The SACP and State Power

Document issued by the South African Communist Party September 10 2008



As the NLM movement prepares for elections in the first half of next year, and as we face the many new possibilities but also challenges that have emerged since the ANC's 52nd National Conference, the question of state power and the role of the SACP in this regard have become even more critical. Both the opportunities and the dangers have escalated. The SACP has a major role to play in the current context and much depends on our ability to rise to the occasion.

The present discussion on the Party and state power can be dated back to 2005 and two important interventions by the SACP - the "Medium Term Vision" document, and the 2006 CC discussion document. In these interventions the Party advanced the thesis that, in the first decade after 1994, despite many advances on a number of fronts, the new democratic state had been progressively hegemonised by the bourgeoisie. This hegemony (never a stable nor unchallenged hegemony) was realised through a combination of factors, including -

  • the capacity of established monopoly capital within SA to regroup after the demise of white minority rule and to win over the new state into an agenda of capitalist stabilisation and renewed accumulation rather than substantive transformation;
  • the cultivation of a new comprador stratum within the movement and state; and
  • the relative demobilisation of the ANC and attempts (partially successful) to marginalize the SACP and COSATU.

The strategic alliance between monopoly capital and an emergent fraction of capital linked closely to elements of the ANC/state leadership lay at the heart of what the SACP has called the "1996 class project".

This was the general analysis advanced by the SACP in 2005. It was to have a significant impact on the ANC's 2005 NGC and COSATU's 2006 national congress.

In opposition to the 1996 class project's strategic agenda, the SACP's MTV document called for the second decade of freedom to be a decade in which the hegemony of the working class in all key sites of power would be realised.

But how?

The SACP argued that an alternative agenda should include, critically:

  • active popular mobilisation;
  • the building of a strong SACP able to lead the working class and resist attempts at marginalisation; and
  • the re-building of the Alliance as the key strategic political centre.

These strategic tasks remain central.

In all these tasks the SACP will be guided by its Programme, ‘South African Road To Socialism', adopted at our 12th Congress in 2007.

But what about contesting the bourgeoisie's consolidation of hegemony over STATE POWER?


2.1. An electoral route?

At the SACP's 2005 Special National Congress, some delegates argued that in the light of the relative marginalisation of the left, and the pro-capitalist orientation of the state, the SACP should contest elections independently. The 2006 Special Congress was not able to reach any definitive decision on this matter, and a resolution was taken to set up a special CC commission to consider the various "modalities" of the SACP's engagement with electoral politics.

In February 2007 the CC commission tabled a draft interim report, "The SACP, State Power and the Working Class". Among the main elements of this report were:

  • A critical reflection on the SACP's experience so far with election politics post-1994. This included a reflection on the degree to which the SACP had succeeded in impacting on successive ANC election manifestos (including the RDP); the ability of the party to assert an independent profile within an ANC-led electoral campaign; the impact of the Party on the list and deployment process; and our experience with SACP members serving as ANC elected representatives, including the experience of Party Discussion Forums within legislatures. The general broad conclusion was that the Party had had some successes and impact but that a major review and improvement in all these areas was necessary - regardless of what electoral modality the SACP eventually decided upon.
  • A broad survey of the electoral experience of Communist Parties internationally. In particular, the report focused on CPs operating on capitalist dominated terrains in Europe, Latin America, India and Japan. Notwithstanding some inspiring achievements, the general conclusion of this broad survey was that electoral politics within capitalist dominated societies is an extremely difficult terrain for principled communist parties. Generally, left electoral successes in these cases involve one or another variant of broad left fronts, alliances and coalitions in which CPs are one component. The electoral terrain also often provokes serious strains (sometimes splits) within CPs - between cadres within legislatures and those more active on the mass terrain.
  • A reflection on the institutional capacity and functioning of our national parliament (and provincial legislatures). The general conclusion was that parliament is the weakest and least effective of the arms of government. Its public legitimacy is low. Out of this analysis the SACP began more actively to take up the call for the abolition of floor-crossing (a source of considerable damage to the standing of parliament) and the passing of legislation to enable Parliament to amend the budget (and other Money Bills). Floor crossing has now been abolished (as of August 08), and the money bill legislation is in the course of being realised. Much work needs to be done still to build the capacity of our legislatures and their transformation into institutions genuinely able to consolidate working class hegemony.

As to whether the Party should campaign for elections independently or not, the Commission report left the matter open for further debate and decision-making, but it offered some possible options. The report also noted that, whatever the ultimate decision in this regard, the DEBATE itself was already proving to be healthy. It had shaken comrades, perhaps especially those in legislatures, out of a certain routinism.

Meanwhile, this SACP debate was also actively canvassed and taken up within allied structures. In particular, this was the case with COSATU. COSATU commissioned independent surveys among its shop stewards and general membership to assess preferred electoral options. This process suggested that, while the SACP's positions on policy matters (eg. GEAR, privatisation, etc.) were widely supported within COSATU, there was NOT major support for an independent SACP (or workers party) electoral campaign.

2.2. SACP's July 2007 12th National Congress

It was against this general background that our 12th National Congress met and adopted the following resolution on "The SACP and State Power":

  1. NOTING That the question of state power is the central question of any revolution
  2. That state power is located in diverse sites, including the executive, the legislatures, the judiciary, security forces, the broad public sector, state owned enterprises, and other public institutions
  3. That the strategic Medium Term Vision (MTV) of the SACP is to secure working class hegemony in the State in its diversity and in all other sites of power
  4. That electoral politics are an important but not an exclusive terrain for the contesting of state power
  5. Working class power in the state is related to working class power in all other sites, including the imperative of developing organs of popular power, active forms of participatory democracy and social mobilisation
  6. That structures of the SACP and our cadres have confronted many problems with the way in which the Alliance has often functioned, particularly with regard to policy making, the lack of joint programmes on the ground, deployments and electoral list processes.


  1. While the state of white minority rule has been abolished and important constitutional and other gains have been won, the post-1994 state requires significant transformation.
  2. This includes amongst other things:

a. redressing the damaging impact of privatisation and restructuring policies that have weakened and exposed key strategic areas to the dominance of private capital;

b. Addressing the lack of clear cadre development policy in the state;

c. Building the strategic capacity of the state to drive developmental programmes;

d. Rebuilding critical sectors of the public service, including health care and education, that are still reeling from the effects of years of down-sizing and other restructuring measures;

e. Transforming the key area of local government, often the weakest sphere of governance.

3. That SACP cadres who are deployed as ANC elected representatives, or as public servants must continue to owe allegiance to the Party and cannot conduct themselves in ways that are contrary to the fundamental policies, principles and values of the SACP. The same principle applies to SACP cadres in other deployments, including within the trade union movement, community organisations, etc.


