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RED ALERT
An intellectual will not be surprised when others respond to his opinions about them - A comradely reply to Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 12, No. 39, 7 November2013

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

The revolutionary essence and significance of the Red October Campaign

By comrade Solly Mapaila

The Red October Campaign in 2013 experienced something unpredicted in the history of South Africa and the world Communist movement, an attempted hijacking by a right-wing, conservative and racist grouping. As we prepare for our main rallies starting Saturday, 9 November, it is important to respond, by means of this brief clarity. This should contribute in wrapping up, conceptually, our Red October Campaign 2013-2014 activities undertaken last month, October, by among others reflecting on some of the things we came across. In this regard, our focus is the attempted hijacking of the Red October Campaign.  

It is the leading formation in the struggle for socialism in South Africa and the vanguard of the South African working class - the main motive force of the national democratic revolution, the South African Communist Party (SACP), which launched the Red October Campaign in the country post-unbanning in the 1990s.  The Communist Party initiated the Red October Campaign in South Africa as a monument, and a tribute, to the Great October Socialist Revolution that took place in Russia, 1917.

The colour 'Red' and month 'October' in the name of the campaign reflect at least two fundamental facts about the revolution after which the Red October Campaign is named. 

Firstly, the Great October Socialist Revolution was led by a working class party, the Bolsheviks, later the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At the core of the revolution was the strategic aim to achieve complete freedom of human society from capitalist exploitation and consequent forms of super-structural oppression and domination. The main goal of the revolution was to eliminate capitalism, replace it by the formation of a socialist society, and develop socialism to its full potential as a transitional path towards universal human emancipation, which is only possible under the ultimate vision of a communist society. The colour red symbolises this and other revolutionary themes associated with the strategy and tactics as well as the experiences of the working class in the struggles for socialism.

Secondly, in terms of the present-day calendar the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia took place in October.  This was the first successful working class revolution to overthrow capitalism, tyranny and the domination of an overwhelming majority of the people by a tiny minority.

The Great October Socialist Revolution took place against the backdrop of some of the worst forms of capitalist exploitation and the development of its highest stage of imperialism. The working class suffered from extremely poor working conditions. They worked long hours, and for starvation wages. There was no respect for labour rights.

Neither was there any form of democracy. Historically, the working class was denied access to universal suffrage. The Tsarist dictatorship was the order of the day. A provisional government, which was achieved from an earlier revolution, had failed under the yoke of the Tsarist dictatorship.

Russia experienced a massive food shortage. Taxation escalated sky-high, linked with Russia's participation in World War I, not the needs of the people.  Human rights, including the most important right, the right to life, were blatantly violated, and in fact did not exist.

When the people protested against the system and its effects, the military under Tsarist dictatorship murdered them. This is what happened on the Bloody Sunday, 22 January 1905.

It was, among others, these conditions that compelled the working class to stage a revolution in Russia. One of the key demands of the revolution, as led by Vladimir Lenin within the context of the collective leadership of the Bolsheviks, was Russia's withdrawal from war. Withdrawal from and non-participation in war, at that time World War I, was a position of the world working class movement which Lenin participated in crafting as a resolution. This position contributed significantly in the processes of organisational change in South Africa, leading to the formation of the SACP.

The right-wing in the South African Labour Party supported participation in World War I, and managed to win over the direction of the party. This forced the left out to start a new organisation, the International Socialist League (ISL), in 1915. The ISL became one of the key organisations that formed the SACP, then the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), in 1921.

The Communist Party was formed in South Africa as a union of several Marxist and left organisations such as the ISL, some of which had earlier applied for affiliation to the Communist International. The Party was to be developed to become the vanguard of the South African working class in the struggle for socialism. The formation of the Party was a condition of affiliation to the Communist International, to which only one communist organisation per country was accepted.

In many ways, therefore, the Red October Campaign serves to celebrate the formation of the SACP. The campaign is a symbol of the activism of the Party in taking forward the interest of the workers and the poor, the entire working class, employed and unemployed.  

Since its formation, to this day, under the specific context of South Africa, the Party took forward the struggle against similar conditions that led to the working class in Russia to embark upon the Great October Socialist Revolution. In South Africa, Africans in particular and black people in general suffered class super-exploitation and national oppression, with women in addition suffering gender domination.

The formation of the Union of South Africa, in 1910, gave rise to the state that functioned as an instrument to intensify the oppression of our people.  This was preceded by 258 years, since the colonial invasion of our land in 1652, of wars of conquest and dispossession against our people. Apartheid, a crime against humanity, officially endorsed as state policy by the National Party which won undemocratic elections in 1948, intensified the oppression of our people to its zenith.

