South African Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande. He currently serves as minister of higher education and delivered the keynote address at the annual party fundraiser., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
RED OCTOBER 2012: Official launch of the SACP Campaign - Basic Services for All!
Speech delivered by SACP General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande
7 October 2012
This Red October the SACP is launching a "Basic Services For All!" campaign. The "Basic Services For All!" campaign follows and builds upon our many previous Red October campaigns - the Financial Sector Campaign, the Land and Rural Transformation Campaign, the Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign, the Health and NHI campaign, the campaign for decent public transport. The theme of this year`s campaign is deliberately chosen to highlight and to connect several absolutely key working class struggles and socialist priorities.
But first, as Communists, let us ask: What is the political and economic context in which this campaign is taking place?
Internationally, we are in the midst of a prolonged global capitalist crisis that began in 2007 as a financial crisis in the US banking sector, that spread to Europe, and which is now engulfing the entire global capitalist economy. Everywhere there are mass retrenchments. Everywhere there are attempts to make the working class and popular strata bear the brunt of a crisis precipitated by the greed of capitalists.
In the UK, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and the US there are austerity packages for the majority, with tax breaks for the rich and bail-outs for the banks. In the midst of this crisis, everywhere right-wing demagogues are seeking to exploit popular anger and distress - by deflecting anger onto immigrants, or national minorities. Some (following the earlier examples of Hitler and Mussolini) even fly the flag of a pseudo-anti-capitalism, the better to be able to grab resources for themselves.
Here in SA we are also feeling the impact of this global capitalist crisis. Our economic growth has dropped dramatically as the slowdown has impacted upon our key trading partners - Europe and China. The slow-down in growth contributes negatively to our ongoing battle with extraordinarily high levels of unemployment and therefore poverty and unemployment.
Thanks, at least, to the post-Polokwane relative defeat of the previously dominant neo-liberal "1996 class project" - in the face of the global crisis, the SA government has NOT followed the example of right-wing and centrist governments in many parts of the developed capitalist world. We have not adopted austerity packages. Nor, thanks in part to the SACP`s earlier Red October Financial Sector Campaign, have we had to bail-out commercial banks at popular expense. Nor, it should be said, thanks to the SACP`s leadership on the mining debate, have we bailed out indebted BEE shareholders in the mining sector in the name of a pseudo-nationalisation - in which the only thing that is nationalized is a debt.
Instead, the ANC-led SA government has adopted a series of inter-related policies and active programmes focused on countering, as best as possible, the capitalist crisis, directed at job creation, massive economic and social infrastructure development, and skills development - notably through the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Programmes, and the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.
But we also know that the ability of the SA state to drive these programmes is often compromised by deliberate undermining of these efforts by the still dominant capitalist sector and by severe weaknesses in the state - particularly a lack of coordination, silo-mentalities, and, above all, by tenderpreneuring and excessive outsourcing.
To consolidate the ability of the state to implement progressive policies and programmes we need to build working class hegemony both within the state and outside of it.
As we seek to advance this agenda we can, of course, expect to encounter fierce class resistance.
In the first place, over the past year in particular, we have seen a multi-pronged offensive against the organized, unionised detachment of the working class - against COSATU in particular. This offensive has taken several forms, but essentially it has sought to demonise the union movement, and to play the disaffected, alienated, marginalized, the unemployed and lower middle class elements against the established union movement. This was a strategy deployed by fascists in the midst of the last great global capitalist crisis in the 1930s. It was a strategy used by the neo-nazi Hertzogite white racists in SA in the same period. And, in a slightly different form, it was a strategy used by Margaret Thatcher against the British National Union of Mineworkers in the 1970s.
And now it is a strategy that the DA is flirting with - as most recently exemplified by its reckless rag-tag platoon of marginalized township elements and suburbanites marching on COSATU House. And it is a strategy that the extreme right-wing demagogues in the so-called "Friends of the Youth League" have sought to deploy in the wake of the Marikana tragedy.
These dangerous counter-revolutionary strategies are organically linked to the strategy of the big mining houses - notably, but not only, BHP Billiton and Impala Platinum - who actively cultivated the pseudo-union AMCU. As so often happens with capitalist opportunism of this sort, this agenda has now ended in tears for the mining houses themselves.
