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RED ALERT
Reconfiguration from below: SACP takes responsibility, builds democratic popular power, contests elections in Metsimaholo
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 51, 28 November 2014

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

The bourgeois day: Inherently anti-communist

By Bhekithemba Melusi Mbatha

The onslaught against the South African Communist Party (SACP) that is manifested in the editorial content and opinions published by, but by no means exclusively, the Business Day newspaper and its online companion BDlive on the challenges facing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is highly disturbing. The selection criteria or discretion exercised clearly prioritise anti-communist and anti-SACP venom while marginalising the Party`s right of reply.

On 12 November the BDlive published Steven Friedman`s column endorsing the factional allegation that the SACP helped push the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) from Cosatu. This malicious content was fabricated as part of a wider strategy to market new political organisations that are being created by the Numsa leadership which is using the union to build a new opposition counter-movement against the African National Congress (ANC) and the ANC-headed Alliance comprising of the SACP and Cosatu.

When the First Deputy General Secretary of the SACP Comrade Jeremy Cronin replied the BDlive did not bother to publish the response. How would we have known about this had it not been to the courtesy of - and thanks to the SACP weekly newsletter Umsebenzi Online (Vol. 13, No. 48, 14 November; Vol. 13, No. 49, 20 November). What is very interesting is that Umsebenzi Online published Friedman`s `activist political academic` "analysis" which in my view is harmful to the SACP while his business column platform blatantly supressed the universal rule of justice audi alteram partem - which means hear the other side of the story.

Rather the Business Day and BDlive essentially proved that they stand for the bourgeois day (i.e. capitalist domination and exploitation of the working class). This can never be fair and balanced. The bourgeois day continues to bombard us with inaccurate, subjective and inherently anti-communist ideas of the ruling class disguised as an "analysis" of the challenges facing the workers` federation Cosatu. The Business Day and BDlive examples include Anthony Butler (21 November), Ebrahim Harvey (24 November), the `Editorial` (24 November), alas - the purist anti-communist `activist political academic` Stephen Ellis (25 November writing from Amsterdam, Netherlands), and Ken Owen (27 November) defending Ellis.

As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels state in the 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party, `The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class`. The ruling class would not allow space for its ideas to be engaged aware that they are vulnerable and cannot withstand the test of science. It would not even offer space for the ideas of the oppressed, the exploited and their vanguard Party to be expressed on a level playing field.

The common thread that runs through the bourgeois day is to portray the Communist Party as a negative force. This will not succeed. Millions of our people know that the history of the struggle to overthrow colonial and apartheid oppression and domination is incomplete without the non-inconsiderable role played and sacrifices made by the Party, its leaders and members.

Our people know that they stand to benefit more from the process of struggle - the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) - that seeks to achieve complete liberation and lay the indispensable basis for an advance to socialism. It is under socialism that democracy in its highest form will be achieved and a better life for all guaranteed with full social emancipation particularly through the elimination of the exploitation of labour by capital. There is only one section of people - i.e. the capitalist class - that however thinks it stands to lose from the abolition of the regime of private accumulation of the labour of others and therefore from the freedom of all the people. This is why they and their mouthpieces love to hate the Communist Party with passion - the Party is the prime representative of the struggle for freedom in its revolutionary character, fullest, deepest and most comprehensive form.

In its 24 November Editorial the Business Day quotes SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande from the Mercury newspaperas saying: "If you keep a corpse in the house without burying it, it will rot and smell". In its own words the Business Day says this is "The full quote". Now where do the other words such as the trivial reference to Numsa members "as rotting, stinking corpses" come from because Comrade Nzimande did NOT utter such? They were manufactured by the bourgeois day outside "The full quote". This, done in order to slander the SACP and its General Secretary, `crudify` our African languages and debase what was actually a quotation of the expression from former ANC and SACP stalwart Comrade Harry Gwala - meaning if you have a problem you must solve it before it gets bigger and outweighs your capacity to solve it.

