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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 1, No. 3, 20 November 2002

In this Issue:

 

Red Alert: Faking fouls and diving in the box

How comrades Moleketi and Jele try to win the argument for a capitalist outcome to the NDR

By Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

Jabu Moleketi and Josiah Jele have attached their names to a 28-page document entitled "Two strategies of the national liberation movement in the struggle for the victory of the national democratic revolution". The "two strategies" refer to the strategic forces organised historically within our Alliance - "revolutionary democracy" (as represented by the ANC) and "revolutionary socialism" (as represented, at least until recently according to the authors, by the SACP).

The Moleketi and Jele piece is, in fact, the latest in a series of sectarian interventions, designed to deflect debate from substantive policy issues into witch-hunts. Over several years there has been a systematic attempt by a handful of individuals from within our movement to destabilise our Alliance. Where there are difficulties, these individuals rush in, diving in the box, faking fouls, and generally doing their best to deepen the contradictions and to inflame emotions. When intra-alliance processes move constructively, the same group attempt to destabilise the process.

We believe that the great majority of comrades within our broad movement, whatever their differing views on other matters, are thoroughly sick of this style of intervention, this stirring up of crises and threats, this reckless labelling of comrades, this creation of a permanent state of emergency within our movement.

The Politbureau of the SACP calls on SACP members, and all comrades in allied formations not to respond in kind to these deliberate provocations. Let us expose sectarianism, while dealing rationally and soberly with substantive issues.

Like its predecessors, the Moleketi and Jele intervention pours sarcasm and scorn on to the widest range of forces within and outside of our movement. However, in this case, the prime target is the elected leadership of the SACP and the strategic perspectives currently articulated by the SACP. The article concludes threateningly:

"Everything we have said throughout this pamphlet demonstrates that the urgent challenge facing revolutionary socialism [i.e. the SACP] is to act decisively against the ultra-left tendency. This faction has succeeded to project itself as the true representative of revolutionary socialism in our country." (p.28)

Moleketi and Jele are not referring to a "faction" that is aspiring to take over the leadership of the SACP. It is a "faction" that has succeeded in this objective.

"Revolutionary socialism owes it to itself, the national liberation movement, the proletariat and the working people, to fight against and defeat the vulgar democrats and the `left-wing communists'

Could this be an incitement to "regime change" within the SACP? For a complete strategic re-orientation of the Party? It comes just three-and-a-half months after the SACP has democratically elected its leadership and re-affirmed its strategic perspectives at the largest and most representative Congress in its 81-year history! So much for their allegations of "factionalism", in fact their document is factionalist in every imaginable way!

Factionalist tone and language

We welcome robust debate, but there is a world of difference between comradely debate and this article. It accuses comrades of "telling lies", of "deceitful schemes", of not having an "iota of revolutionary morality", and of not being "averse to such actions as the physical destruction of public buildings and other public property, looting, violence…" etc. This is not an intervention that is trying to build unity. It is not trying to foster a culture of learning from each other. It is sowing hatred and a sense of siege and conspiracy.

Factionalist origins and distribution

The document's central allegation is that there is an "ultra-left" that has carved out a sectarian presence within the leadership of the SACP. Yet this document has its own eminently factionalist relationship to the official structures of our movement.

There are numerous forums and publications within our movement. Moleketi and Jele have chosen to bypass all of them. This document, which is not the view of any formal structure of our movement, which was not published as a contribution in any discussion forum of the ANC or alliance, was, nonetheless distributed by the hundreds, in a targeted way to the structures of the ANC, to the head-offices of the SACP and COSATU, and to the media.

Factionalist content - guilt by association

The entire document is riddled with accusations, most of them too preposterous to merit a response. However, it is important to underline the method by which Moleketi and Jele advance most of their arguments.

The document uses the tactic of tarring everyone with whom the authors disagree with the same clumsy brush, of "guilt by association". Some irresponsible striking municipal workers (who were censured by their own union) happen stupidly to trash city streets, this becomes evidence that the entire "left" is "not averse …to trashing public places" (p.12)

The SACP and COSATU occasionally get positive appraisals in the commercial media for our stand on HIV/AIDS, or our critique of the outrageous "conspiracy" allegations levelled against cdes Ramaphosa, Sexwale and Phosa in 2001. These occasional positive appraisals are held up, by Moleketi and Jele, as "evidence" that we are working hand-in-glove with the "class enemy".

But for every positive appraisal of the SACP or COSATU, you will find fifty more praising government for its "tough stand against the left and the unions", for its "sound macro-economic policies", and for its "commitment to privatisation". MEC Moleketi often receives very favourable coverage in the financial media - but we, for our part, are not going to simply counter-punch. We will treat the arguments, perspectives and programmes of comrades and allied structures on their own merits.

