Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary, The class struggle is the battle of ideas: Opening address to the SACP Commissars' Conference
The SACP, the ANC Centenary, the 53rd National Conference and Marikana: Let's remained focused on the priorities of our revolution!
This is perhaps one of the most important conferences to be convened by the SACP in recent times. It is certainly an important follow up to the Ngoye Congress. Its primary purpose is to take our district structures, systematically, through the Party programme as adopted at our Ngoye Congress so that they fully understand it, and must translate its implementation into the various local conditions and challenges facing the working class, our people and communities in our various localities. This conference and process seek to correct an anomaly of not having been able to systematically discuss and enrich our 12th Congress programme through our basis unit, the SACP branch.
The cadres identified and selected to attend this Conference are those targeted to constitute the political commissariat of the Party - leading political educators and ideologues able to articulate SACP positions convincingly and guide our lower structures and empower them ideologically.
This conference is largely about strengthening the ideological capacity of the SACP, both internally and externally. On the internal side, we have identified the necessity for a deeper understanding of the political and ideological foundations of our Party Programme, The South African Road to Socialism, as a critical dimension of capacity building. In particular, we need to elaborate the implications for implementation in order to assist our structures to adapt it to their local conditions.
On the external side, we need to strengthen the collective and individual intellectual capacity of the SACP as the ideological vanguard of our revolution and to intensify engagement on the terrain of the battle of ideas in broader society. It is a battle that has to be intensified on an increasingly hostile ideological terrain - a terrain that we will nevertheless have to transform, using a combination of our ideological preparedness, our mass and state power. For example none of the Alliance partners possess the necessary and sufficient means for the production and reproduction of ideas in broader society. We operate in an environment where most of the print media is actively opposed to our Alliance and the government it leads. It is unfortunately a posture that is increasingly being adopted by sections of the public broadcaster.
Indeed we are holding our conference against the background of an increased ideological offensive against our movement. We are operating in an environment of so-called independent analysts, whose 'independence' is defined and claimed solely on the basis of opposition to the ANC, the Alliance and government. Even the media itself has thrown out of the window whatever pretences it has had about adhering to its very own press code. All of fairness and balance have practically been thrown out of the window when it comes to coverage of the ANC, the Alliance and government at the present moment.
However, the current period also holds a lot of potential in our struggle to advance and elevate the views of the working class to become the dominant views in society. The capitalist system is once more in a very deep crisis, continuing to show that it is a system that is incapable of addressing the needs of ordinary people and the whole of humanity. It is a system that has always, and will always, benefit a tiny minority in society.
As the SACP correctly argues in our Ngoye Programme, "global capitalism is beginning to approach absolute limits that are physical, biological, human and economic". In other words, the rate at which capitalism is destroying the environment and the earth's resources for purposes of narrow accumulation for a few, is actually posing a threat to the survival of humanity and human civilization itself. Therefore the intensified struggle against capitalism has become a necessity to save humanity itself. It is a struggle to be fought on many fronts, but with a singular goals to destroy the exploitation of one person by the another!
The current crisis is a further opportunity to scale up critique of capitalism and advance socialist ideas as the only alternative in society. Even the Marikana tragedy has found new pretenders who seem to have only discovered now that capitalism and its mining industry are highly exploitative. Let us nevertheless make maximum use of these sentiments to convince the majority of our people about the necessity for socialism. Let us also use this Conference of Commissars as a means of further empowering ourselves in deepening the critique of capitalism and articulating a clear vision of socialism as the only alternative.
We are also meeting in a period in which there are now more alternative avenues for media and communicating. In fact we are now in an era of the decline of the printed newspaper with the growth of the internet and all the resources it has made available for communicating outside of mainstream media. Our discussions during this Conference must also focus on using the internet as a weapon for alternative platforms in the battle of ideas and to effectively counter the propaganda of mainstream media. That the NewsWeek is going to be an exclusively electronically based magazine tells us where media is going, into a new space that we can also contest much more effectively than before. As communists we must be in the forefront of these. At the beginning of the year we are going to be convening a dedicated national SACP workshop on media, including further empowering our cadres on different and alternative forms of communicating. The SACP is now prioritizing media work as a principal platform in the battle of ideas.
