Why we need a media tribunal - SACP

Party says body will protect public from sensationalist and ideologically inspired libel

Remember Chris Hani - Fight Corruption and Build a United Alliance!

89th Anniversary Message from the South African Communist Party

Exactly 89 years ago the Communist Party of South Africa was born. It was the first communist party in the continent of Africa.

The year was 1921. The founding members of our Party had been inspired by events in distant Russia. Less than four years previously, in late 1917, Lenin's Bolshevik Party had led a workers' and peasants' revolution. The Bolshevik revolution toppled an authoritarian regime and wrested control from the bourgeoisie. In Russia they began to embark on the construction of a socialist society. For the first time in modern human history, there was an attempt to build a society based on solidarity, on the principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."

When our Party was launched 89 years ago, the world capitalist system was also in the midst of one of its great crises. The imperialist powers were staggering out of their bloody inter-imperialist First World War. There was mass unemployment and misery in the heartlands of capitalism. In the years ahead lay a Great Depression. Capitalism appeared to be on its last legs. The solution had to be a different world - a world based on communist values.

That was 89 years ago.

The continued relevance of a South African revolutionary working class party

Today, nearly nine decades later, the Party that was launched in 1921 here in South Africa has grown into the second (after the ANC) largest political formation in our country. With over 100,000 active communists in its ranks, the SACP today is larger than it has ever been in its 89 year history. FEEL IT...IT IS HERE!

Over these 89 years of unbroken revolutionary struggle, the Communist Party in South Africa and its militants have made an incalculable contribution to our struggle traditions, and to our new democracy.

  • It was communists who pioneered progressive trade unionism in our country.
  • It was the Communist Party that for many decades was the only non-racial political party in our country, in which black and white comrades shared the same trench.
  • It was communists like TW Thibedi who pioneered the traditions of adult education and political schools in our country. It was a tradition that was later carried forward in MK camps, in apartheid prisons, and in our townships under siege - by communists like Comrade Mzala and Matthew Goniwe. .
  • It was the communist, Johannes Nkosi, who was to be the first political martyr in the modern history of SA.
  • It was communists, together with their ANC comrades, who jointly launched Umkhonto we Sizwe and the armed struggle.
  • It was communists like Dora Tamana who established the beginnings of a cooperative movement in our informal settlements;
  • It was communists who first pioneered the traditions of progressive journalism in SA - Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana and Eddie Roux, later Govan Mbeki, Alex La Guma and Brian Bunting - to mention just a few. And it was newspapers and journals edited by communists that bore the brunt of apartheid bannings and suppression.

Intensify the struggle for an independent media tribunal

Today, our opponents ask: Why is the SACP supporting the ANC's resolution for the establishment of a media tribunal? Why, they ask - given our own SACP experience of having our publications banned and our writers and editors persecuted - why, they ask, do we support a media tribunal now in our new democracy?

The answer is quite simple. It is precisely BECAUSE of our historical experience that we know just how important honest but critical, truthful but accessible journalism is for a thriving democracy.

Communists went to jail for producing banned newsletters. Communist Party member, Ahmed Timol was murdered in a police cell for distributing the SACP's underground publication, Inkululeko. Communist Party member Ruth First was blown up by a parcel bomb, because her writings were a threat to the apartheid regime.

Communists made these sacrifices so that one day we would have, amongst other things, a free and progressive media in our country.

Communists didn't make these sacrifices so that a handful of capitalist press barons could decide what is "news" and what isn't. Communist journalists didn't sacrifice their lives so that a foreign media company under an Irishman could dominate the so-called Independent Newspaper Group which, in turn, dominates the English-language print media in our country.

This Irish controlling company, by the way, is in financial trouble, but its South African newspapers are making money. So what are they doing? They are sucking millions of rands out of our local newspapers to prop up their overseas interests. And the result? Experienced journalists are being retrenched. Poorly paid junior journalists are expected to write on issues they do not understand. All journalists are being threatened with retrenchment if they don't report the "right" kind of news.

And what is the "right" kind of news? It is too often news that is sensationalist. It is news that sells newspapers or gets advertising on to the station regardless of its value to our people. It is news in which the clowning of a single demagogue fills pages and pages, while real issues that affect workers are left unreported. It is pseudo-news that goes out of its way to rubbish individuals without the slightest attempt at establishing the real facts - especially if the individuals are "ideologically" problematic from the perspective of the bourgeoisie. It is news that comes from "leaks" and half-baked facts from undisciplined forces within the movement. It is "news" that arrives in brown envelopes slipped under doors. It is even "news" that is paid for by politicians or business interests.

YES, the SACP supports media freedom. YES, the SACP supports critical and vigilant journalism. And this is why the SACP supports the proposal for an independent media tribunal. It will help to protect members of the public from sensationalist and ideologically inspired libel. And it will help to protect genuine journalists from profit-squeezing Irish bosses, from market-driven media accountants and advertising departments, from unscrupulous media-preneurs of all shapes and sizes.