Throughout the history of oppression in South Africa, right-wing groupings similar to the one organised, among others, by the controversial Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges under the revolutionary banner of our Red October Campaign, actively supported or were at least passive towards colonisation and apartheid, from which they benefited. The Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges grouping marched to the Union Buildings in Tshwane on 10 October, demanding an end to "white genocide". Such a thing, "white genocide", does not exist in South Africa, except as a figment of racist imagination, and must be dismissed to the contempt it deserves.

On the contrary, actual genocides in South Africa took place under colonial and apartheid regimes, which had no respect for human rights on a racist and sexist bases rooted in capitalist exploitation. State violence, including mass and targeted murder, was unleashed against our people, with others disappearing permanently without trace to this day. Not only were the nationally oppressed the victims of colonial and apartheid atrocities. White democrats and Communists, too, were heavily suppressed. They suffered brutally, like the nationally oppressed, they were arrested, jailed and forced to exile.

Therefore the unprecedented hijacking of the revolutionary banner of our Red October Campaign by conservative and racist elements runs diametrically opposed to the fabric and significance of the essential content of the campaign, and must equally be condemned to the contempt it deserves.

During their march at the Union Buildings in Tshwane, the Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges grouping unashamedly and unpatriotically waved the apartheid flag, thereby identifying themselves with a system that committed one of the worst of crimes against humanity, apartheid. This, in addition to the nakedly racist demand for an end to the so-called white genocide, is what makes the grouping conservative and racist in both nature and character, conservative because they seek to return and conserve apartheid, and racist because of supporting a racist system of apartheid. The working class and the poor, black and white together, must dissociate and distance themselves from this racist grouping, identify with and support the Red October Campaign in its revolutionary essence as led by the SACP.     

In contrast to the racist campaign of the Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges grouping, the Red October Campaign stands for socialism. In the present period, the campaign seeks to deepen, advance and defend the national democratic revolution, which is the South African road to socialism. This includes taking forward transformative campaigns in response to the plight of the workers and the poor.

It is through the SACP-led Red October Campaign that South Africa achieved some of its important milestones in the post-1994 period. To mention but a few, the roots of the shift from the "willing buyer willing seller" policy approach in land reform and restitution are to be found in our Red October Campaign. The origins of the National Health Insurance are inscribed in our Red October Campaign. The National Credit Act, the National Credit Regulator and the Umzansi Account emerged out of our Red October Campaign. The single largest reason why the impact of the global capitalist crisis that erupted in 2008 was not severe on South Africa's banking and financial systems is, none other than our Red October Campaign.

The Red October Campaign, articulated annually by the SACP through a series of themes, is a key driver of other SACP campaigns, such as the land, health, and the financial sector transformation campaigns. The organisational growth that the SACP achieved over the years in membership is partly the fruit of our Red October Campaign.

Therefore the Red October Campaign serves as a platform of building a Communist Party, not a racist grouping such as the Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges grouping. Through its revolutionary essence and transformative content the Red October Campaign seeks to build the elements of, capacity for and momentum towards socialism. The Red October Campaign is not a campaign for going back. It is a campaign for moving forward.

Comrade Solly Mapaila is the 2nd Deputy General Secretary of the SACP, 13th Congress Central Committee.

 

A personal reflection1 on attraction(s) to the works of Mzala Nxumalo

By Che Matlhako

On the last Saturday of October (26 October 2013), a good number of us gathered at the Pietermaritzburg Campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) for the Nobleman Jabulani 'Mzala' Nxumalo Colloquium organised by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the University of KZN. The colloquium was spattered with scholars, academics, (including UKZN VC), political activists, his wife and family, who not only paid tribute to Mzala Nxumalo, but also sought to explore the critical issues he has raised through his writings and theorisation of the struggle for national liberation, which he dedicated his precious (youthful) life to - the struggle for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and socialist South Africa.

The colloquium; 'The National Question: 20 years into Democracy and Beyond', was an apt crystallisation of amongst others, the on-going challenges that confront the democratisation and transformation project of a democratic South Africa, after almost 20 years. Naturally, the discourse was also informed by that, and much more importantly, about a man (husband and father) who dedicated his (youthful) life to the course of freedom and the struggle for socialism, yet is not spoken about and/or engaged sufficiently, to illuminate the critical issues that preoccupied him. The colloquium amongst others agreed to set in motion a few things that would assist with making Mzala's thoughts and perspectives accessible and seek to streamline into a discourse that would contribute to a rigorous conversation amongst South Africans and others interested in the issues that Mzala consistently raised, such as the National Question.

