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RED ALERT
An intellectual will not be surprised when others respond to his opinions about them - A comradely reply to Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 17, No. 05, 17 May 2018

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

Uninformed attack on the SACP by Mr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane - Our comments

By Alex Mashilo

Mr Okgopotse JJ Tabane`s alleged "SACP has lost its former spark" carried by The Star (14 May 2018) refers. If Tabane was a ratings agency, we would say that he has upgraded his outlook of the SACP - but that he remains utterly wrong. Otherwise there would be no other explanation other than that he has a problem of short memory, does not read SACP statements and publications, does not read the Political Programme of the Party, does not follow its implementation and the campaigns of the Party, and is therefore ignorant about the SACP - but is obsessed with criticising the Party. As recent as 27 July the same newspaper carried Tabane`s column spreading his alleged "Irrelevance of the SACP". There is just no logic in spending one`s time, expending one`s energy and focusing on what you believe is irrelevant. Tabane has in fact forgotten, in a space of about nine months, that he said the SACP was "irrelevant". Now he says it "has lost its former spark". The SACP welcomes criticism for so long as it is constructive and is based on scientifically formulated opinions. The problem with Tabane`s criticism of the SACP is that it is not motivated by any scientific basis but uninformed prejudice. In the process he fabricates his own version of "reality" in contradiction to the actual reality and manufactures and spreads a gospel of distortions about the Party. His opinions about the SACP are fraught with baseless allegations. All of those are outrightly denounced and dismissed with contempt.

"One truly wonders", listen to his claim, "what happened to the SACP we used to ululate about". On the contrary, Tabane is the man who, following the Polokwane Conference of the ANC held a decade ago in 2007, joined a factional splinter group that formed Cope. Their main war cry was that the SACP had taken control of the ANC. Tabane became Cope`s spokesperson. His sudden claim that he was ululating about the SACP is accordingly hypocritical. He left Cope in November 2010 after realising that it was fast declining and that the future was definitely not in its hands. Tabane resurfaced in April 2011 at a photo opportunity hosted by the ANC Gauteng Provincial leadership featuring former members who rejoined from Cope. This revealed his opportunist tendency.

Tabane invoked the Bible without a shame when he left Cope to justify his opportunism: "In Luke 5: 36-38, Jesus said to his disciples ([36] ...No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. [37] And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. [38] No new wine must be poured into old wineskins)".

"The noise about going it alone has since died down because under the new dawn, Blade has his job back", Tabane asserts. On the contrary, the opening and therefore the first section of the SACP 14th Congress resolution on the relationship of the SACP to state and popular power and therefore on contesting elections rejects the so-called going it alone. "…that a `Victory cannot be won with a vanguard alone` is relevant to our own reality, and that throwing `the vanguard into the decisive battle` before the `entire class, the broad masses` are ready would be a grave mistake" - SO SAYS THE RESOLUTION IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS.

Accordingly, the resolution goes further to direct the SACP to develop a leading role to reconfigure the alliance as one of the two modalities it expressly identifies for the Party to more actively contest state power. The other modality, which was adopted for the first time since 1994, lies outside of the alliance without reconfiguration but still is in contradiction to the so-called going it alone; it is that of building a popular left front both for electoral purposes and for the purpose of advancing, deepening and defending the second radical phase of the National Democratic Revolution, the most direct and shortest road to socialism in South Africa`s historical conditions. As a Party of the working class, the SACP cannot abandon the class and go it alone! Tabane does not appreciate this ideological DNA of the SACP. Perhaps the class basis of the SACP is too complex for him to grasp. His personal experience of abandoning the overwhelming majority of the electorate and going it alone with Cope has taught him nothing.

The SACP 14th Congress resolution on the relationship of the Party to state and popular power not only directed the Party to develop a leading role to achieve a reconfigured alliance and build a popular left front; the resolution directed the central leadership of the SACP to convene a Special National Congress at an appropriate time to report on the outcome of the work - which essentially involves cementing the bond between the Party and the entire class, the broad masses, and ensure that every step the SACP takes is with and for the masses. It is the Special National Congress - as directed by the resolution - that will adopt the way forward based on a scientific assessment of the work and an examination of historically obtaining conditions.

