Our Revolution is on trial - Nzimande

SACP GS says NDR is under threat from both tenderpreneurship and right wing activism

Red Alert: The Revolution is on trial (11): It calls for true revolutionaries to come forward!

Our national democratic revolution has entered a critical phase in which the many advances made in the run up to, and especially since, the Polokwane conference can either be deepened or face the danger of being rolled back. This is a period that also requires a proper appraisal of recent and current developments, including opportunities and threats to the Polokwane advances, so that our movement as a whole can tighten the political line of march for all our cadres.

This is also a mid-term period between the Polokwane conference, the SACP 12th Congress in 2007 and the next set of congresses in 2012. Thus this period requires a thorough assessment not only for the purposes of the next two to two and half years, but because its political outcomes may have an impact for the next or two decades of our country.

Some of the recent and current developments upon which we need to consolidate and advance the national democratic revolution include the following:

  • The Polokwane advances and the lessons from there was that it is indeed possible to unite all our component of our movement (the working class, the veterans, former MK soldiers, communists, women, youth, and civic formations) in order to re-assert the collective responsibility of all leadership at all levels and the unity of our movement.
  • The ANC's overwhelming electoral victory in the 2009 elections, a victory that was important for a number of reasons. Firstly, that electoral victory re-affirmed the confidence that our people have in the ANC and the alliance. Secondly it was a victory achieved on the back of the unity of all the forces mentioned above in the run up to Polokwane. Thirdly, that electoral victory marked a defeat of a right wing breakaway from our movement, in the form of Cope, whose aim was to try and weaken if not break our movement. It is this victory that has laid the basis for the emerging contradictions that certainly look like they are going to break Cope.
  • The inauguration of President Zuma and the formation of a new administration, with an inclusive Cabinet, defying the predictions of our detractors who had thought that President Zuma will form a government based on revenge against those who had wanted to prevent him from assuming the role of ANC President and head of state. Instead we also have a government committed to consulting and engaging our people whose modus operandi is that of seeking to break the silos in the operation of government as a necessary conditions for realizing our goals as encapsulated in the five priorities of the manifesto
  • A commitment to a new growth path for our country, including the adoption of a comprehensive industrial policy action plan, and continued commitment to infrastructural investment and the establishment of the National Planning Commission.
  • The holding of two successful alliance summits within a period of 18 months coming out with a clear programme of action

Indeed these are very strong platforms and terrains upon which we should consolidate, deepen and advance our national democratic revolution. They are also important because they underline the ANC's and government's commitments in prioritizing the needs of the workers and the poor.

Of course the ANC and Alliance prioritization of meeting the needs of the poor is now being cynically perverted by analysts like Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, as if the relationship between the ANC and the poor majority of our country is a utilitarian one, where the ANC is claimed to be using government programmes to buy the votes of the poor. This is an attempt to opportunistically vulgarise the ANC's revolutionary commitment to the poor, as if the poor vote for the ANC because they are bought rather than improvements in aspects of their lives as a result of ANC policies. It is also a downright, and elitist, patronizing attitude towards the majority of South Africans, as if they are duped for voting for the ANC. It is also a sleight of hand to try and project the middle classes and professionals as the only 'rational' voters rather than cannon fodder. This means that elites are smarter and the masses are dumb. Sounds familiar, isn't it?

No wonder this cynicism is being grabbed by both hands by right wing publications like 'The Citizen' which in its editorial of 18 May 2010, citing Mbeki's comments, argues that

"Those who have little political voice are the main taxpayers who finance social welfare programmes and provide subsidies to multi-nationals to base themselves in South Africa".

For this right-wing tabloid, it is as if poverty in this country is not a direct result of the brutal capitalist exploitation always defended by this tabloid - retrenchments, casualisation and outsourcing of the very poor that they pretend to be champions of! It is typical right wing hypocrisy that would at the same time call for protection of labour brokers and attack South African labour laws as making it difficult to hire and fire, and at the same time pretend to be concerned about the poor that are daily being reproduced by the practices it defends! This tabloid always speaks from both sides of its mouth!