•1.       The alliance requires major reconfiguration if the NDR is to be advanced, deepened and defended, and if we are to achieve the SACP's medium term vision objectives of building working class hegemony in all sites of power, including the state

•2.       That this reconfiguration of the Alliance must include the following elements:

•a.       The Alliance must establish itself as a strategic political centre;

•b.       This political centre must develop a common capacity to drive strategy, broad policy, campaigns, deployment and accountability.

•3.       At the same time, this reconfiguration of the Alliance must respect the independent role and strategic tasks of each of the alliance partners.


•1.       That the SACP deepens its capacity to provide strategic leadership in regard to key policy sites of state power, including industrial policy, social policies and the safety, security and defence sectors.

•2.       That the SACP contests state power in elections in the context of a reconfigured Alliance.

•3.       To mandate the incoming CC to actively pursue the different potential modalities of future SACP electoral campaigning. These modalities could involve either:

  • An electoral pact with our Alliance partners, which could include agreement on deployments, possible quotas, the accountability of elected representatives including the accountability of SACP cadres to the Party, the election manifesto, and the importance of an independent face and role for the SACP and its cadres within legislatures.


  • Independent electoral lists on the voter's roll with the possible objective of constituting a coalition Alliance agreement post elections.

4. The SACP must actively engage its Alliance partners on these proposals.

5. The Party and State Power Commission must take forward its work to study international experiences closely, and to analyse in detail and evaluate our local reality.

6. The incoming CC must convene a policy conference within a year, in order to assess the feasibility and potential advantages and disadvantages of the different modalities noted above, including further detailed research.

7. Whatever options are chosen, we must strengthen the SACP's policy capacity, and our organised strength on the ground.

Several key features of this resolution need to be noted:

  • While upholding the importance of electoral politics, the resolution is at pains to avoid a narrow electoralist approach to the question of state power. It notes that state power "is located in diverse sites, including the executive, the legislatures, the judiciary, security forces, the broad public sector, state owned enterprises, and other public institutions". It also notes that working class hegemony over the state is related to working class power and mobilisation outside of the state. In short, the question of the SACP and state power is NOT reducible to the question of the SACP and its electoral role - which is not to say that this latter is an unimportant matter.
  • The resolution is careful to locate the question of the SACP and state power within the context of our medium term vision (MTV) of building working class hegemony in ALL sites of power (including the state). The question of the exact role of the SACP (should it aspire to eventually be THE ruling party? for example) is a practical, relatively open-ended, and therefore conjunctural matter that needs always to be subordinate to the strategic priority of building working class (and not a particular party's) hegemony in the state and elsewhere. We should never artificially impose an electoral path. The SACP is a weapon at the service of the proletarian class struggle, the proletarian vanguard, and not the other way around - i.e. the working class is not there to fulfil the SACP's ambitions separate from the interests of the working class itself.

2.3. The ANC's 52nd National Conference and post-Polokwane

The SACP's 12th Congress quite deliberately sought to influence and impact upon the critical ANC 52nd National Conference - not in a narrow electoral contest manner, but, above all, in seeking to re-open democratic space within the ANC and our alliance, and in seeking to impact positively on policy resolutions. Indeed, in the Central Committee's analysis these objectives were broadly achieved. The 1996 class project's political and ideological supremacy within the ANC has been (at least provisionally) broken. Many important positive resolutions were adopted at Polokwane, and there is generally a much improved policy-making engagement within the Alliance, including at the May 2008 Alliance Summit, alliance ETC processes, and the important Health and Education campaign.

However, there are many challenges and threats:

  • The ANC, in particular, continues to be beset with very serious factional crises and these continually spill over into alliance partners. The capacity of the ANC to run an effective election campaign or to provide strategic leadership under these conditions, and if not immediately addressed, may be impaired;
  • There are "fight back" initiatives in some quarters, seeking to undermine the progressive outcomes of Polokwane.
  • There is the danger of state looting, or eleventh hour entrenchments of problematic policies or personalities by those who sense that they themselves are "outgoing";
  • There is rank opportunism in some quarters - either by those who regard themselves "Polokwane victors" and who seek to advance not the policy positions agreed at Conference but their own personal careers. There are also those who are suddenly crossing the floor and becoming zealots of the "new cause".
  • And, at the back of all of this, is the sheer power and tactical flexibility of the capitalist class within our society. The formerly incumbent ANC president and the electoral slate associated with him may have been democratically defeated at Polokwane, but monopoly capital remains absolutely intact. Insofar as it has a clear and unified agenda in this regard, big capital within our country is pursuing a multi-track agenda - frustrate ANC president, cde JZ's presidential prospects if possible, but adapt to and hegemonise whatever new presidency might emerge.

As the previous SACP CC noted, the current post-Polokwane reality contains at least two contradictory potential scenarios:

  • A scenario in which the many positive features of Polokwane - the opening up of democratic space, the consolidation of fresh policy, the rebuilding of mass campaigning and organisation are all taken forward; or
  • A negative scenario in which the left fails to hegemonise the post-Polokwane reality, and instead (and particularly after national elections in 2009) a new alliance of "1996 class project floor-crossers", "compradorists" and "fugitives from justice" coalesces around a programme of awarding influential posts, tenders and contracts to themselves, while the factional destabilisation (and not democratic transformation) of the state, including the criminal justice system, persists.

If the latter scenario prevails, the left will be used for the electoral campaign and then dumped, with some individuals coopted, while the rest are marginalized - perhaps more brutally than before.

We are, therefore, at the cross-roads in the history of our revolution. The conjuncture is full of real space for consolidating an effective, progressive, programmatic approach to state power. However, the space opened up by Polokwane can also be squandered and the opportunity lost.

2.4. Transforming the post-1994 South African state - the struggle against neo-colonisation of the state

The struggle to ensure left hegemony in the present reality makes it imperative that, amongst other things, we return to the subject of the SACP and state power. In the first place this means continuing with the discussion around the SACP and electoral options that kicked off the debate in 2006.

2.5. SACP 2009 electoral options

In approaching this issue we are guided by our 12th Congress resolution on the party and state power. As we have already noted, in July 2007 our Congress resolved on two general possible electoral "modalities" for the Party in 2009. On the one hand, there was the option of:

"Independent [SACP] electoral lists on the voter's roll with the possible objective of constituting a coalition Alliance agreement post elections".

Alternatively, the resolution said, we could pursue

"An electoral pact with our Alliance partners, which could include agreement on deployments, possible quotas, the accountability of elected representatives including the accountability of SACP cadres to the Party, the election manifesto, and the importance of an independent face and role for the SACP and its cadres within legislatures".

In practice (at least for the prospective national/provincial elections of 2009), the SACP has already chosen this latter option. Already the SACP is actively participating in the ANC-led election campaign planning, election manifesto preparations, and related policy-development processes. We are obviously doing this sincerely, with every intention of maximising the ANC's electoral victory next year.

