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February 1998

   ANC 50th National Conference – a milestone in the NDR

The ANC’s Conference in Mafikeng showed clearly that both the ANC and the Alliance are alive and well. Despite predictions of political division and organisational chaos, delegates rose to the challenge of leading South Africa into the new millenium.

The ANC’s 50th National Conference assembled in Mafikeng amidst a barrage of media speculation about dissension and impending splits.

Some of the media, like BBC television for instance, tried to paint a picture of an ANC leadership hopelessly out of touch with the expectations of its base. The Conference would see the "revenge" of the grassroots over the leadership. It would be a revenge, it was suggested, led by this or that "fiery" populist leader (and names were often mentioned).

Others in the media focused on the SACP and "the left", predicting expulsions and walk-outs. It should be said that, in this, they were encouraged by some unwise utterances by one or two middle-ranking movement personalities. There were some individuals who were betting on anti-communist sentiments, but they misread the SACP and the feelings of the overwhelming majority of ANC delegates.

At the end of the 5 days of Conference, the cynics and opportunists were left shaking their heads. They had, once again, badly miscalculated on the maturity, depth of experience and unity of the ANC and its alliance.

But the unity of the ANC, as the 50th Conference underlined so well, is not a bureaucratic unity, not a unity of unthinking obedience. The ANC is a broad, democratic, multi-class movement, and its unity can only be fostered through recognising its diversity.

The 5-days of Conference were marked by extremely high levels of delegate participation, by robust but comradely debate, and by electoral contest for two of the six top positions.

This character of the Conference was well appreciated by international observers. Indeed, the ANC received congratulatory calls from around the world, and especially from progressive forces in Africa for the democratic and participatory nature of its Conference.

The levels of participation were not accidental. They were, in part, enabled by the focused process of political education and of official discussion papers that the ANC organised in the 6 months before December. The Conference was also greatly empowered by the preceding Alliance Summit (August 31 – September 1), and by the ANC Policy Conference.

Many of the issues which the commercial media predicted would shipwreck the Conference had been long dealt with. A case in point is government’s macro-economic framework policy, GEAR. Contrary to many press reports, the 50th ANC Conference did not rubber-stamp GEAR. The positions elaborated in the Alliance Summit were re-affirmed and developed.

The ANC, like its alliance, is committed to sustainable macro-economic perspectives. The ANC and its alliance agree that a disciplined approach must be adopted to fiscal matters.

The ANC agrees that GEAR, like any other policy is "not written in stone", and has to be assessed in an ongoing way. The Mafikeng Conference also reaffirmed the centrality of RDP objectives to all other policies, including macro-economic frameworks.

Far from straining the Alliance, the Conference helped to build the Alliance. In its review of the 50th Conference, the incoming ANC NEC in its press release of 20th January, saluted the constructive role played by the SACP and COSATU delegations at Mafikeng.

Many factors contributed to the success, dynamism and spirit of unity of the ANC Conference. At the end of the day there was one clear fact appreciated by the 3000 delegates and fraternal alliance delegations. Other political parties in our country can indulge in all kinds of petty manoeuvres and indulgences – the consequences of these are seldom of relevance. But for the ANC and its alliance, the future of SA lies in our hands. This is not a boast, but a fact. That future can be consolidated if the resolutions taken at Mafikeng are implemented, and if the spirit that prevailed at the Conference is taken forward.

 Capitalist Meltdown

The Asian Crisis and Beyond

Over the last few months, the economies of several Asian countries (Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia) have entered a sustained period of crisis. After years of high growth rates fuelled by uneven economic expansion, the bottom literally fell out of these economies overnight.

Capitalist banks and financial speculators (including George Soros, who is active in South Africa), fearful of an overheated and overvalued Asian ‘market’, cashed in their chips (in the form of speculative currency devaluation). Their actions sent the "Asian Tiger" economies into a tailspin. Stock markets crashed and indigenous companies went bankrupt due to the massive increase in debt as a result of the currency devaluation. In less than three months, over one million people have lost their once secure jobs, not to mention the economic and social disaster faced by millions more who depended on those jobs for survival. The crisis is making its presence felt in the political arena as well, with increasingly strident calls and activities by the workers and poor for their governments to go.

