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  • Red Alert: Building a vanguard Party of power, influence and activism: 84 years of the South African Communist Party

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

On Saturday 30 July 2005 we shall be officially celebrating the 84th anniversary of our party, the South African Communist Party. We therefore dedicate this edition of Umsebenzi online to celebrate this occasion, by outlining some of the achievements of the SACP over the last 12 months and the challenges for the year ahead and beyond.

The national anniversary celebrations will take place in Witbank, in the Mpumalanga provinces. We shall be holding an official SACP anniversary dinner on Friday 29 July and a national mass rally on Saturday 30 July 2005. We have however decided that as a party of activism our national rally will be preceded by a march to the banks and credit bureaux to officially launch a series of mass activities we shall be embarking upon in the lead up to the Red October Campaign for 2005. This national march will be demanding that the workers and the poor whose names are listed in the faceless Credit Bureaux must be removed, as a once off amnesty, to give millions of our people a chance to start their (economic) lives anew. This action will be followed by a combination of pickets, demonstrations and marches in our other provinces during the months of August and September.

In addition our national march will also be demanding a new model for the financing of low-cost housing by the capitalist banks. We demand that the 20-year old mortgage bonds calculated on compound interest must be reviewed as it is inappropriate and unaffordable for bondholders in the low-cost housing sector. These two demands are central in taking forward our financial sector campaign and in the struggle to roll back the capitalist market in the provision of basic services and affordable credit to millions of the workers and the poor of our country. These are important building blocks towards a socialized financial sector that prioritises people?s needs over profit. We are therefore calling upon the people of Mpumalanga to join us in their thousands in this action.

Some key achievements and milestones over the last 12 months
Our Special National Congress held eThekwini in April this year boldly and correctly pronounced that we are seeking to build the SACP as a vanguard party of power, influence and activism. This was informed by the fact that over the past year some of our campaigns were beginning to bear some fruit towards addressing the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people. It was also underlining the importance of mobilizing the working class as the principal motive force of our revolution, and that only through its collective muscle will the interest of the overwhelming majority advanced.

Over the last 12 months our financial sector campaign has notched some important victories. In October 2004, exactly four years since the launch of our Red October campaign for the transformation of the financial sector, the major capitalist banks announced the launch of a new affordable bank account for workers and the poor. This was in direct response to our struggle and call for universal access to affordable banking and other financial services for millions of our people who had been excluded from these services in the past. This account now stands at more than 1 million new customers, 56% of whom being women.

In addition, the Financial Sector Charter Council, made up of community representatives, labour, government and business was formally constituted towards the end of last year. This Council is an important platform through which to continue to wage our struggles, to supplement ongoing mobilisation, and to hold the capitalist financial institutions to account on how they are responding to the challenge of provision of finance for development.

The capitalist financial sector has also committed itself to provide R42 billion to finance low-cost housing in our country. This is the first time ever that South African mainstream banks had committed themselves on funding low-cost housing. We however reiterate that for this money to make an impact on housing the workers and the poor, we need a new model for low-cost housing, an issue we are taking up as part of the 84th anniversary celebrations.

Indeed over the last 12 months this and other SACP-led campaigns have witnessed other victories and advances. Parliament earlier this year has passed a new Co-operatives Bill, which is expected to be signed into law by the President relatively soon. This has been an important campaign for the SACP over the last five to six years. Also now tabled before parliament is a National Credit Bill, which aims to regulate the provision of credit and regulate the Credit Bureaux, thus laying a basis for the creation of a new credit regime in South Africa, a credit regime that is sensitive to the needs of the workers and the poor in our country.

There could have been no better way to celebrate our 84th anniversary than the holding of the first National Land Summit ? a key demand from a number of organizations representing the landless, and a central demand of our Red October Campaign on Land and Agrarian transformation last year. The Summit will be held during the same period as we celebrate our 84th anniversary, from 27 July to 31 July. The holding of this Summit provides an important opportunity for a comprehensive review of land and agrarian reform in South Africa since the advent of our democracy. We call upon all progressive formations working with the SACP on this campaign to adequately prepare and earnestly engage at this Summit, advancing the perspectives of the landless and farmworkers.

To us as the SACP it has become clearer over the recent past that there are serious issues that need to be debated and reviewed at the Land Summit. The major reason for the slow pace of land reform has been a lack of an overarching land and agrarian policy, linking land reform to agrarian transformation, food security and uses of urban land. The land reform strategy thus far has been limited to land restitution and land tenure ? important objectives in themselves ? but not much beyond these two pillars. Central in this strategy has been the market based ?willing buyer, willing seller? model, which is proving to have failed to accelerate land reform.

The SACP will therefore be arguing strongly at the Land Summit for a comprehensive state-led, land and agrarian ?industrial strategy?, which should strongly incorporate food security, land for housing, access to land and support mechanisms for sustainable agricultural production for the landless poor, expropriation of land to create viable local farming communities and a comprehensive land audit on ownership and usage of land in South Africa. We are however under no illusion that a once-off land summit can achieve all these goals. Our strategy therefore would be to try and reach agreement on post-Summit processes to realize whatever commitments will be made, with clear time-frames where necessary.