This Conference of Commissars also takes place against the backdrop of the continued celebration of another ANC milestone, its centenary and reaching one million members. We are pleased that this coming Sunday we will be officially receiving, as the SACP, the ANC Centenary flame. This will present an important moment at which we as the SACP can also officially as an organization celebrate the 100 years of our ally. During that occasion we will also talk in some detail about the history of our two organisations and the challenges and relevance of the ANC/SACP Alliance today moving foward. It is indeed our duty to ensure that every SACP cadre is thoroughly grounded on the history, necessity and continued centrality of the relationship between these two revolutionary political formations.
Our Conference of Commissars is also taking place just under two months before the ANC's 53rd National Conference in Mangaung. It is therefore important that during our meeting over the next four days we also take stock of the challenges facing our movement as a whole and to make our own contribution towards a united and unifying ANC Conference.
The key role for the SACP in the lead up to Mangaung is to ensure that our Party cadres (and indeed those of our movement as a whole) remain focused on the principal tasks facing that 53rd Conference of the ANC. The principal task of that Conference is to adopt a political programme and a set of policies that will usher, according to the ANC's own National Policy Conference, a second phase of our transition. It is a phase that must be characterized by a radical economic programme aimed at transforming the current semi-colonial growth path into an economy that is inclusive of the majority of our people, capable of creating jobs with a living wage and decent social wage, as well as create other forms of sustainable livelihoods for the workers and the poor of our country. The Mangaung Conference still has to refine and endorse a range of very important policy proposals from the Policy Conference, including the transformation of mining and other sectors of our economy and to take forward the five priorities of our movement. Communists and also in their own right as members of the ANC need to ensure that ANC branches discuss these matters in their own preparations for the Mangaung conference.
Because we have a media that has become factionalised and almost mutating into the internal electoral contests and outcomes within the ANC, it has not focused on these critical policy issues at all, but has instead embarked on a huge diversion focusing only on who is going to be elected in Mangaung. In fact the print media has already made its own preferences clear in the same way as it had done in the run up to the Polokwane Conference. And therefore it is in fact misleading its readers by not focusing on critical policy and programmatic discussions still to be finalized and adopted in Mangaung. We must therefore use our own discussion at this gathering to grapple with some of these policy issues as part of sharpening the implementation strategy of our own Programme, as well as participating effectively in ANC and Alliance discussions and engagements in the run up to Mangaung. As the SACP we need to contribute concretely to the policy and programmatic content of the second phase of our transition, including defining both the ideological and political tasks of this phase of our transition.
Instead of assisting and informing debate on critical policy issues, the media has started a proxy battle on behalf of elements that want to remove President Zuma in Mangaung, a proxy referred to as a 'leadership crisis'. This whole posture and framing of the debate is such that it must end with a demonization of especially the President of the ANC. Every Tom, Dick and Harry (including izidumbu ezivuka emangcwabeni) is crying lack of leadership. The disingenuity and dishonesty of this posture lies in the fact that nothing is said about the real crisis facing our country and economy, that of the global capitalist crisis. A crisis generated by the greed of capitalist banks and other financial institutions. Nor is the evaluation of leadership based on what has been achieved in relation to the five priorities. They do not do such an evaluation because the picture maybe different from what is being projected.
In fact the other side of the same coin in the offensive against our movement is that of the chaos being introduced by an opportunistic and demagogic elements that is trying to exploit legitimate workers' anger in the mining industry for purposes of pursuing counter-revolutionary goals. The claim of a crisis in leadership is being fostered on the ground through creating chaos that will give a picture of a country that is in deep crisis. Therefore, the claim that there is a crisis in leadership and the counter-revolutionary offensive against some of the COSATU unions, constitutes the two sides of the same coin.
