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SACP: Blade Nzimande, Address by SACP General Secretary, to the 5th National Congress of the YCLSA, University of Fort Hare (07/12/2018)

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SACP: Blade Nzimande, Address by SACP General Secretary, to the 5th National Congress of the YCLSA, University of Fort Hare (07/12/2018)

SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande

7th December 2018

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On behalf of our Central Committee and the 300 000 members of the SACP I bring you revolutionary greetings.

Our 14th Party Congress held in July 2017 attached great importance to the principles of strategic consistency, analytical alertness and tactical flexibility. These principles are contained in the resolution on the SACP and state and popular power. However, their application should be considered an important compass for the class struggles that lie ahead, and our strategic approach to the tasks of the conjuncture.

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It is important to further underline that the 12th and 13th Party Congress resolutions on the SACP and state power, adopted in 2007 and 2012 respectively, were not only amended but replaced by the 14th Party Congress resolution adopted in 2017. The resolution directly linked state and popular, and is accordingly referred to as the SACP and state and popular power resolution. This must be considered as crucial – however, not only with regard to the role and tasks of the SACP in relation to the working class, but also with regard to the role and tasks of the Young Communist League in relation to the youth generally.  

The resolution correctly warned against tendencies that may throw the vanguard into the decisive battles alone, before the class; the broad masses, are ready. Accordingly, it was resolved that the Party should engage in extensive consultation with its allies. While placing emphasis on Cosatu with regard to organised workers, the resolution called for the consultation to be widened to other worker and progressive organisations. These consultations should also to take place at all levels of the organisation. We are raising this issue as part of reporting back on what the SACP has done in the implementation of this resolution, since our 14th Party Congress.

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A reconfigured Alliance

The 14th Party Congress reaffirmed our commitment to the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance. Nevertheless, it considered its configuration to be outdated. The cumulative developments that unfolded after our 1990s democratic breakthrough necessitate a reconfiguration in order to strengthen, unify and deepen the unity of the Alliance, based on a common purpose. As a result, the Congress expressed its preference for a reconfigured Alliance as the ideal modality for its electoral participation in elections.

Cosatu, at its last Congress reaffirmed its electoral support for the ANC, but also strongly supported our call for a reconfigured Alliance. For federation this was a continuation of the calls it has made in the past, which include, inter alia, the necessity for the Alliance to act as a strategic political centre rather than the ANC on its own. The call for the reconfiguration of the Alliance to act as a strategic political centre can be traced to the resolution of the 12th Congress of the SACP on state power. Given our collective experience since then, both the SACP and Cosatu agree that the achievement of a reconfigured Alliance requires a deep-going process of class struggle involving building an ever strong organisation on the ground, intensifying class mobilisation and extensively engaging with our allies in good faith.

Given that the 14th Party Congress resolution on the SACP and state and popular power called for the engagements to take place at all levels, the SACP reasonably expects a progress report from the National Committee to this Congress of the YCLSA on the work it has done and co-ordinated at all levels to engage with PYA formations and the youth in general in implementing the resolution. The SACP has held Alliance Political Council sessions following which joint public statements were released. Further, the Party has held bilateral engagements with our allies. The Augmented Central Committee held last month received an assessment of the work done by the Party. On the 10th of December there is another Alliance Political Council plenary session. We expect the session to be followed by an Alliance Summit at a date to be decided at the meeting.

Left Popular Front

Our 14th Congress resolution on the SACP and state and popular power tasked the SACP to develop a leading role not only with regard to the aim of a reconfigured Alliance but also with regard to the aim of a Popular Left Front. Before we proceed on this score, it is important that we all underline the task given by the Congress to the Party – that is the task of developing a leadership role to achieve a reconfigured Alliance and forge a Popular Left Front. Having said this, it is important to state that the Congress assigned a dual purpose to the Popular Left Front.

The first purpose is that of a future electoral modality, as the resolution expressly states, in order to avoid placing all expectations and hopes in a favourable outcome on a reconfigured Alliance process. What this means is that in the event the Alliance is ultimately not reconfigured after every programmatic effort humanly possible, the SACP will be left with no other option but to pursue a working class electoral contest of state power through a Popular Left Front. The second, which is the primary goal of building a Left Popular Front, is that of moving the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) onto a second radical phase, and pushing, deepening and defending the basis for the advance to socialism.

