Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Defeat the Parasitic Bourgeoisie, the Immediate Internal Threat Facing the National Democratic Revolution; Dislodge the Choke Hold of Monopoly Capital on Our Country!
"Do not destroy our universities, transform them and defend our democratic heritage" - SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande, also Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Moses Mabhida Memorial lecture by SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande, Pietermaritzburg, 23 September 2016

Let me take this opportunity to thank the South African chapter and the Vice President of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), also the President of Nehawu, Comrade Mzwandile Makwayiba for holding this Memorial lecture on Comrade Moses Mabhida - uStimela, as Comrade Harry Gwala used to call him. This lecture is part of the activities preceding the truly historic event of the holding of the international congress of the WFTU in Durban, the first ever to be held on African soil. I am also truly humbled for the Honour to be invited to deliver the lecture.

There would have been no better way to celebrate the convening of the WFTU international congress in South Africa, than to remember Comrade Mabhida, who was a key participant in WFTU representing the then South African Congress of Trade Unions (Sactu). Even more significant is the holding of this lecture right here in Pietermaritzburg, where he was born and grew up, and also the only city in South Africa that has the single honour of having produced two general secretaries of the South African Communist Party, the SACP.

Dear comrades, on 8 March 1986 the SACP lost its General Secretary, Comrade Moses Mbheki Mncane Mabhida at the age of 63. He was born on 14 October 1923 at Thornville in Pietermaritzburg in a peasant household background. His political activism and world outlook was shaped by his deep resentment of his family and people at the dispossession they suffered under colonisation.

Mabhida attended school from 1932. His learning process was however interrupted by periods during which he had to work as a "herd-boy" for one shilling a week in support both of his schooling but also of life at home given the peasant background and at the time his developing proletarian or working class position and location in social relations of production.

Today our democratic government, in line with the Freedom Charter, or should we also say in line with the Communist Manifesto as the two are worded almost the same on this matter, has made a massive progress in rolling out free education with focus on learners from working class and poor households through the policies of no-fee paying schools and fee exemption for the poor in fee-paying schools. Unlike under this social progress, at the time when Mabhida attended school access to basic education was largely determined by school fees. It is this very fact that led to Mabhida leaving school after finishing what would become the ninth grade in today`s terms. But this did not happen before he met and went through the hands of "The lion of the midlands", Comrade Harry Themba Gwala, a teacher and an outstanding stalwart of our struggle.

It was Gwala who influenced Mabhida to join the African National Congress (ANC) and trade union activism. Gwala provided Mabhida with basic political education, among others covering the role played by the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Mabhida joined the SACP in 1942 when that war was still raging on.

His working class position; his experience of oppression of the majority African and Black people in general, under the yoke of White minority supremacism; his rejection of economic exploitation; his opposition to foreign and imperialist domination, furnished the material basis for his active involvement in workers and political struggles. Mabhida`s struggle was therefore a comprehensive struggle to overthrow the entire regime of exploitation, oppression and domination, including patriarchy. It is this that saw him deepen his activism and organically rise through the ranks of the progressive trade union movement, the ANC and the Communist Party.

Mabhida served as SACP General Secretary from 1979, after replacing Comrade Moses Maune Kotane who died a year before in 1978. Kotane, rightly described as the "Chief architect of the South African struggle", served in the same position for 39 years, from 1939 during the most severe, deepest and longest crisis of capitalism - the Great Depression, throughout the so-called Second World War, until his death in 1978. He had a lot of experience and contributed immensely in the development of the SACP.

Kotane played a major role in ensuring that Marxism-Leninism in South Africa was anchored in our country`s historical conditions. In the main, this involved the grounding, or if you like the indigenisation or Africanisation of Marxism-Leninism, as well as its correct application in our concrete realities. His famous Cradock letter sums it all. Kotane`s work in building our revolutionary alliance and the progressive trade union movement; his outstanding leadership in the SACP and the ANC; his international work against colonial and apartheid oppression; his internationalism against the entire system of imperialism, laid a solid foundation, in the context of collective leadership, for the work that Mabhida was to take forward as SACP General Secretary until his death.

