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RED ALERT
An intellectual will not be surprised when others respond to his opinions about them - A comradely reply to Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
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APRIL 1998

Cosatu's "Autumn Offensive Begins"

"The Union a Spear, Cosatu a Shield - Join a Coastu Union Now"

This month marks COSATU's launch of its April mass recruitment campaign. Every year in April - beginning this month and leading up to COSATU's 7th National Congress in 2000 - will be designated as a month of mass recruitment. The main thrust of the campaign is to organise the unorganised and to bring as many workers into the COSATU fold as possible.

At its 6th National Congress, COSATU adopted a range of resolutions on building the federation and its affiliates. The "Autumn Offensive" in the words of COSATU General Secretary, Sam Shilowa, will be "putting into practice, existing resolutions." While the dominant focus is on mass recruitment, the campaign also seeks to service membership, rebuild regions and locals, build leadership with a specific focus on women, build an effective administration, assist less organised affiliates and create self sufficiency.

The campaign is being undertaken at a time when workers are under serious threat from the neo-liberal agenda of capital. While COSATU has been able, in opposition to international trends, to sustain and increase its membership, employers have intensified their efforts at unilateral restructuring of the industry and the workplace in their never-ending search for maximum profits. The resulting mass retrenchments and worsening labour conditions present COSATU and its working class partner, the SACP, with fundamental challenges.

Shilowa has clearly stated that COSATU will not "conform" to the dictates of the neo-liberal agenda, which seeks to "erode workers rights." Indeed, there is a direct link between the launch of the campaign and the international neo-liberal onslaught around what has been commonly called, the "Washington consensus". In order for the working class in South Africa to resist, and possibly defeat, this anti-worker and imperialist agenda there is the need to strengthen the organisational capabilities of the union movement.

The "Autumn Offensive" seeks to increase COSATU's membership by fifty percent over the next three years. And yet, it is not merely a matter of increasing the numbers. The campaign will place particular focus on the most vulnerable workers. Special emphasis will be directed at women and young workers, those in the informal sector, farm workers, as well as white workers who have historically been outside of the COSATU fold. At the same time, the campaign will direct COSATU locals, in conjunction with affiliates, to identify industrial areas that are not organised or only have a small COSATU presence, for targeted recruitment.

The campaign acknowledges that one of its key tasks is to target public sector workers. This is important for two particular reasons: to empower organised workers to resist the neo-liberal agenda of 'right-sizing' and privatisation and to struggle for a pro-active, interventionist public sector; and to strengthen the role of the Alliance in the transformation of the public sector into a people's instrument for fundamental socio-economic development. In this effort, COSATU has stated clearly that the campaign must 'reverse the trend where new bureaucrats play lip service as ANC activists to the important role of the trade union movement, yet take very few steps to themselves join COSATU affiliated unions. The time for paper activists is over - they either believe in trade unions or they don't."

WHAT THE SACP SAYS

* SACP Provinces must develop their own plan on reinforcing campaign

* SACP Provincial structures should link-up with the COSATU 'Autumn Offensive' Campaign committee

* All branches of the Party must develop their own plans to assist COSATU locals and other COSATU structures that exist in their localities

* All members of the Party who are unemployed must be seconded, as voluntary organisers, to the relevant COSATU structure for the duration of the campaign

* Party structures at Provincial and District levels must nominate an 'Autumn Offensive' campaign convenor - to oversee the entire campaign

* All Party structures should see the campaign as a learning experience in organising as well as an opportunity to work with workers

* Party cadres should see the campaign as a recruitment exercise and an opportunity to build, with COSATU, Party units and branches at the industrial level

ALL COMMUNISTS TO THE 'AUTUMN OFFENSIVE'

BUILD A MASSIVE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT!