These were the same economies that were being held up as models for us in South Africa.

For the past four years, bourgeois economists and western governments constantly pressured our government to follow a similar path, with promises of high growth and massive job creation. Unfortunately, some within government were won over and were soon promising that South Africa would become the ‘Indonesia or Malaysia of Africa’. Now the main question being asked is ‘what happened?’

Backed by western governments intent on securing allies as part of their Cold War agenda in Asia, multinational capital (both productive and financial) pursued its own ‘profit lust’ in the Asian economies. Massive loans, with equally massive interest rates, were granted for the expansion of industry and corporations set up shop to take advantage of the exploitative labour conditions imposed on Asian workers. There was growth, and there was most certainly accumulation of huge amounts of capital.

As part of this "model", the state also played a central role (something the neo-liberals would have us forget). In many cases, the state redirected capital surplus into improved social services and provision of basic needs. A small, but thriving middle class developed, and the economies grew at a rapid pace. This ‘economically progressive’ role of the state hinged on three factors:

  • the continuous inflow of capital from the West
  • the Asian economies ability to drive their growth through expanded exports
  • the continuation of the state's coercive capacity to keep labour and the masses of poor in check

It was a good arrangement for all capitalists involved, and the combination of economic spin-offs and political repression of the workers and poor were enough to keep the "model" alive. And yet, precisely because of the contradictory nature of this so-called "Asian Tiger model" (profits could not be maintained), the bottom fell out. The engine was overheating and this called for drastic action on the part of international capital in order to rescue their pipeline of accumulation – they did not want, as the old saying goes, "to throw the baby out with the bath water."

Soon after last year’s currency shakedown that shook Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea in quick succession, US president Bill Clinton dismissed the situation as a few small "glitches in the road." Less than a week later he followed this with a veiled threat that implicitly recognised the seriousness of the crisis: "We can restore stability if the countries take the steps that are necessary. The IMF reform packages have to be followed."

Sure enough, the ever-present IMF stepped in to ‘save the day’. The practical effect of the IMF "reform packages" (all too familiar to the workers and poor of Africa) has been:

  • to force indigenous companies into total bankruptcy by demanding that no state aid be given (something that Western states constantly do), resulting in massive lay-offs.
  • to demand cuts in the (already minimal) levels of state spending on social services and basic needs so that the funds can be used to buy dollars to pay back international capital
  • to demand governments raise interest rates and slow down the economy, thus reducing competition to multinational corporate capital in the competitive struggle for market share
  • to demand increased access to local markets (‘liberalisation’) and rights to buy up indigenous companies

It would be a mistake though, to see the ongoing capitalist crisis that has hit East Asia as merely an "Asian problem". It is a crisis of capitalism itself. The same bourgeois economists and Western governments who would like to get their hands on the South African economy, would like us to believe that the ‘problems’ have been contained and recovery is on its way in the form of IMF programmes. But even a quick analysis of the underlying causes of the crisis points to a very different conclusion.

On the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, and in the midst of this capitalist crisis, it is instructive to remember that Marx and Engels showed clearly that the logic of capital accumulation is practically expressed by the constant search for the maximisation of profit, for the best possible conditions for exploitation. They also convincingly argued that in these pursuits, capitalism creates the conditions for its own crises. It does so precisely because of its inability to resolve the contradiction between increases in the capacity of the productive forces and the parallel degree of exploitation necessary for such expansion. The linkage between the two produces a crisis – too many commodities (overproduction) cannot be absorbed by the masses of people, due to their increased exploitation. Over the past two decades, this is exactly what has happened in East Asia.

 Crisis in Education

SADTU Speaks Out

As we argued in the last issue of Umsebenzi (Dec/Jan 1997-98), the ongoing crisis in our educational system calls for a reevaluation of both fiscal and political priorities. Here, South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (SADTU) President, William Madisha, outlines the problem areas and argues SADTU’s case for resolving the crisis.