In his own right as an activist, leader and product of our struggle for liberation and social emancipation, Mabhida had accumulated massive leadership, military and strategic experience. He had been involved in building progressive trade unionism in South Africa, in international trade union work with the WFTU as a representative of Sactu - the legal predecessor to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Mabhida`s full-time work in building the progressive trade union movement as part of the overall strategy of the SACP started after the 1952 Defiance Campaign - in which 8 000 people were arrested for protesting against apartheid laws. It was the SACP Pietermaritzburg District Committee that proposed to Mabhida to resign from his job and work full-time in building the movement. He started with the Howick rubber and chemical workers` unions here in Pietermaritzburg, in Durban and in a number of other areas in what would today become the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Mabhida`s trade union work saw him actively involved in the founding of Sactu.

Mabhida was involved in building the joint ANC-SACP military wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). After undergoing his military training, he devoted himself at building the MK. Both of this came as result of a request by ANC President, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo in 1962, following the ANC`s Lobatse Consultative Conference held in Botswana in 1962. Mabhida was re-elected at this conference to the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC). He became a member of the ANC NEC around 1956. In 1958-1959 he was acting Chairperson of the ANC in Natal. Mabhida served the ANC and the alliance in many responsibilities. To dwell extensively on those responsibilities will be to write a book. Unfortunately we are facing limitations of both time and space at this single event.

However, there are certain facts we cannot leave out, even if it means repeating what is already known about him. Mabhida was involved in the processes that led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 by the Congress of the People. After the ANC Morogoro Consultative Conference held in Tanzania in 1969, he played a vital role in the establishment of the ANC`s intelligence and security department. Ten years later, in 1979 , he served on the Politico-Military Strategy Commission that developed the Green Book, one of the high level ideological, political, strategy and tactics documents to have been produced in our national liberation movement. The Green Book is highly recommended for our cadres as it deepens one`s understanding of the shared perspectives of our alliance and our theory and practice of struggle.

A strict Marxist-Leninist cadre, Mabhida served the MK as a Commissar, among others, training new recruits politically and ideologically. He served the MK also as a Commander. It is very important that we also say this today. Comrade Moses Mabhida never deserted his course of duty at any particular moment. Neither did he ever seek individualist solutions to collective challenges.

Let us therefore take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all those MK combatants who took their cue from Mabhida, who were always there whenever the revolution required their services.

If one follows in the footsteps of the good revolutionary example established by the resilience and unifying leadership of Kotane, Tambo and Mabhida, one will never put their individual interests to the front or engage in any divisive and factional activities. The common attributes of these great leaders of our struggle and movement, is that they built and united our revolutionary alliance. We have many lessons of revolutionary moral high ground to learn from them.

In fact as we remember uStimela, we must commit to fight against factionalism - a disease that is threatening to destroy our movement. It is also a disease that has contributed immensely to the relatively poor performance in our last local government elections. It is a disease that is threatening to tear our movement apart here in KZN and other parts of the country. It is a disease which, if not defeated, will consume all of us and take our country back into the pre-1994 period.

Let us take our cue from Moses Mabhida; let us roll back the chokehold of monopoly capital on our revolution!

Monopoly capital remains the universal strategic adversary of the working class and of our revolution. World peace and justice, shared human prosperity and universal social emancipation, are all held back by monopoly capital through capitalist exploitation of labour in general, through neoliberal globalisation and, at the end of the day, through its overarching regime of imperialism. The system is the common denominator in almost every major conflict within and between different countries the world over. It is this system that caused the 2008 global economic crisis that is yet to end - considered comprehensively.

The massive attack on the co-operation between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) cannot be understood in isolation from a thorough assessment of the role played by monopoly capital through its system of imperialism. Efforts to destabilise Brics countries heightened aggressively after they announced the implementation of the New Development Bank, also known as the Brics Bank.

