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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 15, No. 47, 19 December 2016

In this Issue:


Red Alert

SACP's growth in membership and communist activism robustly continues, to the dismay of anti-SACP rhetoricians!

A reply to Dumisani Hlophe's "The year that liberation politics in SA declined" in Sunday Independent, 18 December 2016, in respect to the SACP.

By Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has successfully been advancing the struggle to deepen the national democratic revolution by pushing it towards a second, more radical phase, while at the same time intensifying the struggle for a socialist transition from capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination. This struggle is the struggle to combat the rise of the parasitic bourgeoisie, oligarchies and elitist groupings seeking to hijack our democratic transition towards their private interests. It is none other the SACP two years back in November 2014 that introduced the unfolding national discourse against corporate capture. The SACP took a decisive lead, through campaigning political action, in raising awareness, exposing corporate capture and tackling the problem. This role is widely acknowledged, but others, as we will show, are trapped in denialism and its mediocrity.

Corporate capture is directly linked with corruption. In public, community, political and trade union organisations, corporate capture is linked with distortion of internal democracy; gate-keeping; party political, private and foreign funding with strings to ensure "returns on the investment"; factionalism, internal divisions and disunity based on competition for positions linked with access to, control over, or those who control, resources. The struggle against corporate capture is very important in modern class struggle. Corporate capture is an anti-working class agenda. It is part of the broader corporate agenda of the accumulation of wealth on a capitalist private basis.

The fact that the SACP's vanguard role in tackling corporate capture is widely acknowledged, even by some of the Party's foes and detractors, does not mean that there is full consensus. But not everybody who disagrees offers a compelling motivation. Some simply regurgitate mediocrity, ignorance and propaganda masqueraded as an analysis. The worst is when such comes from the ranks of the academia, as is the case with Dumisani Hlophe's "The year that liberation politics in SA declined" in respect to the SACP. Instead of proving readers with an analysis, the governance specialist at the University of South Africa's School of Governance got it completely wrong.

Hlophe personally decided to push a baseless allegation that "The SACP is substantively dead" and "has not been entirely concerned with its membership" but its so-called elite "leadership remaining in cabinet". In a sharp contradiction consistent with reality, addressing the 3rd National Council of the Young Communist League of South Africa just a few days ago, that is on 10 December 2016, SACP General Secretary Comrade Dr Blade Nzimande made it very clear – in no uncertain terms – that he will not shut up against wrongdoing in order to remain in the Cabinet. Comrade Dr Nzimande made it very clear that he was serving the nation rather than merely being in a job, which he could find elsewhere. This principle was adopted by other Communists serving in the Cabinet.

But also, there are many SACP leaders and members working elsewhere, including full-time in the Party. It is not a favour for SACP leaders to serve in the Cabinet. The SACP was the first political organisation to be banned in South Africa, in 1950, for that matter ten years before any other organisation was banned. The SACP fought for the rights it declared in its 1921 manifesto and programme adopted in the mid-1940s. Many of these rights, such as "Every man and woman shall have the right to vote for and to stand as a candidate for all bodies which make laws" and "All people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country", were endorsed in the Freedom Charter in 1955. The SACP has no problem with criticism, for so long as it is based on science.

Hlophe displayed his ignorance to the fact that the SACP, this very year, 2016, withdrew its National Treasurer Joyce Moloi-Moropa from Parliament where she was the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications. Her withdrawal from that position was because she could not allow policies in contradiction to her mandate as enshrined in the progressive conference resolutions of the African National Congress (ANC) and as shared by the SACP.

As part of its media transformation campaign, the SACP has been fighting against governance decay at the SABC. The Parliamentary Inquiry into the SABC furnishes sufficient evidence why the SACP waged the struggle. The many individuals and non-governmental organisations that worked together with the SACP in taking up the campaign will not agree with the unfounded allegation that Hlophe levels against the Party; for they have massive evidence of working with the Party in the struggle.

In South Africa there is no single political organisation at present that can match the SACP's campaign base and action outside Parliament and the Cabinet. By the way the SACP has been growing faster than all political parties in terms of audited membership – reflecting the fact that the Party is not only concerned about its membership but the working class as a whole. There is no need to go further and unpack the SACP's commitment and struggles to serve the people simply as an exercise to try and convince an anti-SACP rhetorician.

