Monday, October 19, 2009

Let Us Change This Downward Slope

Courtesy of ANC Today

Let us change this downward slope

Viewpoint by Gwede Mantashe

As many issues emerge in the public discourse one appreciates that scaling down our political education programme was a wrong decision. It is like an advert ‘we stopped the clock to save time'. As a mineworker I learnt that during bad times you don't scale down development to save cost, because you go under when the price of commodities picks up. During repression we don't cut back on investment spending because when the economy picks up you will delay the recovery.

Political education must always ensure that repeated untruths do not become reality in the minds of the cadres of the movement. Our cadres must be equipped with tools of analysis such that they can differentiate between anecdotes and policies of the movement. It is the time that has lapsed without a structured education programme that is beginning to change the character and the outlook of our movement.

The dominance of factions in almost all the provinces of the ANC reflects the weakness of the structures. That weakness, to a great extent, reflects the lack of ideological depth and the weakening of political conscience among the cadres of the movement. Our inability to move with the necessary speed in arresting this decline will lead to us being rightfully accused of benefiting from the disorder, and this will then be seen as a deliberate disorganisation.

When selflessness, one of the principled characters of our movement, is being replaced by a newfound expression of selfishness, wherein personal accumulation becomes the main cause for divisions we must know that the movement is in decline.

Ill-discipline, as evidenced in the disruption of meetings, public rebuke of leadership, lack of accountability and an assumption of individual comrades being larger than the movement itself, is a cancer that is beginning to eat the movement.

These deviant features are uncharacteristic of the essence and form of our movement, and its culture as a liberation organisation. This, therefore, heightens the need for us to strengthen political education among our cadres. We have a duty and responsibility to change and divert from this downward slope.

However, our approach to political education should seek a structural and mass engagement of our organisation. In doing so, we should avoid the notion of political education being a ritual. Essentially, political education is about raising consciousness. Such a consciousness must assist our structures and our cadres to engage with real issues confronting the national democratic revolution, our people and our organisation.

Among the key issues that political education must help us with, is a raised consciousness against the intersection between election to office and business interest. Current experience shows that ambition for office is accompanied with unruly and violent behaviour, and ill-conceived ways of campaigning and lobbying. Election has become a matter of life and death.

This anomaly, gradually becoming a serious cancer about to swallow our movement, is a consequence of perceiving elected office as a means to self-serving accumulation rather than service to the people. This distorts what we know the ANC to be, its reason for existence, that is, to serve – as clearly articulated in the 52nd Conference of the ANC.

What tools of analysis do we require in order to calm the storms of our times? Historically, the African National Congress has used historical and dialectical materialism, because these are scientific tools of analysis in the course of the national democratic revolution. Saying this today, does it confirm or mean a communist take over? Is the perception of a take over of the African National Congress by the communists and trade unionists real or imagined? Only a conscious cadreship of the ANC can see the difference between the wood and the forest.

The ANC has always been comprised of great leaders who were equally outstanding leaders of the Communist Party, the Trade Union movement, and Umkhonto weSizwe. Among them are stalwarts of our movement, like Moses Mabhida, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, JK Nkadimeng, Mark Shope, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Dan Tlhome and Edwin Mofutsanyane.

Consequently a debate about purism, one that wishes to project the ANC as "pure" is both erroneous and a fallacy. It also goes against the content and letter of our seminal conferences, such as Morogoro, which adopted the strategy and tactics principles stating that the working class is the primary motive force of our revolution.

"The national character of the struggle must therefore dominate our approach. But it is a national struggle taking place in a different context from those which characterised the early struggle against colonialism … it is also happening in a new kind of South Africa in which there is a large and well-developed working class … in which the independent expressions of the working people – their political organs and trade unions – are very much part of the liberation front…
Its political organisations – and the trade unions – have played a fundamental role in shaping and advancing our revolutionary course … its militancy and political consciousness as a revolutionary class will play no small part in our victory and in the construction of a real people's South Africa"

The critical challenge and question we need to confront today is: Is the ANC stronger in its alliance with the working class formations, the SACP and COSATU, or is it stronger as a pure nationalist movement? Has it always been a narrow nationalist movement, as many want us to believe, or a revolutionary movement that we have always been told it is?

The multi-class character of the ANC necessitates that, as the various classes grow stronger in society the greater the intensity of class contestation will be within our movement. Consequently, the imperative is for us to be able to differentiate between real contestation and a smokescreen.

The African National Congress is a revolutionary movement. It is not a narrow nationalist movement. We should bear that in mind in our political education.

Through reference to the historical evolution of our movement we can help navigate through our present challenges. We can engage even with the most controversial of postulates, and anchor our debates on the real politik and on correct political understanding.

Gwede Mantashe is the Secretary General of the ANC

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