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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 11, No. 41, 8 November 2012

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Socialism is the Future, Build it Now! The SACP on the 95th anniversary of the Great October Revolution of 1917

By Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

Yesterday was 7 November, a date that is of importance not only to communists worldwide, but to ordinary working people and the poor globally, as it represented a break with an exploitative capitalist system in one important corner of the world, Russia. The SACP joins all communists worldwide as well as all revolutionary proletarian movements in celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the Great October Revolution in Russia, occasioned by the overthrow of the Tsarist Regime on 7 November 1917 by the Russian Social-Democratic Party under the leadership of Cde Lenin. It is ‘October’ because in the Russian calendar back in those times our 7th November fell within the Gregorian calendar month of October. On that day 95 years ago, Russian workers and rank-and-file soldiers and sailors in what was then St Petersburg (later Leningrad, and now St Petersburg again) stormed the Tsar’s Winter Palace and overthrew a centuries-long, despotic feudal regime.

The insurrectionary overthrow of the Tsarist regime was organized by Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. The mobilizing slogan was simple enough - “Land, Bread, Peace”. Earlier that year, in February 1917 revolutionary struggles in Russia had forced the Tsar to concede to elections for a Duma (a Parliament). But while working class and peasant struggles had propelled this democratic breakthrough, the Duma was dominated by Westernising liberals - an emerging Russian capitalist class. The new government proved incapable of answering the most basic needs of the majority of the population - bread for the towns and cities, land for the land-hungry peasant majority under the despotic domination of feudal landlords, and peace for a war-weary Russia.

With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, for the first time in human history, popular forces, with the proletariat in the lead, overthrew an emerging capitalist order, and set about the construction of a socialist society based on the principle - “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” Of course, in practice things were not so straightforward. Lenin had recognized that the sprawling semi-feudal, semi-capitalist Tsarist Empire was the weakest link in the European imperialist chain. It was this analysis that inspired the Bolsheviks to launch the October revolution - they saw it as their internationalist duty. However, with the chain broken, and with the inter-imperialist war ended - a war that pitched conscripted Russian, German, French, Italian, British and other workers against each other - the Bolsheviks fully expected that socialist revolutions in more developed economies (like Germany) would follow. In November 1917 the Bolsheviks basically saw their own socialist revolution as a holding operation in an extremely backward society, in which the proletariat was a well-organised, militant but class minority.

Lenin had also understood the important link and organic connection between the working class struggle for socialism, and the national liberation struggles of the oppressed. The new Soviet government and its Red Army supported the national self-determination aspirations of the oppressed nationalities and in this way defeated the imperialist-inspired counter-revolution.

In the face of huge challenges, and confronted with unceasing hostility, sabotage and destabilization from the imperialist powers, 1917 opened up a chapter of a pioneering breakthrough in modern history. The Soviet Union achieved full employment, there was extensive land reform, work-place rights for workers were secured that were far in advance of anything in the capitalist world at the time. Free health-care, education, and housing were priorities. In the late 1920s and through the 1930s, with the developed capitalist countries immersed in chronic crisis, many non-Communists saw in the Soviet Union a new world in the making with important social but also scientific and technological advances and massive economic growth.

However, there were also terrible mistakes. The ongoing externally-inspired destabilization created a climate of suspicion and of perpetual siege. Internal party factionalism and horrendous purges occurred. In the break-neck period of industrialization, in an effort to catch-up with and surpass the West, immense social and environmental damage was often done. Nevertheless, an impressive alternative social form was under construction and it clearly had the support of the overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens -and this was to be a decisive factor in the first half of the 1940s.

In 1941, Hitler’s armies, fresh from overwhelming victories in the West, invaded the Soviet Union. It was on Soviet soil that the most bloody battles of World War II (WW II) were fought, and it was here that the tide of Hitler’s fascist global advances was finally turned. But at huge cost to the Soviet Union - some 20million Soviet citizens died in the anti-fascist struggle. Saving the world from fascism was, perhaps, the greatest contribution to humanity that was made by the October revolution 95 years ago. The Leninist traditions of internationalism and of solidarity with third world national liberation struggles continued after WW II, and the people of SA and Southern Africa owe an immense debt to the former Soviet Union for its unstinting and unselfish support of our own national liberation movements through the difficult years of the late 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

But what is the relevance of November 7, 1917 to us now?

