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Volume 6, No. 1, 17 January 2007

In this Issue:

Red Alert

The Policy Year: Reclaiming and defending the revolutionary values and traditions of our movement

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The SACP Augmented Central Committee of November 2006 described the year 2007 as, amongst other things, the Policy Year. This is because this is a year that two of our Alliance formations will be holding very important gatherings, the ANC National Policy Conference in June 2007, the SACP’s 12th Congress in July, and indeed the ANC National Conference in December. These will be taking place in the wake of the successful COSATU Congress in September 2006 which took some far-reaching resolutions that in some ways have already set the stage for the congresses of the other Alliance partners.

The SACP has also correctly insisted that these events should not just be seen as once-off events after every five year cycle of congresses, but should be taken as important milestones in the ongoing struggles to defend, consolidate and deepen the national democratic revolution (NDR). Therefore these events should be preceded and accompanied by intensified internal debates and activism within each and between our formations.

Necessity for frank but comradely debates

As one of the ways through which to highlight the necessity for intensified debates during this year, it is important to briefly engage with an important piece recently written by ANC NEC member, Cde Joel Netshitenzhe, in the ANC political journal Umrabulo (No. 27, November 2006), titled “Of cats, factions and a revolution”.

Netshitenzhe’s contribution is important, bold and is to be welcomed. It correctly locates the current challenges and problems facing our movement by characterizing them in the following way:

“What then is unique in the current environment that makes the challenges we face so novel for the ANC? What is the common factor running like a thread through the problems we currently face? The one generic factor in the environment is access to government office or political incumbency

“For all the long 94 years of its existence, the ANC has been a leading party in government only for the last 12 years. In a sense, this great platform to change people’s lives for the better also comes with its own curse; and this is what we have to learn to manage”

We fully agree!

Netshitenzhe also admits to the many things we have said before, that it is time that we honestly and frankly explore this ‘unique’ environment by exploring the nature of the relationship between the ANC as the ruling party and the state, the relationship of the ANC (and alliance) to the state and business, as well as what we have called ‘parasitic capitalism’ and the deeply interrelated problems of patronage and corruption.

We hope Netshitenzhe’s piece is an honest attempt to contribute towards frank discussions on these issues, without different views being dismissed, as has happened especially since 1996, through, amongst others, such refrains as ‘government must govern’, ‘the Allies want to micro-manage government’, and ‘allies do not understand the broader picture’..

However Netshitenzhe’s piece has a number of weaknesses which we will have to grapple with if we are to overcome the very problems he surfaces. Much as we welcome his frankness, he does not go far enough in his ‘confessions’ and does not adequately canvass some of the very questions that he raises. His piece also lacks a programmatic approach to tackling these problems, and ends up almost reducing the debate back to the very issue of personalities his piece is potentially capable of taking us beyond, and also ends up moralizing rather than being programmatic about some of the solutions we need.

It would also have been more helpful had Netshitenzhe also fully explored and canvassed the meaning of this new, ‘unique’ environment for the manner in which the Alliance is currently structured and functioning.

Does this ‘unique’ environment not call for a debate on the manner in which the Alliance needs to be restructured in line with the new challenges arising out of ‘access to government office or political incumbency’? Is the manner in which the Alliance is currently structured perhaps out of step with the challenges of this ‘unique’ period? Could it not be that failure to genuinely engage and listen to different points of view may have ossified into factionalism, where some regard themselves as possessing all the wisdom on how to deepen the NDR in this ‘unique’ environment, thus, wittingly or unwittingly, locking themselves into some kind of ‘grouping’ distinct and apart from those raising different views?

Some other critical issues to be canvassed during the Policy Year

For the sake of our revolution and strengthening the unity of our Alliance and within each of its components, it is important that we ask and seek to answer honestly a number of questions that have a bearing on building such unity.

It is going to be very important for all of us to refuse to subject our discussions to the ‘succession’ paradigm that the media daily attempts to impose on us. This however does not mean that we should not honestly and frankly debate the kind of collective leaderships our formations need as we move forward, as well as the mistakes we might have all committed in the past that have had a negative bearing on the functioning of our formations and relations within the Alliance.

Of primary importance however is the need to locate the debate correctly, by deliberately seeking to address the very pressing policy questions and choices facing our revolution. The kind of leadership we need must principally be guided by the kinds of policies we need to pursue in order to realize the objectives we have set for ourselves.

