Many communists died in the ranks of the ANC - SACP

Party rejects armchair criticism that it should have the "courage" to go it alone


July 31st marks the 91st anniversary of the formation of the Communist Party in South Africa. The Party was formed in 1921 in Cape Town as the Communist Party of South Africa and it was reconstituted in the underground as the SACP after the outlawing of the CPSA by the apartheid regime in 1950.

The main rally to commemorate the 91st Anniversary will be held on the 5th August 2012, starting at 11H00, at the Johannesburg City Hall. Our main anniversary message will be delivered at this rally.

Today we have a symbolic cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the birthday of an organisation that has been a pioneer in so many respects. The first Communist Party on the African continent, our early Party members were among the first to organise radical trade unionism. For many decades the Communist Party in South Africa was the only political formation that had an active non-racial membership. It was communists who pioneered progressive journalism and adult literacy classes. It was communists who were in the forefront of the formation and operations of uMkhonto we Sizwe.

Over our 91 years of activism, the Communist Party in South Africa is proud to have numbered outstanding women comrades, among them Josie Mpama, Ray Alexander, Dora Tamana, Ruth First, Liz Abrahams, Esther Barsel and Ncumisa Kondlo. These and many others through their militant activism defied patriarchal stereotypes.

As we celebrate these 91 years of communist activism, it is important to remember the Party's contributions are not just in some distant past. Over the more recent period, the SACP leadership played an absolutely decisive role in ensuring our country achieved a negotiated democratic breakthrough in the early 1990s.

Our detractors do their best to erase the role of the Party in leading the campaign against the greed of the financial oligopolies, but it was this ongoing SACP-led financial sector campaign that has forced progressive legislation onto the financial sector. Our detractors want to forget the role we played in exposing the now discredited willing-seller willing-buyer, market based approach to land reform, or our leading role in fighting HIV/AIDS denialism within the ranks of our own movement.

It was the SACP that called for a National Health Insurance in the early 1990s, and it is our Party that has played a vanguard role in the ongoing campaign against corruption - including losing the precious lives of Bomber Ntshangase and Moss Phakoe who stood up to expose corruption.

The 91st anniversary of the Communist Party in South Africa is also the centenary year of the African National Congress. As Communists we take pride in the role that we have played, shoulder-to-shoulder in struggle with other progressive democrats, in building a massive, million-strong ANC. We celebrate the legacy of leading communists who contributed to the building of a powerful, multi-class national liberation movement - among them Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Yusuf Dadoo, Moses Mabhida, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Jack Simons, Joe Slovo, Chris Hani, Mzala Nxumalo, Gert Sibande, Alpheus Malivha, Skenjana Roji and many others.

These are communists who in their own right were members of the broad liberation movement, playing a leadership role in the Congress movement. Many communists died in the ranks of the ANC, and yet, today armchair critics call on the Party to have the so-called "courage" to stand alone and break from the ANC! These hypocrites express outrage that there are Communists today in leadership positions in their own right within the ANC - what they don't want to acknowledge is that this has been a reality for nearly nine decades.

In the desperate years of oppression, persecution, exile, underground and prison, South African communists and the Party they served had the courage to be in the midst of all battles, alongside all patriotic democrats. Today, in the struggle against unemployment, poverty and racialised inequality, today, in the struggle for a united, democratic, non-racial, and non-sexist South Africa - the SACP and its cadres will not suddenly abandon our discipline, our courage, or our responsibilities.

Taking responsibility, together with our Alliance partners, for governance, for active struggle on the ground, for building a better future - this was the central message that came from our 13th National Congress last month. Today, at 91 years old, with a membership of over 154,000, organized in more than 3000 branches countrywide, the Communist Party once more pledges to continue to consolidate the unity in action of our alliance with the ANC and COSATU and with the broad mass democratic movement.

Our 91 years of unbroken struggle is both an inspiration and a responsibility. The generations of South African communists who preceded us won admiration amongst the oppressed and exploited for the Communist Party as a vanguard force in struggle - an example of loyalty, dependability, self-sacrifice, militancy, and of serious strategic analysis. On the 91st anniversary of the Communist Party in SA, this is the vanguard example we pledge to uphold and carry forward.

Statement issued by the SACP, July 31 2012

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