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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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AUGUST 1998 

Contents:

Take Forward the Work of the 10th Congress
Political Education - Understanding Capitalism
Red Stars and Thumbs Down
Provincial Focus - KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Congress
Angola - Roots of War
Nigeria - New Situation, Same Struggle
10th Congress International Programme of Action 
 

 Take forward the work of 10th Congress 

New CC meets

The newly elected SACP Central Committee met on August 1 to review the 10th Party Congress of early July, to elect a new Political Bureau, and to plan the ongoing work of the Central Committee.

The CC, chaired by Charles Nqakula, received a political report from General Secretary, Blade Nzimande. The report focused on the 10th Congress, and was followed by an extensive discussion.

Among the issues discussed were: taking forward the Congress slogan of building people's power; an assessment of the levels of participation and debate at Congress; and a political discussion of the widely reported interventions by President comrade Mandela, and ANC President, comrade Thabo Mbeki at our Congress. Discussion was also devoted to a political analysis of the violence in Richmond.

The general secretary's report underlined the danger of a "corporatist" understanding of people's power. "Corporatist arrangements, simply put, are those where all `stakeholders' are assumed - consciously or unconsciously - to be equal and their interests will best be advanced through such consultative structures and consultative mechanisms.

People's power on the other hand understands these consultative structures and corporatist arrangements as sites of intense struggles, and are characterised by stakeholders who are not equal. Such arrangements take place on a terrain of racial, class and gender inequalities, and unless understood as sites of struggle, they can act to reproduce rather than transform these relations."

In the ensuing discussion, comrades agreed with this perspective. The importance of not confining the notion of "people's power" to mass democratic structures, but also to a transforming state was underlined. People's power embraces both mass structures and a democratic state, and their interaction.

The CC charged the secretariat of the Party to develop the Programme of Action approved at Congress into an implementation plan to give further concrete meaning to our commitment to building people's power.

The political report noted the high quality and extensive participation by delegates at the Congress. "Particularly striking was the seriousness and levels of responsibility with which our cadres considered the key questions and challenges facing the NDR and our Party". The report went on to say: "Much as some of our detractors were trying to shape that Congress as a place for mere leftist sloganeering and a place to bash the ANC, our delegates displayed a sense of maturity expected of a Communist party."

There was some debate, but general agreement, in the CC on this overall assessment of delegate participation. However, some concerns were expressed that the intellectual engagement of our cadres was not always sufficiently balanced with practical activity at the branch level, on the ground.

The CC devoted some time to discussing the interventions made by comrades Mandela and Mbeki at our Congress. While our longstanding alliance with the ANC has not, in the nature of things, always been plain sailing, it was agreed that these two interventions were relatively unprecedented and unfortunate in their tone and character. On the positive side, both interventions committed themselves to the perpetuation of the alliance, and both interventions were not made cynically, or in some routine but patronising way. Clearly, the CC agreed, the robustness with which they were made indicated a concern about the Party, and a determination to engage honestly with us.

The CC committed the Party to assess self-reflectively about the appropriateness of the criticisms made. The CC is in the process of implementing the Congress decision to meet bilaterally with the ANC leadership to raise our concerns.

The SACP is an independent organisation within the alliance, and it is an organisation that will continue fearlessly to raise its perspectives and concerns. We have raised publicly SACP concerns with certain government policies because these are public concerns, and not because we are trying to score points.

The CC does not believe that comrades Mandela and Mbeki were attempting to stifle intra-alliance debate. We will certainly not do anything from our side to contribute to such a stifling. We do, however, intend to conduct ourselves in a constructive manner, and with the greatest sense of responsibility to our alliance.

The CC received reports on the situation in Richmond. The CC agreed that the situation underlined the persistence of Third Force networks, bent on destabilising our new democracy. These forces need to be dealt with decisively, and this requires, amongst other things, the ongoing transformation of our security forces, and the weeding out of third force networks.

