Flag and Symbol
Media & Artwork
Conferences, Congresses and Anniversaries
Leadership Structures
African Communist PDF Archive
African Communist Digital Archive
Bua Komanisi
Eastern Cape Bulletin
Umsebenzi Online
Umsebenzi Online Articles
Voice of the Proletariat - Northern Cape Publication
Feedback Form
Google Groups

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

Contact us
Tel:  +27 11 3393621
Fax: +27 11 3394244
+27 11 3396880


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

The latest Umsebenzi Click here to view the Latest Umsebenzi. [PDF]

The latest Umsebenzi Online

The national and property question in South Africa: Land reform and expropriation
Read more

The latest African Communist Click here to view the Latest African Communist. [PDF]
Umsebenzi Online

Volume 11, No. 22, 14 June 2012

In this Issue:


Editorial Note

As part and parcel of discussions in the run up to the 13th National Congress today we release a chapter from our draft political programme focusing on The battle of Ideas.

The SACP invites lively engagements and inputs on proposals contained in the chapter.

Socialist regards

Red Alert

The Battle of Ideas

The battle of ideas is an integral part of the class struggle. It is both a struggle over ideas themselves and a struggle for the progressive transformation of the major institutional means of ideological production and dissemination - including the media, the educational and training system, the policy apparatus within the state, and a wide range of cultural and faith-based institutions and practices.

Ultimately, different ideologies represent different class interests, but the connection between an ideology and a particular class, or fraction of a class, is not always one-to-one, or even easily recognizable. In any concrete situation particular ideologies are also often hybrid, a mixture of different ideological currents, and therefore there is not always a simple mechanical association between an ideology and a specific class. Moreover, the ruling ideas of the ruling class will tend to infiltrate the outlooks and beliefs of other classes and strata. This is particularly the case in our own current global and national realities, dominated by monopoly capital, including highly globalized media empires. In these conditions, the ideas of the global ruling class are repeated so often they begin to seem obvious, self-evident truths.

One of the key vanguard roles of our Communist Party is, precisely, to engage actively on this terrain, and to expose the class interests that lie behind what often seems like the natural way of things. 


Although the global capitalist economic crisis has provoked some ideological self-questioning, neo-liberalism remains the hegemonic ideology of our times. Neo-liberalism as an ideology is closely connected to the development of globally-operating monopoly finance capital which emerged powerfully into international dominance from the 1970s. 

A cornerstone of Marxism is that capitalism (unlike earlier economic systems and unlike socialism) has an in-built, profit-driven requirement to constantly expand. If it doesn't constantly expand, it enters into systemic crisis. The current global economic crisis is, in essence, precisely a crisis associated with a prolonged period of economic stagnation in the developed centres of capitalism that dates back to the early 1970s. The emergence of neo-liberalism as the hegemonic global ideology from the 1970s (in various guises as "Thatcherism", "Reaganomics", etc.) is closely related to the challenges of over-accumulation, stagnation, and the attempts to overcome these challenges through a massive process of global financialisation - associated with speculative capital flows increasingly disconnected from productive investment.

What are the main features of neo-liberalism?

  1. An obsession with "growth" - Neo-liberalism has as its cornerstone belief the argument that "growth" is the principal driver of all things positive. But "growth", in the logic of capitalism, is NOT measured in terms of an increase in the production and availability of socially useful goods - but in terms of the production of commodities that can be traded for a profit. "Growth", therefore, excludes socially useful (often socially critical) production of food for household self-subsistence, for instance.

A voluntary service like caring for the children of working neighbours in South African townships is socially necessary, but it does not feature in the "economic" calculations of "economic output", and therefore it is not part of "growth". However, if the SAME service is provided for a fee - then, in the warped logic of capitalism, it is part of the GDP "growth" calculation. The same contorted logic is apparent in the case of safety and security services. If they are rendered by the public sector police, then they are not measured as a contribution to "growth". But if the same services are provided by private security companies for profit, then that gets counted as part of GDP.

Moreover, in the logic of capitalism, the exhaustion of our natural resources (for instance the depletion of our minerals, fishing stocks, or forests) does NOT get DEDUCTED from the "growth" calculation. Profits are made and we are told our economy has "grown", but at the end of the day most of us are collectively left with less!

