Revolutionary reconstitution, the point of return from the brink
All of the key pillars for advancing, deepening and defending the national democratic revolution are facing serious challenges. Our liberation movement is riddled with factionalism. Worse off even the leading organs that should be providing coherent, decisive and unifying leadership across all levels are themselves severely compromised. There is a saying that a fish rots from the head down.
If the head of an organism has been captured by parasites, leading to its rotting, there is no way the whole body will survive the decay unless extraordinary measures are taken to rescue the whole organism from the rot. Our revolution has been plunged into unchartered waters, a very difficult and uncertain situation we might not even survive if we are not consistent strategically, alert analytically and flexible tactically.
In many ways our leadership of the revolution is found wanting, paralysed and unable to provide solutions to the many systemic problems facing the majority of our people. The situation has worsened to the extent that the leadership of the revolution is unable to solve even mere symptoms of the deeper problems. The leadership is increasingly remote from the actual crises confronting the popular masses.
The leadership tussles associated with the forthcoming ANC December National Conference has further deepened divisions. Spying on other comrades has expanded and increased. Those that speak out against corruption and state capture are the main targets. The SACP and its leaders were the first victims of this invasive surveillance. More than ten years ago, in the run up to the ANC Polokwane Conference held in 2007, the SACP was among the chief defenders of the rights of the then Deputy President, who we believed was being victimised in what appeared to be an abuse of state organs.
It is an irony that the same problem has both rebounded and worsened, instead of being eliminated during the term of office of the then Deputy President as the President.
If indeed history does repeat itself, either once tragedy or again as farce, the recent espionage-driven media reports reflecting the handiwork of rogue intelligence smear campaign operations targeted at the current Deputy President did not achieve their objective. On the contrary, what the reports exposed is the fact that the Deputy President has been pigeonholed, and that he is the new target of the same, pre-Polokwane modus operandi, including the very abuse of power that we fought against when we believed that his predecessor was being victimised.
We must prepare ourselves against the real possibility that the shenanigans, transformed into a tradition to be unleashed in the run up to periods of a major leadership transition, will be intensified and widened by whoever is behind them as the ANC December Conference approaches, or even thereafter depending on its outcomes.
This is the context in which key strategic sites within the state, ranging from the criminal justice system, the South African Receiver of Revenue, and state owned enterprises, have been encircled by capture by predatory accumulation interests. Widespread corporate capture is a destructive reality both within the state and in politics, and for that matter across the board, and at all layers of both political organisation and the organisation of the state. Tenders, mining and other business operating licences are the hotbed of the problem. In other words, state dependency on private profit-driven interests for the production and delivery of public goods and services is the material basis of the problem.
Unless the state is uprooted from such interests and firmly embedded in democratic popular power with revolutionary working class hegemony at the centre, the problem will, at least, take a very long time to solve. In the extreme it will end up not been solved at all but dislodging the national democratic revolution from power.
It is the historical task of the workers as a class to fight for, defend and develop democracy to its full potential. It is, accordingly, the revolutionary task of the working class to debase the state from the tiny minority of private profiteers, corrupt and captured individuals, and anchor it in democratic popular power based on serving the needs of the people as a whole.
Related to the problem of corporate capture of the state and within our body politic in general, corruption is very much part and parcel of private profiteering interests. Corruption is never in the interests of the public. In contradiction, corruption is nothing else but theft of public resources. Corruption has become rife and the thieves behind it have become emboldened. They even steal, with virtual impunity, at the high offices of the very authorities that are charged with the responsibility to protect the state, the nation and administer justice for all.
Between 2016 and 2017 multi-millions in monies were stolen from State Security Agency offices in the capital City of Tshwane. Laptops were stolen from defence intelligence headquarters. The Office of the Chief Justice was broken into, and laptops were stolen. The offices of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, were broken into, and laptops were stolen.
In both cases the laptops were also the sources of sensitive state information. Guns and exhibit in different forms were stolen at various police stations. How can ordinary community members who feel helpless in crime infested communities sustain an unbroken trust in the safety and security authorities in which theft occurs? In the KwaZulu-Natal Province the SACP has been a major target of political killings. We lost many comrades, and of course one life lost is one too many. These are the signs that our country has effectively been pushed to the brink of a mafia state.
The course of transformation has been watered down. It has been narrowed to serving a handful of individuals. Elitist groupings are competing in a scramble of partnerships based on private share ownership, in the name of radical economic transformation, in private companies that were, historically, and still are, exploiting the masses of our people.
The masses, on the other hand, remain trapped in the structures of peanut wages and poverty. Others suffer ever deepening exploitation under the regime of perpetual temporary employment relationships, labour brokers, casualisation and labour relations practices that leave much to be desired. Others live from tips rather than wages in restaurants, and others at malls as informal parking guides and car guards who even pay a portion of their tips to car park lords.
The popular masses are weakened by the heavy attrition of inequality, unemployment, poverty, debt crisis, chronic levels of violence and personal insecurity in their communities because of crime. If this situation persists, the ANC as well as the alliance in its current form is liable also to suffer further serious electoral defeats.
Parliament, an institution that must serve the people, represent their aspirations in law making processes and hold the executive to account, is either effectively hegemonised by the opposition bloc or, as the Constitutional Court found on more than one occasions, is in most instances found wanting in regard to holding the executive to account.
The trade union movement is battered by retrenchment and restructuring as a result primarily of the strategies adopted by capitalist bosses to maximise profit and respond to their system’s inborn crises. Let us also acknowledge, however, that the trade union movement is also weakened by internal divisions. A major part of the problem is business-related factionalism. Sometimes what appears as democratic contests for leadership positions in trade unions is, underneath, in essence a manifestation of competing business interests.