Political Education

Understanding Capitalism

As communists struggling to implement a non-capitalist society, we need to have a firm understanding of what we are fighting. Often, we know a great deal more about Marxism and what it is that we want to see happen, than we do about the system we are struggling against. In this issue, Umsebenzi begins a series of political education columns designed to further comrades understanding of the basics of our struggle. Much of this material will come from the soon-to-be available, joint SACP-COSATU booklet entitled "Understanding Socialism".

What is an economy?

The way in which people organise themselves to produce food, shelter and other necessities of life, as well as the tools or instruments used to produce these necessities, is called an economy. Every economy has three basic elements:

  1. The necessities of life must be produced, by the bringing together of human labour, raw materials and tools and instruments of production, in a labour process that produces the product needed. This is called production.
  2. The second element involves the distribution of the products, as part of the overall production process among different people. Some of these people are involved in the production process, others are not. This element is called distribution.
  3. The third element involves the use of the product to satisfy human needs. In other words, people use or consume the products. This element is called consumption.

The different ways in which production, distribution and consumption are organised in different societies and periods in history determine the different economic systems. When we talk about an economic system, we are talking about how the three basic elements of the economy are organised, and the way in which they relate to each other. The economic system we now live under is capitalism.

Key features of capitalism

Under capitalism, production, distribution and consumption are organised in a way that makes it different from all other economic systems.

  •  under capitalism, production is carried out by many people. In other words it is highly socialised. It takes place in factories, farms, mines and shops. This means that all people are inter-dependent and that no single individual, community or even nation produces all the goods and services they need.
  •  the tools and machines - the instruments of production - and the factories, farms, mines and shops in which production takes place - the means of production - are owned by individuals, the capitalists (often grouped together as corporations)
  •  production takes place so that these capitalists can make a profit, not primarily to fulfil social needs. Production takes place under the control and supervision of capitalists.

Distribution

The distribution of the products to the consumers takes place through the process of buying and selling. The producers sell their products to the consumers, and the consumers buy them from the producers. This is known as the market mechanism, and money is used as a way of facilitating the exchange of products.

Consumption

Although the production process under capitalism is highly socialised, the consumption of products is highly individualised. People with some form of income, mainly in the form of money, are able to get access to products and thus participate in consumption.

All economies have produced goods and services, determined ways of distributing them and allowed people to consume the goods and services produced. The main way in which capitalism is different from other conomic systems is the private ownership of the means of production, and production for profit. In order for capitalists to make profit, there must be surplus. Surplus is what remains after wages are paid and enough of the production is kept aside to allow the system to reproduce itself for another cycle of production.

Under capitalism, capitalists own the means of production and the working class owns its own labour power. Because of the separation of the workers from the means of production, they have no choice but to sell their labour power, for which they receive a wage. Capitalism is a class society, in which one group (the capitalists) live off the surplus produced by another (workers).

Red Star and Thumbs Down

  to the delegates of the SACP 10th Congress, for rising to the challenge of taking the organisational and political tasks of the Party forward amidst difficult conditions. The 10th Congress, held four years after the 1994 breakthrough, presented delegates with an opportunity to critically assess, and further define, the character and role of the SACP within the broader democratic transition and the Alliance. This they did confidently, despite the political criticism levelled at the SACP and attempts by the media and big business to stoke the fires of division and cynicism. Through mature reflection, debate and a willingness to confront the theoretical and practical challenges posed, the SACP emerged from the 10th Congress with renewed strength and confidence in taking our socialist struggle forward.

  to comrade Noel Stott, chairperson of the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS) in Gauteng, for being awarded the Cuban Friendship Medal by comrade President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. According to the citation, the award was presented to cde Noel "in recognition of his constant actions of political and material support with the Cuban Revolution and of condemnation of the imperialist blockade on Cuba." Red Star congratulates cde Noel and all members of FOCUS-Gauteng for their outstanding work and actions of solidarity in support of Cuba and the strengthening of relations between Cuba and South Africa. Viva FOCUS, Viva the Cuban Revolution!