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


Fidel Castro: Those who lead are human not gods

Fidel's request that his name or likeness never be used to name any institution or public site, nor any monuments erected, came as no surprise to those who know his ideas

Author: Enrique Ojito | internet@granma.cu

Photo: Juventud Rebelde

Sculptor Enzo Gallo Chiapardi hurriedly crafted a bust of Fidel on the night before the Caravan of Liberty reached Havana, January 8, 1959, after triumphantly crossing the island following the Rebel Army's victory. With the same speed, upon hearing the news of the sculpture erected near the Colombia military base, Fidel ordered that it be immediately removed, to the Italian artist's dismay.

Given such evidence, it should not have surprised us to hear the leader of the Cuban Revolution's last wishes - announced by Raúl in Santiago de Cuba's Antonio Maceo Plaza - that after his death, neither his name or likeness should ever be used to name any institution or public site, nor should monuments, busts, or statues in his memory ever be erected.

Even prior to this announcement, certain media had been perplexed when President Raúl Castro Ruz communicated Fidel's death this past November 25, and reported the Comandante en Jefe's request that his remains be cremated.

More than one international journalist asked if plazas and other public spaces would soon bear the name Fidel Castro. Speculation fuelled expectations. Some even recalled that Fidel had previously opposed honouring leaders with statues and avenues bearing their names, while they were alive.

The man who resisted the hostility of eleven U.S. administrations understood the dangers and consequences of personality cults. That is why one of the first laws adopted after the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959, was an absolutely unprecedented prohibition on erecting statues of living leaders or using their names for any street, city, town, or factory… likewise ruling out official photographs of authorities in government offices.

Fidel, the statesman, talked about this law in a speech on March 13, 1966, saying, "It is not necessary to be seeing a statue on every corner, or the name of some leader on every town, all over the place. No! Because this would reveal a lack of confidence in the people on the part of leaders; this would reveal a very poor conception of the people, of the masses, as incapable of believing because of a lack of consciousness, or having confidence because of a lack of consciousness - artificially fabricating consciousness or confidence, using reflex responses."

He referred to Karl Marx, Frederic Engels, and Vladimir I. Lenin in his remarks, saying that they never "made gods of themselves," but rather "were humble their entire lives, until death, loath to cults," he added.

Fidel knew the history of humanity and was clear on the role played by personality cults, without distinguishing between countries based on capitalism or socialism, ranging from Mao Tse Tung to Rafael Léonidas Trujillo, statues of whom proliferated across the Dominican Republic, where even churches were told to popularise the slogan, "Trujillo on earth, God in heaven."

Reference texts indicate than the term "personality cult" was first used in 1956 by Nikita Khrushchev, secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in a speech denouncing Stalin, during the 20th Congress of the organisation.

In Rosental and Ludin's Dictionary of Philosophy, it is defined as "blind deference to the authority of a figure, excessive consideration of real merits, the conversion of a historical figure's name into a fetish."

Maintaining a philosophical lens, it is not difficult to see that underlying such cults is an idealistic conception of history - as Thomas Carlyle would say - which considers the will of individuals, as opposed to the action of the masses, as the determining factor in making history, precisely as Francisco Franco would have his compatriots believe his self-proclaimed status as god's messenger and ruler of Spain by the grace of god.

As Fidel stated in 1966, events have confirmed the Marxist precept, "It is not men, but rather peoples who write history," while at the same time recognising, "The revolutionary leader is necessary as an instrument of the people, necessary as an instrument of the Revolution."

In more than one international forum, Cuban researcher and journalist Luis Toledo Sande has spared no words denouncing the allegations of a personality cult of Fidel in Cuba, noting that such accusations are coming, in fact, from countries where university degrees are granted in the name of monarchies.

Toledo, who has also studied José Martí, noted that in Cuba, for example, the names of leaders' family members are not attached to public institutions either, no matter how charming they may be, although it is here, some allege, where a personality cult exists.

Toledo recalled, years later, that his comments were not included in the summary of the event during which they were made, due, he was told, to space limitations. Nevertheless, he has said he would have liked them to have been published, so no one might think they were excluded because he used the metaphor, "the noose in the house of the hanged man."

The supposed personality cult of Fidel and the media campaign against Cuba are two sides of the same coin; that is both seek to discredit the leader as well as his most important work: the Revolution, in which the people play the leading role.