One further significant achievement of the SACP over the last 12 months has been, through the above struggles, to deepen our influence and perspectives and build important presence and linkages within a wide range of progressive organizations, including some churches, mass organizations, trade unions, co-operatives and non-governmental organizations. These are important developments towards the realization of one of the key objectives of our medium term vision (MTV), to (re)build a working class-led popular movement to build people?s power as the centre of gravity in driving transformation in our country.

The SACP has also during this period thrown its full weight behind the mobilization of organized workers to defend their jobs and fight poverty. We joined COSATU?s highly successful national strike and stayaway from work on 27 June 2005. Our platform for supporting and participating in this action was based on what we have identified as key four immediate demands of the working class in South Africa during this period: Jobs, Basic services for all, Access to affordable credit and Access to land and agricultural activities. This has served to deepen relations between, and SACP presence, within our trade union ally and largest trade union federation in the country, COSATU, and further enhanced the prestige of the SACP amongst organized workers.

The above achievements have contributed significantly to the steady growth of our membership, and in building a Party cadre that is immersed in people?s daily struggles, as part of building a vanguard Party. We have also learnt important lessons from this activism, that the stubborn South African capitalist system cannot be successfully challenged other than through patient but concerted effort at building the political capacity of the main motive forces of our revolution ? the workers and the rural landless masses. These are important advances in building elements of, capacity for, and a momentum towards socialism. Through these campaigns we have constantly agitated and sought to educate the mass of our people about the failure of capitalism to address even the most basic of their needs.

However, South African communists have not only been involved in the mass campaigns outlined above. Communist cadres have continued to play an important role in government, as ministers, members of parliament and provincial legislatures, members of provincial executive committees, as mayors, councillors and public servants. The combination of communist work both inside and outside the state ? though not without its own tensions ? has provided our Party with vital experience and also helped to enhance the SACP as a party of power, influence and activism.

Challenges that lie ahead

The fundamental challenge that faces the South African revolution at this juncture is to transform the current brutal capitalist accumulation regime underway, into one that defends and creates sustainable jobs and fight poverty. Over the last 12 months we have seen important progress in the workings of the Alliance. In April this year we held an important Alliance Summit which, amongst other things, agreed on a joint programme of action on the ground as well as commitment to address the economic challenges in our country. We have also seen further commitments by government to play a more interventionist role in the economy and commitment to keeping key state-owned enterprises in the hands of the state to drive a process of investment in infrastructure.

However this commitment is at the same time accompanied by some hesitancy on the type of relationship we need to build between the state and the capitalist market. Whilst, as an Alliance, we have committed ourselves to a developmental state, that is active and interventionist, there is continuing reluctance by government to take decisive action in areas that as a Party we have identified as crucial in turning the economy around. For instance government is resisting a full-blown process to develop an overarching industrial strategy to drive growth and development. In addition government is reluctant to pass legislation on prescribed assets and forcing community reinvestment by the banks.

It is within the context of this hesitancy that there is now a new emerging notion, called ?stakeholder capitalism?. This is nothing but a (liberal) humanitarian approach to appeal to the ?conscience? of capitalists to sacrifice higher profits in order to address poverty and unemployment in our country. This notion fails to understand some basic facts about capitalism in general, and South African capitalism in particular. South African capitalism has been a product of brutal colonial and apartheid dispossession and super-exploitation of the black working class. Despite enormous progressive transformation of South Africa?s labour market and development of progressive social policies since 1994, the current accumulation regime continues to have strong features of its colonial and apartheid origins: import dependent, export orientation, job shedding and racially and gender skewed. It is an economy that still favours white and men, and unable to meet even the most basic of needs of the majority of the population.

Our own struggles during the past 11 years of our democracy have taught us that no humanitarian appeal through notions of ?stakeholder capitalism? will change the behaviour of the capitalist class. But it is only through a combination of working class-led mass and state power that will transform the current accumulation regime. The recently held ANC National General Council has helped us enormously in identifying the nature of the economic and development challenge in our country.
In rejecting some of the major arguments and proposals contained in the main discussion document on the economy, the ANC NGC resolved, amongst other things that

?? the ANC and Government must produce a coherent development strategy. Elements of this would involve identifying where we need to move to and what strategic leaps we need to get there.

?The legacy of colonialism and apartheid continues to reproduce patterns of development and underdevelopment in our society. At a general level, we can approach these problems in terms of two economies: the first is developed, globally integrated and modern, while the second is underdeveloped and marginalised.

?Nevertheless, we should be clear that we have one economy, albeit structurally divided and polarised along lines of wealth and inequality, development and underdevelopment.

?As such, there can be no Chinese Wall between interventions in the first economy and the second economy. Our interventions should aim to restructure the economy as a whole. This includes interventions in the 'first economy' to restructure towards more labour absorbing growth.

