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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 8, No. 12, 15 July 2009

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Nelson Mandela Day: Celebrating Madiba`s revolutionary legacy

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

On Saturday 18 July 2009, on the 91st birthday of one of the greatest heroes produced by the South African revolution, our movement and government will be launching what will be the first of an annual event, the Nelson Mandela Day. On this day we shall celebrate, honour and seek to emulate the revolutionary example set by Cde Nelson Mandela, former President of the ANC and the first President of a democratic South Africa.

The SACP pledges its full support to this and will seek to actively participate in the Nelson Mandela Day activities, both as part of the Tripartite Alliance and in its own right as an independent political party of the working class. Celebrating the contributions and sacrifices of Madiba also coincides with the SACP`s 88th anniversary, founded on 31 July 1921 in Cape Town. During this anniversary month of the SACP, we shall also be celebrating the contributions of Nelson Mandela and many other revolutionary patriots, with whom we have been in the trenches for the past 88 years.

As the SACP has correctly and consistently argued before, Cde Nelson Mandela should in the first instance be recognized and celebrated as a revolutionary, and indeed one of the most prominent revolutionaries of the 20th century. Much as we appreciate that Nelson Mandela is respected globally by a wide variety of people drawn from across all social classes, it is important that the legacy of Nelson Mandela as a revolutionary, a former combatant of Umkhonto WeSizwe, and a leader of a revolutionary national liberation movement, must never be allowed to disappear.

Nelson Mandela became what he is today, principally because he understood that our revolution was about the liberation of millions of ordinary workers and the poor. Madiba also understood that much as leaders are important in any revolution, but it is the masses themselves who are their own liberators and architects of their future. It is important to constantly elevate this reality not only rhetorically, but practically, by continuing to mobilize the mass of our people to be at the forefront of consolidating and deepening our national democratic revolution.

It is even more important today to highlight the revolutionary ideals that Madiba embodies, as our movement is faced with many challenges now that it leads government in our country. As we have pointed out before, liberation movements in power face many complex and new challenges, some of which have led to the degeneration and even decimation of many former progressive liberation movements. Some of these challenges include managing the relationship between the state and the movement, and overcoming the temptations of replacing the movement with the state, and combating the dangers of using state power to advance narrow class interests that are at variance with the core historical values of many such movements. Therefore, celebrating Nelson Mandela Day must centrally be about safeguarding our movement as a people`s movement, placing service to the people and progressive transformation of the lives of ordinary people at the centre of its agenda.

Our country is launching Nelson Mandela Day in the midst of one of the worst global capitalist economic crisis in the history of capitalism. The current working class struggles underway in our country are in part also a response to the effects of the impact of the current capitalist crisis on ordinary workers and the poor. This crisis, as has been highlighted by many others, is not merely a financial or economic crisis, but it is a crisis of capitalist values and a crisis of the ideology of the ‘free-market` and its current neo-liberal variant. It is also for this reason that Nelson Mandela Day must also be a re-affirmation of the values he has come to represent - that of social solidarity, selflessness, dedication, equity and fairness! It is through the consistent inculcation of these values that we can roll back the greed, corruption and selfishness of capitalism.

The SACP will be using this anniversary month, and in celebrating the life of Madiba, to convene public Red Forums to assess the impact of this crisis on the lives of ordinary people and discuss practical ways and means to involve our people in mitigating its impact. The SACP, over the coming few months, will mobilize as many of its cadres as possible to spend 67 minutes and more on the mobilization of our people in the struggle against the current crisis.

Our Red Forums also aim to expose the extent to which ordinary people are suffering, and come up with concrete alternative proposals guided by the Framework agreement adopted at NEDLAC as a response to the crisis.

Nelson Mandela spent most of his life in the struggle being in the trenches with communists and trade unionists in, amongst others:

  • The Defiance Campaign and SACTU-led workers struggles of the 1950s
  • Underground and armed struggle from the 1960s into the early 1990s
  • Debates about the direction of our struggle on Robben Island
  • The mass struggles, negotiations and the adoption of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in the early 1990s
  • The struggle to roll back and defeat the counter-revolutionary violence waged against our movement in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country
  • The setting up of a democratic government, and the struggle for the reconstruction and development of our country after the 1994 democratic breakthrough

In all the above and many other struggles that Madiba participated in, he placed great emphasis on the unity of the Tripartite Alliance, and the need for consistent unity in action. Nelson Mandela Day should therefore also be a day of celebrating his role in building a united Alliance that led the struggle to defeat the apartheid regime and build a democratic South Africa.

The launch of Nelson Mandela Day also coincides with the year in which the SACP will be celebrating its adoption of the Native Republic Thesis by its predecessor, the Communist Party of South Africa, in January 1929. The adoption of this Thesis laid the foundation for the building of the Tripartite Alliance from the 1930s onwards.

It is therefore important that we also use Nelson Mandela Day to build upon President Jacob Zuma`s continued commitment to Nelson Mandela`s legacy of placing our Alliance at the centre of consolidating and deepening the national democratic revolution. President Zuma has correctly emphasized that the unity of the Alliance is not a luxury but an absolute necessity in strengthening our democracy.

Of course we could have given Madiba no better birthday present than the ANC`s overwhelming April electoral victory, despite a concerted media onslaught on the ANC and its allies in the run up to this election. The election campaign was a reflection of Alliance unity in action at its best. Let Nelson Mandela Day be another important platform to safeguard the unity of our alliance as the best way to safeguard April`s electoral victory as a victory for the workers and the poor of our country.

To Madiba, the revolutionary, we say, Happy Birthday and Happy Nelson Mandela Day!