The same applies to the often irreparable damage done to our natural environment (the pollution of our underground water resources through acid mine drainage, for instance). Again the costs to society and to future generations of this profit-driven destruction are NOT part of a negative growth calculation. In addition to all of this, socially useless activities are counted as part of "growth" - for instance, the vastly expanding, multi-trillion dollar global advertising and "branding" industry.

The claim of capitalist ideology is that job creation, greater equality, and the reduction of poverty are all dependent upon "growth", and without "growth" they cannot be addressed. The "unless-we-grow-the-cake" argument is so often repeated that it comes to seem like a self-evident truth. However, our own history teaches us that there is no necessary link between "growth" and key social objectives. At the height of the apartheid period, from the mid-1960s to 1973, the economy achieved sustained 6% "growth" - but inequality and poverty worsened. It is for this reason that the SACP insists on a completely different understanding of "growth", which should be measured in terms of the sustainable transformation of our society to meet the developmental needs of our people.

  1. "The free market" - advocating for the so-called "free market" is the second and related core theme of neo-liberalism. It is the "market" that supposedly drives the "growth" (but this is a circular argument because, as we have seen, it is only market-commodities that are counted as contributing to "growth" in the first place). Neo-liberalism hardly ever speaks of a "capitalist society". It prefers to replace this with the idea of a "market society". This substitute term draws a convenient veil over the existence of a capitalist class and over the history of how this class came to be constituted. Instead, the idea of a "market society" conjures up a mythical picture of a society of free individuals buying from and selling to each other according to supposedly fair rules of supply and demand. What disappears in this idea of a "market society" is the brutal history of primitive accumulation, of the privatization of commons, and of colonial invasion and dispossession. In other words, what disappears is the violent history behind the emergence of a capitalist class, the formation of massive corporations, and the related proletarianisation of billions of the world's citizens with nothing to sell but their labour power.

What also disappears in this mythical picture of a "market society" is the truth about the present - including growing corporate monopoly domination of the market. By 2008, the annual revenue of the 500 largest corporations in the world (the so-called Global 500) was an incredible 40% of total world income. In fact, the more that the process of monopoly finance-driven globalization has accelerated, the more that smaller and even large national corporations have been swallowed up in mergers and acquisitions, the more the "free market" is invoked.

In this topsy-turvy, monopoly capitalist ideological world, the acquisition of the South African retail oligopoly Massmart, for instance, by the even bigger global oligopoly, Walmart, is presented as a victory for "free market competition"!  It is true that Walmart's entrance into the South African market may see the short-term lowering of prices on a range of mass produced consumer products - thanks to Walmart's access to sweat-shop, low-wage economies in Asia and elsewhere. But Walmart's entrance into the South African market will also result in even more local job losses, in the further weakening of our manufacturing sector, including agro-processing, and in the squeezing out of even more small, medium and even relatively large retail operations with their greater connection to local supply chains. Jobs losses, greater inequality and poverty will be the result - and so, while some consumer goods might be cheaper for a while (until, of course, Walmart is no longer competing with any other major local retail chains) the actual national market will have shrunk even further.

The only way in which Walmart's entry into South Africa can be seen as a "good thing" is if we, as South Africans, think of ourselves purely as short-term "consumers"… which brings us to the third core feature of neo-liberalism:

  1. Citizens reduced to consumers - with its mythical idea of a "market society" in which society is reduced to supposedly free individuals buying from and selling to each other, social classes and other forms of social collectivity disappear. Margaret Thatcher notoriously said "there is no such thing as society, just individuals". From this flow all of the negative, anti-social values that are continuously propagated by neo-liberalism - possessive individualism, consumerism, and a dog-eats-dog morality.

Focusing on the market and the realm of exchange also obscures the realm of production (and therefore the place in which surplus labour is extracted, the realm of class exploitation). Reducing the working class to atomized, individual consumers has the advantage for capital that it obscures from the actual collective producers themselves the potential power of their collective agency not just to produce more commodities, but to actively produce a different world. This kind of ideological genocide of the proletariat has many local variants. How often have we heard, with the unveiling of this or that narrow BEE deal, that "for the first time blacks are participating in the mining industry", for instance? In this mythical world, gold sprang out of the ground thanks to the "entrepreneurial risk-taking" of the mine-bosses and their financial backers. Hundreds of thousands of direct producers, the mineworkers, the majority of whom were black and many of whom died deep underground, are simply written out of history!