Indeed as the SACP we are under no illusion that we face enormous challenges, especially those relating to poverty, inequality and unemployment. That is why we need to ensure that the commitment to a second phase of our transition must mean embracing radical economic transformation measures that Mangaung will have to decide upon.
Our Conference is also taking place against the backdrop of Marikana. Marikana is an expression of both the extent of the depth of capitalist exploitation in the mining industry as well as attempts by counter-revolution to exploit the desperate conditions of the working class to destroy progressive trade unionism in our country. Marikana also represents attempts by a counter-revolutionary element to physically liquidate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as a prelude to destroy COSATU and formations of organized workers in our country. When we warned about the opportunism of the demagogic call by a populist element within our movement for nationalization of mines, some of our own comrades accused us of abandoning key working class demands. We are today being proven right that such calls were never progressive nor in the interests of the working class, but aimed at rescuing a BEE in crisis. We still want to warn today that populism and demagogy, no matter what language they use, they are not interested in advancing the interests of the working class.
As the SACP we welcomed the appointment of a judicial commission of enquiry into the tragic events in Marikana. But we equally condemn this consistent media disinformation that says very little about the 10 people killed before 16 August, including two policemen. the lives of those who died before 16 August as well as those who died on 16 August and thereafter are all equally important. media. We are in fact dismayed by the stance of some of the so-called human rights lawyers who elevate the lives of the 34 people above those of the 10 killed before 16 August and those continuing to be killed after 16 August.
As the SACP we call upon all the workers of our country, especially in the mining sector, not to be fooled by demagogues and counter-revolutionaries, as these will never be able to genuinely represent the interests of the workers. We call upon all the workers in our country, and especially mineworkers to stand by the NUM as their only genuine representative! The workers of our country must not be misled by short-term and unrealistic calls that will end up sacrificing their interests on the altar of capitalism and opportunists.
Similarly, we must strongly express our displeasure at former leaders of our movement who have joined the liberal bandwagon and opportunistically complain about lack of leadership in our movement when in their time they left a highly questionable legacy. None of yesterday's AIDS denialists must come and lecture to us today about leadership when they have not accounted for the hundreds of thousands of deaths they left behind by refusing too acknowledge that HIV causes AIDS, and denying our people ARVs. As the SACP we take a dim view of this.
Our 2012 Red October Campaign: Basic Services for All
We are holding this Conference deliberately in the middle of our Red October Campaign, which is simultaneously commemorating and celebrating the 95th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Although we will properly celebrate this anniversary on 7 November 2012, we must nevertheless say that the lessons and necessity of a revolution like that in Russia in 1917 still remain as valid. For as long as humanity is subjected to the barbarism of capitalism there will always be a case for socialism.
Our 2012 Red October Campaign brings together and seeks to integrate our many other Red October Campaigns before it - the campaigns for land and agrarian transformation, the transformation of the financial sector, access to social services and a decent social wage for the working class, the Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign, the Health and NHI Campaign, as well as the campaign for access to affordable and decent public transport. It is these campaigns, through our Red October Campaign, that have contributed so significantly to the growth of the SACP into a powerful political force, now with a membership of over 160 000.
We have deliberately chosen to focus our 2012 Red October Campaign on basic services for all in order to draw attention to the necessity of building working class power and hegemony in our working class communities, both in the urban and rural areas. It is a clarion call for communists to mobilise our people to be the architects of bringing a better life to themselves.. It is in these localities that we must wage the common struggles of the employed, the under-employed and the unemployed, as well as to unite our youth, working parents, pensioners, small business people and the poor to build a better life for all. We must not let our people to be spectators and passive recipients of 'delivery', but they must drive such delivery. Otherwise if they do not do that, tenderpreneurs will steal such resources.
As the SACP we have correctly decided to build voting district (VD) based branches in order to get closer to our communities. We are doing this not in order to compete with the ANC branches, but to build closer relationship with our communities thus strengthening ANC branches themselves. This constitutes the key challenge in our programme, that of building working class hegemony in our communities. This Red October Campaign seeks to take this further. No amount of demagoguery, propaganda of the liberal media, and tenderpreneurship will be able to fool our people, for as long as we are rooted in working class communities and daily taking up their issues, together with them!!