This does not mean that the alternative option of an independent SACP electoral list should quietly and now forever disappear from the table - already one SACP province has indicated its intention to argue for an independent SACP electoral list in the next round of local elections. The modality of the SACP's engagement with elections is, as we have agreed, not a matter of timeless principle, but something that needs to be periodically analysed and evaluated in the light of potentially shifting realities.

However, if indeed we are serious and sincere about an ANC-led election campaign in 2009, then it is critical that we should not be ambiguous, or send mixed signals about this over the coming eight or so months.

On the other hand, this certainly does not mean that the SACP should simply give the ANC a "blank cheque" - i.e. one hundred percent Party support and activist effort, but without any serious Party influence or impact on the campaign and beyond.

This means that the SACP must engage its Allies around at least the following key matters (flagged in our Congress resolution):

Deployments- in this regard, the SACP must ensure that there is an effective and formal SACP presence on ANC-led deployment and list committee processes. This presence should not be just for the election campaign period, which means that...

We need to secure a permanent formal presence on ANC-led deployment committees. This will enable us to have an influence on, for instance, the potential recall of recalcitrant SACP members who are serving as ANC-elected representatives in legislatures.

Possible quotas on lists - Fixed quotas for SACP (and COSATU) nominees have both potential advantages and disadvantages.

  • Possible advantages -
    • A fixed quota is a way of formalising the notion of an electoral "pact". It would presumably then become the main purpose and rationale for a formal SACP presence on deployment and list committees and at list conferences.
    • It could also establish a more direct answerability to the SACP of a designated block of elected public representatives.
    • A quota could also be particularly advantageous in provinces where there is continued hostile marginalisation of the Party and COSATU.
  • Possible disadvantages -
    • The quota (and pact, in the formal sense of the word) approach starts to shift us away from a strategic alliance with overlapping memberships (and leaderships) and collective responsibilities, to a more formalised arrangement in which each component takes care of its "own". This clearly runs the danger of turning alliance leaderships at national, provincial, regional and local levels, into participants in bargaining chambers rather than revolutionary leadership collectives.
    • For the SACP, what would be an acceptable quota? (The YCL has suggested one-third of national and provincial lists for the SACP and another one-third for COSATU. Is this winnable?). If it is much less than a formal one-third, the SACP runs the danger of actually having fewer MPs elected than is currently the case (around 80 in the NA which is close to one-third of all ANC MPs in the NA). Of course, we could argue for a minimum quota and then trust that the ANC nomination process will also produce many more SACP members.
    • But the existence of a separate and fixed SACP (and COSATU) quota is liable to be used by opportunist and anti-communist elements to argue for the exclusion of any additional known Party members. There is also the danger that SACP quota candidates will be treated as "second class" ANC MPs in legislatures.
    • COSATU also has its own problem with quotas. In 1994 in particular COSATU asked for and was granted a list of candidates - the subsequent experience has been very uneven (with the majority of COSATU-list members quickly abandoning any connection with the federation, and indeed parliament). Of course, this challenge is not quite the same in the case of the Party, since SACP members who are MPs and MPLs remain, in principle, SACP members. A related problem for COSATU is the danger of a massive loss of organisational capacity and skills. If, for instance, the YCL proposal of a one-third quota for COSATU is agreed, then COSATU would be "losing" around 88 worker leaders to full-time work in the National Assembly alone.

For all of the above reasons, it is proposed (for further debate and resolution) that the SACP (independently and together with its allies) should develop an approach to the list process that involves the following:

  • The setting of particular targets for SACP representation fine-tuned to particular situations that take into account regional, provincial and national realities. Is it reasonable for the SACP to claim as a right a particular quota (let's say one-third) in a province where our structures are weak and our campaigning presence minimal? Conversely, where the Party is highly influential and effective, and enjoys grass-roots ANC support, why should we be limited by a mechanically derived (elite pacted?) national quota?
  • In other words, we need to be able to argue the merits of particular SACP lists and particular SACP candidates and not rely on a mechanical quota.
  • In setting particular targets, as proposed above, the SACP needs to achieve at a minimum the election of provincial secretaries and/or other identified provincial leadership collectives to legislatures as we have previously resolved.
  • We must ensure that we take responsibility as the SACP (together with our allies) not just for an SACP component but for the lists overall, ensuring as much as possible progressive balance in terms of track-record, skills and capacity, and working-class bias. The SACP should take responsibility for expressing views on all potential list candidates whether they are Party members or not (as we have already done in supporting cde JZ as next year's presidential candidate). We should actively back effective and progressive ANC members and not just look after "our own". This should also be the approach of COSATU - and we should hope that COSATU will motivate not just for outgoing, i.e."retiring" COSATU members, but for comrades from the vanguard workers' party whom they would see as the kind of full-time political activists best able to represent working class interests.
  • This approach has the additional merit of countering potential opportunism within the Party - i.e. people joining the Party to have a fast-track onto a list. We want SACP members (whether they are aspirants for lists or not) who enjoy the respect and support of a majority of ANC and COSATU memberships.
  • We need to understand that the list process is much more than about securing some names. While it may become highly divisive, the list process is also potentially a way of building grass-roots democracy and alliance cooperation, of starting the election campaign, and of discussing WHAT we want candidates to stand for, and in evaluating the performance of incumbents. In other words, the SACP has a major opportunity (and responsibility) for setting an example on the ground in the course of the list process in countering factional activity and encouraging inclusiveness and in championing branch-level democracy and participation.
  • We also need to ensure that the SACP at all levels is also meaningfully consulted on appointments of members of the executives, something that is normally outside the purview of deployment committees.

Manifesto - the SACP is already engaging actively with the ANC election manifesto and related ANC-alliance policy development processes. In order to impact effectively on these processes, the SACP needs to heighten its internal policy development capacities, connect this work with our recent and current campaigns (financial sector, land and agrarian reform, public transport, health sector transformation), and develop key policy priorities for the Manifesto and for a new government's programme of action. (Some of the matters raised below in regard to the transformation of the state also need to feature in this work).

Supporting and mandating elected reps who are SACP members and the responsibilities of these members to the Party - hopefully the alliance will be more unified in the coming period on policy and government programmes. If this is the case, then some of the serious complications we have encountered in the past decade should abate. Hopefully we will never again have the ugly spectacle of senior SACP leaders in an ANC cabinet leading government's privatisation programme, or the down-sizing of the public sector. Hopefully, the potential contradiction between being both an ANC elected rep in cabinet or parliament and an SACP member will be minimised. But the principle of retaining an independent SACP profile and identity, and the principle of loyalty to the aims and objectives of the SACP remain and must be clearly affirmed and understood by Party members and Alliance partners. Elected public representatives who are Party members have responsibilities to the Party and the Party equally has responsibilities to support and effectively (if broadly) mandate them. Deepening our policy development capacities (noted above) is a key part of this - we can do this, partly, by drawing on the sectoral skills and work of elected reps, and by using our campaigns to develop policy perspectives that SACP members need to carry into legislatures, cabinets, etc. We need to engage our Alliance partners around the proposal (first advanced by cde JZ) that there should be designated (if informal) SACP (and COSATU) slots in major debates in Parliament (eg. State of Nation, Budget, etc.), so that the ANC in legislatures presents itself on these occasions as an alliance. We need also to build and improve upon the experience of PDFs.