 In 1996, the parties to the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) signedResolution 3. This resolution set out the principles of rationalisation ineducation in order to ensure that transformation occurred in South Africa. It alsodetermined improvement of service conditions for education for 3 years.

    Resolution 3 sought to:

  • implement redeployment rather than retrenchment
  • implement equity and redress through an increase in provincial budgets
  • ensure that teachers received inflation-related salary increases
  • ensure that education would be right-sized
  • ensure the retraining of teachers

Unfortunately, it has achieved none of the above. There has been no redeployment, no equity and redress, no real savings, a down-sizing of education and no retraining has taken place.

What went wrong with implementation? Amongst others:

  • provinces experienced difficulty in providing accurate statistics to start redeployment
  • there was a lack of political will to make redeployment work
  • there was slow progress on thc part of the state to effect equity and redress
  • financial constraints were experienced in provinces that affected education
  • there was a lack of understanding and poor management by the bureaucracy on processes of transformation

On 21 November 1997 the state announced that over 70 000 temporary teacherswould be retrenched. What would this mean for education?

  • the culture of learning and teaching would suffer
  • future examination results would become worse
  • unmanageable workloads for teachers
  • the implementation of Curriculum 2005 would collapse
  • parents would have to pay for extra teachers needed at schools, a situation that would mostly affect working class parents

SADTU’s response has been to threaten the state with an interdict, to declare a national dispute on the retrenchment of temporary teachers and issue a call for a political meeting with the Minister of Education. While the threat of an interdict and the dispute forced all provinces to enter into consultations in terms of the LRA, the meeting with the Minister failed to resolve the crisis.

The state has placed a new proposal on the table of the ELRC. This new approach has at its core the principle that provincial budgets will determine the number of teachers in a financial year. It does not take into account the educational needs of the province. It does not take into account the financial implications it would have on the ordinary parent. It further succumbs to elitist groupings like the Grove Primary School, which does not have transformation of education as part of its agenda.

Furthermore, the state's proposal, amongst other things: promotes fiscal federalism; promotes wholesale retrenchments of all teachers; exploits teachers; neglects equity and redress; disregards the principle of negotiations on matters of mutual interest; and reverses the gains of workers around Centralised Bargaining.

SADTU’s initial response to the state’s new approach has called for: collective bargaining at a national level; the recommitment of the state to collective agreements signed; the state to undertake a comprehensive teacher audit; the state to recommit itself to redeployment as an alternative to retrenchment; the state to recommit itself to teacher retraining; the state to consider SADTU'S proposal on class size and workload; and the Minister of Education to declare national norms and standards to direct all provinces

Finally, SADTU is seeking legal opinion on the following matters arising from the state’s proposal:

  • the National Department’s abdication of its responsibility with regard to rationalisation in achieving equity and redress
  • the problematic nature of the devolution of responsibilities
  • the threat to the role of the ELRC as the central chamber for negotiations
  • the inevitability of retrenchments, given that the number of teachers employed in each province will be determined by the funds available in each province
  • the suggestion that provinces will change the number of teachers they have each year
  • the assumption that redeployment has been completed in terms of Resolution 3 of 1996

In light of all the above, SADTU calls upon all COSATU affiliates to support the following:

  1. Providing quality public education to all people of our country, guided by the principles of equity and redress
  2. The need for central government to adopt a reconstruction budget for education rather than a maintenance budget
  3. The need for educationally sound class sizes and numbers of teachers for schools (i.e., a ratio of 1 teacher for every 32 pupils), thereby preventing the retrenchment of teachers
  4. To oppose cutbacks due to poor budgeting and management of key services and resources to schools (e.g., cleaning, security, textbooks, stationary, water and electricity)
  5. To oppose the relegation funding responsibilities to school governing bodies, so as to avoid unaffordable school fees in disadvantaged communities
  6. To demand that central government sets national norms and standards that direct provinces in the administration and provision of education.
  7. To demand that all social services be a national priority
  8. To support the campaign of a Culture of Learning and teaching
  9. To ensure Centralised Bargaining in education and the Public Service

 Provincial Focus
 Gauteng

The provincial office in Gauteng reports on the outcome of two important meetings that took place in January to consolidate a Provincial political programme and prepare for the upcoming Provincial and National Congresses.