Stripped of all sophistry, the basic aims of the national democratic revolution is to address poverty, unemployment, disease, restore the dignity of the overwhelming majority of our people through creating a mass driven democratic dispensation, remove all forms of discrimination and build an egalitarian society. In simple terms, this means provision of minimum basic necessities, services and human dignity to all South Africans.

In broad terms, the SACP has posed the primary task of the national democratic revolution as that of seeking to address the class, national and gender contradictions, understanding the specificities of each but also the deeply interrelated nature of these contradictions in contemporary South African society.

Also central in the attainment of the above objectives is to build South Africa as a sovereign nation capable of independently pursuing policies that will benefit the overwhelming majority of our people, whilst not disengaging from very complex challenges posed by the contemporary imperialist order.

Amongst the key questions facing all our formations is that of the kind of economic policies to be pursued by our government in order to advance the objectives of the national democratic revolution. The SACP has correctly pointed out that the current economic trajectory over the past 12 years of our democracy, despite the many welcome government resource transfers to the poor, has primarily benefited the capitalist class and the middle classes, and in many instances, at the direct expense of the working class.

As we pointed out before, we do not believe that the aims of the national democratic revolution, in so far as its economic programme and objectives are concerned, was ever, and should ever be the ‘managing of capitalist relations in line with the logic of capitalism’. Amongst other things, this formulation is in direct conflict with, amongst others, the vision as contained in the Freedom Charter. There is for instance a vast difference between managing the reality of capitalism as a component of a broader strategy to achieve the aims of the national democratic revolution, as opposed to making this an end in itself.

A related debate that we need to deepen is that much as the goal of the national democratic revolution is not the abolition of capitalism, but the goals of the NDR cannot be achieved without a significant restructuring (including rolling back) of capitalist relations in society. For instance the Freedom Charter vision envisages significant restructuring of capitalist relations and the rolling back of capitalist market in order to achieve our goals.

Let us cite a few examples from the Freedom Charter. The Charter, amongst other things says, “The People shall share in the country’s wealth”, and to this end ‘the mineral wealth beneath the soil the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole’. In addition, “The land shall be shared among those who work it” and ‘the state shall help the peasants, with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers’.

The Charter continues to say “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened” and ‘education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children’.

The above (selected) clauses of the Freedom Charter, and indeed its whole vision, envisage a radical restructuring (not ‘managing’) of ownership patterns of capitalism, decisive state intervention to roll back the capitalist market in, for instance, the provision of education to all, and an interventionist role of the state to shield (and again not ‘manage’) the majority of the poor and working people from the ravages of capitalist relations and market.

The fact that at particular points in time, due to a combination of some objective and subjective limitations, we cannot be able to radically implements parts of this vision, is no justification to then reduce the (economic) objectives of the NDR to ‘managing capitalist relations in line with its own logic’.

Indeed ascendancy to state power comes with both opportunities and new challenges and problems that we have to properly grasp if we are to drive a thorough programme of transformation. We therefore also have to answer, collectively and in an inclusive manner, some of these other questions, especially as we reflect on the past 12 years of an ANC-led government:

  • Could it not be that a combination of objective and subjective factors, government has effectively become an autonomous terrain which in many instances has operated in a parallel, if not independent, manner from the organizational structures of the ANC and the Alliance, thus threatening to seriously erode organizational accountability and discipline?
  • Could it also not be that the significant demobilization of the ANC that the Secretary General spoke about at the NGC in 2005 a deliberate attempt by pockets within our movement located within state structures to pursue their own agendas without the organization holding them to account?
  • Is it also not a reality that sections of the emergent black sections of the bourgeoisie, backed by sections of domestic and global capital, and in alliance with a section of a cadre located within state structures, are actively seeking to use the state and the ANC to secure their class interests? Related to this, to what extent is the current growth path strengthening this ‘class project’, thus requiring a serious critical examination of our own economic policies and the broader economic environment in which we seek to consolidate our revolution?
  • Has all the above, as the SACP discussion document has argued, not the major cause of some of the challenges and problems we currently experience in the ANC and the Alliance?

The ‘Policy Year’ enjoins all of us to frankly and openly canvass these issues, if we are, for instance, to adequately answer the question of what kind of leadership we need in all our formations. However, at the same time we do indeed require leadership collectives that are committed to the honest exploration of all these questions, for the sake of our revolution!

