SACP 97th anniversary statement
5 August 2018
This year, July 30, marked the 97th anniversary of our party, the South African Communist Party since its founding as the Communist Party of South Africa at an inaugural congress held from 30 July to 1 August 1921 in Cape Town. The congress was preceded by a public meeting, also held in Cape Town, attended by over 2 000 workers. The founding of the Party was officially announced at the meeting. However, the foundation of the Party goes beyond 1921 and can be traced as far back as 1914. In addition, it was not only a national development but was also occasioned by the international situation.
A war of imperialist rivalries, the so-called First World War or World War I, broke out on 28 July 1914. The South African Labour Party was divided in its attitude to the war. When Britain entered the war, on 4 August 1914, David Ivon Jones and Bill Andrews, the Labour Party Chairperson, opposed South Africans following imperial Britain into the war. However, the reactionary wing of the Labour Party, led by Colonel F.H.P. Cresswell, supported participation in the war. Some supported the war in support of the respective European nations from which they descended. The same narrow nationalist tendency manifested itself in Europe.
Most of the parties which had supported the adoption of the Manifesto of the International Socialist Congress at Basel in 1912, decided to support the bourgeoisie of their respective nations, and agreed to the mutual slaughter of millions of young, mainly working class men. This was against the Manifesto, which declared: "If a war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved supported by the coordinating activity of the International Socialist Bureau to exert every effort in order to prevent the outbreak of war by the means they consider most effective, which naturally vary according to the sharpening of the class struggle and the sharpening of the general political situation".
True to their revolutionary content, the comrades who opposed the war formed the War on War League in September 1914. The following year, in September 1915, they graduated their anti-imperialist efforts by forming the International Socialist League (ISL). The ISL became the main predecessor of the Communist Party. The Party became a unitary formation bringing together different organisations and individuals, including the ISL, the Social Democratic Federation of Cape Town, the Communist Party of Cape Town, the Jewish Socialist Society of Cape Town, the Jewish Socialist Society (Poalei Zion) of Johannesburg, the Marxian Club of Durban, and other Socialist bodies and individuals.
During the First World War, which lasted until 11 November 1918, the world`s first major socialist breakthrough, the Great October Socialist Revolution, occurred in Russia in 1917. The Revolution inspired and catalysed the formation of our Party. A new world movement of the proletariat, the Communist International, was formed in 1919 following the success of the Great October Socialist Revolution. As a matter of principle, especially proletarian unity, only one affiliate from every country was admitted to the Communist International. This lay behind the different organisations that formed the Communist Party to dissolve and unite under the banner of the Communist Party of South Africa.
The vanguard role of the Party
The Communist Party played the most advanced and resolute role against oppression in our country. This included organising workers into, and building, trade unions. Among others, the Party`s vanguard role contributed, in no small measure, to the leadership of the historic 1946 African mineworkers strike. The Communist Party`s role in building the trade union movement in our country is unparalleled.
Also, the Communist Party became South Africa`s first non-racial political organisation, and of course the number one class enemy of the apartheid regime. The Party exposed and organised against the class basis of the racist and sexist oppression that our people endured - both before and after apartheid as we know it was declared.
The apartheid regime banned the Communist Party as one of its immediate actions after apartheid was declared as an official policy of the state. In anticipation of the ban, which was imposed in 1950 under the Suppression of Communism Act, the Party tactically dissolved itself. It then regrouped through an underground process. It thus reconstituted itself under our current name of the South African Communist Party in 1953.
Our Alliance with the ANC and the progressive trade union movement, and which evolved to include the Sanco, was formed by the Communist Party. This started at the Party`s annual conference, held in January 1929, when delegates ratified a 1928 resolution that had been adopted by the Communist International. The resolution defined working with the ANC, the trade union movement and peasants organisations, a strategic organisational task of the Communist Party in South Africa.
At that time the ANC was not yet a revolutionary formation, but, make no mistake, it had a potential, if transformed, to become a revolutionary force. The resolution, which accordingly characterised the ANC as an embryonic nationalist formation, defined its transformation into a "nationalist revolutionary organisation against the white bourgeoisie and the British imperialists" and, as we have just stated, "based upon the trade unions, peasant organisations, etc.", one of the strategic objectives of the Communist Party. Accordingly, the Party contributed to the transformation and building of the ANC to become and act as a revolutionary force.
Our Alliance, which was reconfigured on a number of occasions based on changes in historical circumstances, and which was at the forefront of our national liberation movement, played a major role in leading the struggle that finally dislodged the apartheid regime in 1994.
The culture of human rights and social progress
There are many achievements that millions of our people have experienced following our 1994 democratic breakthrough. The new culture of human rights, which we inscribed in our Constitution, paved the way to social progress on many fronts. These include the millions of houses that were built and allocated for free of charge, benefitting over 16 million people.
The gains we have made include massive electrification, covering the formerly oppressed, and who were denied access to electricity for a century up to 1994. Through our democratically elected government, our movement massively expanded access to education at all levels, health care, clean drinking water, satiation, and so on.
Social grants programme
The massive expansion of social grants programmes that the movement implemented is continuing to make a difference in the lives of the millions of our people. This is why the SACP had to fight tooth and nail when the social grants programme was sold to the highest bidder for profit making and corrupt ends.
It is the rot, which had become deep-seated, that caused the problems our people have experienced, including last month, in the disbursement of social grants. The SACP is encouraging the present administration to do all its best to sort out the problem.