COSATU and its affiliates have responded correctly to these threats. Last month`s COSATU congress quite correctly followed the line suggested by the SACP in our message of support - "Close Ranks", we said, was the order of the day. COSATU and NUM have also correctly sought to address shortcomings within the unions - paying particular attention to the dangers of a creeping social distance between full-time shop stewards and ordinary workers. Above all, following a meeting between COSATU and NUM with the active participation of the SACP at the beginning of October, a clear strategic line of march was announced. Where there are unprotected strikes, however strategically and tactically misguided these might be, COSATU cannot stand on the margins, or simply call on workers to return to work - this quickly gets twisted into a claim from the demagogues that "COSATU is on the side of the bosses". The fight must be carried to the bosses. COSATU and its affiliates must seek to provide leadership to workers and their grievances. If COSATU had emerged divided from its Congress, this correct, militant response would not have been possible.
But the same applies to our wider movement. At present there is a huge political (and particularly a huge media) offensive to distract (and of course divide) the ANC-led movement into a myopic pre-occupation with a leadership contest. It is as if the geography of South Africa has been reduced to one (or maybe two) single place: "Mangaung" (and Marikana). Of course the SACP takes seriously the ANC`s forthcoming national conference. And of course, while respecting the ANC`s internal democratic processes, SACP cadres in our capacity as active ANC members will join with hundreds of thousands of other ANC members in ensuring that our movement is not hi-jacked by opportunists and tenderpreneurs. We will ensure that the progressive policies of our movement are consolidated, and that the ANC, like COSATU and the SACP, emerges united in continuity and, where necessary, with change from its 2012 Conference.
But a principled and activist unity of our movement will not arrive on a plate. It will have to be struggled for - and this is the specific context of this year`s Red October Campaign. It is not a campaign about names or personalities or lists - but a campaign to build popular power on the ground, it is a campaign to expose tenderpreneuring and corruption in our communities, it is a campaign to forge working class unity and hegemony within our movement, and within and beyond the state.
It is important that we also expose the so-called leadership crisis as a proxy - by an alliance of all sorts of opportunists, failed business people, sections of print media, tenderpreneurs and liberals - to attack the current leadership of our movement and government, and especially use this as a proxy war to try and steal our movement in Mangaung. These elements talk about a crisis in political leadership but are silent about the crisis of capitalism that is causing so much socio-economic havoc globally and in our country.
We have deliberately chosen the theme "Basic Services For All!" because it draws attention to the imperative of campaigning work inside of our working class communities.
Our working class communities - urban, peri-urban and rural townships, informal settlements and villages are the key localities in which we must build (and re-build) working class unity and popular power. It is in these localities, in common struggles, that we can unite the employed, the under-employed and the unemployed. It is in these localities, that we must unite the youth, working parents, and pensioners; small business-people and the working class.
The campaign for "Basic Services For All!" must be linked to COSATU`s Basic Wage Campaign. We must extend the concept of a "wage" to include the idea of a "social wage" - i.e. the provision of decent housing, water, sewerage and electricity connection, health and educational facilities, and safe, reliable and affordable public transport.
In particular, as we campaign in our communities, we will mobilise popular forces around the shocking environmental conditions within which the working class and poor are condemned to live. In doing so, we will work with an already existing reservoir of community activism and militancy on this front.
In the first place, we will take up the struggle for clean and healthy communities. Too many of our townships are blighted with piles of rubbish lying all over. We will lead voluntary clean-up initiatives to remove rubbish from empty fields, drains, and water-courses in our communities.
But once-off clean-up campaigns are not sustainable. We must engage local authorities on the issues of refuse removal and the proper disposal of refuse. This aspect of municipal services is often pathetic because it has been contracted-out to tenderpreneurs with no capacity and no interest in doing the job. Waste removal must be de-tenderised. Municipalities must take direct responsibility. There are also many possibilities for Expanded Public Works and Community Works Programmes on this front - as well as local co-ops. It is not just the collection of waste that has been too often neglected, tenderpreneuring has also seen all kinds of corrupt waste disposal.