Besides strengthening the organisational capacity of COSATU, the campaign will also present the working class movement with new political challenges. As the unions grow, there will also be the need to ensure that new members (and those that they support through their work), are introduced to the political principles of socialism. As COSATU's partner in the struggle for socialism and as the most significant political representative of the South African working class, the SACP and its cadres have a duty to play a leading role in providing all workers with a socialist political education. It is the SACP that must take the lead in presenting to the workers, a political programme to fight capitalism and in the process to weld the workers into a formidable force for the building of socialism now!

The "Autumn Offensive" campaign must be seen as a central part of our common struggle to roll back the neo-liberal onslaught and struggle for socialism. While it is necessary, it is not enough for socialists to merely defend the gains already made. COSATU's campaign presents the working class movement with a solid challenge. We must organise to win!

Political Education

What do we mean by the ''Left"?

Langa Zita explores the meaning and context of this widely used term. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

Introduction

Developments with the country as a whole and in the democratic movement have seen labels of left and right not no longer the sole preserve for those out side the movement but also within. It is within this context that it is important for us to unpack the concept of the Left.

The Left Project and Modernity

The Left Project is informed by, is an engagement with and embodies the heritage of the French Revolution- the ideals of Liberty, Fraternity (solidarity) and Equality. Though these values underpin the Left project, the Left is also about engagement, appropriation and redefinition of these concepts. Essentially we question the incapacity and the impossibility of the capitalist system to enjoy and to experience, these values. Ours is a tradition that embraces the principles of rationality, tolerance, plurality and acceptance of difference. Its heritage is grounded in the understanding that history is an ongoing process and that history is made by humans in organised formations. Historically, Marxists have correctly been critical of the formality that capitalism has given to these ideas. For capital and its ideologues, Liberty means the freedom to exploit and oppress the working class. Furthermore, in a context in which the majority's freedom to work, and therefore to live is dependent on the profit considerations of capitalists, how free are people under capitalism? Except for social democratic society, which is partly a result of the divide between the rich, imperialist north and the former colonised and less developed South, capitalism has not committed itself to the principle of solidarity amongst the people. Capitalist society is based on competition where only the fittest (capitalist), survive. What is never explained is how the rich got rich. There is no way of explaining this, except in the eyes of capitalist propagandists.

Alternative Rationality

Rationality is about the set of arguments that people bring to justify certain courses of action. The Left represents a positive opposition to capitalist development: Against the principle of the maximisation of output and profit it sets the necessary self-limitation of the amount of labour performed by the workers. There is a biological limit to how much workers can do. Against the principle of competitive struggle between individuals it sets the principle of solidarity and mutual support. Therefore the Left aims not to displace economic rationality (i.e., different views on why and how production should proceed), but seeks to place that rationality at the service of human society, and in effect, argues for an alternative rationality.

Alternative Political-Economy

Similar to the alternative rationality that emphasises collective solutions to social problems, the left holds an alternative political economy. This alternative is underlined by the following principles:

  • Collective ownership of the means of production
  • Social controls on the operations of individual capitalist enterprises
  • Public control(via the state)
  • A role for social and accountable planning in the economy

The principles are clearly delineated in the Freedom Charter as well as in the unashamedly socialist programme of the SACP. The only aspects of this alternative political economy that was expressed in the RDP related in the people centered-ness of the programme. This is due to the fact that the RDP only sees the role of the state as dependent of the balance of evidence. Whilst state involvement is not the only expression of an alternative political economy, does not this limited view of the state not undermine the Left credentials of the RDP?

The Left Project and Democracy

Democracy is an integral and fundamental element of the left project. By democratisation, we don't mean occasional elections but continuous popular participation in and control of all social realities (those critical to the reproduction and enjoyment of life), including that of the economy. This notion of popular democracy does not negate the rights and needs of the individual citizen. These democratic principles extend internally into the formation of the Left.