In this section we have focused on the key area of the SACP and electoral politics. However, we would be making a very serious error if we only confined our engagements around the Party and state power to these matters. The possibilities and responsibilities confronting the SACP in regard to state power in the current conjuncture and going forward into next year are much broader. We need to make a major contribution to theorising the current state and to proposing concrete measures to transform it into a democratic developmental state strategically placed to lead an NDR.


Emerging from the SACP's engagements and struggles there is now an increasing awareness of the need to look at the configuration of the South African state and to unpack the ways in which its present configuration favours corporate capture and hegemony. In other words, this is not a narrowly technical or managerial matter, it goes to the heart of the class struggle for state hegemony.

3.1. Neo-colonialism

In earlier decades we characterised the white minority state as a CST state. The colonial power, in our case, was not located in a relatively distant metropole, but within the same territorial space as the colonised majority. This internal colonialism was based on the reality of a relatively developed domestic capitalist economy and a powerful, local monopoly-capital ruling-class. The democratic breakthrough of 1994 represented the defeat of a particular state form (white minority rule), but not the defeat of monopoly capital.

It would be surprising, therefore, if the new democratic state were not susceptible to "corporate capture", i.e. to some degree of neo-colonisation (of a special type).

Neo-colonialisation of the state in general is characterised by three key features:

  • The externalisation of strategic leadership - planning, coordination, evaluation are externalised. In the most blatant cases this can be seen with IMF conditionalities, or the Club of Paris dictating the budgets of nominally independent African countries. In short, there is a drastic loss of democratic national sovereignty. However, we might as well ask ourselves the question as to what extent are the many international advisory groups (eg Investment Council, the Harvard Group) also another example of externalisation of strategic (and, in this instance, also intellectual) leadership, and sidelining our national leadership and intellectual resources.
  • Enclavism - the multi-national corporations and the institutions (like the IMF) that support them are not interested in the integrated development of the national territory as a whole. Their interest lies in the cobalt mine or oil-rig, the connecting oil pipe-line or rail-line, and the port, the airport, and indeed the golf course where many decisions affecting our direction are often made. Cherry-picking is the order of the day, and investments and the neo-colonial state itself are typically shaped around this kind of enclavism.
  • The transformation of a post-colonial governing elite into a comprador stratum - i.e. local agents for the foreign corporate interests. This comprador stratum itself lives within an enclave (typically a dollarised enclave - see Zimbabwe currently) insulated from the suffering of the majority.

The combined effect of neo-colonialism is a drastic loss of democratic space for the working class, peasantry and urban poor. Domestic politics gets to be about very little of substance, since the real policy decisions are taken elsewhere. The transformational agency of the potential key motive forces is eroded. Peasants, workers, the marginalized poor, and potentially progressive middle strata are demobilised. Or they are demagogically mobilised around factional and often ethnicised politics and xenophobic stirrings directed at the elite capture of political control over enclaves. Politics is about fan clubs and great saviour politics. The air is full of intrigue and conspiracy theories. And, indeed, precisely because the neo-colonial state exists in a narrow enclave of privilege and borrowed power, it is susceptible to instability and intrigue. You can capture the "state" by bribing the presidential guard and storming the radio station.

Clearly the current South African state is not remotely this kind of extreme "banana republic" case of neo-colonialism (although the current goings-on in our "radio station" makes one wonder). But it would be equally wrong to ignore the very real (and perhaps growing) symptoms of a creeping neo-colonisation (of a special type).

3.2. The RDP and the post-1994 democratic state

As the SACP we have devoted considerable time and attention to tracing the displacement of our shared alliance 1994 programmatic platform (the RDP) by a very different strategic agenda (GEAR). However, we have probably paid insufficient attention to the question of how this displacement was facilitated and perpetuated by the institutional configuration of the post-1994 state.

In 1994, instead of the RDP being institutionalised as the overall strategic programme of government, it was marginalized into a Ministry within the presidency, headed by a Minister without Portfolio. The highest ranking official was a DDG. Attempts by the RDP ministry to coordinate work across government were resented by line departments who saw it as trespassing on their turf and the respective departmental DGs easily outranked the RDP DDG in the ensuing battles. The budget of the RDP Ministry was relatively limited, much of it donor funding and project-linked. (We can already begin to see features of "externalisation" and "enclavism" in this transformation of what was meant to be THE integrative transformational national democratic programme into a list of discreet projects many of them chosen or favoured by external players.)

The gap created at the centre of government in terms of the key strategic planning, integration and coordination, and monitoring functions by this marginalisation (and early demise) of the RDP Ministry was then filled by the Treasury. This was marked, most obviously, by the mid-1996 introduction of GEAR. The main features of GEAR were almost identical to the former National Party's Normative Economic Model - that is, it marked considerable continuity in ideological orientation and underlined the ability of monopoly capital to easily switch political horses (a reality we cannot afford to forget in the current post-Polokwane situation).

3.3. Should strategic planning be subordinated to financial management?

The excessive centrality of Treasury right down to the present is at the hffeart of many of the challenges we confront in transforming the state and driving forward the NDR. It should be acknowledged that the Treasury has developed some capacity rivalling many departments in government. However, in the absence of an effective strategic planning and coordination capacity in the state, Treasury has assumed most of these key integrative roles. But Treasury's mandate and key competence lies in financial management and this means that planning in the state is largely reduced to bureaucratic compliance with a medium-term budget cycle that emphasises financial management and mechanical templates. Evaluation of performance is reduced to measuring ability to spend a budget. For the Treasury the principal concern is the preservation of its macro-targets while the actual quality of outputs is liable to be less central.

This results in the dislocation of any effective strategic coherence with a string of unintegrated and unstrategic mega-projects often dominating budgetary allocations - arms procurement, Coega, Gautrain, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, Dube Tradeport, 2010, etc. Many of these are big infrastructural programmes with little thought about their sustainability beyond the construction phase. In all probability many of these represent corporate/comprador enclaves for private accumulation.

In many other cases, key strategic "apex priority projects" are lumped into a general queue of bidders wooing middle-ranking Treasury officials. Instead of the state capacitating and resourcing strategically key transformational objectives (eg. land reform and rural development, or industrial policy) these areas are dumbed down in the budgetary process on the grounds that their "business plans" are unconvincing.

The attempt to introduce some degree of integrative coherence into the state via the clusters has also generally not been successful. The clustering system brings together several line department ministers, but there is no hierarchy among ministers and in many of the clusters there are prolonged and sterile deadlocks - the most notable being the long-delayed conversion of TV broadcasting to digital.