As part and parcel of the waste campaign, we must encourage recycling in our communities - municipalities must install public waste bins that separate waste (glass, plastic and paper). There is no reason why each street should not have a waste bin campaign.
We should campaign for the eradication of the bucket system where it exists. Where water-borne sewerage is difficult to install, perhaps because of serious water constraints, then alternative sanitation methods (dry toilets) must be installed. These are often unpopular because local authorities fail to maintain these toilets. The struggle for proper maintenance and replacements is critical.
Maintenance and even personal security is particularly a challenge in situations like overcrowded informal settlements where communal toilets are the only option. Again cleaning and maintaining communal toilets, and ensuring personal safety, especially at night for women, is something that can done through the Expanded Public Works or Community Works Programme. In taking up this aspect of the campaign we will be asking the City of Cape Town why it has failed so dismally with its EPWP communal toilets janitor programme. R25 million was allocated to the programme, but 6 months later the whole thing has collapsed. Janitors were not given training, or cleaning materials, or overalls. Their contracts are cancelled after 6 months, and rotated so that the DA-administration can multiply its claims of creating more "job opportunities". It`s a disgrace!
As part of this campaign we will engage local authorities on tree planting, greening cities, townships and villages including erection and maintenance of parks - and, once again, ensuring the employment of locals in the maintenance of parks and other local facilities.
Another critical problem in the struggle for environmental justice in our communities is the often untransformed nature of the Environmental Impact Assessment process. The vendors registered to issue the EIA compliance certificates remain untransformed and often embedded with big capitalists and unsympathetic to the challenges confronting working class communities. There is a need therefore for accelerated training of progressive environmental specialists including using SETA`s to train those already working in the sector but without the requisite qualifications.
Working class communities are located right on top of heavy industrial location. In the course of this Red October campaign SACP structures will be mobilizing communities to march on mining houses and industries in districts where there is heavy industrial pollution. These include SAPPI in Mpumalanga, mines in Ermelo and Carolina, in Gauteng we will demand that the polluters should pay for acid mine water drainage, in Sasolburg we must march on SASOL, in Vanderbiljpark on Mittal in Vanderbiljpark.
We will be calling for a review of the use of the Mining Rehabilitation Act and other policy instruments at the hands of the state to enforce compliance with good practice on environmental issues. Is government using these instruments with sufficient vigour?
Hazardous waste is another area that has seen several scandals over the past years. SACP structures must specifically engage public hospitals on issue of medical waste management. The campaign must demand that this issue be completely de-tenderised.
The SACP structures must campaign around issues of water management and access to clean drinking water by communities.
We must put pressure on government to accelerate the roll-out of solar water geysers, and ensure that these are locally manufactured.
In rural areas we will be campaigning for safe practices on commercial farms. Too many farm labourers are exposed to dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. We must also campaign for government to popularize sustainable organic farming - particularly among small and emerging farmers.
These are just some of the key issues that we will be taking up in the course of our 2012 Red October Campaign. Of course, October is just the month in which we kick-off these campaigns and in which we seek to rally forces around the country. But these issues need to be sustained in an ongoing way. As we campaign in our communities, we know from previous experience that we will find many other local issues. We will learn from local communities and from the issues they are already taking up.
It is only by re-connecting dynamically with our communities that we will build working class and popular power. It is only by connecting work-place and community struggles that we will defeat the anti-worker, anti-trade union offensive. It is only by being immersed in the day-to-day struggles of our people that we will rescue politics from its vulgarization into lists, personalities and factions. And in doing this we must help our communities to understand that ultimately a struggle for Basic Services For All is ultimately an anti-capitalist struggle. It is a struggle against a system that puts profits for a few before the social needs of the majority.
In undertaking all these campaigns let us build strong SACP branches and also actively participate in ANC structures. Let us intensify Party work by ensuring that SACP branches take up issues that face our people daily. It is only by being present in all key sites of struggles that we will deepen working class power, take responsibility for the national democratic revolution and bring our goal of a socialist South Africa closer.capitalism is proving itself daily that it is not capable AC addressing problems facing humanity, especially the workers and the poor.
Which is why we say: SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE - BUILD IT NOW!