Break the semi-colonial economic growth path

Today we are celebrating the 89th anniversary of the SACP. Many struggles have been fought and many lessons have been learnt since then. 89 years ago, world capitalism was in the midst of its previous great crisis. But capitalism managed to survive by expanding its exploitative grip into wider regions of the globe. It managed to perpetuate its anti-people and anti-environmental pursuit of profits through the intensification of the exploitation of workers, peasants and the non-renewable resources of nature. But now, 89 years later, world capitalism has shown that it cannot escape its own internal contradictions. Once more, global capitalism is in visible crisis.

Here in SA, the struggle is to ensure that the heaviest blows from this capitalist crisis are not borne by the workers and the poor, while, at the same time, we begin to break the grip of capitalism on our society.

Now is the time to slash executive salaries, and so-called "performance" bonuses. Now is the time to narrow the wage gap. Now is the time to embark on our own independent, new growth path that is job-creating and much more egalitarian in its outcomes. We must abandon the errors of 1996, when some in our movement believed that all we had to do was play by the global capitalist "rules of the game".

89 years ago, the Communist Party was launched in South Africa partly under the inspiration of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The early hopes embodied in the Russian Revolution were, however, to be defeated by the unceasing hot and cold wars waged by reactionary forces. But the Russian Revolution was also betrayed from within.

And herein lies another lesson for us. Heroic revolutionary breakthroughs, full of promise, can lose their way.

16 years after our own historic democratic breakthrough, the South African national democratic revolution stands at the cross-roads.

Many important achievements have been scored since our democratic breakthrough, but the key strategic challenge of the post-1994 situation has not been addressed. Before 1994 we were united in the struggle to defeat the apartheid state. We have accomplished that objective. After 1994 the new main strategic challenge was (or rather SHOULD have been) to radically transform the growth path locked into our society by over a century of semi-colonial capitalism.

We have failed to address this key strategic challenge, and we have failed to unite ourselves around a clear programme in this direction. The results are there for all to see.

Since 1994, the capitalist class has consolidated its power and privileges. Stats SA data shows that between 1993 and 2009, the percentage share of GDP going (as profits) to the capitalist class grew massively - from around 40% to 45% of GDP. By contrast, the percentage share of GDP going to workers (as wages) declined dramatically - from around 52% of GDP in 1993 to less than 45% in 2009. (Remember capitalists only number some tens of thousands in SA, while workers are around 12.5 million - so by 2009 more or less the same share of GDP was going to a tiny class minority, on the one hand, as was going to the overwhelming class majority, on the other.)

What do these statistics tell us? They reflect the fact that, while there was sustained economic growth between 1994 and mid-2007 - it was growth that benefited one class (the capitalists) much more than it benefited another class (the workers). After a decade and a half of democracy, in income terms capitalists were much better off, and workers considerably less well off.

A major reason for this anomaly is that it was JOBLESS growth. Profits were made, but there were major waves of retrenchment, persisting high levels of unemployment, and there was also a growing process of casualisation and informalisation of the working class.

Build working class power for a new growth path

This is why the SACP says: We must now put our economy onto a different path - a path where jobs and not profits are the priority; where growing equality and not growing inequality is the outcome. This new growth path must include, amongst other things a major emphasis on re-building jobs in the manufacturing sector - and to do this we need to:

  • Ensure that we have a macro-economic policy that supports job-creation and a Rand that is not over-valued (an overvalued Rand makes imports cheaper than local products and results in job losses and deindustrialisation of our own economy);
  • Ensure that we manufacture and procure more things locally for our infrastructure programmes - no more importing Gautrain coaches, or Rea Vaya buses.
  • We need to amend the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act to ensure that we place serious emphasis on beneficiation of our mineral resources, rather than the current emphasis on narrow BEE equity deals.
  • We need to transform our basic education and especially our higher education and training sector. Millions of our people are unable to secure decent work, or any work at all because our education and training system has neglected them. We need to re-open closed nursing colleges. We need to ensure that our SOEs do serious artisanal training, like they once did and we need to radically transform the SETAS - where we have, effectively, privatised the critical task of worker training with all of the predictable results of incoherence and wastage.
  • It is time now that we undertake a thorough review of BEE so that it is firmly aligned to our commitment to a new growth path and our industrial policy. We must make a decisive break from narrow BEE and build the productive capacity of our economy, to create decent work and provide skills to the working class

Through the Alliance structures and also within national government we are beginning to make good progress in developing a clear programme of action to achieve this kind of new growth path. But it is one thing to develop a good POLICY; it is another thing to actually IMPLEMENT it.

Implementation requires a strong SACP, and a united ANC-led Alliance. It also requires a strong, developmental state.

