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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 47, 17 November 2015

In this Issue:

Red Alert

The government, as democratically mandated by the people to lead transformation and development, must govern; academics must do their work! 

By Alex Mashilo

The post-school education and training sector in South Africa was designed along colonial and apartheid lines. Universities and colleges were divided between the privileged, well-resourced, superior, ivory-tower white-only institutions on the one hand and on the other hand the inferior, poorly resourced, systematically disadvantaged and under-developed black institutions.

Post-1994, both the Higher Education and Training Act and the Further Education and Training Act conferred institutional autonomy to universities and colleges. This against the backdrop of a contradictory environment from within these institutions that left much to be desired and actually called for a decisive state-led transformation programme. What happened, eventually, is that the necessary role of the state in driving transformation in universities and colleges was curtailed.

More power was vested in internal institutional structures and external, non-governmental, private connections such as donors and the alumnae - former students. The alumnae is exclusively white when one looks at historically white institutions where there is resistance to transformation. The capacity of these former students to donate funds, which they use as a source of power, must be understood in the context of their economic power and apartheid job reservations. Black students were virtually prohibited in all lucrative qualifications, in the fields for example such as natural science and mathematics, engineering and technology.

Structures such as the senate, the highest academic decision-making body in universities, were exclusively, if not predominantly, white. This due to majority of the academics being whites. Very little, if any, attention has been given to develop black academics and an enabling environment for them to prosper. Instead, gatekeeping to preserve the apartheid composition of the academia has entrenched. Racially skewed institutional structures cast in an apartheid mould are represented in councils. They are still largely used as the centres of resistance against transformation.

It is in this context that the Stellenbosch University`s alumnae, which is said to be representing over hundred thousand former students (the truth that they are white-only or predominantly white has not been mentioned) have come out against the transformation of the university`s language policy to cater for non-Afrikaans speakers.

It is in the same context that the former Wits University DA-aligned academic-cum-DA MP Belinda Bozzoli is opposed to the draft Higher Education and Training Amendment Bill that has been approved by the Cabinet.

Both the recommendation to change the language policy of the Stellenbosch University to English to cater for non-Afrikaans speakers and the draft Bill by Minister Nzimande must be applauded and supported.

Those pushing for the preservation of apartheid culture and Afrikaner exclusivity in our learning institutions must be encouraged, ceaselessly, to wake up to the fact that South Africa is a diverse country with eleven official languages. Nine of these languages, which are none other than African languages, were systematically marginalised under colonial and apartheid assimilation. It is under apartheid that Afrikaans, which has nothing wrong with it as one of our languages, was imposed as a medium of instruction and African languages were brutally suppressed - which is what was wrong.

We must also recall that English is not the mother tongue of African students. Like their Afrikaner counterparts they learn it at school and have no special advantage over it whatsoever. It is apartheid culture to be concerned about the use of one language only, Afrikaans, in a country with eleven official languages.

The use of English should nevertheless not be approximated to relegate other official languages. All of South Africa`s languages must be developed to become academic languages and for use in production and exchange. But apartheid separatism and exclusivity must be eliminated. This requires the state, contrary to the flimsy arguments by DA`s Bozzoli, to play an active role in post-school education and training transformation rather than outsource this constitutional responsibility to third party institutions.

Let us further recall that in terms of our constitution, the responsibility to make higher, technical and vocational education and training progressively accessible is vested in, the state, not some third party structures. This is what the draft Bill by Minister Nzimande seeks to implement - the constitutional responsibility of the state!

The DA`s Bozzoli says the Bill, which has been submitted after it was approved by the Cabinet to the Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Baleka Mbete, must be withdrawn with "immediate effect". Firstly, this call is undemocratic. It is aimed at denying Parliament its right to receive and consider the Bill. In terms of our constitution, it is Parliament, NOT the DA`s Bozzoli or her Party of white privilege the DA, that is vested with the powers to receive, consider bills and make a determination.