Again the Young Communist League has an important role to play at the level of the youth in all spheres of Party organisation in forging the Left Popular Front. The Front should not necessarily be conceived of as a single organisation or a single front. In other words, it can take the form of a movement that is made of different fronts in different areas of focus and campaigning. On this score too, the Party reasonably expects a progress report to this Congress by the National Committee on its work to take forward the resolution. This brings us to the next point that we wish to address.

The Young Communist League is an autonomous and integral youth organisation of the SACP. Its twin tasks are, firstly, to articulate the Party programme and give practical expression to its resolutions and policies among the youth. This should be done in a youthful way – that is in a manner that resonates with the youth and attracts them to the Party and its role in deepening the NDR – our most direct route to socialism. Secondly, in doing so the YCLSA should simultaneously elaborate the interests and aspirations of the youth and give them practical expression. The Constitution of the Party and its programme, “The South African Road to Socialism”, provide important platforms for the YCLSA to play its role.

Special National Congress

The SACP Special National Congress will be taking place next year. The Central Committee will present to the Special National Congress, in line with the 14th Party Congress resolution on the SACP and state and popular power, a comprehensive report on the road map travelled towards a reconfigured Alliance and a Popular Left Front.

As prescribed by the resolution, the report will cover a comprehensive, scientific based audit of the state and influence of all Party structures at all levels in all key sites of struggle. This will include a scientifically based audit of the state and influence of the Young Communist League – as a youth organ of the Party – among the youth.

The Special National Congress will consider the report and adopt the way forward. This is what the 14th Party Congress resolution on the SACP and state and popular power prescribes.

A conclusive note on the question of the SACP and state and popular power is necessary at this stage. As our Party programme states, the SACP seeks to establish working class hegemony of the state rather than narrow party political power. It is therefore fundamental for the SACP as a working class Party to ensure that every step it takes is with and for the working class. To emphasise the importance of this principle, at the 14th Party Congress we used the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, you go alone, but if you want to go far, you go together”.

Last but not least, neither popular nor state power is an end on its own. It is a means to an end – that is the democratic enforcement of the interests, achievement of the aims and fulfilment of the historical mission of the proletarian movement as a whole and humanity at large. This brings us to the next point, the fundamental necessity to combat corporate capture both of the state and our movement.

Combat dogmatism, distortions and corporate capture             

The networks of corporate capture have developed a strategy to defend their deeds using quotations from the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, among other revolutionaries and theoreticians of the working class. Some of these elements have not completed reading the complete works. What they do is simply extract the quotations from the Internet, social media networks and some books and then push distortions from the extracts. The Young Communists should be active in combating this misleading agenda on all fronts including digital platforms or applications.

Let us give one example. Marx and Engels are quoted from the Communist Manifesto as saying “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”. What is not being said is that this was said in 1848, 64 years before the founding of the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation organisation. What is also not being said is that the ANC was not founded to contest elections in order to maintain the status quo and play the role of the 1848 European executive authorities in South Africa.

Rather than an instrument of the oppressor, the ANC is a mass political liberation organisation mainly comprising the historically oppressed and other democrats on non-racial and non-sexist bases. In contradiction to exploiting the hard-won democratic power of the masses, by using ascendency to the levers of state power to serve as an agent of the oppressor and parasitic interests, the ANC has adopted the NDR as its historical mission. Individuals who were deployed to the state to serve as authorities on the basis of advancing the revolution as their mandate but abandoned it in favour of corporate capturers, in favour of the looters of public resources, should not be allowed to justify their venality through distortions and unhistorical presentation of what is actually butchered Marxist texts.

This vulgarisation of Marxism quickly exposes the shallowness and real ideological character of these parasitic networks and their agents. They also deeply appeal to narrow racial chauvinism and tribalism as part of defending their private wealth accumulation interests through their control of parts of our movement and the state. Attempts to roll back corporate capture are also projected by these forces as an attack on “African senior executives” by an “Indian cabal” backed by “white monopoly capital”. This ideological posture poses a serious danger to the very fundamental values of our movement centred on the principle of non-racialism. One of the key tasks of the YCLSA in particular, and the PYA in general, is that of vigorously defending, deepening and advancing the non-racial character of our Party and movement, both in theory and in practice. The YCLSA must clearly define its role and distinguish itself in promoting non-racialism both within and outside of its ranks.

The principles emphasised by our 14th Party Congress – of strategic consistency, analytical alertness and tactical flexibility – are very important in combating revisionist and bourgeois reformist (but also lumpen type) tendencies within our broader movement. What Young Communists should do, in staying the course of our revolution, is to develop the habit of what Lenin referred to as a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. This is exactly what Kotane called for in his famous Cradock letter, as opposed to the fetishisation of Marxist texts and their disconnection from obtaining historical conditions. We are talking here about the habit of historical and dialectical materialism rather than an opportunistic use of Marxist texts to advance a perverse, often racialised, patriarchal and tribalist agenda. Young Communists have an important role to play in combating and exposing this agenda among the youth.

