Something Completely Different – Part Two

This is a continuation of the previous post. It contains a series of quotes from the South African Communist Party (SACP) in relation to the national democratic revolution today, 13 years following the fall of Apartheid, and the tripartite alliance of the SACP, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). These quotes are particularly relevant in regards to the December elections of the 52nd ANC National Conference, and are in my opinion of general interest.

*While I have found it neccessary to quote at length from these documents, I have cut and pasted. The original documents can be found at the links provided for readers to check authenticity and context.*

The revolution is on trial: Defend and Deepen a Working Class-led and Socialist Oriented National Democratic Revolution: SACP Message to SACTWU`s 2007 National Congress. Delivered by the General Secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande.

“We have chosen as our main message to this Congress the fact that the revolution is on trial, not out of being fancy or sophistry in using words, but because our national democratic revolution is indeed on trial! What do we mean when we say our revolution is on trial?

Firstly, despite the many important and welcome advances made by our revolution over the last 13 years, the fundamental problem remains that we have not succeeded in changing the colonial character of our economy. In other words, ours is a revolution with some (significant), working class buttressed political power, but without economic power. This means that much as the national liberation movement has ascended to political power, but economic power still remains in the hands of the same old white (monopoly) capitalist class as under apartheid. Despite some black economic empowerment and advancement, this has largely benefited a small, and highly dependent and parasitic black section of the capitalist class, without any fundamental change in the ownership of wealth in our country, nor any significant changes in the character of South Africa`s workplace.

Our revolution is also on trial precisely because ours was never a struggle to merely replace a white elite with a black elite. Our revolution has always been about the fundamental transformation of our economic realities as a basis upon which we can truly secure the political power of a radical national democratic revolution. Indeed ours is a revolution on trial!

Our revolution is on trial because the working class may have lowered its guard during the early years of reconciliation, to allow a new elite (white and black) to use the reconciliation period to undermine the economic interests of the workers and the poor, and to consolidate the interests of the established and emerging sections of the capitalist class.

Our revolution is on trial precisely because we need to defend the unity of our organizations, and make sure that we get rid of all those elements who are hell-bent on dividing and weakening working class organizations, especially those who masquerade as champions of the working class whilst advancing the class project of the capitalist class, both the white and the elitist black sections of the capitalist class.

One distinct factor about the SACP is that it has always acknowledged and appreciated the fact that the struggle for socialism can not be separated from the struggle to transform the colonial character of our economy, build working class-led national unity and seek to drive a sovereign economic development path.

The racialism and sexism sown by apartheid almost existed independent of the class exploitation, such that a narrow focus on resolution of the class contradictions did not guarantee the automatic resolution of the national and gender contradictions-hence our historical acknowledgement that the struggle for socialism in South Africa is uninterrupted from the struggle to resolve the national and gender contradictions.”

18 September 2007. SACP Address to the COSATU Central Committee, Blade Nzimande.

“It can be correctly argued that every revolution is at all times on trial, as each revolution at any stage always faces complex challenges, especially in class and developing societies. In capitalist societies, a progressive revolution is both being shaped and shapes the character and nature of the class struggles underway.

Despite the many advances made by our revolution since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, one of the single biggest threats to our revolution and its integrity is the creeping in of what our Deputy General Secretary, Cde Jeremy Cronin, correctly refers to as ‘Palace Politics’. Like all palace politics it is the politics of backstabbing, pursuit of individual wealth, use of state organs to settle factional scores, use of media leaks to destroy each other, patronage as means to consolidate political (and often class) power.

Palace politics is precisely political manouvres in the palace because it is characterized by political manouvres at leadership level to outmanouvre, smear each other in order to achieve narrow personal and elite (class) power, where the mass of our people are turned into spectators, if not voting fodder. In fact were it not for the continuing campaigns and class struggles of the working class, which are now cynically dismissed by elites as populist, the masses of our people would have ceased to be active participants in the struggle to consolidate and deepen the NDR.