But, why should we be concerned about Mzala Nxumalo and his works? For me, who encountered Mzala in my early student days, found his writing skills extraordinary excellent, penetrating and importantly, the conjectural issues he raised, to have been hugely important at the time. The time of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and its allied structures, coupled with huge debates about the key questions the mass of our people had to engage (non-racialism, non-sexism and a future post-apartheid SA), made such writings and others a must read and contemporary - not to mention instructions on insurrectionary warfare.

However, my fascination with Mzala continued to a point that, as SACP Provincial Secretary, we (led by YCLSA leader Seshupo Segole - may his soul rest in peace) organised a Mzala Nxumalo Memorial Lecture on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of his death and addressed by Jeremy Cronin. Cronin obstinately reminded us that; 'there shall be no blank pages in history' in his reflections of Mzala! In a way the Mzala Nxumalo Colloquium, over the weekend was for me a fulcra and the realisation of a thought that has preoccupied some of us and a yearning for rigorous engagement about the key conjectural questions that confront our revolution.

Mzala is a fascinating and decorated stalwart of our revolution. He not only dedicated his energies and capacities for the struggle for emancipation of our people, and the working class in particular, he symbolised the very embodiment of a dialectical relationship between theory and practice. Mzala was a commissar and soldier of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK); and an intellectual of our Movement. He wrote voluminously about the armed struggle and armed insurrection and was at the same time an active participant in that arena and pillar of our struggle.

He was equally at home among soldiers and military strategising, as he was with engaging academics and others in scientific conferences. For him, there seemed to be no defining line or choosing to be either one of these. In a process fraught with personal dangers, including death, Mzala displayed an inordinate courage and selflessness. It is said he suffered a tragic accident where a bullet went through his head and resulted in him blinking his right eye.

For him the dangers of the revolution visited all of the revolutionary movement - both in exile- and on the home-front. Thus, it was recalled when addressing a meeting in Tanzania in SOMAFCO and Dakawa, he lamented that; 'we should be building pyramids in South Africa' (suggesting the battlefronts should be in the home-front with the people) - thus 'Cooking the rice in the pot' and rejoinder; 'Preparing the fire in order to cook the rice', which were important interventions.

He also had deep sense of critical importance of education in pursuit of the overall goals of the revolution. Take for example his perspective in the piece 'Education for Revolution':

"Our revolution and cadre policy on education has the task of correcting this opportunistic outlook, an outlook that sees the sole purpose of education to be the acquiring of certificate. We need students who are educated in a revolutionary sense, and not just certificated buffoons (my emphasis)! Our education policy, and that of a free South Africa equally, is not aimed at satisfying the distorted childhood desires of those who seek the good life irrespective of the conditions of the oppressed and the exploited."
 (AC, Fourth Quarter, 1985, p.32).

Herein lie, the very basis and crystallisation of what really inspired Mzala in every aspect of the life he engaged - the commitment and dedication for the complete emancipation of the oppressed people of our country!

Similarly, in 'Cooking the rice inside the pot', you come across a cadre who is convinced and has unwavering confidence in the masses of the people to bring about the requisite changes for an alternative society. He asserts:

"To the overwhelming majority of our people it is already obvious that a great revolution is in the wings in South Africa. Today South Africa is a spectacle of a people utterly resolved and completely devoted to the cause of revolution. The democratic movement that has developed in the heart of our country is a powerful testimony of our people's unwillingness to accept reforms of the system. Our people have long ago discovered that what is needed in South Africa is a new society, a new political and economic system, a radical change of all that is existing."
(Sechaba. 1985, p. 1).

Him undertaking such dangerous work in the underground and organising in the Natal machinery was not a choice and but part of the elaboration of the intersecting strategies and pillars of the revolution. Accounts of how Mzala operating in the Ingwavuma areas, when the apartheid regime was contemplating ceding the territory to Swaziland - part of a complex process of dealing a blow to the frontline machinery of the ANC's military struggle and appeasing the Swazi authorities to eject the ANC from its territory, is an epic story of courage, commitment similar to the Fidel Castro's July 26 Sierra Maestra episodes.

As a banned and marked person, he risked all to cross over from Swaziland (where he was known as newspaper reporter) into enemy territory (Ingwavuma) to organise and sometimes ventured deep into the urban KZN interior. Accounts also suggest the reason the region was able to withstand the combined might of the brutal apartheid security police and Inkatha was a direct result of these ventures which armed the people and organised politically to resist the manipulations of apartheid regime and Inkatha.  

