Volume 11, No. 13, 10 April 2012
SACP message on the 19th Anniversary of the assassination of Cde Chris Hani
Communists in every terrain and front of struggle: Let us take forward Cde Chris Hani's struggle!
April 10, 2012 marks the 19th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most outstanding militants of our revolutionary struggle - former SACP General Secretary and people's hero, Cde Chris Hani. How should we best honour the memory of Cde Chris in this year of celebrating the centenary of the ANC, the liberation movement in which Cde Chris served with diligence and discipline?
We know from his own example how Cde Chris would have answered. He would have said, as he did many times in his own lifetime, that Communists must:
- Learn from the past;
- Analyse the present; and
- Act strategically to change the future.
Cde Chris also said many times that it is impossible to learn from the past, or to analyse the present, or to advance a programme of concrete leadership by sitting in an ivory tower, or by being an isolated sect. Serious communists need to be immersed in the struggles of the working class and popular masses. Communists must be in all sites of class struggle - and they must not stand aloof, with "clean hands", from the broad mass movement of the people. They must not shun taking collective responsibility for the difficult challenges of any revolution.
Chris Hani was a living testimony to the necessity of communists to be in all terrains and fronts of struggle. He was a leader of both the ANC and the SACP, he was commander of MK, and used to move in and out of the country as part of the underground, and after 1990 was also part of the multitude of trade union and workers struggles, as well as in community struggles both in urban and rural areas. Chris did all this because he understood that the revolution had to be advanced not just in one single corner or single organisational corner, but it had to be fought in all terrains of struggle. He understood that there was absolutely no contradiction in serving in the various terrains or organs of the movement as the revolution was everywhere.
Therefore as communists we must emphatically reject any attempts to be pigeon-hole us into narrow activism or small corners of the revolutionary struggle, and BE like Chris!
Learning from the past - learning from Cde Chris's own revolutionary example
As we commemorate Cde Chris's life, what can we learn from his own outstanding example?
Everyone knows that Cde Chris was a fearless soldier and a revolutionary militant; that he escaped many assassination attempts directed against him by the apartheid regime; that he led soldiers into battle in the Wankie campaign in 1967; that he slipped clandestinely in and out of SA at the height of apartheid's repressive years.
But for Cde Chris courage was never just about blind heroism. For Cde Chris radical militancy was not about empty sloganeering. It was not about populist and demagogic mobilization of working class or people's grievances to advance one's own personal popularity. Cde Chris was a radical militant, yes. He was immensely popular, yes. But his militancy was always connected to a clear-headed national democratic and socialist strategic agenda. His enduring popularity, even 19 years after his cruel death, was earned not with self-serving press statements and empty slogans - but by serving loyally within the collective ranks of the SACP, the ANC, and MK.
But loyalty to our formations doesn't mean silence or timidity in the face of internal abuses or mistakes. It doesn't mean loyalty to this or that faction. In 1969 Cde Chris and seven other comrades in exile wrote a famous memorandum to the senior collective leadership of the ANC. They expressed concern that not all of the exile leadership was sufficiently dedicated to the tasks of deploying MK and political cadres back to the home front. This memorandum was not well received by some of Cde Chris's immediate superiors and his membership of the ANC was suspended. The suspension was overturned when the senior leadership of the movement acknowledged the merits of the issues raised and sought to address them. Note many important things about this episode. Cde Chris and his colleagues didn't run to the media with leaked disinformation. They didn't address mass meetings in MK camps in order to fight a factional battle. They didn't insult the leadership. They raised their concerns boldly, but within the organization, and with the aim of strengthening the ANC and MK, and not of advancing personal or factional interests.
After all, as Karl Marx said, history repeats itself, first as a tragedy, but the second time as a farce! The movement itself realized at the time the tragedy that would have followed the expulsion of someone like Chris for the seriousness and discipline with which he raised them. Those who try to repeat such, for opportunistic reasons, such a repeat will only end up as a farce!
Many times during his life, Cde Chris was presented with opportunities to take populist, self-serving short-cuts. In the mid-1980s, for instance, a number of genuine objective and subjective problems in MK camps in Angola were exploited by apartheid infiltrators. There were armed mutinies in some cases. Some of the misled rank-and-file muntineers turned to Chris Hani hoping that he would side with them against others in the MK command structures. Although Cde Chris did not agree with the conduct of some of these other leaders, he declined to take one of two wrong options.
In the first place, he didn't take the "safe option" by staying away from where the mutinies were occurring, even though he wasn't the target of discontent. And, while he recognized that there were many genuine grievances, he did not condone organizational ill-discipline. This was all because Cde Chris was not an opportunist. In remembering Cde Chris, especially in this centenary year of the ANC we must keep focused on the priorities of the movement and condemn all forms of opportunism, self-seeking behaviour and populism. The most important lesson here is that genuine revolutionaries must not chase newspaper headlines, but must seek to preserve the unity our movement. The ANC and our Alliance is all our people have to fight for a better life for themselves!
Analysing the present
Cde Chris well understood that any effective communist practice had to be rooted in a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. With the beginning of the negotiations process in the early 1990s, the ANC took the principled strategic decision to suspend the armed struggle. This was not a universally popular decision, especially amongst many militant youth who had been in the forefront of bitter struggles. Some turned to Hani, hoping he would defy the collective decision of the ANC, and that he would lend his own revolutionary military credentials to such defiance. But Hani was both a disciplined cadre and a clear strategist who refused to mobilize factions against our movement and in a self-serving way, even at the most difficult of times.
In 1991 he wrote publicly: "Our struggle [has] brought about the present crisis of the apartheid regime. The racist regime has reluctantly recognized the legitimacy of our struggle by agreeing to sit down and discuss how to begin the negotiations process. In the current political situation, the decision by our organization to suspend armed action is correct and is an important contribution in maintaining the momentum of negotiations."
As this example underlines, Cde Chris understood well that the correct revolutionary approach is not necessarily the one that appears to be most militant or that shouts the loudest - the correct strategy has to be based on the correct analysis of the present situation.
So what, then, are the key features of our own present situation?
We are living through a major global crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis full of dangers, but also possibilities for a profoundly different, anti-capitalist agenda. Here in SA, the crisis is worsening our own triple crises of mass unemployment, persisting racialised inequality, and widespread poverty.
Our job as the SACP is to analyse the reasons for both the global crisis and its impact on our own society. We have said clearly that this is a systemic crisis - that means that it is not a just temporary crisis. It will not be resolved by some hoped-for capitalist return to growth or by revolutionary sounding rhetoric, but by seeking to collectively take responsibility for all the revolutionary challenges before us. The capitalist system itself has to be transformed globally and locally if we are to find a sustainable way out of the suffering of billions of workers and the poor.
On the basis of this analysis, it is possible and necessary to address the future with a concrete programme of collective action.
Forward with a concrete programme of action
In the present there are many, often factional, attempts at mobilizing around popular discontent and grievance. Sometimes this mobilization assumes an anti-state character - the state is blamed for "non-delivery", or the state is presented as thoroughly and irredeemably corrupt. Of course, there are many weaknesses in the state, including serious challenges of corruption and tenderpreneurship. The SACP has been the first to be critical of these problems. But the danger of exaggerating these challenges is that we abandon the struggle to transform the state from both outside and from WITHIN. The danger is that we become content to be critics from a safe distance.
The danger is that we simply mobilize popular grievances without taking any responsibility for offering solutions. In this way we can easily and unwittingly fall into a neo-liberal, anti-state agenda. Ever since 1994, having reluctantly conceded one-person one-vote, the neo-liberal agenda in our country has been to devalue the power of the vote by devaluing the power of the state.
This is why the SACP says: Let us build working class and popular power where we work and study, in our communities, in the media, AND in the state itself. Let us combine democratic state power and worker power to advance our national democratic and socialist agenda.