  1. "Civil society" versus the state - having reduced, in its perverted imagination, society to atomistic individuals "freely exchanging" with each other, neo-liberalism then contrasts this realm of supposed liberty (which it calls "civil society") with a single centre of power - the state. Like earlier versions of liberalism, neo-liberalism has an ambivalent attitude towards the state. The state is seen, basically, as a necessary evil. It is required to protect private property and to uphold market-based contractual law - this is neo-liberalism's version of the "rule of law". Particularly with neo-liberalism, the state has the core function of enforcing macro-economic policies that are conducive to the interests of monopoly-finance (dampening inflation, for instance, regardless of its other consequences, because inflation erodes the value of the interest that finance capital makes on loans).

This bundle of requirements is called "good governance". However, having entrusted the state (and particularly the executive) with power, monopoly finance-capital is constantly concerned that this power will be "abused" - that is, other class interests might also be advanced. And so neo-liberalism constantly promotes a discourse of checks-and-balances, together with aggressive interventions to keep the state on a pro-monopoly finance straight and narrow. While it seeks to strengthen, ideologically hegemonise and discipline (through, for instance, ratings agencies) the key public instruments of macro-economic policy (the Treasury, the Reserve Bank), it seeks to weaken the capacity of the state on other fronts (industrial policy, labour market regulation, and social programmes)  - through liberalization, privatization, fragmentation of line departments into dozens of stand-alone, corporatized agencies, and the undermining of a professional cadre of administrators through the application of a technocratic managerialism (the so-called "new public management"). It also seeks to check-and-balance the developmental capacity of the state through playing off the judiciary against the executive.

But the major ideological instrument it uses is the notion of a class-less "civil society" that needs to be mobilized and vigilant against an inherently authoritarian state. While the state (however weakened) wields real power, the ideological notion of "civil society" completely obscures the considerable economic and ideological power concentrated in parts of "civil society"- notably the big multi-national corporations funding a variety of local NGO's, and the massive private media oligopolies.

Monopoly capital itself constantly seeks to infiltrate the commanding heights of the state through aggressive lobbying, through the placement of its own like-minded candidates in key positions, through bribes and factional political funding. But it simultaneously seeks to exclude or de-legitimise popular and working class engagement within the state, through its discourse of "them" (an authoritarian, corrupt state) and "us" (the whole of "civil society"). In this way, it seeks to render unthinkable an agenda of building anti-capitalist, popular power both within and beyond the state.    

These are the core features of neo-liberalism, the hegemonic global ideology in the present. Anyone vaguely familiar with the South African public debate will know that these core assumptions are frequently taken as self-evident truths, commonsense, influencing in varying degrees a wide range of sectors in our country, including often our own liberation movement and the working class itself.

Against this general background, it is now necessary to examine briefly some of the recent and current major, anti-working class ideological tendencies within our present South African conjuncture.

The 1996 Class Project

This ideological current succeeded, with considerable external backing and funding, in achieving a contested dominance and unstable hegemony within the ANC and the democratic state from around 1996 through to at least 2007.  Its ideological influences were mixed, but the two dominant ideological currents were neo-liberalism and narrow bourgeois nationalism. These two, not necessarily congruent, ideological currents were directly associated with the political agenda that underpinned the 1996 class project. The political agenda was to use state power to build an accommodation between established monopoly capital (both national and multi-national) and an aspirant black capitalist stratum.

The dominant neo-liberal ideological wing of this agenda was represented most graphically by the macro-economic programme (GEAR) driven by government from 1996, but also by a privatization drive in the late-1990s, and by the managerialist fragmentation of the new democratic state in line with the ideological canons of the neo-liberal "new public management" agenda.

The narrow bourgeois nationalist ideological wing of the agenda was most evident in the foregrounding of a narrow "black economic empowerment" strategy that was essentially about using state power to assist primitive accumulation by an aspirant black capitalist stratum.