Imperialist machination does not mean that we do not have our own internal weaknesses. For sure there are. In fact imperialism exploits those weaknesses in order to drive its agenda including regime change. In many instances this does not happen without local collaborators, or sponsorship of certain local organisations or even offering them support by other means.

This is what happened recently in Brazil, where a parliamentary coup was staged, through the involvement, among others, of corrupted politicians and businesspeople who pushed for the coup in order to save their own skins.

At times internal weaknesses play into shifts of power to right-wing forces, such as the one we have seen in India, and recently in a number of metropolitan and rural municipalities in South Africa.

But, as we have also seen, external imperialist attacks include, in the extreme military aggression, such as the one that destroyed Libya. It includes sanctions as well, such as the ones we have seen in the case of Russia where there are internal issues.

External imperialist methods include, for example, the support given to the apartheid Israel continuously dispossessing the Palestinians of their land, also denying them fundamental human rights such as freedom of movement.

Similarly, the challenges faced by Venezuela in Latin America cannot be fully understood only from a national point of view, without scrutinising the role played by monopoly capital through its system of imperialism.

The push, in the South China Sea, for a military confrontation cannot, also, be understood without examining the role played by monopoly capital through its system of imperialism.

In Cuba, as another example, the Cubans managed to achieve national victory against the internal oppressor regime on 1 January 1959. Then imperialism reacted directly stepping forth. The United States, on behalf of its monopoly capital, externally imposed, in Cuba, various forms of oppression and destabilisation against the new Cuban government and the Cuban people, all to achieve regime change. This has been going on for over half a century now. Let us use this opportunity, today, to reiterate our call on the United States to end its illegal economic blockade of Cuba.

All of these cases of imperialist domination, and more others that we could not cover in this presentation because of the limitations of time and space, should remind us of our most important internationalist tasks that we must carry out, in memory of Moses Mabhida.

The challenge of monopoly capital and its system of imperialism show that our struggle is by its character an international struggle. The main adversary to our struggle is a global imperialist force in the form of monopoly capital. The likelihood of succeeding in tackling this massive force is, as good as non-existent, if we are internally divided, if we suffer from disunity, if we are domestically weakened by corruption, rent-seeking and corporate capture.

In fact, at its highest level, corporate capture is imperialist capture. We can only ignore imperialism at our own peril when we analyse the configuration, the line up and the balance of forces, even in respect to internal organisational and domestic affairs. We would rather investigate and confirm if it is absent than not factor it in our analysis.

This brings us to our concluding points on this strategic question.

In memory of Moses Mabhida, let us unite and dislodge the most immediate internal and domestic threat to our movement and revolution!

Without getting our house in order, without tackling factionalism and the visibly dwindling organisational cohesion in our movement, there is no way we are going to succeed. There is no way we are going to succeed - without dealing a decisive blow to the parasitic bourgeoisie, the most dangerous class to the unity of our movement but also to our revolution internally. Without finishing off corruption and rent-seeking - we are not going to succeed in waging any noticeable battle against monopoly capital.

The looters, who are building an empire of oligarchies by means of looting our state-owned enterprises through contracts and tenders, are going to destroy the strategic capacity to face off with monopoly capital. Their argument, that what they are doing is against monopoly capital, must be dismissed with contempt. We must go for them too in the interest of the success of our national democratic revolution.

There will be no second radical phase of our democratic transition should the corporate capturers and the parasitic bourgeoisie win the day, and should their networks of patronage, captured decision-makers and agents in political organisation, in the state and generally with regards to societal power, win the day too.

Let us unite, in memory of Comrade Moses Mabhida, and rescue our revolution and our movement. No one will, if we do not do it ourselves. This is one of the reasons why the SACP urged the ANC to ensure a smooth leadership transition, to unite the motive forces of the national democratic revolution; to unite the ANC-led alliance and its component parts; to unite the various democratic mass organisations that support ANC and the ANC`s electoral base at large, all on a principled programmatic basis.

