Volume 6, No. 12, 4 July 2007
Communist Cadres to the Front, For a Better, Socialist World: Forward to the SACP`s 12th Congress
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
Next week the SACP will be convening its largest ever National Congress in its entire 86 year history. This Congress will be attended by about 2000 delegates, with 1700 of them being voting delegates. The size of the Congress is a reflection of the rapid growth that the SACP has experienced over the past five years. We now have a paid up membership of 51 874 organised in 714 branches and 53 districts countrywide.
We are not a significant political force in our country simply because we have growing numbers. Our membership has grown fastest in this period, precisely because we are a campaigning party, taking up daily issues affecting the workers and the poor. Indeed some of our campaigns in the financial sector, on co-operatives, on land and agrarian transformation have notched some important victories.
Our Congress will be held at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. We have also invited our allies, the ANC and COSATU to fully participate in all the deliberations at Congress.
The Congress will also be attended by more than 50 international delegates, drawn from communist and left parties from all the five continents. The highlight of the Congress will be the awarding of the SACP`s highest award, The Chris Hani Peace Award, to the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Commandante Fidel Castro, in recognition of his sterling contribution to the cause of the workers and the poor, international solidarity, global peace and the struggle for socialism. The first recipient of this award was Cde Nelson Mandela, the first President of a democratic South Africa.
The 12th Congress will also posthoumously confer the highest award for members of the SACP, the Moses Kotane Award, to our late General Secretary Cde Martin Thembisile `Chris` Hani. In addition we will posthumously restore the SACP membership, to the late Gana Makabeni, a great leader of our Party, who was expelled from our Party, the then CPSA, in the 1930s.
Our Congress takes place immediately after what was clearly a highly successful ANC National Policy Conference, which we evaluate in the second article of this edition below. We firmly believe that this ANC Conference has set a very firm foundation for strengthening our Alliance and embark on concrete joint programmes of action to deepen and consolidate our national democratic revolution. The SACP was most impressed with the high level of debates and the extent to which grassroots ANC activists are committed to a radical national democratic revolution.
Given the international interest in our Congress from our fraternal parties, Congress will convene a series of international seminars and panels to focus on some of the key global challenges. The first of these will focus on current leftward shifts in Latin American politics, involving panelists from among others the communist parties of Venezuela, Uruguay and Cuba. The second international panel will focus on the current crisis and challenges in the Middle East, involving representatives of the Palestinian People`s Party, and from the communist parties of Iraq, Iran and Israel.
The third international panel will discuss the challenge of building left networks on the African continent, with participants ranging from the Polisario Front, the communist parties of Lesotho, Sudan and South Africa, as well as PUDEMO from Swaziland. The fourth international session will be about the challenge of communist and left parties that are part of governance but without being ruling parties. Participants here will include the communist parties of India, Venezuela and Uruguay, and AKEL of Cyprus.
The challenges facing the SACP 12th Congress
The most critical task of this Congress will be to discuss and refine our Draft Political Programme, `The South African Road to Socialism`. The key challenge will be that of elaborating on our Medium Term Vision (MTV) whose commitment is to build working class hegemony in all key sites of power in society. The MTV has prioritised six such sites of power: the state, the economy, the workplace, the community, the ideological terrain and the international. The entire discussions at Congress will be structured along the lines of these key pillars of our MTV.
Congress will focus on building the capacity of the SACP to lead the overall offensive of building working class hegemony in society in order to deepen and consolidate a socialist-oriented national democratic revolution as the only South African road to socialism. It is the SACP`s conviction that the victory of the NDR can only be consummated by a transition to socialism.
However in posing the challenge this way the SACP is not using the NDR merely as a stepping stone to socialism. The achievement of the objectives of the NDR is important in itself, that is, the total liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular. But we also strongly believe that there can be no total liberation of black people under a capitalist dispensation, as capitalist accumulation remains one of the key obstacles to such total liberation, and in many ways reproduces the very same national and gender inequalities that our revolution seeks to overcome.
Therefore the Congress will be about the SACP and the leading role it should play in mobilizing the working class to be at the head of the NDR and ensure that it is taken to its logical conclusion, socialism. The SACP has never at any stage wanted to outsource this responsibility, nor has at any time indicated that it wants to renounce its responsibility to lead the struggle for socialism in South Africa.
