Statement on the commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of Joe Slovo’s death
Delivered by Cde Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary
Avalon Cemetery, Soweto, Johannesburg, 6 January 2018
In memory of Joe Slovo the internationalist revolutionary:
The SACP salutes the resilient Cuban people for the success of their revolution, which five days ago, on 1 January, marked its 59thanniversary. The SACP expresses its solidarity with the Cuban people against the over half-a-century of imperialist aggression directed mainly from the United States.
The SACP expresses its solidarity with the people of Palestine, and condemns in the strongest terms possible, the United States President Donald Trump for unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The SACP rejects this foolish act by Trump. We stand firmly by the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in their land. Palestine’s occupied land must be returned to the Palestinian people.
The SACP wants to remind the Myanmar’s State Councillor, Aung San Suu Kyi that we stood by her side when she was under arrest by the military junta, and that we stood by the side of the Myanmar people’s right to self-determination. Recent events in Myanmar are not part of the ideals that we supported and still stand for as an internationalist formation. We condemn in the strongest terms possible what appears to be the genocide and displacement the Rohingya people. The United Nations must take decisive action, BUT in line with international law, to remedy the situation as a matter of urgency.
The SACP pledges its solidarity with the people of Western Sahara and reiterates its call for Morocco to end its occupation of the country. Following up on our December 2017 Augmented Central Committee statement, this is one of the issues we are looking forward to engaging on with the newly elected ANC leadership. We are concerned about decisions that have been taken in government which come across as undermining the right of the Sahrawi’s national self-determination.
The SACP pledges its solidarity with the people of Swaziland. We call for the unbanning of political parties and the release of political prisoners in Swaziland, including Comrade Amos Mbedzi, who was wrongfully convicted of murder. The SACP stands for freedom of expression and all political rights not only in Swaziland but also in our entire continent.
Occupation by Badme in Eritrea by Ethiopia
The SACP is calling on Ethiopia to end its occupation of the Eritrean territory of Badme and its surroundings. Ethiopia is host to the headquarters of the African Union. Its occupation of Badme in Eritrea is highly problematic to African Unity.
Imperialism not only underdeveloped Africa, it continues to under-develop it and is the main driver of many conflicts in the content.
We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the African Revolution and the struggle against imperialism. Many conflicts taking place in our continent are sponsored or supported by imperialist forces. There are instances where certain sections of society (some opposition forces, some “civil society” organisations and some government leaders alike) avail themselves to the highest imperialist bidders.
If the underdevelopment of the African continent and many parts of the world that suffered colonial oppression is to end, we must dislodge imperialism and win the battle against imperialist domination. The international struggle of the formerly colonised, semi-colonies and the exploited across the world is very crucial to intensify towards freedom from imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism.
But we want to warn. We must not do wrong things such as complicity in state capture and other forms of corruption and then
We have Joe Slovo the internationalist revolutionary to emulate. He went to fight in the Second World War against fascism in defence of the whole world.
Joe Slovo’s Right to Learn Campaign
We want to recognise the important role played by our Young Communist League in initiating, and when it was neither fashionable nor populist, the campaign for accelerated rollout of free education for learners and students from poor and working class households. This was in 2005, just two years after its re-establishment as part of the Ten Youth Demands adopted by its first National Policy Conference. The SACP encourages the YCL to deepen its Joe Slovo Right to Learn Campaign.
We want to take this opportunity to congratulate the National Senior Certificate class of 2017. Universities are very important, but they are not the only important avenue of higher education and training. Technical and Vocational Education and Training or TVET colleges are also very important.
To those who did not make it, the SACP says do not despair; repetition is the mother of learning. There are also other alternatives to success.
The SACP is also looking forward to the YCL and the Progressive Youth Alliance playing their role in making education and success in education fashionable. It is important to assist students with access. It is equally important to assist them with success. Student activism must therefore streamline a strong element of academic support.
We want to take this opportunity to express our Party’s commitment to the imperative of a progressive rollout of free education to learners and students from poor and working class households. This is why it is very important for the announcement made by the President on 16 December and related sources of funding to be clarified as matter of urgency.