In July when the SACP adopted the resolution, Dr Blade Nzimande - Party General Secretary was the Minister of Higher Education and Training. It is a fact that while he was a Minister Nzimande formed part of SACP and Cosatu leaders who went out in the frontlines of massive marches across country against corporate state capture in September. He categorically addressed the biggest march ever held in Johannesburg against corporate state capture. His removal from the Cabinet occurred thereafter in October. The SACP correctly concluded that Nzimande`s removal from the Cabinet was part of a co-ordinated reaction by parasitic state capturers against his intensification of the SACP`s outspoken criticism and mobilisation against corporate state capture. The Party strongly condemned and unequivocally rejected the removal as factional and anti-working class. Consequently it had to be reversed and the remover finally removed himself under pressure.

But neither did the SACP`s programme for President Jacob Zuma to resign or be recalled if he did not resign start after he evicted Nzimande from the Cabinet. On the contrary, the campaign started long before and under the leadership of Nzimande as Party General Secretary before he was removed from the Cabinet. Nzimande made it very clear that no one will succeed to use a position to silence him and that serving in the Cabinet was a national duty to serve the people through a democratic government that the Communist Party was, back in 1950, the first political organisation in South Africa to be banned fighting for.

What about the land question?

The Central Committee of the SACP, which held its first quarterly session of 2018 in February, among others evaluated major policy outcomes from the 54th National Conference of the ANC held in December. The Central Committee made it very clear, through a public statement, that the SACP supported the genuine intentions of the ANC`s resolution for the expropriation of land without compensation to be adopted as one of the policy instruments that must be considered. The resolution is very much in line with the SACP`s historical policy on land. The policy places emphasis on socialisation! It dates back to the Party`s founding in 1921. The Party adopted expropriation as a policy instrument a long time ago when it was not fashionable - THAT IS IN 1944 THROUGH ITS POLITICAL PROGRAMME.

Since January, following the adoption of the resolution by the ANC, the SACP produced three major publications on the land question - two Umsebenzi Online interventions and the latest African Communist (1st Quarter 2018, Issue Number 197). The latter was actually published a few days before Tabane`s latest round of uninformed attack on the SACP. He obviously has the habit of neither reading nor understanding the history of the Party and its perspectives. The African Communist carries scientific interventions on the land question and further exposes the apartheid roots of the Ingonyama Trust. These facts expose Tabane`s ignorance and uninformed opinions of the Party.

By the way the SACP was the first political organisation in South Africa post-1994 to place the land question at the centre of our national discourse on a serious basis. In 2004 for example I was involved under the leadership of the SACP in organising the largest march that South Africa has ever had in the City of Tshwane post-apartheid on the land question. The first land summit was held thereafter in 2005 as a direct result of the march. The abandonment of the so-called willing seller willing buyer mentality - which is not in our Constitution - was a direct result of the mobilisation by the SACP. Tabane lacks a historical analysis of the land question.

Moving from theory to practice, the SACP has put to the front its conclusion - that the Constitution was not fully implemented since 1994 towards ensuring complete redress, land restitution, land redistribution and equitable access to South Africa`s natural resources. This problem arose from the deviation from our national democratic revolutionary programme to the neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy which Cope was formed to defend as an epitome of "best economic management".

Also, it is the SACP that has now drawn attention to the fact that subsection 8 of our Constitution`s section 25 (which is known as the property clause) states that: "No provision of this section (i.e. section 25) may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform, in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination, provided that any departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the provisions of section 36(1)". The latter provides for the limitation of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, including the property clause and its compensation provisions!

The SACP has accordingly called for the adoption of law of general application as required in terms of the Constitution. Such an Act of Parliament must give practical effect to the DEPARTURE provided for in subsection 8 of the property clause of the Constitution. There is no way Tabane would have noticed this clear-cut policy position because his criticism of the SACP is based on uniformed prejudice rather than on informed critical analysis.

Equally important, the issue of land is not just about land as an object. It is about the political economy of land and the entire social structure of life based on it. Land has to be looked at productively and holistically. This is the perspective the SACP is pushing. The productive use of land must not be limited to a single activity. Land reform and the transformation of the land economy must be comprehensive. It must be in the interests of the mass of the people rather than the interests of the Black elite pretending to be the representatives of the whole of the formerly oppressed people while only being interested in exploiting the masses and privately accumulating wealth from the exploitation.

Further, in addition to agrarian transformation, the political economy of land includes but is not limited to mining, human settlement (and estate development), forestry, the ocean economy (YES it is part of the land question), wild life, industrial activity, infrastructure and the aerospace economy (YES it is part of the land question because it is demarcated according to our land and ocean spaces). A comprehensive land reform programme will assert the claims of the people as a whole in all of these and other land based economic activities.

