Monday, July 04, 2016

The Youth and the Revolution by SACP General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande
3 July 2016, Johannesburg
Young Communist League of South Africa's Youth Rally

Let me on behalf of the SACP start by congratulating you for this gathering to remember and honour the 40th anniversary of the June 1976 student and youth uprisings.

The SACP values the youth as a rising generation that constitutes a chief representative of the future in the broadest sense. As our national liberation movement concluded long ago in the course of our liberation struggle, the future of our society, as of any society, depends on the political, ideological, theoretical and practical moulding of the youth.

The importance of the intervention from our Party's 11th National Congress in 2002 to re-establish the Young Communist League cannot therefore be over-emphasised. The role played by the Young Communist League in the twelve years since its re-establishment in 2003 speaks out clearly for itself.

There is no confusion!

The Ten Youth Demands formulated by the Young Communist League at its first National Policy Conference in 2005, two years after re-establishment, introduced a qualitative shift not only in the history of the youth movement but overall political discourse in our country as a whole.

The Ten Youth Demands put to the front to need to alter the structures of ownership and control in our economy to support democratic social transformation. The Young Communist League stressed the importance, in the demands, of developing democratic control in the mining sector in the interest of the people as a whole, the majority of whom is the working class and poor. It placed emphasis on progressively rolling out free education rigorously when it was not fashionable. For this it was condemned by right-wing elements and opportunists of different moulds as populist.

Today almost all of the Young Communist League's Ten Youth Demands are at the centre stage of our country's political discourse. Some groupings have even misappropriated these or other sections of the demands as if they were in the first place their ideas. Worst of all are elements that, on the basis among others of these demands, engaged in divisive behaviours, disunity and adopted the road to separatism forming isolated organisations apart from, and opposed to our tried and tested national liberation movement. Again the Young Communist League played one of the pivotal roles in tackling this opportunism. This task must be deepened to the end in defence not only of our liberation alliance but essentially the national democratic revolution, our road to socialism.

There can be no doubt that there are many things that could have gone otherwise were it not of the Young Communist League and the role it played since its historic re-establishment. The Young Communist League is an important political pillar not only of the youth but the SACP and socialism.

Why should this be the case?

Taking our cue from the collective wisdom of our liberation struggle, it is important for the youth to appreciate that, classes and strata act not only for their own good but also for the good of their rising generation. Young people are not a class on their own, but they are not classless. They have a class background and their social lives are influenced by class realities.

According to the experience of our people as summarised by our national liberation movement, the youth grows and is moulded within a concrete social environment, be it in the comfort and sleek surroundings of the capitalist home, in learning establishments such as schools, colleges and universities or in boardrooms, in the squalid conditions of the working class ghetto, the backward and wretched environment of the countryside, or in the confines of a petty-bourgeois upbringing.

As our ANC-led national liberation movement put it succinctly in Kabwe, Zambia, in the mid-1980s:
"The stage of youth is one of assimilating knowledge of all kinds. Avidly searching for a rational understanding of the surrounding world, the youth therefore displays curiosity, rebelliousness, impassioned and uncontrolled enthusiasms (at times); it quickly forms judgements as it abandons others. Such a stage is crucial in the moulding of stable social being; thus all classes and strata wage relentless battles for the hearts and minds of the youth."

This is exactly why as the SACP we re-established our own organisation among the youth, the Young Communist League. It is exactly why we need to continuously build and strengthen the capacity of the Young Communist League through thoroughgoing political education and ideological training, based on a scientific outlook of society and development as elaborated by Marxism-Leninism. It is exactly why as the SACP we must continue tempering the Young Communist League, like hardening steel, in revolutionary theory and practice. As Karl Marx, the world's renowned revolutionary social scientist said in his eleventh and last thesis in the Theses on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."

One of the immediate threats we are facing in the battle by different class forces for the hearts and minds of the youth are the dangers of corporate capture, patronage and corruption. This is coupled with, or often rides on the back of, the persistently high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty mostly affecting the youth.