We must take seriously both education and matters of theoretical importance in memory of Joe Slovo. We now want to turn attention to the important matter of the theory of our struggle, starting from a point of view of Slovo’s contribution
South Africa: No middle road
In his ‘South Africa: No middle road’ produced in 1976, Slovo expressed concern about generalised expressions that had the effect of obscuring class differentiation in South Africa as a divided society. These expressions, such as “White power”, “White domination” and “White supremacy” reflected, he argued, “the immediately perceived reality that in such important spheres as political and civil rights, job access, or ownership and control of the means of production, it is colour and colour alone which, in law, lays down barriers against all Blacks”. Something was missing.
That is the class analysis of the material basis and operating mechanisms of the system, in particular class exploitation and, arising out of it, its articulation through national oppression and gender domination. Slovo’s concern was that loosely deployed, meaning without revolutionary class content, such notions had a negative impact on the orientation of some members within our revolutionary movement, particularly a proper understanding of our programme, strategy and tactics.
Slovo correctly argued that both the Black and White national groups in South Africa were not homogenous but characterised by varying kinds of class differentiation. Given our post-1994 experience, we now can assert, and with greater authority, that the class location of individuals in the social structure of society is not the only factor that influence their behaviour, actions and alignment. Class aspirations are also influential. Some individuals for example are not part of the bourgeoisie by class location.
They are part of the bourgeoisie by class aspiration – in other words they are the aspirant bourgeoisie. Their politics and everything else they do, including their notions of radical socio-economic transformation, are bourgeois in character. This bourgeoisie reformism, propagated in the name of all the historically oppressed, in our case Africans in particular and Black people in general, is not something new in liberation movements.
The bourgeoisie reformist tendency has been contesting the future of liberation struggles against the national democratic current of the movement. The private interests underpinning it have been the main source of breakdown in unity and cohesion within liberation movements after the attainment of democratic dispensations. Private interests, cloned as the interests of the people, have also been the main reason of failure by many liberation movements after ascendency to power.
This is the context in which corruption, including in our case the widespread problem of corporate state capture, found expression among venal elements. Instead of using government positions, public representative capacities in councils, provincial legislatures and parliament, and authority in the public service to selflessly serve the people wholeheartedly, venal elements use those positions to serve private interests. The notion of radical economic transformation has been factionally co-opted to drive this agenda. Its use is therefore not always innocent.
Some elements use the notion to conceal their real agendas and complicity in wrongdoing. Instead of the broader Alliance shared perspective of the necessity to advance a second radical phase of the national democratic revolution, a narrow interpretation has been attempting to hijack the way forward to more of the same individual capitalist empowerment in the name of radical economic transformation. As Slovo said in ‘South Africa: No middle road’:
“Yet for all the overt signs of race as the mechanism of domination, the legal and institutional domination of the white minority over the black majority has its origins in, and is perpetuated by economic exploitation. This exploitation, in the contemporary period, serves the interests primarily of South Africa's all‐white bourgeoisie, which is in turn linked to international capital. Since race discrimination is the mechanism of this exploitation functional to it, since it is the modus operandi of South African capitalism, the struggle to destroy ‘white supremacy’ is bound up with the very destruction of capitalism itself. It is this interdependence of national and social liberation which gives the South African revolutionary struggle a distinctive form and shapes the role of the various classes within the dominant and subordinated majority.”
It is important to understand Slovo’s leadership qualities in order to appreciate this profound statement about our future.
But first let us highlight one of the important struggles we will have to wage this year, the struggle against populism. Populism exploits the genuine concerns of the people in order to advance factional and sectarian agendas. There are many examples of such agendas in this regard that have been pushed in the recent period.
Analytical alertness, tactical flexibility and strategic consistency
There are at least three leadership qualities about Slovo as a strategist, tactician, theoretician and an activist cadre of practical action to achieve liberation and social emancipation. At our 14th Party Congress held in July 2017 we summed up these qualities. We said we must deepen our analytical alertness, be tactically flexible to keep pace with the times and maintain strategic consistency. This means that we must emulate Slovo.
In the 1990s for instance negotiations for our transition from apartheid deadlocked. It was Slovo who intervened to break the deadlock. He frankly opened up a debate about what became known as the “sunset clauses” in our Constitution. This happened while those who mooted the idea were raising it only behind the scenes. They were either not ready or prepared to bring the idea to the front for an open discussion. The history of our transition from apartheid would therefore not be complete without recognition of the role played by Slovo – of course, as a cadre loyal to revolutionary discipline, within the context of collective SACP and Alliance leadership.