4 thumbs down  to the government of the Republic of Korea and its President, Kim Dae Jung, for embarking on a massive crackdown on unions and their leadership. Dae Jung's government has arrested and detained five prominent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) leaders and has issued arrest warrants for the detention of nearly 100 central, federation and local leaders of the KCTU. This follows intensified worker struggle against mass dismissals and attacks on job security initiated by the government and Korean corporations in response to the economic 'conditionalities' laid down by the IMF in the wake of the capitalist crises that have gripped south-east Asia. These actions signal both the government and capital's attempts to crush working class resistance and response to the gathering crises of capitalism. Unions are fighting back with mass strikes and popular mobilisation. Their struggle is our struggle!

2 thumbs down- to Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, whose comments on the 'independence' of the Reserve Bank in his parliamentary speech on recent currency volatility, reveal, once again, that he has forgotten that democracy means debate. Manuel stated that the "monetary policy decisions are the responsibility of the governor alone and the independence of the Reserve Bank over monetary policy is not open for debate. " Red Star remembers similar statements by the Minister about GEAR when it was unveiled. The Minister obviously has a short memory. Fortunately, the majority of workers and poor who are suffering under the 'non-negotiable independence' of the Reserve Bank understand that the character and content of all public policies and institutions are subject to democratic debate - this can never be forgotten! 

Provincial Focus 

KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Congress 

The SACP in KZN held its Provincial Congress on 30th - 31st May 1998. The Congress was epitomised by critical and constructive deliberations on the organisational challenges of social transformation. Underlying the discussions was the unity of purpose to build a formidable ANC-led
Alliance and to liberate KZN from feudal politics by electoral means in 1999.

The Congress identified four critical areas for focus. These were:

  •  cadre development through political education
  •  to build organs of peoples power such as school governing bodies, local development forums, workplace forums and community policing forums
  •  to build strong COSATU locals, SACP industrial and tertiary institution branches and ANC branches
  •  to restore peace in the province

Flowing from these focal points of discussion, Congress, challenged itself to recruit 10 000 paid-up members in the next two years, with special focus on shop stewards, women and students. There was unanimity on the need to propagate socialism unashamedly through forging a central and unambiguous role for the SACP in the NDR. Likewise, Congress pledged to target those who seek to use the SACP to fight their personal battles with the ANC, those who are neither willing nor able to do any work in party building and those who flee the SACP once elected to senior ANC positions.

Congress noted the weakening of the political opposition and agreed that the resulting divisions need to be exploited to ensure a two-thirds majority for the ANC in the upcoming 1999 elections. Branches were challenged to embark on campaigns such as registration of younger voters and pensioners. The issues of crime and unemployment were recognised as the major election issues around which programmes and campaigns must focus.

In relation to the Alliance, Congress noted the urgent need to combat careerism and patronage that produce loyalty to personalities rather than to political principles and policies. Correspondingly, cadres need to remain accountable to structures and constantly seek mandates. Congress further noted the need for the SACP to reposition itself as an independent organisation with a more vocal presence in the Alliance, guided by the principal task of organising the working class as the dominant political force with a clear programme of action. Congress reaffirmed the RDP as the electoral platform for 1999 as well as the perspective that the meeting of basic needs of the majority was the most direct route to socialism.

There were four commissions at the Congress that engaged in more specific discussion and debate around key issues. These were:

i) Building organisational strength, the Alliance and the character of the Party and our revolution; ii) Financial self-sufficiency and debt relief;
iii)Strategies towards victories in the 1999 elections; and
iv) Economic development and policy. Congress broadly endorsed the discussion documents prepared for the 10th National Congress. The Alliance was reaffirmed as central to the NDR, GEAR was rejected as a perceived tool of the RDP and Congress endorsed the need to develop an industrialisation strategy as well as to quantify the RDP as the authentic macro-economic policy of the ANC-led Alliance. The Congress was an all-round success. Comrades from the ANC, ANCYL, COSATU, SASCO and SADTU were in attendance and witnessed the election of a dynamic leadership.