The Left Project and Alternative Society - Lessons from the fall of Eastern Euope

Socialised market: A key lesson to be drawn from the fall of Eastern Europe is that we cannot dispense with the use of market mechanism (i.e. buyers and sellers). These mechanisms, though useful in as far as stimulating innovation and choice, continue to have negative implications that have to be addressed. For instance, there will always be tension and competition between various producers, between producers and consumers. Because of this, the market mechanism needs to be socialised and subjected to social control and regulation.

Popular participation: Profoundly absent in the Eastern Europe, post-capitalist societies was popular participation by ordinary citizens, whether individually or as communities. Socialism cannot be monopolised by a single party, but will involve parties in conjunction with social movements and other organised popular forces.

Left project in the midst of globalisation

The character of capitalism has undergone dramatic changes in the past few decades. The rise and mobility of transitional corporations, the predominance of finance capital and its increasing mobility across national boundaries (expedited by technological advances and the tendency towards overproduction in the capitalist system), has been propelled by an ideologically-driven, neo-liberal onslaught since the late 1970s. These realities of globalisation have dramatically changed (and even circumscribed), but do not negate, alternative paths of human development. It remains a historical challenge for the Left to elaborate tactics and strategies based on a clear understanding of these changes, that advance a programme of socialist transformation in these new circumstances.

Umsebenzi Discussion

Building a Casino Economy?

Over the last year there has been a flurry of casino-related activity around the country. In addition to the several large casinos already operating, 40 new casino licenses have either been granted or are still in the selection process. With all the provinces vying with each other to see who can find the illusory 'pot of gold' at the end of the casino rainbow, South Africa is in danger of becoming, literally, a casino economy.

The irony is so simple as to deceive. In the midst of the never-ending calls by business and government for creating an environment 'conducive' to foreign investment, the one area where there has been no problem in attracting foreign investors has been gambling. If anyone is looking for real competition, just look at the bidding frenzy for the 40 casino licenses up for grabs.

All around the country, provincial governments have been falling over each other in the rush to get the gaming tables and machines up and running. Legislation has been quickly passed, Gambling Boards set up and licences granted. It seems as if the ongoing legislative and bureaucracy problems associated with issues such as land, housing and infrastructural provisions have, somehow, miraculously been sorted out when it comes to setting up casinos.

Indeed, casino gambling is presented to the people as a veritable gold mine for both the local communities in which the casinos will operate, and government, who will reap rich tax rewards. Without a great deal of dissent, many politicians and businessmen have managed to sell the idea that casino gambling is good for the economy. Elaborate criteria have been used in the granting of licenses to justify both the political correctness and economic usefulness of casino gambling. These include whether the casino would "enhance the neighbourhood", create "sustainable employment", benefit nearby, "needy communities", allow "historically disadvantaged people" to share in "ownership and profit" and contribute to "reconstruction and development programme aims". And with GEAR's budget cutting in full flight, the promises of a regular cash flow coming from gambling taxes seems to good to pass up.

What makes all of this casino madness even worse is the seeming indifference to the character of the companies involved. We all know about Sun International's role in supporting apartheid and good business practice. Now we can add London Clubs International, whose main shareholder is one of the most generous supporters of right-wing causes internationally, and US-based Caesar's World, constantly surrounded in controversy for its alleged links to the criminal underworld. Seems like a strange line-up of foreign investors to attract in order to contribute to the RDP?

Putting aside all the rhetoric about the benefits of casino gambling to the people and economy of South Africa, the bottom line is that it is the 'ordinary people' who pay the costs. Who do we think will be drawn to the bright lights and promises of instant wealth that all these casinos will 'offer'? Who will spend the last of their salaries on the beckoning one-arm bandits? What kind of social relations will spring-up around all these new casinos, that are now much closer to where the 'ordinary people' live?

Here's another bottom line. Casinos are capital intensive 'industries' and thus will create few jobs in the long term. Furthermore, casino development in other countries has been accompanied by increased deindustrialisation. Instead of productive investment that creates jobs and enhances the quality of people's lives, casino gambling offers speculative investment that brings little in the way of either social quality of life or economic benefit to the vast majority.