In this political school we need to engage with this pillar of our programme and prepare ourselves for its most thorough implementation where we live.
Taking political responsibility for, and class leadership over, the national democratic revolution: Towards an implementation plan for 'The South African Road to Socialism'
Our Ngoye Congress updated our already existing programme as adopted at our 12th Congress, 'The South African Road to Socialism'. It is this programme that we must discuss extensively and thoroughly at this Commissars' Conference. Our programme is a tool and a weapon to intensify class struggles on all fronts and terrains to deepen the national democratic revolution as our most direct route to socialism.
Deepening the national democratic revolution requires a strong, united and politically conscious working class, organized as a political force. The SACP as the political party of the working class has a unique role to play in strengthening the working class as a leading motive force of the national democratic revolution. A motive force is not simply those who stand to benefit from the advance of the revolution, but it is those forces that have the potential and capacity to lead and drive the national democratic revolution.
Our Medium Term Vision (MTV) as contained in our Party Programme impels us to seek to build working class hegemony in all key sites of power, principally focusing on our communities, the workplace, the economy, the state, ideologically, in protecting the environment, and in the international sphere.
Our political report delivered on behalf of the Central Committee at the Ngoye Congress put emphasis on the working class taking responsibility for the national democratic revolution. This means, amongst other things, that we must take responsibility for both the advances as well as setbacks and problems in the revolution. We cannot opportunistically seek to take responsibility for the former without also taking responsibility to address the latter. That would not be leadership but rank opportunism. It is through a programmatic approach to the revolution that the working class must seek to take responsibility, hence the fundamental importance of building working class hegemony in all key sites of power.
Our Party Programme is based on advancing working class struggles in seven key terrains and sites of power, and in six fronts of struggle. The seven key sites of struggle are: the community, the workplace, the state, the economy, the environment, the ideological and in the international sphere; and the six fronts of struggle are the (1) trade union movement, (2) the youth, (3) the intelligentsia, (4) women, (5) the rural masses, and (6) the cultural struggles, performing arts and sport. These fronts of struggle constitute key social arenas in which the SACP must have a visible presence.
Having dealt with the 'community pillar' of our programme above, allow me to make an overview of the rest of the six key terrains of struggle as defined in our 'South African Road to Socialism' as adopted at oNgoye by highlingting some of the key issues and challenges we have to grapple with at this Conference:
Building working class hegemony in the workplace - The key challenge here is that of transforming the apartheid and neo-liberal workplace in order to defend the gains made by the working class since 1994, and as a platform for strengthening progressive trade union organization. Casualisation, retrenchments and labour brokering have all weakened, albeit unevenly, working class power on the shop floor and in the workplace. Today it is common that in one workplace there are different groupings of workers, subjected to different working conditions. For example in many workplaces today there are simultaneously workers from labour brokers, casualised and part-time workers by the employer, and a small component of permanent workers. This has all contributed to the fragmentation and divisions within the working class thus posing a serious threat to the building of a united progressive trade union movement. Communists, especially those in the trade union movement, must be in the forefront in the struggles against the fragmentation and super-exploitation of the workers on the shop-floor.
Building working class power in the economy - The key challenge here is that of transforming the semi-colonial character of our economy, into an inclusive economy that creates jobs, with a living wage, a decent social wage and sustainable livelihoods. The key challenge here is to roll back neo-liberalism in the South African economy. For the SACP, one of the critical struggles we need to deepen is that of the transformation of the financial sector so that the trillions of rands in this sector are invested into our productive economy, including strengthenining the manufacturing sector and the beneficiation of our minerals. We must intensify our call for the convening of a second financial sector summit, involving both the private financial sector and the public development finance institutions, as part of addressing these issues. But we call upon all our structures to revive our financial sector campaign so that this sector is responsive to the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people. We once more call upon unions, especially the COSATU unions, to use their muscle in the financial sector to struggle for these outcomes! We must also call upon the patriotic element in our capitalist class to pursue the project of industrialization and beneficiation our mineral resources, to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods.