As if that was not enough the BDlive publishes apartheid-style anti-communist, anti-SACP and anti-ANC right-wing political academic Stephen Ellis seconding Ebrahim Harvey. Ellis claims that the problem with Cosatu emanates from its endorsement of the perspective of `Colonialism of a Special Type` (CST) to describe South Africa under the colonial-apartheid era. Ellis`s character will stop at nothing to distort the Communist Party`s perspectives. Apartheid specialised on this, coupled with blaming the ANC and the progressive trade union movement for "upholding" communist principles or (allegedly) being "controlled" by the communists. This fabrication contributed in the ANC being banned and many activists being killed or tortured and some even to paralysis all accused of being communists.

Ellis distorts the Communist Party`s view on the NDR and socialism. He claims that the SACP regards the NDR and socialism as a series connection of two stages - hence his misconception that the Party believes in the so-called "two-stage theory". He is WRONG of course. As young as I am I know from the Party`s resolutions, programme and literature that the SACP has concluded long-time ago that the NDR and the struggle for socialism are dialectically linked and mutually reinforcing.

According to the Party`s political theory and practice the struggle for socialism cannot be postponed to a distant future when the NDR has been "completed". Were he not an ignorant professor Ellis would be aware of that popular strategic slogan of the SACP Socialism is the future; Build it now! His assertion that the CST perspective presupposes "that coloured, white and Indian people do not belong in SA, even if their families have lived here for generations" is hard to distinguish from the racism that was propagated by apartheid in its divide and rule campaign.

Quite the reverse, the Communist Party introduced the principle of non-racialism in South Africa for which among other things it was the first political party to be banned. Along with non-communist progressives and revolutionaries who were mainly organised in the ANC headed congress alliance, communists worked very hard to develop the Freedom Charter in which the clarion call that South Africa belongs to all who live in it - black and white - was engraved.

Yet the mainstream media finds distortions and comments driven by hatred made by the likes of Ellis profound to publish at the expense of clarity and the truth. To borrow some words from Karl Marx in Capital (Vol. 1) about the capitalist workplace in which the essential business going on is the exploitation of labour with "No admittance except on business", the newsrooms in such media houses seemingly constitute the "hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face" - will you dare to publish the truth as told by or about the vanguard Party of the working class!

Bhekithemba Melusi Mbatha, from Soweto, is a member of the Young Communist League of SA Shimi Matlala Branch, Wits University where he is completing his BA.

 

Cosatu and the olive branch

By Alex Mashilo

"Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter`s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand", said the revered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the United Nations in 1974. He made it clear the Palestinian people did not want war but peace, and they preferred peaceful methods rather than violence to resolve the challenges that were imposed on them when the state of Israel was established in Palestine. Following his speech, the Palestine Liberation Organisation which he led was admitted to United Nations albeit on an observer status to represent the Palestinian people. Their right to self-determination was recognised and then it became the formidable task of history to work out the details until the goal is achieved.

Why is this important for us in this day and age?

Since the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) took the unpleasant step to expel the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) some derived joy in blaming the SA Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC) for the decision they did not make. As the SACP said in its statement on 20 November, this is trivial, disingenuous, misleading and factionalist, to say the least.

The over 1 100 word count opinion piece by, if not attributed to Numsa Spokesperson Castro Ngobese titled "SACP`s divisive role in the fracas" published 16 November by the Independent and further on its online platform the IOL is a typical example. Ngobese was given another opportunity in The Star on 24 November. He continued the poisonous anti-ANC and anti-SACP malice, this time through the over 2 100 word count waffle (almost the entire p. 13 of A1 size paper) titled "The struggle for the spear". We are responding with less than the sum total of Ngobese`s word count. But insults and palace politics are a specialisation in the faculty of the rearguard; the vanguard must not change to a reverse gear backwards in the face of spurious rhetoric and lower the bar by engaging in a destructive competition in the rearguard province.