The coherence of the post-1994 democratic state is further compromised by dysfunctionalities between the three spheres of government. Provinces in particular are often responsible for problematic major mega-projects and the hollowing out of local government has often reduced municipalities into tendering agencies with all the attendant dangers of corruption. At the provincial and local level, the state is increasingly less and less an implementer and more and more a tender processor.

Finally, as the SACP has raised at the May 2008 Alliance Summit, the configuration of national departments appears to be problematic. Among the suggestions made by the SACP are:

  • A single rural development department rather than an under-resourced land affairs department as a junior partner to agriculture
  • The separation of Minerals and Energy into two departments, to prevent the capture of energy policy by mining interests, and to ensure that there is a serious focus on energy security.
  • Doing away with a department of Public Enterprises, and the allocation of SOEs to the relevant line departments; and
  • The creation of a department of higher education.

These are suggestions born out of experience of systemic problems in the functioning of the state. We obviously need to weigh up the pros and cons of such suggestions in a robust engagement with our alliance partners. For instance, the existence of DPE is a reality inherited from the pre-1994 period when it was set up as a small privatisation department. Under the present minister, in particular, its privatisation agenda has been reversed and the department has been used to build a powerful cross-cutting entity. This may well have saved key SOEs from further plundering. On the other hand, the location of Transnet, Coega, SAA, the PBMR, and Eskom under the DPE results (or may result) in serious strategic conflicts with other line departments (Transport, Minerals and Energy) with resulting incoherence, deadlocks and stand-offs. It is also hard to understand the logic of why some major SOEs are with DPE, and others (eg. ACSA) are not.

We also need to appreciate that a major restructuring of departments will not be an easy task, and the inevitable destabilising problems will need to be weighed up against the potential advantages. However, having said this, it is also critical to note that the coming few months are the best possible time to prepare for any such major restructuring - before a new government with its incumbent personalities becomes embedded. If any of this is to happen we need to move very rapidly with our alliance partners in processing the budgetary, staffing, etc. implications.

(The proposals made in regard to the restructuring of national departments should be read in conjunction with the proposals made below around a "Council of State".)

3.4. An institutional centre for government-wide planning

Central to all that has been stated above is the argument that capitalist hegemony over the post-1994 state has been facilitated by (and in turn it has exacerbated) the absence of a strategic national democratic developmental (as opposed to budgetary/macro-economic) planning and co-ordination capacity in the state.

If we are to build working class hegemony in the state then addressing this absence becomes absolutely critical. We have resolved that the ANC and the Alliance must constitute the strategic political centre. But there is little prospect of this being realised in practice if there is not technical and institutional capacity within the state to plan, monitor and coordinate our public resources - and therefore to discipline capital. An Alliance political centre might resolve on driving the strategic priority of job creation, but if the state is incoherent, locked into bureaucratic routinism, and captured and fragmented by the cherry-picking interests of compradorist factions within our movement working with monopoly capital, then there is little prospect of driving through strategic transformation.

It is in this context that the ANC's 52nd Conference resolution on economic transformation is especially important. Its opening paragraphs read:


1. To build the strategic, organisational and technical capacities of the government with a view to a democratic developmental state, through:

1.1 A strengthened role for the central organs of state, including through the creation of an institutional centre for government-wide economic planning with the necessary resources and authority to prepare and implement long and medium term economic and development planning.

1.2 The integration, harmonisation and alignment of planning and implementation across all three spheres of government, and with the development finance institutions and state- owned enterprises, including through the development of coherent inter-sectoral plans at national level and the alignment of local implementation in terms of the IDPs of metro, district and local municipalities."

This is an excellent starting point for the work that must be taken forward urgently in the coming weeks and months. The ANC NEC Economic Transformation Committee has set up a series of alliance task groups to take forward Polokwane economic resolutions, including the above planning resolution. It is critical that the SACP supports all of this work and actively contributes to it. Indeed, the SACP has a key role to play. The Party can and must place at the centre of the discussion the class and social transformation issues at stake in the restructuring of the state, thus avoiding an unseemly and unprincipled advocacy of restructuring that is linked to personal or factional calculations.

In supporting and taking forward the Polokwane resolution for "the creation of an institutional centre for government-wide economic planning with the necessary resources and authority", the SACP must also propose:

  • That this planning centre be located within the presidency;
  • That this planning centre embraces not just economic planning, but planning in general; and
  • That in order to ensure that what is planned is indeed coordinated, implemented, and objectively evaluated, the reconfiguration of the executive (touched upon above) needs to be urgently taken forward.

3.4. A Council of State

South Africa has a relatively large cabinet by international standards. The UK cabinet, for instance, consists of 14 people - the PM and "cabinet secretaries" (who are senior ministers). However, the UK executive is considerably larger than the actual cabinet, with many additional ministers (there is even, currently, a Minister for the Olympic Games in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics). Unlike our deputy ministers (another position that is generally dysfunctional and fraught with systemic problems) UK "junior" ministers have their own dedicated departments and budgets.

Many countries have this kind of two-tier executive structure - including Cuba, China, New Zealand, Australia and India. In the two former cases, the senior ministers ("ministers of state") form a collective known as a "council of state".

We should urgently consider the possibilities of a similar arrangement. Consideration should be given to a council of state led by the presidency and comprising around seven additional "ministers of state" - for example:

Finance, Economic Development, Infrastructure, Human Development, Governance, International Relations, and Crime Prevention and Justice.

The council of state should be the key planning, coordination, and evaluating structure. Each minister of state would convene a cluster of line department ministers - e.g. the human development minister of state would convene the ministers of labour, education, tertiary education, health, sports and recreation, and arts and culture. The minister of state for infrastructure would convene a cluster of line department ministers (eg. housing, energy, water, communications, transport, perhaps environment), etc.

3.5 The precise details need to be refined, but the core principles are:

  • that "senior" council of state ministers should have overall planning, coordination and evaluation responsibilities for their clusters and they should be insulated from specific line department functions (for example the awarding of tenders). In this way we should endeavour to close the gaps for any corporate incursions - we must make the strategic plan and not lobbying the driving factor.
  • That by having a hierarchy (and a strategic plan derived hierarchy) within clusters, we can also avoid the debilitating effect of deadlocks within clusters that have been a feature of our recent experience;
  • that macro budget allocations should be decided upon by the collective council of state and not by Treasury on its own. Again this places the plan at the centre and not financial management.

3.6. Role of provinces

The challenges of enclavism and compradorism are particularly rife in provinces. It is in this context that the DPLG-led White Paper process considering the future of provinces and local government is particularly important. The SACP must engage actively with this review process. We cannot leave matters until after April 2009. With new incumbents in place it will become difficult once more to carry through an objective evaluation and at least begin to implement necessary changes.