 In line with what is now standard practice at the beginning of every year in the province, the PEC went on a weekend retreat/lekgotla on 17-18 January 1998. The retreat was also attended by two representatives from the six districts. The aim of the retreat was to reflect on the following questions:

  • How do we see the current situation, taking into consideration the strategy and tactics of the ANC and the strategic perspectives of the SACP?
  • What is the role and conduct of the SACP and its leadership in the current situaiton?
  • What is the state of the Party in the province and what preparations need to take place for the provincial and national congresses

The retreat was characterised by a spirit of openness. There was an extensive and robust discussion on the two input papers presented by PEC members as well as the report on the state of the organisation. Following the discussion it was agreed that all recommendations would be presented to the Provincial Council (25 January). Based on the recommendations, the Provincial Council agreed that the following issues will form part of our political and organisational discussion at the Provincial Congress, scheduled for 18-19 April 1998.

  • Are we building a vanguard or mass party?
  • What conditions would need to prevail for the relationship between the ANC and the SACP to change?
  • Is it possible for socialism to emerge from the womb of capitalism?
  • What is the meaning and how do we give effect to our aim of decommodification of basic needs?
  • What does the implementation of SACP polices in government mean?
  • What is expected, what is the role and what should be the activities of Party cadres and structures in order to give effect to the slogan ‘Socialism is the future, build it now’?
  • Does our organisational and political experience since the last Congress give rise to the need for constitutional amendments?

To ensure a strong Party before and after our Provincial Congress, a practical preparatory programme was adopted. The programme assigns some responsibilities to the PEC, various provincial subcommittees and branches.

Finance & Administration

  • Carrying forward the debit order campaign
  • Each PEC member to raise new debit orders
  • To follow-up on the outstanding levies for elected representatives
  • All branches to have at least one fundraiser
  • Provincial Congress registration of R50 per delegate
  • A provincial fundraiser to be organised

Party Building

  • A vigorous campaign to renew membership in all branches
  • Targeted recruitment to strengthen the Party on a long-term basis
  • To hold two Congress preparatory political education workshops, the first on the national strategic perspectives document and the second on Congress discussion papers. Both workshops will be followed up at district and branch level
  • Consistent deployment of all PEC members to branches and districts

Governance

  • With our alliance partners, to immediately focus on a campaign to improve and rebuild education in our public schools through voluntary teaching in subjects that have limited teachers available, assisting school governing bodies with administrative work, assisting in cleaning and maintenance and protecting schools from vandals and criminals
  • With the assistance and guidance of established ABET organisations, to start an ABET pilot project in one district

Mobilisation for Provincial Congress

  • Holding of branch AGM’s and district Congresses
  • Targeting of weak areas and areas with potential
  • Providing support from strong districts to weaker ones
  • To raise the public profile of the Party and publicise Congresses

Work to implement this programme has already started in earnest in the province. We are determined to succeed.

Farewell

Comrade Jean Middleton – SACP Stalwart and Departting editor of Umsebenzi

It is with great regret, but also tremendous gratitude, that the SACP Head Office says farewell to Comrade Jean Middleton. Comrade Jean has decided to leave the Head Office where she has been the Editor of Umsebenzi for several years. As many Party cadres know, Comrade Jean is a long-time activist of the SACP and the ANC. Although she will no longer be part of the SACP staff, she will remain an active member of our organisation. All of us here at Head Office (and many more movement cadres) wish her well and express our revolutionary thanks for her hard work and dedication.

