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Umsebenzi Online


Volume 9, No. 7, 21 April 2010

In this Issue:

 

Red Alert

Strengthening the ideological capacity of the working class: An urgent political task

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

"Capitalist influence must be rooted out in the fields of ideology and culture, and a new type of intellectual must be trained, devoted to the welfare of the people and to socialism - The Road to South African Freedom

The intensity of the class struggle both inside our movement and in broader South African society requires that the working class takes bold and decisive actions to take ideological work and the battle of ideas to higher levels, now and going into the future. The battle of ideas is a battle we dare not lose, as this is critical in driving a radical national democratic revolution as our direct route to socialism. This task must be carried out and work intensified both inside and outside the organized formations of the working class.

Apart from the above, there are a number of other reasons that necessitate that we pay particular attention to this matter. The bilateral we have had with the ANC, as well as our forthcoming bilateral with COSATU necessitate that issues relating to building the ideological capacity of the working class be placed even on a higher pedestal in our overall political agenda.

However there is a broader imperative that necessitates this. That the working class is the leading motive force of the national democratic revolution is not something that should only be words on the pieces of paper of our strategy and programme documents, but should be turned into a palpable reality. In other words the leading role of the working class has to be daily earned on the ground through both a combination of mass and ideological work.

We are currently in a period of a huge ideological offensive, especially directed at the youth, to push them towards the idolisation and the worshipping of wealth, obscene display of consumption, and generally the promotion of a 'get rich quick' mentality. This mentality is reaching out into almost every corner of society, including academic institutions and some religious organizations - areas that ordinarily have been thought of as repositories of the highest standards of morality. In fact partly our anti-corruption campaign is informed by these problematic developments.

All these developments run the danger of turning South Africa into one big tender! However it is not enough to wage a struggle against corruption outside of deepening ideological work both inside our organizations and in broader society, as corruption is often also a reflection of the growing influence of the corrupting ideology of capitalism.

Since 1990, especially since the launch of our Red October campaign, the SACP has continued as before that period doing a lot of work on political education, working together with many of the COSATU affiliates. This work has intensified over the last two years and we intend deepening it.

During this period the National Union of Mineworkers established the Elijah Barayi college, the SACP and COSATU established the Chris Hani Institute, COSATU was also instrumental in the setting up of Ditsela and Naledi. All of our organizations have their own publications.

One of the most recent initiatives has been that led by the SACP in establishing an internet based 'Communist University', which is also starting to meet through contact group discussions and also reaching out to other countries in the continent. We need to think boldly about offering systematic programmes that are accredited and can also give the working class other vital skills like reading, writing and ICT. In fact the Communist University has been the most advanced in the creative use of the internet as a critical platform for educational initiatives. The ANC itself already has advanced plans to establish a political school and a policy institute.

Despite this important work, there are two glaring weaknesses in all of our work on this front. Firstly, they operate in an unco-ordinated manner, when in fact they are important platforms for intensified and co-ordinated ideological work by the working class. Secondly, in all these initiatives we tend to talk to ourselves and those sections of the working class that are organized, whilst bourgeois media talks to both our constituency and the rest of society.

It is therefore important that we take our ideological work to new heights. We need to be innovative and bold by building on these foundations and reach out to broader society. Our international allies often comment that given the strength and power of the working class in South Africa, we should by right be having our own newspapers, radio stations, formally recognized training institutions and other structures that will institutionalize this power. These of course should not be substitutes to mass work, but complement it, though mass work in itself is also an important terrain for the battle of ideas.

The one matter we shall be tabling in our bilateral with COSATU is the need to consolidate working class media and educational initiatives and institutions, that may in the medium to long term can even offer properly accredited certificates, diplomas and degrees. Surely it cannot be that in our public institutions neo-liberal ideas are daily being institutionalized, whilst working class theory is marginalized. Whilst this must not be a substitute for our public institutions to offer working class oriented education as well, let us consolidate what we already control. We need to build these institutions such that they are not only attractive to organized workers only but also to the youth and adults in broader society.

Despite enormous opportunities since 1994 created by the opening of the airwaves, the working class has not adequately taken up the space of community radio stations for instance. These are very important platforms for class analysis of society and the local issues and challenges that face our people on a daily basis.

Since 1994, government has also opened up huge opportunities for training, yet there is no systematic education and training strategy for the working class, despite the many important initiatives we have undertaken. This space has largely been left to employers, focusing only on job related training without a broader strategy to train a different kind of worker - skilled, informed, critical and through which the ideas of the working class can be made a living force in society.

Indeed such vital initiatives and skills will also enable the working class to intensify the battle of ideas in the very platforms of mainstream media, through targeted and ongoing engagement with its mainly bourgeois ideas.