The parasitic bourgeoisie, the most dangerous class compared to the lumpen proletariat of 1848 when Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, is not alone in destroying the future of the youth through these dangerous machinations. Monopoly capital and criminals in the form of drug lords and drug dealers are also destroying the future of the youth. The success of these forces of destruction will result in the failure of the future of the youth and our country as a whole.

The Young Communist League must intensify its mobilisation and political programme among young people to defeat all these forces. The youth of today must take their cue from the class of 1976 that waged a gallant struggle not narrowly against the apartheid language policy in schools per se but against apartheid as a whole. This is part of the history of class struggle in our country and the role played by the youth in it.

Many young people left the country following the 1976 student uprisings to swell the ranks of uMkhonto we Sizwe outside of the country. Others joined the ranks of the underground pillar of our struggle inside the country. Many others participated in ongoing mass actions against oppression and exploitation throughout the 1970s and 1980s leading to the apartheid regime declaring the state of emergency in the 1980s. Our transition to democracy in the early 1990s could not have been possible without the role played by the youth as part of the working class and poor masses who confronted the apartheid regime and all its violent machinations head on.

In this same way we can fight corporate capture, corruption, patronage, crime and the drugs that the drug lords and drug dealers are using as a weapon to ravage our communities and destroy the future of the youth. It is through mass mobilisation, proper education and training that we can successfully fight inequality, unemployment, poverty and the system of exploitation that created and reproduces these and other destructive social consequences - that is capitalism.

In this same way we can together defend the many social achievements millions of our people have gained since our democratic breakthrough dislodged the apartheid regime in 1994. South Africa is today a better country to live in since, and because of, our 1994 democratic breakthrough:

The ANC-led government established the culture of human rights and ensured that this was guaranteed in our constitution. On its own this achievement changed the lives of millions of our people for the better served as a basis for further advances, massive social delivery and infrastructure development that followed.

The ANC-led government has delivered approximately four million houses benefiting over seventeen million people. It electrified over seven million houses, two million more than the mere five million electrified on a racist basis in a century to 1994 by successive colonial regimes since the first household electricity connection in 1894. Access to clean water services increased from a negligible base in 1994 to 90 percent in 2014. We are near universal access to basic education. By the second decade of our democratic transition in April 2014, over nine million learners were benefiting from the school feeding scheme. At universities and colleges the majority of students are Black and females. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme is undisputedly the single largest driver of this progress in colleges and universities. There are many other social and infrastructural advances, tarred roads and streets, primary healthcare clinics, hospitals and so on, all of these also covering rural areas where none of them existed before.

This is why, as the SACP, we are saying to the Young Communist League in particular and the youth in general, let us go all out and deliver a victory for our people on the ballot through the ANC. Let us campaign zealously to deliver this victory and defend our achievements.

But let us not be in denial about the challenges that we are facing. We have highlighted some of them, corporate capture, corruption, patronage, inequality, unemployment, poverty, drugs and substance abuse. Let us deepen political and mass work to defeat these challenges as we campaign for electoral victory and beyond!

Another challenge that is facing our movement is factionalism.

Ten years ago this time our movement was facing the same challenge. The following year, 2007, there were two major gatherings taking place, the SACP's 12th National Congress in July and the ANC's 52nd National Conference in December. The factionalism, while cutting across the rest of our movement and affecting the whole of the ANC-led alliance, was particularly concentrated in the ANC. This was linked with a leadership transition in government, in terms of which the ANC President was not going to be its Presidential candidate in the 2009 general election because of the limit placed on the terms of office of the President of the Republic by our country's constitution.

Then we found ourselves faced with a problem involving the functioning of state institutions in a manner that left much to be desired, reflecting involvement in party political battles and settling of scores. We had to close ranks and unite against the manner in which the Scorpions, a state investigative organ set up to fight serious crimes and corruption was functioning. We were also faced with invasive surveillance including tapping of our phones.

It is a serious problem that we are faced with a similar situation and problems again!