When Nicaraguan Tomás Borge was asked about the issue, he responded, "In a country like this one, it is very difficult for some form of absolute power to exist, because Cubans, with their idiosyncrasies, their mentality, argue everything, analyse everything; it could just as well be baseball, agriculture, politics, anything; Cubans discuss it all, they have character, a special idiosyncrasy."

These virtues, verified in the people by Fidel, are far removed from the perspective of Plato, the first to address the elements associated with the charisma of leaders, who described the masses as ignorant and malleable, at the whim of charismatic individuals.

Leadership and political charisma are terms which have inspired many to think:

Aristotle, Machiavelli, Weber, Freud and Bourdieu, and have been epitomised in the person who headed the Cuban state for more than 50 years and survived

638 attempts on his life, emanating basically from the entrails of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, looking to eliminate his example that inspired the world.

Despite such real - not mythical - greatness, his body was reduced to ashes, which have been resting, since December 4, inside a massive rock in Santiago de Cuba's Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. The site dedicated to his memory, could well have been placed on top of Mt. Turquino, exemplifying modesty and austerity, contrary to the forecasts of detractors of the man who did not seek glory, but encountered it along his way." (From Escambray newspaper)


Cuban 5 member calls for solidarity with U.S. political prisoners

#FreeToBeHonored: A campaign to highlight cases of U.S. political prisoners, in response to U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power's hypocrisy, has been launched by Rene Gonzalez, a member of the Cuban 5

Author: TELESUR | internet@granma.cu

December 16, 2016 10:12:25

A member of the Cuban five, Rene Gonzalez, who spent 15 years as a political prisoner in the U.S., has launched a campaign to remember "prisoners of conscience" held in U.S. jails in response to a similar campaign launched last week by United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

On December 10, Power announced the launch of a U.S. State Department campaign called #FreeToBeHome, which she said would highlight the cases of "prisoners unjustly held around the world and the families they leave behind." Without any sense of irony, or history, Powers added, "We call on all governments to release them. Political prisoners should be free to believe."

Were Power to believe her own rhetoric, she would call on the U.S. government to release the political prisoners highlighted in Gonzalez's campaign: Oscar López Rivera, Ana Belén Montes, Leonard Peltier, Julian Assange, Simón Trinidad, and Mumia Abu-Jamal, all deemed political prisoners in the U.S.

Telesur looks at some of the cases raised by Gonzalez and a few more.

Oscar López Rivera

Oscar López Rivera

A leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement, López Rivera is currently serving his 35th year in prison on charges related to his independence activities with the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FARN), which fought to turn Puerto Rico into an independent communist state. He is the longest-held political prisoner from Latin America in U.S. history.

Offered clemency by then-President Clinton in 1999, Lopez rejected the offer because it was not extended to other jailed FARN activists and because he refused to renounce his communist beliefs. As of 2010, Lopez is the sole remaining Puerto Rican revolutionary leader held by the U.S. In December, a group of Swedish politicians called on President Obama to pardon Lopez in his final days in office. "He was convicted and imprisoned because he struggled for his homeland Puerto Rico's right to self-determination," they wrote to Obama in an open letter.

Anticipating Powers' campaign call that prisoners should "be free to be home," the letter called on Obama to "allow Oscar López Rivera to live out the final part of his life in his homeland with his family."

Ana Belén Montes

Ana Belén Montes

A U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican heritage, Belen Montes was charged with espionage on behalf of the Cuban government. At the time of her arrest, two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in New York, she worked in the Defence Department as a Cuba specialist and was a key member of an intelligence report team which concluded that the small Caribbean island did not pose any danger to the U.S.

In pleading guilty to avoid the death penalty, Belen Montes told the court, "I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it."

An international campaign continues to call for her release on humanitarian grounds given that she is held in isolation and denied basic rights such as visitors, phone calls, and letters.

Despite her harsh conditions Belen Montes told interviewers in 2015 "If I repent, I deny myself … It's not within the framework of my logic. I always knew the possible consequences of what I did." She added, "What matters to me is that the Cuban Revolution exists … What's necessary is that there always be a Cuban Revolution."

Simón Trinidad

Simón Trinidad

Harvard-educated Simon Trinidad, also known as Ricardo Palmera, was the de facto foreign minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC. During a 2004 diplomatic trip to Ecuador to meet with U.N. representatives, he was arrested and deported to Colombia, where former President Alvaro Uribe declined to charge him with any crime, and instead conspired with U.S. officials to create a false pretext to deport him to the U.S.

