Attack on SACP uninformed and utterly wrong

Alex Mohubetswane takes issue with Onkgopotse JJ Tabane's criticism of the Party

Uninformed attack on the SACP by Mr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane – Our comments

17 May 2018

Mr Okgopotse JJ Tabane’s alleged “SACP has lost its former spark” carried by The Star (14 May 2018) refers. If Tabane was a ratings agency, we would say that he has upgraded his outlook of the SACP – but that he remains utterly wrong. Otherwise there would be no other explanation other than that he has a problem of short memory, does not read SACP statements and publications, does not read the Political Programme of the Party, does not follow its implementation and the campaigns of the Party, and is therefore ignorant about the SACP – but is obsessed with criticising the Party.

As recent as 27 July the same newspaper carried Tabane’s column spreading his alleged “Irrelevance of the SACP”. There is just no logic in spending one’s time, expending one’s energy and focusing on what you believe is irrelevant. Tabane has in fact forgotten, in a space of about nine months, that he said the SACP was “irrelevant”. Now he says it “has lost its former spark”.  The SACP welcomes criticism for so long as it is constructive and is based on scientifically formulated opinions. The problem with Tabane’s criticism of the SACP is that it is not motivated by any scientific basis but uninformed prejudice. In the process he fabricates his own version of “reality” in contradiction to the actual reality and manufactures and spreads a gospel of distortions about the Party. His opinions about the SACP are fraught with baseless allegations. All of those are outrightly denounced and dismissed with contempt.

One truly wonders”, listen to his claim, “what happened to the SACP we used to ululate about”. On the contrary, Tabane is the man who, following the Polokwane Conference of the ANC held a decade ago in 2007, joined a factional splinter group that formed Cope. Their main war cry was that the SACP had taken control of the ANC. Tabane became Cope’s spokesperson. His sudden claim that he was ululating about the SACP is accordingly hypocritical. He left Cope in November 2010 after realising that it was fast declining and that the future was definitely not in its hands. Tabane resurfaced in April 2011 at a photo opportunity hosted by the ANC Gauteng Provincial leadership featuring former members who rejoined from Cope.  This revealed his opportunist tendency.

Tabane invoked the Bible without a shame when he left Cope to justify his opportunism: “In Luke 5: 36-38, Jesus said to his disciples ([36] ...No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. [37] And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. [38] No new wine must be poured into old wineskins)”.  

The noise about going it alone has since died down because under the new dawn, Blade has his job back”, Tabane asserts. On the contrary, the opening and therefore the first section of the SACP 14th Congress resolution on the relationship of the SACP to state and popular power and therefore on contesting elections rejects the so-called going it alone. “…that a ‘Victory cannot be won with a vanguard alone’ is relevant to our own reality, and that throwing ‘the vanguard into the decisive battle’ before the ‘entire class, the broad masses’ are ready would be a grave mistake” – SO SAYS THE RESOLUTION IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS.

Accordingly, the resolution goes further to direct the SACP to develop a leading role to reconfigure the alliance as one of the two modalities it expressly identifies for the Party to more actively contest state power. The other modality, which was adopted for the first time since 1994, lies outside of the alliance without reconfiguration but still is in contradiction to the so-called going it alone; it is that of building a popular left front both for electoral purposes and for the purpose of advancing, deepening and defending the second radical phase of the National Democratic Revolution, the most direct and shortest road to socialism in South Africa’s historical conditions.

As a Party of the working class, the SACP cannot abandon the class and go it alone! Tabane does not appreciate this ideological DNA of the SACP.  Perhaps the class basis of the SACP is too complex for him to grasp. His personal experience of abandoning the overwhelming majority of the electorate and going it along with Cope has taught nothing. 

The SACP 14th Congress resolution on the relationship of the Party to state and popular power not only directed the SACP to develop a leading role to achieve a reconfigured alliance and build a popular left front; the resolution directed the central leadership of the Party to convene a Special National Congress at an appropriate time to report on the outcome of the work – which essentially involves cementing the bond between the SACP and the entire class, the broad masses, and ensure that every step the Party takes is with and for the masses. It is the Special National Congress – as directed by the resolution – that will adopt the way forward based on a scientific assessment of the work and an examination of historically obtaining conditions.   

In July when the SACP adopted the resolution, Dr Blade Nzimande – Party General Secretary was the Minister of Higher Education and Training. It is a fact that while he was a Minister Nzimande formed part of SACP and Cosatu leaders who went out in the frontlines of massive marches across country against corporate state capture in September. He categorically addressed the biggest march ever held in Johannesburg against corporate state capture. His removal from the Cabinet occurred thereafter in October.

The SACP correctly concluded that Nzimande’s removal from the Cabinet was part of a co-ordinated reaction by parasitic state capturers against his intensification of the SACP’s outspoken criticism and mobilisation against corporate state capture. The Party strongly condemned and unequivocally rejected the removal as factional and anti-working class. Consequently it had to be reversed and the remover finally removed himself under pressure.

But neither did the SACP’s programme for President Jacob Zuma to resign or be recalled if he did not resign start after he evicted Nzimande from the Cabinet. On the contrary, the campaign started long before and under the leadership of Nzimande as Party General Secretary before he was removed the Cabinet. Nzimande made it very clear that no one will succeed to use a position to silence him and that serving in the Cabinet was a national duty to serve the people through a democratic government that the Communist Party was, back in 1950, the first political organisation in South Africa to be banned fighting for. 

What about the land question? 

The Central Committee of the SACP, which held its first quarterly session of 2018 in February, among others evaluated major policy outcomes from the 54th National Conference of the ANC held in December. The Central Committee made it very clear, through a public statement, that the SACP supported the genuine intentions of the ANC’s resolution for the expropriation of land without compensation to be adopted as one of the policy instruments that must be considered. The resolution is very much in line with the SACP’s historical policy on land. The policy places emphasis on socialisation!

