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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 15, No. 27, 18 August 2016

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life, and actions speak louder than words!

By Comrade Alex Mashilo

Your heartening letter to our Second Deputy General Secretary Comrade Solly Mapaila is published in this issue of Umsebenzi Online. As a Marxist-Leninist scholar I would like to remind you about what Fredrick Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, says about our method of inquiry into society:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.”

I propose that next time we openly discuss the political economy of election outcomes and local government, or of the entire state organisation. This must include a frank examination of income and wealth distribution from the opportunities that thereby arise, how they are allocated as well as consequent social stratification and relations.

The discussion, I propose, must examine how the political economy in question is articulated and played out in and through politics, including in our broad movement as led by the African National Congress (ANC) on the ballot, in government and broadly in other organs, branches and agencies of the state, including state owned enterprises.

Finally, Commissar, I propose the discussion must examine the relationship between our subject matter economic organisation and the problems of social distance, the rise of corporate capture, factionalism, widespread corruption allegations and perceptions, patronage, manipulation of membership files and records, buying of votes and other harmful politics that distort internal democracy and substitute democratic centralism with factional centralism thus internal organisational divisions that eventually find expression in the ranks of the electorate and demoralise increasing number of members and supporters or shift their political allegiance on the ballot if not push them to stay away from voting.

And this is why, amongst other things, the South African Communist Party (SACP), as it states in its 95th anniversary statement of 30 July 2016, has been in the forefront of the struggle against  corporate capture of the state. This is why the SACP has consistently spoken out against national errors, including the arrogant abuses of power and workers at the SABC. This is why the SACP has condemned the role of MultiChoice, a subsidiary of apartheid’s leading propaganda organ, Naspers, in subverting ANC and government policy. And this is why the SACP has fearlessly, and consistently, spoken out against corruption and factionalism within our own movement, against business-unionism in the labour movement, against money politics.

And, Commissar, the Communist Party played and will continue to play this advanced and resolute role of a vanguard party in historical conditions not of its own choosing. A very dangerous tendency argued that the party was “rocking the boat” and had to keep quiet during elections. The party stayed the course and will continue to do so steadying the ship knowing that it is not rocking the boat, but that it will, in sharp contrast, rock the boat by keeping quiet and allow wrongdoing to thrive without a shred of criticism. The SACP firmly believes that the electorate will show tremendous support for an ANC-led alliance that speaks up without fear or favour against corruption, against money politics, against factionalism, against corporate capture, etc.

Dear Commissar, the above refers only to a few examples. And in no particular way does it suggest that we are either discussing an event and not a historical process, or that there is no room for improvement. For so long as the revolution has not attained all of its goals there will always be room for continuous improvement. Even thereafter, Commissary as you know, there will always be room for continuous improvement to defend each one of the goals attained. Related to this, the Communist Party is not in denial. 

As a revolutionary organisation it is always concerned about its own weaknesses and seeks to wage a relentless struggle against those weaknesses and to overcome them. The SACP welcomes every opinion based on, not any other, but scientific criticism.    

Commissar, as you know, the party’s vanguard leadership has to be earned and played in the struggle. This is class struggle, not some abstract article of faith taking place outside of objective conditions and binding constraints. It is a complex process that is not always open. It is sometimes hidden and does not occur necessarily on a linear equation, on a straight road, or on a smooth surface. Sometimes reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces gain an upper hand, as your letter recognises. There are setbacks in every struggle. What is important is to learn from them and correct our mistakes as revolutionaries.

But we cannot rely on doing one and the same thing over and over again thinking that the results will be different. At the end of the day, as dictated by the science of materialist dialectics, it is a qualitatively different action at an adequate magnitude that will bring about desired outcomes. I am looking forward to you, Commissar, to be with the Communist Party through and through, towards the medium term objective of socialism and the ultimate goal of communism.

In conclusion, Commissar, I am thinking deeply about the broader economic conditions of the people, in particular persisting high levels of class inequality, unemployment and poverty, and their underlying drivers including policy weaknesses. I am thinking about the impact these objective realities have on our people and had on the elections in its relationship to the political economy of electoral outcomes that I proposed a discussion on.

I am worried that three years ago, in September 2013, our liberation alliance, led by the ANC, agreed in a declaration that the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) expressed genuine concerns about the National Development Plan (NDP) and that the NDP had to be reviewed accordingly. Most of these concerns centre on the NDP’s economic and labour market assumptions, theory and policy. I am worried that review has not happened, but worse, that the ANC is pushing for implementation of the NDP as is and says nothing about that declaration for review.