At the time of Slovo’s intervention to end the deadlock, apartheid forces were in charge of strategic military control despite the fact that the national balance of forces had shifted in favour of the oppressed and the apartheid regime could no longer continue its old rule. Internationally, the balance of forces had become hostile. It had shifted in favour of imperialist forces, led by the United States in alliance with colonial powers of Western Europe. Meanwhile, life under the apartheid regime had reached its intolerable peak, and on 10 April 1993 our General Secretary Chris Hani was assassinated.
Our people wanted non-racial democratic general election with immediate effect, and not everything could therefore be changed at a stroke. Rather than an event, the character of a revolution as a process had clearly pronounced itself. Settling the negotiations and proceeding to the first non-racial democratic general election, held in April 1994, was therefore not a dead end. Neither was it an abandonment of the anti-exploitation, socialist perspective Slovo articulated in ‘South Africa: No middle road’.
Slovo understood that the negotiated settlement did not mark the end of history. He understood that it laid the new basis to continue the struggle, which, he unequivocally asserted, was not over. Securing all the goals of the Freedom Charter and socialism required, and still require, that we deepen the struggle on the new terrain, the democratic dispensation, as opposed to the old, apartheid terrain. What we now refer to as the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution had to proceed, uninterruptedly, in this context.
There was a problem, as we all know, staring in 1996, a year after Slovo’s death. The adoption in government (without democratic consultation) of the economic policy entitled Growth, Employment and Redistribution, also known as Gear, pushed back the advance of the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution. Gear failed to achieve its objectives, particularly employment and redistribution. There was some unshared economic growth in the 2000s with rich people becoming richer compared to the poor who remained poor while other became poorer.
The growth was driven, rather than by Gear, essentially by a “commodity super cycle”, a super boom in the demand of mineral resources used as raw materials in the production of finished goods, not in South Africa but elsewhere, in other countries. This is why it was wiped out and then subdued when that demand plummeted largely as a result of the breakout of, in 2008, and in many respects still ongoing, global crisis of capitalism.
Crediting Gear for the growth that occurred in the 2000s is therefore not only selective. It shows ignorance of how the world economy works and impacts on South Africa. It also shows a lack of empathy to the workers who suffered retrenchments, casualisation and labour brokering under neoliberal restructuring, including aggressive and arrogant liberalisation, outsourcing and privatisation.
Policy differences that ensued as result of Gear took more than a decade of struggles by the Communist Party and organised workers to rollback the neoliberal, bourgeoisie reformist agenda. The grinding impact of the global crisis of capitalism, especially through massive job losses and increased mass unemployment, inequality and poverty, contributed to the perspective of the necessity to advance the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution becoming undeniable. Its hegemony was therefore accepted.
Also, when we fought in the battle of Gear we did not do so in order to hand over our state, state owned entities and development finance institutions, into the hands of parasites, the Guptas included. When we fought against privatisation we did not do so in order for some individuals and their networks of patronage to loot state owned enterprises. This is one of the reasons the SACP is pushing for the forging of the widest possible patriotic front to fight state capture and other forms of corruption and to defend our country’s Constitution.
Taking our cue from Slovo’s analytical alertness, tactical flexibility and strategic consistency:
Let us defend, advance and deepen the national democratic revolution!
Complete liberation of the historically oppressed and social emancipation of the exploited will not come from changing the colour and nationality of the exploiters. It will come from radically reducing class inequality, altogether with its racial and gender articulations, as well as its unequal development between urban and rural areas. Eventually, as Slovo correctly asserted in “South Africa: No middle road”, complete liberation of the historically oppressed and emancipation of the exploited, regardless of race and gender, will require the destruction of the system of capitalist exploitation.
The second radical phase of our national democratic revolution therefore needs socialist orientation and the deepening of the revolutionary essence of our democracy. This includes transformation to build a truly democratic developmental state with strategic orientation and internal capacity capable of serving the needs of the people – as opposed to facilitating wheeling and dealing to serve private interests. If truth be told, the divisions that have rocked our movement in the recent period on an increased scale are a direct result, in many instances, of private interests’ competition involving exploitation or abuse of the state to facilitate wheeling and dealing centred on outsourcing and privatisation through tenders.