The SACP must use the occasion of our National Policy Conference to develop more specific policy proposals in regard to the future role and status of provinces. To promote inner-party debate on this matter, the following issues are among those that need to be considered:

  • There are few (if any) positive developmental examples of countries roughly South Africa's size in which there are three supposedly equal tiers/spheres of government. It is generally considered that two strong spheres are ideal;
  • The schedules in the Constitution have not always helped in the assigning of powers to the three spheres. (eg. "public transport" = a shared national/provincial competence, while "municipal public transport" = a municipal competence. But where does the one begin and the other end?). In many sectors, including housing, public transport, and road maintenance, there is a lack of a clearly designated responsibility, and the result is either that provinces and municipalities undermine each other with competing projects (this is very much the case with public transport), or there is non-delivery (rural roads) and everyone blames everyone else. This is further manifested in the many provincialised (often competing) road safety messages, as if we have nine provincial road safety campaigns.
  • Insofar as the delimitation of our present nine provinces has some rationale, it relates to language/ethnic realities. MOST (probably all) provinces have two or three obviously dominant languages and it is not necessary (or realistic) to expect every province to make equal provision for all 11 official languages. This reality is particularly significant in the delivery of large social responsibilities - education, health-care, social grants, ID documentation, electoral registration, regional broadcasting - that require the interface between the state and individual citizens. There is, therefore, clearly a strong argument (and it is a working class friendly and not just managerialist argument) that the administration of education, health-care, social grants, etc. requires some kind of provincialised/second tier adaptation and specialisation. But does this mean that we need provincial GOVERNMENTS and LEGISLATURES as opposed to provincial administrations under their respective national departments?
  • Is the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) an effective entity or is it dysfunctional? Is it able to obtain meaningful provincial mandates? Are its members able to cope with the deluge of legislation confronting them?

3.7. Transforming the local state - building working class hegemony locally

If provinces are potentially valuable in the state/citizen relationship, the local state is in principle the best locus for fostering the relationship between the state and the community. To put it in more technical terms, municipalities are, in principle, better placed to deal with built environment challenges - i.e. the spatial transformation of apartheid villages, towns and cities through an integrated and planned approach to housing development, provision and maintenance of community infrastructure, public transport, parks and recreational facilities. Currently many of these functions are controlled entirely or partially by national or provincial government (operating licences for minibuses and buses, bus subsidies, libraries, RDP housing, EPWPs, CDWs).

The local sphere of government is the sphere in which popular working class hegemony can, in principle, be most directly exerted through local organs of popular power, CBOs, etc. But for this to become an effective reality, real powers and resources need to be devolved to the local sphere, and local government needs to be actively democratised by opening it up to participatory democratic practices. In particular, the planning and budgeting functions need to be opened up to participatory involvement as called for in the Municipal Structures Act 2000, and other municipal legislation.

Another critical question we have to address is that of the relationship between district and municipal level government. In addition, consideration should be given to strengthening the district level of local government and locate some of the national and provincial functions like health and agriculture at that level.

3.8. Three SPHERES of government or three TIERS?

In theory, in our constitution, the three spheres of government are equal but with different functions.

We have already argued that the rationale for the functional allocation of responsibilities is often unclear, and in practice there are many confusions and disputed overlaps.

But in addition to this problem, although we refer to three equal spheres, in practice, we have a hierarchy in which the municipal sphere is treated as the least important.

This is evident in many things:

  • Minmecs exclude mayors
  • The twice yearly Cabinet makgotla involve national ministers and DGs, MECs and premiers and ONE SALGA representative, but not the major metro executive mayors who are handling budgets much larger than many cabinet ministers, let alone MECs;
  • The Constitution provides for an NCOP with 10 non-voting delegates from the municipal sphere. SALGA has never taken up these seats - perhaps because of a lack of capacity, perhaps because there is a sense of futility at being a mere add-on. If we are going to have a second chamber, why should provinces be privileged over what is meant to be an equally important sphere?
  • The present ANC NEC has only one mayor in its ranks, but plenty of MPs, ministers and MECs - indeed, ANC politics has become provincialised and ANC national conferences (like SACP congresses) tend to be organised around provincial lobby groups. (To what extent has the state institutionalisation of provinces undermined our attempt to build a single non-racial South African identity on the one hand, and a shared non-racial sense of community at the local level?)

In flagging all of these matters, particularly in regard to provinces, we should appreciate that the general proposals implicit here, like the important DPLG white paper policy process, will be too late to achieve a complete transformation of the provincial sphere (assuming that is what we agree should happen) before elections in 2009. It is unlikely that the constitution will be changed in time to abolish (for argument's sake) provincial sphere elections for legislatures before April next year. However, a robust and honest appraisal of what we have learnt from 14 years experience with provinces and three spheres of government is critical right now. Once we have generally agreed on the broad direction in which we need to travel, we can then begin to consider IMMEDIATE AND SHORTER-TERM TRANSITIONAL MEASURES - eg.

  • using legislation to re-assign functions (eg. the current National Land Transport Bill envisages devolving key public transport functions like bus subsidies and operating licences to metros)
  • paying greater attention to deployments and capacity-building in the local sphere; and
  • changing the character of Minmecs and cabinet Makgotla to give greater weighting to the municipal sphere, etc.

In addition to the above,

  • the SACP should make a formal submission to the DPLG White Paper policy process on the future of provinces and local government from a working class perspective


4.1. The State and the Security Forces.

South Africa's post-1994 reality has involved features that we too easily take for granted. We have had a radical NLM movement, in alliance with a communist party and socialist-oriented trade union movement, coming to power and democratically retaining power over nearly a decade-and-a-half, without particularly having to look constantly over our shoulders and worry about any serious potential military counter-revolution. Why?

This was certainly not a luxury enjoyed by the Cubans after 1959, or by the Chilean left in the early 1970s after their democratic presidential electoral victory. It is not a luxury currently enjoyed by the ruling progressive forces in Venezuela - for them, what happens in the barracks from day to day can be a matter of life and death. In many other societies, including Zimbabwe, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and the DRC, armed forces loom much larger as protagonists on the political stage than in our case. And, generally speaking (but not always), they tend to act as an anti-democratic factor blocking ongoing transformation and socio-economic development and undermining the hegemonic capacity of a civilian working class and peasantry.

There are of course cases where the armed forces play an absolutely central patriotic and progressive role. In Cuba they remain an important cornerstone of the defence of socialist gains (in this case they are deeply integrated into Cuban civil society through CDRs, and they have a clear political culture and strategic focus that is both patriotic and internationalist). In Venezuela the majority of the armed forces (for the moment), supported by popular mobilisation, have acted decisively in defence of democratic gains and constitutionalism. In other cases, the national armed forces have, at one stage or another, played a critical role in the defence of national sovereignty (Zimbabwe in the face of apartheid-era destabilisation, Angola, Algeria in the face of extremist religious reaction), but have had a tendency thereafter to acquire a problematic and anti-developmental life and logic of their own.