?We must also specifically address the question of interventions for bottom up development, particularly in the townships and rural areas. Such interventions include investment in social and economic infrastructure, supporting local development and employment initiatives, especially for the activities of small enterprises and cooperatives and investment in education, training and health. The barriers of discrimination, as well as deficiencies in the spatial patterns of our communities, must be overcome in order to build staircases from the second into the first economy. We also need to build mechanisms that link people in the first economy - salary earners and businesses - to support activities in the second economy?.

On industrial policy the NGC resolution added:

?South Africa's economy has been historically dependent on the resources sector, particularly mining. The pattern of development that this has generated continues to constrain our economic growth. This results in challenges that affect every aspect of our economic transformation and development strategy.

?Addressing the challenges of poverty and unemployment requires us to lead the economy toward a new pattern of development, involving a diversified industrial base. This in turn requires a clearly articulated industrial strategy. Such a strategy should be based on a clear assessment of our industrial policy interventions to date, and learning that has been generated from such interventions.

It is a strategy that should:

o Seek to promote sectors that are likely to generate labour-absorbing growth in the future and those that may not in themselves be labour-absorbing, but which have strong linkages to labour absorbing sectors
o Establish clear and well-articulated plans in relation to declining sectors, including long term and comprehensive conversion programmes. This should include a consideration of the role that cooperatives can play.
o Be informed by an integrated spatial framework?

The SACP is strongly of the view that this should be our strategic and practical approach to the challenges of growth and development in our country, and resist the temptation of making new policies and advancing new (unclear) theoretical concepts through the media. The SACP will throw its full weight in the struggles and policy development processes aimed at realization of these important economic resolutions by the ANC NGC. It is because these resolutions are closest to some of the key positions we have been advancing as the SACP since 1994.

As we celebrate our 84th anniversary, the SACP is also acutely aware that the struggle to deepen and consolidate the national democratic revolution cannot be waged in isolation from regional, continental and global realities today. It is for this reason that over the last 12 months the SACP has continued to strengthen its multilateral and bilateral engagements with many communist parties and other progressive forces in the world today.

In taking forward the struggle of international solidarity, in the coming months the SACP intends to intensify its work in building progressive left socialist networks in the continent, starting in Southern Africa. The key challenge in the African continent, as well as in the Southern African region, is that of accelerating the struggle for the completion of the original mission of the national liberation struggle and the many liberation movements that led this struggle. We say this being aware of the many achievements made by the national liberation struggle, especially national self-determination and initial post independence achievements around education, health and other social spheres. However many of these gains have now been seriously eroded.

The original vision and mission of national liberation struggles was that political democracy and independence, important as these are, need to be accompanied by social and economic emancipation. It was a vision and mission that understood that the national liberation struggle shall remain incomplete for as long as our people remain in economic bondage, poverty, illiteracy and disease. 

It would however be na?ve and not truthful if we do not accept the fact that in many instances the original mission and vision of social and economic emancipation has suffered severe setbacks and, in some cases, it could even be argued that this original progressive mission of the liberation movements has been derailed. This derailment has been a result of a combination of factors. Some of these factors include the disastrous results of the economic structural adjustment programmes, the bureaucratization of a number of liberation movements now in power, and the post-1990 acceleration of the simultaneous integration and marginalization of the African continent into imperialist globalization.

Therefore the SACP is of the view that the key challenge of the period in the African continent is the revitalization of the mission of the liberation movements, especially through the mobilization of the progressive motive forces for change. However, critical in this regard is the revitalization and reviving of the Marxist socialist strand of the liberation movement, which at one stage provided the key strategic vision for many liberation movements. This strand has receded significantly since the coming into power of many liberation movements.

As a modest and initial contribution to this task the SACP intends in the next few months to initiate a process of networking amongst as many of the political, mass formations and activists that share the vision of socialism in the region and continent. However in so doing, we should properly understand that the immediate challenge is the revitalization of the original mission of the many liberation movements in our region especially. The struggle for socialism in our regional and continental context must be through the intensification of the struggle for the completion of the national liberation struggle, in all its dimensions, the political and socio-economic aspects. The revival of the Marxist tradition within and outside the former national liberation movements is also essential in critically engaging with the many new developments on our continent, including developments such as the formation of the African Union and its adopting of the NEPAD programme.

A key contemporary challenge in the region for instance is that of seeking to deepen the (re)building of unity of the many strands within the former liberation movements: revolutionary nationalism, the socialist traditions, (re) building progressive mass and trade union movements, as well as integrating the relatively new progressive strands around gender and environmental struggles, and the many experiences on implementation of sectoral policies accumulated during the post-independence period.

Looking at some of the achievements attained by our Party over the last 12 months, we can indeed be truly proud, as we celebrate our 84th anniversary, that our party has played a critical role in the struggles for the reconstruction of our country. We are also proud for the contribution we have made in the mobilization of key motive forces around their immediate socio-economic demands and needs. This continues to place us in a key strategic position in playing an important role to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. We are more than ever convinced that the South African revolution needs a vibrant, vanguard SACP, and that capitalism has failed to

address the needs of our people and therefore the continued relevance of socialism as the only rational and humane alternative.
Communist Cadres to the Front, With and For Workers and the Poor!

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