Indeed consolidation on this scale will require resources, but this should not stand on our way to beginning to build working class capacity on this front. For example resources already existing within the organized formations of the working class can be better utilized and co-ordinated to direct them towards these overarching tasks. This does not imply that the various platforms we have servicing particular needs (eg. Training workers in negotiating skills in particular sectors, 'The Shopsteward', etc) must all be collapsed into one, although they need to be subject to our overall political and ideological objectives. But a strategic and programmatic synergy and pulling together of these existing resources can go a long way towards the attainment of our objectives to consolidate broader working class ideological work.

An immediate task that needs to be initiated by the organized formations of the working class is the establishment of a permanent 'Ideological Commission', that would lead all this work, including undertaking feasibility studies on the various components of such work. Such a commission, to be principally driven by the SACP and COSATU, could for instance be located in one of the already existing working class institutions (eg Elijah Barayi College or Chris Hani Institute).

Of course a systematic attempt at institutionalizing aspects of the working class initiatives, must not replace the thousands of political schools and socialist forums that we hold in various localities and workplaces. These continue to be important, but nevertheless they need to be guided by an overarching working class vision on the important question of the battle of ideas.

It might as well be that an urgent conference of our commissars, organizers, and policy experts and media officials is required to formally table and discuss these matters.

Let all the formations of the working class discuss and debate these matters guided by our medium term vision of making the second decade of our freedom as the decade of the workers and the poor.

All these initiatives are not a substitute to the vanguard role of our South African Communist Party, but ideas placed before all our organized working class formations as part of seeking precisely to play that role.

Asikhulume!

 

Address delivered by the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, on the Occasion of the SACP's Chris Hani Lecture, Boksburg, Ekurhuleni

10 April 2010

Comrades, thank you very much for affording me this opportunity to share with you my humble views on the seventeenth (17th) anniversary of the assassination of comrade Martin Thembisile ‘Chris' Hani.

I also wish to thank both the members of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Hani family for expanding a platform for public engagement on and to revisit lessons from comrade Chris Hani's life.

Let me take this opportunity to convey my apologies for not being able to attend both the unveiling of comrades Chris and Limpho Hani's daughter, Nomakhwezi Hani, as well as the wreath laying ceremony, this morning.

I am sure you will have noted that today was the day for the funeral of comrade Dr Molefi Sefularo who was the Deputy Minister of Health and a member of ANC and SACP.

May I also request that on this day when we honour the memory of comrade Chris, we also pay homage to the late son of the soil, Dr. Molefi Sefularo to whom we have much to be thankful for, for the diligent execution of his many tasks as a medical practitioner, academic and public servant.

I will attempt to speak on the meaning of comrade Chris in 2010, this year South Africa when we have to tease out the necessary lessons he has bequeathed us in the Alliance. I will also like to reflect on the important issue of corruption in society.

The importance of this theme talks to the values and foundations of our struggle for democracy and building a society we can all be proud of. Thus it is to comrade Chris Hani's life and teachings that we look for guidance and leadership.

On an occasion such as this I cannot but remember the counsel of the revolutionary leader and intellectual, Amilcar Cabral, when he said:

"we must speak, for if at this point we remain silent, our hearts might burst" (Oration at the Funeral of Kwame Nkrumah, 13 May 1972).

Let us remember that comrade Chris' conception of human society was driven by an urge to end suffering irrespective of race, class or gender. He never saw society's racial fissures as the solution to co-existence.

Instead, he was killed for believing in a racially equal society, to which he had dedicated all his life.

Non-racialism coursed through the veins of comrade Chris' moral universe, just as it imbues the organism of his organisations, the ANC and the SACP.

Comrade Chris Hani prided himself on being the advocate of equality and social justice. Accordingly, he joined the African National Congress because he was convinced that the future of our country is anchored on the vision of unity, non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and democracy.

So let us be clear about one thing: Comrade Chris' life is synonymous with our revolution. We cannot speak of one and make sense, without, necessarily, mentioning the other.

And so we can confidently conclude that his sacrifices, and similarly, our glorious legacy as an organisation, thus deserve not only remembrance but more importantly, to serve as a historical touchstone from which to draw valuable lessons as we strive to chart the way forward.

We would know that history is made in conditions of not our choosing as societies. We impact on conditions inherited from our past, just as such conditions shape the course of our lives. And so it was with comrade Chris Hani.

Born in the rural village of Sabalele, in the Cofimvaba region of the former Transkei, Thembisile Hani was the fifth of the six children born to Gilbert and Mary Hani.

Growing up with strong Christian values, he was exposed to the inequalities spawned by the race and class nexus early on in his life when his father had to leave home to seek work in the urban areas of South Africa.
As he says in his own words:

"In 1959 I went over to university at Fort Hare...It was here that I got exposed to Marxist ideas and the scope and nature of the racist capitalist system. My conversion to Marxism also deepened my non-racial perspective" (Chris Hani Biography Online).