Redressing the imbalances of the past
Transformation to redress the racial and gender imbalances of the past has brought about increased upward social mobility. This has benefitted millions of black workers, defined under employment equity legislation as made up of Africans, Coloureds and Indians. White women, also classified as a designated group under employment equity legislation, benefitted as part of this social progress, and in no small measure.
Despite the progress we have made since 1994, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to complete the national democratic revolution and fully realise the vision of a non-racial and non-sexist society. This democratic society we seek to achieve is a society in which the fruits of prosperity are not a preserve of a few, black or white, but are a fairly shared output of social production. This will give practical expression to the social justice maxim - "To each according to their contribution", and ultimately its highest form - "Form each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".
South Africa is still faced with the problems of racism and sexism and the vicissitudes of capitalist exploitation. This is why industrial sectors of our economy remain under white, and largely male, bourgeois domination and management control. The apex of the industry still largely reflects the patterns of apartheid social engineering. This deliberately confined black people to the bottom rungs of the pyramid structure of employment.
In ownership terms, workers as a class are still propertyless. On the other hand, a handful of black individuals have joined - of course others in the name of black economic empowerment - the ranks of capitalist exploiters. The wealth they have accumulated does not belong to all black people. It is theirs, privately owned. When coming to capitalist wealth, there is no representation but capitalist private property.
The class inequality that underpins capitalism is the social driver of the restructuring, outsourcing, labour brokering, casualisation and other forms of temporarisation of employment endured by the working class. Black workers and black women are on the receiving of this merciless exploitation. In general, the share of workers as a class in our national production income is a pittance. We must not agree to beat around the bush. This is the function of class inequality. It is a direct result the appropriation of much of our national production income by a few.
As if these and other systemic problems were not enough, instead of decisively tackling the rot, our country was plunged into a crisis of corporate state capture and other forms of corruption. Key state owned enterprises were being destroyed through governance decay, mismanagement and looting. A notable number of SOEs were rendered insolvent or bankrupt. Some of the elements who became involved in these networks of private capture of key state establishments claimed to be advancing "radical socio-economic transformation".
What is to be done?
The immediate challenge our Party is faced with is to play its vanguard role in:
- dismantling the parasitic, often criminal, networks in the state and our movement;
- building a series of sectoral fronts, including around the National Health Insurance to equalise and universalise access to quality health care;
- advancing the campaign to achieve affordable and reliable public transport system;
- transforming the financial sector and ensuring that it serves the needs of the people and broader social and economic development - this task includes taking immediate action and intensifying our financial sector campaign to root out the problems of fraudulent debit orders, bank card cloning, high banking fees and arbitrary evictions;
- forming people`s committees committed to acquiring land to advance a socialised production system and to deliver on the constitutional principles of redress and equitable access to South Africa`s natural resources, including land in urban areas;
- fighting off retrenchments in general, including in the mining sector where for example 13, 000 workers are facing job losses at Impala Platinum - this shows that the capitalist bosses care only about one thing and one thing only, that is profit making, profit maximisation, more profit, and only profit;
- deepening the campaign against crime and violence in general, including in particular gender based violence and abuse; and
- strengthening Cosatu and its affiliates, building strong industrial unions and unionising unorganised workers, and uniting the trade union movement in general and the working class as a whole behind common demands and a common programme.
These are some of the important building blocks towards forging a progressive left popular front as part of the mobilisation of the motive forces of our revolution.
Popular sectoral fronts are crucial to ensure that our movement reconnects with the people and does not do things that will lead to loss of power. The conduct of every one of our public representatives, office bearers and deployees must not repel support. It must instead attract credit to the movement and strengthen its support. This means we must be seen to be dealing decisively with underperformance, poor service and corruption.
Reconfiguration of the Alliance
We must ensure that our Alliance does not become an organisation whose survival is dependent on its control of the levers of state power and dispensing of patronage. It must be a movement rooted amongst the people as a movement of the people, the majority of whom is the working class. This is one of the reasons why the Alliance must be reconfigured.
What does this mean in simple terms?
We must learn from the experiences of the past 24 years in government, both negative and positive. We must transform the Alliance, which must acknowledge and rectify its mistakes, address its negative experiences and make sure these do not occur again!
A reconfigured Alliance is a truly governing Alliance in the context where its partners work together as a single unit based on a single electoral platform to win elections. The time to work together to win electionS but only for one Alliance partner alone to become a governing "party" has expired. The Alliance must move with the post-1994 times, in terms of which state power, as well as related governance processes, has become one of the central pillars to advance, deepen, defend and complete the national democratic revolution. This revolution - which is the most direct road to socialism in our country`s historical circumstances - must decisively be placed on to its second radical phase.
The perspectives of all Alliance partners on how to solve the problems of the masses - including inequality and therefore exclusion from ownership and management control, as well as the problems of unemployment, poverty and social insecurity - must find expression in government policy. The Alliance partners, as a united front, must be involved in the process of governance, including in policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The Alliance must hold accountable, including through recall, those who are deployed on its behalf if they underperform, if they fail to improve, if they become corrupt, if they steal, is they become rogue elements, if they ask for and take bribes, and if they become diverted to serving private interests rather than the interests of the people as whole.
These and other democratic objectives the SACP shall resolutely advance!
Long live the SACP, long live!
ISSUED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY | SACP
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