If there is one reason why the ideas that inspired the Russian working class during that period are still as relevant today it is because of the current global capitalist crisis that is stubbornly refusing to go away. This global crisis worsens, and its impact worsened by, the growing poverty in the globe and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

According to the United Nationals Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the number of hungry people in the world has increased since 1995. According to the FAO there are three principal reasons for this:

  1. the neglect of agriculture relevant to very poor people by governments and international agencies
  2. the current world-wide economic crisis
  3. and the significant increases in food prices

All the above reasons are deeply interlinked and at their foundation is the continued dominance and reproduction of a global capitalist system whose very basis for further accumulation is the continued impoverisation of large regions and sections of the population of the world. The ‘neglect’ of agriculture, is not so much of a neglect, than an intensified capitalist restructuring of agriculture through continued mechanization, monopolization and displacement of peasants and small farmers by large agro-business in the world. In fact the FAO also points to a growing phenomenon of ‘agro-imperialism’ - the take over of land in developing countries by investors from the developed world.

Despite the major restructuring of the world’s food production chains by the large capitalist entities, food prices have escalated precisely at the time as increasing numbers of people cannot afford food. The FAO further estimates that about 925 million people, 13.6% of the world’s population, are hungry. Malnutrition, as measured by stunting, in turn affects 32.5% of children in developing countries, that is one of three!

The FAO, not the international communist movement or the SACP, in its ‘2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics’ report, gives the following explanation about the underlying causes of poverty and hunger in the world today:

“(T)he principal underlying cause of poverty and hunger is the ordinary operation of the economic and political systems in the world. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do.”

This, the FAO refers to as harmful economic systems that are dominant in the world today. In short, in our own language that harmful economic system is capitalism - the exploitation of the majority by a minority, characterized by the continued immiseration of the majority while the minority gets richer.

As our own late General Secretary, Cde Chris Hani once said, for as long as capitalism exists there will always be a case for socialism. How true this observation still remains today! And thus the Russian revolution still remains as relevant as ever.

The current global capitalist crisis has also deeply affected our own country. It is the single biggest challenge and threat to the consolidation of our democracy. Of course, all conservative liberals and all other sorts of opportunists have sought to blame many of the problems brought about, or worsened by, this crisis onto our own movement. Whilst we should not shirk from our responsibility to lead a radical economic transformation programme as a movement, we must at the same time confront the ideological concoctions of opportunists and liberals as apologia for capitalism.

The current global capitalist crisis also marks a serious crisis of an idea, neo liberalism - the idea that the capitalist market is the solution to the problems facing humanity. It is an idea that is deeply in crisis precisely because capitalist greed has exposed the fundamental logic of a capitalist market - unceasing accumulation, including the destruction of our environment as we see with the current climate change and the dangers it has brought about. Therefore the goal of ending a system based on exploitation of one person by another still remains as relevant as in 1917!

Some organizational lessons

The Russian revolution inspired the very formation of our own SACP (then CPSA) in 1921. The Russian revolution showed that patient and determined political organization of the working class (in alliance with the peasantry and other progressive strata) by a communist party rooted amongst organized workers (and soldiers in the case of the Russian Bolsheviks) is absolutely necessary to confront capitalism, autocracy and other forms of political oppression.

It was therefore no accident that our own brand of fascism - the apartheid regime - started by banning the Communist Party in 1950 as part of creating a South Africa that is a haven to capitalist accumulation and greed based on cheap labour of an oppressed black majority. Our own better organization over the next decades from 1950 ensured, amongst other things, that communists became a key part of a victorious national liberation movement that defeated the apartheid regime in the 1990s! Continued communist organization and mobilization, still remains as important as ever today in our country in order to advance, deepen and consolidate the national democratic revolution. Socialist ideas are a necessary component for the achievement of the goals of our democratic revolution.

The triumph, challenges and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union should also continuously act as lessons on the necessity for forging closer relations amongst communist and workers’ parties in the world today, and internationalist solidarity in working class struggles across the globe. We need to take much more advantage of the interconnectedness of globalization to forge better socialist links across the globe and wage a more concerted and effective struggle against global capitalism and imperialism.

On this occasion of the 95th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, the SACP also sends revolutionary greetings to the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China, which started today, 8 November 2012. It is a Congress that will usher a new leadership of this Party, reflect on the past five years of communist work and economic development in China, and hopefully emerge with a programme which will take forward China’s economic development.

So our strategic and programmatic slogan, like the Russian Revolution, still remains as relevant as ever, ‘Socialism is the Future, Build it Now’!