Factionalist in timing

Finally, the document is factionalist in the most shallow of all ways. It was rushed into print, and hurriedly distributed to structures and the media, by-passing all formal channels, in the very week in which ANC Regional General Councils nationally were finalising their nominations for the ANC's December National Conference!

So how should we respond to this intervention?

The SACP has responded over and over to the allegations made against us here. The SACP has not rejected NEPAD; the SACP is not trying to turn the ANC into a socialist organisation; the SACP does not advocate macro-economic populism, or rampant inflation, etc. We have said these things a hundred times. Is there anything useful that could possibly emerge from a substantive engagement with the Moleketi and Jele paper? Actually, we think that there is.

Their intervention, with all of its chronic sectarianism, serves one very useful purpose. Unintentionally, by setting up their argument by taking us back to the Party of Kotane and the writings of Lenin, they have opened up a crucial debate. Indeed, they unwittingly expose their own agenda. All the sound and fury, all the allegations about others "betraying" the traditions of our revolutionary alliance, are so many distractions to obscure a simple fact. It is Moleketi and Jele who are attempting a radical departure from long established Alliance traditions. They are attempting to invent a "third strategy" - a capitalist strategy - an entirely new trajectory for our NLM. But it is a strategy that dares not utter its own name out clearly, in broad daylight.

The role of the SACP in the midst of the NDR

The Moleketi and Jele pamphlet makes nasty implicit references to the SACP's perspectives, but it seldom quotes anything directly. On page 14, however, there is, finally, a brief engagement with direct references to current SACP perspectives.

Their argument goes like this:

STEP ONE - CLAIM THAT THE SACP MISTAKENLY PUTS THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC TASKS OF THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION AHEAD OF THE POLITICAL TASKS

"The ultra-left tendency [i.e. the current leadership of the SACP]…believes that `socialism is, in the first instance, an economy in which social ownership is the preponderant form of economic ownership'".

[Some insist that we are being "over-sensitive" and that Moleketi and Jele are not referring to the SACP leadership when they refer to "ultra-leftism". The sentence above gives the game away. The quoted definition of socialism is taken directly from the Political Programme of the SACP, adopted by our Congress in July 2002.]

"It [the 'ultra-left tendency'] does not accept that `socialism is, in the first instance, the transformation of the proletariat into the ruling class.'"

STEP TWO - ARGUE THAT, AS A RESULT OF THE ABOVE "DEVIATION" - PLACING THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC TASKS OF THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION AHEAD OF THE POLITICAL TASKS - THE CURRENT SACP LEADERSHIP IS GUILTY OF CONCERNING ITSELF WITH SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC MATTERS

"Because of this, it does not conduct a struggle for the formation of the proletariat into a class for the overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, for conquest of political power by the proletariat from the bourgeoisie, as Marx and Engels put it. Rather, it focuses on `building socialism now', understood as relating to the question of property relations. It therefore busies itself not with the matter of the socialist revolution, but with various projects such as `rolling back the capitalist market', `transforming the market' and `socialising the ownership function'."

STEP THREE - PRESENT THESE PERSPECTIVES OF THE SACP AS AN ILLEGITIMATE ATTEMPT TO HIJACK THE NDR

"It views the democratic state as the principal instrument that it must use to ensure the success of these projects. Accordingly, it seeks to present these projects, intended to `build socialism now', as an integral part of the national democratic revolution."

STEP FOUR (the most ludicrous of all) - PRONOUNCE THE CURRENT SACP LEADERSHIP GUILTY OF ULTRA-LEFTISM BECAUSE IT IS STRUGGLING FOR SOCIALISM!

"The ultra-left tendency is therefore seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism."

Of course we are! We are doing this out in the open, and not by way of conspiracy, or by sectarian manoeuvre. One simple example - we think that the dogmatic application of the capitalist market "user pay" principle is a disaster for a society confronting our huge challenges. We have engaged with the ANC, openly advocating the rolling back of the capitalist market in the provision of basic water and electricity to the poor. The majority of ANC comrades agree, and the ANC has been leading the implementation of this programme. For us, this is a socialist-oriented reform that introduces potentially anti-systemic elements into the currently dominant capitalist system. For non-socialists in our movement, these progressive measures may be seen simply as redressing historical inequalities, without any other systemic implications. That's fine. We are not working with non-Party comrades only on condition that they accept our socialist perspectives. We are not sectarian, but nor are we ashamed of our socialism.

As the NDR unfolds, the SACP will continue to critique capitalism and underline the impossibility of consolidating the NDR itself within the strait-jacket of a dominant capitalism. We may fail to persuade a majority of comrades, or we may succeed. While retaining our own independent policies, we will respect the view of the majority within our alliance, and the integrity of our alliance and its different components. But if the SACP was not seeking to transform the continuing national struggle into a struggle for socialism, then what on earth would it be doing?