Part of leading the struggle for socialism is to seek to propagate and hegemonise socialist ideas amongst the overwhelming majority of our people, the workers and the poor. Such propagation of socialist ideas will be done in the whole of society, including within the ranks of our allies, particularly to convince ordinary cadres in our broader movement that capitalism is no solution to the problems facing South African society. This we will do in a constructive, non-factionalist and comradely engagements without seeking to transform any organization into a political party of the working class. We are South Africa`s political party of the working class.
Our Congress will once more place the concept and realities of colonialism of a special type (CST) at the centre of our debates and in evaluating progress we have made as a country since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. It is our contention that the principal contradiction in South Africa society is that we are a country where our liberation movement has political power, but the economy still remains a colonial economy, dominated by the same old white capitalist class as under apartheid.
The SACP regards the monopolistic hold of the mining-energy-financial complex over our economy is one of the main reasons why our current growth path is not creating enough jobs and is also strangling the growth of new industries, SMEs and co-operatives. Building working class hegemony in the economy must mean that we transform this complex and its monopolies in order ensure that there is indeed `shared growth`. It is to some of the strategy and tactics to transform the CST nature of our economy that our congress will pay particular attention to.
As a necessary part of overcoming our dependent-development path, the SACP has consistently argued for a strong and interventionist developmental state. It is for this reason that we welcome the key economic resolutions of the ANC policy conference, which identified the building of such a state as both a priority and a pre-condition to overcome our developmental problems. It will also be within this context, and that of our MTV as a whole, that Congress will be approaching the question of the SACP`s relation to state power, and the question of its future electoral options.
The kind of SACP and cadre we need
Congress will also focus on the type of SACP and cadre we need if we are to achieve the objectives of our MTV. The SACP will have to thoroughly examine itself on whether the manner in which it is structured is appropriate for a party that seeks to be the vanguard of the working class. Of particular importance Congress will have to look at how we structure the SACP such that it has an effective presence in all the key sites of power in which it seeks to lead the struggle to build working class hegemony.
A related challenge in restructuring the SACP will be the question of accountability of communists to the SACP in all spheres in which they are deployed. There is already a growing impatience within our own ranks about the fact that we have perhaps given too much of a blank cheque to cadres of the Party deployed in various spheres, especially within the state. Congress will have to come up with concrete mechanisms of ensuring that there is accountability and answerability of SACP cadres to the Party on the work they do in their various responsibilities.
At the same time if communists are to effectively account to the SACP, the SACP as an organization will have to look into the kind of capacity it must build in order to support our cadres located in the various spheres of power. This should include ensuring that we effectively use our campaigns to mobilize the workers and the poor to drive the transformation of society, and thus assisting communist cadres in their daily responsibilities.
Another key issue for consideration by Congress is that of a frank assessment of the state, structure and functioning of our Tripartite Alliance. The SACP reaffirms the continuing importance of our Alliance, but some serious restructuring maybe required in order to ensure that this Alliance is structured and functioning in line with the post-1994 realities. It is necessary, but not sufficient to merely talk about the historical nature of our alliance, without looking at the challenges it faces now that it is in government. Failure to reflect on current challenges, including its structure and functioning merely turns our Alliance into some kind of museum. We need our Tripartite Alliance more than ever before. But it must be a grassroots, dynamic and campaigning Alliance, buttressing a developmental state and ensuring that millions of the workers and the poor of our country are in the driving seat of transformation.
Despite attempts by some of our detractors and enemies to defocus our Party from the tasks before it at our Congress, we are convinced that we shall indeed have a successful 12th Congress!
The ANC`s 27-30 June 2007 national policy conference was an important opportunity to consolidate the policy perspectives of the ANC`s mass membership. To its considerable credit, the ANC ran a very participatory discussion process. In the run-up to the conference, ANC branches, zones, regions and provinces, together with alliance partners, participated in a "festival of ideas". A wider public was also engaged, including progressive intellectuals and NGOs.
While the discussion papers were sometimes uneven and flawed, there are few political formations anywhere in the world that run such a comprehensive, participatory policy process. For the moment the recommendations emerging from the policy conference are exactly that - recommendations. They will have to be resolved upon at the December ANC national conference.