The eventual relative defeat of the 1996 class project from within the ANC in around 2007 was partially a result of the many ideological illusions and internal contradictions within the project itself. The key ideological illusion was precisely a neo-liberal illusion - namely, that neo-liberal macro-economic policies would connect SA to a dynamic globalization process that would promote growth, and growth ("growing the size of the cake") would in turn create the conditions for significant black capitalist advancement and for a top-down redistributive "delivery" of services to the majority of citizen-consumers.

A second ideological illusion was precisely a bourgeois nationalist illusion/rationalisation - namely, that the promotion of a black capitalist stratum would create a "patriotic bourgeoisie" ready and willing to invest in a massive programme of job creation and redistribution of wealth in SA.

The deepening global economic crisis that rendered increasingly unworkable the highly-indebted BEE deals, the failure of GEAR policies to produce their own proclaimed "growth" targets, the deepening social crises of mass unemployment, poverty and racialised inequality (reproduced and aggravated by an untransformed neo-colonial growth path), growing contradictions between the "good governance" and "rule of law" interests of monopoly capital and the inherent lawlessness of the primitive accumulation BEE process, all of these factors internal to the logic of the 1996 class project weakened its coherence and exposed its ideological contradictions.

However, the provisional displacement around 2007 of the 1996 class project from its hegemonic position within the ANC and the state was largely the work of a consistent and principled ideological, programmatic and organizational effort led by the SACP, working together with COSATU, and many comrades from within the ANC.  

The provisional displacement of the 1996 class project has seen the considerable strengthening of the left's ideological positions on government economic and social policies and programmes - including many key issues which the SACP has consistently advocated - a major paradigm shift with the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Programme, the multi-billion rand multi-year state led infrastructure programme, the rejection of the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform, and a commitment to rolling out a National Health Insurance scheme, amongst others. Of course, all of these programmes are capable of being rolled back or hijacked by anti-working class forces. They require ongoing critical support, active left-wing engagement, and popular mobilization.

The relative consolidation of left-wing policy programmes in government and the related provisional defeat of the neo-liberal/bourgeois national 1996 class project have provoked two divergent (but in some ways mutually reinforcing) ideological spin-offs from within our movement - a liberal constitutionalism and the "new tendency". These two currents represent the ongoing trajectories of the two increasingly divergent sides of the 1996 class project's hybrid neo-liberal/bourgeois nationalist ideological platform.

The "new tendency"

It was the SACP at the 2009 Special National Congress that first identified clearly the ideological and underlying class character of what we called the "new tendency". We described it as a populist, bourgeois nationalist ideological tendency, with deeply worrying demagogic, proto-fascist features. It was the SACP that pointed out the connections between the public face and pseudo-militant rhetoric of this tendency and its behind-the-scenes class backing. It was a tendency funded and resourced by narrow BEE elements still involved in a rabid primitive accumulation process, based on a parasitic access to state power. It was a bourgeois nationalist tendency that sought to mobilize a populist mass base, particularly amongst a disaffected youth, to act as the shock troops to advance personal accumulation agendas.

Initially, the SACP was more or less alone in developing a clear analysis of this dangerous tendency - and for this reason the tendency very quickly revealed its anti-communist credentials. Some within the broad left were, at first, taken in by the pseudo-radical rhetoric of the tendency - its calls for nationalization of the mines, for instance - mistaking these for a genuine commitment to radical transformation. Liberal forces, including the commercial media, were happy to conflate this "new tendency" with radical transformational perspectives, the better to delegitimize a genuine and principled left agenda.

Thanks to the consistent stand of the SACP on this matter, and as a result of the increasing recklessness and increasingly obvious contradiction between the supposedly "left" rhetoric and the excessive personal consumerism of the public leadership of the tendency, a growing majority from within the ANC and broader movement has come around to disassociating themselves from the tendency.  Of course, it is incumbent on the SACP and its alliance partners not just to critique the demagogic ideology of this tendency. It is also important to understand and engage with the key social and economic realities that have provided this dangerous tendency with something of a mass base. In particular, the grave challenges of mass youth unemployment and alienation are central to this.

A liberal constitutionalism

While the "new tendency" was one off-spring emerging from the fragmentation of the 1996 class project, a second ideological off-spring assumed the cloak of liberal constitutionalism. The leading elements in this ideological current were among those who felt they had been defeated at the ANC's 2007 Polokwane 52nd National Conference. This was basically the old neo-liberal wing of the 1996 class project, now split from its Siamese twin, bourgeois nationalism, and disowning any relationship to it.