If we are going to be serious about real development to benefit the working and poor people of South Africa, then we must be equally serious about fighting the 'development' of casino gambling. It is poison, and the sooner we kill it off with a healthy antidote of working class struggle the better!

What do you Think ?

Readers are invited to respond

Red Star and Thumbs Down

to Comrade Madiba for his resolute defence of South Africa's sovereignty and pride during US President Clinton's recent visit. In reply to the US President's not-so-subtle attempts to dictate the political and socio-economic choices of South Africa (and other African countries), Madiba told the US exactly what it needed to be told - we will follow our own path, we will make our own choices. Particularly satisfying to us here at Red Star, was Madiba's rejection of the neo-liberal, 'trade-not-aid' package that Clinton is trying to push down the throats of African countries. While the US President and his coterie of capitalists must have been hiding their red faces, South Africans (and all Africans) must surely have been revelling in the fight-back.

to the mass opposition in Nigeria for mobilising hundreds of thousands of people in a march against the tyranny of the Abacha regime. For far too long now, the deteriorating situation in Nigeria has been conveniently sidelined by most African governments and many progressive political organisations and social movements across the continent. Generalised talk of an 'African Renaissance', can have no meaning or effect as long as the Abacha regime remains able to carry on with its reign of terror and destruction in Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria's future is inextricably linked to Africa's future. It is now time to answer the call for real solidarity - Cut all ties with the Abacha regime! Direct support to the mass opposition!

3 Thumbs Down - to the idea that certain elements in the ANC Youth League get involved in a bid by a consortium to turn the well-known Johannesburg skyscraper, Ponte City, into a private prison. According to reports received by Red Star the idea was rationalised by reference to the derelict nature of the building, the large number of 'foreigners' presently residing in Ponte City as well as the need for a 'well run, private' prison close to the city centre courts. We think the bid and the accompanying rationalisations are simply disgusting. This kind of so-called 'empowerment' initiative is nothing but a thinly disguised attempt to make money, whatever the socio-economic costs might be. We hope that this idea has disappeared since the recent ANCYL Congress. It doesn't deserve to see the light if day!

2 Thumbs Down - to the CEO of US-based Walt Disney Corporation, Michael Eisner, for taking in over US$75 million in perks and salary last year while Disney subsidiary companies in Vietnam are paying an estimated 6-8 cents an hour (US$250 per year) to the workers who make their products. Isn't it heartening to know that all those little Disney character toys that are sold in conjunction with McDonalds kid meals, are being made by young Vietnamese women, working 9-10 hour daily shifts (seven days a week) for slave wages! Last year, over 200 workers at the Disney factory in Vietnam fell ill through exposure to toxic solvents, poor ventilation and exhaustion. While the capitalist managers and politicians tell workers to tighten their belts, work harder and longer and accept 'flexible' wages and conditions, they stuff their bank accounts with obscene amounts of money. This is the reality of capitalism - it is only internationalist working class struggle that is going to challenge such inhumanity and greed. Slick rhetoric about 'global realities' and 'competitiveness' needs to put in its proper place - the dustbin of history!

 Provincail Focus

Kwazulu-Natal - One Province - Two Systems

One important objective of the Alliance in KZN is to win the 1999 elections, writes SACP KZN PEC member, HAROON AZIZ. The difficulties are now challenges - to create peace and stability, to normalise political activities and to access so-called minority and rural constituencies.

