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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 17, No. 06, 24 May 2018

In this Issue:


Red Alert

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

By Alex Mashilo

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane's "Cde Alex, Claim no easy victories" (The Star, 21 May) refers. Tabane writes that he is "surprised" I "have bothered once again to respond to" his "critique of the SA Communist Party". This is his point of departure in a reply to "Uninformed attack on the SACP by Mr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane - Our comments" (Umsebenzi Online, 17 May 2018; http://www.sacp.org.za/main.php?ID=6644). Once you put forward your views about others you must expect them to express their side of the story on an equal opportunity to reply. An intellectual will not be surprised when others respond to his opinions about them. It is utterly unreasonable to spread propaganda about others and expect them to turn a blind eye to what you are doing. It is anti-intellectual actually and has nothing in common with constructive criticism. Intellectual activity is different from fabricating and thriving by spreading a story about others in the absence of their response.

Nevertheless, Tabane correctly draws our attention to one of the most quoted points ever made by Amilcar Cabral: "Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told…" This is exactly what necessitated the response to his columns (The Star, 14 May; 27 July 2017). That Tabane's attacks of the SACP are prejudicial is a fact that cannot be impugned by his lame duck response. It has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he left the ANC after its 2007 National Conference as part of a splinter that formed Cope. It is a fact that the splinter harboured anti-communists. As part of their reasons for either forming or supporting the formation of Cope, they baselessly accused the SACP of having taken control of the ANC. It is also a hard fact Tabane became the spokesperson of the Cope project, yet he wants society to believe him when claiming that his "Criticism of the SACP is meant to build".

Still, Tabane invokes the Soviet Union as an anti-communist scarecrow in pursuit of his anti-SACP propaganda clothed as constructive criticism. He would do better to understand why we cannot be misled, to appreciate what Karl Marx said in "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte". In short, those who do not want to be misled differentiate between what a person says and what that same person really is and does in practice.

Just listen to Tabane's admission and the claim that it contains to justify his opportunistic vacillation: "As I said elsewhere, my defection to Cope was based entirely on my inability to rally behind an ANC that had been captured by a corrupt and parasitic lot". It is common knowledge that Cope was formed because of a refusal to accept ANC 2007 National Conference's leadership outcomes. It cannot be denied that there was factional conduct behind the reaction. It is equally undeniable that when Tabane resurfaced in 2011 as a return member in the ANC, its leadership was exactly the same one that he rejected when he joined the Cope project.

Tabane must discard hypocrisy, truly follow the principle articulated by Cabral and avoid claiming easy victories. The fact is that it is none other than the SACP that first exposed corporate state capture. The Party did this expressing its disapproval, concern and condemnation of the rot of corruption that had become systemic in our country. But it did not stop there. The SACP called for mobilisation against the capture. That is how the characterisation of the problem of corporate state capture, its shorthand "state capture", was put to the front and took the centre stage in our national discourse. The Party played a crucial, widely recognised vanguard role in leading the mobilisation. The SACP was not alone but worked together with a wide range of other South Africans, including progressives from within the Alliance as a whole. It was in this process that again the SACP became the first to call for - an independent judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

Many of those who initially opposed the call agreed later, that is after the former Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela arrived at the same conclusion and, to safeguard its independence, defined the selection criteria for the judge to head the commission. The fact is that Cyril Ramaphosa's election occurred in the wider context of the mobilisation and by no small measure as its direct outcome. That is actually where Ramaphosa's Presidency's state capture combating mandate basically derived its historical origins. This mandate must become successful. The SACP is still pushing forward the anti-state capture programme to guarantee the success. All other forms of corruption and wrongdoing in our state and industry as a whole as well as in the axis between the two must be dealt a heavy blow. All lost ground must be recovered. The state capture fugitives, their captured public office bearers, representatives, officials and all those who rendered complicity or collaborated in their deeds must be brought to book. Our country's democratic national sovereignty must be firmly secured.

Tabane has proven that he is ignorant of the text of the SACP's 14th Congress resolution adopted in July 2017 on the Party and not only state but also popular power. The resolution was given to the media in writing immediately after its adoption. It formed the basis of the Party's post-Congress communication on the matter, starting at the press briefing that was held after closure. Contrary to Tabane's claims, the fact is that the SACP, as categorically stated by the resolution, resolved against the so-called going it alone thus: "…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". Tabane has failed to prove that this is not so!