Its leading elements included former senior government politicians and major BEE beneficiaries who had now arrived and who felt threatened by the uncouth and desperate behavior of a second wave of aspirant BEE beneficiaries who kept swarming up the same but increasingly overcrowded empowerment ladder.

Ideologically, this liberal constitutionalist tendency was in denial about how many of its leading members had been the direct beneficiaries of dubious state procurements and hasty privatization deals in the recent past. They suddenly became holier-than-thou proponents of "good governance", the "rule of law", and of anti-corruption campaigns. They were also in denial about the fundamental objective and subjective reasons for the crisis of the 1996 class project. Instead, they blamed their predicament entirely on the "corrupt", "anti-constitutional", even "anti-intellectual" and "unschooled" Polokwane majority. In this way, they, too, deliberately conflated the demagogy of the "new tendency" with a principled, anti-neoliberal working class opposition. In this way, like the new tendency, they were often vociferously anti-left.

Having been separated at Polokwane, the twins continued nonetheless to have a hostile but mutually dependent relationship. The more outrageous the behavior of the "new tendency", the more the liberal constitutionalists felt justified in their liberal "defence" of a supposedly threatened constitutional order.

This liberal constitutionalist tendency emerging from within our own movement does not have a settled institutional base. Some sought to fight a rear-guard action from within the liberation movement, the state, and through a network of media, NGO and academic institutional bases. Some were central to the launch of the ill-fated COPE political party project. This latter has predictably increasingly drifted into the orbit of the now dominant liberal political ideological current in SA - anti-majoritarian liberalism.  

Anti-majoritarian liberalism

At the electoral party political level, the Democratic Alliance, with a great deal of backing from the commercial media oligopolies in our country, has consolidated itself into the major oppositional parliamentary force with nearly one-fifth of the vote. It also now governs one province and a major metro.

As with most electoral party political platforms, the DA's ideological posture is a hybrid of different, but essentially liberal currents. Its economic policy programmes are more less an undiluted version of contemporary neo-liberalism. Its broader political ideology also partially draws on other, older liberal currents, adapted to our present reality.

Historically in SA, there is a relatively long white colonial tradition of liberalism that has disavowed overt racism while, at the same time, harbouring deep fears about the "dangers" of the "tyranny of the majority". Among the direct party political forerunners of the DA, were political formations that criticized some of the superficial aspects of apartheid, while advocating for a qualified franchise for "civilized" and "propertied" "natives". Historically, these political platforms did not enjoy much electoral support from the franchised white minority in SA.

In the post-1994 democratic reality it is no longer constitutional either to advocate openly racist policies, or an ameliorated version of them - namely a qualified franchise. However, the same fundamentally anti-majoritarian agenda with a liberal human rights veneer constitutes the core ideological platform of the DA. What was once called in colonial circles the thorny "native question" (that is the "dilemma" for a white minority of a surviving overwhelming indigenous majority) has now been dusted off, updated and botoxed into an inflated "threat of one party political dominance".

The DA, ably supported by the media oligopolies, constantly harps on the "dangers" of "a two-thirds majority", of "confusing party and state", of "cadre deployment", of the "anachronism" of the ANC still being both an electoral party and a liberation movement, of the "tail wagging the dog" (referring to the SACP and COSATU). All of these concerns amount to a single fundamental concern - SA's post-1994 democratic dispensation has not (at least not yet) degenerated into a typical liberal democratic, two-party dispensation in which a centre-right and a centre-left political party, barely distinguishable from each other, rotate through office.

This kind of "democracy" has reached its low-point in the US, where to stand as a candidate, even for a relatively modest office, requires millions of dollars of campaign funding. Typically, the major corporations in the US will support both major parties. What we have in most of the developed capitalist societies is a political version of the contemporary oligopolistic market in which the commodities of the major corporates (whether soap powder, petrol, or cars) are distinguished not by price or quality, but by "branding".

Happily for SA, there are powerful obstacles to this kind of corporate capture and political degeneration - notably the ANC's persisting movement character, its branch-level organization and mobilizing traditions (however impaired they might have become during the 1996 class project period), and its continued commitment to an alliance with two avowedly radical socialist formations, the SACP and COSATU. This means that the ruling party and therefore the state are accessible to the direct influence of class forces other than monopoly capital. 