The most basic thesis of Marxism

Let's dig a little deeper into this strange argument advanced by Moleketi and Jele. When the SACP programmes of 1998 and 2002 argue that "socialism is, in the first instance, an economy in which social ownership is the preponderant form of economic ownership", Moleketi and Jele choose to interpret the phrase "in the first instance" to be referring to a time sequence! In fact, of course, we are evoking the most basic principle of Marxism. We are arguing that socialism (like capitalism) is defined primarily (in the first instance) by the predominant form of economic ownership. We are obviously not saying: in the first instance build a socialist economy, then, in the second instance, build workers' state power!

So why do Moleketi and Jele misread this elementary piece of Marxism? They want to disqualify, as "sectarian", any socialist engagement with economic policies in the present phase of the NDR. The SACP shouldn't "busy itself" with these matters. We should occupy ourselves, instead, with dreaming about some distant workers' seizure of power. Put bluntly, this argument amounts to saying that the NDR must be left to the bourgeoisie, that this is a phase of "capitalist consolidation". Once that is "complete", the SACP is free to advocate for the seizure of power by the working class.

This is ludicrous in all kinds of ways. If, indeed, we were planning to overthrow the present democratic state (even if in the distant future) then THAT would be an ultra-left conspiracy!

Faking fouls

Moleketi and Jele clearly believe, but cannot quite say, that we should completely revise our approach to the NDR, and see it as strategically oriented to the consolidation of a de-racialised capitalism. They should declare this honestly. They should argue the case in broad daylight, and without feeling the desperate need to fake Marxism, or the traditions of our alliance.

Above all, they should not recklessly flout organisational discipline. They should not systematically undermine the careful alliance building work we have been conducting over many decades. They should not manufacture crises within our movement, like a pair of melodramatic football strikers who spend the whole afternoon diving in the box. They should cease trying to manufacture penalties against comrades and argue, instead, on its own merits, their perspective of a "third strategy", the strategy of a capitalist-orientation for the national democratic revolution. If this is what they believe, then this is the perspective they should present to the ANC's National Conference in December.

See also: Bua Komanisi, Vol.2, No.4, November 2002


The Road Accident Fund

As part of our ongoing 2002 Red October Campaign for a comprehensive social security system within our country, the South African Communist Party (SACP) has been closely monitoring developments around the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

In the midst of these developments, we, as the SACP have noted with extreme concern the insistence by the Law Society of South Africa that lawyers be paid their personal and company fees directly from the Fund when an award is made to a victim. This is an indication that many lawyers continue to see the Fund as primarily an opportunity for personal accumulation, with the actual victims coming a distant second. It also serves as an indication that many in the legal fraternity may well intend to put up a bitter fight to resist any serious restructuring of the RAF.

Some of the problems in the RAF include the fact that many poor people who are victims of road accidents end up involved in lengthy legal processes over. As a result almost half of the Fund's money ends up in the hands of lawyers and health-professionals.

The SACP takes this opportunity to warn those who intend to resist serious restructuring of the Fund, for their own private accumulation purposes, that they will face the mobilised anger of many ordinary South Africans.

We say this in the light of the fact that the Road Accident Fund Commission, chaired by Judge Satchwell, estimates that up to 50 percent of the Fund's expenses go to paying legal, health and other professionals, to the detriment of the actual victims of road accidents. The Commission will be tabling its full Report before the end of the year, and the SACP, along with many other progressive formations, will be engaging actively with the proposals of the Commission.

In the view of the SACP, awards given by the RAF are also class-biased. "Loss of earnings" calculations are based on one's class position in society. There is a limit (R20 000) on the awards made to victims who are travelling in public transport, like mini-buses. While those injured while travelling in cars are often awarded millions.

Therefore the SACP calls for a complete overhaul and restructuring of the RAF. It must move away from being a zama-zama court based lottery that enriches professionals and encourages fraud, and become part and parcel of a comprehensive social security system. Awards must be based on severity of injury and need, and grants must be given on a monthly (and not once-off lump sum) basis.

This SACP call is in line with the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive System of Social Security for SA (the Taylor Committee) which recommended a major overhaul of the RAF so that this multi-billion entity becomes an effective part of our overall social security net rather than a court-based, litigious process, that makes lottery-style one-off lump sum awards. As argued above, this is a formula calculated to make lawyers rich, and it is also wide-open to corruption and fraud. The SACP fully supports the transformation of the RAF into an integral part of the social security system. Road accident victims should receive monthly grants, supervised by appropriate health-care and social workers. The RAF is a multi-billion rand fund supported out of the fuel levy paid for by fuel users and it is must be directed to play its transformative role in society.

The SACP calls on the SA Commuters Organisation, the Disabled People of South Africa and other relevant formations to take forward the struggle for the transformation of the RAF.

 

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