KZN remains one province with two systems - democracy and semi-feudalism - expressed as a contradiction between the ANC and Inkatha. Both share a common constituency, the poorest of the poor, but this commonality does not make the two parties the same. The ANC is led by revolutionaries who articulate the needs of the poorest, while Inkatha is led by a bureaucratic petty-bourgeoisie who use the poorest to articulate the wants of its own leadership. This startum was bred by apartheid. Although apartheid has disintegrated, this class has reintegrated itself parasitically, in the new democratic system

The suggested merger between the ANC and Inkatha or any other party, must test the assumption that the other party possesses equal, if not greater, strength than the ANC. Some of the prerequisites are:

  • an examination of the class forces which the other party represents
  • an unconditional acceptance of the Freedom Charter
  • practical commitment to the RDP
  • prior agreement on a merger within the Alliance itself

The first major challenge for the Alliance is to win over the rural constituencies, which are the support base for semi-feudalism. The second challenge is to win over the minorities - Indians, coloureds and whites.

The Indians and coloureds, though oppressed, enjoyed certain meagre material benefits form apartheid social engineering - exclusive jobs, homes, social spending and education. These privileges were heavily subsidised by the exclusion of Africans. Now, the inclusion of Africans in the enjoyment of all human rights has threatened their privileges. In defence, they voted for the NP and other reactionary parties, while perceiving the ANC as a destructive and fearsome dragon, spitting fire at their meagre privileges. They now use the reactionary parties as political fire fighters. The whites, with their still powerful colonial attachments, still enjoy an over accumulation of privileges, which are now under threat.

The consciousness of the minorities is informed by their material benefits. How does the Alliance address their fears by the 1999 elections? Can we appeal, subjectively, to their sense of social justice? It is extremely difficult for the Alliance to win over these communities, which are characterised by racial parochialism of a special type. If this is the reality, should the ANC not consider election tactics like fielding independent candidates or entering into electoral pacts? Whatever the chosen tactics, they must be developed within the context of the African working class asserting its hegemony.

  SAMWU and the Fight Against Privatisation

Umsebenzi recently talked to the General Secretary of South African Municipal Woerkers Union (SAMWU), Comrade Roger Ronnie, about the anti-privatisation battle:

Umsebenzi: What are SAMWU's gravest fears about the privatisation of services in the public sector?

Cde Ronnie: Many people will not have access to privatised basic services. This would especially be the case for formally deprived people during the apartheid era. Under privatisation tariffs are increased, there is a decline in the quality of services provided and many jobs are lost due to restructuring through retrenchments. These fears can be eliminated, by ensuring that the provision of municipal services remains under control of the public sector.

Umsebenzi: So far, what have been the visible consequences for the services that have been privatised?

Cde Ronnie: As you know, this privatisation drive started with the apartheid regime's macro-economic policies. The Constitutional Department is heavily involved in the drive to privatise municipal services. Refuse collection and the provision of water are the main targets, clearly because these areas guarantee huge opportunities for private profits.,We have seen a rapid deterioration of refuse removal where this service has been privatised. In several townships in the Western and Northern Cape refuse removal services have collapsed. I have since held a meeting with the Premier of the Northern Cape to discuss this unhealthy situation. People in the affected areas have had negative experiences with the private service providers. The full negative impacts on privatised metre reading, information services and water have yet to be assessed.

Umsebenzi: What has SAMWU done to halt this privatisation of services?

Cde Ronnie: It has not been easy, but SAMWU has managed to halt the privatisation of water in Nelspruit, Mpumulanga. The Nelspruit Council wants to sell the water in the area to a British company - British Biwater, on a 30 year contract! On 2 March 1998, SAMWU won a major battle in Khayelitsha when the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ruled that the privatisation of refuse removal in the area was unfair labour practice. The CCMA also upheld the NLRF decision that the public sector is the preferred deliverer of services. In general, together with COSATU, SAMWU has been able to raise the profile of the anti-privatisation campaign into a national campaign.

Umsebenzi: What are SAMWU's expectations from the Alliance Partners?

Cde Ronnie: The Alliance must turn the anti-privatisation campaign into a national one. The SACP must work closely with COSATU and its affiliates in this struggle.