Secondly, the DA`s Bozzoli says the Bill must be withdrawn because it is "aimed to increase the powers of the minister… to intervene in university matters of various kinds, particularly the two issues of transformation and of institutional breakdown". The Bill "would, for example, provide the minister with the power to ‘determine transformation goals for the higher education system and institute appropriate oversight mechanisms".

If truth be told, and let this be said in no uncertain terms, it is exactly the absence of these kind of interventions in the first place that have allowed white privilege in higher learning institutions to deepen inequality and thus prevent any major progress in transformation since 1994! Minister Nzimande and the Cabinet are correct by intervening through the draft Bill to ensure that transformation in higher learning institutions is placed on a radical phase.

Bozzoli says their view - i.e. her DA`s view - is that "the draft bill is yet another step in the minister`s continued campaign of creeping state capture of higher education institutions". There is no need for any capture of higher education institutions by the state. These institutions are, first and foremost established by the state. Secondly, they are public institutions and the state is the custodian thereof - i.e. of the nation as the public. Thirdly, higher education institutions are funded from the fiscus by the state.

That the Higher Education and Training Department has not received sufficient funds because of the capitalist crisis facing our economy to increase funding to higher learning institutions cannot be personalised as a problem created by Minister Nzimande individually. The DA`s Bozzoli is mischievously liberal with the truth to suggest otherwise.

Let us also recognise that despite structural and systemic constraints facing its economy, South Africa has made a massive progress in expanding access to universities and colleges since 1994.

What we must do, as Minister Nzimande has said, is to tax the rich and the wealthy who appropriate the lion`s share of our economy and consume its education and training output to finance the progressive rollout of free higher, technical and vocational education and training for students from working class and poor families who cannot afford student fees. We must also restructure the whole university and college system to build a hub of shared services.

There are countries in Latin America for example that have created a single library online resources system for their universities. This can save a lot of money that South African universities are exporting due to their subscriptions to overseas journals. The savings can be redirected to other priorities such as expanding access. Bulk buying of books can also reduce prices.

Most importantly, South African universities must increase their research output and books, including prescribed books. One of the factors that have been fuelling higher education inflation is that South Africa suffers from a trade deficit in the university system. This makes the system to be vulnerable to foreign exchange volatility such as it is presently the case with a weak rand. There are more books and journals imported by South African universities than they are exporting. Academics like Bozzoli must stop talking a lot of nothing and do their academic work!

* Comrade Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson and writes in his capacity as a Full-time Professional Revolutionary


The world celebrates the 98th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution

By Justice Piitso

On 7 November 2015 the world marked the 98th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. A momentous event that became a turning point in the history of working class struggles across the world. This revolution remains to be of great significance to the history of our modern times. It created the necessary conditions for worldwide struggles of our people against the system of colonialism and imperialism.

It was on the historic day of 7 November 1917 - i.e. 25 October 1917 in the Julian calendar which was used in Russia at that time, hence the Great October Socialist Revolution - that the heroic people of Russia overthrew the oppressive Tsarist regime. The Bolshevik Party - which thereafter became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - under the leadership of our great teacher Vladimir Lenin raised high the banner of working class Vanguardism in alliance with the peasants over the horizons of the world.

Under the tutelage of our vanguard Party the working class of Russia declared the first socialist state in the history of humanity. The flames of Marxist-Leninist theory, therefore science, became the guiding torch of the struggle for the liberation and common development of humanity.

For the first time in the whole historical period of the development of human society, the dictatorship of the minority, the bourgeoisie, was replaced by the democratic rule of the proletariat, the dictatorship of the majority.

It is therefore on a rare occasion like this that we take the opportunity to salute the founding cadres of the international working class movement. We salute the outstanding leadership role of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and many of the unsung heroes of our revolutionary struggles.