 

Left Laugh

Two Trotskyites are lying on a hillside at night, gazing up into the stars.Suddenly, before their very eyes, a flying saucer gracefully lands in the field beneath them.

"Wow", says one. "Whatever planet they’re from must have had highly progressed communism to achieve such technological advancement."

"You idiot", says the other. "You know you can’t have communism in only one planet."

 Crisis in Zambia

Umsebenzi interviews Comrade Azwell Banda – General Secretary of the opposition Zambian Democratic Congress (ZDC) 

Events over the last few months in Zambia have forced much of the political opposition to Zambain President Chiluba’s government underground. Facing imminent detention under Chiluba’s State of Emergency regulations, Cde Banda was forced to flee to South Africa.

Umsebenzi: Tell us about the ZDC and its political programme

Cde Banda: The context within which the ZDC was eventually formed is premised on the 1991 situation that led to the downfall of the previous Kaunda government. In terms of the politics of the time, many liberties had been taken away (e.g. political legality of opposition organisation) as well as freedom of expression and association. Also, the state of the economy was in tatters as a result of the relationship with the IMF and World Bank, as well as the failure at diversifying the economy and supporting indigenous development. A range of social forces came together (businesspeople, academics, students, intellectuals, churches etc.) as the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). By the time Chiluba became President, he was at the head of a very broad movement with a variety of interests. After 1991 many of the contradictions of this arose, and it took about 2-3 years for many to realise that Chiluba was not going to take the country anywhere. Out of this, the process of forming the ZDC began around 1993, with most of its leadership comprised of those who had previously been in the MMD government, as well as independent progressives.

The basic thrust of the ZDC is to restore civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights. We have a very strong ‘socio-market’ orientation. Trade liberalisation in Zambia has led to the destruction of a nascent industrial base, turning our country into a dumping ground for foreign goods. We have become a South African bantustan. We argue for state intervention to strengthen the nation’s industrial base as well as to address the agricultural sectors (which make up more than 40% of economy) in terms of infrastructural development in the rural areas (e.g., subsidies and co-operatives). We also place an emphasis on regulation of exchange control (there has been a massive devaluation of our currency) in order to influence the people’s quality of life (e.g., wages and conditions of employment). We cannot have a government abandoning the people to the market.

Umsebenzi: Why do find yourself here in South Africa?

Cde Banda: After the so-called attempted coup on 28 October 1997 - which was little more than indiscipline in the army – but which occurred against the backdrop of a severe political and economic crisis in our country, the initial assurance of the Chiluba government to respect civil and political liberties was done away with. A state of emergency was declared, followed by widespread detention of political opponents, including the President of the ZDC, Comrade Dean Mungomba. I therefore had to leave the country in face of threat of detention.

 Umsebenzi: What is the state of comrades who have been detained?

Cde Banda: About 90 people are in detention for ‘conspiring to overthrow the state’. Many of them have been tortured as well as denied access to lawyers and family. Also, no specific charges have been laid and the process of habeas corpus denied by courts. There is now a Presidential detention order in effect for all the detainees, thereby denying judicial review of the validity of detentions.

Umsebenzi: Give us a brief explanation of the events in Zambia since the elections in 1996

Cde Banda: Hang on! Let’s get some background on events prior to the November 1996 elections. Before the elections there was the absence of any significant political reforms and all efforts at new constitutional reforms were sabotaged. Chiluba hired an Israeli company to run the elections that had links with the Israeli intelligence agency – Mossad - and was not registered in Zambia. This created massive problems for opposition parties in terms of registering voters and subsequent legal efforts to rectify this were frustrated. Chiluba barred former President, Kenneth Kaunda from standing, and traditional authorities from participating in politics and dispensed massive amounts of money to his party’s own candidates (an average of R70 000 each).

Opposition parties were harassed and denied permits to operate freely.There was a debate amongst and within the main opposition partied about whether to boycott elections. The boycott argument made sense because clearly we would not have free and fair elections. On the other hand, there was a chance to continue to use the peaceful option. After much debate, we in the ZDC did participate and we emerged with just over 30% of the vote. But tension continued to rise, which culminated in an assassination attempt on Kaunda. All opposition parties regard Chiluba’s government as illegitimate and have challenged the electoral process as fraudulent in courts.