The way forward: An ANC-led, mass driven programme, rooted in the emancipatory vision of the Freedom Charter

Given the above challenges and our own experiences over the past 12 years of an ANC government, can we not say that one of the key challenges facing us is that of re-claiming and defending the revolutionary values and traditions of our movement? However, a mere appeal to the values of our movement, important as it maybe, if not accompanied by a concrete programme of action in the true traditions of our movement, is nothing more than empty moralizing or sloganeering. Similarly a programme of action not rooted in our revolutionary values is merely blind activism.

A key challenge therefore is that we must build an ANC (and Alliance) that consciously seek to build and lead a mass movement that is daily engaged with issues and challenges facing the mass of our people. This should also be seen as part of the very important challenge of building the capacity of the ANC (and the Alliance) to exercise effective oversight on government and all our cadres so deployed. This is the only way we can for instance defeat factionalism, patronage and corruption within our ranks.

A key challenge as we go into our respective congresses this year is also that of honestly and frankly identifying some of the mistakes we might have committed in handling relations amongst ourselves and the many challenges facing our movement.

We do indeed need the emergence of leadership collectives committed to undertaking these important tasks. This will go a long way in taking us away from the politics of personalities, important as individual leaders maybe, to the politics of the tasks and challenges facing our movement in deepening our revolution.

As the SACP we commit ourselves to play our part in making sure that by the year end our movement emerges from its congresses more united and more rooted in the mass of the people of our country.

We wish to reaffirm the statement and commitments made by our November 2006 Augmented Central Committee:

“Policy development will be a key priority. What we have learnt from our own experience over the last few years is that policy transformation can only happen if it is backed by active popular campaigning and consultation

“In 2007 the SACP will take forward its existing campaigns, seeking to unite them around local integrated planning. The broad theme of our campaigning work will be ‘Building Working Class Power to Implement the Freedom Charter Vision’”

Every communist cadre to her/his SACP and ANC branch!

SACP Message on the 95th anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC)

The SACP wishes to take this opportunity to wish our ally, the African National Congress (ANC) a happy 95th anniversary. The SACP is of the view that it is 95 years that the ANC, together with its Allies, should indeed be proud of. As the SACP we are also proud to have been associated with the ANC as an ally for most of the period of the existence of our two formations.

An alliance built upon unity in action

During the very long history of struggle of our Alliance, one of the most important milestones shall forever remain that of the defeat of the apartheid regime and the establishment of an ANC-led democratic government in April 1994. The glue that has for decades held our Alliance together has been that of unity in action in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, and since 1994, the struggle for the reconstruction and development of our country for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of our people. Amongst other things this unity in action has been guided by the vision as contained in the Freedom Charter adopted in Kliptown in 1955.

Achievements since 1994

The SACP is indeed very proud of the many achievements made by the ANC and the government it leads since 1994. Amongst other things these achievements include massive government resource transfers to the poor, to people with disabilities and urban and rural development. We are also proud about the radical transformation of the apartheid labour market into one that seeks to build upon the many advances made by the working class during the struggle against apartheid.

The ANC has also led a heroic struggle to consolidate our fledgling democracy, including the ending of politically inspired violence and the significant progress towards building South Africa as one single nation with a common destiny.

Contemporary challenges facing our movement and revolution

Our country, under the leadership of our glorious movement, the ANC, has also gone a long way in strengthening our institutions of representative democracy. However represtentative democracy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for consolidating the 1994 democratic breakthrough. In the true traditions of our movement it is still very important to ensure that our people remain a mobilised force and as the bedrock for strengthening our democracy and driving the transformation agenda. Therefore it is important to build a campaigning ANC that is permanently in touch with the mass of our people. Through our joint Alliance programmes, especially through the Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign, the SACP is committed to continue playing the role of a reliable and dependable ally in this regard. A demobilised ANC cannot be able to lead the all-important struggle for the transformation of our country to benefit the overwhelming majority of our people.

In the light of the above, the SACP is of the view that the fundamental challenge facing our revolution is that of rebuilding a popular mass movement, led by the ANC and driving transformational campaigns. We must at all times guard against the danger of leaving the huge transformational effort facing our country only to government structures. The masses of our people must be active participants and combatants in the transformation of their own conditions.

