Strategic alliance not an expression of free-floating liberal opportunism

Alex Mashilo responds to Barney Mthombothi's false assertions in the Sunday Times

The strategic alliance is not an expression of free-floating liberal opportunism – response to Barney Mthombothi

13 March 2019  

In his opinion piece carried by the Sunday Times (3 March 2019) and the Business Day/Rand Daily Mail (5 March 2019), Barney Mthombothi falsely asserts that SACP general secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande, sits on the ANC national executive committee. This assertion, which is dismissed altogether with its preceding and subsequent false assertions, has little if anything to do with intellectual engagement. The reason is that intellectual engagement is premised on the truth – which is verifiable with facts. The truth is that neither Nzimande nor any of SACP national officials sits on the ANC national executive committee. Besides, neither is any person a member of the ANC on behalf of another alliance component, nor is any executive structure of the state and the ANC a decision-making body of the SACP.     

When Nzimande correctly articulated key outcomes of the SACP Central Committee on 24 February 2019, he was doing so in his capacity as SACP general secretary. The Central Committee recognised the urgent necessity for measures that will improve the situation of Eskom, make it function more effectively and efficiently, secure national energy security and preserve the jobs of the hard-working rank-and-file workers. The party called for investment in Eskom to reposition it to become the primary producer of cleaner and renewable energy, as opposed to the promotion of private companies established not to serve the needs of the people but to pursue profit-making at the expense of labour – through economic exploitation, the consumer and the future of Eskom. The SACP further called for support for social ownership as an integral and indispensible part of a just transition to cleaner and renewable energy. The Party underlined that it is strongly opposed to any measures that may pave the way for privatisation and place the jobs of the workers in jeopardy. It concluded by emphasising that any proposed measures must be negotiated with labour and other relevant stakeholders with the aim of seeking consensus. These conditions irked Mthombothi so much that he produced the dismissed false claims. The SACP reiterates the perspectives without fear or favour.

Our constitutional rights include freedoms of expression and association, as well as political rights, including the right to make political choices. The SACP is not precluded from exercising these and other rights in its programme, strategy and tactics. Similarly, the alliance between the SACP, ANC, Cosatu and Sanco is firmly rooted in the rights the movement, in its historical context, fought for, as now enshrined in our Constitution. The same applies to the shared alliance components’ political choice of principled unity, inclusive of a common electoral strategy, as well as joint work, which is under way, aimed at defining a reconfigured alliance. It is senseless for Mthombothi and his ilk to prescribe to the SACP and the alliance what to do while in fact he is opposed to both.

The alliance is not an expression of free-floating liberal opportunism. Together with its dual membership system it was built when none of its components were allowed to stand for elections and survived the entire era of colonial-apartheid oppression. It is utterly wrong to attribute the practice of the dual membership system to the so-called “privileges” of seeking “to enjoy fruits it is unwilling to work for”, referring to the SACP. Perceptions such as Mthombothi’s, devoid of materialist dialectics, see only SACP members who – to emphasise, in their own right – are also ANC members but not the other way around as well.

Historian Irina Filatova produced a researched article in 2012 on the shared alliance theory of the national democratic revolution. She found that for three decades (1960–1991), the Soviet Union was the closest and most important ally of the alliance. It supplied uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) with armament, transport and food, trained MK and ANC cadres, rendered logistical, financial and political support, as well as assisted in creating and maintaining the international anti-apartheid movement. This meant that, she concluded, for three decades the Soviet Union provided the ANC and the SACP with a safety net which could not, of course, protect their cadres from the hardship and dangers of exile and struggle, but helped both organisations to survive and triumph.

The obvious fact is that the SACP’s structural position in the world communist movement, and the leading role of its leaders in their dialectically articulated SACP-ANC membership, played a key role in facilitating and co-ordinating the support. For example Moses Kotane, historically the longest serving SACP general secretary (1939–1978), served simultaneously as ANC treasurer-general (1963–1973). Rather than the SACP playing the role of the so-called “tail that wagged the dog”, the party played one of the major roles in exile and generally in the liberation struggle.

In his autobiography, Long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela recognises the key role played by the SACP and its leaders for instance when the MK was formed and thenceforth. Mandela formed the MK high command together with communists Joe Slovo and Walter Sisulu, with himself as the Chair. The SACP had already resolved to take up arms against the apartheid regime. Its members “had already executed acts of sabotage such as cutting government telephone and communication lines”, writes Mandela. This made it easy for him, as he states, to enlist the efforts of the communists. As Mandela further says, communists also played a direct role in writing the MK constitution with him at the SACP headquarters, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg, which was also his safe house.

By Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo, National Spokesperson & Head of Communications, SACP, 13 March 2019