Cde Ben Dikobe Martins as General Secretary, cde S'miso Nkwanyana as Deputy Secretary, cde Willis Mchunu as Chair, cde Sizwe Shezi as Deputy Chair and cde Nomvuzo Shabalala as Treasurer. Additional members of the provincial executive are cde's Haroon Aziz, Nhlanhla Buthelezi, Bussie Cele, Gill Fourie, Mlungisi Hlathwayo, Coreen James, Sunil Kishore, Zet Luzipho, Magwaza phalala, Important Mkhize, Welcome Mthimkulu, Ephraim Ngcobo, Paulos Ngcobo, Livingstone Nzuza and Temba Shezi. 

Nigeria 
New Situation, Same Struggle 

Over the past several weeks, Nigeria has seen the deaths of dictator, Sani Abacha and jailed opposition leader Chief Abiola, as well as the coming to power of a new military strongman, General Abdulsalam Abubakar. While the situation has changed, the struggle for human rights, democratic government and socio-economic transformation continues to hold centre stage for the majority of Nigerians.

Nigerians have been on a political roller coaster ride over the last few months. After Abacha's years of brutal misrule, the people of Nigeria were rightfully optimistic when he died earlier this year. Any hope of an early return to a democratic dispensation was however, dealt a blow with the death in detention, soon thereafter, of Presidential claimant, Chief Abiola. When General Abubakar emerged as the new military strongman and announced the release of several prominent prisoners as well as a new Political Transition Programme (PTP) for Nigeria, hopes were again raised.

It has only taken a few short weeks of Abubakar's new regime to dash most of those hopes. Despite the apparent 'changes', the same military and economic elites have shown that they are hell-bent on maintaining their ill-gotten power and privilege at the continued expense of the majority of Nigerians. Abubakar's speech to the nation on 20 July showed clearly that he and his gang of Generals and political acolytes are intent on self-managing their way out of the political and socio-economic crisis they themselves have created and sustained.

Abubakar's promise that all political prisoners would be released has remained just that - an unfulfilled promise. Many key politicians and activists continue to rot in Nigerian goals. Likewise, the General's PTP remains firmly within the boundaries of Abacha's discredited programme of manipulating the political and constitutional structures to suit vested interests. Abubakar's proposal for the continuation of the military-dominated Provisional Ruling Council and for staggered elections leading towards a hand-over of power on 29 May 1999, are little more than a sophisticated attempt to ensure that this 'transition' is effectively managed above the heads of the Nigerian people.

Not surprisingly, all the main political opposition groups have rejected Abubakar's PTP. They are unanimous in their calls for:

  • The abolition of Decree No.2 and associated amendments that allow the military regime to arrest and indefinitely detain those considered a 'threat to state security'
  • The immediate disbanding of the Provisional Ruling Council and the setting up of a transitional government of national unity, representative of all major political groups and social movements
  • The transitional government of national unity to then pave the way for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) that would oversee the holding of democratic elections
  • The international 'community' to continue with sanctions and other measures against Abubakar's 'government', that are designed to add pressure on the military regime to accede to the will of the Nigerian people for real democracy and freedom.

The 'transition programme' of General Abubakar should be seen for what it is - a clever plan to deny Nigerians their democratic and human right to control their own destiny. All internationalists must rally around the legitimate calls by the opposition for real political and socio-economic change and continue to call on their own governments to support the same.

Angola

Roots of war

Angola is once more sliding towards war. Both the MPLA-led government and UNITA forces are clearly gearing up for a return to full-scale military operations in the approaching dry season. Major UNITA massacres of villagers have already occurred.

But why, five years after the signing of the Lusaka Peace Accords, is Angola once more drifting into this dead-end?

The main blame must rest with UNITA, and its leader Jonas Savimbi. Blame must also rest with UNITA's backers in Africa (notably Togo and Ivory Coast), and internationally. UNITA has never seriously attempted to implement its side of the Accord. It has deliberately dragged its feet, notably in demobilising its armed forces, refusing to accept the need for governmental sovereignty over the entire Angolan territory.