By the way land was not the only property that was expropriated during primitive accumulation driven by colonialism and apartheid. The economic life that was based on land use was destroyed. The people were proletarianised (converted into wage labourers or the unemployed) as work and production as a whole were privatised (converted into capitalist production) and other property that was based on or attached to land was also taken away. For example private game reserves own our wild life - both the fauna and flora - attached to the land. All of these issues and the legacy of the de-skilling that occurred as a result of dispossession and marginalisation must be addressed and resolved.

The people must be equipped with skills training, equipment and inputs and other material and financial resources required to pursue productive land use. The exploitation of labour that came with expropriation must be rolled back. Very importantly, we must move with the times, innovate and pursue advanced production based on cutting edge research and development and the application of science - including technology and chemistry - taking the importance of ensuring sustainable development into account. Tabane is blind to all SACP articulated policies, which is why he is ignorant of the Party`s Political Programme, the South African Road to Socialism, campaigns, resolutions and decisions.

What about the national minimum wage?

The SACP unequivocally supports the establishment of a national minimum wage as a social floor beneath which no worker must fall. The SACP further supports trade union struggles for a living wage over and above a national minimum wage. However, neither a national minimum wage nor a living wage must be conceived of as static and timeless. Both must continuously be improved to keep pace with the times while the struggle to uproot labour exploitation by capital intensifies. To this end the SACP has called for and is working to achieve broad working class unity.

If the trade union movement cannot unite, for now, under a single umbrella federation as well as under single industrial and public service unions, it should at least unite behind the common interests of the workers and their DEMOCRATICALLY DEVELOPED COMMON DEMANDS. These should include the levels of the national minimum wage and a living wage and must be taken forward at NEDLAC, at the Bargaining Councils, at the workplace, in research and development, on the streets AND ALL IN A UNIFYING MANNER!

The SACP is strongly opposed to the perpetuation of the current situation where over four to six million workers are being paid below the proposed R3, 500 national minimum wage and over half of the entire South African population lives on far less than half of that amount a month. All of these amounts must be improved and practical measures to give effect to everyone`s right to work must be adopted. This requires efforts to upgrade working class unity and build working class cohesion, hegemony and power - in contradiction to the divisive agenda carried out by wedge drivers as evident in Tabane`s attacks on the SACP and Cosatu.

The SACP firmly supports workers struggles to end the problems of casualisation, labour brokering and evictions, among others. Of all political parties in South Africa, it is the SACP that has the largest campaigns base outside of Parliament!

* Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson and comments in his capacity as a full-time professional revolutionary

 

The renewal of an old anti-communist agenda - a response to  Zingisa Mvumvu

By Mawethu Rune 

THE article "SACP a long way from party of Chris Hani" (Daily Dispatch, May 11) by this newspaper`s senior political reporter Zingisa Mvumvu refers.

While the idea of commemorating the late General Secretary of the SACP, Chris Hani, was commendable, at the end Mvumvu did a serious disservice to Hani`s name, religiously reciting Hani`s quotes out of context in a desire to condemn the living by invoking the dead - who cannot speak for themselves. This opportunism has to be exposed.

Hani was a product of the struggle of the people. He was never a grandstander, but worked within a collective of activists. He always accepted both the successes and shortcomings of his organisation. While alive he never sat back and allowed his organisation`s role to be liquidated.

On charge No 1 - that the SACP of today is not the party of Hani - the SACP must plead guilty. The party of 2018 is not the party of Hani - its general secretary is Blade Nzimande. It is important to underline this point. The Party is not in a museum, only to be visited when someone is looking for quotes but otherwise to be left undisturbed and monumentalised, remaining as it was when Hani was killed. True to all living organisms, the SACP is pursuing the working-class struggle as per the concrete conditions and space of the present time. These are subject to change.

Today`s conditions are vastly different to those of Moses Kotane, Moses Mabhida and Hani. Following Mvumvu`s logic the Party of Hani should actually have returned to exile, as did the party of Kotane and Mabhida. Concrete conditions in their time also required that the party, working with the mass democratic movement and its tripartite alliance partners, negotiate with the enemy and engage on how to usher in the new democratic dispensation.
Those conditions required the party of Hani to be fashioned in a particular mode. That was not postponing the struggle for socialism but building conditions for advancing the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as the direct route to socialism. Hence the slogan "Socialism is the future, build it now``.