As the SACP we have made and shall continue to make our contribution in the mass mobilisation of the workers and the poor of our country, through ongoing mass campaigns, principally around our Red October Campaign on building co-operatives, the transformation of the financial sector, land and agrarian transformation, food and social security, jobs, and for a safe, accessible and affordable public transport system. It is therefore important that the ANC itself must lead such mass campaigns and also be visible in the campaigns of its allied organisations and the broader progressive mass movement. This is a clarion call from the emancipatory and revolutionary vision of the Freedom Charter! It is for these reasons that we welcome the ANC’s Imvuselelo campaign, and hope that this campaign will be used as a key platform to rebuild an ANC-led mass popular front for the transformation of our country. Without the leadership of the ANC on this mass front our revolution will be weakened, if not rolled back.

A critical area that requires ANC visible leadership is the struggle for gender transformation. In this regard we welcome the establishment of the progressive women’s movement and the role played by the ANCWL and other allied formations in it. The challenge however is to ensure that this movement is led by ordinary working and poor women, in both urban and rural areas, and remains focused on issues affecting them.

The struggle to defend, deepen and reclaim the revolutionary traditions and values of our movement remains one of the most critical challenges facing our revolution in the current period. Ascendancy to power by the ANC, welcome and important as it is, has also been accompanied by new tendencies that pose serious dangers to our revolution; the problems of greed, patronage, and corruption. As a movement we need a renewed mass based and mass driven focus in ensuring that the ANC lives up to its commitment as an organisation with a working class bias, serving the interests of ordinary South Africans, who are overwhelming black and poor.

The cancer of corruption erodes the very revolutionary traditions and image of the ANC amongst our people, and constitutes one of the biggest threats to the consolidation of our democracy. It is a struggle that must be prioritised in all our programmes, campaigns and activities.

However, equally important the struggle against corruption must be waged simultaneously with the transformation of our criminal justice system, buttressed by mass mobilisation and vigilance. We must at all times ensure that organs of the criminal justice system act in a manner that is above reproach, without fear or favour, but in a manner that has intergrity and the respect of the mass of the ordinary people of our country. These organs must at all times remain beyond any suspicions that they are doing things other than those they were set up to do. It is with the same mass vigour that we must seek to confront all the other major problems facing society, including crime, criminality and the moral regeneration effort in our country. We should not allow these scourges to steal what has been achieved by our people during the past 95 years of the existence of the ANC.

The SACP welcomes the fact that under the ANC government our economy has experienced unprecedent growth. However, this has largelyt been a job-destroying rather than job creating growth, and this remains the Achilles heel of our revolution. Even the minimal jobs that have been created over the last year, have been low quality, casualised and unsustainable jobs. The challenge for the ANC therefore is that of honestly facing this reality, including a critical review of our growth path, genuinely acting together and effectively consulting with its allies.

On the international front, we salute the work done by our government on the continent and beyond, especially our resolute commitment to advance multileralism, peace and development. But this must not be left to governments alone, and for this reason it is therefore important for the ANC to increase its role internationality, by building stronger party to party relations and solidarity with progressive political parties and movements throughout the world, and at the same co-ordinating with its allies. South Africa’s joining of the UN Security Council also brings with it new responsibilities that requires renewed focus by the ANC on deepening party to party relations and multi-lateral solidarity forums.

As we celebrate 95 years of glorious struggle and sacrifice, we also welcome government’s renewed commitment in the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge, including the emerging consensus on the comprehensive nature of the strategy. Again we expect that this matter should not be left to government structures alone. The ANC, together with its allies, should lead in this effort of mobilising our people to drive a comprehensive campaign to defeat the scourge, including a possibility of establishing community brigades to educate our people, supporting home-based care, prevention and treatment. Critical in this is for ANC structures to be in the forefront of the transformation of the entire health system in our country as a critical platform for a caring and healthy country. It is only from this perspective that we will be able to fight the HIV/AIDS scourge and all other diseases.

We are also celebrating the 95th anniversary of the ANC during the year that our two formations will be holding important gatherings, the SACP’s 12th Congress and the ANC’s 52nd National Conference. The preparatory processes for both these events must be accompanied by mass mobilisation and intense engagement with our own constituencies through our respective programmes of action, so that they are not treated as stand-alone events.

We are raising all these challenges because we are confident that the ANC, our glorious movement, is capable of rising to the occasion. The pressing answers that we need for the contemporary challenges are to be found in our very own heroic struggles and key documents like the Freedom Charter, Morogoro and the RDP documents.

The SACP remains a committed and reliable partner in ensuring that we stay focused on these tasks through the building of a vibrant, dynamic and democratic ANC-led Alliance. We shall not be found wanting!

Let us not allow our revolution to be stolen by greed and other values foreign to our traditions!

Happy 95th Anniversary