The alliance, led by the ANC, agreed to a declaration from a five day summit held mid-2015 clearly stating that corporate capture, linked with social distance from the membership and mass base, factionalism and all sorts of harmful politics that distort internal democracy, was a problem that we all had to close ranks and deal with decisively. The same declaration, Commissar, clearly stated that the SABC was failing to fulfil its public broadcasting mandate and experienced administrative and governance problems because of among others corporate capture and that this had to be addressed. 

I have no doubt in my mind that you have seen the SACP labouring very hard, truly remaining committed and implementing the declarations. On the contrary, I was disappointed with voices from within the leadership ranks of the ANC, right from the top, dismissing the existence of corporate state capture and directly contradicting the declarations.

One of the major weaknesses facing our movement is not only factionalism and so on, but the failure to match words with deeds. This misalignment must end. Indeed we have Comrade Fidel Castro, the historic leader of Cuban Revolution to take our cue from as we celebrate his 90th birthday. Comrade Castro has proved to be a consistent leader, a leader who knows the importance of what Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte meant when he said:

“As, in private life, the distinction is made between what a man thinks of himself and says, and that which he really is and does, so, all the more, must the phrases and notions of parties in historic struggles be distinguished from their real organism, and their real interests, their notions and their reality.”

Let us take collective responsibility for our revolution and movement, led by the ANC, for the programme of the Communist Party, Commissar. People have said in these elections, loud and clear, that they will judge us not individually, not from what we say in statements and declarations, but from what we do in practice!

  • Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, and writes as a Full-time Professional Revolutionary

Celebrating the 90th birthday of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, taking our cue from him and asking vexing question of the national democratic revolution in South Africa

By Comrade Phaatse Justice Piitso

My open letter is a symbolic gesture to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the birthday of the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban socialist revolution, Comrade Fidel Castro. There is no a beautiful occasion than to celebrate a day on which the umbilical cord of such a colossal of our struggle, and a precious gift of all humanity, was cut from the womb of his mother.
On the occasion of the celebration of the birthday of such an outstanding revolutionary of the century, and the legendary figure of the proletariat struggles, we take the opportunity to express our gratitude to him, his family and the heroic people of the socialist republic of Cuba.


Today, on the occasion of his birthday, we need to appreciate that his contribution to the development of society is unparalleled to Prometheus, the son of the titan from planet Jupiter. Fidel is like the legend Prometheus, the one who carries the torch, to bring light to the future of humanity.

Cde Fidel Castro belongs to the category of the few but the better.
Cde Fidel is a special mould, he is a mountain eagle.
Cde Fidel belongs to a rare species, he belongs to the future generations of man to come.
Cde Fidel is a communist, he belongs to the future of human progress.

Ours is nothing else but to pride ourselves that we are witness to this special occasion, of the 90th anniversary celebrations, of the birth of the rebel leader of the July 26 Movement, a rebel leader of the Moncada rebellion, a rebel leader of the Granma expedition, and  a rebel leader of the Sierra Maestra mountains.

Ours is nothing else but to pride ourselves that we are witness to this special occasion, of the 90th anniversary celebrations, of the birth of a rebel leader of the heroic battle of Playa Giron, a rebel leader of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, a rebel leader of the world liberation movement, and a rebel leader of the world socialist revolution.

Fidel is a true revolutionary with a human heart. He is a revolutionary with a great sense of humility, the desire to be a humble servant of the people.

This is a value and characteristic feature of a father figure, a value that leadership is not a virtue, but an opportunity given by the people to learn.

Fidel has traversed the whole path of his life leading the struggles for the emancipation of the suffering people of the world. Throughout his life he has demonstrated preponderance to be the greatest servant of mankind.

These are extraordinary leadership qualities of a revolutionary imbued by the philosophical preposition that the development of society is not determined by the ideas and wishes of individual leaders, but by the development of material conditions existent in society.

He is an apostle of our revolutionary movement who understands that heroes and outstanding individuals may play an important role in the life of society, only in so far as they are capable of understanding the conditions of development of society, and the ways of changing them for the better.

That heroes and outstanding individuals may become counter-revolutionary if their ideas and wishes are not consistent with the needs of the development of society, and that they may only be outstanding if their ideas and wishes correctly express the needs of the development of society.

Heroes and outstanding individuals may become ridiculous and useless failures if they do not correctly understand conditions of development of society and also countering the historical needs of society in the conceited belief that they are the “makers of history”.