In this 100th year of the ANC, it is the duty of all Communists to follow the example of Cde Chris in helping to build our liberation movement, to defend its culture and its revolutionary codes of morality and discipline, and to foster unity among all revolutionary democrats - communist and non-communist.
In the face of the global and local economic and social crisis, the SACP says: let us advance unifying and militant programmes of action that transforms our neo-colonial and capitalist economy by placing it onto a new growth path that is job creating, develops skills, builds infrastructure to address geographical under-development in rural areas and that abolishes persisting apartheid spatial patterns in our towns and cities.
The SACP says: Let us unite the employed, the under-employed, and the unemployed masses in common struggles that address social wage issues that decommodify basic social needs:
- a national health insurance system;
- land reform for productive and sustainable livelihoods;
- quality education and skills development for all;
- human settlements that abolish the racial and wealth gaps, by addressing the housing crisis for workers who do not qualify for RDP housing, but who are rejected by the private banks; by upgrading well-located informal settlements; and by introducing mixed-use and mixed-income medium-density housing and rental stock; and
- by rolling out safe, affordable and accessible public transport.
Hani's exemplary life is a timely reminder for us in the present that militancy and radicalism do not need to be the opposites of discipline and strategic cool-headedness; that enduring popularity is not about egotistical grandstanding, or a fashion parade - it has to be earned in consistent and collective struggle, in the midst of the oppressed and exploited.
On the solemn occasion of the 19th anniversary of Cde Chris Hani's cruel assassination, let us once more dedicate ourselves to taking up his fallen spear.
The key challenge of all revolutionaries is to build on the many advances made by government as the basis upon which to address the challenges we face. No true revolutionary must be blinded by existing challenges and lose sight of advances made and their revolutionary potential to consolidate the revolution itself. Like Cde Chris, when we forced the apartheid regime to concede to negotiations, he did not say just because we were not yet free therefore we should turn a blind eye to the space opened up by the negotiations process. Instead he called for the seizing of that opportunity as a bridgehead towards a democratic South Africa.
Indeed a lot of advances have been made by the Zuma administration, building upon advances made by the ANC since 1994. Government is now piloting the National Health Insurance so that every South African can have access to health care irrespective of their place in society. Government has steadily improved matric results, with 60% of our schools being no fee-paying schools. Government has also significantly expanded opportunities for higher education, with all poor students doing occupational programmes attending FET colleges for free. Government has committed to abandoning the 'wiling seller, willing buyer' principle of land reform. We called for an industrial policy and we now have one. We called for increased investment into infrastructure and the President has announced in the State of The Nation Address in 2012 a multi billion rand infrastructure spend programme, the first on such a large scale! Revolutionaries must be on the forefront on building on these advances in order to tackle the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Like Cde Chris did, let us expose the liberals and most of its mainstream media backers as the ideological third force that seek to abuse our institutions of democracy in order to undermine and discredit government's transformation process by manufacturing distortions that we seek to undermine the very constitution we fought for!
Let every communist be in the trenches with the workers, to fight against casualisation of labour, to fight for a living wage and to intensify the struggle for a decent social wage, including safe and affordable public transport, access to health for all, access to education for the poor, and for a national health insurance scheme.
In honour and memory of Cde Chris, we shall intensify the struggle for the transformation of the financial sector, including the current increase in reckless lending by the banks to the poor as part of undermining the National Credit Act that we fought so hard for. The SACP reiterates its call for the convening of a second financial sector summit, as part of curtailing the predatory behaviour of the financial sector. In addition we will intensify the struggle for the mobilization of all resources in the hands of the financial sector, public and private, including the trillions of rands of workers' pension, provident and insurance funds, so that these are used for investment into job-creating infrastructure programmes.
Let every communist be in all fronts and terrains of struggle, in honor of the revolutionary sacrifices and example of Cde Chris!