Crush corruption, defeat tenderpreneurship

However, it is no secret that the unity of our movement and the effectiveness of our democratic state are challenged by many things - but especially by the scourge of private and factional ACCUMULATION agendas.

And this is why the intensified campaign against corruption that the SACP launched in April this year is so critical. The struggle against corruption is not just a moral struggle. It is not just a struggle against unacceptable behaviour. It is a struggle that goes to the very heart of our strategic priorities. Corruption is the doorway through which the capitalist class enters into the ranks of our liberation movement, and into the corridors of state power.

Four times over in national elections, in broad daylight and in a closely monitored and transparent process, the workers and the poor of our country have voted the ANC into government in overwhelming numbers. Each time around the ANC and its movement has received a mandate to implement pro-worker programmes. That has what has happened transparently and in daylight.

But quietly, behind-the-scenes - at the elite golf-club, in the board-room on 16th floor, or at some safari lodge - the bourgeoisie has gone about undermining our popular mandate. Bribes have been paid, share options given, slices of action dealt out. And in this way a thousand good policies and well-intentioned programmes have been perverted. In exchange for back-handers tenders get awarded to pals who have no competence. And so millions of rands are wasted while roads remain pot-holed, bridges unrepaired, and RDP houses have to be demolished.

What is worse - the possibilities of making money from this kind of corruption are very much linked to access to leadership positions within our movement, and within our state. And so now we have the phenomenon of sponsored factions within our structures from the national level down to local branches - these are warring factions that are not based on any political or ideological difference - but simply on the naked ambition of securing a tender.

If we allow these dangerous tendencies to prevail within our movement, within the state, and within our society at large - then we can say good-bye to all of the progressive objectives of our national democratic revolution.

But the time is not too late to defeat this new tendency. The trade union movement has played an exemplary role in exposing the massive ripping off of public resources in SAA, for instance. At the local level SACP branches have exposed corruption and laid charges against corrupt councillors involved in housing fraud on the West Rand, for instance. In KZN, the SACP is leading the struggle to expose serious anomalies in Ithala Bank. In Mpumalanga province, SACP cadres are being threatened, and one comrade has even been killed, for their role in exposing corrupt activities.

At the end of the day, it is only serious popular mobilisation, working closely with the appropriate state organs that can roll back and defeat this dangerous new tendency.

In order to defeat corruption, let us

  • call for a transparent process for issuing and awarding of government tenders
  • open up procurement processes in the private sector
  •  act decisively against corrupt elements both within and outside our movement
  • intensify the mobilisation for building a developmental state responsive to the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, the workers and the poor

Build upon the achievements of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

The SACP joins millions of South Africans and the rest of the people of the word to congratulate South Africans, the World Cup Local Organising Committee, and indeed the rest of the world in congratulating South Africa for the holding of a successful World Cup. However, the legacy of this World Cup can only be measured by one, and only one criterion: the extent to which its legacy can benefit the workers and the poor of our country.

We need to use the example of this spectacle to address the many challenges facing our country. Firstly, we need to harness the social cohesion, national unity and social solidarity towards building a non-racial, non-sexist, and xenophobic-free society. We must not be lulled into a false ‘rainbow' nationalism, but to intensify the struggle for the eradication of social and economic inequalities in our country.

We need to use the example of the World Cup to intensify the struggle for the extension of the building of infrastructure into our townships and rural areas. These increased infrastructural investments must support the five key priorities of the ANC-led alliance: decent work, education, health, fight against crime and corruption and rural development. We must set timelines for these just as we did with the building of the stadia and highways! Let us make permanent the provision of safe and efficient public transport, as well as a responsive criminal justice system. Indeed all these show that we are capable of doing these things, with and for the ordinary workers and the poor of our country!

Let the SACP also intensify the struggle for sports development in general and soccer in particular. Let us revive school, college and university sports as part of building South Africa as a sporting nation. Let us advance the slogan of ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body' in our schools, colleges, universities and in broader society. Let whatever proceeds we might have gotten from the World Cup to promote sports development from the ground!

Communist Cadres to the Front to revive sports in our country!

Honour the legacy of Chris Hani, strengthen the revolutionary character of the ANC-led Alliance

In carrying forward this struggle; let us forever remain inspired by the living example of our great hero and communist martyr, cde Chris Hani. In the extremely difficult years of exile in the 1960s, Chris Hani was not afraid to speak up boldly against abuse and malpractice within his own movement. When he returned legally to the country in 1990 as a great hero, cde Chris refused to be seduced and diverted from the core challenge of our struggle - to work among, to organise and mobilise the most downtrodden, the most marginalised of our people. For cde Chris, freedom was not about personal advancement and accumulation - it was about the noble struggle for a different SA, and a better world.



Statement issued by the SACP, August 1 2010

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