Maybe Mvumvu will hear better from the 1989 writings of the General Secretary of the collective before Hani, Joe Slovo: "There is no such thing as `pure` class struggle and those who seek it can only do so from the isolating comfort of a library armchair. The idea that social revolutions involve two neatly labelled armies was dealt with by Lenin with bitter irony: `So, one army lines up in one place and says `we are for socialism` and another, somewhere else says, `we are for imperialism`, and that will be a social revolution! ... Whoever expects a `pure` social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip service to revolution without understanding what revolution is."

The party of Nzimande appreciates it is the Party of 2018 and pursues the struggle based on concrete conditions. The SACP will not allow itself to only be a reference of history.

Charge No 2 - that the SACP is trailing behind the ANC. In its strategic, consistent provision of concrete solutions to concrete conditions, the SACP understood that in the South African context, the coloniser and colonised lived in the same indivisible territory but in which human settlement was racially segregated, divided along class lines and therefore, while the dominant struggle was class, the immediate and fundamental issue was a national struggle. Nevertheless, class struggle could not be postponed to a distant future. As Slovo put it, the SACP appreciated the national content of class struggle and the class content of national struggle. This not a "gravy train" as Mvumvu put it. The Party has always urged resolving race and gender at the same time as advancing the class or socialist struggle, rather than taking a purist path.

Slovo, writing on the SA working class and NDR (which I strongly suggest Mvumvu reads up on) contends: "We [the SACP] have never made a secret of our belief that the shortest route to socialism is via a democratic state. But ... the SACP takes part in the alliance for yet another extremely cogent reason; our belief that the elimination of national domination (the prime objective of the alliance) is, at the same time, the most immediate class concern of our proletariat."

It is important for a "senior political reporter" such as Mvumvu to grasp the form and content of class struggle at the present moment and disabuse himself of the notion that the SACP has abandoned the socialist revolution. A "socialist revolution" not grounded in daily working class experience can only be fought in air-conditioned offices.

To charge No 3 - that the SACP is found wanting in the working class struggle - the party must plead NOT guilty. The only references given by Mvumvu to trick unsuspecting readers are Marikana, land expropriation without compensation, #FeesMustFall, and some "other issues of exploitation". The exploitation which is obvious is that by Mvumvu of loyal Dispatch readers. He confesses to having seen the slogan "Socialism is the future, build it now!`` on the SACP homepage but it is apparent this is where his reading ended. Had he bothered to read up on when exactly he alleges the party was missing in action, his spurious claims would have been put to bed.

As a senior political reporter, one should remember that as far back as 2004 the party under Nzimande led a massive Red October campaign focusing on Land (must be returned). The following came out of the campaign.

  • Scrapping of the so-called willing seller willing-buyer approach;
  • Transfer of a substantial proportion of agricultural land to Black farmers and worker co-operatives. This required:
  • Accelerated state acquisition of land for redistribution at prices set by the state through, amongst other means, increased use of expropriation as a method for land acquisition, and the need for the state to have the right of first refusal for private land transactions;
  • Provision of unused land by absentee landlords, big farmers, national and provincial government, municipalities, churches and state owned or public entities;
  • Land tax for unused land (to provide an incentive to use land more intensively and increase the overall supply of land for the market, and to reduce land speculation) linked to the expropriation of unused land;
  • Radical restructuring of agricultural markets and support services in line with pro-poor land and agrarian reform;
  • Rapid provision of land for housing in urban areas within reach of jobs and services, and for other urban land needs; and
  • A review of the provisions of the Communal Land Rights Act.

There have been many other SACP campaigns on land over the years. Just recently the Party released the African Communist of 2018 and dedicated the edition to reflections about land.
No, Mr Senior Reporter, the SACP is not found wanting or MIA. You are attempting to vilify the living by invoking the dead!

The SACP, with its ally Cosatu, has consistently campaigned for worker demands and rights. To highlight but a few, there are the campaigns for collective bargaining, social wages, the National Health Insurance, safe and reliable public transport, food security, affordable electricity, universal access to clean and drinkable water, and free sanitary towels. In fact the SACP has been attacked for advancing some if not most of these campaigns. That Mvumvu as the senior reporter did not report about the work does not mean that it did not take place. The campaigns are independent from his senior reporting.

Workers on shop floors and streets have also engaged in strikes with their vanguard party, the SACP. Must we believe you when you say you last saw a campaigning Party before the murder of Hani? Apparently you even missed the massive resistance to privatisation and the rejection of the neoliberal project of Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear).