As the SACP has said, the baseless allegations that are being spread against the ANC and the SACP by Ngobese and his ilk become worse when presented as "independent analysis". This reveals itself as nothing but a regurgitation of the propaganda developed as part of the marketing strategy to profile Numsa leadership`s new political organisations. It must be reaffirmed though, that everyone is entitled to the political rights which are enshrined in the Freedom Charter and our country`s constitution including freedom of association. However inflammatory innuendos are dangerous a tendency, and should be avoided by everyone in exercising their legitimate constitutional rights. This brings us to our next point.

If there is nothing more that can be done to persuade the presiding Numsa leadership to come back home in the ANC headed national liberation movement (NLM) and Alliance to build unity of purpose in the complex struggle for complete liberation and social emancipation there will be no other option but to settle the matter through the ballot. The Numsa leadership has been preparing itself in this regard, and in fact we must wish them all the best. They have been leading the creation of two new political organisations the so-called "united front" and "movement for socialism", one juxtaposed to the ANC and the other to the SACP as their quasi-equivalents in a toggled electoral relationship that is so far being constructed to be led by the so-called "movement for socialism" whatever its new name will finally be.

If there is anything the "fracas" and the attacks by Ngobese are confirming is that the ANC, which is heading the Alliance comprising of the SACP and Cosatu is the main target. The "problem" with the SACP, it is said, is that it defends the ANC. In other words, en route to the ANC their anti-ANC artillery finds the SACP constituting a defence wall. This is why they attack the Party with the objective "to advance to the ‘inner perimeter`" but which core includes the communists still, meaning that the "problem" is deep-rooted. There is nothing new about this "platform" (however nuanced) that Castro has been launched and is ultimately affirming himself on. This is the same rhetoric that was used by similar groups that formed new political organisations such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania in the 1950s, the Gang of 8 in the mid-1970s, etc., through to the so-called "Congress of the People" and "Economic Freedom Fighters" (EFF).

Another sin that the communists are committing, we are being told, is to serve in the ANC-led government. By the way this is the government of the people and the ANC is the leading political organisation of the people`s liberation movement and Alliance. Equally importantly, the Communist Party is not only in an alliance with the ANC; the ANC belongs to the communists inasmuch as they belong to the ANC and it belongs to all its other members. In that capacity, and working side by side with all its other members the communists have built the ANC to become a revolutionary force as President Jacob Zuma acknowledged when addressing the ANCYL National Consultative Conference on Wednesday 26 November. He gave an example of the good leadership role played by former SACP General Secretary who served simultaneously as ANC Treasurer General Comrade Moses Kotane.

What is being put forward then against the ANC headed NLM and Alliance?

In his input at the Numsa Western Cape Regional Congress, the union`s National Treasurer (27 September 2014, p. 5) states that congress had to "start a debate with regards to whether the new ‘working class party` should not stand for local government elections in the 2016 local government elections". The question as clearly posed is not whether to establish a new political party. That is fait accompli -water under the bridge. The question is rather whether such a party must contest the next elections in 2016. "We cannot postpone this debate forever", he asserted, putting forward the most possible if predetermined answer.

This latest agenda by individuals who previously belonged to the ANC headed NLM and Alliance formations (some have confirmed publicly that they are no longer ANC members or they are "former" SACP members) to create new political organisations found profound expression in those sections of the media which have been used to harp on the idea of the breaking of the Alliance. As the SACP states in its 20 November statement, it indeed did not come as a surprise that the likes of Moletsi Mbeki, who reportedly has been seeking close ties with Numsa investments and was actively involved in architecting the failed "Democratic Alliance" and Agang-SA marriage in the context of being a Polokwane griever are among those propagating the agenda. To this extent what we see at play are either failed or persisting capitalist private interests pretending to be the so-called "independent analysis". At least two other questions about Mbeki need to be answered.

Was he not approached or finally appointed to be part of the so-called "ideological task team" of the new political organisations that the Numsa leadership is creating? If yes what then could the class character of such an agenda which attracts the active participation of capitalist class elements be? As Vladimir Lenin put it long ago in 1913: "People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises".