Our analysis of the challenges and threats to our democracy should however not be premised on such cynical and elitist analysis, but on a revolutionary and principled analysis of concrete conditions in our country. It is for this reason that we must, from our standpoint frankly and honestly analyse some of the threats to our advances in the current period.

These include, but not limited to, the following:

  • A new trend of right-wing activism which attempts to use our constitution, the courts and other institutions supporting our democratic constitution to try and roll back our gains. These attempts range from and challenging affirmative action in the courts, the banning of our revolutionary songs as an attempt to wipe out the memory of the brutality of the apartheid regime and our struggles against it, to a one-sided emphasis on crime against, for instance, white farmers whilst ignoring the daily brutalization of black farm workers and farm dwellers
  • Intensified exploitation of the working class with increased labour broking, casualisation and retrenchment. The intensification of exploitation and impoverisation of the working class now also manifests through the increasing 'regionalisation' of South Africa's workforce in many parts of our economy - with employers increasingly preferring vulnerable migrant workers from the Southern African region in order to maximize profits and lower wages. These trends pose a threat to the unity of the working class and its capacity to act as the leading motive force of the national democratic revolution
  • The emergence of a small tendency, both inside and outside the ranks of our movement, that seems to be in such a hurry to get rich quick such that it is even prepared to sacrifice the unity of the ANC and our alliance, if these stand in the way of its greed. Tenderpreneurship - the collusion between business elements in the private sector with those in the public sector to corruptly capture government tenders - is one such manifestation of this get rich quick mentality. Whilst tenderpreneurship is not inherently counter-revolutionary, but apart from the white racist right wing tendency, it is the most susceptible to degenerating into counter-revolution through its temptation to turn South Africa into one big tender liable to be bought by the highest imperialist bidder!

It is especially these threats that call for ...

True revolutionaries to come to the front!

Revolutionaries are, from our standpoint as communists, both 'timeless' as well as historical and conjunctural! This means that from the standpoint of the SACP revolutionaries, in the first instance, will all be those who are prepared to battle and make sacrifices to relentlessly wage a struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system and install a socialist order, as part of a continuous struggle to build a communist society. These are communist revolutionaries. But communist revolutionaries are not the only revolutionaries, as historical, epochal and conjunctural challenges throw up their own revolutionaries to advance and take forward the revolutionary tasks of the period.

Just as those who waged a principled struggle against slavery, feudalism and anti-colonial struggles for the installation of a more democratic order in the interests of the majority of the oppressed can justly be regarded as revolutionaries, within the context of the specific revolutionary challenges of the period - to overthrow oppressive regimes.

Indeed our own national democratic revolution has thrown up revolutionaries who have dedicated their lives, and even life, to the cause of the liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular, through waging a relentless struggle to overthrow colonialism of a special type.

But also, revolutionaries in one set of conjunctural circumstances or period may not necessarily continue to play a revolutionary role in different conditions or circumstances.

The tasks and challenges of communist revolutionaries is that of correctly and properly identifying, as well as enter into alliances, with all genuine revolutionaries in each phase of our revolution. Our national democratic revolution has also been characterized by an alliance of genuine communist, nationalist and other revolutionaries in the struggle to overthrow the apartheid regime.

In the era of the national democratic revolution, revolutionaries are all those who are genuinely committed to the immediate and intermediate tasks of uplifting the conditions of the workers and the poor, as well as the complete destruction of the many conditions that reproduce such inequalities. This of course may not necessarily mean that all such revolutionaries maybe committed to the struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system, but nevertheless they are committed to a principled struggle to uplift the conditions of the workers and the poor in society.

It is also such revolutionaries who have a genuine commitment, in our case, to the building, strengthening and maintenance of our alliance as the only vehicle to advance such objectives.

Within the ranks of the organized working class, especially in COSATU, there are revolutionaries as well, whose understanding of the trade union struggles go beyond the narrow confines of daily workplace struggles, but embrace the transformation of the whole of society. These would include those who might not necessarily be communists, but still dedicated to the radical restructuring of capitalist relations of production in the interests of the workers and the poor, and who believe that the ANC still remains the prime movement carrying the national aspirations of the black working class in particular. By its very nature, the organized working class would be made up of communists, anti-capitalist but non-communist activists, and ordinary working class cadres committed to the radical improvement of the conditions of the workers and the poor. It is the duty of communists to be at the forefront of uniting all these revolutionaries within the trade union movement, but simultaneously understanding their different location in relation to the struggle for socialism and communism.