It dates back to the Party’s founding in 1921. The Party adopted expropriation as a policy instrument long time ago when it was not fashionable – THAT IS IN 1944 THROUGH ITS PROGRAMME. Since January, following the adoption of the resolution by the ANC, the SACP produced three major publications on the land question – two Umsebenzi Online interventions and the latest African Communist (1st Quarter 2018, Issue Number 197). The latter was actually published a few days before Tabane’s latest round of attack on the SACP. He obviously has the habit of neither reading nor understanding the history of the Party and its perspectives. The African Communist carries scientific interventions on the land questions and further exposes the apartheid roots of the Ingonyama Trust. These facts expose Tabane’s ignorance and uninformed opinions about the SACP.

By the way the SACP was the first political organisation in South Africa post-1994 to place the land question at the centre of our national discourse on a serious basis. In 2004 for example I was involved under the leadership of the SACP in organising the largest march that South Africa has ever had in the City of Tshwane post-1994 on the land question. The first land summit post-apartheid was held in 2005 as a direct result of the march. The abandonment of the so-called willing seller willing buyer mentality – which is not in our Constitution – was a direct result of the mobilisation by the SACP. Tabane lacks a historical analysis of the land question. 

Moving from theory to practice, the SACP has put to the front its conclusion – that the Constitution was not fully implemented since 1994 towards ensuring complete redress, land restitution, land redistribution and equitable access to South Africa’s natural resources. This problem arose from the deviation from our national democratic revolutionary programme to the neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy which Cope was formed to defend as an epitome of “best economic management”.

It is the SACP that has drawn attention to the fact that subsection 8 of our Constitution’s section 25 (which is known as the property clause) states that: “No provision of this section (i.e. section 25) may impede the state from taking legislative and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform, in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination, provided that any departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the provisions of section 36(1)”. The latter provides for the limitation of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, including the property clause and its compensation provisions!

The SACP has accordingly called for the adoption of law of general application as required in terms of the Constitution. Such an Act of Parliament must give practical effect to the DEPARTURE provided for in subsection 8 of the property clause of the Constitution. There is no way Tabane would have noticed this clear-cut policy position because his criticism of the SACP is based on uniformed prejudice rather than on informed critical analysis.

Equally importantly, the issue of land is not just about land as an object. It is about the political economy of land and the entire social structure of social life that is based on it. Land has to be looked at productively and holistically. This is the perspective the SACP is pushing. The productive use of land must not be limited to a single activity. Land reform and the transformation of the land economy must be comprehensive.

It must be in the interests of the mass of the people rather the interests of the Black elite pretending to be the representatives of the whole of the formerly oppressed people while only being interested in exploiting the masses and privately accumulating wealth from the exploitation. In addition to agrarian transformation, the political economy of land includes but is not limited to mining, human settlement (and estate development), forestry, the ocean economy (YES it is part of the land question), wild life, industrial activity, infrastructure and the aerospace economy (YES it is part of the land question because it is demarcated according to our land and ocean spaces). A comprehensive land reform programme will assert the claims of the people in all of these and other land based economic activities.

By the way land was not the only property that was expropriated during primitive accumulation driven by colonialism and apartheid. The economic life that was based on land use was destroyed. The people were proletarianised (converted into wage labourers or the unemployed) as work and production as a whole were privatised (converted into capitalist production) and other property that was based on or attached to land was also taken away. For example private game reserves own our wild life – fauna and flora – attached to the land. All of these issues and the legacy of the de-skilling that occurred as a result of dispossession and marginalisation must be addressed and resolved.

The people must be equipped with skills training, equipment and inputs and other material and financial resources required to pursue productive land use. The exploitation of labour that came with expropriation must be rolled back. Very importantly, we must move with the times, innovate and pursue advanced production based on cutting edge research and development and the application of science – including technology and chemistry – taking the importance of ensuring sustainable development into account. Tabane is blind to all SACP articulated policies, which is why he is ignorant of the Party’s Political Programme, the South African Road to Socialism, campaigns, resolutions and decisions.   

What about the national minimum wage?    

The SACP unequivocally supports the establishment of a national minimum wage as a social floor beneath which no worker must fall. The SACP further supports trade union struggles for a living wage over and above a national minimum wage. However, neither a national minimum wage nor a living wage must be conceived of as static and timeless. Both must continuously be improved to keep pace with the times while the struggle to uproot labour exploitation by capital intensifies. To this end the SACP has called for and is working to achieve broad working class unity.

If the trade union movement cannot unite, for now, under a single umbrella federation as well as under single industrial and public service unions, it should at least unite behind the common interests of the workers and their DEMOCRATICALLY DEVELOPED COMMON DEMANDS. These should include the levels of the national minimum wage and a living wage and must be taken forward at NEDLAC, at the Bargaining Councils, at the workplace, in research and development, on the streets AND ALL IN A UNIFYING MANNER!

The SACP is strongly opposed to the perpetuation of the current situation where over four to six million workers are being paid below the proposed R3, 500 national minimum wage and over half of the entire South African population lives on far less than half of that amount a month. All of these amounts must be improved and practical measures to give effect to everyone’s right to work must be adopted. This requires efforts to upgrade working class unity and build working class cohesion, hegemony and power – in contradiction to the divisive agenda carried out by wedge drivers as evident in Tabane’s attacks on the SACP and Cosatu.

The SACP firmly supports workers struggles to end the problems of casualisation, labour brokering and evictions, among others. Of all political parties in South Africa, it is the SACP that has the largest campaigns base outside of Parliament!

Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson and comments in his capacity as a full-time professional revolutionary. 

This article first appearedin the SACP journal Umsebenzi Online.