Outsourcing of state functions and privatisation of state assets, including tenderisation hit hard on the workers and hollow out the capacity of state. But on the part of narrow nationalists and the elite, these measures are the way to achieve self-enrichment in the name of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment). This is the context in which the post-1994 corporate state capture has taken root and worsened in the resent period.
Instead of empowering – in the words of the Freedom Charter – “the people as a whole”, the state is being used as an instrument of primitive accumulation of wealth by a handful of individuals in the name of tackling “White Monopoly Capital”. The SACP denounces this agenda of narrow nationalism and all its other variants such as ethnic nationalism. The goal of our struggle has never been to enrich a few individuals, Black or White, through the exploitation of the masses or at the expense of the masses.
Let us build a truly non-racial and non-sexist democratic society!
The SACP is the first non-racial political organisation in South Africa. True to this history, our commitment to non-racialism and to non-sexism remains unwavering, even if this means often raising questions that to others are vexing. As Slovo said in one of his popular pamphlets, ‘The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution’, “A failure to understand the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle in existing conditions can hold back the advance of both the democratic and socialist transformations which we seek”. And gender transformation is very crucial both in the national and class struggles and on its own as a struggle.
Slovo and other White democrats and revolutionaries were not enticed by the White privileges that the White ruling class erected as part of its patronage structures in return for racist political support. They fought against the system. Our struggle, to paraphrase President Nelson Mandela, is against both White domination and Black domination.
It is, in essence, this attitude towards the White ruling class that led the ANC to differentiate between an individual White person and the system of White domination. As President Oliver Tambo said, all those, whatever their race, who dissociated themselves from the instruments of oppression, and either refused to help the oppressor government or remained neutral were not enemies of the freedom struggle.
In 2017 October the SACP launched the 2017-2018 Red October Campaign under the theme ‘Stop gender based violence: Red card against women abuse’. This campaign was not for October and November 2017 only.
It is an ongoing campaign to bring down patriarchy and achieve a non-sexist society where no person experiences discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. While targeting gender based violence in particular, the campaign is against violence and crime in general. No person, regardless of their age (and therefore no child or an elderly person) must experience crime or any form of violence in our society. This is the South Africa the SACP stands for.
The South Africa the SACP stands for is a South Africa without substance and drug abuse. It is a South Africa in which drug dealers have been dealt a decisive blow and there is no drug dealing. Drugs (Nyaope and so on) are destroying the youth and the future of our country. The drug dealing that is going on at present in our country and ravaging many of our communities and families is completely unacceptable. It must be brought to an end altogether if we are to secure a prosperous South Africa we aspire to achieve.
Reconfiguration: New Era for the Alliance
Congratulations are in order to the ANC for pulling together its 54th National Conference held in December 2017. In particular, the ANC managed to pull together the Conference under highly contested, and in many respects even contentious, circumstances.
As the SACP we are less concerned about whether our officials who served in the previous National Executive Committee of the ANC in their independent capacity as ANC members elected or not. We also do not want to play into the wrong impression that no SACP leaders in their independent capacity as ANC members were elected. What we are more concerned about is a possible rebounding to dominance, within our movement, of an anti-Communist tendency, a “red scare” or rooi gevaar mentality, or a McCarthyist political repression of Communists.
We want to make use of this opportunity to reiterate our message, delivered at the ANC Conference, that South Africa needs an ANC – but an ANC that is capable of unifying itself and uniting both the Alliance and the broader motive forces of our revolution on a principled and programmatic basis. South Africa needs an ANC that puts the people first, an ANC that demonstrates, both in words and in deeds, capacity to selflessly serve the people wholeheartedly. This is an ANC that appreciates the New Era facing the Alliance. It is an ANC that deals a blow to corrupt elements regardless of whether they are found within the ranks of its leadership.
At our 14th Party Congress held in July 2017, we resolved to actively contest state power either within the umbrella of a reconfigured Alliance, or outside of the Alliance in its current form if it is not reconfigured. This is a New Era for the Alliance. Let us also clarify this issue and deal with those who are spreading misconceptions. There is a big difference between the state and the ANC. The two are not one and the same thing.