The SACP and the State - Whilst the SACP firmly believes that the state is the ultimate consummation of political power in society, it is also important to understand the state in its historical conjuncture. The South Africa state has all the features and the hallmark of a capitalist state, it would be wrong to mechanically reduce all of it into a capitalist state. The South African state has, at the same time, a government controlled by a left liberation movement, allied with significant working class formations that are committed to a socialist South Africa. This in itself opens up new possibilities and avenues to use some of the instruments of the state to pursue a progressive agenda in the interests of the workers and the poor. It is therefore the task of the SACP to use these opportunities to build the influence of the working class in the state in order to advance a progressive working class agenda, even if the South African state is not a socialist state. A key question for this Conference therefore is what does this mean in terms of the tasks of the SACP in relation to the state at national, provincial and local levels? Much more important how do we creatively use both our mass and state power to deepen the national democratic revolution. In addition how do we build working class influence both inside and outside the state, as part of our overall objective of deepening the national democratic revolution.
The Battle of Ideas - A critical component of the class struggle is the ideological struggle - the battle of ideas. The holding of this Conference is in itself a crucial component of empowering our SACP cadres to effectively engage in the battle of ideas. The battle of ideas is a struggle in society by a variety of class forces to try and shape society and dominant ideas in their own class interests. All fronts and terrains of struggle are simultaneously sites for the battle of ideas. This is perhaps the most important message for this Conference!!!
We are in a period in which there is sustained ideological attack on the integrity of the ANC, our Alliance and government and this attack is being led from the front by print media and sections of the public broadcaster. The South African mainstream media has in essence become the leading voice of all the forces opposed to our movement and government. And why? The answer to this lies in the fact that print media in our country is highly monopolized and owned by the dominant fractions of the capitalist class. Parts of the media, like Avusa, is owned by elements that are close to the ambitious element that wants to capture the ANC and the state for narrow capitalist interests away from the current leadership of our movement.
South Africa's shoddy journalism has recently been confirmed by the Press Ombuds in his condemnation of the Sowetan editor as representing the worst of what he has seen in South African journalism (and by implications amongst the so-called analysts).
The essence of the problem with South Africa's print media is that it remains largely untransformed from its character during the apartheid period. Worse, is the fact that media and business never even went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission so that at the very least it could confront its role under apartheid. For example, South African media under apartheid was full of journalists who were paid agents of the apartheid security police and intelligence. But the media never took up the opportunity to confront this reality in our transition to democracy. Some of today's newspapers, like The Citizen, were founded by corruptly gotten funds under apartheid to become an English newspaper serving the interests of the apartheid regime. Its character today - its rabid anti-ANC and anti-communist stance - has never changed since then.
At the heart of the problems with our media is the fact that it is dominated by four major monopolies, including a large foreign owned monopoly. This, as explained in our Party Programme, constitutes the single most serious threat to media freedom. Capitalist media monopoly can never promote a free and unbiased media. The SACP needs to intensify the struggle to de-monopolise print media, localize it in South Africa, and strengthen community and other media. We therefore call upon government to use its advertising spend towards diversificatioin of the media, rather than to strengthen the media monopolies. The SACP must also strive to be closer, and work with, community media.
Part of the battle of ideas is that of harnessing the languages of the majority of the people as the major means of communication and engagement with our people. The reality today is that what is normally projected as freedom of the print media is nothing but freedom of expression for those who speak English and Afrikaans. That is why it is important for the Communist Party to be in the forefront to promote the increased use of African languages both inside our Party and in broader society.
Let us use this conference to practically explore all the other alternative avenues for communication, including increased use of the languages of the majority of the people of our country.