In the 1980s the Ingwavuma area was at the centre of the tug-war between PW Botha and Mangosuthu Buthelezi for the very reasons set above. His endeavour to expose the bankruptcy of the Bantustan system and the Tri-cameral system was further contextual and theoretical as a broad strategy of the apartheid regime to enforce the tribal divisions of the South African people and defeat the unity of purpose. This ignited an interest in exploring the historiography (i.e. interpretation of history in a scale) of African indigenous peoples of the most southern region of Africa. He concluded that these peoples are one and shared much in common, which made their struggles for freedom and national liberation interconnected.

At the peak of his youth, Mzala dedicated his energies for various projects such as translating the Communist Manifesto into Zulu - a huge and difficult task by any stretch of imagination. But, this was motivated by the fact that the majority of the oppressed had to comprehend the very basis of the struggle to bring about fundamental changes to their lives. Undoubtedly the issues that preoccupied Mzala were the tribalism and the ethnic fissures the apartheid regime inserted into the South African non-white societies.

His preoccupation on the study of the tribalist reign of terror that was visited upon the fellow Zulu-speaking communities in Kwa-Zulu/Natal by Inkatha and apartheid security police, and the role of the Buthelezi as a Bantustan leader, is unmatched. His book 'Gatsha Buthelezi: Chief with a double agenda'; is highly regarded scholarly work. Wyle and Merrett, reflecting on the controversy of the publication of the book in 1988 evoked attempts to restrict and ban the book in universities and other public spaces. They observed that "…Mzala's biography of Buthelezi constitutes an important and indeed indispensable contribution to the contemporary South African political debate" (Critical Arts, vol.5 No.4, 1991).

Despite his relative obscurity in the annals of the revolutionary history, Nobleman Jabulani 'Mzala' Nxumalo remains an exemplary cadre and stalwart of our revolution. His works and revolutionary activism should inspire any young person given that all that he undertook, was in a mere 35-odd years until his death. The colloquium not only refocused our attention to the work of this outstanding internationalist revolutionary who served the movement with distinction, but also resolved to found the Mzala Nxumalo Foundation which will reflect upon the key questions that preoccupied him, particularly the 'National Question' - for which he was completing a Doctoral Thesis at the time of his untimely death, but also encourage study in fields related to the history of the indigenous peoples of the southern-most African region, their culture, history and civilisations of kingdoms such as the Great Zimbabwe ruins, extending into the Sofala region of Mozambique and Maphungubwe.

In his 'The National Question in the Writing of South African History: A Critical Survey of some of the Major Tendencies', Mzala exquisitely propounds the dialectical link between the national and class questions in the context of South Africa. He writes,

"…it is in the writing of history, more than in politics, that the controversies and conflicts about the presentation of the national question in South Africa are most comprehensively and systematically represented...

An understanding of the theoretical rationale for the development and nature of the nationalism of the oppressed, as well as the convergence of the immediate national goals of the ANC and the South African Communist Party in respect of the theory of nation-formation, can come about only if there is a detailed historical presentation of the national question and if the relationships between class and national struggle are examined within a critique of the theory of Bantustans and its concept of ethnic nationhood. The problems under study need to be considered in the context of the concrete historical situation of the general tasks of the South African revolution in bringing into being a single South African nation. That is the subject of my present research"

(Development Policy and Practice. The Open University, Working Paper 22)

Part of what Mzala instructed us to comprehend about (the link between) education and the struggle for liberation is even more relevant today, where the vagaries of capitalism, conspicuous consumption and opulence find sway with many. His dislike for tribalism; his emphasis on the correct presentation of history (particularly of the oppressed peoples); and his devotion to advance the struggle for the attainment of a society free from exploitation, are compelling and indeed non-inconsiderable. His scholarly works require rigorous study and further exploration in order to enhance the struggle for total emancipation and for socialism.

Footnote

1. Dedicated to the memory of YCLSA leader Seshupo SEGOLE - RIP

Comrade Che Matlhako is member ANC and the SACP, in which he serves as a member of the Central Committee

 

Foundation can help restore footprint of mercurial Mzala

By Dr Blade Nzimande

Johannesburg - On October 26, the University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted the Mzala Nxumalo Colloquium under the theme "The National Question: 20 years into democracy and beyond". This was the first gathering of its kind in South Africa to engage the legacy of Jabulani Nobleman Nxumalo, the ANC and SACP activist and intellectual who passed away on February 22, 1991 at the young age of 35.