After the U.S. was unable to convict him in his first trial on trumped-up kidnapping charges, a second jury found him guilty in 2008 and sentenced him to 60 years. Despite that conviction, U.S. officials then tried to convict Trinidad on drug charges. After two juries found him innocent of those charges, U.S. officials abandoned the attempted drug prosecution.

Since his 2005 deportation to the U.S., Trinidad has spent 11 years in complete isolation in a U.S. "supermax" prison, an explicit violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture.

In writing about his reasons for joining the revolutionary struggle, Trinidad wrote, "There's our children, women, our families, our communities and normal life. If I don't do this (join the struggle), what am I? A traitor. So I said no. That's why I put up with pain and suffering to fight for what we lack. That's why I took up the guerrilla struggle."

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier was a leading figure in the American Indian Movement during the peak of its political activity in the 1970s. The movement, also known by its acronym AIM, was a militant group championing Native American autonomy and culture. In 1977, Peltier was convicted of the murder of two FBI agents in a trial Amnesty International has called unfair, given that there were no witnesses while key ballistics evidence used to tie Peltier to the murders was later revealed to be false.

The 40-year campaign for his release has been championed by the likes of Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchu, as well as the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Parliament. Despite these efforts to secure his release, Peltier remains in jail as the longest-serving political prisoner in the U.S. At age 71 and suffering from diabetes and complications from a massive aneurysm, many fear that without a presidential pardon, he will die in jail.

In a May 2016 interview marking his 40-year imprisonment, Peltier spoke about his activism, saying, "That's what we were always fighting to change — the idea that Indian lives weren't worth anything. Indian culture has contributed great things to the world ... we wanted to be recognised," he said.

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Journalist, acclaimed prison activist, and former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal is perhaps the most well-known political prisoner in the U.S.

Sentenced to death in 1982 for the alleged murder of a Philadelphia police officer in a trial called a "travesty of justice" by civil liberties advocates and human rights organisations such as the NAACP, ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Abu-Jamal spent almost 30 years on death row until 2011, when his sentence was commuted to life in prison after an appeal courts ruled that the original trial and sentence were tainted by racism.

Through his prison writings and popular radio broadcasts, Abu-Jamal has remained a key dissident voice in the U.S. reporting extensively on the prison-industrial complex and the institutionalisation of white supremacy. In the past two years, the campaign for his release has gained added impetus given his deteriorating health. In September, a federal court ruled that prison officials had violated the U.S. constitutional guarantee against "cruel and unusual punishment" by denying Abu-Jamal treatment for Hepatitis C.

Abu-Jamal has said about his struggle for justice, "Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to."

Guantanamo Bay prisoners

For 14 years, the U.S. has operated this "island outside the law," where 800 men have been illegally detained, tortured, and held without charge or trial in violation of both U.S. and international law. Despite President Obama's promise to close the military prison, something the American Civil Liberties Union calls a "shameful episode in American history", 49 prisoners remain jailed, despite facing no charges or having ever been convicted of a crime. The U.S. government itself has declared that 20 of these men – detained during the U.S.'s so-called "War on Terror" – are entirely innocent of any crimes and pose no threat to the U.S. While every single national and international human rights group has called for President Obama to close the prison and release the prisoners before his term ends, the U.S. government is in the process of renovating the facility, increasing fears that it will continue to be a key part of the U.S. national security apparatus under President Trump.


The SACP will, on 6 January 2017 at the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, Johannesburg, 10:00am, open the 22nd commemoration anniversary of the death of Comrade Joe Slovo.

Comrade Joe Slovo was the National Chairperson of the SACP and served as its General Secretary and Chief of Staff of the joint SACP-ANC armed-wing uMkhonto we Sizwe. He was the first Minister of Housing after the first non-racial elections were held in South Africa in 1994 and also served as a Member of the ANC National Executive Committee. Comrade Joe Slovo wrote extensively about South Africa's liberation struggle, its programme, strategy and tactics.    

SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande will address the commemoration. SACP's alliance partners and the Young Communist League of South Africa will present messages of support.

The SACP invites the media to cover the event.


This is the last issue of Umsebenzi Online for 2016. The next issue will be released in January 2017. Umsebenzi Online Editorial Team would like to take this opportunity to thank and wish each one of you a successful new year.


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