SACP General Secretary Dr Blade Nzimande did indeed say "On our side we don't want to break the alliance". The then First Deputy General Secretary of the Party Jeremy Cronin did indeed also say: "If the ANC collapses… it would be necessary to reinvent something like the ANC".

They were absolutely right. There can be no doubt that as disciplined cadres of the SACP their views are firmly located within the ambit of the resolution and overall political theory, strategy and tactics of the Party. In fact, building "something like the ANC" necessarily means the mobilisation of forces beyond the Party and the Alliance, as the resolution clearly states. I have correctly articulated the resolution in its own words.

As a matter of fact the Congress mandated the SACP to develop a leading role to reconfigure the Alliance and, while doing so, avoid placing all expectations in the single outcome of a reconfigured alliance. The resolution accordingly directed the SACP at all levels to start a process of forging a popular left front both for electoral purposes and for advancing, deepening and defending the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution - the most direct road to socialism in South Africa's historical conditions, according to the Party's political theory. The SACP has never concealed the fact that its strategy for socialism requires the building and development of a democratic state and thus the deepening of its democratic nature and character to their full potential under democratic majority rule with the working class as the immense majority. This is why the Party had to fight for - and was the first to be banned fighting for - South Africa to become a democratic republic.

The process of building a popular left front - thus going wider than the Alliance in its current form, should, the resolution states, unfold while the Party engages with its alliance partners, conducts a scientific audit of its organisation, its influence, and fortifies its capacity and elaborates practical programmes on the ground to reconfigure the Alliance. Accordingly, the SACP 14th Congress directed the Party to engage, beyond the Alliance, with other progressive and worker formations in line with the strategic objective of building a popular left front. The SACP, states the resolution, must in the process first and foremost attach great importance to Cosatu, its already existing ally within our alliance in relation to the historical mission of socialism.

To understand why the SACP resolved to engage with organised formations of the working class, one must go deeper, down to the ideological roots of the SACP as a working class party. The Party's strategic objective is to develop itself to become a leading force of the South African working class, its vanguard, the most advanced and resolute section of the movement as a whole. Every step the Party takes must therefore correctly be with and for the working class.

As a matter of fact, the resolution does not provide for any other modality, other than the two modalities of a reconfigured alliance and a popular left front, for the Party to actively contest state power through elections. It is also an undisputed fact that the resolution says a Special National Congress based on the road map of the process it defines should be convened at an appropriate time to adopt the way forward. Tabane's lame duck response failed to impugn these facts. All the quotations and paraphrases that he made of Nzimande and Cronin do not contain anything whatsoever to the effect that the resolution directed the Party to part ways with its own ideological DNA, to engage in a voluntary ideological self-disbarment by abandoning the working class and pursuing the liquidationist if not Tabane's liberal "going it alone".

Other than that, it is a matter of record that the SACP, after a democratic internal process and engagement with communities, collectively made a special decision in response to a special situation to allow the Party to lead a community based electoral contest in Metsimaholo. This occurred in November 2017 and is the context in which the mayor of that municipality is now an SACP councillor. Note that the Party did not "go it alone". A sizable number of the candidates registered under the banner of the SACP were not Party members to start with. This special intervention in response to a special situation did not interrupt the resolution on the posture of the Party towards state and popular power. The SACP is thus unwaveringly forging ahead with the implementation of the resolution as adopted by its 14th Congress in July 2017.

Last but not least, Tabane levels several allegations against Nzimande, Senzeni Zokwana and Dr Rob Davies. The allegations must be dismissed as baseless. Those who read ANC manifestos cannot be misled by Tabane and his fabricated five-year targets that are not in the ANC's 2009 (when he was in Cope) and 2014 manifestos. Tabane used his fabricated targets and followed an opposition, DA-type subjective government evaluation with downgrading performance scores and absurdly declared that the ministers have failed. His approach must be declared illegitimate, invalid and set aside. Its material effect is impotent and belongs to the dustbin of history.

By the way, thanks to Davies's leadership - South Africa has attracted billions in rand value terms automotive production investment in Roslyn, Silverton, East London, Uitenhage and Durban. Davis's leadership has saved the industry from the 2008 global economic crisis and contributed immensely to production recovery, thus saving the jobs that would have been lost had it not been of his actual performance. South Africa's automotive production has surpassed the pre-crisis peak as a result of Davis's leadership of the ministry of trade and industry working not as an individual but as part of the collective ANC-led government!

Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is the spokesperson of the SACP and writes in his capacity as a full-time professional revolutionary.