So why has our reality been somewhat different?

There are several explanatory factors - but at the heart of these is the fact that South African monopoly capital and its global allies have adopted a "war of position" (rather than a "war of manoeuvre") strategy to blunt, subvert and hijack the NDR. In other words, they have adopted a bourgeois version of our own working class MTV (medium term vision) - i.e. they are waging a "war of position", a struggle to consolidate bourgeois hegemony in every trench of our state and broader society on the terrain of our new constitutional democracy itself. This is not a dramatic frontal assault to seize the commanding heights of power (the presidential palace, the TV station, and the airport), to abolish the constitution and install a pro-imperialist junta, but rather an insidious and continuous struggle for class hegemony across all sites of power from the Reserve Bank to the school class-room, and including the ruling party itself. And the relative success of this strategy is manifested in the relative success of the 1996 class project. The relative defeat of the 1996 class project in Polokwane does not, however, represent a defeat of this strategy.

The fact that monopoly capital in South Africa has adopted a war of position strategy (i.e. of acting within the ambit of the rule of law and our democratic constitution), does not mean that it is beyond the bounds of possibility that they could revert to a different frontal assault (right-wing coup), "war of manoeuvre" strategy some time in the future. Much would depend on a variety of global and local realities, including our own conduct and capacities.


  • the relatively advanced (i.e. relatively non-enclave) nature of our capitalist economy and society;
  • the relatively fresh memory (for monopoly capital) of the historic inability of the PW Botha securocratic military-command state to secure conditions for capitalist accumulation (a key factor behind monopoly capital's promotion of a negotiated settlement in the late 1980s), and
  • the absence of any serious conventional military threat
  • The organisational strength of the working class in our country

Are all key factors that contribute to both monopoly capital AND progressive forces in South Africa engaging in a war of position. The strategies and tactics of a war of position mean, in our case, that we understand the revolution to be a process of transformation of "revolutionary/transformational" reforms. For monopoly capital, their war of position dictates an understanding of counter-revolution as a process of winning over the ruling party and consolidating the state around a capitalist accumulation agenda.

More critical for the development of our own strategies in the present is the importance of realising that, while we are up against a monopoly capital "war of position" strategy in which the armed forces factor does not loom particularly large, it would be a grave error to imagine that monopoly capital does not have any strategy in regard to our armed forces.

As we know, Marxism has classically regarded the armed forces as central to the question of state power. In the light of this, it is embarrassing to admit how little strategic attention since 1994 the SACP (and, indeed, the Alliance in general) has paid to the question of the armed forces in our country.

Our 12th National Congress resolutions and programme (SARS) have a few passing and minor references to this topic. The ANC's 52nd National Conference resolutions provide no strategic thinking on why we need an SANDF, on what kind of SANDF we have and/or need (in terms of size, the profile of personnel, weaponry, deployment, democratic culture and doctrine), on what strategic considerations (including "threat analyses") might ground such views; and, above all, on what we have learned over the past 14 years.

The ANC's Polokwane resolutions' only significant reference to our armed forces is by way of an important (from a human point of view) but entirely welfarist resolution on the plight of military veterans. That is, we are dealing with one symptom of a major systemic challenge, without engaging comprehensively with the substantive issue itself.

In the broader public debate, we have allowed the "arms deal" debacle to become the centre-piece, while abandoning serious strategic and technical military analysis to think-tanks dominated by former apartheid-era military intelligence operatives and officers. (Which is not to say that everything the latter write is worthless, on the contrary. But it surely needs strong ideological filtering at the very least). It is unclear what strategic policy input our parliamentary committees and study groups in this area have made over the last 14 years, and the same applies to the NEC's relevant subcommittee.

Meanwhile, many reports suggest that the technical and skills situation in much of the SANDF is unravelling, that morale is low, and that the R50bn first phase of arms procurement has resulted in the purchase of equipment that is often irrelevant to current challenges and deployments, or that we are unable to maintain operationally. The Chinese arms shipment destined for Zimbabwe exposed gaps between our military and our political policies and relevant state apparatuses, and, according to at least some reports, our country did not even have the capacity to continuously monitor the location of the Chinese vessel as it sailed around our coast. (This may, or may not, be true).

In many ways what has transpired on the military front in regard to the SANDF is a microcosm of the overall impact of the 1996 class project on the new South African state. Many of the senior ANC/MK deployees into the SANDF appear to have willingly allowed themselves to be compradorised by the international arms companies working with and through former SADF senior commanders. Many of these "deployees" have left the SANDF and set themselves up in a variety of defence-related companies and consultancies, with their "deployment" having served the personal purpose of primary accumulation. According to reports much of the remaining black senior command level in the SANDF is content with a ceremonial role and endless overseas conferences, playing little active role in the management and strategic direction of the SANDF. Effective operational command is said to be largely in the hands of a second layer senior command dominated by white officers from the previous era, while the mass of black junior officers and NCOs feel marginalized, abandoned by their erstwhile MK seniors, and disgruntled.

Many middle-ranking personnel (from both the former statutory and non-statutory forces, as well as from the police service) have set themselves up in private security companies operating nationally, continentally (often protecting South African mining enclave interests in various African countries), and internationally (notably working with US-occupation forces in Iraq). All of this has further contributed to the privatisation and hollowing-out of the state - including the potentially very dangerous proliferation of armed private companies.

Have we been too complacent about these developments? Have we seen (along with monopoly capital in South Africa) the compradorism, the primitive accumulation, the multiplication of private security companies, and the significant numbers of former apartheid trained forces working in places like Iraq as "regrettable" but at least a helpful "escape valve" to rid us of the unpredictable threat of too many highly trained and disgruntled military personnel sitting around in barracks? As tempting (and as partially valid) as this might be, it is a very short-sighted perspective that plays directly into the hands of an agenda of weakening, enclaving and compradorising the new democratic state.

While the SANDF situation might not be as dire as some reports suggest, it would be hard to deny that as the SACP and as the wider ANC-led alliance we have been relatively careless about the armed forces situation in our country. If we are serious about advancing, deepening and defending the NDR, and if, as the SACP, we are serious about our MTV vision, then we can no longer afford this carelessness.

So what is to be done?

  • Together with our allies we must ensure a serious strategic evaluation of our defence capabilities and needs, and we need to assess the state of health of the SANDF and its various components. In other words, no less than any other sector, the defence sector must come under political strategic evaluation, coordination and control. Like any other sector, defence no doubt has its own technical and professional requirements, and there are also national security considerations requiring confidentiality - but none of this can be an excuse to evade serious political (and indeed public) scrutiny and debate.
  • Which also means that, as we take forward the reconfiguration of the state at a high level, it is imperative that the defence sector is coordinated within an overall strategic developmental plan, and does not exist in a strategic stand-alone enclave.
  • More specifically, the role of the SANDF in regard to a wide range of national priorities needs to be much more carefully thought-through, analysed and integrated with other initiatives, including in regard to:
    • Job creation and skills development;
    • The NDR in Africa - what is our strategic understanding of peace-keeping missions?
    • The protection of our economic assets, including marine resources.
    • Safe-guarding our medium- and longer-term national energy security.