The ANC must not abuse the black empowerment campaign by supporting the creation of a small peripheral black capitalist class at the expense of uplifting the living conditions of all the formally deprived people of South Africa. The current practice where a small, insignificant group of Africans are being favoured with state contracts is not a mass process that can lead to genuine black empowerment. We do not want a small layer of individuals only to benefit from the National Democratic Revolution. COSATU needs to place the anti-privatisation campaign on the Secretariat's agenda.

Umsebenzi: Are we winning the struggle?

Cde Ronnie: We have a foot in the door. More and more people are seeing the dangers of privatisation. There is still a lot to be done.

For further reading see:

    1. SACP Strategic Perspectives, as amended and adopted by the SACP 9th National Congress, April, 1995.

    2. SAMWU: Campaign Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue I, March, 1998.

    3. SAMWU: Workers News, March 1998.

    4. Department of Constitutional Development: Guidelines for Private Sector Participation in Municipal Service Delivery.

    5. Department of Constitutional Development: Municipal Infrastructure Investment Framework.

 Left Laugh   

Karl Marx goes to Heaven.

So Karl Marx dies and shows up at the gates of heaven to be met by Saint Peter.
"Name?" asks Peter.
"Marx, Karl Marx." replies the famous author.
"Hmm," says Peter to himself, "why do I know that name?"
"I am Marx," Marx said, beaming with pride, "founder of socialism and the driving force behind the communist ideal called Marxism."
"I see," Peter said. "I'll have to check with God."

So Peter rushes off to confer with God. God hears the name Marx and immediately a look of disgust infects His face. "Marx?" God says, "He's nothing but a trouble maker. Send him down to hell." So Peter happily signs the appropriate forms and deports Karl Marx to Satan's fiery hell.

Some time later, a free trade agreement is forged between Heaven and Hell. The deal is hailed by all to be a great economic leap forward that would revitalise both struggling economies. But soon after the treaty, God realises that Heaven is no longer receiving any products from Hell. So he sends Saint Peter down to investigate.

"Well?" asks Peter of Satan, "What's the hold up? We have an agreement!" Satan shrugs his shoulders, exasperated. "It's that Marx fellow," Satan replied. "Ever since he got down here, all we've had are strikes and labour demands. Productivity has dropped to zero!"

"So?" Peter asks, "What would you have us do?" "Take him back. Take Marx back to Heaven, and I guarantee productivity will sky rocket!" So Peter agreed, on God's behalf, to accept Karl Marx back to Heaven.

Some time later Satan realises that Hell has not received any orders for product from Heaven. In fact, very little communication at all has leaked from Up Above. So, concerned for the economic welfare of Hell, he makes a trip to Heaven.

"Peter! Peter, are you there?" Satan demands.
"Yes, what is it?" Peter answers.
"What's the hold up? What about the flow of trade?"

"Oh I'm sorry," Peter said, "We have decided to adopt a Marxist stance. We are an intrinsic self-governed body that is now based on the needs of the proletariat. It is our opinion that this free trade agreement only benefits the bourgeoisie."

"What?!" Satan was furious. "I demand to speak to God!"
Peter raises his eyebrow. "Who?"


Clinton's Visit
SA says no to re-Colonisation

If US President Bill Clinton thought that he was going to be welcomed to South Africa like the new Messiah, then he was in for a surprise. South Africans from across the spectrum showed they were not going to be pushed around.

There was the Cape Town take-away shop-owner whose business was closed for the day by Clinton's security arrangements. She was asked by national TV news if she did not feel "honoured", nonetheless, by Clinton's visit. "I would have felt more honoured if he had brought some business", she said. There was the priest at Regina Mundi in Soweto who gave a hard-hitting sermon on adultery while the hapless Clinton couple sat in the congregation. There was the mayor of Cape Town who said she was not going to be treated like a sack of potatoes by Clinton's heavy-handed body-guards.