And herein lies one of the ideological ambivalences of the DA. It derives financial and ideological support from monopoly capital because its various ideological campaigns seek implicitly to convert our hard-won democratic dispensation into a corporate-controlled, pseudo-democracy. But it derives its electoral support by mobilizing different communities to think of themselves not as South Africans, but as minorities threatened by an African majority. The supposed "dangers of one party dominance" mean somewhat different things to these two different audiences. The interests of monopoly capital do not coincide with the interests of the majority of South Africans who happen to be white, Coloured, or of Indian origin.  

The relative success of the DA also has much to do with the grave errors committed by the 1996 class project and its African bourgeois nationalist off-spring, the new tendency. Our failures to consistently deal decisively with corruption, factionalism, and the abuse of state power have also fed the "tyranny of the majority" ideological platform of the DA.

Another related ideological theme of the DA and a wide array of NGOs and liberal think-tanks is that the ANC and its alliance constitute a "threat to the Constitution". In making this ideological claim, these anti-majoritarian liberals deliberately dumb-down the actual Constitution, turning it into a narrow 19th century liberal document focused on upholding individual rights and on checking-and-balancing the state. While these values are important and are certainly present in our Constitution, the anti-majoritarian liberals conceal the many transformative obligations that our Constitution places upon the democratic state.

This, in turn, relates to the ideological posture that the DA assumes in situations in which it holds political office. It seeks to transform the political electoral debate into a competition over "delivery", "efficiency", and addressing "backlogs". Obviously, effective dedicated public service is absolutely essential, and it is true that as the ANC-led alliance we have not always done well in this respect.

But notice how these ideological terms "delivery", "efficiency" and "backlogs" serve two purposes. In the first place, the DA (given its history and anti-majoritarian platform) tends to win elections only in localities that are relatively wealthy and well resourced, which immediately skews any "delivery" competition between it and the ANC with its mass-base in impoverished townships that have a weak revenue base, and in provinces with a lasting legacy of dire, ex-bantustan, rural poverty. But secondly, and more importantly, "delivery", "efficiency" and "backlogs" are all ideological terms that divert our attention from the imperative of carrying forward STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION of, for instance, our neo-colonial growth path, or of our racialised urban and rural geography. And this goes to the heart of the anti-majoritarian liberal position - it is in favour of change, but change without transformation.  

Taking forward the battle of ideas

These are the major anti-working class economic and political ideologies of our current South African conjuncture. The SACP has a vanguard responsibility for continuously analyzing, exposing and popularizing our analysis of these ideological currents. As in the class struggle in general, however, it is also important to conduct the ideological struggle with a coherent strategy and tactics.

This means, in the first place, being able to identify the dominant threat to a socialist struggle, and also any immediate principal ideological dangers. Unquestionably, neo-liberalism is the dominant ideological threat locally and globally to the struggle for a different world. It is important that we build the broadest unity against this threat, and that we help to identify elements of neo-liberalism when they infiltrate parts of our movement.

However, while neo-liberalism is the dominant ideological challenge that we confront, over the recent past, the SACP identified the right-wing, populist-demagogy of the "new tendency" as the gravest immediate ideological threat to our national democratic revolution. It has been necessary to focus attention on this threat and to seek to build the maximum unity within our movement in order to isolate this tendency.

How we conduct the ideological struggle, especially within our broad movement, is also an important challenge, requiring the correct application of strategies and tactics. It is critical that we do not factionalise our critique of problematic ideological tendencies. It is critical that we speak to the ideological features of various tendencies rather than too easily labeling (and therefore boxing-in for all time) individual comrades. As the SACP we must continue to be committed to waging a fearless, but principled, battle on the terrain of ideas. Over the past two decades, this area of SACP work has been one of our major contributions to the overall national democratic and socialist struggles in our country.   