If the SANDF has been relatively run-down, compradorised, privatised, and if there are serious challenges in regard to discipline and morale, then these problems are, unfortunately, even greater in some parts of the criminal justice system, and especially in the SAPS. Much of our criminal justice system is failing the people of South Africa, and particularly the working class and the poor. The recent revelation that some 700,000 criminal dockets were turned away by the courts in one year is just one shocking indicator of the state's inability to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

A comprehensive review of the many challenges confronting this sector is beyond the scope of this discussion paper, but the radical transformation of the criminal justice system must be a central priority of any incoming government in 2009. The Polokwane resolution on the dissolution of the Scorpions has helped to open up one small corner of the challenge for democratic debate and evaluation. It is critical that we broaden the process to consider the entire criminal justice system.

In carrying forward such a transformation a number of key principles need to be observed:

  • The SACP (like the ANC and COSATU) has consistently argued that we stand for the rule of law and that we unambiguously support our Constitution (indeed, all the core values of the Constitution and Bill of Rights have emerged directly and organically from our struggle). Of course, there is still a class "war of position" over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution. It is a "war" that progressive forces in SA have, so far, generally succeeded in hegemonising, sometimes in the face of opposition from 1996 class project forces within our own movement - see, for instance, Constitutional Court and/or High Court rulings on HIV/AIDS treatment, the right to housing, water metres, etc.;
  • For the SACP this commitment to a progressive rule of law and to our democratic Constitution is not only a matter of principle. Almost invariably, particularly in developing countries, where there is the suspension of the rule of law (and whatever the initial reasons advanced for its suspension - often "anti-imperialist" demagogy), communist parties, trade unions, and other progressive forces soon become the major victims of crack-downs and persecution (from Indira Gandhi's states of emergency to Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Mswati's Swaziland through to the even more horrific cases of brutal communist suppression in Sudan, Indonesia, Iraq, Chile, etc.)
  • The struggle to build a coherent, working-class biased, developmental state involves a struggle against the grave dangers of factionalising the state apparatus, and particularly sensitive areas of the state apparatus like courts, prosecutorial authorities, SAPS investigators, and the intelligence services. Unfortunately there have been worrying developments over the last several years in this regard. The SACP needs to be in the forefront of fighting against such tendencies. We need to fight for the integrity, the professionalism and the independence of the Criminal Justice System and its component parts.
  • However, integrity, professionalism and independence must not be understood to mean that the Criminal Justice System and its component parts (eg. courts, or intelligence services) are above criticism, or should be aloof from and beyond public scrutiny. On the contrary, the best defence of the rule of law and of the Constitution is an active, vigilant, informed citizenry - and particularly an organised working class. (The unfolding Venezuelan reality is a prime contemporary example of just this.)
  • Which is also to say that the transformation of the Criminal Justice System must, in part, be led from the ground up. This is why the SACP has supported the ANC's call for the formation of street committees to help communities to build cohesion, and to protect and to defend themselves against criminal depredation while working closely with community policing forums, neighbourhood watches ...AND with the police.
  • This last point is important. Among some (still) relatively isolated groupings (groupings that might be quite properly characterised as "ultra-left"), a central objective is to "prove" to workers that the present ANC state is "inherently bourgeois and reactionary". While often taking up legitimate popular grievances, these forces seek to provoke the police and other state authorities into repressive measures in order to "prove" their point - i.e. that "the present state cannot be transformed, it must be overthrown". (Whatever the provocation from these quarters, this does not of course justify unacceptable police actions that we have sometimes seen). This kind of sterile politics of heightened confrontationalism with ordinary police-men and women who are, after all, also workers, is potentially dangerous and easily plays into the hands of seriously reactionary forces.
  • In other words, our strategy in building street committees and other organs of localised popular power is NOT a dual power strategy. It is not a strategy of building an alternative power with a view, sooner or later, to displacing the present democratic state. It is not a strategy whose objective is a sudden "war of manoeuvre" "when the time is ripe". It is a "war of position" strategy - i.e. a strategy to progressively transform society and the state, a strategy of building working class hegemony in all sites of power.


Underpinning all of what has already been asserted is the view that, in many respects, the ANC-led alliance now finds itself in a transitional phase. At its most obvious, the transitional nature of the current phase is marked by the certainty that the presidency of the country will change in the first half of next year. But this is merely one and perhaps largely symbolic aspect of what is a profound but deeply contradictory and contested objective reality.

The honeymoon of the first decade of our democratic breakthrough is now well and truly over. Important gains have been made. There have also been serious errors and lost opportunities. There is a very wide consensus within the ANC-led movement and beyond that things cannot simply continue as before. Even outgoing President Mbeki chose in his 2007 state of nation address the theme "business unusual".

This discussion paper has focused on some of the key areas in the state apparatus that require urgent evaluation and major corrective measures. However, while undertaking serious preparations (as outlined above) to ensure that we greatly advance the prospects for deepening working class hegemony over the state after April 2009, we also need to be vigilant in the present, otherwise we can easily be set up for failure.

Among the transitional measures that we need to struggle around in the immediate present are:

  • A moratorium on all sales of municipal and provincial land
  • A moratorium on all key state and parastatal appointments without involvement of the ANC and Allies
  • Ensuring that the party has an active presence in deployment committees, especially during this period and beyond
  • Dealing with hot-spots, like Khutsong, long before elections.

Above all, we need to engage comrades in the higher echelons of the state apparatus in the policy development processes and debates outlined above right now, in the present. The content, character and decisions of next year's cabinet lekgotla, and of next year's budget cannot be left to chance. Nor can the question of institutional memory and capacity in the leading organs of the state.

The stakes are extremely high. Collectively the SACP has major responsibilities to assist the new ANC leadership to hit the ground running after elections next year. This will not be an easy task. The crisis of the 1996 class project has meant that change is essential, but years of poor policy choices, of squandering real possibilities, and of factional attacks, has meant that the terrain on which we are seeking to bring change is compromised in many ways. For many years to come our people will be saddled with the burden of many of these errors (the Eskom fiasco being one of the more obvious examples). Added to this, there is a global economic downturn that is impacting severely on South Africa (along with the rest of Africa).


In the midst of all of this, and in the midst of many factional skirmishes, we in the SACP have a particular responsibility of maintaining strategic focus on our medium term vision - BUILDING WORKING CLASS HEGEMONY IN ALL KEY SITES OF POWER...and not least IN THE STATE.

A key question that we have to answer and address is what forms of SACP organisational structures and working class organisation do we need to strengthen and/or build in the state in order to build working class power and hegemony in the state.

Document issued by the South African Communist Party September 10 2008