unemployment and under-employment have little social and psychological impact on people; as if throwing more money and more bricks at the 'problem' will "stop crime in its tracks"; and the list goes on. The result has been a highly publicised, one-sided view of crime. This view has, in turn, been given practical application by overly re-active policy formulation.

We are constantly bombarded by the notion that the 'crime problem' is simply one of violent acts (high-jackings, robberies, murders etc.). While these acts are criminal, and while they do constitute a sizeable component of overall crime, the more subtle, but equally devastating acts of 'white-collar' crime are virtually ignored, as are the links between the two. We must ask why thousands of infants are dying in South Africa every year from preventable diseases when there are plentiful medicinal supplies to eradicate these diseases, and while private pharmaceutical companies rake in record profits? How many South Africans are now jobless and destitute due to massive corporate diversion of profits outside the country rather than in socially productive domestic investment? Are these 'problems' not related?

In the realm of policy the approach has tended towards seeking simplified 'law and order' solutions ­ more cops, more force, more prisons! The recent plan by the Correctional Services Ministry to supplement existing prison facilities by privatising the construction and running of more prisons (with no prior consultation with the unions) only serves to confirm such an approach. Likewise, statements equating convicted criminals with animals entrench existing class and racial prejudices.

While there are no simple answers, there is the dire need for a serious rethink on a holistic approach to dealing with crime. We need a vibrant public sector-led reform process grounded in our movement's historic commitment to human rights, equality before the law, meeting basic material and social needs and justice. In other words, BUILDING SOCIALISM NOW!

Political Education

The Basics of Marxist Economics

At the core of our understanding of capitalism and socialism are the economic writings of Marx. Below is a broad outline designed to provide cadres with a firm grasp of the basics of Marxist economics.

From the philosophical basis he had constructed (see April issue of Umsebenzi) Marx set out to explain the workings of capitalist economics. Starting from the fact that the worker has to sell his/her labour power to the capitalist in return for a wage, Marx shows that the workers' labour must become a commodity (to be bought and sold). The workers wage is the 'price' of the commodity and is determined by the competition within capitalism over the labour power of the worker and the product which that worker produces. In relation to the specific patriarchal relationship between men and women, Marx & Engels also pointed to the importance of (hidden) domestic work performed by women as affecting the 'price' of wages, particularly as they apply to women labourers.

Thus, the combination of the workers' labour and the capital from the boss - an input (itself a product of the workers' labour) produces a product which in turn, produces profit by being bought or sold on the market - an output. The increase in the value of the capital employed, resulting from the transaction, is surplus value - the bosses get richer in relation to the workers' increased poverty. The amount of surplus value is thus determined by the degree of exploitation as applied to workers' in the first instance and women's (hidden) labour as well.

Marx thus argued that any rise in productivity in nothing other than another way of augmenting the boss's capital, and as a result the workers poverty. Even if workers get more salary they get poorer (in relation) to the bosses. Thus the rise and fall of wages and profits stand in inverse ratio to each other - i.e., capital's share, profit, rises in the same proportion as labour's share, wages, falls and visa versa.

The proletariat's relationship with capital is thus that of one class of producers against one class of exploiters - i.e., capitalist economics is essentially based on class conflict. The character of this economic relationship is itself based on private property (in the hands of the capitalists) which must be constantly replenished by the expropriation of surplus value from the labour of the proletariat. In so doing, capitalism creates the very conditions for its own demise - it is wholly unable to stem the accumulating crises that it generates and solve the problems of humanity.

It's a matter of
Red Stars and Thumbs Down

   to Judge Ezra Goldstein of the High Court for dismissing a legal challenge by Sandton property owners to overturn the rates levy and budgets of the Greater Johannesburg Metro Council and its Eastern substructure. Judge Goldstein affirmed the legal powers of the Metro to "levy and claim an equitable contribution from any substructure" thus supporting the right of local government to cross-subsidise. Red Star welcomes this victory for redistribution and congratulates Judge Goldstein for giving the Sandton capitalists a deserved legal black eye.

   to the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire for sweeping away the corrupt and dictatorial regime of Mobuto and bringing a sense of unity mong Zaire's long-suffering people. Along with the vast majority of Zaireans, Red Star wishes Mobuto a sufficiently agonising retirement in the only place he belongs ­ hell!