Part of the struggle in the arena of the battle of ideas that we have to intensify is that against a number of renegade and reactionary ideological tendencies that threaten to undermine the advance of our revolution. One of these is the anti-majoritarian liberal offensive, which also seeks to capture our institutions supporting democracy to try and undermine majority rule and to subvert the dignity of the offices being held by the leaders of the liberation movement. As communists we need to expose the deep inter-linkages between liberalism, capitalism and demagoguery. In essence, South African liberalism dominant in most of the print media is racialised, white surburban politics, now reinforced by some useful idiots in the black communities!
The working class and the environment - One of the most important decisions we took at our oNgoye Congress was that of the necessity to fully incorporate the struggle to protect the environment and matters relating to climate change into our programme of activities. We took a decision to embark on simple campaigns and struggles which must also aim to protect our local environment from capitalist destruction. One of the campaigns we must take up is that of the cleanliness of our townships and rural areas as part of this broader campaign to protect our environment. Let us discuss these matters very seriously at this Conference.
Internationalist solidarity and struggles - Never in a long time has the necessity to deepen internationalist working class solidarity been more important and relevant like now. The workers and ordinary people in most parts of the capitalist world are in revolt against capitalist austerity measures that are an attempt to rescue capitalism from its current crisis. There is in many parts of the world cut-backs on educational subsidies, social grants, pensions, including the erosion of the many social benefits aimed at shielding the workers and the poor from the worst of the capitalist excesses. All these are attempts by the capitalist bosses to off-load the impact of the crisis onto the working class. This is the time for the SACP and our Alliance to deepen progressive international solidarity amongst all the forces that stand for the advancement of the interests of the workers and the poor. Let us use this Conference to discuss these matters as part of our overall thrust to deepen critique of capitalism and to advance socialism as the only alternative to the survival of humanity itself.
Deepening the influence of the SACP through intensified work on priority fronts of struggle
Our Party programme has identified and prioritized increased communist activism in six key fronts of struggle: the trade union movement, the youth, the intelligentsia, women, the rural masses and in the performing arts and culture. Building working class hegemony must in essence entail sustained work on all these fronts of struggle by the SACP. All these are fronts that will also make the Party to be closer to the people and make its sectoral presence felt.
The one point of emphasis that should be made here is the importance of our SACP structures to pay particular attention in building the Young Communist League, so that our YCL is felt in the ordinary and daily struggles of our youth. Our SACP structures have to ensure that in all our branches there are vibrant YCL structures, and that our structures take responsibility to strengthen these structures politically, organizationally and ideologically. Work amongst the youth must be prioritized by all our party structures during this period.
Similarly, the SACP needs to pay very close attention to the trade union movement; COSATU in particular, and the progressive trade union movement broadly. Work in the trade union movement by the SACP must also focus on defeating all workerist and syndicalist tendencies that seek to equate the trade union movement to the communist party. Whilst there must always be a close relationship between the SACP and the progressive trade union movement, the two are not the same. That large sections of the progressive trade union movement support the Party - an attitude we must reinforce - this does not therefore mean that the SACP is an appendage of the trade union movement. Today some of the irritations of our COSATU comrades with the Party derive from a completely wrong understanding of the relationship between the Party and the trade union movement. Some of our comrades expect the SACP to behave like the trade unions, as if it were not a political party that is deeply interested in political and state power.
What the above means is that the SACP must deepen its political, organizational an ideological work within COSATU in particular and in the broader trade union movement in our country. Part of achieving this objective must be focused and dedicated recruitment of trade union shop-stewards into the ranks of the SACP! Let us prioritise party work along these lines in the next five years.
It is for the above reasons that the SACP must continually strive to build red trade unions
In conclusion, it is important to point out that all the work we are going to be doing at this conference will have to be reproduced in all our branches. We need to make sure that all the SACP branches and members do understand our Party programme and tasks that arise from it.
No force can defeat the workers and the poor of our country if the working class is properly organized and ideologically empowered. Let this Conference go down in history as having been a platform that took party organization and ideological influence to higher levels in our country.
After all, the class struggle is about the battle of ideas!
Socialism is the Future, Build it Now!!!
Source: SACP, Umsebenzi Online, October 25 2012
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter