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Volume 7, No. 19, 5 November 2008

In this Issue:


Red Alert

'The good boys and girls, the boss-class instruments': The 2008 dissidents in their historical context

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

"And now the wedge-drivers who had been working behind closed doors against the whole liberation movement and its policies have come out into the open. They are part of the impure load which every revolution carries and when that load is thrown aside the journey to victory is always a swifter one." ('The Enemy Hidden Under the Same Colour')

The above is an extract from a statement released by the SACP and published in The African Communist, 2nd Quarter, 1976, in the wake of the expulsion of the Gang of Eight from the ANC. But this statement remains as relevant as ever today, especially in the wake of the dissidents that have just left the ANC to form a new, oppositionist, political party. This statement is a powerful reminder that in our journey towards the victory of the national democratic revolution there will always be an 'impure load' within our ranks that may now and again have to be 'thrown aside', and when that happens 'the journey to victory is always a swifter one'.

The SACP has correctly characterized the activities of the 2008 dissidents as the continuation of the aims and objectives of the 1996 class project by other means. It is however important that not all of those who were in the past associated with this project want to leave the ANC. We welcome the fact that these comrades are committed to subject themselves to the discipline of the ANC as well as to the Polokwane resolutions and mandate.

The SACP has also correctly stated that members and cadres of our movement must not be distracted by the emergence of this new grouping, but to focus on the key challenges facing our revolution, including preparing for an ANC overwhelming electoral victory in 2009.

However, it is important that we expose this grouping for what it really is and also locate it historically as part of a trend of similar factions and groupings in the history of our liberation movement. We need to point out that they now want to pose as champions for rights that they actively undermined and trampled upon whilst they were in leadership positions in the ANC.

  1. A spoilt and compradorial class elite

The 2008 dissidents are a coalition of class elites who benefited immensely through the leadership positions they held in the ANC, and in the case of some, in the SACP and COSATU as well. The core of these was part of the 1996 class project that became dominant in both our movement and the state. They forged a different and new tripartite alliance between themselves occupying key government positions, sections of the domestic and global capitalist classes, and sections of the emergent black capitalist class.

Many in this grouping effectively used their positions in the ANC and the state to accumulate wealth, dispense patronage and created a hierarchy of 'personalized followings' at various levels and components of our movement.

Indeed not all of the black sections of the capitalist class have accumulated their wealth through these means, nor were they active participants in the consolidation of the 1996 class project in the state and the ANC.

But for the dissidents, the loss of leadership positions, especially in the ANC NEC, and some in the SACP and COSATU structures, means loss of access to the state institutions thus depriving them of the major means of private accumulation and capacity to dispense patronage.

This grouping had also actively sought to demobilize the ANC, turn it into a narrow electoralist political party, and mobilize our people only as 'voters' during election periods, so that they, as 'leaders', continue to access state power and amass economic resources.

Whilst the current context of this regressive dissidence is now different, given the fact that the ANC is now a ruling party, it is however important to understand this grouping for what it is, by also examining its historical precedents, in order to deal with it swiftly and effectively.

  1. Anti-communism and anti-worker sentiment

One thread that runs through all the groupings that have broken away or engaged in factionalist activity in our liberation movement is their anti-communism and anti-worker attitude, often expressing itself in exactly the same way as that of the apartheid regime and white monopoly capital. Like their predecessors, the 2008 dissidents have turned their anti-communist volume even louder, precisely at time when there is a concerted, but desperate, campaign by bourgeois media to try and project the ANC as having been 'captured' by communists and COSATU.

2.1 The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) in the 1920s

The ICU was founded by Clements Kadalie in 1919 and was by the early 1920s the biggest African trade union (if not mass) movement in South Africa at the time, with an estimated membership of over 100 000. At its National Council on 16 December (!) 1926, Kadalie launched a scathing attack on the Communist Party of South Africa and a resolution was passed that "no officer of the ICU shall be a member of the Communist Party". Kadalie accused the communists of interfering with the internal affairs of the ICU, though communists were members and in many instances duly and democratically elected leadersf of the ICU.

In response to these developments, the then Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), in December 1926, had amongst other things this to say about the anti-communist actions of the ICU:

"At this critical moment, when the Government of Hertzog, Roos and Co is planning new slave laws for the native masses of South Africa, traitors and dupes of the Bosses are trying to break up the only effective organization you have which is capable of putting up a real fight against oppression and slavery - the ICU.

"Messrs Kadalie, Champion and Co., proceeded to destroy the fighting energy of the ICU by expelling… JA La Guma, EJ Khaile and J Gomas… These three comrades were expelled for no other reason than because they were active members of the Communist Party.

"The Communist Party has persistently fought for a united front of all workers and oppressed against the common enemy, the capitalists

"The Communist Party was and is the staunchest friend of the ICU

"Comrades! You are told that one cannot serve two masters. Your expelled officials have never served two masters, but only one - the downtrodden workers of Africa

"Who are the people who serve two masters? Kadalie, Champion and the other 'good boys' who seek to split your ranks in the midst of the enemy attack!

"Do not allow 'good boys' and other boss-class instruments to get control of the ICU"

Later, an open letter by the expelled (communist) members, published in the then Communist Party's newspaper, The South African Worker, our comrades said then:

"As recent events clearly prove there is a conspiracy afoot against your welfare. Large amounts (!)have been spent upon the conventions (!) of the (ICU) National Council, and yet nothing has been done to give you the lead to better your conditions, economically and politically (emphases added). Actually the reverse is the case

"By our removal the reactionaries have deluded themselves into the belief that the channels whereby the correct interpretation of the will of the masses could have been expressed are blocked; but they have reckoned without your determination that the last word shall be with the rank and file"

Although the circumstances somehow different, but how strikingly similar is the posture of Kadalie to that of today's conventioneers, the inheritors' of Kadalie's anti-communist conventions of the 1920s, including the fact that large amounts of money were spent on these conventions in order to frustrate the revolutionary character of the trade union movement? Like the 'good boys' and 'boss-class instruments' of the 1920s ICU, this grouping is embarking on attempts to divide and weaken COSATU, using renegade former leaders of COSATU!

The ICU quickly declined after this and by the early 1930s it had completely disappeared. One can only imagine what would have happened if the Polokwane outcome was different and today's conventioners were still inside our movement, including in the trade union movement?

2.2 The PAC in 1959

The leaders of the PAC, led by Robert Sobukwe, broke away from the ANC after successively having failed to be elected into ANC's leadership positions in order to trying and redirect the ANC away from its evolving non-racial positions. The PAC also broke away because of the role of non-Africans in the Congress Alliance, and most significantly its hatred for communists. Its hatred for communists has recently been repeated by its sole MP and former PAC President.

The PAC also tried to build a right-wing anti-South African Congress of Trade Union (SACTU) union movement to counter SACTU activities, especially during the underground days. A key figure in these attempts was one of the leading PAC founders, Nelson Nana Mahomo, who was secretly working with the CIA sponsored African-American Labour Centre (AALC) established in 1964. The AALC focused on building reactionary and alternative trade unions, as part of an offensive to separate African trade unions from progressive liberation and independence movements. Though Mahomo was subsequently expelled by the PAC, he was in 1982 formally employed to head the AALC's programme to 'support' black trade unions in South Africa, ostensibly to undermine the fledgling FOSATU unions then.

Reminding us about the history of the PAC, a document produced by the ANC Department of Information and Publicity in July 1998 ('The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania A viable alternative or a flat spare-tyre?') poignantly captured the character of this organization:

"When much of the key leadership of the ANC in the Transvaal was detained in 1956 and charged in the lengthy (1956-1961) Treason Trial, the Leballo grouping saw their chance to challenge for provincial leadership positions.

"The group actively and publicly opposed the ANC and Congress Alliance 1958 national stay-at-home, called in protest against the whites-only elections. For this act of treachery they won the warm approval of the white media, they were praised as being "the most responsible native leaders."

"The PAC's mission in life is to be a rival to the ANC, an alternative, a spare-tyre. But mere rivalry is never going to be the basis for building an effective organisation around a strategic perspective and a dynamic programme of action. Wanting to be somehow different from the ANC is not the basis for developing and nurturing an effective leadership cadre. The spare-tyre mentality results in a politics of opportunism and in leadership bankruptcy".

Just like the current grouping failed to (re) capture the ANC in Polokwane, the PAC decided to splinter from the ANC, and claim to be the true custodians of the 'ANC of 1912'. The current grouping is similarly being given glowing accolades from the same white owned media as true democrats who will deliver South Africa from what they refer to as the 'grip of the ANC's one Party dominance'.

Indeed the PAC has since witnessed multiple splits and is now practically a dead organization, an illustration of what happens when organizations are founded on opportunism to fight for positions, than acting on a principled programme.

2.3 The Gang of 8 of the 1970s

Yet another reactionary grouping tried to capture or split the ANC in the 1970s on the platform of, amongst others, the role of communists in the broader liberation movement. This group came to be known as the Gang of 8, because of the prominence of 8 of its leaders leading this offensive. The Gang of 8 was subsequently expelled from the ANC in 1975.

Reflecting on this experience in 1976, the SACP Central Committee, in a statement titled 'The Enemy Hidden Under the Same Colour', had this to say about this group:

"The issues on which they have chosen to attack the liberation movement are as old as the struggle itself. The slander that the ANC is run by the Communist Party is not something new; it has always been spread by the racists and those who act as their agents. And it has always been designed to weaken the people's struggle. As early as the 1920's, liberals like Ballinger helped destroy the ICU by raising the banner of anti-Communism, and spreading scare stories about 'Communist take-overs'. In the late 1950s, the breakaway PAC group also used the white liberal parrot-cry that the 'the Communist were running the ANC' in an attempt to destroy it".

For example in one of its statements, the Gang of 8, spewed the same anti-communist bile that we see re-emerging with the 2008 conventioners: "The SACP relies entirely on using the ANC as its front organization", so they said in the early 1970s. This Group also ended up attacking the outcomes of the Morogoro conference and yet was a part of that same conference at which their narrow nationalist positions were defeated. Sounds familiar!

Of particular significance was the Gang of 8's attack on the integrity of the ANC leadership. In one of their attacks they said "Criticism of official ANC policy and practice has come to be regarded within the leadership circles as nothing less than treason". Of course what the Gang of 8 actually meant by this was that since they were not dominant in that ANC leadership, they therefore could not accept its legitimacy and decisions! The Gang of 8 was launching this offensive at the time when the apartheid regime was tightening repression against our people especially in the wake of the 1973 workers' strikes, and increasingly labeling the ANC as a front for the communists.

The 2008 conventioners are similarly intensifying their attacks on the SACP at a time when there is intensified capitalist media attacks on the ANC post-Polokwane as an organization 'controlled by the SACP and COSATU'. Indeed these false claims are part of attempts to delegitimize the Polokwane outcomes and the leadership elected there.

Indeed, in his closing remarks to the Morogoro Conference, the then President of the ANC, Cde Oliver Tambo, had warned about the dangers of such elements within our movement:

"(Delegates must) wage a relentless war against disrupters and defend the ANC against provocateurs and enemy agents. Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant comrades. The enemy is vigilant. Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge-driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue".

2.4 Inkatha yeNkululeko YeSizwe

Another organization which was formed with the consent of the ANC, albeit under different conditions, was the Inkatha yeNkululeko YeSizwe, now refashioned as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The IFP, founded in 1975, was quickly captured by an anti-ANC elite, an alliance made up of some of the most backward elements with the ranks of KZN traditional leaders, the bureaucrats occupying senior positions in the KwaZulu bantustan and business beneficiaries from the KwaZulu Territorial Authority, a forerunner to the KwaZulu bantustan. It exploited Zulu culture and traditions to the full, and sought to build a movement whose primary goal, in collaboration with the apartheid regime, was to destroy the national liberation movement.

At the heart of the IFP's offensive was a rabid anti-communism, literally and unashamedly reflecting similar accusations by the apartheid regime that 'the ANC was a communist front'. The IFP perhaps went furthest than many of its predecessor splinters from the ANC, by fully collaborating with the apartheid regime in unleashing one of the worst violent counter-revolutionary warfare against the liberation movement. This culminated in its attempts to try and derail the 1994 elections, by collaborating with the most fascist right-wing in South Africa to try and violently derail our transition to democracy.

In 1986, hardly a year after the formation of COSATU, the IFP, funded by the apartheid regime through Adriaan Vlok's departmental funds, established a right-wing labour federation, The United Workers Union of South Africa (UWUSA), as a direct counter to COSATU. Similarly the 2008 splinter from the ANC is also planning to establish a labour federation directly aimed at weakening and undermining COSATU. This is interestingly being done by people who had in the past claimed to subscribe to the idea of one single labour federation for South Africa, but in their desperation to undermine worker and alliance unity they have thrown those principles out of the window!

The IFP has continued its anti-communist rhetoric, even blaming the SACP for the dissolution of the Scorpions, as one of its MPs, J van der Merwe recently claimed in a parliamentary debate on the dissolution of the Scorpions on 23 October 2008:

"It is also clear after Polokwane who now really governs South Africa - the South African Communist Party… The silent Polokwane Communist Coup is taking South Africa in a new and ominous direction".