And there was our President, comrade Mandela, who politely but very firmly informed Clinton, in the most public way possible, that South Africa is a sovereign country. We have our own foreign relations policy. We make no apologies for our relations with Cuba, and other countries demonised by the US administration. We reject the trade-not-aid, neo-liberal package that Clinton has been peddling on his Africa trip.

One of the most pleasing things about our government's rejection of the US "Africa Growth and Opportunities" Bill, is that we were taking up an African cause. The conditions, that this Bill tries to set for US trade with Africa, are not ones that particularly disqualify South Africa. But, in rejecting the Bill, we were speaking for our continent.

All-round a clear message came through. In years to come, we may well realise that the Clinton trip was an important moment for our new democracy. It has provided a bench-mark, it was a moment in which we collectively defined who we are, as South Africans, and where we are located in the world.

The common position that emerged from our government, from the ANC-led alliance, and from the SACP, was not one of total rejection. We need trade and we need foreign investment. We need, also, to engage the President of the most powerful economy in the world.

As the SACP general secretary told the National Union of Mineworkers' Congress: " Let Clinton visit the poorest continent in the world. Let Clinton visit SA, where there are four Communist cabinet ministers, and two deputy ministers, where there is one Communist provincial premier (who was once a mine-worker), and where there are over 70 Communist MPs, and hundreds of Communist mayors and local councillors. Let him come and see how we are trying to build a non-racial, multiparty democracy in an African country after centuries of colonial ruin, and decades of Cold War devastation of our region. He must see."

During the Clinton visit, the SACP and its allies used the moment to advance the following basic demands:

  • Clinton said he wants to reverse the public opinion that Africa is a "lost continent". If he is serious, then he must immediately address the major reason for Africa's continued marginalisation - the debt burden. The US must use its powers to cancel the debt of Africa's poorest countries (many of them in our region).
  • Clinton said he wants to be a "partner" in an African renaissance. If he is serious, then he must understand what partnership means. We reject all attempts to use the present African situation as an opportunity to build a US hegemony in opposition to former colonial powers, like France. We say no to all forms of re-colonisation.
  • Clinton said he wants to campaign for democracy, peace and human rights in our continent. If he is serious, then he must come clean on the role of the US in supporting white minority rule in SA over many decades. He must also understand that democracy is not just about formal, multi-party institutions, but about ensuring that African governments are answerable to their people, not to foreign bankers.
  • Clinton said he wants to help Africa economically. If he is serious, then he must understand that allowing the cold winds of global trade to blow through the ruins of our continent will not benefit Africans. Trade-not-aid is a reactionary slogan. Africa needs trade and aid, investment and development.

   News Brief

Call issued for a People's Uprising in Indonesia

Following the spectacular collapse of the Indonesian currency and the resulting economic problems, popular anger has turned into more organised opposition to the dictatorial and corrupt Suharto regime. The People's Democratic Party (PRD), the largest and most organised mass opposition, has issued a call for the "international community" to support the "people's struggle to overthrow Suharto" and to help the "people to build a more democratic, economic and political system." Stating the need to organise a "people's uprising", the PRD is now calling for "independent and sovereign People's Councils" to be established at all levels of the society in order to replace the existing "puppet" Suharto structures of governance. Alongside this, the PRD is urging the Indonesian masses to: reject the rigged electoral processes; launch mass protests and strikes to seize and occupy factories, offices, schools etc.; and end conflicts between the people based on religion and ethnic identification. All internationalists unite behind the Indonesian people's struggle!

 Palestine

50 Years of Enduring Expansionism

Increased political and social conflict, within and between Israel, Palestine and neighboring countries, threatens to ignite yet another major war in this historically volatile region. YOEL SHEMTOV, an activist in the Communist Party of Israel, argues that we must understand the history of expansionism in the region if feasible and informed solutions are to be found.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly accepted the "partition" programme for the division of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Palestinian Arabs rejected the programme. The Zionist leadership accepted it joyfully, and then proceeded to empty it of all meaningful content.

