Thursday, May 10, 2018

Speaker`s Notes by Cde Solly Mapaila, SACP First Deputy General Secretary
5 May 2018, University of Johannesburg

A brief reflection on the question of method is perhaps the befitting point of departure in honour of Karl Marx (5 May 1818 - 14 March 1883) during this occasion of our celebration of his birthday bicentenary. Marx not only produced an epoch marking critique of pre-existing methods of inquiry into society and approaches to social change, including changes in modes of production, their influence on human consciousness and, in turn, the influence of ideas as a material force for change, as well as political revolutions.

It is Marx who produced a fundamental critique of pre-existing materialism and developed the way forward - the materialist conception of history. The chief defect of the old materialism was that the object, actuality, sensuousness, were conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Marx put forward this finding as the first of his eleven Theses on Feuerbach - one of the chief representatives of the old materialism. As Frederick Engels, Marx's lifelong collaborator put it eloquently in Socialism: Scientific and Utopian, as developed by Marx,

"The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch."

It is Marx who also produced an epoch marking critique of pre-existing dialectics, of which Hegel was the chief representative. The problem with Hegel was that he developed dialectics from his idealist fashion. In contrast, Marx's approach to dialectics was anchored in the materialist conception of history. As Engels eloquently put it, the general nature of the dialectics thus developed, in contrast to metaphysics, as the science of interconnections. Equally importantly, Marx's materialist conception of history and dialectics are not mere tools of analysis. As Marx says in the last of his eleven Theses on Feuerbach, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it".

It was through the application of the materialist conception of history and dialectics that Marx produced a historic critique of political economy, exposed the secret of profit making, and not only how capital produces, but also how it is itself produced. It is Marx who, following the same approach, developed a revolutionary theory for the liberation of the oppressed, including the emancipation of the exploited. Marx's analysis of class society and capitalism remains profoundly relevant. In fact, if the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle (as Marx and Engels correctly state in the Manifesto of the Communist Party), it is no doubt also the history of two major epochs - namely the epoch before and the epoch after Marx's historical and dialectical materialist methods of inquiry into society and his development of revolutionary theory.

This is perhaps why we are now talking about Marxism and the 20th century revolutions. Marx produced his contribution on an inquiry into society and to class struggle in the 19th century. The 20th century, a period of 100 years from 1901 to 2000, occurred thereafter. The influence of his contribution lives on - in the 21st century. It will continue to live on - given its profound validity to the concrete conditions of society. The liberation struggles that occurred in the 20th century in the global south against colonialism were inspired by no small measure by the influence of Marx's work. Due to the limits of time allow us to highlight only a few.

Let us start elsewhere and then return to the global south according to the historical events of the 20th century revolutions. The Great October Socialist Revolution that occurred in 1917 in Russia in many ways remains the greatest 20th century revolution that was inspired by Marx's work. It became a source of inspiration and courage to the oppressed across the world to rise against the oppressors. Its direct state outcome, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics contributed immensely to other revolutions that occurred in the 20th century. Our own revolution, which produced our April 1994 democratic breakthrough six years before the end of the 20th century, benefitted enormously from the Great October Socialist Revolution.

For instance from 1960 when we adopted a turn to the armed struggle as a new pillar of our struggle until 1991, the Soviet Union was the closest ally of our struggle and national liberation movement. The West had declared terrorist our struggle for freedom altogether with our liberation formations and its leaders. It is the Soviet Union that supplied our joint SACP and ANC military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), with arms, ammunition, military, transportation, logistics and other equipment and forms of material support. Our MK cadres received training from the Soviet Union and other revolutions that it provided with assistance. Support was also in the form of professional education and training for peaceful development.

Other revolutions, such as China, also provided support.

The Cuban Revolution directly intervened in Angola for instance. By defeating the enemy in Angola, the Cuban Revolution contributed not by small measure to the liberation not only of Angola but also of the remainder of the oppressed Southern African countries, including Namibia and South Africa. It was during the 20th century that the colonised countries of the global south achieved their breakthroughs to national self-determination.

In Africa, only one country, Western Sahara remains directly occupied by another country, Morocco, and with the support of imperialist states. In the same vein, Israel continues to occupy Palestine in the Middle East. Much of what was Palestine has in fact been effectively annexed by Israel. The Middle East as a region is in fact severely divided and has no peace. If it were not of Russia, the imperialist forces of the West would in fact have long succeeded to give effect to their regime change agenda in Syria. They have succeeded for example in Libya. In both countries there was a massive destruction. Both Libya and Syria were set back by many decades. In fact Libya was turned into a new slave hunting ground in addition to the anarchy it became because of imperialist forces.

Imperialism has pulled all the stops to undermine all 20th century revolutions. The more than a century blockade of Cuba by the United States is a typical example. In many countries the situation does not seem that obvious though.

Many of the 20th century revolutions have been virtually undermined and others have been pushed back in a variety of ways. The democratic spaces that were achieved were usurped by corporate capture and imperialist forces, acting in concert with bourgeois reformist elements and related elitist groupings against national democratic revolutionary and socialist movement. As a result of this and many other factors it is only a few of the 20th century revolutions that remain loyal to the ultimate goals of a socialist transition and a communist society. Cuba is an obvious example.

National self-determination has been undermined, if not usurped, by the forces of neoliberal globalisation. While direct colonialism seems over, by and large and in many respects, the reality is that imperialism and its neoliberal agenda has taken the space of colonialism. A few societies can in fact claim to be truly free. The economic power acquired from centuries of colonial oppression and imperialist domination and the military strength built from it are being used as the instruments of oppression.

The struggle is not over. The Soviet Union was discarded by a combination of external counterrevolution and internal contradictions. The support that it provided before its disintegration no longer exists. We are conducting the struggle under different conditions. In addition, we are facing new challenges. The greatest of them all is the challenge of unity and cohesion in the world dominated by capitalist production and its consequent politics.

It was in view of these and other realities that in July 2017 the 14th Congress of the SACP resolved to build two new fronts, a widest possible patriotic front and a popular left front. If there is one strategic objective the Party is preparing itself to intensify is to play a leading role in forging and consolidating the two fronts. Both the fronts are crucial in our struggle against imperialism, in our struggle to safeguard our national democratic sovereignty, expand and deepen democratisation.

While by its nature and character a widest possible patriotic front is centred on a minimum programme, a popular left front has a much broader programmatic scope of developing a left articulation of the programme to complete our liberation and build the indispensible basis for an advance to socialism. To this end there are many policy considerations that require democratic consensus seeking consultation both with regard to the left's immediate tasks and long-term aims. Those I shall leave to the appropriate engagements.

In memory of Karl Marx, let us do our best to unite the working class on local, industrial, national and international bases!!!!!

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