Long live the Russian Revolution!



Will the democratic movement win the battle of ideas in society?

By Robert Nkuna

One of the commonest themes in the conferences of the ANC and SACP is the commission on the battle of ideas in society. Over the years, this discussion has gone through different names, including communications and the battled of ideas; media and communications; ICT and communications.

Recently, both the ANC policy conference and the national conference of the SACP decided that the discourse on the battle of ideas is much broader than communications and media.

While the media plays an important role on the propagation of ideas and the direction of discourse, the prevailing polemics are much more about the direction which the country should take.

In other words, the role of the media cannot be divorced from natural tensions arising from the contestation for scarce resources, which is the basis of contending ideas in society. Throughout history, the mainstream media has always been aligned to dominant social classes.

Under apartheid, the mainstream English and Afrikaans press supported apartheid. Even the English press which was owned by the mining industrial complex conveniently complied with self-censorship as part of an unwritten détente between the Afrikaner government and the mining houses. It was out of this failure that the alternative press and community media were born in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

The advent of the democratic breakthrough in 1994 brought about significant changes in the media landscape. In the twist of irony, democracy meant the end of the alternative press and later community press. Alternative titles such as Learn and Teach, Work in Progress, South, Saamstaan, New Ground, Speak, New Era closed during this period.

New Nation was the last alternative newspaper to close in 1997 after years of being subsidised by Sowetan. The Weekly Mail was rescued when it was bought by the Guardian and became the Mail and Guardian.

Grassroots, Nemato Voice and other community newspapers also closed.

Almost all alternative and community newspapers were sustained by the donor community as they could not get advertisements from the government and monopoly capital.

We should also remember the response of white editors led by Nigel Bruce, then editor of the Financial Mail, against the acquisition of Times Media by a consortium led by Cyril Ramaphosa.

Bruce proposed that the transaction should be preceded by an editorial charter to protect the editorial independence of the newspapers. In other words, it was as good as saying that blacks must only get monetary benefits, and forget about content.

A compromise was reached after assurances that the transaction will not impact on content, and the prevailing worldview in the newspapers. Since then, the newspapers in that stable, now known as AVUSA, have gone from one black owner to another without any significant changes on their perspectives.

During more or less the same time, in the 1990s, other neo-liberal editors like Stephen Mulholland, former editor of the Sunday Times, vehemently opposed a possibility of the ANC buying the Sunday Times. President Mandela is reported to have expressed this wish, arguing that it was not possible for the ANC to govern without a national newspaper.

In later years, brouhaha arose when Saki Macozoma was first mentioned as one of people who were interested in the Mail and Guardian, when the Guardian divested from the newspaper.

Only a black Zimbabwean, Trevor Ncube, with limited interest or impact on the battle of ideas in South Africa, could be trusted. Why not? Ncube had already distinguished himself for standing up to President Mugabe in his native Zimbabwe, earning kudos from the neo-liberal establishment and the mainstream media.

Today, the same media that once supported what was declared by the UN as a crime against humanity, find it easy to act as the sole conveyor of the truth about the direction of society. Under the guise of media freedom they want the press immune from any criticism from other contending forces in society.

The media’s new found hegemony is even made more complex by the rising tide of populism, within the ANC, which has capitalised on the challenges facing the whole movement to propose unworkable solutions. Service delivery failures and the scourge of corruption have also exacerbated the situation.

To further untangle these complexities, it is important to return to the concept of ideas - their basis and role in society.

Unlike animals, man developed cognitive skills that inform the superior social organisation compared to the animal kingdom. The revolutionary classic, Philosophy and Class Struggle by Dialego, discusses the notion of ideas in society, explaining that ideas do not come by themselves, but are products of man’s interaction with his material conditions - both internal and external.

Since ideas are not just about reflections, but deal with contests around the allocation of scarce resources, it should follow that there will always be disagreements around what constitute the truth or falsehood.

We experience this every day in South Africa where those who accumulated enormous wealth under apartheid see any attempt at diversifying the economy as an irritation. This will become even more complex as the black middle class enter the economic mainstream. Contradictions will emerge between the democratic movement and the same black middle class it helped to create.

Although the democratic breakthrough heightened the hegemony of the democratic movement, it is correct to say that the ANC and its democratic government do not dominate the whole space of ideas.

Ideas in South Africa are contested within and outside the movement and the state.