Fidel never concurred with the amorphous theory that the role of outstanding leaders is to reduce the masses of our people into an opium. It cannot be heroes who make history, but history which makes heroes.

The history of the world revolutionary movement has never reduced the struggle of our people to individual actions of Kings, Guards or Bishops. The leadership of the world revolutionary movement has always understood its historic role from the point of view of taking collective responsibility for our common purpose.

The philosophy of historical and dialectical materialism highlights that the highest forms of human consciousness is the only guarantee to safeguard any revolutionary process. Because a revolution is the highest form of class struggle.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels elevated this question with the understanding that a revolutionary process in the form of the building of socialism is not an invention of dreamers, but a living scientific theory. A scientific theory which comes out of the study of the development of modern capitalist society.  

I am posing this important theoretical question on the basis that we are taking about a communist, Cde Fidel Castro. We are taking about a leader who has transformed a national liberation movement into a Communist Party.

Fidel profoundly understands the theoretical question that a revolution is constituted by two fundamental pillars, which are organisation and Marxism-Leninism, scientific theory and practice.

The Communist Party is a vanguard party, it is comprised of the most advanced sections of the working class and Marxism-Leninism is a revolutionary theory which is not a dogma, but a guide to lead the working class towards the revolutionary action of seizure of power.

The Communist Party forms the vanguard of the working class, a special mould of a political party which is the guiding force of the working class. The leading detachment of society.

At the heart of the vanguard leadership role of the Communist Party is the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the historic mission through which the working class is destined to vanquish capitalism and build socialism, which will ultimately usher a communist society, the highest form of human organisation.

Cde Vladimir Lenin says the following about the political significance of theory and organisation of the working class: “without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. The role of the vanguard can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advance theory”.

The principal motive force here is the form of the organisation of a vanguard party. A party armed with the knowledge of the life of society, of the laws of its development and class struggle. A party able to lead the working class and to direct its struggle.

This is the kind of a party that inspired Fidel to lead the struggle of the people of the world against imperialism and colonialism. The struggles to emancipate humanity from the shackles of oppression and exploitation.

The Communist Party became an embryo from which he transformed a despotic neo-colonial Island of Cuba into a powerhouse that became to be a university of the world proletariat revolution today. An Island that has become the political school of the world revolutionary movement.

Under the tutelage of Fidel, Cuba became the first socialist state ever in the history of the American hemisphere. The first revolutionary state to defeat the empire in a battlefield.

Yes, it is a fact the Communist Party of Cuba defeated the American military force during the battle of Playa Giron. In fact not once but twice, if things are to be narrated in the correct perspective, the Communist Party of Cuba defeated the American empire again during the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

Through its organisation as a vanguard party, the Communist Party of Cuba defeated the most horrendous economic blockades ever in the history of humanity. It became a fortress of the Cuban revolution for over fifty years of a vicious offensive by the Yankee empire.

The Communist Party of Cuba has proven itself to be the best form of an organisation. Today Cuba has the best health and education system in the world.

The Cuban Communist Party is the only organisation of society which has paid its debt to the millions of the African people, who were forced as slaves by the colonial masters to work in the sugar plantations and the economy of the Island.

It is during his birthday, that we must make more noise to the ears of the empire, to the outgoing President of the empire Barrack Obama, to end the over fifty years blockade against the innocent people of Cuba.

For over fifty years, the empire has punished the Cuban Communist Party for having established a socialist state at its own doorstep. The blockade has become genocide against the people, it is indeed a crime against humanity.

I wonder what Fidel will say about the unfolding political events in our country. I cannot speak on his behalf but I am sure that he is deeply worried.

We have just lost the majority of our metropolitan municipalities to the opposition. The white racist party, the Democratic Alliance, has assumed political power in most of our municipalities in the metropolitan areas.

Infantile disorder and reckless adventurism has raised its flag on the roof of the capital city of our democratic republic. Tshwane is in the hands of counter-revolution.

This is a political situation which needs our best of calmness. We need a deeper reflection and self-introspection.

Over the weekend the national executive committee of the ANC took a collective responsibility on the outcomes of the recent local government elections. It my view this was indeed a hallmark decision reminiscent of the revolutionary character of the ANC as a national liberation movement.

This will surely create the necessary climate for a robust and sober analysis of the concrete material conditions within the ranks of our movement and our society in general. This is a magnanimous intervention which will accelerate possibilities for the analysis of the balance of forces and how they seek to dictate on the pace of our struggle for socio-economic transformation of society.