TWO THUMBS DOWN   to the United States of America for its arrogant imperialist grandstanding in our continent. Cynically attempting to convince Africans that it only seeks to support 'democracy' in places such as Zaire and Sudan, the USA has once again shown that all it really cares about is global power and profits. Africans would be well advised to take up the call of our comrades in Latin America ­ 'IMPERIALISTAS GO HOME!'

ONE THUMB DOWN   to the National Party and Conservative Party councillors in Boksburg for refusing to attend the ceremony granting the late cde. Chris Hani the freedom of Boksburg. Red Star wants to remind these arrogant little politicians that it takes two to tango if there is to be reconciliation. C'mon councillors, show us that ageing white males can actually dance!



Consultation should be consultation with our People!

Matthews Hlabane, SACP Mpumalanga Provincial Organisor, discusses the issue of lack of consultation involved in the Dolphin and Maputo Corridor development projects in the province.

Even with the recent so-called "revision" of the deal between the Dolphin Group and the Mpumalanga Parks Board it remains a bureaucratically-driven development project. After the MEC for Environmental Affairs led a "review team" to London to reevaluate the deal some small changes were made which included the reduction of the lease period from 50 years to 25 years and a recognition that consultation needed to take place with affected communities.

However, the "review" has actually not brought about any concrete changes in the overall process of reaching a consultative development agreement. Indeed, the agreement has already been signed without any consultation with our people. As the SACP, we believe it is completely unacceptable to sign agreements with capitalists and then proceed to 'consult' with the people afterwards.

There is a clear difference between consultation and just informing. Meaningful consultation consists of providing information, ensuring people's participation in evaluating the project, receiving a mandate to move forward and reporting-back on the process. As it stands now, the process has left the people of Mpumalanga behind. They have not participated in its formulation.

The same criticism can be levelled at the Maputo Corridor development project. Despite the potential of the project to enhance popular development initiatives and job creation in our province, there has been little consultation with the people. While most people have heard about the project and have seen road construction bypassing their towns, it is only the privileged few who are privy to the ins and outs of the project.

When any development project proceeds without consultation with our people, it ends up failing the very people it is intended to serve. Instead, it is the informed and the wealthy few that benefit. There is the need for the ANC-led liberation movement to admit errors that have been committed and be able to move forward without leaving the masses behind.

The SACP in Mpumalanga wants to build on our democratic principles in driving this transformation. We must struggle to ensure that we put people first and reject programmes that will end up benefitting individuals in the name of development and job creation. Let us ensure that forums for consultation with our people form the cornerstones of our programme of action.

Western Cape

Hands of the SACP!

SACP Western Cape Provincial Secretary, Philip Dexter, reports on the recent spate of press disinformation and under-handed manoeuvres directed at the SACP. Party members must remain vigilant and disciplined against attempts to sow disunity and weaken the organisation.

Members of the Party in various parts of the country are by now aware of the vicious attack on the Party in the Western Cape. Journalists in the conservative and mainly Afrikaans press, acting on information from 'unnamed sources' have portrayed the Party in the province as being in crisis, ridden with factionalism, at loggerheads with the ANC and in a general state of disarray. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The party is growing, planning to launch two new districts, has made inroads in to organising in the trade unions and has had successful activities over the last few months. These include a well attended PGC, a provincial political education school and Chris Hani commemoration activities. The only truth in the press coverage was that the former deputy Provincial Secretary had resigned.

What is clear is that the Party has been targeted for serious attack by reactionary political forces. It has been spied on, documents have been stolen from the offices and there is a concerted campaign by individuals to plot against the Party in the province and discredit it.

It is clear that there are links to the old security structures, in the media and more generally.

The activities against the Party are planned, well orchestrated, and whilst they have failed, have damaged the Party in some respects. Attempts to portray these and other events in the province as being 'internal' to the movement are naïve and simplistic. We should never believe that certain things just happen, particularly when a pattern begins to appear. The Western Cape has a history of communism and anti-communism. Attempts are regularly made to split the Alliance and sow disunity. In response the PEC has investigated the leaking of correspondence and the giving of reports to the press. A full report will be presented to SACP Head Office in due course. In the meantime members of the Party have been urged to remain vigilant and disciplined. It is the NP and its allies and agents that would benefit from disunity in the Party, the ANC and the Alliance and who attempt to promote cliques and weaken the organisation.

NUM Congress puts ball in ANC's court

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Research Coordinator, Devan Pillay, reports on the proceedings at NUM's National Congress where leaders and delegates sounded a warning to the ANC around key strategic and organisational issues.

The NUM National Congress has, for the first time in its history, publicly criticised its alliance partner, the ANC. The union is unhappy about the way GEAR has been imposed on workers, the manner in which Free State Premier Terror Lekota was ousted and the undermining of the Tripartite Alliance.

The NUM has always been one of the most loyal ANC supporters within COSATU,

adopting the Freedom Charter in 1987. From the beginning it married its commitment to the ANC-led Alliance with a firm socialist vision. It was not surprising, therefore, that the March Congress of the union once again re-affirmed its commitment to building the Alliance.

Congress called for an ANC branch to be built at every mine, and an SACP branch in every shaft, by the end of 1997.

At the 1997 Congress however, the union was unhappy about the way the ANC forced GEAR down the unions' throats. According to NUM General Secretary Kgalema Motlanthe, GEAR's stated objectives are about the only things that are similar to the RDP.

Everything else is similar to World Bank and IMF policy, and "is meant to be a juicy carrot to the transnational corporations." The way unions were by-passed in the adoption of GEAR showed how the Alliance was in danger of being undermined. It also summed up the increasing distance between the working class and the leaders they put in power, including the ex-trade unionists. Congress resolved that "every member of parliament and state structures must revert back to the basic principles of accountability, consultation, mandates and report backs."

The union, however, did not let itself and the labour movement as a whole off the hook. It drew attention to the union movement's own inability to make the Alliance work through being proactive, and developing serious policy alternatives. Motlanthe revisited the call for the creation of a political centre arguing that "attempting to wade through the transition without a command post as we are currently doing is a betrayal of the struggle for freedom and makes a mockery of the RDP transformation is imperative within our organisations."

NUM President James Motlatsi also called attention to the undemocratic way in which the ANC's NEC intervened in the Free State affair. He told guest speaker Tito Mboweni that while the NUM respected him as Minister of Labour, they resented his role as NEC representative in the Free State conflict. These criticisms, amongst others, shocked the ANC leadership. Two of the ANC's most senior leaders, Chairperson Jacob Zuma and acting General Secretary Cheryl Carolus attended the last day of Congress. Cde. Zuma was allowed to give the ANC leadership's side of the story, and his assurance that matters will be put right in the future was generously received. Workers stood up, as always, to sing the praises of the ANC, their organisation.

They were telling their political leaders: we are prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt. Put your house in order, and you will continue to have our support.

The ball is clearly in the ANC leadership's court. The politicians dare not think that they can take workers' support for granted. If they do, the next NUM Congress might not be as forgiving.

US politics in Africa

The New Imperialism

The USA has openly declared a new aggressiveness in Africa, writes Jeremy Cronin. It is an aggressiveness that seeks to ensure a major new role for the US in Africa's political and economic affairs. We need to be clear about the real intentions behind such movements.

Commentators still write endlessly about the "marginalisation" of Africa, about "Afro- pessimism", and of the "neglect" with which Africa is being treated by the major capitalist countries. It is true that the African continent has been and remains massively underdeveloped. But talk of "neglect" suggests that this plight has to do with Europe and North America "walking away".

In fact, the poverty of Africa has a great deal to do with the ongoing active involvement of imperialist governments and corporations. There is, even in this post-Cold War period, still a significant external military presence in our continent. In particular France maintains 8 200 soldiers in bases in Africa. So much for "neglect".

This is not to say that there have not been some significant shifts in imperialist policy in the course of the 1990s. In particular, the rivalry between imperialist powers, and specifically between France and the US has sharpened. The US, at present, only has 7% of the market for African imports, compared to the 41% of the European Union. But the Clinton administration has made no secret of its intention to play a much more aggressive economic and political role in Africa. Recently, the late Ron Brown, then US Secretary of Commerce, declared that "from now on the US is not going to give way on African markets to the old colonial powers."

That was an open declaration of a new US aggressiveness in Africa. It is an aggressiveness that is now being played out in the rivalry between the US and France in the Great Lakes region, and Zaire.

Both France and the US have backed Mobuto for three decades. This backing was central, amongst other things, to the ongoing destabilisation of Angola, and to the buttressing of reactionary regimes in Rwanda. Now, however, the US has done a somersault, declaring the Mobuto regime a "dictatorship" and advising him to go. The US is effectively exploiting, for its own purposes, the extremely reactionary African politics of France. It is no secret that Laurent Kabila's forces have been heavily backed and assisted by the US. Our own South African attempt to broker peace in Zaire seems to be routed, a great deal of the time, through

Washington, with key SA government representatives travelling to the US almost on a fortnightly basis.

This is not to say that the Kabila rebel offensive, or our own government's peace endeavours can be reduced to a simple "US agenda". The Kabila offensive clearly enjoys overwhelming popular support, certainly in the eastern half of Zaire. If the US is prepared to back a genuine democratisation process, so much the better.

But we need to be extremely vigilant about other agendas. Even as we go to press there are some signs that Washington is now becoming alarmed that Kabila and his forces might just be too popular. Washington would prefer a much more stale-mated situation to emerge in Zaire. They would like to see Mobuto out and French influence drastically reduced. But they would not like to see a genuinely popular movement capable of sustaining an independent Zaire.

From the South African side, we need to be careful that, in our support for democracy and for a minimisation of conflict in Zaire, we do not play into someone else's agenda.


Capitlism unmasked!

Electoral fraud, an economic crisis, the collapse of financial organisations, an armed uprising, manoeuvring by discredited political parties and the recent arrival of a United Nations (UN) 'stabilisation' force ­ such has been the lot of Albania over the past year! It comes as no surprise that the real culprit behind this state of affairs is the deadly duo of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) and their programme of so-called "free market" capitalism.

The beginning of the end for the latest experiment of "free market" capitalism (Albania being the 'patient') began in mid-1996. National elections held in May of that year were marred by massive irregularities, voter fraud and political intimidation. None of this made much difference to the western capitalists who vigorously backed the 'pro-western' strongman Sali Berisha, who subsequently 'won' the election.

Berisha adopted an IMF-WB plan to 'de-regulate' and liberalise the economy. The Albanian government acceded to the IMF's 'advice' to abolish guarantees on bank deposits and liberalise the banking system such that pyramid schemes (with a 100% monthly interest rate) became possible. As one Albanian political activist commented, this was a "deliberate attempt to encourage the primitive accumulation of capital Albania's fledgling bourgeoisie so badly needs." Despite the lack of job creation and productive investment, the IMF-WB argued that Albania was a "model" of growth, and Berisha was hailed as a neo-liberal hero.

By the end of 1996 these pyramid schemes had taken in over US$2 billion (80% of Albania's GDP) from ordinary Albanians desperate to raise their standard of living. When the schemes collapsed most Albanians were left penniless and unemployment rocketed to 80%. The resultant armed uprising by large sections of the Albanian population (not just confined to the South) represents the people's complete rejection of the crude capitalism imposed on them as well as Berisha's corrupt and undemocratic regime. Establishing self-management and self-defence organs in numerous towns and villages, participants in the uprising have sought to create a situation of dual power whereby Berisha's discredited regime would be ousted, free elections held and lost investments recovered.

While the uprising has been marked by lack of organisation and revolutionary leadership, reports by the western media that Albania has been locked in a state of civil war and anarchy are simply untrue. What has happened resembles more of a military and political stalemate between the popular uprising and the remnants of Berisha's regime loosely allied with a weakened Socialist Party.

As a result, we are now witnessing the deployment of a UN 'stabilisation' force, no doubt designed to prepare the ground for the 'normalisation' of Albania's political and economic affairs. Given the recent history of western involvement in Albania, one can well imagine what such 'normalisation' will mean. Meanwhile, most Albanians struggle to survive. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

Regional Briefs

Umsebenzi begins an occasional column of briefs on worker struggles in the Southern African region.

In early April, over 15 000 public sector workers embarked on a strike to push for a wage increase from the Malawian government. In response to the workers demands for a 100% pay rise (the average public sector worker earns less than $75 a month), government officials announced a 47% pay rise to the lowest paid workers but stressed that any further increase would "destabilise" the economy (which grew by over 9% last year). Meanwhile, workers are bracing themselves for the government's announced intention to embark on huge retrenchments in the public sector (the World Bank argues for retrenching half of the public service in order to award a 100% pay increase!)

The Swaziland Solidarity Network was launched on 19th April in Johannesburg. PUDEMO's Mario Msuku, who recently pulled out of the Swazi King's handpicked Constitutional Review Commission addressed the gathering. Other speakers came from the Swaziland Democratic Alliance, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, SACP, COSATU and the ANC. After the recent nation-wide general strike in March, the authoritarian monarchical regime remains stubborn in its refusal to allow free political activity and speech and has made no concrete move towards introducing universal suffrage.