Contesting state power, a right enshrined for everyone in the Freedom Charter, a right we went out on struggle to fight for, is completely different from working against the ANC. The SACP, like the ANC, is an independent political entity within the Alliance. It is important to appreciate this basic fact if one wishes to understand what we have characterised as the New Era for the Alliance. This era is required in the best interests of defending, advancing and deepening the national democratic revolution – to the SACP the most direct and shortest road to socialism. There are very few things we wish to emphasise about the necessity to reconfigure the Alliance.
Firstly, there must democratic consensus-seeking consultation on all major legislative, policy, and deployment and accountability decisions. Secondly, the face of the Alliance must be visible in all key centres of power, in particular state power, as must its voice in policy. Thirdly, the Alliance must build an inviolable contact with the masses of our people, as opposed to mainly or only during periods of election campaigning to seek votes. There must be no problem in working together if we are in Alliance with each other.
The issue of Alliance reconfiguration is not a brand new issue. It is part and parcel of continuous organisational renewal within our movement to keep pace with the times by adapting changing conditions. The Alliance has not always existed in a single form with a single mode of operation. In the 1950s for instance it existed in the form of the Congress Alliance, with the SACP as an underground organisation. Following the watershed ANC Consultative Conference held in 1969 in Morogoro, Tanzania, a Revolutionary Council was established.
Slovo served on the Revolutionary Council from 1969 until its dissolution in 1983. In the same year we established the United Democratic Front, which was disbanded in 1991. The establishment of Cosatu in the 1980s led to its replacement, in the Alliance, of the South African Congress of Trade Unions or SACTU. After Polokwane we summed up our experiences of the Alliance mode of operation.
Concerned in particular about the marginalisation, from government decision-making, of Alliance partners and, ultimately, of the ANC itself, we took our cue from the Revolutionary Council of 1969-1983. We established, in 2008, the Alliance Political Council. It is not a secret that some of the problems we sought solve rebounded in the recent period and became worse in the lead up to the last ANC National Conference.
The forging of the widest possible patriotic front that our 14th Party Congress directed our Central Committee to spearhead, in defence of, and to deepen our democracy is also part and part of the crucial element of continuous organisational.
In the same vein, the 14th Party Congress also directed our Central Committee to consider strategies for building a popular left front. This may, or may not be, part of our electoral options. But one thing is certain, the work to rebuild and deepen the unity of organised workers, and to organise the unorganised, must unfold in earnest. This is for the greater good of the workers as whole, and not only as a class in itself but also, and primarily, as a class for itself!
Our 14th Party Congress further directed the Central Committee to consult with our allies, worker and progressive organisations on these perspectives. The Congress directed the Central Committee to convene a Special National Congress to adopt the way forward. In this regard we are looking forward to engaging with all Alliance partners, including the newly elected ANC leadership with Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa as the President.
We are also looking forward to engaging with the newly elected ANC leadership and the Alliance as a whole on other important programmatic matters that we are most concerned about. These include:
1. Immediately taking decisive action to stop corruption and bring to an end its widespread phenomenon of corporate state capture. While this requires many decisive measures, the role that the immediate establishment of an INDEPENDENT judicial commission of inquiry into state capture could play cannot be overemphasised. Immediate investigation and prosecution of all prosecutable offenses is also essential.
2. Decisive self-correction to attend to the leadership paralysis exposed by the many court judgements where the judiciary has in effect been compelled to grant relief on matters that should have been attended to, without fear or favour either within our movement or the state under the leadership of the ANC.
3. Engaging on our Congress and Conference outcomes to agree on an immediate programme of action to radically reduce inequality, unemployment, poverty and social insecurity in our communities. In this regard, the important of convening Alliance economic policy and job summits as a matter of urgency cannot be overemphasised. The Alliance must push for the National Economic Development and Labour Council or Nedlac to convene a national job summit to deal with the crisis of unemployment.
4. The crucial important of financial sector transformation and the convening of the Second Financial Sector Summit as a matter of priority this year and as soon as possible. The financial sector plays a central role in the economy. Without its transformation, and without a new financial architecture and financial sector landscape, there can be no radical second phase of our democratic transition.
5. De-monopolisation of all strategic sectors of our economy, in particular, systematic rollback of private monopoly dominance.
Issued by the SACP, 6 January 2018