The YCLSA must seek to advance and deepen political education not only within the ranks of the organisation but also among the masses of the youth. When we talk about political education, we include a thorough study of Marxist classics, Marxism in general, its scientific achievements and method of inquiry into reality. However, the last Augmented Central Committee made an observation that most of our Party structures and membership – and this includes the YCLSA – have not bothered to read, study and discuss the South African Road to Socialism. The Augmented Central Committee urged all Party members and structures to read, study, discuss and be guided by the Party programme. We urge the YCLSA structures and members to do the same. In fact the programme is one of the most advanced Marxist-Leninist analyses of the South African situation in the current period.

The crisis of social reproduction and the youth in South Africa

One of the most critical tasks of the YCLSA must be that of focusing on the multiplicity of social scourges facing young people in South Africa. In order to effectively deal with this and other related social problems afflicting our society it is important that the YCLSA study and be guided by all the resolutions of the SACP and not only focus on the state and popular power resolution. Amongst the most important resolutions that need to be highlighted are the resolutions on fighting monopolies and democratising the economic space; deepening the battle of ideas; intensifying the struggle against patriarchy and gender oppression; sharpening class struggle in the workplace; and most importantly advancing the organisational renewal of the SACP. It is hard fact that the State and popular power resolution can never be properly implemented without the intensifying of the battle of ideas and particularly strengthening the organisational and financial capacity of the SACP.

An important resolution that does not only have to be implemented by all our structures, but has to become one of the most important documents for close analysis and study by all of our membership as well as the YCLSA, is our resolution on gender and patriarchy. This is a resolution that, amongst other things, directs the Party to study closely and undertake a theoretical elaboration of social reproduction in the South African society in particular, and in the world today in general. As South African Marxist-Leninists, given our own experiences in the social reproductive sphere, both during and after the apartheid regime, this is perhaps one area where we can come out with more innovative Marxist ideas, and contribute significantly to the Marxism of the early 21st century.

The multiple economic contradictions of capitalism (which were largely elucidated already by Marx) produce inevitable crisis tendencies driven by the internal logic of the system itself. Each new capitalist “fix” to address a particular crisis lays the conditions for the next set of crises. For example, the dominant welfarist state in the developed capitalist North (designed as a “fix” to resolve the crises that had produced the two world wars and to overcome war-time ruin in Europe and Japan) had itself entered into a crisis of stagflation by the mid-1970s. This led to a new “fix”, namely neo-liberalism. But neo-liberalism with its multiple problems of over-accumulation and excessive financialisation has now led to the next major global capitalist crisis – the ongoing 2008 Great Recession.

In the case of South Africa, the apartheid-capitalist social “fix” of switching the key pole of social reproduction of super-exploited/racially oppressed labour from the reserves to the oppressive, pressure cooker, peri-urban townships created the prime social space for popular multi-class township resistance in the semi-insurrectionary struggles of the 1970s and 80s. The un-governability of these social spaces became a major reason for the South African monopolies’ eventual support for a negotiated political settlement.

The current social reproduction crisis in South Africa is all too obvious. It is to be found in a public health care sector that is overwhelmed and under-resourced. It is to found in a public education sector with large numbers of dysfunctional schools and poor educational outcomes. It is to be found in the housing crisis, in the explosion of informal settlements, in home repossessions, and brutal evictions. It is to be found in the reality of 11 million South Africans living in food insecurity, despite the fact that we produce more than enough food to feed everyone. It is to be found in the ballooning household debt crisis. It is to be found in the dysfunctionality of many municipalities. It is to be found in public transport that is overwhelmingly unsafe and unreliable. It is to be found in working class communities plagued by criminality, drug and alcohol abuse, and youth alienation. Above all, it is to be found in the extraordinarily high levels of violence, and particularly of violence directed at women, children, members of the LGBTIQ community, and foreign nationals. All these crises affect the youth immensely.

The working class and the youth are also being forced to pay the price for the corruption of corporate capture. This is, for instance, the case in almost all of the major state owned entities, whether at Eskom, Prasa, Denel, Transnet, the SABC, etc. In the case of the SABC for instance the Alliance at its national summit in 2015 adopted a declaration identifying among others the problem of corporate capture as one of the reasons why the public broadcaster was failing to fulfil its public broadcasting mandate.