We must never forget that a revolutionary movement is invincible if it fears criticism and self-criticism. Therefore we all need to appreciate the ability of the leadership of the ANC to take collective responsibility for its own actions.

Vladimir Lenin says the following about the principle of criticism and self criticism:

“the attitude of a political party towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest way of judging how correct the party is and how it in practice fulfils its obligations towards its people.

“Frankly admitting a mistake, ascertaining the reason for it, analyzing the conditions that led to it, analysing the conditions that led to it, and thoroughly discussing the means of correcting it, that is the earmark of a serious party, that is the way it should perform its duties, that is the way it should educate its people.

“All revolutionary parties, which have hitherto perished, did so because they grew conceited, failed to see where their strength lay and feared to speak of their weaknesses. But we shall not perish, for we do not fear to speak of our weaknesses and learn to overcome them”.

At all times when a revolution bumps at a wall, the first question to be asked is where is the Communist Party. This question is asked at all times because people know that the Communist Party is the most advanced section of our society.

Willingly or unwillingly so, they understand very well that the Communist Party is the best equipped to provide solutions to the problems they face. Meaning that society in general appreciates the leadership role of the Party in the struggle for national liberation.

Therefore the question we need to ask ourselves is whether our party is playing its vanguard role during our transition for the establishment of our democratic republic. Whether our party is playing its vanguard role during this critical period of the second phase of our transition for the creation of a national democratic society.

I am sure you agree with me that the leading role of the working class in the current period of our struggle constitutes the vanguard of our struggle for the victory of our national democratic revolution. Also that the leading role of the Communist Party in the current phase of our struggle, is the essential step in our forward march to the future socialist society.

Lenin teaches us that: “the proletariat should not keep itself aloof from the bourgeois revolution, not to be indifferent to it, in its own interest, the working class should strive to lead the national democratic revolution and not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie, but on the contrary, to take the most energetic part in it, to fight resolutely for consistent proletarian democracy, for the revolution to be carried to its logical conclusion”.

He further says that:

“we must not forget, that there is no nor can there be, at the present time, any other means of bringing socialism nearer, than complete political liberty, than a democratic republic.

“From the democratic revolution we shall at once, and just in accordance with the measure of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organized proletariat begin to pass to the socialist revolution. We stand for uninterrupted revolution. We shall not stop half-way”.

The lessons we should all learn is that a nation which does not value its own historical past cannot accomplish the objectives of its future. History of any nation is the one which determines the present and the future.

Many people think that our liberation struggle ended up with the transfer of power from the racist white minority regime to the majority of the black people of our country. They do not appreciate the notion that the end of apartheid was the beginning of more protracted struggles for socio-economic transformation of society.

They do not understand that political power is not only about a rain bow nation, is not about a national flag, a national anthem, but about the ownership of the means of the production of our economy by the majority of our people. That a complete liberation is about emancipation our people from both the political and economic domination by imperialism. 

Over the years we have characterised the South African situation to be a British and colonialism of a special type. The political situation of apartheid colonialism.

This theoretical formulation is out of the analysis that the South African economy was such that the British imperialism commanded the economic heights of our country with the participation of the Afrikaner bourgeoisie. In other words British imperialism exploited the economy of our country with the help of the local Afrikaner bourgeoisie.   

The important history to narrate to the young South Africans is that colonialism of a special type was imposed by the most advanced industrial Britain. She ensured that the white bourgeoisie expropriated the land of the indigenous people of our country without compensation, seized the life stock of the African people, and even imposed their forced labour in the mines, factories and farms.

Therefore the biggest threat to our national democratic revolution are the contradictions imposed by neo-colonialism of a special type to our democracy. Our former colonial power, Britain, is collaborating with the South African white bourgeoisie to determine the pace of our transition to democracy.

Our former colonial power, the British empire, is part of the counter-revolutionary effort to undermine the leadership role of our national liberation movement in the transformation of our country. This is a worldwide phenomenon, of former colonial powers undermining the struggles of the people in their former colonies and semi-colonies.

These are the difficult questions we need to ask ourselves. We are the generation of the future.

I wish Fidel give us the wisdom to understand the world better. I wish he gives us more answers to the problems facing the people of the world.

I wish him more prosperous days! We love Fidel! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • Comrade Phatse Justice Piitso is the former Ambassador to the republic of Cuba and the former provincial secretary of the SACP writing this article on his personal capacity.

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