The SACP was also at Marikana before the tragedy took place and remains there to this day, long after the cameras and reporters left. The party understands the unity of workers and knows some platinum mining corporations fuel artificial feuds among workers by not entering into collective bargaining with unions in key sectors, preferring to compete among themselves, even reneging on negotiated wage agreements at individual company level.
The Party has asserted previously, as it is still asserting now, that worker unity is important.

Mr Senior Reporter must know he is being disingenuous when he suggests the SACP never campaigned for free quality higher education. This has been a SACP and Young Communist League position since time immemorial. The Free Education Campaign in South among students and the youth post-1994 gained its momentum from the first National Policy Conference of the Young Communist League held in 2005. At that time, some of the people and organisations who claim to be its champions today attacked the Young Communist League and labelled it unreasonable. The Senior Reporter was missing in action.

Charge No 4 - SACP leaders are queuing up for the gravy train. Again, the SACP must plead NOT guilty. We should never hide the fact that the SACP, from its establishment, never wanted to be an NGO but a political party, which it is, one with an interest in state power, the highest concentration of political power. Wielded in the working class interest, this power must be used to abolish exploitation and introduce programmes which cherish the interest of all, especially the overwhelming majority, the working class. This is an integral part of the SACP`s programme.

An often asked question is why communists participate in "bourgeoisie states" rather than wait for these states to wither away. Lenin would argue that it is not the "capitalist state" that will wither, but the "proletariat state" as the intermediary towards communism following the revolutionary victory over the bourgeoisie. He asserts that the Communist Manifesto "gives a general summary of history, which compels us to regard the state as the organ of class rule and leads to the inevitable conclusion that the proletariat cannot overthrow the bourgeoisie without first winning political power, without winning political supremacy, without transforming the state into the proletariat organised as the ruling class".

Given the experience of South Africa, it is childish to insinuate that communists should not serve in the executive. Why fight for democracy, campaign for electoral victory and then abstain from involvement in the state to serve the people through the state? Progressive forces in government and their influence in governance and administrative management have assisted a great deal in changing the lives of many for the better. Such change is neither inherent nor is it ordained. It is the product of struggle and influence including inside of the state.

We have witnessed massive redistribution in the interest of the majority - social grants, houses built and allocated for free of charge, roads constructed, investment in education and health, etc. It is important for Mvumvu to appreciate that Hani, as the leader of the Party, subscribed to the principle of a party of power, never once doubting the importance of the SACP availing itself, when called upon, to serve the people. Hani appreciated that necessary reform in the interest of the working class would be possible, not when communists are spectators, but when they are active agents of change and willing to serve the people.

Despite all the challenges the Party and its allies are confronting, Hani would find comfort in knowing much has been done. He would be proud that SA is on track to achieve what he regarded as the tenets of a better life. He wanted decent shelter for the homeless: nearly 500 informal settlements have been replaced with quality housing and basic services. Approximately four million houses have been built and allocated for free of charge to the needy, benefiting more than 16 million people.

Hani wanted safe drinking water for all: by 2017 almost 93% of South Africa had access to potable water. He wanted health care: citizens are healthier and living longer now. Average life expectancy is up from 53 to 62 years and upwards. The National Health Insurance is being piloted.

Hani wanted to overcome the huge divide between urban and rural areas: about 12 million households now have access to electricity, seven million more than in 1994.

Nearly 80 000 land claims, totalling 3.4 million hectares, have been settled and 1.8 million people have benefited. Social grants are up from 2.4 million in 1996 to 17 million in 2016. In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation, it is now 80%. Hani also wanted decent education for all. A total of 92.9% of South African citizens can now read and write. More than nine million children attend no-fee schools and receive free meals at school, and households whose income is below R350 000 receive fee-free higher education. The number of South Africans with college or university qualifications had in fact increased tremendously by 2016.

Mvumvu is pushing a right-wing politics. His attempt to co-opt the late Chris Hani to form part of his anti-communist agenda must be dismissed with contempt. The senior reporter is not concerned with right-wing organisations contesting state power - in other parts of the country they have in fact ascended to government. His concern is, instead, against the communists exercising their constitutional right to avail themselves to serve the people through our democratically elected government - the SACP led the struggle for a democratic republic and was the first political organisation to call for it and to be banned for it. Mvumvu`s concern is no different from that of the National Party when it banned the Communist Party in 1950 under the Suppression of Communism Act.

* Mawethu Rune is SACP Eastern Cape Provincial Executive Committee member and writes as an activist in his own right

 

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

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