UNITA's few half-hearted concessions have been designed to forestall international sanctions and to deprive the Luanda government of reasons to launch a military offensive. In particular, Savimbi is refusing to budge from the diamond rich north-east. UNITA's stubbornness finally exasperated the UN Security Council to the extent that, at the beginning of July, additional sanctions were applied. These include the freezing of bank accounts held by UNITA leaders and a ban on trading in diamonds from UNITA-held territory.

The SACP welcomes these intensified measures. However, they must be monitored effectively. The earlier round of UN imposed sanctions have been violated at will. They included the commitment to close UNITA international offices, and a ban on flights into UNITA-held territory.

Some of the continuing flights to UNITA have, it seems, originated in South Africa. We need, collectively, to be as vigilant as is possible.

The SACP absolutely rejects the idea, sometimes floated in the local media, that "both parties in Angola are equally culpable". However, there have been serious shortcomings on the MPLA side, which provide important lessons for any liberation movement.

For over three decades Angola has enjoyed no respite from war. The role of apartheid South Africa in the terrible genocide inflicted on the Angolan people is a matter of record. We are also well aware of the huge solidarity sacrifices made by our MPLA comrades and the Angolan people in our own struggle for the liberation of South Africa. Many MK comrades, likewise, died in the struggle against UNITA.

With all of these qualifications, it is still important to note some concerning features in the Angolan situation. In particular there is a concern about the lack of transparency around oil revenues. Angola currently produces some 750 000 barrels of oil a day, but only half of the state's income from oil is reflected in the national budget. What is happening to the rest?

While the dislocations of war are principally to blame, these are not the only reasons why civil servants and soldiers have not been paid in Angola since January. Only those soldiers deployed into former UNITA territory are being paid. Other government armed forces, stationed in many parts of the country are unpaid. This is a certain recipe for banditry and the general intimidation of the civilian population.

Over the past five years, the Angolan government has negotiated expensive short-term loans to cover its widening budget deficit. It now owes around US $10 billion. The international capitalist instability of the last several months has also hit certain commodity prices - not least oil.

This is an additional pressure on the Luanda government. The grave danger in Angola is not just of war, but the related danger of two rival enclave economies (one based on diamonds, the other on oil), each dominated by elites that are increasingly beholden to imperialist interests, and fluctuating global commodity prices. This scenario does not have to happen. But it requires much greater active intervention from the three powers who are the trustees of the Lusaka Peace Accords (the US, Portugal and Russia). It requires international pressure and the effective isolation of UNITA. It also requires the strengthening of MPLA and of the national government around a genuinely people-centred process of reconstruction and development.

10th  Congress International Programme of Action 

Below is a consolidated version of the International Programme of Action adopted at the SACP 10th Congress

1.The SACP must foster a consistent anti-imperialist outlook within the structures of the Party, within the working class, the broader movement and amongst the South African public. This means connecting current international events to a broader understanding of global realities. It also means a campaigning to counter the ideological impact of imperialist dominated media.

2. The SACP pledges solidarity with people still struggling for the right to self-determination, particularly the people of East Timor, Palestine, Western Sahara and the Kurdish people.

3. The SACP pledges solidarity with democratic forces in Africa particularly those in Zambia, Swaziland and Nigeria. The Party also supports the workers movement in Zimbabwe.

4. The Congress calls for an Alliance workshop on southern Africa. The aim of the workshop is to develop a common strategic understanding of key priorities in the region and co-ordinate the Southern Africa work of the Alliance.

5. The SACP must continue to play an active, vanguard role in developing and deepening Cuban solidarity work within our country. The Congress also resolves to give support to Cuban doctors within the country.

6. The SACP commits itself to a struggle against use by elites and demagogues, of poor working and living conditions of the masses to promote backward, xenophobic and fundamentalist ideologies. In particular, congress expresses full support for the persecuted Tudeh Party in Iran and the Sudanese Communist Party.

7. The SACP commits itself to the renewal of the socialist and communist projects worldwide. This commitment will take the form of deepening and developing solidarity between all forces struggling against neo-liberalism, race and gender oppression.

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