Some individuals and several small groupings who have always been opposed to the ANC headed Alliance found the "Numsa moment" (i.e. the split from the Alliance) as an opportunity to join the bandwagon and intensify their agenda. Activities to push Cosatu to split from the Alliance before the process by the Numsa leadership to part ways and create new political organisations is completed were streamlined in the agenda. But if Cosatu did not agree to the split the agenda alternatively involved destroying or weakening the federation and then using some of its component parts to create the new political organisations. Some of those who were engaged when the EFF was formed advocated this approach - with the belief that no new political party will succeed in a split from the ANC headed Alliance unless Cosatu was split.

Cosatu`s founding principle of ‘One industry one union`was violated in what clearly reflected a campaign to consistently break fundamental rules and undermine important decisions to the extent of destroying all necessary conditions that allows one to be tolerated. All this in order to forcefully secure "involuntary" departure and play the "victim" as a tactic to mitigate the unfavourable impact that could be caused by members who will be difficult to convince otherwise if the departure was overtly voluntary. In this process the creation of a new labour federation was not ruled out as numerous statements by the Numsa leadership confirmed.

However many metalworkers cannot simply be cut and paste between different political orientations and organisations willy-nilly. As one of them I was independently a member of the SACP, ANCYL and the ANC before I became an apprentice, employed and joined the union. As the SACP said in its 20 November statement, the ANC headed NLM and Alliance and the Communist Party remain a home to metalworkers as it is to all workers who remain committed both to the revolutionary completion of the liberation of the historically oppressed and to full social emancipation through the struggle for socialism. This point was actually reaffirmed following a meeting addressed by the Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim on 17 November at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa in Silverton, Tshwane, where, there are workers who "said if it [Numsa] formed a federation they would remain within Cosatu for or out of their loyalty towards the ANC" (Sowetan, 18 November).

There can be no doubt that the Numsa leadership`s agenda to create separate political organisations in opposition to the ANC and the ANC headed Alliance will meet with many other metalworkers in the opposite direction, who uphold the spirit of the declaration by those Ford-employed workers who said they will remain both in Cosatu as they, and will continue to, support the ANC. Another indicator of the challenges lying ahead for the Numsa leadership`s new political organisations is illustrated by this. In "NUMSA`S NEW UNITED FRONT MARCH A FLOP", reporting on what happened in Gauteng Sowetan (26 November) states that "A MARCH organised by metalworkers union Numsa as part of its United Front yesterday [25 November] turned out to be such a flop that the union`s official [2nd Deputy President] Christine Olivier abandoned it. Only one out of four buses organised and paid for by Numsa arrived… to march to Ekurhuleni mayor…"

Those thinking that every member and official in Numsa will simply follow the top-down split from the ANC headed Alliance are either misleading themselves, or they are being misled among others by the so-called "independent analysis", television screens as they watch their own press conferences or by the space they enjoy in the press. That the split from the ANC headed Alliance expresses the wishes of and is supported by all the 300 000 plus members of Numsa is false.

The truth is that to arrive at the actual numerical support for the project within the union there must be a significant subtraction from the 300 000 plus figure, of those who do not support the direction. Otherwise future elections will tell the truth through another chapter. Only then will the "Thomases" of this world appreciate reality; the ANC headed NLM and Alliance continue to enjoy overwhelming support from our people, the majority being the workers and the poor, this including metalworkers.

Those pursuing divisions, disunity and separatist political organisation away from the revolutionary movement that dislodged the apartheid regime must think again and consider accepting or extending an olive branch with a foresight in the interest of the unity of Numsa itself as well as that of Cosatu. If others do not accept the olive branch, then persuading them to accept it will be the best option rather than to split workers` organisational and political unity based on narrow and artificially constructed grounds. Instead of divisions, disunity and separatism, all progressives or revolutionaries must pursue maximum unity - the basic weapon of victory.

Alex Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, former Numsa member and Full Time Shop Steward and he held various positions in the union; Tshwane Local Chairperson and Hlanganani Regional Executive Committee delegate; Head of Education and Training Department and National Education Officer; National Spokesperson; Auto and Tyre Sector National Co-ordinator and Chief Negotiator; Head of Department for Organising, Campaigns and Collective Bargaining; and participated at some of the union`s national congresses.

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