It has become an entrenched practice for unscrupulous sections of the capitalist class to line up behind divisive slates in trade unions for access to workers viewed as a market for lucrative dealings. The predators include registered and fly-by-night micro-lenders, practitioners linked to big and small banks, insurance companies and brokers, and companies that administer worker funds such as retirement funds and medical aid schemes, but as well as food service companies that run canteens, and all sorts of other companies that make business out of the blood and sweat of workers.
The problems facing the trade union movement are arguably worse than any time since the mid-1980s, a period during which many of the major existing unions were established. Fragmentation has become a daily affair. New trade union organisations have increased. And many were formed by individuals, or even factions, that passed the buck.
What is to be done?
Communists are not class purists, rejectionists, isolationists or separatists.
1. The most important organisational task we are facing right now is that of reconfiguring our alliance. The alliance’s modus operandi is outdated. In its current form the alliance will not become successful. We all fought for the achievement and development of democracy in our country. It cannot be sustainable for one alliance partner, and worse off for an individual, individuals or factions to take key government policy and parliamentary (including councils and provincial legislatures) and related deployment decisions without consensus-seeking consultation.
2. Each time every major phase of class struggle ended, it was either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the ruins of the contending class forces. This historical finding was made by the renowned world revolutionary social scientists, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the founding Manifesto of the Communist Party. Our second task, based on this finding, is to reposition the whole of our liberation movement that fought against colonial oppression and dislodged apartheid, to follow the path of a revolutionary reconstitution. In other words, in its current form and conduct of affairs the movement will be ruined.
3. What then does reconstituting our liberation movement mean? We need to build, within a reconfigured alliance and our society at large, the broadest possible patriotic front to fight corruption, state capture, defend our constitution and deepen the development of our democracy to the fullest. The patriotic front should also serve as a democratic, people-centred mobilising mechanism keep power in check and hold it accountable. This requires opening up and reaching out to work together with other progressive organisations both at the grass roots level in every one of our communities and in all sectors of our society at all spheres. Building the broadest possible patriotic front also means working together to develop and foster unity behind a minimum programme to tackle the many challenges that our people are faced with.
4. Part of the task facing the Communist Party, and indeed also COSATU, is to build the widest possible trade union unity in the interests of the workers as a whole at least behind joint actions and a common programme if not at most under a single trade union centre serving as an umbrella body. This task can only become successful if we work together to build COSATU and its affiliates to become stronger at every new moment than ever before.
5. Therefore the importance of organising the unorganised, educating, mobilising, serving and servicing trade union members based on high quality standards and loyalty to caring cannot be over-emphasised. One of the immediate tasks we are facing on this front is to fight job losses. Workers in the mining sector for example are facing a job loss bloodbath. Together we must do and be seen to be doing our best against the situation.
6. The COSATU protest action scheduled to take place on 27 September against corruption and state capture is very crucial. The Communist Party pledges its unqualified support behind the action. In 2015 at our last alliance national summit we adopted a declaration to take the problems of corporate capture and corruption head-on. The COSATU action provides all alliance partners an opportunity to walk the talk and come to the party in support of the action. It is also important to welcome society as a whole and therefore other organisations in the action and transform it from a single, one-day event, into a long-term, formidable movement against corruption and state capture. As the SACP we therefore expect all communists without exception, including in government executive positions, municipal councils, provincial legislatures and parliament to join the COSATU action!
7. While working with other forces and strata in good faith in the best interests of our democracy, the working class must realise that its destiny lies primarily in its own hands. Part of our efforts to reconfigure our alliance and build momentum towards a revolutionary reconstitution of our movement as a whole, is to build a popular front of progressive, worker and left forces, united behind the historical mission of propelling the national democratic revolution to its logical conclusion. This requires at least two dialectically interrelated tasks:
8. We must in earnest move our democratic transition on to its second, more radical phase to deepen democratisation and radically reduce inequality, unemployment, poverty and tackle the problems of under-development, crime, violence and insecurity in our communities. This task can only become successful, in the ultimate analysis, if it is buttressed by, in the here and now, an intensification of the struggle to achieve a socialist transition from capitalist greed and all its social and environmental consequences.
9. What we need, as part of the programme, is true radical economic transformation, as opposed to false radical economic transformation concerned with manoeuvres to build radical looting of public resources and enriching a few individuals in the name of Africans in particular and Blacks in general. This is why, as the SACP, we rejected the recently unveiled, controversial mining charter that was aimed at building share ownership reservation on a private basis for Black individuals. What we want is recognition, through common, that is national, ownership structure, that the mineral resources of our country belong to the people as whole. This approach must systematically find profound expression in other key areas of economic development and broader social transformation. Most importantly, it will require organised and united action against the looters of national wealth and public resources.
10. The question of state power is therefore very crucial to all of the tasks we are facing, and the working class cannot avoid it. Neither will the working class become successful by outsourcing the question of state power to people who think that working class vote is their license to decision-making without consensus-seeking consultation. The SACP is working on a road map on this matter, linked with the three interrelated questions of reconfiguring our alliance, revolutionary reconstitution of our movement as a whole and building both the widest possible patriotic and progressive popular left fronts. We will be consulting with COSATU and other progressive and worker organisations to this end.
Cde Blade Nzimande is SACP General Secretary. This is the Party message he delivered at COSATU KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Shop Steward Council, 10 September 2017. Issued by the SACP, 11 September 2017