During this day we salute the memories of the titanic battles of our heroes of the first Maroon republic in the mountains of Brazil, of the 1848 French Revolution, the 1804 first independent slave Republic of Haiti, the 1871 Paris commune, the 26 July 1953 Moncada rebellion and many of those who led epic battles throughout the history of the liberation of humankind.

Our memories are inspired by their extraordinary acts, the acts of bravery and heroism. They demonstrated the profundity of our revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism. They demonstrated that the unity of our struggle for the liberation of humanity can only be achieved on the basis of a scientific theory, that the success of our universal struggles for this liberation is based on the unity of our shared purpose.

Marxism-Leninism opened the stage for the development of a future society founded on the analysis of material conditions. The theory which is a guarantee for the freedom and equality for humanity.

It defines class struggles between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat to be of historical necessity. It defines a class struggle as a political struggle, therefore the struggle for economic power, the base and political power, its superstructure.

Our revolutionary theory discovered the objective laws of social development and revealed the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production. A scientific theoretical formulation which defines imperialism to be the highest stage of capitalism.

The phenomenon of imperialism encapsulates the age in the development of productive forces when the capitalist system has outgrown the framework of a nation state. Accordingly, capitalism has outgrown the boundaries of a nation state and has long assumed an internationalist character.

For the working class to achieve its historical mission of taking power from the reigns of capitalism, it needs an independent political party. A Communist Party which is an advanced revolutionary organisation capable of leading society toward a socialist revolution.

The leader of the Communist movement Frederick Engels called it a party of working people. His theoretical preposition is that a democratic party is impossible unless it is a party of the working people - that no democratic party will be efficiently successful unless it has a distinct working class character.

The founders of the Communist Movement Karl Marx and Frederick Engels declared in the Communist Manifesto that the working class has no country. Marx reinforced this theoretical viewpoint in `Critique of the Gotha Programme` that class struggle is national only in form but not in substance. He declares that "though it takes place within the framework of a nation state, it is essentially internationalist in character". This is an important theoretical proposition which brings to the centre stage the political significance of the principles of international solidarity and internationalism.

Lenin further enriched the teachings of Marx by developing a theoretical thesis on the national and colonial question. The reason why his outstanding contribution to Marxism is called Leninism, which is Marxism during the epoch of imperialism.

He understood well that the fundamental aim of Marxism is to unite the working class of all countries to fight imperialism and at the same time build socialism. Lenin therefore urged the people of the world to resolutely oppose national oppression, fight for national equality, fight for the self-determination of the oppressed nations of the colonial and semi-colonial countries and fully support the national liberation movements against imperialism.

He was well vested with the importance of the struggles for the liberation of the oppressed nations around the world. That these struggles would inevitably intensify the crisis of the capitalist system.

Lenin elaborated the theory of the development of national democratic revolution into a socialist revolution. He stated that the indispensable condition for the victory of a democratic revolution is the establishment of a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat.

Therefore the Great October Socialist Revolution was a treasurer store house that transformed the former colonies and semi-colonies into major storm centres of international struggles against colonial oppression and exploitation. A period of powerful waves of national democratic revolutions which swept away the system of colonialism and therefore shaking the foundations of imperialism. It culminated into an era of revolutionary struggles which liberated more than two-thirds of the world`s population. Through working class solidarity and internationalism, two-thirds of the world population broke its umbilical cord from the yoke of colonialism.

The struggles for national liberation become inseparable from the struggles for proletariat internationalism. Revolutionary struggles for socialist transformation of society.

Indeed the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch of a transition from capitalism to socialism. Our task is to occupy the forefront trenches of our struggle to navigate humanity through this complex transition to socialism.

Long live the Great October Socialist Revolution, long live!

* Comrade Phatse Justice Piitso is former Provincial Secretary of the SACP in Limpopo, former Ambassador of South Africa to Cuba, and writes in personal capacity


Umsebenzi Online is an online voice of the South African working class