It is for that reason that we urged the ANC leadership, as part and parcel, and therefore as a culmination of the consultative process that the ANC NEC is already engaging in, to consider convening a non-elective special national conference with the stated purpose of achieving the objective of seeking to unite itself and the rest of our democratic movement. This must turn the tide against the trend in the ANC`s electoral decline and waning hard-won democratic hegemony. It is important to appreciate, in this regard, that what happens in, and to the ANC has an impact on the whole of the ANC-led alliance and democratic forces; and indeed on our country as a whole.

Transform and not destroy our universities, preserve our democratic heritage!

It would be negligent for me to conclude this lecture without briefly saying something about some of the chaos in our universities. In honour and memory of Comrade Mabhida, let all sensible South Africans condemn the thuggery that we see in some of our institutions. Those throwing stones and burning libraries are nothing more than criminals. Let the rest of the students also take a firm stand and say: "no, not in our name!"

We also welcome the stance being taken by our magistrates to lock up suspected thugs for seven days, until they appear in court. If you are arrested, incarcerated and convicted for destroying university property - you are not a hero, but a reactionary and counter-revolutionary.

I am also deeply concerned about the continuing disruptions at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal or the UKZN. I urge both management and student leadership to find an urgent solution to this impasse.

To the students, in particular, I say, whilst you have a right to protest, but this right must not be abused and misused to risk the academic programme and academic year. Please, go back to class while you concentrate your efforts on negotiations with management. Otherwise destructive and violent protests, as well as the violation of the rights of other students, run the risk of completely discrediting whatever legitimate demands you may have.

I also wish to urge parents to stand up and help us deal with the current situation. Surely, it cannot be that parents simply send their children to public higher learning institutions and then fold their arms when academic careers and potential future of those students are exposed to threat.

Let me also clarify the important intervention I announced on behalf of government earlier this week.

For the 2017 academic year, government has gone further than it has ever done:

Accordingly, the state will absorb the fee increase of up to 8 percent for all students eligible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), over and above, paying all the fees for them. Moreover, the state will pay for fee increases of all the students who come from families with household income of up to R50 000! This would cover more than 70 percent of undergraduate students in our universities! It will also cover students in similar categories in our 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. In fact, in some of our universities like Zululand, Walter Sisulu and Limpopo, more than 90 percent of students will not pay any increase. This is going to benefit the children of nurses, teachers, police and many skilled workers who do not qualify for the NSFAS.

In addition, the government is far advanced in exploring and designing a loan system that will assist the "missing middle", so that the children of the working class and the lower strata of the middle class who do not qualify for the NSFAS can get financial assistance and only pay them back once they are working.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Higher Education and Training Commission is hard at work exploring a lasting solution to the issue of student fees. We urge all students and stakeholders to participate and make submissions to the Commission.

Given the aforementioned progress, principles and work, I am of the view that there is absolutely no need for any, in particular, disruptive student protests. It could otherwise be concluded that some of the small student groupings that persistently seek to achieve disruption and destruction of learning progress, are now acting like hired agents of the bourgeoisie who want the state to pay for the rich.

Our democratic government`s commitment is free higher education for the poor, with reasonable measures to assist the "missing middle" while those who can afford to pay - the rich and the well-off - must pay. The call for free higher education for all is not inherently a revolutionary call - it could as well be a reactionary stance that is inconsiderate of the objective conditions, in particular, to social relations of class inequality that we are yet to and must eliminate. What must happen after we have radically reduced or eradicated class inequality, must not be confused for what must happen towards successfully realising the goal.

In memory of Comrade Moses Mabhida, let us celebrate our democratic achievements brought about by the ANC-led government. Let us defend and build upon them as part of consolidating and deepening our national democratic revolution and advancing its second radical phase!

I thank you!

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