A developmental state
The key policy recommendation is the consolidation of a progressive, national democratic state. This is now a major point of ANC and alliance consensus. Explicit in the concept of a developmental state is the realisation that we need a state that actively intervenes in the economy. Also explicit is the affirmation of a strategic state-owned sector. In addition to consolidating the existing public sector, many delegates called for the nationalisation of Mittal Steel, and the re-nationalisation of SASOL. There is also a strong recommendation from the conference for a public sector housing bank.
While stressing the need for strategic state intervention, the conference was clear that the South African developmental state cannot be top-down and authoritarian. It needs to strengthen and be strengthened by a broad popular movement. To succeed in carrying forward the NDR, strong legislatures and effective participatory governance at all levels are critical. Against the immediate background of a prolonged public sector strike, the ANC policy conference also emphasised the centrality of public sector workers to the consolidation of a developmental state.
State-led industrial policy
Linked to the above, the policy conference contributed to providing a general strategic perspective on what should be government`s emerging industrial policy. Industrial policy must contribute actively to transforming the current import-dependent and capital- (rather than labour-) intensive growth path. The policy conference stressed the importance of aligning macro-economic policy in a sustainable way with industrial policy. Commissions also raised important questions around energy sustainability, global warming, and biofuels.
Major recommendations were also made around local economic development, the importance of cooperatives, and balanced spatial development so that rural and peri-urban areas are not neglected.
Phantsi "willing-seller willing buyer"!
Right across all commissions was a powerful critique of the slowness and inadequacy of land reform. There was virtual unanimity that the market-led "willing-seller, willing-buyer" formula was a major reason for the unacceptably slow pace of land transfers - only 4% of agricultural land since 1994. At the present rate we will be nowhere near the target of 30% by 2014, as promised in several ANC elections manifestos.
However, the conference also stressed it was not just a question of transferring land. Land reform has to be integrated into a comprehensive agrarian, agro-industrial and national food security strategy. These, in turn, have to be central components of a new economic growth path. Agricultural extension officers, rural roads, irrigation schemes, marketing and input purchasing coops, and a sustained cooperation between rural communities and the state are critical.
Since the 2005 ANC national general council, there has been a growing clamour from within the ANC for a major shake-up and strengthening of the ANC and its structures. The problems of fragmentation, factionalism, regionalism, and corporate capture were once more highlighted. However, the major focus of this year`s policy conference was a determination to reaffirm the ANC as the political centre. The great majority of delegates expressed concern that the organisation was often displaced and marginalised by government.
These concerns were at the heart of many strong recommendations around overall strategic policy development, as well as the need for structured ANC involvement in the appointment of key positions - mayors, premiers, etc.
However, if the ANC is indeed to play the role of key strategic political centre, then its own capacity and organisational functioning will have to be greatly improved. The centrality of the office of the secretary general was high-lighted, and commissions affirmed the political and mobilisation role of the SGO, saying that it should not be reduced to an administrative function.
In opening the policy conference, president Mbeki elaborated on the nature of the ANC/SACP/COSATU tripartite alliance. He re-affirmed that it was a strategic and necessarily enduring alliance. "The objective reality in our country is that the NDR cannot succeed if it does not contain among its motive forces our country`s socialist, trade union and civic movements."
Less clear was the exact intention of the President`s "fundamental conclusion that, for many decades", as he put it, "the SACP has never sought to delegate its socialist tasks to the ANC, and has never sought to impose on the national democratic revolution the tasks of the socialist revolution."
A number of newspapers chose to interpret this as a "rebuke" to the present direction of the SACP.
So (for the record) let us state quite clearly that, as in the past, so in the present the SACP has certainly not sought to "impose" anything on the ANC, nor "delegate" socialist tasks to it. But of course we are seeking to influence the ANC and its mass membership in a constructive, open and non-factionalist manner. We are seeking, without apology, to underline the imperative of many socialist-oriented policies and programmes in order to advance, deepen and defend the NDR in the present.
Judging from the many key recommendations made by the nearly two thousand delegates to the ANC`s national policy conference, these SACP endeavours have had a profound resonance.
But will the clearly stated programmatic aspirations of the ANC`s policy conference translate into government policy? Much will depend on whether the ANC renews itself in the coming months as an active, mass-based organisation, working closely with its alliance partners on the ground. Only this will enable the ANC to assert itself as an effective political centre.