In July 2017 our SACP 14th National Congress will take place as with the ANC's 54th National Conference in December the same year. The current serving President, Cde Jacob Zuma, will not be the movement's Presidential candidate in the 2019 general election for the same reason as former President Thabo Mbeki could not be the movement's Presidential candidate in 2009. In this context, already there are individuals who have grouped themselves into factions positioned to serve as the so-called kingmakers in the process of the leadership transition in 2017 linked with the 2019 general election.

Our movement must find a better way of managing leadership transitions linked with a change in leadership in government. Otherwise destruction does not only take place in the form of an event. In fact most of it is actually occurs a process of quantitative changes culminating in a qualitative change in the form of a downward spiral, disintegration and a collapse. Already our movement has experienced quantitative fragmentation. We cannot afford more of the same going forward to the future.

And those who think that we need less of the alliance going forward are fooling themselves. The reality is that we will need more of the alliance, united, cohesive, and functioning optimally at each moment more than ever before. Without this, the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution that we direly need will not be possible!!!!!

Another internal challenge we are facing is that of the depoliticisation of the youth and our structures. Factionalists and parasites increasingly hate the development of a cadreship that has high levels of political consciousness and understanding. This is because politically conscious cadres are often not easy to manipulate into cannon fodder for factionalist voting. If not careful this depoliticisation often quickly degenerates into various strands of anti-intellectualism and looking down upon educated cadres in our movement.

Corporate capture, factionalism and depoliticisation are usually mutually reinforcing. Parasites need factionalists in order to accumulate through captured leaders and organisations. Factionalists in turn need both the resources in the hands of the parasites in order to fund their factionalist activities, as well as a depoliticised membership used as voting cannon fodder. If we fail to break and defeat this vicious cycle, our revolution will die and so will your future as young South Africans.

The most immediate task of the Young Communist League is to campaign even harder for a decisive victory of the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections, through heightened outreach to young voters. Priority must be given to hotly contested areas, especially the metros.

However, it is important both now and after the campaign to build strong structures of people's power on the ground in order to ensure that the people themselves become the primary vehicle for transformation at the local level. This means strong revolutionary alliance and Progressive Youth Alliance structures on the ground. The SACP is now even more strongly of the view that we must build strong civic or residents associations on the ground, as part of rectifying the weakness of branches that tend to be inwardly focused instead of providing bold leadership to communities. We urge the Young Communist League to reflect and join us in this task.

The Young Communist League needs to continue to strengthen itself in the higher education sector, in both universities and colleges. Important transformation struggles opened up and waged by students in this sector must not be allowed to be hijacked by populist and other opportunistic elements. They must firmly be led by the Progressive Youth Alliance with a strong YCL presence.

The SACP is also pushing for the building of a strong worker-student alliance at institutional level as the bedrock and principal motive force for post-school education and training transformation. At the head of this must be trade unions Nehawu and SADTU and the Progressive Youth Alliance. A strong YCL has an important role to play here; especially also ensuring that democratically elected structures and their legitimacy in our institutions of learning are defended. Together we must ensure that no one gambles with the education and therefore the future of our youth. We must protect schools, colleges and universities from destruction.

Our clarion call must be that our institutions of learning across the board must be transformed and not destroyed!

Given the tasks we have just outlined, as well as the threat of depoliticisation of our members and cadres, the Young Communist League will have to up its game in the provision of political education amongst young workers, students and the unemployed youth, with a strong focus on leadership. The SACP can think of no more urgent a matter than the need to intensify political education amongst the youth. No matter what difficulties that maybe faced by young people today, our youth is not the problem but an asset. If properly mobilised, the youth can serve as a vehicle to solve many of the problems facing society.

Let us also emphasise this point: one of the most pressing problems for which we must mobilise our youth to tackle is that of drugs and substance abuse in our communities. If there is one urgent campaign we would urge the YCL to take up in earnest is this one as drugs and substance abuse constitutes one of the most serious threats to the future of hundreds of thousands of young people and the negative impact these have on families.

Our clarion call is - go and vote, but do not sit back after that - go out and mobilise; the future of local government and that of our society as a whole is in your hands!

Issued by the SACP

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