From this experience, we learn that Comrade Chris learned three critical lessons that were to define his being to the end.

Firstly, he deepened his understanding of the national liberation struggle. Secondly, he was exposed to and embraced Marxism as a living, guiding theory to a better organisation of human society. Thirdly, and critically, he learned the inherent incompatibility between racism and Marxism

Because of the peculiar historical symbiosis between race and class in South Africa, it is instructive to illuminate this critical point a bit more.

Marxism pre-dismisses the importance of race from the scientific and socio-economic equation, and, instead, holds that class is the primary reality of social arrangements.

In fine, class constitutes the base, which props up the superstructure of which racism is an aspect.

Now, since Marxism proceeds from the judicious study of discernible reality, it enabled comrade Chris to remove from his sight the blinding cobwebs of racism, or appearances, to understand the underlying class dynamics of society, or the essence.

Combined with his earlier learning of classical literature and its many moral lessons about tyranny, despotism and oppression, this high level exposure to the real struggle theories would stand him in good stead throughout his political life.

What is even notable is that comrade Chris did not just ingest all theory for political glamour. In his simple daily life he externalised all that which he had internalised during his learning days. His understanding of Marxism and non-racialism were practically expressed in his engagement with the world.

Chris and his generation ensured that our organisation was value-centered and operated based on solid principles, so that no one was above the ANC. From the example of his fearless life we learn the importance of discipline, honesty and pride in fighting for a just cause.

Today, sixteen (16) years after the assassination of comrade Chris, our organisation and indeed the entire South African society, is faced with the challenges of potential moral incapacitation.

And it is of primary importance to emphasise that this challenge of corruption in society, which is also a global challenge facing the so-called developed countries, is not the preserve of public service. It is a two way street, including the corruptor and the corrupted.

As we gather here to compare notes about the place of such central figures in our history as Chris Hani, we are faced with an immense menace of moral laxity and the submerging of our value system in the swamp of corruption and selfishness.

Humane impulses that breathed oxygen into our revolutionary morality are now contesting with insidious tendencies of corruption, me-tooism and bling culture, the total effect of which threatens to supplant the culture of service delivery, human rights, democracy and justice.

The total effect of these negative tendencies which threaten to undermine the culture of democracy and justice are foreign to the culture of the ANC and SACP.

Literature reminds us that those who fail to learn from history are likely to repeat its mistakes. As we have seen here in the continent and elsewhere, many a revolutionary liberation movement with a glorious history ended up sinking into regression because of deviance from its core values and principles.

In simple terms, if we fail to remake post-apartheid society in our own image, post-apartheid society will almost likely remake us in its own image!

Today history demands of us to build a sustainable climate of moral rectitude, impervious to corruption.

In this connection, the campaign launched by the SACP, in support of government, to intensify our campaign against corruption, is most welcome.
The heart of the matter is that corruption disadvantages the poorest of the poor the most by robbing them of services they deserve. Corruption is anathema to shared economic growth

As Paulo Frere, the Brazilian revolutionary thinker puts it this way:

"[T] he new man and the new woman do not appear by accident. The new man and the new woman are born in the practice of the revolutionary reconstruction of the society" (Frere and Macedo, 1987).

This new man and new woman cannot be born anywhere but into the fold of historically transmitted conditions.

In like manner, Comrade Chris Hani, the Chris Hani that made a conscious decision to forego the superficial pleasures of apartheid moral universe and fight for change, was a new man to the extent that he had imbibed a new consciousness about human society.

We cannot allow ourselves to be overrun by selfish interests that etch themselves in societal consciousness because if we do, we would have indeed betrayed our history, our proud history that produced giants such as Moses Kotane, J.B. Marks, Joe Slovo and comrade Chris Hani.

The historical agency which brought down the edifice of a system of oppression needs to be activated even more to protect our hard-won democracy.

Being the last but one country to obtain liberation from colonialism on the African continent, we should necessarily avoid some of the pitfalls that typified the post-colonial order in most of the African, Asian and Latin American continents.

We know that this struggle is going to be a hard slog. As revolutionaries we never deluded ourselves into thinking that we are fault-proof.

We also know the overwhelming power and attraction of capitalist relations of society with which we have to contend.

However, let us take comfort in the fact that our system of government, as constitutionally-mandated, has put in place institutions with the view to play a watchdog role over society.

In this regard, our alliance partners, Cosatu, have proposed that we embark on lifestyle audits in order to preclude occurrences of corruption from among our midst.

In essence, this call by our Alliance partners is motivated by the same concerns about guarding against degeneration of our revolution.

Based on this understanding, this is indeed a progressive move that must be welcomed. At the same time, there is a central flaw in this proposal that needs further debate and correction.

As outlined earlier on, our system of government has in place institutions and bodies whose intention it is to play a watchdog role over society.