Emptying a programme of its content is not merely an abstract act. Unlike the original formulation of the partition decision, the Zionists conceived of partition as sharing the Palestinian Arab state's territory with the Kingdom of TransJordan on the one hand, and emptying the Jewish state of its Arab population on the other.

It was King Abdallah of TransJordan who had the most powerful and well organised army in the region. After the 'partition', he won the area known today as "the West Bank." That area was annexed to Transjordan which soon became "The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan" (that is, both the East Bank and West Bank). The border between the Zionist entity and the Arab West Bank were set mostly in agreements. In rare cases of dispute, the Zionists were initially unable to challenge the military supremacy of The Arab Legion.

The western side of the border was to be "The Jewish State," but it contained more Arabs than Jews. Thus the Jewish character of the country had to be realised through the transfer of some 800,000 Palestinian Arabs out of their homeland. The expulsion was carried out during the 1948 war and in the years that followed. In typical hypocrisy, they were declared absent, and their properties confiscated by the state - their vacated homes were settled by Jews coming from Europe and Arab countries.

Any demand for return was met with the claim that the return of Palestinian refugees would negate the existence of the Jewish State. The legitimacy of such existence within these borders was never seriously challenged outside of the Arab world. Most amazing was the success of Zionist propaganda in describing this massive exodus as an unplanned consequence of war, while still denying the Arab refugees' right of return.

In 1967, Israel occupied (among others) the West Bank and Gaza, where it implemented a military regime. The conflict's main focus gradually shifted to the future of the West Bank and Gaza. While not annexing it (in order 'to keep the Jewish character of the state'), Israel began placing settlers in the West Bank. In the first few years, the settlement project was limited in both scope and size, but with the emergence of the ultra-nationalist religious settlement movement "Gush Emunim" (1974), the change in Israeli regime (1977) and the separated "peace" agreement between Israel and Egypt (Camp David, 1978), it accelerated significantly.

While subsequent international pressure has prevented Israel from expelling the Arab population as it did in 1948, an apartheid regime, that gives the Jewish settler population all possible privileges, and denies the indigenous community its most basic rights, has been implemented in these territories. The West Bank, too, is undergoing a process of 'Judaization', not as rapid as the one that followed the establishment of the 'Jewish State', but no less determined.

Although the Oslo Accords (1993), signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, mark some geographic limits to this expansionary process, settler expansion continues in most of the West Bank. Thus far, only three percent of the West Bank has been turned over to both Palestinian civil and military control, known as "Area A". Twenty-five percent of the West Bank has been turned over to Palestinian civil but not military control, which remains in Israeli hands, known as "Area B". The remaining seventy-two percent of the West Bank remains under Israeli civil and military control, known as "Area C".

In the 1990s, the biggest effort has been the attempted 'Judaization' of Jerusalem, through annexation and building new Jewish "neighborhoods" in the annexed areas. Simultaneously, strong pressure has been put on the Palestinian population to leave. This is accomplished by various administrative means like complete neglect of urban planning and building permits in Arab areas, house demolitions, expulsions, ID card confiscation and the denial of family unification. In 1993 it was ceremoniously announced that in occupied East Jerusalem there were more Jews than Arabs. Now, it is 'Greater' Jerusalem, a quarter of the West Bank, that is being targeted for 'Judaization.'

Throughout, a most hypocritical role has been played by the Western allies of Israel, mainly US Imperialism. While pretending to be fair mediators, they have given Israel full support for any act of expansion. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership, who have looked to America 'to deliver the goods', finds out time and again that it has no will to do so.

There were hopes that the Oslo Accords would revive the partition idea. The continuing expansionist steps carried out by Israel (now under the grip of the Netanyahu regime) are meant to make this impossible. The apparent 'success' of these activities leaves only one solution worth fighting for - the establishment of one democratic secular state in all Palestine.

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