The single biggest casualty of palace politics has been the increasing hollowing out of the some of the dearest values that have built this movement of ours; open and frank comradely debates, service to the people without expectation of personal reward, loyalty to the movement without using one’s position to advance individual motives. This has been accompanied by the vulgarization of the theory and practice of the liberation to suit these palace manouvres.

At this CC we have to admit that this is taking grip in our movement, and requires decisive intervention to uproot all this, as none of our organizations are being spared this spectre of palace politics. Principled, inclusive and comradely debates are increasingly being replaced by imputation of motives into genuine positions held by comrades on political issues and challenges of the day. This is new in our movement, and if truth be told, it is threatening to tear our movement apart unless it is urgently confronted.

One key feature of this current period of palace politics is that we are increasingly outsourcing political decisions that we have to make, internal comradely debates and responsibilities to state organs and the media. For instance with regards to the media, palace politics has led to giving the media in our country so much power and influence, such that many of the things we have to deal with in our organizations are now determined through this medium.

It is now very common that when concluding and summarizing a debate in many of our internal meetings, we couch these in terms of press releases rather than concluding the substance of the debate for purposes of engaging our own structures internally. In other words, the first question we tend to ask in concluding a debate on any matter is how are we going to present this to the media, rather than asking the question of what have we, as an organization agreed upon, and how are we going to engage our own structures around such decisions. We then end up ‘spin-doctoring’ our own decisions to ourselves as leadership and to our members, because the primary medium of communication is now the media! Indeed our revolution is on trial!

This is a period in which we have to own up to the fact that we find ourselves in such a situation primarily because of the problems within OURSELVES – THE LEADERSHIP. It is not the masses who are playing palace politics, but us as the leadership, individually and collectively. Instead the mass of our people are interested in rolling back the power of the credit bureaux over them, joblessness, casualisation, poverty and lack of basic services.

To what extent have we fostered a leadership style in our movement that is intolerant of dissenting views, reinforced its power and control through state and other forms of patronage, tolerated, if not encouraged, conflation of (individual) private capital accumulation with public responsibilities, and sought to substitute movement power for state power?

At the base of this onslaught and offensive against the working class, including against the SACP as is happening currently, is an alliance between imperialism, white domestic big capital, sections of emergent black bourgeoisie, and sections of our own cadre located with the state, and elements located in strategic positions with our very own working class movement and formations! The latter would include sections within our working class formations which have either been compromised through business interests (an alliance between business unionists and business communists) or sheer opportunists who see in this new dispensation opportunities to enrich themselves or ensconce themselves in power.

When we look at the many once promising, but now failed progressive revolutions, it all started with some of the things we are seeing our own movement. It is also for this reason that the revolution is on trial, and only the working class can rescue it!

However to point out at the above leadership challenges is not to absolve all of us to look critically at the role of media in a democratic South Africa. This is an extremely urgent task. What we were pointing out above is merely the fact part of the media’s behaviour we also have to take responsibility for, because where convenient some of us have used the media to fight internal political battles. In addition there are people within our own ranks who leak like a sieve, and suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they stop acting as sources, practically reporting on many of our internal meetings and debates.

We have also allowed the media to give us new categories of analyzing major events in our organizations, like the idea of ‘succession’. We do not have succession in our organizations but periodic congresses in line with the democratic norms in our own organizations. The notion of succession gives an impression that some leaders are entitled to occupy their positions perpetually, as if they were traditional leaders. In fact congresses are not about succession, but about, inter alia, to discuss and adopt our policies and programme, and to elect new leaders as it the end of the term of the old leadership.

However a much more serious challenge is how we reclaim our internal debates to ourselves, and stop the trend of ourtsourcing internal debates to media. This does not mean that our debates should not appear in public media, but that we do not lose control of these and mortgage our political responsibility to media.”


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