Such organs of our democratic governance, such as the National Prosecution Authority, the Public Protector, working with the South African Revenue Services, are each meant to investigate and prosecute acts of criminality as well as protect the public from abuse of state institutions.

In essence, comrades, one of the five priorities of government's Programme of Action is the fight against crime and corruption.

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) conducts investigations of people who appear to be living beyond their means.

These investigations start on the basis of information obtained from various sources, including the SARS anti-corruption and fraud hotline, income tax returns a taxpayer submits to SARS and suspicious activity reports from members of the public.

A lifestyle questionnaire is one method of obtaining information from a taxpayer and – together with other information sources – assists SARS in matching the lifestyle trends, income streams and the asset base of a taxpayer to what has been declared in an income tax return.

The accumulated wealth has to be explained by the taxpayer for tax purposes. Any unexplained wealth is taxed.

The Compliance and Risk Unit within SARS conducts the risk analysis of taxpayer information. If there is a mismatch between what the taxpayer has declared and what SARS has found, the case is referred for an audit.

If it is confirmed that the taxpayer has evaded tax, penalties are levied, interest is charged and additional tax of up to 200% of the evaded tax is charged.

Depending on the circumstances, the case may then be handed to SARS criminal investigation who then engages the South African Police Service (SAPS) and a Specialised Tax Unit for criminal prosecution within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

More than 10 000 such audits have been conducted by SARS over the past 2 years.  
 
The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2003 also provides for an investigation into a person who appears to own property disproportionate to their income.

This is in addition to stringent FICA requirements that compel individuals to disclose sources of income when they make large financial transactions.
 
In light of the above, Cabinet is not considering lifestyle audits for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior public servants as there are already appropriate measures in place.
 
Each and every one of us has a duty as public representatives to ensure that members of the public and our constituencies are aware of the regulatory framework designed to deter corruption.

However, and more importantly, it is necessary that as public representatives we inform the public about all the means available to them as citizens to bring to the attention of the authorities any information that they might have that will bring to book anybody involved in corrupt activities of any kind.

The more our people know about these measures and the more we exercise oversight as Parliament, the better we will be able to restore public confidence in our democratic institutions.
This does not mean, however, that complementary measure cannot be put in place to augment their capacity, should they be found wanting in other respects.

And this is the central point of the ANC government. Contrary to media reports, the ANC is not disagreeable to Cosatu's proposal.

Instead, we are saying let us identify inadequacies in the present anti-corruption regime and then come up with appropriate measures to address the weaknesses.

It would not be correct, however, to bring in totally new proposals of dealing with this malady without taking into account the above constitutional bodies already in existence.

In fact, doing this is most likely to bring about unintended consequences of undermining the very foundations of the constitutionally mandated anti-corruption organs, in that it would imply that they are devitalised and can therefore be bypassed under given conditions.

Having said this, comrade chairperson, we welcome all attempts to strengthen our democratic state through enhancing the integrity of our institutions the better to execute their duties with maximum efficiency.

In this I am convinced that advocates of lifestyle audit are following in the footsteps of comrade Chris Hani, whose life radiated meta-principles of integrity.

While it is true, as Adlai Stevenson memorably put it, that "It is often easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them", we are fortunate that our alliance comprises men and women of vision.

We are fortunate that the legacy of Chris Hani is still aglow as we stride forward each day, guided by our history, our cultural systems and our grand vision for a better human society.

Comrade Chris spent the better part of his life pursuing this goal of an equal and non-racial nation, and had all but taken us there, though he himself did not live long to see the fruits of his life long labours.

We are fortunate, for he bestrode our history like the colossus that he was, helping to keep the momentum of achieving our liberation, one of the critical goals of the National Democratic Revolution.

It is all in our hands now, the Tripartite Alliance and the broader MDM to live up to our historical role as active agents to help fashion a South Africa based on improving and enhancing decent human conditions for all our people, especially the poorest of the poor.

It is a vision that impelled our struggle and inspired our leaders, including comrade Chris Hani.

The indivisible duty of those of us who are left behind is to translate the abstractions of freedom into the concrete realities of a truly better life for all our people.

This includes the total transformation of socio-economic landscape of our people as the most decisive index of freedom.

Socio-economic amelioration of our people's conditions constitutes the sole benchmark of whether the historical tide has turned.
On this account one cannot help but remember the evocative poem by an unknown El Salvadorian guerrilla fighter who died in battle for freedom.

The poem, found in the dead guerrilla's pocket, reads:

"Ask not my name
Nor if you knew me
The dreams I have had
Will grow without me.
Alive no more
I will go where my dreams have shown me.
Those who carry on the fight
Will plant other roses
All will remember me."

With these words, I convey my sincere thanks for asking me to address this special occasion.

I thank you.

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