The current drive by the SABC board to fire workers en masse regardless of the social circumstances is indicative of the consequences of the problem of corporate capture, and the governance decay and maladministration it has brought about at the SABC before the current board was appointed. However, the board (which has experienced four resignations by yesterday) appears to have positioned itself as a guillotine that is prepared to stop at nothing to cut workers from their jobs into unemployment. Rather than the intransigence that has been displayed, what the situation needs is a board that is seen to be caring and a humane solution.   

The imperative of tackling retrenchments should not be advanced in isolation. It should be anchored in economic transformation and development based on the goal of collective prosperity. The youth is the most affected by unemployment with women the hardest hit. To that extent young people and women are the direct victims of corporate capture. The SACP is looking forward to the outcomes of this Congress both in terms of sound resolutions and an effective programme to tackle the crisis of youth unemployment and other social ills facing young people.  

The current conjuncture and some of the political and organisational tasks of the YCLSA: Towards the Centenary of the SACP!

Much as our message thus far has sought to place the tasks and responsibilities of the YCLSA firmly within the context of the Party programme and resolutions, it is important for the YCLSA to come out with its own tasks and programmes, albeit within the framework of the SACP programme.

The membership and leadership to emerge out of this Congress has an important responsibility to be part of the body of the SACP that will have to take our Party to its centenary in 2021 – a matter of about two and a half years from now. It is important to pose and seek to answer the question of what type of SACP and YCL would we like to see by then. In order to properly define the tasks of the YCL in the current period going forward, it is also going to be important to use your Congress to properly analyze and grasp the current conjuncture guided by the Leninist maxim that as Marxists we must always undertake a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions – a conjectural analysis.

The principal defining characteristic of the conjuncture, and the context within which you are hold this 5th National Congress of the YCLSA, is that of a protracted and stubborn economic stagnation. The capitalist class, across sectors and strata, whether white or black, has no capacity to lead any process of economic transformation and job creation.  Across its various strata and factions, it is incapable of leading a sustainable economic recovery – which can only be realised through the radical transformation of the systemic and structural features of our political economy.

However, other social forces have also been weakened.  

Working class organisation has significantly weakened over the past decade or so through fractionation and fragmentation. This has seriously eroded its capacity to lead and drive a second radical phase of our democratic transition, thus creating better prospects for overcoming the current economic stagnation. The working class is largely fighting defensive battles against the combined impact of job losses as a result of economic contraction and restructuring of the workplace, as well as a result of the biting impact of corporate capture of the state, and particularly state owned enterprises (SOEs) and the perversion of Sars. The youth and women are the main casualties in the current economic stagnation, facing retrenchments, labour brokerage and the general restructuring of the workplace that is weakening especially the organised working class.

Another key feature of the conjuncture is a weakened state and many of its apparatuses due to economic contraction, high levels of unemployment and weakened capacity of the SOEs that are a crucial component in driving any economic transformation. We currently have a government seeking to attract domestic and foreign direct investment largely through appeals to capital with limited power and a lack of political will in many cases to discipline capital. It is a constrained government in a weak state!

We are in a period of a (liberation) movement that is very weak and seriously divided with a continuing stalemate between its internal contending forces. It is a movement that is unable to decisively use its powerful position in the state, also because it cannot rely on undivided mass support from its structures and members to give it the necessary political authority to act decisively. Tellingly, the movement is weaker in a period of about a decade of proliferation of mass and sporadic, but highly localised and fragmented, community struggles.

Coincidentally, it is precisely these sporadic and disjointed mass struggles that the SACP’s 2018/19 Red October Campaign should seek to hegemonise and redirect into part of the motive forces for driving a second radical phase of the NDR. These struggles are about the many issues at the heart of our Red October campaign. In fact the proliferation of these localised and largely un-co-ordinated mass struggles are also a manifestation of the extent to which our movement may have lost (or is losing) its historical hegemony in community struggles. The ANC has largely become a movement that is internally focused (often consuming itself through debilitating and divisive factionalism). It is thus either constraint or unable to provide leadership to communities and society at large. It is the youth that is at the centre of these struggles and the YCLSA has a particular task to reach out and organise the young people in these terrains of struggle – not opportunistically or in a populist way but in a principled and programmatic manner!