In the course of all revolutions, it is indeed possible that some of the nationalist revolutionaries, as has happened in our case, through their struggle experiences, get drawn into the ranks of the communist party. In some other instances some communists have left the SACP, but remained committed revolutionaries. Yet others have left and turned against the SACP. But it is important that these do not cloud our judgement and the necessity for maximum unity amongst genuine revolutionaries; a task at the centre of cementing unity within the national liberation movement.

The current phase of our struggle, to deepen and radicalize the national democratic revolution calls for all true revolutionaries, whether communists, trade unionists or revolutionary nationalists, to close ranks, to defend and advance the most immediate goals of our revolution - poverty eradication, joblessness, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the necessity for the unity of our alliance as the most important vehicle to carry forward these tasks.

To restate, who is a revolutionary in South Africa today?

  • Those committed to the struggle for the eradication of poverty
  • Holding dear the principle of total service and dedication to the cause of the majority of our people
  • Committed to defending the unity of our alliance
  • Some of these comrades might be lapsed members of the SACP but have not turned against the SACP or become anti-communist
  • Commitment to the collective leadership style of our movement which is daily being threatened by capitalist greed and the 'get rich quick' mentality
  • Revolutionaries also must understand that not all that sounds revolutionary is actually revolutionary. The task of true revolutionaries is to distinguish between revolutionary rhetoric on the one hand, and revolutionary action, on the other, aimed at transforming the conditions of the overwhelming majority of our people.

The political line of march!

The tasks of revolutionaries in the current period is perhaps best captured in the ANC Secretary General's preface to the statement of the ANC National Executive Committee meeting of 12-13 March 2010:

"We acknowledge and recognise the leadership role of our movement. This leadership responsibility imposes particular imperatives upon us regarding our revolutionary conduct. Our leadership of the Alliance requires of us to engage in a manner befitting our standing in this revolutionary and strategic Alliance. Similarly, the Alliance as a revolutionary collective that leads society must act, in word and deed, in a way that commands respect among all our people.

"In the recent past we have (been) derailed by issues that are not core to our programme in society. We should remind ourselves, once more, that our mission is to serve the people. In this regard, our commitments as outlined in the 2009 Manifesto serve as our leadership programme in the present context towards the achievement of our stated objective of a united, non- racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous South Africa.

"Let us return to the revolutionary conduct and discipline that has earned our movement an honourable place in the hearts of our people, and in the history of struggle. Our forebears entrusted us with this glorious legacy, let us not fail them as we march on in history".

The SACP is in complete agreement with this line of march of all the genuine revolutionary forces to consolidate our democracy. In order to realize the above it is important that the following actions and perspectives be adopted:

  • For our revolution to succeed it is important that we also mobilize all patriots who are at the very least committed to creating a South Africa where all its people will benefit from a more just political and economic order.
  • Reclaim and placing at centre stage our revolutionary values and morality; values that are at the heart of the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people who thoroughly hate corruption and tenderpreneurship
  • The necessity to deepen mass activism principally based on the Alliance programme of action
  • Mobilisation of all our people, and the working class in particular, to roll back and defeat corruption
  • All the Alliance structures need to intensify political education and mass awareness about the strategy and tactics in the NDR, the role of the working class, and to deepen our cadres and mass understanding of the political economy of our five priorities, and for our cadres to understand the class, racial and gender struggles to be waged in order to realize our strategic objectives
  • An all round campaign needs to be waged to emphasise maximum discipline amongst our cadres and the broader mass of our people, including respect for our people at all times, guided by the urgency to implement the political message of the ANC, 'One message, many voices'.

Communist cadres to the front!
Working together and in the trenches with all other revolutionaries we can defeat opportunism, rank careerism and tenderpreneurship!


This article by SACP General Secretary, Blade Nzimande, first appeared in the party's online journal Umsebenzi Online.

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