Umsebenzi: Most of the international community has presented the situation in Zambia as one of Chiluba versus Kaunda. How would you respond?

Cde Banda: It’s understandable why this would be the case. Kaunda has been around for so long. The truth is that there is a constitutional and electoral crisis in Zambia, made worse by an economic crisis. The present levels of poverty are unprecedented in our history, with life expectancy now around 39 years. There are over 33 registered parties although there are really only 5 main ones.

At the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) level the simplistic Chiluba vs. Kaunda portrayal has also been prevalent, and this has rendered the organisation irrelevant in helping solve the Zambian crisis. There is very little clamouring about what is actually happening in Zambia, but rather a singular focus on Kaunda. This has given Chiluba the opportunity to continue his present activities. My prayer would be that the SADC leadership takes a more holistic approach to the problem and not focus exclusively on Kaunda, nothwithstanding the respect that many have for him and his role. Kaunda is part of a solution, but Kaunda is not Zambia and Zambia is not Kaunda.

Umsebenzi: What is your opinion of the role the South African government has played?

Cde Banda: So far they have done reasonably well. Mandela’s talks with Chiluba have been helpful. However, not enough is being done. The South African government has very powerful economic instruments to help resolve the crisis and as chair of SADC must move quickly towards a full conference on Zambia where the crisis is seriously discussed. In this way, there is the possibility to peacefully resolve the crisis and place pressure on Chiluba to enter serious dialogue with opposition leaders. There will be no peace in Zambia as long as we have an electoral and constitutional crisis. Chiluba can free Kaunda tomorrow, but that will not alter the basic problems. Zambia is bleeding to death. As long as the international community continues to focus on Kaunda, Zambia will remain dead. We have to look at thecountry as a whole, not one individual. The South African government needs to take a more pro-active stance rather than as one in which their old friend is involved.

Umsebenzi: What are the immediate plans of the ZDC?

Cde Banda: We continue to call for dialogue in Zambia. My responsibility here is to lobby for support for this, to seriously address the electoral and constitutional crisis. We continue to work with other parties and call for the lifting of the state of emergency prior to the possibility of dialogue.

Political Education

 The Communist Manifesto – 150 years

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto. Amidst a growing global capitalist crisis that presents key challenges for all communists, Jeremy Cronin takes a look at the Manifesto’s continued relevance. 

In February 1848, 150 years ago, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto marked the birth of scientific socialism.

General socialist ideas had been around for centuries before. As moral critiques of the inequality of class societies, these earlier socialist theories had an important value. But they all failed to produce a rigorous analysis of modern capitalist society.

Because of this, these earlier socialist writings tended to be utopian visions. Their visions were more or less unconnected to the realities of the world. Others called for socialist experiments on the margins of society – small communes.

With the Manifesto of Marx and Engels, we have the first programmatic statement of the struggle for socialism in the context of modern industrial capitalism.

The Manifesto is divided into four basic sections.

The first section looks at the evolution and main tendencies of modern capitalism. Those who imagine that the founding fathers of the communist movement would be completely one-sided in their criticism of capitalism, will be in for a shock.

Parts of the Manifesto are filled with admiration for the revolutionary energy of capitalism.

"The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part", they write. "The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together."

Those who imagine that "globalisation" is a new reality would do well to note the observations on the globalising tendencies of capitalism of which Marx and Engels were well aware 150 years ago. "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere…it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood…"

Unlike most earlier socialist writings, Marx and Engels see something that is immensely progressive in all of this. The socialism of the Manifesto is forward-looking, not a backward-looking dream. But, if Marx and Engels are not one-sided in their approach to capitalism, they are certainly dialectical.

