Volume 10, No.5, 2 March 2011
Building working class hegemony through the forthcoming local government elections
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
The past week has been an important week in the calendar of our revolutionary alliance. We have held a successful Alliance Summit, characterised by very open and robust debates on the character of the Alliance in the current period, the challenges of the national democratic revolution in the current conjuncture and the adoption of an Alliance Programme of Action.
The Alliance Summit also discussed and signed off on the ANC local government elections manifesto. The ANC subsequently launched this Manifesto for the 2011 Local Government Elections on the 27 February 2011. The manifesto is a product of collective engagement with alliance partners and it draws from the experience of the ANC in government, as well as the organisational experiences of the Alliance as a whole on local government.
As we go to the local government elections it is absolutely important that we remind ourselves of the best of the best of the Congress revolutionary congress traditions and responsibilities placed upon us.
As Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani, and many of our men and women leaders, have said, ours was never a struggle to replace the white elite with a black elite. Nor was our struggle to replace a white capitalist class with simply a black capitalist class. Instead, our struggle was for the total destruction of all the conditions and instruments of oppression of one group over another.
These words and wise counsel were not only about the phase of the struggle in which they were uttered, but captured the essence of the national democratic revolution at the time and today going into the future. They were as true yesterday, as they are true today, and shall remain relevant for a long time to come. It is for this reason that the characterization of our national democratic revolution has been that of the liberation of blacks in general, and Africans in particular, but with a national liberation movement with a bias towards the working class. This character of our NDR has recently been re-affirmed at both the Polokwane Conference as well as at the ANC`s NGC in Durban.
At the same time we must not conflate the main content of the national democratic revolution, with the totality of the contradictions that this revolution aims to address. Whilst the main content of the national democratic revolution is that of the liberation of blacks in general, and Africans in particular, this does not constitute the totality of the NDR. The NDR was, and also still is, about the total social emancipation of the previously colonially oppressed majority, including economic and social emancipation of this majority from all forms of other oppressions and exploitation. Theirs is a struggle also for emancipation from gender and the super exploitation of the black working class.
As an alliance we are waging the struggle for decent work in conditions where there is an intensified offensive by the conservative liberal forces who also attempt to create a `Chinese wall` between decent work and job creation. The two sites of struggles are not necessarily in contradiction, but should be fought simultaneously as part of a single struggle to achieve decent work for all the workers of our country.
Similarly, the struggle for access to education by all our people, especially the poor, must involve both collective and individual struggles by the Alliance partners. This means that we should as an alliance have a concrete programme to realize the Polokwane resolution of free education for the poor up to undergraduate level. But in waging this struggle it is not only the ANC government that must commit resources to achieve this, but that the trade union movement, whilst legitimately fighting for the rights of educators, it must at the same time take responsibility to ensure that teachers are on time at school, colleges, taking responsibility happen
One of the major threats to our revolution is an intensified ideological attack on the majoritarian character of our democracy from conservative liberals against which we must unite. This is wittingly or unwittingly mutually reinforced, or being reinforced, by the new tendency in our movement, as well as by an ultra-left tendency, all of which seem to be subjectively and objectively opposed to the revolutionary traditions of the Congress movement. This calls for a united and principled ideological stance and offensive against all these tendencies, which are often and similarly premised on capital accumulation, which is their common point of convergence.
One particular manifestation of the offensive against our revolution is the renewed attacks on the person and character of the President of the ANC and the republic, the SACP, the progressive components of the organised working class, ostensibly to try and capture our movement and revolution for narrow interests of greedy capitalist accumulation. We call upon all our progressive congress forces to defeat all these tendencies, for the sake of the workers and the poor of our country and for the broader interests of our revolution!
Local government is a critical sphere of government as it is at the coalface of service delivery. Our 2009 Special National Congress assisted in crafting a basis for engagement towards the 2011 elections and beyond, as we constantly struggle to build working class power in this important sphere of influence.
It is against this background that we must develop a principled approach to the forthcoming local government elections. We must use these elections as both a site for consolidating the revolutionary traditions and character of the congress movement as led by its alliance, under the leadership of the ANC, as well as rolling back all the foreign tendencies to the congress tradition. This is especially important in order to defeat all the degenerative, if not counter-revolutionary tendencies, individually and collectively.
The central question that we need to ask is what is the role of the SACP VD based branch in implementing the Manifesto commitments? What capacity do our districts need in order to be able to co-ordinate and oversee the work of the branches on governance matters? Whilst the SACP is continuously engaged with the question of how to relate to matters of governance nationally, we must not let local sphere - the nerve centre of our mobilisation and propagation for socialist ideas - be abandoned to tenderpreneurship at the expense of a people-driven local developmental agenda.
A further question we have to deal with is that besides being constitutionalist and turning our structures to be such, to what extent are we able to use our constitution, the white paper on local government of 1998, the Municipal Structures Act, and so forth, to transform local government to deepen people`s participation. We have perhaps allowed the liberals to continue to provide a one-sided interpretation of our constitution in order to defeat its revolutionary intent.
Therefore the task of the SACP in the forthcoming local government elections is to campaign for the consolidation of a working class led national democratic revolution, that is, to build working class power in the localities. This means that we must use these elections to build our VD based branches as the only guarantor to defend our revolutionary gains and defeat all anti-congress and potentially counter-revolutionary tendencies.
We therefore call upon all SACP cadres to come to the front, to mobilise for registration this coming weekend, as part of an important platform to advance and deepen working class power in the localities. Most importantly this local government election campaign must also be an important platform to consolidate the revolutionary traditions of the congress movement and defeat all opportunistic and anti-congress tendencies!