Within the state, ideas are contested by the Democratic Alliance which seeks to prove that it can govern better than the ANC and by the constitutionalists within and outside judiciary who see any criticism of the judiciary as an attempt to return to the apartheid years.

Externally, monopoly capital, issue based NGOs and rating agencies also act as counter balances to the hegemony of the ANC.

As a way forward, there is a need for a balanced approach, taking into account exogenous and endogenous permutations.

Fundamentally, the ANC should derive its hegemony from its ability to meet the expectations of the black majority, many of whom still live in abject poverty.

Service delivery and the ability to communicate through alternative platforms are the foremost tools at the disposal of the ANC to exercise hegemony and win the battle of ideas in society. No amount of criticism or threat of legislation will dislocate the prevailing worldview in the media.

The battle of ideas should therefore, first and foremost, be organised around deepening organisational integrity, return to revolutionary theory as a basis of thinking, creation of a developmental state, deepening the national democratic revolution through accelerated service delivery, media diversity and universal access to high speed information and communications technologies.

Robert Nkuna participates in the SACP media sub-committee


The rural community of Nkandla is not a curse to any government developmental intervention

By Justice Pitso

The recent attention seeking and what we may refer as the most unscrupulous visit by the leader of the democratic alliance Madam Hellen Zille to the remote poverty stricken community of Nkandla over the past weekend presents an opportunity for the South African nation to make self introspection. What should be made clear in no uncertain terms is that the overwhelming majority of the previously disadvantaged people of our country deserve provision of basic essential services to improve their socio economic living conditions.

The greatest achievement of the struggles of the people of our country to defeat the oppressive apartheid regime and build a new foundation for our democratic future is a reason to celebrate. We should indeed strive to build a sense of identity and belonging and also our fervent desire for our nationhood. Our determination is indeed to be true patriots capable of taking forward the aspirations of the rich history of our struggles for the liberation of our country.

The opportunistic posture by the Madam Hellen Zille within the arena of the South African body politics is exposing the true character and nature of the democratic alliance. It has resolved to blame the ANC for the centuries old problems of poverty, disease and underdevelopment afflicting our society and at the same time becoming an impediment to our collective effort of the reconstruction and development of our country.  Our expressions are indeed correct that the enemy of our revolution does not necessarily die, and instead of dying, it will always change its character and form.

The visit to the impoverished community of Nkandla by the DA reflects the hypothesis of those who want to undermine the capacity and determination of our national democratic revolution to eradicate the three and half centuries of the legacy of imperialism and apartheid colonialism. The DA remains to be the true representative of the aspirations of the forces of imperialism and apartheid neo- colonialism in our country.

It is therefore from this premise that our people should understand the realities that it will never be in the best interests of our antagonistic forces, that our national liberation movement succeeds in changing the colonial socio economic development patterns of our country. To the cynical and ahistorical views of Hellen Zille and her democratic alliance our country remains to be a colonial state of a special type.

The complex nature of our conjectural realities require our collective effort to reflect deeply on the role of the apartheid neo colonial forces in the current period of our transition from apartheid to our new democratic dispensation. The truth is that in this instance our national democratic revolution is negating the thesis of apartheid colonialism. The DA is primarily opposed to the development of the first town post apartheid South Africa in the remote previously neglected and impoverished community of Nkandla.

The visit to Nkandla was a complete conscious decision by the DA not only to violate the privacy of the President of our republic, but also to undermine the tremendous socio economic achievements our people have gained in the cause of the short period of the 18 years of our democratic breakthrough. The main preoccupation of the DA is to preserve the interests and economic privileges gained during apartheid by few white men who are predominantly in control of our entire economic mainstream.

One of the strategic objectives of our democratic government is to accelerate the productive landscapes of our economy to meet the demands of our people. Therefore the reaction of the people of Nkandla against the encroachment into their territory by Hellen Zille, who is opposed to the development initiatives of their area, is an indication that the level of consciousness of our people far surpasses the expectation of the enemy of our National Democratic Revolution.

On the 24 of July this year the President of our republic Cde Jacob Zuma visited the town of UMzimkhulu in the south coast of KwaZulu Natal as part of the Siyahlola monitoring and evaluation programme. The primary focus of the visit was to assess the progress made with regard to the massive infrastructural development initiatives underway to improve the socio economic conditions of the people of the area.