This brings us to the second core insight of the Manifesto. All of this restless, global energy unleashed by capitalism is on behalf of private profits for a tiny minority. Capitalism is both the most social of all hitherto existing economic modes, and also among the most minority-based. Herein lies the core contradiction of capitalism, it is a liberator and an oppressor.

What is more, the ever expanding extension of capitalism involves the development of an ever growing proletariat. And it is in this proletariat that (in the memorable words of the Manifesto) the bourgeoisie produces its own grave-diggers.

Here is the answer to the puzzle that had bedevilled most preceding socialist writings. They had elaborated socialist ideals, but they did not have the foggiest notion of what social force was capable of struggling for and implenting those values in the real world.

The second section of the Manifesto naturally follows from this – it looks at the connection between Communists and Proletarians. The core theme of this section is that communists must not stand apart, as a sect, from the proletariat and its organisations. Communists must immerse themselves in these formations. But in so doing they must always "point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of nationality"; and "in the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole."

The third section of the Manifesto is a review and critique of other socialist currents. As Marx and Engels were themselves to write in their own subsequent introductions to the Manifesto, this is the section that has probably dated the most. Its reference points are various socialist theories that have long disappeared. Nevertheless, there are some fascinating general points.

South Africans re-reading the Manifesto might remember recent opportunistic attempts in our movement, using Marxist terminology, to argue that the priority of our time is to form a "patriotic bourgeoisie". These spurious arguments were not foreign to Marx and Engels 150 years ago. In a sub-section dealing with "bourgeois socialism" they conclude, with deep sarcasm: "Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression, when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech…It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois – for the benefit of the working class."

The final section of the Manifesto addresses the question of the relation of Communists to other progressive parties. Its conclusions are clear-cut: "the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement". Communists engage with the immediate struggles of working people, but always try to connect them to the longer-term transformational agenda.

As Communists in South Africa, 150 years after the publication of the Manifesto, we should, of course, avoid treating it as gospel truth, as divine revelation. Yet, unlike so many other theoretical fads (like Asian Tiger worship?) whose shelf-life is a few years or decades – the Communist Manifesto, one and a half centuries on, continues to powerfully illuminate our own reality.

 

Red Star and Thumbs Down

 to the Zimbabwean people for their show of ‘people’s power’ against corruption and authoritarianism. The combination of the nation-wide general strike by the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions in November last year and the widespread popular revolts in early January are clear signals that the Zimbabwean people have had enough of bad government and lack of real democracy. These events also send a strong message to the IMF/World Bank oppressors that the days of their economic imperialism are numbered.
Solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe!

 to the comrade delegates at the 50th Congress of the ANC for reaffirming the centrality of the Alliance to the task of fundamental transformation of our country. We think that the political maturity shown by the delegates during Congress discussions and the elections for a new leadership was just the right antidote to those who sought to demonise the SACP and the revolutionary thrust of the Alliance in the name of ‘capitalist democracy’. Viva the cadres of the movement!

Three Thumbs Down to the inept, corrupt and dangerously paranoid Chiluba government in Zambia for its increasingly dictatorial response to the legitimate demands of the political opposition. Not content with rigging the 1996 elections, Chiluba and his cronies have conveniently declared a state of emergency which allows them to detain and harass political opponents and ignore civil and human rights. Sadly, the Chiluba government seems determined to take Zambia down the road of economic disaster and political conflict. We can only hope that some degree of commonsense prevails, for the sake of all Zambians and their neighbours (see page 4).

Two Thumbs Down  to Bill "Free Willy" Clinton for, once again, confirming that the capitalist ruling class is as degenerate and stupid as we have always known. Forget all the sleazy details of this latest example, in which the mainstream media revels. We here at Red Star are now confident that our suspicions about the connection between the obsession with phallic weapons of mass destruction and the sexual insecurity of male members of the capitalist ruling class have been proven correct. We strongly suggest that the socialist struggle must attempt to bring both down to size!


Quote of the Month

 "The business of politics consists of a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money … a world where every quid has its quo."

Don Tyson - CEO of Tyson Foods Inc. (multinational food company)

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