2.5 The United Democratic Movement

After his expulsion from the ANC, Bantu Holomisa, together with former National Party member, Roelf Meyer, formed the United Democratic Movement (UDM). Of course it is a known fact that the UDM is a small organization on the fringes of South Afrcan politics, whose only claim to fame is that its leader has become a permanent commentator on the ANC and the alliance it leads, rather than focusing on the work of the UDM. Like the other splinters, its concern is also with the communists, as Holomisa claims in a speech in October 2008:

"South Africa doesn't deserve a one-party state, and we certainly don't deserve to be governed by ANC puppets controlled by communists who don't even have the guts to participate in elections"

  1. The 2008 Conventioners

The latest splinter from the ANC joins this long list of anti-communist and anti-working class crusaders. It was therefore not an accident that the ANC allies, the SACP and COSATU, during the dominance of this faction in our movement, were marginalized and even provoked to walk out of the Tripartite Alliance. It was a deliberate strategy driven by a core of anti-communist and anti-working class elements that are now pursuing the same objectives, but fortunately now outside the ANC.

The SACP is therefore not surprised that the 2008 splinter group has found common cause with the likes of the DA, IFP, UDM and other opposition parties. One common factor that draws them together is their anti-communist and anti-working class political outlook. This ganging up is further proof that there is more in common between the dissidents and the likes of DA than with the Polokwane resolutions and mandate.

Like Nana Mahomo and UWUSA before, the 2008 dissidents have tasked the discredited Willie Madisha to build a new federation to counter COSATU, and has recently been quoted by the Daily News as having said,

"We are going to have the biggest union in the country. And that is not going to take time. Give us six months and you will see."

When Holomisa formed the UDM, the ANC, in February 1997, made the following interesting observation:

"When journalists ask Holomisa whether his 'new party' will be to the left or right of the ANC, they are met with a blank stare. Holomisa, of course, has no intention of limiting his opportunism to the left or right. He will only say that 'every Jack and Jill will be welcome' in the new party".

This is true of the 2008 dissidents' rallying cry "All those wanting to defend the constitution are welcome"!

The ANC Document "The rise and fall of Bantu Holomisa" makes the following interesting observations, which we paraphrase, about Holomisa which strikes startling similarities with the dissidents:

Holomisa sought to organize the disgruntled trade unionist in the NUM associated with the 'Five Madoda', to mobilize and impress students with rhetoric, he sought to abuse the challenges confronting the democratic state at the time and more so tried to "mobilise around a sense of dissent and grievance against the ANC".

"And, above all, he tries to present himself as the victim of an ANC "run by a cabal bent on conducting a witchunt", says the document.

Like all other splinters before, the current splinter claims to be the true representative of the traditions of the ANC and projects itself as more democratic than the ANC. Yet, its leaders have walked out of the ANC principally because they cannot accept the democratic outcomes of the Polokwane Conference!

The dissidents campaign on a ticket of fighting against corruption, superior morality, better democratic values, but the jury is still out as to who the really corrupt and immoral are, and history may answer this question sooner rather than later!

  1. The urgent tasks of South African communists and all SACP structures

In the light of the above, the first task of all communists is to engage all our structures and properly explain the true character of the 2008 dissidents, and also understand them from a holistic and historical perspective. Like all their predecessors they will fail to weaken and defeat the ANC, just like they will fail in their attempts to weaken the SACP.

Nevertheless their failure will not happen on its own. As we have done over the past 87 years of our existence, it is also going to be critical focus our energies on the positive campaigns of the SACP and the Alliance.

Firstly, we need to intensify our Red October Campaign to build street committees and mobilize our people for effective participation in local governance.

To this end, we need to ensure that over the next two months Red Forums are convened throughout the length and breadth of our country. The tasks of these Red Forums must be:

  • Use these forums as springboards for building street, village and block committees as our basis for fighting crime
  • Explain and engage our people on the key policy priorities as agreed to at our Alliance Summit in May this year; fighting for decent work and sustainable livelihoods, fighting crime, prioritization of health and education, and rural development, including accelerating land and agrarian transformation for food production and security.
  • Explain to the workers and the poor of our country the real agenda and character of the 2008 dissidents

Secondly, we should use these Red Forums as one of our major platforms for the ANC's election campaign, coupled with intensified door-to-door work in all areas where our Party has a presence

Thirdly, we must convene district councils throughout the country, to get our structures ready for the election campaign. In addition these councils must be used to empower all communists to properly understand the 2008 dissidents and be able to go out and engage the workers and the poor of our country.

Fourthly, we need to ensure that SACP provincial and district leaders participate and do indeed address the shop steward councils currently being convened by COSATU throughout the country.

Fifthly, and most important, we expect all cadres of our Party, to defend and protect the unity of the ANC and our alliance. It is for this reason that our Politburo has taken a decision to deal firmly and swiftly with any SACP who may become part of, or assist, the ANC dissidents. Our alliance is only with the ANC and COSATU!

In the process of doing all of the above we need to ensure that all of our 1600 branches convene branch general meetings as part of our mobilisational effort.

In fact what we may be dealing with here is the new face of counter-revolution in South Africa.