Capital, the state and land dispossession in South Africa

By Walter Mothapo

In order to understand how capital and the state colluded in land dispossession in South Africa, we first have to understand the nature of the South African ruling class. Historically, the ruling class in South Africa can basically be categorised into two types of capital: agriculture and mining. As we move into knowledge economy we can now talk of the prevalence of the services sector and finance capital. This has resulted in what is called financialisation, meaning that non-financial economic activity is itself financialised or has joined in accumulation through financial activities. Finance capital has managed to set the terms of production, investment and trade through credit or loan conditionalities, thus extending its sphere of control. So an expression of property goes beyond what is physical in terms of land, buildings, vehicles, furniture and so on to the sphere of investments.

The development of commercial agriculture could be traced to the 1850s. Mining could be linked to industrialisation by the British. This took place between 1870 and 1885 with the opening of diamond mines. The Glen Grey Act of 1894 and the Natives Land Act of 1913 were thus meant to enable agricultural and mining capitals to thrive in South Africa with black people relegated to the status of the providers of labour and white people, particularly the bourgeoisie, owners of the means of production. This did not happen in a void but within the context of imperialism and colonialism.

The practical linkage between mining and agriculture could be illustrated by agricultural growth as a response to mining based on migrant labour. Mineworkers had to eat in their mining compounds and hostels - hence agricultural capital had to be developed at a large scale to serve as a supplier of food in mining production. On the other hand as black people were deprived of fertile land used for subsistence farming, they were forced to sell their labour to the mine owners for their survival.

A document drafted for the purpose of discussion in the ANC National Consultative Conference at Kabwe, Zambia, in June 1985 entitled ‘The Nature of the South African ruling Class',examines the relationship between capitalism and land dispossession. The paper asserts that during the days of the Dutch East India Company the colonial state that was developed in South Africa and the mercantile company were one and the same body pursuing a common objective. After 1806, under the British, though the state was relatively autonomous it was nevertheless a veritable engine of private accumulation. It was the instrument employed to dispossess the Khoi people and other African peasants of their land and regiment them into a class of the propertyless masses, the proletariat.

It is a well-known fact of history that the Anglo-Boer War was a war for supremacy between the British and Afrikaners for the control of South Africa's natural resources, economy as a whole and society at large. Put succinctly, it was the struggle for who should ultimately own the land as a source of resources, a means of production and a habitable space.

The history of resilience symbolised by the formation of the ANC in 1912, an antithesis to colonial rule that led to the ‘white only' Union of South Africa is well recorded. So is the coming in of the National Party in 1948 which legislated apartheid as a system of discrimination by white rule against blacks and the exploitation of waged labour by capitalist bosses. The pioneering of apartheid gave birth to draconian Acts such as the Group Areas Act of 1950, the Urban AreasActof 1923 and the Natives andLandTrustAct of 1936. However, it is vital to underscore the point that the history of colonialism did not start with the coming in of the National Party government but happened over three centuries with the arrival of Dutch Settlers in 1652.

Government Policy

The Rural Development and Land Reform Department developed the following principles around land reform: deracialising the rural economy; democratic and equitable land allocation and use across race, gender and class; and sustained production discipline for food security. These principles make sense. However, it is important to develop a working class elaboration of what they all mean both in theory and practice.

Besides, has the department accounted on progress? The rural peasantry and urban working class cannot fold their arms if they were to be realised. As Nelson Mandela said in his reflections in the article entitled ‘In Our Lifetime' published in1956:

“The most vital task facing the democratic movement in this country is to unleash such struggles and to develop them on the basis of the concrete and immediate demands of the people from area to area. Only in this way can we build a powerful mass movement which is the only guarantee of ultimate victory in the struggle for democratic reforms. Only in this way will the democratic movement become a vital instrument for the winning of the democratic changes set out in the (Freedom) Charter.”

There are many hair-raising incidents that underscore a need for a paradigm shift on the approach towards the land question by the state. The agricultural production for instance is dominated by the White bourgeoisie who exploit Black workers, an overwhelming majority of farm workers. The dominant section of agricultural capital is also involved in acts of collusion to prevent new entrants from gaining access to the sector over and above suppressing the development of worker control.

After more than 300 years of colonialism, imperialism and subsequent dispossession of land, the agrarian question cannot be complete until the revolt by the downtrodden masses. Land reform and agrarian transformation cannot be left to the superstructure.

Walter Mothapo is a member of the Sephakabatho Branch of the SACP in Castro Pilusa District and writes in his personal capacity.


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