Transforming the media sector

In the battle of ideas the media sector plays an absolutely critical role. South Africa's print media landscape remains dominated by four big role players - Naspers, Avusa, the Independent Group and the Caxton group. The Independent Group is foreign-owned and its Irish share-holders have been pumping around R500 million in profits out of the country while cost-cutting and retrenching in local newsrooms. Apart from the big four, there is also the important Mail & Guardian which is foreign-owned, and the new print media entrant, The New Age (TNA), which is 50% foreign-owned. Black ownership in the print media is 14%, and the representation of women in boards and senior management in the media is 4,4%.    The circulation patterns of newspapers shows that there is a serious lack of distribution  in rural areas. Close to 70% of newspapers readers are in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.

In broadcasting, while the SABC is dominant, Kagiso media has established a sizeable presence with its ownership of private commercial radio stations. Over 120 community radio stations and 6 community television stations have been licensed.  While there has been an improvement in content and language diversity in radio, there has not been significant improvement in television.

Media monopoly is a major threat to media freedom, to an informed society, and to a meaningful democracy. Current patterns of concentrated ownership and control of the media promote commercial interests and the logic of the private capitalist market. This situation privileges and entrenches the freedom of expression of an elite at the expense of the interests, needs, and experiences of the majority of our people. The SACP calls for a review of both foreign ownership and a review of the extent of monopilisation in order to ensure diversity.

The commercial print media role players have been gobbling up the community sector in the print media, including through winning over advertisers of the community newspapers. The SACP has to campaign for increased resources for both print and community broadcasting. The state must use its media spending to support community media as part of the diversification strategy. Collusive advertising patterns to weaken the community media by private role players have to be confronted as this undermines diversity. The community media sector is not just about diversifying ownership but also about alternative news reaching our communities. Government must regulate and limit the buying of community media by these oligopolies. This is mainly so because some of these community media outlets were financed through the MDDA thus the state is indirectly financing start up for big oligopolies.

The SACP must call for the intensification of the training of progressive journalists and the creation of a new media cadreship. There is a need for the establishment of a media training institute to support community media, small commercial media and government communicators. The role of the MDDA, MICT Seta, NEMISA, e-Skills Institute, PF&MSeta and other skills providing institutions must be reviewed and aligned to support these training objectives.

The public broadcaster has suffered serious setbacks in fulfilling its legal and other mandates. The SABC has also suffered chronic governance and management issues. There has to be a paradigm shift on the understanding of public service broadcasting against the mindset informed by market forces. Public service broadcasting must be protected against the interests of private corporate culture, market domination and commercial interests. The public broadcaster must be defined clearly to serve public interests and should not rely significantly on commercial funding. Public broadcasting must be funded through a sustainable public funding model. The long-term impact of the current institutional and funding model is detrimental to the SABC's future.

The SACP must be in the forefront of campaigning for a shared understanding of the role of the public broadcaster, the country's interest in it, and the active participation of the public in the SABC. The migration from analogue to digital infrastructure provides an important opportunity for taking this campaign forward. The SACP has to also campaign for the development of a national strategy for local content production with appropriate values underpinning programming. The "National Action Plan - Vision 2030" needs to be strengthened in this regard.

Another key struggle is in regard to the availability of spectrum. Broadband is an essential service in our drive for access. There needs to be a review of the role played by SENTECH and INFRACO which have overlapping mandates. The two institutions need to be merged and the lucrative high-speed spectrum must be used in the interests of a developmental state.  There needs to be clear targets for universal access to broadband.

As part of building working class power and hegemony in the battle of ideas it is important that workers in the sector are mobilized and develop a class consciousness. The SACP must work closely with trade unions in the media sector, including those organising journalists. Given the importance of the media in the battle of ideas, the SACP has to develop more comprehensive perspectives on the media, and a more coherent strategy and tactics to contribute more effectively to transforming the media in the interests of the national democratic and socialist struggles.

Transforming the educational system

Education is a major terrain for the battle of ideas. It can be used to empower the working class and popular strata, but it can and typically is used to perpetuate the ideologies of oppressive ruling classes.

In the contemporary conjuncture, education has been a major purveyor of neo-liberal ideology, of a dog eats dog mentality, of the survival of the fittest, and of rank individualism. The SACP must wage a struggle for curriculum transformation aimed at empowering the working class and the majority of our people to play a meaningful role in the transformation of society.

In addressing skills development an opportunity also needs to be created for empowering our people beyond just the much needed technical and vocational skills. In waging the struggle for access to education it is important that that struggle is coupled with the struggle for the teaching of progressive ideas through out our education system.