The following tasks should form part of the core of a programme that should emerge from this Congress:

1.  The necessity for ongoing political organisation of the youth – Your Congress is taking place at a time when the youth political organisations have been weakened. In particular the ANCYL is severely impacted. This weak state of progressive youth organisation has left a huge void in youth politics and struggles in our country. It has created conditions for the emergence of populist and demagogic appeals to the youth, characterised by hypocrisy! The principal formation that is seeking to exploit this space is the EFF. Both the ANCYL and the YCLSA have not managed to effectively respond to the situation in a principled and programmatic manner. The YCLSA itself is not very strong.

2.  A twin platform upon which the YCLSA needs to organise young people politically is that of intensified political education and mass mobilisation around the specific issues that affect the youth. This should include strengthening the organisation of young workers and students as the bedrock upon which to build a strong and influential YCLSA. The YCLSA should focus on recruitment and education of young workers both within and outside the trade union movement. Indeed it is correct for the YCLSA to work closely with trade union youth desks and forums built by Cosatu and its affiliates. The YCLSA also needs to build and strengthen Sasco and Cosas as the prime student organisations of the congress movement. It is unhealthy for the YCLSA and the ANCYL to compete with our student formations in our education institutions. It is actually this fragmentation and competition that has for instance cost Sasco dearly in recent SRC elections. It is important for the YCLSA to have branches in all higher and TVET institutions, but to play its political role properly rather than compete with our congress movement student formations!

3.  Organising youth where it is located and active – It is important that we do not only focus on organising youth politically, but also in the various fronts in which the youth is concentrated – the church, sports, the workplace and broadly in the arts, culture and recreational sphere. The YCLSA must not focus inwardly – important as internal organisational development is. The YCSA should organise and have its presence entrenched wherever the youth is.

4.  Take up big and important campaigns – The YCLSA must always be active, mobilise, and campaign for the youth! The SACP is happy that you are taking up the issue of land in earnest. It is important to ground this struggle, theoretically, programmatically and practically without being populist about it. There is currently a lot of populism, cheap politicking and hot air on the current discussions and debates on the land question. We need to ground ourselves in a Marxist analysis and approach to this issue. The YCLSA has a lot to contribute in this regard.

5.  It would not be appropriate if I do not make use of this opportunity to urge the YCLSA to get involved in transport matters, in particular the campaign to achieve a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system. The single largest category of casualties in road crashes is young people under the age of 35 years. Of even more serious concern is the increase in road crashes due to what is now known as distracted driving – texting whilst driving, being on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social media platforms. As we start the festive season, this is the challenge we are faced with. We are currently dealing with a massive resistance in transforming the Road Accident Fund (RAF). What we want to achieve is a benefit scheme that protects the affected people from being fleeced by unscrupulous lawyers and medical practitioners. For example the 2017/18 financial year alone the RAF paid a total amount of R8.3 billion to lawyers, medical practitioners and other intermediaries. There is a huge lobby, led by the DA, to defend this fleecing of the RAF. The silence of progressive forces is deafening on the matter. I appeal that this Congress adopts a resolution and mobilise on this matter to eliminate the injustice. Furthermore, it is important to build community transport forums, including youth transport forums where appropriate.

6.  The so-called fourth industrial revolution is upon us. The YCLSA should develop a leading role in properly analysing and promoting a broader understanding of the nature and character of the unfolding and deepening technological revolution and its implications not only at the workplace on workers but also on society broadly. Indeed we need a Marxist analysis of technological change and its articulation in production, organisation of society at large and social life. For instance, is the “fourth industrial revolution” not a capitalist response to the latest crises of capitalism? What is the future of work in the light of the change? What is its potential to transform society for the better and the relationship between this and its hegemonisation by the capitalist class? Capitalist hegemony will produce a new crisis if a large scale job-loss emerges without new and sufficient jobs being created! Let the YCLSA position itself as a leading political and scientific authority among the youth on changes in the labour process, including technological change as well as new methods of work and production organisation.

The YCLSA would not be able to achieve any of its goals if it does not build itself into a strong organisation, capable of raising adequate resources to support its programmes. Do not allow the YCLSA to be divided and used an entry point of dividing the SACP by counter-revolutionary and opportunistic forces that seek to capture our organisations. At the same time, the SACP must support rather than allow the YCLSA to be factionalised.

In conclusion

I want to take this opportunity on behalf of the SACP to wish the 5th National Congress of the Young Communist League of South Africa, our Party’s youth wing, a success. I also want to thank the outgoing National Committee for all the work well done. I invite this Congress to discuss all areas for improvement, measures and strategies to strengthen unity and grow the organisation and its influence among the youth.  

 

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