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March 1998

  Take Socialism Forward - SACP/COSATU

The national leaderships of COSATU and the SACP met in a high-level, all-day bilateral on February 12 - the focus of the discussion was taking the socialist project forward. The discussion between the leaderships of the two major socialist formations in our country occurred against the background of important strategic resolutions on socialism taken at COSATU's Congress in September last year. It also occurred in the immediate context of the ANC's December national conference, in which the ANC reaffirmed, without any complexes, that its two major alliance partners were socialist.

Both the SACP and COSATU acknowledged the need to move increasingly from broad brush strokes to the mapping out of concrete and specific socialist-oriented policies and programmes of action.

Among the major organisational decisions taken at the bilateral were:

  • The implementation of the COSATU Congress resolution on building SACP work-place units. Most, although not all, of our Party base structures are residential. Both the Party and COSATU acknowledge the need to build a communist party political presence at the work-place itself. But how, in doing this, do we avoid creating parallel structures, SACP structures that second-guess, or even undermine the democratic trade union structures? While these things have to be worked out in specific circumstances, the bilateral agreed that there would need to be a clear understanding that the role of the SACP structure would not be a trade union role but rather an ideological and political education role. According to circumstances, the work-place SACP unit may be based on an industrial location, cutting across several work-places and COSATU affiliates. This could be one deliberate organisational arrangement to safeguard against the danger of an overlapping between a union structure and an SACP structure.
  • Both formations will expand the already significant cooperation in joint-political education work.
  • Concrete proposals were made and are being followed up on the COSATU resolution to provide material support to the SACP.

The bilateral also considered initiatives around socialising the economy. It was agreed to pursue an in-depth project of research, and of practical work around the co-operative sector. The more strategic use of worker investment initiatives was also discussed.

On the critical question of democratising and transforming the public sector, the bilateral agreed that we must work to ensure the effective implementation of the Tripartite Summit resolution to establish an alliance task group, under ANC President, Thabo Mbeki. The bilateral also agreed that the tripartite alliance must ensure that there is a common alliance strategic perspective on job creation ahead of the Presidential Job Summit due later this year. It is imperative, in this regard, that we resist the attempt of business to set a job creation agenda that centres around labour market "flexibility".

Finally, the bilateral discussed how, as the ANC's two leading partners, we shall work to strengthen the ANC's election campaign in 1999.

 Conflict in the Middle East

The Long Arm of Imperialism in Crisis

Despite the recent 'diplomatic solution' over the issue of Iraq's 'compliance' with United Nations (UN) weapons inspectors, the ongoing war-mongering of the US government and a few of its Western allies, has much more to do with the longer-term strategic interests of imperialism. As was the case in the 1991 'Gulf War', the real reason behind all the 'good guy versus bad guy' propaganda, is to ensure continued and unhindered access to the Middle East's vast oil reserves. Only this time, the barons of imperialism are finding their task made more difficult by the rising tide of opposition on a global scale.

In its initial attempts to rally support behind its threat of military action against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, the US government presented its actions as an attempt to force compliance with UN resolutions stemming from the 1991 conflict. This time around though, many Western countries joined much of the rest of the world in rejecting the use of force. The opposition was directed not only at the inevitable shedding of innocent blood but also at the hypocrisy of the US government, itself the most common violator of UN resolutions (e.g., on Cuba and Palestine).

Likewise, the claims of the US government that it wants Saddam ousted are phony. Prior to the 1991 conflict, Saddam was a key ally of the US in the region, ensuring secure access to vast oil reserves during the Iran-Iraq war. It was the US that ensured Saddam could carry out a campaign to crush the democratic forces in Iraq, and the progressive Kurdish forces, immediately following the 1991 conflict. The sole basis for the continuous war-mongering of the US government is unlimited access to, and control of, the oil reserves in the region. Indeed, the history of US imperialism confirms that it is not 'democracy' or any concern for ordinary people that drives policy. Rather, it is in the service of monopoly capitalism that the US government acts, whether in the Middle East or any other region in the world.

The 'problem' for the imperialists though, is that their strategy has backfired, both inside and outside Iraq. As a result of the economic blockade enforced on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, conservative estimates put the number of civilian deaths at one million Iraqi citizens. Besides the gross inhumanity of such a blockade, it has served to strengthen the oppressive capacity of the Iraqi regime in dealing with internal opposition, in rallying the Arab world in defense of Saddam and resurrecting an international anti-war, anti-imperialist movement.

As the Communist Party of Israel correctly observes, US policy has been one of "military dictate and starvation". On the internal front, the Iraqi Communist Party has called for world-wide struggle to prevent "US imperialism and its allies from using force against our country and people", for a lifting of the blockade and for the "Iraqi people to rise up and overthrow the dictatorship." No doubt, the increased global reception of such sentiments is causing the US bureaucrats and oil barons many sleepless nights..

While the popular calls for a lasting peace in the region are a welcome sign that the forces of narrow nationalism and reactionary militarism are fast losing their past strength, it is not enough to call for the US to stop its war mongering. There must be a simultaneous struggle to support the mass popular forces in the entire region to overthrow undemocratic regimes and undermine the capacity of imperialism and its regional puppets to dictate the political and economic choices of the people of the Middle East. It is through such struggles that the fundamental basis for social and economic conflict - capitalism's pursuit of resources and profits - can potentially be undermined.

In this vein, the fact that military (air) strikes have not been launched, has a great deal more to do with growing opposition to the war hysteria of the US government and monopoly capital (specifically the oil multinationals), than it does with the so-called 'diplomatic' agreement forged between the Iraqi regime and the UN. From Nepal to Jordan to the United States and Canada, a storm of popular protest has erupted. It is fear of such protest turning into mass popular struggle that would threaten the core interests of monopoly capital, which has temporarily forced the US to back down from the military option.

What is going on in the Middle East (from Iraq to Israel) is shaping up as a classic confirmation of the inability of capitalist imperialism, and its regional variants, to manage gathering crises. Consistent with its historical development, imperialism's attempts to forcefully implement the agenda of capital are galvanising social forces that are increasingly 'unmanageable' (even if for different reasons). What is happening in East Asia is merely the flip side of the same imperialist coin.

Such a situation presents a range of opportunities for socialist and progressive forces to make serious inroads into the power of the core imperialist countries and their regional allies to dictate (either militarily or economically) choices. The longer the arm of imperialism stretches in its constant search for capitalist accumulation the more vulnerable it becomes. The anti-capitalist forces might not be in a position to cut off the entire arm, but the fingers of imperialism are certainly looking vulnerable.


Castro Welcomes the Pope

The recent visit of the Pope to Cuba led to a flood of predictions about the imminent fall of the Cuban government and the collapse of Cuba's socialist system. Nothing of the sort has happened. The vast majority of Cubans know that, despite many problems, their socialism is far better than anything capitalism has on offer. Below, we offer readers an edited version of President Castro's speech welcoming the Pope to Cuba.

Your Holiness, the island whose soil you have just kissed is honoured with your presence. You will not find here those peaceful and good-natured native inhabitants that populated it when the first Europeans reached this island. The men were almost all exterminated by exploitation and slave labour that they were unable to resist; the women were converted into objects of pleasure or domestic slaves. There were also those who died under the blade of homicidal swords, or as victims of unknown diseases imported by the conquistadors. Some priests left heart-rending testimonies of their protests against such crimes.

Throughout the centuries, more than one million Africans, cruelly uprooted from their distant lands, took the place of the indigenous slaves that had already been wiped out.

They made a considerable contribution to the ethnic composition and origin of our country's current population, in which the culture, beliefs and the blood of all those who participated in this dramatic history is mixed. It is estimated that the conquest and colonisation of the entire hemisphere cost the lives of 70 million indigenous people and led to the enslavement of 12 million Africans.

Your Holiness, another genocide is being attempted today, so as to bring to its knees, through hunger, disease and total economic strangulation, a people which refuses to submit to the dictates and the sway of the most powerful economic, political and military power in history - a power that is far more powerful than that of Ancient Rome, which for centuries threw to the lions those who refused to renege on their faith.

Like those Christians atrociously slandered in order to justify the crimes, we, similarly slandered, would prefer death one thousand times before renouncing our convictions. Just like the Church, the Revolution also has many martyrs.

In your long pilgrimage throughout the world, you have seen for yourself much injustice, inequality, poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and lives that could have been saved and are lost for a few cents. You have seen illiteracy, child prostitution, children working from the age of six or begging in order to live, marginal neighbourhoods where hundreds of millions of people live in inhumane conditions. You have seen discrimination for reasons of race or gender, entire ethnic groups ousted from their lands and abandoned to chance, xenophobia, contempt for other peoples, cultures destroyed or under destruction. You have seen under-development, usurious loans, uncollectable and unpayable debts, unequal terms of trade, monstrous and nonproductive financial speculations, an environment mercilessly destroyed, at times beyond repair, unscrupulous arms trading for repugnant commercial ends, wars, violence, massacres. You have seen generalised corruption, drugs, vices and an alienating consumerism imposed as an idyllic model on all peoples.

Humanity has grown almost fourfold in this century alone. Thousands of millions of people are suffering hunger and a thirst for justice; the list of people's economic and social disasters is interminable. I am aware that many of them are a motive for Your Holiness' constant and growing concern.

I have had personal experiences that have allowed me to appreciate other aspects of your thinking. I was a student at Catholic schools up until I went to university. I was taught then that to be a Protestant, a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist or a participant in other religious beliefs constituted a dreadful sin, worthy of severe and implacable punishment.

More than once, in some of those schools for the wealthy and privileged, among whom I found myself, it occurred to me to ask why there were no black children there. I have never been able to forget the totally non-persuasive responses I received.

Years later, the Vatican Council II, convened by Pope John XXIII, took up some of those delicate questions. We are aware of Your Holiness' efforts to preach and to practice respect toward the believers of other important and influential religions that have spread throughout the world. Respect for believers and non-believers is a basic principle that we Cuban revolutionaries have inculcated in our compatriots. Those principles have been defined and are guaranteed by our Constitution and our laws. If difficulties have arisen at any time, that has never been the fault of the Revolution.

We cherish the hope that, one day, no adolescent in any school in any region of the world will need to ask why there isn't a single black, Indian, Asian or white child in it.

What can we offer you in Cuba, Your Holiness? A people with fewer inequalities, fewer unprotected citizens, fewer children without schools, fewer sick people without hospitals, more teachers and more doctors per inhabitant than any other country in the world visited by Your Holiness; an educated people to whom you can speak with all the liberty you wish, and with the security that this people possesses, talent, a high political culture, deep convictions, absolute confidence in its ideas and all the awareness and respect in the world to listen to you.

There is no country better equipped to understand your felicitous idea, such as we understand it and so similar to what we preach, that the equitable distribution of wealth and solidarity among human beings and peoples must be globalised.

Welcome to Cuba

Quote of the Month

You must understand that this is not a cocktail Party, but a political Party

DP Leader, Tony Leon, at a DP meeting, explaining the difficulties of organising an opposition.


Reader's Forum

A Dream

A contribution to Umsebenzi from comrade Mike Mashabela, Nurse's co-ordinator for NEHAWU's Kwamhlanga branch.

I dreamed of a dream that defeated my imaginations. Yes, I dreamed. I dreamed of South Africa being led to freedom by cde Madiba, the first African President od democratic South Africa.

There was jubilation and ululations from the rainbow nation as he carried the candle stick of leadership and brought unity to different racial groups in our country.

There was hope and life in the face of South Africa. However, the westerly winds soon blew out the candle stick in his hands and the darkness of confusion set in.

The Western world, led by the I.M.F. and World Bank, realising the darkness in our country, offered a sophisticated candle stick and promised that it would put South Africa in the light - a light that shines beyond its borders and into the surrounding sea.

To the detriment of all however, their light only covered ten percent of the country - the rest was left in the dark as the doors of education and learning were closed. It became a fertile soil for drug trafficking, murder, hunger, low wages and mass retrenchments. The whole country began to resemble the biblical Sodom.

Education became a privilege and the socio-economic life of the nation became a survival of the fittest. The whole country suffered from anxiety and a panicky disorder. Realising the loss of people-power for the human, energy-driven IMF candle, the casualties were given free medical services for early recovery, in order to continue providing cheap labour.

Then I saw comrade Chris Hani coming out of his grave, and in his hands he held a powerful light that destroyed the darkness of confusion. The doors of education and learning were opened and the country drifted towards social order.

Yes, I dreamed. I dreamed a dream that society lives through social norms and values. Lest we forget the Vietnam holocaust, South Africa shall drift into the sea of drunkenness. Our children, the youth of our country, shall be slaves of our ignorance.

Let us feed our children with the milk of human-kind, for the future of a nation depends on the adequate socio-economic development of its youth.

Yes, I dreamed a dream that provoked my emotions, the emotions that are the burning oil of our national democratic revolution.



Left Laugh

A Prayer to the Global Corporate Gods

O mighty global corporations, we are helpless without you. Please bring your menial jobs here to our nation and town. Though we have little control over these tedious and arbitrary jobs that create wealth for stockholders rather than us, they are all that we lowly workers deserve.

Grant us your x dollars per hour so that we might have hope of purchasing your fine plastic products that bestow lasting contentment. Forgive us when we question your authority or do not work fast enough, for we are but wretched servants.

Thank you for blessing us with the security of predictable name brand products, and for the intelligent chemicals in our food that protect us from the sinister micro-organisms and insects. Prepare our food and serve it to us, that we may have more time to serve you. We will gladly consume whatever you hand to us, for you are all-knowing.

Pacify us with a plethora of prefabricated entertainment, as we have forgotten how to entertain each other. Reveal to us through your media what we are to believe, for we cannot trust our own feeble judgement.

Guide your politicians as they strive to make this region of the planet more cost-effective for you by abolishing the evil worker rights laws, corporate taxation, and environmental protections that offend you deeply and drive you away from us. And thank you for undercutting the pitifully small local businesses that would dare challenge your divine dominance and threaten the sacred homogenous culture in which you have safely wrapped us.

Truly all resources belong to you, and we are but humble stewards of them. For thine is the empire, the power, and the planet, until you destroy it. Amen.

Copyright 1996 Bigger They Come (TM) Enterprises, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Global Gobble Corporation.

 International Solidarity - Appeal for Funds

The Stand Children's Trust

As many readers of Umsebenzi are aware, two socialist activists, Kurt Stand and Theresa Squillacote, were arrested in the USA on October 4 1997 and charged with "spying" for the former GDR, and attempting to "spy" for the Republic of South Africa. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) allegedly found a letter Theresa had written to comrade Ronnie Kasrils while searching her house, and sent her a bogus return letter forged with comrade Ronnie's signature. When she met with undercover FBI agents posing as South African intelligence officers, she was arrested and charged along with her husband (Kurt Stand) with conspiracy to commit espionage. The US government subsequently issued a mild 'apology' for fraudulently representing South African government officials, but has proceeded to hold both Theresa and Kurt without bond for over five months, whilst preparing to formally indict them. A trial is expected in June or July.

Comrades in the USA have set up a Trust Fund for the two children of Theresa and Kurt. Rosa is 13 years old and Karl is 15. The children are being cared for by friends, who are staying with them in the family home. While some monies have been raised for the Trust, the expenses of caring for the children continue to mount. The SACP is requesting all internationalists to consider sending contributions, made payable to the Stand Children's Trust and mailed to:

Stand Children's Trust
c/o NLRB Credit Union
1099 14th Street NW
Washington D.C. 20570

Long live internationalism!

Red Star and Thumbs Down

to the masses of Indonesia for their increased popular resistance to the dictates of the IMF and the fast-crumbling Suharto dictatorship. The socio-economic fallout from the capitalist-engineered currency crisis has seen prices of basic goods soar coupled to large-scale unemployment. Despite the violent attempts of Suharto and his military cronies to crush the popular revolts, the Indonesian workers and poor are in no mood to suspend their struggles. We here at Red Star predict that the days of Suharto are numbered. Those who lavished praise on him during his recent visit to South Africa should pay close attention.

 to the Premiers of the Eastern Cape and North West provinces, Arnold Stofile and Popo Molefe respectively, for acting courageously in dealing firmly with mal-administration and corruption in provincial government. Through their actions, the comrades have sent a long-overdue message to those in the public sector who have treated their constituencies with contempt and who would use the people's capital for their self-enrichment. While there are many more corrupt and inefficient "public servants" to be dealt with, we believe the comrade Premiers have made a good start.

3 Thumbs Down to US Ambassador to South Africa, James Joseph, for his cynical and disingenuous attempt to deflect government criticism of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Following comrade Mandela's stinging criticisms of USAID's penchant for meddling in SA politics, detailed in his Political Report to the ANC Congress, Joseph tried to blame it all on "unreconstructed Marxists" within the ANC. He even floated the lame argument that the criticisms were "intended to be cast aside" once things had settled down. Evidently, the "unreconstructed Marxists" (we wonder just how many there are in the ANC?) have succeeded in making the criticisms stick. Sorry Mr. Joseph, but if you're going to play the role of the global bully-boy then you should expect people to fight back. Now, go and nurse that black eye of yours.

2 Thumbs Down to Stella Sicgau and the Ministry of Public Enterprises, for their seemingly endless enthusiasm in moving ahead with plans to privatise the people's property. In their haste to privatise the state-owned Aventura leisure group (seen as an 'easy target' given its 'non-strategic' value), Sicgau and the Ministry evidently forgot to consult with several communities who have long-standing land claims where Aventura resorts now stand. Subsequent attempts at 'consultation', through one-on-one meetings between the communities and the 'new' private owners smacks of an opportunistic damage control exercise. No wonder there is so much 'surprise' when there is conflict with the land-less.

 Multilateral Agreement on Investment

New Movs to Entrench Capitalist Domination!

Just when progressives around the globe thought that they had a firm grasp on the strategy and tactics of 'globalisation', along comes the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). Presented as a "global treaty" which will create "a constitution of a single global economy", the MAI is, in truth, the latest attempt to ensure that trans-national corporations (TNC's) have almost absolute control across the world.

At a time when imperialism continues to force national governments to dance to the tune of TNC's, the MAI represents a further attempt to restrict the power of the public sector. Its main goal is to reduce the ability of the state (at all levels) to: affect economic development in favour of the majority; institute progressive environmental and labour standards; and retain and develop domestic industries. Prepared by the 28 member countries of the European-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the MAI seeks to apply a deregulatory agenda to areas not covered by existing global trade and investment treaties. This would include trade in currency, stocks and bonds as well as the ownership of land and natural resources. The MAI would also allow corporate capital to by-pass progressive developmental measures that have been instituted by various states, such as environmental regulations, requirements for job creation and protection, social clauses in public contracts etc.

Put simply, if MAI is instituted it will effectively hold national and local development hostage to the 'free market' dictates of the TNC's. Any country that is signatory to the MAI, a process that will itself not necessarily be 'voluntary', will face a situation where existing national and/or local requirements for 'investment' will be jeopardised.

The MAI goes beyond previous efforts by imperialism to make the world a shopping centre for capitalists. It will give TNC's the right to sue and collect compensation from national and/or local governments that exercise various controls on investment behaviour that are in conflict with the dictates of the MAI. In effect, globalised capital will be the 'new' government, and the MAI will provide it with the legal framework within which to undermine national and local sovereignty. Local and national governments would have no right to sue corporations on behalf of their people.

The capitalists have done everything in their power to ensure that the majority of people in the respective countries are not informed of their MAI plans - that there is no open debate or public scrutiny. Fortunately, they have failed! Already, there are mass campaigns beginning in the USA and some European countries to stop the MAI dead in its tracks. It is incumbent on all progressive forces to join in this all-important struggle against further capitalist dictatorship.


Ode to the bourgeoisie

By Dale T. McKinley

Shards of insecurity rip the whole
A thousand pieces of nothingness.

Spikes of fear stand as guardians,
a heap of brokenness
masquerading as life.

Panderers to the shallow of immediacy
Trapped in a self-made maze.
Layered prisoners of acceptance,
by meaningless expectation.

Actors playing out pre-cast roles
unable to touch their own magic.
Denying the common soul, of soul itself,
marching in empty unison.

Disconnected threads of apparent existence.
A distorted tapestry of endless apparitions,
lurching towards nowhere.