Nxumalo wrote under the pen name of "Mzala", a name by which he was popularly known. His other pen names included Sisa Majola and Jabulani Mkhatshwa. His best-known work was his book about Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, titled Gatsha Buthelezi: Chief with a Double Agenda. The book was written in the late 1980s during the brutal war waged by the apartheid regime and Inkatha against the mass democratic movement. In it, Mzala provided a withering critique of the role played by Buthelezi and Inkatha under apartheid.

Mzala was a militant first-year student at the University of Zululand in 1976 when authorities closed the institution following a student strike in the wake of the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976. It was around this time that Mzala went into exile, hotly pursued by the apartheid police. He joined and was active in the ANC and the SACP, working as a soldier for Umkhonto we Sizwe, a political strategist and an intellectual who contributed centrally to the debates within the liberation movement and beyond.

Even though Mzala was a dedicated and committed ANC soldier, he was drawn strongly to education and books. Oliver Tambo, the revered ANC president, encouraged ANC cadres to pursue education as one of the tools of liberation. This, he argued, would enable the movement to run South Africa once apartheid had been defeated. Indeed, Mzala did further his studies and at the time of his death he was a Ph.D student at Essex and Open Universities in England.

Mzala was an avid reader. Like a man possessed, he devoured the literature of revolution from Karl Marx's writings to that of Lenin and the classics of the South African struggle such as the works emanating from the ANC, the SACP and the movement's leading intellectuals. Such literature shaped his thinking and produced a well-rounded Marxist-Leninist organic intellectual, who tirelessly produced knowledge. He was a great believer in thorough and rigorous research and the detailed interrogation of ideas, even when evidence was sometimes at variance with the immediate political strategy of the movement.

Mzala was arguably the most prolific writer of the "Soweto generation", his writings offering insight on the liberation struggle in South Africa and revolutionary strategies against the apartheid state. Besides security reasons, Mzala's different pen names served other purposes. He would at times write articles expressing views in opposition to his own earlier articles in the movement's journals in an effort to start debate within the movement.

His articles enriched debates in the exile community but also informed others with an appetite for South African political discourse. Mzala wrote extensively on socio-economic issues and the geopolitics of the continent, including political struggles in southern Africa. This helped as cadres had to understand the politics of the frontline states from which they operated.

Mzala frequently reviewed books, offering rich, critical insight into the history of the ANC and indeed the world, giving readers the opportunity to view things from a different perspective.

He wrote extensively on the national question. This has always been a difficult and controversial subject in SA, and in the course of the 20th century communists themselves sometimes differed over how to analyse a South African society where race and class interact in complex ways. Mzala believed that for the national question to be resolved, the oppressed had to secure self-determination, not in the narrow, ethnic bantustan sense as dictated by the apartheid regime. It had to be resolved, he believed, by achieving the kind of independence that would bring about freedom from oppression for the poor, who were mostly black, while liberating the oppressors from their fearful and fearsome domination.

For Mzala resolution of the national question was inextricably linked to building socialism in SA, under the leadership of the working class.

Mzala's story is compelling. But what then is the legacy of this important liberation movement thinker in a liberated South Africa? Sadly, to put it bluntly, Mzala has been largely forgotten. There are many reasons why his footprint is missing.

During the apartheid period black and liberation history and heritage was largely swept under the carpet, and that of whites upheld. Mzala's book on Buthelezi, for example, was banned and could not be circulated inside South Africa. The same goes for the journals in which he mainly published. A concerted effort should be made to republish his work.

I believe we should establish a foundation, named after Mzala, to reconnect with his ideals and work. The foundation should, among other things, thoroughly research the history of the liberation movement, especially from 1976 to 1994, the period covered in Mzala's writings. It should also revisit the theoretical debates of that time and explore the links between the struggle of the pre-1994 period and the present.

The foundation could undertake research around the national question with which Mzala concerned himself. This is still a central issue in post-apartheid South Africa. And Marxism, a philosophy that is utterly opposed to racialism, can raise the debate about our common future above the level of the racial mud-slinging that is too common today. Much more still needs to be done to understand race relations in South Africa, particularly after a long history of separate development and discrimination under apartheid.

Discrimination along class and gender lines is still prevalent in South Africa. In fact such a foundation could also help to research, write and debate, using the insights in Mzala's writings, the relatively new, post-1994 concepts, like "national reconciliation", "national unity" and "social cohesion". These are areas that require thorough and rigorous research and debate.

As we study Mzala's work further it will become increasingly clear that he was a significant figure in the liberation movement's intellectual life and political thinking, especially in the 1980s.

His writings must serve as an inspiration to young progressive intellectuals, both inside and outside our alliance.

Nzimande is SACP General Secretary and Minister of Higher Education and Training
The article was first published by the Sunday Independent, 3 November 2013.

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