During the visit our President officially opened the refurbished Mlozana High School that was established in 1902 as a farm school. Our government has so far since the inauguration of the integrated bulk infrastructural development project of UMzimkhulu in 2006 invested more than R7 Billion in the area.  Out of this total investment an amount of R3 Billion was spent to eradicate the backlogs of mud schools that has been a daunting challenge to this three hundred and fifty thousands population of the impoverished community of UMzimkhulu.

There are other integrated rural development initiatives underway across our country aimed at accelerating the provision of bulk infrastructure to improve the living conditions of our people. Our government has identified nodal points at areas such as Janefurse in Sekhukhuneland, Alexandra Township in Gauteng, Diyatalawa revitalization and modernization project in the Free State and many more areas in all the provinces of our country.

On none of the identified nodal points in the country has the DA made such voluminous noise as the Nkandla rural development project. Hellen Zille has created a false perception that the poor community of Nkandla is a curse to any development initiative for reason that the humble beginnings of the area has given our country a leader of the caliber of the President of our republic.

Phatse Justice Piitso is the former ambassador to Cuba and the provincial secretary of the SACP in Limpopo writing on his personal capacity.


Is Mangaung all we have?

By Mncedisi Nobala

The ANC is celebrating its centenary this year after being formed in January 1912. This is also the year when the ANC is preparing for the 53rd National Conference in December in Mangaung which is less than two months away. All structures of the ANC are busy assessing the current leadership elected in Polokwane in 2007. The branches must hold branch general meetings to elect delegates to the conference and also nominate their preferred NEC leadership including the officials.

The Western Cape Province is the second province with the least membership, followed by the Northern Cape Province. This should be a concern for all ANC members and the alliance partners in the province. This is the province which was under administration in the form of task teams from province to branch levels not more than two years ago. This is also one of the provinces which have not publicly pronounced on its preferred leadership for Mangaung. This could be because the PEC is waiting for branches to hold their general meetings without undue influence or it could be because there is no agreement within the PEC.

The opening of the nominations by the NEC has also opened the ‘night shift politics and activism’ by some comrades. The ‘night shifts politics and activism’ is when comrades are busy day and night attending caucuses to influence each other about leadership. My concern is that this activism and energy was never witnessed during the preparations of the National Policy Conference. All the energy is being exhausted on the question of leadership in Mangaung and not about policy position of the organization. The Western Cape is the only province governed by the DA but we are not directing our energy against fighting the DA for the national general elections in 2014. My view about how we can get this province back is when we have a united alliance programme with NEHAWU and SAMWU being central in our programme for us to be an effective opposition.

That united alliance programme must be decided and agreed at an indaba where the ANC, SACP, SANCO, COSATU and all its affiliates must attend. The alliance must be at centre of our programme and we must make it relevant to our people in the province. The alliance must be at the centre when farm workers are on strike against low wages and poor working conditions in the De Doorns farms. The alliance must be at the centre when farmers used labour brokers in exploiting foreign nationals which caused xenophobic attacks in the Cape Winelands farms. The alliance must be the centre when 27 schools are being closed in this province without consultation. The alliance must be the centre when the Drakenstein Municipality increases electricity tariffs without consultation or anywhere else in the country.

Mangaung is not all we have in this province and let us not exhaust all our energy in achieving small political victories. Why are we moving from one branch to another day and night canvassing for Mangaung while some of us are not willing to do door to door canvassing for the ANC? Some of us will disappear after the Mangaung conference; we will see them during the preparations for the list conferences. Some of us were telling people not to go to vote in 2011 local government elections because our preferred candidates were not candidates or on the list.

In conclusion, let us stop the parallel structures of SANCO and have one SANCO. Let us stop members of COSATU affiliates voting for the DA. Let us stop the factionalism which is deep rooted in the ANC and build programme led branches. The REC must first prioritize the question of going to sub regional conference which assists the region in its mandate of over sight and monitoring of branches. The sub regional leadership will also assist in monitoring the performance of ANC deployees in various municipalities.

Let us stop the tendency of some SACP members who will only be criticising the challenges of the ANC and start working with ANC members to fix them. Mangaung will come and go but the challenges of this province will remain as long as we are not prepared to fix them. Let us use the unity of the alliance look beyond Mangaung Conference and also look beyond benefiting either as councilors or MPL but transform from the capitalist colonialism to the National Democratic Society as we envisage.

Mncedisi Nobala is the ANC Deputy Chairperson of AB Xuma Branch and SACP Boland Deputy Secretary (Western Cape) but is writing in his personal capacity